Best of our wild blogs: 8 Nov 15

Overnight Nature Camp on St. John’s Island
Cicada Tree Eco-Place

Herps in the Sky? – Part 2
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Life History of the Tree Yellow
Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At A Secret Place (7 Nov 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Making Our First Bid(a)
Winging It

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Nature's magic in metropolis

Singapore Invites, launched by the Singapore Tourism Board, encourages residents and people from around the world to invite their family and friends to experience Singapore together. In the third of a five-part series, nature lover Jonathan Tan shares a side of the country where different ecosystems co-exist in a harmonious manner
Jalelah Abu Baker Straits Times 8 Nov 15;

With its vibrant ecosystems and rich biodiversity, Singapore is a paradise for nature lovers, according to Mr Jonathan Tan, 20, a full-time national serviceman.

The seed of love for all things nature was planted after a school trip to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean when he was 16 years old.

There, he saw migrating red crabs earn their own "pedestrian" crossings, and something about how people on the island live as one with wildlife struck him.

The trip inspired him to seek out nature in Singapore, and as far as he is concerned, he has struck gold.

"We are in a modern metropolis where we have rainforest, coral reefs and mangroves within half an hour of the city centre," Mr Tan said, referring to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Southern Islands and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Further from the city centre are the Chek Jawa Wetlands on Pulau Ubin, an island off Changi Point in the eastern part of Singapore. There, Mr Tan, an aspiring ecologist, providesguided tours.

Chek Jawa is home to rich biodiversity, he said. When the lagoon there experiences low tide, marine life such as starfish, sea cucumbers and sea anemone can be spotted amid one of the largest seagrass meadows in Singapore.

At the same time, hornbills, sea eagles, snakes, monkeys and wild boars also make appearances.

"Animals here are used to humans, so they don't run away, whereas in other countries, where they are hunted, they hide," he said.

Chek Jawa is one of the places that Mr Tan would like to take his Korean friend, whom he has not seen for about two years, if she visits Singapore.

"It is where land and sea come together. They are not separate, but parts of a whole," he said, adding that one can find six different ecosystems, including mangrove forests, rocky shores and extensive seagrass beds, existing together.

One of his most memorable sightings on Chek Jawa is the blue dragon, a sea slug known for its electric blue feather-like covering.

It is such chance meetings that make places of nature so special. "What you hope to see, you don't see. Instead, what you aren't looking for just appears in front of you. That's kind of the magic of it," he said.

Those who are really lucky may even get to see sea snakes and dugongs, he added.

Chek Jawa is a 45-minute hike from the Pulau Ubin jetty. Bicycle rental and taxi services are also available for a small fee. A one-way ferry trip to Pulau Ubin from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal costs $3.

Besides Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin has other charming spots, too.

Abandoned quarries are good for spotting birds such as herons, and the Ketam Mountain Bike Park is the perfect environment for birds such as the blue-throated bee-eaters and baya weavers.

Durian lovers can also feast on the King of Fruits when it is in season - Ubin residents sell the creamy fruit from their own trees.

Apart from Pulau Ubin, other nature sites that Mr Tan would take his Korean friend to are the Southern Islands, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

On the fringe of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve are two trails, the Venus Loop and Mandai Forest, that are accessible at night. Visitors may chance upon owls, the sambar deer and civet.

On the beauty of Kusu Island, which is part of the Southern Islands, Mr Tan said: "You can be looking at coral in front of you, and further in the background are skyscrapers, the city and the Singapore Flyer."


What you hope to see, you don't see. Instead, what you aren't looking for just appears in front of you. That's kind of the magic of it.

MR JONATHAN TAN, a full-time national serviceman, on what draws him to Singapore's nature reserves Brought to you by the Singapore Tourism Board

Idyllic escape to Southern Islands
Jalelah Abu Baker Straits Times 8 Nov 15;

If Mr Jonathan Tan were to invite his Korean friend to Singapore, an idyllic getaway to the Southern Islands would certainly be part of their itinerary.

The Southern Islands, managed by Sentosa Development Corporation, include Kusu, St John's, Lazarus, Pulau Hantu and Sisters'. Getting to them requires taking a ferry at a fee. Visitors can swim, sail, go scuba-diving, snorkeland fishthere.

Kusu Island, which means Tortoise Island in Chinese, is most famous for its wishing well and Tortoise Sanctuary. It is also known as a pilgrimage spot.

St John's Island offers a magnificent view and has lodging which comes with a kitchen. The island is connected to the uninhabited Lazarus Island by a causeway. Lazarus was originally known as Pulau Sakijang Pelepah, or Island of One Barking Deer and Palms.

Pulau Hantu is made up of two islets - Hantu Besar (Big Ghost) and Hantu Kecil (Little Ghost). Both have shelters and picnic areas, while Hantu Besar also has two swimming lagoons and a public toilet with fresh water.

The Sisters' Islands are home to Singapore's first marine park, comprising Sisters' Islands and their surrounding reefs, and the western reefs of nearby St John's Island and Pulau Tekukor. The park's ecosystem supports marine life like coral, anemone, seahorses and fish.

Wildlife, forest and history by the reservoir
Straits Times 8 Nov 15;

One of Mr Jonathan Tan's favourite nature sites is the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the largest of the nature reserves in Singapore, covering more than 2,000ha of forest.

It houses the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park, where one can spot snakes, wild boar, flying dragons and, if lucky, the sub-species of the banded leaf monkey endemic to Singapore.

Officially opened in March 1912, it is Singapore's second reservoir. It was planned as an extension of the first reservoir, MacRitchie, to meet growing demand for water in Singapore.

Originally named the Kallang River Reservoir, it took on the name Peirce in 1922 in honour of the service of Mr Robert Peirce, municipal engineer of Singapore from 1901 to 1916.

It became known as Lower Peirce to distinguish it from a new upstream reservoir that was created in 1975.

The forest that lines Lower Peirce Reservoir's banks is considered a mature secondary rainforest and retains many rubber trees and oil palms.

In 1999, a 900m boardwalk, the Lower Peirce Trail, was opened for public use.

Following a policy change by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the water intake tower and bridge at Lower Peirce Reservoir were gazetted for conservation in December 2009.

Jalelah Abu Baker Straits Times 8 Nov 15;

Nature enthusiast Jonathan Tan offers ideas on how tourists can enjoy nature in Singapore.



Visitors may stay overnight on the island dotted with casuarina trees. They can watch the sun rise against the backdrop of the city.



The reserve is recognised as a site of international importance for migratory birds, some from as far as Siberia, to escape winter. It is well-known among birdwatchers.



From there, visitors will be treated to a view of Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong and Johor, Malaysia. It is also a good spot for reflection, according to Mr Tan.



Home to a family of otters, the park has streams where children can catch small fish with a net.

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Malaysia: Prolonged water rationing hurting Johor businesses

KATHLEEN ANN KILI The Star 8 Nov 15;

JOHOR BARU: Business owners here are upset with the prolonged scheduled water rationing, saying it has affected revenue for the past three months.

The affected ones are mostly those who run car wash outlets, laundry shops and restaurants. XL Car Wash and Polishing Centre owner Steven Er claimed that his profits had dipped by about 50% since the water rationing started.

“I faced losses of about RM4,000 in the first month. I decided to fork out RM1,000 to buy extra tanks to store up to 700 gallons of water.”

“My car wash service is now limited to 30 cars a day, which is half of my regular sale,” he said.

It has been reported that two dams in Johor were at critical level despite heavy rains of late.

Er, who has been operating his business for five years, said he hoped that Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ) would offer compensation by lowering the tariff for those affected.

A restaurant owner, who wanted to be known only as Ina, said she had to buy large containers to store water for her business along Jalan Permas 10 here.

“I have not resorted to buying water from commercial factories but if the problem persists, I may not have a choice,” she said.

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Indonesia: Consumers ready for sustainable palm oil

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 7 Nov 15;

Almost 8 million consumers, over a quarter of the Indonesian market, are willing to switch to sustainable palm oil products as long as they are properly informed and the products are widely available in the market, a recent study has found.

The study, the first to analyze the perception of Indonesian consumers regarding sustainable palm oil products, found that 27 percent of its 800 respondents would use sustainable palm oil products and were willing to pay extra for them.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), in collaboration with Daemeter Consulting, conducted the survey between May and October this year in five major cities: Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Medan and Palembang.

Of the 7.9 million consumers who they would use such products, 2.9 million were willing to support the cause by initiating and taking part in campaigns.

“From this highly committed group of people, more than 60 percent said that they were willing to buy sustainable palm oil products that were much more expensive [than regular ones],” Daemeter Consulting sustainability communications manager Leony Aurora said.

The rest said they were willing to buy only sustainable palm oil products.

Apart from the 7.9 million potential consumers, at least 13 million more consumers could be encouraged to switch to sustainable palm oil products, the report said.

“These people are referred to as ‘followers’ [...] Maybe we need a big-name celebrity to campaign for the cause. Most people in this group don’t want to pay extra [for sustainable palm oil products],” said Leony.

While the report acknowledges that there is a huge market and potential demand for sustainable palm oil in the country, a myriad of challenges remain ahead, including the fact that most customers do not have enough understanding of the concept of sustainability as well as the impact of unsustainable oil palm plantations.

“When we asked the respondents about the impact of palm oil, 37 percent said it had a positive impact while another 37 percent said there was no impact whatsoever. This is shocking because there is a disconnect between what the media is reporting [the negative impact of oil palm plantations] and consumers,” Leony said.

Of those who said that oil palm plantations had a positive impact, 31 percent said the plantations were beneficial to the environment.

“They believe they will reduce pollution and increase greenery. So they think planting [an oil palm] tree equals green equals good. Maybe the government’s program on planting trees is too successful so that the public thinks whatever trees are being planted is good [for the environment],” said Leony. “They’re overestimating the environmental benefit produced by monoculture plantations.”

On the other hand, only 4 percent believed that oil palm plantations had a negative impact, with 78 percent of them saying that they were destructive of the environment.

“The number who said palm oil plantations had a [negative] social impact was very small, only 7 percent. So media reporting on indigenous peoples has failed to resonate with the public,” said Leony.

RSPO global outreach and engagement director Stefano Savi said the palm oil industry in Indonesia should learn from the study.

“This is a great advantage, this means we can communicate the issue of sustainability without having the risk of emphasizing the negative aspects. So what are we waiting for? Let’s educate consumers,” he said.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia Market Transformation Initiative deputy leader Irwan Gunawan said palm oil firms should start a revolution in the industry by introducing more sustainable products into the market, instead of waiting for consumers to demand them.

“It’s always a question of chicken and egg. But for me, it’s the chicken [palm oil firms] who should first lay the eggs [sustainable palm oil products]. This is capital investment. In the first five years, you might bleed money, but after that you will reap the benefits,” he said.

— JP/Hans Nicholas Jong

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Indonesia: Navy remains on standby as haze pollution victims pass half-million mark

Tama Salim, The Jakarta Post 7 Nov 15;

The Navy will keep three of its vessels on standby for evacuations at the Banjarmasin base in South Kalimantan, as the number of people affected by respiratory illnesses resulting from air pollution surpasses half a million.

Navy chief of staff Admiral Ade Supandi said on Friday that three vessels would remain at the base for deployment in the event of deteriorating haze conditions that might prompt an immediate evacuation of residents.

“[They] remain on standby in Banjarmasin, the order hasn’t been revoked. You wouldn’t expect the Navy to leave, would you?” Ade told reporters at the Navy headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta.

Ade said the KRI Dr. Suharso, KRI Banda Aceh and KRI Teluk Jakarta — all landing platform dock-type (LPD) ships that can accommodate large groups of people — would remain in the vicinity until their services were no longer needed.

“We’re also there on standby patrol if required; the government has basically tasked us with the role of assisting mitigation efforts in relation to the health aspect, but we will also continue to carry out our regular defense duties for as long as the ships are at the naval base,” he explained.

Last month, the government declared a contingency plan after ongoing efforts to extinguish the fires had proved ineffective.

With thousands of people falling sick from the haze every week, the government saw few alternative solutions other evacuating people from the worst-affected areas.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Panjaitan said at the time that state officials were mulling the use of vessels belonging to the Navy and state-owned shipping line PT Pelni to accommodate residents for the next four to five months.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) announced on Friday morning that at least 556,945 people had been diagnosed with various forms of acute respiratory infections (ISPA) as a result of the pollution produced by forest and peatland fires.

According to BNPB spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, Jambi and South Sumatra provinces were the worst-affected areas, with the former recording 151,839 cases of ISPA and the latter with 115,484 victims.

In Riau province 81,958 cases were reported, 1,307 people contracted pneumonia and another 3,764 suffered from asthma. South Kalimantan, where the Navy ships are based, also reported a high occurrence of ISPA with around 95,000 cases.

Sutopo said that although the air quality had not yet returned to its normal level there was no need for evacuations.

Ongoing efforts to clear the haze and extinguish the persisting fires, which have razed almost 2 million hectares this year, have continued to produce varying results, with hotspots emerging despite some welcome rainfall earlier in the week.

On Friday, there remain 77 hot spots in Sumatra and 63 in Kalimantan. Visibility also differed from city to city, with Palembang once again being the worst-affected area with a visibility level of 1,200 meters.

— JP/Tama Salim

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Indonesia: Attorney General’s Office to scrutinize prosecution in haze cases

Tama Salim, The Jakarta Post 7 Nov 15;

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has set up a team to help prosecutors at the provincial level handle cases of individuals and companies involved in forest and peatland fires.

Attorney General M. Prasetyo said that the team would supervise how ongoing cases were being handled to ensure they yielded optimum results.

“The team will supervise all provincial prosecutor’s offices in the country,” Prasetyo said.

He said that all stages of prosecution needed to be strengthened — from drafting the indictment until the actual prosecution — as forest and land-fire cases had caused massive damage and material losses.

Prasetyo, however, said that the progress of forest-fire cases would continue to largely depend on the investigations initiated by the National Police.

National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti said earlier that several of the investigations into individuals allegedly involved in the forest burning had wrapped up and would soon be taken to court.

The police are currently working on 238 cases related to forest and peatland fires. Of the 238 cases, 191 involved individual perpetrators while 47 involved corporations, including a number of foreign companies.

The police have named 205 suspects in individual cases, and 11 suspects in the corporate cases. At least 72 people have been detained.

The AGO claimed to have only handled three cases pertaining to the forest fires, whereas regional prosecutor’s offices handled the rest.

Separately, the Research and Technology and Higher Education Ministry has come up with preventive measures that the government could use to deal with peatland and forest fires.

According to Minister M. Nasir, the ministry will set up a national research consortium tasked to prevent the spread of forest and land fires, taking advantage of research that had been conducted by universities in the country.

Nasir said recommendations from research on forest fires had rarely been implemented.

“Every year, the forest fires continue to rage. That is why we are setting up a research consortium to optimize the work in implementing [recommendations from the research]. There will also be legal experts who’ll be able to explain what sanctions are called for in cases of intentional burning,” Nasir said at a press conference on Thursday.

The minister said that specific tasks would be divided among the participating institutions, according to their research field. Among the subjects are health, education and peatland management.

The initiative was a response to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s recent instruction to all relevant government institutions to start working on measures that could prevent the repeat of annual forest and peatland fires, with only eight months left before the next dry season starts.

Police name 26 suspects for burning land
The Jakarta Post 7 Nov 15;

PONTIANAK: West Kalimantan Police have declared 26 people suspects for allegedly burning tracts of land and forest, contributing to the widespread haze enveloping the province over the past few months.

“So far we have investigated 35 cases of land and forest fire and we have declared 26 people, all individuals, not from companies, as suspects in these cases,” West Kalimantan Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Arianto said in Pontianak on Friday.

Arianto said police had completed dossiers on five of 26 suspects while the remaining 21 suspects were still being questioned.

“We are also investigating four cases of land and forest fire that, allegedly, involve corporations,” he added as quoted by Antara news agency, before adding that two of the cases involved corporations PT SKM and PT KAL in Ketapang regency, PT PJP in Kubu Raya regency and PT RKJ, a foreign investment firm in Melawi regency.

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Indonesia: Prolonged dry season kills thousands of fish, trees

Ganug Nugroho Adi, The Jakarta Post 7 Nov 15;

The current prolonged dry season has killed thousands of fish in reservoirs in Central Java and clove and nutmeg trees in North Maluku.

Fish farmers at the Gajah Mungkur reservoir in Wonogiri regency and the Kedung Ombo reservoir in Sragen regency claimed to have suffered hundreds of million in losses as thousands of nila fish (a tilapia species) died in their karamba (netted frames floated in the reservoirs) due to the long dry season.

“The karamba nets have reached the bottom of the reservoirs. They should normally be floating. The increasing temperature has caused the death of the fish,” said Daryanto, one of the farmers at the Gajah Mungkur reservoir, on Friday.

The 47-year-old said the temperature was unusually hot, with no rain having fallen since the beginning of this month.

He said many farmers also brought in their harvest, although the fish had only aged 3 to 4 months and reached an average weight of 400 grams, far from the ideal 600 grams at 5 to 6 months of age.

“Usually a kilogram consists of three or four fish. Now, a kilogram consists of seven to eight fish. I am selling my fish to avoid more losses,” he added.

He said there were 15 groups of farmers at the Gajah Mungkur reservoir, each group consisting of 30 farmers that manage three to five karamba.

Another farmer, Agus Waluyo, 43, shared a similar experience, saying that he had suffered Rp 5 million (US$357) in losses.

“A lot of fish have died. Everyday, an average 100 fish die in the karamba. You can calculate the total,” said Agus.

He estimated the farmers at the reservoir suffered combined losses of Rp 200 million due to the prolonged dry season.

Separately, the head of the Wonogiri Husbandry, Fishing and Maritime Agency, Heru Sutopo, said the water level in the Gajah Mungkur reservoir had dropped to four meters.

“But in the center of the reservoir, the water is still deep. Some farmers have moved their karamba into the center,” Heru said.

He advised the farmers to harvest their fish in the current hot temperature to avoid the death of the animals, even though the price had plunged.

The water level at the Kedung Ombo reservoir has also dropped sharply.

“This current dry season is worse than in previous years. Karambas were stuck at the bottom of the reservoir, causing many fish to die,” Supardi, 54, said.

He said early harvest was the only way to avoid further losses, as well as moving the karamba into the center of the reservoir.

Meanwhile in North Maluku, thousands of clove and nutmeg trees have reportedly dried out and died.

North Maluku’s Indonesia Spice Council head Syamsir Andili said on Thursday that most of the affected trees were located in stony highlands where there was a lack of water resources.

Syamsir said the trees had died because the area had seen no rain for three months.

He called on the government to help clove and nutmeg farmers to ease their hardship, such as by providing working capital.

Meanwhile, the head of the province’s Agriculture Agency, Munawar Yalo, admitted that his agency had received information on the drying out of thousands of clove and nutmeg trees in the regencies due to prolonged dryness.

Yalo said the administration would help farmers, but was still discussing the forms of assistance to provide.

“Now, it’s the final year of the budget, so the assistance could only be given next year, and it should be discussed first with the legislative council,” Yalo was quoted by Antara in Ternate.

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Indonesia: Elephant hospital set up in Way Kambas Lampung

Antara 7 Nov 15;

East Lampung (ANTARA News) - Indonesia has set up a special hospital at Way Kambas Park in Lampung, Sumatra, to treat the Sumatran elephant.

The elephant hospital named Prof Dr Ir Rubini Atmadijaja Hospital will also function as a facility for supporting conservation efforts, education and research on the Sumatran elephant, the parks public relations coordinator, Sukatmoko said here Saturday.

The hospital may also be used to treat other animal species needing medical attention, he said.

The hospital was dedicated by Tachrir Fathoni, the director general of natural resource and ecosystem conservation of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry on Thursday (Nov 5) after receiving the "Harapan (Hope)" rhino at Way Kambas Rhino Sanctuary from Robert Ewing, representing the United States (US) Consulate in Sumatra.

The hospital at present is manned by two veterinarians from the Way Kambas National Park, Sukatmoko said.

The Way Kambas National Park is one of the national parks in Lampung province with exotic, rare and protected tropical rain forest flora and fauna in the world.

The park has a center for the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) and Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatraensis).

The park has received two Sumatran rhinos from the US zoos. The first is the Andalas rhino which was returned several years ago, and the second is the Harapan rhino which was returned to its original habitat several days ago from the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, US.

From the Sumatra rhino sanctuary at the Way Kambas National Park in Lampung it is expected more Sumatra rhinos could be bred to preserve and prevent the species from extinction.

The Way Kambas National Park also has the Way Kambas Elephant Conservation Center which is one of the "elephant schools" in Sumatra to tame, train and educate elephants.

(Reporting by Budisantoso Budiman & Muklasin/Uu.INE/KR-BSR/F001)

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Thai ministries told to 'find solutions' as farmers ignore drought warnings

Jeerapong Prasertponkrung and Supasak Taptimprai, The Nation AsiaOne 8 Nov 15;

PRIME Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed three ministries to urgently find solutions to what is forecast to be the country's imminent drought crisis.

"The order was given to the Industry Ministry, the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, and also the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry," Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.

Sansern said four major dams in the Chao Phraya River basin had just 4,157 million cubic metres of water in total. Most of this amount - about 3,500 million cubic metres - would be needed for consumption and maintaining the ecological system from now till July.

Sansern said the limited water supply could be affected if factories continued to release wastewater into public waterways and if farmers used water for paddy fields outside the rainy season.

"Drought is expected to be more serious than ever in the coming year," he warned.

Surasak Rangrongthanin, a senior official at Irrigation Office 10, said the Royal Irrigation Department had urged farmers to stop diverting water from irrigation canals to their paddy fields since November 1.

"But farmers have lambasted us. They say when such an order comes out, those who don't cooperate have always managed to earn money from their farmland," he said.

So, many farmers were now growing rice in their fields.

Naris Poonsap, kamnan of Tambon Bang Peung in Lop Buri's Ban Mi district, said farmers had started growing rice on about 1,000 rai (160 hectares) in total. "It's not possible to bar them from using water from canals," he said.

Farmers believe that if they do the right thing and stop working fields, others will not stop.

As a result, many of them have refused to respond to the government policy calling on them to consider taking other jobs during the dry season, which started on November 1.

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