Best of our wild blogs: 21 Aug 16

Mass coral bleaching at Cyrene Reef
wild shores of singapore

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Upper Seletar Reservoir Park
Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Punggol Waterway Park (19 Aug 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Read more!

Sisters’ Island dive trails closed until end-Sept due to coral bleaching

KELLY NG Today Online 21 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE — Dive trails at the Sisters’ Island Marine Park, Singapore’s first marine park, will be closed until the end of September due to the extensive bleaching of coral reefs in the southern waters, including some reefs that have been totally bleached.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the National Parks Board (NParks) said that the trails have been closed since June — seven months after it was opened to the public — as a “pre-emptive measure” to minimise extra “stress” to the corals.

Various stages of bleaching was reported at reefs within the southern waters since June, NParks said. “This includes some that are completely bleached, while the majority are partially bleached or not bleached at all,” Dr Karenne Tun, director (coastal and marine) at NParks’ National Biodiversity Centre, said.

Higher temperatures can be a source of stress for corals, causing them to eject the tiny algae that live in their tissues and that give them their colours. The corals then turn white (“bleached”) and they cannot survive long-term without the algae, which is also a food source.

NParks added that it has been monitoring global and local temperature trend since the onset of the El Nino phenomenon last year, reportedly one of the most powerful in history and is characterised by unusual weather patterns. El Nino occurs every two to seven years and last year’s episode has wreaked havoc across the globe, causing record droughts in Ethiopia, extensive wildfires in Indonesia, and typhoons in the Philippines, to name a few.

NParks said that a “conservative estimate” of the bleaching threshold ranges between 30.95°C and 31.35°C.

Early this year, Singapore’s sea surface temperatures increased between half a degree and one degree Celsius beyond monthly averages, but they were still below the threshold. NParks was on the alert for the possibility of bleaching extending to Singapore waters. 
In end-April, sea surface temperatures started rising beyond the bleaching threshold, peaked at 0.8°C above the threshold sometime in May, and then dipped to just below the threshold from early June.

This month, the bleaching situation saw an improvement, when a recent assessment found the corals showing signs of recovery. Dr Tun said: “We are hopeful that those that are partially bleached will recover completely if temperatures do not increase further.”

The last mass coral bleaching in Singapore occurred in 2010 when Singapore also experienced moderate to strong El Nino effect. A similar situation occurred in 1998.

Apart from a monitoring exercise early this year on the bleaching situation, which includes checking sea surface temperatures and responses of corals, NParks initiated a survey in June to determine the severity and extent of bleaching.

This exercise will help determine if any species has to be safeguarded with specific intervention measures. For instance, rare local species may be moved to deeper waters with stronger currents, or into more controlled environments.

There are habitat enhancement projects and species recovery programmes that were started to focus particularly on rare species. Individual corals have been tagged so that their health may be monitored over the next few months. Also under NParks’ watch is also a 100m stretch of reef area with bleaching patterns among various species and functional groups of corals.

The board will continue to monitor the bleaching responses of the reefs with partners from National University of Singapore and the Tropical Marine Science Institute, and will update dive operators and the public regarding the status of the trails via its website.

NParks also shared that since the trails opened last November, all dive dates have been fully subscribed, with at least four divers on each trip. Its website show that there were two trips each in March, April and June.

Some of the approved dive operators contacted by TODAY said that response from divers has been positive, but the limited number of dive slots makes it difficult to entertain all queries.

Diving Solutions (Asia), for example, has received about 50 queries. However, it observed that despite the overwhelming interest, it was unable to fill the only slot it was allocated because the date was on a weekday.

Mr Stephen Beng, Padi course director at Sea Hounds, said that coral bleaching “is an opportunity for us to share the plight of our coral reefs” and there is a need to protect Singapore’s “amazing marine biodiversity” from multiple threats.

“The closure of the park is a good thing and in line with marine park management protocols,” he said, adding that this would allow the reefs to recover from the pressures of human activities such as diving, even as they face other threats.

“(Bleaching) can also happen because of pollution or any other unhealthy environment,” he added, pointing out that waste from fish farms, for example, is carried by the currents and settles over corals.

“(This) is a visible reminder that climate change is real and that our consumption choices have a cumulative impact on the environment,” Mr Beng said.

We all have a part to play in saving coral
DARREN CHAN KENG LEONG Today Online 27 Jun 16;

I refer to the report “Coral bleaching forces closure of Sisters’ Islands dive trails” (Aug 22).

Climate change plays a significant role in coral bleaching, as fluctuations in water temperature and changes in the sea’s chemistry could cause corals to lose their ability to sustain the tiny algae they survive on.

It is important to take precautions to monitor the situation, to ensure that there are no significant stressors that may affect the biodiversity of the area.

In the event of sustained bleaching, the National Parks Board (NParks) may consider moving rare local species elsewhere, to save them.

NParks can even consider growing coral in controlled environments — conditions that could make them more robust against the climate change — and transplanting them to the reef.

Given that there are dive trails on Sisters’ Islands, NParks should also run reef clean-up operations, as pollution in the ocean also vastly affect the health of the reefs. Also, it is essential that proper waste disposal methods are practised by fish farms, as well as the public, as these are small steps that can help reduce the amount of pollution at the source.

In addition, it is important that the dive operators are engaged in safe and responsible dive practices. Prolonged contact with corals may damage them, which in turn affects the marine life that depends on the reef for sustenance.

Perhaps NParks could work with an organisation like the World Wildlife Fund Singapore to certify “reef-friendly” businesses, to promote the protection of the environment.

Active coral reef ecosystem management methods can also be shared with members of the public who are interested in diving at these trails, so that they are aware and motivated to respect the environment.

Everyone has a part to play in protecting the coral reefs and the environment, and taking precautions and measures is the responsibility of all.

Related articles
Mass coral bleaching sightings in Singapore on the wild shores of singapore blog

Read more!

Indonesia: Lapan detects 74 hotspots across Sumatra

Antara 20 Aug 16;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Indonesias National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (Lapan) has reported that the number of hotspots across Sumatra Island reached 74 on Saturday, seven more than the 67 reported a day earlier.

Of the 74 hotspots, 34 were found in Riau, 15 in South Sumatra, nine in North Sumatra, six in Bangka Belitung, five in West Sumatra, four in Lampung, and one in Aceh, Slamet Riyadi, spokesman of the Pekanbaru meteorology station, said here on Saturday.

In Riau, Rokan Hilir District had 14, Bengkalis nine, Dumai seven, Siak two, Rokan Hulu one and Indragiri Hilir one.

Of the 34 hotspots in Riau, 24 were believed to be fire spots. Of these, nine each were detected in Rokan Hilir and Bengkalis, four in Dumai and one each in Rokan Hulu and Indragiri Hilir.

An army officer from Dumai who had been helping in extinguishing the fire in Pasir Putih village, Rokan Hilir District, went missing while doing his task.

"The search effort continues and police has been involved," Colonel I Nyoman Parwata of the Wirabima/031 Military Resort Command stated.

The Commander of the Wirabima/031 Military Resort Command, Brigadier General Nurendi, has sent 100 military personnel to fight the wildfires.(*)

Military officers build barriers to prevent wildfires from spreading
Antara 20 Aug 16;

Pontianak, W Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - A number of military officers were deployed to build barriers to prevent wildfires in Selakau, Sambas District, West Kalimantan Province, from spreading to a wider area.

"Now we are making land partitions to prevent wildfires in Selaku from spreading to North Singkawang", Captain Taufik Wiramansyah, commander of the Seadau military unit, said here on Saturday.

The efforts to extinguish the forest, peatland and plantation fires involved military and police personnel, as well as local inhabitants.

In Sedau, the wildfires have razed some 100 hectares of area in Semelagi (North Singkawang) covering 50 ha, Pangmilang (South Singkawang, 30 ha), and Senggang (East Singkawang, 20 ha).

As the weather in West Kalimantan is now hot, Captain Wiramansyah urged local farmers not to clear land by using slash and burn methods.

He also urged smokers not to throw cigarette butts into peatland and forest areas, since they could cause fires.

The commander said those causing fires intentionally or unintentionally would be prosecuted.

Due to forest, peatland and plantation fires, Singkawang town was shrouded in haze on Saturday morning. (*)

Read more!

Malaysia: Dept wants pangolin protection status upgrade

The Star 21 Aug 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department is trying to get pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, upgraded into a totally protected species in the state.

This comes after a Sessions Court in Lahad Datu fined a man RM25,000, in default three years’ jail, after he pleaded guilty to the possession of live pangolins and 900g of scales on Thursday.

Department director William Baya said pangolins were categorised as a protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

“Our department is putting its efforts to upgrade this endangered species to Schedule 1 (Totally Protected) of the Enactment,” he said here yesterday.

Abdullah Rappe, 56, was found with 24 live pangolins, a carcass and a plastic bag full of internal organs and the scales when he was arrested at a roadblock by the department on Feb 20.

The animals and other items were stored inside the vehicle he was driving along the Sandakan-Lahad Datu road.

Endangered: A wildlife ranger releasing confiscated pangolins back into the wild.
Endangered: A wildlife ranger releasing confiscated pangolins back into the wild.
Abdullah paid the fine.

Baya said the live pangolins seized during the roadblock had been sent to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre for imme­diate veterinary care.

Twenty of these, he said, were successfully released back to a forest reserve.

“I am glad that the pangolins are now back in the wild and did not end up on someone’s dinner plate or used in traditional Chinese medicine,” Baya said.

Pangolins are deemed an exotic delicacy among many, with their parts, including the scales, being used for medicine, although there is no proof in their value.

Called the most trafficked animal in the world – making up 20% of the wildlife black market – all the eight species of pangolin in the world are now considered threatened.

Read more!

Indonesia: Flash flood hits elephant habitat in Bengkulu

Antara 20 Aug 16;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - A flash flood triggered by the overflowing of the Seblat River in North Bengkulu District hit the habitat of Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus Sumatrae).

"The flash flood hampered officers from crossing by a boat to the elephant training center," Asep, an elephant tamer in the Seblat elephant training center, said Friday.

The flood that started Thursday evening, swept away a crossing boat in to the rivers currents.

Tens of households living in Sukabaru Village were forced to evacuate to higher grounds due to the flood.

The flash flood began at 9 p.m. local time Thursday, Sub-district Head of Marga Sakti Seblat of North Bengkulu District Jalaludin said.

Some 120 villagers took refuge in four safe places due to the floodwaters reaching a height of up to 1.5 meters, he said.


Edited by INE.

Two Rafflesia flowers bloom in Bengkulu
Antara 20 Aug 16;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - Two Rafflesia Arnoldi flowers are in bloom at two separate locations in the districts of Kepahiang and Central Bengkulu in Bengkulu province.

The two Rafflesia flowers were spotted by a group of people who regularly monitor the presence of rare flowers in the forest, Bengkulu Community Care for Rare Flowers coordinator Sofian Ramadhan said here Saturday.

"Each of the two Rafflesia Arnoldy flowers 75 centimeters (cm) and 55cm in diameter," Sofian remarked.

One of the flowers found in Central Bengkulu is in Taba Teret village, some 48 kilometers (km) from the city of Bengkulu, while the other one in Kepahiang district is found in Bukit Daun protected forest area, some 54km from Bengkulu city.

Sofian then urged the local government to protect the forest area in order to preserve the habitat of the flower.

Rafflesia is the largest, heaviest, rarest and one of the most fragrant flowers in the world. In full bloom, its crown can reach a diameter of 1 meter and it weighs about 10 kilograms.

Interestingly, Rafflesia is a parasitic plant without any leaves, stems or roots.(*)

Read more!