Best of our wild blogs: 9 Apr 16

Night Walk At Dairy Farm Quarry Trail (08 Apr 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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MOE announces multi-school OBS camp for Sec 3 students

The 5-day camp comes under the new National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan and will take place at Outward Bound Singapore campuses in Pulau Ubin and Coney Island from 2020 onwards.
Justin Ong Channel NewsAsia 8 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: A new five-day, expedition-based, multi-school camp for all Secondary 3 students will be launched in 2020, announced the Ministry of Education on Friday (April 8).

It will be sited at Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) campuses in Pulau Ubin and Coney Island, and comes on the heels of the National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan unveiled by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget statement last month.

The Masterplan aims to instill resilience in youths by expanding outdoor adventure education - a point reiterated by Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng in his speech at the Committee of Supply’s Parliamentary debates on Friday.

“We will put more emphasis on non-academic aspects of learning,” he said. “Good character, social-emotional competencies and other skills like critical thinking and effective communication are necessary foundations for work and life.”

Describing Outdoor Education (OE) as a platform that provides “rich learning experiences outside the classroom”, he noted that MOE has existing initiatives for primary and secondary schools, such as individual school cohort camps and Physical Education (PE) lessons teaching OE as part of the curriculum.

The addition of the new multi-school Secondary 3 cohort camp will bring students of different institutions together to interact, collaborate and overcome outdoor challenges together, said Mr Ng.

MOE will co-design the camp programme with OBS, and pilot it with some schools starting next year, before rolling it out nationwide from 2020, when the new S$250 million OBS campus on Coney Island is expected to be completed.


MOE also announced that camp capacity at the ministry’s four Outdoor Adventure Learning Centres (OALCs) - at Jalan Bahtera, Changi Coast, Labrador and Dairy Farm - will be increased and their facilities upgraded.

Additionally, a team of full-time Outdoor Adventure Educators (OAEs) will be put together by MOE to conduct cohort camps for schools at the OALCs. These OAEs will be trained in designing and facilitating outdoor adventure activities to help students achieve learning objectives.

Mr Ng further stressed that student safety remains paramount, even as MOE moves to enhance outdoor education, with an Advisory Panel for Outdoor Adventure Learning formed to provide MOE with input to enhance the quality and safety of its local and overseas outdoor programmes. The panel was first announced last year, after an earthquake in Sabah, Malaysia killed 10 Singaporeans, most of whom were primary school students.

Local and international experts in the fields of outdoor adventure learning, medical emergencies and evacuations, and natural hazards make up the panel, which will also gather views from students, teachers, parents, service providers and overseas partners.

- CNA/jo

All Secondary 3 students to go through five-day OBS from 2020

SINGAPORE – All Secondary 3 students will go through a five-day Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) expedition-based camp, under the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) new National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan.

The camp will be piloted with some schools next year, and eventually rolled out to all schools from 2020, when the OBS’ second campus, on Coney Island, is expected to be ready.

Giving details of the masterplan during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate on Friday (April 8), Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said: “Schools camps are another way of immersing our students in authentic, often challenging situations, where they need to work in teams and learn to take responsibility for decisions they make.

“These experiences develop a culture of self-reliance and mutual support with their peers.”

The MOE will co-design the camp programme with OBS, and partner the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth to build the new OBS campus on Coney Island. The camp will also mix students from various schools.

Last month, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said every Singaporean youth will have the opportunity to attend an OBS camp at least once in their schooling years, noting that building up rugged youths is pertinent amid the threat of terrorism and an increasingly diverse society.

Currently, students participate in about two or three school cohort camps at upper primary and secondary levels.

OBS currently has a campus on Pulau Ubin. Beyond the OBS campuses, existing facilities at the MOE’s Outdoor Adventure Learning Centres in Dairy Farm, Changi Coast, Labrador and Jalan Bahtera were upgraded last year to better cater to students’ learning needs.

Other existing campsites will be rejuvenated and upgraded over the next few years to provide enough capacity for all upper-primary and lower-secondary school cohort camps and uniformed groups in schools.

Mr Ng added that the MOE will continue to partner outdoor adventure service providers to offer varied programmes locally and overseas.

To raise the quality of outdoor education programmes, the MOE will also be building a team of full-time Outdoor Adventure Educators to design and conduct cohort camps for school. Since last year, the ministry has been working with OBS and Republic Polytechnic to provide training for teachers and outdoor instructors.

Mr Ng stressed that the safety of the students remains “paramount” even as outdoor education is enhanced and expanded. To that end, an advisory panel for outdoor adventure learning has been appointed to advise MOE on raising the quality and safety of its outdoor learning programmes.

The panel, which will be chaired by the National University of Singapore’s Dr Tan Lai Yong from the College of Alice & Peter Tan, will include parent representatives, as well as local and international experts with a diverse range of experience including medical emergencies and evacuations and natural hazards.

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Malaysia: Haze-related illnesses on the rise in four districts in Sabah

The Star 8 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: There is a rise in haze-related illnesses in four districts in Sabah, namely Beaufort, Kuala Penyu, Papar and Sipitang, said state Health Department director Dr Christina Rundi.

She said the increase was based on findings conducted by the relevant department in the affected districts monitoring haze-related illnesses.

Dr Christina said Beaufort recorded a rise in conjunctivitis, flu and asthma with 310 cases registered within three days of this week, compared with 346 cases throughout last week.

In Kuala Penyu, 61 similar cases were reported for three days this week compared with four last week.

"Data for Sipitang and Papar districts were newly reported this week but showed a high number of patients, especially for breathing and respiratory disease," she said in a statement here Friday.

Dr Christina said, based on the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading recorded by the Department of Environment from April 2 to 4, Beaufort showed unhealthy and very unhealthy air quality. The district has also recorded an hazardous API reading of 301 on April 4.

"However, the API improved overnight to moderate levels," she said.

Dr Christina also reminded the public to avoid exposure to the haze, reduce outdoor activities and take other measures to keep fit.

Individuals suffering from coughs, colds, asthma, eye pain, heart disease and chronic lung disease are urged to seek immediate medical care if the situation worsens.

The public is also reminded to use masks when outdoors, wash the face and skin exposed to the haze with clean water, use air-conditioning if in a vehicle and always drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

"If the haze continues at a dangerous level, people in the high risk category are advised to leave the area," she said. - Bernama

More aerial water bombings at peat swamp fires
The Star 9 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Firemen are intensifying their aerial water bombings at a major peat swamp fire at the Binsuluk Forest Reserve after attempts at cloud seeding failed to bring enough rainfall.

The underground fire has been raging since March 29, triggering severe unhealthy haze conditions earlier this week in the south western Beaufort district.

Over 100 firemen – some from neighbouring Labuan and Sarawak and with the aid of forestry personnel – have been fighting to put it out.

“The rains (from cloud seeding) was not enough to put it off. We will carry out more aerial water bombings at two hot spots at the centre of the forest as we cannot reach the area,” Sabah Fire and Rescue Services Department deputy director Khairul Azuwan Ibrahim said yesterday.

He said apart from aerial bombing, forestry personnel were cutting a route into the two hotspots for firemen to enter the area while volunteers were also cleaning drains to provide sources for water to douse the fires.

More than 200ha of the 12,000ha forest reserve area have been destroyed.

The Binsuluk peat swamp forest had lost nearly 8,000ha in the 1997 El Nino dry spell and there was only about 4,000ha left which foresters say have more or less been wiped out.

Meanwhile, Khairul said that another fire in Bongowan area was already put out late on Thursday and they were now focusing on the Binsuluk fires.

Asked how the firemen were coping with working around the clock, Khairul said: “The morale of our men is good; we don’t know how long it will take to put it out completely. It is our duty to the public.”

The haze situation in south western Beaufort which reached a very unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) of 300 late Sunday has imrproved with readings below 100 API over the last three days.

On Thursday, the Royal Malaysian Air Force carried out cloud seeding over Beaufort, Kuala Penyu, Membakut and Penampang, which saw about 30-minutes of rainfall in interior Sabah and Sipitang.

In Kota Kinabalu, the air quality saw an improvement yesterday with levels below 50 API.

Tambunan 'water bombed' to battle forest fires
KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 8 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Fire and Rescue Department is conducting a water bombing exercise to put out fires at hotspots in the Trusmadi forest reserve, Tambunan this afternoon.

Sabah Fire and Rescue Department assistant director (operations) Khairul Azuwan Ibrahim said the operation started at 2pm using the department's MI 171 helicopter.

"We did a reconnaissance at the hilly area earlier this morning. The blaze started there two days ago and is difficult to access via land.

"Water for the operation is sourced from the river near Sook, Keningau," he said when contacted, adding that the last water bombing operations were conducted at the Binsuluk forest reserve on March 27 and 28.

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Malaysia: Carry out cloud seeding to help farmers, Govt urged

LO TERN CHERN The Star 9 Apr
KEPALA BATAS: In view of the El Nino phenomenon, the Federal Government should carry out cloud seeding in the northern states to help thousands of padi farmers, said Penang Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin.

He said priority should be given to the water catchment area in Sik, Kedah, where some 5,000 padi farmers in north Seberang Prai in Penang were getting water supply from.

“The district is in dire straits as only 1,546ha out of 8,500ha of padi field are supplied with water.

“The farmers in this district have been drawing water from Sungai Muda. We hope the Beris Dam in Sik, Kedah, will continue to release water into Sungai Muda.

“That’s why we need a national effort from the Federal Government to carry out cloud seeding in the northern states.

“Besides Penang, both Perlis and Kedah are also facing water shortage,” he said during a press conference at the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) office in Lahar Ikan Mati here yesterday.

Dr Afif also said it was difficult to irrigate the fields from Sungai Muda because the heatwave was drying up the river.

Pumping stations in Bumbung Lima and Pinang Tunggal, north Seberang Prai, are trying to channel water into the fields but the one in Pinang Tunggal is already suffering from low levels.

He said the level in Sungai Muda had to be at least 2m for the pumps to work efficiently.

“The water level at Pinang Tunggal station is at 1.9m and it cannot work effectively. But the station in Bumbung Lima with water level of 2.05m can pump and supply to certain areas only,” he said.

Dr Afif said the state government had allocated funds to carry out cloud seeding operations, adding that each operation costs RM14,700 daily.

He said so far, about 40% of padi fields in the state had been irrigated.

Farmers affected by El Nino: Ahmad Shabery
New Straits Times 8 Apr 16;

SABAK BERNAM: Some 2,000 out of 9,000 farmers here have been affected by the El Nino phenomena which is currently sweeping the country.

Rice production could also be affected if the current dry spell persists.

Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that while the figures would only be known once the paddy was harvested, it is expected that production will be affected by at least five per cent.

"For now, the ministry is not able to finalise whether El Nino has affected the production of the rice.

We can not determine the actual figures until it is harvested.

Among the problems faced by our farmers is that the water supply is not being distributed to some of the paddy fields in the vicinity as scheduled, causing a delay in the production," he said. He said this was because the water supply was being used in other areas. Ahmad Shabery was speaking during a visit to the area.

He said the purpose of his visit was to check the condition of the water supply system in the district, especially since the country is being hit by El Nino.

He added that a few areas had been badly affected. However, the completion of a retention pond could alleviate the situation soon.

"Now that, the water retention pond in Parit 4 has been finally built, the farmers in the district can enjoy adequate water supply for their rice crops.

The construction of the pond was actually a Federal government project and should have been completed in 2012,” he said.

"However, the project was delayed because the state government had issued a fine of RM600,000 to the Federal government. "So after paying, we managed to complete it in 2014.

"The pond will be fully operational in two weeks time," he said, adding that total cost of the project was RM20 million.

He said the ministry will also seek help from the local councils and authorities to help monitor the situation during the hot season.

"We need to know whether the hot season will affect the production of rice,” he said.

Cloud seeding in Seberang Perai Utara to stop paddy fields from drying up
PRIYA PUBALAN New Straits Times 8 Apr 16;

BUTTERWORTH: Cloud-seeding will be conducted in the Seberang Perai Utara district to save paddy fields from drying up.

State Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Rural Development and Health Exco chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said the move was to help farmers with paddy fields that were drying up due to El Nino.

"The heat wave has caused the paddy fields in the SPU district to be non-functioning lately.

"We have supplied as much water as we can from the river and it is not sufficient to sustain crop development.

"Thus, we need the federal government's green light and support to implement the move but its success depends on the availability and type of clouds," he said, adding that cloud-seeding cannot be done in Penang but only in neighbouring state Kedah.

Bottled water for Banggi
RUBEN SARIO The Star 9 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Bottled water is being rushed into the nation’s northern-most island of Banggi, which has been hit hard by the prolonged El Nino-induced dry spell.

The precious cargo is scheduled to reach Banggi today, a day after the island’s water treatment plant was shut down as the river there ran completely dry.

Kudat district officer Sapdin Ibrahim said 3,000 cartons of bottled water were being sent in from Kudat town to Banggi by boat.

“This will be a start in the continuous supply of bottled water to Banggi,” he told The Star.

He said the island’s hospital at the main settlement of Karakit would be given priority in the supply of the bottled water.

Each family in the five villages with piped water will receive three cartons of bottled water.

Sapdin said families in other villages on the island would receive one carton of water for now.

Asked about a proposal to send water by barge, he said it was too costly as a return trip would cost about RM30,000.

“We found that it would be cheaper to send the bottled water by boat,” he said, adding that his office, the Water Department, NGOs and Banggi state assemblyman Datuk Abdul Mijul Unaini were also helping in the logistics.

There are 18 villages in Banggi with a population 10,000, according to Sapdin.

Banggi islander Asni Madin said a spring near Kampung Timbang Dayang remained the sole water source for them but it was fast drying up.

“Just to fill a 10-litre container takes more than an hour. That is how little the flow is and so many people are depending on that spring, including those from other islands,” she said.

Asni, a former teacher, said islanders who could afford it were buying water from Karakit.

Those who have to go to Kudat were buying crates of mineral water to bring back with them on the ferry, she said.

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Indonesia: Police discover illegal wildlife trade in C.Java

Suherdjoko Suherdjoko Jakarta Post 7 Apr 16;

The Central Java Police have confiscated hundreds of protected sea creature shells from a store in Cilacap, Central Java, during an operation to curb illegal wildlife trade in the province on April 1. During a separate operation in early February the Central Java Police had seized six eagles and one spotted kestrel that had been illegally raised by a Semarang resident.

The Central Java Police special crime investigation division chief Sr.Comr. Edhy Moestofa said on Thursday that the police had confiscated shells and other body parts of protected species from a vendor selling wildlife and animal parts and products.

The confiscated parts and products included eight hawksbill sea turtle carapaces, three turtle shells, 342 turtle carapace-made bangles, 40 carapace-made rings, 33 horned helmet shells, 42 Triton’s trumpet shells, 68 pearly nautilus shells, 155 trochus shells, 40 fluted giant clam shells and 25 maxima clam shells, which had been carved into ashtrays.

The police also confiscated four largetooth sawfish spouts.

“We confiscated those goods in Cilacap from a suspect identified only as SG, a vendor of wildlife and animal parts and products. SG got them from suppliers. We are still tracing the suppliers who provided the illegal goods to the suspect. The wildlife and animal parts and products were sold at a small store in Cilacap and also marketed in several areas around Cilacap. Some of the goods were exported to other Southeast Asian countries,” said Edhy.

He said the police obtained information on the trade of sea creature shells and preserved turtles from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), an NGO which had begun to investigate the protected species trade three months ago.

“We found the wildlife parts and products in Cilacap. We also believe that similar goods have also been marketed as souvenirs for tourists at various beaches. We have contacted the police, as they have the law enforcement authority to take legal action against them,” WCS Wildlife Crime Unit coordinator Irma Hermawati said.

SG is considered to have violated Article 21 and Article 40 of Law No.5/1990 on the conservation of biodiversity and its ecosystem. SG faces a maximum one-year prison term and a maximum Rp 50 million (US$3,793.63) fine. The suspect’s case dossier has been handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Earlier in February, the police confiscated seven protected wild bird species from their owners in Tlumpak village, Tembalang district, Semarang. The confiscated birds comprised one spotted kestrel, two crested hawk-eagles, one black eagle and two white-tailed eagles.

The seven protected wild bird species have been entrusted at an agro tourism center belonging to Hotel Candi Baru in Semarang and at the Dolphin Center Unit IV of the Indonesia Safari Park.

Adj.Sr.Comr.Ferry Irawan of the Central Java Police special crime directorate said the police had named the various owners of the birds as suspects as they were considered to have violated Article 21 (2) Law No.5/1990 on the conservation of biodiversity and its ecosystem, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a Rp 100 million fine.

“From our investigation, we found that the eagles had been trained to participate in competitions,” he said. (ebf)

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