Best of our wild blogs: 9 Jan 17

Oil spill at East Johor Strait: YOUR sightings
wild shores of singapore

Are we helping or harming when we 'clean' oiled mangroves?
wild shores of singapore

Hainan bans the sale of giant clams
Neo Mei Lin

Flower Crab (Portunus pelagicus) with Parasitic Barnacle (Diplothylacus sinensis) @ Changi
Monday Morgue

Read more!

Changi Beach reopens following completion of oil spill cleanup

The Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Jan 17;

Operations to clean up Changi beach and Noordin beach at Pulau Ubin have been completed, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday.

The beaches were left covered with a black, tar-like substance after an oil spill in Johor on Tuesday night.

The 800m stretch at Changi beach, which was closed due to the clean-up, has also been re-opened to the public.

The NEA said it has also been monitoring the seawater at Changi beach, Punggol beach and Pasir Ris beach.


"Test results have shown that the seawater quality is normal," the agency said, adding that it will continue to monitor the water quality.

The oil spill was caused by a collision between two vessels off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor, which caused 300 tonnes of oil spillage after damage to one of the vessel's bunker tanks.

The beaches at Changi, Punggol and Pasir Ris were all affected, and more than 200 personnel were required to clean them.

Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority has also issued suspension of sales to 12 fish farms as a result of the oil spill.

Read more!

Satellite tracking of migratory birds to take flight this year

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 9 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — The National Parks Board (NParks) will launch a two-year project this year to find out more about the lives of 22 shorebirds via satellite tracking.

The solar-powered satellite tracking devices, weighing 5 or 9.5g each, will be attached to birds such as Whimbrels, Common Greenshanks, Bar-tailed Godwits and Grey Plovers to find out where they travel to and stop.

The results will increase the effectiveness of conservation along the pathways used by these migratory species, said NParks.

Singapore is one of 22 countries along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF), which extends from the Arctic Circle through East and South-east Asia to Australia and New Zealand.

Among the world’s nine recognised flyways, the EAAF supports the greatest diversity and populations of migratory birds — over 50 million from over 250 populations — but has the highest number of threatened migratory species.

In Singapore, some migratory birds stay throughout the northern winter, while others use the country as a springboard for the next leg of their journey. The tracking devices will provide researchers with more precise and accurate information.

As the devices should weigh no more than 3 per cent of a bird’s weight to limit the burden imposed on the animal, only certain species can be tracked. The 9.5g devices will also be used only on larger birds such as the Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit, said NParks senior conservation officer David Li.

The devices also do not entail recapturing the tagged animals, unlike a battery-powered device called a geolocator, which NParks used on 99 Common Redshanks between 2014 and last year.

The geolocators weighed 1g and cost over S$200 each, said Mr Li. Between September 2015 and March last year, seven of the tagged birds were recaptured, and data from the geolocators revealed previously unknown information about them.

The Common Redshank’s breeding areas are spread far out, from Tibet and Xinjiang to Mongolia and Russia.

Through the geolocators, NParks learnt that two major stopovers of the Common Redshanks found in Singapore, were the coasts of central to southern Thailand to south-eastern Myanmar, as well as Sichuan province in China.

Data suggested that the adults bred in the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau, while the recaptured juveniles remained mostly in Singapore and travelled up to Thailand.

“Earlier, we didn’t know where our birds went ... With this study, we can see there are a few major stopovers,” said Mr Li. “So probably, we can, when opportunities arise, work with agencies there.”

The geolocators record data such as light, temperature, wet and dry conditions and the conductivity of water (to tell if the birds are in saltwater or fresh water), which experts then interpret.

For instance, the light logger can tell experts if the bird is incubating, and for how long.

Bird-ringing has also grown more sophisticated: Green-over-white flags began to be used from 2003 to indicate the birds were ringed and flagged in Singapore.

And in 2012, engraved alphanumeric characters on the flags were used to give each captured bird a unique identifier. Between 1990 and 2015, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve ringed more than 11,000 birds from 142 species.

About 2,000 migratory shorebirds roost and feed in its 130ha area each year and 254 bird species have been recorded there, of which 123 are migratory species and 34 are known to nest in the Arctic region.

Despite many species’ numbers being on the decline in the EAAF, the populations of some species such as the Whimbrel and Common Greenshank have been stable at Sungei Buloh.

NParks has also recaptured and observed birds banded nearly two decades ago, gaining important information on the longevity of their species. Among other ways, NParks helps migratory birds by clearing overgrown vegetation on raised embankments in brackish ponds, as some birds prefer to roost on higher ground.

Singapore hosts two migratory bird events for the first time
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 9 Jan 17;

For the first time, Singapore is hosting two events aimed at protecting migratory birds that use a major pathway called the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF).

On the agenda: The protection of a critically endangered shorebird called the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, of which an estimated 150 breeding pairs are left in the world.

The EAAF is one of nine globally recognised flyways and spans 22 countries, extending from the Arctic Circle through East and Southeast Asia to Australia and New Zealand.

It supports over 50 million migratory birds from over 250 populations and has the highest number of threatened migratory species.

The first event, the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative EAAF Workshop, began yesterday and ends tomorrow. It brings together 80 government representatives, experts, researchers and conservationists from 20 countries.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Manpower, Mr Sam Tan, opened the workshop at Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve, a key stopover for Arctic migratory birds.

The Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative is a project under the Arctic Council’s Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna working group. Singapore has been a permanent observer on the Arctic Council since 2013.

Participants will discuss priorities for intertidal habitat preservation in Southeast Asia, Yellow Sea conservation, demonstration projects and illegal bird hunting.

Yesterday, experts highlighted the urgency of saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, whose populations have been hit by habitat loss, hunting and climate change.

An estimated 400 to 500 individuals are left in the wild, and it is the rarest migratory species, said Dr Christoph Zockler, coordinator of the EAAF Partnership Spoon-billed Sandpiper Taskforce.

The bird breeds in Russia and passes through Korea, Japan and other Yellow Sea intertidal areas, spending northern winters in Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, eastern China and Vietnam.

It is rarely sighted further south and was last seen in Singapore in the 1990s.

Dr Zockler and other researchers recently used satellite tags on three Spoon-billed Sandpipers to uncover previously unknown sites used by the bird: Hangzhou Bay and sites in southern Fujian province. Work is also underway to tackle illegal mist-netting in Fujian.

From Wednesday to Sunday, the biennial EAAF Partnership Meeting of Partners will be held, bringing together participants from countries including China, Russia and the United States.

The partnership is an informal, voluntary initiative for international cooperation to protect the flyway’s migratory birds and their habitats; its partners include governments and non-government organisations.

Efforts in one country will be much less effective if migratory bird populations are suffering in another, said EAAF Partnership chief executive Spike Millington. “You have to take care of these birds all along the flyway,” he said.

National Parks Board (NParks) group director (conservation) Wong Tuan Wah said Singapore was happy to share best practices and learn from others.

NParks will conduct training workshops on wetland management in the second half of this year and open them to wetland habitat managers from the EAAF.

NParks to track migratory birds in two-year study
Samantha Boh, The Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Jan 17;

The travel times, stopovers and breeding patterns of Singapore's avian tourists are being placed under scrutiny here, as the National Parks Board (NParks) launches a two-year satellite tracking project on 22 migratory birds which travel to Singapore in the winter months.

The data will play a critical role in the survival of various species which use the Republic as a stopover point to feed and rest before continuing their arduous journey as far north as the Arctic Circle.

"Before we started using tracking technology, we did not know precisely where the birds go... With technology, we know who specifically to work with," explained NParks senior conservation officer David Li, speaking on the sidelines of the first Arctic migratory birds workshop held in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve yesterday.

"With these studies, we know which countries they go to for major stopovers, for instance, and sharing such information with those countries will help in setting up bird conservation projects there."

The shorebirds being tracked include whimbrels, bar-tailed godwits, common greenshanks and grey plovers.

With the new satellite trackers, researchers will be able to tell exactly where they are in real time, without having to recapture them.

The devices weigh either 5g or 9.5g and are solar-powered.

The study is likely to start in March.

The upcoming project builds on NParks' efforts to tap technology to obtain previously unknown information about birds.

Between September 2015 and last March, NParks recaptured seven common redshanks tagged with geo-locators, which can detect light and are used to record the location of the birds based on sunset and sunrise.

It learnt that the birds' main stopovers include the Inner Gulf of Thailand and that they breed at the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau in China.

The catch, however, was that the birds had to be caught again for the data to be analysed.

Nearly 100 delegates from 35 organisations and 22 countries attended the workshop yesterday, where they discussed the conservation of Arctic birds along the East Asian- Australasian Flyway, which extends from within the Arctic Circle southwards through East and South-east Asia, to Australia and New Zealand.

Sungei Buloh annually enjoys "winter holiday visits" by more than 2,000 Arctic migratory birds of more than 30 different species.

"Essentially, you have to take care of these birds all along the flyway. For instance, if you are making big efforts in Singapore but actually the birds are suffering more in other parts of the flyway like China or Australia, then it is much less effective," said Mr Spike Millington, chief executive of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership.

"It is really imperative we have international co-operation so that the birds are protected and conserved all the way along the flyway when they make their journey down south in the autumn and back in the spring."

Read more!

In a first, pre-schoolers to take part in annual recycling drive

TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 9 Jan 17;

Singapore — Some pre-schoolers in the South West District will now be taught how to identify recyclable trash and even to sort it.

This is part of the annual recycling drive organised by the South West Community Development Council and the National Environment Agency (South West Regional Office), to encourage residents to recycle items, which can then be exchanged for groceries.

For the first time, 360 children from two pre-schools, NTUC’s My First Skool in Kang Ching and in Yung An, are involved in this drive.

The organisers also hope to rope in more pre-schools in the district in future to participate in this drive, known as Clean Up South West!

From Jan 3 to Jan 26, the children will start identifying and collecting their families’ recyclables, and bringing them to collection points at their pre-schools.

At the end of this period, they will be involved in sorting out and weighing the recyclable items, with their teachers guiding them.

When the exercise ends, the items will be redeemed for groceries, which will go to needy residents in the area.

“When good habits form in childhood, they can stay with us for a lifetime,” said South West District Mayor and Member of Parliament (Chua Chu Kang) Low Yen Ling.

“When we have our pre-schoolers start recycling at a very young age, we’re also nurturing in them a keen sense of the need to take care of the environment. At the same time, we’re teaching them the importance of looking after people who are less privileged.”

My First Skool (Kang Ching) principal Rita Lim added: “We’ve always been teaching the children how to recycle, but now they have the opportunity to practise what they’ve learnt in a community setting.”

The drive is now into its 12th year, and Ms Low noted that there has been more awareness of recycling among residents. In 2006, when the drive was launched, 14 tonnes of paper and 19 tonnes of clothing were collected.

A decade later, this has jumped to 81.3 tonnes of paper and 32.2 tonnes of clothing. In all, from 2006 to last year, 737.5 tonnes of recyclable items were collected, according to statistics from South West CDC.

Read more!

Malaysia: Perlis on flood alert as two major rivers reach 'warning' levels

ADIE SURI ZULKEFLI New Straits Times 9 Jan 17;

KANGAR: Two rivers in Perlis reached their ‘warning’ level this morning following several hours of continuous downpour yesterday.

As of 6am today, Sungai Jarum’s water level reading was 33.4 metres, 0.1 metre above the warning level, with a rising trend detected.

Sungai Chuchoh also showed a rising trend, with the latest water level measurement at 37.88 metres, which is 0.08 metre above the warning level.

The reading at Sungai Repoh slightly exceeded the normal level of 4 metres, with the current reading at 4.42m.

According to a spokesman for the Perlis Civil Defence Force (APM), there has been no rainfall at most locations across the state since this morning. However, he said relevant authorities will continue to monitor the situation.

Floods continue to recede in T'ganu, 204 evacuees remain in shelters
ZARINA ABDULLAH New Straits Times 9 Jan 17;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Only two relief centres, sheltering 204 victims from 58 families, remain open in two districts here this morning.

The evacuee tally is a decrease from the 251 people registered at three relief centres in Kuala Terengganu and Dungun last night.

As flood waters have been receding, more people were allowed to return home in the early morning.

The state flood watch portal reports that as of 8am today, the worst-hit district of Kuala Terengganu has 126 people from 38 families sheltered at SK Gemuroh, compared to 173 people from 49 families housed at two relief centres last night.

In Dungun, evacuee numbers amount to 78 people from 20 families, all housed at SK Durian Mentangau.

Meanwhile, state Education Department director Shafruddin Ali Hussin said only two primary schools in Kuala Terengganu remain closed due to the flood situation today.

The schools, being used as relief centres, are SK Gemuroh and SK Bukit Guntong. State Health Department head Dr Mohammad Omar said Pasir Akar Dental clinic in Besut and Pelong Clinic in Setiu remain closed due to the floods.

Read more!

Malaysia: Researchers to monitor jumbos closely

The Star 9 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife resear­­chers are now working even harder to keep watch on the 10 bull elephants which are equipped with satellite collars following the killing of two males by poachers.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goosens said the animals are being monitored daily.

“It is not easy but it is something we have to do,” he said yesterday.

He added the recent death of an elephant with its unique tusks was a learning experience for the wildlife researchers.

The bull elephant in question had its tusks in reverse position and researchers took to naming it “Sabre”.

Goosens said researchers had captured Sabre on Oct 7 and re­­leased it the following day.

“Like other bull elephants, when Sabre moved to an area, it would remain in that locality for some time before moving to another location,” he added.

He said it was for this reason researchers were not worried about Sabre until the discovery of another bull elephant carcass near the Kawag Forest Reserve on Dec 27.

He said Sabah Wildlife Depart­ment was notified after researchers noticed that there was no movement from Sabre’s collar.

Goosens said wildlife rangers, with the assistance of plantation workers, tracked down Sabre’s carcass just outside the Ulu Segama forest reserve four days later.

The carcasses were discovered about 1.5km apart.

Researchers believe Sabre was killed sometime on Nov 27.

Dr Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam, a WRU veterinarian who took part in Sabre’s rescue and relocation, said it appeared that there were no safe places for the elephants in Sabah anymore.

There are an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 pygmy elephants in Sabah forests.

Read more!

Indonesia: Post-flood recovery in Bima may take three years

Panca Nugraha The Jakarta Post 8 Jan 17;

The process of rehabilitation and reconstruction following a series of flash floods that hit Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, late last year is predicted to take up to three years given the widespread impacts of the disaster.

The estimation was made during a meeting to compose a rehabilitation and reconstruction plan of action. The meeting involved the National Development Planning Agency’s (Bappenas) director for villages, transmigration and disadvantaged regions, Sumedi Andono Mulyo, the agency’s land and spatial planning director, Uke M. Hussein, and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s (BNPB) deputy chairman for rehabilitation and reconstruction, Hermansyah, at the Bima mayor's office on Friday.

Led by Bima deputy mayor Rahman H. Abidin, the meeting was also attended by head of River Management Agency (BWS) Nusa Tenggara 1 Asdin Julaidy, head of the West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) chapter of the National Road Agency Nikmatullah and NTB Public Works Agency head Wedha Magma Ardi, as well as members of the Bima joint disaster mitigation team.

“In the meeting, it was predicted that the Bima post-flooding rehabilitation and reconstruction process could take up to 36 months or around three years,” Bima administration protocol and human relations head Syahrial Nuryaddin said in a press statement on Friday.

Citing directives of two Bappenas officials attending the meeting, Syahrial said the first stage of the rehabilitation and reconstruction process, which could last between two and six months, will be focused on improving sociocultural and economic conditions as well as preparing the revisions of spatial planning and the master plan of Bima city.

Meanwhile, the second stage, planned to span between six and 12 months, will develop basic facilities as well as economic, transportation and communication facilities.

“The third stage, with a time schedule of three to 36 months, is for the restructuring of houses and settlement compounds, the rehabilitation of upstream areas and the restructuring of river basin areas,” said Syahrial. (ebf)

Read more!