Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jul 15

22 August (Sat) morning: Free guided walk at Chek Jawa Boardwalk
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Javan Mynas Anting With Millipedes
Bird Ecology Study Group

How effective are conservation policies?
Nature rambles

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) @ Kranji
Monday Morgue

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How to educate your children

A trip to the history museum opens new vistas for kids but is it all a little too much?
Clara Chow Straits Times 27 Jul 15;

Wake up on a Sunday, convinced you have to do something educational with your children. Trawl websites for ideas.

Decide to go to Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Buy tickets online and print them out while still wearing your pyjamas.

Drag children, groaning, out of the house. Drive to the museum. Find it because it looks like a giant lump of moss-covered clay. Beat a beat-up Mazda to a prime parking space. Whole family cheers.

Hang out at the eco-roof garden until your allotted time of entry. Wrestle with the museum's official app. Point out mangrove plants in the garden, the spores on the underside of fern leaves and fish fry in the ponds. Natter on.

Look up, and realise that the kids are squinting at their father's iPhone screen in the bright sunlight. Throw a fit.

Go back downstairs; go through the turnstiles. Feel a slight sense of urgency: Everything must be examined in less than two hours, before your time is up.

Battle other parents to lift the almost-six-year-old up to the eye pieces of microscopes to look at bacteria. Keep opening your mouth to pontificate about fungi and molluscs. Keep stopping in mid-sentence, when you realise your kids have run off. Look sheepishly at strangers.

Give up and, alone, examine the bank of creatures preserved in jars along a back-lit wall. Marvel at sea whips, daisy sponges, fat-armed jellyfish and a Reeve's turtle - long dead, and suspended in chemicals and time. Gawk and shudder a little at worm specimens.

Flit back and forth between display case and wall captions - a busy bee soaking up facts. You are taller than most of the kids crowding around but you feel eight again. You remember the excitement of school excursions, the thrill of looking at something other than textbooks.

Try and ignore the fact that your two sons are having pretend lightsabre fights and running in circles somewhere in the biodiversity gallery, their footsteps echoing. Pretend not to know them.

Go for micro over macro. Remain strangely unimpressed by the expensive dinosaur bones rising like cranes up to the ceiling in the centre of the room.

Systematically catalogue every tiny cowrie shell and beetle with your eyes. Imagine you are a camera. Thai zebra tarantula. Click. Crucifix swimming crab. Click. Carpenter bee. Click.

File away facts to use, either casually in conversation or in some literary short story you will one day write: Jewel beetles (Chrysochroa toulgoeti) are shiny and metallic-looking, not because of pigmentation but because of the way their exoskeletons reflect light.

One of your children comes to you and begs to go home.

Too late, you remember that he has a deep phobia of snakes, and an aversion to other reptiles and insects. This effectively rules out more than two-thirds of the exhibits at the museum.

You tell him you will steer him to the mammal section.

Tell him it is safe there. You put your hands over his eyes, and your husband takes one of his hands, his younger brother the other and, together, the entire family - like some strange new eight-legged and six-eyed insect - crawl slowly, excruciatingly, across the atrium, under the mirthless gaze of the dinosaurs.

Along the way, you try to get your children to stroke a panel of possum fur because it is soft like a dream. The elder son screams because he spots a scrap of bleached snake skin right next to the fur.

You realise that sand dollars are actual living things - not lost money on the beach, which is what you always pictured them as being when reading about them in books.

The clash between old ways and philosophies, and new identities and nationalities, intensifies after you climb the stairs to the Heritage Gallery. Singapore founder Sir Stamford Raffles' stuffed birds and monkeys sit quietly, a few cabinets down from a drawer containing a Singapore $1 bill featuring a photo of a black-naped tern taken by Datuk Loke Wan Tho, who built up Cathay Organisation.

The children press buttons in the sound booth. They have exhausted the possibilities of the dinosaur app.

Standing in front of showcases, you wonder about the Victorian obsession for pigeonholing dead creatures into curio cases that the museum's collection sprung from. You laugh inwardly at the arrogance of men, colonial masters, trying to fix their world, insisting on stasis, even as Nature refuses to be pinned down. You see the error of your ways, trying to herd your children's imagination through life, so they learn the way you do.

Meditating in front of the jars of pickled snakes, you overhear one young man telling a few others that the python coiled up over there has two penises, and one of them is showing.

"Why?" you blurt out, before you can stop yourself.

"Why what?" he asks, startled.

"What is the second one for?" you ask.

"I don't really know," he replies.

Months later, you will still be wondering about this. You will look it up on the Internet and find an explanation: Female snakes are able to control which male snake they mate with will fertilise their eggs, so having two penises helps the male increase their sperm count, maximising their chances of reproduction. You will realise you need to wait for the younger son to grow up before you have someone to tell it to.

But in the museum, you nod at the young men, who scurry away from you, embarrassed.

What you must do next is this: Gather your children. Tell them it's time to go home. Stop by the gift shop if necessary, and buy yourself a piece of petrified wood.

Drive away, and cheer again as a family when you realise that parking is free. Promise yourself to do this again.

That some of it will sink in.

Some day.

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Corals relocated away from Tuas Terminal development thriving, says MPA

Adrian Lim Straits Times 26 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE - A project to relocate coral colonies to protect them from the impact of the Tuas Terminal development has yielded positive results, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said on Saturday.

The corals were moved from the Sultan Shoal, southwest of Singapore, to three southern sites at St John's and Sisters' Islands, from September 2013 to August 2014.

About 80 per cent, or 2300 out of 2,800 coral colonies, were successfully moved, the MPA said. While the bigger corals were relocated to the three sites, over 1,200 small coral fragments were reared in coral nurseries set up at Lazarus Island and Kusu Island.

MPA said that 92 per cent have survived and grown in size of up to twice their original diameter. Around 420 coral fragments have also been transplanted and attached back to the substrate at Lazarus Island and Kusu Island.

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo said: "Even as we start reclamation works at Tuas to grow our port capacity, we are committed to carry out the works in a responsible and sustainable manner. Therefore, before any works started on the Tuas Terminal, we conducted an environmental impact assessment study in 2012. We then took immediate steps to mitigate the impact."

She was speaking at an event held at Marina South Pier to recognise volunteers who helped in the project.

About 50 volunteers participated in diving activities to harvest coral colonies, attach the relocated corals to the suitable solid substrates, and set up coral nurseries underwater.

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Malaysia: ‘Stop the logging around Taman Negara’

ONG HAN SEAN The Star 27 Jul 15;

JERANTUT: An environmental group and tourism operators are calling for a stop to aggressive logging at Taman Negara’s borders.

Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the rivers flowing into Sungai Tembeling had been severely affected by logging in the Ulu Tembeling forests.

“And these had intensified in the last three years,” she said.

“The logging is causing more loss than profit,” Shariffa said. “Sungai Pengau and Sungai Lau have become dirty from erosion run-offs and the sediments are flowing into Sungai Tembeling, making it shallow,” she said after visiting the logging sites here yesterday.

Shariffa urged the state government to halt logging in the area, saying it did not looked sustainable.

Pahang National Park Tourism Operators Association chairman Abdul Jalil Rahman said although the logging was outside Taman Negara, the effects were turning tourists away.

“From the feedback I received from tourists, they already got a negative impression upon entering Taman Negara because they had seen so many trailers carrying logs.

“Although the logging is not within Taman Negara, it is damaging to the park’s image,” he said.

Abdul Jalil said tourists also complained of over-development.

“The tourists expected to see a pristine rainforest but they left disappointed, complaining that they did not even see any animals.

“In the past, some tourists would even cry when they left Taman Negara but these days, repeat visitors are rare,” he said.

Abdul Jalil added that road construction to several villages here would seem to be for the people’s benefit. “But from the looks of it, the road is being used for transporting logs instead.”

Tour guide Roslan Abu Kassim, 50, claimed that the massive flood in Taman Negara last year was caused by Sungai Tembeling becoming too shallow.

“I fear it will be even worse this year.”

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Indonesia: S. Kalimantan on highest alert for wildfires

Antara 25 Jul 15;

Banjarmasin (ANTARA News) - Authorities of South Kalimantan have declared the highest alert status for wildfires that have been proliferating due to extreme dry weather conditions over the past several weeks.

On Thursday (July 23), 19 hotspots were detected, with the number increasing every day, Head of the Forest and Plantation Fire Unit of the Natural Resources Conservation Office of South Kalimantan Zulkarnain said here on Saturday.

"Due to extreme weather conditions, South Kalimantan is now in the state of highest alert for wildfires," he added.

Personnel of forest fire units in the three districts of Tanah Bumbu, Tanah Laut, and Banjar are focusing on dousing the existing flames, Zulkarnain affirmed, adding that most of the existing fires in South Kalimantan are in peat lands.

Moreover, the Indonesian government is gearing up to face the effects of the predicted weak to moderate El Nino, which could reduce precipitation by 40 to 80 percent.

This natural phenomenon will affect the provinces of Sumatra, East Java, Bali, West and East Nusa Tenggara, and Papua in particular, from June to November this year.

In addition, hundreds of hotspots indicating wildfires were reported in some provinces of Sumatra Island, which is currently experiencing a dry spell, with temperatures soaring to 35 degrees Celsius.

Based on data from the NOAA-18 Satellite, as many as 1,470 hotspots were detected across Sumatra Island in the period between January 1 and June 16. Of the total, 621 were found in Riau province.

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Indonesia: Long dry season has affected West and Central Java

Ganug Nugroho Adi and Arya Dipa, 26 Jul 15;

Long dry season has affected 101 hectare rice fields in West Java and 30 villages in Wonogiri, Central Java.

Some 29,233 residents of 30 villages of Giritontro, Pracimantoro, Paranggupito, Manyaran, Eromoko, Nguntoronadi and Giriwoyo districts of southern Wonogiri have been struggling with water scarcity for the last two months, as the water levels of lakes, reservoirs and irrigation systems have subsided because of a lack of rainfall.

Wonogiri regent Danar Rahmanto said on Sunday that the regency actually manages seven reservoirs, but some of them have dried out.

"We will prioritize clean water distribution to areas hard hit by drought, [namely] Paranggupito, Pracimantoro, Eromoko, Manyaran, dan Giritontro," Danar said.

Separately, Wonogiri Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency executive Bambang Haryanto said that his agency had distributed 70 water tanks, with the capacity of 6,000 liters, to five districts gradually since early June.

Giritontro district head Joko Waluyo said that one family of five people needed about 50 liters of water per day. "Residents could only get some 20 liters during a water distribution schedule, which is not every day," he said. "Residents are thus forced to spend between Rp 70,000 [US$5.20] to Rp 150,000 for daily clean water."

Residents who could not afford the water were forced to dig deeper into dried reservoirs. "We need about half an hour of digging just to get 10 liters," said Daryati, 57, resident of Pucanganom of Giritontro district.

In West Java, 101,000 hectares of rice fields in 20 regencies and cities of Indramayu, Bogor, Subang, Cianjur and Bekasi were under threat of crop failure if no rainfall in the near future.

West Java Agriculture Agency head Diden Trisnadi said on Sunday that crop failure had occured in at least 121 hectares of rice fields in Subang and Cianjur.

"Irrigation could [usually] only save some 25 percent of dried rice paddies," said Diden.(+++)

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Investors could lose $4.2tn due to impact of climate change, report warns

Terry Macalister The Guardian 24 Jul 15;

Private investors stand to lose $4.2tn (£2.7tn) on the value of their holdings from the impact of climate change by 2100 even if global warming is held at plus 2C, a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has warned.

If firm action is not taken at the forthcoming climate change talks in Paris and the Earth’s temperature warms by a further 5C then investors are facing losses of almost $7tn at today’s prices, new research shows.

This is more than the total current market capitalisation of the London Stock Exchange with impacts on company holdings that will come not just through extreme weather damage but also through lower economic growth.

The report argued that financial regulators should properly recognise “systematic environmental risk”. It also called for a proper carbon price to be established as well as a tough new climate change treaty to be agreed in Paris.

The latest assessments of the rising risks posed to the global financial system lends enormous new weight to those who are already arguing that companies must be made to disclose their carbon emissions.

“Investors currently face a stark choice. Either they will experience impairments to their holdings in fossil fuel companies should robust regulatory action on climate change take place, or they will face substantial losses across the entire portfolio of manageable assets should little mitigation be forthcoming,” said Brian Gardner, the editor of an EIU report, entitled The cost of inaction: recognising the value at risk from climate change.

The $4.2tn figure is roughly the equivalent to the value of the world’s publicly listed oil and gas companies or the annual gross domestic product of Japan, the world’s third largest economy.

Nick Robins, co-director of the Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System at the UN Environment Programme said that financial markets are not treating the threat posed by climate change seriously enough. “We wouldn’t get on a plane if there was a 5% chance of the plane crashing,” he said. “But we’re treating the climate with that same level of risk in a very offhand, complacent way.”

The EIU concludes that there are widespread opportunities for investors to reduce their exposure to environmental risk – one way is to invest in projects that finance a transition to a lower carbon economy.

But it also believes that climate change is likely to represent “an obstacle” for many asset owners and managers to fulfil their fiduciary duties to act in the best interests of those who lend their cash to invest.

According to estimates by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, only 7% of asset owners calculate the carbon footprint of their investment portfolios and only 1.4% have an explicit target to reduce it.

The EIU follows warnings from the Bank of England about the financial risks posed to fossil fuel companies if global climate action renders their reserves of oil, coal and gas worthless. On Thursday, a report from the London assembly warned that the city was particularly vulnerable to financial risks posed by climate change because its economy is particularly well-connected globally.

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