Best of our wild blogs: 26 Aug 15

Help stop mass balloon event by Touch Community Service at Sentosa
wild shores of singapore

Grey-rumped Treeswift feeding chick just before fledging
Bird Ecology Study Group

Scarlet Skimmer mating and ovipositing
Bird Ecology Study Group

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'Occasional hazy conditions' expected at least till Wednesday

Occasional hazy conditions are expected for the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday, said NEA, adding that the 24-hour PSI may enter the low-end of the Unhealthy range.
Channel NewsAsia 25 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE: Hazy conditions are expected on Tuesday (Aug 25) and Wednesday, with prevailing winds forecasted to blow from the south or southeast, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) Tuesday evening.

"For the rest of today and tomorrow, occasional hazy conditions can be expected," said NEA, adding that thundery showers are forecast in the late morning and early afternoon on Wednesday.

"The 24-hr PSI is expected to be in the high-end of the Moderate range, but may enter the low-end of the Unhealthy range if the prevailing winds blow from the south or southwest," NEA added. The agency also said that the slightly hazy conditions in the afternoon was "blown in from Sumatra by the prevailing winds".

NEA said 152 hotspots were detected in Sumatra on Tuesday, down from 192 found on Monday.

The three-hour PSI at 7pm was 99, while the 24-hour PSI at 7pm was 80-89, which is in the Moderate range.

"Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, healthy persons should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion," said NEA. "The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion."

On Monday the three-hour PSI peaked at 91 in the afternoon, before falling to 82 at 7pm. The 24-hour PSI at 7pm on Monday was 70-76, due to prevailing winds blowing in haze from Sumatra, said NEA.

- CNA/ek

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Malaysia: National biodiversity policy being reviewed to include challenges to eco-tourism

New Straits Times 26 Aug 15;

PUTRAJAYA: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is currently reviewing the National Biodiversity Policy to include the importance of and challenges to the growing eco-tourism industry.

Its deputy minister Datuk Hamim Samuri said the policy balanced the need for conservation and introduced several targets for sustainable tourism.

He said in order to improve the value of eco-tourism sites and conservation efforts, the policy also indicated the need for sites to be internationally recognised, under UNESCO World Heritage, Ramsar (wetlands of international importance), Man and Biosphere (MAB) or East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership.

“For parks or eco-tourism sites to be self-sustaining, it must be able to generate income through various sources such as entrance or conservation fees and activity fees.

“One way to achieve this is to increase the yield from the existing foreign visitors, many of whom have expressed willingness for higher park entrance fees if the offerings of eco-tourism sites are enriched with a unique experience.”

Hamim said this at the Roundtable Dialogue on Sustainable Practices in Eco-Tourism, here, today.

He said that six recognised eco-tourism sites had attracted over one million foreign tourists each year.

The sites are Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre, the National Park in Pahang, Tioman Island, Royal Belum State Park, Kinabalu Park and Gunung Mulu National Park. --Bernama

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Malaysia: KL to discuss haze with Jakarta

The Star 26 Aug 15;

PETALING JAYA: Na­­tural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar will be meeting his Indonesian counterpart to tackle the issue of transboundary haze.

Parts of Malaysia, especially in Sarawak, have been affected by pollution from open burning in Indonesia.

He said there had been an increasing number of hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which led to recurring haze in Sarawak.

In a statement, Dr Wan Junaidi said the meeting would include negotiations to accelerate a memorandum of understanding on a bilateral prevention programme on transboundary haze pollution.

The Department of Environment’s (DOE) director-general on Monday had also written to his counterpart in the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry to express Malaysia’s concerns.

Malaysia has urged Indonesia to do more to tackle these fires.

Air quality in Malaysia improved yesterday. The Air Pollutant Index (API), as of noon, recorded good and moderate air quality in all areas, including three divisions in Sarawak, which recorded unhealthy readings the previous day.

However, Dr Wan Junaidi said there was still transboundary haze from West Kalimantan.

Satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admini­stration detected 192 hotspots in Indonesia, including 22 in Kalimantan.

A single hotspot was detected in Johor and the DOE is investigating the cause.

Dr Wan Junaidi urged the public to cooperate with the authorities and to report incidences of open burning to the Fire and Rescue Department by calling 999 and the DOE at 1-800-88-2727 (toll free).

Meanwhile, the air quality has improved in Sarawak following two afternoons of downpour.

However, satellite imagery at 10am yesterday showed the large number of hotspots were in West, Central and East Kalimantan provinces. Data from the Asean Specialist Meteorological Centre showed visible smoke plumes emanating from the hotspots.

The API fell from unhealthy to moderate levels between Monday and Tuesday in the northern area. As at 3pm yesterday, the API in Kuching was 89, with visibility hovering around 2km.

API readings of between 0 and 50 indicate good air quality; 51 and 100 (moderate), 101 and 200 (unhealthy), 201 and 300 (very unhealthy) and over 301 (hazardous).

The state Natural Resources and Environment Board has banned all open burning activities until a re-evaluation is carried out pending applications for open burning.

Board controller Peter Sawal said there had been “an alarmingly large number of hotspots detected” across the border over the past few days, which caused haze to border towns like Sri Aman, Serian, Bau, as well as Kuching and Samarahan.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department is forecasting dry mornings and nights with isolated thunderstorms in the afternoons for the next week in Sarawak.

In George Town, the haze has returned, with the department’s monitoring station in Bayan Lepas showing a drop in visibility levels from 7km at 8am to 4km at 11am.

The monitoring station in Butterworth also showed a decline in horizontal visibility, from 6km (8am) to 5km (11am).

A check yesterday found that Komtar and the Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal in George Town could not be seen from the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal in Butter­worth while the view of the Penang Bridge and the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge was also poor.

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Malaysia: Unhealthy air in several west coast areas

PATRICK LEE The Star 26 Aug 15;

PETALING JAYA: Residents of Port Klang woke up Wednesday morning breathing dirtier air than usual after the Air Pollutant Index touched 101 at 6am. The air started deteriotating since 3am with a reading of 102. By 7am, the API reading was 100.

API reading of 51-100 is considered moderate while 100 to 200 unhealthy.

The readings at Seri Manjung in Perak was 98 on Wednesday morning while most parts of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya saw API readings hovering between 90 to 97.

Other parts of the country saw "Moderate" API levels, with only a few (in Kelantan, Perlis and Sarawak) having "Good" levels.

The ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre website this morning showed dozens of fire hotspots in Indonesia's Sumatra and Kalimantan, with wind currents leading from there towards Malaysia.

Penang hit by haze

GEORGE TOWN: Penangites woke up to a hazy morning with the horizontal visibility level decreased sharply in Bayan Lepas, Penang.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department monitoring station in Bayan Lepas showed the visibility level decreasing from 7km at 8am to 4km at 11am.

The monitoring station in Butterworth also showed a decrease in horizontal visibility level from 6km (8am) to 5km (11am).

The Department of Environment online portal showed that the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings at its monitoring station in Seberang Jaya 2 recorded a constant increase from 49 (6am) to 50 (7am) followed by 51 (8am) and 53 at 11am.

The monitoring stations in Universiti Sains Malaysia recorded an API of 47 at 11am, while in the reading was Perai 35 (11am).

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Indonesia: Haze worsens in Riau and Jambi, schools shut down

Rizal Harahap and Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post 26 Aug 15;

Haze has worsened in the neighboring provinces of Riau and Jambi on Sumatra Island during the last few days, forcing local authorities to send students home.

In Riau, visibility continued to decrease.

Based on observations conducted by the Pekanbaru office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), visibility in the provincial capital on Tuesday morning was only 500 meters.

In Rengat and Dumai, visibility was 2 and 3 kilometers respectively.

“The haze has also negatively impacted the air quality in various regions in Riau. It is currently at moderate to unhealthy levels, or between 100 and 199 PSI,” head of the office’s data and analysis section, Slamet Riyadi, said on Tuesday.

He said the haze that is presently covering various regions in Riau came from provinces in southern Sumatra due to the wind that blew from the southeast to the west and the north throughout Riau.

Among the provinces blamed for having sent the haze to Riau were Jambi and South Sumatra, where 33 and 38 hot spots respectively were detected on Tuesday morning.

Slamet said that the Terra and Aqua satellites on Tuesday morning also detected six hot spots in Aceh, two in Lampung and one in Bengkulu.

“In total there were 85 hot spots detected across southern Sumatra,” he said, adding that the same satellites detected only four hot spots in Riau on Tuesday morning, one each in Indragiri Hulu, Indragiri Hilir, Kampar and Pekanbaru.

Thick haze forced two flights to hold for a while before landing at Pekanbaru Sultan Syarif Kasim II International airport. The airplanes were forced to wait in order for visibility to improve.

“Both the planes could finally land safely as the visibility increased to 1,000 meters,” the airport’s officer in charge Hasnan Siregar said, adding that the haze so far had not disturbed departure schedules.

Meanwhile in Jambi, haze forced the authorities in East and West Tanjungjabung regencies to send students home from Monday for an indeterminable time.

“The haze endangers the students’ health, and that is why we sent them home,” West Tanjungjabung Regent Usman Ermulan said on Tuesday, adding that the policy applied only up to junior high school students.

He said his administration also distributed free masks to people to help lessen the negative health effects of the haze.

“We will also ask the health agency a check on the haze content in the air to make sure of its security level,” he said.

Haze due to land fires also still covered the Mendahara Ulu district and East Tanjungjabung regency. Firefighters were still trying to extinguish the fire as of today.

“We decided to temporarily send students in the region home because we consider the haze dangerous,” head of East Tanjungjabung Education Agency’s elementary education division, P. Sidabutar, said.

He said the policy, which was applied only to pre-schools pupils and first and second graders, was made in anticipation of new problems that might emerge because of the thickening haze in Mendahara Ulu.

He said he could not yet determine when learning activities would return to normal.

He even said that if the haze worsened, there was a possibility that all the schools in the region would be temporarily shut down.

Haze disrupts flights to Pekanbaru 25 Aug 15;

Several flights had to circle around the Sultan Syarif Kasim Airport in Pekanbaru for 25 to 30 minutes on Tuesday morning due to thick haze caused by forest and brush fires.

“The flights were disrupted due to low visibility of 400 to 500 meters this morning,” said Hasturman, the head of operations for the airport’s operator Angkasa Pura II as quoted by Antara news agency.

Flights from Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Citilink are among those being disrupted by the haze. None have been diverted yet.

"Safety is our priority. If the visibility is below 1,000 meters and pilots cannot see the runway, then they are not permitted to land," said Hasturman.

According to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru, several regions were blanketed with a thick haze on Tuesday at 7 a.m. due to polluted air mixed with dew.

Besides Pekanbaru, Pelalawan is also experiencing thick haze with visibility of only 500 meters. Other cities such as Dumai and Rengat (Indragiri Hulu) are blanketed to a lesser extent, with visibility of two to three kilometers.

According to a spokesman for Riau's Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Edward Sanger, the thick haze seen in Pekanbaru and other regions is most likely due to fires in Jambi and South Sumatra.

He added there are currently 33 and 36 hot spots detected in Jambi and South Sumatra respectively.

According to the BMKG, Riau itself is currently home to two hot spots, in Kampar and Pekanbaru; a decrease from Monday when it had up to 15. (edn/kes)(++++)

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Researchers sample enormous oceanic trash vortex ahead of clean-up proposal

Emmett Berg Reuters Yahoo News 24 Aug 15;

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Researchers returned on Sunday from mapping and sampling a massive swirling cluster of trash floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as the Dutch-borne crew works to refine a clean-up strategy it will roll out globally.

The crew of the Ocean Cleanup, backed by volunteers in sailboats, ventured to areas of the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch", a swirling mass of human-linked debris spanning hundreds of miles of open sea where plastic outnumbers organisms by factors in the hundreds.

The debris, concentrated by circular, clockwise ocean currents within an oblong-shaped "convergence zone", lies near the Hawaiian Islands, about midway between Japan and the U.S. West Coast. The trash ranges from microscopic pieces of plastic to large chunks.

Working for about a month, the group collected samples as small as a grain of sand and as large as discarded fishing nets weighing more than 2,000 pounds. They mapped the area, using aerial balloons and trawling equipment to locate samples, said oceanographer Julia Reisser.

"We did three types of surveys in 80 locations, and now we are working on completing an up-to-date estimate of the size of the patch, making a chart of hot spots and publishing our findings by mid-2016," Reisser said.

View galleryA storage locker containing plastic garbage collected …
A storage locker containing plastic garbage collected during The Ocean Cleanup project is opened dur …
"There were hundreds of times more plastics in these areas than there were organisms," she added.

The reconnaissance trip is the brainchild of Ocean Cleanup's 21-year-old founder, Boyan Slat, and backed financially by's chief executive Marc Benioff, among other philanthropic and crowdsourcing initiatives which brought in some $2.2 million, according to Ocean Cleanup.

The next phase, planned for 2016, is the deployment in Japanese coastal waters of a 2,000-meter scale model of the group's proposed debris collection system, which researchers believe could extend for 60 miles (96 km).

That system will contain floating stationary booms tethered to the ocean floor and linked in a V shape intended to skim and concentrate surface plastics floating on top of ocean currents.

Slat, a Dutch inventor who gained attention as a teenager when he developed the floating boom system which uses technology used for anchoring deep sea oil rigs, said the project would be situated in international waters, away from shipping lanes.

The cost of the reconnaissance expedition and the debris collection system was not disclosed. Critics say the system is too costly or unlikely to function as designed.

(Reporting by Emmett Berg in San Francisco; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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Last Sumatran rhino in the US to be sent to Indonesia to mate

Associated Press in Cincinnati The Guardian 25 Aug 15;

An Ohio zoo that has the last Sumatran rhino in the US on Tuesday announced plans to send the endangered species to south-east Asia on a mission to mate.

Conservation experts at the Cincinnati Zoo say eight-year-old Harapan will soon be on his way to Indonesia, where nearly all of the estimated 100 remaining Sumatran rhinos live. Numbers of the two-horned descendants of Ice Age wooly rhinos have fallen by some 90% since the mid-1980s as development of their south-east Asia forest habitat and poachers seeking their prized horns took their toll.

Cincinnati’s zoo has been a pioneer in breeding the species, producing the first three born in captivity in modern times. Harapan will join the eldest, Andalas, who has been in Indonesia since 2007 and has produced one male offspring. Andalas will turn 14 next month.

“We are very sad about the [Sumatran rhino] program coming to an end here in Cincinnati,” Terri Roth, the longtime head of the zoo’s Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife, told the Associated Press. “It’s a huge loss for us. But it’s the right thing, to at least have Harapan able to contribute to survival of the species.”

She said final details and permits are still being worked out, but it’s expected Harapan will be flown to Jakarta, then taken by ferry to his ancestral island home of Sumatra.

Harapan and Andalas’s sister, Suci, died from illness last year at the zoo, after the conservationists had earlier discussed trying to mate the siblings in a desperate move. Harapan was brought back to Cincinnati two years ago after being on loan to the Los Angeles Zoo.

Andalas lives at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary with three females and his one male offspring, born in 2012, on the Indonesia island. With three Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia and Harapan, there are only nine in captivity globally.

Conservationists and government officials gathered in Singapore in 2013 for a Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit to discuss increasing action to protect the species.

Environment ministry officials in South Africa, home to most of the world’s remaining rhinos overall, reported a total of 393 rhino poachings through April, an increase of more than 20% over the same period in 2014. Rhino advocates said recently they believe the losses are even higher.

South Africa has struggled to counter poaching syndicates cashing in on rising demand for rhino horns in parts of Asia where some people believe they have medicinal properties for treating everything from hangovers to cancer.

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