Best of our wild blogs: 18 Mar 15

Coastal works planned for reefs and living shores at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal?
from wild shores of singapore

Wormy romance? Or feeding frenzy?
from wild shores of singapore

Recce for the World Water Day Mangrove Cleanup @ Sungei Pandan
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Secret Societies, Spies & Rebels tour (Sunday 22 Mar’15 @9am)
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Juvenile Asian Glossy Starlings bathing then preening
from Bird Ecology Study Group

New report connects human health to biodiversity protection
from news by Brittany Stewart

Minister explains sustainability claims behind Indonesia’s boat bombing
from news by Morgan Erickson-Davis

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Singapore a space-age kampung by 2065?

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Mar 15;

BY 2065, Singapore will be a "space-age kampung" that has a greater reliance on solar power and builds flats on bodies of water.

Transport linking the countries in the region will also have become so fast and seamless that cities such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will be like neighbourhoods in a vast metropolitan area.

These visions are among those submitted by Singaporeans to BuildSG2065 - a contest being held by The Straits Times and CapitaLand, one of Asia's largest real estate companies, to mark the country's 50th anniversary.

It asks Singaporeans to submit their visions for the Republic in another 50 years' time.

They could end up being showcased in an upcoming exhibition featuring Singa- pore's past, present and future on the pages of The Straits Times, which commemorates its own 170th anniversary this year.

Submissions can be made in four categories: space-age kampungs, go green, smart spaces, and weatherproof world.

Ms Nicole Chia, 21, who submitted an entry in the first category, believes that in 2065, household appliances in Singapore will all draw their power from the sun.

"The energy will come from solar panels mounted on the top of buildings and Singaporeans will rely less on electrical energy during sunny days," she said. "The solar energy will also be conserved to be used on rainy days in additional to electrical energy."

People will also have dials in their homes that allow them to modulate the amount of solar energy they draw from the panels.

She explained: "They can choose to dim the lights in the apartment or change the temperature of the bathwater, for example.

"With such methods, we can save the environment and our money."

Mr Li Zongyin, 31, said Singapore will have space-age kelongs or low-rise flats standing over the nation's reservoirs.

"While the reservoir contributes to the beauty of the buildings and naturally cools them, the buildings will also help to reduce evaporation and retain the water in the reservoir," he said.

In another submission, he said transport links between the ASEAN region's cities will have improved to the point that the cities will be neighbourhoods in an ultra-connected, cross-border area.

"Imagine waking up in Jurong on a lazy Saturday morning. You tap your ez-link card, enter a vacuum tube, and in 45 minutes you're in Kuala Lumpur having nasi for lunch," Mr Li said.

"With RFID (radio-frequency identification) and video recognition, there is not even the need to stop and step off the train as it crosses Customs. The system just detects and knows that you are leaving the country."

Mr Osman V.P. Mohamed, 49, believes Singapore will be the most "exuberant city of the Far East" in 2065.

"It will be where intellectuals, entrepreneurs and entertainers from both the East and West congregate to ponder and create new ideas and designs for the rest of the world. I'll be 99 years old if I live long enough to see all this!"

To submit your idea, go online to http://buildsg2065. from now until April 30. Ideas submitted stand to win attractive prizes.

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Water conservation efforts recognised on World Water Day

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 17 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: From self-maintaining rooftop gardens, to creative solutions to reduce water wastage, two organisations and an individual will be lauded for their innovative and sustainable use of water in this year's Watermark Awards.

The annual award recognises outstanding contributions and commitment to protecting and raising awareness of Singapore's water resources.

The winners - Siloso Beach Resort, Alexandra Health System, and Asia Square's Sustainability Manager Philip Chan - stood out from 30 other nominees for this year's award.

Of the three, Siloso Beach Resort earned itself a higher distinction - the Honourary Watermark Award, for its holistic approach to both water and environment sustainability. These include using rainwater and spring water to irrigate its rooftop gardens and landscaping, as well as conducting water-centric eco tours with the PUB to spread awareness of conservation practices amongst local and foreign visitors.

Also honoured for utilising innovative measures to reduce water usage is fellow award winner Alexandra Health System. The healthcare provider's Khoo Teck Puat Hospital incorporates measures such as using water from Yishun Pond for irrigation of vegetables, and fun activities for visitors that help raise awareness of how water recycling works.

Its commitment to water conservation at the staff level was also noted; new employees are briefed on environmental preservation, and staff are encouraged to participate in water conservation projects.

Asia Square's Sustainability Manager Philip Chan walked away with this year's sole individual award. He devised improvements to water tanks at Asia Square, due to be implemented between April and May 2015, that could potentially save 30,000 litres of water per minute each time the tank overflows.

This year's award ceremony will be held on World Water Day, Mar 22, at the Singapore SportsHub.

- CNA/av

Winning ways to save water
Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Mar 15;

USING sensors to automatically stop plant-watering when it rains, educating visitors on environmental initiatives and cutting wastage from water overflow.
These were efforts that won two organisations and one individual the Watermark Award by national water agency PUB.

The annual award, first given out in 2007, recognises organisations and individuals for their contributions towards protecting and educating others about Singapore's water resources.

The winners this year are Alexandra Health System, which manages Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Siloso Beach Resort on Sentosa and Asia Square building's sustainability manager, Mr Philip Chan.

At the hospital, water from the nearby Yishun Pond is used to irrigate plants on its rooftop gardens via an underground piping system, thus reducing the use of potable water. The hospital uses drip irrigation, which helps cut wastage. Plant-watering stops when sensors detect rain, and some 12 per cent of rain water run-off is collected for reuse.

The hospital saved 8 per cent more water, or 620,000 litres, last year, compared with 2013. That is more than 12 times the average monthly water consumption for a bungalow.

Siloso Beach Resort runs eco tours on its environmental programmes for visitors. There are also tours for other hotel building managers.

Asia Square's Mr Chan, 51, improved a pivot valve at the building's water tanks. The device, which will be rolled out in two months, helps cut water wastage due to water overflow.

The winners will each receive a trophy from Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan at the Singapore Sports Hub on Sunday.

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NTU partners Smithsonian Institution for research in tropical ecology

Channel NewsAsia 17 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has partnered with the Smithsonian Institution to become the first Asian scientific hub for the Smithsonian’s Forest Global Earth Observatories programme (ForestGEO), the local varsity said on Tuesday (Mar 17).

ForestGEO is a global network of more than 60 tropical and temperate forest plots in 24 countries where scientists examine forest function and diversity. The joint research and educational collaboration will focus on areas such as biodiversity, forest and marine ecology, climate change, human-environment interactions and genomics.

As part of the Smithsonian’s Global Earth Observatories programmes, ForestGEO also includes MarineGEO, the first long-term, worldwide research programme with seven sites to focus on understanding coastal marine life and maintaining resilient ecosystems worldwide.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by NTU Provost Professor Freddy Boey and Smithsonian’s Interim Under Secretary for Science Dr W John Kress at the Smithsonian’s Castle in Washington, DC, United States on Tuesday. Singapore’s Ambassador to the US Ashok Kumar Mirpuri graced the event as the Guest-of-Honour.

“Together with the Smithsonian Institution, our combined research efforts will be instrumental in advancing forest and marine ecological science, to better understand nature and the world around us. The discovery of such knowledge will allow scientists to tackle the huge challenges we have today, such as climate change and environmental degradation,” said Dr Boey.


Along with the research collaboration, a joint professorship between the two organisations will be arranged at NTU’s Asian School of the Environment. A world-class scientist well-versed in the area of tropical terrestrial ecology will be appointed to act as a conduit and coordinate research projects between NTU and the Smithsonian Institution.

“Both NTU and the Smithsonian Institution share the same vision that many of the answers to climate change issues can be found in the tropical Asia region,” said Professor Alexander Zehnder, member of the NTU Board of Trustees. He was instrumental in sealing the partnership between the university and the Smithsonian Institution.

Associate Professor Charles Martin Rubin, Chair of the Asian School of Environment, said: “We are looking to educate and train both top notch scientists and also students, to better understand the environment in the Asian tropical region which is not that well studied yet.”

Some of NTU's environmental science projects currently include the establishment of observation sites at the Sumatra subduction zone for seismic activity, the study of biofilms in urban waterways, the building of a comprehensive global oceanographic database and the sequencing of air microbiodome.

- CNA/eg

NTU partners US Smithsonian Institution to research tropical ecology
Today Online 17 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — To advance research in tropical ecology, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has partnered with the world’s largest museum and research complex in the United States, the Smithsonian Institution. They will collaborate on educational and research efforts in the areas of tropical forest, marine ecology and environmental change in Asia.

This collaboration is the Smithsonian Institution’s first formal research agreement in Asia. NTU will be established as the Asian scientific hub for the Smithsonian’s Forest Global Earth Observatories programme, a global network of more than 60 tropical and temperate forest plots in 24 countries where scientists examine forest function and diversity.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed today (March 17) by NTU Provost Professor Freddy Boey and Smithsonian’s interim Under Secretary for Science Dr W John Kress in Washington, DC. Singapore’s Ambassador to the US Ashok Kumar Mirpuri was the Guest-of-Honour at the event.

Describing the partnership as a milestone for Singapore, Prof Boey said: “Together with the Smithsonian Institution, our combined research efforts will be instrumental in advancing forest and marine ecological science, to better understand nature and the world around us.

“The discovery of such knowledge will allow scientists to tackle the huge challenges we have today, such as climate change and environmental degradation.”

NTU’s new Asian School of the Environment will be the main partner to the Smithsonian Institution, supported by the university’s research centres - Earth Observatory of Singapore, the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering and NTU’s Complexity Institute. A joint professorship between the two organisations will also be set up, housed at the Asian School of the Environment.

Associate Professor Charles Martin Rubin, Chair of the Asian School of Environment, said: “We are looking to educate and train both top notch scientists and also students, to better understand the environment in the Asian tropical region which is not that well studied yet.

“We want to train researchers in the natural sciences to pay attention to the interaction between societies and the environment, and ways to promote adaptive governance of social-ecological systems.”

Professor John Stephen Lansing, co-director of NTU’s Complexity Institute and a professor in the Asian School of Environment highlighted the need to find solutions to problems like deforestation, which not only affects air quality in Singapore but “also leads to habitat loss for wild animals, triggering the spread of new infectious diseases from animals to humans”.

The Smithsonian’s Dr Kress said the partnership with NTU will open new avenues for Smithsonian scientists in Asia. He said: “Together, NTU and Smithsonian scientists will make discoveries that neither could accomplish alone.”

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Malaysia: Wild elephant who caused havoc in Lenggong to get new “home”

AUDREY DERMAWAN New Straits Times 17 Mar 15;

LENGGONG: A wild elephant, which has been creating a ruckus in Kampung Chepor here, will be moved to its new "home" today.

It is learnt that the mammal will be placed at the Royal Belum forest reserve in Grik.

The elephant was caught by the Perak Wildlife and National Parks Department on Sunday.

The 20-year-old adult male elephant, weighing 1,500kg, is one of eight mammals spotted in the village since the last two weeks.

The operation to move the elephant to its new "home" started at noon with the help of two elephants from the National Elephant Conservation Centre in Kuala Gandah, Pahang.

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After storm, Kiribati leader sees growing threat to nation

Megan Rowling Reuters 17 Mar 15;

SENDAI, Japan, March 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Worsening extreme weather and rising sea levels are threatening to wipe out much of the Pacific island state of Kiribati within a decade, its president warned on Tuesday.

After destruction wrought by surging waves during high tides earlier this year, the nation of 100,000 people living across 33 coral islands was pounded late last week by Cyclone Pam, which tore through Vanuatu, leaving at least 11 dead.

No fatalities have been reported in Kiribati, but the storm damaged homes and public infrastructure, cutting off communications and fuel supply lines to islands in the south, President Anote Tong said.

"This is a new experience for us," Tong told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview on the sidelines of a U.N. summit in the Japanese city of Sendai, where governments are due to adopt a new global plan to reduce the risk of disasters.

Straddling the equator and spread over 3.5 million sq km (2 million sq miles) of otherwise empty ocean, Kiribati's islands have an average height of just 2 metres (6-1/2 feet) above sea level.

It is not located in the hurricane belt and so is unprepared for storms, having focused more on dealing with the impacts of rising seas due to climate change, the president said.

Earlier this month, tidal surges called "king tides" inundated five islands in Kiribati, impacting most the Marakei Atoll, with approximately 44 homes damaged and evacuees sheltering in community halls, according to the United Nations.

Another king tide is forecast to wash ashore at 2 metres high on March 20, said the Red Cross.

Kiribati has built sea walls to protect the shoreline against erosion, and bought land in Fiji to grow crops and potentially relocate people.

But when Cyclone Pam roared by a few days ago, it suggested the president's worst fears could be realised.

"I had always been concerned that if there was to be a change in the weather pattern and... the hurricane-free belt no longer remains hurricane-free, that would be very, very disastrous for us," he said.

"If we had a sustained storm with (high) tides, there could be a lot of islands that will be wiped out... Within the next five to 10 years, I don't think there will be much left."


Tong said the country is being considered for advancement from its standing as one of the world's least developed countries.

"But what has happened recently is going to push us right back - and... the increasing impacts of climate change will keep pushing us back," he said.

People are leaving their homes in growing numbers and finding it harder to grow food as groundwater turns saltier, he said.

"With the projected rise in sea level, there is no doubt that in the years ahead the ability of our people... to be accommodated on the declining land mass is going to be severely affected," Tong said.

Kiribati has mulled building up the level of its islands, but lacks the resources and materials to do so. In addition to buying 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares) of forest land in Fiji, the president has considered constructing a floating island.

Meanwhile under its "migration with dignity" policy, Kiribati is trying to educate and train its people, so they can find decent work if they choose to move abroad.

Tong expected the government would come under rising public pressure to protect the population after the extreme events of the past few months.

Most people do not want to leave the country because "we are not a wandering people", he said, but the reality of the threats to Kiribati's existence could not be denied.

"We cannot keep saying we will stay on... Eventually people will have no choice."

(Reporting by Megan Rowling, editing by Alisa Tang)

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Only China Can Save the Seas

Unless the world’s largest consumer of seafood adopts more sustainable practices, we can say good-bye to ocean life as we know it
Erik Vance Scientific American Commentary 17 Mar 15;

The oceans are in crisis. Next to climate change, disappearing ocean life is probably the world’s greatest environmental calamity. And unlike most of our other global woes, the free-falling populations of sea creatures are not related to pollution or industrialization or development. We are just eating all the fishes.

This is not news for most biologists, and neither are the long-proposed solutions: more catch limits on fisheries, new tools to limit by catch, and publicity campaigns to encourage the eating of only sustainable fishes. Unfortunately, none of that matters. Well, okay, every little bit matters; we should also recycle and turn off lights when we leave a room. But these steps are a mere drop in the oyster bucket. When it comes to the future of our seas, all that matters today is China.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (whose data on global fishing admittedly is rough but is also the best available), the U.S. eats about 7.5 million tons of fishes per year. Japan, which has about a third the population, eats 7.3 million tons.

That sounds like an overwhelming quantity—until you realize that China eats a whopping 50 million tons per year. China eats more fish protein than the next 10 countries combined. The country’s appetite is so big that the FAO has to separate its statistics into “World” and “World, excluding China.” China also accounts for 35 percent of the entire world’s fish production.

Thus, although national and international policies to help sustain fisheries are good steps forward, they won’t matter much without China onboard. So far, the picture doesn’t look good. China’s fleet of 70,000 fishing boats—the biggest in the world—is increasingly flaunting the few international rules that exist around fishing. Chinese fishermen have been caught fishing illegally off the coasts of Japan, Argentina, Guinea and many countries in between.

Access to fish stocks is becoming one of the signature conflict issues of the 21st century, and China seems to be sailing full-speed ahead with little regard for other nations. Last year China’s biggest fish distributor tried to take its shares public with a stock offering. In the draft summary it boasted that one of the reasons it would increase profits to shareholders was essentially that, as a Chinese company, it could ignore international rules of the high seas.

The gaff was a major embarrassment and eventually the distributor withdrew its offering. But the company was simply saying what everyone already knows: Fishing rules don’t apply to China. It’s difficult to punish poachers whose boats are owned by shell companies located in tax shelter nations and are regulated by a country that makes it a policy not to regulate wild fishing.

To complicate matters, for the last few years China seems to have used fishing grounds as a proxy battlefield for political influence on its neighbors. In an audacious move the country essentially claimed the entire South China Sea—1,600 kilometers long and 800 kilometers wide—as its sovereign fishing grounds. Fishermen from adjacent countries who dare to venture off their shores worry that they will get captured, beaten and have their boats confiscated.

How is it, you ask, that China can be eating six and a half times more seafood than the U.S. and there are any fishes left in the ocean? Thankfully, about 70 percent of China’s seafood isn’t from the sea at all; it comes from freshwater fish farms across the country. We are not talking a few ponds—we’re talking an area the size of New Jersey. China has perfected the art of pulling the maximum amount of fishes from the minimum amount of water.

In many ways the Chinese freshwater fish complex is one of the miracles of the modern industrial world. But as China’s middle class grows, it may be on the way out. Chinese consumers today are worried that their lakes and waterways are not clean enough to be producing millions of tons of catfish, carp and eels every year—the water fouled by those very creatures as they grow. Increasingly, individuals who can afford it are looking to the open ocean, much the way their gluttonous neighbors across the Pacific have done for decades.

This is what the situation comes down to: For centuries China has cultivated an incredible system of freshwater ponds to feed its population. But a wealthier middle class wants tuna, sea cucumber and abalone from around the world. If the Chinese middle class abandons traditional freshwater fishes, we can kiss ocean life as we know it good-bye. Being from the U.S.—the country that hungrily devoured the oceans for the past 50 years—I don’t have a lot of moral authority to chastise our neighbors across the Pacific, and neither does anyone else. Just walk into your corner sushi shop and you’ll see a collection of some of the most unsustainable fishes imaginable.

In the end, it will take a unified effort between West and East to save our oceans. It will take better, cleaner fish farming in the West and more enthusiastic, sustainable seafood markets in the East. But more than anything, it will take an acknowledgement from both societies that the practices of the past simply aren’t working.

This reporting was supported by a grant from the Mongabay Special Reporting Initiatives program.

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Things to Know about California's sea lion crisis

GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated Press Yahoo News 18 Mar 15;

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — More than 1,800 starving sea lion pups have washed up on California beaches since Jan. 1 and 750 are being treated in rescue centers across the state, according to updated numbers released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists with the federal agency believe the crisis hasn't reached its peak and sea lions could continue to arrive on beaches sick and starving for at least two more months.

Here are a few things to know about the sea lion crisis unfolding in California:


Waters off North America's Pacific Coast are about 2 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average. That could be pushing the fish that sea lions eat — sardines, market squid and anchovies, for example — further north. The majority of sea lions give birth in rookeries on the Channel Islands off the Southern California coast and mothers are leaving their pups alone for up to eight days at a time as they are forced to travel further in search of food. The pups aren't eating as much or as frequently and they are weaning themselves early out of desperation and striking out on their own even though they are underweight and can't hunt properly.


Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say an El Nino weather pattern is to blame. North winds, which stir up the coastal waters in the spring and bring colder, nutrient-rich swells to the surface, are just now starting to materialize off California and might bring some relief over time. The warming off California is likely the result of regional weather patterns rather than a direct effect of global warming, said Nate Mantua, a NOAA research scientist based in Santa Cruz, California.


Yes. In 1998, a strong El Nino weather pattern led to significant warming in Pacific coastal waters and 2,500 sea lion pups were found washed up on California beaches. A large number also washed ashore in 2013. Current numbers are on track to surpass the 1998 record but have not done so yet, said Justin Viezbicke, coordinator for NOAA's California Stranding Network.


It's unclear. This year's crisis probably won't have any immediate effect but several years of such big losses could reduce the sea lion population in the future. Currently, there are about 300,000 sea lions and the numbers of dead pups represents less than 1 percent of the total population, said Viezbicke. The number of pups born each year in the past few years is also much greater than during previous episodes of coastal warming in the 1990s.


Many of the sea lion pups are beyond help by the time they are reported to authorities. Some die at the rescue centers and others are euthanized. Those that do survive are tube-fed until they regain their strength and then released back into the wild. NOAA doesn't have a tally of how many have been successfully treated and released. The ones being released are tagged with a number but placing satellite trackers on all of them is too costly so scientists aren't sure how many are making it.


People who live in California can volunteer at a rescue center. Most centers are now running at full capacity and aren't able to take many new sea lion pups in but they still need extra hands. Another alternative is to donate money. A map showing the marine rescue centers helping sea lions, along with contact information, can be found here:


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