Best of our wild blogs: 21 May 15

Seagrass meadows at East Coast Park
wild shores of singapore

Coral garden on the reclaimed East Coast Park
wonderful creation and wild shores of singapore

Observing recruitment of marine trash over 2 weeks @ Lim Chu Kang – World Biodiversity Day Coastal Cleanup
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Solo at Lower Peirce
Herpetological Society of Singapore

So, what’s next for the Rail Corridor?
The Long and Winding Road

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83% of local pet farms do not provide basic welfare for animals: ACRES

This means not ensuring the length of the cage to be at least two times the length of the animal from nose to base of tail, and for the width be at least one-and-a-half times the length of animal, says the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES).
Elizabeth Goh, Channel NewsAsia 20 May 15;

SINGAPORE: A majority of pet farms and some pet shops in Singapore exhibit poor practices, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said on Wednesday (May 20).

According to ACRES, 38 per cent of pet shops and 83 per cent of the farms did not provide the most basic welfare required. This means having the length of the cage to be at least two times the length of the animal from nose to base of tail, the width be at least one-and-a-half times the length of animal, and the height to allow the animal to comfortably stand upright on its hind legs.

Additionally, 21 out of 29 pet shops breached one or more of the 10 criteria that was used for assessment. Only eight pet shops were observed to have complied with all criteria, the findings showed.

These conditions are pet shop requirements under the Pet Shop Licence Conditions Display and Sale of Cats, the press release said. Some of these conditions include having no pregnant or nursing animals on display and clean drinking water to be provided at all times.

The findings were released after a two-month undercover investigation comprising ACRES staff and volunteers between March and May. Forty-one shops that sold dogs and/or cats were sampled. These comprised of all 25 pet shops licenced by Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), four pet shops not included in AVA's list and 12 randomly selected farms.


The report also said 7 of the 11 pet shops that breached one of more of the most basic animal welfare conditions received an A grade under AVA's Pet Shop Grading Scheme.

"This intimates that the grading system, or the implementation thereof, may need to be reviewed," ACRES said.

As for pet farms, ACRES suggested that farms should be graded, and the public be allowed to view their breeding facilities, to enable consumers to make informed decisions.

"I think a grading system for farms is one step forward. They also sell live animals, so there should not be any disparity between them and pet shops," said Ms Anbarasi Boopal, Group Director of ACRES.

"Once this grading is provided, consumers would be made more aware and it would also be easier to enforce animal welfare requirements by the AVA," she added.

ACRES has provided their results to AVA, which has received its feedback. ACRES hopes to work closely with AVA as it follows up on the findings.

"We encourage the public to be the check and balance of the pet industry as consumer demand wields much influence over industry practices," said Ms Noelle Seet, Head of Campaigns of ACRES.

- CNA/ct

Many top-graded pet shops 'fail in animal welfare'
MATTHIAS TAY Today Online 21 May 15;

SINGAPORE — Despite obtaining an “A” grade under the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) Pet Shop Grading Scheme, several pet shops had failed to provide basic animal welfare, said the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) today (May 20), citing findings from a two-month-long undercover operation.

These included failing to provide adequately-sized enclosures for dogs and cats, proper flooring conditions and clean drinking water.

Of the 30 pet shops the ACRES undercover team visited between March and May, 21 shops were found to have breached one or more of the AVA’s Pet Licence Conditions.

Ten of the pet shops failed to display their assigned grades, while the remaining 11 had not provided basic animal welfare.

The team also visited 12 animal farms during the operation and found 10 to have similar breaches in animal welfare conditions.

Most pet shops, said ACRES, failed to provide an enclosure big enough for the enclosed animal to move about comfortably.

According to the licensing conditions on the AVA’s website, the length of an enclosure has to be at least twice the length of the animal, while the width has to be at least one-and-a-half times the animal’s length.

The greater concern, though, was that seven of the 11 shops that failed to provide adequate living conditions, were awarded top grades by the AVA, said ACRES Group Director (Wildlife) Anbarasi Boopal.

This raises questions about the current assessment system, especially since these shops had their gradings reviewed fairly recently in February, she added.

Failing to display a shop’s grade was another problem that ACRES highlighted. Not only is this against the AVA’s regulations, displaying the decal also helps consumers to make informed choices and decide whether to support the establishment and its practices, said ACRES Head of Campaigns Noelle Seet.

The ACRES undercover operation also proved another point — that anyone is capable of looking out for errant practices when equipped with sufficient knowledge of the conditions.

“You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to know what these conditions are. Because we did this, it shows that members of the public are equally capable in monitoring pet farms and pet shops in Singapore,” said Ms Seet, adding that licensing conditions can easily be obtained on the AVA’s website.

However, ACRES noted that when it comes to guidelines governing pet farms, only a small excerpt could be found on the AVA’s “petsforlife” website. The excerpt states that dog farms are required to comply with similar animal welfare conditions that pet shops must follow.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the AVA said it has received ACRES’ report and is conducting investigations.

The AVA noted that pet shops’ licences are renewed annually, and graded according to a shop’s history of compliance with the agency’s licensing conditions and adoption of industry’s best practices. The grades are reviewed whenever a shop is compounded for an offence.

“Pet shops and farms are inspected regularly, as well as in response to public feedback ... If any infringements are found, AVA will warn the licensee and ensure that the necessary rectifications are made,” the AVA said.

If the infringements have a direct impact on animal welfare, a composition fine will be issued.

Repeat offenders also face the possibility of being convicted in court and fined up to S$5,000. Errant establishments also risk getting their licences suspended or even revoked.

The AVA said in the past three years, it has dealt with 40 cases involving establishments that failed to comply with licensing conditions, and they were issued composition fines.

Pet shops, farms 'falling foul of AVA licence rules'
Miranda Yeo The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 May 15;

A HUSKY was kept in a cage that was too small and left outdoors in the heat.

Another dog was in a cage so low it could not even stand up while a cat was housed in one made of thin wire with no mat to protect its paws from cuts.

These and other lapses in animal living conditions were found in most pet farms and a third of pet shops checked during an undercover investigation by an animal welfare group.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) selected at random 41 pet shops and farms which it visited from March to this month.

The majority were found to have flouted the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA's) housing and environment licence conditions for displaying and selling cats and dogs.

Of the 29 pet shops visited, 11 breached one or more basic animal welfare conditions - such as providing a large enough cage and clean water. Of these 11, seven had received an "A" grade from AVA's pet shop grading scheme in February.

Acres deputy chief executive Anbarasi Boopal said the breaches were obvious on visual examination, adding that "AVA's guidelines for the grading scheme may need to be reviewed as these basic conditions were not met even by shops with an 'A' grade".

There are more than 150 pet shops in Singapore.

Ten of the 12 pet farms displaying and selling dogs and cats breached more than one of the requirements, said Acres. Unlike pet shops, pet farms are not graded by the AVA, as they are commercial facilities where animals are bred for sale.

AVA confirmed it had received the Acres report, and was investigating.

It said it had dealt with 40 cases over the past three years in which a pet shop or farm had failed to comply with licensing conditions and the owners were handed composition fines.

AVA said if any infringements are found, it would warn the licensee and ensure that the necessary rectifications are made.

But if the infringement has an "immediate and direct impact" on animal welfare, it would issue a composition fine.

Repeat offenders may be charged in court. If convicted, they can be fined up to $5,000 and AVA may suspend or revoke their licence.

Acres' head of campaigns Noelle Seet said it is important to hold pet farms to the same animal welfare standards as pet shops.

Basic living conditions include housing the animals in large enough spaces. The length of the enclosure must be at least twice the length of the animal, measured from its nose to the base of its tail. The width should be at least 1.5 times the length and the height of the animal, and should allow it to stand on its hind legs.

Ms Seet said these criteria can be easily monitored even by members of the public.

"We encourage the public to be the check and balance of the pet industry as consumer demand wields much influence over industry practices," she said.

Another animal welfare group, Causes for Animals Singapore, welcomed Acres' findings while noting that enforcement could be an issue.

The group's fundraising coordinator, Ms Christine Bernadette, said: "Often, when we receive a tip-off and report it to the authorities, the owners would have cleaned up their act by the time officials investigate."

Ms Felicia Toh, 24, who bought her dog from a pet shop, said many prospective pet owners are not informed about guidelines for pet shops and farms, adding that "many pet owners make their decision based on their connection with the pet".

Undergraduate Annemarie Lim, 22, chose to adopt a dog instead of buying one because she saw that pet shops had cramped living conditions.

"Ideally, animal lovers should adopt, and boycott pet shops and farms but some owners prefer specific breeds and want to raise their pet from young," she added.

AVA also urged the public to help pet shops and farms raise their standards by patronising only the responsible ones. People should also contact AVA on 1800-476-1600 if they come across any errant pet shop or farm, it said.

Grade A pet shop, F for welfare
Ling Yuanrong The New Paper AsiaOne 23 May 15;

Packed in small cages, the puppies displayed for sale at the pet shop looked ill, with dry scaly skin.

It was heartrending for Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) undercover investigator John (not his real name) to witness.

The puppies also panted heavily, an indication that they were not given enough clean drinking water by the pet shop owners, John added.

While this scene from last month remains deeply etched in John's mind, they were only some of the practices that breached animal welfare conditions at local pet shops and farms.

Acres uncovered these poor practices during its undercover investigations between March and May, the animal activist group revealed at a press conference yesterday at its headquarters in Jalan Lekar in Choa Chu Kang.

The two-month investigation involved the inspection of 29 local pet shops and 12 farms displaying cats and/or dogs for sale.

The pet shops and farms were assessed based on 10 criteria extracted from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) pet shop licensing regime. This includes dimensions of cages, comfortable flooring and provision of clean water.

Twenty-one of the 29 pet shops and 10 of 12 farms were found to have breached one or more of the 10 criteria.

Ms Noelle Seet, Acres head of campaigns, told The New Paper yesterday that the group hopes to educate and raise public awareness through this undercover investigation.

"What our investigators did are solely visual examinations of the pets in the shop and this is something anyone can do.

"We hope potential pet owners will look out for such poor practices when they go into pet shops and choose against buying pets from shops that breached animal welfare conditions," Ms Seet said.


Acres' findings also revealed that 11 out of 29 pet shops failed to meet the conditions for most basic animal welfare.

This means the length of the cage must be at least two times the length of the animal, the width be at least one-and-a-half times the length of the animal, and the height must allow the animal to comfortably stand upright on its hind legs.

Seven of the 11 pet shops that failed had even received an A grade under AVA's Pet Shop Grading Scheme, in February.

The scheme was introduced by AVA in 2007 to raise standards in the pet retail industry.

Under the scheme, pet shops are graded from A to D based on their compliance with licence conditions and their adoption of best animal welfare practices.

Investigator John hopes more people will help expose shops with poor conditions.

He added that his motivation for being an Acres undercover investigator is his belief for the need to stand up for animal rights.

"They are living things, too, and they should not be subject to needless suffering," said John.

He added that he felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that he is doing something meaningful and worthwhile.

"I am doing this to build a more compassionate society," he said.

If you witness poor animal housing conditions, you can report them to AVA (Animal Response Centre: 1800 476 1600) or request for help from Acres (+65 6892 9821,

AVA investigating pet shops and farms

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it has received Acres' report and investigations are ongoing.

The agency also thanked Acres for its efforts, in reply to queries from The New Paper.

In the past three years, the AVA handled 40 cases of non-compliance of licensing conditions and the affected pet shops/farms were issued composition fines.

Pet shops and farms are inspected regularly, as well as in response to public feedback, said the AVA.

"During inspection, our officers check for compliance with licensing conditions and assess the general condition of the animals and the premises in which they are kept.

"If any infringements are found, AVA will warn the licensee and ensure that the necessary rectifications are made."

However if the infringements result in an immediate and direct impact on animal welfare, AVA will issue a composition fine, it said.
Repeat offenders may be charged in court.

If convicted, they can be fined up to $5,000 and AVA may suspend or revoke their licence.

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Bins full, so we litter?

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 May 15;

PEOPLE who claim they litter because the rubbish bins are always full may not have that excuse for much longer.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has started a pilot project to fit rubbish bins with sensors that can detect when they are full, and track whether waste collectors are doing their jobs properly.

The "litter-bin management system" could also help the collectors to quickly empty full bins and to identify areas that may need more of them.

According to government procurement website Gebiz, NEA awarded local start-up Mobiquest a contract worth nearly $1.5 million at the end of January to install and manage a system to monitor the locations of up to 10,000 bins and the fullness of an estimated 250 bins.

The value of the contract, of which two years are optional, includes four years of maintenance and other services related to the system.

Mobiquest yesterday declined to provide details of the project.

In its tender documents for the contract, NEA said it wanted the system to be able to "track and map the locations of litter bins, and to monitor the activities of the agency's cleaning service providers".

The Straits Times understands that the waste collectors' work could be tracked using a positioning sensor in the bins that correspond to an application on, say, their mobile phones.

This could tell NEA when the collectors were near the bins, and whether they were following their cleaning schedules.

NEA also wanted to be able to detect the bins' fullness so it could monitor both the collectors' performance as well as the public's use of the bins.

Environmentalists in Singapore said they hoped rubbish bins in places with high human traffic, such as bus interchanges, would have the fullness detection sensors as littering typically occurs in such areas.

Ms Melissa Tan, chairman of the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore, said such sensors could be used to help alleviate labour shortages in the waste collection industry.

"This technology could help us to deploy manpower only when the bin is full," she said. "The public waste collectors now do daily collection for HDB blocks but sometimes that's not necessary."

Separately, Mobiquest will be showcasing its smart waste-management system, which has other features, at the upcoming CommunicAsia2015, EnterpriseIT2015 and BroadcastAsia2015.

The three events to be held at Marina Bay Sands from June 2 to 5 are expected to see about 1,800 exhibitors from 56 countries and regions. Entry to the exhibitions is free.

The spotlight this year is on smart technologies to better connect cities, governments, firms and people.

Other technologies to be demonstrated at the events will include DFRC Singapore's City Analyser, which uses sensors that measure mobile phone signals to collect anonymous data about crowd movements and behaviour.

Businesses and governments can use it to better understand people's habits and preferences.

Also, Singapore firm Skyshot will launch its TBox Titan, said to be a first-of-its-kind armoured and weather-proof time-lapse camera system.

'Smart bins' let cleaners know when they need attention
JORDON SIMPSON Today Online 20 May 15;

SINGAPORE — A homegrown smart waste management system, in the form of rubbish bins that can send out alerts to cleaners when they are full, is expected to help increase the efficiency of trash removal around the island.

Known as netBin, the system’s key features include smart bins which are equipped with a variety of sensors that can also notify cleaners of the bins’ locations, or even warn them of a fire, among other things.

Developed by Singapore company Mobiquest, the system is designed to minimise the overflowing of rubbish bins, and to help cleaners work more efficiently.

It is among the technologies featured today (May 20) during a media preview of the upcoming CommunicAsia2015, EnterpriseIT2015 and BroadcastAsia2015, which will be held at Marina Bay Sands next month.

With netBin, data from the sensors will be collected for analysis and transmitted to cleaners and their supervisors by 3G network in 15-minute intervals. The batteries in the sensors can last for up to five years.

The data will be able to show statistics for dustbins in the area, so that cleaners can formulate collection routes around just the bins that need servicing. It can also identify areas in the bin network that are over capacity and require backup.

The National Environment Agency awarded the contract for the litter bin management system to Mobiquest in January this year.

The system, touted as the first of its kind, is required to manage 10,000 bins.

Speaking to TODAY after the media preview, Mr Neo Teck Guan, director of Huawei’s solutions marketing department for the South Pacific region, noted that a sensor network is a key element in creating a smart-nation platform.

“The data collected (from the network) then can be analysed and used to create a lot of solutions. Safe city is one big area. For example, I can catch people doing illegal parking, or create an emergency command centre to stop riots. The opportunities are endless,” said Mr Neo, whose company will be taking part in the exhibitions.

The three exhibitions, which will be held from June 2 to June 5, will bring together more than 1,800 exhibitors from 56 countries to showcase the latest technologies.

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5 teams shortlisted to develop Rail Corridor concept master plan

A total of 64 teams had responded to the Government's call for ideas on revamping the Rail Corridor, including two special interest areas in Choa Chu Kang and the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.
Channel NewsAsia 20 May 15;

SINGAPORE: The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced on Wednesday (May 20) that five teams have been shortlisted to participate in the second stage of the ‘Rail Corridor – An Inspired and Extraordinary Community Space’ Request for Proposal (RFP). The selected teams are:

The RFP was launched on Mar 18, inviting design professionals to develop a concept master plan and concept proposals to revamp the Rail Corridor. A total 64 teams submitted proposals.

The five teams selected for the second stage were chosen by an evaluation panel, and as much of the Rail Corridor experience will be defined by its greenery, they paid particular attention to the teams’ architectural capabilities, specifically in landscapes.

"The quality, diversity and creativity of the participating teams and their proposals are very impressive,” said URA chief executive Ng Lang, who is chairperson for the evaluation panel.

Principal architect Raymond Woo agreed: “The response to the RFP is impressive. The selected teams were thorough in their design approach. They have different emphases yet were able to demonstrate a common intention, which is to provide a longitudinal green lung through the centre of Singapore."

In Stage 2 of the RFP exercise, the team chosen for its concept master plan will carry out a preliminary design and feasibility study for a 4km-long signature stretch of the Rail Corridor, spanning the former Bukit Timah Railway Station to the Hillview area.

Members of the public will be able to see a showcase of submissions by all participating teams at an exhibition from October to November, and they will be invited to give feedback on the proposals.

- CNA/hs

Five teams shortlisted to transform Rail Corridor
Cheryl Faith Wee The Straits Times AsiaOne 22 May 15;

Five teams made up of local and international architects are in the running to transform part of Singapore's Rail Corridor.

In March, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) called for proposals for a masterplan and concept for the land.

The 24km-long route, which stretches from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar, was previously land used by Malaysia's KTM railway before it was returned to Singapore in 2011.
In total, 64 teams, including tie-ups between local and international firms, sent in submissions in March and April.

The URA announced the five shortlisted yesterday.

They include a tie-up between local firm DP Architects and Dutch design and landscaping firm West 8.

Another shortlisted team comprised local company MKPL Architects and China-based Turenscape International. The other teams featured firms from Hong Kong, Japan and the United States that are partnering Singapore architects.

Director for the Centre for Sustainable Asian Cities at the National University of Singapore, Dr Malone-Lee Lai Choo - a member of the evaluation panel - said: "We want the Corridor to be an outstanding urban asset and are therefore open to innovative concepts... ideas that demonstrate freshness of approach and potentially exceptional design qualities that will enhance our urban landscape."

The teams have until Aug 21 to come up with detailed designs for a concept and masterplan for the Rail Corridor. These will be on display in a public exhibition in October and November.

One of the shortlisted teams will eventually get to work on the preliminary design for a 4km-long stretch of the Rail Corridor, between the former Bukit Timah Railway Station and the Hillview area.

Landmarks along this stretch include two steel truss bridges across Bukit Timah Road, Dunearn Road and Upper Bukit Timah Road next to Rail Mall.

Mr Siew Man Kok, 53, chairman and director of MKPL Architects, said: "We are in the midst of a competition so we cannot reveal our plans, but you can expect something very interesting.

"The Rail Corridor is a unique project because it is a rustic strip of land that runs through Singapore, in such a big contrast to the rest of it."

Read more!

Malaysia ranked near bottom of the class by environmental democracy watchdog

PATRICK LEE The Star 21 May 15;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians has been ranked poorly in environmental democratic rights, coming in 69th of 70 countries surveyed worldwide.

Scoring an overall 0.58 out of three points on the US-based World Resources Institute's Environmental Democracy Index, narrowly beating Haiti.

Lithuania scored highest worldwide, with an overall score of 2.42, followed by Latvia at 2.31 and Russia at 2.25. The global average score is 1.42.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia came out tops with a score of 1.8, followed by Thailand at 1.38 and the Philippines at 1.35.

There was no score given for Singapore and Brunei.

The index tracks a country's progress in coming up with national laws to promote transparency, accountability and public engagement.

It measures how well these laws are in giving the public information, allowing public input in decision-making and the seeking in enforcement of environmental laws or compensation for damages.

Malaysia was given very poor mark marks in transparency and public engagement, with only a fair score where justice was concerned.

The index said Malaysian government agencies were not obliged to give the public a chance to take part in an early stage of environment decision-making.

Authorities were found as not obligated in making environment and public health information available to the public.

In an example, it alleged that drinking water quality for Kuala Lumpur was not made public.

It said that state government agencies were not required to account for public comments in decision-making.

"The public is provided with the right to participate in environmental decision making in only a limited set of circumstances," it said.

Malaysian law, the index said, failed to provide for timely enforcement of criminal, civil and administrative decisions on the environment.

"...The public is not granted broad standing to file environmental claims in court," it said.

The index added that the Malaysia's score may not reflect the full extent of access rights given to citizens in a federal country.

This, it said, was because Malaysia had state laws that could affect rights covered by federal law.

The Star learned that the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is in the midst of drafting a reply on the matter.

For more information, visit

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Malaysia: Discovery of foreign predatory fish in Sungai Johor worrying experts

MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 21 May 15;

PASIR GUDANG: The discovery of a gigantic freshwater fish that is native to South America in Sungai Johor is making wildlife experts here worried.

State Fisheries Department director Munir Mohd Nawi said the carnivorous Arapaima gigas would pose a threat to the local wildlife other than fish if it manages to establish a viable population in the river.

Munir was commenting on a case where a local fishing enthusiast caught a two-metre long Arapaima recently, and said the department is trying to establish whether it was a stray fish that may have escaped from fish farms.

“We believe that the fish might have escaped from its pond during the major floods that hit Kota Tinggi district in 2006 or 2007,” said Munir, who added that the department will be conducting checks to verify the matter.

“Previously, there were some local entrepreneurs who were allowed to import such fish, but we are controlling it,” he said in a press conference during a handing over of ex-gratia payments to fishermen at Taman Pasir Putih here yesterday.

It was reported in a Malay daily that the large fish was caught by a local who happened to be resting at a riverbank along Sungai Johor on Monday.

Munir also said the department has labelled the Arapaima as a harmful alien species.

“Due to its size, it would become a predatory animal where it hunts small fish found in the river. The fish is not suited to breed in our rivers, but we are still searching if other Arapaima are found here,” he added.

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El Nino could 'disrupt food markets'

Helen Briggs BBC 21 May 15;

Global food markets could be disrupted by the El Nino event predicted for later this year.

A strong El Nino is likely to increase prices of staple foods such as rice, coffee, sugar and cocoa, say scientists.

Forecasters agree that the El Nino effect, which can drive droughts and flooding, is under way in the tropical Pacific.

But they say it is too early to say how severe it will be.

Reduced rainfall could be felt in India and West Africa as early as June, say scientists.

The consequences of El Nino are much less clear for Europe and the UK, although they can lead to British winters that are dry with heavy snowfall.

"It's likely there will be at least a moderate El Nino this year," said Prof Adam Scaife of the Met Office.

"I think there is very good agreement across the different [forecasting] centres that this is coming."

He said there was a 70% chance of a "moderate" El Nino event towards the end of this year that is likely to lead to droughts and crop failures.

Although it is too early to say how strong the event will be and whether it will persist throughout the year, a strong El Nino has the potential to "disrupt global food markets", said Dr Nick Klingaman of the University of Reading.

He said coffee plantations in Brazil "already on the brink of failure" could be jeopardised, while reduced rainfall in Australia could affect banana and sugarcane crops as well as cattle herds.

A moderately strong El Nino in 2002 was linked with a drier monsoon than normal in India, ruining crops such as groundnut and rice.

"Most El Ninos historically have had a global impact on food prices," he said.

"We tend to see an increase in price of 5 to 10% on average for things like coffee, soybeans and cocoa."


The El Nino five years ago was linked with poor monsoons in Southeast Asia, droughts in southern Australia, the Philippines and Ecuador, blizzards in the US, heatwaves in Brazil and extreme flooding in Mexico.

Prof Eric Guilyardi of the University of Reading said current models point to an event on a similar scale to that of 2009/10, but perhaps as strong as in 1997/98, which was particularly extreme.

However, he cautioned that "every El Nino is different, so its impacts are different".

The warming of parts of the ocean is also likely to have a knock-on effect for global temperatures.

"Global temperatures are very high and this is partly attributable to the El Nino evolving now," said Prof Scaife.

Climate change

The El Nino is a warming of the Pacific Ocean as part of a complex cycle linking atmosphere and ocean.

An El Nino comes along about every two to seven years as part of a natural cycle.

Research suggests that extreme El Nino events will become more likely as global temperatures rise.

Models suggest that climate change could double the number of extreme El Ninos after 2050.

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