Best of our wild blogs: 30 Apr 15

Pelagic Survey on the Singapore Strait – 26 April 2015
Singapore Bird Group

Eclosion of the Painted Jezebel
Bird Ecology Study Group

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Fewer shops sell tiger parts, but online trade troubles ACRES

MATTHIAS TAY Today Online 30 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE — Over-the-counter sales of tiger parts might have gone down, but online trade involving such items has become a concern, said the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), as it revealed findings from a recent undercover investigation of tiger parts trade here.

During the society’s undercover investigation, which took place between March and April this year, only four of the 153 jewellery and antique shops visited were found to be selling alleged tiger parts.

A similar ACRES investigation in 2010 found 59 out of 134 shops here offering alleged tiger parts for sale.

Tiger parts, such as teeth and claws, are sought after as they are thought to bring good luck to the bearer and serve as protection against evil.

At a media conference yesterday, ACRES chief executive Louis Ng said the findings indicated that there was greater awareness of the issue among shop owners now. “The people that were selling tiger parts five years ago were fined, they were prosecuted and the awareness that was generated through the enforcement, and the investigation (in 2010) have resulted in this significant decline now,” he said.

However, ACRES expressed concerns over the “brazen attitude” of the four shops alleged to have sold tiger parts, despite being aware of the situation. Three of the shops openly displayed tiger parts, while one produced the items upon request.

The findings were submitted to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), resulting in three of the errant shops being investigated and eight pieces of animal parts seized for forensic analysis to determine their authenticity, it said.

The AVA was unable to track down the fourth shop, a makeshift stall, despite visiting the site located in front of People’s Park Complex in Chinatown twice.

Meanwhile, ACRES hopes to eventually bring the number of shops selling tiger parts to zero through community engagement, such as school talks and road shows. It will also continue its undercover operations to identify and nab errant traders, especially online dealers.

Mr Ng said: “I think one of our biggest worries now is that, while we wipe out the trades in shops to a very small percentage, this trade has moved to the online sphere, which makes it slightly difficult to enforce.” A brief online survey conducted by ACRES on Tuesday found over 14 online advertisements promoting tiger parts on that day itself, which the society described as troubling.

In response to TODAY’s queries, an AVA spokesperson said the authority has been regularly monitoring traders’ premises, retail outlets islandwide and online sources for sale of illegal wildlife, as well as their parts and products.

Anyone found possessing, selling, offering, advertising or displaying for sale any endangered species without a permit could be fined up to S$50,000 per species and/or receive a two-year jail term.

The penalties also apply to netizens caught engaging in any of these acts, the spokesperson said.

Trade of tiger parts in Singapore on the decline
Channel NewsAsia 29 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: There has been a "significant decline" in the trade of tiger parts in Singapore, the ACRES Animal Crime Investigation Unit announced in a press release on Wednesday (Apr 29).

The findings were made after a two-month undercover investigation conducted by ACRES between March and April. It revealed that only four out of 153 jewellery and antique shops investigated in Singapore (2.6 per cent) were offering alleged tiger teeth and claws for sale.

From the four stalls, a total of 13 pieces of alleged tiger parts were offered for sale, with prices ranging from S$70 to S$538.

According to ACRES, this is an improvement from a similar investigation in 2010 where 59 out of 134 (44 per cent) jewellery and antique shops in Singapore offered alleged tiger parts for sale.

ACRES' head of campaign Noelle Seet shed some light on the investigation process: "In order to elicit information without blowing our cover, we do engage them to a certain extent. We interact with them and we come in and say 'I am buying this for someone' or you know, 'I have lost this particular pendant and I am looking for something like that, do you happen to have it?' And when they are more comfortable with you, they will actually reveal a lot more."

Details of the investigation and all the evidence collected have been forwarded to the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), said ACRES.

During this year's investigation, more than half of the shopkeepers approached told investigators that the sale of tiger parts was prohibited by authorities, or required permits, said ACRES. Several shopkeepers said they stopped selling tiger parts after the authorities fined them and confiscated their products several years ago.

Chief executive of ACRES Louis Ng shared his worry that the trade has moved to online, making it "slightly difficult to enforce", but he promised the society would continue their sting operations to nab the lawbreakers.

"If you continue to sell them, we will catch you eventually," he warned.

However, Mr Ng added: "It is positive that there is a significant decline in the trade in tiger parts in shops in Singapore. We look forward to partnering AVA and are confident of completely wipe out this illicit trade here,” said Mr Louis Ng, Chief Executive of ACRES.

Mr Ng said the public can call ACRES at their hotline 9783 7782 to report the selling of tiger parts.

- CNA/eg/hs

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Join the great Singapore cleanup on Sunday

Feng Zengkun My Paper AsiaOne 29 Apr 15;

This Sunday, step outside and join thousands of people in sprucing up Singapore.

More than 8,000 people are expected to volunteer for the Public Hygiene Council's (PHC's) first national litter-picking event, called Operation We Clean Up!

The council organised a similar one-day event last year, but it was confined to the Bedok neighbourhood.

This year, it is setting its sights on rubbish across the island and inviting everyone to show his love for the country by cleaning up schools, parks, offices, void decks and other places.

Many organisations, town councils, schools, firms and individuals have responded to the call and organised cleanup groups at more than 130 locations.

Town councils will cease general area cleaning in nearly 70 precincts on Saturday to give the cleaners a rest, and show the volunteers on Sunday how much trash there is in a single day in common areas such as void decks.

PHC will give the cleanup groups items such as gloves, wet wipes, tongs and trash bags. It is also urging those who cannot join the groups to do their part by picking up at least three pieces of rubbish on Sunday.

PHC chairman Liak Teng Lit said a clean Singapore would improve life in other aspects.

"If you look at what has been happening in Singapore - the rat infestations; reports of choked, smelly drains; cockroaches and mosquito breeding - littering plays a key part in all this," he said.

The country's cleanliness has been on the decline despite an army of cleaners picking up after people.

Earlier this year, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong wrote that Singapore is likely to become a "garbage city" if not for the cleaners, after pictures surfaced online of the mess left behind by people who went to a concert at Gardens by the Bay.

Last year, the National Environment Agency issued about 19,000 summonses for littering, almost double the number in 2013.

There were also 688 instances of Corrective Work Orders being imposed by the courts last year, more than double the 261 cases in 2013.

Mr Liak and leaders of environment groups said they hoped the mass cleanup session would spur people to pick up after themselves and others as a matter of course, and deter them from littering.

Tan Ken Jin, who started the Singapore Glove Project in 2012 where people walk or jog and pick up litter along the path at the same time, said: "You don't have to go way out of your comfort zone to do something. When you're going to work or going home, if you see litter, just pick it up and throw it away."

Said Eugene Heng, founder and chairman of Waterways Watch Society, which conducts cleanup sessions: "Hopefully, down the road, there will be no need for us to go and pick up litter, because there will be no litter to be picked up."

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Exploring Pulau Ubin in Singapore

Raditya Margi The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network AsiaOne 29 Apr 15;

Ever wonder what Singapore looked like in the 1960s? You can find out by exploring Pulau Ubin, an island northeast of the mainland.

It is one of the country's last kampungs and arguably has the most authentic old-Singapore vibe compared to other kampungs.

Local visitors have been coming to the island for many years, but it is only recently that the government has started to seriously develop it as a tourist destination.

Ride a boat from Changi

Reaching the island requires you to take a 5-minute boat ride from the Changi ferry terminal, which costs S$2.50 per one-way trip. The boat will wait until it reaches full capacity (12 passengers) before departing.

Lodging is very limited once you've crossed over and day trip should be sufficient. We would recommend you to stay at the Village Hotel Changi, as its offers an interesting Ubin Adventure package.

Where to start

From the harbour of Pulau Ubin, visit the information centre close to the jetty before exploring the island to learn about the island's history and all the exotic animals that can be found there.

Turn left toward the west from the jetty to get to the tourist hub - also known as the town - where you can find bike rentals, provision shops and restaurants. The hub is mostly residential homes that have been turned into shops.

How to get around

There are three ways to explore Pulau Ubin: walking around, renting a bike, or taxi. Exploring the island on foot is best when you allocate the whole day - or three hours at least - to walk around.

When you bring along a tour guide, walking would be the most appropriate way to explore. We recommend first time visitors bring a tour guide with you as there is plenty to be learned from this island.

Renting a bike costs S$2.00 per hour. You can also opt to rent a bike for an entire day. Riding a bike can get you around faster and is perfect for returning visitors.

Experience authentic Singapore

Despite being located relatively close to the mainland of Singapore, visiting Pulau Ubin is like on a trip back in time. Most of the land is still a lush green forest and many of the houses are remnants of old architecture.

Until a couple of years ago, residents of the island still relied on diesel generators for electricity as setting up a power cable from the mainland was deemed too costly.

However, residents of Pulau Ubin are now enjoying cutting-edge technology as their energy is now supplied by solar-powered micro-grid and biodiesel, courtesy of Energy
Market Authority and a consortium of companies.

What the island used to be

Pulau Ubin literally translates as an island of granite because, decades ago, the island was the country's source for granite. The quarries have stopped operating now, leaving large lakes where they used to operate.

You can also examine the mangrove forest close to the centre of the island. There is an old stone-based waterway used by the fishermen back then to farm fish. They used to drain the mangrove lake and collect the fish.

What to see

From the jetty, head east to the sensory trail and mangrove forest. Go further out to the east to find the Chek Jawa wetlands, which is an interesting shallow sea shore filled with lively ecosystem.

The northern area is where the campsite is located for those looking to camp on the island. You can also walk through a kilometer-long boardwalk that ends at Chek Jawa.

To the west, you can bring your bike to test out the 8-km long course at Ketam mountain bike park. On your way there, don't miss out on Puaka Hill, which provides a nice overview of Ubin quarry's lake.

The wildlife ecosystem is also an interesting feature of the island. During certain times, rare migrating bird species can be found stopping by the island.

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Prestigious award to Malaysia for plans to protect one million hectares of ocean

WWF 29 Apr 15;

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: Global conservation organisation WWF presented its prestigious Leaders for a Living Planet Award to the state government of Sabah in recognition of its effort to create the largest marine park in Malaysia. The award was presented today to Sabah’s Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman.

The proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) represents almost one million hectares of marine protected area off the north coast of Sabah, Malaysia. The park will encompass 50 islands and will protect one of the world’s most biodiverse marine ecosystems.

WWF has launched a major global effort to emphasize the value of coastal marine resources to hundreds of millions of people around the world and to strengthen marine conservation. As part of this initiative, WWF pledged full support to the state government of Sabah for the designation of the park and to help secure the funding required to ensure its effective management once created.

“The gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park is a globally significant action that will boost the conservation and biodiversity of this uniquely rich natural environment. It will also do much to ensure the sustainable management of the significant marine resources in the area, for the long-term benefit of the more than 80,000 people living on the coast and islands in the proposed park,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.

Fishing is a key economic driver of this northern coastal area of Sabah, with approximately 100 tonnes of fish – valued at US$200,000 – caught each day.

The planned park holds four species of sea turtles, 550 fish species, 252 hard coral species, and 243 invertebrate species with new species being discovered continuously. Migratory marine mammals such as dolphins and whales also feed in the area.

“Effective management of the Tun Mustapha Park will help ensure the viability of the area’s fisheries resources – and high quality ecotourism can provide hugely increased value, based on this natural treasure. The gazettement of this park should act as a model and an inspiration for marine conservation worldwide,” said Marco Lambertini.

Marco Lambertini also paid tribute to Dato’ Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin, Chairman of Sabah Parks, for the outstanding contribution his organisation has made in the long journey toward TMP’s gazettement.

WWF’s Leaders for a Living Planet Award acknowledges the long-standing commitment of the Sabah state government to create the proposed Tun Mustapha Park. The award recognises the role the government’s lead agency, Sabah Parks, has played in advancing this issue and encourages the state government to designate the park as planned by the end of 2015.

“The announcement of the Sabah Government’s intention to gazette the TMP to create Malaysia’s largest marine park has not only national significance, but regional and global importance too as a significant marine area in the Coral Triangle – an area gravely threatened by overfishing and pollution,” said Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia.

Dionysius Sharma paid tribute to the foresight of the Sabah Government led by the Chief Minister in declaring its intention to gazette the TMP.

WWF-Malaysia has been supporting the gazettement process and working with state government agencies and partners since 2003 through implementation of a number of strategies to support the establishment of the TMP, including community consultations, demonstrating benefits of marine protected areas, alternative livelihood programmes, and education and public awareness.

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Malaysia: Fishes died due to lack of oxygen

KELLY KOH New Straits Times 29 Apr 15;

The death of 8000 fishes discovered in Sungai Kampung Enam in Bachang here last Monday was believed to have been caused by oxygen depletion in the river.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said oxygen depletion occurred due to slow water exchange rate between the river water and the seawater.

“The gates at the barrage door control center is only half open during low tides.

A long term solution to increase oxygen level in the river would be to flush out river water completely into the sea during low tide, so that new seawater can be flushed in during high tide to ensure higher oxygen content,” he said.

Idris said another cause of low oxygen content in the river was the high amount of sludge in the river.

"Thorough maintenance must be carried out to reduce the amount of sludge in the river, and this requires a massive clean-up at the river-bed," he said during a press conference at Seri Negeri here, yesterday. For this reason, Idris said the Malacca River Cruises would be stopped for a day or two.

"As long as we provide notice to customers, explaining to them that the river is undergoing scheduled maintenance, it should not be a problem," he said.

Fishes that died were mostly tilapia hitam, jelanak and keli.

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