Best of our wild blogs: 8 Apr 15

Two Jane’s Walks at Bukit Brown (Sat 02 May’15)
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

White-Crested Laughingthrush - Anting
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Singapore Bird Report – March 2015
from Singapore Bird Group

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Monkey complaints fall by over half after a third of them culled

FENG ZENGKUN Straits Times 8 Apr 15;

IF YOU have seen fewer monkeys in your neighbourhood recently, you are not alone. The amount of monkey-related feedback more than halved last year, after an estimated one-third of the animals were killed.

Last year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) received 750 cases of feedback about monkeys, including nuisance and safety concerns - a sharp drop from 1,860 in 2013.

It killed 570 monkeys in 2013, which was about a third of the estimated population of 1,800 at the time.

Residents who were plagued by the animals' presence have seen fewer of them around.

Retired lecturer Benjamin Ng, 66, said the monkeys used to chase people carrying groceries at his Bukit Timah condominium: "They also got into homes and made a mess."

He said the situation improved last year after monkey-proof bins were installed in the neighbourhood, and people stopped feeding the monkeys.

Many residents disagreed with the findings of a survey commissioned by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).

The poll of 600 Singaporeans found that less than 15 per cent supported culling monkeys, stray dogs and wild pigs. About half of them - 42 per cent to 55 per cent - were on the fence about culling the animals.

The residents said support for culling might have been higher if the survey had focused on areas with many of the animals.

Mr Fong Kwok Shiung, 53, chairman of the Moulmein-Watten Neighbourhood Committee in Bukit Timah, said very few of the residents he had spoken to were opposed to culling. Those residents had endured monkeys chasing them and raiding their homes. "Most of us just wanted the problem solved... The population must be controlled, or things will get out of hand," he said.

The AVA said it humanely euthanises animals as a last resort, and conducts targeted removal of aggressive or nuisance-causing monkeys for public safety in response to feedback.

Relocating monkeys is not possible in land-scarce Singapore, and merely transfers problems from one estate to another, it said.

Acres, which is opposed to culling, said it is preparing a scientific paper on why culling is ineffective here. It also submitted a proposal to AVA last year on a more long-term and humane way of managing such conflicts, which involves herding the animals away from residential areas.

Simplistic to credit culling with fall in complaints
Straits Times 10 Apr 15;

LINKING the culling of monkeys causally with the fall in the number of complaints

against them would be simplistic ("Monkey complaints fall by over half after a third of them culled"; Wednesday).

Correlation is not causation, and the large-scale culling coincided with a series of actions that would also have reduced the number of complaints.

In Bukit Timah, where I live, meetings involving residents, researchers, welfare groups, grassroots leaders, condominium managements, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, the National Parks Board, the National Environment Agency and MPs of Jurong and Holland-Bukit Timah GRCs have been held.

These meetings allowed residents to express concerns.

Experts and condo management committees could then identify and address problem areas.

Monkey-proof bins have since been put in place, and the Bukit Timah Wildlife Network has been set up to educate residents and park visitors on not feeding monkeys.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) also set up a macaque response team in 2013.

This included a hotline that provided an alternative avenue for monkey-related feedback.

Officers respond to calls personally, educating callers on how to prevent future conflict.

Acres has also piloted "monkey-herding" operations at some condominiums, working with condominium guards to successfully herd monkeys off residential premises.

The article also said some residents were sceptical of recent survey findings that only a minority of

Singaporeans support culling, and felt that support for culling would be higher in residential areas plagued by the problem.

It is important to remember that Singapore's wildlife belongs to all Singaporeans, not just those with the privilege of living near our wild refuges.

Those who choose to live around our nature reserves and parks must be willing to co-exist with the wildlife, even if this involves some lifestyle changes, such as installing window screens and being more careful with our food and behaviour.

Agencies involved in managing conflict should take survey results as a prompt to move towards humane management strategies, focusing on changing human behaviour at the root of the problem.

Residents do not support culling per se, but may not be aware that there are other options.

As mentioned above, some alternatives to culling have already been set in motion, and we should work to maintain and foster these programmes.

Amanda Tan Wei Yi (Miss)

Efficacy of culling not clear
Straits Times Forum 10 Apr 15;

THE Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) thanks Mr Benjamin Ng for his feedback that "the survey might have shown more support for culling monkeys if it had focused on areas where there are many of the animals" ("Acres survey finds little support for animal culling"; Tuesday).

The main aim of the survey was to get a sense of what the current ground sentiments are on a variety of animal protection issues, and also at a national level. Random respondents participated in the survey, as we wanted to ensure that it was unbiased, scientific and independent.

While the general perception is that people not affected by the macaques are not going to support culling them, the strongest support Acres received is actually from people living near the nature reserves, and they are the strongest advocates against culling the animals.

Acres is working with a number of condominiums bordering the nature reserves on alternatives that do not involve culling.

While the survey shows that only a minority of Singaporeans support culling, Acres is by no means saying that we should ignore the concerns of the minority.

We agree that there are issues with regard to stray dogs, macaques and wild boars, but the main opposition here is using culling as a solution.

There are several humane and more long-term alternatives available to address the root of the concerns raised and we hope we can work closely with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) to trial and assess the effectiveness of these alternatives instead.

Lastly, while it was reported that complaints have dropped after 570 macaques were killed in 2013, this would not be an accurate and scientifically valid statement ("Monkey complaints fall by over half after a third of them culled"; Wednesday).

As far as we know, no study has been conducted to determine if there is a correlation between the number of animals killed and the number of complaints received.

Mr Ng also stated in the article that the situation improved last year after monkey-proof bins were placed in the neighbourhood and people stopped feeding the monkeys.

Last year, Acres also responded to macaque-related feedback from the public and advised residents on humane alternatives.

Louis Ng
Chief Executive
Animal Concerns Research and Education Society

Sterilise monkeys, provide food sources deep within forest
Straits Times Forum 10 Apr 15;

I READ Wednesday's report ("Monkey complaints fall by over half after a third of them culled") with alarm and disappointment that even after repeated calls to adopt humane methods to effectively control the wildlife population, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is still resorting to culling.

The reason these monkeys venture into residential areas is the lack of natural food sources within the forested areas.

Culling is a cruel and deliberate act to end an animal's life, which can be classified under animal cruelty.

A better solution would be to gather data on monkey populations, using infrared cameras and motion sensors, and working with the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) to humanely trap the monkeys for sterilisation.

The monkeys could also be microchipped so that their movements and numbers can be monitored.

Sterilisation is the best option in controlling the population of animals in Singapore.

Since it is hard to relocate the monkeys, another option would be to install designated feeding stations inside forested areas where there are high numbers of monkeys, so that as long as there are food sources deep within the forested areas, the monkeys would not venture out.

Planting fruit-bearing trees would also help keep the monkeys within the forested areas as they would have enough to eat.

Acres' survey results show that more can be done to educate residents on the methods to properly dispose of refuse and on the benefits of sterilisation to control the monkey population ("Acres survey finds little support for animal culling"; Tuesday).

I urge the authorities to vrethink the use of culling and to seek constructive dialogue with residents and Acres to find a humane way to control the monkey problem.

Darren Chan Keng Leong

Re-evaluate reasons for culling
Straits Times Forum 14 Apr 15;

LAST Wednesday's report ("Monkey complaints fall by over half after a third of them culled") raises three important questions that we need to consider if Singapore wants to maintain its reputation of being a cosmopolitan city, with a small but thriving ecosystem of nature and wildlife.

First, what are we trying to achieve with culling the macaque population?

If it is simply a knee-jerk response to views from one group, then let us take a step back and look at the broader goal of balancing needs of residents living next to nature areas with our country's need to have nature and wildlife.

Next, is culling of this native, ecologically important species an effective solution to achieving human-wildlife harmony in the long term?

There is little ecological justification for the culling as part of a holistic wildlife management strategy that balances ecological needs and animal welfare with public safety concerns.

That said, how can human-macaque harmony be made sustainable? There are several alternatives to culling that can be implemented.

Already, the report mentions monkey-proof bins and herding of the macaques.

Our experience has been that what humans do heavily influences how the macaques behave; for example, keeping food out of sight and not feeding the macaques help keep them away.

Educating the public about macaques and their behaviour can go a long way in minimising conflict, and that is why we conduct free public walks in conjunction with the National Parks Board to help the public learn about them.

Beyond education, we need to investigate other solutions, like a buffer zone between residences and nature reserves, or having rangers in hot spots to educate and prevent incidents between parkgoers and wildlife.

While these may take a while to implement, there can be long-term benefits to both people and nature.

By defaulting to culling as an immediate solution, it creates in the public a mindset that wildlife are a nuisance to be dealt with, versus fellow inhabitants of the Earth with which harmony can be achieved.

There are many better alternatives that will help build a sustainable ecosystem of environment, animals and people.

Tay Kae Fong
Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore)

Forum Note: Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore) is part of a global network promoting the sustainable development of environment, animals and people

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A future powered by high foot traffic

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Feb 15;

In the year 2065, cars on Singapore's roads would be able to communicate with one another to prevent accidents and reduce traffic jams.

Areas with high foot traffic, such as shopping malls and MRT stations, could have smart floor mats that can convert kinetic energy from walking into electricity.

Renewable energy would have a greater role in the country, and there may even be fans placed between towering residential blocks, designed to accelerate wind speed to generate power.

These were among the visions 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 requires contestants to submit their visions of what the Republic would be like in the next 50 years. The best entries stand to win prizes and could also be featured in an exhibition on the past, present and future of Singapore in the pages of The Straits Times, which will commemorate its own 170th anniversary this year.

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

Among the ideas is one by Mr Cyril Ng, 51, who said HDB blocks and carpark rooftops would have high-efficiency solar panels to provide lighting in neighbourhoods.

"Rain run-off from the solar panels will also be collected and used for block-washing and plant-watering," he said.

"Some carpark rooftops could also be used for community gardens where residents can share the fruits and produce of their labour and build closer community ties," he added.

Mr Sim Beng Tiong, 57, imagined schools having simple filtration systems to purify and re-use rainwater, a process that could teach children the importance of conserving water.

"The purified water can be used for ponds, watering plants, washing floors and even washing hands," he said.

Others like Mr Norman Ho, 38, and Ms Alisa, 24, who goes by one name, predicted a smarter transport system in Singapore.

Mr Ho said: "I envision a Singapore where we can take the majority of cars off our roads."

He suggested an above-ground personal rail transportation system using magnetic levitation technology that would enable Singaporeans, including children, the elderly and people with visual disabilities, to travel anywhere in Singapore "within 10 minutes, and safely without supervision".

He said this system would complement the MRT network, and free up roads to be green spaces, thereby allowing residents to enjoy cleaner air and a quieter environment.

Ms Alisa said with more advanced Wi-Fi technology and satellite digital mapping, cars would be able to sense and communicate with one another.

"This technology will warn drivers of oncoming cars, and cars will auto-brake when there is a danger of a collision," she said.

Dilon Ng, 13, hoped Singapore would be greener, with people planting many more trees, including on buildings and in homes.

"There will be more trees and plants here, and more reserves and parks, so people will have fresh air to breathe and can really enjoy nature," he said.

To submit your idea, go to from now until April 30.

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Malaysia: Red Tide Phenomenon Warning Off Labuan Waters

Bernama 7 Apr 15;

LABUAN, April 7 (Bernama) -- The Labuan Fisheries Department (LFD) is monitoring water quality off the island in the wake of red tide phenomenon occurrence since last week.

Its director Anuar Salam Sulaiman said the department was working closely with Labuan Health Department in monitoring the situation and keeping updates to consumers and fishmongers on the latest development.

"The LFD had taken water samples last Friday and early this week in waters off Patau-Patau, Rancha-Rancha and Sg Miri Kiansam and sent them to the Likas Fisheries Research Centre laboratory for analysis.

"We hope to obtain the analysis result soon and to determine which marine life is harmful for consumption," he said here today.

He said so far no cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) had been reported.

Red tide is named after the reddish colour that toxic plankton produces and certain marine creatures that feed on the contaminated plankton had caused deaths in Sabah in the early 1980s. The phenomenon is also known in the Philippines waters.

"We expect the red tide to last for about two to three weeks and we will be providing updated information from time to time," he said.

As a precautionary measure, Health Department director Dr Ismail Ali said the public were advised to stop eating any types of shellfish or bivalves immediately.

Bivalves includes oysters, mussels, cockles and any types of clam-like seafood, and fishes like pelagic, selayang, basung, kembong and rumahan.

At present there was no medication or antidote for PSP, he said.

He said early symptoms of PSP after eating seafood included tingling of lips, headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

"In severe conditions patient can develop paralysis of chest and abdominal muscles which can result in death within two to 23 hours," he said.


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Mekong River dolphin death reduces Lao population to five

WWF 7 Apr 15;

The discovery of a deceased female Irrawaddy river dolphin on Cheutal Touch Island, Cambodia – close to the border with Laos – is yet another reminder of the plight of this critically endangered cetacean in the Mekong River, WWF said on Tuesday. With just five animals remaining in Laos, WWF urged Laos and Cambodia to work together on common solutions to save one of the world’s most iconic species and a major source of tourist revenue.

The dolphin, weighing 223 kilogrammes and measuring 2.4 metres in length, was believed to be one of just six remaining in a 6-km2 trans-boundary river pool that spans the Laos-Cambodia border.

Locals spotted the dolphin on the island’s beach last Wednesday and immediately alerted the river authorities, which then transferred her to Kratie, Cambodia for inspection. Although the cause of death is yet to be determined, marks on her body indicate she was elderly.

“This is a very sad time for this dwindling population of dolphins,” said Thomas Gray, Manager of WWF’s Greater Mekong Species Programme. “There are now just five dolphins left in Laos and it is another warning that the species is facing the grave risk of extinction from the country, and also throughout the Mekong River.”

The dolphins that inhabit the Wang Paa Khaa river pool have been fighting for survival in recent decades, with the placement of gillnets and the use of illegal fishing methods such as explosives and poison seriously reducing their population. Gillnet entanglement has been identified as the major cause of dolphin mortality in the river, as local fishermen have been using these nets more and more over the last few years.

Cambodia has banned gillnet fishing in the entire pool and nearby areas on its side of the border, but Laos has only prohibited their use in the pool’s deepest parts within its territory.

Perhaps most threatening of all is the planned construction of the 260 megawatt Don Sahong Dam in Laos, just 3 km upstream from the pool. This will involve the use of explosives to excavate millions of tonnes of rock and has the potential to kill or seriously harm the sensitive hearing of the nearby dolphins.

“The small population size and high calf mortality means these rare and beautiful dolphins are facing a highly uncertain future, but there is still hope for them. Joint conservation action between both countries is paramount,” said Teak Seng, WWF-Greater Mekong Conservation Director.

Historically, as many as 40-50 dolphins are believed to have used the trans-boundary pool, with numbers falling to around 25 in the mid-1990s. Despite this, they are a massive tourism draw and attract about 20,000 visitors annually, with almost guaranteed dolphin sightings by all.

There are an estimated 85 dolphins remaining in the Mekong River, of which Cambodia is home to the vast majority.

“The key is collaboration between Laos and Cambodia,” said Seng. “It’s time to end the use of all types of illegal fishing gear and strictly regulate the use of gillnets and boat traffic. Working on these issues is the only long-term hope for the dolphin’s survival in Laos and the greater Mekong.”

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