Otters eat up to $500 worth of fish a night at fishing pond

Otters raid commercial fishing pond at Pasir Ris Park almost daily. Owner says problem has become worse.
AZIM AZMAN The New Paper 7 Oct 16;

They came, they ate, and they left. Then they came again.

A family of nine otters has been raiding a commercial fishing pond at Pasir Ris Park over the past six months to feast on the fish.

And the carnivorous mammals have quite an appetite, which has left Mr Darren Seng, who owns D'Best Recreation, with a big hole in his pocket.

He estimates that each raid by the otters – and they come almost daily – costs him about $300 to $500 worth of fish.

He said that since he bought D'Best Recreation in August 2014, he has seen two otters feeding on his fish.

But the problem has become worse over the last six months.

"There used to be only two otters, but now there are nine. Two more, and they could form a football team," Mr Seng, 36, told The New Paper yesterday in jest.

But it's no laughing matter when his business is losing thousands of dollars monthly to the otters, and he can't do much to stop their raids apart from trying to keep them away.

Otters, like all wildlife in Singapore, are protected under the law, and cannot be killed or harmed.

In any case, the re-emergence of the smooth-coated otters on the island in recent years should be cherished because they were once thought to be extinct.

So Mr Seng has come to terms with his predicament, though it still hurts when he tallies up his losses.


"The fishes in the pond are bought for the anglers to catch, so they will disappear anyway," he said.

The fishing pond is open round the clock for anglers to catch saltwater fish. It costs from $43 for eight hours of fishing, depending on the time slots.

"Since the start of the year, my staff have reported an increase in the number of otter sightings," Mr Seng added.

Over the last six months or more, the otters have emerged from the nearby Tampines River, heading to the pond almost daily to feed on the fish.

TNP was alerted to a video, which was taken on Tuesday afternoon, that captured a family of seven otters making their way into the pond.

They were filmed munching on their catch while casually floating in the water and seemingly oblivious to the humans close by observing them.

"In the beginning, the otters would come in the early hours of the morning when it is darker and there aren't many people around," said Mr Seng.

"Now they come and eat our fishes even when it's bright and there are people around."

When TNP visited the pond yesterday afternoon, there were no otters in sight.

But regular anglers told TNP that they have seen the animals.

"Every time the otters come, I do not get any bites from the fishes for a few hours. They scare away the fishes," said retiree Billy Ng, 60.

He said he visits the pond almost every day and usually sees the otters early in the morning.

"I hope that the otters can be moved away from the pond because I've paid for the time to fish here," he added.

Another angler seemed to welcome the otters. "They provide an interesting feature for visitors to the pond," said Mr Roland Tan, 66.

Mr Seng, however, fears the otters will grow so confident that they will attack the fishes kept inside his storage nets in the middle of the pond.

"Our storage area can hold about 25 nets, and each of them can hold about 100kg to 400kg of fishes," he said.

Worried, he has turned to the National Parks Board (NParks), the government agency that rents out the recreation area to him, for help.

"I'm hoping the authorities can help me before the damage gets out of hand," Mr Seng said.


Responding to TNP's queries, NPark's group director of parks, Mr Chia Seng Jiang, said in an e-mail that NParks staff had gone to the pond on Sept 30 to assess the situation.

"We are currently looking into various measures, including planting hedges near the pond to deter the otters from fishing there.

"We will also be putting up advisories in the vicinity of the pond to share more information about otters with the public," he said.

While Mr Seng hopes the measures will be successful, he is not holding his breath.

"I hope the hedges help, but the otters have legs and can move around the hedges," he said.

Cleaner waters, more otters

Until recent years, the smooth-coated otter was a rare sight in Singapore, where it was thought to have become extinct.

But now, they are not only seen often, but have also become a problem for home owners and hotels in Sentosa, as well as commercial fishing pond owners like D'Best Recreation's Mr Darren Seng.

Mr N. Sivasothi, a biological sciences lecturer at the National University of Singapore, told The New Paper that the high number of otter sightings can be attributed to our waterways becoming cleaner over the years.

"It was only in 1998 that the smooth-coated otter returned to the waters of Singapore," he said.

"As the waterways get cleaner, they would have more fishes, and it is only natural that the otters would explore their surroundings."

Mr Sivasothi, who has been involved in otter research in Singapore since the early 90s, added: "With the greening of the urban areas and the improvement in the waterways, wildlife will return to these areas."

In particular, many Singaporeans were excited to see three smooth-coated otter pups that were born and raised in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in April last year.

The Asian small-clawed otter, the other species found in Singapore, is harder to spot because it is a nocturnal creature and can be found only in a few areas.

A spokesman for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore said it received 42 instances of feedback on otters, mostly pertaining to sightings, from January last year to last month.

Only a small number of the feedback were on nuisance issues, which includeed the eating of fish in ponds.

It is illegal to kill or harm otters because, like all wildlife in Singapore, they are protected under the Wild Animals and Birds Act.

Mr Sivasothi hopes that the National Parks Board's plan to plant hedges along the fishing pond at D'Best Recreation would be enough to make it difficult for the otters to gain access to the pond.

Past cases

August 2016

Residents at Sentosa Cove installed motion sensor lights and barbed wire fences to keep otters from feeding in their fish ponds. One resident said the otters ate 22 of the 25 koi in her pond.

Hotels in Sentosa were also affected, with one hotel reporting a loss of $85,000 worth of fish over eight months.

April 2015

A Sentosa Cove resident told My Paper she lost $64,000 worth of koi overnight.

Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa was also forced to temporarily relocate the koi from its pond after reportedly losing about $20,000 worth of the fish.

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Malaysia: Johor tells residents in 12 coastal areas to prepare for high tide phenomenon

AHMAD FAIRUZ OTHMAN New Straits Times 6 Oct 16;

JOHOR BARU: The Johor government has urged residents in 12 coastal areas to take precaution during the forecasted high tide this mid-October.

Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the state branch of the Malaysian Meteorological Department revealed a possibility of water levels reaching 3.9m-high in certain areas between Oct 16 to 20.

He said flooding could occur if there were thunderstorms and strong winds at the same time.

He said the high tide was brought by the perigee, in which the moon is closest to the earth.

"If there are thunderstorms and strong winds during that period, it could cause coastal areas in Johor to be flooded.

"I advise residents in coastal areas to take precaution, to be careful and to keep themselves updated with weather changes.

"Recreational activities at coastal areas should be avoided during that period," said Ayub in a statement.

He said the areas expected to experience high tide included Johor Baru's coastal area, which may record water levels of up to 3.9m.

The other areas are Tanjung Langsat (up to 3.5m), Tanjung Pelepas (up to 3.5m), Pasir Gudang (up to 3.5m), Tanjung Pelepas (up to 3.5m), Pasir Gudang (up to 3.5m), Pulau Pisang (up to 3.5m), Endau coastal area ( up to 3.4m), Sungai Belungkor (up to 3.3m), Kuala Batu Pahat (up to 3.2m), Mersing (up to 3.2m), and Tanjung Sedili (below 3m).

Highest tide to strike Kuala Perlis on Oct 18
BERNAMA New Straits Times 10 Oct 16;

KUALA PERLIS: Residents in coastal areas here are advised to be on alert on weather developments and adhere to the directives from the authorities as the high tide phenomenon occurring in the state is expected to breach its highest level on Oct 18.

National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) deputy director-general Datuk Muhammad Yusoff Wazir said the phenomenon was also expected to cause the sea level to rise up to 3.6 metres between Oct 17 and 19.

“The 2016 Malaysian Tide Schedule issued by the Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM) National Hydrographic Centre expects the highest tide to occur at 1.38 am on Oct 18, and it is hoped that the condition will not be worsened by the presence of strong winds.

“What’s important is that the residents must act swiftly upon receiving directives from the authorities, especially if the directive is for them to be evacuated to temporary relief centre,” he said when contacted by Bernama here today. –- BERNAMA

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Malaysia: Terengganu turtles winning conservation war thanks to human hero

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 7 Oct 16;

KUALA TERENGANU: A concerted effort by the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia has helped save thousands of eggs and facilitated the release of thousands of hatchlings into Terengganu rivers.

The society’s co-founder, Chen Peif Nyok, said that they have managed to save 2,491 turtle eggs and released 1,302 hatchlings into the Setiu River between 2004 and 2014, and another 3,754 eggs and 2,401 hatchlings into the Kemaman River between 2011 and last year.

Peif Nyok added that their campaign of saving river terrapins, involving over 13 years of research, conservation, education and ecotourism in Terengganu, is bearing fruit.

“During this 13-year period, we managed to organise 40 turtle camps in the state which benefitted at least 2,000 students, mainly from local universities.

“We also organised various awareness programmes like the annual raptor watch, wildlife exhibitions, World Turtle Day celebrations and annual terrapin releases in Setiu and Kemaman,” she said.

Peif Nyok added that the society is now actively involved in the ‘Turtle Discovery Trip’, wherein participants are taken on a journey to learn about the turtles and terrapins of Malaysia.

“They can get up close with these critically endangered turtles through the programme started in 2012. So far, we have conducted 39 trips and taken more than 600 guests, including school groups,” she said.

Peif Nyok is one of the speakers who will present a paper titled ‘Saving the River Terrapins: 13 years of research, conservation, education and eco-tourism in Terengganu’ at the Terengganu International Eco and Marine Tourism conference at Primula Beach Hotel on Monday.

Born in Kuantan, Pahang and receiving her primary education in Ipoh and Malacca, Peif Nyok has always had a strong affinity towards turtles. She pursued her passion as an undergraduate at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT).

Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology in 2004, she landed herself a job as a research assistant with a new river terrapin project on campus.

“It was during this stint that I had the opportunity to learn the ropes in turtle research and conservation. One event led to another and I decided to pursue a master’s degree in Biodiversity and Conservation,” she said.

Throughout her master’s research, she raised more than 800 river terrapins and determined the best feeding practices to raise the reptiles in captivity.

Currently, Peif Nyok is pursuing her PhD. in Zoology at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) with a scholarship from the CIMB Foundation.

In 2008, Peif Nyok became the first Malaysian to be awarded a turtle conservation scholarship from the Asian Scholarship Programme for in-situ Chelonian Conservation to the United States.

“Through the scholarship, I had the opportunity to learn about and participate in various turtle research and conservation projects that my hosts were involved in.

“This included attachments with the University of Tennessee of Chattanooga, Behler Chelonian Centre in California and the Wetlands Institute in New Jersey,” she said.

In addition to turtle research and conservation, Peif Nyok is also experienced in public outreach campaigns, coordinates and conducts various turtle education programmes and fund-raising events.

In 2010, she organised Turtle Awareness Camps in 15 primary schools in Terengganu, with the help of volunteer facilitators, successfully reaching out to more than 500 students.

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Malaysia: Dengue cases drop this week, Zika outbreak contained

FAZLEENA AZIZ New Straits Times 7 Oct 16;

PUTRAJAYA: Dengue cases in the country are continuing to drop, with only 1,710 cases reported in week 39 (Sept 25 to Oct 1) compared to the previous week, with 1,818 cases.

In a statement released yesterday, Health Department director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the latest figure brings the total cumulative number of dengue cases from Jan to Oct 1 to 83,224 cases, compared to 91,822 cases in the same period last year.

As for the number of deaths recorded in week 39, four patients succumbed to the disease – two in Negri Sembilan and one in Selangor and Johor each.

“The total cumulative number of dengue-related deaths from Jan to Oct 1 is 186 cases compared to 253 recorded in the same period last year,” he added.

As for the Zika outbreak, the number of cases recorded across the country remains at seven from Sept 1 to Oct 1, said Dr Noor Hisham.

The National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), the Institute for Medical Research (IMR), as well as private hospitals and laboratories carried out continuous surveillance on Zika from June to Oct 1, he added.

“A total of 1,130 blood and urine samples were tested, but no Zika virus infections were detected,” he said.

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Indonesia: Cultivating land without burning

Erlinda Ekaputri Jakarta Post 6 Oct 16;

The forest and land fires that occurred in 2014 and 2015 may have been more devastating than the forest fires in 1982, 1983 and 1997.

According to data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the 2015 forest fires destroyed 2.09 million hectares of forest and land, which is equivalent to 32 times the area of Jakarta, or four times the size of Bali, with financial losses reaching approximately Rp 20 trillion (US$1.54 billion).

The largest hot spot in the 2015 fires was located in peatlands (1.47 million hectares) and therefore restoring the sustainable utilization of the peatland is a must, since 80 percent of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were from the forest fires.

To restore the 2 million hectares of peatland, the government plans to strengthen the physical infrastructure, such as by installing canals, dams, artesian wells and other facilities to maintain the water levels and to prevent fire during the dry season and by providing fire extinguishers to prevent flames from spreading.

This program is expected to achieve 26 percent of the reduction of GHG emissions. To achieve this target, a zero-burning policy would be applied to communities and companies that would carry heavy sanctions if violated.

In Central Kalimantan, for example, many banners are displayed in almost every corner of the province prohibiting land clearing by burning.

The zero-burning policy for agricultural purposes is a very rational strategy, since fire — even from a single match — may trigger a disaster, particularly in peatland areas.

A peatland fire would be worsened by the wind and lack of water and, on top of that, fire on dry and elastic peatland is difficult to extinguish. In fact, a fire on peatland that seems to have been put out may sometime re-ignite and burn underground.

Information on the government’s policy of prohibiting the burning of forests has been widely disseminated and it has been promoted to the public and supported by local village officers who may sometimes be repressive and rather excessive in handling some cases.

For example, in certain incidents, officials apprehended local people who were seen in the hot spots, but actually these people were trying to extinguish the fire.

Ironically, this policy is ineffective in preventing the burning of forests initiated by individuals and by companies for land clearing.

Data from a 2014 World Resources Institute shows that 22 percent of the hot spots triggering the forest fires and land fires were located in industrial plantations, 13 percent in palm oil plantations and 3 percent in forest concessions, while 63 percent of the fires were located outside the concession areas and in local farmers’ plantations.

Basically, the farmer understands the risk of land burning and no one would want to cause a fire that would negatively affect their livelihood.

It is commonly understood that to prevent forest fires, farmers must guard the land and have no intention to convert the peatland to farming land, which could be destroyed overnight by fire.

Burning land for clearing is an exhaustive task. Nevertheless, the production level is not as sufficient to support their livelihood as it used to be 20 years ago.

The main issue is the limited labor and financial resources to intensively cultivate the land.

The zero-burning policy is a very rational strategy, since fire — even from a single match — may trigger a disaster

According to Taman, a farmer from Kalampangan village, Palangka Raya, who has been successful in developing agroforestry farming on peatland, the minimum cost is between Rp 5 million and Rp 7 million per hectare.

This cost is for land clearing, acquiring fertile land, purchasing agriculture lime and fertilizers and other additives.

Not many can afford such financing, so they turn to burning the land and then they just leave it burning to seek work outside the village to earn a living for their family.

Ironically, the government has not provided any support to assist the farmers by making available agriculture production facilities or credit facilities that may prevent the farmer from burning the forests for land clearing and eventually prevent uncontrollable fires.

Farmers are basically left unsupported and they only depend on nature’s endowment in preventing forest fires and expect nature to restore the peatland for farming by itself.

Even this cannot guarantee that the land is free from fire in the dry season or free from flooding in the rainy season. Since the hydrology system of the peatland needs to be restructured.

For example, the canals built by the agroindustry companies were mainly intended for the interest of the oil palm plantation and neglect the farming land of the local people. The dams built along the canals were also malpositioned and have caused flooding.

Therefore, it is necessary to restore the hydrology system on the peatland through an integrated approach.

However, the recent policies and programs of the government mainly emphasize extinguishing rather than preventing forest fires.

Thus, it is essential that the small-scale farmers are supported to prevent them from burning the land for cultivation.

The programs could include capacity building of the resources and strengthening the network of the community to cultivate the land without necessarily burning the land by way of education, provision of agriculture facilities and financial capital support.

Through these schemes, it is expected that the farmer would have the capacity and the time to cultivate their land as well as prevent forest fires.

Success stories of peatland cultivation without burning the land as practiced by Taman is a good example.

Without implementing these two actual strategies, the government would be trapped into applying an approach of peatland restoration that is only superficial, resulting in the reoccurring forest fires and the suffering of the people.

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Indonesia: Three Suspects Arrested in Jakarta for Selling Slow Lorises on Facebook

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 6 Oct 16;

Jakarta. Three suspects have been arrested after the police uncovered an online trade selling critically endangered Javan slow loris, or Nycticebus javanicus, in South Jakarta, last Thursday (29/09).

Photos of eight of the critically endangered animals were advertised for sale on Facebook, drawing the attention of cyber patrol leading to the trio's arrest by the environmental resources unit at the Jakarta Police.

The three suspects, identified only by their initials ARM, FS and SP, were arrested in two separate locations in Jakarta.

“ARM and FS were arrested in South Jakarta. They were believed to have to harbored, advertised and sold the protected animals. At the location, the police confiscated five slow lorises,” Jakarta Police spokesman, Sr. Comr. Awi Setiyono, said.

The third suspect, SP, was arrested in East Jakarta where police confiscated another slow loris.

According to news outlet, SP —who is a college student — is believed to be the mastermind behind the operations and also the moderator of the Facebook account.

The suspects could face five years in prison and a penalty of up to Rp 100 million ($7,700) for violating wildlife protection laws, if found guilty.

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Aviation industry agrees deal to cut CO2 emissions

Roger Harrabin BBC 7 Oct 16;

Air travel accounts for as much CO2 emission as the nation of Germany - and it's growing

The first deal limiting greenhouse gases from international aviation has been sealed after years of wrangling.

From 2020, any increase in airline CO2 emissions will be offset by activities like tree planting, which soak up CO2.

The deal comes in a momentous week for climate policy when the Paris agreement to stabilise climate change passed a key threshold for becoming law.

Scientists applauded both commitments, but warned that plans to cut emissions are far too weak.

The aviation deal was agreed in Montreal by national representatives at the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO.

Attempts have been made for nearly two decades to include aviation and shipping in the UN's climate agreements, but both sectors have managed to avoid firm targets.

The amount of emissions from aviation worldwide are roughly the same as those produced by the whole of Germany - and they are growing fast.

They are projected to consume approximately a quarter of the world's remaining carbon budget by 2050.

ICAO previously promised carbon neutral aviation growth in the 2020s, and planned to align the ambitions of airlines with the Paris agreement limiting warming to two degrees Celsius, or preferably 1.5 degrees.

At the last minute in Montreal, those plans were either watered down or dropped. Instead a compromise was agreed.

CO2 will be allowed to grow to 2020 but after that, emissions will need to be offset. The deal will be voluntary to 2026 but most major nations are expected to take part.

Britain's Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad said: "This is an unprecedented deal, the first of its kind for any sector. International aviation is responsible for putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year than the whole of the UK, and yet until now, there has been no global consensus on how to address aviation emissions.

"For years, the UK has pushed to tackle emissions globally. Now, 191 countries have sent a clear message that aviation will play its part in combating climate change."

Tim Alderslade from the British Air Transport Association also welcomed the deal. He told BBC News: "It should not be forgotten that we are the only industry that has voluntarily agreed to such a commitment.

"As a sector we have really decoupled growth in aviation from growth in emissions."

Environmentalists were unimpressed.

Bill Hemmings from the green group T&E said: "Airline claims that flying will now be green are a myth. Taking a plane is the fastest and cheapest way to fry the planet and this deal won't reduce demand for jet fuel one drop."

The offsetting proposal is especially controversial. Airlines are striving to make planes more efficient, but the industry can't innovate fast enough to contain its dynamic growth.

That led to the proposal for offsetting - but sometimes offsetting by planting woodlands simply duplicates efforts already being made, and the offsetting industry is said to be prone to double-counting.

What's more, the ICAO deal has no clear rules for offsetting.

Tim Johnson from Aviation Environment Federation warned that to meet its own ambitions, the UK needed to go much further than the ICAO agreement.

He told BBC News: "With a decision on a new runway expected later this month, the UK's ambition for aviation emissions must match the ambition of the (UK's) Climate Change Act, and not simply the ICAO "global lowest common denominator" of "carbon neutral growth from 2020.

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