Best of our wild blogs: 18 Dec 14

barracuda, fish eagle and lots of fish @ SBWR - Dec2014
from sgbeachbum

A Timepiece named Chek Jawa Batik
from Flying Fish Friends

Dredging at Changi Creek Jan-Jun 2015
from wild shores of singapore

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Authorities investigating oily sheen on Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park river

Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 17 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: The authorities are investigating an oily sheen on the Kallang River in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park following reports from members of the public on Tuesday (Dec 16).

When Channel NewsAsia visited the park on Wednesday, the water was largely clear, save for several small patches of oil in the river.

Mr Thomas Tan Kok Hin, who works at the McDonald’s outlet next to the river, said the smell of the oil was very strong on Tuesday. “Fishes were flapping about struggling to breathe,” he added.

Channel NewsAsia understands that the sheen could be caused by sediments from the bottom of the river.

A spokesperson from national water agency PUB said that it received a report of oil sheen on the river at about 6pm on Tuesday and sent officers to the site to investigate. Preliminary investigations by the PUB show that the oil sheen is not likely to be kerosene and they have applied dispersants to disperse the oil.

PUB added that on-site checks show no abnormality in water quality and fish behaviour. Water samples have also been collected for further testing and they will continue to monitor the situation closely. The PUB also assured the public that the quality of raw water in reservoirs is monitored and treated to international guidelines before it is supplied to households.

Oily sheen seen on river in Bishan park
Lee Joon Lei The New Paper AsiaOne 20 Dec 14;

Visitors to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park have been noticing, since Tuesday, what appears to be an oily substance on the surface of the river water there.
Mr Joshua Sng, 34, who is self-employed, said: "I don't know where it came from but it can't be good for the park's ecosystem."

The river smelled like kerosene, said others The New Paper spoke to. One local resident said he could even smell it from his 11th-storey flat.

Residents said they had seen oily patches in the river before, although they were much smaller.

"The substance used to appear in small patches, but the patches were much wider on Tuesday. I even saw fishes leaping out of the water for air," said a resident who declined to be named.

When TNP returned to the scene yesterday, much of the oil-like substances had dissipated.

Officers from the national water agency PUB were also at the scene to take water samples.


A spokesman said PUB had received a report about the oily sheen around 6pm on Tuesday, adding that it is not likely to be kerosene.

Dispersants had been applied to disperse the oil. Rain yesterday afternoon also diluted any remaining oil.

On-site checks showed no abnormality in the water quality and fish behaviour, the PUB spokesman said.

PUB also said that the water, which flows into the Marina Reservoir, would not have its quality compromised because of the substance.

"PUB would like to assure the public that it has a comprehensive system to monitor the quality of the raw water in our reservoirs, and the raw water is treated at the waterworks to World Health Organisation drinking water quality guidelines before it is supplied to households."

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Singaporean lures Indonesians away from shark fishing

AFP AsiaOne 17 Dec 14;

TANJUNG LUAR, Indonesia - Sharks are hauled ashore every day at a busy market on the central Indonesian island of Lombok, the hub of a booming trade that provides a livelihood for local fishermen but is increasingly alarming environmentalists.

Now a Singaporean is luring the fishermen away from Tanjung Luar market, where an array of other sea creatures including manta rays and moray eels are also sold, by offering them jobs as local guides for the growing number of tourists visiting the island.

"The whole dream is that there's enough tourists coming, not on a daily basis because the corals would be affected, but maybe on a weekly basis," said Kathy Xu, a former teacher who gave up her job to focus on the project.

"Hopefully I can engage more fishermen to do this."

But Xu recognises that she faces an uphill battle to tackle a lucrative industry, which is fuelled by demand for fins, particularly from China, and has transformed the vast Indonesian archipelago into the world's biggest shark fishery.

On a recent visit by AFP to Tanjung Luar, 10 sharks were laid out on the dirty tiled floor before being auctioned off, but an environmental group said on a busy day up to 300 are brought to the market.

"Sometimes there are so many sharks we can't fit them all in here," Ismail, a businessmen who finances local shark fishermen and goes by one name, told AFP.

So far Xu has persuaded a handful of fishermen to work with tourists, mostly from Singapore, taking them snorkelling on beautiful coral reefs and to secluded white-sand beaches, on average twice a month.

She also takes visitors to the market to raise awareness about the impact of shark-fishing in Indonesia, where 110,000 tonnes are caught a year, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

During a recent tour, 25 Singaporean students aged 13 to 15 watched women transfer fish from colourful baskets into buckets, workers sharpen their machetes and porters haul sharks hung over their shoulders.

"Normally you find out these problems from picture books, saying killing sharks for their fins is bad, but they don't really go further than that and you don't really think about it anyway," said 14-year-old Ray Chua.

World's biggest shark fishery

Despite Xu's efforts, hunting sharks remains a better option for many local fishermen.

"We get much more money from hunting sharks than taking tourists to swim. On a lucky day, I can get 10 times more for catching sharks," said Sulaiman, who goes by one name.

While the fins are sold on to China and other countries where they are considered a delicacy, the rest of the shark is sliced up and its meat and skin made into meatball soup and snacks that have become part of the local diet.

There has even been a recent trend towards eating shark pups, which are being sold in major grocery chains on the main island of Java, said shark protection campaigner Riyanni Djangkaru.

Conservationists have long been raising the alarm about shark-fishing in Indonesia, and point to signs that populations have been declining around Tanjung Luar and across the whole archipelago, which consists of over 17,000 islands.

The Lombok market is one of the few where sharks are openly landed. In other parts of country, fishermen hunt sharks in the open sea, slicing off their fins and dumping them back in the water to die.

However, protection groups point out that careless fishing by tuna trawlers is the biggest killer of sharks.

Far more of the creatures die when they are accidentally caught in trawlers' nets in places such as Bali, central Sulawesi island and in the south of Java, than by fishing, they say.

They say the responsibility to protect the creatures should lie with the government. Only one species of shark, the whale shark, currently enjoys full protection in Indonesia and the few regulations that exist are not properly enforced, they say.

At the moment, it is left to conservationists and others such as Xu to help the world's oldest predator. And while she recognises that her effort alone will not be enough, the Singaporean is happy to do what she can.

"The more I dived the more I got to see the sharks and they just grew on me," she said. "It is just too beautiful, and I don't want my grandchildren to not get this experience."

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Rat infestation near Bukit Batok MRT

Nur Afifah bte Ariffin, Channel NewsAsia 17 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: A rat infestation has been spotted in the vicinity of Bukit Batok MRT station. Simulation system operator Ryan Keith, 33, is a longtime Bukit Batok resident, and recorded a video of the rat infestation on Tuesday evening (Dec 16), at the hill just beside the train station.

"I was there for about 10 minutes and I think I saw more than 50 rats," he told Channel NewsAsia. "This spot is near to many eateries, and rats can breed very quickly and bite through wires, so I am quite concerned."

He said he has approached the National Environment Agency (NEA) about the problem, and they told him that "they will look into it".

Channel NewsAsia understands that this is a plot of state land under the management of the Housing and Development Board (HDB), as an agent of the Singapore Land Authority. Channel NewsAsia has approached the HDB for comment.

When Channel NewsAsia visited the area on Wednesday evening, more than 30 rats were seen scurrying about, although residents say that the number may sometimes be higher.

The MRT station is adjacent to several food establishments, including McDonald's and a hawker centre.

Some McDonald's staff Channel NewsAsia spoke to said they are worried that the rats might eventually enter the restaurant.

A pack of stray dogs were also spotted near the rats' nest. Cleaners working at the MRT station said they have seen people feeding the dogs in the evening, despite a large sign that forbids them from doing so. Residents also said that the remnants of the food given to the dogs are eventually eaten by the rats. The rats appear aggressive, and the dogs seem afraid of them.

Some residents are worried about the diseases that these rats and stray dogs may carry, and are calling for the authorities to take action.

"One day, if they run out of food, they will just go to the eateries around here. They might even run to the station and people might get bitten," said a resident Channel NewsAsia spoke to.

Another concerned resident said: "Before, there were just a lot of stray dogs. Recently you can see a lot of mice running all over the place. I think the authorities should do something about this because there are a lot of food stalls here. It is dangerous."

- CNA/ac/dl

Rat ‘infestation’ sighted near Bukit Batok MRT station
Today Online 17 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE — A video of a large colony of rats residing near Bukit Batok MRT station is causing concern among netizens.

Facebook user Ryan Keith Smith yesterday (Dec 16) uploaded videos and photos on his page of what appeared to be several rats scurrying around a grass patch.

Mr Smith said the footage was recorded next to Bukit Batok MRT station. He also published an email he sent last night to the Ministry of Health, the Choa Chu Kang Town Council, the National Environment Agency and several Members of Parliament who serve in the constituency.

In the email he urged the relevant authorities to look into the matter “for the safety of the residents”, especially considering the eateries and supermarkets in the vicinity.

This is not the first complaint of rats in the area. Earlier this month, another report had appeared in local media regarding the “infestation”.

Complaints of rat infestation near Bukit Batok MRT station
AsiaOne 17 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE - First it was 10 rats, then 20 on another day, then one night, commuter Madam Lin spotted more than 30 rats scurrying about the grass patch next to the Bukit Batok MRT station.

Madam Lin, 48, a technician, called Lianhe Wanbao's hotline about the rat infestation last Wednesday. She told the Chinese evening daily about witnessing rats scurrying up and down the grassy slopes beside the station daily for about a month.

She is not the only one. The Straits Times reported today (Dec 17) that another Bukit Batok resident, Mr Ryan Keith Smith, complained about the situation on his Facebook page.

Mr Smith uploaded pictures and a video of the rats on Dec 16.

The harrowing video shows rats running wild in broad daylight.

According to The Straits Times and a screengrab in one of his comments on the page, Mr Smith e-mailed photos of the rats to several parties, including the Choa Chu Kang Town Council, the National Environment Agency and MPs who serve in the constituency.

In the Facebook post showing the colony of rats, he wrote: "Imagine these rats nightly intrusion into all the eateries and supermarkets in the vicinity in order to survive and procreate.

"Our Government would be really proud if these are part of our population headcounts to 6.9 million and counting... Am sure Hong Kah North Town Council needs the help of Pied Piper."

According to Wanbao last week, the grassy slopes have become a "rats' playground", with residents saying the situation has worsened in recent days.

Bukit Batok rat infestation: Pest controllers step in
Xabryna Kek Channel NewsAsia 18 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: Pest controllers sent by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) were seen at a hill just beside the Bukit Batok MRT station on Thursday (Dec 18), in response to reports of a rat infestation.

More than 10 pest control officers from Star Pest Control were seen trapping the rats in cages, after they first arrived at around 8am. Star Pest Control manager Bernard Chan said they had sent two teams of people to treat the burrows where the rats were living in, and a few were caught when they ran out of the burrows.

"We were treating the burrows this morning, so a few of them ran out," said Mr Chan. "The 'active time' for the rats will be in the evening, when you will see more coming out."

"For the later part of the day, when we finish up the operation, we will eliminate the rats ... we will just kill them," he added, when asked what will happen to the trapped rats.

When Channel NewsAsia visited the area on Wednesday evening, more than 30 rats were seen scurrying about, although residents say that the number may sometimes be higher. The MRT station is adjacent to several food establishments, including McDonald's and a hawker centre.


However, a sales assistant at Bakery Point, Ms Eileen Ng, told Channel NewsAsia on Thursday that business was not affected by the infestation and no rats were found on its premises.

A Bukit Batok resident, Ms Gina Cheng, also downplayed the infestation as an "isolated case", adding that she did not think the rats would go to other parts of Bukit Batok. However, she pointed out that the stray dogs might be most affected by the rat infestation.

"I'm more concerned about the safety of the stray dogs," said Ms Cheng. "They are certainly the victims here - they have nowhere to go except this hilltop. The rodents issue, yes, the town council has to settle, but more so (address) the safety of the stray dogs."

"It could be because some residents here feed the dogs in an irresponsible way, so the rodents go after the leftover food," she added.

On Tuesday, Bukit Batok resident Ryan Keith had recorded the rat infestation at Bukit Batok on video, saying that he saw more than 50 rats in 10 minutes.

- CNA/av

About 15 rats caught so far at Bukit Batok infestation: Pest controllers
Marcus Mark Ramos and Nur Afifah bte Ariffin, Channel NewsAsia 18 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: "About 15 or 16" rats have been captured so far at the site of the Bukit Batok rat infestation, according to pest controllers sent by the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

News of the rat problem started circulating online on Wednesday (Dec 17), sparked by a netizen's video of many rats scurrying around the area.

The problem stems from the feeding of stray dogs, according to a joint statement from the Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National Environment Agency (NEA), Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and Jurong Town Council.

The resulting food scraps have attracted rodents and encouraged their infestation, the statement said. The infestation had been "kept under control" due to measures such as fencing to keep stray dogs away from common areas, and notices to remind the public not to feed the stray dogs.

However, the issue resurfaced in recent months due to "continuous indiscriminate feeding of the dogs in the area by feeders," the statement said.

"We have intensified our pest control measures to eradicate the rodents and in response to public complaints on aggressive stray dogs, we are continuing with stray dog control operations. However, for these efforts to be effective, the feeding of stray dogs needs to cease," the statement added. "Strict enforcement measures will be taken, and we hope the public will understand and support these measures."

Some food stall operators Channel NewsAsia spoke agreed that the infestation has escalated in the past month. They often find rats at food disposal spots, and have also seen people feeding stray dogs in the area, with the food remnants eventually eaten by rats.

According to Mr Afendi, Senior Manager of Operations at PestBusters, the rodents found at Bukit Batok are commonly known as sewer rats. They may grow up to 40cm in size, and also reproduce very quickly. Cutting their food supply is key to stopping this.

Said Mr Afendi: "The more food they can find, the faster the (rate) of the infestation will be. Rodents are very territorial, and they multiply very fast. As such, they would have to look for other food avenues."

To eradicate the issue of the infestation, Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC David Ong said the authorities have to stop the indiscriminate feeding of stray animals. The site of the rat infestation falls under Mr Ong's area.

"I think we need to educate more of the public not to feed these stray animals indiscriminately, like tossing food over the fences or lay food in the open. Second, of course, we also need to get the NEA to step up in terms of enforcement to make sure we do not have littering of food in the area," Mr Ong told Channel NewsAsia.


Star Pest Control manager Bernard Chan told Channel NewsAsia on Thursday evening (Dec 18) that the 'search and trap' team mainly used their hands and equipment such as nets to capture the rats, as luring them with conventional rat traps was "not very effective".

Mr Chan added that the rats did not appear as often on Thursday due to the rain. The field is also "very slippery" as a result of bad weather, making it hard for the pest controllers to chase after the rats. After the rats were caught, glue was used to prevent them from escaping, Mr Chan said.

The pest control team started work at 8am on Thursday. Rat poison was applied to the burrows at 9am, and a second layer was applied at 6pm, as the rain might have washed the first layer away. "The poison will take about three to five days to kill the rats. If the rat activity starts to subside, that means the treatment is successful," said Mr Chan.

Many netizens have expressed concerns about the use of rat poison, as dogs have been known to accidentally ingest the poison. To this, Mr Chan said: "We have already thought about this before carrying out the procedure. The rat poison is not exposed. We made sure to only put the rodenticide in the burrows, so the poison is underground where all the rats are hiding. The stray dogs will not be able to eat the poison by accident."

The pest control operation is expected to continue over the next few days, he said.


Meanwhile, the rat infestation appears to have become a little bit of a draw for crowds. When Channel NewsAsia visited the site on Thursday evening, a crowd of about 40 had gathered to watch pest controllers try to trap rats and treat burrows, with many of the onlookers taking photographs.

Mr Sundram Subbramaniam, who is not a Bukit Batok resident, said he happened to be in the area and decided to catch the pest controllers in action.

"I have been seeing this in the news and on social media, and since I am coincidentally here to drop off a letter today, I just wanted to see what was happening at the moment," he said. "I would like to salute all these pest control people for the great job they have done with the infestation so far. They continued to catch the rats despite the bad weather."

- CNA/dl

Bukit Batok rat infestation due to people feeding stray dogs, say authorities
OLIVIA HO Straits Times 18 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE - Rat infestations will not stop unless people stop feeding stray dogs and leaving food around for the rodents to feast on.

The authorities said that even though they have been carrying out anti-pest operations, the problem won't go away unless people stop feeding the stray dogs in Bukit Batok, a joint statement released on Thursday by the Housing Development Board (HDB), the National Environment Agency (NEA), the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA), and Jurong Town Council stated.

"We have intensified our pest control measures to eradicate the rodents and in response to public complaints on aggressive stray dogs, we are continuing with stray dog control operations. However, for these efforts to be effective, the feeding of stray dogs needs to cease. Feeders should also not interfere with stray dog control operations and tamper with traps and other equipment," said the statement.

The group of government agencies also said that the indiscriminate feeding of stray dogs in the area by the public has led to leftover food scraps.

"This has in turn attracted rodents and given rise to their infestation," they said.

The statement warned: "Rodents will proliferate whenever food sources are available, due to improper disposal of food or leftovers from the feeding of strays. Rodent control measures will fail as long as the root cause is not resolved."

According to the statement, the rat-busting operation was supplemented by other measures that targeted the feeding of stray dogs. These include putting up fencing to keep the dogs away from the common areas, conducting stray dog control operations and putting up notices to remind the public not to feed the dogs.

The land on which the infestation occurred is state land, managed by HDB for the Singapore Land Authority.

Extermination of rats at Bukit Batok to take up to a week
ROBIN CHOO Today Online 18 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE — The extermination of the rodent infestation near Bukit Batok MRT Station is expected to take up to a week, said pest controllers working on the problem after a video of rats scurrying in the area went viral this week.

In a joint response to media queries, the Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National Environment Agency (NEA), the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and Jurong Town Council said the feeding of stray dogs in the area needed to be stopped in order for the rodents to be eradicated.

The agencies said that since late last year, the public has been indiscriminately feeding the stray dogs, leaving food scraps that attracted rodents, which gave rise to the infestation.

The infestation was kept under control through multi-agency efforts, including the putting up of fences to keep stray dogs away from common areas and signs that reminded the public not to feed them, said the joint statement. Anti-rodent measures were also carried out.

However, the agencies said the issue resurfaced in the recent months due to continued indiscriminate feeding. “We have intensified our pest control measures to eradicate the rodents and, in response to public complaints on aggressive stray dogs, we are continuing with stray-dog control operations,” said the agencies.

Mr Ricky Yeo, president of Action for Singapore Dogs, said that while there were a small handful of “independent” feeders who do not practise responsible feeding, the rodent infestation should not be blamed on stray feeding. Feeders from his organisation and other local animal welfare groups do practise responsible feeding, he said.

Mr Yeo explained that responsible feeding was a means to capture and sterilise stray dogs and that it involved feeding the dogs only at a certain time at the same spot to create a routine, as dogs are habitual creatures. “Feeders must clean up the place after feeding,” he added.

Jurong GRC Member of Parliament (MP) David Ong said there were no laws against the feeding of stray animals, but added that the public should not do it irresponsibly. He yesterday also attributed the vermin problem to the indiscriminate feeding of stray animals. Food sources at the MRT station could have also attracted the rats, he said.

Mr Ong told TODAY that the issue would be a persistent one. “(We need to) step up vigilance and get (the) public to stop indiscriminate feeding.”

Extermination work began yesterday morning and lasted through the day. Curious onlookers crowded the vicinity as more than 10 exterminators worked to rid the area of the vermin.

Food and beverage establishments in the vicinity said they had been affected by the infestation. Mr Tan Pok Hong, assistant supervisor of a nearby coffee shop, said: “The (rat problem) started one to two months ago; (I) began only to see a lot more recently.”

Despite efforts to trap the rats, Mr Tan said he still found them scurrying around in the morning, gnawing on plastic containers and defecating in dark corners.

Rat extermination at Bukit Batok may take longer than expected: Pest controllers
Nur Afifah bte Ariffin, Channel NewsAsia 19 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: The extermination of the rats in Bukit Batok may take longer than expected, said pest controllers on Friday (Dec 19). They had earlier predicted that the process would take a week, but it is likely to drag on because of the wet weather.

Mr Bernard Chan, manager of Star Pest Control, said. “This morning, there was rain. At the moment, we do not see a lot of rat activity. We have to wait for the rain to subside. We trapped more than 40 rats yesterday. If the weather conditions are better, we will see a better picture."

As of Friday evening (Dec 19), about 70 rats have been killed. Pest controllers were sent in on Thursday morning after news of the rat problem started circulating online, sparked by a netizen's video of many rats scurrying around the area.


Residents affected by the rat infestation problem in Bukit Batok have appealed to the authorities to tackle the root cause of the problem: the indiscriminate feeding of stray dogs.

Some have also called for something to be done about the strays.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), the Housing and Development Board (HDB), the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and Jurong Town Council issued a joint statement that said multiple measures have been put in place to address the problem.

But residents say people continue to leave food for the stray dogs near Bukit Batok MRT station, despite clear signs that forbid them from doing so.

A resident said: "The feeding of stray dogs should be stopped because the dogs will leave behind all the food and the rats will come and eat it and they propagate. This year, I have taken the train from this station almost every day. I see a lot of dogs. Some aunties are like commandos - they feed the dogs and move away very quickly."

Another resident agreed: "The main reason (for the infestation) is because people keep on feeding the stray dogs. One party is trying to get rid of the dogs but the other party is trying to feed it. Hopefully, we can do something about the stray dogs. They make a lot of noise, especially in the evening."

Some animal welfare groups Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that feeding the strays has to be done responsibly. Ms Cheong Mei Yi, Outreach officer of Save Our Street Dogs, said: "You can prepare food and feed them, but you have to stay or come back and clear away the food the dogs did not finish, because that attracts a lot of other pests like cockroaches or rats."

The authorities are also appealing to the public not to leave food for strays. They said action will be taken against those who do so.

- CNA/ek/dl

Bukit Batok rat infestation larger than initially thought: Pest controllers
Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia 20 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: Pest busters who are trying to contain the rat infestation beside Bukit Batok MRT said on Saturday (Dec 20) they believe the infestation is affecting a bigger area than expected.

They added that efforts are being hampered by bad weather while new traces of food which can attract the rodents, have been discovered.

Thirty pest controllers have been combing the hill beside Bukit Batok MRT station to tackle the rat infestation. More than 140 rodents have been caught as of day three of the operation and more rats have been found further inside the forested area.

"We can go further deeper into the hill and other parts behind the hill as well and we do notice that there are activities over there," said Bernard Chan, manager of Star Pest Control. “We have created some simple road paths for the workers to access and conduct their work, and currently we are setting up more trappings.”

Authorities say food left behind for stray dogs have contributed to the rat infestation. Despite calls for more responsible behaviour, new traces of food have been found.

"For the last two days, because we are conducting operations here, the dog feeder actually detoured and went behind the hill,” said Mr Chan. “Last night, we discovered that they are throwing the food just behind the hill, which is a restricted area. We have also discovered that the amount of food that the dog feeder is providing the dog is quite a large amount, something about 10 kilogrammes."

The pest busters say the rats caught are roof rats, though they were earlier identified by another pest buster as sewer rats. Roof rats have been known to cause damage to properties.

"They are definitely good climbers and also good jumpers and their movement is much faster than sewer rats,” said Mr Chan. “If the population is not under control, if the population is overgrown, I think the rats will start to migrate into the stations and can cause more damage, not only to the properties' cables, but also migrate to the food establishments.

“Based on their behaviour, they will also need to gnaw something to sharpen their teeth and they might cause damage to the facility. We have seen this before, where they have bitten through the phone cables, land lines or even live wire as well in other places actually like in commercial buildings.”

Pest controllers say the operation may take more than a week to complete.

- CNA/ec

Bukit Batok rats to be flushed out by Christmas: Pest controllers
Nur Afifah bte Ariffin, Channel NewsAsia 21 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: More than 170 rats have been caught so far as the operation to clear out the infestation in Bukit Batok enters its fourth day on Sunday (Dec 21).

The sloped area where the rats were initially spotted is now under control, and pest controllers have moved to tackle the forested area at the back.

Showers over the past few days have caused some delays, but the first phase of the operation is expected to be completed by Christmas day, when all the rats would have been flushed out from their burrows.

Some rats are caught alive, while others will surface later after they have eaten poisonous bait laid by the trappers. The dead rats are then sprayed with insecticide to kill fleas, which carry diseases, and are later disposed of by the pest controllers.

"The basic KPI is that we will not be seeing any more rat movement on the hilltop where the public can see,” said Star Pest Control manager Bernard Chan.

The pest controllers say they will be installing surveillance devices inside the forested areas during the second phase of operations which will allow them to continue monitoring the area.

- CNA/ec

Bukit Batok rat infestation: Stage 1 of extermination complete
Loi Kar Yee, Chinese News and Diane Leow Channel NewsAsia 24 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: The first stage of eradicating the rat infestation at Bukit Batok is complete, according to pest controllers working on the area. The operation had begun a week ago on Dec 18, and was initially projected to take longer due to rainy weather.

Mr Bernard Chan, manager of Star Pest Control on Wednesday (Dec 24) told Channel NewsAsia the first phase of the operation has concluded with "reasonable results". He said the rat population is now "under control" as only one camera out of 20 installed in the area has captured photos of rat activity.

Photos of rats were snapped between 7pm to 8pm on Tuesday. The infrared cameras, which were installed in areas of the forest where the rats are most active, takes photographs when movement is detected. At least one stray dog was photographed as well.

Mr Chan added that the team will be moving into phase two of the operation from Thursday afternoon. Pest controllers will monitor areas that did not record rat activity previously to ensure that the rat population does not migrate to other areas, he said.

"There will be 30 monitoring points using cameras or other devices, such as simple monitoring stations with non-poisonous food bait for the rats. We will deploy that in the evening and in the morning, if there are signs of the food being bitten by the rats, then we will know they are still present."

He added that infrared video cameras will be installed in phase two of the exercise. Phase 2 of the operation is expected to last a fortnight. "After these two weeks of the second phase, we will resume normal maintenance," Mr Chan said.

- CNA/dl

Rat infestation at Bukit Batok over: Pest controllers
Abhishek Ravikrishnan Channel NewsAsia 6 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: The rat infestation episode at Bukit Batok seems to be over - according to Star Pest Control, which carried out the extermination process.

The second phase of the process, which focused on monitoring the situation in the area, ends on Wednesday (Jan 7).

Said Mr Bernard Chan, Manager at Star Pest Control: “For the past two weeks, we have installed between 10 to 30 surveillance cameras on a few occasions, which can also work at night by using infra-red technology. With images that we have captured, we observed that there is no more rat activity.”

Authorities had said earlier that the rat problem could be due to people feeding stray dogs in the area, and leaving food for the rodents to feast on. Some residents said that stray dogs can still be seen in the vicinity, but none were spotted when Channel NewsAsia visited Bukit Batok MRT on Tuesday afternoon.

Star Pest Control said it will continue to monitor the situation, but it does not believe that the infestation is likely to recur.

"We did observe that there are some feeders still feeding strays. However, we also see that the relevant authorities like AVA and NEA officers are around to advise the feeder. I think the situation definitely can get better. believe everyone is aware now. And everyone will be putting extra effort to ensure that this will not happen again,” Mr Chan said.

- CNA/dl/el

Read more!

Malaysia: Prices of greens and fish soaring

KATHLEEN ANN KILI The Star 18 Dec 14;

JOHOR BARU: The monsoon season has caused the prices of vegetables and fish to shoot up over the past five months.

Checks by The Star showed that vegetable prices increased by between 40% and 50% while fish prices had risen by 10% to 20% since August.

Vegetable seller Halimah Majid, 73, who has been a trader at the Tebrau market for the past 32 years, claimed that the price of vegetables would increase further until February.

“Vegetable supplies from Batu Pahat, Kulai and Bentong have been low because most of the crops were destroyed due to the rainy season,” she said.

She said tomatoes, which were usually sold at about RM4 per kg, now cost between RM5 and RM6 while the price of cucumber had increased from RM2.50 to RM3 a kilo.

She added that the price of red chillies rose from RM8 to RM10 while cabbage had increased from RM4 to RM4.50.

Another vegetable seller Bah Ah Lan said that where the supplies came from also affected the prices.

“Vegetables from Cameron Highlands are higher due to the (flood) damage to the crops.

“But my supplies from Yong Peng are not affected and prices remain stable,” she said at the Larkin market here.

Fishmonger Seet Bak Chua said the price of ikan selar (yellowtail scad) and kembung (mackerel) were the most affected.

“Fishermen are unable to go out to sea due to the rough seas and this has affected supply.

“But the prices of fish bred in farms are unaffected,” he said at the Tebrau market.

Poultry prices have not been affected by the monsoon season.

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Indonesia: Mangrove forest planted as tsunami shield

Fred Pearce New Scientist 17 Dec 14;

THE worst tsunami on record hit South-East Asia on 26 December 10 years ago, killing more than 227,000 people in total. I recently toured villages on the west coast of Aceh, the Indonesian province that bore the brunt of the impact, where 167,000 lost their lives when a 20-metre wave crashed ashore that morning. I also saw the results of heavy mangrove reforestation since the tsunami.

Can replanting mangrove forests on tropical coastlines really protect communities from the immense destruction of a tsunami such as the Indian Ocean killer wave that struck 10 years ago?

My guide was environmental scientist Agus Halim whose wife and two children died in the disaster. He helped mastermind ecological reconstruction of the damaged coastlines for the Indonesian government, and was clear in his answer. "They are very important for protecting coastal areas, because they can absorb wave energy," he says. And, thanks to the thousands of hectares of mangroves planted round Aceh since the tsunami, next time they would do the job – or at least, that's the hope.

The tsunami was caused by an earthquake just offshore. In the fishing village of Keude Unga, an old man in a cafe told me that the wave was higher than the trees. "Every building in the village was destroyed. The only people who survived were those who ran for the hills," he says. In some of the villages, nobody survived.

Nothing could have prevented massive destruction, nor stopped the permanent sea invasion that followed. The quake caused widespread land subsidence that shifted the shoreline inland by up to 800 metres and left the sites of villages, such as nearby Gle Jong, permanently submerged.

There is growing evidence that even under such extreme circumstances, mangroves' dense root and branch networks could help dissipate tsunamis, reducing their devastation.

Some early claims for the protective effects of mangrove forests in 2004 have been debunked as statistically unreliable, because there are too many variables to allow easy conclusions, such as difference in beach slopes or coast angles (Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science,

But others are more robust, says Halim. A study found villages behind mangroves survived best (Science, And detailed analysis of satellite images of the west coast of Aceh by Juan Carlos Laso Bayas of the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, suggests that forests in front of settlements resulted in 8 per cent fewer casualties during the tsunami (PNAS,

That figure sounds modest, but it represents perhaps 10,000 lives. And it could be conservative. Experiments by Tetsuya Hiraishi and Kenji Harada of Kyoto University, Japan, showed that a 100-metre belt of dense mangroves could reduce the destructive energy of a tsunami by as much as 90 per cent.

The tragedy is that, as in many places across the tropics, most of Aceh's mangroves had been uprooted before the tsunami, to make way for shrimp ponds.

Since 2004, many NGOs have tried to replant the trees. Perhaps the most successful has been the Green Coast project supervised by Halim and run by two NGOs based in the Netherlands, Wetlands International and Oxfam Novib. In return for planting trees, survivors were offered collateral-free loans to help start post-tsunami businesses in their villages. Wetlands International agreed to write off the debts if 75 per cent of the trees survived for two years. This was critical for the project's success, says Wetlands' Indonesian director Nyoman Suryadiputra.

That target was achieved almost everywhere. Close to 2 million trees have been planted around 70 villages. This included mangroves on mud, and fast-growing native casuarina pines on sandy areas.

The foreign aid groups left Aceh five years ago. Most of the projects started with Green Coast credit, including cafes, fishing boats and cattle-rearing farms, are doing well. Life is returning to normal. There seems to be a baby boom. Halim married again and has a child. We watched the boy play in the sand as we ate lunch at a beachside restaurant.

The science, reiterated in a UN report on mangroves in September, suggests the villagers of Aceh can be reassured that the trees will provide some protection from the ocean. But if they ever hear the roar of an approaching tsunami again, they should head for the hills as fast as they can.

Fred Pearce's trip to Aceh was funded by Wetlands International

This article appeared in print under the headline "Ten years after the tsunami"

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EU ministers set 2015 fishing quotas; campaigners say still too high

Reuters Yahoo News 17 Dec 14;

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union fisheries ministers agreed on Tuesday night to new catch quotas for next year, but environmental groups said the limits were still too high and would fail to end decades of overfishing.

The agreement was the first time ministers set catch levels on the basis of scientific advice in line with a new fisheries policy agreed last year, however not all the recommendations were followed.

While the quotas for mackerel and herring were reduced, cod and sole catches were kept at the same level or not cut by nearly as much as scientists had suggested.

Ministers also agreed to end the controversial practice of throwing unwanted fish back into the sea. From 2015, fishermen will have to keep all unwanted catches on board and count them towards their quotas.

Under the reformed common fisheries policy the EU committed to putting all fish stocks on a sustainable footing by 2015 where possible, or 2020 at the latest.

"We have succeeded in increasing the number of stocks that are now managed at sustainable levels," said Maritime Affairs Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

Where ministers ignored scientific advice, they were asked to show how the original proposal would have jeopardized the social and economic sustainability of the fishing fleets involved.

Environmental campaigners said the ministers had ignored the scientists too often and had given no evidence of a plan to end overfishing in the near future.

"Although catches will be reduced for several stocks, it is totally unjustifiable that fisheries ministers ignored 56 percent of the scientific advice," said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of conservation group Oceana.

For example, ministers agreed a 5 percent increase in the total allowable catches for North Sea cod whereas scientists had advised a 20 percent cut, according to Pew, a scientific organization.

"Fish stocks and fishing communities are put at risk when ministers disregard the agreed policy and continue to legislate overfishing," said Uta Bellion, director of Pew's European marine program.

Ministers also ignored a recommended 60 percent cut to catches of Eastern Channel sole, opting instead for a 28 percent reduction.

The new catches will apply from Jan. 1.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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Microplastic deposits found deep in world's oceans and seas

Study of 12 sites concludes that deep sea sediments are acting as a sink for substantial quantities tiny pieces of plastic

Adam Vaughan The Guardian 17 Dec 14;

Scientists believe they have solved the mystery of where tens of thousands of tonnes of missing tiny pieces of plastic are ending up – and the answer lies in the mud and sand on the ocean floor.

Researchers have previously been puzzled by why they found much less plastic on the ocean surface than they expected, but a study by a British and Spanish team concludes that deep sea sediments are acting as a sink for such “microplastics”.

Analysing samples from 12 sites in the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean taken between 2001 and 2012, they found for the first time that substantial quantities of microplastics – which measure less than 1mm in length – had accumulated in deep sea sediment.

The tiny fibres were found at depths from 300m down at the shallowest in the Mediterranean to over 3,000m deep, at volumes 1,000 times higher than those at the surface of the sea.

Prof Lucy Woodall, of the Natural History Museum in London and the paper’s lead author, said: “This is the tip of the iceberg. Fibres are ubiquitous in our oceans and they do appear to be quite abundant in comparison with similar studies that have looked at similar things. The fundamental message of the paper is really quite simple: they’re there. Now we need to find out what the impacts are on our environment.”

A study earlier this month, the most comprehensive of its kind so far, estimated there are more than 5tn pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans, weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes. But the authors, who collected tens of thousands of pieces of plastic and then extrapolated that to model how many would be found worldwide, cautioned that the amount was just 0.1% of annual global plastic production.


The new work sampling deep sea sediments, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal on Wednesday, found pieces of plastic that were commonly 2–3 mm in length and less than 0.1 mm in diameter.

“The prevalence of plastic microfibres in all sediment cores and on all coral colonies examined suggests this contaminant is ubiquitous in the deep sea. Furthermore, the wide variety of polymer types detected reveals that the accumulation and deposition of microfibres in the deep sea is complex and that they arise from a variety of domestic and industrial sources,” the study said.

Woodall added: “Pretty much everything [is a potential source for what we found]. Just look around in our environment, our computers have plastic, our bags have, our cups have. All those things can potentially end up in the ocean, so to pinpoint any particular source is just not possible.”

The abundance of plastic at such depths has potentially negative ramifications for marine life, though the study says more research is needed. “A range of organisms are known to ingest microplastics, and there is concern this could result in physical and/or toxicological harm,” the authors warn.

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