Best of our wild blogs: 1 Sep 15

Changi shores changing?
wild shores of singapore

Grey-rumped Treeswift feeding chick – on video
Bird Ecology Study Group

The Giant Mahang (Macaranga gigantea)
Bird Ecology Study Group

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Boy hurt after tree crashes into flat

Yeo Sam Jo, The New Paper AsiaOne 1 Sep 15;

UPROOTED: The tree fell around 6pm and crashed into Block 243 in Pasir Ris Street 21 on Sunday, damaging the second- to fourth-floor units. Photo: Stomp

An 11-year-old boy was taken to the hospital on Sunday, after a tree uprooted and fell on a Housing Board block in Pasir Ris.

The incident took place around 6pm at Block 243 in Pasir Ris Street 21. The tree, which residents said was about 10 storeys tall, smashed and damaged the windows of three units in the block.

A spokesman for the Singapore Civil Defence Force dispatched one fire engine, one red rhino and an ambulance to the scene.

The boy, Sheik Sheqal Muhd Fazel, was getting a drink from a fridge at the balcony of his grandparents' second-floor flat when he heard someone from outside yell.

"When I looked behind me, the tree just crashed in," Sheqal told The Straits Times yesterday. He was struck on the head by a branch.

Although there was no visible wound, he was taken to KK Women's and Children's Hospital for outpatient checks.

His aunt, Nurul Nadiah Mohamed Aris, 26, was also in the flat when the tree fell. The childcare teacher said: "We heard a loud crash. We were so scared, we thought it was an earthquake.

"It's strange because the weather was calm and there was no rain when it happened."

Madam Nadiah added that glass from the windows shattered all over the living room and the window grilles were bent out of shape. Red ants from the tree also entered the flat.

It was a close shave for her mother, Zainah Ahmad Hariri, 55, who would usually rest on a couch just by the shattered windows.

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Malaysia: Use IVF for rhinos -- The Borneo Rhino Alliance

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 1 Sep 15;

KOTA KINABALU: The Borneo Rhino Alliance has suggested that in-vitro fertilisation be done to help in the breeding of the nearly extinct Sumatran rhinoceros in Sabah.

“We can use in-vitro fertilisation if the animals can’t mate naturally,” said alliance head Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne.

He believed that the odds of the rhinos’ survival were not stacked against them if all parties remained focus on saving the animals.

Continuous effort must be taken if the first trial fails, he added.

A report in Oryx, an international journal on conservation, stated that the animal had disappeared from Malaysian jungles while there were only three Sumatran rhinos in captivity in the country.

However, all the three rhinos have problems in their reproductive systems and are unable to breed.

Payne said that poaching was usually the main cause of an extinction of an animal, but it was not so for the rhinos.

He attributed the decline of the rhinos to their low birth rate.

A file picture of Puntung when she was first caught in Tabin. (Aug 31)(picture goes with story slug kksmate31)
Puntung when she was first caught in Tabin.
Past reports have stated that in-vitro fertilisation had been carried out successfully with animals like pandas in China.

He said that the Government’s decision to discuss the conservation of the Sumatran rhinos with Indonesia could yield positive results if both parties were committed to the cause.

“There are still some 100 rhinos left in Indonesia. There are males and females in this remaining numbers, so the chances of creating baby rhinos are still there, he said.

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Hotspots in neighbouring Sumatra increase from 29 to 222

AsiaOne 31 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE - The number of hotspots detected in the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sumatra has increased from 29 to 222 as of today (Aug 31).

"The (earlier) low hotspot count was due to cloud cover over parts of the island," the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in its daily update.

The nearly eight-fold increase comes amidst reports of haze plaguing the region.

NEA said in a tweet at 8.50pm that moderate to dense haze was observed in wide swathes of southern and central Sumatra, which lies to the west of Singapore. Moderate haze was also visible in Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra.

However, Singapore's 3-hour PSI dropped slightly at 8pm from 63 to 59, which falls in the moderate range.

NEA also said in an earlier tweet that the 24-hr PSI for tomorrow is expected to remain in the moderate range, and that there may be an occasional slight haze if winds blow from the south.

'Some deterioration' in haze situation in Sumatra: NEA
A total of 222 hotspots were discovered in Sumatra on Monday (Aug 31), marking a "deterioration" in the haze situation there, the National Environment Agency says in an advisory.
Channel NewsAsia 31 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE: A total of 222 hotspots were discovered in Sumatra on Monday (Aug 31), marking a "deterioration" in the haze situation there, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in an advisory.

This is a sharp increase from 29 hotspots found on Sunday. “Widespread moderate to dense haze was observed in southern and central Sumatra (on Monday),” NEA said.

Prevailing winds are forecast to blow from the southeast on Tuesday. NEA said there may be “occasional slight haze” in Singapore on Tuesday if prevailing winds shift to blow from the south.

NEA said the 24-hour PSI on Monday as of 8pm stood at 56-62, which is in the Moderate range. It added that the 24-hour PSI in the next 24 hours is expected to be in the Moderate range as well.

- CNA/dl

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Indonesia: Riau shrouded in smog as hot spots spring up

Rizal Harahap, 31 Aug 15;
Riau is presently being blanketed by thick smoke from hundreds of hot spots that have sprung up in the last few days.

Thick haze from land and forest fires is reported to have covered again several areas across the province after they had been almost completely distinguished in the past week.

Based on data collected by the Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG) from Terra and Aqua satellites on Monday morning, Riau had 164 hot spots that spread throughout nine regencies and municipalities across the province, up from 43 reported on the previous day. Indragiri Hilir has 77 hot spots, making it the regency with the highest number of hot spots. Indragiri Hulu ranks second with 31 hot spots, followed by Pelalawan (29), Siak (10), Bengkalis (six), Kampar (five), Dumai (three), Rokan Hilir (two) and Kuantan Singingi (one).

“Of the total, 120 hot spots have been identified as fire spots with a trust level of more than 70 percent. Indragiri Hilir has 64 fire spots, followed by Indragiri Hulu (22), Pelalawan (18) and Siak (seven). Bengkalis and Dumai have three fire spots each, followed by Kampar (two) and Rokan Hilir (one),” BMKG Pekanbaru head Sugarin said on Monday.

Despite such a drastic increase, he said, the number of hot spots in Riau was still far below the ones reported in Jambi and South Sumatra.

Citing BMKG data, he added, the number of hot spots in Jambi and South Sumatra had reached 250 and 247 respectively by Monday morning.

“In total, 759 hot spots are being monitored in Sumatra. The remaining 82 hot spots have been detected in Bangka Belitung, followed by six hot spots in West Sumatra and one hot spot in Bengkulu,” said Sugarin.

Citing reports from its monitoring post, the BMKG Pekanbaru said the worst visibility decline occurred in Pelalawan, in which haze smoke had reduced visibility to only 800 meters. In Pekanbaru, visibility reached one kilometer, while in Rengat, it reached two kilometers.

“Only Dumai has still had quite good visibility, reaching four kilometers. Shipping activities still run normally,” said Sugarin.

BPBD Riau head Edward Sanger said the thick smoke covering Riau was likely from land and forest fires in neighboring provinces. (ebf)

Haze delays flights at Kualanamu airport
The Jakarta Post 31 Aug 15;
The haze that has blanketed many parts of North Sumatra for the last three days has delayed several flights from the Kualanamu International Airport in Medan on Sunday.

The airport duty manager Jasirin said the haze which came from the Jambi, Riau and South Sumatra provinces, had delayed two Garuda Indonesia flights to Palembang, South Sumatra, and Sibolga, North Sumatra and a Wings Air flight to Sibolga. “The departures were postponed for about two hours since the destination airports were covered by the haze,” Jasirin told The Jakarta Post.

He admitted that the haze had also slightly blanketed the Kualanamu airport for the last three days. Nonetheless, he maintained that it was still considered normal and safe for the flights to arrive and depart from the airport.

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Malaysia: Huge spike detected in several hotspots in Kalimantan

YU JI The Star 31 Aug 15;

KUCHING: Over the weekend, there was a huge spike in the number of hotspots detected in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo.

On Saturday, a total of 190 hotspots were detected in all four provinces of Kalimantan.

It was the second highest number of hotspots this month after the 312 detected on Aug 19. The third highest was 174 on Aug 11.

In comparison, the number of detected hotspots in Sarawak and Sabah last Saturday was three.

Hotspot activities were elevated in Kalimantan and Sumatra, said the latest report from the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre based in Singapore.

"Scattered hotspots with moderate smoke haze continued to be visible in southern and eastern Kalimantan. Although the hotspot count was low in Sumatra due to cloud cover, moderate smoke haze were observed in central and southern Sumatra."

It reported four zones of moderate haze each on Kalimantan and Sumatra.

It noted the peak of the burning activities is usually in Aug and Sept, and in a seasonal Aug-Oct report, urged for vigilance to be stepped up for any escalation of fire activities.

"The prevailing El-Nino is projected to persist into early 2016, and is likely to strengthen in the coming months," according to the centre's outlook.

At 1pm Monday, Air Pollution Index (API) readings showed 30 monitoring stations in Malaysia in the moderate 51-100 zone.

Among the highest were Pelabuhan Kelang and Banting at 76. It was 58 for Kuching, with visibility at 6km. A day before, visibility was only 3km in the Sarawak capital.

The Sarawak Health Department issued an advisory on Sunday calling for more to take precautions.

"Stay indoors as much as possible and cut down on strenuous outdoor activities," said department director Dr Zulkifli Jantan, adding those prone to asthma attacks or with respiratory infections to be extra careful.

“Respiratory masks should be worn by all motorcyclists, people working outdoors (or those working in dusty environments) and those in the high risks groups who have to go outside.

"With dry weather, those with poor personal hygiene can get diarrhoea diseases. It is important to observe and practise good personal hygiene at all times," he said.

Low visibility over Malaysian waters until tomorrow
New Straits Times 1 Sep 15;

Low visibility over Malaysian waters until tomorrow 1 SEPTEMBER 2015 @ 12:36 AM KUALA LUMPUR: The low horizontal visibility below five kilometres due to haze over the waters off Perlis, Kedah, Pulau Pinang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and west of Johor is expected to continue until tomorrow (Sept 1).

The Malaysian Meteorological Department in a statement today said the same situation was also expected to happen over the waters off the Straits of Melaka and Kuching until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, thunderstorm activities occurring over the waters off Tioman and Reef South are expected to continue until tonight (Aug 31).

The statement said, this condition may cause strong winds of up to 50 kilometres per hour and rough seas with waves of up to 3.5 metres (11 feet) high would be dangerous to small boats. – BERNAMA

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Indonesia: Sustainable Tourism Seen as Key to 'Coral Triangle' Conservation

Jakarta Globe 31 Aug 15;

Jakarta. Business and government leaders from six Asia-Pacific countries in the so-called Coral Triangle zone have called for the adoption of sustainable tourism guidelines and standards for development and investment in protected maritime zones.

The 4th Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) Regional Forum gathered representatives from six pioneering countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste — in Nusa Dua, Bali, from Thursday till Saturday.

In a policy round table at the forum, participants agreed that guidelines for sustainable tourism in the Coral Triangle could be largely built upon existing globally available guidelines, but with some tailored components specific to local conditions and revised to be made relevant to all potential tourism-related sectors.

These guidelines include those established by international organizations such as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, according to a statement obtained by the Jakarta Globe on Monday.

Francis Lee, president of Singaporean resort Raffles Marina who was among the forum speakers, said that the adoption of standards for investments would not only boost efforts to conserve marine resources but also create shared values.

"Value creation, recognition, integration, management and realization, are imperative to sustainability, as they are to development," said Lee.

Businesses also urged the governments of the six nations involved to work with the private sector and offer appropriate incentives -- or remove disincentives -- to encourage them to utilize sustainability standards.

“The private sector needs to understand that no tourism is possible without sustainability, but when the government lacks resources, the private sector should stand hand in hand to protect the area,” Ismail Ning, chairman of the Indonesian Marine Tourism Association (Gahawisri), said in the statement.

The participants also endorsed a plan to create a tourism branding and marketing mechanism for specific areas in the Coral Triangle that meets sustainable marine tourism standards. Such a mechanism should also reflect the values of the Coral Triangle countries and ensure a high-quality visitor experience.

"We hope that the three-day forum will provide solid recommendations that allow more stakeholders to be more committed in practicing sustainable marine tourism at their respected countries, for the long run,” said Widi Pratikto, executive director of the CTI-CFF regional secretariat.

The event was attended by more than 300 participants from over 20 countries, including high-ranking government officials such as the minister of tourism and culture from Malaysia Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, minister of tourism of Solomon Islands Bartholomew Parapolo and Indroyono Soesilo, the recently fired coordinating minister for maritime affairs who now serves as an honorary adviser to Indonesia's minister of tourism.

Key business players to maintain coral triangle sustainability
Desy Nurhayati, The Jakarta Post 1 Sep 15;

The private sector should take the lead in maintaining the sustainable development of the Coral Triangle area to ensure that the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity remains well conserved while it is concurrently introduced as a major tourist destination, experts suggested during a recent regional business forum.

During the 4th Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security forum (CTI-CFF) held from Aug. 27 to Aug. 29 in Bali, leaders and experts representing business, government and NGOs met to map out policies, strategies and solutions to promote sustainable marine tourism in the Coral Triangle region, which spans the sea regions of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste.

One of the key themes of the forum was how to effectively promote and support the private sector to play a greater role in supporting responsible and sustainable tourism in the region. The region gets its name from the scientific delineation around the waters which contain more than 500 species of reef-building coral.

Bali-based Coral Triangle Center executive director Rili Djohani said marine tourism in the Coral Triangle region had steadily grown in the past couple of years, putting the ecosystem at risk due to the direct and indirect impact of tourist activity.

“We need to ensure that marine tourism in the region remains sustainable. The tourism industry should implement codes and standards to ensure that the fragile ecosystem on which tourist activities depend will remain protected and sustained for generations to come,” Rili said on the sidelines of the event.

The executive director of Conservation International Indonesia, Ketut Sarjana Putra, meanwhile, said companies must propose environmentally-friendly business practices in order to be able to operate in the Coral Triangle area.

By working together with local communities, authorities, as well as NGOs, the private sector, according to Ketut, could support conservation efforts while at the same time keep their business profitable.

“The private sector should play a greater role, and take the lead in developing the Coral Triangle as one of the world’s sustainable marine tourist destinations,” he told The Jakarta Post.

It is estimated that more than 85 percent of the reefs in the Coral Triangle are directly threatened by human enterprise, with the greatest local threat coming from overfishing, watershed-based pollution and coastal development. Meanwhile, data from the World Travel and Tourism Council showed that the travel and tourism industry in the Coral Triangle’s countries had a tremendous economic impact on the region. Approximately US$3 billion in coastal tourism revenues are derived from the region.

Indonesian Marine Tourism Business Association (Gahawisri) chairman Ismail Ning welcomed the call for business players to contribute more to marine conservation efforts.

“The private sector needs to understand that no tourism will happen without sustainability. When the government lack resources, the private sector should step up and protect the area,” he said.

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Indonesia looks to increase emissions cut pledge ahead of Paris meet

Michael Taylor PlanetArk 1 Sep 15;

Indonesia is looking to increase its current pledges on cutting emissions growth, a senior government adviser said on Monday, with a final decision likely by mid-September.

Home to the world's third-largest tropical forests, and the biggest palm oil producer, Indonesia will have a key role at the United Nation's Paris climate conference late this year, which is designed to reach a plan to reduce global warming.

"We intend to increase the contribution and we will do so," Rachmat Witoelar, President Joko Widodo's special envoy for climate change, told Reuters. "But we have to figure out the timeline."

Indonesia is among the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters because of deforestation, peatland degradation and forest fires.

Southeast Asia's largest economy is under international pressure to curb deforestation and the destruction of carbon-rich peatlands and forests that many palm oil and mining companies say they need for expansion.

Under Widodo's predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the country imposed a moratorium on clearing forest under a $1-billion climate deal with Norway, and committed to curb emissions growth by 26 percent by 2020 or up to 41 percent with cash and other support from rich nations.

Witoelar, who was in the same role under Yudhoyono and is a former minister for the environment, was unable to give a figure on how much higher the emission targets may go, but said a 10-day consultation with stakeholders would soon begin with a final decision likely by mid-September.

Indonesia had cut its emissions growth beyond 13 percent at the half way stage of the current target timeline, he said, adding that geothermal power and public transport projects would help it reach 26 percent by 2020.

Widodo, who took office in October, has set ambitious infrastructure targets including a five-year plan to add an additional 35,000 megawatts of power capacity to the current 50,000 megawatts.

As the biggest exporter of thermal coal, the majority of these plants will likely be coal-powered, and last week Widodo was at the launch of the construction of Southeast Asia's largest coal-fired power plant in central Java.

"Even with that (power plant), we can fulfill," added Witoelar, speaking at his Jakarta offices after meeting Widodo to discuss the Paris conference agenda.

"We are convinced that if we don't increase the world emissions cuts, the planet will be destroyed."

(Editing by Richard Pullin)

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Plastic in 99 percent of seabirds by 2050

CSIRO Australia Science Daily 31 Aug 15;

Researchers from CSIRO and Imperial College London have assessed how widespread the threat of plastic is for the world's seabirds, including albatrosses, shearwaters and penguins, and found the majority of seabird species have plastic in their gut.

Researchers from CSIRO and Imperial College London have assessed how widespread the threat of plastic is for the world's seabirds, including albatrosses, shearwaters and penguins, and found the majority of seabird species have plastic in their gut.

The study, led by Dr Chris Wilcox with co-authors Dr Denise Hardesty and Dr Erik van Sebille and published today in the journal PNAS, found that nearly 60 per cent of all seabird species have plastic in their gut.

Based on analysis of published studies since the early 1960s, the researchers found that plastic is increasingly common in seabird's stomachs.

In 1960, plastic was found in the stomach of less than 5 per cent of individual seabirds, rising to 80 per cent by 2010.

The researchers predict that plastic ingestion will affect 99 per cent of the world's seabird species by 2050, based on current trends.

The scientists estimate that 90 per cent of all seabirds alive today have eaten plastic of some kind.

This includes bags, bottle caps, and plastic fibres from synthetic clothes, which have washed out into the ocean from urban rivers, sewers and waste deposits.

Birds mistake the brightly coloured items for food, or swallow them by accident, and this causes gut impaction, weight loss and sometimes even death.

"For the first time, we have a global prediction of how wide-reaching plastic impacts may be on marine species -- and the results are striking," senior research scientist at CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Dr Wilcox said.

"We predict, using historical observations, that 90 per cent of individual seabirds have eaten plastic. This is a huge amount and really points to the ubiquity of plastic pollution."

Dr Denise Hardesty from CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere said seabirds were excellent indicators of ecosystem health.

"Finding such widespread estimates of plastic in seabirds is borne out by some of the fieldwork we've carried out where I've found nearly 200 pieces of plastic in a single seabird," Dr Hardesty said.

The researchers found plastics will have the greatest impact on wildlife where they gather in the Southern Ocean, in a band around the southern edges of Australia, South Africa and South America.

Dr van Sebille, from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, said the plastics had the most devastating impact in the areas where there was the greatest diversity of species.

"We are very concerned about species such as penguins and giant albatrosses, which live in these areas," Erik van Sebille said.

"While the infamous garbage patches in the middle of the oceans have strikingly high densities of plastic, very few animals live here."

Dr Hardesty said there was still the opportunity to change the impact plastic had on seabirds.

"Improving waste management can reduce the threat plastic is posing to marine wildlife," she said.

"Even simple measures can make a difference. Efforts to reduce plastics losses into the environment in Europe resulted in measureable changes in plastic in seabird stomachs with less than a decade, which suggests that improvements in basic waste management can reduce plastic in the environment in a really short time."

Chief Scientist at the US-based Ocean Conservancy Dr George H. Leonard said the study was highly important and demonstrated how pervasive plastics were in oceans.

"Hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world come face-to-face with this problem during annual Coastal Cleanup events," Dr Leonard said.

"Scientists, the private sector and global citizens working together against the growing onslaught of plastic pollution can reduce plastic inputs to help protect marine biodiversity."

The work was carried out as part of a national marine debris project supported by CSIRO and Shell's Social investment program as well as the marine debris working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, with support from Ocean Conservancy.

Journal Reference: Chris Wilcox, Erik Van Sebille, and Britta Denise Hardesty. Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing. PNAS, August 31, 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1502108112

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Climate change brings cyclone risk to Persian Gulf: study

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 1 Sep 15;

Climate change is bringing small risks that tropical cyclones will form in the Persian Gulf for the first time, in a threat to cities such as Dubai or Doha which are unprepared for big storm surges, a U.S. study said on Monday.

Tampa in Florida and Cairns in Australia, two places where cyclones already happen, would be increasingly vulnerable to extreme storms this century, according to the report, based on thousands of computer models.

The shallow and warm waters of the Persian Gulf, where cyclones have never been recorded, might generate the storms in future as a side-effect of global warming, according to the study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"You can't always rely on history" to predict the future, lead author Ning Lin of Princeton University told Reuters of the findings she reached with Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For the Persian Gulf the probability of cyclones "is very low but ... if you build a nuclear power plant you have to consider these things," she said.

For Dubai, for instance, a storm surge of 1.9 meters (6 feet and 3 inches) in height could be expected once every 1,000 years based on recent climate warming, and one of 4 meters (13 feet and one inch) once every 10,000 years, the scientists estimated.

They dubbed such extreme tropical cyclones "gray swans", saying they could not be predicted from history alone. The metaphor is inspired by "black swans", judged impossible by Europeans until they were found in Australia.

Some past studies have also pointed to risks of abrupt changes in the climate system linked to global warming, including that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer or that monsoon rains could veer off track.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a vice chair of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the build-up of greenhouse gases from human activities means more energy accumulates in the climate system.

"Bad climate surprises may happen," he told Reuters at U.N. talks in Bonn on a deal to slow climate change.

Monday's study said the closest cyclone to the Persian Gulf was in 2007, when Cyclone Gonu in the Arabian Sea struck Oman and Iran, killing 78 people and causing $4.4 billion in damage.

The study said that extreme hurricanes now likely to hit Tampa only once every 1,000 years, causing a storm surge of 4.6 meters, would occur every 60 to 450 years by the late 21st century. Cairns would also be vulnerable to worsening storms.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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