Best of our wild blogs: 3 Feb 16

Life on a Singapore Reef
Hantu Blog

Kranji Marshes, a New Haven for Waterbirds
Singapore Bird Group

Rainforest Wildlife in Singapore by Loy Xingwen

Read more!

'Matter of time' before Zika cases are seen in Singapore: Experts

Experts tell Talking Point that the mosquito-borne virus could spread to Singapore given how much people travel, but they say it is "fairly mild" and that it may not be as severe as dengue or chikungunya.
Channel NewsAsia 2 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: The Zika virus could reach Singapore shores, but experts have said if patients do not suffer from complications, the illness may not be as severe as dengue or chikungunya, which have been reported in Singapore.

In an interview with Mediacorp’s current affairs programme Talking Point, Associate Professor (Adjunct) Lim Poh Lian, Head of Department of Infectious Diseases at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, described Zika as a “fairly mild” disease, but the concern is its association with microcephaly in newborns, which cause brain damage.

As there is currently no vaccine or drug for Zika, containing the virus would have to be in the form of controlling the mosquito population and protecting expectant mothers, added Associate Professor Ooi Eng Eong from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had declared Zika a public health emergency due to its link to birth defects.

Zika is spread by the Aedes mosquito, which also transmits dengue fever. Symptoms of Zika virus include rashes and fever.

The interviews with the experts as follows:

Q: Does Zika have similarities with other mosquito-borne viruses like chikungunya or malaria?

Assoc Prof Ooi: In terms of the severity of the disease, if you just get straightforward Zika infection, it doesn’t appear to be as severe as dengue or even chikungunya, the one that spread in 2007 onwards, or malaria. But again, this association with microcephaly in babies is new. That needs a little bit more work for us to identify if Zika does indeed cause it and how it does it.

Q: Should Zika reach Singapore, what are the possible consequences?

Assoc Prof Ooi: I think because we have dengue, that tells us we have mosquitoes even though it is controlled to a large extent by NEA. But because it can spread in clusters, therefore we can expect that if Zika does reach our shores, we will get a Zika outbreak.

Question is, how severe would that outbreak be? And that answer I think is still uncertain. As I said if it was in the past where Zika outbreak has occurred, then you get fever with rash and all that. It’s probably not as bad as dengue and you recover uneventfully. Now this association with microcephaly is of concern. Therefore, if zika does reach our shores, how do you protect the expectant mothers? That is something we need to take a long hard look at it. At this point in time because there are no drugs against Zika, there’s no vaccine, mosquito control is the only way we can control Zika and preventing it from spreading.

Q: Are there lessons we can learn from our fight against the other mosquito-borne diseases?

Assoc Prof Ooi: At this point in time, the question is still how we can reduce the aedes aegypti population to a bare minimum. So that even if Zika does reach our shores, the chance of it spreading in minimal. So without the vaccine or drug it is still down to mosquito control. Again that’s why NEA is so vigilant in sending out messages about keeping households and all that free of mosquito breeding sites. Because ultimately that’s the only way to prevent the spread of diseases like dengue and Zika.

Q: By declaring Zika a public health emergency, what does this allow the WHO to do?

Assoc Prof Lim: Well, I think the first thing is that it allows coordinated international action to be brought to bear on investigations and control measures and the second thing is to raise public attention and draw resources into tackling the emergency before it becomes a larger emergency. This was one of the things that needed to happen earlier in the Ebola outbreak and WHO’s been proactive about trying to do that now.

Q: How concerned should Singaporeans be about the Zika virus?

Assoc Prof Lim: I mean the reality is that Zika is generally considered a fairly mild disease for most people who get it. Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in the Zika forest and there have been sporadic outbreaks and infections occurring in Africa and Asia. The concern really right now is because of the microcephaly. We are trying to scientifically investigate to see if it’s related to a viral mutation and whether the transmission is because of changes in the mosquitoes, whether it is changes in the virus or both.

We haven’t seen any or many cases at all of Zika in Singapore. It is probable that we will see some because of globalisation and people travelling. Most of the cases will probably come in by importation, by travellers coming back who have been in Zika areas.

Right now the places where there is a lot of Zika spread is really in the Caribbean and in South America, so Brazil for example, Ecuador, Guatemala. And again, those are not as common in terms of where Singaporeans travel so the risk is relatively low and the only way you can get Zika, the main way that you get ZIka is by mosquito bites from the Aedes mosquito that is infected. It is theoretically possible to get it from blood transfusions and obviously if a pregnant mother is infected with Zika, her child can be infected as well.

Q: What is Singapore doing in terms of monitoring the worldwide spread?

Assoc Prof Lim: It is a matter of time before Zika cases are seen in Singapore, given how much people travel. However, what we’re doing in terms of monitoring it is what we call horizon scanning. We look at cases in other countries, we read the medical reports.

We are aware of the sporadic cases in Asia, including the one in Taiwan from a man who had travelled from Thailand. So we know that it can happen. In terms of control, what we want to do is try to reduce the risk of importations. So people who are travelling in countries with Zika outbreaks should practise mosquito bite prevention - wearing long sleeves, using insect repellent, reconsidering travel if you’re pregnant. Raise medical awareness so that doctors know to test for Zika with the appropriate travel history.

For more on the Zika virus, watch Talking Point on Feb 4, 9.30pm on Channel 5.

- CNA/xq

Could exposure to dengue help build immunity against Zika?
Experts who spoke to current affairs programme Talking Point say exposure to the dengue virus could give Singaporeans some level of protection against the Zika virus.
Channel NewsAsia 3 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: Could Singaporeans’ exposure to the dengue virus ironically give them some measure of protection against the Zika virus, which is strongly suspected of causing birth defects?

Experts who spoke to Channel 5's current affairs programme Talking Point said this could be a possibility.

“Because they are closely related cousins, to our immune system, they actually look alike to some extent,” said Associate Professor Ooi Eng Eong, of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School.

While the “jury is still out” on how the immune systems of Singaporeans who have been exposed to dengue would respond to the Zika virus, Dr Ooi said: “At least from limited other studies that we have looked at, there could be some level of protection.

“Is it enough to prevent the outbreak? I think the safe answer is, probably not. But it may actually modulate the disease … We hope that if it does reach our shores, then our immunity with dengue would protect us to some extent.”

Adjunct Associate Professor Lim Poh Lian, head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, said: “It’s just purely a scientific hypothesis that some people may have less symptoms because of their background with related flaviviruses.”

“But what we do know is that 80 per cent potentially of people with Zika infection don’t even have symptoms,” she said, citing the South American countries which have a background of dengue and yellow fever.

On Monday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Zika virus an international “public health emergency”. It cited “strongly suspected” causal links to thousands of cases of microcephaly - in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains - in Brazil.


Ironically, though, doctors consider Zika a milder disease than dengue or chikungunya. All three viruses are transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

Adjunct Associate Professor Lim Poh Lian, Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, said: “Zika is a milder disease by and large for most people. The vulnerable population are potentially pregnant women. Our concern is not so much that the mother would have a bad outcome, but that we are seeing a link to babies born with abnormally small heads.”

No Zika infections have been identified here so far. If it does hit Singapore – and in Dr Lim’s view, that is only a matter of time – the priority would be to safeguard expectant mothers.

“The main concern is to protect pregnant women, so we don’t want it to get into the community where people who haven’t travelled might potentially get exposed,” said Dr Lim.


That may be easier said than done, when 4 in 5 people with the Zika virus do not display symptoms. The health authorities here have acknowledged that “we cannot rule out the possibility that there are undetected cases”.

Dr Lim said such unwitting carriers of Zika “may not know to seek medical care or to get tested. That will pose problems for control, and so what we need is a lot of public awareness as well as medical awareness”.

Both Dr Lim and Dr Ooi were interviewed for an episode of Talking Point, “Zika: Protecting your family”, that airs this Thursday (4 Feb) on Channel 5.

Singaporeans have been advised to protect themselves from mosquito bites if they travel to Zika-affected countries; and to see a doctor if they develop symptoms upon their return. Pregnant women are also asked to reconsider their travel plans to the affected countries.

But both Dr Ooi and Dr Lim say, a key line of defence is to curb mosquito breeding.

Said Dr Ooi: “At this point in time, because there are no drugs or vaccine against Zika, mosquito control is the only way we can prevent it from spreading.”

Dr Lim said: “We really need the community’s help with the vector control efforts. The Government can do a lot, but they can’t do everything.”

Zika won't spread like dengue in Singapore: Expert
By Salma Khalik, My Paper AsiaOne 3 Feb 16;

THE Zika virus will come to Singapore but is unlikely to result in major outbreaks here in the way that dengue has, said an infectious diseases expert.

The virus has infected millions of people in South America, with Brazil claiming it is the reason why more than 4,000 babies have been born with abnormally small heads since October last year.

But Lim Poh Lian, who heads Infectious Diseases at the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, said that when Zika arrives here, it is likely to have a similar effect as chikungunya.

The first transmission of chikungunya in Singapore was in 2008 but numbers have remained low, peaking in 2013 with 1,059 cases. Last year, 42 people were infected.

To prevent Zika's spread, anyone with a confirmed infection will be hospitalised until tests show they no longer harbour the virus in their blood, Dr Lim said.

As both Zika and dengue have similar symptoms, she said a person would be suspected to have Zika only if he or she had been to an area where there is an outbreak.

A blood test would confirm this within 48 hours.

Zika is normally a mild disease, although it is feared to be dangerous to unborn babes if their mothers are infected.

Read more!

Terrapin threat: Reptiles can pose salmonella risk

None of the 12 shops Channel NewsAsia visited could advise on the health risks associated with the reptiles, or the fact that terrapins carry the salmonella bug.
Dawn Karen Tan, Channel NewsAsia 2 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: Terrapins are a popular choice when it comes to owning a pet. Costing just a few dollars, these reptiles tend to be brought home and owners would treat them as little more than living toys.

The Red-Eared Slider, for instance, is a factory-farmed species from the United States and it is estimated that since 2006, nearly nine million have been imported into the Republic alone.

However, the fact that these reptiles pose a health risk is less well known. Raffles Medical deputy medical director Michael Lee explained: "They carry a bug known as salmonella - it's passed out and shed through their faeces - and of course coming into contact with humans, we may ingest the bacteria and, in certain levels and amounts, it becomes toxic."

According to Singapore’s Health Ministry, there were a total of 1,957 cases of Salmonellosis in 2015. However, data on the number of cases related to transmission from pet terrapins or other reptiles is unknown.

Doctors said they believe the number of cases in Singapore, rare as they may be, are under-reported. Dr Lee, for one, said it is not common practice for physicians to ask patients if they have terrapins at home as salmonella symptoms are mild in most cases.

“[Patients] always attribute it to something they ate that wasn't very clean or not washing their hands and leave it as that,” he added.

While those exposed may experience symptoms associated with food poisoning, like fever, vomitting and diarrhoea, some infected patients show no obvious signs.

Eight-year-old Beh Jin Kiang is one example. His mother, Mdm Cristie Yong, brought him to see the doctor after a fall in the playground left him with a hairline fracture to his ankle that would not heal.

“It seemed quite bad and swollen. At first, we thought it was just some blood clots, and then it would clear and heal. Then the doctors asked if we have small turtles or frogs at home,” she recounted. The family keeps two turtles at home in a fish tank.

According to the doctors, Mdm Yong's son was suffering from a salmonella infection that he had likely contracted from the pet turtles, and the parents had no idea of the risks when they bought them.

"We bought it from the wet market, so nothing was told to us. The turtles, being so cute, we never thought it would be a carrier of virus or anything," she said.

To fight the infection, Mdm Yong’s son needed three operations on his ankle and many weeks of treatment.


Red-Eared Sliders are regarded as one of the world's 100 most-invasive species, with many countries banning their import and sale. Even in its native United States, cautions about the salmonella connection and strict regulation has been in place since 1975.

Pet shops that sell Red-Eared Sliders are required to display a poster with information and photos to show potential buyers just how big they can grow. A check on 12 shops across Singapore revealed surprising results.

None of the shops have a poster displayed, and when asked about health risks associated with reptiles, shopkeepers were unable to share the less well-known fact of terrapins carrying the salmonella bug.


From the iconic Singapore Botanic Gardens to neighbourhood parks and water bodies like Macritchie Reservoir, there is the belief that releasing animals like birds and terrapins boosts one's “spiritual karma”. Abandoned and vulnerable to being captured or culled, they are left to an unknown fate.

So far, authorities in Singapore are not budging when it comes to repeated calls for a ban on terrapin imports. They have said there is not enough evidence to suggest their presence has or will impact Singapore's wildlife.

Tougher regulation about responsible ownership may give buyers a pause for thought, and perhaps serve as a reminder that the terrapins are more than just a transient plaything.

Director of Advocacy at the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) Tan En said as much, noting that as terrapins grow older, the colour of the shell tends to fade away thus making them less attractive. “So, they are no longer as cute as when you buy them in the beginning. The only responsible thing for people to do if they don't want them is to find somebody to adopt them.”

- CNA/xk

Read more!

636 dengue cases reported last week

As of Monday (Feb 1), one of the active clusters is in the Tampines area, with 267 cases since the start of the cluster.
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 2 Feb 16;

As of Monday, one of the active clusters is in the Tampines area, with 267 cases since the start of the cluster. This is followed by some areas near Little India - such as Sing Avenue and Joo Avenue - with 108 cases, and in Pasir Ris, with 106 cases. Many of the cases were in Block 112 and 129 in Pasir Ris Street 11.

The Member of Parliament for the area is concerned about this and measures have been taken to try and stem the spread of the disease.

"Most of the mosquito breeding sites are actually found within the homes, so during my house visits with the grassroots leaders, I try to emphasise to the residents some of the areas they may have missed out, for example ... the area behind the toilet bowl,” said MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, Mr Zainal Sapari.

“We engaged our pest control contractor to check everywhere, the roof, the drains and instead of doing it once every week, we are doing it twice weekly now," he added.

One pest control company said there has been a 60 per cent increase in the number of enquiries it received in January 2016, compared to the same period in 2015. Many are about dengue prevention.

"The reason for this is due to the recent outbreak of Zika-related diseases in Latin America,” said Mr Chan Hiang Hao, the operations excellence manager of Rentokil. “Although there are no Zika-related diseases in Singapore, Aedes (mosquitoes) in Singapore do transmit dengue, which may be deadly."

NEA said the spike in dengue cases could be due to a change in the main circulating dengue virus. The mosquito population has also increased, due to warmer weather. NEA called on the public to prevent the spread of dengue by removing mosquito breeding sites.

Majority of these are found in homes, especially in containers and flower pot trays with stagnant water. NEA said this is of concern, especially during the Chinese New Year period when people buy and display festive plants.

- CNA/ek

Read more!

Zika outbreak: Asia on guard as virus spreads across South America

Authorities in Asia including in Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam, have taken steps to guard against the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
Jeremy Koh, Channel NewsAsia, Michiyo Ishida, Japan Bureau Chief, Channel NewsAsia, Saifulbahri Ismail, Sumisha Naidu, Malaysia Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia and Roland Lim, Hong Kong Bureau Chief, Channel NewsAsia 2 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an international public health emergency over the Zika virus, which has been blamed for causing brain damage in newborns.

The virus has been spreading through Latin America, and territories as far apart as Brazil and French Polynesia have reported a spike in babies born with microcephaly – characterised by abnormally small heads and neurological disorders.

Authorities in Asia have stepped up measures to guard against Zika as well. Zika is spread by the Aedes mosquito – which also transmits dengue fever – and the virus typically causes mild fever and rashes.


Malaysia's Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam told reporters on Tuesday (Feb 2) his ministry would be issuing specific guidelines in a day or two. But in general, Malaysians have been advised advised to stay away from South America.

When asked about a case of Zika reported in neighbouring Indonesia, the minister said he would be in contact with Indonesian authorities but said it would be quite difficult to impose any travel restrictions on people travelling to the country, or vice versa. More than 2 million Indonesians are estimated to work in Malaysia and the two nations have many close ties.


The Indonesian government said it will be studying the Zika virus more closely amid concerns about its possible spread in the country.

Last year, a 27-year-old man in Jambi, Central Sumatra, was found to have been infected by the virus. He recovered without any complications two days after receiving treatment.

The patient had never travelled abroad.

The Indonesian Health Ministry has said it will trace all blood samples taken from patients during the dengue outbreak in Jambi.

Pretty Multihartina, head of the biomedical and technology department at the Health Ministry's research and development agency told The Jakarta Post that it is unclear how the man was infected with the virus when he had no history of travelling abroad.

She said: "There is a possibility that we already had Zika for a long time, but it hasn't caused any deaths, and thus is underestimated."


Chinese authorities have said China is ready to help South America with its fight to contain the Zika virus.

Even though the WHO has warned that China is at risk of being affected by the Zika virus, China's Health Ministry said the country is unlikely to see an epidemic, as the density of mosquitoes is low due to the winter weather.

However, China did not discount the possibility of imported cases. Parts of southern Guangdong province, for instance, have residents working in South America and they are likely to head home for the Lunar New Year holidays starting later this week.

The Chinese Health Ministry said the country is developing prevention and treatment plans that borrow from the experience of other countries. It added that it is training health professionals to identify and treat the virus as well.


Meanwhile, Hong Kong will raise its alert levels from Friday (Feb 5) and make it mandatory for doctors to report any suspected case of the virus to the Centre for Health Protection.

There are currently no such cases in Hong Kong, although health experts have warned it is only a matter of time, as the city sees hundreds of thousands of visitors arriving daily. At present, no travel restrictions are being considered by the government.

The government has urged people who have travelled to the affected areas to continue to use mosquito repellent for two weeks after arrival to prevent them from being bitten.

As the virus is spread through the blood, there will be a blood donation ban on travellers who have visited affected areas.


For now, a Zika outbreak within Japan is not a major concern as the low winter temperatures are not conducive for mosquitoes. However, the government has announced precautions.

Japan's Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki said there are plans to require doctors to report patients carrying the Zika virus to authorities, under a new infectious disease law.

The Health Policy Bureau has also required all infectious disease testing facilities in Japan to be on standby, in the event of a worst-case scenario. The government will continue issuing advisories to those travelling to countries where the Zika virus has been reported.

"It is important for those travelling to the epidemic area such as Latin America to pay attention not to be bitten by mosquitoes. We especially urge pregnant women to try to refrain from travelling to the epidemic area,” said the Health Minister.


No cases of Zika virus has been reported in South Korea yet, but authorities have held an emergency meeting and urged citizens to be cautious when overseas, especially in countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Officials have also warned against pregnant women visiting Latin American countries, and said doctors who fail to report patients showing symptoms of infection could face fines of up to 2 million won (US$1,650).


In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City’s international airport has begun temperature screening for arriving passengers, Xinhua news agency reported a local quarantine centre as saying.

The International Quarantine Centre in the city added that Tan Son Nhat international airport is also spraying chemicals to wipe out mosquitoes.

- CNA/xq

Thailand says man contracted Zika virus domestically
The man has now recovered and been discharged from hospital, according to the director of Bangkok's Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital.
Channel NewsAsia 2 Feb 16;

BANGKOK: A man has contracted the Zika virus in Thailand, officials said Tuesday (Feb 2), as a global alert intensifies over the mosquito-borne infection blamed for a surge in serious birth defects in South America.

Authorities said the 22-year-old Thai man is likely to have caught the same strain of the virus that has caused panic in countries such as Brazil and Colombia. The virus "was confirmed by blood tests", Air Vice Marshall Santi Srisermpoke, director of Bangkok's Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital, told reporters.

"His symptoms were a fever, a rash and redness of the eyes," he said, adding he had not travelled abroad.

The man has recovered and been discharged from hospital, he added, without giving further details of how long he was in hospital, or where he contracted the sickness.

Amnuay Gajeena, director-general of the Disease Control Department of the Public Health Ministry, said it was "likely to be the same strain as the one found in South America".

"It's not a new disease in Thailand... we had the first confirmed case in 2012. Since then we have an average of not more than five cases yearly," he said. "There is no need to panic... we have never had an epidemic of the Zika virus in Thailand all of the cases were one-offs."

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue fever, carries the sickness. It breeds in tropical areas, including Thailand, which has seen a surge in cases of dengue in recent months.

The World Health Organization linked a spike in birth defects in South America to the virus.

The UN health body said that a rise in cases of microcephaly - in which babies are born with an abnormally small head - was likely caused by the mosquito-borne virus, and declared the situation a "public health emergency of international concern".

First detected in Africa in 1947, Zika was considered a relatively mild disease until the current outbreak was declared in Latin America last year.

Brazil was the first country to sound the alarm on the apparent link with birth defects. It has since become the worst affected country, with some 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly, of which 270 have been confirmed.

As alarm grows over the surge in the number of cases, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and Puerto Rico have warned women to delay conceiving until the Zika outbreak is brought under control.

- AFP/yt

Australia reports two cases of Zika virus, detects mosquitoes at Sydney airport
Two Australians were diagnosed with the Zika virus after returning home from travels in the Caribbean, a state health service said on Tuesday, confirming the first cases of the mosquito-borne virus in the country this year.
Channel NewsAsia 2 Feb 16;

SYDNEY: Two Australians were diagnosed with the Zika virus after returning home from travels in the Caribbean, a state health service said on Tuesday, confirming the first cases of the mosquito-borne virus in the country this year.

Officials also said that mosquitos carrying the virus had been detected at Sydney International Airport, but stressed that it was unlikely the virus would establish local transmission given the lack of large numbers of the Aedes Aegypti mosquitos.

Confirmation of the Australian cases came just a day after the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus to be an international public health emergency due to its link to underdeveloped brains in some babies. There is no vaccine against the mosquito-borne virus.

The New South Wales (NSW) health department said the two Sydney residents were diagnosed with the Zika virus on Friday after returning to Australia from Haiti.

Formal diagnosis can take several weeks and the department did not disclose when the couple were tested. It said the pair had mild cases of the virus and had recovered.

"It is very unlikely that Zika virus will establish local transmission in NSW as the mosquitos that spread the infection are not established here - although they are found in some parts of north Queensland," Vicky Sheppeard, director of communicable diseases at NSW Health, said in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture said it was imposing additional cabin spraying of insecticides on flights arriving into Sydney from Southeast Asia.

The department said the step-up in procedures, which includes adding extra mosquito vector monitoring traps, followed the "recent detection" of Aedes Aegypti mosquitos at Sydney airport.

"These measures are undertaken to prevent these mosquitoes establishing breeding populations in Australia, thereby preventing the potential for the local spread of these diseases," the department said in a statement.

Queensland state in the north of the country is on high alert for any entry of the disease from Australia's Asian neighbors.

Australia has reported isolated cases of Zika in recent years, including a 27-year-old man who was believed to have contracted the virus in Bali last year after he was bitten by a monkey.

From 2013 through 2015 there were a handful of other cases involving travelers returning from Indonesia, the Cook Islands and Solomon Islands.

(Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Robert Birsel)

- Reuters

Read more!

Malaysia: Man arrested while carrying tiger carcass on motorcycle

RAHMAT KHAIRULRIJAL New Straits Times 3 Feb 16;

IPOH: State Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) rangers yesterday arrested a man in his 40s for possessing a tiger carcass in Gopeng near here.

Its director Rozidan Md Yasin said in the 11am incident, the suspect was hauled up when he was caught carrying the carcass on his motorcycle.

“My men rushed to Kampung Ulu Kampar when we received a report on the death of a tiger there. “However, our investigation at the scene found that the carcass has been taken by the suspect,” he said in a statement.

He said it was believed that the tiger was killed by a trap laid out near the Orang Asli settlement.

He said the case is being investigated under Section 68(2)(c) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) which carries a maximum punishment of RM500,000 or a jail term no longer than five years, upon conviction.

The tiger or Panthera tigris is an endangered and protected species.

Read more!

Indonesia searches for a better peat mapping method

Antara 3 Feb 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) -The Indonesian government, through the Geospatial Information Agency (BIG) and with the support of David and Lucile Packard Foundation, has launched the Indonesian Peat Prize, a competition to search the best mapping method for peat land.

The prize comprises one million dollar.

"It is important to find a methodology that helps achieve a certainty regarding data management related to Indonesias peat, a requirement for improving the welfare and tackle climate change," Minister of Environment and Forest, Siti Nurbaya, said as she launched the Indonesian Peat Prize, together with the Minister of Environment of Norway at the Climate Festival here on Tuesday.

She said Indonesias peat land area reaches more than 20 million hectares. In the context of climate change, the greatest emissions from forest and land fires come from peat, yet peat is able to store a very large amount of carbon.

Head of BIG, Priyadi Kardono, said the initial idea of the competition followed the forest and land fires spread over 2.1 million hectares in 2015.

In addition, this competition found encouragement, thanks to the commitment of President Joko Widodo at the High-Level Conference on Climate Change Conferences of Parties (COP21) in Paris to address land and forest fires as well as reduce emissions through good management.

BIG has had an indicative map of Indonesias peatland drawn to a scale of 1:250,000. However, according to him, it would be difficult to manage peat land in a better way without a more detailed map drawn to a scale of 1: 5000 to 1: 50,000.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian director of World Resources Institute (WRI), Tjokorda Nirarta Samadhi, said the Indonesian Peat Prize is an ambitious and collaborative competition to arrive at a peat land mapping method which is more accurate and faster to determine the extent and thickness of peat lands in Indonesia.

The peat land management needs to be done properly because carbon emissions from peat decomposition and peat fires account for 42 percent of all emissions in Indonesia.


Lack of high-resolution peatland map hinders restoration
Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 3 Feb 16;

The government’s plan to restore at least 2 million hectares of peatland destroyed through decades of mismanagement by oil palm plantations will likely face a setback, especially on account of a lack of high-resolution peatland maps.

Geospatial Information Agency (BIG) head Priyadi Kardono said on Tuesday that the newly established Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) would have to wait for the agency to boost the resolution of the national peatland map before it could kick off the restoration in four priority areas.

“For the four peatland areas [planned to be restored first by the BRG], we will boost the resolution of the map to 1:5,000,” Priyadi said in Jakarta, adding that BIG expected to finish the map by the end of the year.

He said that the BIG would soon begin mapping the four peatland areas severely damaged by this year’s forest fires: Pulang Pisau regency in Central Kalimantan, Ogan Komering Ilir regency and Musi Banyuasin regency, both in South Sumatra and Meranti regency in Riau, seeing as how the four areas were prioritized by the government to be restored.

BIG’s thematic geospatial information deputy, Nurwadjedi Fahmi, said that the current national peatland map had a scale of 1:250,000.

“Our current peatland map is a compilation of various maps, obtained mostly from desk study. Our field survey [to map peatland] needs improvement, covering only around 5 percent [of the country’s total peatland area]. So its not surprising that our map lacks in accuracy,” he said on Tuesday. “That’s why our map only has a resolution of 1:250,000.”

The government plans to restore damaged protected-category peatland by pumping in sufficient water to restore dampness.

If a peatland area has been taken over by oil palm trees, the government plans to begin the restoration by blocking the canals that are built by palm oil producers to drain all the water out from the peatland.

Such a low quality map will make it difficult for BRG to carry out its job, a crucial element of the government’s attempt to combat the annual forest fires.

“If you want to manage peatland with a map that lacks detail, it will be difficult. How can you make a good canal blocking if you don’t know the contour [of the area]? In which direction the water will go?” Priyadi said.

A more detailed map is needed to determine the category of individual peatland areas, separating them into either protected or cultivated.

To boost the resolution of the map, BIG plans to use light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology, which is more expensive than using satellite images.

“If we use a high-resolution satellite image like IKONOS, we still couldn’t display three dimensional images. That’s why we’re using LiDAR,” Nurwadjedi said.

The cost of mapping using LiDAR is estimated to be much higher than using satellites.

BIG has also launched a competition called the Indonesian Peat Prize, aiming to find a more accurate and faster way to map the extent and thickness of peatland.

The winner of the competition, to be announced in fall 2017, will receive a US$1 million prize. The winner’s method will be used to revise the national standard for mapping Indonesian peatland.

BRG head Nazir Foead said on Tuesday that his agency would use the current map despite its poor resolution.

“I have to work with the existing map because I can’t wait until 2017,” he said.

Read more!