Best of our wild blogs: 14 Jan 15

The Clock is Ticking on Singapore’s Last Village
from Remember Singapore

Unusual behavior of long-tailed parakeets
from Life's Indulgences

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Alleged illegal fish poaching at Sungei Buloh "under investigation": NParks

Nadia Jansen Hassan Channel NewsAsia 13 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: The number of illegal fishing cases across Singapore almost tripled in the last three years, from 96 in 2012, to 271 in 2014. There were 182 cases in 2013.

The National Parks Board (NParks) gave these figures after the latest case of alleged illegal fishing took place at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Sunday (Jan 11).

Photos taken by a member of nature conservation group Nature Trekker have been circulating online. He claims two groups of poachers used a net and a makeshift boat made of styrofoam to carry out the alleged activities.

NParks confirmed that "officers were alerted to an illegal fishing incident" in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Sunday. It says "the persons involved were questioned at the scene", while "the net used was also confiscated."

NParks says it is unable to provide further information, as investigations are ongoing. It has also stepped up enforcement efforts.

Said Ms Sharon Chan, Deputy Director, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, NParks: "We carry out activities to follow up on tips we have. And if they're being caught in the act, we'll follow up with a fine. And the fine for any of the offences, including removing any plants and animals from the reserve, is a maximum of S$2,000."

“Our Nature Reserves cover a large area totalling 4,000 hectares, and one of our challenges in managing them is when people conduct illegal activities such as illegal fishing and poaching in the Reserves. We conduct regular enforcement patrols against such activities, including at night, together with a group of specialised volunteers known as Nature Wardens," she added.

"“For Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) in particular, preventive measures are taken to address potential cases of illegal fishing. When our officers on patrol spot people outside the Reserve boundary attempting to enter the Reserve to set up nets, we work together with the police to advise them not to continue with their activities,” said Ms Chan. "Through such preventive measures, instances of illegal fishing at SBWR are low."

- CNA/ct/xy

Illegal fishing cases on the rise in Singapore’s parks, reserves

A group of individuals allegedly fishing illegally at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. PHOTO: NATURE TREKKER

XUE JIANYUE Today Online 13 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — Cases of illegal fishing in Singapore’s parks and reserves appear to be on the rise, with the number of notices issued by the National Parks Board (NParks) for such cases tripling from 96 in 2012 to 271 last year.

Such offences make up the bulk of the poaching cases here. There were only two instances of poaching not involving fish last year and 10 in 2012.

The agency, which oversees four nature reserves and more than 300 parks, attributed the increase in the number of illegal fishing and poaching cases to increased enforcement.

The figures were provided in response to media queries over the latest case of alleged illegal fishing at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve last Sunday.

Mr Ben Lee, founder of nature group Nature Trekker, said he saw a group of individuals on a raft in the reservoir, pulling in a large net to check for fish. He immediately alerted the park authorities.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve deputy director Sharon Chan said officers were deployed to the reserve and the individuals involved were questioned at the scene with the help of the police.

“The net used was also confiscated. As investigations are currently ongoing, we are unable to provide further information on the incident. We would like to remind members of the public that fishing is not permitted in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Signs are prominently displayed to inform the public of this,” she said.

She added that the instances of illegal fishing at the reserve are few and far between due to the preventive measures put in place there.

“When our officers on patrol spot people outside the reserve boundary attempting to enter the reserve to set up nets, we work together with the police to advise them not to continue with their activities,” she said.

There were two cases of illegal fishing last year at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, none in 2013 and one in 2012. The agency did not reveal the locations of other cases.

Ms Chan said the nature reserves cover 4,000ha and illegal poaching is one of the problems faced in managing them. NParks conducts regular enforcement patrols with the help of a group of volunteers called Nature Wardens.

The volunteers play an advisory role and are trained on how to approach and interact with those who conduct illegal activities.

Those who are caught are issued notices of offences. After investigations, a person may be warned or fined. Under the Parks and Trees Act, a person found guilty of removing an animal or plant from a national park or nature reserve without permission can be fined up to S$50,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both.

Mr Lee feels the authorities should act more quickly to nab poachers when a case is reported.

Illegal fishing is rampant in Singapore’s reservoirs and nature reserves, he said, although most of the cases he observed involved hook-and-line fishing. This method, while “wrong”, causes less damage to the environment, compared with the method of using nets.

“This (poacher at Sungei Buloh) throws a net and once he hauls it in, so many fish will be stuck there. He’s taking so many fish lives away,” said Mr Lee.

The loss of fish will, in turn, affect the supply of food for birds, as well as rare species, such as the saltwater crocodile and oriental smooth-coated otters, he added.

“This will affect the food chain of the overall biodiversity there,” he said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JOY FANG

Illegal poaching cases on the rise in Singapore, NParks figures show
FENG ZENGKUN Straits Times 13 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE - Cases of illegal poaching in Singapore's parks and nature reserves appear to be on the rise, with the National Parks Board (NParks) handing out 273 notices of offences for it in 2014, up from just 106 notices in 2012.

Almost all of the notices given out in the past three years were due to illegal fishing. The poaching of other animals and plants made up just 21 out of the 570 cases in total.

NParks provided these figures on Tuesday in response to queries. It is now investigating a case of illegal fishing within the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Sunday, which was reported by a member of the public.

It said that the people involved were questioned at the scene, and the net that they used was also confiscated. It was unable to provide more information as the investigations are ongoing.

The agency said that it conducts regular enforcement patrols against poaching, including at night, with the help of a group of trained volunteers. "When our officers on patrol spot people outside of the reserve boundary attempting to enter the reserve to set up nets, we work together with the police to advise them not to continue their activities," it said.

Under the Parks and Trees Act, anyone who removes an animal or plant from a national park or nature reserve without permission can be fined up to $50,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both, upon conviction.

3 poachers spotted fishing illegally at nature reserve
Choo Mei Fang The New Paper AsiaOne 16 Jan 15;

He's passionate about birds and frequently goes to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve to observe them.

But one thing caught Mr Ben Lee's eye last Sunday and there was nothing natural about it.

He saw three people paddling on a raft, made of what appeared to be a large piece of styrofoam, and cast a net into the water.

According to NParks, the number of people caught fishing illegally at parks and nature reserves has almost tripled in the past three years.

At around 2.30pm on Sunday, Mr Lee, 52, the founder of nature conservation and environmental group Nature Trekker, was at the nature reserve with two other volunteers from the group when he spotted the three people - two men and a woman - in the distance.

He used his camera to zoom in on them and saw that they had a paddle and a drift net.

He took several pictures of them before calling the police and telling the nature reserve employees about it.

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Malaysia Floods: Illegal loggers to face music

BEN New Straits Times 13 Jan 15;

SEGAMAT: The government will consult with the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail before taking illegal loggers responsible for the massive floods nationwide to court.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said: “Such measures such as bringing the perpetrators to book, was among one of the best available options in an effort to tackle the issue of illegal logging and land clearing

He was speaking to reporters after visiting the flood relief centre in Kampung Batu Badak here this afternoon.

Also present were Buloh Kasap assemblyman Norshida Ibrahim, Tenang assemblyman Mohd Azahar Ibrahim and Segamat district officer Ahmad Ma'in.

Shahidan, who is also the National Security Council (NSC) chairman, said the federal government took seriously the issue of logging and land clearing.

“Besides that, the government will also continue to go after illegal loggers as it is the locals that will suffer if there is no firm action taken,” he said.

Shahidan said the government will also propose that all state governments stop logging activities for the next 10 years in an effort to prevent flooding.

He said the federal government and the respective state governments should cooperate on this matter.

Third wave will not occur, says Met Dept
The Star 14 Jan 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: A third wave of floods expected to hit the East Coast states will not occur based on analysis of rain episodes by the Malaysian Meteorological Department.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department (Weather and Climate) deputy director-general Alui Bahari said based on a one-week rainfall analysis there had been no episode of heavy monsoon rains which would normally lead to floods.

"Every day we monitored the weather and found only regular rainfall, not heavy monsoon rain. Should there be changes, we will inform two days before the heavy monsoon rain episode begins to appear," he told Bernama Tuesday.

He said heavy monsoon rains that last for two or three days could cause flooding as what had happened recently in several areas in the East Coast, Kedah, Johor and Perak.

Normal heavy rain that continues for two or three hours can sometimes cause flash floods, he said.

Alui said issuing warning on a wave of floods does not come under the purview of the department as the department only issues warnings related to the weather such as heavy rain and strong winds.

National Security Council (MKN) Secretary Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab however, said regardless, the agency would be geared to face the possibility of a third wave of floods in the country.

He said his teams were still busy working at all areas affected by floods to help and deliver all forms of assistance, including effective communication.

"Therefore, we maintain the position of our teams in flood-hit areas as in the first and second phase of the floods," he told Bernama.

Thajudeen said the agency, in collaboration with various government agencies and non-governmental organisations, including volunteer teams were now actively involved in rehabilitation work.

According to him, apart from food aid, medicine, clothing and shelter, flood victims were in dire need of moral support to build their confidence in moving forward. - Bernama

Floods: Increasing trend of leptospirosis, melioidosis: Health Ministry
ELVINA FERNANDEZ New Straits Times 14 Jan 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry revealed that there was an increasing trend of leptospirosis and melioidosis disease in flood affected states.

Its director general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said a total of 146 suspected cases of leptospirosis have been reported in flood-hit states between Jan 11 and Jan 13, with five cases have been confirmed positive.

"As for meliodisis, on Jan 13, a total of seven cases have been confirmed positive in Pahang'"

"We are taking precautionary measures in facing leptospirosis and melioidosis in the affected states," he said in a statement.

Among the steps taken, he said were to ensure health facilities were able to accommodate the increasing number of patients and that there were sufficient drugs to treat patients.

"All hospitals have been instructed to be on a “prepared mode”, especially the Intensive Care Unit and High Dependency Ward, to treat and monitor patients if the need arises," he said.

He added that rapid test kits for leptospirosis will be provided at health clinics in addition to those already supplied to hospitals.

"Health Alert Cards for leptospirosis, meliodosis and typhoid will be provided to our health staff and medical NGOs,"

Dr Noor Hisham also pointed out that volunteers who are involved in post flood clearing activities in flood affected areas, were at risk of contracting leptospirosis and melioidosis.

"They are advised to seek immediate health treatment should there be any signs of or symptoms of the water or vector borne disease," he said.

He also urged medical practitioners in public and private health facilities are to be aware of the current situation and the risk of flood related diseases such as leptospirosis and melioidosis.

"Medical practitioners should check the travel history of patients when examining, to see if they have visited flood affected states and carry out the necessary test as well as treatment."

Among the symptoms of leptospirosis are fever, headache, muscle aches, cough, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, inflammation of the eyes and jaundice.

The incubation period of the disease is between two and 21 days.

While the symptoms of melioidosis are fever, headache, joint pain, cough, chest pain, breathing difficulties, abdominal discomfort, confusion and localised infections such as scabies.

The incubation period of the disease is between one and 21 days.

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Low-energy urbanisation 'can help climate goals'

Mark Kinver Environment reporter, BBC News 13 Jan 15;

A study of 274 cities has helped shed light on energy consumption in urban areas and what can be done to make future urbanisation more efficient.

Globally, cities are best placed to mitigate emissions as urban areas are much more energy intensive than rural areas, say researchers.

Most people now live in urban areas, a trend that is accelerating as the global population continues to grow.

The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The UN estimates that almost four billion people - 53% of the world's population - currently reside in towns or cities. By the middle of this century, that figure is set to grow to 6.3 billion. In 1950, the urban population was under 750 million people.

Writing in their paper, a team of researchers from Germany and the US observed: "The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows that urban areas consume between 67% and 76% of global energy and generate about three quarters of global carbon emissions.

"Additionally, to accommodate growing urbanising populations and economies, urban areas and their built environment are projected to more than triple between 2000 and 2030."

The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2014, suggested that "the greatest potential for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions may lie in rapidly developing cities in industrialising countries".

The team found that the mitigation potential of urban areas on a global scale was "insufficiently understood", making it difficult to quantify what energy savings could be made through more effective planning and development.

"I think one of the central problems is that every city tends to view climate change and energy consumption as their own local problem," suggested co-author Felix Creutzig from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin.

"On the local level, it has been understood but at a global level it is different."

In their study, the team analysed a dataset from 274 cities from 60 countries, including all of the world's 21 megacities (urban areas with more than 10 million inhabitants).

The dataset allowed the researchers to identify different profiles of energy use by cities, which could then shape bespoke climate mitigation policies for urban areas that fitted a particular energy-use profile.

Dr Creutzig told BBC News: "We looked at factors including population density and fuel prices. We found that - especially in those regions that are urbanising quickly: Asia, Africa and the Middle East - if there are higher fuel prices and good urban planning then there could be about a 25% energy saving from the business-as-usual scenario."

He added that urban areas' high energy demands, especially in industrialised nations, were influenced by a range of factors - such as population density, fuel prices, transport infrastructure and technology - and it would require a high concentration of renewable and low carbon generation technologies in order to reduce emissions while meeting the soaring energy demands of global urbanisation.

"It would make it a lot more feasible to achieve (climate) targets if we had the infrastructure that did not require so much energy," Dr Creutzig explained.

"What we are saying is that it would be super-helpful if cities were to develop in an energy efficient way.

"As our study shows, cities are indeed very different from each other but we can identify types of cities that are similar to each other (in terms of energy-use). We will then be able to see the global perspective of urbanisation."

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