Best of our wild blogs: 26 Jun 16

Mass coral bleaching at Pulau Tekukor
wild shores of singapore

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Fusionopolis North
Butterflies of Singapore

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Rare sighting of endangered Malayan tapir at Changi

Chew Hui Min, Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Jun 16;

A tapir was seen near the coast at Changi at about 4.30am on June 24, 2016.

Photo: Lianhe Wanbao reader

SINGAPORE - A Malayan tapir was spotted in Changi on Friday (June 24) morning in a rare sighting of the endangered animal.

The herbivore is known for having a distinctive white patch round its middle, and a black head, shoulders and hind quarters .

In a blurry photo taken by a Lianhe Zaobao reader at about 4.30am on Friday, the tapir is seen trotting alongside a metal fence.

Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), said that it received a call about the sighting but the animal was "not in view" by then.

"We are keeping this case in view and hope that the tapir managed to swim to safety," she told The Straits Times.

As tapirs are not found in Singapore, it is possible that it swam over from southern Johor, said Mr Marcus Chua, Museum Officer for Mammal Biodiversity at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

The last sighting of a tapir in Singapore was on Pulau Ubin in 1986.

"It could be looking for new territory or pushed out of habitat because of development," said Mr Chua.

The tapir sighting is "extremely rare for Singapore", he added.

The nocturnal animal is dependent on the rainforest habitat. It feeds mostly on leaves, which it can grab using its prehensile snout.

It can be found in Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, and Southern Thailand, and is globally endangered, mainly due to habitat loss.

There are only about 1,500 to 2,000 in Malaysia according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

While the tapir looks like a wild boar with a longer snout, it is more closely related to horses and rhinos.

Malayan tapir spotted roaming around in Singapore
The Star 26 Jun 16;

PETALING JAYA: A Malayan tapir appears to be seeking its 15-minute of fame like Chickaboo the ostrich when it was seen roaming near the coast of Changi in Singapore.

It made the news in Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese newspaper in the republic, which reported yesterday that the nocturnal animal was seen running alongside a fence at a land reclamation area at around 4.30am on Friday.

When someone called Singapore’s Animal Concerns and Education Society, the animal had already disappeared into the sea.

A reader of Lianhe Zaobao captured the rare sighting on camera and passed the image to the daily.

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum researcher Marcus Chua Aik Hwee believed the herbivore had swum across the strait from southern Johor to Singapore.

“Tapirs are good swimmers and solitary creatures. This one might have taken a short rest at Tekong Island, or just swam straight to Singapore, I guess,” he told Lianhe Zaobao.

Chua said the rapid development in the region could have also forced the endangered animal to come out from its habitat.

Those who come across such animals should keep their distance and immediately inform animal protection organisations, he advised.

“Tapirs live in the forest. They are shy. Usually, they will not cause any harm to human,” he added.

It is believed that there are no wild tapirs in Singapore.

Its last sighting was in 1986 when residents spotted a pair on Pulau Ubin.

One of the four tapir species in the world, the main threat facing the Malayan tapir in peninsular Malaysia is agricultural land clearing and deforestation.

Between 2010 and last year, 68 Malayan tapirs were rescued in Malaysia while 54 were victims of road accidents in the past 10 years.

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Uncertainty growing in Singapore countryside as farmers are told to move

Audrey Tan and Yuen Sin, Straits Times 26 Jun 16;

Moving may be troublesome for many, but for farmers with bulky equipment and thousands of animals or crops in tow, the process can be downright painful.

Yet, farmers in Singapore tell The Sunday Times that if they have to move, they will, as long as they have the assurance that it will benefit them and the agriculture industry as a whole.

"We need to know that there is a plan, a direction. Are we moving blindly or would the move improve infrastructure and boost the industry?" says Mr Kenny Eng, president of the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA) that represents about 40 farms, many of which are family businesses.

Fourteen of its members, including goat farm Hay Dairies and Jurong Frog Farm, are among the 62 farms in an area in Lim Chu Kang which will be redeveloped to make way for the Defence Ministry's new training grounds. They were told earlier this month that they have to move out by the end of 2019.

The deadline had initially been June next year, but the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) pushed it back 2½ years to give farms more time.

Affected farmers will have the option of bidding for new farm land early next year, but the exact details of the location and size of the new plots available have yet to be announced.

With many questions going unanswered, uncertainty is looming large over Singapore's idyllic countryside, where farmers feel they are ploughing a lonely furrow at keeping their businesses and passions afloat.

One of those affected, 50-year- old quail farmer William Ho, is already considering a change. He says: "It may be too expensive to be a farmer after the move, but I can be a nature guide - children always enjoy hearing about my quails."


The Jurong Frog Farm, contrary to what many expect, smells surprisingly fresh. Its director Ms Chelsea Wan, 32, says the constant supply of running water from a well and reservoir within the farm helps.

But such amenities may not be available at the new site.

In fact, Ms Wan says the move might entail her farm moving into a factory, where frogs will be reared "without ever feeling sunshine or rain".

This is a no-no for the true-blue farmer, or the frog princess, as she is known in farming circles.

"We could work with our suppliers and establish farms overseas; we may just end up focusing on the factory packaging frog products.

"But we have family here in Singapore and it is less than ideal to have a farm overseas," says Ms Wan, who has an eight-month-old son.

For vegetable farmers, the quality of soil at the new site matters too.

As vegetable farmer from Farm 85, Mr Tan Koon Hua, 48, puts it: "The quality of soil is essential to how crops turn out - it can't be contaminated with waste or contain many stones. We also have to cope with the extreme changes in weather patterns of late."


Mr Ho, who is co-owner of Lian Wah Hang Quail and Poultry Farm, says the possible move could cost him about $10 million, including spending on infrastructure at the new site, such as power supply and a new slaughterhouse and processing plant that will allow him to scale up his enterprise and stay commercially viable.

Over at Hay Dairies, business director Leon Hay, 38, says that building double-storeyed barns to house his 1,000 goats would alone cost about $6 million. The layers are necessary because the new plot could be at least 50 per cent smaller than its current 2ha, he adds.

It could take between three and five years for the structure to be built, and another 10 years before investment costs can be recuperated, excluding any interests on loans, he says.

With the 20-year lease period announced by the AVA earlier this month, that leaves the firm about seven years to start making a profit, and only after at least 13 years of effort.

Mr Eng says: "If farms are given more flexibility to diversify revenue sources, they have a better chance to thrive in a challenging environment and, in turn, invest more in their core business of food production.

"Also, while production is important, creating the market and demand is just as important. Agri-tourism and agritainment contribute immeasurably to that."


Earlier this month, AVA decided to go back to the original lease period of 20 years after getting feedback from farmers that the 10-year tenure, with a possible 10-year extension announced in 2014, was too short for investing in automation.

AVA chief executive Tan Poh Hong had said then that the longer 20-year lease tenure would provide more certainty to farms and allow them to invest in intensive, highly productive technologies that operate on minimal manpower.

The news was welcomed by farmers but, even then, they said the prospect of repeating the cycle of bidding for a new plot and building new structures every 20 years was a daunting one.

Farmers say an increase in productivity could be achieved in other ways besides automation. They are trying to innovate by coming up with new concepts and products.

At the frog farm, for instance, one new product is bottled hashima, the oviducts of mature female frogs that has the same "beautifying properties" as bird's nest, says Ms Wan.

They are also trying to attract young people into the sector, to avoid becoming a sunset industry.

This is done by coming up with fresh concepts that combine both agriculture and entertainment, such as farm visits and tours.

They also launched the Farmers' Market, the seventh edition of which will continue today between noon and 5pm at the Nyee Phoe Flower Garden.

Ensuring the longevity of the farms beyond their leases could benefit more than just the farmers.

As Hay Dairies visitor and financing manager, Madam Priscilla Chong, 41, told The Sunday Times last week: "It is good to keep the farms. Without them, children may have to go to farms in Malaysia or Australia, or even the wet market, to learn about animals."

Young farmers keen, but there are doubts

They are young, without a tan and business savvy: Meet the second-generation farmers of today who are redefining what it means to be farmers by looking beyond simply raising livestock.

But despite their passion and innovation, farmers like Jurong Frog Farm's "frog princess" Chelsea Wan may eventually have to trade their wellingtons for more office-appropriate footwear.

The Jurong Frog Farm is one of the 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang which will have to clear out by 2019.

Although the farm's 32-year-old director hopes to continue her father's legacy, she says there is still too much uncertainty about the future of the agricultural sector.

"Even if we manage to secure another plot of land then, what will happen 20 years later? By that time, I will be 56 and structurally unemployed. Who would hire me then? " asked the National University of Singapore graduate.

This is not for the lack of trying, though. Young farmers like Ms Wan are often on the lookout for ways to boost productivity, such as through automation, for example.

They are also injecting a breath of fresh air into the sector by trying out new products and concepts, such as farm tours, to draw the crowds to Singapore's rustic countryside in the north-west.

Ms Wan, for instance, considered how the entire frog - instead of just the legs, a la frog leg porridge - could be consumed. Her answer: hashima, essentially the oviducts of adult female frogs. Some people are willing to pay up to $105 per tael (50g) for it.

At the neighbouring Hay Dairies, business director Leon Hay, 38, sells not only goat's milk, but also the chance to see live goats by taking groups on farm tours. Hay Dairies, Singapore's only goat farm, is also affected by the 2019 deadline.

Still, all the young farmers' efforts at diversification and innovation may come to naught if farms are forced to move every 20 years - a costly affair.

On whether he would bid for the new farm plots come 2019, Mr Hay told The Sunday Times: "I am willing to use my retirement savings for the move, if there is a future for the industry."

Farmer and son hope to develop business further

Mr Tan Koon Hua, 48, director of Farm 85 Trading, takes quiet pride in growing leafy crops such as bok choy and kang kong on his vegetable farms.

His son Liang Zhong, 21, is as old as he was when he first started out in farming more than 20 years ago, and eager to learn the trade. But Mr Tan is reluctant to hand over the reins. Out of his five farms, three totalling 10ha in Lim Chu Kang have been affected by redevelopment plans, and he feels the outlook for the industry remains uncertain.

"My son is very interested in farming, but I am worried that he may end up suffering," he said in Mandarin. "I can train him so the trade can flourish. But the policy direction for the local farming industry is still unclear. If he joins me, he might be spending time learning something that will be wasted."

Mr Tan has been trying to improve business efficiency and quality, and said farmers are not just concerned about the relocation, but also the longer- term outlook. Every day, his farms produce seven to 10 tonnes of leafy vegetables, which are distributed to supermarkets and wholesalers. He has developed a tool that allows seeds to be sown with sufficient distance between each plant, which eases harvesting and ensures scarce land is utilised well. Since 2012, the farms have also reduced the use of chemical fertiliser by scaling up the production of their own organic fertiliser made out of compost.

Mr Tan hopes there will be more dialogue between farmers and the authorities so that the needs of the industry can be better communicated.

Besides soil quality and availability of water at the relocated farms, there are also rising manpower costs and changes in weather patterns in the light of climate change to contend with.

"We want to coordinate well with the authorities so that the journey ahead for the industry will be a smooth one, and ensure that there will be Singaporeans who can produce food for the country," he said.

Mr Liang Zhong, who has just completed national service and is helping his father out at the farm, said: "I will try my best to continue his work, but we need the assurance from the Government that this industry is here to stay so that we can further develop and invest in the business. "

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Transboundary haze law do permit extraterritorial jurisdiction in some cases

S. Jayakumar and Tommy Koh, Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Jun 16;

In 2014, Singapore enacted the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, which came into force on Sept 25, 2014. Essentially, the Act makes it an offence for any entity to engage in conduct, or to condone conduct, causing or contributing to haze pollution in Singapore. Apart from criminal liability, the Act also creates statutory duties and civil liabilities.

The Act is unusual but not unprecedented in targeting conduct that occurs outside Singapore, and which causes or contributes to haze pollution in Singapore.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, speaking in Parliament in August 2014, said the Act "is not intended to replace the laws and enforcement actions of other countries, but it is to complement the efforts of other countries to hold companies to account". He added that "we, in Singapore, cannot simply wait and wishfully hope that the problem will be resolved on its own. The Singapore Government would want to send a strong signal that we will not tolerate the actions of errant companies that harm our environment and put at risk the health of our citizens".


There were mixed reactions to this law in Indonesia. Some parties expressed support for Singapore's law. Others, including some Indonesian ministers, criticised the law on the grounds that it was a violation of Indonesia's sovereignty. A typical comment was: "As it happened in Indonesia, it is part of Indonesia's jurisdiction. If Singapore could easily try Indonesian citizens, it could be a violation of Indonesia's sovereignty."

The Singapore Government responded that the law was consistent with international law. It was drafted with the advice of international law experts and did not violate the sovereignty of any country.

The issue is whether it is permissible for a country to enact legislation that would have extraterritorial reach. The answer to this question turns on a proper understanding of the established principles of international law.

The general principle in international law is that states exercise jurisdiction on a territorial basis, namely, over persons, property and acts within its territory. However, there are exceptions to this principle.

One exception is a group of crimes that attract universal jurisdiction. Examples are piracy, genocide, torture, slavery, crimes against humanity and serious war crimes. For instance, under this exception, it is permissible for an Indonesian or Singapore court to try persons accused of committing piracy, such as Somali pirates, even if the acts of piracy occurred outside their respective maritime jurisdictions.

Another exception involves crimes committed outside a state's territory but which have harmful effects on the state concerned.

There are many examples, including bribery and corruption, terrorism, cybercrimes and cyber attacks and pollution. Such an exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction can be justified under several principles of international law, notably the "objective territoriality principle".

To argue that states cannot exercise such jurisdiction would mean that states are powerless to deal with a variety of situations where individuals, groups and corporations can, with impunity, carry out acts outside their territories which have harmful effects and consequences on them.


Indeed, the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC) 2006 Report stated that "today, the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction by a state with respect to persons, property or acts outside its territory has become an increasingly common phenomenon".

The ILC said this phenomenon is due largely to increased movements of persons beyond national borders, the growing number of multinational corporations, globalising of the world economy, increased transnational criminal activities, increased illegal migration and increased use of the Internet for legal or illegal purposes.

To that, we will add the growing interdependence between nations, and the undeniable fact that we live in a fragile environmental ecosystem, where harmful polluting activities in one country can cause serious harm, not only to its own people but to the people of other countries. The nature of transboundary offences necessarily means that multiple states do have a legitimate interest in bringing the offenders to justice.

It cannot therefore be said that any of these states would be acting in contravention of the offending state's sovereignty by enforcing its own laws. Such a violation of sovereignty would arise in some cases, such as, for example, if a state were to send its firefighters into the territory of another state, without its consent, to put out a fire.

Clearly, Singapore's legislation does not seek to do this. The law is enforced only when the party accused of causing the harmful act enters Singapore and comes within Singapore's jurisdiction.

We should add that Indonesia itself has enacted laws that have extraterritorial reach, such as its laws on corruption and on electronic transactions.


In a previous contribution to The Straits Times, ("The haze, international law and global co-operation", Oct 6, 2015), we discussed the principle of international law that a state has the sovereign right to exploit its natural resources, including its forests. However, that sovereign right is limited by a second principle, namely that a state has the responsibility to ensure that activities within its jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states.

We explained that there is a clear rule in international law that acts committed in one territory that cause environmental harm to the territory of another state constitute a legal wrong. It is, therefore, consistent with international law for Singapore to hold accountable individuals and companies that have caused the fires in Indonesia or elsewhere for that matter, and which have, in turn, caused the haze pollution in Singapore.

Singapore and Indonesia are close friends and partners. We are two of the founding members of ASEAN. Under Article 2, paragraph 2 of the ASEAN Charter, ASEAN and its member states are committed to adhering to the rule of law and upholding international law.

Indonesia insists that the haze issue be resolved under the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. We agree that we should use the ASEAN agreement, as well as other bilateral, regional and international agreements, to solve this problem. However, such agreements cannot curtail Singapore's right to take actions that are in compliance with international law.

Singapore's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act is consistent with international law. It does not violate Indonesia's sovereignty.

On the contrary, Indonesia should welcome Singapore's law, which complements Indonesia's efforts to hold accountable those errant companies and individuals that have acted in blatant disregard of the serious harm they have caused to the people of Indonesia as well as those of its neighbours.

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Malaysia: Multimedia Commission to shut sites that sell animals illegally

RAHIMY RAHIM The Star 26 Jun 16;

PETALING JAYA: Wildlife protection authorities are working closely with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to close down websites or home pages selling wildlife illegally in Malaysia.

A Malaysian Facebook page offering wildlife such as leopard cats, dusky leaf monkeys, binturong (bearcat), barred eagle owls and several other protected species was just shut down by Facebook.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the ministry had agreed to work closely with Wildlife Protection and Natio­nal Parks Department (Perhilitan) on this issue at a meeting last year.

“For cases involving Facebook and Twitter accounts that were found selling exotic and endangered animals, Perhilitan will conduct initial investigations before ordering an enforcement operation and later request the help of MCMC to shut the accounts.

“The page can also be shut down by the Facebook administrator if there is complaint from the public,” he said yesterday.

The Facebook page called ‘Peminat Haiwan Exotic Malaysia’ (Malaysian Exotic Animals Fans), claimed to be “selling regulated goods”, and was promoting the sale of protected Malaysian species.

It was also found to be facilitating illegal activities by allowing members to post advertisements of nationally protected species for sale to the members of public.

In a five-month survey of local Facebook groups, wildlife trade watchdog Traffic South-East Asia found 236 different posts with protected animals such as the sun bear and slow loris “not very secretly” being sold for up to thousands of ringgit each.

Deputy Minister Datuk Hamim Samuri said such acts were unacceptable and gave his assurance the ministry would work with all the relevant enforcement agencies and increase its surveillance to curb the selling of rare and exotic animals, especially in cyberspace.

The ministry, Hamim said, was also in the midst of fine-tuning all existing laws, including the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972, to ensure they were relevant to current challenges.

“Our minister had the officers check existing laws and push for the revamp those that are not current, including the penalties, for dealing with illegal online trading,” he said.

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