Best of our wild blogs: 25 Feb 15

What is killing fishes at Pasir Ris?
from wild shores of singapore

Celebrate World Water Day @ Pandan with a Mangrove Cleanup!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Grasshoppers mating
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Santander Bank cuts off APRIL due to deforestation
from by Rhett A. Butler

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Behind the scenes at new natural history museum

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Feb 15;

A RARE golden babirusa specimen stood encased in glass in a dusty little corner of the National University of Singapore (NUS) for decades.

The pig artefact, collected in 1913 in Indonesia, will soon be watching over something bigger and better when it takes its place at the upcoming Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, located next to the University Cultural Centre at NUS.

Before the move, however, it had to undergo at least two weeks of preparation. First, it had to be placed in a waterproof box to protect it from condensation. Then the prized wild pig was frozen at -21 deg C to kill mites or insects, before being progressively thawed to about 15 deg C.

All this, just to prepare one specimen for its new home at Singapore's first and only natural history museum, slated to open its doors in April.

The museum will be a treasure trove of the region's rich natural heritage, housing animal specimens and fossils from the vaults of the former Raffles Museum, which dates back to 1849.

More than 500,000 lots of specimens were moved - from quirky creatures like an eight-legged piglet to locally extinct species like the three- striped ground squirrel.

And even though not all will go on display - more than 90 per cent will be kept as part of the research collection for academics, students and scientists - they all had to be packed and prepped for the massive move, which involved the museum's seven curators, a team of about 10 professional art movers and about five student assistants and museum specialists.

Dr Tan Heok Hui, one of the curators, said the collection could be broadly divided into two categories - dry and wet.

The dry category will be housed on the museum's fourth floor, and consists of plants, birds, mammals, fish and coral specimens, among others.

Like the golden babirusa, specimens in this category had to undergo extensive preparation work.

Moving the wet collection, which included specimens kept in a liquid medium of about 75 per cent ethanol (a flammable liquid), involved getting permits from the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

The wet category will be housed on levels two and three of the new museum, which has purpose-built rooms.

The curators are confident that the move will be completed by June, although specimens for public viewing will be ready by its official opening.

The research collection, however, will be opened only in phases for scientific use, said Dr Tan.

He added: "I once visited a bookshop in Vietnam and found that the books were arranged by size - I couldn't find anything.

"It is the same for the research collection. If nothing is in its place, information cannot be extracted and is as good as lost."

Moving a prized pig

THE rare golden babirusa needed intensive care before it could be moved to its new home at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

The prized wild pig had to undergo at least two weeks of preparation. It had to be placed in a waterproof box to protect it from condensation.

Then it was frozen at -21 deg C to kill mites or insects, before being progressively thawed to about 15 deg C.

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Lending a hand to make Singapore clean

Linette Heng The New Paper AsiaOne 25 Feb 15;

Teacher Tan Ken Jin has the tendency to pick up any litter he sees.

The 37-year-old does it without fuss - he picks up the trash with his bare hands before washing them at the nearest basin.

It all started in 2012 when he was training for a marathon and was frustrated by the litter he saw along his route.

Mr Tan decided to act and began the Singapore Glove Project, a community initiative where people would walk or jog with gloves on and pick up litter along their path at the same time.

"I was moved by all the trash around me to start something larger than myself, as I knew I could not do it alone," he said.

"The aim of the movement is to encourage Singaporeans to stay active by exploring the many corners of our beautiful country, while at the same time helping to beautify it."

Mr Tan said onlookers often get confused when they see members of the Singapore Glove Project at work and assume they are doing a Corrective Work Order.

Civic duty

"We just explain that we are performing a civic duty and encourage them to join us or not litter," he added.

But Mr Tan thinks their biggest challenge is to get naysayers to feel they need to be part of the solution.

"There is sadly a group of people who still point fingers at foreigners, be they tourists or workers, saying that they are the problem.

"While I do not doubt that some foreigners contribute to the problem, there are many foreigners who help out with the Singapore Glove Project as well. On the flip side, we have also seen locals littering and we do our best to educate them."

Mr Tan, who is the head of department of student development at Bartley Secondary School, hopes to inspire his students to do the same.

Recalling how a friend praised him for being "brave" when he politely told a litterbug to pick up his cigarette butt, Mr Tan wishes that more people would do the same.

"Going up to a fellow countryman to help keep Singapore clean shouldn't be seen as bravery. It should be seen as something natural and I wish all of us would have the motivation to remind one another to keep our country clean," he said.

I wish all of us would have the motivation to remind one another to keep our country clean.
- Mr Tan Ken Jin.

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Malaysian caught for illegal import of hedgehogs, gecko

Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE: A Malaysian man has been fined S$1,500 after he was caught illegally importing animals across the Causeway, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) announced in a joint media release on Wednesday (Feb 25).

On Feb 6, the 26-year-old Malaysian was a passenger in a Singapore-registered taxi when it was stopped by ICA officers at the Woodlands Checkpoint for routine checks.

During the inspection, officers uncovered two four-toed hedgehogs and one leopard gecko in the passenger’s belongings. The hedgehogs were found hidden inside a shoe box while the gecko was placed in a small plastic container that was kept in the passenger’s white zip pouch.

The AVA was alerted, with the Malaysian passenger and the animals handed over to AVA for investigations.

AVA later issued the offender a fine under the Animals and Birds Act and the Wild Animals and Birds Act for the illegal import of animals. The animals were sent to the Singapore Zoo.

Travellers are reminded not to bring live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit. The importation of any animals or live birds without an AVA permit is an offence and offenders can be charged in court and fined a maximum of S$10,000 and/or imprisoned for up to a year.

- CNA/ac

Man caught smuggling 2 hedgehogs and a gecko through Woodlands Checkpoint
AsiaOne 25 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE - Two four-toed hedgehogs and a leopard gecko were uncovered from a man's belongings during a routine check at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Feb 6 at about 8.45pm, said the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and Immigrations Customs Authority (ICA) in a joint statement released today.

A 26-year-old Malaysian man was aboard a Singapore-registered taxi during the inspection conducted by ICA officers.

The hedgehogs were found hidden inside a shoe box and the gecko was placed in a small plastic container that was kept in the passenger's white zip pouch.

ICA subsequently handed the passenger and the seized exhibits over to AVA for investigations.

The passenger was fined $1,500 for importing animals illegally and the taxi driver was released after it was found that he was not implicated in the case.

The animals were later sent to the Singapore Zoo.

AVA added that animals like geckos and hedgehogs are not suitable pets as some may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans and can be a public safety risk if mishandled or if they escape.

These non-native animals may also pose a threat to local biodiversity if released into the environment.

Importing any animals or live birds without an AVA permit is an offence, and anyone found guilty of smuggling animals faces a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or a jail term of up to one year.

For more information on bringing animals into Singapore from overseas travels, visit AVA's website at

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Malaysia: Hot weather to ease by March end - Met dept

New Straits Times 24 Feb 15;

PUTRAJAYA: The hot and dry spell in many areas is in the final phase of the monsoon season which is expected to abate by the end of March, said Meteorological Department director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail.

“It is now the tail end of the northeast monsoon which causes many areas to receive less rain over an extended period, leading to the hot and dry weather,” she said when attending the 2015 message by Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, here today.

Che Gayah said the current weather condition had not reached the ‘hot wave’ level and was still categorised as normal with 30 per cent rainfall based on the long term average.

Asked if the temperature of the hot and dry weather was different from last year, she said there was not see much difference with the temperature varying over three degrees Celcius.

The temperature in Malaysia is currently between 33 and 35 degrees Celcius.

Che Gayah said the inter-monsoon season would start in April until mid-May, when states in the peninsula would experience wet weather with thunderstorm in the afternoon and evening.

She said heavy rain and thunderstorm were common before the southwest monsoon begins from June to September which is the dry and haze season.

Che Gayah said under its standard operating procedure (SOP), the department would only carry out cloud seeding when haze reached the level hazardous to human health.

“The department is always prepared to conduct cloud seeding with private flight companies to overcome the problem. At times, dam operators will also carry out cloud seeding to raise the level of water. If they seek our help, we will be prepared to assist,” she said. -- BERNAMA

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Malaysia: New logging road a cause for concern

PATRICK LEE The Star 25 Feb 15;

KLUANG: A logging road is allegedly being opened in the gazetted Kluang catchment area, raising fears that future logging there will taint local water supply.

Believed to be several kilometres long and reaching deep into the jungles near here, the newly-opened road appears to be in the east end of the gazetted catchment area.

The catchment area is to serve as a water resource for the Kahang Dam.

A source who alerted The Star to the matter said that the road appeared there between December 2014 and January this year.

“The issue here is that it falls (within the water catchment area), and will have an effect on a crucial future water resource for the Kluang district,” the source told The Star.

In a visit there in late January, The Star noticed an excavator and a bulldozer parked on the way to the newly opened road, 30km north-east of Kluang.

The only possible way to get to the new road is via an existing logging road, which the source said was in use decades prior.

While there were no signs of large-scale tree-felling by the road, a few trees alongside had been marked with tags. Some were also marked with spraypaint.

Global Positioning System (GPS) devices showed the road apparently skirting the Gua Harimau hill, which lay within the catchment area.

According to a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment report on the Kahang Dam, the catchment area was gazetted as such by the Johor state government on Oct 9, 2008.

The Kahang Dam is expected to provide some 100 million extra litres of water a day, meeting Kluang’s water demand up to 2035. It is expected to be ready after September 2016.

Current water supply for the Kluang district is roughly 132 million litres a day.

The DEIA states that the area also falls within the Kluang Forest Reserve.

“Since the forest is gazetted as a water catchment area, the forest will be free from logging activty,” the report said.

A statement by Johor Forestry Department director Mohd Ridza Awang said that the planned logging was going to take place in the nearby Kluang Forest Reserve.

He said that the logging licence would cover some 23.36ha, and was valid from Dec 15, 2014, to March 14 this year.

“This office will conduct periodical monitoring on the area,” he said.

Johor Forestry deputy director Mohd Rahim Rani clarified that the road and the to-be-logged area was out of the catchment zone.

“It is outside of the catchment area, and the area (to be logged) is under production forest,” he said.

Production forest is a term where a jungle area can be gazetted for logging purposes.

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Malaysia: Saving Langkawi’s mangroves

MELIZARANI T. SELVA The Star 25 Feb 15;

HAVING lost 50% of its original rainforest to coastal development in recent years, Langkawi Island’s Unesco Geopark status could change following the United Nations agency’s scheduled review this year.

Gathering support from Institute of Foresters Malaysia (IRIM), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), villagers of Kuala Melaka, Kuala Teriang and the media, Berjaya Langkawi Resort launched the Mangrove 4 Life (M4L) campaign, as part of Berjaya Hotels & Resorts (BHR)’s corporate social responsibility initiative Live & Care.

Berjaya Langkawi Resort general manager Chris Niuh said the three-day mangrove conservation campaign was close to their hearts, as it had a direct impact on the surrounding community of the 20-year-old resort.

“Villagers of Kampung Kuala Melaka in Kuala Teriang area suffered the worst damage following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, as there was no engineered coastal protection or sufficient mangroves to act as natural coastal defence.

“The first steps in our M4L campaign is focused on replanting mangrove trees in this area, for these communities to recover and achieve greater sustainability in restoring the surrounding mangrove ecosystem, which is essential for coastal protection during strong waves.

With the help of villagers from Kampung Kuala Melaka, the recent campaign saw participants putting on bright yellow boots and planting 424 rhizophora mucronata species mangrove saplings along the shoreline of Kampung Kuala Melaka.

Malaysian Nature Society head of communications Andrew J. Sebastian, who guided the enthusiastic team of novice tree planters, gave a briefing on the importance of mangroves to the island’s rainforest ecosystem.

“Mangrove habitats and ecosystems store and cycle nutrients, filter pollutants, protect shorelines from erosion and storms, and play a vital role in modulating climate as they are a major carbon sink and oxygen source.

“For effective mangrove replanting, we used the rhizophora mucronata species, due to its fast-growing nature and ability to flower within its first year of planting.”

Led by Malaysian Nature Society personnel, 1.82m PVC tubes were first encased in the sand to form a wave breaker stretch to protect the M4L mangrove planting site to reduce the impact of the waves on the saplings and ensure a higher chance of survival and growth.

Sebastian said he had high hopes for the new project in restoring balance to Kuala Teriang’s natural ecosystem for years to come.

Serving as a local platform to educate and strengthen mangrove conservation efforts, the project’s passion was also shared with 48 pupils aged 10 to 12 from SK Kuala Teriang.

Conducted by Dr Evelyn Lim, the Malaysian Nature Society Ecotourism and Conservation honorary secretary and co-facilitated by the media, the Mangrove Awareness Workshop for schoolchildren was a fun-filled event.

The children enjoyed interactive games and tree-planting sessions that explained the characteristics of different mangrove species and the threats they faced from deforestation. “It was truly fulfilling teaching the children how to carefully plant the mangrove saplings to ensure its survival.

“Teaching them what I had learnt earlier from members of the Malaysian Nature Society helped me remember points on mangrove conservation and interesting facts on the trees we were planting.

“It was definitely a memorable and enriching experience,” said Bernard Cheah, who was with the media.

From the session, an additional 98 mangrove saplings were planted by the children at Berjaya Langkawi Resort’s mangrove site.

Thinking ahead in promoting eco-tourism, Niuh said the island resort, which covered an area of 28.3ha, would eventually introduce more eco-friendly holiday packages such as a three-day-two-night stay at their Rainforest Chalet with mangrove-planting activities.

“Maintaining the resort is a constant challenge as we are between two live ecosystems, the sea and the rainforest.

“Unlike our city hotels, our resort here is more focused on being as natural as possible in terms of our architecture and daily practices.

“Eventually, we will introduce holiday packages that enable our guests to not only enjoy the flora and fauna around the area but also incorporate activities to help them understand and appreciate the ecosystem better,” said Niuh.

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Indonesia: Haze begins to hit North Sumatra

Apriadi Gunawan and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 25 Feb 15;

Haze from land and forest fires in a number of regions in North Sumatra blanketed areas around the Kualanamu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency on Tuesday.

However, the haze, which was present until 8:30 a.m., did not disrupt flights as visibility remained normal.

Airport spokesman Prasetyo Dewandono said the airport had been covered by haze for the past two days. He added that the haze, which was only seen in the morning, had yet to disrupt flights.

“Despite the presence of haze at the airport, visibility remains normal ranging between 1,500 and 3,000 meters. All flights have been smooth,” Prasetyo told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

The weather forecast analyst at the Medan branch of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), Dodi Syahputera, said the haze covering Kualanamu airport for the past two days was attributed to the rise in the number of hot spots in North Sumatra. He added that the haze over Kualanamu airport originated from hot spots in nearby Serdang Bedagai regency.

“We detected a hot spot in Serdang Bedagai that resulted from a land fire. The smoke was carried by wind to the northeast in the direction of Kualanamu airport,” said Dodi on Tuesday.

He added that based on satellite observations, the number of hot spots in North Sumatra over the past two days was rising; nine were detected on Monday and 11 on Tuesday.

Three of them were found in Mandailing Natal, two in Asahan, one in Serdang Bedagai, one in Labuhan Batu and four in Langkat regency.

Dodi said the growing number of hot spots was due to widespread land clearing activities in various regions. He said that no hot spot was detected in Langkat on Monday, but four appeared on Tuesday.

“This proves that land clearing activities by burning in the regions has increased since [farmers] are taking advantage of the dry weather,” said Dodi.

He added that the temperature in Medan and several other regions in the province had reached between 33 and 340C, hot enough to easily encourage local people to clear land by burning.

In Riau, the Riau Police have arrested nine suspects for alleged arson to clear land.

Police have also separately seized evidence used to set fire to plots of land in six different regencies.

Police arrested a suspect in Bengkalis, two in Indragiri Hulu, one in Indragiri Hilir, three in Siak, one in Pelalawan and another one in Rokan Hilir.

“The suspects were arrested based on public information from separate places. All of them are still undergoing intensive questioning to disclose whether of not the fires were masterminded,” said Riau Police detective chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Kaswandi Irwan on Tuesday.

Kaswandi added that he supported the central government’s decision to raise the land and forest fire warning status in Riau to emergency status.

“It was the right move in order to prevent land and forest fires from getting worse. Last year, the land and forest fires were quite severe, especially between February and April, the peak of the dry season,” he added.

On Tuesday morning, the BMKG Pekanbaru station recorded 18 hot spots in Riau, specifically nine in Bengkalis, four in Meranti Islands and five in Siak. As many as 15 of them have been confirmed as fires, with a likelihood of over 70 percent. Three of them were found in Meranti Islands, four in Siak and eight in Bengkalis.

Earlier this month, the Riau provincial administration kick-started the Haze Disaster Command Station at Roesmin Nurjadin Airport in Pekanbaru as the number of hot spots and forest and land fires increased and is predicted to keep rising until next month.

Haze from forest and land fires in Sumatra has been an annual problem for almost two decades. In the past few years, haze has begun to move toward Singapore and Malaysia, causing tension between the Indonesian government and its neighbors.

Haze blankets Bagansiapi-api, Riau
Antara 24 Feb 15;

Residents across the street in the siege of heavy smoke in the morning in the city Bagansiapiapi, Rokan Hilir, Riau, Tuesday (February 24, 2015). (ANTARA/Aswaddy Hamid)
Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - Haze from forest and plantation fires blanketed Bagansiapi-api City in Rokan Hilir District, Riau Province, on Tuesday.

"Visibility rate decreases drastically to 500 meters, particularly in the mornings," Aswadi Hamid, a local resident, said Tuesday.

There were no hotspots in Bagansiapi-api; the haze came from neighboring Dumai City and the Bengkalis border areas where forest and plantation fires occurred.

Meanwhile, the government has declared a state of emergency to prevent and handle forest fires in Riau Province, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

"The measure is to anticipate forest and field fires in 2015," Chief of the Public Relations and Information Center of BNPB Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated on Sunday (Feb. 22).

According to Sutopo, Riau Province bears the brunt of forest fires every year. Based on the hotspot data for the 2006-2014 period, forest fires occurred twice every year in Riau, from February to April and June to October.

The disaster continues unabated every year, despite the government identifying the reasons and purpose of starting forest fires and establishing regulations to prevent them.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has sought BNPBs assistance to take emergency steps to curb any possibility of the spread of hotspots and fires in Bengkalis District, Riau Province.

"One of the initial efforts is to carry out cloud seeding operations in the near future," Sutopo affirmed.

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