Best of our wild blogs: 23 Feb 15

Wild Intern (Apr-Jun 2015) - Now open for applications!
from wild shores of singapore

St John's Island (21022015)
from Psychedelic Nature

A Long Trek Into the Nature Reserve
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Valentine’s Day is for Roving
from Diary of a Boy wandering through Our Little Urban Eden

13th anniversary as a Volunteer at Sungei Buloh Wetalnds
from Art in Wetlands

Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello) @ Pasir Ris
from Monday Morgue

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AVA probing fish deaths off Pasir Ris

Authority warned coastal farmers of elevated plankton levels days before die-off
Today Online 23 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE — Amid higher plankton levels, some fish farmers off Pasir Ris have seen their fish die in recent days and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is analysing samples to determine the cause of death.

The AVA said some fish deaths were reported by farmers in the East Johor Straits between Wednesday and Saturday. This came after the authority alerted the coastal fish farmers to elevated plankton levels in the area last Monday and Tuesday for them to take precautions.

Plankton are microorganisms and plankton bloom occurs when one species of the drifting marine organisms predominates over others and multiplies quickly, said the AVA. This can be triggered by unpredictable weather, a higher concentration of nutrients in the seawater and poor water exchange between the high and low tides, a spokesperson said.

The AVA did not provide an indication of the scale of deaths so far, but said it has been visiting the coastal fish farms since the farmers’ reports. The visits are to “ascertain the situation, offer advice to the farmers to mitigate the situation and collect fish samples from the affected farms for analysis on the cause of mortality”.

It will continue to monitor and work closely with the farmers, an AVA spokesperson added.

Blogger and environmentalist Ria Tan reported seeing dead fish, both wild and farmed, at Pasir Ris on Saturday. In a post on her Wild Shores website yesterday, Ms Tan noted that some algal blooms are harmful and said it was important to find out the exact cause of fish deaths this time.

The latest deaths occurred a year after farmers lost more than 160 tonnes of fish and suffered individual losses of up to several hundred thousand dollars.

Last year’s episode was due to plankton bloom and low levels of dissolved oxygen, said the AVA, which offered an assistance package to affected farmers.

Related links
Also on Channel 8 News

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Migrating songbirds falling prey to rapid urbanisation

Feng Zeng Kun The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Feb 15;

MANY songbirds that fly south to Asia between November and February are under threat, and researchers calling for more global cooperation to protect them.

The birds routinely escape the winter in northern parts of the world, such as Siberia, for Asia's tropical areas, and use migratory routes collectively known as the East Asian- Australasian Flyway.

The flyway spans 37 countries from Arctic Russia and North America to Australia and New Zealand - an area of about 84.7 million sq km.

A group of researchers led by Singaporean bird scientist Yong Ding Li found that their habitats in these countries, such as forests and wetlands, are increasingly being depleted due to human developments.

The birds also face threats such as tall buildings, including those in Singapore, that lead to fatal collisions, and hunters who trade in ornamental birds.

Mr Yong, who is a graduate student at the Australian National University (ANU), said that unlike migratory shorebirds and waterbirds, which have been extensively studied due to their ability to spread diseases, there has been little research on songbird numbers.

But anecdotal observations by birdwatchers as well as scientific surveys suggest that many bird populations have been declining in the wild, some by as much as 70 per cent.

The researchers from ANU and Sun Yat Sen University in China reviewed reports by birdwatchers and other scientists in countries along the flyway.

They identified at least 254 songbird species that use the flyway.

Of these, 15 are listed by conservation group BirdLife International as threatened, seven as near-threatened, and 56 as having declining populations.

The list of threats included deforestation and degradation of temperate forests in Mongolia and eastern Russia due to logging, mining and fires; the draining of Canaba marsh for agriculture in central Luzon in the Philippines; the trapping of songbirds in Cambodia for religious reasons, such as "mercy releases", as well as their trapping and sale as pets in Indonesia.

Hunting of wild birds for food in rural areas and the pet trade remains rampant across South-east Asia, the researchers said.

Songbirds migrating at night are also strongly attracted to artificial light.

Some of Asia's largest cities are extensively lit at night and have many high buildings, especially in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Bangkok and Singapore, and this may have led to many bird deaths.

The researchers said that more international cooperation, conservation of key habitats and monitoring and research are needed to protect the birds.

Mr Yong said that, for Singapore, "most people associate migratory birds with Sungei Buloh, but most of the birds - and the vast majority are songbirds - are found across the country".

He added: "Their conservation needs to extend beyond nature reserves, to little remnants of habitats outside the reserves, including small patches of woodland like Bidadari."

Songbirds under threat


Flies from China to Sumatra, Indonesia, stopping in Singapore along the way in September for two weeks to a month.

Can be seen in Bidadari every October.

Population decline observed by birdwatchers in China.

Threats include loss of its natural forest habitat due to logging and agriculture in countries along its flight path.


Some fly from different parts of South-east Asia, such as Vietnam and Thailand, to Sumatra. Others stay put.

Commonly killed in collisions with buildings, especially in Singapore.


Believed to migrate from eastern Russia and Hokkaido, Japan, to southern China and parts of South-east Asia between August and October.

Population estimated to have fallen by at least 70 per cent in Russia between 2000 and 2010.

Threats include being trapped, cooked and sold as food in Sanshui city and Guangdong in China. The birds are also stuffed and sold as mascots in China as their presence in homes is believed to confer happiness. In Cambodia, they are often trapped for "merit release", a religious ritual.

Additional reporting by Carolyn Khew

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Indonesia: 11 Arrested Over Illegal Forest Clearing in Riau

Jakarta Globe 22 Feb 15;

Illegal forest clearing for plantations is a major problem for Indonesia. (AFP Photo/Chaideer Mahyuddin)

Jakarta. Eleven people have been arrested in Riau for illegal forest clearing, a major issue for Indonesia which is grappling with one of the fastest rates of deforestation in the world.

Police arrested seven suspects in Bukit Batu subdistrict, two in Bengkalis subdistrict and two more in Pinggir subdistrict, police said on Sunday.

“Police found six wood cutting tools, a jerry can filled with fuel and a motorcycle as evidence,” the chief of Bengkalis Police, Adj. Sr. Cmr. Aloysius Supriadi, told

Aloysius said the eleven people detained are suspected of illegal land clearing and illegal logging.

The arrests come just days after a new study claimed that more than 30 percent of the timber used by Indonesia’s industrial forest sector is sourced from illegal and unsustainable sources.

The report, published this week by the Anti Forest-Mafia Coalition, an alliance of Indonesian civil society organizations, and Forest Trends, a Washington-based non-governmental organization, found a yawning gap between the legal supply of wood to mills — as reported by the Ministry of Forestry — and the output declared by the industrial forestry sector.

The study, Indonesia’s Legal Timber Supply Gap and Implications for Expansion of Milling Capacity, said raw material used by these mills exceeded the legal supply by the equivalent of 20 million cubic meters.

The report said although the source of the wood was unclear, it is likely to have come from trees chopped down during clearfelling for plantations of palm oil and acacia trees, which are harvested by the pulp and paper industry.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil.

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