Best of our wild blogs: 30-31 Dec 17

Short Night Walk At Lower Peirce Reservoir Park (29 Dec 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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5-year-old French girl bitten by otter at Gardens by the Bay

Chung Lyn-Yi Channel NewsAsia 30 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: A trip to the Gardens by the Bay took an awful turn for a French family on Saturday (Dec 30) when an otter attacked their 5-year-old girl, leaving her with a bleeding foot.

The father of the family, Mr Julien le Tourneur D'Ison, said they had arrived at the attraction at 12.15pm and were approaching a little bridge at Satay by the Bay when they saw a “bunch of tourists really excited by a bunch of otters swimming back and forth”.

“We saw a bunch of otters swimming towards us. We were about 1 metre away and an otter jumped out and bit my daughter’s foot,” said Mr Le Tourneur.

The 45-year-old, who was also there with his wife and two other children – a 6-year-old boy and 5-month-old baby - described the incident as “really unlucky”.

The little girl who was bitten, Tess, was left screaming and crying. Her foot “bled for about five minutes”, he said.

Mr Le Tourneur also said his daughter’s screams attracted the attention of scores of people who came forth to offer help. “A lot of people came from the food court with a first aid kit,” he said.

The family rushed Tess to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in a taxi.

“An X-ray showed that fortunately the teeth did not touch her bone but the wound is deep enough that they have to perform a little surgery,” Mr Le Tourneur told Channel NewsAsia.

Tess had local anaesthesia administered and doctors in the emergency room cleaned up her wound.

Reflecting on the incident, Mr Le Tourneur said “it was too many people massing around” the animals. “The otters must have been scared or nervous with so many people pulling out their cameras.”

He suggested fencing up more of the area around the bridge, as otters known to inhabit the area are “wild animals” after all.

Mr Le Tourneur, who works in marketing for digital maps company HERE Technologies, was based in Singapore for two years, but has since relocated to Berlin. The otter attack was an “unfortunate start” to a two-week holiday, he said.

“The Gardens by the Bay is such a lovely place. I would recommend anyone to visit,” stressed Mr Le Tourneur.

“But if you see an otter swimming towards you, go the other way.”


In a statement to Channel NewsAsia, a spokesperson for Gardens by the Bay said following the attack, its visitor services staff helped the family by helping them get a taxi to the nearest hospital.

It added that its staff will put up additional signage to remind visitors not to touch the otters.

"Otters are often spotted at Gardens by the Bay along the promenade area facing Marina Bay. While they may appear tame, they are nonetheless wild animals and may react if visitors get too close," Gardens by the Bay said. "As such, there is signage along the promenade to advise visitors not to approach them, and instead observe them from a distance."


Otter enthusiast Goh Mei Woon, who was in the area at the time, but did not witness the incident, said she noticed that there were "quite a lot of people" standing on the platform looking at the otters.

"I was a bit concerned that people were too near (the otters). The otters have occasionally jumped up on the platform. I was telling people to keep a distance as we don't want anything to happen to the little ones," she said.

She has been watching otters since April and has only seen an otter jump onto the platform once. "Very rarely do they even come up."

The Animal Concerns and Research Education Society (ACRES) said the incident appeared to have occurred due to "stress from the curious crowd approaching the otter family with pups - too close for comfort".

"For any wildlife including otters, it is important to learn wildlife etiquette and appreciate from a distance," its deputy chief executive Anbarasi Boopa told Channel NewsAsia. "Wild animals, just like us, will defend themselves and their family - particularly in this case, there were pups - if they feel threatened or cornered, and this has resulted in this unfortunate incident."

ACRES urged members of the public to keep a distance when encountering wildlife in their habitats. They should not feed the wildlife as well.

Source: CNA/ly/dl

Girl, 5, bitten by otter near Satay by the Bay
Sue-Ann Tan Straits Times 31 Dec 17;

Otters are cute, but it is best to watch them from afar, said otter enthusiasts after a five-year-old French girl was bitten by one at Gardens by the Bay yesterday.

The incident happened when Mr Julien le Tourneur D'Ison, his wife and their three children aged five months to six years, were near Satay by the Bay, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reported.

There were some tourists who were "really excited by a bunch of otters swimming back and forth", the 45-year-old Frenchman told CNA. "We saw a bunch of otters swimming towards us. We were about 1m away and an otter jumped out and bit my daughter's foot," he said, adding that his daughter's wound required surgery as it was deep.

Two members of the OtterWatch group were there at the time. The group is an informal community that tracks otters in Singapore.

One of them was Ms Goh Mei Woon, a 50-year-old housewife. She estimated that more than 20 people were crowding around some 10 otters, five of which were pups. "I was going around telling people to give the otters space. Some were standing so close, they were within touching distance of the otters," Ms Goh told The Sunday Times.

"While I was still telling people to stand back, I heard a scream and saw a girl crying because she had been nipped in the foot."

She said someone with a first-aid box, who might be a Gardens employee, went to help the girl.

A spokesman for Gardens by the Bay said its visitor services staff got a taxi to take the family to hospital.

Veteran otter watcher Jeffery Teo, 46, said: "Animals can't talk, so they react when they get stressed. The otter's bite was a warning to humans to stand back."

Mr Teo advised people to stand at least 10m away, especially when there are pups. "We need to respect animals like humans. They're wildlife, not tame pets," he said.

Mr Le Tourneur also acknowledged that there were many people surrounding the otters then, and that the animals "must have been scared or nervous with so many people pulling out their cameras".

Another otter enthusiast, Mr Bernard Seah, 48, said the mammals add a "dimension to the experience of visiting Gardens by the Bay", and that it would be a pity if that were to change.

"Maybe we can have a group of otter watchers who informally help out at places like the Gardens where the otters are," he suggested.

The Gardens spokesman said people should remember that otters are wild animals.

"Otters are often spotted at Gardens by the Bay along the promenade area facing Marina Bay. While they may appear tame, they are nonetheless wild animals and may react if visitors get too close," he said.

"There is signage along the promenade to advise visitors not to approach them, and instead observe them from a distance," he added.

"But following this incident, we will be putting up additional signage to remind visitors not to touch the otters."

According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's website, the public are, among other things, advised not to talk loudly nor use flash photography when they encounter otters. This is because noise and light may scare and provoke otters.

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Indonesia: Public must be vanguard of peatland protection - Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG)

BRG The Jakarta Post 30 Dec 17;

As it concludes its second year of operations in restoring peatland, the national Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) is ready to report what it has accomplished within its duties and functions throughout the year. In 2017, the BRG's activities involved wetting peatland ecosystems, aiding and empowering local economies, arranging, restoring and mapping the government's peatland hydrological area (KHG) map, building a model plot for integrated peatland farms and installing water surface level monitoring devices.

"The peatland restoration project is not simply about wetting peatlands and replanting in order to repair broken ecosystems. It also is about empowering communities to live on peatland," BRG chief Nazir Foead said. This message was delivered during a media discussion on Dec. 28, in which the BRG talked about its strategic plans for the years leading up to 2020. The agency noted how efforts for the protection and management of peatland are closely connected to economic, social and ecological goals.

According to Myrna A. Safitri, who is BRG's education deputy for socialization, participation and partnership, the BRG in 2017 worked together with 75 villages and subdistricts in seven provinces targeted for peatland restoration. The villages are located in Riau (11 villages), Jambi ( 10 ), South Sumatra ( 15 ), West Kalimantan ( 16 ), Central Kalimantan ( 10 ), South Kalimantan ( 10 ) and Papua (3).

"The combined size of all the villages and subdistricts is 1,180,441 hectares, with 878,326 ha being peatland managed by local communities. Out of all those peatlands, some 267,111 hectares have been targeted for peatland restoration. The BRG is carrying out its Villages Care for Peatland program, which has become the vanguard of peatland ecosystem maintenance."

The BRG's activities this year also involved efforts to revitalize the public's sources of income. Alue Dohong, the BRG's deputy for construction, operations and maintenance, reported that 101 community groups had been trained to maintain lands without burning them. These groups have also been trained to develop local commodities, develop freshwater fisheries, implement farming systems and cultivate honeybees. The number of people burning peatland is currently on the decline. Through this project to revitalize public sources of income, the BRG has helped to raise public awareness on peatland ecosystem preservation.

Throughout 2017, the BRG has also facilitated the development of infrastructure for peatland wetting in the form of wells and canals in six provinces: Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. The total area of affected peatland is around 200 thousand ha, some 103,476 ha of which are wettened peatland managed by the BRG, with the other 98,978 ha being managed by BRG's partners. Some 60 percent of the BRG's project areas, or about 62,126 ha, are in Central Kalimantan. The wells drilled by BRG number around 5,900, while the number of canals built together with the public number 1,849.

Other accomplishments this year include the Peatland Ecosystem Restoration Plan (RREG) for seven targeted provinces as well as mapping the government's peatland hydrological area (KHG) map. The mapping has been done for KHGs in the Lalan-Merang rivers and the Sugihan-Lumpur rivers (which are in South Sumatra), the Tapung Kiri-Kiyap rivers (in Riau), the Ambawang-Kubu rivers (in West Kalimantan), the Utar-Serapat rivers (in Central and West Kalimantan) and the Barito-Alalak rivers and the Maluka-Martapura rivers (in South Kalimantan). Previously, the BRG had mapped KHGs at the Saleh-Sugihan rivers and the Cawang-Air Lalang rivers in South Sumatra and the Kahayan-Sebangau rivers in Central Kalimantan.

To further support the monitoring of peatland ecosystems, the BRG has set up water surface level observation points in various peatland areas. Data on the water surface levels can be accessed in real time. The BRG installed 40 of these observation devices in 2017. Eight of these units were set up in South Sumatra, while Riau and Jambi each received seven. There is only one in West Kalimantan and seven in Central Kalimantan.

Monitoring peatland areas is important for identifying the risk of land and forest fires. Dried peatland can be prone to fires. In 2015, peatland fires led to trillions of rupiah worth of losses and a regional smog disaster.

To better supervise peatland areas, the BRG has also established a series of guidelines. The BRG welcomes government efforts to direct concession holders to complete recovery plans. In 2018, the BRG will supervise companies as they carry out peatland restoration activities. As many as 1.4 million ha in targeted peatland restoration areas are in forest and farm concession areas.

All of the BRG's restoration activities are comprehensive and inclusive in nature in that they involve all stakeholders. The BRG doesn't simply wet the peatland, but it strives to make the public the vanguard of peatland management and efforts to prevent peatland fires.

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Dec 17

What’s in the Lab?
Mei Lin NEO

Soxy sea creatures: Crustacean edition
wild shores of singapore

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Looking Ahead to 2018: To tackle climate change, all hands needed on deck

SIAU MING EN Today Online 28 Dec 17;

As the year draws to a close, TODAY kicks off a series looking at key issues on the local and foreign front in the next 12 months. In Singapore, we look at what lies ahead in areas ranging from political succession, the terrorism threat and public transportation, to electronic payment, the property market and sports. Beyond our shores, the focus will be on the Malaysian general election and Singapore’s chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In the sixth instalment of the series, we look at the Republic’s efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.

SINGAPORE – From calls to avoid plastic packaging to campaigns to cut food waste, the message for everyone to help fight climate change will be amplified next year.

2018 will be the Year of Climate Action for Singapore, declared Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli last month.

His ministry wants the public to know “the government alone cannot tackle climate change”, and will be rallying Singaporeans to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint with the help of various partners.

On the ground, there is no lack of enthusiasm among environmental activists, who already have plans lined up to get people to take little steps to make a difference – bring their own bags, eat less meat and use fewer plastic straws, for instance.

Some funding for their efforts and the government’s endorsement of various campaigns would help in scaling up their efforts, various groups told TODAY.

“I think continued moral support will be great. Sometimes when we talk to businesses, they still look at whether we have government support or not,” said Mr Tan Yi Han, co-founder of the People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze).

The group is behind the #GoHazeFree campaign that seeks to get eateries to make the switch to sustainable cooking oil, derived without deforestation or the use of fire to clear land.

Plastic-Lite Singapore founder Aarti Giri plans to roll out a mobile app that calculates the amount of plastic used by individuals, but said funding remains a problem.

This year, the non-profit worked with several schools to get them to go without drinking straws once a week. Its Bring Your Own Bag Shoppers initiative also saw volunteers distributing reusable bags at supermarkets and shopping malls, and conducting surveys on plastic-bag usage.


The question on whether to charge consumers for plastic bags continues to be a touchy one, and reports in September of four major supermarket chains in talks on whether to impose a plastic-bag surcharge sparked a fresh round of debate.

Noting the argument that many Singaporeans use supermarket plastic bags to bag their waste, Ms Giri suggested tackling the problem in a different way: Getting retailers that offer bags less likely to be reused to impose a charge, for a start.

“These are bags that are not going to be used for lining their bins and are part of their retail purchase,” she said.

Plastic waste has become an enormous problem worldwide, with an estimated eight million tonnes entering the oceans each year, entrapping and being ingested by marine creatures and eventually ending up in the food chain.

The National Environment Agency is doing a life-cycle assessment of single-use carriers and disposable food packaging materials commonly used in Singapore.

Mr Masagos said in Parliament last month the results of the study on single-use carrier bags would be released by the end of this year, while the study on disposable food packaging materials would be released in the first half of next year.

Consumers do not have to wait for the findings to take action, said Member of Parliament (Nee Soon) Louis Ng.

He is in talks with a green group to roll out a bag-sharing point in his constituency by the first half of next year – similar to umbrella-sharing and book-sharing initiatives already introduced.

Residents can leave reusable bags at the collection point, which will be located near the wet market and retail stores, for others to pick up, use and return, said Mr Ng.

The public is generally more environmentally conscious than before and awareness levels have “shot up tremendously”, he added.

MEWR said businesses, communities, non-governmental organisations, schools and individuals have a part to play. The public could, for instance, opt for energy-efficient appliances and switch them off when not in use, take public transport and reduce food waste, it said.

“While most people may be aware of climate change at a global level, we want to bring into the national consciousness Singapore’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change; and the urgency of reducing our carbon footprint – to build a sustainable future for generations to come,” said a spokesperson.

Climate change could mean higher temperatures, more intense rainfall and a rise in sea level for Singapore, which would have knock-on effects on quality of life and infrastructure.

This year, the Government announced plans to introduce a carbon tax on large emitters in 2019, tightened emissions standards for vehicles and implemented the first of two rounds of water price hikes. And under an inaugural three-year sustainability roadmap unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in June, the public sector will use less electricity and water. Some of the measures are aimed at meeting Singapore’s commitment under the Paris Agreement on climate change to cut emissions intensity by 36 per cent, from 2005 levels, by 2030.

With Singapore assuming chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next year, Energy Studies Institute research fellow Melissa Low said she would be looking out for ways in which the Republic drives the climate agenda with its neighbours. It could have technical exchanges and expand capacity-building programmes, for instance.


But amid the focus on “brown” issues – such as reducing air pollution and the adoption of cleaner energy such as solar – conservationist Ho Hua Chew said “green” issues must not be left behind. These include the preservation of biodiversity and wildlife habitats.

“I must say Singapore is rather laggard in its action on green issues – the conservation of natural habitats and biodiversity… more could be done here to rope in unprotected nature areas into the Singapore Green Plan,” said Dr Ho, vice-chairman of the Nature Society (Singapore)’s conservation committee.

Setbacks this year include the clearance of the Lentor-Tagore forest for residential developments and the decision to develop areas adjacent to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, on both sides of Mandai Lake Road, for tourism, he said.

On the positive side, the authorities are backing efforts to enhance the biodiversity and rusticity of Pulau Ubin and plan to leave a larger-than-usual green corridor for wildlife movement and dispersal at Tengah Forest, said Dr Ho.

He reiterated the call to make Environmental Impact Assessments mandatory before any development project, and to formalise a public feedback mechanism and publicise the findings.

The shrinkage of natural habitats is a factor behind human-wildlife conflicts – such as with macaques, wild boars and even monitor lizards and pythons.

Mr Ng hopes for a more proactive approach on the issue. “Our actions cannot be based on complaints, which is what we’ve been doing,” he said.

Proper data and research should be the basis of management plans for monkeys, wild boars, crows and pigeons, he said.

*On Saturday (Dec 30), look out for our report on the terrorism threat.

What to look out for in 2018:

• Year of Climate Action

• Findings of NEA’s study on the life-cycle assessment of single-use carriers and disposable food packaging materials commonly used in Singapore

• Completion of Singapore’s Biennial Update Report for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

• Second round of water price hikes to kick in in July

• Singapore taking up the role of the Asean Chairmanship

• Zero growth rate for cars and motorcycles from February

• Changes to the Energy Conservation Act to come into effect

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'Forgotten' baby otters rescued, reunited with family by volunteers

Melissa Zhu Channel NewsAsia 28 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: A pair of 11-week-old otter pups that were "forgotten" and left without food were reunited with their family on Thursday (Dec 28), with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers.

Mr Jeffery Teo, from the community group OtterWatch, said the family of smooth-coated otters was first spotted without two of their pups at about 6am on Wednesday.

The family, which is known to have six pups, took four of them to Gardens by the Bay but two of them were lost along the way.

On Wednesday evening, the two missing pups were sighted near Nicoll Highway, but their family was across the water at Gardens by the Bay.

The pups are too young to swim across the deep water and would have had "zero" chance of survival if left alone, Mr Teo said.

He explained that the pups are beginning to eat fish, but cannot catch fish on their own and they were still suckling.

The volunteers considered the option of keeping the baby otters alive in captivity but were "quite confident" that they could reunite the family.

"From our observations, this is not intentional abandonment by the families," Mr Teo said.


The operation involved three teams - one to follow the otter family, another to stay with the pups, and the last to make sure there were no adult otters in the area where the two pups were, Mr Teo said.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) led a rescue operation at about 10.30am on Thursday.

ACRES deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan with one of the rescued otter pups. (Photo: OtterWatch)
Mr Kalai Vanan, deputy chief executive of ACRES, said OtterWatch contacted the animal welfare group after they determined that the two otter pups had been left behind at the Kallang riverside area.

ACRES and OtterWatch initially wanted to let the family find the pups but as the amount of time that the baby otters had been alone approached the 30-hour mark, they feared the otters might become weak and potentially drown in the water. Hence, they decided to rescue them, Mr Kalai said.

The two otters were initially hiding in their holt, a small den Mr Teo estimated was about 30cm wide, and rescuers had to wait patiently for them to emerge onto a grass patch so they could be trapped.

Rescuers tried to attract the otters' attention and lure them into a trap, but the pups did not fall for it as they "may have been scared of the foreign object", Mr Kalai said.

So they resorted to using pole nets to catch the animals on foot.

The first pup was caught at around 11.30am. As it was showing signs of stress, it was brought back to be returned to his family first, OtterWatch said in a Facebook post.

However, its sibling slipped through the net and rescuers had to wait for the pup to settle down before trying again, eventually catching it at 1.15pm, Mr Teo said.

On the difficulties of the rescue operation, Mr Teo said: "The pups were very alert ... There were a lot of attempts to make sure the pups don't run back so easily into their holt."

OtterWatch estimated that as of noon at Thursday, the pups had gone without food for about 42 hours, since their last meal on Tuesday evening. Thankfully, both were reunited with their family.

"We are really happy with the outcome because time was about to run out for these two pups," the community group said in a Facebook update after the rescue.

The entire rescue operation took about three and a half hours, Mr Kalai said.

"ACRES would like to extend their appreciation to Otterwatch for their tireless efforts to observing the movement of the otters to make the operation a successful one," the wildlife rescuer added.

One of OtterWatch's long-time members, Mr Teo said he felt that otters in Singapore should be cherished.

"With clean water come otters. These natural creatures are direct endorsements of Singapore's decades of efforts in our green and blue projects; they are a beautiful outcome of the government and people's years of effort."

The group also saved two otter pups after they were separated from their families last year, and helped to remove an o-ring which was hurting a young otter this year.

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Indonesia: Bali declares ‘garbage emergency’ amid sea of waste

AFP Today Online 28 Dec 17;

KUTA (INDONESIA) — Bali’s palm-fringed Kuta beach has long been a favourite with tourists seeking sun and surf, but nowadays its golden shoreline is disappearing under a mountain of garbage.

Plastic straws and food packaging are strewn between sunbathers, while surfers bobbing behind the waves dodge waste flushed out from rivers or brought in by swirling currents.

“When I want to swim, it is not really nice. I see a lot of garbage here every day, every time,” Austrian traveler Vanessa Moonshine explains.

“It’s always coming from the ocean. It’s really horrible,” she adds.

Often dubbed a paradise on earth, the Indonesian holiday island has become an embarrassing poster child for the country’s trash problem.

The archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is the world’s second biggest contributor to marine debris after China, and a colossal 1.29 million metric tons is estimated to be produced annually by Indonesia.

The waves of plastic flooding into rivers and oceans have been causing problems for years — clogging waterways in cities, increasing the risk of floods, and injuring or killing marine animals who ingest or become trapped by plastic packaging.

The problem has grown so bad that officials in Bali last month declared a “garbage emergency” across a six-kilometre stretch of coast that included popular beaches Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak.

Officials deployed 700 cleaners and 35 trucks to remove roughly 100 tons of debris each day to a nearby landfill.

“People with green uniform were collecting the garbage to move it away but the next day I saw the same situation,” said German Claus Dignas, who claimed he saw more garbage with each visit to the island.

“No one wants to sit on nice beach chairs and facing all this rubbish,” he added.

Bali’s rubbish problem is at its worst during the annual monsoon season, when strong winds push marine flotsam onto the beach and swollen rivers wash rubbish from riverbanks to the coast, according to Mr Putu Eka Merthawan from the local environment agency.

“This garbage does not come from people living in Kuta and nearby areas,” he told AFP.

“It would be suicidal if Kuta people were doing it.”

Some 72km from Kuta, Mount Agung has been threatening to erupt for two months, prompting tourists to cancel visits and displacing tens of thousands of villagers living within a 10km-radius of the volcano’s crater.

But the island’s waste problem is no less of a threat, said Mr I Gede Hendrawan, an environmental oceanography researcher from Bali’s Udayana University.

“Garbage is aesthetically disturbing to tourists, but plastic waste issue is way more serious,” he told AFP.

“Microplastics can contaminate fish which, if eaten by humans, could cause health problems including cancer.”

Indonesia is one of nearly 40 countries that are part of United Nations Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, which aims to halt the tide of plastic trash polluting the oceans.

As part of its commitment, the government has pledged to reduce marine plastic waste by 70 per cent by 2025.

It plans to boost recycling services, curb the use of plastic bags, launch cleanup campaigns and raise public awareness.

Still, the scale of the problem facing Indonesia is huge, due to its population of more than 250 million and poor waste processing infrastructure.

Mr Hendrawan, who says both locals and tourists are responsible for the island’s rubbish problem, urged authorities to invest more resources to tackle the problem.

“The Bali government should spare more budget to raise people’s awareness to take care of local rivers, not to dump waste,” he said.

“The central government should boost the campaign to reduce use of plastic packaging and ban free plastic bags at convenient stores.” AFP

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Indonesia: Pregnant elephant 'poisoned' in Indonesian palm plantation

AFP Yahoo News 27 Dec 17;

Banda Aceh (Indonesia) (AFP) - A pregnant elephant has been found dead in a palm oil plantation on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, in what authorities suspect was a deliberate poisoning, an official said Wednesday.

The animal's body was found near the remote Seuneubok Bayu village in Aceh on December 22, after authorities received a tip off from locals, Aceh conservation centre head Sapto Aji Prabowo told AFP.

"The 25-year-old elephant had been dead for around 10 days when we got there," he said.

"From the autopsy, we saw that its digestive organs turned black which the doctor said was a general indication of poisoning."

The Sumatran elephant was carrying 13-month old male foetus and was at least six months short of giving birth.

Locals have told authorities that several days before the carcass was discovered farmers had complained an elephant ate their fertiliser.

Sumatran elephant are critically endangered and a protected species, but rampant deforestation for plantations has reduced their natural habitat and brought them into conflict with humans.

At least 11 wild elephants died in Aceh this year, most of them killed by humans, according to Prabowo.

In January, authorities found a dead elephant without tusks in Aceh, along with its abandoned 11-month-old calf.

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Dec 17

Diving with sea turtles
Hantu Blog

20 Jan 2018 (Sat): "Our Mangroovy Mangroves" - Workshop at Pulau Ubin
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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Malaysia: Benefits of KL-Singapore high-speed rail outweigh potential environmental costs: Report

Channel NewsAsia 27 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project will have several short-term environmental concerns, but the long-term benefits on commuter safety and carbon emissions provide a "strong justification" for the project, an environmental impact assessment report showed on Wednesday (Dec 27).

In a report commissioned by MyHSR Corporation, the group responsible for the development and implementation of the project, it was noted that air, water and noise impacts, soil erosion and sedimentation are among the short-term environmental concerns.

Among these concerns are also carbon dioxide emissions that will be generated from the burning of fossil fuels to provide enough electricity to power the HSR system. By 2060, 646,000 megawatts hr/yr of electricity is needed to support the HSR system. This hourly figure is about 140,000 times the electricity per capita consumed in Malaysia in 2014.

However, the report added that mitigating measures have been put in place to ensure that these environmental effects do not adversely affect people.

For example, pathways used to transport soil and biomass will not be located near residential areas.

The report also added that "the duration of the construction period is relatively of short term" and that the "impacts will be intermittent".

As a result, the findings from the study indicate that "on an overall basis, the HSR project is expected to induce net positive environmental impacts" the report said.


When operational, the HSR will offer three services - the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore direct service , a one-stop service from Iskandar Puteri to Singapore and a domestic service stopping at seven stations - and operate between 6am and midnight daily.

Annual ridership is expected to reach about 15.2 million in 2030 and increase to 37.8 million in 2060.

These ridership figures will translate into fuel and carbon dioxide emissions savings, the report said. It is projected that by the 10th year of operation, about 19 million litres of fuel will be saved from fewer vehicles on the roads.

Additionally, the electric-powered HSR will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and this can amount to up to 55 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions saved.

With the HSR, commuter trips between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will likely be serviced predominantly by the rail service, rather than by air or cars, the report said.

Hence, commuter safety is also expected to improve.

The report stated that 6,872 fatalities were recorded on Malaysian roads in 2010, especially during festive seasons with high traffic figures. As commuters switch to using the HSR instead of driving, this could "reduce the exposure of commuters to safety incidents with significant benefits to the economy and society".

However, the report does take into account that although certain impacts are mitigated in the long run, social impacts may extend into the future as well.

The HSR alignment is set to start from Bandar Malaysia Station in Kuala Lumpur and pass through Putrajaya, Seremban, Malacca, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri before terminating in Singapore.

As such, eviction and relocation of businesses and households in these areas may take place, said the report.

A social impact study has been commissioned to assess the impacts and potential social benefits of the HSR.


Despite the short-term and long-term negative impacts, the Malaysian government believes there is "a strong justification" for the HSR as it will "contribute significantly towards the country's future economic growth" and help transform Malaysia into a "high-income, developed nation".

In order to achieve the World Bank's requirements for a high-income nation, Malaysia expects to raise its per capita income from US$6,700 to US$15,000 by 2020.

Furthermore, the HSR is also expected to create 111,000 jobs.

In terms of convenience, commuters can enjoy an increased speed of travel between cities, especially cities in the south-west coast of the Malaysian peninsula.

Additionally, pick-up and drop-off facilities for passengers will also be included at the HSR stations, allowing easy access for passengers arriving or departing by buses and taxis. Those driving will also have about 8,400 parking facilities across all Malaysian stations.

The HSR, slated to be ready by 2026, is also expected to shorten the travel time from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore to 90 minutes.

Source: CNA/aa

HSR will be good for environment in the long term
The Star 29 Dec 17;

PETALING JAYA: The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) is expected to be good for the environment in the long term, according to an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report.

The report noted that the chosen HSR alignment is not expected to lead to environmental disturbances which could affect the health and safety of residents in surrounding areas.

In addition, the alignment would not have any significant impact on ecology along with surface and ground water systems.

The report stated that the project could also reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases generated by the local transportation sector, improve or increase connectivity through time saved, reduce traffic and create jobs.

However, the amount of emission reduction depends on the relative fuel efficiency of a transport mode and the HSR.

The HSR’s annual ridership is expected to increase from approximately 15.22 million in 2030 to 37.8 million in 2060.

The report noted that there would be permanent loss of forest areas and associated environmental services from forest reserves due to the project.

A small part of the Sungai Pulai Forest Reserve (mangrove forest) in Gelang Patah would be affected.

The size of the affected mangrove forest area is 25ha and the total estimated environmental value from the mangrove area is RM27,001.44 per hectare per year.

Another 1,141ha of oil palm plantations and a total of 902ha of rubber estates would be affected.

The report said minimal water quality impact is expected because of mitigation measures such as site-specific erosion and sediment control measures along with planned construction of bridges at river crossings.

HSR operations are not expected to cause adverse noise and vibration on surrounding land areas as the alignment is routed primarily through plantation areas.

The report noted that potentially adverse environmental impactcould occur during the construction phase due to land clearing and earthwork operations for tunnels, elevated structures, stations and depots.

“However, the resulting soil erosion and sedimentation impacts are short term and can be effectively controlled by adopting tried and tested mitigation measures,” it said.

The EIA report was posted on the official website of MyHSR Corp, a company wholly owned by the Minister of Finance Incorporated, on Dec 27.

The Department of Environment Malaysia is currently reviewing the EIA Report.

Read more!

Malaysia: Advanced breeding techniques to save Sabah's wildlife

muguntan vanar The Star 27 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: With the Sumatran rhino facing extinction, Sabah is looking to advances in breeding technology to ensure such wildlife is saved.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said that rapid advances in animal cell and molecular biology has made it possible to create sperm and eggs of mammals from their skin cells.

These efforts would help in the conservation of endangered wildlife including banteng (wild cattle), sun bears, the clouded leopard, pangolin, and orangutan.

He said his department has already kicked off programmes to use advanced reproductive technology to save endangered species in Sabah with the support of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

The genome of all four of the last Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia are being kept in living cell cultures both overseas and locally, he said.

He said that Puntung – the female who was euthanised in June – was still “alive” in cell culture in Malaysia.

“We are building up Malaysian expertise in other essential skills such as conducting safe general anaesthesia for large mammals, collection of semen and eggs, and in-vitro fertilisation.

“Semen of sun bears and macaques was collected and stored in liquid nitrogen in 2017. The same will be done for the clouded leopard and proboscis monkey in 2018,” he said in a statement issued here Wednesday.

Tuuga said the Sabah Wildlife Department was working with Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Faculty of Sustainable Agriculture in Sandakan, where an advanced reproductive technology laboratory is being developed.

The department is also working with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Germany), the Agro-biotechnology Institute Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, and the International Islamic University Malaysia in Kuantan.

“Other specialist institutions which are helping us are Morula IVF (Indonesia), Avantea (Italy) and the Zoological Park Association of Thailand,” he said.

Tuuga added that the Bornean banteng or tembadau, with about 400 left in the wild, was the most endangered wildlife species in Sabah after the Sumatran rhino.

He said it was definitely a species suitable for captive breeding and for the application of advanced reproductive technology, with a view of reintroducing them into plantations in the longer-term.

“We would be interested to partner with one of the big oil palm plantation companies for this work,” he added.

Tuuga said rare wildlife species would keep going extinct and there was a need to use new and supportive means to save them.

“If these new technologies had been available 20 years ago, we could have produced Sumatran rhino embryos in-vitro and potentially implant these embryos into surrogate mother rhinos in another country,” he said.

Breeding Bornean banteng with modern tech
KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 27 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Wildlife Department has identified that the highly endangered Bornean banteng is suitable to be bred in capitivity and reproduced through advanced technology.

Director Augustine Tuuga said Sabah had implemented a programme to use advanced reproductive technology to conserve certain endangered species since 2010.

He said banteng could also be reared in oil palm estates as part of its conservation programme in the future.

“We would be interested to partner with one of the oil palm plantation companies on this,” he said in a statement here.

Bornean banteng or Tembadau is the second most endangered wildlife species in Sabah after the Sumatran Rhinoceros,

In recent reports, wildlife experts had raised worry about the future of endangered species in Sabah such as the Borneo pygmy elephant, sun bear, orang utan and pangolin.

Director of research facility Danau Girang Field Centre, Dr Benoit Goossens had reportedly suggested the use of new technologies including assisted reproduction and for studies on captive breeding to be done for species like banteng and pangolin, as their population was declining rapidly.

Augustine said rare species would continue to become extinct if there were no efforts to find new and supportive means to conserve the animals.

However, he said assisted reproduction and captive breeding were not “fashionable” among wildlife conservationsits here and globally.

“One important point is that setting aside protected areas is absolutely necessary, but this will never be enough, anywhere in the world, to save every species from extinction.”

He said when the population of a species became very small, the concern should not only be with reducing deaths as more importantly, it should be increasing its birth rate.

“The Sumatran rhino case also has shown us that about 80 per cent of over 20 female rhinos captured in Indonesia and Malaysia since the 1980s, had significant reproductive pathology which prevented them from the ability to conceive,” he said.

Augustine said the department had an engagement with non-governmental organisation Borneo Rhino Alliance for the rhino conservation programme.

“The genomes of all four of the last Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia are kept in living cell cultures both overseas and locally.

“Puntung, the female which was euthanised in June 2017, for example was still ‘alive’ in cell culture in Malaysia.

“We are also building up Malaysian expertise in other essential skills such as conducting safe general anaesthesia for large mammals, collection of semen and eggs, and in vitro fertilisation.”

Augustine said semen of sun bears and macaques were collected and stored in liquid nitrogen in 2017.

“The same will be done for clouded leopard and proboscis monkey in 2018,” he said, adding that the works included local and international collaborations.

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Malaysia: FRI using herbs to treat wounded and sick sea turtles

The Star 28 Dec 17;

DUNGUN: The Fisheries Research Institute (FRI) in Rantau Abang here, dubbed as “turtle hospital”, has been using herbs to treat in­jured turtles.

Its Marine Mammal Branch chief, Mohd Tamimi Ali Ahmad, said the institute received eight reports on injured turtles and managed to save them all after using the method.

“Normally, we receive turtles that suffer from natural illnesses. However, some are also injured after being trapped in trawl and ghost nets used by foreign fishermen.

“In fact, the Endangered Marine Species Rescue Team comprising the Rantau Abang FRI, Terengganu Fisheries Department and the Johor Veterinary Services Department recently treated two three-year-old Hawksbill turtles which were injured after being trapped in such nets,” he said.

After that turmeric and aloe vera are used in the healing process.

Mohd Tamimi said in order to restore the loss of nutrients, the thin and starving turtles were fed with specially formulated food made of blended banana, papaya and brown sugar using a silicone tube three times a day.

“Behavioural observations and wound healing changes are monitored round the clock and recorded.

“However, the treatment differs depending on the severity of the injury,” he said. — Bernama

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 27 Dec 17

Singapore got dolphins and dugongs too!
wild shores of singapore

Singapore Raptor Report – November 2017
Singapore Bird Group

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Climate S.O.S

Besides regulatory measures targeting industrial sector, efforts to change mindsets will be key next year
Audrey Tan Straits Times 27 Dec 17;

Over the past year, Singapore has shown how serious it is about tackling the threat of climate change.

It has ramped up, or announced plans to implement, various regulatory initiatives to help the Republic reduce its carbon emissions.

These measures are significant as they target the heaviest emitters: The industrial sector contributes about 60 per cent of carbon emissions in Singapore.

In March, changes were made to the Energy Conservation Act to force large polluters here to step up their green efforts or face enhanced penalties.

Companies have to adopt, among other things, a structured measurement and reporting system for their greenhouse gas emissions.

This will pave the way for a carbon tax scheme that the Government plans to impose from 2019.

But what is also important is the soft approach to tackling climate change, such as by changing people's attitudes and empowering them to make a difference.

Singapore has designated 2018 as its Year of Climate Action, with educational campaigns and outreach efforts on the cards.

The Environment and Water Resources Ministry is engaging climate groups here on ideas for campaigns.

The initiative is timely, especially against a backdrop of increasingly frequent and more intense weather events around the world, which scientists say are symptomatic of climate change.

Singapore may contribute just 0.11 per cent of global emissions, but it ranks 26th out of 142 countries in terms of emissions per capita.

This means that each person in Singapore produces more carbon emissions than his counterpart in Britain, Switzerland or France,according to 2015 data from the International Energy Agency.

This underscores the need to make people in Singapore aware that their actions can make a difference.

Climate change strategies are two-pronged.

Apart from initiatives aimed at reducing Singapore's greenhouse gas emissions, measures to protect the island-state against the effects of climate change - such as rising sea levels - have also been trickling into public policy.

A Coastal Adaptation Study by the Building and Construction Authority, which is expected to conclude by the second half of next year, will make long-term recommendations on how to better protect Singapore's coastal areas.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority has also commissioned a study to determine how much fish can be sustainably reared in the farms off Singapore's northern coast, hit numerous times by algae blooms that are occurring more frequently due to climate change.

This study is expected to conclude by August next year.

Singapore has been building up its policies and knowledge base to help it deal with climate change.

But that is the easy part.

Next year will be a game changer as Singapore seeks to tackle climate change on a different front: changing mindsets.

Read more!

74 contractors penalised in 2017 for discharging silty water: PUB

Channel NewsAsia 26 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: A total of 74 civil and building contractors have been penalised so far this year for discharging silty water into the waterways, as well as not providing adequate Earth Control Measures (ECM) at their sites, PUB said on Tuesday (Dec 26).

Silty water is generated when rainwater run-off mixes with exposed earth materials and soil at construction site. Contractors are required to implement measures at their sites to remove silt before the water is discharged into public drains.

"Silt, if not removed from construction discharge, will build up in the waterways," said PUB in its press release. "This will affect waterway's effectiveness in channeling stormwater flow and also the environmental aesthetics."

Huationg Contractor was fined S$13,500 in total for four ECM offences, and Samwoh Corporation had to pay up S$10,500 for three violations.

Two other companies convicted - Peng Chuan Engineering Construction and Stallion Development - carried out works that could lead to the discharge of silty water without obtaining a clearance certificate from PUB. They were made to pay S$7,800 and S$7,000 in fines respectively.

PUB's chief engineer for drainage operations Choy Wai Kwong, said everyone has a part to play in keeping the waterways clean.

"Two-thirds of Singapore is water catchment. Silty discharge into the drains and canals will result in accumulation of sediments and affect drainage capacity," said Mr Choy as quoted in the release.

74 construction firms penalised for water pollution this year
Ng Jun Sen Straits Times 27 Dec 17;

A total of 74 construction contractors were punished for discharging silty water into waterways and for providing inadequate earth control measures this year, national water agency PUB said in a statement yesterday.

While this is below the past three years' average of 100 enforcement actions each year, the agency said these errant practices can harm the environment.

Where there are excavation-type activities, known as earthworks, rain can mix with exposed earth and soil, creating a silty run-off which enters drainage systems and water bodies.

This causes an accumulation of sediment in the waterways, which reduces drainage capacity.

Currently, there are about 1,000 construction sites involved in earthworks.

Of the 74 companies cited, the agency highlighted four that were penalised this year. Two were repeat offenders - Huationg Contractor, which was fined $13,500 for four offences, and Samwoh, which was fined $10,500 for three offences.

Huationg had twice failed to provide and maintain earth control measures to the code required by PUB when carrying out earthworks, netting $3,500 in fines.

It was charged in court last month and fined $10,000 for a further two offences of not meeting the water quality requirement for the treated run-off and failing to comply with the conditions of PUB's clearance certificate.

Meanwhile, Samwoh was penalised twice for failing to meet the water quality requirement for run-off. It was fined $2,500 for an earlier infraction, and $8,000 in court last month for another instance, as well as for not complying with a PUB notice to review its earth control measures.

Two other companies, Peng Chuan Engineering Construction and Stallion Development, were found to have carried out works without a clearance certificate from PUB.

This could lead to silty water being discharged into the drainage systems, said PUB.

Peng Chuan was fined $7,800, and Stallion $7,000.

"All contractors are required to plan for and implement (earth control measures) at their sites," said the agency, adding that it conducts regular checks at these sites for any breach of earth control measures (ECM).

Depending on the stage of construction work and size of earthworks, these checks can range from fortnightly to once every two months.

PUB's chief engineer of drainage operations Choy Wai Kwong said: "To protect our source of water supply, all of us should play our part in keeping our waterways clean.

"It is important to adopt a co-ownership approach, where PUB works closely with the construction industry to build industry competencies and maintain high ECM standards."

Singapore Contractors Asso-ciation president Kenneth Loo said his organisation has worked with the agency to produce and continually update an ECM guidebook. This is to share the best environmental practices and requirements with the industry, he added.

"Our role as contractors is vital in keeping Singapore's waterways clean and beautiful," said Mr Loo.

Read more!

Running out of sand: in numbers

Loes Witschge Aljazeera 26 Dec 17;

Sand and gravel are the most-extracted materials in the world.

The UN believes that sand and gravel, or aggregates, account for up to 85 percent of all mining activity around the world, measured in weight.

"It's almost become like air, the air we breathe, we don't think too much about it, but you can't live without it," says Kiran Pereira, the founder of, in the documentary Sand Wars.

While sand might seem like an abundant resource, it is being mined at a pace much faster than its natural renewal rate.

A 2014 report by the UN estimates that globally, more than 40 billion tonnes of sand and gravel are extracted every year.

Worldwide, the legal sand extraction industry is worth $70bn, roughly the equivalent of the GDP of Kenya.

What is sand used for?

Sand has numerous applications that cut through our daily life. It's used for glass and is the source of strategic minerals including silicon dioxide, which is found in wine, cleaning products, toothpaste and many more everyday products.

Sand is also required for manufacturing the microchips inside our computers and smartphones.

But the sector swallowing up the most sand is the construction industry.

More than half of the world's population now lives in cities. By 2030, the UN expects 60 percent of people to live in urban settlements.

Building and expanding cities requires concrete and asphalt, both made with sand. A lot of it.

The rise and rise of Singapore

Singapore is just one example of a metropolis with a sand addiction.

Between 1990 and 2017, the city state's population nearly doubled, from three million to 5.6 million.

Meanwhile, the city's land area has grown through extensive land reclamation, from 581.5sq km in 1960 to 719.7sq km in 2016 - a 24 percent increase.

Reclaiming one square kilometre of land from the sea costs up to 37.5 million cubic metres of sand.

In 2016 alone, Singapore imported 35 million metric tonnes of sand.

In July 2017, Cambodia banned all sales of sand to Singapore, citing environmental grounds. Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam had already put restrictions on sand exports to Singapore. But these restrictions have given rise to a flourishing smuggling trade.

So-called "sand mafias" have proliferated elsewhere, too. According to the Times of India, illegal sand mining is worth $2.3bn a year in Tamil Nadu alone.

Poyang Lake: China's disappearing sands

Not all kinds of sand are suitable for use in construction. Desert sand is considered too fine. As a result, sand is taken from beaches and dredged up from rivers and the seabed on an industrial scale, adversely affecting ecological systems.

Poyang Lake, in China's Jiangxi province, is thought to be the world's biggest sand mine. An estimated 236 million cubic metres of sand is taken out of the lake every year.

NASA reported that sand mining affected the lake's ecological integrity by "contributing to less predictable seasonal water fluctuations and to a series of recent low water events," according to ecologist James Burnham.

Dredging sand from the seabed is destroying local flora and fauna. Mining of ocean and beach sands is contributing to the erosion of beaches. In Indonesia, two dozen islands are believed to have disappeared due to sand mining.

"Negative effects on the environment are unequivocal and are occurring around the world," the UN noted in its 2014 report.

Meanwhile, policymakers have been slow to respond to the depletion of sand. "The current level of political concern clearly does not match the urgency of the situation," the UN stated.

The world is only slowly waking up to the fact that another finite resource is slipping through our fingers.

Find out more about the disappearance of sand in Sand Wars.

Read more!

Govt support a big boost for animal welfare groups

Audrey Tan Straits Times 27 Dec 17;

AVA's recent moves signal greater priority on animal welfare amid shift in public opinion of animal rights
From building shelters to introducing sterilisation as a way of controlling the stray dog population, animal welfare groups here say they have noticed the Government is doing more to protect animals.

They point to a variety of schemes the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) introduced in the last few years that signal advances in the protection of the Republic's animal inhabitants.

Just last week, the AVA, which is in charge of animal management issues, announced that it will launch the first nationwide sterilisation programme for stray dogs in the second half of next year.

Seen as a more humane way of managing the stray dog population, animal welfare groups have long urged the AVA to adopt sterilisation, instead of culling street dogs.

The introduction of such a programme shows the Government's willingness to listen to voices on the ground, incorporate best practices from abroad and change policy when needed, said Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"This bodes well for the future of animal welfare in Singapore," he added.

In November last year, the AVA also made a groundbreaking move in announcing that it will build a facility in Sungei Tengah.

The facility will house the 40 animal welfare groups and pet farms in Loyang and Seletar which will need to move out when the leases for their current premises expire.

These groups will not have to cough up money to bid for new land and build facilities of their own.

Instead, they will just pay monthly rental for space to house their animals at the facility, which will be ready in phases from now to the middle of next year.

Animal welfare groups say that in the past, while the authorities took action against animal abusers, the work of safeguarding the welfare of animals was largely left to them.

But recent moves, which include the commissioning of a scientific study on stray dogs and separately, greater enforcement against animal abusers, show that animal welfare has been accorded greater priority by the authorities.

Public opinion of protecting animal rights has also shifted, said National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser, who noted that animal groups are also becoming more vocal.

He said: "In short, society is deemed to be ready to embrace animal rights."

Mr Derrick Tan, president of dog rescue group Voices for Animals, credits the AVA's new approach to Ms Jessica Kwok, group director of the authority's Animal Management Group.

The group is in charge of several initiatives, including the stray dog sterilisation scheme.

He said: "I must say that since Ms Kwok took charge of the Animal Management Group in April last year, AVA has really made a huge difference to the animal welfare groups and, most importantly, to all the animals, especially stray dogs."

AVA has also taken a more consultative approach in working with the animal welfare groups as highlighted in how the plans for the animal shelter were drawn up.

For instance, after consulting the groups, AVA said the facility will have a variety of layout configurations to cater to different animal welfare groups.

And the role played by the AVA does not stop there. More animal abusers have also been dealt with.

Between January and October last year, it received 260 reports of alleged cases of animal cruelty. It took enforcement action in 4 per cent of them. Over the same period this year, AVA had 270 reports and took enforcement action in 5 per cent of the cases.

Animal welfare groups have welcomed what they see as greater government efforts to ensure the well-being of animals. While the groups play an important role in protecting animals here, the Government's show of commitment sends a signal that animal abuse will not be tolerated.

Read more!

Malaysia: EIA report for high-speed rail open for public viewing

The Sun Daily 26 Dec 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) is open for public viewing and feedback from today until Jan 25, 2018, according to MyHSR Corp Sdn Bhd.

It said in a statement today that the report will be displayed for public viewing in the headquarters of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) and the Department of Environment (DOE) headquarters in Putrajaya.

It will also be made available at state DOE offices in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor as well as at other local authorities’ offices along the HSR alignment.

“We welcome the public to provide feedback on the findings of the EIA report. The report will then be updated to incorporate feedback gathered from the viewing and will be presented and considered for approval by the DOE,” said MyHSR Corp CEO Datuk Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal.

“We have outlined the necessary measures to address and minimise the potential impacts throughout all phases of the project, which covers pre-construction, during construction and operations,” he added.

The EIA report assesses the environmental impact of the new railway project in terms air quality, noise and vibration, waste, water quality, coastal hydraulics, terrestrial and marine ecology, hydrology, geology, traffic, risk hazard assessment, public health and safety, economic evaluation and visual.

EIA on HSR project for viewing
New Straits Times 23 Dec 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (KL-SG HSR) is ready for public viewing from today until Jan 25.

MyHSR Corporation Sdn Bhd (MyHSR Corp) said the report would be displayed at various locations, including the Land Public Transport Commission headquarters, Department of Environment (DOE) headquarters and DOE state offices in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor, as well as other local authorities’ offices along the KL-SG HSR alignment.

“The public are encouraged to submit feedback and comments based on their review of the EIA report to the DOE headquarters before Feb 9,” it said yesterday.

Ahead of the public viewing, the EIA report was submitted to the DOE for review on Dec 13.

The EIA study covers various assessments, including air quality, noise and vibration, waste, water quality, coastal hydraulic, terrestrial and marine ecology, hydrology, geology, traffic, risk hazard assessment, public health and safety, economic evaluation, and visual aspects.

The EIA report is prepared in accordance with the relevant legislation, guidelines and procedures established by the DOE for environmental impact studies of any new railway project.

MyHSR Corp chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal said the company had outlined the necessary measures to address and minimise the potential impact throughout all phases of the project, covering pre-construction, construction and operation.

“We welcome feedback on the findings of the EIA report.

“The report will then be updated to incorporate the feedback gathered, and presented and considered for approval by the DOE,” he said.

During the public viewing period, copies of the report will also be on sale for RM4,000 each at the Minconsult Sdn Bhd’s office.

The public can also view the report on DOE’s website at and MyHSR Corp’s website at

Read more!

Malaysia: Heavy rains result in floods in 28 settlements in northern Sarawak

stephen then The Star 26 Dec 17;

MIRI: High tide and heavy rains caused rivers to overflow resulting in 28 settlements in Niah and Beluru districts in northern Sarawak being flooded - a few of them up to 1.8m of water.

Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department in its latest flood update at 530pm on Tuesday (Dec 26) said the two districts are the worst-hit in the state.

At least four of those settlements are under 1.5-1.8m of water.

Rumah Mentali , Rumah Sunok and Rumah Nyalak are located in Niah district about 100km south of Miri city.

The rest of the 24 settlements are also flooded with lower water levels.

Bomba Sarawak said evacuations will be carried out in the worst-hit areas as and when the affected residents are ready to move out.

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Indonesian Wildfire Hotspots Reduced by 33 Percent

Tempo 26 Dec 17;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Ministry of Environment and Forestry reported that Indonesia’s wildfire hotspot has been reduced up to zero according to the NOAA satellite observation on Sunday, December 24.

According to the satellite imagery, throughout January 1 – December 24 there have been 2,579 hotspots in total, which is far less than the previous year of 3,859 hotspots. This means that Indonesia’s wildfire hotspots were reduced by 1,280 or 33.17 percent.

The wildfire hotspots were previously spread across four regions in East Java, Central Sulawesi, and Southeast Sulawesi.

The Ministry’s Director of forest and land fire control Raffles B Pandjaitan said the ministry’s prevention and wildfire handling program (karhutla) has also contributed to the hotspot reduction.

Raffles explained that an early warning system together with an early detection, and an early suppression are essential in conducting attempts to avoid wildfires before it spreads to a level which is uncontrollable.


Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 25-26 Dec

20 Jan 2018 (Sat): Our Mangroovy Mangroves - R.U.M. Workshop and Walk
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Invasion of Cuckoos at Sentosa
Singapore Bird Group

2017 - Looking Back
Butterflies of Singapore

December RUMbles and beginning the next phase in restoration!
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

It is the holidays, where are you heading off to this time?
The Dorsal Effect

Equatorial Spitting Cobra (Naja sumatrana) @ Tampines Eco Green
Monday Morgue

Read more!

Malaysia: Black day for animal lovers in Malaysia

mei mei chu The Star 25 Dec 17;

PETALING JAYA: Christmas Eve was a black day for Malaysian wildlife as three separate cases involving the gruesome deaths of two endangered sun bears and a tapir went viral on social media.

In Kuching, a villager shopping at a local market got a rude shock when she saw a sun bear slaughtered into pieces and sold openly as exotic meat.

In the photo taken at the Lubok Antu 'pasar tamu' in Sri Aman Division, the adult male sun bear was butchered into over 15 pieces and placed on a table next to a weighing machine.

The head was decapitated below the chin while the arms were cut off at the forearm to keep the paws intact.

"It is really shocking to see the whole bear cut into pieces," Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founder Wong Siew Te told The Star.

"In the same market, a wild boar and sambar deer were being sold as well," he said, adding that the villager alerted him of the incident and sent him the photos.

According to Wong, poaching is rife but it is uncommon to see sun bears being sold openly in the local markets.

"For us, the festive seasons mean happiness and fun with family but for the many unfortunate wildlife, it means the end of their life when the demand for exotic meat soars," he said.

Sun bears are a protected species under the Sarawak Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998 and those found guilty of hunting and selling the wildlife could face a RM10,000 fine or one year imprisonment.

Wong said the population of sun bears is unknown but conservationists are certain that it is declining due to rapid deforestation and rampant poaching.

He urged the Forestry Department to enforce the wildlife protection law and prosecute those involved in the illegal exotic meat trade.

"If we don't do anything effective soon it will be too late to do anything, just like the rhinos here," he said, adding that the extinction of sun bears will hurt the forest ecosystem.

In Terengganu, a sun bear was killed after a motorbike crashed into it near the Kuala Dungun exit on the East Coast Expressway 2 (LPT 2) at 6.50pm on Sunday (Dec 24).

The motorcyclist was en route from Kuantan to Terengganu when the sun bear suddenly crossed the road.

In Gua Musang, Kelantan a 100kg tapir was killed in a car accident involving a Proton Saga at KM12 at Jalan Gua Musang-Kuala Krai.

The accident happened at 4am on Dec 24 but a group of men who found the tapir carcass the next day skinned the animal and cut off its snout.

Netizens have expressed shock and disgust of photos of the men skinning the wildlife, calling their actions cruel.

Sun bear killed in collision with motorcycle on LPT2
Zarina Abdullah New Straits Times 25 Dec 17;

DUNGUN: An adult sun bear was struck and killed by a motorcycle at Km347.5 of the East Coast Expressway 2 (LPT2) near the Kuala Dungun interchange here last night.

The incident is believed to have occurred at about 7pm when the animal, known scientifically as Helarctos malayanus, was trying to cross the road.

It was hit by a Yamaha 125z, whose rider was heading towards Kuala Terengganu.

The rider suffered light injuries.

State Wildlife and National Park Department director Rahmah Elias said they received a call about the incident at about 7.18pm.

She said the motorcyclist was sent to the Dungun Hospital for further treatment, while the sun bear’s carcass was handed over to the Wildlife Department for further action.

Rahmah has advised LPT 2 road users to be cautious while driving along the highway especially at night, as it is common for wild animals to wander onto the road.

“Watch out for animals such as deer, tapirs, wild boars, sun bears as well as goats, cows and buffalo which roam the area, especially near the Kuala Dungun exit,” she said when contacted today.

WWF: Gruesome deaths show Malaysia has failed its wildlife
mei mei chu The Star 28 Dec 17;

PETALING JAYA: The gruesome deaths of three animal on the endangered list on Christmas Eve show that Malaysia has failed to protect its wildlife, said WWF-Malaysia.

“Despite all efforts from various organisations and government bodies, yet again, we as a nation, have failed to stand up for our wildlife,” its chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said in a statement Thursday.

On Dec 24, a sun bear was found butchered and sold openly at a market in Kuching, while another sun bear was killed in a motorbike accident in Terengganu, and in Kelantan, a group of men was photographed skinning and disfiguring a tapir that was involved in a roadkill incident.

Condemning the exotic meat trade, Dr Dionysius urged the public to step away from consuming wild meat, especially during festive celebrations.

He also emphasised the need for Malaysian drivers to be more vigilant when driving in areas that are prone to wildlife crossings.

“If we do not take drastic measures to protect our wildlife now, we may lose them to extinction in the near future,” said Dr Dionysius.

Besides sun bears and tapirs, elephants, leopards, and other endangered species were reportedly killed in highway accidents this year.

As forests become more fragmented due to infrastructure development, conservationists say one of the greatest threats to wildlife are vehicles on high-speed motorways.

Throughout the year, they have been calling on the authorities to control vehicle density and enforce speed limits on highways, and increase the number of animal crossings to reduce roadkill.

Spate of rare animal deaths in Malaysia sparks alarm
AFP Yahoo News 28 Dec 17;

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) - The deaths of two sun bears and a tapir in Malaysia sparked fresh alarm among activists Thursday at the growing number of exotic animals perishing in the biodiverse country.

A sun bear and tapir were killed in road accidents in the northeast of the country on Christmas Eve, with the tapir skinned by villagers after its carcass was discovered, environmental group WWF said.

A second sun bear was killed and cut up, with its parts spotted on the same day sold openly at a market in Sarawak state on Borneo island, local media reported.

"Despite all efforts from various organisations and government bodies, yet again, we as a nation, have failed to stand up for our Malaysian wildlife," said Dionysius Sharma, WWF-Malaysia executive director.

"If we do not take drastic measures to protect our wildlife now, we may lose them to extinction in the near future."

Tropical, jungle-clad Malaysia is home to a dizzying array of wildlife, from orangutans to pangolins, but their numbers have been dwindling.

They are targeted by poachers, their natural habitat has been shrinking due to expansion of plantations, while hundreds have been killed on busy roads as the highway network has rapidly expanded.

Two elephants were killed in the space of three months earlier this year after being hit by vehicles on the same stretch of highway in northern Malaysia.

Sun bears are the smallest of the bear species, and are classified as vulnerable by protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Tapirs are known for their long, drooping noses which they use to forage for leaves, with the variety in Malaysia listed as endangered.

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Malaysia, Johor: Grace period to stop use of plastic

zazali musa The Star 25 Dec 17;

JOHOR BARU: Traders and consumers in Johor will be given a one-year period starting from Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2018, to switch to using biodegradable products instead of plastic bags and polystyrene food containers.

State health, environment, education and information committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the one-year “grace period” was to educate and familiarise them with the move.

He said next year would be an educational enforcement year before the ban on conventional plastic materials and polystyrene food containers is enforced on Jan 1, 2019.

“We believe one year is enough for traders and consumers in Johor to start switching to biodegradable materials,” said Ayub.

Ayub said they would brief and educate traders, consumers and industry players to have a better understanding on the benefits of using biodegradable products.

“Related campaigns, activities and programmes will be held in the state for the next 12 months to create better awareness on the use of biodegradable products among the people,” he added.

Ayub said the first briefing would take place during the upgrading of Segamat District Council to a municipality on Dec 31.

He said briefing in other districts – Johor Baru, Pasir Gudang, Kulai, Pontian, Muar, Batu Pahat, Pontian, Mersing and Kota Tinggi would be held in January, February and March next year.

Eco-friendly move gets support
The Star 28 Dec 17;

JOHOR BARU: The use of biode­gradable packaging materials in Johor, expected to commence on Jan 1, has received support from not only food traders and supermarket operators but also the local community, in the effort to preserve the environment.

A check at several business locations around the city found most of the traders ready to implement the directive that was expected to take effect within the next five days.

Restaurant operator Roslan Ibrahim said he was aware of the enforcement and was already using biodegradable materials instead of polystyrene.

“The state government’s effort is good as this can lessen environmental pollution, especially in Johor, which is one of the states with a lot of industries and is growing rapidly,” said the 57-year-old businessman.

However, Kamal Nur Arif, 24, an operator of a food outlet and a shoe shop, admitted that he was unaware of the enforcement of biodegradable packaging materials early next year and said he hoped that the state government would continue to inform the public of the move to enable the traders to prepare themselves.

Kamal was not alone as a private company employee, Nur Ain Kamaruddin, 24, said she was also unaware of the latest move by the government.

“I do not know about the implementation of biodegradable packaging materials to replace polystyrene and plastic all over Johor next year, but I am pleased to know that it will be implemented to preserve the environment.

“The government also needs to disseminate information to the public over the move as well as undertake an awareness campaign for the community to understand it better as this biodegradable materials can lessen pollution,” she said.

A government retiree, Jamiah Abdul Rahman, said it was timely for Johor to implement the use of biodegradable packaging materials in line with the rapid development of the state.

“The use of biodegradable packaging materials is a very smart move but its price should also be affordable to enable the people to buy it easily, compared to plastic and polystyrene which are not only cheap but also easy to find,” she added.

Meanwhile, all 17 Econsave Cash and Carry supermarket outlets in the state will discontinue the sale of polystyrene and conventional food or plastic wraps from Jan 1.

Econsave Cash and Carry Super­market Southern Region operations manager Mas Imran Adam said the company had taken the initial steps by stopping the supply of the products and would replace them with the recommended biodegradable packaging materials.

He said the supermarket chain would also gradually change the use of plastic with the recommended biodegradable packaging materials for goods and sell recycling bags for customers convenience.

State health, environment, education and information committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat had said that the state government was giving the public a one-year period of enforcement through education for the use of biodegradable packaging materials.

The cooling-off period will be from Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2018, to give the public and business owners a chance to make the necessary adjustments and be prepared to comply with the rules before they are fully enforced on Jan 1, 2019. – Bernama

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Vietnam braces for typhoon as Philippine toll rises to 230 dead

Mi Nguyen, Manuel Mogato Reuters 25 Dec 17;

HANOI/MANILA (Reuters) - Authorities in Vietnam prepared to move a million people from low-lying areas along the south coast on Monday as a typhoon approached after it battered the Philippines with floods and landslides that killed more than 230 people.

Typhoon Tembin is expected to slam into Vietnam late on Monday after bringing misery to the predominantly Christian Philippines just before Christmas.

Vietnam’s disaster prevention committee said 74,000 people had been moved to safety from vulnerable areas, while authorities in 15 provinces and cities were prepared to move more than 1 million.

The government ordered that oil rigs and vessels be protected and it warned that about 62,000 fishing boats should not venture out to sea.

“Vietnam must ensure the safety of its oil rigs and vessels. If necessary, close the oil rigs and evacuate workers,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc was quoted as saying on a government website.

Schools were ordered to close in the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City on Monday, a working day in Vietnam.

On Sunday, Tembin hit the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, parts of which are contested by several countries, including Vietnam and China.

No casualties were reported in outposts there.

Vietnam, like the Philippines, is regularly battered by typhoons that form over the warm waters of the Pacific and barrel westwards into land.

Tembin will be the 16th major storm to hit Vietnam this year. The storms and other disasters have left 390 people dead or missing, according to official figures.


In the Philippines, rescue workers were still struggling to reach some remote areas hit by floods and landslides that Tembin’s downpours brought, as the death toll climbed to more than 230. Scores of people are missing.

The full extent of the devastation was only becoming clear as the most remote areas were being reached.

Health worker Arturo Simbajon said nearly the entire coastal village of Anungan on the Zamboanga peninsula of Mindanao island had been wiped out by a barrage of broken logs, boulders and mud that swept down a river and out to sea.

“Only the mosque was left standing,” Simbajon said.

“People were watching the rising sea but did not expect the water to come from behind them.”

Manuel Luis Ochotorena, head of regional disaster agency, said he expected the death toll to rise.

“Many areas in Zamboanga peninsula are still without power and communications, some towns are cut off due to collapsed bridges, floods and landslides,” he said.

Tens of thousands of people on Mindanao have been displaced by the storm, which struck late on Friday.

The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons a year and warnings are routinely issued.

But disaster officials said many villagers had ignored warnings this time to get out coastal areas and move away from riverbanks.

In 2013, super typhoon Haiyan killed nearly 8,000 people and left 200,000 families homeless in the central Philippines.

(This version of the story was refiled to fix spelling in paragraph two)

Reporting by Mi Nguyen; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Robert Birsel

Sabah spared wrath of Tropical Storm Tembin
muguntan vanar and farhaan shah The Star 25 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has been spared the devastating impact of Tropical Storm Tembin that left a trail of death and destruction in the southern Philippines.

Strong winds and wet weather lashed coastal areas of Sabah as the tropical storm was upgraded to a typhoon passed northern Sabah and headed towards Vietnam yesterday.

Meteorologists said the it was moving rapidly in a north-westerly direction across the South China Sea and was about 300km from Kota Kinabalu.

The tail effects of the storm would diminish by Christmas Day, he said.

No serious incidents were reported to emergency services in the state after strong winds and light and heavy rains were felt over the last two days.

Persistent rainfall triggered flooding in Kota Belud where 12 villages were affected. No evacuations were reported.

The Civil Defence Department is monitoring three rivers – Keda­maian, Tempasuk and Abai – and would act when necessary.

The Tempasuk and Abai rivers were at critical levels while Kada­maian was normal, the department’s spokesman said.

At least 200 people were reported dead and some 144 others missing in southern Philippines after the typhoon triggered landslides and flooding on Saturday.

In Johor Baru, the marine community, especially fishermen, has been advised to be prepared for bad weather and choppy seas during the current monsoon season.

Southern Region Two comman­der Asst Comm Paul Khiu Khon Chiang said monsoon season is a dangerous period for any activity at sea.

“When the weather turns for the worse, please do not go out to sea. Those who are already there must immediately return to shore.

“Always be alert about weather warnings by the authorities because this is the time of year where conditions can be at their worst,” he said yesterday.

ACP Khiu said no matter how experienced a person might be, the sea was a dangerous place and should not be taken lightly.

He also urged boat owners to inspect their vessels before going out to sea.

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Best of our wild blogs: 24 Dec 17

Thank you, from a living reef
Hantu Blog

Pulau Tekukor

Singapore got mangroves meh?
wild shores of singapore

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Police rescue 49 passengers stranded on ferry at Changi Ferry Terminal; MPA probing incident

Lydia Lam and Jose Hong Straits Times 23 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE - A total of 49 passengers on board a ferry from Malaysia could not disembark at Changi Ferry Terminal on Thursday night (Dec 21) as a barge belonging to a contractor carrying out jetty upgrading works was blocking the way.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesman for the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said on Friday that the terminal, which is operated by the Johor Port Authority (JPA), is currently undergoing jetty upgrading works.

At about 7.45pm on Thursday, MPA was informed that an incoming ferry with 49 passengers from Tanjung Belungkor, near Desaru, could not berth at the jetty due to a barge that was obstructing its path.

This barge was deployed by JPA's contractor who was overseeing upgrading works, MPA said.

Lianhe Wanbao said in a report on Friday that the passengers were stuck on the ferry for 45 minutes, with some so angered that they called the police.

MPA said that officers from the Singapore Police Force responded to the incident and helped the affected passengers to disembark safely.

A passenger who wanted to be known only as Mrs Chan said that she left Desaru at 6.50pm and was supposed to arrive in Singapore at 7.10pm.

However, when the ferry arrived at Changi Ferry Terminal, the crew did not allow them to disembark, said the 38-year-old who works in the medical industry.

"We went to the roof of the ferry and only then did we realise that a barge was blocking the way," she said.

She said that about 10 passengers had to rush for flights and tried to climb out of the ferry.

All the passengers left the ferry terminal only after 9pm, more than two hours after they were supposed to arrive, according to Mrs Chan.

She said she could not understand how anyone could let the barge block the ferry terminal and prevent other ferries from accessing it. “I just cannot believe it, it’s so ridiculous," she said.

To help respond to any emergency situation that may have arisen while passengers were disembarking, MPA deployed its patrol craft.

After the incident, JPA issued a stop-work order to their contractor, and towed the barge away to prevent obstruction to incoming ferries.

It is unclear if any other ferries were affected. According to Malaysian ferry company Limbongan Maju's website, the last ferry to Singapore from Tanjung Belungkor departs at 6.30pm and arrives in Changi at 7pm.

An employee at the firm told ST that one of its ferries was affected by the barge on Thursday, but the barge has since been towed away.

Ferry services at Changi Ferry Terminal resumed at 8am on Friday as per normal.

JPA general manager Muhammad Razif Ahmad said the ferry was blocked because the contractor - tasked with installing a new pontoon - arrived ahead of schedule.

"It should not happen in the future, we have already coordinated with MPA and the contractor. I don't think it will be repeated," he told ST.

MPA said it was investigating the incident along with JPA, and will also work together to ensure the smooth operation of ferry services during upgrading works at the terminal.

Additional reporting by Shannon Teoh

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Malaysia: Rhino Iman eating more as her health improves

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 23 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The cancer-stricken Sumatran rhinoceros is showing improvement, said Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga.

Iman, the country's last female rhino, has been eating more food and managed to defecate and urinate as compared to last week when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Before this, the pain caused by the cancer had affected Iman's appetite and hydration status.

"Apart from her bloody vaginal discharge she is eating more each day although it is still inadequate.

"She consumed 1.5 kilogramme of mixed browse in the morning and another 1.5 kg in the afternoon," Augustine said in a statement, adding there would be more feeding when Iman wakes up at 8pm and 10pm.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga says Iman has been eating more. Pic courtesy Sabah Wildlife Department.
Iman, who is being cared at Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu, has her body covered with mud to keep her for cool and prevent insect bites.

Augustine added she was also being given intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

Iman was the last wild rhino found in Malaysia. She was captured in the Danum Valley and transported to the wildlife reserve in March 2014.

Despite being diagnosed with severe fibroids, she still produced eggs for previous in-vitro fertilisation attempts.

The country lost another female rhino, Puntung, about six months ago.

Puntung was euthanised on June 4 after suffering from skin cancer.

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