Best of our wild blogs: 24 Aug 16

Birding Hindhede Nature Park
Singapore Bird Group

Green Drinks: The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint + People’s Expedition to Experience Peat
Green Drinks Singapore

corridor closures & halus heartstoppers
Winging It

Read more!

Dengue cases rise again after two-week decline

Channel NewsAsia 24 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE: The number of new dengue cases in Singapore is on the rise again, with 222 cases reported in the week ending Aug 20, according to latest figures on the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) dengue website.

This is an increase from the previous two weeks, when 210 cases and 198 cases were reported, respectively. Another 39 cases were reported between Aug 21 and 3pm on Aug 22.

A total of 10,769 dengue cases have been reported in Singapore since the start of the year. Seven people have died of the disease so far, with the latest fatality a 79-year-old man who lived in Eastwood Drive near Upper East Coast Road. There were four dengue fatalities in the whole of 2015.

There are now 46 active dengue clusters in Singapore – up from 43 the previous week – including 11 classified as high-risk. The biggest cluster is in the area around Tampines Ave 8, Tampines Street 81, Street 83 and Street 84, where 55 cases have been reported, including two in the past fortnight.

In an advisory on its dengue website, NEA said that although the number of cases has been fluctuating within the same range for the past few weeks, it expects the figure to climb in the coming months as Singapore is in the traditional peak dengue season.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and NEA have warned that the number of dengue cases in Singapore may exceed 30,000 this year, higher than the record of 22,170 reported in 2013.

- CNA/cy

Read more!

Singapore still among world's liveable cities

Despite ranking 46 out of 140 cities in global survey, Republic remains attractive to highly mobile top talent
Janice Heng The Straits Times 24 Aug 16;

Singapore's score in a global ranking of livable cities has stagnated since 2011, which may make a difference to highly mobile top talent.

But it remains one of the world's more liveable cities, ranking 46th out of 140 cities assessed, while Hong Kong was 43rd.

Singapore did particularly well in providing a safe and stable habitat, but scored lower in culture, environment and healthcare in the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) annual Liveability Ranking. which began in 2002. In response to queries, the EIU supplied the results since 2011.

Although Singapore's overall ranking might look middling, it is not cause for alarm, said experts.

"Singapore has a high score and the EIU classifies it in the top tier of liveability," said Mr Simon Baptist, EIU chief economist and managing director for Asia.

Singapore scored 88.7 out of a possible 100, based on five areas: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Its score has not changed since 2011, though its ranking improved from 51st to 46th because other cities fell behind in stability - factors such as crime rate, risk of terrorism and risk of social unrest.

Singapore performed worst in the area of culture and environment, with a score of 76.6.

Not much can be done about environmental factors: humidity and temperature, and "discomfort of climate to travellers".

But its cultural score - which includes factors such as corruption, censorship, sports, the arts, and food and drink - can be improved, said Mr Baptist.

"Singapore is dragged down due to its high level of censorship, which means the local media is less diverse and interesting, and residents do not have the same possibility to engage in public debate or get involved in campaigning or NGOs."

Singapore's healthcare score also lags behind some cities despite high quality healthcare, he added. This is mainly because of a lower number of doctors and hospital beds per capita, and lower public healthcare spending as a percentage of gross domestic product.

This may affect expatriates here on local packages, but will have less impact on those with private healthcare insurance, said expat expert Yvonne McNulty.

Liveability has been a focus of the Government, from efficient transport to vibrant public spaces.

This is both to improve citizens' everyday lives and to boost competitiveness by ensuring Singapore is an attractive place to live for top talent.

OCBC economist Selena Ling said liveability may make a difference for top global talent, who can choose where to go.

But she and other economists said foreign investors' top concerns are the domestic cost environment, overall availability of talent and competitive advantages such as good corporate governance and transport links.

"Liveability is more like icing on the cake after the basics have been taken care of." Otherwise, places such as Australia and Canada, which rank high for liveability, would top competitiveness rankings - which is not the case.

DBS economist Irvin Seah agreed. "I think we've reached a certain stage of development where we can feel more confident about the standards of living in Singapore.

"If there is any ranking that we need to focus on, it'll be those pertaining to innovation and overall economic competitiveness."

Read more!

Indonesia: Disaster Agency declares six provinces in emergency of forest fires

Antara 23 Aug 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said six of Indonesian provinces are in emergency of forest and bush fires.

"BNPB, therefore, has put into operation eight water bombing helicopters," chief spokesman of the agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said here on Tuesday.

The six provinces are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.

Sutopo said it is feared the worst of dry season is yet to come, adding normally in September forest fires are more devastating.

Sumatra and Kalimantan always had the largest number of hot spots from August until October with the worst in September, he warned.

The West Kalimantan Governor has even extended the emergency period until November for that province, he added.

"The declaration of emergency status would give BNPB and its regional units easier access to potential sources in its efforts to mobilize fire fighting forces," he said.

Currently, BNPB already has in its disposal eight units of water bombing helicopters, two units of water bombing fixed wing aircraft and another two planes for artificially made rain.

"Three of the water bombing helicopters, two water bombing fixed planes and a a CASA plane for artificial rains would be placed in Riau," he said.

Riau has always been the most devastated by forest and peat land fires, which comes almost every year.

Sutopo said this year , preparations in dealing with the forest fire emergency situation is better than in previous years.

"In 2015, preparation and action came late in dealing with forest and bush fires resulting in greater difficulties in poutting out the fires," he said. (*)

Dry season to peak in September, aircraft prepared to tackle fires
The Jakarta Post 23 Aug 16;

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is preparing water-bombing aircraft to anticipate haze problems, following the emergency status declared by at least six provinces, with the dry season predicted to peak in September.

The six provinces are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. September would be the peak of the dry season this year, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Tuesday. As part of preemptive actions, the provinces declared the alert status earlier than last year, when Indonesia suffered its worst forest and land fires.

"Usually September is the peak of forest and land fires when more hot spots are detected," he said as quoted by

In order to tackle worsening forest and land fires, the BNPB has prepared eight helicopters and two aircraft for water bombing and two Cassa airplanes for artificial rain across the six provinces.

"A total of 21.7 million liters of water has been used by the water-bombing aircraft to put out forest and land fires from April 1 to present," Sutopo said.

Around 2,937 hectares of forest and land fires in Riau had been put out by ground personnel, he said. The Riau Police have named 85 people as suspects for allegedly clearing land by burning, which resulted in haze problems from January through August.

Indonesia suffers annually from forest and peatland fires resulting from slash-and-burn practices for clearing land. The worst haze crisis happened last year when at least 19 people died and 500,000 people suffered acute respiratory illnesses. (rin)

Soldier missing after forest fire in Riau
Jakarta Post 23 AUg 16;

Indonesian Military (TNI) soldier Pvt. First Class Wahyudi remains missing four days after helping to extinguish a forest fire in the Riau regency of Rokan Hilir.

Wira Bima Military Command chief and Riau Land and Forest Fire Task Force commander Brig. Gen. Nurendi went to the location where Wahyudi went missing and led search efforts involving a joint team from the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), the TNI, the National Police and local residents.

“The search has not been fruitful yet. I have instructed the Wira Bima Military Command to hold a joint prayer at each unit pleading to Almighty God that Wahyudi will soon be found,” said Nurendi on Monday.

Apart from a conventional search, Nurendi said various methods to track Wahyudi’s whereabouts had been employed, including cell phone signal tracking technology and soothsayers, because locals believed Wahyudi had been hidden by spirits disturbed by the fires that hit the region.

Wahyudi went missing during a firefighting mission in Medan hamlet, Labuhan Tangga Besar village, Bangko district, on Friday.

At around 3 p.m. local time, Wahyudi and two of his colleagues were replacing a piece of fire-extinguishing equipment with a larger device. Wahyudi then returned to the forest to collect a small hose that had been left behind. He is believed to have become engulfed in thick smoke and to have lost his way back to his colleagues.

Fires detected again in lands owned by companies given SP3
Antara 23 Aug 16;

Photo document dated August 10, 2015 on the condition of land burned in oil palm concession company in Pelalawan, Riau, as evidence of the police in case of fires in Riau. (ANTARA/Deputi Direskrimsus Polda Riau AKBP Ari Rahman Nafarin-HO)
Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - Environmentalist organizations said fires have been detected again in lands owned by eight companies given SP3 (order to stop investigation) over cases of forest fires in Riau by police.

Wahana Lingkungan Hidup (Walhi) and Jaringan Kerja Penyelamat Hutan Riau (Jikalahari) said almost every year fires hit land owned by plantation and forestry companies in the province.

Police have granted SP3 over last years forest fire cases of 15 companies and now fires have been detected again in lands owned by eight of the companies, deputy coordinator of Jikalahari Made Ali said here on Tuesday.

The eight companies are PT Dexter Perkasa Industri Indonesia, PT Siak Raya Timber, PT Bina Duta Laksana, PT Perawang Sukses Perkasa Industri, PT Ruas Utama Jaya, PT Huta Sola Lestari, PT Suntara Gajah Pati and PT Sumatera Riang Lestari.

Walhi executive director Riko Kurniawan said the police decision in granting SP3 was a big mistake, as proven by the repeat of wrong doing committed by the companies.

The companies dared to use fires for land clearing as they have always escaped the law, observers said.

Police said a number of individuals have been named suspects but none of the companies are named suspect.

"Yes, it was true. We have named 85 individual suspects. No corporation is among the suspects yet," Riau police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo said.

Earlier deputy chairman of the commission III of the House of Representatives Benny K Harman strongly demanded state police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian to give explanation of the SP3 issued by Riau police chief Brig.Gen. Supriyanto.

"The state police chief has to openly give reasons for SP3," Benny said in Jakarta.

He also asked President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) to summon the state police chief to explain the decision as the cases have national and international dimensions.

However, after a meeting later with the the Riau police chief Benny said the Commission respected the reasons given by the general in issuing order to drop forest fire cases involving the 15 companies.

"The Commission III respects and supports the Riau police in resolving the legal cases of forest fires," he said.

Read more!

Indonesia obtains developed world EU's Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade license

Suherdjoko The Jakarta Post 24 Aug 16;

Indonesia became the first country to obtain the EU's Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) as the European Parliament approved the European Commission’s proposal for the extending the FLEGT license to Indonesia on Aug. 9.

With the decision, Indonesian wood products are allowed to enter 28 EU member countries without having to pass a due diligence process, which was expensive and a lengthy procedure, as previously required by EU trade laws.

“As a follow up to the decision, on Aug.18, the European Commission issued an EU regulation, which acknowledges that Indonesia has fulfilled the requirements within the framework of the EU Trade Regulation and Voluntary Partnership Agreement signed by Indonesia and the EU in 2013,” the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s sustainable production forest management director general, Putera Parthama, said in Semarang, Central Java, on Tuesday.

With the EU regulation, he said, Indonesia left behind its competitors, which also exported wood products to the European market. They included African countries, which had signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU; Latin America countries; ASEAN member countries—Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos—and China.

“It’s real proof that Indonesia’s timber legality system [SVLK] has been acknowledged by the 28 EU member countries as guaranteeing that Indonesian wood products do not come from illegal logging activities,” said Putera.

Since the implementation of the SVLK in 2013, Indonesia’s export value in wood products has increased from year to year. In 2015, the country’s export value increased two fold from the previous year. In July, Indonesia’s wood exports amounted to US$500 billion with the three biggest export destinations comprising China, Korea and Japan.

“The EU market accounts for 11 percent of our total wood products market. However, the EU can become a barometer in relation to environmental requirements and timber legality,” said Putera. (ebf)

Read more!

Indonesia: Hundreds of illegal birds confiscated at Surakarta airport

Ganug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post 23 Aug 16;

Customs officers at Adi Sumarmo Airport in Surakarta, Central Java, confiscated on Monday more than 300 birds sent from Kualanamu Airport in Medan, North Sumatra, using fake documents.

The birds, which comprise several different species, were put inside a large case and equipped with a quarantine letter. In the letter, it stated the case contained 87 birds, containing three different species, namely the oriental magpie-robin or locally known as kacer, lovebird and blue-winged leafbird or also popular known as cucak ranting.

After a thorough inspection, the officers found the cargo contained 332 birds with 10 different species. They said the cargo’s content was not a match with the documents and that they were probably falsified.

“We didn’t deliver the birds to the recipient because we considered the documents as not valid,” the airport’s agriculture quarantine coordinator, M.Farid, said at the Tarui Jurug Animal Park (TSTJ) in Surakarta, on Monday.

Improper handling: Officials find more than a half of the 332 birds they confiscated during an operation at Adi Sumarmo Airport in Surakarta, Central Java, on Monday, died due to improper handling. ( Nugroho Adi)

Farid said hundreds of birds confiscated were sent by Joko Perdana in Medan to a recipient identified only as Harno in Surakarta. The confiscation began from the customs officers’ suspicions over the large case, he went on.

“The case was very large, where it was unlikely that it only contained 87 birds. Therefore, the officers opened the case, witnessed by the recipient,” said Farid. He said 193 out of the 332 birds died due to improper handling while several of the remaining 139 birds were wounded.

Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Surakarta official Joko Triono said those birds were not categorized as protected species but their handling and delivery process had violated existing rules. (ebf)

Read more!

Vietnam: World’s second largest Delacour’s langur population found in Vietnam

Vietnam Net 23 Aug 16;

The world’s second largest population of the critically endangered Delacour’s langur was recently discovered by Fauna & Flora International (FFI), giving fresh hope for one of the planet’s rarest species.

Following reports of sightings in a once largely unexplored forest in north Vietnam, scientists from conservation NGO FFI Vietnam conducted field assessments to ascertain whether this species does indeed live in the area.

"Our surveys and assessment revealed that there was a population of significant size. We detected seven groups of Delacour’s langur, with the total number of primates in the population being as high as 40. Only one other area in Vietnam has a larger population of Delacour’s langur," said FFI Vietnam’s Biodiversity Technical Advisor Trinh Dinh Hoang.

Delacour’s langur is indigenous to Vietnam, but because of human activities such as hunting, stone mining and charcoal production, it faces a severe threat of extinction with fewer than 250 left, a press release issued yesterday said.

Although they remain under grave danger of being wiped out within a decade, scientists now have renewed hope that they can be saved.

"This discovery is good news – both for the species and for the people of Vietnam, particularly because we have also identified a number of infants and juveniles among the groups. This means that they are breeding and, if we can protect them, they should be able to thrive in this habitat once again," Hoang said

However, Dr Benjamin Rawson, country director of FFI Vietnam, warned that urgent interventions to curb human activity such as hunting and mining were needed to safeguard these prized primates and their habitat.

Speaking at the Congress of the International Primatological Society in Chicago, he said: "We’ve notified the Vietnamese authorities of our findings and recommendations, and we continue to work alongside officials and local communities to ensure the Delacour’s langur doesn’t become this century’s first primate extinction."

Delacour’s langur (Trachypithecus delacouri) is a primate endemic to Vietnam, first discovered by Jean Théodore Delacour in 1930 and described by Wilfred Hudson Osgood in 1932.

In the early 1990s, a comprehensive survey recorded 19 isolated subpopulations comprising 50 to 57 groups and 281 to 317 individuals in an area of about 5, in north Vietnam.

More recent surveys indicated that there has been a significant decrease in both the number of groups and the number of individuals.

Rare endangered primate spotted in Vietnam
AFP Yahoo News 24 Aug 16;

A new group of critically endangered primates has been spotted in Vietnam, raising hopes the rare creatures may not be wiped out in the next decade as scientists had feared.

The Delacour's langur, black and white with a full face of whiskers, is indigenous to Vietnam, but their numbers have dwindled in recent years because of poaching and mining activity in the country's northern forests.

A team of scientists from Fauna and Flora International spotted a group of about 40 of the primates, mostly juveniles and infants, bringing their total population to less than 250.

"It's great news for this particular species because had we not found this new population, they were in grave danger of being wiped out within a decade," spokeswoman for FFI in Vietnam, Akofa Wallace, told AFP Tuesday.

"The fact that they are breeding is brilliant news," she added.

FFI did not say where scientists spotted the langurs, whose habitat is threatened by mining activity in the area, including charcoal production.

They are also targeted by poachers who hunt them for meat, with their bones used for traditional medicine and their pelts for decoration.

The primate was discovered in northern Vietnam in the 1930s by French scientist Jean Theodore Delacour, and are only found in Vietnam.

FFI country director Benjamin Rawson said urgent interventions were needed to protect the species, which numbered about 300 in the early 1990s.

"We continue to work alongside officials and local communities to ensure the Delacour's langur doesn't become this century's first primate extinction," Rawson said in a statement.

The rare animals are protected under Vietnam's conservation laws, but critics say the legislation is not effectively enforced and poaching of rare or endangered species continues unchecked.

Vietnam is home to some of world's most endangered species, including the mountainous antelope Saola, the Red River giant soft-shell turtle and the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey.

Wild animals are under constant threat in the country, with their body parts in high demand for both food and traditional medicine.

Read more!

Regulators Put Limits on Fish No One Wants to Eat

That’s because the “forage fish” are food for ever-expanding fish farms, and overfishing them could destroy the ocean food web
Annie Sneed Scientific American 23 Aug 16;

Atlantic saury, pearlsides, sand lances—you’ve probably never tasted any of these fish (or heard of them). But they and other “forage” species play a vital role in our oceans—they’re food for the fish we eat. In fact, these lowly forage species are so essential to the health of marine ecosystems that some people are taking extra steps to protect them—especially as the global demand for seafood soars. Last week the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which oversees fishing in U.S. waters from New York State to North Carolina, decided to start managing more than 50 species of forage fish.

The council’s decision is a bit unusual—after all, none of the forage fish populations are in danger of collapse, and only one of the 50-plus species is harvested on a large scale in the mid-Atlantic today. In the region, people have mostly ignored these fish because they tend to be small, low-value and not very appetizing. But the council is trying to handle its fisheries more holistically because it has realized that putting controls on a single species at a time just will not work. “There's a move now to manage all fisheries as part of a bigger system,” says Steve Ross, a research professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington who is one of the council’s scientific advisors. “When you manage one fish, you try to manage its whole environment—and that includes the food web.”

These small, nutrient-rich forage fish pump energy through the ecosystem in a way that no other marine animal can. They feed on the bottom of the food chain—on single-celled plankton, which larger fish cannot eat—and then they become prey for all sorts of upper-level predators like tuna, sea bass and halibut as well as seabirds and marine mammals. “I like to say that forage fish help turn sunlight into salmon,” explains Ellen Pikitch, a professor of marine biology at Stony Brook University. “They support so much of the ocean ecosystem.”

The council also made its decision because it is concerned that as people around the world eat more seafood than ever, demand for mid-Atlantic forage fish will grow. That’s because, increasingly, people rely on aquaculture (fish farms) to meet their seafood needs. And enormous quantities of forage fish are caught worldwide and processed into fish meal and fish oil that is used as fodder for farmed fish. The council decided to be proactive and regulate forage catch in case mid-Atlantic fishermen start targeting these fish in a big way.

This is a smart move, scientists say, because if humans ever wipe out forage species, it will be catastrophic for both the ocean and us. The many marine animals that depend on them would lose their food source, predator fish populations would fall and the effects would likely ripple throughout the entire food web, hurting organisms that don’t even rely on those fish directly. “If you take too many forage fish out,” Pikitch says, “you risk pulling the rug out from under the ocean ecosystem.”

Not only would this be terrible for the marine environment, it also would undercut fishermen who target big-money fish like cod or tuna—the fish we actually like to eat. “Someone could just go over with a net, catch a shitload of these fish and screw me out of the tuna fishery,” says council member John McMurray, who owns a charter fishing business in New York.

The Mid-Atlantic Council intends to limit a boat’s haul of forage fish to 1,700 pounds each time it goes out to sea. That is not a huge catch, but mid-Atlantic fishermen today rarely harvest more than that. “It’s almost the highest amount of what has been caught in the past,” explains Julia Beaty, a fishery management specialist for the council. “The thought was that that number wouldn’t be overly burdensome on existing fisheries.” The council’s decision is not in effect, yet; the Secretary of Commerce still needs to approve it before it becomes regulation.

The council will also consider expanding fisheries for forage species if there is scientific evidence that fishermen can do it sustainably. This is a big shift from how people have built fisheries in the past. “Before, fisheries developed pell-mell and then we sorted out the impact after the fact,” says Rich Seagraves, a senior scientist for the council. “Now we’re shifting the burden of proof. If you’re in the business and you want to ramp up a new fishery, you need to prove there won’t be significant negative effects on the ecosystem.”

Read more!