Best of our wild blogs: 3 Jan 17

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

A Walk in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Singapore
No Roads Barred

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk 15 Jan 2017
Love our MacRitchie Forest

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Cambodia: Fresh sand controversy

Alex Willemyns and Mech Dara Phnom Penh Post 2 Jan 17;

Cambodia exported more than 108,000 tonnes of sand to India in 36 separate shipments between 2013 and 2015, according to Indian customs data obtained yesterday, contradicting Cambodian customs data that show no sand being sent there at all.

The latest data discrepancy come as the Ministry of Mines has struggled to explain why Singapore recorded sand imports of almost 70 million tonnes from Cambodia between 2007 and 2015 for which Cambodia has no record.

The large-scale disparities have led to concerns from environmentalists that some people are growing wealthy by illegally exporting Cambodian sand, while destroying aquatic habitats and causing severe erosion of land that has already led to houses collapsing.

The new Indian customs data, which were obtained by environmental group Mother Nature, records 36 shipments of sand from Cambodia from 2013 to 2015, along with dates of arrival. A total of 108,658 tonnes of sand worth $2.6 million arrived, it says.

In contrast, customs data from Cambodia’s Commerce Ministry record exports of sand going to just five countries: Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea. A total of 455,000 tonnes – worth $2.47 million – was exported to those places, it says.

Commerce Ministry spokeswoman Seung Sophari said yesterday that her ministry only compiled the import and export data provided by customs officials and could not comment on why there were discrepancies with what the Indian customs data shows.

“We take the data from customs, and study what goods export and import into the country,” Sophari said, referring questions to the customs department, which falls under the Ministry of Economics and Finance.

“It is customs who are in charge of import and export of the goods . . . while for the sand, the one who issues licences to sell domestically and to export to other countries is the Ministry of Mines and Energy.”

Bou Bunnara, head of public relations at the customs department, declined to comment yesterday.

Mines Ministry spokesman Dith Tina, who has spearheaded his ministry’s defense against claims it was turning a blind eye to sand smuggling, said he believed some of the sand being exported to Singapore might have later been moved to other countries like India.

“Companies can ask to export to one country and then re-export to another,” Tina said via email yesterday. “In the case of India import[s], does the document prove a direct import from Cambodia or any re-export?”

“We thank the NGO for trying to help finding Cambodian sand but make sure that the data given is accurate and in the right context,” he added, dismissing the idea the data suggested smuggling.

“Give the proof rather than the accusation and assumption just to fool public opinion.”

Sand dredging is banned in many states in India due to its impacts on waterways and the potential to cause land erosion. Even in the Indian states where it is legal, demand tends to outstrip supply and imports are needed, according to Indian news reports.

A November 2012 article in The Hindu, for example, noted that soaring local demand for sand being used in concrete in the eastern port city of Chennai had “forced construction companies to import sand mined from the Mekong River in Cambodia”.

However, much of the sand that leaves Cambodia comes from along the coast of Koh Kong province, and in April 2013, some $1.5 million worth of sand dredged there was quarantined in the southern Indian city of Cochin for six months.

Prime Minister Hun Sen banned exports of river sand in May 2009 – with the exception of where the sand was blocking a waterway – but the status of the ban has since been unclear, with six companies presently holding licences to dredge sand for export.

The Mines Ministry also records 14 firms – with names like International Rainbow Co Ltd and Diamond Sun Co Ltd – as exporting coastal sand between 2007 and 2015, and 14 companies as having exported river sand in that period, despite the ban.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, a founder of the Mother Nature group who was deported from Cambodia in 2015 because of his activism, said yesterday that he believed the discrepancies in Singaporean and Indian data suggested only one thing.

“To me these figures reveal a shocking truth: people in positions of power in the government have been for years involved in the smuggling of Cambodian sand to countries like India, through the forgery of documents, corruption, and abuse of power,” he said.

“They might have the power and influence to make all of this sand magically ‘disappear’ from official Cambodian government accounts, but not from the records of the countries that import Cambodian sand.”

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Badly cut 1m-long sea turtle found dead along Changi Beach

Lydia Lam Straits Times AsiaOne 2 Jan 17;

The sea turtle was believed to have been cut by a ship propeller. PHOTO: CHANDRAN V. R.

SINGAPORE - A sea turtle more than a metre long was found dead along Changi Beach on Monday (Jan 2), believed to have been cut by a ship propeller.

ST reader Chandran V. R. told The Straits Times that he had been jogging at about 8.30am when he saw the carcass from a distance.

"At first I thought - how come this bulky item is there. Initially I didn't know what it was," said the 46-year-old managing director of a real estate agency.

He had been jogging along the Casuarina Cove Trail, near the Changi Ferry Terminal, when he noticed a bad smell.

Mr Chandran went closer and saw a dead turtle, more than a metre long, on the sand.

"It looked like it had been dead for at least two to three days," he said.

He then contacted the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), as he "didn't want anyone to disrespect this carcass".

"It is a beautiful creature which got into trouble and lay dead on our shores. I just wanted the carcass to be discarded respectfully," said Mr Chandran.

He added that he believes AVA has retrieved the carcass, based on location markers he sent to them.

"You don't usually get to see a turtle of that size in Singapore waters," he said.

The Straits Times has contacted AVA for more information.

Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), expressed dismay at the turtle's death.

She told The Straits Times that Acres had previously rescued an injured olive ridley turtle which was also possibly hit by a propeller.

It was rehabilitated and released back to the wild.

A dolphin carcass washed up on a beach at East Coast Park in July last year (2016).

A year before that (July 2015), a sperm whale carcass was found off Jurong Island, and its skeleton put up for exhibition at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in March last year (2016).

Mangled sea turtle found along Changi Beach
Channel NewsAsia 3 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: The mangled carcass of a sea turtle was discovered at Changi Beach on Monday morning (Jan 2). The metre-long turtle was found with its shell sliced open.

“I was jogging in between the beach and the jogging track, and the stench caught my attention,” said Mr Chandran V R, who shared photos of the grisly find. “There was a very big gash on the turtle that was probably caused by a propeller. It was probably dead for at least one or two days.”

Mr Chandran added: “It is very sad to see such a graceful and rare giant turtle lay dead on our shores. We can learn from (the incident)."

“I hope more can be done (in terms of raising awareness) to avoid such tragedies in future, especially for our endangered animals," he said.

Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore said it received feedback about the sea turtle at Changi Beach and alerted the National Environment Agency to clear the carcass.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) also said that it was notified of the find as well. "Unfortunately, we are unable to confirm the species of the turtle due to the poor condition of the carcass," said deputy chief executive Kalai Balakrishnan. "Having said that, almost all marine turtle species are either endangered or critically endangered."

Mr Stephen Beng, chairman of the Singapore Nature Society's Marine Conservation Group, told AFP that the creature appeared to be a female green sea turtle, which the environmental group WWF has classified as endangered.

"From the injury scars, it most definitely was a boat strike. The propeller mark was likely from a large one and it seems the turtle was making a dash for cover," Mr Beng said.

He highlighted that marine animals are at risk from boats because Singapore is one of the world's busiest ports and its shipping lanes "bisect the longer coastal beaches of our main island from the richer coral reefs of our southern islands".

Mr Beng urged boat crew to be vigilant to avoid hitting wildlife and said they should ideally maintain a distance of 50 metres and slow down when animals are sighted.

ACRES said members of the public should not approach or crowd around turtles "so as to not stress them and in the process prevent them from laying eggs".

"Marine turtles are sighted occasionally on our shores. You may observe them from a distance and if you do notice that the turtle may be injured or even stuck on foreign objects like netting," said Mr Balakrishnan.

Members of the public who spot animals in distress can contact the authorities, such as NParks and AVA, or call the ACRES wildlife rescue hotline at 9783 7782.

- CNA/AFP/xk

Sea turtle with sliced shell found dead at Changi
Today Online 3 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — An endangered giant sea turtle was found dead on a Singapore beach with its shell sliced in half, likely by a boat’s propeller, experts and the man who discovered it said on Tuesday (Jan 3).

According a Channel NewsAsia report, the turtle was found by Mr Chandran V R while he was out jogging on Monday.

Mr Chandran described the animal as being more than one metre long.

“The smell was overpowering, and when I followed the smell I saw a bulky item ... I walked towards it and saw the turtle and it was dead,” he told AFP.

“Cautiously I walked around it and I can see that there was a slash or a cut (on the shell)... In my opinion it was probably done by a propeller.”

Mr Chandran, a property executive, said he called the police.

“I was quite concerned ... I just don’t want people to dismember the body. It’s a turtle, people do eat turtles in this part of the region,” he said.

Mr Stephen Beng, chair of the Singapore Nature Society’s Marine Conservation Group, said the animal looked like a female green sea turtle, which inhabit the island’s reefs.

Environmental group WWF has classified the green sea turtle as an endangered species.

“From the injury scars, it most definitely was a boat strike. The propeller mark was likely from a large one and it seems the turtle was making a dash for cover,” Mr Beng told AFP.

Mr Beng said marine animals are at risk from boats because Singapore is one of the world’s busiest ports and its shipping lanes “bisect the longer coastal beaches of our main island from the richer coral reefs of our southern islands”.

Mr Beng urged boat crew to be vigilant to avoid hitting wildlife and said they should ideally maintain a distance of 50 metres and reduce speed when animals are sighted.

A dolphin carcass was found on a Singapore beach in 2016, while a dead sperm whale was washed ashore in 2015. One expert said at that time that the whale could have collided with a boat. AGENCIES

'Sliced' sea turtle found dead on Singapore beach
Heather Chen BBC 3 Jan 17;

Turtles are not normally found in the beaches around Singapore

Singaporean animal lover Chandran V R witnessed a "very unsettling" sight at the start of his new year.

On the morning of 1 January, he discovered a dead and endangered sea turtle which looked like it had been "sliced into half", apparently by boat propellers.

The 46-year-old real estate managing director told BBC News that he found the carcass washed ashore on a remote part of Changi beach on the north-east of the island, near a ferry terminal.

"It was the start of the new year and I decided to go jogging along the coastal stretch which is generally quiet and sees very few people," he said.
Mr Chandran said an "overpowering smell" first caught his attention.

"I decided to take a closer look. One thing led to another and I found the dead turtle."

The creature was not moving but had a deep open gash across its body, though its head and flippers were intact.

"I was very alarmed and sad to see such a graceful and giant rare creature lying dead on our shores," said Mr Chandran.

"It had probably been struck by a ship in the waters."

He phoned the police and gave them information about the carcass as well as its location. Government officials later got in touch with Mr Chandran, saying the carcass was recovered.

Mr Chandran, who has visited turtle sanctuaries before, said that he was "puzzled" as to why such a huge and rare animal was coming to Singapore shores.

"This was very tragic to see. I hope we as human beings can learn to live peacefully with nature and create awareness to avoid future tragedies, especially with endangered animals."

There was a similar public grief among Singaporeans on social media for the unfortunate animal, after the discovery was reported by the Straits Times.

"Either our waters have too high ship traffic or there is something driving marine animals the wrong way, landwards rather than out to sea," wrote Ping Teo on Facebook. "Underwater mining also creates a lot of noise pollution for sea creatures trying to gauge direction."

Another Singaporean Vincent Teo pointed out the immense pain the animal must have suffered. "A turtle's shell is actually part of its rib cage. That must have hurt badly."

Christopher Sim described it as a terrible accident. "It reminds us just how much we must be careful not to trample on Mother Nature."

Sea turtles are highly threatened and many species have been classified "endangered" or "critically endangered".

While conservation has helped boost population numbers, they still face grave threats from man such as becoming tangled in fishing nets. They are often killed for their shells, which are commonly used in tourist souvenirs and their eggs are also harvested and collected.

Sightings of them in Singapore, an island city-state, remain rare, according to the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) charity.

"Marine turtles are endangered and it saddens us every time we come across such a tragedy," said Deputy Chief Executive Kalai Vanan Balakrishnan.

"This particular turtle must have died a painful death and just goes to show that marine life is also being affected by presence of ships and boats."

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Bishan 'mum' otter with new litter spotted with fish hook in its body

Lydia Lam, Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE - A female otter believed to be the mother of the popular Bishan otters was spotted with a fishing line and hook in its body on Monday (Jan 2) morning, just two days after a sighting of a new litter of otter pups.

Retiree Patrick Ng, 60, who has followed the otters for a year, told The Straits Times on Monday that he spotted the hook and line when reviewing videos he had taken of the otters at about 9am on Monday at the floating platform at Marina Bay.

"I was just shooting them on video and didn't realise it at that time, but when I went home and viewed it, I noticed some strings sticking out," he said.

He added that he noticed "a lot of anglers" when the otters were swimming up to the floating platform, and believes that was how the female otter, believed to be the mother of the litter, got hooked.

Mr Ng goes to watch the otters almost daily, as he cycles in the Marina Bay area for exercise.

He was also the one who saved Toby, a otter pup then six weeks old, from a canal in May last year (2016).

An otter pup in April last year was spotted with a fish hook in its eye.

It recovered from the wound without any external help but the incident roused the anger of animal lovers, who criticised "irresponsible anglers".

Netizens on a Facebook post by otter community OtterWatch on Monday were concerned for the hooked otter.

Facebook user Kim Yap wrote: "Please help otter mum."

Joo Kek added that he hoped PUB would take " illegal fishing at Marina Bay seriously".

Another otter watcher, 45-year-old Jeffery Teo, who works in the financial services industry, told The Straits Times that the well-loved Bishan 10 otters were now Bishan 14.

They were given the name as the otters were first spotted in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park.

A litter of five pups is believed to have been born in mid-November last year but were sighted only on Dec 31.

One of the pups went missing after a trip the pack made to Lower Peirce Reservoir.

Speaking about the latest fish hook incident, Mr Teo said there were anglers photographed at the scene, where "No Fishing" signs have been put up.

"All the signs are erected but nobody seems to be enforcing it especially on the weekends," he said.

Said Mr Teo: "It took decades for our native otters to finally return, if we are not mindful, we may not have a second chance next time."

PUB in 2015 issued about 400 summonses for illegal fishing, and an average of 500 in 2014 and the year before.

The Straits Times has contacted PUB for comment.

Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), told The Straits Times that it "is sad to see a wild animal being affected again through irresponsible recreational activities".

She added that Acres has rescued "a number of wild animals such as monitor lizards, turtles and birds with fish hooks stuck to the body or ingested".

"Illegal fishing has to be taken seriously for strict enforcement action, to deter such activities," said Ms Boopal. "At the same time, we also urge the community to be responsible when engaging in such recreational activities, to not leave hooks and lines that can affect the welfare of these animals who live in our waterbodies and to remember that these are habitats that provide home to various animals from invertebrates, reptiles, birds and mammals."

Acres appreciates the ground efforts by the otter watchers, she said.

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On high alert for bugs from abroad

KELLY NG Today Online 2 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — It was a year in which infectious diseases — namely Zika and tuberculosis (TB) — claimed the spotlight. And the threat is set to stay and might even intensify as Singapore continues to see large numbers of people and goods flow in and out of its borders, say experts.

While Singapore is now better equipped with hardware to tackle various infectious diseases, its health system will continue to be tested more frequently, as recent events have shown. And this calls for the ability to be flexible and to respond in a nimble way, the experts said.

“Singapore is constantly in a vulnerable position in receiving emerging and re-emerging bugs … We are as ready as we can be, but every bug has its own characteristic. We need to be flexible and learn to adapt,” said Professor Leo Yee Sin, who heads the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

The list of infections that have leapt from parts of the world miles away to the Republic’s shores has grown in the past two years, alongside the re-emergence of those endemic to the region.

While Singapore is now better equipped with hardware to tackle various infectious, its health system will continue to be tested more frequently, as recent events have shown.

Last August, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the first localised community spread of the Zika virus, with the number of cases shooting up to more than 150 within a week. The mosquito-borne infection, discovered in the 1940s, had spread wildly after it was reported in Brazil in May 2015 in Latin America, the Caribbean, the United States and South-east Asia. But exactly how the Zika virus found its way to Singapore — infecting almost 400 — remains a mystery.

In June the same year, the MOH announced that a cluster of six multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis cases had formed at a Housing and Development Board Block in Ang Mo Kio, casting a forgotten disease back into the spotlight.

In 2015, lapses at the Singapore General Hospital led to a hepatitis C outbreak that affected 25 patients, of whom eight have died — seven with the virus likely contributing to their deaths.


Singapore’s status as a transport hub — a key port-of-call between Australasia and Europe — makes it particularly vulnerable to pandemics from abroad, as seen in the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003, and influenza threats in 2004, 2005 and 2009.

“Flights come and take off from (Singapore). It is good for commerce, good for logistics, good for viruses and epidemics too. They take the same trade routes,” said Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre.

Complex distribution systems and food-handling protocols have also led to sporadic food-borne outbreaks — such as the Group B Streptococcus infection in 2015, which led the authorities to ban the use of freshwater fish in raw fish dishes, and the salmonella enteritidis infection behind the PrimaDeli food poisoning in 2007.

“Sars was a baptism by fire. We learnt it hard, and hopefully well. But we will need different ways to tackle different viruses … We need to be flexible as new attacks come. We will expect more of such attacks,” Dr Leong Hoe Nam said.

The Republic has the “basic pieces” in place to deal with any outbreak, but the region in which it is situated poses significant risks, said general practitioner Dr Leong Choon Kit, who sits on the Singapore Medical Council.

He said: “We must not forget that they (there?) are much bigger countries. Their size will add a lot more complexity and difficulty to managing any outbreak.”

Professor Duane Gubler, founding director of the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Duke-NUS Medical School, urged the Government to be more pro-active in collaborating with neighbouring countries in infectious disease control.

“Singapore has a good surveillance and control system. This is where it can play a leadership role in imparting its knowledge to neighbours, and getting more involved with their healthcare infrastructure development,” said Prof Gubler.

Among a suite of recommendations proposed by a task force — established in the wake of the hep C outbreak in 2015 — to strengthen outbreak detection and response in Singapore include letting healthcare professionals report outbreaks anonymously and beefing up IT systems used to track these incidents.

Dr Paul Tambyah, secretary-general of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, added: “Recognising that infectious diseases do not go through passport control, as was apparent with Ebola and Zika, has highlighted the need for international collaboration, research, and transparency in data reporting.”

Public communication is another area the authorities need to work on, especially in an era when inaccurate information can be rapidly disseminated via the Internet and social media.

“There is a high level of transparency now that we have not seen before. But how this information is communicated can be better … The ministry maintains its high bureaucratic style in communication, which doesn’t fit well (with the public) … Social media, on the other hand, generates too much buzz for something unimportant,” said Dr Leong Hoe Nam.

“With the Internet, information flow is rapid, so much so that the public assumes that there is some form of cover up … We need an authoritative and central voice during any outbreak. The public must learn to trust those who are in charge,” said Dr Leong Choon Kit.


Besides the Government and infectious disease specialists, primary-care physicians and the community play a critical role in Singapore’s battle plan in the war against emerging and re-emerging diseases, health experts told TODAY, citing this year’s Zika episode as a prime example.

Three doctors at Sims Drive Medical Clinic — Dr Tan May Yen, Dr Lim Chien Chuan and Dr Chi Wei Ming — raised the alarm that led to the discovery of the first locally transmitted Zika cases when they saw a sudden spike in patients complaining of fever, rash and joint pain.

Dr Leong Choon Kit said: “We see diseases at its early stages and are experts in the undifferentiated stage. Often we may not be able to nail down the exact diagnosis. Training would allow us to raise alerts far ahead of an epidemic. We are like watchmen of the old days.”

Dr Leong added that GPs and community leaders are well-positioned to advocate for vaccinations and good hygiene practices, which are often key to preventing the spread of diseases.

Besides being the “sentinels in the front-line of surveillance”, GPs play a key part in educating patients on the responsible use of antibiotics, noted Dr Jeremy Lim, who leads the health and life sciences and public sector practices of consulting firm Oliver Wyman in the Asia-Pacific.

Dr Leong Choon Kit concurred, calling for an end to “indiscriminate” antibiotic prescription for common coughs and colds to thwart the rise of drug-resistant “super bugs”.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam also urged caution when importing food from other countries. “We need to be cautious when we import (food) ... What they feed in their country will create antimicrobial resistance in the animals that are sold as meat to us. And it comes over to us,” said Dr Leong.

Dr Tambyah added that a majority of antiobiotic use is in agriculture. “Many people are coming into hospitals with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in (their) intestines. That is why a comprehensive approach is needed to ensure that farmers have alternatives to antibiotics in ensuring healthy animals and plants,” he said.

The experts also called for individuals to uphold personal responsibility in keeping healthy. Said Dr Leong Choon Kit: “When they do not feel well, they should seek help. They should also keep abreast of the latest updates and instructions, and not spread baseless hearsay gleaned from social media of (or?) their own assumptions.”

For instance, while the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly has not been fully established, it has generated much fear worldwide and among Singaporeans, he said.

Dr Tambyah added that the community can help by not discriminating against infected individuals to encourage people to come forward to be tested.

“This is very important for infectious diseases such as TB and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection, where early detection can lead to successful treatment and prevention of spread,” he said.

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Malaysia: Floods in Kelantan worsen, more people evacuated

The Star 2 Jan 17;

KOTA BARU: The situation in flood-hit Kelantan worsened slightly early Monday, with the number of evacuees rising to 1,284 from 346 families as at 8am, compared to 1,213 from 329 families at 8pm Sunday.

The level of Sungai Golok at Rantau Panjang continued to rise, measuring 10.19 metres compared to 9.58 metres on Sunday night. Its danger level is nine metres.

Kelantan Civil Defence Force director Zainuddin Hussin said the district of Kuala Krai had 510 evacuees from 132 families; Jeli 36 evacuees (14 families); Tanah Merah 312 (91); Pasir Mas 347 (91) and Machang 79 (18).

"All the evacuees are being accommodated at 30 relief centres in the five districts," he said when contacted.

Zainuddin said he anticipated the evacuation of more people in the afternoon, especially from Pasir and Tumpat, when the water from the upper reaches of swollen rivers came downstream.

Meanwhile, the state government portal,, reported that the levels of three major rivers in Kelantan showed a decline as at 8am compared to 8pm yesterday.

Sungai Galas at Dabong measured 32.56 metres, down from 34.33 metres last night. Its danger level is 38 metres.

The level of Sungai Lebir at Tualang stood at 28.26 metres compared to 30.74 metres (alert level 35 metres) and that of Sungai Kelantan at the Krai Steps was 22.24 metres compared to 24.06 metres (alert level 25 metres). - Bernama

East coast Intercity rail service still disrupted by floods, landslides
BERNAMA New Straits Times 2 Jan 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Intercity train service for east coast routes, which has been disrupted since Dec 31 due to floods and a landslide in Dabong, has yet to return to normal.

Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) Head of Corporate Communication Ridhwan Arshad said that, in fact, the Intercity train service between Dabong and Kuala Krai is still suspended until further notice.

"The track restoration work is still ongoing," he said in a statement here today.

Meanwhile, Ridhwan said the Ekspres Timuran No.26 (JB Sentral-Tumpat) train service will be available only up to the Gua Musang station and from the station, passengers would have to proceed to Kuala Krai, Tanah Merah, Pasir Mas, Wakaf Bharu or Tumpat using the bus service provided by the KTMB.

Passengers heading to Dabong station, however, would be taken using the local train, he said. He said for Ekspres Timuran No. 27 (Tumpat-JB Sentral) train service, passengers would be required to take the train from the Tumpat station to Kuala Krai station, before proceeding by bus to the Gua Musang station where they would board the train to the JB Sentral station.

Ridhwan said KTMB anticipates a two-hour delay for each train and passengers who wish to claim refunds or reschedule their trips would be allowed to do so.

"We apologise for all the inconvenience caused. For further information, please call the KTMB call centre at 03-2267 1200 or visit our website at," he added. - Bernama

Floods force 9,200 to miss school in Kelantan
The Star 3 Jan 17;

KOTA BARU: A total of 9,287schoolchildren were unable to attend classes at 29 primary and secondary schools in Kelantan on the second day of the 2017 school session due to floods.

The State Education Department said in a statement that the six secondary and 23 primary schools were located in four districts, namely Pasir Mas, Kuala Krai, Tanah Merah and Tumpat.

It said the access roads to the schools were flooded and it was dangerous for the pupils, students and teachers to attempt to go to the schools.

The closure of the schools affected 7,746 students of 13 schools in Pasir Mas, 588 students of six schools in Kuala Krai, 953 students of five schools in Tanah Merah and 214 students of a school in Tumpat, it said.

It named the Pasir Mas schools as SK Kampung Baru, SK Rahmat, SK Gual Tokdeh, SK Rantau Panjang, SK Lubok Stol, SK Sri Rantau Panjang 2, SK Kok Pauh, SK Sri Rantau Panjang 1, Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan (SABK) Al Falah Siram, SABK Diniah Bongor, SJK(C) Khay Boon, SMK Rantau Panjang and SMK Tiang Chandi.

The Kuala Krai schools were SK Pemberian, SK Bahagia, SK Ladang Taku, SK Pasir Kelang, SK Kuala Nal and SABK Saadatul Qura, it said.

The five of the six schools in Tanah Merah were SMK Ladang Kerilla, SK Ladang Kerilla, SK Sokor, SK Kampung Panjang and SK Tebing Tinggi while in Tumpat it was SK Pulau Beluru, it added.

The department said 788 teachers and other staff of the schools were also affected by the closure.

The department said it was monitoring the situation in the flood-affected areas and would make an announcement when the schools could re-open.

In Terengganu, State Education Department director Shafruddin Ali Hussin said only three of the 11 flood-hit schools in Terengganu remained closed.

The three schools affected by the floods were SK Kampung Sungai Las, SK Kampung Besut (both in Setiu) and SK Getang here. — Bernama

Kelantan floods: 30 schools to close tomorrow
The Star 2 Jan 17;

KOTA BARU: Thirty schools in Kelantan, namely in Pasir Mas, Tanah Merah, Kuala Krai and Tumpat, will be closed tomorrow due to floods.

The State Education Department in a statement here said the closure on the third day of the new school term would affect 9,501 students as well as 958 teachers and school staff.

Of the total, 7,746 students are from 18 schools in Pasir Mas, 953 students from five schools in Tanah Merah, 588 students from six schools in Kuala Krai and 214 students from a school in Tumpat.

The schools in Pasir Mas are Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Kampung Baru, SK Rahmat, SK Gual Tokdeh, SK Rantau Panjang, SK Lubok Stol, SK Sri Rantau Panjang 2, SK Kok Pauh, SK Sri Rantau Panjang 1, Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan (SABK) Al Falah Siram, SABK Diniah Bongor, Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina (SJKC) Khay Boon, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Rantau Panjang, SMK Tiang Chandi, SMK Gual Tinggi, SK Kedai Tanjong, SK Bakong, SK Gual Sitok and SMK Gual Periok.

In Kuala Krai, the schools are SK Pemberian, SK Bahagia, SK Ladang Taku, SK Pasir Kelang, SK Kuala Nal and SABK Saadatul Qura.

The five schools in Tanah Merah are SMK Ladang Kerilla, SK Ladang Kerilla, SK Sokor, SK Kampung Panjang and SK Tebing Tinggi while in Tumpat, only SK Pulau Beluru will be closed.

The statement said the closure was due to flooded roads, which would be dangerous to students and teachers. - Bernama

Rantau Panjang worst-hit so far
The Star 3 Jan 17;

PETALING JAYA: Rantau Panjang town in Kelantan is entirely flooded, the worst-hit by floods in the state so far.

And the weatherman is predicting more rain over parts of Kelantan and Terengganu for today and tomorrow.

National Disaster Management Agency operations director Datuk Azizan Taat said although other areas showed signs of receding floods, the town located along the state’s border with Thailand was still badly affected.

“Sungai Golok in Rantau Panjang is still above the danger level of 9m. We hope things will not get worse, but it’s hard to say with this uncertain weather,” he said.

A total of 1,284 people were evacuated from their homes yesterday as Sungai Golok rose to 10.22m, flooding Rantau Panjang town entirely.

The victims from 351 families had been evacuated to 27 relief centres. In addition, there are 510 evacuees in Kuala Krai, followed by Tanah Merah (312), Jeli (283), Pasir Mas (100) and Machang (79).

Azizan said the Fire and Rescue Service Department, Civil Defence Force and several volunteer groups were helping the victims.

They include Umno’s welfare bureau, which is handing out food and other essential items to victims at evacuation centres.

“We have begun giving aid to victims in Pasir Mas and will go to Machang, Tanah Merah, Kuala Krai and Jeli,” said bureau chief Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah.

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Malaysia: Dark clouds over production of greens

BEH YUEN HUI The Star 3 Jan 17;

PETALING JAYA: Farmers are praying for sunny days ahead of Chinese New Year to ensure there is a sufficient supply of vegetables for the festival.

Federation of Vegetable Farmers Associations Malaysia secretary-general Chay Ee Mong said vegetable production nationwide had dropped by 30% to 40% due to bad weather.

“Production has been affected as it has been cloudy and raining a lot since last month.

“We hope the weather will improve soon so we can increase production and consumers can enjoy lower prices of vegetables during Chinese New Year,” he added.

Chay said prices for some vegetables such as cabbage, spinach and choy sum had gone up this month.

The price of cabbage had gone up by RM1.30 per kilo, from RM2.50 per kilo last month, to RM3.80 now.

The price for Chinese cabbage has gone up by 50 sen, from RM2 per kilo last month to RM2.50.

Vegetable importer Datuk Seri Teh Meng Huat said the most popular vegetables for Chinese New Year such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrot and leek were from China.

“With the weakening ringgit, prices of these vegetables will surely go up,” he said, adding that prices of imported vegetables had gone up by 30% since last October.

He said the price of imported cauliflower was RM3 per kilo during last year’s Chinese New Year.

It is now RM7 per kilo.

Teh said vegetable importers had reduced their supply for the local market due to higher cost and a drop in demand.

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2016 in Review: Indonesia's Conservation Game, Strong

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 2 Jan 17;

Jakarta. Home to a huge diversity of flora and fauna, Indonesia has always been in the spotlight when it comes to environmental conservation. And in 2016, Indonesia finally seemed to wake up to the fact it simply has to take on a leading role to protect the planet's dwindling forest reserves.

And it took on the role better than expected, too, unexpectedly managing to reduce the number of forest fires across its archipelago in 2016.

The country has the third largest area of tropical rainforests in the world, and the trauma of the 2015 massive forest fires seemed to have spurred the government into action.

As they say, good things rose from the ashes, and apart from fewer forest fires, 2016 also saw more sanctions for forest arsonists and, finally, a slight hope that real environmental conservation may actually take hold in the country.

Fewer fires, more forests saved

Many praised Indonesia for making much better effort at preventing forest fires in 2016 than it did in 2015.

Most attributed the success to the moratorium on palm oil concessions, which forced palm oil companies to get creative on replanting, as well as adhere to the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil certification and the internationally accredited RSPO certification.

Or maybe it was due to a push from an unexpected source: the Indonesian Ulema Council, which issued a fatwa prohibiting Muslims from burning forests.

But the World Resources Institute said the success could have been due to a more natural cause: weather conditions. 2016 was cooler than in the last few years and there were more rains, which naturally resulted in fewer forest fires.

According to WRI data, there were 73 percent fewer fire alerts raised this year than in 2015.

In 2016, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry also won a $76 million civil lawsuit against Sampoerna Strategic Group's agribusiness unit National Sago Prima for partly causing the 2015 massive forest fires.

A study claimed that haze from the 2015 fires severely affected more than 100,000 people, with the World Bank estimating that the environmental losses ran to the tune of more than $16 billion.

The ministry also claimed that more than a million hectares of forest have been recovered this year. The country also scored a Guinness World Record for planting more than 238,000 trees within an hour – good news any way you look at it.

Flag off for FLEGT

Indonesia — often accused of harboring illegal loggers — also witnessed the world’s first FLEGT-licensed timber export from Indonesia to the European Union in November.

The Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) license allows Indonesia to expedite its timber exports to EU countries. The license guarantees that Indonesia's timber comes from certified sources and that the producers stick rigidly to good forest governance during production.

Indonesia had signed up for the FLEGT to combat illegal logging and prove Indonesia’s serious commitment in environmental conservation.

The decision also provided a competitive edge for Indonesia against other timber-producing countries. Indonesia's FLEGT license was the first to be given out by the EU.

Race to extinction

Global leaders established a worldwide ban on pangolin trade during the 17th Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites) in South Africa in October. This was excellent news for Indonesia, whose Sunda pangolins are often targeted by poachers.

As the most commonly trafficked mammal in the world, Indonesia saw its population of pangolines decline by 80 percent in the last 20 years, with the shy nocturnal animal commonly being killed and its meat sold as a delicacy in niche markets like China.

No one knows how many pangolins are left in the wild in Indonesia, but if its illegal trade keeps going at the current rate, Indonesia may soon lose another "race to extinction" involving one of its endemic wildlife.

Other animals native to Indonesia still at risk of extinction include the Sumatran rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans.

The Bornean cousins of Sumatran orangutan also saw a slump in population, leading the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to categorize Bornean orangutans as "critically endangered," thanks to rampant habitat degradation and poaching.

Asia's endangered tigers, some of them in Indonesia, also saw a dramatic fall in population numbers as the illegal wildlife trade's appetite for their body parts — which supposedly have magical healing or aphrodisiac properties — shows no sign of abating.

Cited also issued a stronger conservation regulation for the critically endangered helmeted hornbill, shining a limelight on the illegal trade for its "red ivory."

Mount Leuser gets buzz from Hollywood royalty

Though major losses of biodiversity are still happening across the archipelago, thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio’s visit to the Mount Leuser National Park in March, habitat degradation in Indonesia has now become a worldwide cause célèbre.

Illegal logging, overlapping palm oil concessions and poaching are nevertheless still threatening the Mount Leuser ecosystem, known as the only place in the world where rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans cohabit.

Footage of the Mount Leuser National Park was included in DiCaprio’s environmental documentary, Before the Flood, which highlighted the impacts of climate change on a global scale.

Despite its newfound fame, though, the national park is still facing a lot of threats, especially after losing a civil lawsuit to include Mount Leuser in Aceh's spatial development plan for 2013-2033.

The loss meant the Aceh government can allow palm oil producers to establish a plantation inside the ecosystem, which will undoubtedly cause even more environmental damage.

Ratifying Paris Agreement, implementing goals

Saving the best for last, the highlight in 2016 for Indonesia on the environmental front was its ratification of the Paris Agreement.

Since Indonesia is already one of the largest carbon emitters in the world, ratifying the Paris Agreement not only showed the country’s seriousness in climate change mitigation, but also its willingness to contribute to world change.

This means the country may now welcome more sustainable development, including green buildings, renewable energy and smart cities.

After ratifying it in 2016, Indonesia will start to implement points in the agreement in 2017, starting reportedly with improving law enforcement in its conservation efforts.

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