Best of our wild blogs: 2 Feb 15

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walks 22 Feb & 7 Mar
from Love our MacRitchie Forest

A Guided Walk with Tony & Subaraj at CCNR: Aw, that poor puddy tat! (and other cool birds)
from BES Drongos

sea eagle grabs catfish @ SBWR - Jan2015
from sgbeachbum

Dog-faced Water Snake swallowing a fish
from Bird Ecology Study Group

King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) @ Lim Chu Kang
from Monday Morgue

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Forest City developer to restart work in February, pledges to preserve environment

Today Online 1 Feb 15;

KUALA LUMPUR — Developer Country Garden Pacific View (CGPV) is targeting to restart land reclamation works at its Forest City project in Johor this month after a seven-month halt by the Department of Environment (DOE) following environmental concerns, and has pledged to spend millions to preserve the surrounding seabed, including the sensitive 48.5ha seagrass area.

The RM600 billion mixed-development 1,386ha project involving the building of four man-made islands ran into controversy last year when nearby residents, environmentalists and Singapore raised concerns over the massive works.

The DOE ordered work at the site to be halted last June and the Malaysian-Chinese company was instructed to submit a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA).

Following the green light from the DOE last month, CGPV executive director Othman Yusof said the southern peak of one of the islands had been scaled down by a third.

This was after more than 20 simulation models were run to come up with the best reclamation shape and sizes to ensure minimal impact on the surroundings.

As the development in Tanjung Kupang between southwestern Johor and northwest of Singapore is located near the shipping Port of Tanjung Pelepas, it also took into account the port limit which encompassed the anchorage area for ships, as well as the port’s future expansion plans.

“The current land form is the final proposal selected by DOE. Islands one, three and four remained unchanged. For island two, the southern peak has been reduced by 30 per cent,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

He said the company was unaware of the presence of seagrass when it was first awarded the land by the Johor government and immediately took steps to stop reclamation works once it realised the impact on the sensitive seabed.

“We are committed to preserving the seagrass, hence our work will be synergised with the existing ecosystem.”

This was done by installing a 2km double-silt curtain to contain plume and minimise any pollution, which cost the company more than RM10 million (S$3.73 million).

It has also set up a RM300,000 online monitoring system to monitor water quality in real time and water samples are obtained daily as long as the reclamation works are ongoing with the data transmitted to the DOE offices in Johor Baru and Putrajaya.

Additionally, CGPV submitted the Environmental Management Plan on Jan 25 to the DOE with in-depth details of its reclamation work.

Routine third-party audits will also be conducted to ensure all the requirements are implemented.

Moreover, no dredging works will be conducted until 2033.

“We can only resume work once we get the clearance and we hope to be able to do so after the Chinese New Year celebrations,” he said of the festivities that start on Feb 19.

To date, the company has spent more than RM3.5 million on mitigation measures to preserve the surrounding environment, including placing a single silt curtain around the seagrass.

In the works are replanting of mangroves ringing the four islands and installation of underwater cameras on the seagrass for the public to enjoy the sea animals, including seahorses.

“We are engaging with local NGOs and if they say what we are doing is not enough, we will seek their opinions to ensure how we can do more to protect the surroundings.

“Let us know and we will consider their advice,” he said, adding that they were engaging seagrass experts to help them as well.

The seven-month stop work has cost the company not only monetary wise but operationally, too, something Mr Othman was philosophical about.

“Although the size has been minimised, we are OK with it, we will comply.”

Contrary to claims, he said waters around the development had no fishing activities because of its shallow waters of only between 2m and 3m deep.

Moreover, the area is part of the gazetted port limit where fishing is prohibited.

“It’s all wild allegations. We don’t see any disturbances to the livelihood of anybody here. If people say they are affected, we want to know in what aspect and if it’s true, we will find a way to overcome it.”

He said since income from the surrounding community came from aquaculture and agriculture activities, the company planned to provide training schools for locals to explore viable options in different sectors, such as the services sector.

“Once the islands are constructed, we will need no fewer than 200,000 semi-skilled workers and this opportunity can be offered to the locals first.”

Additionally, once there is any increase in activity in the area, this will be translated into more human traffic which will expose the locals to more economic opportunities.

Despite the setback, CGPV aimed to start marketing before the year-end after it goes back to the drawing board to redesign its master plan.

But at its core, the principle of creating a liveable world-class forested city aimed at the international market remains.

“We are here for the long term and we will comply with whatever decisions set by the government,” said Mr Othman.

The New Straits Times reported last year that following a diplomatic note from the republic, the DEIA was carried out because the project was located near the Malaysia-Singapore borders and it involved coastal reclamation.

The project had initially been approved by the Johor Department of Environment in January but work at the project’s site was halted in June after the developer was instructed to submit a DEIA.

Fishermen and fish farm operators have claimed that mass fish deaths in the area had been caused by the land reclamation works, which was denied by CGPV. MALAYSIAN INSIDER

Reclamation for Forest City 'to resume after Chinese New Year'
Reme AhmadMarissa Lee The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Feb 15;

DANGA BAY, Malaysia - Reclamation works for the controversial Forest City residential project in the Johor Strait will resume after Chinese New Year, with plans for the sale of the luxury units to begin by the year end.

Work on the ambitious development had stopped last June after Singapore asked Malaysia to study the possible environmental impact it could have on both Singapore and the Johor Strait.

But developer Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV) expects that the paperwork will be cleared up by the middle of next month, allowing work to resume.

CGPV executive director Md Othman Yusof told The Straits Times yesterday that the stoppage easily cost the firm "RM200,000 (S$75,000) a day", as contracts had already been signed for the reclamation works. The reclamation works are expected to be completed in 23 years.

Topside development will begin on a first island this year, with plans to set up a showroom there, but the developer has not decided how many units will be built.

Datuk Md Othman said the company has received "verbal approval" from Malaysia's Home Ministry to build an immigration checkpoint that will be joined to the Second Link.

"It is ideal for us to have a seamless border with no checkpoints. With respect to Singapore, we have to have one, but we try to ease off the checkpoint here," he said, referring to the Customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) facility near the Second Link on the Johor side.

"We expect the approval to build a new CIQ (facility) to come soon," he said.

This will be at a site separate from the existing Johor CIQ facility at the Second Link, Mr Md Othman said in the first interview that an official from the Forest City project has given at length to the media.

CGPV, which can build the project with no height limit, is aiming its "six-star" project at wealthy international buyers, such as those who live in the "extreme" projects in Dubai, said Mr Md Othman.

Dubai is home to the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which contains apartments and hotels, and the Palm Jumeirah, a giant island

in the shape of a palm tree that contains luxury homes.

Forest City owners will most likely use Changi Airport to get to the project, creating demand for the new CIQ facility, said Mr Md Othman. "We realise there are many other developments... not only in Johor, but also in Singapore, so we have to be different. We have to be extreme."

Mr Md Othman noted that the company's failure to submit a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessmentbefore reclamation works for one island started last year was not out of line, as such reports are not required for land reclamations under 50ha.

CGPV, the project's master developer, is 60 per cent owned by China's Country Garden Holdings. Its other shareholders are an investment arm of the Johor government and Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Ismail.

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More summonses for littering issued in 2014: NEA

Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 1 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE: 19,000 summonses for littering were issued by the National Environment Agency in 2014, double the number issued in 2013.

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan unveiled these statistics at the South-West district's ECo-Day Out event on Sunday (Feb 1). He said people must not be afraid to stand up to those who litter, and reminded them to keep the surroundings clean.

"Of course, some of this increase is because we have stepped up enforcement action. Some people have come up to me and said: 'Elections are coming, you'd better not be so strict.' But let me tell you, this is one area - regardless of when the Prime Minister calls elections - we are going to step up enforcement and we are going to continue to do so," said Dr Balakrishnan

During the ECo-Day Out event, it was also that a project to recycle used light bulbs will be expanded. The South-West Community Development Council is aiming to collect 50,000 light bulbs over the next five years. For each one collected, an energy-efficient bulb will be given to a needy family within the district to help them save on electricity bills.

The aim is to benefit 12,500 low-income families over the next five years.

- CNA/ac

Balakrishnan urges stand against littering as summonses double
Today Online 2 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE — The National Environment Agency (NEA) issued 19,000 summonses for littering last year, which was double that of 2013, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday.

While this was partially due to a stepping up of enforcement action, he said people must not be afraid to stand up to those who litter and remind these people to keep the surroundings clean.

“This is one area (where) we are going to step up enforcement and we are going to continue to do so,” said Dr Balakrishnan at the South-West District’s ECo-Day Out.

Littering has been under the spotlight in recent days.

Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pointed to the trash that was left behind at the Laneway music festival and contrasted it with how Myanmar football fans picked up litter after a match at the Singapore National Stadium, to urge Singaporeans to pick up after themselves.

One day later, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong also commented on the littering issue, saying Tokyo does not face the problem despite not having rubbish bins in public places. Echoing Mr Lee’s message for Singaporeans to be a “clean” rather than “cleaned” city, Mr Goh wrote on his Facebook page: “Without foreign workers, Singapore is likely to become a ‘garbage city’. Cleanliness is a character thing. It shows who you really are.”

During the ECo-Day Out event yesterday, it was also announced that a project to recycle used light bulbs will be expanded. The South-West Community Development Council is aiming to collect 50,000 light bulbs over the next five years. For each one collected, an energy-efficient bulb will be given to a needy family within the district to help them save on electricity bills. KIMBERLY SPYKERMAN

Clean city? Singapore not there yet: Vivian
Samantha Boh The Straits Times AsiaOne 2 Feb 15;

This comes after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong referred to trash left behind at a music festival and urged people to pick up their litter, and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong took to Facebook to say that Singapore is likely to become a "garbage city" without foreign workers.

Addressing residents at a community event at Hong Kah North Community Centre yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan said that how clean a place is reflects what people think of themselves, their respect for their neighbours and their concern for the neighbourhood.

"Our homes do not stop at the door but the common corridor. The community club, the street, the garden, the park, all that is our home," he said.

"And if we do not mess up our own homes, then surely our streets, our clubs, our gardens must not be messed up."

He said this philosophy was brought up decades ago, in a 1968 speech by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Yet 50 years on, Singapore has "not yet arrived".

Last year, the National Environment Agency (NEA) issued 19,000 littering tickets, double that of 2013, in part due to stepped-up enforcement efforts. And Dr Balakrishnan said that the NEA is committed to stepping up enforcement further.

Singaporeans "must not be afraid to stand up and remind people to keep our homes, our neighbourhoods, clean and do our part", he added.

Yesterday, he also launched the Recycle-A-Bulb Challenge @South West, a programme which aims to help needy residents save on their electricity bills by giving them energy-efficient light bulbs. One energy-efficient light bulb will be given to a needy family, in exchange for every old or used bulb. The programme aims to collect 50,000 such light bulbs over the next five years, which would amount to $3.7 million savings for 12,500 low-income families.

The project is co-organised by the NEA and supported by grassroots groups, ITE College West and corporate organisations such as Keppel Land Limited, Singapore Post and DBS.

Said the Mayor of South West District Low Yen Ling: "We hope that other than lightening the load of our needy families, this will also help our residents in South West adopt energy-efficient ethics."

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Malaysia: Something 'very wrong' with Sun Bear in viral video, say conservationists

TAN YI LIANG The Star 1 Feb 15;

PETALING JAYA: A Sun Bear, which some have described as an "alien-like creature" in a viral video is very likely suffering from some kind of ailment, say conversationists.

A video of the bear, which has been circulating on social media and messaging apps, depict a hairless creature in an oil palm plantation struggling to get away from the people filming the video.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre chief executive officer and founder Wong Siew Te said that something was very wrong with the bear.

However, he added they could merely speculate what the animal was suffering from until it was captured for thorough examination and testing.

"The bear may have been poisoned by pesticides or herbicides, he said, explaining that it could have ingested the poison in a myriad of ways.

"They can also wind up sick due to a slow accumulation of toxic chemicals in their bodies. This is a chronic problem," said Wong.

"The other possibility is disease, where mite-like parasites could cause an animal to lose their hair. Alternatively, the third possibility is a yet-to-be-discovered disease," said Wong.

He called on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the area the video was taken, adding that it was abnormal to see Sun Bears in oil palm estates in daylight.

Malaysian Nature Society Kuching chairman Anthony Sebastian also called on the authorities to find and examine the bear to see what exactly was causing its illness.

Sebastian dispelled comments that the bear was an abnormal animal or an alien as had been speculated online.

"It is clearly a Sun Bear. What confuses people is the lack of fur. It is not some strange alien that has fallen from the sky," said Sebastian.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Animal Welfare Society president Shenaaz Khan called for more funding and effort to be given to the conservation of Malaysia's wildlife, which includes the Bornean Sun Bear.

"More effort, focus and resources should be given to the conservation of our indigenous Malaysian wildlife such as sun bears. Here we have a sun bear that succumbed to illness, and this is just one case that we know of," said Shenaaz.

She added policies must be put in place to address issues faced by these animals to protect and conserve Malaysia's indigenous wildlife.

"You can't expect plantation workers to know how to deal with these animals. Policies have to be in place to protect and conserve our indigenous wildlife.

"The Sarawak Forestry Corporation needs to find and rescue this bear to investigate if it was poisoned or if it was injured. But first, we need to rescue the bear," said Shehnaaz.

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Malaysia: Firemen rescue Malayan tapir trapped in ditch

ONG HAN SEAN The Star 2 Feb 15;

KUANTAN: Firemen took nearly two hours to rescue a Malayan tapir from a ditch at Indera Mahkota here.

Pahang Fire and Rescue Department’s public relations officer Anuar Hassan said they received a call from the public over the trapped animal at 2pm on Saturday afternoon.

“The Indera Mahkota station dispatched six personnel to the scene and began the rescue operation at 2.20pm,” he said yesterday.

“The firefighters used a webbing harness to lift the tapir out of the ditch and then handed it over to the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) for further action,” Anuar added.

Pahang Perhilitan director Khairiah Mohd Shariff said the male tapir (Tapirus indicus) was now being treated at the Jenderak conservation centre.

“It sustained some injuries to its legs when it fell into the drain,” she said.

“We are now nursing it back to health.

“Once it has recovered, we will release it into the Krau Wildlife Reserve,” she said.

Khairiah added that the tapir might have wandered off from its usual habitat before ending up in the ditch.

“In any case, the area surrounding Indera Mahkota is a scrub forest, and is not a suitable habitat for the animal,” she said.

The Malayan tapir, also called the Asian tapir, is the largest of the five species of tapir, and is the only one native to Asia.

Once found throughout South-East Asia, the herbivorous animal is now considered an endangered species.

The Malayan tapir is characterised by its two-tone body, black at the front half and white at the other.

Fragmentation of habitats is a major concern here as it isolates already small populations of wild tapirs, putting each group in danger of extinction from lack of genetic diversity in the long run.

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Malaysia: ‘Leave hornbill haven unspoilt’

STEPHEN THEN The Star 2 Feb 15;

MIRI: Nature lovers in Miri are objecting to a proposal to turn a hornbill haven, located next to the South China Sea here, into a tourist resort.

The Piasau Nature Reserve, which encompasses the Piasau Camp, about 6km north of the city centre, should never be developed into a resort as this would be detrimental to the rare birds and animals there, said Datuk Sebastian Ting.

“There is talk that the Piasau reserve and the area around it would be turned into a tourist resort,” the chairman of the Piasau Nature Park Society, an NGO promoting the preservation of the place, said during a pre-Chinese New Year gathering here on Saturday with the society’s supporters.

Ting, who is also the SUPP secretary-general, said Piasau should retain its “natural charm”.

“Since it was declared as a nature reserve by Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem last May, the hornbills there had thrived, with several adult hornbills nesting,” he said.

Loving birds: Jimmy and his new mate, Juliet/Utet. Photo courtesy of Musa Musbah, MNS Miri Branch.

“Last September, certain quarters tried to initiate some development in the reserve by erecting fencing for a construction project.

“However, the people of Miri protested and acted fast to stop further work,” he added.

The area, especially at the Piasau Camp, used to house expatriates working in the oil and gas sector. The area is unique in that it is the only place in urban Sarawak, if not the whole of Malaysia, where hornbills can be found living within city limits.

Miri residents and SUPP politicians, led by Ting, began lobbying for Piasau Camp to be a totally-protected area in 2013 after the discovery of several hornbill colonies.

It was the first time in Sarawak that a residential area had been converted into a nature reserve because of the presence of hornbills.

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Malaysia: Strong winds, rough seas expected in East Coast, Johor, Sabah, Sarawak

New Straits Times 1 Feb 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: First Category strong winds and rough seas over the waters off Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, east Johor, Sarawak, and Sabah (Kudat, Sandakan, West Coast and Interior) are expected to persist till Tuesday.

Similar weather conditions are expected to occur over Samui, Tioman, Bunguran, Reef North, Kuching, Labuan and Sulu.

A Malaysian Meteorological Services Department statement said strong Northeasterly winds of 40 to 50 kmph and waves up to 3.5 metres are also expected to occur over the areas.

“Meanwhile, Second Category strong winds and rough seas over the waters of Condore, Reef North, Layang-layang and Palawan are also expected to persist until Tuesday.

Strong Northeasterly winds of 50 to 60 kmph and waves up to 4.5 metres are dangerous to all shipping and coastal activities including fishing and ferry services, according to the statement.--BERNAMA

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