Best of our wild blogs: 24 Jun 15

Early Bird discount for 1 Aug (Sat): Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium IV ending soon
wild shores of singapore

Terumbu Bemban (20062015)
Psychedelic Nature

The first record of a White-tailed Tropicbird for Singapore?
Singapore Bird Group

Publication Alert! – Climate change studies on the giant clams
Neo Mei Lin

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PM inaugurates new phase of expansion for Pasir Panjang Terminal

The facilities, known as Pasir Panjang Terminal Phases 3 and 4, are slated to be fully operational by end-2017.
Dylan Loh, Channel NewsAsia 23 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE: In a bid to strengthen Singapore's position as a leading port, Pasir Panjang Terminal is undergoing a S$3.5 billion expansion.

Its new facilities, known as Pasir Panjang Terminal Phases 3 and 4, are slated to be fully operational by end-2017. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officiated the launch of the new berths at the terminal on Tuesday (Jun 23).

When the 15 new berths are completely up and running, the terminal will be able to handle 50 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUS) yearly. The new berths will feature the latest port innovations, such as a zero-emission, fully-automated electric yard crane system.

PSA Singapore Terminals operates the facility, and is also working with the Government on the development of the future Tuas Port. PSA International Group Chairman Fock Siew Wah said: "There's much more that needs to be done, many more new challenges and new complexities to overcome. But we remain very committed, motivated, and energised to strive even harder and to work smarter."

Speaking at the launch of the new facility, Mr Lee said the Government is studying how the future Tuas Port can be redesigned to be open to the public. Singapore's ports have typically been out of bounds to the public.

Due to the port's success, Mr Lee said the world is highly connected to Singapore, and Singapore to the world as well. He said if Singapore was not the major port that it is, connected to other ports in Asia, Europe and America, the country would be sidelined.

Singapore handled about 34 million TEUs in 2014, near the capacity of 35 million. Mr Lee said the new Tuas mega-terminal will raise capacity to 65 million TEUs annually.

"More importantly, it's a green field site," Mr Lee said. "So that we can use advanced technology and fundamentally change the way the port is run, using data analytics, using autonomous vehicles, using technology - green technology, to sharpen our efficiency, our reliability, and so our competitive edge." He added that the maritime industry creates good jobs, employing 170,000 people.

- CNA/ly

Singapore grows container terminal, eyes mega-ship demand
Reuters AsiaOne 23 Jun 15;

A few of the planned 15 berths in Phases 3 and 4 of the Pasir Panjang Terminal are operational. The rest of the S$3.5 billion project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017, pushing Singapore's annual container handling capacity to 50 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), said Singapore's main container terminal operator PSA.

All the new berths at Pasir Panjang Terminal, one of PSA's terminals in Singapore, are designed to be able to handle container ships with capacities larger than 10,000 TEUs.

Shipowners have been turning to mega-ships to cut down on fuel costs, despite the fact that container shipping capacity has outpaced demand and freight rates remain under pressure. "This project also reflects our philosophy ... always to scan the horizon, discern the trends, plan and invest ahead of time, said Fock Siew Wah, group chairman of PSA International.

Singapore is the world's second busiest container port after Shanghai in China, which took over Singapore in 2010.

In 2014, Singapore's container throughput grew 4 percent to a record high of nearly 34 million TEUs, but the growth rate was down from around 10 percent in 2010, data from Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority showed.

Pasir Panjang Terminal's $3.5b expansion kicks off
Adrian Lim The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Jun 15;

The $3.5 billion Phase 3 and 4 development of Pasir Panjang Terminal was officially launched yesterday, further strengthening Singapore's position as a leading shipping hub.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted the crucial role that the port has played in positioning Singapore globally when he opened the facility yesterday.

If Singapore's port was not connected directly to other major ports in Asia, Europe and the United States, the Republic would be sidelined, he said.

"It's not just a completely different port, it's a completely different Singapore," he added.

The new expansion - which includes the already-operational Pasir Panjang Terminal 5 and two future terminals that will be running by the end of 2017 - will add 15 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) to Singapore's handling capacity.

This will boost the Republic's container throughput by more than 40 per cent to 50 million TEUs annually. Currently, Singapore's port is edging close to its maximum capacity of 35 million TEUs, after handling a total of 33.9 million last year.

The Government decided in 2004 to expand the Pasir Panjang terminals to include 15 new berths to better serve mega-size ships, or those which can carry upwards of 18,000 containers.

Technologies such as automated rail-mounted gantry cranes will also be used for the first time in the new expansion. These yard cranes are operated remotely from a control centre and containers are stacked with the help of computers, sensors and cameras, thereby saving manpower and increasing productivity.

Mr Lee said Singapore's position as the world's biggest transhipment hub, and the second busiest port in the world after Shanghai, should not be taken for granted. The latter was exceptional, Mr Lee noted, considering Singapore has a domestic base of only 5.5 million in population, but Shanghai has the hinterland of China.

"It is a remarkable position for our port to be in, and it's not something which is going to stay unless we keep up," he said.

Singapore also has more plans for the long term, Mr Lee said, with a mega-terminal planned in Tuas that will consolidate all of PSA's port activities by 2040.

When fully operational, it will be able to handle 65 million TEUs annually, almost double last year's container throughput.

The megaport - a green-field site - will also use advanced technology such as data analytics and autonomous vehicles to sharpen Singapore's efficiency, reliability and competitive edge, he said.

What will also set Tuas apart from the current terminals is the port's interaction with its surroundings and members of the public. "We are also studying how the port can be redesigned to integrate well with the surrounding development and to be open to the public, instead of the traditional mode of a port which is completely out of bounds to the public," he said.

In his speech yesterday, Mr Lee also paid tribute to pioneer port workers who worked tirelessly to keep the port running efficiently.

The maritime industry today, he said, continues to create good jobs and employs 170,000 people while contributing 7 per cent to Singapore's gross domestic product.

"Singaporeans know that the port is important to us, but I suspect that many of us don't realise how critical it is," he said.

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Indonesia: Extreme dry season hits North Sumatra as Riau prepares artificial rain

Apriadi Gunawan and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 23 Jun 15;

An extreme dry season has hit Medan and a number of other regions in North Sumatra, triggering fears of possible forest fires. In response, Riau is preparing artificial rain to prevent the possible spread of fire.

Lestari Purba, a staff member with the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Region I Medan, said that last week’s air temperature in Medan and other regions had reached 36 degrees Celsius.

“This is already categorized as extreme because the normal temperature for these regions never exceeds 35 degrees Celsius,” said Lestari, adding that the normal temperature was between 32 and 35 degrees.

She blamed the condition on wind patterns and the position of the sun directly above North Sumatra. She also said that the hot temperature was predicted to last until the end of June.

The current dry season, she said, was the second this year, as the first one occurred in February. She said that hotspots were expected to be found in a number of regions because of high air temperatures.

Meanwhile, the head of the North Sumatra Forestry Agency, Halen Purba, said that the province was prone to forest fires during dry seasons, in particular the areas of Padang Lawas, North Padang Lawas, Labuhan Batu and Mandailing Natal regencies, as well as in parts of the Tapanuli area.

He said that his office had prepared a forest firefighter unit in anticipation.

“In North Sumatra, forest fires are mostly caused by individuals. Only a few have been caused by companies,” Halen told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Meanwhile in Riau, to help deal with the increase in temperature in the region, the provincial administration in cooperation with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) has started preparing an artificial rain operation.

The move is intended to make sure that the increase in temperature does not lead to forest and field fires in the region.

The weather modification technology was also stepped-up following a decision by acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi “Andi” Rachman to extend the forest and land fire emergency status until December 2015.

“We expect this will be effective in preventing the reoccurrence of the haze disaster that has hit Riau for the last 17 years,” Andi said after the launch of the operation together with National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Syamsul Maarif in Pekanbaru on Monday.

Andi reminded his listeners of the negative impacts of the haze disaster in 2013 on the region’s economy, health and education.

During the haze disaster, he said, thousands of students were sent home.

“We don’t want this to be repeated. That’s why all elements in the community are expected to be side by side with the government and other stakeholders to conduct early forest and field fire preventive and mitigation measures,” he said.

Syamsul Maarif said that BNPB had allocated Rp 15 billion in funds for the development beginning on June 26 of 103 canal blockings in Rokan Hilir, Siak and Bengkalis regencies.

“The development of the canal blockings in the regencies is aimed at increasing the wetness of the areas thus making them difficult to set ablaze,” Syamsul said.

Indonesia pre-empts haze by cloud seeding to induce rain
As the dry season sets in, Jakarta is taking steps to keep haze in check
WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA Straits Times 24 Jun 15;

WITH temperatures rising and the dry season setting in, Indonesia has taken the pre-emptive step of cloud seeding to induce rain in a bid to keep haze under control.

The country's forest fires give rise to haze that has posed a persistent environmental problem not only for its people but also for its neighbours Malaysia and Singapore.

President Joko Widodo issued an ultimatum to all stakeholders last November to resolve the issue of forest fires, especially in Sumatra's Riau province.

Starting this week, a Casa C-295 aircraft loaded with about four tonnes of salt has been deployed to fly over Central Sumatra to search for clouds to seed.

"This week, the weather is very dry and the clouds are small so they are not conducive for cloud-seeding. This is part of a cycle... Next week, we should get good results," Dr Heru Widodo, head of the weather modification team at the Indonesian agency for the assessment and application of technology, told The Straits Times.

"The clouds good for seeding are those that look like cauliflower," Kompas daily quoted Mr Sutrisno, a flight scientist who goes by one name, as saying.

The pre-emptive move in Riau comes as Sumatra is seeing higher temperatures because of the El Nino effect, which can bring drought to Asia and wetter and cooler summers to parts of North America.

In the past three days, the temperature in Riau has reached 34 deg C, up from the normal range of 32 to 33 deg C, according to Ms Yesi Christy, an analyst at the weather agency in Pekanbaru, the provincial capital of Riau.

It will only get hotter in the coming weeks, she told The Straits Times.

Medan, the provincial capital of North Sumatra, recorded a high of 36 deg C, the Jakarta Post reported, citing a local weather agency official.

"This is already categorised as extreme because the normal temperature for these regions never exceeded 35 deg C," said Ms Lestari Purba, an analyst at the weather agency in Medan.

In June 2013, the worst haze in years shrouded Sumatra as well as Malaysia and Singapore, where air pollution shot to record high levels. In Pekanbaru, the temperature hit 37 deg C, the highest in more than 40 years.

The Riau region has just entered the dry season and is set to see minimum rainfall through next month and August, according to Ms Yesi, of the meteorology, climatology and geophysics office in Pekanbaru.

Indonesia expects the dry weather to continue until December.

Annual cross-border air pollution caused by uncontrolled land clearing in Indonesian plantations has been a source of unhappiness among Indonesia's neighbours, until Jakarta ratified the 2002 Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution last September.

Under the agreement, countries have to cooperate in taking measures to prevent, monitor and mitigate the haze by controlling the sources of fires, in exchanging information and technology, and in helping one another manage outbreaks.

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Indonesia: NTT farmers urged to brace for El Nino-induced drought

Antara 22 Jun 15;

Kupang (ANTARA News) - Farmers in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Province have been urged to brace for El Nino-induced drought expected to hit from June until November 2015.

"There is no need to panic but instead to brace for the possibility by preparing land to plant crops that can be harvested in a short period of time," Head of the NTT agricultural and plantation office Yohanes Tay Ruba stated here, Monday.

He suggested the local farmers to plant paddy of INPARI 19 variety that can be harvested in 94 days.

The farmers are also urged to use the rain harvesting system to collect water.

He pointed out that paddy and corn plants are most likely to be affected by El Nino.

The Indonesian Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG) and the National Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) have forecast that drought due to El Nino might occur from June to November this year and affect 18 provinces across the country.

"It means that drought caused by El Nino will coincide with the planting season in the dry season, which is April-September. We need to implement particular measures to anticipate the impacts of the El Nino heat wave on crops," Moch Syakir, the head of the research and development department of the agriculture ministry, said recently.

The people of NTT are apprehensive about the threat of the weather phenomenon El Nino, which has almost every year left a scene of disasters in that province.

Ruba noted that 17 of the 22 districts in NTT were always hit by the heat waves caused by El Nino every year.

The 17 districts are Ende, Lembata, Alor, Sumba Timur, Sumba Tengah, Kupang, Nagekeo, Flores Timur, Sabu Raijua, Sumba Barat, Sumba Barat Daya, Sikka, Timor Tengah Utara (TTU), Timor Tengah Selatan (TTS), Belu, Malaka, and Sikka.

Only five districts: Ngada, Manggarai Barat, Manggarai, Manggarai Timur, and Kota Kupang would escape the drought disaster, he added.

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Conservation successes overshadowed by more species declines – IUCN Red List update

IUCN 23 Jun 15;

Successful conservation action has boosted the populations of the Iberian Lynx and the Guadalupe Fur Seal, while the African Golden Cat, the New Zealand Sea Lion and the Lion are facing increasing threats to their survival, according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Ninety-nine percent of tropical Asian slipper orchids – some of the most highly prized ornamental plants – are threatened with extinction.

Today’s update also shows that over-collection and habitat destruction are placing enormous pressure on many medicinal plants.

The IUCN Red List now includes 77,340 assessed species, of which 22,784 are threatened with extinction. The loss and degradation of habitat are identified as the main threat to 85% of all species described on the IUCN Red List, with illegal trade and invasive species also being key drivers of population decline.

“This IUCN Red List update confirms that effective conservation can yield outstanding results,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General. “Saving the Iberian Lynx from the brink of extinction while securing the livelihoods of local communities is a perfect example."

“But this update is also a wake-up call, reminding us that our natural world is becoming increasingly vulnerable. The international community must urgently step up conservation efforts if we want to secure this fascinating diversity of life that sustains, inspires and amazes us every day.”

Following six decades of decline, the population of the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) increased from 52 mature individuals in 2002 to 156 in 2012. The species has now moved from the Critically Endangered to Endangered category on the IUCN Red List. This was achieved thanks to intensive conservation action including the restoration of rabbit populations – the main prey species of the Iberian Lynx - monitoring for illegal trapping, conservation breeding, reintroduction programmes and compensation schemes for landowners, which made their properties compatible with the habitat requirements of the Iberian Lynx. The species can be found in two regions of southwestern Spain as well as southeastern Portugal, which hosts its small reintroduced population.
“This is fantastic news for the Iberian Lynx, and excellent proof that conservation action really works,” says Urs Breitenmoser, Co-Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cat Specialist Group. “However, the job is far from finished and we must continue our conservation efforts to secure future range expansion and population growth of the species.”

The Guadalupe Fur Seal (Arctocephalus townsendi), which was twice thought to be Extinct due to hunting in the late 1800s and 1920s, has now improved in status. It has moved from the Near Threatened category to Least Concern thanks to habitat protection and the enforcement of laws such as the USA Marine Mammal Protection Act. The species’ population rebounded from some 200 to 500 individuals in the 1950s to around 20,000 in 2010. Prior to exploitation for its dense, luxurious underfur, the Guadalupe Fur Seal was likely the most abundant seal species on the islands of southern California, with a population estimate of 200,000.

According to the update, several mammals are facing increased threats from hunting and habitat loss. The extremely reclusive African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata) has moved from Near Threatened to Vulnerable due to population decline. The New Zealand Sea Lion (Phocarctos hookeri) – one of the rarest sea lions in the world – has moved from Vulnerable to Endangered, mainly due to disease, habitat modification caused by fishing, and accidental death as a result of bycatch. The species has never recovered from the severe population depletion which occurred due to commercial hunting early in the 19th century.

Despite successful conservation action in southern Africa, the Lion (Panthera leo) remains listed as Vulnerable at a global level due to declines in other regions. The West African subpopulation has been listed as Critically Endangered due to habitat conversion, a decline in prey caused by unsustainable hunting, and human-lion conflict. Rapid declines have also been recorded in East Africa – historically a stronghold for lions – mainly due to human-lion conflict and prey decline. Trade in bones and other body parts for traditional medicine, both within the region and in Asia, has been identified as a new, emerging threat to the species.

Assessments of all 84 species of tropical Asian slipper orchid – some of the most beautiful ornamental plants – show that 99% of the species are threatened with extinction, primarily due to over-collection for horticultural purposes and habitat loss. All international commercial trade in these species is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). However, highly damaging illegal trade continues due to a lack of adequate enforcement at national levels. Although these species are mostly represented in cultivated collections, their loss in the wild will have major impacts on their genetic diversity and the species’ continued existence. For example, the Purple Paphiopedilum (Paphiopedilum purpuratum), a rare species found in Viet Nam, China and Hong Kong, is listed as Critically Endangered. Threats include habitat fragmentation and degradation, and ruthless collection in the wild for the regional and international horticultural trade.

Forty-four Indian species of medicinal plant have been added to the IUCN Red List in this update. All are threatened with extinction, mainly due to over-collection and habitat loss. Aconitum chasmanthum, a highly toxic plant endemic to the Himalayan region of India and Pakistan, is listed as Critically Endangered due to unsustainable collection of tubers and roots, as well as habitat loss from avalanches and the construction of high-altitude roads. The roots and tubers, which contain alkaloids, are used in Ayurvedic and homeopathic medicine and are collected in huge quantities.

Two species of crab, Karstama balicum and Karstama emdi, have been listed as Critically Endangered as their only known habitat – Bali’s Giri Putri Cave – is threatened by increasing tourism and religious ceremonies carried out in the cave. Studies of the crabs are being carried out in order to identify appropriate conservation strategies.

Of the 143 species of goby assessed in the Caribbean region, 19 are threatened with extinction mainly due to a 59% decline in coral reef habitat between 1979 and 2011, and the invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans). Gobies are one of the largest families of marine fish. They comprise more than 2,000 species, including some of the smallest vertebrates in the world, such as the Critically Endangered Dwarf Pygmy Goby (Pandaka pygmaea), which is only 1 to 1.5 cm long. The Peppermint Goby (Coryphopterus lipernes), which grows to a maximum of 3 cm, has been listed as Vulnerable. Previously listed as Least Concern, the Glass Goby (Coryphopterus hyalinus) is now Vulnerable due to increased threat from the invasive Lionfish.

Whilst no new species have been listed as Extinct, 14 species have been assessed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct). These include the evergreen Magnolia emarginata, a tree endemic to Haiti, which has suffered from an estimated 97% reduction of its forest habitat during the last century. Ten species of orchid endemic to Madagascar, such as the white flowering Angraecum mahavavense, have also entered The IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) primarily due to loss of forest habitat and illegal collection.

“It is encouraging to see several species improve in status due to conservation action,” says Jane Smart, Director, IUCN’s Global Species Programme. “However, this update shows that we are still seeing devastating losses in species populations. The IUCN Red List is the voice of biodiversity telling us where we need to focus our attention most urgently – this voice is clearly telling us that we must act now to develop stronger policy and on-the-ground conservation programmes to protect species and halt their declines.”

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New poll urges UNESCO to defend the Great Barrier Reef

WWF 24 Jun 15;

London – A poll conducted in six countries shows widespread opposition to the potential industrial destruction of the reef, and strong support for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) holding the Australian government accountable for safeguarding it.

Governments will gather in Bonn, Germany beginning on Sunday for the annual meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The member states will consider urgent actions needed to secure the reef’s long-term health and to protect it from reckless industrialization. Five of the countries polled currently sit on the 21-member committee.

When asked what actions they would support their governments’ taking at the meeting, over three-quarters of respondents chose “calling on UNESCO to maintain strong oversight of the condition of the reef until its health has been secured” (77 per cent). A clear majority also wanted their countries to declare support for the protection of the reef (73 per cent) and to hold the Australian government accountable (70 per cent).

“This survey shows that people want their national leaders, the international community and their fellow citizens to safeguard World Heritage Sites like the reef. When the guardians of these precious places meet next week, we urge them to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef and sites like it are safe from industrial threats in the future,” WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said.

Of over 6,000 people polled, 83 per cent expressed concern about the Great Barrier Reef being damaged by industrial activities, such as the expansion of megaports and increases in shipping traffic. Respondents ranked pollution and industrialization as the two greatest threats to natural World Heritage Sites globally.

Plans to allow industrial expansion near the reef have resulted in reputational damage to those involved, according to the survey. A majority of those polled now have a more negative opinion of the Australian government (58 per cent), the companies carrying out industrial activities around the Great Barrier Reef (65 per cent), and the banks underwriting them (60 per cent).

“People across the world recognize that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the planet’s richest treasures. They are worried about its future and outraged that it is being put at risk,” O’Gorman said. “A majority of people say that industrial activities impacting the reef or other World Heritage Sites should not be allowed, and that they want companies to adhere to standards for responsible business conduct.”

An overwhelming 94 per cent of those polled by research firm YouGov across the countries of Korea, Colombia, Poland, Finland, Germany and the UK said that it is important to protect natural World Heritage Sites from damage caused by industrial activities such as mining, drilling for oil and large-scale construction.

A total of 79 per cent believe that the government of the country where a World Heritage Site is located has a responsibility to protect it from industrial damage. Additionally, most think that UNESCO has a role (65 per cent), as do the citizens of the country (58 per cent).

Nearly 500,000 people have signed WWF’s petition asking world leaders to defend the reef and other World Heritage Sites under threat. WWF will deliver the signatures to the World Heritage Committee on its opening day Sunday

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