Best of our wild blogs: 6 Dec 14

Night Walk At Lower Pierce Reservoir (05 Dec 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Blue Sprite mating and ovipositing
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve's extension opens to the public

AsiaOne 6 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE - Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee officiated the opening of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve's (SBWR) extension this morning, marking the completion of phase two of the reserve's masterplan.

The reserve is the largest mangrove forest in Singapore, and is home to almost half of true mangrove plant species in the world. It became Singapore's first ASEAN Heritage Park in 2003, and is recognised as a site of international importance for migratory birds.

The 31-hectare extension, with its rich mangrove and coastal forests which are home to diverse species of fauna such as crabs and mudskippers, will be able to provide new outdoor recreational and educational activities.

Six new guided walks will be conducted on Saturdays by volunteers, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced today.

At the opening, Mr Lee announced that work on phase three of the masterplan has begun and will be completed by end-2017.

The third phase includes the sensitive enhancement of two conservation areas: the western end of the reserve, where Cashin House is situated, and the Kranji Marshes.

With the intention to keep the activity in the area low, nature appreciation of coastal habitats, education and outreach will take centre stage at the 6.16ha western end of SBWR.

The freshwater Kranji marshes will be enhanced to attract more marsh birds and include shelters and trails for better visitor access.

Speaking at the opening, MOS Lee said: "In 2008, NParks launched the Sungei Buloh Masterplan to ensure that Sungei Buloh continues to be a living wetland and a tranquil sanctuary for wildlife. The Masterplan included a new extension to be built at the fringe of the existing reserve, which will help reduce the pressure on the existing reserve as more Singaporeans and tourists visit the reserve."

NParks added that there has been a 50 per cent increase in active volunteers from last year, the highest rise in its volunteerism rate since its volunteer programmes began in the 1990s.

NParks said it welcomes more people who are passionate about nature to join its volunteer programme at

Work begins on phase three of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Masterplan
Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 6 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: Work on phase three of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Masterplan has begun and will be completed by end 2017.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee announced this at the opening of the reserve's extension on Saturday morning (Dec 6), marking the completion of phase two.

The third phase of the Masterplan includes the sensitive enhancement of two conservation areas: the western end of the Reserve, where Cashin House is situated, and the Kranji Marshes.

The Kranji Marshes will be enhanced to attract more marsh birds and to include shelters and trails for better visitor access. The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension opens on Saturday (Dec 6) to members of the public.

- CNA/by

Kranji Marshes to be more accessible by 2016
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Dec 14;
Singaporeans will have better access to the Kranji Marshes when the area reopens in 2016 with shelters and trails.

The National Parks Board (NParks) has started works to improve the 56ha freshwater marshland, including clearing the ponds of weeds and replanting vegetation to attract more birds.

The wetland on the outskirts of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is well loved by nature lovers, and especially rich in marsh birds. The plans are part of Phase 3 of NParks' Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve masterplan, which also includes improving the western end of the reserve by 2017.

Within the next few years, NParks will spruce up the currently disused Cashin House - a former residence extending out to sea in Lim Chu Kang. Nature trails will also link the reserve to the house, which is historically significant as it may have been the first landing point of the Japanese in Singapore during World War II.

Yesterday, the agency spelled out its plans as it celebrated the completion of the masterplan's second phase, which involved a 31ha extension to the 130ha reserve.

The extension includes a new visitor centre, a mid-canopy walk through a secondary forest, a coastal boardwalk and other attractions like the Mud Experience, where visitors can step onto mudflats during low tide to get up close to creatures living in the mud, such as mudskippers.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister of State for National Development, opened the extension yesterday. "Sungei Buloh is a unique place not just for birds, but also for us city dwellers who need a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life," he said.

Fourteen NParks volunteers were also given long-service awards yesterday. NParks said its volunteer ranks have grown by 50 per cent in the past year and number some 1,500 people today.

The agency also paid tribute to a group of about 50 former and current volunteers who have helped contribute to Sungei Buloh's growth since the 1990s.

One of them, nature guide Kwan Sau Kuen, 60, said she was motivated to volunteer because she noticed visitors leaving the reserve disappointed that they could not spot any birds.

"What they didn't know was that the patches of brown they thought were soil were actually birds. That was when I knew I had to do my part."

She added: "Sungei Buloh is one of the few places in Singapore that has been kept rustic and natural. It is important to conserve the wonders of the mangroves for the next generation to enjoy."

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China Aviation Oil, NParks team up to produce video series on Singapore biodiversity

CAROLYN KHEW AsiaOne 5 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE- Filming has begun for a series of videos that will capture the unique flora and fauna of Singapore.

A specialised video crew from Australia which has many years of experience in shooting wildlife, has been hired for the project which will be rolled out in the first quarter of next year.

The Biodiversity Video Series will be released in primary schools and places of interest such as the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

It will also feature examples of how individuals can do their part for the environment.

The video project is part of activities under a tie-up between jet fuel trader China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Corporation (CAO) and the National Parks Board (NParks) to support environment protection.

The collaboration between CAO and the Garden City Fund, a registered charity of NParks, was announced yesterday.

Prof Leo Tan, Chairman of the Fund, said: "It is important that the younger generation continues to understand, appreciate and connect with our greenery and natural heritage."

CAO, which has key markets in China and Europe, has been involved in several projects with NParks, including the planting of tree saplings and conservation work at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

On Dec 3, 35 CAO employees also helped to clear weeds at Admiralty Park.

Said the Chief Executive Officer of CAO Meng Fanqiu: "These are great opportunities for CAO's employees to participate in meaningful causes such as the protection of Singapore's biodiversity,"

- See more at:

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Pilot project to test managing stray dogs without culling

KENNETH CHENG Channel NewsAsia 6 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE — Stray dogs on Jurong Island will no longer be culled: Instead, they will be trapped, neutered and released back into their community as part of a pilot Trap-Neuter-Release-and-Manage (TNRM) programme launched on Thursday.

Announcing the trial project on his Facebook page yesterday, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said the programme involved managing the island’s stray-dog population without culling. “This is a trial project to try to see if we can avoid culling,” he wrote.

The programme traps the stray dogs, sterilises them, then returns them to the wild. The two-year trial is a partnership between JTC Corporation and three animal welfare groups: Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) and Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD).

ACRES chief executive Louis Ng said a 1,800sqm holding facility — comprising an on-site hospital, recovery room, assessment area, outdoor enclosures and an administrative office — has been built and funded by JTC.

The animal welfare groups are tapping their operational funds and hoping to raise money to finance the initiative, which can cost at least S$200,000, SOSD president Siew Tuck Wah said.

There are an estimated 300 stray dogs on Jurong Island, a marked increase from 2005, when there were about 50 to 70 dogs, ASD president Ricky Yeo said. “We are glad that … JTC is open to the idea,” he added.

Responding to media queries, JTC said it had been approached by a task force comprising the three animal welfare groups and that it had agreed to provide the space for them to set up the facility to carry out the programme.

The groups — which had been in discussions for almost a year with government agencies and Mr Shanmugam, a known advocate for animal welfare — praised the initiative as a significant development. They added that they hoped the trial, if successful, would be extended to other areas in Singapore.

Describing the project as a “very big step forward for the stray dogs” here, Mr Ng said: “For the first time, we are departing from the culling policy (for stray dogs).”

He added that the TNRM method had been successful in addressing the population of stray cats in the Chong Pang estate, which is under Mr Shanmugam’s watch.

It is hoped that the pilot will help reduce the stray-dog population on Jurong Island by 25 per cent in the first five years. Trappers will be hired on a contractual basis and veterinarians will be roped in to neuter the animals. About six veterinarians have agreed to be part of the project so far, the groups said.

Dr Siew said animal welfare groups have been using the TNRM method for decades, but that this pilot marked the first time a government agency has collaborated with welfare groups to do the same. “People who are advocates for stray dogs have been dreaming about this for decades,” he added.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority did not address the question on whether the TNRM programme would be extended to other parts of Singapore if the trial is successful. It stated that its priority was to ensure public safety and public health in the management of stray dogs. “Stray dogs, whether sterilised or not, can continue to pose a public-safety threat and hasten the spread of rabies,” it said.

The authority added that as the pilot initiative was an arrangement between JTC, Jurong Island tenants and the animal welfare groups, the parties involved would have to take the necessary precautions and be prepared for any public-safety and nuisance issues that may arise.

Official scheme to sterilise stay dogs begins
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Dec 14;

Singapore has started its first official programme to sterilise stray dogs here, in a bid to control their numbers without culling.

The pilot project on Jurong Island, which has an estimated 300 stray dogs, was launched yesterday, with Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam as the guest of honour.

"Many of us are concerned about stray dogs in Singapore... and this is a trial project to see if we can avoid culling," said the dog lover in a Facebook post.

Jurong Island was chosen to test the "trap, neuter and release" method as it is a controlled environment where other stray dogs cannot get in or out, said animal welfare groups involved in the project.

Asked whether there are plans to expand the programme, they replied that it would depend on the results of the trial.

State industrial landlord JTC has built a facility on the island where the dogs will be sterilised, and it is also providing funding.

It is working with the following animal welfare groups: Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) and Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD).

Acres will manage the project, while ASD and SOSD will handle the day-to-day operations.

Acres executive director Louis Ng said the programme was a very big step forward for Singapore in its management of stray dogs.

"I hope this project shows that our society cares about the welfare of animals and also the safety of our residents," he said.

The project is expected to be more effective than culling.

In a note comparing the "trap, neuter and release" method with culling, Mr Shanmugam noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had found culling street dogs ineffective in controlling the spread of rabies.

Instead, the WHO said mass vaccination of a significant portion of street dogs has been proven to be a better way to prevent the disease's spread.

Neutered dogs are also less aggressive and more affectionate, and neutering results in fewer street dogs over time, according to Mr Shanmugam's post.

In contrast, "culling is indiscriminate, and the problem dog is seldom the dog that is caught". Street dogs also tend to breed and replace those that have been culled.

The neutering method has a one-time cost of about $1 million as the street dog population will naturally decline afterwards. In contrast, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority spends over $700,000 annually on culling.

Mr Shanmugam also posted photographs of the first female dog to be neutered under the programme.

"She is physically healthy after the neutering and (has been) micro-chipped, and happy to be back in familiar surroundings," he said.

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Smart nation push: Public to get access to more govt data

Aw Cheng Wei The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE - More government data will be made available to the public to develop innovative solutions as Singapore strides forward on its smart nation journey.

This must however be balanced against the need to protect the privacy of people as well as the national security of the country.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister in charge of Singapore's smart nation programme, said: "National security, privacy and identity are the amber zones. For everything else, the default mode (for data) should be to share."

Speaking to the media last night at the Singapore Maker Festival - a gathering of tech tinkers and enthusiasts - Dr Balakrishnan lauded existing efforts to share government data publicly but added that even more can be done.

Instead of just sharing the raw data for developers to create apps, public agencies can consider sharing the building blocks of government apps already developed - or application programming interface (API) in geekspeak - so innovators can quickly build improved versions without having to recode everything from scratch.

Dr Balakrishnan also said that seniors, young people and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the first three groups that the Government will prioritise in its smart nation push.

With seniors, the aim is to ensure that they are not left behind in the digital divide. Remote monitoring of the elderly at home empowers them to lead independent lives while letting their families have peace of mind. Plans are also under way to make technology more accessible to them, including increasing the number of citizen connect centres where they can reset their SingPass accounts and get help on e-citizen services.

For young people, it is important to help them acquire the necessary tools such as having programming skills and computational thinking which helps develop good problem-solving abilities.

"This has to become almost standard literacy in the digital age," Dr Balakrishnan added.

The smart nation initiative will benefit SMEs in two areas. First, said Dr Balakrishnan, it will be cheaper to produce prototypes when facilities such as those for 3D printing become widely available. "This will lower barriers to entry," he added. Second, new technology and services will provide for new streams of revenue.

The minister said becoming a smart nation is not about adopting technology solutions for the sake of technology but using it to meet the needs of people and improve lives. "This is about human beings, not about machines. It is about what people need, not what technology can offer," he added.

He also addressed public concerns about privacy and the potential high costs of adopting new technologies. Changes to the law may be necessary to address privacy issues more comprehensively such as those to do with security, identity theft and data abuse, he said.

Dr Balakrishnan added that programmes will be put in place to ensure no one is left out because of costs. Similar to the need to extend public Wi-Fi to even more places such as nooks and crannies in tunnels, he said: "We must close up the final dark shadows so that there are no digital shadows in our society."

Govt to make more public data available as part of Smart Nation push
TAN WEIZHEN AsiaOne 5 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE — In the push to make Singapore a Smart Nation, the Government will commit to make more public data available than ever before, said Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Programme Office Vivian Balakrishnan today (Dec 5).

This is to fulfil the private sector’s need for data as they develop applications, as long as they do not infringe upon issues of national security and privacy.

Noting that there have been concerns about privacy, Dr Balakrishnan, who is also Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said that legislative changes might be afoot to allay these concerns, as increasingly more data will be used in the development of the Smart Nation.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking to reporters in a session before the Singapore Makers Festival Makers Meetup.

He added that seniors, youth and small and medium businesses will be a focus as the Government seeks to make citizens more digital literate, and for businesses to capture the resulting opportunities.

Beyond that, key areas such as public transport will be included in the vision of a Smart Nation, and on-road trials for autonomous vehicles will start next month. Driverless cars could make transport more efficient, convenient and accessible, he pointed out.

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Malaysia: Malacca to go plastic-bag free in 2016

The Star 6 Dec 14;

MALACCA: Malacca plans to go plastic-bag free in 2016.

Malacca Green Technology Corporation chief executive officer Datuk Kamarudin Md Shah said that in the run-up to implementing the measure, the state government would enforce a 'No Plastic Bag Day' on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning Jan 1 next year.

"The decision to go without plastic bags on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from next year was approved by the state executive council on Feb 26," he said in a statement.

The state government implemented the 'No Plastic Bag Day' on Fridays and Saturdays from April this year.

Kamarudin said the initiative was in accordance with a government effort to enhance environmental quality and progress towards a green technology city state by 2020.

He advised Malaccans to support the state government move by bringing along their own bags on their shopping trips. - Bernama

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