Best of our wild blogs: 25 Jan 17

Year of the Red Jungle Rooster
Singapore Bird Group

Read more!

Sentosa to roll out bike-sharing scheme

Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: A bicycle-sharing scheme is in the works at the resort island of Sentosa.

A Sentosa Development Corporation spokesperson said on Tuesday (Jan 24) that the fleet of bicycles will be by unmanned docking stations at different points across the island for visitors to rent and return them.

“Many of the island’s gems such as native greenery, wildlife, marine ecosystem and heritage buildings are accessible only on foot or bicycle. Hence, with the implementation of this bicycle-sharing scheme, guests will enjoy enhanced access to the island’s pristine and quiet natural environment,” said Ms Susan Ang, divisional director of island investment at Sentosa Development Corporation.

Sentosa said it is currently looking into the possibility of using contactless modes of payment - such as credit or debit cards - at the unmanned rental stops.

The statutory board launched a tender for the project on Friday, which will close in April. The project will be rolled out in three phases. The first phase is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2018, starting with the replacement of existing bicycle rental facilities. Several unmanned docking stations are also expected to be installed in the first phase along the beach areas.

The second phase will see the deployment of the kiosks expanded to other parts of Sentosa - such as Imbiah, Merlion Plaza, Sentosa Cove and the hotels - excluding the golf courses and Mount Serapong, while the third phase will improve the linkage to mainland Singapore.

- CNA/ek

Read more!

Malaysia: Nine states hit by floods, thousands evacuated

The Star 25 Jan 17;

PETALING JAYA: Floods have affected almost all the states in the country, with thousands of people having to be evacuated to relief centres.

Many areas in Johor, Selangor, Perak, Malacca, Kelantan, Sabah, Sarawak, Pahang and Negri Sembilan are flooded.

Johor residents are now re-living the floods of 2006 and 2011, which caused millions of ringgit in damage and brought communications to a standstill.

In Perak, about 400 people from four districts were relocated after their homes were hit by flash floods.

Pantai Remis was badly hit when the flood water levels rose to two metres at Kampung Kilang, Kampung Pulau Meranti, Taman Anggerik Permai, Kampung Kasi, Jalan Sitiawan and Kampung Paya Ara.

In Selangor, heavy rains since Monday evening displaced 152 residents from 45 families, who are now housed at two evacuation centres in Sabak Bernam.

In Malacca, the state activated its flood and disaster management committee following an incessant downpour for two days.

Several rivers in Alor Gajah and Jasin threatened to burst their banks, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron.

In Kota Baru, a total of 3,344 flood victims in Kelantan were sheltered at 24 evacuation centres in Kota Baru, Pasir Puteh, Pasir Mas and Kuala Krai.

Sungai Golok in Rantau Panjang is at 9.64m compared to 9.83m on Tuesday night – exceeding the 9m danger level.

In Kota Kinabalu, relief workers airlifted food and water to some 1,000 villagers trapped in Pitas district after access to their area was cut off.

Sabah Civil Defence Department director Kol Mulliada al-Hamdi Ladin said the residents from 10 villages decided to stay put when the floods started about four days ago as they believed that the weather would return to normal very soon.

“They did not think that the floods would go on for days and many have run out of supplies as they have no way to get to town to buy food and other essentials,” said Kol Mulliada to the media yesterday.

In Miri, eight primary schools in Bintulu and Miri have remained closed since yesterday due to floods, affecting 460 pupils.

Sarawak Disaster Management Committee Secretariat chief Majar Ismail Mahedin said five other primary schools, in Bintulu and Miri, involving 599 pupils were also flooded but stayed open.

In Seremban, a school had to be shut down due to floods, said Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon.

He said the access road to SJK(T) Ladang Bukit Kledek in Gemencheh, Tampin, was flooded, preventing the 17 pupils and 11 teachers from getting to school.

“They are temporarily carrying on with lessons at the nearby SK Air Kuning Selatan,” he added.

In Kuantan, a family of six from Kampung Sungai Lik, Lipis, became the first flood victims in Pahang following heavy rain since Monday.

The water levels at major rivers in the state were also rising.

8,204 evacuated as flash floods hit eight districts in Johor
KATHLEEN ANN KILI The Star 25 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: Eight of 10 districts in Johor have been hit by floods bringing the total number of evacuees to 8,204 from 2,428 families housed in 70 relief centres statewide as of early Wednesday morning.

Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said that Muar was the latest district to be affected by floods with 90 victims evacuated and placed at the Dewan Semai Bakti Gugusan Felda Moakil relief centre.

"Segamat remained the worst hit, as the number of flood victims increased to 6,609 involving 2,012 families in 50 centres as of 6am on Wednesday.

"Kota Tinggi recorded 1,003 victims followed by Tangkak with 157 evacuees, Kluang (135), Mersing (111), Muar (90), Johor Baru (88) and 11 victims in Batu Pahat," he said in a statement here.

Ayub added that the only two districts remained unaffected were Pontian and Kulai.

He also said that many of the roads closed on Tuesday remained cordoned off except for Batu 3 and Batu 9 of Jalan Mawai as well as Jalan Lukut Cina in Kota Tinggi.

In Segamat, Jalan Jabi - Bukit Tempurung, Jalan Utama Felda Pemanis, Seksyen 2 to Seksyen 6 of Jalan Segamat - Kuantan and Jalan Felda Kemelah are still affected by floods.

Ayub added that flood waters have also cut off access to roads leading up to Kampung Orang Asli Sedohok as well as Kampung Orang Asli Berasau, Kampung Orang Asli Air Pasir and Kuala Sengka and in Kahang, Kluang.

Johor floods worsen, Kelantan on road to recovery

JOHOR BARU: The number of flood victims in Johor has risen to 2,051 as of noon from 1,089 at 8am.
The 2,051 were from 470 families who have been evacuated to 29 relief centres in five districts following the torrential rain which hit Johor.

Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat, in a statement, said that as of noon, Segamat recorded 206 victims from 47 families living in Kampung Lembah Bakti, Kampung Orang Asli Segamat Kechil, Kampung Bukit Tunggal, Kampung Gelang Chincin, Kampung Melayu Raya and Kampung Paya Lebar.

The six relief centres opened earlier in Segamat were Dewan SJK(C) Ai Chun, Balai Raya Segamat Kechil, Balai Raya Kampung Bukit Tunggal, Balai Raya Kampung Gelang Chincin, Balai Raya Kampung Orang Asli and Balai Raya Kampug Paya Lebar.

The additional relief centres opened were Sekolah Kampung Sawah Baru, Balai Raya Kampung Batu Badak, Balai Raya Kampung Berata, Kampung Pogoh Tengah, Sekolah Agama Medoi, Balairaya Jalan Pemuda , Sekolah Agama Kampung Jawa, SK Batu Anam, Sekolah Agama Ismail Ariffin and SK Kampung Tenang.

Tangkak saw 99 victims from 26 families in Kampung Melempang Sagil seeking temporary shelter at Balai Raya Kampung Melepang, SK Serom and SK Sialang.

Kota Tinggi recorded 1,082 victims from 221 families living in Kampung Tersusun Seri Delima, Kampung Baru Sungai Mas and Taman Mawai who were relocated to Dewan Kota Kechil, Balai Raya Kampung Tersusun Seri Delima, Surau Kampung Baru Sungai Mas and Rumah Ketua Kampung Baru Sungai Mas.

Meanwhile, Batu 3 and Batu 9 of Jalan Mawai, both in Kota Tinggi have been closed due to the flood and are accessible only by light vehicles.

In Batu Pahat, there were 30 victims from seven families relocated to the Balai Raya Kampung Sengkuang.

Kluang recorded 50 victims from 12 families at the Dewan Kampung Parit Hasan and Dewan Kampung Kolam Air.

In Johor Baru, 90 victims from 20 families were evacuated to SK Nam Heng in Ulu Tiram and Sekolah Agama Kampung Cahaya Baru Masai.

A total of 30 victims from five families in Kampung Sengkuang Sri Gading in Batu Pahat were relocated to Balai Raya Kampung Sengkuang Sri Gading.

Meanwhile, in KELANTAN, the number of flood victims in the state dropped to 2,858 people as of 1pm today, compared with 4,440 recorded yesterday afternoon.

According to the Social Welfare Department via its Infobanjir application, 18 evacuation centres remained open at Kota Bharu, Pasir Puteh, Kuala Krai and Pasir Mas.

Pasir Puteh recorded the highest number of victims with 2,548 people (697 families) at 10 evacuation centres, while Pasir Mas housed 180 victims (59 families) at three centres.

According to the state government website,, the water level at Sungai Golok in Rantau Panjang is the only river which still stood above the danger level of 9m, at 9.59 metres currently.

The readings for Sungai Kelantan at Jambatan Guillemard, Tanah Merah also increased to 12.85 metres compared with 12.71 metres recorded at 11am today. Meanwhile, the water level at other main rivers have returned to normal.

More evacuated as flood worsens in Pahang, Johor and Negri Sembilan
T. N. ALAGESH AND NOR AIN MOHAMED RADHI New Straits Times 25 Jan 17;

KUANTAN: The number of flood victims in Pahang jumped to 1,328 people or 351 families as of 6am this morning, with 34 relief centres being opened in seven districts.

Pahang Civil Defence Force director Zainal Yusoff said the increase was significant as there were only 352 people from 93 families being moved to 18 relief centres as of 11.30pm last night.

In Lipis, 58 people from 13 familes are still seeking shelter at two relief centres in the district.

"In Raub, 169 people from 45 families were evacuated to nine relief centres in the district.

"While in Jerantut, 120 people from 30 families were evacuated to five relief centres after their houses were inundated by flood water.

He said the prolonged rain has caused relief centres being opened in Kuantan, Rompin, Maran and Pekan.

In Kuantan, 277 victims from 77 families were evacuated at five relief centres.

"In Rompin, 69 flood victims from 19 families are now seeking shelter at three relief centres."

Zainal said in Maran, 182 people from 61 families are being sheltered at five relief centres, while in Pekan there are 453 people from 106 families at five relief centres.

Meanwhile in JOHOR BARU, the number of flood victims evacuated from their homes have increased to 8,204 as of 6am with 70 relief centres in operation and eight districts in the state reportedly affected by flood.

Comparatively, at 10pm last night, only six districts were flooded with the victims numbering 6,345.

Segamat is the worst hit district with a total of 6,609 victims in 50 relief centres, followed by Kota Tinggi (1,003) in six centres, Mersing (111) and Muar (90) in one centre each.

Tangkak sheltered 157 victims while Kluang (135) in two centres each, followed by Johor Baru (88) and Batu Pahat (11) two centres.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said this leaves Kulai and Pontian yet to be affected by the tragedy.

A total of nine roads in the state remain closed to traffic.

In GEMAS, Negri Sembilan, a total of 66 people from Taman Sungai Gemas here were evacuated to a relief centre after their homes were flooded early this morning.

The group was evacuated to Dewan Besar Gemas around 2am.

Gemas State Fire and Rescue Department chief Syed Ammar Syed Abbas said prolonged heavy rains have resulted in flash floods at several low lying area in the state.

"The floods were caused by rising water at Sungai Gemas, which overflowed and inundated these low-lying areas," he said.

"We received reports around 2am and deployed a team consist of 10 firemen to the affected area to help with the evacuation process.

He said the situation is under control and only one relief centre has been opened at the moment.

"As of 7am today, the water level has dropped. However, we will monitor the situation today before the victims are allowed to return home." he said. -- Additional reporting by Chuah Bee Kim and Nur Aqidah Azizi

Over 2,000 Johor residents affected by floods
Today Online 24 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU — Residents affected by flooding in Johor increased to 2,051 as of noon on Tuesday (Jan 24), up from 1,089 at 8am, as heavy rainfall continued to pound many parts of peninsular Malaysia and Borneo.

According to Johor Flood Management Committee chairman Ayub Rahmat, 29 evacuation centres were opened on Monday in five districts, Kluang, Kota Tinggi, Johor Baru, Tangkak and Segamat.

“Kota Tinggi recorded the highest number of flood victims at 838 from 164 families,” Mr Rahmat was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama on Tuesday.

Mr Rahmat also reminded residents to abide by instructions given by enforcement authorities to evacuate, and to mind their health.

Flood victims seeking shelter in an evacuation centre in Kota Kechil, which is one hour away from Johor Baru received a surprise royal visit on Tuesday.

Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar spent over 20 minutes mingling with the victims, The Star Online reported.

“I decided to visit Kota Tinggi, while my son Tunku Temenggong of Johor Tunku Idris Iskandar will be visiting flood victims in Segamat,” the Sultan said. Segamat is approximately two and a half hours away from the Johor Bahru city centre.

The Sultan said that early preparations by the state government in forming a committee of floods had eased the evacuation process.

Sultan Ibrahim also advised parents not to allow their children to play in flood waters to avoid untoward incidents.

The floods in Johor has also caused several stretches of road in Segamat and Kota Tinggi to be closed to light vehicles, the Johor Public Works Department said.

Meanwhile, the number of flood victims in Kelantan showed a slight decrease as it dropped to 2,858 people as of 1pm on Tuesday compared to 4,440 on Monday afternoon.

According to the nation’s Social Welfare Department via its flood monitoring portal, 18 evacuation centres remained open at Kota Bharu, Pasir Puteh, Kuala Krai and Pasir Mas.

The water level at Golok River stood at 9.59 metres. The portal said the danger level at the river is 9 metres. Golok River borders Kelantan and the Thai province of Narathiwat.

In the northern state of Perak, incessant rain since Monday evening has displaced 334 people who have been moved to seven evacuation centres.

In Sabah, 824 people were affected by the floods. Nine primary schools in Sarawak will also be closed tomorrow and more than 800 pupils will be affected. AGENCIES

Read more!

Malaysia: Low water levels at dams in Kedah, Mada executes dry direct seeding method

EMBUN MAJID New Straits Times 24 Jan 17;

ALOR STAR: The Muda Agriculture Development Authority (Mada) will be implementing the dry direct seeding method in the first planting season for this year following the low water level recorded at its three dams in Kedah.

Its chairman Datuk Othman Aziz said the water level at Muda, Pedu and Ahning dams were recorded at 56.21 per cent, a plunge of 29 per cent as compared to the amount of water reserve recorded in the same period last year.

“The amount of water is not sufficient to cover the first farming season that will begin in March, so we have informed farmers under Mada to use the dry direct seeding method,” he told newsmen after delivering his new year address to Mada staff here today.

He said the dry direct seeding method would affect all 70,000 farmers working on 100,000 hectare of paddy land under Mada.

On another note, Othman said the ministry has agreed to look into the role played by the National Paddy and Rice Board (LPN) to monitor and control the country’s rice production. He said this would ensure that the rice quality and also the farmers’ hard work are protected.

Read more!

Indonesia's Riau province declares state of emergency to combat haze

Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 17;

JAKARTA: Indonesia's fire-prone Riau province declared a state of emergency on Tuesday (Jan 24), the disaster mitigation agency said, after President Joko Widodo urged regional authorities to avoid a repeat of fires that smothered Southeast Asia in haze in 2015.

Indonesia faces global pressure to put an end to slash-and-burn land clearances for palm and pulp plantations which send clouds of toxic smoke over the region each year.

Tuesday's move is intended to help Riau, which sits a stone's throw across the Malacca Strait from Singapore, to begin taking preventive steps as drier weather is expected in 2017 compared to 2016.

"The province of Riau today declared emergency status for forest and land fires for 96 days," National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho told Reuters.

This follows a similar move by Indonesia's Rokan Hulu and Dumai regencies in Riau, which raised their alerts over the weekend in anticipation of drier weather in the upcoming months. The emergency status would allow the central government to send aid to the regions.

The 2015 fires were among the worst on record, straining ties with neighbours, and costing Indonesia an estimated 220 trillion rupiah (US$16.5 billion) in economic losses, or about 1.9 per cent of gross domestic product, Mr Widodo's office has said.

Data from the state weather agency shows drier weather in store for Indonesia this year, which authorities fear could spark more fires.

"We hope that at the beginning of this year, there is planning and quick action (so) we can prevent forest and land fires in 2017," Mr Widodo said on Monday.

He called for preventive measures, tougher law enforcement, more community involvement, and better governance of private land and concessions.

"Check preparations for aerial operations, air patrols, rain making and water bombing. These have to move quickly from the start," the president said.

Mr Widodo thanked community stakeholders and authorities for their efforts to prevent and douse fires in 2016, when hotspots were reduced by 83 per cent.

"The reduction was drastic," he added.

($1=13,330 rupiah) (Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

- Reuters/CNA/nc

Read more!

Climate-ravaged corals recover poorly: study

Marlowe HOOD, AFP Yahoo News 25 Jan 17;

Paris (AFP) - Coral reefs that survive rapid bleaching fuelled by global warming remain deeply damaged, with little prospect of full recovery, researchers said Wednesday.

Sixteen years after the 1998 El Nino ravaged coral in the Indian Ocean's Seychelles archipelago, no reefs had recovered their original growth rates and barely a third were expanding at all, they reported in a study, the first to track coral health over a two-decade period.

As important, perhaps, were qualitative changes.

A dozen of 21 reefs tracked from 1994 were still struggling in 2014 against leafy algae, sea urchins and parrot fish to restore their original balance of shallow-water flora and fauna.

The rest underwent what marine biologists call a "regime shift", and are today composed of a new -- and far less diverse -- mix of corals.

"At any given site, there were at least 35 types of coral" in 1994, said lead author Fraser Januchowski-Hartley, a researcher from the University of Exeter. "Today, we see five to 10."

Four of the reefs only had two percent coral cover in 2014, and are likely to die out entirely.

Covering one percent of the ocean's area but home to a quarter of its biodiversity, coral reefs are extremely sensitive to temperature change.

They are also hugely important as incubators and habitat for thousands of marine species, and vital to the livelihoods of half-a-billion people around the world.

With barely one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of manmade warming so far, corals have been devastated by rapidly warming waters that cause them to turn white.

The UN estimates that a third of global coral reefs have already been destroyed.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the Maldives have been hit especially hard.

The cyclical weather phenomena known as El Nino, aggravated by climate change, is especially devastating -- the 2015-16 event was the most intense on record.

- Will coral reefs survive? -

Januchowski-Hartley and colleagues looked at a key measure of how well corals recover after such traumas that had mostly been overlooked: the rate at which their rock-like formations either build up or erode.

"Much of the work on recovery from bleaching has been on easily measurable metrics, such as coral cover or fish abundance," he told AFP.

Corals are nourished by microscopic algae, called dinoflagellates, that live in vast colonies on their surface.

The algae consume nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients derived from the coral, and use light to transform those substances into energy.

The photosynthesis also liberates energy in the coral's tissue, enabling it to build the calcium skeletons that provide a habitat for these single-cell organisms.

When the coral is under stress, it sheds the dinoflagellates and whitens.

In the Seychelles, none of the 21 reefs monitored was as robust as in 1994, according to the study, published in the Royal Society's Proceedings B.

The future looks even bleaker.

Even before the 2015-2016 El Nino, about 70 percent of the archipelago's reefs were set to go into decline, the study found.

To make matters worse, bleaching events are likely to occur more frequently as climate change deepens.

Will corals reefs survive? Yes and no, Januchowski-Hartley said.

"The picture-postcard reefs popularised by nature documentaries are likely to become much rarer by mid-century," he told AFP.

There will still be coral reefs, he added. But they will likely be biologically "impoverished" and will no longer support the ecosystems -- including humans -- they once did.

Read more!

Parrotfish are critical to coral reef health, study finds

Analysis reveals pivotal role of algae-eating fish in coral growth
University of California - San Diego Science Daily 23 Jan 17;

Scientists have developed a 3,000-year record of the abundance of parrotfish and urchins on reefs from the Caribbean side of Panama to help unravel the cause of the alarming modern-day shift from coral- to algae-dominated reefs occurring across the Caribbean.

An analysis of fossilized parrotfish teeth and sea urchin spines by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego showed that when there are more algae-eating fish on a reef, it grows faster.

In the new study, published in the Jan. 23 issue of the journal Nature Communications, Scripps researchers Katie Cramer and Richard Norris developed a 3,000-year record of the abundance of parrotfish and urchins on reefs from the Caribbean side of Panama to help unravel the cause of the alarming modern-day shift from coral- to algae-dominated reefs occurring across the Caribbean.

"Our reconstruction of past and present reefs from fossils demonstrates that when overfishing wipes out parrotfish, reef health declines," said Cramer, a postdoctoral researcher at Scripps and lead author of the study.

Algae-eating parrotfish, like other herbivorous reef fish, play an important role in coral reef ecosystems by removing the algae that compete with corals. According to the study, the decline in herbivorous fish such as parrotfish over the last several decades from fishing is considered a main factor in the shift to more algae-dominated reefs in the Caribbean.

The Scripps researchers examined the amount and composition of fish, coral, and urchin fossils in 3 to 5-meter (10 to 33-feet) long sediment cores from three reef sites offshore of Bocas del Toro, Panama to understand the natural state of the reefs before humans began intensive fishing and land clearing, and to assess the role of these activities in recent reef declines. The analysis was aimed at determining if coral growth rates are affected by change in the population levels of parrotfish or urchins that eat algae.

The core samples, extracted by the researchers using a portable coring system they operated underwater while scuba diving, included fossils ranging from those deposited during prehistoric times, as early as 997 BC, to those from the modern post-industrial age up to the 1980s, representing life on these reefs during a period of rapidly increasing human impacts to reef ecosystems.

Cramer and Norris then used the empirical dynamic modeling approach developed by Scripps ecologist George Sugihara and colleagues to assess cause-and-effect relationships in ecological systems. They found that coral growth is positively driven by the abundance of parrotfish on the reefs but not affected by sea urchin abundance.

"These findings reveal that parrotfish indeed have a positive and critical role in coral health, a hotly debated issue in coral reef research that cannot be resolved with studies of modern reefs which have already been greatly altered by human activities," said Cramer. "Using the fossil record to analyze the natural state of reefs before human disturbance, we have conclusively shown that if we want to protect corals we have to protect the parrotfish from overfishing."

"These results confirm the critical role of parrotfish in maintaining coral-dominated reef habitat and the urgent need for restoration of parrotfish populations to enable reef persistence," said the authors.

Read more!