Best of our wild blogs: 19 Nov 14

Join us for our December Holiday Programmes
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Ubin Day 2014: Save the date – 30 November!
from Green Drinks Singapore

Magnificent Macrolife
from Hantu Blog

Moulting of a grasshopper
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Ubin ‘deserves higher level of protection’

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 19 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — A nature group has called for Pulau Ubin to be given the same level of protection as a nature reserve, given the concentration of rare and endangered wildlife found on the offshore island.

With much knowledge gained since the 1990s on the island’s biodiversity, it is about time that Ubin be accorded a stronger level of conservation protection, the Nature Society (Singapore) said in a position paper submitted to the authorities last month.

The paper is its response to the Ubin Project, an ongoing effort to gather suggestions on enhancing Ubin’s natural environment and protecting its rustic charm.

The island is officially a “nature area”, which is defined in the Singapore Green Plan as an area recognised for its rich biodiversity, but can be developed if the need arises, the paper stated.

Under the latest Urban Redevelopment Authority Master Plan, much of Ubin is classified as “open space”, much like the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment nature reserves. But unlike them, its protection has no statutory power insofar as de-gazetting it requires legislative or parliamentary approval, the Nature Society stated.

It called for a formation of an independent committee of experts and stakeholders to review Ubin’s land-use status as a whole.

Should it be determined that Ubin deserves the status of a nature reserve, the independent committee can also weigh in on which portions of Ubin to include. Areas rich in biodiversity, including the Outward Bound School territory, should be integrated and managed by the National Parks Board (NParks).

The 18-page paper was submitted to NParks, Ministry of National Development (MND) and Urban Redevelopment Authority on Oct 27.

NParks’ conservation director Wong Tuan Wah told TODAY that the Nature Society’s proposals would be considered together with other ideas received through platforms, such as the Ubin Project’s microsite and symposiums. The society is part of the Friends of Ubin network formed earlier this year — comprising members from various heritage and nature groups, volunteers and the Ubin community — to serve as one platform for the gathering of ideas, he added.

Suggestions made by the Nature Society include capping the number of taxis and vans on the island and introducing electric small vehicles for less mobile visitors, curbing coastal erosion on the island’s northern shoreline and restricting mountain biking to areas that are less ecologically sensitive.

The abandoned rubber estates and durian orchards should also be left alone as creatures, such as woodpeckers, bulbuls, junglefowl and the greater mousedeer, have ventured into these areas for cover and to forage, as the wild undergrowth continues to become denser.

Regular nature walks conducted by volunteers could be offered in Ubin, but mass activities, such as marathons and cycling races, should be disallowed, said the Nature Society.

Also highlighted in the paper was Ubin’s flora and fauna. It has the largest intact portion of mangroves in Singapore, covering 149ha, and its diverse wildlife habitats include mangrove and tidal mudflats, secondary forests, as well as marine habitats such as seagrass beds.

Some species of plants, birds, reptiles and butterflies are only found on Ubin, such as the Brown Wood Owl and the White-Bellied Blind Snake.

As an increasing number of people visit Ubin, the current lack of clear demarcation between recreational zones and important nature areas will adversely impact natural habitats and wildlife, the society said.

Earlier this month, it was reported that at least half of 500 people surveyed online by the MND wanted to see more public facilities — including some amenities found on the mainland — such as shelters and cycling trails.

In 1992, the authorities approved a plan to reclaim part of what is now the Chek Jawa Wetlands, one of Singapore richest eco-systems. However, in 2001 when the reclamation was set to start, nature lovers and the public appealed for its preservation.

Following public consultations, the Government announced in the same year that the reclamation works would be deferred for as long as Pulau Ubin is not required for development.

The public can continue sharing their ideas on Ubin at

NSS Position Paper on Pulau Ubin:

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New life under the sea

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Nov 14;

The waters surrounding Singapore may look murky, but they could be home to species of marine creatures that are possibly new to science, a local study has found.

At least 14 such species have been discovered in the first Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey conducted here.

They include an orange-tinged sea sponge found during a reef survey, a warty-looking sea anemone burrowing in mudflats in northern Singapore, and a conical hermit crab from the seabeds near the Southern Islands.

The survey led by the National Parks Board (NParks) to study Singapore's marine ecosystems started four years ago, and is now almost complete.

Mudflat sampling was completed in April last year, while data collection at seabeds and reefs is expected to end by May next year.

And while there are still some months to go before data collection is complete, researchers have already recorded more than 80 species of sea creatures found for the first time in local waters, in addition to the 14 new ones.

Another encouraging find was the rediscovery of about 10 species of creatures such as crabs and catfish last seen here decades ago.

The zebra crab, for instance, was rediscovered in waters around the Southern Islands. The orange crab with a striped shell was last seen in the early 1960s, and repeated surveys in the 1990s had failed to find the species.

"Despite the rapid urbanisation of Singapore, this survey showed that marine biodiversity remains rich and their habitats are worth conserving," said Dr Tan Koh Siang, senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI).

Researchers from NParks, the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, and 423 volunteers also took part in the five-year project.

The three habitats surveyed - mudflats, seabeds and reefs - were chosen as these were "data deficient", said Dr Tan.

"This (survey) will serve as scientific baseline information to optimise management and conservation of marine biodiversity in Singapore," said Dr Karenne Tun, deputy director of the coastal and marine division at the National Biodiversity Centre at NParks, which led the survey.

The analysed data, which will contain information such as the distribution of the species identified and whether they are abundant, common or rare at each location, will also be compiled into a free database.

Related link
Mega Marine Survey - how to volunteer for the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey

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Don't be short-sighted, enjoy Singapore's outdoors: PM Lee

Channel NewsAsia 19 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Nov 18) encouraged parents to help the younger generation fight short-sightedness by bringing them outdoors, as Singapore has one of the highest incidences of myopia in the world.

Citing an article by The Economist, Mr Lee said on his Facebook page that exposure to sunlight can reduce the risk of myopia. "Exposure to daylight helps the retina to release a chemical that slows down an increase in the eye’s axial length, which is what most often causes myopia," the article stated.

This is why he suggested parents can help their children by making sure they take frequent breaks from homework, and limiting the time spent playing computer games or watching TV. He added: "During this school break, why not take them out to enjoy our beautiful parks, beaches and gardens?"

The Health Promotion Board has also been working with schools to have more outdoor activities to balance time spent on work like reading and writing, Mr Lee noted.

- CNA/kk

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PUB lists 48 flood-prone areas and 55 hotspots

LINETTE LAI Straits Times 19 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE - With more wet days ahead, it is probably a good idea to keep an eye on flood-prone areas in your neighbourhood by referring to national water agency PUB's website.

Currently, the website lists 48 flood-prone areas and 55 hotspots.

The flood-prone areas refer to low-lying places with a history of flooding, while hotspots are areas that are not low-lying but have experienced flash floods.

PUB on its website said that it has reduced flood prone areas in Singapore from about 3,200 hectares in the 1970s to 36 hectares today,

Flood-prone areas include Arab Street, Stevens Road/Balmoral Road and Margaret Drive/Tanglin Road while hotspots include Orchard Road/Cuscaden Road junction, Craig Road/Tanjong Pagar junction and Lorong Ah Soo.

Pedestrians caught in a flash flood should move to higher ground and stay alert for open drains, advised the PUB. If motorists find floodwaters rising around their vehicles, they should abandon them and also seek higher ground.

The PUB's map of flood-prone areas can be viewed here:

More thundery showers likely over next two months
Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Nov 14;

MONDAY'S flash floods may not be the last to blight Singapore this year.

The Meteorological Service Singapore warned yesterday that short, moderate to heavy thundery showers are expected to become a regular occurrence during afternoons and evenings over the next two months as the annual north-east monsoon season takes hold.

They could even lead to floods such as the one in Kovan on Monday afternoon, when intense rain caused water from the canal to overflow into residential areas, trapping parked cars, causing power shutdowns and flooding homes.

The first half of this month has already been wetter than usual, with 188mm of rainfall recorded so far - and the meteorological service said it will only get wetter.

Rainfall this month and the next is expected to be about 20 per cent above the long-term average of 257mm and 288mm respectively.

The north-east monsoon season usually lasts from late November to January. It is expected to cause two to four monsoon surges - periods of occasionally windy conditions, cooler temperatures and prolonged and widespread moderate to heavy rain lasting between two and five days.

"In preparation for the upcoming north-east monsoon, PUB, the national water agency, (is working) closely with the National Environment Agency... to ensure that our drains remain free flowing," both agencies said in a statement yesterday.

It added that PUB officers will remind construction sites to conduct checks on nearby public drains. They will also inspect 100 major worksites to ensure that nearby drains are in order.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Contractors Association will send out circulars to its 3,000-plus members advising them to work closely with the authorities.

The PUB said it will also monitor its 171 water-level sensors in major drains and canals, and its network of 161 closed-circuit television cameras to enable quick response during heavy storms. It plans to increase the number of water-level sensors to 200 by the first quarter of next year. Last month, PUB officers also distributed advisories containing flood precaution tips - such as storing items on higher ground or using sandbags or flood boards - to 500 residents and shop owners in low-lying areas.

Areas which have previously experienced flash floods have already put safeguards in place.

Singapore Polytechnic has taken measures including the installation of flood walls and warning sensors after floods disrupted classes in February last year.

Liat Towers, which was deluged by waist-high water in 2010, has installed six water pumps and erected flood barriers, among other measures.

Civil servant Dawn Koh, 22, said her Opera Estate backyard floods every time it rains heavily.

Her family has installed non-slip tiles, covered furniture with plastic and piled up sandbags. She said: "The drainage system in the neighbourhood is not very good and we get flooded often."

More rainy days ahead in Singapore
Today Online 18 nov 14;

SINGAPORE — Expect more rainy days ahead, with the onset of the Northeast Monsoon later this month, according to the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS).

Already, rainfall in the first half of this month has been higher than usual and rainfall for the rest of the month and next month is also expected to be about the 20 per cent above the long-term average of 256.6mm and 288.4mm, respectively.

The MSS will issue warnings when heavy rain or prolonged monsoon rain is expected on top of regular weather forecasts. Heavy rains coinciding with high tides could lead to localised flash floods in low-lying areas. The National Environment Agency (NEA) has advised the public to exercise caution during the Northeast Monsoon season.

Typically, the Northeast Monsoon comprises a wet phase between late November and January, followed by a drier phase in February. The wet phase has moderate to heavy thundery showers that are short duration, and occur mainly in the afternoon and evening. There are also two to four monsoon surges — where northeasterly winds blowing from the South China Sea bring in prolonged rain periods, windy conditions and cooler temperatures — lasting between two and five days.

The NEA said it will be working with PUB, the national water agency, to ensure that drains remain free-flowing. The PUB will be inspecting close to 100 major construction sites to ensure that drains around the sites are free of debris, and reminding the construction industry to conduct checks on public drains in the vicinity of their worksites.

PUB will also continue to monitor road conditions in low-lying areas and hotspots through its network of 161 close circuit television (CCTV) cameras. PUB’s water level sensors, installed in major drains and canals, have been increased from 158 to 171 this year and help enable quick response in the event of a flood. PUB added it plans to increase the number of sensors to 200 by the first quarter of next year.

The public can receive the latest weather reports via, the MyENV mobile app, the radio traffic watch broadcast or the MSS’s weather forecast hotline (65427788).

PUB will also be releasing flood alerts via Facebook, Twitter, the MyWaters app and via electronic signage on roads. Members of the public can also call PUB at 1800-2846600 to report on any flood situation or NEA at 1800-6003333 to report choked drains.

Get set for a wetter holiday season
SIAU MING EN Today Online 19 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — Expect more rainy days ahead with the onset of the North-east Monsoon later this month, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said yesterday.

The first half of this month has been wetter than usual, and rainfall for November and December is expected to be about 20 per cent above the long-term average of 256.6mm and 288.4mm respectively.

“Heavy rain coinciding with high tides could lead to localised flash floods in low-lying areas,” the MSS said in a joint statement with PUB, the national water agency.

In preparation for the wetter season, PUB is working closely with the National Environment Agency’s Department of Public Cleanliness to ensure that drains remain free-flowing.

Apart from reminding contractors to conduct checks on public drains near their construction sites, PUB is also inspecting some 100 major worksites to ensure that the drains around them are free of debris and smooth-flowing.

The construction sites include infrastructure developments, such as MRT stations and roads, and building projects, such as HDB flats and condominiums, belonging to a mix of public agencies and private developers, PUB said.

PUB has also increased the number of water-level sensors from 158 last year to 171 this year, and there will 200 sensors by the first quarter of next year. The sensors are installed in major drains and canals, providing real-time data on water levels and helping to improve PUB’s live monitoring of site conditions during heavy storms.

“Some of the areas where new water-level sensors will be located are Woodlands Road/Mandai Road, Lorong Ong Lye and Balestier Road. These are areas where flash floods have previously occurred,” the water agency told TODAY.

On Monday, heavy downpour across Singapore caused certain areas, including the basement car park of a Tampines condominium, to be flooded. Flash floods were also reported at Lorong Gambir, Lorong Ong Lye, Hougang Ave 1 and MacPherson Road.

As the Republic braces itself for more brolly days for the rest of the year, the meteorological service says it will issue warnings when heavy rain or prolonged monsoon rain is expected.

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Group notes declining fish harvest in Philippines

Nestor Corrales 18 Nov 14;

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Jojo de Lima used to go out to the shore to gather shrimps, fish, sting rays, and crabs within less than half an hour. But today, he can no longer do that.

De Lima is among the millions of Filipinos whose means of livelihood depend on the sea. But unlike before, the sea is now in a terrible state and constantly under threat, so is De Lima’s source of income.

According to Rare Philippines, a non-profit organization focused on marine conservation, more than 1.6 million Filipinos earn a living from the 873 coastal municipalities of the Philippines.

In a data gathered by Rare, nearshore fishers used to catch 40 kilograms of fish in the 1940s but the number had gone down to three kilograms in 2000.

The rapidly declining harvest of fishermen demanded more effort for them to find alternative ways, which gave way to the rise of illegal practices including dynamite fishing and the use of destructive fishing gears.

The birth of Fish Forever

The unprecedented number of illegal methods in fishing gave birth to the Fish Forever global initiative to protect marine sanctuaries and recover the damage seas.

“Rare has been in the Philippines since 2010 but it has been around the world for over 20 years,” Rocky Sanchez-Tirona, Vice President of Rare Philippines said.

Tirona said Rare partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Sustainable Fisheries group at the University of California to change the behavior of local fishermen and help stop overfishing, and safeguard the food security and livelihood of many Filipinos in the coastal areas of the country.

“Changing the norm and changing the behavior of the fishermen is very important. It’s fisheries reformed. Trying to get communities to change how they really manage their fisheries,” she said.

Rocky Sanchez-Tirona, Vice President for Rare Philippines, explains the "Fish Forever," an initiative to protect and conserve marine species, at the Quest Hotel in Cebu City. NESTOR CORRALES
Rocky Sanchez-Tirona, Vice President for Rare Philippines, explains the “Fish Forever,” an initiative to protect and conserve marine species, at the Quest Hotel in Cebu City. NESTOR CORRALES
Conservation fellows

On Wednesday, November 18, 12 conservation fellows from different parts of the country converged in Cebu City to formally kick off the Fish Forever initiative in the Philippines.

The 12 people were chosen as conservation fellows while twelve others came in as associate conservation fellows.

The group will undergo a three-year program where they will implement the Fish Forever at their sites while learning new skills and building their own capacity to effect positive behavior change in their communities.

Twelve coastal communities in the Philippines were chosen for the implementation of the Fish Forever, which includes Masinloc, Zambales; Looc and Lubang in Occidental Mindoro; Mercedes, Camarines Norte; Gubat, Sorsogon; San Carlos City, Negros Occidental; Manjuyod and Tayasan in Negros Oriental; Libertad and Culasi in Antique and Dapa and Del Carmen in Surigao del Norte.

“What made me us join Rare is because of their advocacy of behavior change,” said Melvin Maglayon, coastal resource management technician in San Carlos City.

Maglayon admitted that behavior change is very difficult but with the Fish Forever initiative they could instill in the minds of local fishermen the proper way of conserving and managing coastal resources.

He said he is optimistic that he and other conservation fellows would be able to instill behavior change in their communities.

Changing communities through Fish Forever

Through Fish Forever, Rare will provide conservation strategies to recover our damaged seas and protect our marine sanctuary.

Tirona said conservation fellows would train local fishermen in their sites from being the problem to becoming the solution.

In partnership with the local government units, Rare would have set up marine protected areas (MPAs) to protect and increase marine production.

Conservation fellows would help local fishermen to manage and improve their MPAs to allow more marine species to propagate.

Emilie Litsinger, Senior Manager of the Philippines Oceans program of Environmental Defense Fund, said Rare would also create managed access areas, where fishing would be off- limits.

Litsinger said the managed access strategy has been proven successful in aiding the fisheries of Chile, Japan and other coastal areas in Asia and the Pacific.

Litsinger stressed the importance of local enforcement system to ensure that the Fish Forever initiatives and marine protection would be well guarded.

Filipino Fishers Fish Forever

The Fish Forever Initiative of Rare goes beyond teaching the community to fish.

“The aim is not to teach a community to fish. It’s to help make sure they can fish forever,” Brett Jenks, CEO of Rare said.

Rare has also launched the Pride Campaign” to engage communities and take pride in their way of life.

Tirona said it is a series of activities that inspires local fishermen to preserve their marine resources while giving them the tools they needed.

She said the combination of fisher empowerment, capacity building and community mobilization would make the Fish Forever initiative successful.

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