Best of our wild blogs: 7 Apr 15

Celebrating 12 Years of Outreach with 12 Nudis (and a crab)
from Hantu Blog

Robber in the Dark (with Exciting News!)
from Saving MacRitchie

Of yellow starlings and pink munias
from Singapore Bird Group

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Only a minority support culling of stray animals: Poll

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 6 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE — Only a minority of Singa­poreans agree with the culling of stray or wild animals and more than half of them support harsher penalties for possession and smuggling of endangered species, according to a survey by a wildlife advocacy group and a brand consultancy.

The survey, said to be the most comprehensive poll done on animal protection issues to date, polled 600 Singa­poreans in January.

Only 13 to 14 per cent of respondents agreed that culling of stray dogs, wild monkeys and wild boars should be allowed. About 31 to 44 per cent — felt culling should be banned, while the remainder were neutral.

The survey was done by wildlife advocacy group, Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), and brand and media consultancy Millward Brown. The respondents were recruited by a fieldwork agency and the survey was in line with market research standards, said Ms Cassandra Tan, an account manager at Millward Brown.

Of the respondents, 62 per cent were aged between 18 and 34, while 30 per cent were aged between 35 and 54. Five per cent were aged 17 and below, while 4 per cent were aged 55 and above.

ACRES chief executive Louis Ng said the survey was intended to obtain baseline data and that the aim was for the poll to be conducted annually. Due to public complaints, stray animals continue to be culled in Singa­pore. However, the survey showed that complaints come from a minority of people, he said.

Nearly eight in 10 of the respondents agreed that animal protection was important to them.

On whether the Government is doing enough to protect animals, 24 per cent disagreed, 36 per cent agreed, while 40 per cent were neutral.

However, more than half of the respondents felt those who smuggle endangered animal species should face harsher penalties, while only 5 per cent disagreed.

Mr Ng said the results were encouraging and ACRES could now work to address the concerns of those who support culling. Subsequent surveys would indicate if various policies are working, he added.

ACRES will announce its plans at a later date.

“We’re not saying, let’s change policies (immediately). But we’re saying, as you’ve seen in the past few years, let’s start pilot programmes,” said Mr Ng.

The cat ownership pilot project in Chong Pang, for instance, could be extended to Marine Parade. And Mr Ng expressed hope that the trap-neuter-release-and-manage programme for stray dogs on Jurong Island would be rolled out islandwide, if successful.

ACRES hopes to explore long-term humane solutions with government agencies that will address public and animal-protection concerns, he said.

When contacted by TODAY, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said public safety and health is its first priority in the management of stray animals, even while it works with other stakeholders on public education, surveillance and other measures. It supports rehoming and relocation efforts and said animals are humanely euthanised only as a last resort.

Last year, the AVA received 750 pieces of feedback on monkey-related issues and, to ensure public safety, removed aggressive or nuisance-causing monkeys. Studies have shown that these animals cannot be simply relocated as they may be driven out or killed if placed in areas where other monkeys are living. The AVA added that indiscriminate release transfers problems from one estate to another.

The authority received 2,500 pieces of feedback on stray dogs last year and said stray dogs should be rehomed. Last year, 280 were rehomed, compared with 170 in 2013. Impounded dogs that cannot be rehomed are euthanised as a last resort, it said.

The AVA also called on animal lovers to be mindful of the interests of others who may not share the same views.

Minority of Singaporeans support culling of animals: ACRES
Nadia Jansen Hassan Channel NewsAsia 6 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: Only a minority of people in Singapore support the culling of animals, according to a survey by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) released on Monday (Apr 6).

ACRES partnered brand and communications consultants Millward Brown Singapore for the survey which saw 600 Singaporean respondents. It showed that only 14 per cent of them agreed to the culling of stray dogs. Similarly, only 13 per cent and 14 per cent of respondents agreed to the culling of monkeys and wild pigs, respectively.

"The results are very encouraging. It really shows that Singaporeans do care about animals, and that animal protection is very important to them," said ACRES Chief Executive Louis Ng. "But it also reveals that there is actually only a minority of people that are complaining, that are asking for the culling of these animals, and that the vast majority are actually okay with having these animals, or coexisting with the animals."

In addition, 5 per cent of the respondents were not supportive of harsher penalties for trading of endangered animals. But just 36 per cent of the respondents felt that the Government is doing enough to protect animals.

"We look forward towards working closely with the Government on exploring and implementing alternative long-term humane solutions that will address both public and animal protection concerns," said Mr Ng.

Other findings of the survey included 79 per cent of the respondents agreeing that animal protection is important to them, and that 49 per cent felt that the consumption of shark’s fin should be banned.

There was also stronger support from younger respondents on animal protection issues.

"Eighty-three per cent of Gen Y Singaporeans (aged 18 to 34), as compared to 70 per cent of Gen X Singaporeans (aged 35 to 54), agree that animal protection is important to them," said ACRES.

ACRES said it might be because they use social media more frequently, which means they are exposed to more information that could affect how they react to such issues.


SOSD, formerly known as "Save Our Street Dogs", has been stepping up efforts to avoid culling. SOSD believes sterilisation is an effective way to curb the stray population.

Said SOSD President, Dr Siew Tuck Wah: "Animal welfare groups work very hard with stray feeders on the ground to catch animals - stray animals, homeless animals - sterilise them and return them to where they are. By doing this, it prevents the dogs from reproducing and prevents their numbers from increasing."

"Culling does not help. By culling, the new animals will replace the numbers that have been taken away, therefore the numbers will never decrease," he said.

SOSD has also been rehoming more dogs as another alternative to culling. It rehomed 160 dogs in 2014 - an increase from the previous year's 130.

- CNA/ct/xq

Acres survey finds little support for animal culling
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Feb 15;

Stray dogs, wild pigs and monkeys may have been in the news for wandering near homes and disturbing people, but only a small minority of people actually want the animals killed.

In fact, a substantial group of people think the authorities should be banned from culling the animals, while a slightly larger proportion are on the fence.

These were some of the findings of a survey commissioned by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).

The animal welfare group had approached consultancy firm Millward Brown Singapore to conduct an independent survey of Singaporeans from Jan 26 to Feb 8, to better understand their thoughts about animal protection here.

The firm did so pro bono.

Of the 600 people who filled out an online survey form, less than 15 per cent said culling should be allowed when asked about each of the animals.

About half of the respondents - 42 per cent to 55 per cent - could not decide.

Acres chief executive Louis Ng said the results were encouraging, as they showed "a strong sense of compassion" among Singaporeans. While the authorities justified killing the animals in the past due to complaints and public safety risks, "the findings show the complaints are from a minority of Singaporeans", Mr Ng added.

He said the survey, which he called the first comprehensive public survey on animal protection issues here, would help Acres and other animal welfare and conservation groups to refine their strategies. The results, for example, showed that some people support culling the animals because of public hygiene and health risks.

"We want to work on strategies that will address these concerns so that, hopefully, when we do this survey again, the number of people who support culling would have dropped," he said.

He added that the wide swathe of undecided people was another opportunity. "We can engage these people and better understand why they do or do not support culling, and change our strategies accordingly," he said.

Acres said it plans to do the survey annually.

Several questions got people to respond about their feelings on anti-culling statements such as "I feel that stray dog culling should not be allowed".

Asked if this might have led to biased results, a Millward Brown representative said it had wanted a scaled question format - with which people could agree, disagree or be on the fence - for more nuanced results.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority received 750 cases of feedback regarding monkey-related issues last year, including nuisance and safety concerns, compared with 1,860 for 2013.

Mr Benjamin Ng, 66, a retired mathematics lecturer, said the survey might have shown more support for culling monkeys if it had focused on areas where there are many of the animals.

He lives in a Bukit Timah condominium where the residents, until last year, experienced many problems caused by the monkeys.

"If you don't live in an area where you are affected by the monkeys, of course you're not going to support culling them," he said. He said he was on the fence about killing the animals.
"There are other ways to control the monkeys rather than killing them. But if they are really overrunning a place, some culling may be needed," he said.

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Ferns native to Singapore able to filter out arsenic

Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Apr 15;

SILVER ferns and brake ferns are more than just plants that decorate the gardens.

They are capable of making water safe for drinking by filtering out toxic arsenic, researchers have found.

The team from the National Institute of Education (NIE) found that the two types of ferns - both native to Singapore - were able to "hyperaccumulate" arsenic.

Greenhouse experiments showed that the plants were capable of reducing the level of arsenic in water to 10 micrograms per litre (mcg/l) or less. The World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommended limit is 10mcg/l.

"We wanted to find a sustainable method to help those who are in developing countries," said Associate Professor Tan Swee Ngin from NIE's Natural Sciences and Science Education Academic Group, who is one of the researchers. "For those who are poorer, they may not be able to afford the expensive filtration systems."

Current methods for removing arsenic from water include the use of special adsorbents and filters which are either expensive or require high maintenance.

In contrast, silver and brake ferns are more cost-efficient and easier to maintain - they need only be trimmed every month. When the ferns are no longer able to filter out the arsenic, they have to be disposed of in special bags for hazardous materials to prevent the toxin from leaching out.

Associate Professor Jean Yong, who was also involved in the research, said the ferns have certain enzymes that make the colourless arsenic less harmful to the plant, or even convert the toxin into something useful that the plant can use.

Arsenic is a trace metalloid that can be naturally occurring in soil or geological materials like volcanic rocks and stones used for landscaping, said Prof Yong, who is now with the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Arsenic can become harmful once it crosses safety limits.

According to the WHO website, inorganic arsenic compounds, such as those found in water, are highly toxic, while organic arsenic compounds, like those found in seafood, are less harmful to health. Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic, mainly through contaminated water and food prepared with the water, can cause harmful effects such as skin cancer, said the WHO.

Arsenic can leach off naturally over time from concrete found in buildings and geological materials, which can "contribute to the inevitable increase in external arsenic concentration around very urbanised places", said Prof Yong.

In Singapore, more than 350,000 tests are conducted annually on more than 300 parameters, including arsenic, to ensure that water here is safe for drinking, said national water agency PUB.

Said a spokesman: "PUB's drinking water is well within the WHO Guidelines for drinking-water quality and is safe for drinking directly from the tap.
"In reservoir raw water, arsenic is usually undetectable or occasionally detected at trace levels (less than 8mcg/l). Our water treatment process is able to remove arsenic and it is not detected in our drinking water."

While arsenic in water is less of a worry in Singapore, as an added measure to keep water clean, silver and brake ferns can still be planted along reservoir banks to remove arsenic run-off, said Prof Yong.

The NIE study also found that low-cost iron oxide nanoparticles from rust can take up arsenic even more efficiently. The researchers found that a piece of cotton wool coated with rust solution can reduce the arsenic level in water from 50mcg/l to below 10mcg/l.

Prof Tan said she hopes the team can test the experiment findings in arsenic-contaminated sites in other countries.

"We hope to conduct more extensive arsenic remediation trials using real samples in the field," she said, adding that funds will be needed for manpower cost, chemical analyses and for securing experimental sites overseas.

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Indonesia: Salat Nusa Island to be transformed into new orangutan habitat

Antara 6 Apr 15;

Palangka Raya (ANTARA News) - The Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation plans to make Salat Nusa Island in Pulang Pisau district, Central Kalimantan province, a new habitat for orangutans that cannot be released in the wild.

The island is an ideal orangutan habitat as it has well-preserved vegetation throughout the year, Nyaru Menteng Program Manager Denny Kurniawan stated here on Monday.

"There is no wild orangutan population in Salat Nusa Island, so it is a suitable location for orangutans that cannot be released in the wild," he noted.

He forecast that nearly 10 percent of the orangutans being rehabilitated by the BOS Foundation cannot be released in the wild due to various reasons, including the presence of high-risk diseases, physical handicap, and lack of skills to survive in the wild due to prolonged captivity as a result of being kept as pets for protracted periods of time.

The problems could be overcome by creating a special habitat, which is not accessible to wild orangutans, he explained.

"The land in Badak Besar and Badak Kecil areas in Salat Nusa Island has not been exploited. We hope that we could use the land," he pointed out.

Only 665 hectares of the islands total area of 3,419 hectares would be developed into a new habitat for the orangutans, he said.

The plan had received the support of both the local people and government, he added.

Furthermore, the local people have agreed to the compensation amount to be paid for their land and plantations, which would be transformed into a new habitat for orangutans deemed unfit for release in the wild.

(Reported by Jaya Wirawana Manurung/Uu.INE/KR-BSR/F001)

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Record California sea lion strandings reach 2,250 so far this year

Steve Gorman PlanetArk 7 Apr 15;

A record 2,250 sea lions, mostly pups, have washed up starving and stranded on Southern California beaches so far this year, a worsening phenomenon blamed on warming seas in the region that have disrupted the marine mammals' food supply.

The latest tally, reported on Monday by the National Marine Fisheries Service, is 20 times the level of strandings averaged for the same three-month period over the past decade and twice the number documented in 2013, the previous worst winter season recorded for Southern California sea lions.

Scientists believe the animals are suffering from a scarcity of natural prey that has forced nursing mothers to venture farther out to sea for food, leaving their young behind to fend for themselves for longer periods of time.

The shift in the food chain around the marine mammals' principal rookeries off Southern California is believed to be triggered by warming waters linked to unusually weak winds along the West Coast.

Stronger winds normally help pull nutrient-rich cooler water from the depths of the Pacific closer to the surface, and with it larger supplies of sardines, smelt, squid and other prey for the sea lions, said Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the Marine Fisheries Service.

Experts theorize this winter's mild El Nino effect, which alters ocean currents and temperatures, may be compounding the food shortage for Southern California sea lions.

The same factors appear to driving adult male sea lions by the thousands into the Pacific Northwest, where they have been congregating on docks and jetties to gorge on an unusual abundance of prey in places like the mouth of the Columbia River, Milstein said.

Meanwhile, the surge in Southern California strandings has inundated marine mammal rescue centers from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Rescue teams work to save, rehabilitate and ultimately return the animals to the wild.

The weaker winds and rising ocean temperatures off Southern California have been occurring since 2013, when an earlier surge in strandings prompted the agency to declare an "unusual mortality event."

Milstein said scientists studying the phenomenon consider the elevated stranding numbers during the past three years to be one continuous trend, even though the tally so far this year far exceeds anything previously documented.

The 2,250 strandings encompass only sea lions found alive and brought into rescue centers; they do not include an as-yet unknown number of animals that have died, Milstein said.

But with a total California sea lion population estimated to be 300,000 animals, of which roughly 60,000 are juveniles, "the overall mortality this year could be significant."

The fisheries service, an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, began closely tracking sea lion strandings off California in 2004, he said. The tally of stranding for March, 1,050, represents the largest number recorded for a single month since then.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

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