Best of our wild blogs: 8 Mar 15

Mass fish death at Lim Chu Kang and Kranji
from wild shores of singapore

National Parks Garden Bird Count (07032015)
from Psychedelic Nature

Owls Climb Trees
from Con Foley Photography

Night Walk At Venus Drive (06 Mar 2015)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

A flock of six Oriental Pied Hornbills
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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New mass fish death washes up thousands at Lim Chu Kang jetty

CAROLYN KHEW Straits Times 7 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE - Thousands of fish were found washed up on shore at Lim Chu Kang jetty on Saturday in the latest in a series of mass deaths.

Breeds big and small, including catfish and mullets, were discovered on the beach near where several fish farms are situated in the Strait of Johor.

Both sea and farm fish were affected.

Farmer Ong Kim Pit, 65, told The Sunday Times that he first saw fish jumping out of the water on Friday night, adding that his baby mullets were worst hit.

"It happened within minutes," he said. "My fish were jumping and jumping in the water. I don't know why."

Cleaners were seen removing bags of dead fish on Saturday.

It is not yet known what caused the mass deaths, but they came a week after a deadly wave of plankton bloom wiped out almost all of some Changi farmers' stocks.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said the bloom had killed an estimated 500 to 600 tonnes of fish as of last Wednesday, and affected 55 out of 63 farms in the East Johor Strait.

The AVA's preliminary findings showed elevated levels of Karlodinium veneficum in seawater samples, which has been associated with fish deaths worldwide.

Meanwhile, photos of dead fish at Kranji Reservoir Park and Sungeh Buloh Wetland Reserve also surfaced online on Saturday.

Govt to help fish farms, but farmers must be vigilant
Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Mar 15;

Help will be given to fish farmers badly hit by a plankton bloom last week, but they must also do their part, said Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman yesterday.

The assisting agency, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), will provide assistance to fish farmers to recover and restart their operations.

It is also looking at how farmers can build resilience through contingency plans and carry out contingency exercises. But farmers, too, must be vigilant and proactive.

Yesterday, the Ministry of National Development said the AVA had alerted all the farms to elevated levels of plankton in the water, but not all of them took mitigating measures immediately, either because they did not have the tools to do so, or the means to afford them.

"Plankton bloom occurrences are very difficult to prevent, but it is possible to reduce the impact," said Dr Maliki after a visit to two farms located near the Lorong Halus jetty in Changi yesterday. "While we provide assistance to help farmers tide over this difficult period, it is also important for farmers to do their part to take mitigating measures early."

The AVA said the bloom killed an estimated 500 to 600 tonnes of fish as of Wednesday, and affected 55 out of 63 fish farms along the East Johor Strait. Its preliminary findings showed elevated levels of Karlodinium veneficum in seawater samples. "This plankton has been associated with fish kills worldwide," said an AVA spokesman.

Fish farmer Gary Chang said he was alerted to elevated plankton levels on Feb 16 and 17 by the AVA and started preparing for a bloom as early as Feb 20. The 58-year-old created a buffer by lining his net cages with canvas and installed a simple filtration system to maintain the air quality.

He said he lost less than $30,000 worth of fish this year, compared to $300,000 in a similar incident last year. "You have to prepare early. If you wait till the bloom hits, it will be too late," he said.

Dr Maliki, who visited Mr Chang's farm, said: "Other farmers also took measures, but unfortunately suffered severe losses as they may not have done so early enough."

This is the second bloom in as many years. Last year's incident killed about 500 tonnes of fish at 53 farms in both the East and West Johor straits, said the AVA spokesman. After that incident, farms had to restock their fish and some are planning to move to other sites.

Plankton blooms can be deadly as they suck oxygen from the water, suffocating other marine life.

The AVA said yesterday it was working with the Tropical Marine Science Institute at the National University of Singapore to conduct studies on plankton blooms.

An earlier tender called last year to design and develop closed containment aquaculture systems has also been awarded to five companies. The agency said no marine biotoxins were detected based on fish samples collected from the affected farms. It also said that live fish which are harvested from the farms are safe for consumption.

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Acres launches new crime investigation unit for animal cruelty

JOY FANG Today Online 7 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — A new dedicated unit to investigate animal cruelty and undergo undercover operations to detect animal crime was launched today (March 7) by wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), in a bid to increase enforcement against animal abusers.

Announcing this at the 4th Chong Pang Public Forum on Animal Protection Policies, Acres’ chief executive Louis Ng said the Animal Crime Investigation Unit’s role includes investigating animal cruelty and wildlife crime, collating necessary evidence, and preparing the case brief for prosecution by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) in Court. It will also go undercover to detect animal crime and work with authorities on conducting sting operations to nab offenders, he said.

The unit, which will be operational from Monday, will comprise four of its full-time staff who have qualifications in law, psychology, environmental management, life sciences, criminal justice, criminal investigation, forensic psychology and security management. It will be headed by former lawyer Noelle Seet, who has over 11 years of litigation experience, he added.

Mr Ng, who announced in October that he had joined the People’s Action Party, said that the Chong Pang Public Forum has led to “significant progress in the animal protection movement” since it began in 2011.

Achievements include ending the culling of cats in Chong Pang, amending the Animals and Birds Act, Project ADORE - which allows HDB residents to keep one medium-sized mixed breed dog per flat - and the exemption of the first year’s licence fee for dogs released from AVA’s pound to animal welfare groups.

ACRES and Kembangan-Chai Chee Citizen Consultative Committee are also exploring the idea of building an Animal Sanctuary at East Coast Park, and ACRES recently launched the first Trap, Neuter, Release and Management programme on Jurong Island, he noted.

“The last piece of the puzzle in the animal protection movement is enforcement,” he said, adding that many participants in the forum have also called for a higher rate of prosecution of cases of animal cruelty or wildlife crime.

He also noted that statistics showed that the proportion of cases having prosecution action taken compared to the overall number of animal cruelty complaints was low, due to challenges in gathering evidence and getting witnesses to testify.

“We are confident that with this new unit and by working with AVA, we can help bring more offenders to task and ensure that justice is served,” he said.

Ms Seet, who is Head of Campaigns at ACRES, added: “Effective enforcement of the law and just sentences are key to deterring animal cruelty and wildlife crime. I am glad to lead this unit, and hope for greater public participation to bringing an end to animal cruelty and wildlife crime in Singapore.”

ACRES launches Animal Crime Investigation Unit
Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: A new dedicated Animal Crime Investigation Unit has been launched by animal welfare group ACRES.

The unit will investigate animal cruelty and wildlife crime in Singapore by collating evidence and preparing the case brief for prosecution by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) in court. The unit will also go undercover and work with authorities on conducting sting operations to nab offenders.

"It’s really to be the extra eyes and ears out there. So working with AVA, gathering evidence, but really making sure that more offenders are brought to task,” said ACRES Chief Executive Louis Ng.

“I think this has always been a constant theme at our forums, where people always say we have investigated a lot of cases, but very few are prosecuted. So we want to increase the rate, to make sure we send out a very deterrent message - that we take animal crime, wildlife crime very seriously - and we want to make sure that the penalties that we have in the legislation are being meted out as well."

The unit was formed after feedback was received at the Chong Pang Public Forum on Animal Protection Policies over the past five years. The fourth of such forums was held on Saturday (Mar 4), where a dialogue was held with Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam.

Noting that progress has been made over the years, Mr Shanmugam pointed out there were fewer comments this time round. "Over the years, the forum has thrown up many good ideas,” he said.

“And in fact we would say the culmination of that is the animal welfare review committee which was set up by government. And that committee, comprising MPs, animal welfare groups, and NGOs, came up with recommendations - many of which were made at this forum - and then all the recommendations were accepted and it’s now passed into legislation within two years."

But Mr Shanmugam added there is still a long way to go.

About 200 people attended the session and some of the concerns raised included animal abuse, legislation, ownership rules and culling.

"The issue of culling came up frequently again,” said Mr Shamugam, who is also MP for Nee Soon GRC. “The people who are worried about dogs in their neighbourhood want the agencies to do something about it. On the other hand, animal welfare groups feel that you don't necessarily need to rush into culling. What’s the middle ground?

“We are trying our pilot project in Jurong Island - trap, neuter, release, monitor. There is scope for that, I think, to be more widespread. Also for Project Adore, where people - responsible owners - can keep a mid-sized dog in a HDB flat, there is scope to expand that. There is scope to expand the cat ownership programme. We will look at all this."

- CNA/ec

Acres sets up unit to probe animal abuse
Samantha Boh The Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Mar 15;

Rescue group's new unit will gather proof, prepare case brief to prosecute offenders

In many cases of animal abuse, it is the lack of incriminating evidence that proves the stumbling block when prosecuting suspects.

To overcome that, wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) has set up an animal crime investigation unit, which will be dedicated to investigating animal cruelty and wildlife crime, collating the necessary evidence and preparing the case brief for prosecution in court.

The unit was launched yesterday at a public forum on animal protection policies held at Chong Pang Community Club. It was attended by more than 200 people, including secondary school students, animal welfare groups and members of the public.

"It is a constant theme at our forums. People will say we investigated a lot of cases but few are prosecuted," said Acres chief executive Louis Ng. "We want to increase the rate to make sure we send out a very deterrent message that we take animal crime, wildlife crime, very seriously and we want to make sure the penalties that we have in legislation are meted out as well."

The unit comprises four full-time staff members who have qualifications in areas such as law, environmental management, life sciences and criminal investigation. It will be headed by Ms Noelle Seet, a lawyer with more than 11 years of litigation experience.

During the forum, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam fielded questions from the audience on topics such as the culling of stray dogs and agreed there is a need to be more specific as to what defines animal abuse.

He also said that a pilot programme that lets Housing Board flat owners in Chong Pang keep cats in their homes has been successful in identifying and registering owners.

"Responsible cat ownership can be promoted and we can extend to other parts of (Nee Soon) GRC, not necessarily every constituency at the same time, but where there is a need and where it is possible to achieve it," said Mr Shanmugam, who is also an MP for the GRC. The programme will be rolled out at the other constituencies over the next couple of years.

Cat Welfare Society president Thenuga Vijakumar was happy with the news and noted that the programme encourages responsibility.

Separately, the Wildlife Reserves Singapore and the South-east Asian arm of wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic jointly launched a year-long "You Buy, They Die" campaign yesterday to fight wildlife crime.

It aims to educate the public on the seriousness of wildlife crime and how their buying decisions can help support the conservation of endangered wildlife.

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Revamped Rochor Canal stretch officially opens

Channel NewsAsia 8 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: A 1.1km stretch of the Rochor Canal between Jalan Besar and Crawford Street has been transformed into a vibrant waterway.

The revitalised area integrates seamlessly with existing residential and commercial developments. The section of the canal was also deepened and widened as part of continual drainage improvement to increase its capacity.

The improvements were carried out under the PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters or ABC Waters Programme.

A stretch of the revamped Rochor Canal. (Photo: PUB)

It was officially opened on Sunday morning (Mar 8) by Mayor of Central Singapore District and Adviser to Moulmein-Kallang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) Ms Denise Phua.

PUB has also put in an extensive collection of eleven rain gardens that treat rainwater runoff using specially-selected plants and soil media before it is discharged into the waterway.

- CNA/by

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Malaysia: Pesticide traces found in rivers


CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Traces of widely banned pesticides have been found in treated water and rivers here, said the Pesticide Action Network Asia and The Pacific (Panap).

According to its executive director Sarojeni V. Rengam, tests on samples drawn from six sites in the Bertam and Terla rivers, as well as treated water, found traces of pesticides.

More worrying is that endosulfan II, endrine ketone, aldrin and DDE (a derivative of DDT) residue have been found in Brinchang tap water.

Of great concern is aldrin, an organochlorine pesticide widely used until the 1970s when it was banned in most countries, with Malaysia finally banning it in 1994.

A popular choice to treat seed and soil before it was banned, aldrin was found in tap water at an average level of 0.071 microgrammes per litre – well above the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit of 0.03 microgrammes per litre.

Endosulfan is another organochlorine insecticide that has been in the process of being phased out globally since 2012. The compound produces endosulfan II as a byproduct when it breaks down in the environment.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s School of Chemical Science and Food Technology analysed the samples in the study funded by Panap.

Prof Mohd Pauzi Abdullah, who specialises in analytical chemistry at UKM, said it was possible to detect some residue even though farmers stopped using them years ago, as these chemicals tend to persist in the environment.

“The residue will be in the sediment and carried by the water,” he told The Star at the sidelines of the seminar “Raising Awareness on the Impact of Pesticides on Human Health and the Environment” jointly organised by Panap and Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach) here yesterday.

However, Dr Pauzi said it was more likely that some residue came from recent use of the pesticides, though he added that more extensive tests were needed.

According to Sarojeni, the latest rounds of tests were carried out between August and December last year, and the highest concentration of pesticide residue was found in the Terla River, specifically in areas with intensive agriculture.

“As endosulfan takes about 200 days to break down, this was no doubt used in the past year.

“There needs to be more studies and continuous monitoring, and we hope other NGOs and the Government will join us in addressing these issues of great importance,” she said, adding that the widespread detection of agrochemicals classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) was alarming.

“These are POPs which have been banned in Malaysia, the European Union and many other countries for several years,” said Sarojeni.

In many laboratory studies, POPs have been linked with many damaging effects such as birth defects, developmental disorders, cancer, reproductive problems and a wide range of health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and metabolic dysfunction.

Reach president R. Ramakrishnan said illegal chemicals were found to be sold in the Camerons, the hub of temperate flower and vegetable production in Malaysia.

He alleged that the chemicals, bearing labels in foreign languages, were only sold to those known to the shopkeepers.

“It is not easy to buy them,” he said, showing packets of the chemicals he had managed to purchase from shops here.

Ramakrishnan claimed various government agencies had failed to take any action despite the issue being highlighted eight years ago.

“They must find out where these chemicals are coming from and put a stop to it.”

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