Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jan 15

Love MacRitchie Walks in 2015
from Toddycats!

Coastal works at Changi and Pulau Ubin
from wild shores of singapore

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Study to suss out air pollutants here

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Jan 15;

Singapore is planning to start a comprehensive study of its key air pollutants so it can understand how to better manage them.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has asked for proposals for a 14-month project to develop an emissions inventory of several air pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.

The study will look at all land-based sources including motor vehicles, power stations, refineries, waste incinerators and gas stations, aircraft emissions, transboundary sources and even natural sources such as sea spray.

The pollution in 2013 will be used as the base year, and this will be calculated using information such as the vehicle population, typical distances travelled, fuel type used and a review of historical air quality data.

NEA said in tender documents that the new inventory must be detailed and flexible enough that it can be used to model how emissions would change if factors such as air pollution control equipment, fuel type, aircraft flight paths and the motor vehicle fleet composition are changed.

The inventory will also be used to "prioritise air pollutants of concern and to develop targeted approaches to control the pollutants", the NEA added.

The study will look abroad to pollution in Malaysia and Indonesia that may affect the Republic.

These sources include industrial areas and road traffic in Johor, Malaysia, shipyards in Batam and haze from these nearby countries.

To make sure the inventory passes muster, the contractor must review the systems used in several developed places including Britain, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong and California in the United States.

The deadline for the proposals is Feb 17. Experts lauded the attention to detail in the proposals.

"It's very good that the inventory will include hourly emissions and differentiate the emissions by day of the week and month of the year," said Dr Erik Velasco, a research scientist at the Singapore- MIT Alliance for Research and Technology's Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modeling.

He said emissions inventories always lag by one or two years due to data needs, so 2013 would be a proper base year for the study.

But since Singapore had its worst haze then, "it would be a biased year... if transboundary emissions are included".

The NEA specified that the contractor must quantify based on available data the pollution arising from transboundary smoke haze for that year.

Dr Velasco, who gave a course on air quality management, including emissions inventories, to the authorities last year, added that Singapore should look to places such as Los Angeles, Paris, Toronto, Mexico City and Tokyo in developing its inventory.

"Those are cities with good and long experience developing emissions inventories.

Singapore is a city-state, so inventories at different scales, such as the country or state scale, may not fit its needs," he said.

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Expect haze this year - and earlier too: Experts

Amelia Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE - The haze may be upon Singapore yet again - and earlier than usual.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) has been slowly inching upwards over the past couple of days.

Readings since Sunday show that it has been hovering in the 60s and 70s range.

As of 9pm last night, the 24-hour PSI stood at 62 to 67 - within the moderate range - while the three-hour reading was 58.
This rise is coupled with an impending dry phase of the north-east monsoon - with total rainfall for this month and the next expected to fall below average.

While the National Environment Agency had said this year's dry spell was not likely to be as bad as last year's drought, experts told The Straits Times last week the haze could come earlier this year.

This will happen if the dry weather in Malaysia triggers wildfires, with winds carrying the smoke over to the Republic.

After a wet November and December which led to flash floods here, the total rainfall this month could be up to 60 per cent below the long-term average of 242.4mm for January.

From Jan 1 to 21, the total average rainfall recorded at rainfall stations islandwide was 83.7mm.

Singapore is affected by severe smoke haze periodically as a result of forest fires in neighbouring countries.

This is due to the practice of open burning to clear land for agricultural uses. The situation is worsened during dry seasons or if there are changes in wind direction and low rainfall.

According to the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre, a few hot spots were observed in Peninsular Malaysia and Kalimantan as of yesterday.

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PM Lee after Laneway Festival mess: 'Do the right thing'

Channel NewsAsia 28 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Jan 28) called on Singaporeans to help the country progress from a "cleaned city to a truly clean city", after highlighting the state of Gardens by the Bay following the 2015 Laneway Festival last Saturday.

Mr Lee put up a picture on his Facebook page illustrating rubbish strewn on the ground following the music festival at the Meadow at Gardens by the Bay. He contrasted this with the actions of Myanmar sports fans, who were seen picking up litter at National Stadium after their football team's clash with the Lions.

"It takes continuous effort to keep Singapore clean. We need to progress from being a cleaned city to a truly clean city," Mr Lee wrote.

"All of us can play a part – picking up our own litter, educating our children and grandchildren, and reminding others to do the right thing. Visit the Public Hygiene Council's page to find out how you can help."

- CNA/kk

PM Lee calls for clean, not cleaned, city
Rachel Au-yong My Paper AsiaOne 29 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday called on Singaporeans to pick up their own litter, so that Singapore can progress from being a "cleaned city to a truly clean city".

He singled out litterbugs who attended a music festival on Saturday and left the venue strewn with plastic bags and other rubbish.

In a Facebook post, Mr Lee put up a photograph of the Meadow at Gardens by the Bay, which was covered with litter after some 13,000 people attended the 2015 Laneway Music Festival over the weekend.

He contrasted this behaviour with that of Myanmar's football fans, who were seen picking up litter at the National Stadium even after their team lost to Singapore during the AFF Suzuki Cup in November.

"It takes continuous effort to keep Singapore clean. We need to progress from being a cleaned city to a truly clean city," wrote Mr Lee.

"All of us can play a part - picking up our own litter, educating our children and grandchildren, and reminding others to do the right thing. Visit the Public Hygiene Council's page to find out how you can help."

Since April, penalties for littering have become twice as harsh.

Offenders face a maximum fine of $2,000 for the first conviction, $4,000 for the second conviction and $10,000 for the third and subsequent convictions.

S’pore likely to become garbage city without foreign workers: ESM Goh
Today Online 29 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — The Republic may end up as a “garbage city”, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong today (Jan 29) following reports of how a part of the Gardens by the Bay was covered with rubbish following a music festival.

His remarks came a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted on his Facebook page a picture that showed rubbish strewn on the ground following the 2015 Laneway Festival at The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay. About 13,000 people attended the event last Saturday.

Mr Lee contrasted the situation with the actions of Myanmar sports fans, who were seen picking up litter at the National Stadium after their football team played the Lions last November.

In a Facebook post, Mr Goh wrote: “Our reputation as one of the world’s cleanest cities is going down the rubbish chute. It looks like a case of ‘monkeys see, monkeys do’.”

He noted that Tokyo has no rubbish even though the Japanese capital has no garbage bins in public places.

“The Japanese take their snack wrappers, empty bottles and ponchos home to dispose. That is why Tokyo is a fine city without ‘fine’ signs. That is why it is a clean city with no foreign workers.”

Mr Goh added: “Without foreign workers, Singapore is likely to become a ‘garbage city’. Cleanliness is a character thing. It shows who you really are.”

In his Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr Lee said: “It takes continuous effort to keep Singapore clean. We need to progress from being a cleaned city to a truly clean city.”

Dish the dirt, you'll likely end up soiled
John Lui The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Feb 15;

Online trolls expose their own sense of inferiority when they launch virulent attacks Last week, rubbish left at a music festival caused us to wake up to the threat posed to the nation by rich white people.

It began with Facebook posts, by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, directed at behaviour we've lived with forever.

They mentioned littering at a music festival, and how we as a people have a way to go before we learn to show care and respect for public areas. It sparked an online ruckus.

These are reminders we have seen in the past, about the piles of garbage left behind whenever big groups gather, whether it is in Chinatown during Chinese New Year, or in Geylang Serai during Hari Raya Puasa, or in foodcourts and cinemas, or at the National Stadium after a game.

This time, however, the posts and news reports triggered a torrent of online conversations. The litterbugs in question were not your run-of-the-mill local specimens.

The alternative-music jamboree the Laneway Festival was the event in question, so the Internet's hatred targeting system locked on to the young people who left garbage on the grass.

More specifically, the young, white, beer-swilling people with money, paying $140 and more to see edgy haircuts playing synthesisers.

Laneway's 13,000 ticket-holders embody everything a certain sector of society here loves to hate - foreign, boozed-up and moneyed, taking over a public park with their weird artsy music.

And now, these privileged few have the audacity to pollute our hallowed ground with their rubbish - it was a magic combination of traits that made writers on Facebook and in the alternative media lose their collective minds.

According to people at the event, only about half the crowd were white, but that did not matter. In the alternative media, Laneway was the gathering place of the devil's own Caucasian hipster invasion force.

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Bengal cat giveaway on Facebook "unethical": SPCA

Diane Leow Channel NewsAsia 28 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: Claws have come out after a home breeder posted on Facebook that he would give a Bengal kitten away to one "lucky" person – if they “like” his Facebook page and leave a comment as to why they deserve the cat.

The post, which went up early on Wednesday morning (Jan 28) on Designer Bengal Singapore, stated: "We are pleased to be giving away for FREE a gorgeous Bengal kitten to one lucky winner on 9th May 2015, whom will be randomly picked in this contest." The word "contest" was later edited out, and replaced with the words "no fee adoption".

The post has since been taken down, following an outcry from people who felt that giving a kitten as a prize was inappropriate. Comments from netizens include: “Are you kidding me? This as a prize? Why don’t you put up a wife as a prize for people to win?” “How is it okay to give away a kitten as a Facebook contest prize?! OH MY GOD. Is this even legal?”

Professional pet photographer Nicholas Lee from Furry Photos said it is in "bad taste" to use pets as a contest prize. "Animal welfare advocates have been trying to educate the public that pets are a serious long-term commitment and using them as a commodity undermines that," he said.

The man behind the Facebook page, Mr Alfred Khan, said he removed the post due to negativity raised from their "intention of generosity".


Ms Joanne Ng, Chief Executive Officer of the Cat Welfare Society, told Channel NewsAsia she was aware of the situation and got in touch with the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), as well as the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

“More importantly, are they a legitimate breeder or have any license at all to sell this cat? These are the first few questions we would like to address,” Ms Ng said.

She added that many problems currently stem from irresponsible pet owners, who allow their pets to roam freely, refuse to sterilise them, or breed them at home.

“When they reach the point when it’s too much to handle, they will start abandoning the pets,” Ms Ng added. “These are very real issues we face every day.”

Ms Ng reiterated that business practices like this are “not beneficial to society”, as animal welfare societies continue to pour in resources in order to take care of abandoned animals. “This is outright irresponsible,” she said.

SPCA told Channel NewsAsia it "vehemently opposes" the giving of any live animal - regardless of animal type, breed, age or temperament - as a present or gift, in any contest or competition no matter the circumstance.

"It is categorically unethical to give away a kitten as a prize. It is disingenuous of Designer Bengal Singapore to now change 'tack' and claim the Bengal kitten is up for adoption," said Ms Corinne Fong, Executive Director, SPCA Singapore.

"To randomly pick a person without receiving any due affirmation of this person’s experience with kittens, is tantamount to consigning the animal to an unknown fate," she added.


Mr Khan, who said he has been running a Bengal cat breeding service out of his home for three years, said the post was not meant to be a competition or promotion for his business. “People assume this is cheap publicity. Indirectly, of course it looks like that. It’s not a promotion; I am doing it out of sincerity. If you want a cat, I can make your dream come true,” he said.

“Having a Bengal cat can be very therapeutic. I was thinking maybe this cat could help a cancer patient, or a sick person – something beneficial,” Mr Khan added.

He also said he was prepared for some negativity stemming from the post, but did not expect the backlash. “When I saw that – and how people took screenshots of my picture – I had to delete the post and apologise.”

Mr Khan said that as a cat lover, he had planned to screen the applicant before handing over the Bengal kitten by meeting the person's family, understanding his or her character traits, and seeing if they are able to afford to keep the kitten. The cat would be sterilised as well, he said.

“We will also give them guidance on how to take care of the cat, what (issues) you can foresee in the future, and what kind of food is suitable,” he said. Mr Khan added that follow ups are essential.

“This is going to be a constant relationship, because I am giving them this kitten for free. This is not for them to resell it. This is for them to keep and to love. It has to be from the heart,” he said.

A check on Facebook showed that there were no specific guidelines on product giveaways, unless it involves regulated goods such as firearms, alcohol or tobacco.

- CNA/dl

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Cleantech SMEs get S$2.5m boost from JTC, SPRING Singapore

Channel NewsAsia 28 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: Six local clean technology (cleantech) SMEs will receive a total of S$2.5 million in funding from JTC Corporation and SPRING Singapore to test-bed their new sustainable technologies and solutions.

The selected companies will also have a head-start to carry out test-bedding projects at JTC's developments and facilities.

In a media released issued on Wednesday (Jan 28), JTC and SPRING said that six projects were selected out of 14 proposals submitted as part of the first JTC-SPRING Joint Grant Call for Test-bedding of Sustainable Solutions.

The selected projects include a decentralised wastewater recycling system that treats grey, brown and black water for non-potable uses, and thin, flexible organic solar films on building facades under tropical climate conditions, among others.

The six companies are: Omega Solar, Ecosoftt, HVS Engineering, vTrium Energy, Transkinect and Sun Electric.

Four out of the six projects will also be test-bedded in CleanTech Park, bringing the total number of technologies being test-bedded at the park to 20. Mr Leow Thiam Seng, director of JTC's Aerospace, Marine & CleanTech Cluster, said: “The test-bedding projects not only allow JTC to try out new innovative solutions, but also enable SMEs to implement their technologies in a real-world environment and help them build a track record to go to market."

Mr Ho Chi Bao, director of the manufacturing and engineering division at SPRING Singapore, said that he hopes that more local SMEs will explore business opportunities in the cleantech industry.

“SPRING sees the JTC-SPRING Joint Grant Call as a promising platform to help them test-bed innovative solutions. These companies will get to validate their technologies in a commercial site with real-world conditions. This partnership would form a strong project reference for the companies and act as a stepping stone as they grow their customer base and expand overseas,” he said.

- CNA/ac

Remanufacturing, cleantech offer opportunities for Singapore firms: Iswaran
Channel NewsAsia 28 jan 15;

SINGAPORE: The Government will continue to invest in research and development (R&D) capabilities and infrastructure to support high value-added industries and ensure that Singapore remains a competitive and attractive base for companies, Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran said on Wednesday (Jan 28).

Speaking at the opening of the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) and the JTC CleanTech Two @ CleanTech Park - the first eco-business park in Singapore - Mr Iswaran identified remanufacturing and clean technology as sectors that present promising business opportunities for Singapore companies.

He said that in a climate of rising resource costs and concerns over environmental sustainability, the use of remanufactured components is fast gaining international traction.

"The remanufacturing industry in the United States, which is currently valued at US$50 billion (S$67.6 billion) and supports 180,000 jobs, is growing fast at 15 per cent per annum," Mr Iswaran said. "Remanufacturing is also gaining prominence in Asian countries such as China, with the Chinese remanufacturing market growing from US$0.4 billion in 2010 to a projected US$8 billion in 2015.

"In view of this outlook, the Singapore Economic Development of Singapore (EDB) has identified remanufacturing as a key sector in its Future of Manufacturing initiative, which aims to make Singapore a regional hub for advanced manufacturing processes."

Remanufacturing focuses on ways to extend the usable life of products by restoring or improving on their original engineering specifications. In a climate of rising resource costs and concerns over environmental sustainability, the use of remanufactured components is fast gaining international traction.

As for clean technology (cleantech), which focuses on products and services that enable greater energy efficiency and mitigate the impact on the environment, Mr Iswaran said the global market size is expected to more than double from US$2.3 trillion in 2012 to about US$5 trillion in 2025.

Mr Iswaran said CleanTech Two and ARTC will deepen the Government's efforts to strengthen Singapore's capabilities in cleantech and remanufacturing.

CleanTech Two will offer 22,000 square metres of specially-designed laboratory and office space to support the R&D efforts of key cleantech companies.

Six of these have received JTC's and SPRING Singapore's Joint Grant Call to test-bed their technologies.

Mr Heah Soon Poh, assistant chief executive officer of JTC Corporation, said: "Another opportunity for CleanTech Park and how we are going to do it is the ability for us to use it as a living lab, as a test-bed for companies.

"I refer to the grant call that we have done together with SPRING and we have got six companies to come in to use our buildings, to use our park, to use this area for them to be able to do test-bedding."

ARTC - a collaboration between A*STAR, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and over 29 local and global industry partners, such as Rolls-Royce and Singapore Aero Engine Services (SAESL) - will be the anchor tenant of CleanTech Two.

ARTC will also create a platform for local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to co-develop remanufacturing technologies alongside industry leaders.

According to Mr Iswaran, there are 12 SMEs among ARTC's partners. These include a firm called AmpTec, which is in the process of developing a dry ice blasting machine.

"This innovation will provide an alternative way to clean aircraft engine components without using polluting industrial chemicals and heavy scrubbing. This will cause less damage to the surface of the components and maintain the quality and performance of the engine," Mr Iswaran said.

ARTC will also work with NTU to develop a strong talent pipeline to support the shift towards eco-friendly production processes and techniques. To date, the centre has completed over 50 industry projects.

- CNA/ac/ms

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More enhancements to National Orchid Garden underway

MATTHIAS TAY Today Online 28 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — The National Orchid Garden is set for its first facelift in 20 years, which will allow it to showcase a larger variety of orchids from all over the world, including rare species found in higher altitudes.

To be completed in phases by 2020, the plans were announced by Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee yesterday (Jan 28) at the opening of the World of Flowers Exhibition.

Three of the garden’s display houses will undergo changes to improve the tropical montane — high elevation — forest experience for visitors. The Cool House, for example, will be fitted with a new climate control system, allowing researchers to grow species that cannot be grown currently and double the number of orchid species showcased from the current 1,000.

In total, the enhancements are expected to cost around S$35 million. The plans for the Cool House are partially funded by a S$10 million donation from Sembcorp Industries to the Garden City Fund, the largest single donation by a corporate partner to date. The Cool House will be renamed the Sembcorp Cool House.

Donations were also made by the family of the late Lady Yuen Peng McNeice, which will go towards the enhancement of the Yuen Peng McNeice Bromeliad Collection enclosure. Another donation — anonymously made — will partially fund the enhancement of Tan Hoon Siang Mist House.

Works will begin next year, and the garden will remain open throughout. Describing the improvements, Singapore Botanic Gardens director Nigel Taylor said: “The Bromeliad Collection, which represent the lowland tropics will be the first (of the) three seamless connected features, second will be the Mist House, and third, the much expanded Cool House which represents the environment of mountain tops in the tropical environment.”

The Sembcorp Cool House will have two-level access, so that visitors can get closer to orchids and plants located at higher levels. A new deck overlooking the nursery area behind the garden will also be open to visitors interested in observing the orchids’ cultivation process.

Located in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the National Orchid Garden sees an average of 500,000 visitors every year, and numbers are expected to grow with the enhancements. “We anticipate that the National Orchid Garden will be able to accommodate this increase comfortably, and that visitors will still be able to have an enjoyable experience,” said Dr Taylor.

Asked if entrance fees — currently S$5 for adults — would increase as a result of the improvements, the National Parks Board said there would not be one for the time being.

National Orchid Garden to bloom brighter after upgrade
Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 31 Jan 15;

Visitors to Singapore's one and only orchid garden will get to admire a greater variety of blooms in five years when it completes its first major upgrade since it opened 20 years ago.

The National Orchid Garden, located in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, will be spruced up to refresh its visitors' experience and showcase more orchid varieties, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced yesterday.

The enhancement will focus on four key areas in the 3ha garden: the Cool House, the Mist House, the bromeliad enclosure as well as the orchid nursery.

At the Cool House, visitors will be able to get up close and personal with more varieties of orchids, particularly those growing at higher altitudes, when a second level is built there.

Currently, the Cool House has only one level. Kept at between 16 to 20 deg C, it showcases species of plants found in elfin forests at higher elevations, such as the dancing lady and boat orchids.

The bromeliad enclosure, which features plant species grown in the lowlands, and the sub-mountainous Mist House will have improved ventilation, misting and irrigation systems that are more energy efficient.

The three areas will also form a tropical orchidetum showcasing a diversity of orchids and other plants from the habitats at different elevations.

"Visitors will be able to enjoy a seamless experience akin to ascending a tropical montane forest as they make their way through the orchidetum," NParks said.

When the upgrade is fully completed by 2020, visitors can also get a glimpse of the orchid nursery from a viewing deck.

The nursery, where the plants are cultivated for display, was previously not open to the public.

The orchid garden will remain open to the public during the $35 million upgrade, which will be done in stages.

Of that sum, $10 million was donated by Sembcorp Industries to partially fund the enhancements to the Cool House, which will be renamed the Sembcorp Cool House.

Thanking Sembcorp, NParks chief executive Kenneth Er said: "The contribution will go towards creating an environment for researchers to grow and bring orchids to flower that are naturally found at higher elevations.

"This, in turn, will create a refreshing educational experience for visitors to learn more about these orchids and their environments."

During yesterday's event, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee also launched the World of Flowers Exhibition at a gallery in the Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Museum.

An educational exhibit featuring text and photographs on flowers, it will run daily until May 31.

It is closed every last Tuesday of the month. Admission is free.

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Malaysia: Goodall to raise awareness on wildlife and environment

JEROME KUGAN The Star 29 Jan 15;

PETALING JAYA: Dr Jane Goodall, whose groundbreaking research on chimpanzee behaviour made her a household name among ape lovers, is visiting Malaysia for the first time.

Goodall, who turns 81 in April, is in town to raise awareness about Roots & Shoots, an organisation she co-founded in 1991 as a way of empowering young people to take part in projects on animals, the environment and the community.

In an exclusive interview with The Star, Goodall said she was glad that there were many Malaysians who showed concern about wildlife conservation and the environment.

She said she hoped that her visit would inspire more people, especially youths, to join the green movement and have a more positive outlook on Earth’s future.

“I’ve met so many young people and they seem not to have much hope,” she said yesterday.

“They read all the bad news, the doom and the gloom, and when I talk to them, they get angry and violent.

“Or just apathetic. They say – ‘You’ve compromised the future’.

“And they’re right. We have compromised the future,” said Goodall.

Besides launching this year’s programme for the Malaysian chapter of Roots & Shoots that she co-founded in October last year, Goodall is scheduled to make four public appearances during her two-day stop in Kuala Lumpur.

Her first appearance will be a talk hosted by the British International School in Bandar Utama today between 9.30am and 11.30am.

Some 700 students from schools in the Klang Valley are expected to attend.

On the same day, the eminent primatologist is the guest of “An Evening With Jane Goodall” presented by The Iclif Leadership and Governance Centre.

The event, which includes dinner and a one-hour talk by Goodall, will be held at Lanai Kijang.

According to the organisers’ website, tickets have been sold out.

Those keen on hearing Goodall’s insights should try to score tickets for “Reasons for Hope: A Talk by Jane Goodall” tomorrow between 9.30am and 12.30pm at Berjaya Times Square Hotel.

Presented by Borders and co-organised by Roots & Shoots Malaysia and Berjaya Youth, the talk is to be attended by more than 2,000 people.

Goodall’s final engagement will be at the Starbucks outlet in Kota Kemuning tomorrow, where she is slated to officially launch a one-year programme of collaborative projects by the coffee franchise and Roots & Shoots Malaysia.

She will next travel to Singapore and South Africa to promote initiatives by Roots & Shoots and her namesake organisation, The Jane Goodall Institute.

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Modifying Indonesia’s Conservation Methods

If conservation by the authorities alone doesn’t work well, why not develop new strategies in which the role of more competent groups is recognized?
Erik Meijaard Jakarta Globe 28 Jan 15;

People love lists. Type in “the 10 best …” in your favorite search engine and a great number of options will result, varying from “… movies of all times,” to “… spaghetti sauces,” and also the rather amusing “10 Best Moments in Pro-Gaming History.”

Such lists are sources of endless arguments. The race between Jimi Hendrix, Slash and Keith Richards as best electric guitar player is a toss-up and declaring any of them as winner would certainly lead to major ridicule.

And so it will be with my list of favorite Indonesian conservation projects. Of course, I will defend my chosen top three with tooth and nail, but undoubtedly many will disagree. The point is to generate debate.

What to look for in favorite projects? First, among the many failing Indonesian conservation initiatives, a project seeking my nomination would have to have success, at least in saving a species from near-extinction, or rescuing a forest that pretty much everyone else wants to destroy.

Second, it would be nice if the successes resulted in strong societal support, with people living around the project being happy with or at least accepting it. If people don’t like it, the project would have to go on forever, requiring constant funding, efforts, political support, etc.

Thirdly, it helps if the project didn’t cost all that much. If you just throw enough cash at something, eventually something will stick and generate some positive outcomes. But with conservation funding being limited, the cheaper is certainly the better.

And finally, I have to know a fair bit about the project, as it is the only way for me to judge its qualities. So on that note of totally subjective assumptions, here is my top three list of conservation favorites.

Wehea, East Kalimantan

This community-based project managed to turn a 38,000-hectare timber concession into an area fully protected by communities from the local Wehea tribe.

The area boasts stunning forest with exciting species, such as clouded leopards and orangutans. The project has garnered strong support from, the local government, the community and local industries. Lately the project has had some management struggles, but for now the area looks safe. No illegal logging nor hunting has been reported for years.

Harapan, Jambi, Sumatra

This was the first Indonesian Ecosystem Restoration project, nearly 100,000 hectares of more or less degraded rainforest in a sea of oil palm and other plantations. The project was given a 95-year license to manage the conservation values in the area.

It wasn’t cheap — you don’t get forest-use licenses for free in Indonesia, even if they are for conservation. But the area is home to great wildlife; tigers, elephants — you name it.

However, there has been a fair share of troubles, with people trying to illegally encroach onto the land, but increasingly the project looks safe and is an excellent example of the restoration potential of degraded rain forests.

Sungai Wain, East Kalimantan

In the late 1990s, pretty much everyone had given up on this 6,000-hectare forest just outside the city of Balikpapan. Illegal logging was rampant, people were all over the forest and fires burned much of the remainder.

Hard work by a small group of dedicated conservationists first extinguished the fires, then managed to get local government support for protection, and eventually convinced the army and police to hammer big spikes into trees so that illegal loggers would be deterred.

On a shoe-string budget, later supported by local government funding, an effectively protected area was created that maintains constant water flows to Balikpapan’s oil industry (and thus prevents the city’s economic collapse).

Honorable mentions

I can think of a few more apparent successes, including the Bali starling project in Nusa Penida off of Bali; the massive Gunung Leuser ecosystem in northern Sumatra; the recently protected Batang Toru area, also in Sumatra; Ujung Kulon, Banten, and its surviving Javan rhinos; Nantu in Gorontalo province and its well-protected babirusas; and the amazing Sebangau National Park in Central Kalimantan, which would have been converted to oil palm if it hadn’t been for the collective action of activists.

What is interesting is that all these greatest conservation successes are largely driven by nongovernmental organizations or concerned people — not the central government. In fact, in my experience, a protected area or species solely managed by government authorities will almost invariably be in decline.

On reflection it appears that nongovernmental conservation organizations run much of the show in Indonesian conservation, at least with regard to creating conservation success. A good example is the Kutai National park in East Kalimantan. Much of the park burned in the 1980s and 1990s, and the remainder was over-run by illegal loggers and farmers.

According to government documents, the park has a $ 1 million annual budget, which translates into $5 per hectare — pretty decent by most international standards. So, it is certainly not lack of funding that’s challenging park management. Then why is park management still struggling to protect its forest and wildlife?

Indonesian conservation urgently needs better understanding of the conditions for success. If conservation by the authorities alone doesn’t work well, why not develop new strategies in which the role of potentially more competent groups is formerly recognized?

Wouldn’t that be the performance-based government system that Indonesia is now trying to develop?

The fact that conservation is not easy is even more reason to look hard at who achieves what in Indonesian conservation and select only the most effective and efficient group to govern the country’s threatened wildlife and habitats. A review of conservation roles and responsibilities is urgently needed.

Erik Meijaard is a conservation scientist coordinating the Borneo Futures initiative

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Smothered oceans: Extreme oxygen loss in oceans accompanied past global climate change

University of California - Davis Science Daily 28 Jan 15;

From the subarctic Pacific to the Chilean margins, extreme oxygen loss is stretching from the upper ocean to about 3,000 meters deep. In some oceanic regions, such loss occurred within 100 years or less, according to a new study.

Seafloor sediment cores reveal abrupt, extensive loss of oxygen in the ocean when ice sheets melted roughly 10,000-17,000 years ago, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. The findings provide insight into similar changes observed in the ocean today.

In the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers analyzed marine sediment cores from different world regions to document the extent to which low oxygen zones in the ocean have expanded in the past, due to climate change.

From the subarctic Pacific to the Chilean margins, they found evidence of extreme oxygen loss stretching from the upper ocean to about 3,000 meters deep. In some oceanic regions, such loss took place over a time period of 100 years or less.

"This is a global story that knits these regions together and shows that when you warm the planet rapidly, whole ocean basins can lose oxygen very abruptly and very extensively," said lead author Sarah Moffitt, a postdoctoral scholar with the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and formerly a Ph.D. student with the Graduate Group in Ecology.

Marine organisms, from salmon and sardines to crab and oysters, depend on oxygen to exist. Adapting to an ocean environment with rapidly dropping oxygen levels would require a major reorganization of living things and their habitats, much as today polar species on land are retreating to higher, cooler latitudes.

The researchers chose the deglaciation period because it was a time of rising global temperatures, atmospheric carbon dioxide and sea levels -- many of the global climate change signs the Earth is experiencing now.

"Our modern ocean is moving into a state that has no precedent in human history," Moffitt said. "The potential for our oceans to look very, very different in 100-150 years is real. How do you use the best available science to care for these critical resources in the future? Resource managers and conservationists can use science like this to guide a thoughtful, precautionary approach to environmental management."

The study's co-authors include: Russell Moffitt with the Marine Conservation Institute; Tessa Hill, professor in the UC Davis Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and at the Bodega Marine Laboratory; Wilson Sauthoff and Catherine Davis of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences; and Kathryn Hewett, UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The study arose from a graduate level course that was taught at UC Davis in winter 2013 by Hill. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Journal Reference:
Sarah E. Moffitt, Russell A. Moffitt, Wilson Sauthoff, Catherine V. Davis, Kathryn Hewett, Tessa M. Hill. Paleoceanographic Insights on Recent Oxygen Minimum Zone Expansion: Lessons for Modern Oceanography. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (1): e0115246 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115246

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Low oil prices won't hurt renewable energy, says US EIA

Tax incentives more important than oil price and oil is not in head-on competition with renewables for electricity production, says government’s chief energy analyst
Suzanne Goldenberg The Guardian 28 Jan 15;

Cheap oil is not about to kill off wind and solar power as some experts have claimed, the US government’s chief energy analyst said on Wednesday.

The historic drop in crude oil prices, with Brent crude trading at $49.04 a barrel in London on Wednesday, had raised fears that renewable energy sources would struggle to compete.

But Adam Sieminski, who heads the Energy Information Administration, said oil was not in head-on competition with renewables when it came to electricity generation – and that government policies would help shield the clean energy industries.

“A lot of the demand that is coming for wind and solar additions in the US is supported through tax incentives and state energy programmes that require a certain percentage of electricity to come from renewables,” Sieminski told a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

However, the EIA does expect US greenhouse gas emissions to creep up in 2014 – undermining Barack Obama’s efforts to fight climate change – with cheap oil encouraging economic growth.

Installations of industrial-scale solar power doubled in 2014 – because of those support programmes and falling prices for solar panels. However, renewables overall, excluding hydro, still account for only about 6% of US power generation.

Most of America’s electricity comes from coal and natural gas – not oil – so the cheap global oil prices would not have an immediate effect, Sieiminski said.

“I think that in the near-term the drop in oil prices is not really going to have much of an impact on wind and solar installations,” he said.

But it could be a different story for hybrid and plug-in vehicles. There are signs that $2 a gallon gas is making big cars and trucks more popular for US consumers again, and the head of the world’s top renewable energy agency recently warned low oil prices threatened electric cars. But even on cars, Sieminski said other factors came into play.

Car ownership is declining over recent decades because of urbanisation, and as a lifestyle choice among younger Americans. In addition, many cities offer perks to electric car drivers, such as the right to share the carpooling lane, or free charging stations.

“Is the growth in all electric vehicles really being driven by gasoline prices, or is it social?” he said.

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Madagascar seeks international aid after tropical storm kills 68

LOVASOA RABARY PlanetArk 29 Jan 15;

Madagascar's government appealed for international aid on Wednesday after a tropical storm earlier this month devastated large swathes of the Indian Ocean island, causing damage worth around $40 million.

Sixty-eight people were killed and 130,000 displaced when the tropical storm Chedza hit Madagascar on Jan. 16, the National Bureau of Risk Management and Disaster said.

The storm also lashed Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in one of the worst disasters to hit the region in years. Rivers burst their banks, flooding vast areas and destroying homes, bridges and crops.

"The country is in a state of disaster and officially appeals for aid both nationally and internationally," Prime Minister Jean Ravelonarivo said on national radio on Wednesday.

Ravelonarivo estimated the damage at more than 100 billion ariary, roughly $40 million, and said major flooding had "caused massive degradation of key infrastructure".

Madagascar is one of the world's poorest nations and is currently also battling a plague epidemic which has killed at least 57 people since August.

The island's economy was battered after a 2009 coup that drove away donors and investors. A peaceful 2013 election has brought back some aid, but the nation is still struggling to impose stable government and economic reforms.

The IMF said Madagascar's economy early signs of recovery in 2014 with growth estimated at 3 percent, which could rise to 5 percent in 2015, but political instability, weak institutions and weak governance are hurting prospects.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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