Best of our wild blogs: 14 May 16

Singapore’s mass fish deaths: a signal of problems in the Johor Strait?
Green Drinks Singapore

Butterfly of the Month - May 2016
Butterflies of Singapore

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What to do in Ubin during Pesta Ubin

SERENE LIM Today Online 14 May 16;

SINGAPORE — Fret not if you’re not among the ones who got the Singapore HeritageFest (SHF) Ubin Access Passes. You can still hop over to the island this weekend.

Take it free and easy: Embark on the Ubin Experience Self-Guided Tour with the new trail map given out at SHF Booth at Ubin. We also suggest leaving earlier before the crush starts when the movie screenings and concert end. Do note there are limited ferries operating after 7.30pm. Pesta Ubin has more than 50 activities lined up from now till June 12. The best way to decide what to do is to log on to Pesta Ubin’s website (

Also, stop by Pesta Ubin Central in Ubin Town (Shop No 42, opposite the Wayang stage). Over there are a photo booth, art exhibitions such as visual artist Julia Torame’s Islands of Memories — Pulau Ubin, and a colouring session of the Ubin Fun Map for kids. Some activities happening this weekend, such as Pesta Ubin Run, are already full but there are still others you can participate in. The Treasures Ubin ( should be pretty fun — seek out 10 different treasure cards in Ubin Town to stand a chance to win illustrated books and vouchers.

Ria Tan also suggested dropping by on June 4, where there’ll be plenty of action including a free tour of Ubin mangroves, bird watching at Pekan Quarry near Ubin Town, nature sketching and a kampung tour.

Nature lovers can help with a coastal clean-up in the afternoon and end the day with a nature walk in the dark, a kampung BBQ, night kayaking and night cycling. A family outing to consider, since it’s the school holidays, is the Family Nature Camp with Cicada Tree Eco-Place happening on Friday night on June 3.

Ubin there, done that?
SERENE LIM Today Online 14 May 16;

SINGAPORE — The place to be this weekend isn’t in the city. Instead, take a boat out from Changi Jetty and head out to Pulau Ubin, as the once sleepy island takes centre stage. The island is choc-a-bloc with activities for both young and old.

And it’s not just your usual outdoor adventures such as nature trails either. For one, there’s the movie premiere of Royston Tan’s new film specially commissioned by the National Heritage Board (NHB) for the Singapore HeritageFest 2016 (SHF) on Saturday (May 14) night. It’s followed by a concert where artistes such as Inch Chua are rocking the stage while sharing her memories of the island — and there’s even a cooking class on Sunday.

These activities, which are part of SHF, tie in nicely with Pesta Ubin, a five-week long event also starting on Saturday. The event has evolved from Ubin Day held over the last two years.

“Ubin Day was such a huge success, with so many events. And we had many organising groups — such as Mountain Bike Association Singapore and Pulau Ubin Bird Lovers — involved in one day (2014) or one weekend (2015),” said Pesta Ubin’s organiser Ria Tan, who revived Ubin Day two years ago after volunteer Grant Pereira started it with the Singapore Environment Council in 2002. “I didn’t know of NHB’s plans when I was working with the organising groups on dates. But I was delighted to learn that the NHB planned Ubin events on the first weekend of Pesta Ubin. It’s a happy coincidence!”

You can definitely expect a crowd there as all 300 SHF-Ubin Access Passes are already sold out. That’s not to say you can’t catch the screening or the concert, but do be forewarned that there won’t be seats available.

“We are heartened by the overwhelming support from the community and strong interest by members of the public to discover the lesser-known and forgotten stories of our diverse heritage through the programmes organised at Pulau Ubin. We hope that this will encourage more Singaporeans to learn more about our shared heritage,” said an SHF spokesman.

Dealing with crowds is one reason Tan decided to make Pesta Ubin an extended five-week event. The energetic 55-year-old feels Ubin should be experienced at its own pace to best appreciate it.

“Many of the organising groups felt cramming so many events in a short time affected the experience for participants,” she explained, adding that there were long queues for bumboats, restaurants and toilets. Hence, a myriad of activities from night kayaking to a puppet-making workshop for kids have been planned throughout the five weeks “to allow participants to experience ‘normal’ Ubin life”. With more activities, it is also a chance for more members of the public to participate, added Tan.

Both the NHB and Tan hope such events would inspire the younger generation to keep Ubin vibrant. After all, the island is hardly a relic of the past. “Ubin is a thriving community — there are more than 130 residents living and working on Ubin,” revealed anthropologist Dr Vivienne Wee who finished a year-long cultural mapping project of the island, commissioned by the NHB. “And there are young people coming back to help out with the family businesses.”

One of them is Ewyn Lek. The 31-year-old left his job at an auditing firm three years ago and started helping his aunt run Comfort Bicycle Rental and Trading while doing a part-time degree.

“There’s freedom and flexibility here. It beats being cooped up in the office,” he said on his decision to continue working in Ubin even after finishing his studies. “Having grown up here, it’s nice to see how younger kids are coming to enjoy the island.”

Echoing his sentiments is fellow Ubin kid Emily Chia. The 26-year-old grew up playing in Ubin as her grandparents had lived there. Now she goes there thrice weekly to help with her family’s bicycle business. “I think it’s pretty great that events like Singapore HeritageFest and Pesta Ubin bring more people to Ubin,” the financial consultant said. “I’ve also seen the activities promoted on Facebook and it’s good that people seem to be interested. I’m excited to see how the events turn out.”

5 staycation options for Ubin day-trippers
You don’t need to go back home immediately after a trip to Pulau Ubin
SERENE LIM Today Online 13 May 16;

SINGAPORE — After a whole day of activities on Ubin, especially with the five-week Pesta Ubin kicking off tomorrow (May 14), do you really want to schlep back home (particularly if that home is on the other end of Singapore)?

While you can always camp out in Ubin — National Parks allows camping on the sites of Jelutong and Mamam without requiring permits — we know all too well we prefer comforts, like air-conditioning.

Just beside Changi Jetty is the Civil Service Club Changi. The club was relaunched with 20 new suites and five villas in October 2014 following a two-year renovation — and they look decidedly posher than the image of a chalet you might have in mind. The public is able to book these villas and suites; rates start from S$225 a night for non-members during off-peak periods. Non-members can only book via email ( or in person.

“Yes, we do have a lot of guests who do staycations with us who they take the opportunity to visit Pulau Ubin,” shared its general manager Peter Chew, adding that multinational companies even hold retreats at the club, as it serves as a convenient location when they arrange for visits to Ubin for their foreign executives. If you’re a group of 12 staying at Civil Service Club Changi, you can also request for the club to arrange for a tour of Ubin.

Besides Changi Civil Service Club, here are four other options to book.

1. VILLAGE HOTEL CHANGI (; 1 Netheravon Road; Tel: 6379 7111). Across the road from Civil Service Club is the well-loved Village Hotel Changi, known for its rooftop infinity pool looking out to the sea. Rooms are cosy and comfortable. Go for the club rooms which includes perks like lounge access for evening cocktails and free flow mini bar. The hotel, which is popular for staycations, also offers an Ubin Adventures weekend package priced at S$180 a night for a superior room that includes a three-hour bicycle ride through Pulau Ubin, complimentary Wifi and buffet breakfast for two and late check-out at 3pm.

2. CHANGI COVE HOTEL (; 351 Cranwell Road; Tel: 6922 6122). Changi Cove may be better known for its event space but there’s also a hotel with 112 rooms here. Don’t expect too many frills — the rooms are sleek and simple although there are small luxuries like a Nepresso machine and L’Occitane toiletries. Rates start from S$180 a night for a double room.

3. RAINTR33 HOTEL (; 33 Hendon Road; Tel: 6653 3833). Like every self-respecting colonial building turned boutique hotel, Raintr33 has restored its beautiful exteriors while doing up the interiors to ooze designer chic. Take your pick from the 42 rooms with a private balcony, or the larger eight suites equipped with a king-sized bed and bathtub. Rates start from S$130 a night for a superior room.

4. ALOHA CHANGI (; 30 Netheravon Road; Tel: 6545 2343). There are 31 bungalows and terraces here with three to six bedrooms in each. It’s most ideal for a large party so feel free to get the grill going at the barbecue pits and kick-back old-school style. Rates start from S$140 a night for a Yacht Club Chalet.

Singapore has other islands for rustic adventures besides Ubin, you know
JOY FANG Today Online 14 May 16;

SINGAPORE — Okay, so we may not have pristine and white sandy beaches like Boracay’s, or have as large a variety as Indonesia or Thailand when it comes to island-hopping options. But our humble isles serve up a load of rustic fun and adventure as well. Best part is you don’t need a passport to enjoy a slice of rural charm. These islands, part of Singapore’s Southern Islands, are where you can head to.

Designated a marine park in 2014 and made up of two tranquil islands called Pulau Subar Laut (Big Sister’s) and Pulau Subar Darat (Little Sister’s), the pair are separated by a narrow but deep channel that cannot be swum across (don’t say we didn’t warn you!). Beaches are rocky but its clear blue waters are great for snorkelling, although you should keep to the sheltered bays when you do so.
Keep your eyes peeled for long-tailed macaques on land and coral reefs, fish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and more, often buried deep in the sand, in water. Because there are a lot of shady palm trees, it’s a great spot for a lazy picnic.

If you are into underwater marine life (and have logged at least 20 dives with one local dive within the past two years), you can try Singapore’s first Dive Trail at Pulau Subar Laut, developed by NParks.

Two separate trails are available — the shallow trail will take divers around a loop to a maximum depth of 6m. The deep trail will reach a maximum depth of 15m.
Note: Overnight camping is no longer allowed on the island.

Formerly a quarantine station for cholera cases detected among immigrants, and eventually leprosy as well, this hilly island is now an idyllic getaway with swimming lagoons, beaches, trekking routes and soccer fields, as well as plenty of flora and fauna. It also houses several bungalow chalets. If you are a cat lover, this island will make you purr with its large stray cat population ambling about. To make your money’s worth (a boat ticket to Kusu and/or Saint John’s costs S$18), cross a paved bridge to get to Lazarus Island, where there’s a sandy beach a short stroll away. Li Guoli, a manager from Singapore Island Cruise & Ferry Services, said the beach is secluded and pretty. “It’s quite a clean beach compared with East Coast, which may be too commercialised,” he said. While these two spots are popular among anglers, like at Sisters’ Island, you are not allowed to camp overnight here.

Known as “Tortoise Island” in Mandarin, this spot boasts a rich heritage with a Chinese temple, the Da Bo Gong Temple built in 1923, and the shrines of three Malay saints located on the island. It receives scores of devotees during the ninth month of the lunar calendar (which falls between September and November), who go there for a pilgrimage. Li said during that month, his company runs continuous trips daily, “like a taxi”, and people need not keep to the scheduled times — they just turn up and queue. Trips begin from 5.30am to 5pm, but they head directly to Kusu Island and do not stop over at Saint John’s Island, he added. Hundreds of tortoises are housed at the island’s Tortoise Sanctuary, with dozens more at the Chinese temple. There are also two lagoons, beach shelters and barbecue pits for you to laze and snack your afternoon away. Overnight stays are not permitted here either.

Made up of two islets, Pulau Hantu Besar (Big Ghost Island) and Pulau Hantu Kechil (Little Ghost Island), here is a popular destination for fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. Catch sight of mangroves, corals, and marine life such as clownfish, anemone shrimps and giant clams, or pull out a mat for a leisurely gathering at the shelters or picnic areas. You can walk across the shallow lagoon between the two islands at low tides, but make sure you head back before high-tide hits. Not afraid of the “hantus” (ghosts)? You can camp overnight here, with a permit.

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Singapore reports first imported Zika case

48-year-old man is Singapore's first imported case of Zika virus; will be transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre for treatment and isolation to minimise spread of infection.
Channel NewsAsia 13 May 16;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) reported Singapore's first imported case of Zika on Friday (May 13).

In a joint statement, MOH and NEA said: "The patient is a 48-year-old male Singapore Permanent Resident who had travelled to Sao Paulo, Brazil from Mar 27 to May 7. The patient developed fever and rash from May 10 and was admitted to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital on May 12 and isolated.

"The patient tested positive for Zika virus infection on May 13. He will be transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for treatment and isolation to minimise the chances of being bitten by mosquitoes and spreading the infection in the community. The patient is currently well and recovering. He will only be discharged upon being tested negative for the Zika virus."

The statement added that MOH is screening the patient's household members, and that the patient's residence at Watten Estate is not an active cluster. It said that NEA has intensified vector control operations to control the Aedes mosquito population in the area, and that MOH and NEA would actively alert residents in the vicinity to seek medical attention should they develop symptoms of fever and rash.

MOH and NEA nevertheless stated: "We advise residents of Watten Estate, Hillcrest Arcadia, The Arcadia and Watten Hill Condominium to monitor their health."


The Zika virus has been spreading widely through South America, in particular Brazil, where the virus was first linked with babies being born with microcephaly – abnormally small skulls and underdeveloped brains. On Feb 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a global health emergency that needed a coordinated response.

There have been no reports of outbreaks in Asia, although sporadic cases of local Zika infection have been detected in several countries in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand previously. On Jan 19, Taiwan reported an imported case of Zika from Thailand; South Korea reported its first imported case on Mar 21; and Vietnam, its first infections on Apr 5.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong warned in January that said it may be "challenging" to prevent the virus from spreading and eventually becoming entrenched in Singapore. Mr Gan said in Parliament that the presence of the Aedes mosquito vector here is one reason for his assessment, and that the mild, non-specific nature of the symptoms in most infected patients would also make surveillance difficult.

Zika was added to the list of legally notifiable infectious diseases on Jan 26, and all medical practitioners and diagnostic laboratories are required to notify MOH of suspected and confirmed cases of Zika virus infection within 24 hours.

MOH also said in early February that it would set up a clinical advisory group on the Zika virus to provide expert advice on the management of pregnant women with Zika. Other precautionary measures were stepped up as well, including sending circulars to doctors and health advisories to travellers to and from Zika-affected countries.

On Feb 29, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor told Parliament that MOH and NEA would introduce more measures to tackle Zika. She said MOH would expand Zika virus testing capability to more public hospital laboratories, while NEA would step up the testing of blood samples for Zika from patients with fever, rashes and suspected dengue.

There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika yet. Drugmakers are scrambling to develop a safe and effective vaccine for Zika, but the WHO has said it would take at least 18 months to start large-scale clinical trials.

S'pore has its first Zika patient: MOH, NEA
Today Online 13 May 16;

SINGAPORE — The Zika virus has reached Singapore. The Republic's first imported case of the disease that has sparked international concern involves a 48-year-old Permanent Resident who returned from Brazil last week.

According to a joint statement from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Friday (May 13) night, the man developed fever and rash from May 10, three days after he returned from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he had stayed since March 27.

The PR, who stays at the Watten Estate off Dunearn Road, tested positive for Zika on Friday. He will be transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for treatment. He will also be isolated, the MOH-NEA statement said, "to minimise the chances of being bitten by mosquitoes and spreading the infection in the community".

"The patient is currently well and recovering. He will only be discharged upon being tested negative for the Zika virus," the statement said.

The Health Ministry is screening the Zika patient's household members, and advised residents in the neighbourhood to seek medical attention if they develop tell-tale symptoms like fever and rash.

"We advise residents of Watten Estate, Hillcrest Arcadia, The Arcadia and Watten Hill Condominium to monitor their health," the MOH and NEA said. "They should seek medical attention if unwell, especially if they develop symptoms such as fever and rash. They should also inform their doctors of the location of their residence."

The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito and is identical to dengue. According to information on the Health Ministry's website, the disease is "generally a mild and self-limiting illness (though) rare, serious neurological complications have been reported".

The virus burst onto the international spotlight earlier this year due to its explosive growth in the Americas, particularly in Brazil where mothers infected with Zika have given birth to babies with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains. The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, and has advised pregnant women not to travel to Zika-affected areas.

The Health Ministry urged those returning to Singapore from Zika-affected areas to monitor their health for the next two weeks and see a doctor if they have develop symptoms like fever, skin rashes, joint and muscle pains, headaches and red eyes.

The ministry and NEA also urged the public to help minimise the potential spread of Zika by taking immediate steps to prevent mosquito breeding in homes, and applying insect repellent regularly.

The NEA said it has deployed more officers and intensified its vector control operations around Watten Estate, where the first Zika patient had been staying. The agency has also begun outreach efforts and distributed information leaflets on Zika to residents living in the area.

NEA called for public cooperation in cases where their officers may need to gain entry by force to destroy mosquito breeding grounds.

"As the majority of people infected with the virus do not show symptoms, it is possible that some transmission may already have taken place before the first confirmed case of Zika was notified," the joint MOH-NEA statement said. "Hence, even as NEA conducts operations to contain the transmission of the Zika virus, residents are urged to cooperate fully with NEA and allow its officers to inspect their premises for mosquito breeding and to spray insecticide to kill any mosquitoes."

Singapore's first imported Zika case: Patient discharged from CDC
Singapore's first Zika patient has made a full recovery and has been discharged from the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, say MOH and NEA.
Channel NewsAsia 17 May 16;

SINGAPORE: The 48-year-old man who was Singapore's first imported case of Zika was discharged on Tuesday (May 17) from Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Communicable Disease Centre, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a joint statement.

MOH and NEA said the patient has now tested negative for the virus.

"This means he will not transmit the virus even if he was bitten by an Aedes mosquito," MOH and NEA said. "The patient is well and has made a full recovery."

The statement added that the man's family members have not reported any symptoms of Zika.

However, MOH and NEA cautioned that residents in the Watten Estate area, where the man lives, should continue monitoring their health and seek medical attention if feeling unwell - especially if they develop symptoms such as fever and rash.

"They should also inform their doctors of the location of their residence," the statement said.

In addition, MOH and NEA said members of the public should help minimise the risk of the spread of Zika by preventing mosquito breeding. One should also protect themselves from mosquito bites, such as by applying mosquito repellent.

MOH and NEA reported Singapore's first imported case of Zika on May 13. The patient had travelled to Sao Paulo, Brazil from Mar 27 to May 7, and developed fever and rash from May 10.

He was then admitted to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital on May 12 and isolated. He tested positive for the Zika virus on May 13 and was transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for treatment.

MOH and NEA advised residents of Watten Estate, Casa Perla, Hillcrest Arcadia, The Arcadia and Watten Hill Condominium to monitor their health.

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Indonesia Defends Businessman on Haze, Singapore Finds Statement “Puzzling”

Eko Prasetyo Jakarta Globe 13 May 16;

Jakarta. The Singaporean Foreign Ministry has released a statement denying Indonesia has protested a warrant against the director an Indonesian firm linked to illegal forest fires in last year’s haze.

Arrmanatha Nasir, spokesman for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, said the government has issued a protest against Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) through the Indonesian embassy in Singapore.

“We urge for Singapore’s regulations to not affect good trade and cooperation ties, especially between our businesses," Arrmanatha said in a press briefing on Thursday (12/05).

In a response on Friday, Singaporean Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Arrmanatha’s remarks were "puzzling," and the Singaporean government is yet to receive any representation from the Indonesian Embassy.

Earlier on Wednesday, NEA had obtained a court warrant against the Indonesian director, who failed to heed an interview notice served to him when he was in Singapore.

“The Transboundary Haze Pollution Act [THPA]'s purpose is to prosecute and deter entities that are responsible for transboundary haze pollution in Singapore, whether Singaporean or foreign … We are therefore puzzled as to why Indonesia does not welcome these efforts,” said the statement received by the Jakarta Globe.

Singapore has repeatedly urged the Indonesian government to share information on companies suspected of illegal burning in Indonesia.

Indonesian officials have been informed of at least six companies being served with THPA notices, although no replies have been received.

However, the summoned director and the list of companies have not been disclosed to public.

Haze coming from fires across Sumatra and Kalimantan in Sept. and Oct. last year reached Singapore and Malaysia, causing health issues and inconvenience to all three countries. Several pulp and paper companies are believed to be responsible for starting the fires.

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Malaysia: Turtle deaths rising due to stingray demand

SIM LEOI LEOI The Star 14 May 16;

EXCLUSIVE: DUNGUN: Terengganu’s iconic mascot, the turtle, is dying. The irony – it is not being killed or hunted but has become the victim of the hunger for another marine creature, the stingray.

Metres of illegal nets (pukat pari), laid out to catch stingrays along the shores of the state – some as close as 30m from the beach – are also trapping and drowning the turtles.

With months to go until the nesting season ends for these reptiles, the state Fishery Department said 30 turtles had died in the first four months of this year.

In 2014, 47 turtles were reported to have died. Throughout 2015, there were 59 recorded deaths. With 30 dead so far this year, the number for 2016 could be significantly higher.

WWF-Malaysia senior marine conservation officer Sharifah Ruqaiyah Syed Mustafa said she had received reports of over 20 deaths in the Kemaman district alone and 10 to 15 deaths in Setiu so far this year.

Conservationists, worried that many more deaths have gone unreported, are deeply concerned about the lack of enforcement against the use of the illegal nets by fishermen, some of whom are now “bold enough” to mark the position of these nets with buoys.

And while some fishermen used to furtively retrieve their nets in the wee hours, some of them now turn up as late as 7am to 8am.

State Agriculture, Agro-based Industry, Plantations and Commodities Committee chairman Nawi Mohamad confirmed the increase in the number of turtle deaths, mainly green turtles.

“Most of these deaths are caused by fishermen using nets banned by the Government to catch the stingrays. Nets with a mesh size of 25cm and above are banned because they also trap turtles,” he said in an interview here.

While smaller nets with mesh size of 15cm or 20cm are not banned, fishermen prefer using nets with bigger mesh – some as large as 33cm or 35cm – to catch bigger stingrays that can fetch up to RM10 per kilo at wholesale price.

At some hypermarkets in Kuala Lumpur, stingray – popular as ikan bakar (grilled fish) and for local curries – can fetch up to RM28 per kilo.

Unfortunately for the turtles, stingrays are also known to be found along the coast, particularly around reefs, in the sand and between the rocks, at this time of the year.

“The deaths of these animals are basically fuelled by demand for the stingray,” said a source who used to be in turtle conservation.

“Turtles are a useless by-catch for the fishermen because Malaysians don’t eat the meat. The carcasses of turtles trapped and drowned in these nets are usually sunk with stones.

“Catching stingrays brings in a lot of money despite the risks. There is no motivation to stop catching them,” she said.

The length of a pukat pari – which catches only stingrays – can run up to metres long when strung together.

One pukat pari – known as a bidang – measures 18m by 18m and is usually brought in from Thailand.

In 2014, the state Fishery Department was reported to have seized 15 such illegal nets. In 2015, there were no enforcement patrols.

So far, no one has been charged with possession of the banned nets, which can see a fine of up to RM3,000 and the fishing equipment seized.

“In my eight years here, I have never seen anyone charged or fined,” said Sharifah Ruqaiyah.

A state Fishery Department official said some fishermen were now stringing together nets of different mesh sizes to fool authorities patrolling the waters.

“Many of the fishermen also leave their nets in the sea, only checking their catch every day. The nets could be in the sea for days or even weeks.

“A turtle trapped in one of the nets could have been saved if the fishermen checked on the nets every three to four hours or so,” he pointed out.

Swampy Terengganu island doubles as turtle graveyard
The Star 14 May 16;

EXCLUSIVE: KUALA KERTEH: In the middle of a river mouth leading towards the sea, just a five-minute boat ride from the sleepy jetty of a fishing village here, lies the turtle graveyard – an island where local fishermen dumped dead turtles for years.

On their way back from sea, the fishermen would stop and throw the carcasses on the island, usually far from the bank to hide them from view.

No bigger than a football field and overgrown with mangroves, the swampy island is half-submerged during high tide in the monsoon season despite the steep bank.

This year’s dry spell, however, has made it possible to wade into the swamp and clamber onto the island.

A 45-minute search turned up 55 pieces of old turtle bones, including rib bones that form the carapace and plastrons (belly plates).

The Star was recently taken to the island by Lang Tengah Turtle Watch co-founder Raphe van Zevenbergen.

The organisation was tipped off about the so-called “turtle grave” by a local fisherman, shortly after its founder Hayati Mokhtar began investigating the recent spike in turtle deaths.

“There is no way these turtles could have come here and died naturally. This is a freshwater river and the banks are very steep so the turtles couldn’t have climbed up,” said van Zevenbergen, who found the bones along the edge of the swamp.

Looking through the bones, which he later hid deeper in the swamp, he estimated them to be over a year old.

“The bones we have found are probably just the tip of the iceberg. Given that most were almost entirely consumed by the mangrove swamp, many more would have sunk to the muddy depths.”

The fisherman who took us there by boat revealed that the island had been used as a dumping ground for turtle carcasses as far back as the 1980s.

“Two years ago when I was here, I saw fresh carcasses but the monkeys and other wildlife could have eaten these.

“Last year, they stopped dumping the carcasses here. I don’t know where they dump them now,” said the man, who declined to be identified.

The fishermen were dumping the carcasses secretly as they did not want to get into trouble for using the illegal nets that incidentally trapped and killed the turtles.

WWF-Malaysia senior marine conservation officer Sharifah Ruqaiyah Syed Mustafa said the island had been used as a dumping ground for dead turtles until quite recently, adding that she had gone there in June last year.

“The fishermen who took us there told us that they had seen some ‘very young turtles’. I saw the carcass of a young turtle there,” she added.

MB concerned over turtles dying in illegal nets
The Star 15 May 16;

PETALING JAYA: The Tereng­ganu Mentri Besar is concerned over the dying turtles as a result from the use of illegal nets to catch stingrays.

Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman (pic) said the state government would call relevant parties, especially the state Fishery Department, to discuss ways to end the problem.

He would also request for the Fishery Department to act immediately and monitor the use of illegal nets.

“I am worried about the situation and will take the necessary steps to make sure that fishermen are more responsible while using the nets.

KUALA TERENGGANU 27 April 2016: Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman leaving his office after chaired a weekly exco meeting at Wisma Darul Iman in here.zabidi tusin/the star/kuala terengganu.

“If there is no action taken, I am afraid that the turtles, especially those on the coastal areas of this state, would become extinct,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Ahmad Razif said the state government had always been concerned about issues surrounding the endangered species which were synonymous with Terengganu.

Yesterday, The Star highlighted the dangers faced by the turtles in Terengganu due to the use of illegal nets in the lucrative fishing of stingrays.

The report said that the metres of illegal nets laid out to catch stingrays along the shores of the state – some as close as 30m from the beach – were also trapping and drowning the turtles.

Turtles left defenceless
SIM LEOI LEOI The Star 15 May1 6;

PETALING JAYA: The turtles of Terengganu are defenceless – literally.

For all of last year and up to March this year, the state Fishery Department did not carry out any enforcement operation against errant fishermen using banned nets – pukat pari – with a mesh size of 25cm and above.

The department just does not have money to fund such operations. With no money forthcoming, efforts to protect turtles in Terengganu may be in jeopardy.

It is understood that the programme, which includes enforcement against banned fishing nets and hatcheries carried out by the department, has seen its allocation slashed since January.

WWF-Malaysia senior marine conservation officer Sharifah Ruqaiyah Syed Mustafa said when asked why there was no such operation in 2015 when 59 turtle deaths were reported by the department, it told them that there was no money for oil or that the department’s boat had broken down.

However, the department did carry out one operation in April this year in the Setiu and Kuala Terengganu area, during which it seized 40 bidang. One pukat pari is known as bidang and usually measures 18m by 18m.

Most of the turtle deaths in the state are due to these nets, which are used to catch stingray but also trap turtles as the animals swim around the shore and come up to nest.

It is believed that the minimum costs for an operation can come up to over RM3,300 each time, inclusive of allowances for enforcement officers.

A source said the problem of the turtle deaths was due to the lack of enforcement, adding that he also received word that “funding for the hatchery was to stop for the time being” from June.

There are thousands of turtle eggs in hatcheries in 12 reserve areas – in Redang, Perhentian Island, Rantau Abang, Kerteh, Paka, Geliga and Kemaman – under the department, which has 44 staff, including rangers and workers.

These areas can see over 100 landings by the turtles each year. It is now feared that without money to pay the workers – who only receive the minimum wage – they may have no incentive to keep and incubate the eggs and instead, sell them in the market.

To save costs, it is understood that the employment of rangers, which is seasonal – usually only for five to 10 months during the nesting season – was postponed from March to April.

“For that reason alone, 200 nests were lost in Geliga alone,” said the source, adding that a night could see up to 28 nests in that area.

The lack of funds was confirmed by state Agriculture, Agro-based Industry, Plantations and Commodities Committee chairman Nawi Mohamad in an interview with The Star.

“We did not have allocation for any enforcement operation or campaign activities last year,” he said, adding that there had been a reduction in the funds set aside for the turtle conservation activities from the state government from RM200,000 yearly to RM50,000.

“Yes, we did not have any allocation from January to May. The state government will give allocation after June,” he said, adding that the lack of funds however would not affect the hatchery programme under the department.

“The hatchery programme for the eggs continues,” he maintained.

Nawi said the state Fishery Department had held two meetings, during which it was decided that it would ask the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency to carry out enforcement against errant fishermen.

Fisheries Dept urged to explore methods to prevent turtle deaths
SIM LEOI LEOI The Star 16 May 16;

DUNGUN: The state Fisheries Department should look into other ways of preventing turtle deaths besides enforcing the ban against illegal fishing nets.

Citing recent studies carried out by Exeter University in Britain, Lang Tengah Turtle Watch co-foun­der Raphe van Zevenbergen said using green LED lights could help reduce the number of deaths.

“Their studies show that turtle by-catch can be reduced by over 60% – without affecting the amount of fish harvested – by using green LED lights that cost only US$2 (RM8) each,” he said, adding that adult turtles were scared of bright lights.

The study conducted off the coast of Peru also saw some of the same turtle species in Terengganu such as the green and the hawksbill.

Trapped turtles, said van Zeven­ber­gen, were actually a major inconvenience for fishermen as they damage the nets.

Furthermore, fishermen did not want turtle meat.

According to the department, there were 30 reported turtle deaths between January and April alone.

With months to go before the end of the nesting season, authorities and conservationists are afraid that the number of deaths may be higher this year.

In 2014, 47 animals were reported to have died while in 2015, there were 59 recorded deaths.

The deaths are mainly due to drowning after being trapped in fishing nets – known locally as pukat pari – used to catch stingray. Nets with mesh size of 25cm and above are banned.

WWF-Malaysia senior marine conservation officer Sharifah Ruqaiyah Syed Mustafa said fishermen could practise the seasonal placing of their nets.

“Maybe they don’t put the nets early in the year when it’s the nesting season for the turtles,” she said.

Other methods include the Turtle Excluder Device, which allows the marine animals to escape from shrimp trawl nets through an escape hatch.

Group working to rid nets trapping turtles
The Star 21 May 16;

DUNGUN: A conservation group is working with the state Fisheries Department to carry out enforcement against illegal nets trapping turtles off the Terengganu coast.

Lang Tengah Turtle Watch raised enough funds to cover petrol and personnel costs for a two-day operation from last Sunday, to help fishery officials target “hot areas” where such nets – known locally as pukat pari – were known to be strung up by fishermen.

During the operation, officials even managed to rescue a turtle trapped in one of the nets hauled in by two local fishermen.

The department later confirmed that six illegal nets – with mesh size of 25.4cm (10-inch) and above and a boat were seized from the fishermen, as well as three other nets found in the waters off Dungun.

It also said the fishermen were now being investigated for using the illegal nets.

The operation, targeting areas like Chendering, Marang, Merchang, Rantau Abang and Tanjung Jara along the coast, also found three turtle carcasses.

Nets with a mesh size of over 25.4cm are banned because they trap turtles as the animals swim around the shore during the nesting season.

Lang Tengah Turtle Watch founder Hayati Mokhtar, who helped initiate the operation, said they were pleased that the operation had yielded a positive result.

“We hope that in this way, not only did we create a greater awareness of the issue, we also raised more funds and cooperated with the authorities in mobilising future operations,” she said.

The state’s turtle programme, which includes enforcement against banned fishing nets, had seen its allocation slashed since January. It was reported before that the minimum cost for an operation could come up to over RM3,300 each time, inclusive of allowan­ces for enforcement officers.

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Malaysia: La Nina may have arrived earlier than forecast

MAZWIN NIK ANIS The Star 14 May 16;

PUTRAJAYA: La Nina has apparently arrived earlier than expected, bringing with it a whole lot of rain.

The flash floods on Thursday night, which left thousands of people stranded in various parts of Kuala Lumpur, were caused by heavy rainfall over the past few days.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said Malaysia was expecting La Nina to occur only in July but heavy rain over the past few days, particularly on Thursday, seemed to indicate that the weather phenomenon is already here.

“If the average heavy rain is 70mm to 80mm, the rainfall on Thursday was between 130mm and 140mm.

“It was not because the main rivers in Kuala Lumpur were overflowing but because the drainage system was inefficient and could not allow water to flow properly, causing the flash floods.

“This, as well as development such as the construction of the MRT, contributed to the incident. I will raise this matter with MRT Corp,” he told a press conference yesterday.

Traffic along several major roads, including Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim, Jalan Bangsar and Jalan Lingkungan Budi, was temporarily paralysed due to the flash floods.

According to the ministry data, seven incidents of flash floods occurred in Kuala Lumpur in 2014 while eight similar incidents were reported last year.

Dr Wan Junaidi also pointed out that flash floods occurred not because the SMART tunnel failed to function, but because the heavy rain occurred in areas outside the system.

As an immediate measure, Dr Wan Junaidi said he would seek assistance from City Hall to ensure that drains were free of debris.

He added that local authorities must do the same to minimise flash floods in their municipalities.

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Indonesia to experience La Nina in July-September period: BMKG

Antara 13 May 16;

Manado (ANTARA News) - The Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has forecast that Indonesia would experience the La Nina weather phenomenon from July to September 2016.

Head of BMKG Andi Eka Sakya stated here on Friday that a couple of months ago, Indonesia had experienced a rather strong El Nino phenomenon, which had lowered the intensity of rains in most regions of the country.

"During the El Nino phenomenon, the rain intensity is low, while in La Nina, the opposite occurs. The rainfall will be higher (than normal)," Sakya pointed out.

The effects of El Nino have grown weaker as it had peaked in December 2015, Sakya stated.

In March and April, the Indonesian region had experienced a neutral weather after being hit by the El Nino phenomenon, Sakya noted.

The weather in Indonesia is highly influenced by the Asian monsoon, which is responsible for the extreme variations in rainfall in the region.

The general wind pattern during the monsoon has resulted in Indonesia experiencing a dry season from June to October as it is influenced by the Australian continental air masses.

During the period between November to March, the region will experience a rainy season, which is influenced by the Asian and Pacific Ocean air masses.

(Reporting by Nancy Lynda Tigauw/Uu.A059/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

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