Best of our wild blogs: 1 Dec 16

November at the Sisters Islands Marine Park
Sisters' Island Marine Park

Singapore Raptor Report – October 2016
Singapore Bird Group

Read more!

2 public sightings of python daily: Acres

AVA said 700 cases of public feedback on snakes received between January and October this year
WONG PEI TING Today Online 1 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE — Monsoon season is here and the Republic’s shy population of pythons could be seen more frequently emerging from swelling canals and drains, going by recent images of snake sightings that went viral online.

Last Sunday (Nov 27), one household living in a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat beside a canal in central Singapore woke up to the shocking sight of a two-to-three metre long python climbing up their neighbour’s gate. That image was shared more than 5,000 times.

On Monday, Ms Nazirah Isabella saw a cat being devoured by a python in a canal in the Jalan Besar area. Her photo on Twitter was shared more than 250 times.

Between January and October this year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore said it has logged 700 cases of public feedback on snakes. These feedback could be related to complaints, sightings or questions. Last year, it received 780 cases of feedback, and 610 cases in 2014.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) said it receives an average of two calls a day of public sightings of reticulated pythons. And about once a month, it also gets calls from cat-lovers of felines “getting into conflict” with a python.

Urging the public not to be afraid of these creatures that like to stay around water bodies, Acres deputy chief executive Kalai Balakrishnan said: “Singapore is an urban setting (where most of our rivers have been canalised), so canals are a natural habitat for many wild animals including pythons (which) use it as a path to travel through.”

These animals are just travelling around looking for food, so there is no cause for alarm if they are spotted in canals, he added.

If sighted, his advice is to give them a two-to-three metre berth, do not enter the canals to provoke the animals, and give the Acres’ hotline a call so their officer can advise on what to do or send a photo to Acres’ wildlife rescue team with the location of the sighting. The organisation will assess if it needs to despatch a team to relocate the animal “back into the wild”.

The AVA spokesman also advises the public to “not interact with the animal, and ensure that young children and pets are kept away as they may be curious and approach it”.

Indonesian maid Madam Casmiati Sanwikarta felt her legs turn to jelly when she saw a snake on Sunday. She told TODAY: “I imagined that it was biting my leg. My leg, no energy!”

The 48-year-old who was heading to the market at 5.30am retreated indoors. Her employers’ two daughters took turns to look through the peephole at how the snake was slithering up their neighbour’s gate, until the Acres’ team removed it around 7am.

“I thought it was my imagination because I just woke up,” said 13-year-old Clariss Lee, who snapped a picture to convince herself it was real.

In the Jalan Besar incident, Ms Nazirah posted the photo of a python eating a cat under her Twitter handle LollyNia. The 21-year-old salesgirl told TODAY that she was shocked to see that the python “was still moving like (it was) choking” the lifeless-looking cat whose head was in the water.

Commenting on why cats get into trouble more often, Mr Balakrishnan said: “Cats are curious, so when they go closer, the pythons might take it as a meal (as) they are opportunistic in nature.”

Read more!

NEA to license used cooking oil collectors from December

Channel NewsAsia 30 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency on Wednesday (Nov 30) said it will begin licensing used cooking oil collectors from Dec 1 this year.

It is estimated that there are about 50 used cooking oil collectors here, and the licensing scheme will ensure that these collectors meet waste collection standards, including standards for the proper collection, storage and transportation of used cooking oil, NEA said in its press release.

The used cooking oil collected is processed locally or exported to be converted into non-edible commodities such as biodiesel.

Those who wish to collect used cooking oil will be required to obtain a General Waste Collector (GWC) licence from NEA. All food establishments, such as food retail businesses and food manufacturers, will be required to engage licensed collectors for UCO collection by Jun 1 next year, it added.

Applications for the licence will start from Dec 1, and collectors have until Jun 1 to obtain their licence, the agency said.

Collecting used cooking oil without a licence or engaging an unlicensed collector will each carry a maximum fine of $10,000, as stipulated in the Environmental Public Health (General Waste Collection) Regulations, it added.

- CNA/kk

Read more!

Malaysia: Sarawak NCR land - Only 328,000 out of 1.5 million hectares developed, planted with oil palm

GOH PEI PEI New Straits Times 30 Nov 16;

PETRA JAYA: It is estimated that there are 1.5 million hectares of native customary rights (NCR) land in Sarawak.

However, only 328,000 hectares had been developed and planted with oil palm by independent or organised smallholders through collaboration with various implementing agencies in the state.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas, who is also the State Agriculture Modernisation and Rural Economy Minister said one of the ministry's focuses is to transform the unproductive NCR land into viable economic units with income generating activities.

The large tract of under-utilised land, he said, provide a huge potential for development such as oil palm, rubber and food crops which could improve the livelihood of the people.

When delivering his winding up speech at the state legislative assembly here today, Douglas, said his Ministry is open to any development alternatives as long as it benefits both the landowners and investors on "win-win" formula.

A leasing model, he said, had been proposed and expected to be better than the existing model in term of higher return to the landowner.

Under the model, he said, landowners will rent their land to the investors at a fixed monthly rate per hectare over a lease period of 25 to 30 years.

"Our analysis also show that an average yearly income per hectare will be received by the landowners under the leasing model is about RM720 to RM780. This is actually not something new as it has been practiced by some of the private sector," he explained.

"Hence, we are confident this alternative model is more attracting to the landowners as it promised a regular and assured returns.

We'll engage the landowners and potential investors to fine tune the model," he added.

Read more!

Indonesia: Court Rules Against Leuser Ecosystem Lawsuit

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 30 Nov 16;

Jakarta. The Central Jakarta District Court on Tuesday (29/11) ruled against a civil lawsuit seeking to protect the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh, which was filed almost a year ago.

The judges argued that the ecosystem was already excluded from the Aceh Spatial Plan 2013-2033 and that the decision could not be revoked by means of a lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed by the Aceh Citizens Lawsuit Movement (Geram) against the minister of home affairs, Aceh governor and Aceh local administration. It sought to include the Leuser Ecosystem in the Aceh Spatial Plan 2013-2033 to protect it from further degradation caused by mining, logging and palm oil production.

"The facts are indisputable; therefore, we cannot accept the verdict and we will appeal. This is the first ever citizen action lawsuit in Aceh; we are ready to continue the battle," Geram coordinator Nurul Ikhsan said in a statement.

Recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Leuser Ecosystem is home to Sumatra's endemic wildlife – rhinos, elephants, orangutans and tigers. The ecosystem is also the province's water reservoir.

According to Geram representative Farwiza Farhan, mining operations and palm oil plantations in Leuser result in frequent floods and landslides.

"[By excluding the ecosystem from the spatial plan] they will whitewash the past environmental crimes and pave the way for further ecological destruction and manmade natural disasters," said Farwiza, who is also the founder of nongovernmental organization Forest, Nature and Environment of Aceh.

Read more!

Indonesia: One dead, two missing in Central Java landslide

Ganug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post 30 Nov 16;

A landslide hit eight residents working on farmland in Karanganyar regency, Central Java, on Tuesday afternoon, killing one and leaving two others missing.

The residents were harvesting rice when the landslide in Tegalsari hamlet, Buluhrejo village, occurred at 5 p.m.

“The landslide happened very fast. I and four others working on the road could escape while three others were working near the [collapsed] cliff,” Paiman, one of the survivors, said on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, a search and rescue team was still searching for the two missing villagers.

Karanganyar Disaster Mitigation Agency head Nugroho called on residents to be alert, saying land in the area was unstable.

“We expect that the landslide was caused by heavy rain that poured over the area on the previous day,” Nugroho said.

Disasters such as floods and landslides could occur in several areas, including Jaten, Gondangrejo and Karanganyar city, he added. (jun)

Schools closed as floods inundate Riau
The Jakarta Post 30 Nov 16;

Heavy rainfall over the past two days has caused flooding in Selat Panjang in Meranti Islands, Riau, prompting the temporary closure of schools in the area.

Acting Meranti Islands regency disaster management head M. Edy Afrizal said on Tuesday the inundation occurred in several streets, disrupting activities in the coastal city.

“The flooding may get worse with a tidal wave,” he said.

Students have been told to stay home until Thursday.

The Pekanbaru office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG Pekanbaru) predicted that November would be the peak of the rainy season in the province.

Read more!

Earth warming to climate tipping point, warns study

Mark Kinver BBC News 30 Nov 16;

A warmer world will release vast volumes of carbon into the atmosphere, potentially triggering dangerous climate change, scientists warn.

Writing in journal Nature, they project that an increase of 1C (1.8F) will release an additional 55 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere by 2050.

This could trigger a "positive feedback" and push the planet's climate system past the point of no-return.

Previous assessments have not taken carbon released by soil into account.

In their Nature paper, an international team of scientists said that the majority of the Earth's terrestrial store of carbon was in the soil.

They warned that as the world warmed, organisms living in the planet's soils would become more active, resulting in more carbon being released into the atmosphere - exacerbating warming.

"There have been concerns about this positive feedback for a long, long time," said lead author Thomas Crowther, who conducted the research while based at Yale University, US, but now at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

"For the past two or three decades there have been literally thousands of studies trying to address this topic and trying to identify whether there are going to be increases or decreases in carbon uptake of the soil in relation to warming or increases in carbon loss."

Considerable losses

Dr Crowther said the uncertainty surrounding the exchange of carbon between the atmosphere and the planet's soils had led to "sizeable differences in the projections of future climate conditions".

He told BBC News: "We are the first study to take a global perspective and then map the variability and able to say that in these areas there are going to be huge losses and in these areas there are going to be some gains.

"Using this approach we can get a robust idea of the whole picture. We show that, actually, the losses are going to be really considerable."

Using data stretching over 20 years from 49 sites across the globe, the team observed that global carbon stocks would fall by up to 55 petagrams (55 billion tonnes) under a business-as-usual scenario, which is roughly equivalent to adding the emissions from a nation the size of the US.

Dr Crowther, whose team had produced a short video on the subject, added: "I do not positive as in 'good' but positive as in it is reinforcing, so it is a process that once it has kicked off, it leads to the acceleration of itself.

"Carbon comes out of the soil, which leads to more warming, which leads to more carbon out of the soil, it is a reinforcing cycle. The concerning thing is that our projection is that we are going to lose 55 petgrams, that's 55 trillion kilograms by 2050. This process is only going to accelerate and accelerate.

In the global carbon cycle, soils act as a depository, a place where carbon is stored in a state that does not directly influence the global climate system.

He observed: "The carbon is trapped in the soil because it is taken from the atmosphere by plant material through photosynthesis. Particularly in cold places, it get stored in the soil for a very long time, and this minimises the atmospheric concentrations.

"In the soil, there are microbes and soil animals, as well as plant roots, and they all use that soil carbon for their growth and activity.

"Where it is really cold, the activity and growth is limited but when it warms, and warming is likely to be disproportionately happening in cold areas, then the more active they are set to become."

Dr Crowther said the increased activity by the organisms would mean that they would consume greater volumes of the carbon in the soil, and this would be released as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

"It is very similar to the way we respire and produce carbon dioxide. Because there is such a huge biomass of microbes and soil animals, that respiration really can be massive," he said.

Map of temperature change

One of the latest milestone in the global effort to curb climate change was the Paris Agreement, which was signed at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit, known as COP21, in the French capital city in December 2015.

In it, nations agreed to keep the increase of the average global temperature to below 2C (3.6F) of pre-industrialisation levels.

Dr Crowther said that the soil carbon study highlighted the importance of politicians and policymakers to heed the results of scientific studies on the issue of climate change.

"I really do want to get the message across that the strength of feedbacks like this really do stress the need to meet the targets of COP21," he urged.

"The feedback will exist and it will occur even if we do meet these targets but the magnitude of this feedback is going to be minimised hugely and it is really going to dampen the strength of it and it would prevent these enormous losses we expect by the end of the century if greenhouse gases are cut.

"These findings really do reinforce the necessity to meet those targets."

Read more!