Best of our wild blogs: 5 Mar 16

Short Night Walk At Lower Peirce Reservoir (04 Mar 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Singapore must boost water supply resilience: Masagos

At the opening of Singapore World Water Day, Mr Masagos Zulkifli urged Singapore to plan ahead and continue to invest in infrastructure to boost the country's water supply resilience. At the same time, the public must conserve and value water.

Angela Lim, Channel NewsAsia 5 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The Republic must plan ahead and continue to invest in infrastructure to boost our water supply resilience, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli at the opening of Singapore World Water Day at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on Saturday (Mar 5).

In light of extreme weather events that could threaten the reliability of Singapore’s water supply, Mr Masagos urged for a comprehensive monitoring system and stronger infrastructure to meet Singapore's water needs.

"Drier weather in the region last year has affected the stock level at Linggiu Reservoir in Johor,” he said. “This has significance for Singapore as Linggiu Reservoir regulates the water flow in Johor River, from which we draw water for supply to Singapore. Today, Linggiu Reservoir is less than half full and if they dry weather continues, we could see the level fall further."

He also shared an example of a recent water emergency in Nottinghamshire, England.

“The incident flooded the streets and some homes, disrupted some bus services and some businesses had to close,” he said. “Residents turned to bottled water for their daily needs. We need to continue to plan ahead and invest sufficiently in our infrastructure to ensure resilience in our water supply against various risks.”

However, it is not enough to focus on infrastructure, he said.

Held through the month of March, activities marking Singapore World Water Day will be aimed at rallying the community to conserve and value water.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli participating in the “Wash on a Full Load” art installation by Anderson Secondary School. (Photo: PUB)

Among them include yoga and Zumba classes, which were enjoyed by people from all walks of life on Saturday. They also took part in organised walks along the Kallang River to learn more about water conservation.

Throughout the month, more than 400 community partners will be organising about 200 initiatives to highlight the importance of water sustainability island-wide.

- CNA/ek

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LTA on Tesla: CO2 emissions for electric cars start at power grid

The LTA's clarification came after a consumer detailed the months-long journey of getting his Tesla Model S electric car on Singapore's roads.

Channel NewsAsia 4 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: All used cars imported into Singapore will have to undergo exhaust emissions and fuel efficiency tests, and for electric cars, this means having the car's electricity generation process assessed for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The authority was responding to Channel NewsAsia's questions after a local consumer, Mr Joe Nguyen, was reported to have spent months trying to get a licence for his Tesla Model S car to be driven on local roads. Additionally, he was not given the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) rebate of S$15,000 but was charged S$15,000 tax for having a non-fuel-efficient car instead.

Mr Nguyen said in the Stuff report on Tuesday (Mar 1): "I don't get it, there are no emissions. Then they send out the results from VICOM, stating that the car was consuming 444 watt hour per kilometre (Wh/km). These are not specs that I have seen on Tesla's website, or anywhere else for that matter. And then underneath it, there's a conversion to CO2 emission."

A LTA spokesperson explained that for Mr Nguyen's case, the car was tested under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) R101 standards. The result was that the electric energy consumption of his imported used Tesla car was 444Wh/km, she said.

"As for all electric vehicles, a grid emission factor of 0.5 g CO2/Wh was also applied to the electric energy consumption. This is to account for CO2 emissions during the electricity generation process, even if there are no tail-pipe emissions. The equivalent CO2 emission of Mr Nguyen’s car was 222g/km, which is in the CEVS surcharge band," the spokesperson added.

Under the revised CEVS, Mr Nguyen's Tesla falls in the C3 band, which accounts for cars with 216 to 230 g/km, and carries with it a S$15,000 surcharge.

She added that the Tesla is not the first fully electric car where grid emission factor was applied. A Peugeot Ion, for instance, was registered in July 2014 and received the maximum CEVS rebates, the spokesperson said.

LTA did acknowledge the delays Mr Nguyen faced during the testing process at VICOM Emission Test Laboratory. He had told Stuff that he experienced a two-month "ordeal" getting his car assessed.

"This is the first time a Tesla Model S has been tested for emissions," the spokesperson said.

- CNA/kk

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Record number pledge support for Marina Bay energy-saving campaign

Channel NewsAsia 4 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: To help power sustainable light festival i Light Marina Bay, a record 73 buildings and organisations around Marina Bay pledged their support for a campaign to switch off non-essential lighting and turn up air-conditioning temperatures throughout the festival period, organiser Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced on Friday (Mar 4).

The energy savings from the campaign "Switch Off, Turn Up", will be used to offset the power consumption of the light art installations at the festival, which features 25 local and international light art installations and runs from Friday to Mar 27.

Many of the installations were also designed with sustainability in mind. For example, Lampshade by Snøhetta, Norway comprises solar-powered light bulbs that will be donated to off-grid communities after the festival and a simple bamboo structure that will be dismantled and recycled as construction scaffolding.

URA festival director and director for Place Management Jason Chen said the campaign shows how sustainability can resonate at the organisational and individual level.

"The festival is not only a platform to showcase works from the local and international art scene; it also aims to get people thinking about a sustainable future," he said.

"We hope i Light Marina Bay and this initiative, in particular, can influence us to change some of our behaviour and encourage more to join us in the push for sustainability.”

The festival also coincides with the annual Earth Hour on Mar 19, 8.30pm to 9.30pm, when buildings across the nation will switch off their lights for one hour to raise awareness for climate change. The light art installations at the festival will also be switched off during this hour, organisers said.

Beyond the display of artworks, the organisers said the festival seeks to elevate the discourse of sustainability with i Light Symposium 2016, a dialogue which gathers thought leaders from various fields and industries to provide insights and discussions on the topic of light, in relation to the city and its people.

Other sustainability-themed activities include an LED light bulb exchange, where visitors can bring used incandescent bulbs and exchange them for new energy-saving LED light bulbs, and a hands-on workshop for children where they will be able to make lanterns and installations out of recyclable materials, URA added.

- CNA/mz

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Malaysia: Nature lovers in for a treat as birds take off for spring migration

The Star 5 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Nature lovers will be in for a treat on March 12 as more than 30,000 raptors are expected to soar across the Malaysian skies as part of their annual spring migration.

The Raptor Watch will be held in Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve at 10th mile, Port Dickson, one of the favourite local destinations for these predatory birds.

It is an opportunity to observe the raptors in their natural environment, feasting on bees, little birds, lizards and other small animals during their stop in Tanjung Tuan.

Situated at the narrowest part of the Malacca Strait, the forest is ideal for birdwatching as it is the least difficult path for the birds to cross over the water from Sumatra, Indonesia.

Last year, 48,662 birds were counted.

Among those were the Oriental Honey Buzzards, Brahminy Kite, White Bellied Sea-eagle, Common Buzzard, Booted Eagle as well as one Eurasian Hobby, spotted for the first time there.

This event, organised by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) with the support of the Malacca and Negri Sembilan governments, has attracted thousands of people every year to observe and photograph the raptors heading northwards to their breeding grounds.

March 12 is chosen as the ideal birdwatching date after years of monitoring by the MNS. It has been observed that the peak period is in the middle of March.

MNS also suggested the period between 11am and 3pm as the best time to watch the raptors, although the event will be from 9am to 5pm.

It will also be a fun-filled day for the family as colouring competitions, jungle walking and a series of nature-related talks have been organised.

There will also be selfie booths, games, face painting as well as other booths that showcase products and activities that promote nature appreciation.

Interested nature lovers can head for PNB Ilham Resort to reach the event easily.

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Malaysia: We can’t stop coral reefs from dying -- Environment Minister

NICHOLAS CHENG The Star 5 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: There is no way Malaysia can stop its coral reef population from dying due to the strong El Nino and climate change.

Saying that the natural warming of Malaysia’s waters was something that was beyond control, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tunku Jaafar said the only thing that could be done was for the country to minimise the damage on corals caused by humans.

“I have discussed this with the Marine Park Department (JTLM) and we will work ­together with local universities, the Department of Hydrology and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation on the problem of El Nino’s impact on the corals and coral reefs,” he said in a phone interview.

Universiti Malaya coral reef ecologist Affendi Yang Amri had said climate change coupled with a strong El Nino could threaten up to 90% of the country’s coral reefs.

The loss of coral reefs could also translate to a significant drop of commercial fish like groupers, snappers, emperors, sweet lips and fusiliers, which rely on reefs for habitat.

Dr Wan Junaidi said there were more pressing issues faced by the ministry in the protection of Malaysia’s underwater eco­system.

Pollution and ghost fishing, he said, were causing just as much damage to the reefs as El Nino, while the JTLM severely lacked the staff to monitor and maintain the vast 3,600 sq km of coral reefs in our waters.

Ghost fishing is when abandoned nets and fishing gear wraps itself around reefs, breaking or damaging them and snaring aquatic life in the process.

“We send scuba divers to monitor the reefs and to remove any nets that may have been caught in them. But we are very shorthanded.”

Gazetting marine parks is also an issue for the ministry, because the power to do so comes under the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry.

“We can only gazette marine parks under the Fisheries Act, which is not under us. It’s under another ministry.

“We need the law to fully enable us to protect the underwater ecosystem. But we are enforcing someone else’s law. I am personally handicapped because of the law,” he said.

Wan Junaidi added that the ministry’s intention of gazetting the proposed Tun Mustapha Park off Kudat, which has over a million hectares of coral reefs, was being hampered as the Fisheries Act was not under his purview.

GM: Reduce tourists, save our corals
JOASH EE DE SILVA The Star 5 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia should consider capping the number of tourists at its islands to reduce stress on coral reefs threatened by climate change and the El Nino phenomenon.

Reef Watch Malaysia general manager Julian Hyde (pic) said most of the stress on coral reefs stemmed from tourism and that limiting the number of tourists there was an option.

The large number of divers and snorkel­lers, and the incidents of touching and hitting the coral, were a major stress factor for the reefs, he said.

iphcoral: Reef Check Malaysia general manager Julian Hyde said it has started a pilot project to cultivate corals at Mentangor Island, near Pangkor Island.

“Every morning there are hundreds of people snorkelling at the marine parks near Redang Island. Who is managing them?

“More education is needed to change the habits of divers and snorkellers,” he said.

Hyde said capping the number of tourists was practised at only a few places now.

“There is a logistical number beyond which you simply cannot cope and there are only so many people that can fit on an island, but deciding what that number is will be difficult,” he said.

He was responding to a statement by Universiti Malaya coral reef ecologist Affendi Yang Amri that climate change, coupled with a strong El Nino effect, could threaten up to 90% of the country’s coral reefs.

Affendi had said that while very little could be done to reduce nature’s effects on the reefs, steps could be taken to minimise water pollution, litter, coastal development and damage by divers and snorkellers.

According to Hyde, holiday resorts with inadequate sewage treatment systems were also a problem.

He said that while there were plans to better maintain septic tanks and improve the systems in places like Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian, along with a trial programme to desludge the tanks on Pulau Tioman, these needed to be carried out at all resorts and islands.

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Malaysia: Forest officers arrest three poachers with sambar deer parts

IVAN LOH The Star 5 Mar 16;

IPOH: Three hunters were caught with dissected parts of sambar deer – a protected species – in the Aman Jaya Forest Reserve, near KM69 of the East Coast Expressway in Grik.

State Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Rozidan Mohd Yassin said the hunters, all from Kelantan, were caught while trying to load the deer parts into their four-wheel drive vehicle at about 3.45am yesterday.

“Two others, including one who was carrying a rifle, got away.

“Besides the deer parts, we found ammunition and a shooting licence belonging to the individual with the rifle.

“We are now looking for the rifle owner,” he told reporters here yesterday.

Sambar deer, said Rozidan, had been categorised as vulnerable and protected.

“The deer are the main prey for tigers. There’s a market for deer meat. This costs between RM40 and RM60 per kg,” he said, adding that illegal hunting activities were still happening in the forest reserve.

“Based on our investigation, there are many entry points into the forest along the expressway.

“Although we don’t have enough man­power, we always carry out patrols along the forest reserve.

“We are also working with other agencies like the Forestry Department and the police.”

Rozidan said this was the third case this year.

“We previously arrested two hunters found with kijang and serow,” he said.

Those arrested, he said, would be investigated under Section 60(1) and 62 of the Wildlife Conservation Act and could face up to three years in jail or a fine of not more than RM50,000 or both.

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Indonesia: Regencies improve sanitation systems to combat snail fever

Ruslan Sangadji, The Jakarta Post 4 Mar 16;

The Central Sulawesi provincial administration has set up an integrated team, directly led by Governor Longki Djanggola, to implement programs to deal with schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever.

One of the programs is to improve sanitation systems by constructing toilets on the Lindu Plain, where the dangerous worms are often found. The construction is part of a nation-wide one-million-toilet campaign to encourage residents to stop defecating in the open.

Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by parasitic worms belonging to the schistosoma genus and carried by freshwater snails. There are three types found in humans: Schistosoma japonicum, Schistosoma haematobium and Schistosoma mansoni.

In Indonesia, Schistosoma japonicum is endemic in Central Sulawesi, especially on the Lindu and Napu plains in Sigi and Poso. The number of people at risk of contracting schistosomiasis is 15,000.

The head of the provincial health agency, Ansayari Arsyad, said that although there was no medicine to cure the disease that was available in Indonesia, regular fever treatment in community health centers (Puskesmas) and hospitals had worked well.

“We have also distributed boots and will hand some more to local residents as a preventive measure,” he said.

Ansayari said that in Poso, the worms could be found in six districts: East Lore, Lore Peore, Central Lore, South Lore, North Lore and West Lore. While in Sigi regency, he said, the disease was found in five subdistricts on the Lindu Plain.

Ansayari said his agency had cooperated with the Poso and Sigi regency health agencies to conduct a survey in the relevant subdistricts to find more effective eradication measures of the schistosomiasis worms.

He added that an eradication effort last year had been successful in reducing the incidence rate of the disease in Poso to 1.39 percent and in Sigi to 0.7 percent.

“We have the target of reaching an incidence rate of zero percent this year.”

Separately, Longki said that his administration had also conducted various efforts to prevent the spread of snail fever, including assigning a special team to examine the disease-endemic regions.

Research on schistosomiasis in Indonesia began in 1940, following the finding of schistosomiasis cases in Tomado subdistrict, Lindu plain, Kulawi district, Sigi regency, in 1935.

The research found that 53 percent of 177 residents tested positive after researchers found the worms in the feces sample.

Data at the provincial health agency show that in 1972 a new endemic area of the disease was found in Napu valley, Poso regency. Ever since, snail fever continues to increase in the region.

Health Minister Nila Djuwita F. Moeloek said recently during a meeting in Palu to discuss measures to deal with the disease that the disease had attracted attention from the international health communities.

She said that she supported all programs to combat the disease, requesting local authorities to continuously disseminate information to the people on the danger of open defecation that could cause the fever.

Schistosomiasis starts with the hatching in water of Schistosoma japonicum eggs, called mirasidium, which penetrate the bodies of snails and develop into sporokista I and II, before becoming serkaria.

The serkaria will later swim in the water in search of a new host and they can survive in stagnant water for 48 hours before finding new places to grow.

Serkaria could infect 13 mammals including humans, deer, cats, hog deer, cows, horses and buffalo. Serkaria infects humans through the pores and enters the blood stream before laying eggs in the intestines.

Symptoms of snail fever include coughing and swelling of the stomach. The disease needs an incubation period of 20 years before killing a human sufferer.

The most dangerous scenario, according to Ansyari, was when serkaria reached the liver, where it could grow into adult worms. When the worms lay eggs, they make holes in the walls of the intestine and cause sufferers to defecate blood.

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Indonesia: Komodo population continues to decline at national park

Markus Makur, The Jakarta Post 5 Mar 16;

The population of the endangered Komodo dragon in Komodo National Park in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), continues to decrease according to the park’s management.

Park spokesperson Margareta Priska said on Friday that numbers had fallen from 3,222 in 2013 to 3,092 in 2014, with a further decrease to 3,014 in 2015.

She said the dragon currently only inhabited Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, Nusa Kode and Padar islands.

Separately, Achmad Ariefiandy, a researcher at the Komodo Survival Program Institution, told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the rare animals’ diminishing numbers had occurred particularly on smaller islands like Nusa Kode, Gili Motang and Padar.

“The population on the bigger islands such as Komodo and Rinca is relatively stable,” he said.

Achmad linked the declining numbers with the availability of the dragon’s prey, such as deer, which is also facing scarcity.

He therefore suggested that the government take security measures to minimize deer poaching.

The researcher also called on the government to consider reintroducing deer from Padar to Gili Motang.

Achmad noted that the dragons were also found outside the national park, including on Mbeliling Island in the southern part of West Manggarai and on Longos Island in northern West Manggarai.

His institution and the NTT Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) had conducted a survey on the population spread of the dragon in the northern part of Flores Island. It started in Labuan Bajo, the regency capital of West Manggarai, and ended in Sikka, the capital of Maumere regency.

The survey revealed that dragons were also found on Watu Payung Island in the East Manggarai regency, and both on Ontoloe and Riung islands in Ngada regency.

When asked whether he had found dead dragons in the national park during his research, Ariefiandy said he had found fewer than 10. They had died from old age, he explained.

Meanwhile, environmental activist Zakarias Samuel Sem of West Manggarai has pointed his finger at tourism, especially cruise ships, as a disruptive presence to the animal.

“We must work together to ensure a sustainable number of dragons in this province,” Zakarias said.

“The national park’s management should limit the number of tourists visiting the Komodo and Rinca islands, especially cruise ships,” Zakarias said.

The head of NTT BKSDA’s technical division, Maman Surahman, said that the population of Komodo dragons in a particular region fluctuated. The inventory team sometimes finds 10 to 15 in one area and then none in another area.

Surahman also urged locals to stop hunting the dragons’ food source, such as deer and swine, and not to release dogs in the woods because their presence disturbed the dragons’ habitat.

“We expect cooperation from all parties in East Nusa Tenggara for the preservation of this majestic creature,” he said.

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