Best of our wild blogs: 16 May 16

25 May (Wed): Talk on "Singapore's Mass Fish Deaths" by Ria Tan
wild shores of singapore

Naked Hermit Crabs celebrate Pesta Ubin
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Kusu Island Intertidal
Biodiversity Singapore

Reflections from Claudia, our first civet intern
Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

Dark-sided Chorus Frog (Microhyla heymonsi)
Monday Morgue

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Malaysians in Singapore urged to take preventive measures against Zika

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 16 May 16;

SEGAMAT: Hundreds of thousands of Malaysians who travel daily to Singapore to work have been urged to take extra preventive measures in view of the first Zika case reported in the republic.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam advised those who commute to the republic to wear long sleeves and apply adequate mosquito repellents to protect themselves from the Aedes mosquitoes.

“While it would take two to three weeks for the Singapore authorities to establish where the patient contracted the disease, there’s nothing wrong with early preventive measures,” he told reporters yesterday after welcoming Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar who made a stop at Taman Yayasan here as part of the royal family’s Kembara Mahkota Johor expedition to every district in the state.

Dr Subramaniam added that the ministry had also instructed the Public Health Department in Johor Baru to step up efforts to fight Aedes mosquitoes, which was the vector for both dengue and Zika.

He said the thousands of daily commuters could put Johor at risk due to the state’s geographical location but the risk could be minimised with proper mitigation efforts.

Those showing symptoms like fever and rashes should seek immediate medical help, he added.

The first imported case of the Zika virus infection was reported in Singapore on Friday.

The patient was a 48-year-old male Singapore permanent resident who had travelled to Sao Paulo, Brazil, from March 27 to May 7.

The patient developed fever and rash from Tuesday and was admitted to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital on Thursday and was isolated.

Zika: Johor health dept told to step up surveillance
The Star 15 May 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Johor Baru Health Department has been asked to increase surveillance at the country's entry points in the state as a precautionary measure following the Zika virus case reported in Singapore last Friday.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said as a preventive measure, cooperation had also been stepped up with the Indonesian and Thai authorities to share information about the spread of the virus.

"However, Malaysia still free and safe from the Zika virus," he told a press conference in conjunction with World Health Day and Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya-level Nutrition Month, here Sunday.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore on Friday announced that the republic became the second country in Southeast Asia after Vietnam reported its first case of the Zika virus.

The victim was a 48-year-old man, a Singapore permanent resident who had travelled to Sao Paulo, Brazil from March 27 to May 7, 2016.
Dr Hilmi said as the Zika virus is spread by the Aedes Egypti mosquito which is the same vector for dengue fever, prevention efforts need to be taken since the mosquitoes already exist in this country.

"Referring to the health ministry's statistics, dengue cases which are carried by the Aedes mosquito, decreased from 3,500 cases in the first week of this year to only 1,500 cases last week.

"The decline was helped by the El Nino phenomenon which swept the country, causing the breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes to be affected," he said. - Bernama

Zika: No restriction on Malaysians visiting Singapore
The Star 17 May 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Although there has been a reported case of Zika virus infection in Singapore, the Health Ministry has not issued any restriction on Malaysians going to the country.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya, however, advised Malaysians who wished to visit the country to always be alert, especially if faced with symptoms like fever.

He said the Government has conducted screening tests on 90,000 individuals who have entered Malaysian through Singapore, apart from giving health reminders at all entry points into the country.

“The Malaysian and Singaporean governments are always cooperative when doing screening tests on individuals who have visited Latin America countries such as Brazil, Venezuela and others, especially within the period of last week,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Monday.

Last Friday, Zika was detected in Singapore when one of its permanent residents, who had visited Sao Paolo, Brazil from March 27-May 7, tested positive with the virus. – Bernama

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Malaysia: Act on water shortage woes, Johor urged

The Star 16 May 16;

JOHOR BARU: Johor’s water shortage is worrying and business associations have called on the state government to address immediately to ensure plans to make Iskandar Malaysia a long-term investment destination are not derailed.

“It will definitely put off the investors if their businesses or operations are constantly affected by water shortage,” Johor Indian Business Association president P. Sivakumar said.

Such disruption, he said, could drive them to look for other options.

Last year’s water rationing in parts of the state, which lasted for about four months, greatly affected businesses such as food and beverage outlets, hair salons, car wash operators and laundry shops, he said.

“They were faced with big losses and there was no compensation at all – and it was not the first time such scheduled water supply exercise took place,” he said.

By end of this month, about 885,000 people in Johor Baru, Pasir Gudang, Kota Tinggi and Mersing will have to face scheduled water rationing if the water levels do not improve at the Congok and Layang dams.

Currently, some 85,000 consumers in the Mersing and Kota Tinggi districts have been experiencing water rationing for the past month.

Sivakumar said the state government should conduct an in-depth study and find out whether the water shortage was caused by the vast developments in the state or that the oil palm estates were using too much water from rivers.

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Malaysia: Kedah government aware of logging activities in Ulu Muda reserve

The Star 16 May 16;

ALOR SETAR: The state government is aware of the logging activities in the Ulu Muda forest reserve and efforts are being made to protect the reserve.

“Those who were found to have conducted logging illegally will be banned immediately,” said Kedah Water Supply, Water Resources and Energy Committee chairman Datuk Badrol Hisham Hashim.

He said he would look into the areas in the forest that were permitted for logging and the companies that were issued licences to do so.

He acknowledged that the place was an important water catchment area.

“Discussions will be held to see how it can be gazetted for that purpose,” he said.

Kedah Environment Committee chairman Datuk Dr Leong Yong Kong said the state government was not agreeable to any logging activity which could destroy the forest near the water catchment area.

He added if there was a dire need for the future of the people, the whole Ulu Muda forest reserve would be gazetted as a water catchment area to ensure no more encroachment.

A government official, who declined to be named, said the state had always hoped for no more logging in the water catchment areas and forest reserves but it was a fast way to get money to “run the state”.

At the Kedah state assembly sitting last year, former mentri besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir said the state government had to issue logging licences to concessionaires as this was approved by the previous PAS administration.

Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) general manager Fouzi Ali said he was unaware that logging was being carried out in the forest reserve but stressed that it was important for the water catchment area to be protected.

As for the depleting water levels at the three dams in Kedah, Fouzi said the total amount was still sufficient.

He said it was also enough for irrigation for the first padi cultivation this year and the water used was from the Pedu Dam.

As of yesterday, the Pedu and Ahning dams were at safe levels while the Muda dam was at a “minimum safe” level.

Mada head of corporate communications Mohd Hafizi Zakariah said the water levels in Muda dam was at 92.34m (34.63%); Ahning dam at 105.22m (69.79%) and Pedu dam at 86.92m (47.72%).

“The release of water from the Muda dam for irrigation has been closed and the water from the Ahning and Pedu dams will be used instead.

“The average balance of all three dams is at 50.40% and we are confident that it can last until late September,” he said.

The Kedah Forestry Department has yet to furnish The Star with figures on the total area in the Ulu Muda forest that were sanctioned for logging.

Ulu Muda no longer a paradise
ROYCE TAN The Star 16 May 16;

ALOR SETAR: The little-known Ulu Muda forest reserve stretches from the Malaysian border with Thailand at Yala in the north to Baling in the north of Perak.

It’s about twice the size of Singapore and a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers.

More importantly, it’s a lifeline for Perlis, Kedah and Penang, supplying much of the water for all three.

It serves as a vital water catchment area to the Muda, Pedu and Ahning dams that supply most of the water to the three states.

The reserve is now facing a big threat. Rampant logging is taking place in the forest reserve.

While small bare patches of the forest could be seen by motorists using the Federal Road 157 travelling between Gulau and Weng, it does not seem severe enough for someone to bat an eyelid – not until one enters the logging sites and depots.

Just 9km from the Forest Ranger’s office in Gulau, one would have to cross Sungai Sok, where the water levels are only shin-high.

Forest roads measuring around 3m showed that many trees were cleared just to make way for heavy-duty vehicles plying the paths to transport logs out of the forest.

The Star managed to find at least five logging depots, with thousands of high-quality logs such as meranti, cengal and merbau lying around, waiting to be transported out to their processing destinations.

The logging depots discovered were about the size of 30 football fields.

It is believed that there are more similar depots deeper inside the forest.

Workers were also seen standing guard at makeshift tents of other entrances, which are believed to lead to the logging sites.

Some were also seen measuring and recording the types of the logs before they were transported out of the forest to the Forest Ranger’s office in Gulau for inspection before the lorries ferrying them headed to their respective destinations.

A two-hour observation in front of the office showed that some 100 logs ferried by 10 lorries were inspected.

The logging activities have definitely not gone down well with the villagers in the vicinity.

Wahad Ahmad, 48, who lives in Kampung Landai, said the once clean Sungai Sok was now very murky.

“The river has been filled with mud and sand. It’s worse when it rains.

“When I was a child, we used to swim and catch fish in this river.

“It’s impossible for my children to enjoy that right now,” said the odd-job worker.

A retiree who wished to be known only as Pak Man, said he would often see lorries going in and out of the logging areas.

“Yes, the river is much dirtier now but what can we do? These companies have the licence to log here,” he said.

Over in Kampung Belantik some 10km away, boatman Zulkifli Ibrahim, 45, was also disappointed when he spoke about the sedimentation of the river.

He said back in the days before the logging at the forest began, the water was so clear that some villagers would even drink from it and it was also the main water source for them.

The 2014 Auditor-General’s report said the state had approved 6,252ha of forest for logging and 4,612ha in 2013.

Kedah received RM30.1mil in forest premium in 2014 and RM10.8mil in 2013.

The Auditor-General’s Report from previous years showed that in 2012, the state government approved 8,542ha for logging, and received RM32.93mil in forest premium, while 12,909ha were approved in 2011 with a forest premium of RM74.92mil.

In 2010, 7,856.11ha yielded a forest premium of RM48.54mil while in 2009, 6093.68ha were approved with a forest premium of RM33.05mil.

Not a single drop of rain in Kota Baru for 43 days
The Star 16 May 16;

KOTA BARU: The Kota Baru district has not seen rain for the past 43 days.

As for Kuala Krai, it recorded its highest temperature of 37.2°C on Saturday, said a statement from the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.

Meanwhile, AF Jets Sdn Bhd, the cloud seeding company that has been spreading salt concentrated flares over the skies of Kelantan since last Sunday, has reported a 70% success rate.

Rain has fallen in Pasir Mas, Machang, Gua Musang, Kuala Krai, Tumpat, Pasir Mas and Pasir Puteh, except Kota Baru.

AF Jets, which is using a Cessna C172 aircraft for the operation, is spending about RM300,000 but it is doing it for free as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Many of the lakes and wells in the state have dried up.

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Indonesia: Whale shark sightings promote Bone Bolango as tourist destination

Antara 15 May 16;

Gorontalo (ANTARA News) - Bone Bolango District Head Hamim Pou has been grateful that regular sightings of 17 whale sharks in Botubarani waters, have attracted tourists to visit the region.

"The presence of the 17 whale sharks is blessing for Bone Bolango District. Therefore, we must always protect them," Pou said here, Saturday.

He called on residents of Bone Bolango to help preserve the giant fish and make them feel comfortable living in the area.

"Bone Bolango District has developed community-based tourism management, so the local community could earn money from maritime tourism or from whale shark tourism," he said.

Local residents sell food, opens diving equipment rentals, and provide boats for tourists.

The district recently took part in a national fair held in Jakarta to promote whale shark sighting tourism. Some 400 districts across Indonesia joined the fair.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, however, recently reminded that whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in the Botubarani waters, Kabila Bone, Bone Bolango District, Gorontalo Province, must not be over exploited,

"I appeal to you to not destroy the phenomena of 17 whale sharks in Gorontalo. Because as we intensify tourism, we must not injure the whale sharks while we watch, approach and appreciate them," she said when visiting the district on Saturday.

She urged visitors and locals to keep a distance from the whale sharks, whose frequent sightings have attracted tourists.

Pudjiastuti expressed her concern over whale sharks that are wounded.

"Many of them are wounded in the back, head or tail. I think everyone must swim from the land to there. No boat is allowed to approach (the sharks)," the minister said after swimming and interacting with several whale sharks, Saturday.

Boats have caused injuries to the giant fish, she noted. (*)

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