Best of our wild blogs: 2 Jun 16

Night Macro Workshop at Pulau Ubin
Macro Photography

5 stories about the Common Palm Civet
Life of a common palm civet

10 – 11 June 2016 – [Global Asia] Memes, Schemes & Dreams: Imagining Singapore Urban Futures
Green Drinks Singapore

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Impact on existing wildlife, plants among concerns over Mandai project


SINGAPORE — The potential impact on wildlife in Mandai as well as the type of “green mitigation” measures needed to protect the natural habitats in the area are among the issues being ironed out ahead of a pending Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the planned mega-project.

The report, said Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) yesterday, will be out “in a few weeks”.

In the meantime, it is in discussions with government agencies and various nature groups on environmental issues that could arise from plans such as introducing a large collection of birds into the area with a new bird park, and building a new eco-bridge for wildlife to roam.

Commenting on the plans, which were announced yesterday, Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chair of Nature Society’s (Singapore) conservation committee, said he was concerned about the eco-friendliness of the new bird park and possible adverse impact on local wildlife in the area. The planned bird park, which MSPH had touted as one of the world’s largest collection of birds, would require more fences and pose problems for wildlife movement, he said, describing it as an “artificial, completely non-wild set-up”.

“There will be problems of escapees into our nature reserve; there can be no absolute control. (It could also be a) possible source of infections to our local birdlife,” added Dr Ho, who has been in talks with MSPH since redevelopment plans were first revealed.

While he felt heartened by plans for an eco-bridge, he noted that the site proposed is too narrow and crosses over the nature reserve at an “awkward spot” on the side of Mandai Lake Road. Suggesting an alternative location in a central part of the land further away from the road for the bridge, Dr Ho said this would encroach into land earmarked for the planned bird park, but such an important ecological benefit and value should not be sacrificed.

Dr Ho also pointed out that the land set aside for the planned Rainforest Park has been left alone for decades, turning into secondary forest and becoming home to wildlife like the leopard cat, Sunda pangolin and grey-headed fish eagle. “More local plant species can be slowly introduced but there should not be any clear-felling of large tracts of trees,” he said.

Professor Peter Ng of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which is conducting the EIA with MPSH and National University of Singapore under the guidance of the National Parks Board, said he could not elaborate on the issues under discussion at this point in time.

But he stressed that progress has been made in the talks, which include non-governmental agencies like Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES), Nature Society (Singapore) and Nature Trekker, and wildlife experts like Mr Joseph Koh, an authority on spiders.

Mr Koh did not respond by press time, while ACRES and Nature Trekker could not comment.

Asked about previous calls by the nature groups for a buffer zone to be created between man-made and existing forested areas, Prof Ng said that it is not an easy balance, and added that discussions on how to make the planned eco-bridge effectively are ongoing. He also said the land set aside for the planned Rainforest Park, which will involve reforestation efforts, has already seen development over the areas, but important plants and habitats within the area must be protected.

“The Mandai develop(ers) are fully aware of this and are now juggling their own plans to accommodate. … The agencies and NGOs have been pointing out what are necessary “green mitigations” that need to be done, and they are being factored in as far as possible,” said Prof Ng.

“The plan is evolving continuously so that as many concerns as possible can be addressed.”

Bird park, new rainforest to be added to Mandai wildlife attractions
SIAU MING EN Today Online 2 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — The lush greenery of the Mandai area is set to be transformed with two new wildlife parks — a rainforest-themed adventure park and a new bird park transplanted from Jurong — to add to the trio of wildlife attractions already in the area.

By 2023, the Mandai precinct will be home to a nature-themed education centre and eco-sensitive lodging for vacationers, part of the planned 126ha mega-nature attraction.

Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) revealed these plans on Wednesday (June 1), although they will still be subject to regulatory approval, while an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is under way.

To be sited outside the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the 17ha Bird Park will house one of the world’s largest collection of birds. Visitors will be able to observe free-flying birds in nine different walk-in aviaries modelled after various habitats, such as the wetlands, bamboo forests and rainforests. The current 20ha Jurong Bird Park has only three walk-in aviaries.

Certain iconic features of the Jurong Bird Park will also be “reimagined” for the new park. These include a new waterfall and a custom-designed amphitheatre for bird performances.

A breeding and research facility will also be built within the new park to breed critically-endangered species from around the world in captivity, particularly South-east Asian species such as the Bali Mynah and the Black-winged Starling.

The new bird park is expected to be ready within the first phase of Mandai’s makeover in 2020.

Temasek Holdings was earlier named as Singapore Tourism Board’s partner in this project, and the first phase estimated to cost some S$1 billion.

The relocation of the 45-year-old Jurong Bird Park was first mooted as a possibility by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a live television forum in September 2014 when the Government was seeking the advice of nature groups on refining its plans for Mandai.

Meanwhile, visitors can expect to set out on a “multi-layered adventure” in the new 12.5-ha Rainforest Park on forest floor pathways to the tree-top canopies.

Located along Mandai Lake Road — facing the new Bird Park — it will also feature walking trails while the MSPH is also toying with the idea of placing resting pods mounted in the trees.

With ongoing reforestation works expected to take place in this area, the Rainforest Park will only be fully open in 2023.

At the press conference on Wednesday, MSPH said that stringent environmental protection measures will be put in place to minimise any potential impact on the flora and fauna in the area.

An eco-bridge also be built across the Mandai Lake Road to allow wildlife to move between the central and northern reaches of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, similar to the one built to connect two nature reserves over the Bukit Timah Expressway.

The plans to redevelop Mandai had previously sparked concern among nature advocacy groups here due to the area’s proximity to the swathes of forest in the nature reserve. An EIA is being conducted by Temasek with the National University of Singapore and Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, under the guidance of the National Parks Board.

On Wednesday, MSPH group chief executive officer Mike Barclay declined to reveal findings from the EIA due to ongoing consultations. The report is expected to be ready w ithin the next few weeks, and will be put up for public consultation.

“The engagements that I mentioned it has already shaped some of our decision-making. I would say that the big blocks we’ve all agreed on and we’re now into the smaller detailing,” said Mr Barclay.

Tapping the popularity of the overnight camps already available at the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari, MSPH also plans to have more permanent accommodation such as tents, rustic cottages and family rooms.

Visitors will also have access to some of the public green spaces within the Mandai nature precinct. These areas will be designed to include seating areas, nature trails, boardwalks, playgrounds as well as dining outlets.

Asked if the five parks would mean a saturation of attractions, Mr Barclay disagreed, saying the parks are “well-differentiated”. Prices will also be positioned to encourage people to visit multiple parks, he said, adding that their multi-park pricing introduced this year have already seen an encouraging response.

Addressing concerns that the Mandai area is relatively inaccessible, MSPH also plans to introduce shuttle bus services between the upcoming Springleaf MRT on the Thomson-East Coast Line to Mandai, among other transport options being considered. All the attractions will also be connected with shuttle buses and trams.

More accommodation options on the cards at Mandai nature precinct
To enhance the visitor experience, the expanded nature precinct could have permanent tented structures, cottages and family rooms says Group CEO of Mandai Safari Park Holdings Mike Barclay.
Lim Jia Qi Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: When the new Mandai nature precinct is ready in 2023, visitors can expect a more immersive wildlife experience which includes allowing the public to stay at the zoo in a range of accommodation options to get up-close and personal with nature.

The current offerings will be expanded to allow visitors, who wish to enjoy overnight experiences at the zoo, to extend their stay.

"Right now we do have camping options so people can camp over at the zoo. We will look at whether we can have permanent tented structures, cottages, also family rooms," said Group CEO of Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) Mike Barclay at a press conference on Wednesday (Jun 1).

"We know the area that we want to do this but we are working through the details," Mr Barclay added.

Aside from the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari, two new attractions - a Bird Park and Rainforest Park - and an indoor nature-themed education centre will be added to the Mandai nature precinct.

The 17-hectare Bird Park, which is due to open in 2020 with nine large aviaries, will allow visitors to to experience different habitats such as wetlands, bamboo forests and rainforests.

"You may move from a rainforest habitat with rainforest birds into wetlands habitat with very bright colourful scarlet birds," said Mr Barclay. "The new Bird Park will house one of the world's largest collections of birds."

To enhance visitors' experience at the new Bird Park, some familiar features from Jurong Bird Park will be reimagined and incorporated. These include a waterfall and a custom-designed amphitheatre where visitors could see birds fluttering freely around the facility.

"Our plan is to have aviary structures above all the bird exhibits including the amphitheatre which is very unusual. This means that in fact the birds in the amphitheatre could be free flying within the aviary and then with the whistle, they can come down and take part in the show," Mr Barclay added.

Over at the Rainforest park, which will be connected to the Bird Park, visitors can learn more about tropical rainforests. They can go on an "multi-layered adventure", meandering through forest floor pathways to the treetop canopies, spotting wildlife amongst the surrounding trees. The 12.5-hectare park will open in 2023.

In total, the development of the Mandai precinct including the current attractions, will span about 120 hectares.The first phase of the project is estimated to cost about S$1 billion. Mr Barclay added that construction work will start by the end of this year and steps will be taken to minimise the impact on the wildlife there.

- CNA/jq

Mandai nature precinct will house two new wildlife parks
A new Bird Park and a new Rainforest Park are set to be part of the new Mandai nature precinct when it is completed, announced Mandai Safari Park Holdings.
Lim Jia Qi, Kimberly Spykerman, News 5 and Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: The Mandai nature precinct will be home to two new wildlife parks when it is completed - a Bird Park and Rainforest Park - announced the Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) on Wednesday (Jun 1).

The new Bird Park, located in the western part of the precinct, will open by 2020. The 17-hectare attraction will house one of the world's largest collections of birds. It will have nine large aviaries with different landscapes from around the world, including wetlands, bamboo forests and rainforests.

Together with the existing Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, and River Safari, this will create an integrated nature and wildlife experience for all visitors to Mandai.

Jurong Bird Park will close eventually and the land will return to the Government when the new Bird Park is ready. No definitive timeline is given for this, but Group CEO of MSPH Mike Barclay said Jurong Bird Park will still be open before the new Bird Park is ready.

Some of the best-loved features in Jurong Bird Park will be reimagined in the new park, said MSPH. There will be a new waterfall, a grand entrance to the park framed by flowering plants and a custom-designed amphitheatre to feature bird performances.

The new Bird Park will also feature a facility that focuses on breeding and researching critically endangered species from all over the world.

The 12.5-hectare Rainforest Park will open in 2023. It will be connected to the new Bird Park. Visitors will be able to be fully immersed in the sights and sounds of the tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia.

Besides wildlife, Singaporeans will get access to a series of open spaces in the heart of Mandai - with gardens, waterways and playgrounds.

An indoor nature-themed education centre focusing on Conservation, Research and Education is also in the pipeline. The centre will aim at raising awareness and appreciation for the region's biodiversity and natural heritage.

In response to public feedback, the current eco-accommodation will be expanded to allow nature enthusiasts and families to extend their stay in Mandai. MSPH is also exploring a range of options with the Government to improve accessibility to Mandai. These include introducing shuttle buses from the upcoming Springleaf MRT station and direct bus services from regions that are not well-connected to Mandai.

"We want to give Singaporeans a nature and wildlife destination that they can call their own. Visitors have asked for more novel, engaging and immersive experiences and we hope the new Mandai nature precinct will provide all that and more," said Mr Barclay.


The Nature Society Singapore has raised concerns that the development of the Mandai nature precinct will affect the native animals living in the Central Catchment area.

"Back in 2010, there was another development proposed in that area and the Nature Society's opinion was that the area would be better off as a nature park and to allow the continued usage of the area by the native fauna,” said Tony O'Dempsey, a spokesman from the organisation. “So from the nature point of view that is the optimum usage for the land."

Mr Barclay said steps will be taken to protect the wildlife: "We will be very careful in how we go into the new development area and to make sure we have a very, very responsible way of moving wildlife away first before we build structures there."

An eco-link bridge will also be built spanning Mandai Lake Road. The bridge will allow animals to move between the central and northern reaches of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

In regard to this, Mr O'Dempsey added that the Nature Society Singapore hopes there will be sufficient buffer zones for the animals in the area, as well as "reasonable-sized eco links", so that they can continue to move to and fro the two parts of the nature reserve.

Mr O'Dempsey also lauded the mitigation efforts undertaken by the environmental impact consultants.

"I think the environmental impact consultant is actually putting in a lot of effort into mitigation the construction impact by phasing the construction work. You can never have no impact, but at least they're taking some reasonable steps to minimise," he said.


The new developments at Mandai will be completed in phases from 2020, subject to required approvals. The first phase is estimated to cost some S$1 billion.

When asked if there is sufficient demand to justify the investment, Mr Barclay noted that there has generally been "very robust growth" in visitation to zoological parks around the world.

"We also want to be a cutting edge kind of wildlife park - move away from the cages and have open concept exhibits or very large aviaries. So we want to be an environment where our guests feel that this place really understands looking after wildlife and conservation," said Mr Barclay.

"The conservation elements will be very strong both in terms of education and our breeding centres, our rehabilitation centres which will be opened to the public," Mr Barclay added.

- CNA/av

Mandai to host 5 parks in one location by 2020
Stephanie Luo AsiaOne 1 Jun 16;

Mandai will be home to the new Bird Park and the brand new Rainforest Park from the year 2020.

At a press conference held earlier today (June 1) at the Singapore Zoological Gardens, Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) revealed that the two parks will be part of the 126ha integrated nature wildlife park which also houses the Singapore Zoological Gardens, Night Safari and River Safari.

This comes after MSPH, Temasek Holdings and Singapore Tourism Board announced a partnership to revamp the zoo in January last year.

The inclusion of the new Bird Park at Mandai, which will be situated at where the now defunct Mandai Orchid Gardens used to be, will be home to the species of birds at the present Jurong Bird Park.

This means that Jurong Bird Park will be closed down when the species of birds are fully brought over to the new 17ha park, although the exact date of the closure has not been confirmed. Its name has yet to be finalised.

The new Bird Park will centre around nine large walk-in aviaries and each aviary will feature a different habitat and birds associated with that habitat. Visitors can expect to see tropical birds flying freely.

A walk-in trail will be designed around water courses and visitors will have a close view of some red birds like the Carribean flamingoes and Roseate spoonbill.

According to Mr Mike Barclay, Chief Executive Officer of MSPH, the new Bird Park will "amplify parts of Jurong Bird Park which are enjoyed by the public".

New Rainforest Park

For the new Rainforest Park installation, visitors can enjoy a "mulit-layered" experience. There will be elevated walking trails to allow for different perspectives when viewing the flora and fauna.

According to Ms Neo Gim Huay, Managing Director of Enterprise Development Group of Temasek Holdings, public utilities will mostly be kept underground as hard structures could be an "eyesore" in the nature park. The carpark will be kept "submerged" as the area is meant for visitors to view greenery and not be interrupted by infrastructure.

Resting pods will be available for visitors to the Rainforest Park.

A rehabilitation centre will also be set up where agencies and the public can bring in injured or abandoned wildlife for the veterinarian team to treat and if appropriate, release back into the wild.

Eco-accommodation and new bird species

The area for development of the two new parks is situated outside of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. It occupies about 35ha and used to house settlements and farmers in the past.

There will be an eco-bridge for wildlife to move freely and help prevent roadkill.

There will be eco-accommodation options too. After requests from the public about lodging, WRS said that it is considering this option for tourists in the future.

A representative from WRS said that the Rainforest Park will have new species of birds which are undecided as of now.

There will be two phases to the development of the new parks, which will be separate and gated.

Construction of the new Bird Park will fall in the first phase which costs $1 billion, while the second phase is still subject to government approval and a budget has not been set aside as yet, according to Mr Barclay. Construction is expected to take place at the end of this year.

Accessibility to the area, however, seems limited for now. Mr Barclay said that public transport is currently "a bit patchy" but when the Thomson-East Coast line is ready from 2019, WRS will introduce shuttle buses from Springleaf MRT station and direct bus services from key regions that are not well-connected to Mandai.

In this new development project, there will also be public spaces that are not gated or ticketed, and seating places will be incorporated for a view of the reservoir. There will be a playground for children, nature trails and boardwalks along the edge of the reservoir.

According to Ms Neo, there might also be a potential introduction of a heritage trail in Mandai documenting the place's historic and memorable moments.

Mr Barclay said: "We're really excited by the idea of having five wildlife parks at one location where guests can hop between all these different parks.

"Visitors have asked for more novel, engaging and immersive experiences and we hope the new Mandai nature precinct will provide all that and more," the 49-year-old added.

Wistful memories of bird park as move is announced
SIAU MING EN Today Online 2 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — A fixture in school excursions for older Singaporeans, the iconic Jurong Bird Park — home to more than 5,000 birds across 400 species — will be relocated to the Mandai nature precinct just before the park turns 50.

For some, such as nutrition scientist Fong Chee Wai, 47, the 20ha avian attraction left him with a positive impression of birds, and eventually saw him holding photography classes there with members of his Nature Photographic Society (Singapore) (NPSS).

His very first visit to the park was with his extended family when he was in his early teens, where Mr Fong said he vividly remembers the iconic 30m man-made waterfall in the Waterfall Aviary.

Over the past 15 years or so, Mr Fong has made more than 20 trips to the park where he conducts photography practice classes with the NPSS members.

Yesterday, the Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) announced its plans to build an integrated nature and wildlife destination in Mandai, including the relocation of the Jurong Bird Park to the new 17ha site by 2020.

Earlier, when there were whispers of a possible relocation, Mr Bernard Harrison, former chief executive of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, had said the move would be extravagant and unnecessary.

The Jurong Bird Park was built at a cost of S$3.5million more than four decades ago, excluding the price of the land.

Mr Mike Barclay, MSPH’s group chief executive officer, pointed out yesterday that the existing infrastructure at the park was less than ideal.

“The underground facilities are in pretty bad shape ... If we were to remain for another 50 years, we will actually have to do pretty major renovations to redo all the waterworks, the sewerage, the electricity — all the things you don’t see,” he said.

It will take about three months for the birds to be moved to the new park in Mandai. Jurong Bird Park will not close until they have fully moved their collection of birds, said Mr Barclay. The plot of land used by the old bird park will be returned to the Government.

On the bird park’s imminent move, Mr Fong said: “We’ll definitely miss it, it’s a pity but I think it’s inevitable in Singapore.”

Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s senior lecturer in tourism Michael Chiam felt that the relocation will help consolidate the attractions in one location as Jurong Bird Park is currently in “quite an isolated place”.

Mr Allan Chia, the head of the MBA Programme at SIM University, noted that Singaporeans need more interesting outlets for leisure and recreation, and the majority of tourists could be enticed by time and cost savings with this new “one-stop attraction”.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai said the new bird park will have to build more superior infrastructure than the current bird park to prevent birds from escaping.

He suggested that visitors to the new park could also be educated on endangered species and captive breeding.

On the potential uses of the vacated land after 2020, some property analysts felt the area could be used for industrial purposes, or be turned into a business park or a commercial centre.

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27 complaints about wild boars received this year: AVA

Last year, the Agri‑Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore received 77 pieces of feedback, including 12 from Punggol.
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: The Agri‑Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said on Wednesday (Jun 1) that it has received 27 reports related to wild boars so far this year, including six from Punggol. Last year, it received 77 reports, including 12 from Punggol.

AVA was responding to media queries after a wild boar apparently chased and injured a boy on Sunday near Block 184 at Edgefield Plains in Punggol. It said it operations are underway to hunt for the boar, but so far, no wild boars have been caught.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said it was alerted to the incident at 2.10pm and dispatched an ambulance.

AVA said it carries out surveillance to assess the situation when it gets feedback on wild boar sightings. Control operations will then be carried out if there are public safety or nuisance concerns.

"Impounded wild boars are humanely put down as relocation options are not available in land-scarce Singapore," AVA added.

Punggol residents on edge after boy injured by wild boar
Darryl Laiu and Cheryl Ying AsiaOne 3 Jun 16;

Some residents of Edgefield Plains in Punggol say they remain worried after a wild boar injured a boy in the area on Sunday afternoon.

Madam Yun Dan Hui, 53, who had taken her two-year-old grandson to the playground at Block 185, said that she was "terrified" that the wild boar would make a reappearance.

She told The New Paper in Mandarin: "Wild boars are very fierce and will charge at people. Young children don't know any better and might get injured as a result."

At least two other residents who spoke to The New Paper echoed her concerns.

Madam Anna Gordeeva, 35, who takes her five-year-old son, Andrei, to the playground at Block 185 every day, said she was surprised that the wild boar could end up in such a populated area.

The Singapore permanent resident, who has lived in Edgefield Plains for five years, said: "I used to think that everyone was safe here as it is so far from the main road and so many people come down here every day."

She says she keeps a sharper eye on her son now.

A spokesman for My First Skool - a pre-school located at Block 184 - said that an advisory circular on precautionary measures has been sent to the principals of the centres located within Punggol and Sengkang.

Teachers are instructed to keep a safe distance if the wild boar is spotted during outdoor activities.

Other residents were more curious about how it had found its way into the area, which is densely populated with HDB flats. Mr Calvin Chan, 37, a father of two and resident of the estate for five years, said: "It's a part of nature, so it's unpredictable. But I wonder how it came here since we live quite far away from the forested areas."

Mr Ben Lee, founder of nature conservation group Nature Trekker, said that the wild boar could have come from Coney Island, also known as Pulau Serangoon.


"The stretch of water between the island and the mainland is not very wide. The water there is also usually quite calm, making it easier for them to swim across," said Mr Lee.

Recently, two bridges were also constructed, linking the island - which is now a nature park that people can visit - to the mainland.

This is not the first time wild boars have made an appearance in Punggol.

In June last year, it was reported that residents in the same area, Edgefield Plains, had spotted boars multiple times and had complained to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

According to a Shin Min Daily News report then, some residents resorted to carrying wooden sticks to defend themselves.

Responding to queries, the AVA told The New Paper that after last year's sightings, 17 wild boars were trapped and put down.

A spokesman said that when wild boars are spotted in an area, they first carry out surveillance. If the situation is assessed to affect public safety, "control operations will be carried out".

These "control operations" are ongoing in the Punggol area, but no wild boar has been caught so far.

Mr Louis Ng, chief executive of Animal Concerns Research & Education Society, noted that the boars may have been flushed out from their jungle habitat, which has been removed to make way for housing in the area.

"The Punggol area has a lot of vegetation, so the wild boars might have been displaced when the area was cleared," he said.

"The boars are caught in the middle when we expand our footprint."

He advised members of the public not to approach them even if they want to take pictures. He added that sudden movements will startle them and that they can get defensive if they are with piglets.

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Tremors felt in Singapore as earthquake hits Sumatra

People reported feeling tremors in areas including Bukit Panjang, Siglap, Punggol and Toa Payoh.
Channel NewsAsia 2 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: Tremors were felt across Singapore after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake was recorded off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Thursday (Jun 2).

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said the earthquake was detected at 6.56am. The quake's epicentre was about 517km from Singapore, it said, adding that there was no tsunami advisory.

Channel NewsAsia received at least seven reports of tremors felt across Singapore. People reported feeling tremors in areas including Bukit Panjang, Siglap, Punggol and Toa Payoh.

Siglap resident Anya Kothary said she felt tremors in her home on the 13th floor. “The tremors were quite strong and lasted for a few minutes,” she said.

Twitter user Juck, who lives in Punggol, tweeted that he felt a “huge tremor” and that his “whole floor was shaking”. Some Twitter users posted videos of their lights swaying during the tremors.

Tremors were felt in neighbouring Johor as well. Johor resident Monesha Selvagnanam said she felt “strong tremors” in her flat after the earthquake struck.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said they did not receive any calls for assistance.

The last time tremors were felt in parts of Singapore was in March 2015, when a 7.8-magnitude quake struck southwest Sumatra.


If members of the public are inside a building and feel tremors, police advise them to:

i) Take cover under a sturdy table or furniture
ii) Keep away from items made of glass or any hanging object
iii) Do not use the lift
iv) Do not use any naked light, in case there is a gas leak

Those out in the open should minimise their movement and stay away from buildings, street lights and utility wires, the police said. After the vibrations have stopped, they should:

i) Stay away from any exposed electrical cables, hanging glass objects
ii) Report any gas leakage
iii) Help the injured, call SCDF if the injuries are significant
iv) Report any incidents or issues of law and order to Police
v) Tune in to the radio for updates, according to police

- CNA/cy

‘I thought I was going to faint’: Tremors felt in S’pore
Today Online 2 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 shook buildings and caused momentary panic in the Indonesian port city of Padang on Thursday (June 2). However, there were no immediate reports of damage or injury in that country.

The quake was centred about 155km south of Padang, off the coast of Sumatra island at a depth of about 50km, the United States Geological Survey said. It had originally been reported with a magnitude of 6.2.

Over in Singapore, an alert was issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on their MyENV app at 7.38am. “Tremors due to the earthquake were felt in parts of Singapore. There is no tsunami advisory,” the alert said.

Several people around Singapore felt the resulting tremors as the sun came up. In St George’s Lane, Jasmin Rizhwana, 29, was getting ready for work when she too felt the tremors around 7am. “I was going to enter my bedroom when the door to the other room on the opposite side started thumping even though it was closed, like someone was hitting the door. My husband, who was in the toilet, then came out and asked if I felt the tremors,” said the 29-year-old, lives on the 12th floor of her block.

“You could (the flat moving) like you’re going up and down, like you were in a boat. I felt giddy and thought I was going to faint. I went outside and my neighbours also felt it.”

Facebook user Putri, who stays on the 10th floor of her block in Marine Terrace reported feeling tremors at 7.15am. “It lasted around 15 seconds. I was in the kitchen. Suddenly, I felt dizzy. I walked to the living room and saw the lights shaking,” said Ms Putri, who took a video and posted it online.

Noorul Hutha, who lives in Crawford Lane was asleep but was woken up because she could feel the flat moving at 7am. “I thought it was a dream. I went to the hall and saw my parents there, they told me about the earthquake,” she told TODAY.

“There is a hotel opposite where we live and we could see the hotel guests all coming downstairs. I didn’t go down because by the time I got out of my room, (the tremors) had already stopped. We are all fine but it was quite horrifying to wake up to that,” Ms Noorul said, adding that she was often worried that a repeat of the 2004 tsunmai disaster might occur.

Memories are still fresh of that massive 9.15 magnitude undersea quake that triggered an Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 200,000 people in a dozen countries. Most of those killed were in the province of Aceh on Sumatra’s northwest tip.

Indonesia is on the the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”, a highly seismically active zone, where different plates on the earth’s crust meet and create a large number of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Strong quake rattles Indonesia's Sumatra, no damage reported
Today Online 2 Jun 16;

PADANG, Indonesia - An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 shook buildings and caused momentary panic in the Indonesian port city of Padang on Thursday, officials and residents said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue an alert immediately after the quake and Indonesia's BMK weather agency said there was no threat of a tsunami.

The quake was centered about 155 km (95 miles) south of Padang, off the coast of Sumatra island at a depth of about 50 km (30 miles), the USGS said. It had originally been reported with a magnitude of 6.2.

Memories are still fresh in Indonesia of the massive 9.15 magnitude undersea quake that triggered an Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 200,000 people in a dozen countries.

Most of those killed were in the province of Aceh on Sumatra's northwest tip.

A Reuters witness reported initial panic after the latest quake, which struck before dawn and lasted about 30 seconds. Residents rushed out of their homes and into the streets, but with no apparent signs of damage of injury, things quickly returned to normal.

Indonesia straddles the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", a highly seismically active zone, where different plates on the earth's crust meet and create a large number of earthquakes and volcanoes. REUTERS

6.5-magnitude quake rattles Indonesia's Sumatra, no damage reported
The 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Thursday morning, the US Geological Survey reported. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
Channel NewsAsia 2 Jun 16;

SYDNEY: An earthquake with an initial magnitude of 6.5 was recorded off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Thursday (Jun 2), the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported.

The quake, which had an initial magnitude of 6.2, was centred about 155 kilometres south of Padang at a depth of about 40 kilometres, the USGS said. There were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

The quake took place at 5.56am local time (6.56am, Singapore time), shortly before dawn, when many people would still have been in bed.

A witness reported initial panic after the latest quake, which struck before dawn and lasted about 30 seconds. Residents rushed out of their homes and into the streets, but with no apparent signs of damage of injury, things quickly returned to normal.

There were reports of tremors in neighbouring Singapore.

Electricity cut out in some places after the quake but was restored shortly afterwards, said the journalist, and people were not ordered to evacuate their homes.

Wandono, a senior official from Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, said the quake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami.

"So far we have not received any reports of damage," added the official.

A few minutes after the quake, Padang's mayor announced over the radio that it had no potential to cause a tsunami.

Phil Cummins, senior seismologist at Geoscience Australia, said the quake was not large enough to trigger a tsunami.

"People would have felt it and there may be some minor damage, but it was offshore and deep so damage would be limited," he told AFP.

There was no immediate indication of whether the quake had caused any casualties or damage. Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where tectonic plates collide.

- CNA/Agencies/de/rw

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Southwest monsoon season starts in June: MSS

Short-duration thundery showers and warm nights are expected during the first two weeks of June.
Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: In the next two weeks, short-duration thundery showers can be expected mostly in the late morning and early afternoon on five to seven days as the Southwest Monsoon season begins, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) on Wednesday (Jun 1).

Thundery showers with gusty winds due to Sumatra squalls are likely on one to two days in the pre-dawn and morning, MSS said, adding that rainfall for the first fortnight of June 2016 is expected to be slightly below average.

The Met Service said that during the Southwest Monsoon season, the nights can be relatively warm, especially on non-rain days when the winds are light and blow from the southeast, bringing in warm, humid air from the sea toward the land. Daily maximum temperatures of between 32°C and 33°C are expected on most days, and could hit 34°C on a few days.

With the weakening of the El Nino to neutral conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, close to normal rainfall and temperatures can be expected for Singapore in the next one or two months, the weather service said. However, it added that international climate centres forecast that a La Nina could develop in the later part of the year, and this usually brings above average rainfall to our surrounding region.


Last month was the second warmest May recorded in Singapore, tying with the record set in May 1997, the Met Service said.

In the first fortnight of May 2016, the days were significantly warmer than usual and the highest daily maximum temperature ranged between 32.8°C and 36.1°C. An increase in the occurrence of rain showers in the second half of May 2016 brought cooler days with the daily maximum temperature ranging between 31.2°C and 35.4°C, but the mean monthly temperature of 29.3°C for May 2016 recorded at the Changi climate station was still 1.0°C warmer than the long-term mean temperature for May.

Most parts of Singapore also received above-average rainfall last month, with the mean rainfall recorded at the climate station last month at 194.2mm, about 23mm above the long-term mean rainfall for May of 171.2mm.

"In the later part of the month, the presence of the monsoon rain band close to Singapore coupled with the presence of tropical cyclones making landfall in the Bay of Bengal and southern China, led to the passage of Sumatra squalls which brought widespread thundery showers and gusty winds to Singapore between midnight and early morning on some days," said MSS.

- CNA/mz

Expect thundery showers in June; second-warmest May recorded
AsiaOne 1 Jun 16;

The first half of June looks to be less dry because short, thundery showers in the late morning and early afternoon are expected.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Wednesday (June 1) that the southwest monsoon season is just around the corner, as it typically starts from June till early October.

Along with short-duration thundery showers in the first fortnight of June, thundery showers with gusty winds are also likely to occur on at least one to two days in the pre-dawn and morning.

However, rainfall during this time period is still expected to be slightly below average. Daily maximum temperatures during this period of time are expected to be between 32 deg C and 33 deg C. Nights can also be relatively warm, particularly on days with no rain.

NEA added that with the weakening of the El Nino climate cycle, close to normal rainfall and temperatures can be expected for Singapore in the next one or two months.

However, international climate centres forecast that a La Nina - a weather phenomenon associated with more rain within this region - could develop in the later part of the year. This usually brings above average rainfall to Singapore's surrounding region.

Second-warmest May on record

In the first two weeks of May, the days were significantly warmer than usual and the highest daily maximum temperature ranged between 32.8 deg C and 36.1 deg C. NEA said the increase in the occurrence of rain showers in the later part of May brought cooler days.

Despite cooler conditions though, the mean monthly temperature of 29.3 deg C recorded at the Changi climate station was still 1.0 deg C warmer than the long-term mean temperature for May.

This makes the month of May the second-warmest May since Singapore temperature records started in 1929, tying with the record set in May 1997.

Overall, NEA said thundery showers in the afternoon on most days in May were due to strong solar heating of land areas coupled with the convergence of winds over Singapore. Therefore, most parts of Singapore received above average rainfall.

The showers were heaviest on May 11, where the highest daily rainfall total recorded was 99.8mm around Yishun.

For updates of the daily weather forecast, visit, NEA's website or download the myENV app.

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Malaysia: Green turtles found laying eggs at midday

RUBEN SARIO The Star 2 Jun 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The unusual event of green turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs in broad daylight was likely due to environmental disturbances.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Borneo Marine Research Institute senior lecturer Dr Pushpa Palaniappan said green turtles usually came ashore to lay their eggs from dusk to dawn.

For these creatures to land during the day was definitely unusual, said Dr Pushpa, a marine reptile specialist.

She said there were various possible reasons why two green turtles were spotted laying their eggs just before noon at Pulau Libaran off Sandakan for two days from May 24.

Noting that green turtles were sensitive to movement and light while nesting, she said that the creatures would return to the sea immediately if they were disturbed.

As it needs to release its eggs, a female turtle may be forced to go ashore during the daytime to lay them, Dr Pushpa told The Star.

She said there were occasions when the egg laying process took too long because sand conditions were unsuitable.

During the extremely dry weather between March and May, the turtles faced difficulty nesting at Pulau Selingan, Gulisan and Bakungan Kecil, which make up the Turtle Islands Park off Sandakan, Dr Pushpa said.

The turtles were found to have dug many egg chambers only to have them collapse, as the sand particles were too dry to stay in place, she said, forcing the turtles to dig body pits and egg chambers repeatedly until they finally manage to lay their eggs safely.

Turtles tend to go ashore with the high tide to avoid having to make a long crawl to the beach during low tide, Dr Pushpa said.

If the high tide occurs during the early morning, and a turtle is unable to complete nesting by dawn, then she may still be found on the beach during daylight hours.

Also, if the turtle is unable to lay her eggs on the first night, she may return to the beach during the next night to finish nesting.

If the turtle fails to deposit its eggs in its nest on the beach, she may release them on the surface of the sand or at the water’s edge, Dr Pushpa added.

She said an adult female turtle would carry between 500 and 800 unshelled eggs in its body at the start of its breeding cycle.

After the mating process, where the female is able to store sperm from more than one male to fertilise her eggs, about 100 eggs then form shells in about 10 to 14 days.

The female then goes ashore to deposit its eggs in a clutch and this process is repeated until all the eggs are laid and the turtle returns to her foraging area, Dr Pushpa explained.

Pulau Libaran honorary wildlife warden Harun Willam said he was taken aback at seeing a green turtle laying up to 80 eggs at the island at about 11am on May 24.

It then came ashore at about 11am the following day and laid 61 more eggs, he said.

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Malaysia: Harvesting of crocodiles and eggs in Sarawak proposed

YU JI and SIM LEOI LEOI The Star 2 Jun 16;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is proposing to harvest around 500 saltwater crocodiles and some 2,500 of their eggs from the wild in Sarawak every year.

Malaysia wants the crocodile species –Crocodylus porosus – to be moved from Appen­­­dix 1 to Appendix II under the Con­vention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

If the proposal – to be discussed during CITES 17th Conference of the Parties in September – is successful, international trade of the species in the wild, including its parts and products, will no longer be illegal and the animal can be legally harvested.

The proposal, however, only applies to Sarawak. Crocodiles in Sabah and peninsular Malay­­sia are still endangered and remain protected.

Sarawak Forest Department biodiversity conservation unit researcher Engkamat Lading said the wild population had increased dramatically over the past 40 years.

“Surveys on 48 rivers in Sarawak over a distance of about 12,000km recently have enabled us to come up with an estimate of between 12,000 and 13,000 crocodiles,” he said in an interview with The Star.

The state, which is already carrying out a cull of the animal’s population, has been calling for a relaxation on international trade restrictions following a series of widely reported attacks on humans.

In 2014, there were seven incidents with three fatalities while last year, there were 12 attacks, with eight deaths. Culling, said Engkamat, was carried out on certain crocodiles considered a nuisance to the public.

“It is only confined to adult animals (2.75m to 4.57m long) and a permit only allows for the capture of not more than three to four animals,” he said.

Permits must also be obtained from the Controller of Wild Life, without which culling would be illegal.

Traffic Southeast Asia regional director Dr Chris Shepherd expressed fear that allowing harvesting in Sarawak could eventually affect the crocodiles in other locations.

“A crocodile could be illegally killed over here and brought to Sarawak,” he said, adding that a scientifically sound monitoring system should first be put into place to allow for a quota to be adjusted.

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Leaked figures show spike in palm oil use for biodiesel in Europe

Steep rise between 2010 and 2014 shows link between EU’s renewable energy mandate and deforestation in south-east Asia, say campaigners
Arthur Neslen The Guardian 1 Jun 16;

Leaked trade industry figures show a five-fold increase in the use of palm oil for biodiesel in Europe between 2010 and 2014, providing new evidence of links between deforestation in southeast Asia and the EU’s renewable energy mandate.

The leaked figures, which the Guardian has seen, show that 45% of palm oil used in Europe in 2014 went to biodiesel, up from 8% in 2010.

Greenhouse gas emissions from biodiesel are more than three times higher than those from conventional diesel engines when indirect effects are considered, according to recent research by the European commission.

Campaigners say the leaked figures from the Fediol trade association provide further evidence that an EU target for sourcing 10% of Europe’s transport to renewables by 2020 is fuelling global warming.

Jos Dings, the director of green campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E), which published the leak, said: “We now know why the industry is withholding these numbers. They show the ugly truth of Europe’s biofuel policy. It drives tropical deforestation, increases transport emissions, does nothing to help European farmers and does not improve our energy security.”

T&E calculates that 3.5bn litres of palm oil are now arriving in Europe annually because of a 34% spike in imports for biodiesel since 2010. This would be enough to fill Wembley stadium with biodiesel three times over every day.

“As if Dieselgate [VW cheating at emissions tests] was not bad enough, we now have a Biodieselgate on top,” Dings said.

The vast majority of the world’s palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia. Clearances for palm oil plantations there are thought to be responsible for many of the fires which incinerated an estimated 18.5m hectares of Indonesia’s rainforest between 2001 and 2014.

In 2015, the devastation reached record levels, releasing 1.62bn metric tonnes of CO2 and nudging Indonesia above Russia, as the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

If the peatland forests were allowed to regrow, they would resequester much of the released carbon. But conversion of the land for palm oil plantations requires drainage and clearances that release massive amounts of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

Fediol did not immediately respond to requests for comment but the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) said that the leaked numbers differed from their internal count.

Raffaello Garofalo, the board’s secretary-general told the Guardian: “The figures we have are substantially lower than that. We would put between 10-15% [of palm oil] globally for biodiesel consumption, based on agricultural sources.”

The EBB declined to share its figures for Europe based on palm oil sources, although Garofalo said that biodiesel manufactured that way “can be a little bit more problematic”.

An apparent anomaly in the statistics showing a rise in the palm oil composition of Europe’s biodiesel from the lesser figures of 6% to 31% over the same period illustrated that “T&E get their figures from the basket, not from science,” Garofalo said.

The use of domestic rapeseed in Europe’s biodiesel blends, general expansion of the biodiesel market, and larger relative volume of biodiesel explain the difference between the two figures, T&E says.

Tim Searchinger, a Princeton University scholar, argued that the leaked numbers were likely too conservative, as palm oil is widely used to displace vegetable oil for use in biodiesel production.

“The new data confirms the warnings of those who were critical of the EU’s biofuels mandate,” he told the Guardian. “Any pretence that the main consequence of the EU biofuels policy had not been the peat drainage and deforestation of south-east Asia is now unmasked.”

A European commission spokeswoman declined to comment on the leak. She said: “The commission will present proposals to revise the post-2020 bioenergy framework later this year.”

The EU currently has a cap of 7% for first generation biofuels in its 10% mandate. Most of this comes from biodiesel.

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Coral bleaching spreads to Maldives, devastating spectacular reefs

Exclusive: Images from the Indian Ocean archipelago reveal the extent of the longest global coral bleaching event in history
Michael Slezak The Guardian 1 Jun 16;

The longest global coral bleaching event in history is now devastating reefs in the crystal clear waters of the Maldives, with images released exclusively to the Guardian powerfully illustrating the extent of the damage there.

Photographed by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, the images captured the event in May as it moved beyond the now devastated Great Barrier Reef and into waters further west.

“The bleaching we just witnessed in the Maldives was truly haunting,” said Richard Vevers, founder of the Ocean Agency.

“It’s rare to see reefs bleach quite so spectacularly. These were healthy reefs in crystal clear water at the height of an intense bleaching event. The flesh of the corals had turned clear and we were seeing the skeletons of the animals glowing white for as far as the eye could see – it was a beautiful, yet deeply disturbing sight.”

The Maldives is series of coral atolls, built from the remains of coral. The livelihoods of people there depend on the reefs through tourism, fisheries and as a wave-break that helps prevent inundation on low-lying islands.

The photographs were part of an ongoing project, in partnership with Google, the University of Queensland and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency to capture the global bleaching event as it moves around the world.

“We’ve been following this third global bleaching event since the start nearly two years ago and just when you think you’ve seen the saddest sight you’ll ever see, you see something even worse,” Vevers said.

The event started in mid 2014 in the Pacific Ocean around Hawaii, which then got hit again in 2015. In early 2016 it spread to the Great Barrier Reef where 93% of its nearly 3,000 reefs were hit by bleaching.

Western Australia’s reefs in the Indian Ocean have also experienced severe bleaching.

When Noaa declared the event was a global bleaching event in October 2015, Mark Eakin, Noaa’s Coral Reef Watch coordinator, said it could last well into 2016. That prediction appears to be proving correct.

“The current global bleaching event is already lasted longer than any previous bleaching event and is likely to last until at least the end of the year,” he said.

The bleaching event started with an El Niño that appeared to be developing in Pacific Ocean, in 2014, warming the waters there, but which failed to eventuate. It was then combined with a large patch of unusually warm water, nicknamed “the blob”, that lurked around the Pacific, as well as an extreme El Niño that eventually did develop in 2015.

Extreme El Niños, which spread warm water across the Pacific and warm the globe, were not seen before 1982 and have occurred three times since. Extreme El Niños are expected to increase in frequency as a result of climate change.

Those El Niños were also occurring in an ocean where the surface has already warmed by 1C, putting corals near their thermal limits.

When coral sits in water that is too warm for too long, it gets stressed and expels the algae that provides it with about 90% of its energy. If it stays stressed for more than a couple of weeks it starts to starve, become diseased, and dies.

A new study has found the conditions that led to the devastating bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef were made 175 times more likely by climate change, and on the current trajectory, would become the average conditions by the 2030s.

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Australia pays price for being a laggard on climate change

ROGER COHEN Today Online 2 Jun 16;

Mr Tim Flannery, a scientist and environmentalist who was named Australian of the Year in 2007, lost his job in 2013. The right-wing government of then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott shut down the Climate Commission that Professor Flannery headed, in a peremptory move designed to demonstrate its contempt for climate change. The commission had been established two years earlier to provide “authoritative information” to the Australian public.

Mr Abbott, of the conservative Liberal Party, had no time for such information. Climate change, he argued in his autobiography, was bunk. It had been “happening since the earth’s beginning”. Therefore, it made no sense to “impose certain and substantial costs on the economy now in order to avoid unknown and perhaps even benign changes in the future”.

“To Abbott, I was the devil incarnate,” Prof Flannery told me. Throughout the developed world — from the “Drill, baby, drill!” crowd in the United States to Mr Abbott’s “axe-the-tax” attack on clean-energy legislation in Australia — denial of climate change has become a tribal, almost masonic badge of the coal- and fossil-fuel-loving right. In today’s culture wars, it is as much of a wedge issue as any.

‘Like watching my father die’

Through crowdfunding, Prof Flannery raised enough money in short order to turn the state-funded commission into the Climate Council, an independent non-profit organisation with the same role. Earlier last month, he headed for the Great Barrier Reef to see what “benign changes”, as Mr Abbott would have it, global warming has produced in the world’s largest coral reef. He found what he saw north-east of Port Douglas on the outer rim of the reef devastating.

The reef, one of the largest living things on earth, has started to fail. Whether it can recover is unclear. An organism roughly the size of Germany is bleaching to death. More than 90 per cent of the reef that Prof Flannery saw had suffered. Bleaching occurs when excessive heat and sunlight cause the algae that give coral reefs their shimmering colours to create toxins.

The toxins repel the tiny animals called polyps essential to the ecosystem of the corals. As my colleague Michelle Innis put it: “When heat stress continues, they starve to death.” Because the coral reefs support vast fish stocks, the livelihoods — sometimes the very survival — of countless people depend on them.

The causes of this disaster are clear enough. The impact of rising water temperatures caused by climate change was compounded by the El Nino cycle and by an underwater heatwave. This year, in a survey of 520 reefs that form the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef, scientists found only four free of bleaching. Almost 1,000km of previously pristine reef had been affected.

“I knew there was bleaching but not to this degree,” Prof Flannery told me. “For me, it was almost like watching my father die, seeing his organism slowly shut down.”

Besides having the world’s largest coral reef, Australia is also the world’s fourth-largest coal producer. Coal-fired power plants provide about a third of the nation’s energy, and coal exports to China, Japan, South Korea and India bring in billions of dollars annually. The country has been described as “Asia’s quarry”. But, of course, the coal plants, some old, are spewing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Great coral vs coal

So it is coral versus coal, the earth’s health against a big industry, and science versus the Abbott-inspired denial gang. As if to illustrate Australia’s divisions, Queensland’s Environment Minister, alluding to climate change, warned recently of the need to “reduce as many pressures” as possible on the Great Barrier Reef just after the state approved leases for what would be Australia’s largest coal mine.

Mr Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal Party Prime Minister who replaced Mr Abbott and faces a tight election in early July, knows exactly what is at stake.

In 2010, he called for moving to a situation “where all or almost all of our energy comes from zero or very near zero emissions sources”. He described forecasts of the devastating effects of climate change as likely to err “on the conservative side”. He called for “expenditures today so as to safeguard our children”. He advocated concentrated solar thermal power, calling it “a more proven technology than clean coal”. Global warming, he declared, would lead, if unchecked, to “truly catastrophic consequences”.

The state of the Great Barrier Reef is one such consequence. Yet, Mr Turnbull, beholden to Mr Abbott’s right wing of the Liberal Party, has, as leader, done his best to forget what he said six years ago. Climate change? What climate change? “I’ve known Turnbull for 30 years. I know what he believes, but he’s fallen victim to his tribe,” Prof Flannery told me.

That is a great pity. The reef is as irreplaceable as this planet. Australia has overcapacity in electricity generation. It should close several of its old coal-fired plants. Rich in renewable and clean-energy sources, Australia should be a leader, not a laggard, on climate change. Reputations, like the reef, are easily bleached.



Roger Cohen is a columnist at The New York Times, where he was previously foreign editor.

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Thailand: Dead tiger cubs found in temple amid trafficking fears

Thai wildlife authorities found 40 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer in Thailand's infamous Tiger Temple on Wednesday as they removed live animals in response to international pressure over suspected trafficking and abuse.
Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 16;

BANGKOK: Thai wildlife authorities found 40 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer in Thailand's infamous Tiger Temple on Wednesday as they removed live animals in response to international pressure over suspected trafficking and abuse.

The Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok had become a tourist destination where visitors snapped selfies with bottle-fed cubs.

But the temple has been investigated for suspected links to wildlife trafficking and abuse. A raid that began on Monday is the latest move in a tug-of-war since 2001 to bring the tigers under state control.

Tiger parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

The 40 dead tiger cubs were found in a freezer in a kitchen area, said Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks.

"Foreign volunteers at the temple today told us about it and showed us the freezer. Perhaps they felt what the temple is doing isn't right," Adisorn said.

"They must be of some value for the temple to keep them," he said. "But for what is beyond me."

Officials wearing protective masks displayed the bodies of the cubs to media at the temple. Also on display was the body of a Binturong, a protected species commonly known as a bearcat, which the authorities found with the cub carcasses.

The temple said in a comment on its Facebook page that wildlife authorities had already been aware that the carcasses were in the freezer. The carcasses of cubs that had died had been kept, rather than cremated, since 2010 on the instructions of a former vet, it said.

Adisorn told Reuters the department had not previously known about the cubs.

"The temple has notified us when grown tigers die, but never the cubs," he said.

Officials have moved 61 live tigers from the temple since Monday, Adisorn said, leaving 76 still there.

Thailand has long been a hub for the illicit trafficking of wildlife and forest products, including ivory. Exotic birds, mammals and reptiles, some of them endangered species, can often be found on sale in markets.

"It's clear that the welfare of the tigers is not a priority and their lives are full of abuse and commercial exploitation for the entertainment of tourists," said Jan Schmidt, Asia-Pacific Wildlife Adviser at World Animal Protection, in a statement.

(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Simon Webb and Nick Macfie)

- Reuters

Thai police charge 22 with wildlife trafficking at Tiger Temple
Thai police have charged 22 people, including three Buddhist monks, with wildlife trafficking and removed more dead animals including a bear and a leopard from the infamous Tiger Temple, authorities said on Friday.
Channel NewsAsia 3 Jun 16;

KANCHANABURI, Thailand: Thai police have charged 22 people, including three Buddhist monks, with wildlife trafficking and removed more dead animals including a bear and a leopard from the infamous Tiger Temple, authorities said on Friday.

The temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of the capital, Bangkok, has been a major tourist attraction for more than two decades, with visitors paying 600 baht (US$17) admission to pose for photographs with the tigers.

Wildlife activists have accused the temple of illegally breeding the tigers while some visitors on online forums complained that the tigers appeared sedated.

The temple denies the accusations.

Adisorn Nuchdamrong, from Thailand's Department of National Parks, said 22 people had been charged with wildlife possession and trafficking, including 17 members of the temple's foundation and three monks trying to flee with a truckload of tiger skins.

It followed the grim discovery on Wednesday of the bodies of 40 tigers cubs inside a freezer.

It remains unclear why the dead tiger cubs were being stored, though tiger bones and body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

"We've confiscated all the hard disks of closed circuit cameras in this temple for police to find evidence of wrongdoing," Adisorn said.

The temple officially opened in 1994 close to a wild tiger habitat. It received its first tiger cub, which had been found by villagers, in 1999.

The cub died soon after but villagers kept bringing cubs to the temple, usually when the mothers had been killed by poachers, the temple said.

Repeated efforts to shut down the temple have been blocked by the monks.

Thailand is a well-known trafficking hub of illicit wildlife products, including ivory.

Thailand's wildlife department began raiding the temple on Monday. There were 137 tigers inside the temple and 119 have been removed.

The World Wildlife Fund said in April that the number of wild tigers in the world stands at around 3,890, with more than 100 wild tigers in Thailand.

(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Nick Macfie)

- Reuters

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Fickle rains torture Madagascar's drought-stricken south

Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 16;

TSIHOMBE, Madagascar (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Like many people in Madagascar's parched south, Ranotongae had been hoping for the heavens to open up and ease the country's poorest rainy season in 35 years.

So when a few showers fell last month in Androy, one of the hardest-hit areas, the 44-year-old ran outside to plant cowpeas and sweet potatoes, scattering seeds and pushing vines into the moistened earth.

But the rains did not return - and the food has run out.

For the last three months, Ranotongae and her eight children have relied on one meal a day of maize and beans provided by a group of nuns. The sisters started the feeding programme in February, after hearing that villagers were dying of starvation.

"I come here every day. This is the only thing we get to eat," Ranotongae said as she waited patiently with scores of other women and children to be called forward to receive the rations.

A third consecutive year of drought in one of the world's poorest countries has left more than 1.1 million people unable to feed themselves in the semi-arid south of Madagascar, where cacti, sisal plantations and scrubland dominate the landscape.

The drought has all but dried up rivers. During a rare downpour, villagers driving carts drawn by zebu cattle emerged on the region's main road to fill jerrycans and drums with rainwater collected from the highway's crater-sized potholes.

One old woman, who had neither a cart nor a jerrycan, sat on the road, legs stretched out, dipping a collection of plastic water bottles into the puddles that had formed.

Aid officials say the hungry are now often eating their seeds, rather than planting them. Families with acutely malnourished children sometimes share supplements designed to help them, blunting the effectiveness of the treatment.

"What I see here is what we often call a silent emergency," said Dina Esposito, a senior official at the U.S. Agency for International Development and former director of USAID's food assistance programme, Food for Peace.

"It's not on the front pages of the paper. It's not always immediately visible," she said during a tour of USAID-funded projects in Madagascar.


El Nino, a warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, has aggravated dry conditions and a worsening food crisis not only in Madagascar, an island 400 km (250 miles) off the coast of mainland Africa, but also across the wider southern African region.

More than 31 million people are affected by food shortages, from Angola to Zimbabwe.

Delayed planting and shrivelled crops are expected to lead to a grain deficit of at least 8 million tonnes in the region. Even South Africa, usually a net exporter of grains to its neighbours, has been forced to import maize, its staple food.

Malawi and Zimbabwe, among others, have declared the drought a national disaster.

Aid officials said it would help Madagascar to issue an appeal for international assistance. The country is still recovering from a political crisis sparked by a 2009 coup that drove away donors.

"It would definitely help in drawing attention and bringing in resources," Esposito said, speaking days after USAID announced it would provide US$8 million to help the drought response.

Harrison Randriarimanana, a special adviser to Madagascar's president, said it was possible the Southern African Development Community (SADC), of which Madagascar is a member, may issue an appeal for the region as a whole.

In Madagascar, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) and other aid agencies already are helping with food distributions, projects to help farmers cultivate what they can, and efforts to provide food in exchange for clearing land or fixing roads.

Southern Madagascar's people are said to have a reputation for toughness, befitting a population that usually survives with little rain. But one ruined harvest after another has weakened the ability of many to recover, while pushing others to extremes to acquire food.

"People have already lost a lot of their capacity to cope," said WFP Country Director Willem van Milink.

"They lost a lot of their goods and assets, and sold a lot of them, so it has become increasingly difficult for them to face the drought," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As the nuns' feeding programme got underway, a young girl was rushed forward, bleeding and silent.

Her grandmother said the child had accidentally tipped over herself a pot of cassava bubbling over a fire. The girl had been left behind while her mother went to a nearby market, where she was later found offering sex in exchange for money to buy food.


Even in relatively normal times, many Malagasy struggle to eat enough food - and the right kind.

Nine in 10 people live on less than US$3.10 a day, and the country has one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the world. Virtually one in two children are stunted, and little progress has been made over the past 20 years in reducing that.

Even parts of the more well-off Central Highlands report stunting rates of 60 percent, baffling aid workers and development experts who suspect cultural practices may be responsible.

They wonder if mothers stop breastfeeding too soon or if people are contracting - and passing on - diseases from open defecation.

Malagasy pay a heavy price for malnourishment. It costs the economy an estimated US$1.5 billion, or 14.5 percent of its GDP, every year in terms of additional burdens on the health system and schools and losses of workforce productivity, a study led by the African Union Commission shows.

For almost 20 years, Ankilimafaitsy primary school in Ambovombe district has run a feeding programme, offering students a daily meal of maize and beans. The school's director Seraphine Sasara says her pupils are noticeably thinner after the summer break.

"They put on weight when they come back to school. It takes about a month before they are ready to study," she said.

Pointing to a small vegetable patch tended by teachers and students, Sasara said: "We try to provide for ourselves. We can't rely on WFP forever."

But it is hard for the south to shake off its aid dependence - not least because it lies far from the help of the capital, Antananarivo, more than 1,000 kms (620 miles) away.

Largely cut off by poor roads, the region has long been neglected as a result of its remoteness, aid officials say.

The south needs not just international aid to help battle the drought, but more attention from the capital, said World Bank Country Manager Coralie Gevers.

"The government also has a role to play," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "There is a long tradition in this country of spending most of the budget on the capital and surrounding areas."

Spending in Madagascar's south on healthcare is just a third of that in the capital, per capita, she said.

"The health centres can't deal with a crisis when it comes because they have very little to start with. This has to change too," she added.

(Reporting by Katie Nguyen; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit to see more stories)

- Reuters

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