Best of our wild blogs: 20-21 Jun 15

Coral overdose at Terumbu Bemban
wild shores of singapore

Tuas: Our last mainland western reefs
wonderful creation

Surveying Singapore's last western reefs
wild shores of singapore

Ubin Day(s) Adventure!
Herpetological Society of Singapore

A New Discovery in 2015!
Butterflies of Singapore

Threatened Hawk-eagles nesting at Mount Faber again
Singapore Bird Group

Strolling Along the Rail Corridor
Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Night Walk At Dairy Farm Nature Reserve (19 Jun 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Snakes in my garden
Bird Ecology Study Group

Pink-necked Green-pigeon feeding 3 fledglings
Bird Ecology Study Group

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El Nino 'unlikely to affect rice supply'

Jesicca Lim Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Jun 15;

Forecasts in recent weeks of the strengthening El Nino - a dry weather pattern - warn of droughts and disrupted rice harvests across the Asia-Pacific.

Japan's weather bureau even predicted that the dry spell could be as bad, or even worse than that in 2009, when some rice exporting countries had to ban exports to satisfy domestic demand.

The price of Thai fragrant rice, which importers say is the most popular type here, cost about US$1,400 (S$1,860) a tonne in 2009.

Rice importers, who now pay about US$1,000 a tonne for Thai fragrant rice, told The Straits Times they are better placed to weather the storm now.

Mr Lim Ek Kwong, operations manager of major rice importer See Hoy Chan, said it now imports rice from about 15 suppliers in four countries - Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.

In 2009, it imported rice only from five suppliers in Thailand.

"If one country closes its doors to us, we can now still get rice from elsewhere," he said, adding that Thailand still has large stockpiles of rice that will help mitigate the price increases. He has seen no change in prices and supplies in recent times.

Managing director of Chye Choon Foods, Mr Jimmy Soh, said: "So far, it is hearsay. We have asked suppliers to let us know if something happens."

Supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice said prices remained stable and were, in fact, lowered last year. A 5kg bag of FairPrice Fragrant Rice had cost $6.90 since 2011, but was reduced to $6.50 in January last year, said Mrs Mui-Kok Kah Wei, its senior director of purchasing and merchandising.

As a major rice importer in Singapore, NTUC FairPrice stockpiles more than three months of supply at any time, she added.

Sheng Siong supermarket also said that prices of rice are stable, but it is monitoring the situation closely.

When contacted, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said Singapore has "a food import diversification policy to safeguard against any food supply disruptions".

"Apart from our top three import sources, Thailand, India and Vietnam, there is also sufficient supply from other countries including Myanmar, Pakistan and Cambodia," said an MTI spokesman. "There has been no noticeable impact on the quantity and prices of our rice imports so far."

The latest figures from IE Singapore show that 361,930 tonnes of rice were imported in 2011, rising steadily to hit 498,633 tonnes last year, or a rise of 38 per cent.

The past few years had seen a change in the main supply source of rice to Singapore. In 2013, India, for the first time, overtook Thailand as the Republic's biggest rice supplier.

Last year, 37.4 per cent of total rice imports came from India, and 32.3 per cent were from Thailand. In 2009, Thai rice consumed here accounted for 62.1 per cent of total imports.

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Malaysia: Otter family breathes hope for Penang river that’s brought to life

JOLYNN FRANCIS The Star 21 Jun 15;

GEORGE TOWN: Once declared dead, a highly polluted river in a dense urban zone has been brought back to life.

These days, a family of 10 smooth-coated otters has even taken up residence along the “resurrected” Sungai Pinang here.

The river was categorised in 2006 as one of the seven most polluted rivers in the country, earning a dubious Class Five rank – the highest pollution level under Malaysia’s Water Quality Index.

Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow, who was elated with the latest development, posted photographs of the mammals on his Facebook page.

The bevy of four adults and six pups is often spotted romping about as far upriver as the stretch near Jalan Dato Keramat.

Smooth-coated otters are not endangered but are fully protected under Malaysian laws.

“We are excited because this means the fishes are back. The otters are here because there is enough food,” Chow told a press conference yesterday.

However, Chow was also cautious about the progress. “It’s still early to tell. Water test results are not consistent yet.”

Sungai Pinang pollution tests fluctuated between Class Two and Three levels last year, he said. The long term goal is to make it a Class One river.

The clean-up work has not been cheap.

Penang Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) pumped RM150mil in 2009 into various cleanup infrastructure systems, scooping 120 tonnes of rubbish annually.

In the same year, the state also relocated 300 families living along the riverbank, besides shops and two temples.

In May last year, Penang roped in Infinite Acquisitions Sdn Bhd for three years in a RM5.8mil deal to use Infinitesimal Quantum Persistent and Reflection (iQPR) Technology to treat Sungai Pinang.

Chow said that he had to bear the burden of proving that the state government had chosen the right company and technology.

“If it doesn’t work, then we are pouring people’s money into the river.”

“Monthly samples of the water are taken to test for its quality. One sampling will be done by DID while the other will be done by the iQPR team and sent to different labs for testing as a form of check and balance to ensure the result is not fabricated,” he said.

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