Best of our wild blogs: 7 Dec 15

A few dead fishes at East Johor Straits
wild shores of singapore

Wet and wild at Pasir Ris with the Naked Hermit Crabs
wild shores of singapore

Honey Buzz And A Sting In The Tale
Winging It

Publication Alert! – Giant clam commensals
Neo Mei Lin

Spotted Sicklefish (Drepane punctata) @ East Coast Park
Monday Morgue

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Dr Vivian more optimistic about prospects for global climate deal

Today Online 7 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — In a Facebook post early today (Dec 6) while on the way to Paris for the final lap of negotiations on a global climate agreement, Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan expressed ­optimism that a deal could be reached but cautioned that failure would lead to worsening climate change and the need for Singapore to review its plans.

“Many of you have asked me about our chances of success in the negotiations. My answer would be that I cannot guarantee success but am more optimistic than before,” Dr Balakrishnan wrote, noting that more than 150 countries have submitted their post-2020 pledges to cut climate-changing emissions. If all these pledges — known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) — are fulfilled, more than 90 per cent of global emissions would be covered.

“It would probably still be inadequate to attain our ultimate long-term target, but it would represent the first time so many countries have committed collectively to lower emissions and achieve sustainable development,” he said, referring to negotiators’ aim to stop global temperatures from rising by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Studies have suggested that all the pledges taken together would still lead to a 2.7°C increase.

In July, Singapore had pledged to reduce the amount of emissions per GDP dollar by 36 per cent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

Dr Balakrishnan said today Singapore’s submission of the INDC prior to this week’s meeting demonstrated the Republic’s commitment to an anticipated agreement in Paris, where the meeting is formally called the 21st Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“Singapore’s INDC is not conditional on external support, unlike the INDCs submitted by many non-­Annex I parties,” he said, in reference to how countries are divided in the UNFCCC as Annex One developed countries and Non-Annex One developing countries.

Dr Balakrishnan said last week that one of the key issues that could hamper a deal in Paris was over the intense debate on differentiation, or the responsibility of the two groups.

Developed countries hold the view that as the world is changing, developing countries are now producing more emissions and should take on more ­responsibilities. But developing countries argue that developed countries have historic responsibility for global warming. Today, Dr Balakrishnan also cautioned that if the negotiations fail, “not only will the INDCs submitted by countries be nullified, but climate change would worsen”.

“As a city state on a low-lying island, Singapore would have to review our plans at that point. While we would still proceed with measures to improve energy efficiency and economic resilience, we would have to reallocate our limited resources to deal with increased threats, including sea level rise, floods and droughts. That is why we must all do our best in good faith to achieve success in Paris.”

Dr Balakrishnan is leading the Singapore delegation at the Paris talks, while Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli will deliver Singapore’s National Statement.

S'pore to cut carbon footprint by 36 per cent by 2030
Judith Tan, New Paper AsiaOne 6 Dec 15;

A day before heading to Paris for the COP21 World Climate Change Conference, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan talks green issues with the media. JUDITH TAN ( reports on his main points.


We are a small island and we will be at risk.

We have, in a sense, been able to sail through this because of extensive preparation, investment in our infrastructure, improvement of our drainage systems, further investments in water recycling plants and desalination.

All these have put us in good stead. But there's still much more work to be done in the decades to come.

If you look at our global impact, Singapore generates only about 0.11 per cent of global emissions.

If you contrast this figure with the fact that about 2.2 per cent of global trade flows through us, you will see we're a very efficient economy.

Nevertheless, as a responsible and vulnerable member of the global community, we will do our part.

That is why we put forward our own INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) of achieving a reduction of our own emissions by 36 per cent by 2030.


We need to be far more energy-efficient. I believe all of us can reduce 10, 20, 35 per cent. In other words, I'm not asking you to make sacrifices. I'm asking you to save money.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry is looking at introducing smart home meters, so you will know how much electricity you are wasting when you leave your set-top box on standby.

Did you remember to switch off your computer, your fan, your air-conditioning? What about the setting of your air-conditioning?

The point I'm making is focusing on energy efficiency and saving money for ourselves will make a difference.

Another big area we need to improve on is energy efficiency within industry.

There's a whole system of grants, incentives and technology transfers, so that companies will know what are the most efficient motors, engines, equipment which allow us to achieve our economic output while saving money by saving energy.

You will notice that BCA (Building & Construction Authority) under the Ministry of National Development has been encouraging the construction of green buildings.

Another sector undergoing transformation is our transport sector, in particular public transport.

The Ministry of Transport is embarking on a massive rail building programme in the next 20 years.

The bus network is also being supplemented with additional buses.

So we expect to see, by 2030 or so, 75 per cent of all trips we take should be on public transport because it is more efficient, and it becomes the first choice for anybody thinking of moving around, from home to work and within the city.


In the last three months, the burning of the forest and the peat land in our neighbour, by their own estimates, put out more than 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

That last three months will represent 20 per cent of all that savings that we have been trying to achieve.

It's a very big number, so the burning of forest and peat lands is terrible from a greenhouse gas emission perspective, and it's also terrible from its impact on pollution and human health, and that's why I had previously said it is a crime.

It is a tragedy that it is man-made and citizens in Indonesia and in Singapore have a right to demand that everybody does what he is supposed to do - comply with the law, enforce the law, share information, prosecute the culprits and these are really commercial interests that ought to be prosecuted.

From a foreign policy perspective, what we need is more effective collaboration, greater trust between authorities in the countries so that we can do the right thing for our citizens.

This is about authorities in the region dealing with errant companies that are releasing unconscionable amounts of greenhouse gases into the environment and are putting the health of millions of people at risk and, in fact, are damaging the regional economies by many billion of dollars.

The rains have come, the blue skies have returned, but we must not allow things to go back to "business as usual" and we have to keep up the pressure.

Things get tricky when countries cry 'it's not fair'

Sometimes countries bicker like children. And like five-year-olds arguing, their most common phrase is "it's not fair".

In a funny but painful way, that same style of argument goes on in international affairs, says Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in highlighting one of the factors that could derail the climate change talks.

Referring to common but differentiated responsibility, he said that a group of developed countries has a historical responsibility for putting out excessive carbon dioxide over the past 2½ centuries.

But these countries are saying, "Ah, but the world has changed and the developing countries are now putting out a greater share of the carbon dioxide to date."

The immediate counter-argument is, "Yes, the world may be changing but you cannot wish away historical facts."

"This fight of differentiation is really a fight about fairness," said Dr Balakrishnan.

"If you use your experience as a parent, trying to resolve fights on fairness is not trivial, so don't underestimate the ability for this issue to derail the process."

But he remains optimistic a universal agreement can be achieved at the Paris talks, noting that "never before" have so many nations committed carbon pledges towards tackling climate change.

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Recent GBS outbreak 'biggest in the world'

It is also the first time food-borne transmission of the bacteria to people has been proven, says NUH consultant
Jasmine Osada, Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Dec 15;

The recent Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria outbreak is unique on several fronts.

Not only is the outbreak, caused by the Type III GBS ST283 strain, the largest of its kind in the world, but it is also the first time that food-borne transmission of GBS to people has been proven, said Dr Hsu Li Yang of the National University Hospital.

"This particular strain of GBS is also seen to cause very severe infections in healthy people, while most strains of GBS that affect humans tend to only cause infection in newborns or people with very weak immune systems," said Dr Hsu, a consultant at the hospital's Division of Infectious Diseases.

But he added that cases of GBS infection are expected to decrease, after the National Environment Agency (NEA) banned the use of all freshwater fish in raw fish dishes.

There have been about 360 cases of GBS infections since the start of this year, with about 150 cases linked to the consumption of Chinese-style raw fish dishes that use freshwater fish.

Dr Hsu said: "The recent outbreak of GBS infections has been linked to the consumption of raw freshwater fish. Now that the major source of infections has been closed off with NEA's ban, we should see only sporadic cases from now on. It is also very unlikely that this infection can be spread from person to person.

"At worst, we will see a few cases of infections caused by this particular strain of GBS every year."

Dr Hsu said consumers should be mindful that eating raw saltwater fish such as that used for sushi and sashimi also comes with risks.

The major concern is parasites. The two most common parasites caused by the consumption of raw saltwater fish are the fish tapeworm and anisakis, he said.

The fish tapeworm can grow to several metres long in a person's intestines. As the tapeworm spends part of its life cycle living inside saltwater fish, eating raw fish means there is a chance of an infection.

The other worm, anisakis, is one of the most common parasites among sashimi eaters in Japan. People infected tend to experience symptoms akin to having a gastric ulcer.

Dr Hsu said the parasites can be killed by freezing the fish. It is thus important to keep fish chilled or frozen until it is cooked or served. At home, food should be handled properly to avoid cross-contamination and minimise the risk of infection.

Advice on eating raw fish
* Do not consume freshwater fish raw.

* If you wish to eat raw fish, consume only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption.

* Fish intended for raw consumption must always be kept frozen or chilled until they are served. It must also be handled hygienically throughout the supply chain and kept separate from other fish intended for cooking, to avoid cross contamination.

* Most fish sold at wet markets, fresh-produce sections of supermarkets and fishery ports do not meet these conditions, and should not be eaten raw.

* Vulnerable groups of people, such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, should avoid eating all varieties of raw fish.

* Members of the public are reminded that cooking is still the most effective way to kill bacteria.

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Food establishments make adjustments to menu after raw fish restriction

Foodpanda has taken yusheng off its menu, while Purple Sage says they will replace the raw fish in the dish with cooked fish instead.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 6 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: Food establishments are making adjustments to their menus following the ban on ready-to-eat raw freshwater fish. The restriction comes after a series of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections, which saw several people fall ill after eating raw fish porridge.

The ban also kicks in ahead of the Chinese New Year season, when yusheng, a popular dish featuring raw fish, is traditionally served.

Food delivery company foodpanda, for example, is taking yusheng completely off its menu until it gets the green light from authorities. Foodpanda said this move will cause very minimal impact, as it is not a popular dish enjoyed year-round like pizza and Thai food.

It also reached out on Sunday (Dec 6) to its vendors who serve sushi and sashimi. There are around 20 of them.

Foodpanda said it will continue to deliver these delicacies, as the restaurants have been allowed by the National Environment Agency to operate as usual.

Restaurant operators can sell dishes featuring raw saltwater fish, as they generally observe proper food handling, said NEA. Saltwater fish also have significantly lower bacterial contamination than freshwater ones.

Foodpanda said it will work closely with vendors to ensure the safety of customers.

“We found out about this new regulation on Saturday, and for us it's very important to act very fast to those things, but also be a strong partner to our restaurants and inform them about those regulative changes, and support them in complying to Singaporean law," said Mr Jakob Angele, CEO of foodpanda. “They (the restaurants) got informed by NEA that there will be very detailed investigations and ensuring that all the processes that those restaurants have in their outlets are compliant and fulfil the highest standards when it comes to freshness of food and freshness, in particular of those raw fish options."

Food catering company Purple Sage has also made adjustments to its yusheng recipe.

It typically sells more than 100 yusheng platters nearly every day during the Chinese New Year season. However, the company will now use cooked fish instead.

It is proposing abalone as a replacement, so customers can still enjoy yusheng.

"Based on the current situation we have immediately about almost 10 to 15 per cent of our orders that are being affected," said Mr Alan Tan, managing director of Purple Sage. "So we will have to zoom in immediately to replace all these menus that are already in the customers' proposal.

"I've already discussed with my chef, and we will go into using abalone to replace raw fish for the time being. But of course, using abalone will increase our price by about 15 per cent minimum, because abalone is still more expensive than raw fish. On the other hand, I think it's really a no-choice situation so the company will basically absorb the difference in the cost."

- CNA/ek

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Malaysia: 24 elephants return home

The Star 7 Dec 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife rangers can finally breathe easier after completing a month-long translocation operation getting 24 elephants back into their habitat in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

The herd of elephants, which was first sighted crossing a two-way road along an oil palm estate and village in Lahad Datu in October, had initially been left to wander on its own but under the observation of wildlife rangers.

The authorities had hoped that the animals would return to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

However, Sabah Wildlife Depart­ment’s rescue unit and rangers decided to translocate the jumbos when the elephants were not heading to the wildlife reserve.

“Whenever we face such pro­blems, we will first try to have the elephants back to the reserve without the need for translocation,” state Wildlife Department director William Baya said.

“Unfortunately, after more than a month of trying, we failed to herd them back to Tabin. Not only that, more damage were caused especially to smallholders,” he said.

Baya said this was the biggest translocation ever conducted at any one time by the department.

The translocation team, which was headed by Sabah Wildlife Department officials Jibius Dausip and Dr Laura Benedict, managed to capture all 24 elephants and translocated them back to the reserve.

Baya said two of the elephants had been fixed with satellite collars, sponsored by Danau Girang Field Centre, so that their movements could be monitored and also to better understand human-elephant conflicts.

“Like any other elephant habitat areas in Sabah, Lahad Datu is facing similar human-elephant conflicts.”

Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan, who is also the mana­ger of Wildlife Rescue Unit, said they hoped to do an elephant population survey next year.

The department had been translocating elephants increasingly the past years.

For example, 10 Borneo elephants were sent back into Tabin Wildlife Reserve in 2013.

“Elephant translocation is a very expensive process, estimated to cost between RM20,000 and RM30,000 per elephant,” Dr Sen said.

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Malaysia: Rampant thefts plaguing cockle business in Selangor

WANI MUTHIAH The Star 7 Dec 15;

KUALA SELANGOR: Cockle far­ming in Malaysia seems to be getting rancid with thefts plaguing the business in Selangor, just five months after news emerged about ammonia contamination in Perak affecting the largest cockle breeding ground there.

The theft of spats (young cockles) had caused a drastic drop in Selangor’s production of the mussels, with its harvest of 40,000 tonnes annually dropping to 20,000 tonnes in recent years, said Selangor Fisheries Department director Azlisha Ab Aziz.

“What these people do is to install marker poles claiming ownership of the place and harvest the spats from the area,” he said.

This reduces the supply for registered farmers to collect and harvest them for the markets in Selangor.

A source said a syndicate could be involved by selling the spats to a neighbouring country for cultivation.

“There is a demand for Selangor cockles because many people find it better among all those harvested in Malaysian waters,” he said.

Selangor Fisheries Department officer Saufi Affandi Talib, when met during an exercise to pull out the illegal poles at Bagan Sungai Dorani recently, said cockle price in Selangor had shot up to about RM8 a kilogramme from about RM2 to RM4 a kilogramme within the last two to three months.

“Selangor used to be the top cockle producing state in the country but now we are No. 3 after Perak and Penang because of the decrease in spats for the licensed farmers to cultivate,” said Saufi Affandi.

He said it would take at least five to 10 years for the state’s cockle harvest to return to 40,000 tonnes annually.

“In Selangor, we have built many cultivation lots. Each lot, measuring 50ha, is managed by a group of six to 10 fishermen who are registered with us,” he said.

Licensed breeders pay an annual fee of RM20 to collect the spats manually from the mud flats or RM100 for the usage of mechanical aid.

Those wanting to collect cockle spats for cultivation must obtain a yearly permit of RM200.

He said the thieves installed markers just outside the lots to claim ownership of the area.

“Because of this, there is insufficient spats to be transferred to the lots managed by the fishermen,” said Saufi Affandi.

He said the spats were removed before reaching the permissible size of four millimetres.

These illegal stakes were made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyfibre and iron as opposed to the wooden ones used by licensed cultivators of cockles.

According to him, the Fisheries Department has been conducting exercises annually to pull out the illegal stakes.

“Our first raid this year was at Kampung Banting in Sabak Bernam where we removed 253 illegal marker stakes,” he said.

The second raid was at Bagan Nakhoda Omar, also in Sabak Bernam, where 1,115 stakes were taken away.

About 2,600 illegal stakes were pulled out in the raid at the Bagan Sungai Dorani.

Locals caught for cockle spat theft are fined RM500 while foreigners are fined RM2,500.

In Selangor, only traditional fishermen who are Malaysian citizens are qualified to obtain permits to harvest cockle spats and cultivate them.

The Fisheries Department has started a research to find out the factors which had reduced the state’s cockle supply.

The state government has also ordered a probe.

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Indonesia: Paris forum raises forest fires in Indonesia

Antara 6 Dec 15;

Paris (ANTARA News) - The Global Forum Landscape held at the Palais de Congres, Paris, France, on Saturday raised the issue of the fires which burnt two million hectares of forests and created haze in Indonesia.

The forum which was organized by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) was attended by thousands of bureaucrats, researchers, environment activists, students and media representatives.

"The participants raised the forest and land fires which created poisonous smoke and wanted to know the efforts made by the Indonesian government to cope with the issue," Director for Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) Indonesia, Fitrian Ardiansyah said here on Saturday evening.

Fitrian said the Indonesian government needed to use a landscape approache to overcome forest fires that had taken place since the past years.

He said that various countries turned out be successful in using a landscape approach. This could be seen in the The Little Sustainable Landscape Book launched by CIFOR and various environment organizations in the forum.

Fitrian said the landscape approach outlined an area management in an integrated way and involved concerned parties from the government, the private sector to the people.

"Because river basin areas and fires are not confined to the

boundaries, landscape approaches are important to tackle this issue," Fitrian said.

In the meantime, has been striving for the management of forests as the nations productive assets without ignoring environmental conservation at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) being held in Paris from November 30 to December 11.

The Adviser of the Indonesian delegation at COP 21, Christianto Wibisono said in a written statement released on Thursday (Dec 3) that as the lungs of the world, Indonesias forests must be preserved.

But as the owner of the worlds third largest forest cover, Indonesia should also not be banned from exploiting and managing its forests for the sake of its peoples prosperity, he added.

"In principle, we will strive for the management of forests as the nations productive assets by always conserving them," Christianto said.

To that end, there must be explanations about the importance of synergy between ecology and economy to become an issue that Indonesia will raise at the COP 21, he said.

"By doing so, Indonesia will no longer be dictated to by developed nations and non-governmental organizations to use forests under the pretext of environmental conservation," said Christianto, who is also the founder of the Indonesian Business Data Center (PDBI).

He said PDBI is one of the parties proposing the merger of the Forestry Ministry and the Environment Ministry into the Environment and Forestry Ministry with the aim of synergizing ecological and economical dimensions.

Therefore, he added that Indonesia must be able to explain the synergy between the two seemingly contrasting dimensions at COP 21.

"We must not be dictated by any developed nations and NGOs in empowering economic assets. However, Indonesia must be able to serve as a policy maker," he pointed out.

Indonesia has the chance to become the worlds largest palm oil and wood producer and all parties, including domestic NGOs must support the vision.(*)

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