Best of our wild blogs: 23 Dec 14

Final Farewell to Bidadari
from Nikita Hengbok

Myna strangled by fishing line at Lower Peirce
from Bird Ecology Study Group

The tanks at Tanjong Berlayer
from The Long and Winding Road

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Free mentorship for green aspirants

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Dec 14;
Four of Singapore's best-known environmentalists have teamed up to pass on the baton.

They have designed a free programme to mentor up to 10 Singaporeans aged 19 to 35 who want to help the country's environment. The four activists include former Nominated MP Faizah Jamal, who used her time in the House to argue passionately for more attention to be paid to "green" issues such as marine life, parks and trees.

The other three are Mr Eugene Tay, who recently won the National Environment Agency's EcoFriend award; Ms Ria Tan, who runs website WildSingapore; and Ms Olivia Choong, who co-founded Green Drinks Singapore, a non- profit society that organises monthly meetings on environment issues.

Mr Tay, who is founder and director of consultancy firm Green Future Solutions, said he came up with the idea to mentor young people as "they tend to stop volunteering for the environment once they start working or have other commitments".

"I hope the programme can act as a support system and help them for the long term," he said.

The programme will start next month and last until July.

Each month, one or more of the environmentalists will chair one weekend session of up to three hours on specific topics.

Ms Faizah, for instance, will lead a session on Singapore's environmental laws and urban planning, and teach participants how they can engage the Government more effectively.

Ms Choong will speak on how people can shape better campaigns, including through social media.

Mr Tay said other sessions that focus on climate change, waste, energy, biodiversity, conservation and green products are meant to give a holistic view. "Some of them may be interested in a particular topic, such as climate change, but they may not be aware of other, interconnected issues."

After the programme ends, the participants are expected to develop and implement a green project. They also have to outline the project in their applications.

Nature Society president Shawn Lum said the programme would provide practical advice and invaluable contacts.

"Sometimes, people want to contribute, but they don't know how to start, or they give up when they hit a dead end. This mentorship can help with that."

The deadline for applications is Jan 4.

To learn more about the programme and to apply, go to

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Malaysia: Will Forest City issue affect ties with Singapore?

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 23 Dec 14;

JOHOR BARU: JOHOR lawmakers fear that Malaysia and Singapore may be embroiled in a diplomatic row once the detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) report of the controversial Forest City project is approved.

They are worried about the possibility of retribution from Singapore, citing the republic’s reclamation works in Pulau Tekong and Tuas more than 10 years ago as an example.

Malaysia was prompted to file a case with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) following Singapore’s actions then.

A state assemblyman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said this could become a reality should the Department of Environment (DOE) approve the DEIA report.

“The Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on Environment was formed following the ITLOS decision on Pulau Tekong in 2004.

“I hope both governments can work together to resolve the Forest City reclamation issue.

“If it is brought to the ITLOS for arbitration, it can affect investors’ confidence in Johor and Iskandar Malaysia.”

In the Pulau Tekong and Tuas reclamation cases, the biggest reclamation works ever undertaken by the republic, Malaysia had pursued the matter with the arbitral tribunal, despite Singapore’s assurance that it had undertaken all mitigation measures.

Several mitigation measures have been proposed in Forest City’s DEIA report, but the assemblyman said this did not guarantee that Singapore would be pacified.

“Bringing the case to the arbitral tribunal does not bode well for cordial bilateral ties (between Malaysia and Singapore), which is needed to speed up several impending projects, including the Rapid Transit System connecting Johor Baru and Woodlands in Singapore,” said another assemblyman.

In 2002, it was reported that Malaysia had alleged that Singapore’s land reclamation works in Pulau Tekong and Tuas, inter alia, had impinged on Malaysia’s territorial waters, caused pollution and other adverse harm to the marine environment in the Straits of Johor.

The matter culminated in Malaysia invoking the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and referring the dispute to arbitration.

Subsequently, Malaysia applied to ITLOS for provisional measures to stop Singapore’s land reclamation works pending the outcome of the arbitration.

In 2005, agents for the respective governments appeared before the arbitral tribunal at the Peace Palace in The Hague and took turns to read a joint statement informing the tribunal that the two governments had reached an ad referendum agreement to settle the dispute.

Eventually, both governments signed a settlement agreement, marking an amicable resolution of the dispute.

The New Straits Times yesterday front-paged a report on the controversy generated by the massive project, which involves four reclaimed islands.

The project has created uneasiness because of the massive reclamation works involved, environmental issues and concerns raised by Singapore.

The DEIA had to be carried out following a diplomatic note from Singapore, which had asked for more details of the project and its impact on the Straits of Johor, as the project was situated near the Malaysia-Singapore boundary and involved coastal reclamation.

The DOE is expected to pass its verdict on the DEIA report on the project by this week.

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Researchers find two snake species new to Singapore

AUDREY TAN Straits Times 23 Dec 14;

Two species of snakes new to Singapore have been identified by researchers - an indication that the country's nature areas are still thriving habitats for biodiversity despite their fragmentation.

The non-poisonous reptiles, a blackwater mud snake and a smooth slug snake, were identified by researchers in September.

The 40cm-long, two-toned blackwater mud snake - a largely black creature with a brownish- yellow underbelly - was discovered on Sept 12 by staff from the National Parks Board's (NParks') National Biodiversity Centre in the Nee Soon Swamp Forest during a biodiversity study.

The Nee Soon Swamp Forest is located within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

"Though decades of work on the fauna of Singapore have been carried out, it is remarkable that the blackwater mud snake has remained undiscovered until now," said covering director of the biodiversity centre Geoffrey Davison.

He said because the record was new, "very little is known about its population size" in Singapore, although its known habitat is within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

On the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the blackwater mud snake is listed as a data deficient species, with the available information collected from only 10 specimens.

Said National University of Singapore (NUS) biologist Rudolf Meier, who led the team that sequenced the genetic data confirming the species identity of the snakes: "South-east Asia is home to a very large number of species (which) we only have rudimentary knowledge of... The blackwater mud snake is one such case.

"It is gratifying that we now know the species also occurs in Singapore, although the country has only very little suitable habitat for this species."

The other discovery - a smooth slug snake - was found as roadkill in Old Upper Thomson Road by a member of the Nature Society (Singapore).

"The slug snake had previously been spotted in the vicinity of the zoo in Mandai in 1978, but it was unclear whether it was native," said Professor Meier.

Such doubts, however, have been cleared, based on the genetic material from the carcass.

The slug snake is listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List, which means it is not under threat. Like the mud snake, the slug snake can be found in peat swamps and black water environments within South-east Asia, said Dr Davison.

The 750ha Nee Soon Swamp Forest is Singapore's last remaining primary freshwater swamp forest. Before the early 1930s, such habitats could also be found in Upper and Lower Seletar and Jurong. These areas have been converted for other land uses.

The Nee Soon site is the focus of an ongoing NParks-led study of its biodiversity and water systems which aims to help the authorities develop "long-term sustainable management practices for the area".

NParks is working with the NUS Tropical Marine Science Institute, Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Geography and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum on the study, which started early last year and is expected to wrap up next year.

To date, quantitative sampling for fish, shrimps, crabs and other invertebrates has been conducted, said Dr Davison.

A number of animal and plant species on the IUCN Red List have been found to inhabit this area, including two freshwater crabs found nowhere else in the world - the Johnson's Freshwater Crab and the Swamp Forest Crab.


International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status: Data deficient; available information collected from only 10 specimens
Habitat: Acidic environments such as peat swamps and blackwater streams in South-east Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia
Diet: Small fish and aquatic invertebrates

IUCN Red List status: Least concern; not under threat
Habitat: Acidic environments such as peat swamps and black water environments within South-east Asia. It has been found in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand
Diet: Slugs and snails

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Spotlight unfairly thrown on stray feeding: Animal activists

ROBIN CHOO Today Online 23 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE — Animal welfare groups have expressed concern that the spotlight has been unfairly thrown onto stray feeding — cited by the authorities as one of the main reasons for the emergence of a rat colony at a mound in Bukit Batok — and hope that the authorities do not clamp down on the practice or the presence of stray dogs in the area.

While some have pointed to pictures from pest controllers — brought in by the authorities — of tightly-bound plastic bags of food found in the vicinity of the rat infestation as argument against stray feeding, others questioned whether these had indeed been left for stray dogs.

Such a way of feeding was “weird” and uncommon, said both Animals Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) chief executive Louis Ng and Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) president Siew Tuck Wah.

President of Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) Ricky Yeo, however, said the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam boxes was a common practice among individual feeders.

While they acknowledged that some individual feeders may not be carrying out feeding responsibly, the groups said educating these people is the way to go.

Both the ASD and the SOSD have been trying to contact indiscriminate feeders to educate them on proper feeding practices. Mr Yeo said responsible feeding entails creating a routine — feeding the dogs at a fixed time at the same spot every day — as dogs are habitual animals.

By using narrow spaces as feeding spots, animal welfare groups said they can also easily trap the dogs, so that they can be neutered and released back to the same location. This trap-sterilise-release method is the most humane method of controlling stray populations, they added.

When contacted, Jurong GRC Member of Parliament David Ong reiterated that food littering by irresponsible feeding of strays was one of the main causes of the rat infestation.

He added that Jurong Town Council is working with agencies to look at trying to manage the food littering issue and how they can closer monitor and enforce against irresponsible feeding, as well as educating and engaging dog feeders.

On the rat extermination, he said it was “progressing well”.

Meanwhile, in a Facebook post last Friday, former Member of Parliament Tan Cheng Bock said the rise in rat colonies could be due to food establishments located close to train stations. He added that rats could damage underground cables, causing train disruptions.

Calling for a review on the buffer zone between food shops and stations, Dr Tan said: “It is a question of nipping the problem early or suffer the consequences of rat illness such as leptospirosis, and potential train disruptions in future.”

Rat problem at Bukit Batok largely under control: Authorities
Sharon See, Channel NewsAsia 22 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: Authorities have said the rat infestation problem at Bukit Batok is largely under control. About 200 rats have been caught so far as the operation to clear out the burrows enters its fifth day.

Bukit Batok's rat infestation problem came to light last week after a video taken by a resident went viral. Five days after the operation to tackle the infestation began, pest controllers believe the problem has now "subsided".

The next phase, which will take place after Christmas, is to monitor and control the situation. This will involve the setting up of infrared motion detectors and the planting of baits. This phase is expected to last another two weeks.

Mr Bernard Chan, the manager of Star Pest Control, said: "To eliminate all of the rats is impossible because there will be roof rats in a forested area. They survive through plants and fruits.

"As long as there is no outside food source, they will not be able to multiply so easily. We can continue to do some frequent monitoring - that means coming by once every two weeks to do a check and see whether there is any migration or growth in the population of rats."

Authorities said they had been aware of the rat problem in the area since late last year and had taken measures to control it. However, they said the issue resurfaced in recent months due to the "continuous indiscriminate feeding of the dogs in the area".

The Housing and Development Board said it did not receive any complaints about the rat problem before the video by 33-year-old simulation system operator Ryan Keith Smith spread online.

Mr David Ong, an MP for Jurong GRC, said: "One of the things we are doing now is that on the community-front, we will be mobilising our community on patrol to do more frequent patrols around this area so that we can engage the dog feeders to not leave food indiscriminately, as well as to work with the National Environment Agency to see how we can raise the level of monitoring and enforcement on food littering."

Pest controllers have said that dog feeders continued to leave food in the area even after the operation began.

- CNA/ac

Around 40 stray dogs rounded up in Bukit Batok this year: AVA
Channel NewsAsia 23 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: About 40 stray dogs were rounded up in the Bukit Batok area this year, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). The authority said it received 100 complaints in 2014 regarding the dogs in the area around Bukit Batok Central, and on those who feed them.

“As there continues to be public feedback about aggressive stray dogs in the Bukit Batok area, AVA will be continuing our stray dog control operations there,” said an AVA spokesman.

The rat infestation near Bukit Batok MRT station has been exacerbated by those who leave food for stray dogs without clearing the leftovers, the authorities have said.

“While the feeding of stray animals is well-intended, feeding becomes an offence when it causes littering of the environment,” said the AVA spokesman. “The feeding of stray dogs results in the proliferation of their population as well as the population of undesirable pest species (e.g. rodents and other vermin) which will cause hygiene and sanitation issues.

"We appeal to the public to cooperate by not feeding stray dogs. AVA is working with the relevant agencies to address the issue of stray dog feeding and the public hygiene issues caused by such actions,” the spokesman added.

AVA has received about 2,300 complaints on stray dogs, this year. In one instance, a man reported that he was chased by a pack of eight stray dogs from a multi-storey car park to his apartment block.

The authority said it works with relevant stakeholders to manage the stray population in Singapore, in order to ensure public health and safety. Measures include public education and surveillance and control operations, and it also works with animal welfare groups to rehome impounded dogs deemed suitable for adoption.

- CNA/xy

The Bukit Batok rat infestation: What you need to know
Diane Leow Channel NewsAsia 24 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: Bukit Batok's rat infestation problem came to light last week after a video taken by a resident was posted online and widely shared. Pest controllers have been trying to eradicate the rats for nearly a week, and the next phase of monitoring and controlling the situation will take place after Christmas, and is expected to last another two weeks.

We asked some experts for their take on the situation, and the health hazards posed by rats.

Q: How worried should the general public be about this rat infestation?

Assoc Prof Richard J Sugrue, Head of the Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology division at Nanyang Technological University:

It is always a concern when rats live close to centres of human habitation, and the colony at Bukit Batok could have serious implications for the people living and working in the area. Rats can carry a variety of different disease causing agents, and these can be transmitted from the rats to humans.

Rats are associated with the transmission of several important infections in humans, including leptospirosis and plague. In South Korea, during the 1970s, the Hanta virus was identified as the causative agent of Hantavirus hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, and this virus was passed into the human population via rodent urine and faeces.

Therefore, transmission of these disease-causing agents to humans can occur by indirect contact with the rats, such as through rodent faeces and urine.

Being near a MRT station may increase the risk of the spread of infectious agents, since there is a risk that rats can enter the MRT system. This could potentially allow the flow of infected material (e.g. aerosols from infected rat urine) through the MRT underground tunnels, which could have consequences for people living outside the immediate area.

Prof Paul Anantharajah Tambyah, President of the Society of Infectious Diseases:

There are certain diseases associated with rats, but often these are due to the fleas that live on rats rather than the rats themselves. In fact, rats are more a marker of how unhygienic a place is.

Leptospirosis is commonly known as the rat urine disease. Interestingly, there was an outbreak in Bukit Batok Nature Park a few years ago. What happens is - rats carry this bacteria, then they excrete it in their urine. It gets into the surface water, and people running in the water - if you get a cut or something like that and it gets contaminated - then you run the risk of getting leptospirosis.

The other one is murine typhus, spread by the fleas from the rats. The good exterminators know you have to call in the rat specialist and the flea specialist. They are a bit like doctors. They have got different specialists doing different things. Once you kill the rats, the fleas have nowhere to go and they start biting humans, so it has to be a comprehensive approach.

Both diseases are very easily treated with simple antibiotics.

Q: The pest controllers identify the Bukit Batok rats as roof rats, not sewer rats. Is there a difference in terms of the damage these rats can inflict?

Senior Research Fellow Dr Ian Mendenhall and Research Assistant Erica Sena Neves, Laboratory of Virus Evolution, Emerging Infectious Diseases Program, Duke-NUS Medical School:

Actually, the species identified as roof rat in Singapore is not roof rat type species (Rattus rattus), it is the Asian or Oriental house rat (Rattus tanezumi). The Asian house rat is a very good climber, while the sewer rat (Rattus norvegicus) is a ground-dweller and burrows tunnels. Both species are highly adaptable and intelligent, and their propensity to dig and gnaw can cause direct and indirect structural damage to buildings and houses.

We did not examine the animals caught at Bukit Batok personally; therefore we are not able to confirm which species it is.

Q: Is it fair to blame the feeders of stray dogs for the proliferation of the rats?

Dr Mendenhall and Ms Neves:

In highly urbanised cities like Singapore, there are endless sources of food for the rats. Therefore, it is likely there are multiple contributors to the problem.

Q: What should authorities and residents do to prevent this sort of rat infestation from happening again?

Dr Mendenhall and Ms Neves:

It is frequently said that there are as many rats in cities as people, and undoubtedly we will never be able to completely eliminate these animals from urban environments.

However their population size is kept under control by removing the two main elements required for their proliferation: Food and shelter. The primary interventions are to manage the garbage properly by keeping discarded food in tightly closed containers, to cover drains and vents, and to seal cracks and holes.

Trapping around areas where these animals are likely to be found, such as hawker centers and garbage disposal areas, is also useful for monitoring rat populations so that control measures to mitigate infestations can be implemented in a timely manner. Interestingly, it was public awareness that detected this problem and this is increasingly used to augment surveillance.

- CNA/xy

Pest controllers need three weeks to end Bt Batok rat problem
Joyce Lim The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Dec 14;

An estimated 180 rats have been caught, five days into an operation to rid an area beside Bukit Batok MRT station of the rodents.

But pest controllers said three weeks are needed in all to wipe out the rat infestation.

At the weekend, pest controllers also expanded their area of surveillance where traps and poison were laid, after finding the infestation to be "bigger than expected", said Mr Bernard Chan, who has been leading the operation since Day 1.

"We are now covering an area close to the size of a football field," said the general manager of Star Pest Control.

The rat problem was highlighted after Mr Ryan Keith Smith, a resident of the area, posted a widely viewed video last Tuesday, showing rats scurrying around a slope beside the MRT station.

The 33-year-old military simulation operator also e-mailed photos of the rats to the town council and agencies such as the National Environment Agency.

Two days later, pest controllers were seen combing the hill next to the MRT station.

Mr Chan said his team of 20 to 30 pest controllers have been working from 8am to 10pm for the past few days.

They have also braved frequent downpours to venture deep into the forested area in search of more burrows.

"We are hoping to end the first phase of our mission by Wednesday. That is to keep the rat infestation under control, making sure that the rats no longer come out in the open area," Mr Chan told The Straits Times.

"The next phase will be to monitor the area to ensure that there is no more rat infestation on this hill. We will also implement measures to ensure that the rats do not reproduce."

Pest controllers found about 10kg of food left for stray dogs in the area, which they said contributed to the rat problem.

Mr Chan warned that the rats might migrate to the MRT station and other areas if they are not kept under control.

But the rodent menace looks to have abated. A worker at a bakery at the station, who gave his name only as Mr Yong, 21, said: "When I come to work at 4am, I used to see the rats running across the MRT station. But I haven't spotted any in the past few days."

Rat infestation: AVA to continue with stray dog control operations
ELGIN CHONG AND ROBIN CHOO Today Online 23 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE — About 100 instances of feedback about stray dogs and the feeding of these dogs in the Bukit Batok Central area — which have been cited as the main cause of a rat infestation in the estate — have been sent to the authorities as of November this year.

Responding to media queries, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it has been conducting stray dog control operations in the area in response to public feedback, and about 40 dogs have been rounded up in the Bukit Batok area this year so far.

“AVA works closely with the (animal welfare group) rehoming partners to rehome impounded dogs assessed to be suitable for rehoming, based on health and temperament,” a spokesperson said. “As there continues to be public feedback about aggressive stray dogs in the Bukit Batok area, AVA will be continuing our stray dog control operations there.”

The rat infestation in Bukit Batok surfaced last week after members of the public shared videos of the rats scurrying over the slope near Bukit Batok MRT Station. Pest controllers launched control operations last Thursday, catching about 200 rats so far, and 20 infrared motion detector cameras were installed today(Dec 23) to monitor for rodent activity at night.

Animal welfare groups have also expressed concern that the blame heaped upon the feeding of strays for the problem would cast the practice in a poor light, and lead to a clampdown.

The AVA noted that while the feeding of stray animals is well-intended, the feeding of stray dogs results in their population growing, while pests — such as rodents and other vermin — also flourish, causing hygiene and sanitation issues. “We appeal to the public to cooperate by not feeding stray dogs,” the spokesperson said.

The authority also said overall, it has received about 2,300 instances of public feedback on stray dogs this year as of November, with some expressing fear and anxiety over the presence of the dogs, aggressive stray dogs and other related nuisances.

Meanwhile, Star Pest Controller, which is overseeing the operations at Bukit Batok, said the latest phase of the operations — monitoring for rat activity at night — is expected to take around two weeks.

“We don’t know how many rats are still remaining in the forest, but once we have determined whether the rats are still active or not, we will decide our next course of action from there,” said Mr Bernard Chan, Star Pest Control’s manager.

Baits have been placed at hotspots identified during the first phase of operations and a team of eight will monitor the cameras for movements round the clock. “We have been using the cameras for two years and it is very effective because it gives us adequate information on whether the targeted pest is still active,” said Mr Chan.

His team will also notify the authorities if they spot any dog feeders in action. “Everyday, the pest control team finds dog food in different parts of the forest area. This means that the feeders probably sneak up the hill every night,” Mr Chan said. “Just yesterday, the team went for their dinner break and when they came back, food suddenly appeared out of nowhere.”

Don’t blame stray dogs for rat infestation at Bukit Batok: SPCA
Today Online 26 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE — Stray dogs are not to blame for the rat infestation at Bukit Batok, said the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Singapore, pointing instead to members of the public who feed the dogs without cleaning up the leftover food.

In a letter sent to this newspaper yesterday (Dec 25), the SPCA’s executive director Corinne Fong responded to media reports on the cause of the rodent infestation, calling for greater tolerance towards community animals.

She said: “SPCA wishes to dispute the notion that the community dogs are ultimately responsible for the rodent infestation in the area. Many a time, it has been observed that members of the public have been casually feeding the dogs, without actually cleaning up leftover food.”

She added that there is “already a core group of community feeders (and caregivers tending to the dogs’ basic nutritional needs and care) who would be happy to help in resolving any issue concerning the dogs”.

The issue of a rat infestation at Bukit Batok emerged earlier this month, with authorities placing the blame on indiscriminate stray feeding. Some people have called for the removal of the dogs in the area. Animal welfare groups TODAY spoke with previously had expressed concern that stray feeding was unfairly thrown into the spotlight, and they hoped that the authorities would not clamp down on the practice, or the presence of stray dogs in Bukit Batok.

Ms Fong pointed out: “We must recognise that the community dogs have no place to go and, while the SPCA and other animal welfare groups have tried their best to house them, they have space and resource constraints.” She add that the SPCA does not round up healthy animals from the streets.

“A little more empathy, too, will go a long way,” said Ms Fong.

More than 230 rats have been caught since the operations to eradicate them started on Dec 18. Pest controllers have said it will take two more weeks before the exercise ends.

MP weighs in on rat problem at Bukit Batok
Channel NewsAsia 27 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan on Saturday (Dec 27) weighed in on the rat problem at Bukit Batok. He said many do not understand that stray dogs may not finish the food left for them, allowing rats and other pests to flourish.

Mr Lim, member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment, said: "We should go on an outreach programme to reach out to coffeeshop owners and people living in the area, to say that if they see anyone trying to feed stray dogs, tell them to please make sure that they clear up the food after they have fed the animals. Of course, it's best if you don't even feed the animals, because you're just leaving food around in an unhygienic manner."

Mr Lim added that while officers from the National Environment Agency and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority could step up patrols in the area, they have limited resources. He said public education on the problem of leaving unconsumed food out would be the most effective solution.

Meanwhile, those involved in the pest control operation at Bukit Batok are seeing their efforts bear fruit. Only six rats were caught from Friday night to Saturday afternoon, while infrared cameras set up around the area detected no trace of rats.

- CNA/al

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Tiger and wild cat trade from Myanmar to China growing

Navin Singh Khadka BBC World Service 22 Dec 14;

The trade in tigers and other wild cat parts from Myanmar into China has grown in recent years, a new study based on two decades of survey data suggests.

It reports a surge mainly in Mong La, a Burmese town bordering China, where shops selling such products have more than trebled in the past eight years.

Tiger parts were found in 80 percent of the surveys, the study says, representing at least 200 tigers.

The most common parts were from clouded leopards, numbering some 480 animals.

The findings, published in the journal Biological Conservation, reinforce past claims that the town was emerging as a major wildlife market in the region for products from as far away as Africa.

At the same time, they suggest that in another Burmese town, Tachilek, on the border with Thailand, there has been a fall in trade.

"It could be due to greater enforcement action in Thailand," says report author Chris Shepherd of Traffic, an international wildlife trade monitoring network.

"But because that is yet to happen on the part of China, Mong La has seen the rise in wildlife trade," he added.

Experts say the Burmese authorities have no control over the town, which is run by an armed group following a peace deal with the government.

No government or local official was available for comment.

Dwindling numbers

Burma has banned the trade in tiger and leopard parts, under the international convention against the buying and selling of endangered species (CITES).

Wildlife conservation organisations have told BBC News that the law is not working in Mong La.

"Many of the products, particularly wildlife meat and tiger bone wine, don't enter China but are consumed in Mong La by Chinese tourists," says the World Wildlife Fund's Thomas Grey, in the Greater Mekong area.

"However presumably many of the skins are imported into china as souvenirs.

"So what we need is better enforcement at the border so Chinese tourists are not bringing illegal wildlife products back into China."

The latest study on wildlife products supply from Myanmar to China is based on information gathered from 19 separate surveys of the wild cat trade in Tachilek between 1991 and 2013 and seven surveys between 2001 and 2014 in Mong La.

The surveys recorded a total of over two thousand wild cat parts - mostly skins.

Other products included tigers and leopards' claws, skulls, and canine teeth.

This year there were 21 shops selling some of these parts in Mong La, compared with just six in 2006, the survey found.

China is the world's biggest consumer of tiger products and has been criticised for not doing enough to control its domestic trade.

Earlier this year, the BBC reported that China publicly admitted for the first time that it allowed trade in tiger skins, although buying and selling tiger bones was banned.

Despite growing international concern, poaching of tigers has continued and there are now only around 3,000 of the endangered species left across the globe.

That is only 5% of what the population was a century ago.

Surveyed traders in Burma's Mong La and Tachilek said the tiger and leopard parts reaching China originated from Burmese territory and India.

Experts say the two countries and others in South East and South Asia are now also losing leopards, as demand has shifted to other wild cats in the wake of a dwindling tiger population and stricter wildlife regulations in some countries.

Previous studies have also shown the Burmese town Mong La is emerging as a major centre for other wildlife products, including ivory.

One study, by Oxford Brookes University and Traffic earlier this year, found nearly 3,300 pieces of carved ivory and 49 whole tusks were "openly for sale in Mong La".

"The origin of the ivory may constitute a combination of Asian elephant ivory from Myanmar and African ivory imported via China," the report read.

It said the survey in 2009 found just 25 elephant skin pieces, while between 2013 and 2014 the figure had jumped to 1050.

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934,000 hectares of forest in Jambi in critical condition

Antara 23 Dec 14;

Jambi (ANTARA News) - Around 44.31 percent or 934,000 hectares of forest lands in the province of Jambi are in critical condition, a research said.

Jambi has 2,107,745 hectares of forest, according to a survey by the Executive Board of REDD of the Republic of Indonesia, the Jambi provincial administration and the UNDP.

In addition, there were 883,000 hectares of forests which have been converted in status from primary to secondary forests.

Degradation of forests were recorded in locations which have been declared as wildlife reserve and protected forests.

Around 136,000 hectares of natural forests and 56,000 hectares of protected forests have been degraded in the province, the survey said.

Head of the Unit of Government Management System and Poverty Eradication of UNDP Indonesia, Nurina Widagdo, said the forest destruction is potential to slash the government income from the forestry sector.

"The government income is not proportional with the fund spent for the rehabilitation of forests," Nurina said after the launch on Monday of a book about Forest Management in regencies in Jambi.

The government income was Rp19 billion from the forestry sector in Jambi and Rp21.6 billion in reforestation fund as against Rp15.8 trillion spent for the rehabilitation of damaged forests in that province.

The spending was for the rehabilitation of 934,000 hectares of damaged forests . Around Rp17 million, therefore, are needed for the rehabilitation of 1 hectare of forest.

Damaged forests would take 752 years to full recovery, the survey said.

Rehabilitation of 883,000 hectares of forests from secondary to primary forests would cost Rp4.4 trillion or around Rp5 million per hectare.

Meanwhile, the government has only the capacity to rehabilitate 7,250 hectares of damaged forests a year which means 128 years would be needed to wrap up the process of rehabilitation of 934,000 hectares of damaged forests .

Nurina said the survey by the team of experts chaired by Prof Dr Hariadi and Dr Sunaryo from UNDP, showed the Forest Management System Index in Jambi was not yet adequate.

"The average index of forest management system in Jambi is far from being ideal. The index averaged only 33.37 percent in the 9 regencies in Jambi," she said.

The highest index was 39.87 percent recorded by the regency of Merangin , followed by the regency of Batanghari with index of 38.23 percent , regency of Kerinci 38.04 percent, she cited.

The policy acknowledging traditional and village forests in the three regencies was among the factors of evaluation in other regencies.

In the regency of Kerinci, there are nine nine traditional forests and three of them are in the process of seeking recognition by the district administration.

In the regency of Merangin , there are 17 village forests totaling 45,000 hectares.

In other regencies there are five village forests on the average.

Involvement of traditional institutions in settling conflicts between local people and forestry companies is an advantage in the evaluation for the regency of Batanghari. The traditional institution is considered effective in settling such conflict.

The lowest index of 23.35 percent was recorded by the regency of Tanjung Jabung Timur , followed by the regency of Muaro Jambi with index of 25.68 percent and Tanjung Jabung Barat 28.67 percent.

The survey said there has been no breakthrough in the forest management system in the three regencies. In addition, there was no attempt to improve transparency and integrity in in forest management.

It also said exploitation of forests are dominated by companies. Companies utilized 93 percent or 1,646,250 hectares of forests in Jambi including natural forests, borrowed forests by mining and oil and gas companies . The local people use only 116.66 hectares including 38,526 hectares of village forests , 49,703 hectares of community forests and 28,439 hectares of peoples plantation forests.


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