Best of our wild blogs: 1 May 15

Operation No Release 2015 – join us on this public education exercise in May

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM)
Psychedelic Nature

Tips on how to look after young bats
Bird Ecology Study Group

Oriental Pied Hornbill feeding on papaya at Pulau Ubin
Singapore Bird Group

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'Warm and wet' first half of May expected: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 30 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: The Republic can expect a "warm and wet" first half of May, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in an advisory on Thursday (Apr 30).

For the next two weeks, NEA said that "Inter-Monsoon conditions are expected to continue with low level winds forecast to be light and variable in direction". It noted that Singapore can expect four or five days of short-duration thundery showers in the afternoon, and two or three days of short-duration thundery showers in the morning.

Based on long-term statistics, May is the second warmest month in the year, after April. NEA warned that slightly hazy conditions could be expected on a few days, particularly in the early morning due, to light wind conditions.


Looking back on the period of Apr 1 to 29, NEA said that Singapore experienced wet weather conditions on most days of the month with thundery showers mostly in the afternoon.

About two-thirds of Singapore received above normal rainfall for the month, with areas around Ang Mo Kio and Lower Peirce Reservoir receiving the highest rainfall of 267mm to 324mm (55 per cent to 80 per cent above average). The lowest rainfall was recorded over the eastern part, around Paris Ris and Simei, with rainfall of 67mm to 91mm (45 per cent to 70 per cent below average).

NEA added that the “convergence of winds and strong day time heating of land areas” on Tuesday caused the heavy thunderstorms seen over many areas in the afternoon and evening. The heaviest rainfall on that afternoon recorded 88.6m of rain over the Mandai area.

- CNA/ek

Warm, wet days for first half of May
Today Online 1 May 15;

In its fortnightly forecast released yesterday (April 30), the National Environment Agency (NEA) said there will be light winds that are variable in direction for the first half of this month.

On four or five days, brief thundery showers in the afternoon can be expected, while prolonged, heavy rain could happen on two or three mornings.

The NEA also forecast that “slightly hazy conditions” can be expected on a few days, especially in the early morning, “due to accumulation of particulate matter under light wind conditions”.

It added that rainfall for the whole month is “likely to be near-normal”.

Based on long-term statistics, May is Singapore’s second-warmest month in the year, after April.

In the first half of last month, two-thirds of Singapore received below-normal rainfall but the trend was reversed in the past two weeks, which were characterised by searing days with temperatures hovering around 34°C or thundery showers.

In its review of April, the NEA said most days saw wet weather conditions, with rain falling mostly in the afternoons. In particular, last Tuesday saw many areas of the island inundated with moderate to heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening.

The NEA said this was due to the “convergence of winds and strong daytime heating of land areas”. The heaviest rainfall that day was recorded over the Mandai area.

Overall, around two-thirds of Singapore saw higher-than-normal rainfall last month.

The central part of the island, around Ang Mo Kio and Lower Peirce Reservoir, recorded the highest rainfall. Ang Mo Kio had 267mm of rain last month, which was 55 per cent above average. For the Lower Peirce Reservoir area, there was 324mm of rain, 80 per cent higher than the average.

In contrast, the east was drier than usual. The 67mm to 91mm rainfall in the region around Pasir Ris and Simei was 45 per cent to 70 per cent below the average.

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2 men fined $6,800 for collecting greasy waste in Bedok and Yishun

AsiaOne 30 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE - Two men were convicted for the illegal collection of greasy waste from grease traps and fined a total of $6,800.

According to a statement from the National Environment Agency (NEA), the first man was fined $3,800 for the illegal collection of greasy waste from the grease traps serving Bedok North Street 1 Hawker Centre and the eateries at Yishun Street 81 and Lorong 4 Toa Payoh on four occasions between September and October 2014.

The second man was fined $3,000 for the illegal collection of the waste from the grease traps serving the eateries at Yishun Street 81 and Upper Aljunied Lane on three occasions between October and November 2014.

NEA's investigations revealed that the two offenders had mixed the illegally collected greasy waste with used cooking oil, which they then sold to companies that export used cooking oil for processing into biodiesel.

If convicted, the offenders may be fined up to a maximum of $2,000 on each charge.

NEA says it takes a serious view on the proper collection and disposal of waste from grease traps, and will enforce against any unauthorised waste collectors, and any licensee who violates the conditions of licence or engages in the illegal disposal of waste.

The cleaning of grease traps can only be done by licensed general waste collectors (GWCs). These GWCs use vacuum trucks to collect waste from the grease traps, which are then disposed of at PUB's designated water reclamation plant. At such plants, these greasy waste are digested with used water sludge to form biogas.

Besides investigating reports by the public of companies or individuals illegally collecting waste from grease traps, NEA says it also carries out checks at food shops to ascertain that the ingredients used, including cooking oil, are from approved/licensed sources, and will take action against anyone who flouts the rules.

To date, there have been no reported instances of food shops or food stalls using cooking oil from illegal sources, or what is commonly termed as 'gutter oil'.

Members of the public who come across any information of unauthorised collection of waste from grease traps are requested to note the details of the incident and call NEA's 24 hour Call Centre at 1800-CALL NEA (1800-2255-632) or email

When reporting, NEA added that people should furnish the date, time and location of the incident as well as any photos and videos that can provide leads for NEA to investigate.

2 men fined S$6,800 for illegally collecting greasy waste
Channel NewsAsia 30 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: Two men were convicted for the illegal collection of greasy waste from grease traps in April, and were fined a total of S$6,800, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The first man was fined S$3,800 for illegally collecting greasy waste from the grease traps serving Bedok North Street 1 Hawker Centre and the eateries at Yishun Street 81 and Lorong 4 Toa Payoh on four occasions between September and October 2014, NEA said in its press release on Thursday (Apr 30).

The second offender was fined S$3,000 for the same activity at Yishun Street 81 and Upper Aljunied Lane on three occasions between October and November 2014, it added.

Investigations revealed that the two men had mixed the illegally collected greasy waste with used cooking oil, which they then sold to companies that export used cooking oil for processing into biofuel, said NEA.

"NEA takes a serious view on the proper collection and disposal of waste from grease traps, and will enforce against any unauthorised waste collectors, and any licensee who violates the conditions of licence or engages in the illegal disposal of waste," the agency said.

"The cleaning of grease traps can only be done by licensed general waste collectors (GWCs). These GWCs use vacuum trucks to collect waste from the grease traps, which are then disposed of at PUB’s designated water reclamation plant. At such plants, these greasy waste are digested with used water sludge to form biogas."

- CNA/kk

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Ideas pour in for building better Singapore over next 50 years

Melody Zaccheus The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Apr 15;

By Singapore's 100th birthday, vertical crop systems could be part of every high-rise building on its shores. The waters hugging the island could also be home to a floating farm.

These are just some of the more than 1,300 ideas submitted to a contest seeking solutions on how to build a better and more sustainable community to live, work and play in over the next 50 years.

#BuildSG2065 has been organised by The Straits Times and CapitaLand, one of Asia's largest real estate companies, to mark the country's 50th anniversary.

The contest comes alongside Singapore's Smart Nation initiative to integrate daily life with technology seamlessly.

Participants stand to win prizes and the top 50 entries could be featured in the upcoming exhibition, Singapore STories: Then, Now, Tomorrow to be held at the ArtScience Museum.

Mr Lim Ming Yan, president and group chief executive officer of CapitaLand, said many Singaporeans have already shared their vision for the future of the country's built environment.

Suggestions include building underground homes and moving the workforce from offices to "home office pods". This could free up space in the Central Business District for residential properties.

Mr Lim, who also gave examples of suggestions to develop anti-gravitational playgrounds and floating skyscrapers, said: "Some of these ideas may seem far-fetched today, but they may well be breakthroughs worthy of The Straits Times' front pages in years to come."

Submissions can be made online at

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New centre to help tackle population woes

Rachel Au-yong, Priscilla Goy, Janice Tai The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 May 15;

Singapore's citizen population by 2060 will shrink to that of the early 1990s if the country's low birth rates persist and it shuts its doors to immigration, Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said yesterday.

It will then have about 2.6 million citizens but what's worse is that a large number will be older.

The consequences are dire as there will be fewer than 1.5 working-age citizens for every senior citizen compared to 10:1 in 1990, she pointed out.

"Things will look very much better if we raise our birth rates, remain open to immigration at a calibrated pace, and enable seniors to make continued contributions to society," she said.

Ms Fu, who is in charge of population issues, was speaking at the opening of the Centre for Family and Population Research, launched by the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Like many developed nations, Singapore is dogged by the looming problem of a greying population as a result of low birth rates.

The scenario she painted was one of several possible projections in the controversial 2013 Population White Paper, which set out plans for infrastructure to cope with a potential population ranging from 6.5 million to 6.9 million by 2030.

Yesterday, in noting the White Paper, NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said the new centre is "well positioned to contribute" to the understanding of the population challenges facing Singapore.

Ms Fu said the issues it will study include healthcare needs in an ageing Asia and shifting social needs, like flexible work arrangements and fathers participating more in childcare and housework.

She also hoped that the centre will be a hub for exchanges among researchers across Asia.

"Norms are changing and an Asia-oriented study into the changes will give useful inputs on policy solutions,'' she said.

Its findings could shape Singapore's policies to encourage more births and prepare for an ageing population, she said.

Ms Fu also praised the centre's 27 researchers and five international advisers for their wide range of disciplines. "As demographic issues are complex and multi-faceted, no single discipline can provide all the solutions."

The centre is helmed by Professor Jean Yeung, of NUS' Sociology Department. She said that it will focus on research in areas such as managing family stress, fertility, ageing and health.

Yesterday's opening also launched a conference on Singapore Families and Population Dynamics, at which the issues tackled include the impact of mobile technology on communication between parents and their children, and how government policy shapes the circumstances and choices of single-parent and low-income families.

Additional reporting by Priscilla Goy and Janice Tai

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Malaysia: Cloud seeding as dams dry up in Johor

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 1 May 15

KULAIJAYA: The water level at several dams in Johor have dropped below the critical level, affecting more than 157,000 consumers.

Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) director Abdul Rashid A. Rahman said the water levels at the Sultan Iskandar dam in Masai, Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi and Congok dam in Mersing have fallen below their critical levels due to lack of rain from the end of last year.

The Sultan Iskandar dam was at 20.96m, well below the critical mark of 23.5m and can only last for another 72 days. It supplies water to some 140,000 households in the Masai area.

The Sungai Lebam dam had 10.5m of water, below the 12.27m critical level. The Congok dam was at 4.5m, which is its critical level.

In a bid to overcome the problem, the state is now carrying out a series of cloud seeding to increase the water levels at all 15 dams in the state.

Abdul Rashi said that the seeding operations would be carried out over 10 days to increase the water levels by 10% to 30%. The cloud seeding began on Tuesday.

“We are hoping the water levels can be raised above critical level with the cloud seeding,” he told a press conference yesterday, adding that the seeding had proved fruitful with rain over the dams.

He also said the last time cloud seeding was carried out in the state was in 2010 and the heavy year-end downpour in the following years was able to keep water in the dam at healthy levels.

“If cloud seeding is not carried out now, we foresee problems soon as the dams have only about 40% to 60% of water now,” added Abdul Rashid.

Each three-hour cloud seeding process costs about RM30,000 and the state is planning to make 10 attempts.

The cloud seeding operations is led by Bakaj and jointly carried out with the National Security Council, Johor Meteorological Department, Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ) and National Water Services Commission (SPAN).

Johor carrying out 10-day cloud seeding mission
YEE XIANG YUN The Star 30 Apr 15;

KULAIJAYA: Johor aims to increase water levels in its 15 dams by 10% to 30% by carrying out 10 days of cloud seeding operations.

Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) director Abdul Rashid A. Rahman said that the cloud seeding, which started on Tuesday, was to normalise three dams that were at critical levels.

He said that the cloud seeding, now in its third day of operations, had been successful with rain falling for about 30 minutes after each process was carried out.

"Each cloud seeding process takes about three hours. The plane would circle the targeted areas looking for suitable clouds to light up flares," he said during a press conference at Senai here Thursday.

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Indonesian government must halt road through orangutan reserve, says green prize winner

Karl Mathiesen The Guardian 30 Apr 15;

The winner of a major conservation prize has called on the Indonesian government to halt a road-building plan that threatens the last place on Earth where elephants, rhinoceros, tigers and orangutans live together.

The plan for the Ladia Galaska road network has been approved by the Aceh government, but requires consent from the central minister for home affairs to go ahead.

Panut Hadisiswoyo, who won a £35,000 Whitley Award on Wednesday for engaging north Sumatran communities on orangutan conservation, said the development would be a disaster for the densest remaining population of Sumatran orangutans.

“The spatial plan must be cancelled and must be revised to include the Leuser ecosystem so that development is in line with the conservation goals in Sumatra,” said Hadisiswoyo. The plan currently makes no mention of the precious ecosystem it threatens.

If approved, the roads would connect the east and west coasts of Aceh, severing the ecosystem in nine places. Hadisiswoyo said the fragmentation of forests by roads and plantations meant mostly-tree dwelling orangutans would have to come to ground - making them vulnerable to poaching and predation. Eventually, small groups would become cut off and genetically isolated, making their survival untenable.

“The consequences will be a risk for orangutans. Many forests will be converted into plantations and this will be bad for the survival of the orangutan and for the viability of their long-term population. Forests will be fragmented, they’ll be cleared for plantations.”

A past study predicted the Aceh government’s road building plans, and the plantations, poaching, development and logging they will facilitate, would result in the loss of at least a quarter of the remaining 6,600 Sumatran orangutans by 2030.

“It’s a massive issue — an enormous assault on the last place on Earth where orangutans, elephants, tigers, and rhinoceros still exit. It’s truly precious real estate,” said Bill Laurance from James Cook University. He authored a recent study that found the road network would increase the area of forest at high risk of deforestation by 40%.

“These species are all critically endangered – especially the Sumatran tiger and rhino. They are sitting on a precipice, staring straight into the void of extinction.
The 400km road network known as Ladia Galaska would open up like a flayed fish some of the most critical surviving habitat for these four species,” he said.

Last year, 1.3 million people signed a petition asking Indonesia’s president to reject the spatial plan, which has been championed by Aceh’s president despite conservationists’ claims it is in breach of Acehnese law.

Hadisiswoyo also called on the government of Indonesia to implement a moratorium on logging and new permits for palm oil plantations.

Hadisiswoyo’s community engagement in aid of orangutan survival was rewarded at a ceremony in London on Wednesday. His Orangutan Information Centre has worked to engage the local community in the survival of orangutans. Amongst other things, his programme has trained 150 Muslim preachers to use conservation-minded Quranic verses during their sermons.

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One in six of world's species faces extinction due to climate change – study

New analysis reveals likely impact of global warming on plants and animals if we fail to take action, and comes ahead of crunch climate talks in Paris
Adam Vaughan The Guardian 30 Apr 15;

One in six of the planet’s species will be lost forever to extinction if world leaders fail to take action on climate change, according to a new analysis.

The stark warning on the scale of global warming’s impact on animals and plants comes just months before nearly 200 governments meet for UN climate talks in Paris in an attempt to forge a global deal on cutting carbon emissions.

Conservationists said such a large loss would be a tragedy with serious ramifications for people as well as ecosystems.

Creatures in Australia, New Zealand and South America will be hit much harder than North American and Europe, due to a high number of species not found anywhere else, such as Australia’s white lemuroid ringtail possums, which can die within hours in higher temperatures.

Relatively small land masses in Australia and New Zealand mean that many species there will be unable to migrate to cope with rising temperatures, found the study, published in the journal Science on Thursday.

The study is the most comprehensive look yet at the impact of climate change on biodiversity loss, analysing 131 existing studies on the subject. The stresses on wildlife and their habitats from global warming is in addition to pressures such as deforestation, pollution and overfishing that have already seen the world lose half its animals in the past 40 years.

“The risk if we continue on our current trajectory is very high. If you look out your window and count six species and think that one of those will potentially disappear, that’s quite profound,” said the study’s author, Mark C Urban, of the University of Connecticut.

“Those losses would affect our economy, our cultures, our food security, our health. It really compels us to act.”

Any deal that emerges from the UN climate summit in Paris is not expected to initially be enough to hold warming to 2C, the ‘safe’ level of warming world leaders are committed to, though the hope is governments’ carbon-cutting pledges will later be strengthened sufficiently to meet it.

But even if governments do manage to hold global warming to 2C, one in 20 species (5.2%) still face extinction, the study found.

If manmade greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current record-breaking rate, leading to a temperature rise of more than 4C by the end of the century, 16% of species, or one in six, face extinction.

The study also emphasises that even for the animals and plants that avoid extinction, climate change could bring about substantial changes in their numbers and distribution.

Jamie Carr at the climate unit of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which compiles the most authoritative list of endangered species worldwide, said: “The loss of one in six species, would be an absolute tragedy, not only because it is sad to lose any part of our rich natural world, but also because biodiversity is fundamental in providing important functions and services, including to humans.

“Such significant changes to biological systems would undoubtedly have knock-on effects, and could potentially result in the collapse of entire systems.”

Richard Walters, lecturer in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Reading, said: “Ecologists have attempted to predict the risk of extinction under climate change for some time now but this meta-analysis provides our most comprehensive guesstimate to date.

“We know that the accuracy of forecasts are dependent upon a whole suite of assumptions, but what this study helps us to identify is which are the most important unknowns.”

Climate change affects wildlife directly and indirectly, through changing weather patterns that may affect the food they rely on or the habitat they live in. Species in the Arctic are considered particularly vulnerable, with polar bears being forced to swim further distances for food as sea ice melts to record lows. Ringed seals depend on the sea ice, which they rest on and mate below.

But the slow-motion rate at which some of the predicted extinctions will happen means that targeted conservation efforts for some at-risk species could help them survive a warmer world – while other species may be able to adapt in time.

“This isn’t just doom and gloom. We still have time. Extinctions can take a long time. There are processes that could be important in mediating these effects, for example evolution, but we really need to very quickly start to understand these risks in a much more sophisticated way,” said Urban.

His meta-analysis looked at 131 previously published studies on warming’s impact on wildlife, dating back to the early 1990s, most of which modelled how much habitat becomes unsuitable for species under future climates.

For example, the Haleakalā silversword, a striking-looking plant that is only found on the Hawaiian island of Maui, was saved by conservationists from overzealous collectors in the 19th century but its habitat is now increasingly too dry and warm for new seedlings.

Urban said that his findings should inform the Paris climate summit, and showed the importance of acting now on cutting greenhouse gas emissions rather than waiting for 20 years, when the evidence of species loss under global warming becomes identifiable beyond the background noise of ‘natural’ extinctions.

Dr Stephen Cornelius, WWF-UK’s chief adviser on climate change, said: “This study further highlights the urgency of taking strong action to address climate change and that ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option. We have the technology to tackle climate change, what we need now is the political will and investment in a clean, low-carbon future.”

Walters added: “Worryingly this study suggests that the risk of extinction accelerates with every degree increase in global temperature, which has important implications for our understanding of what constitutes a ‘safe’ increase in global temperature.”

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Conservation action makes vital difference to world’s biodiversity, study shows

IUCN 30 Apr 15;

A new IUCN study evaluating the impact of conservation action on ungulates (hoofed mammals) shows that species have greatly benefited from measures taken to prevent their extinction. If the conservation actions that have already been implemented had not taken place, at least 148 ungulate species would have deteriorated by one IUCN Red List category, including six species that would now be listed as Extinct or Extinct in the Wild.

“We found that the overall decline in the conservation status of ungulates would have been nearly eight times worse than observed, were it not for conservation efforts,” says lead author Michael Hoffmann, Senior Scientist to the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC). “The decline would have been even greater if the contribution of private lands, which may be managed for purposes ranging from hunting to game viewing, are also factored in.”

The authors used a scenario-based analysis to quantify the difference conservation actions have made to the extinction risk of the world’s 235 recognized ungulate species. The study compares species’ observed conservation status (their IUCN Red List category) in 2008 with their estimated status under a hypothetical scenario in which all conservation efforts – everything from protected areas to conservation breeding programmes – ceased in 1996.

Several species, such as the Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) and Przewalski’s Horse (Equus ferus), would likely not exist in the wild today were it not for highly targeted conservation interventions. The last wild Arabian Oryx were killed by hunters in the 1970s but the species recovered thanks to extensive captive breeding and reintroduction efforts since the early 1980s and is now classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Similarly, Przewalski’s Horse would not have improved from its Extinct in the Wild status in 1996 to its current Endangered status if reintroductions and management had ceased.

Two iconic species, the Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros (R. unicornis) would likely be extinct today were it not for strict protection measures. The Javan Rhino was in fact extirpated from Viet Nam during the timeframe considered in this study due to the cessation of local efforts to save the species in the mid to late 2000s, but still survives in western Java, Indonesia.

However, the majority of species considered in this study benefited collaterally from broad conservation measures such as habitat protection. For example, establishment and successful management of protected areas have likely prevented a dramatic deterioration in the Red List status of the iconic Common Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) from Least Concern to Critically Endangered. As the population of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem accounts for the majority of the total population, the authors estimated that disruption of migration (e.g. through possible road construction) and increased hunting pressures would have led to steep population declines.

“Our results provide further evidence that conservation action is making a vital difference to trends in biodiversity,” says co-author Simon Stuart, IUCN SSC Chair. “Now we urgently need to increase and sustain investment in such efforts to achieve further improvements and to reach global biodiversity targets.”

The study, The difference conservation makes to extinction risk of the world’s ungulates, was published in the journal Conservation Biology and is available here.

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