Best of our wild blogs: 27 Feb 17

4 Mar (Sat): FREE Ubin Mangrove tour with R.U.M.!
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Wild fun for kids during the March school holidays!
wild shores of singapore

Garden Supple Skink (Lygosoma bowringii) @ Pulau Ubin
Monday Morgue

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Project to save horseshoe crab wins green prize in Singapore

Toh Wen Li Straits Times 23 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE - ITE College West student Eunos Chong had never met a horseshoe crab face to face until a project he started about two years ago made him passionate about protecting the endangered creatures.

As part of a project for the SembCorp Marine Green Wave Environmental Care Competition, Mr Chong, 18, and three of his schoolmates designed and manufactured a "Horseshoe Crab Propagation System", a system of tanks and an incubator for breeding and rearing horseshoe crabs.

And on Thursday (Feb 23), they took home the winning prize in the junior college/ ITE category for their project.

Mr Chong said the project aims to help repopulate horseshoe crab species in the wild, and encourage Singaporeans to learn more about them.

Horseshoe crabs have been around since before the dinosaur era. Despite their name, they are not crabs and only superficially resemble crustaceans. Instead, they are closely related to arachnids - a group that includes spiders and scorpions.

After the "back-breaking work" of fishing the horseshoe crab eggs - smaller than a green bean - from the shoreline at Kranji, the team placed the eggs in an incubator system equipped with an industrial temperature controller, air pumps and oxygen-booster to increase the hatch rate.

After the horseshoe crabs hatched, they were transferred to various tanks, including a hatching tank, nursing tank and display tank. It took them about eight months to design and manufacture the incubator and tank systems.

Mr Chong said the team has already bred "hundreds" of horsehoe crabs in captivity, and most have been released back into the wild.

He said he soon grew attached to the marine creatures, adding: "Initially, I was afraid to touch them. Their tails were intimidating... Later, it felt as though I was feeding my own child. You have to feed the horseshoe crabs gently, and tend to their needs."

Mr Chong and his teammates have already won $8,000 and a one-month work attachment with BP Singapore, but said it is still early days for the project. They hope to increase the survival rate of the horseshoe crabs from 20 to at least 50 per cent by making improvements to the system.

A total of 69 teams from primary and secondary schools, junior colleges, ITEs and tertiary institutions received prizes at the Marina Mandarin hotel on Thursday morning.

SembCorp Marine's Green Wave Environmental Care Competition for Schools, now in its 15th year, received 279 project submissions involving more 900 students in 2016.

The competition aims to give students a broader perspective of the environmental challenges faced by Singapore and other countries, by having them showcase practical ideas for environmental sustainability.

Other winning projects involved a "Water Saver" device designed by students from Northland Primary School, and a cellulose aerogel material designed by Hwa Chong Institution students to be more effective at soaking up oil spills.

The competition is organised by Sembcorp Marine, and co-sponsored by BP Shipping and Shell International Eastern Trading Company.

Sembcorp Marine's president and CEO Wong Weng Sun said: "We all agree that the increasingly thoughtful and sophisticated entries we see from each successive Green Wave competition bodes well for Singapore's long-term sustainability management."

Said Minister for Education Ng Chee Meng, who was guest-of-honour at the event: "We want to nurture our young to keep exploring beyond textbooks, and competitions like Green Wave provide them with an opportunity to identify real-life problems, work in teams, undertake research and come up with practical solutions."

He encouraged students to be enterprising, push boundaries, and get out of their comfort zones. Touching on the importance of "informal learning spaces", he urged parents not to focus too much on academic grades.

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Need to tap maids in drive to save water

Lin Yangchen, The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Feb 17;

Domestic workers take care of water-intensive activities such as washing and cooking. But they may not necessarily be aware of water- saving drives and messages, according to experts.

To help turn things around, some private and public organisations are planning to reach out, or have already engaged, these maids to acquaint them with the importance of conserving water.

The issue of saving water came under the spotlight after last Monday's Budget announcement that the Government is raising water prices by up to 30 per cent, the country's first such hike in 17 years.

This comes amid increasing concerns about Singapore's long-term water security.

Experts said the message about saving water may not be trickling down to many maids, going by their years of field experience and interactions with people in different countries. This is not helped by the fact that maids are not the ones paying the bills in Singapore.

Professor Asit Biswas of National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said the Republic is very different from developed cities in the West, because many of the middle and upper-class households have maids.

"No European or North American city has Singapore's unique characteristic of maids," said Prof Biswas, who has advised United Nations agencies and governments around the world on water security.

"And because the water price in Singapore is so low (relative to household income), the person in charge of water, for all practical purposes, is the maid."

While the price of potable water in major European cities ranges from about $5 to $8.50 per cu m, including taxes, that in Singapore is about $2 and will remain below $3 even after the 30 per cent hike.

Prof Biswas said the water-saving campaigns have mainly targeted Singaporeans, and this needs to be adjusted to educate maids too.

There are about 230,000 maids in Singapore, said the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support & Training (Fast).

Professor Ng Yew Kwang of Nanyang Technological University's Division of Economics said the phenomenon of how people who turn the taps on may not be actually paying the bills is a common one.

This is applicable to cleaners, for instance, apart from maids.

He added that a way around the problem would be to increase water prices substantially so that employers will take action. He had previously said that even a doubling of water prices would not be excessive from an economic perspective.

In response to queries from The Sunday Times, national water agency PUB said it has worked with the Ministry of Manpower to organise educational roadshows and activities on water conservation for domestic helpers.

The agency has produced a bilingual video and a water-saving handbook in English, Bahasa Indonesia, Tamil and Burmese that is shared with maid agencies and training providers.

Meanwhile, Fast president Seah Seng Choon said the association plans to organise talks by PUB, give away water-saving gadgets and appoint Save Water Ambassadors among its 6,000 member maids.

"Fast will be a vehicle to reinforce foreign domestic workers to do their part (to save water) as they are part of the fabric of Singapore society," added Mr Seah.

Meanwhile, some employers have been trying to educate their maids on saving water.

One of them is Madam Yeong Soh Yeng, a freelance pre-school teacher. She lives in a five-room Housing Board flat with her husband, seven children and their Indonesian maid, Madam Fatimah Dulhadi.

Madam Yeong, 62, noted that water usage by maids from different countries may differ, so it is up to employers to let them know how to manage the use of water for household chores.

She has taught Madam Fatimah, 35, to collect water from the washing machine's rinse cycles, which she said amounts to more than 10 litres, to wash the floor and flush the toilet.

In another household, administration officer Maha Leckshmi, 64, makes the effort to educate her Sri Lankan maid Welendra Mulacharige Wimalawathie, 55, on saving water.

The two, who live in a three-room flat in Yishun, use the washing machine only for curtains and bedsheets, and bathe from a pail.

Said Madam Leckshmi of her maid: "She's like family. I always show her the bill and tell her we need to save water and electricity."

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Malaysia: Fraser’s Hill to be kept pristine for migratory birds

The Star 27 Feb 17;

RAUB: Fraser’s Hill which is a habitat for migratory birds will be kept pristine, said state Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin.

“As of now, only 5% of the Fraser’s Hill is developed and there will be no more development. Only upgrading of existing facilities will be allowed,” he said.

“We have to limit the development in the area. This is a well-known tourist attraction and a bird watching destination,” he after attending the closing ceremony of the Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race yesterday.

A total of 315 bird lovers took part in the competition here yesterday.

The participants came from countries such as Japan, Nepal, Canada, France, South Africa, the Netherlands and United Kingdom.

As for the proposed project to have a cable car from Raub to Fraser’s Hill, Mohd Sharkar said the feasibility studies found that it was not viable.

Mohd Sharkar also said that Fraser’s Hill was one of the oldest tourist destinations in the world and that it was loved for its cool climate and greenery.

Last year, the hill resort was a very popular with tourists and welcomed 123,483 visitors, which was a 6% increase compared to 2015.

“One of the main attractions here is bird watching,” he said.

“Our country is in the fourth position in Asia as a birding destination after China, India and Thailand.”

Mohd Sharkar said there were at least 785 species of bird recorded in the country and most of these birds could be found in Fraser’s Hill.

He said BirdLife International, the world’s largest nature conservation partnership, had identified Fraser’s Hill as an “important bird area (IBA)”.

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Malaysia: No logging or mining activity in Tasik Chini -- Wan Junaidi

The Star 27 Feb 17;

PETALING JAYA: There have been no logging activities or bauxite mining in Tasik Chini since 2014 contrary to a newspaper report, said Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

“I want to clarify that the report on Tasik Chini was based on its condition from 2009 to 2013 and it does not reflect its current condition,” said the Natural Resources and Environment Minister in a statement yesterday.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the aerial footage of the supposed logging activities was taken in 2013.

“After the floods in 2014, the Government made several efforts to restore the surrounding areas in Tasik Chini,” he said.

On Saturday, a Malay daily reported that Tasik Chini – recognised as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO – was plagued by uncontrolled logging, mining and farming activities.

He said a Conservation and Preservation Steering Committee was set up at the East Coast Economic Region Development Council meeting in March 2016 to identify the causes contributing to the deterioration of Tasik Chini and the steps taken to rectify the situation.

Among the responsibilities of the committee to protect Tasik Chini was to ensure mining activities were carried out responsibly and that forest conservation initiatives be conduc­ted through its reforestation programmes.

“Two operations have also been successfully implemented to protect the rich biodiversity in Tasik Chini by preventing intrusions and ensuring its water quality achieves Class 1 status by 2019,” he said.

“Monthly monitoring of its water quality has seen the majority of its stations achieving a Class 2 status and the return of marine life.”

Dr Wan Junaidi added that no logging licences had been issued.

“Up to now, there have only been two iron mines that are still active after being approved by the Pahang state government in 2010,” said Dr Wan Junaidi, adding that the mines were 5km away from Tasik Chini.

He also saidt the initiatives implemented by the ministry to preserve the area included the monitoring of the water quality of the lake, strengthening of the banks of the lake, and the preservation of plants by various authorities.

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Malaysia: Over 10,000 Baram folks cut off by floods

STEPHEN THEN The Star 27 Feb 17;

MIRI: More than 10,000 people from at least 15 longhouses as well as students from a school in the interior Baram district in northern Sarawak have been cut off due to floods.

Over the past 24 hours, heavy rains have inundated these populated settlements, resulting in metre-deep waters.

Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau visited the flooded areas on Monday to check on the relief aid supplies.

He told The Star that the affected settlements and school had been cut off after the timber roads became flooded.

"Among them are the settlements in Long Bedian, Long Atip, Long Tajang, Long Buan, Long Bemang, Long Loyang, Long Batan, Long Aton, Long Sobeng, SK Long Sobeng, Long Anyat, Long Luteng, Long Puak and Long Lama town.

"The students of SK Long Subeng have been evacuated to the nearest longhouse.

"The school have been closed as flood waters will reach the roof of the school building," he said.

Ngau has issued an alert for help from the state and federal authorities.

Limbang flood evacuees rise to 413, 17 schools closed
BERNAMA New Straits Times 28 Feb 17;

MIRI: The number of flood evacuees in Limbang, Sarawak, has increased to 413 people from 126 families as of 6am today. As of midnight, 410 evacuees from 125 families were still at the relief centre at Mendamit Community Hall in Nanga Mendamit.

Sarawak Disaster Management Committee Secretariat from the Civil Defence Force, Major Ismail Mahedin, said the evacuees were from Asan longhouse, Kampung Semena and Kampung Lubuk Lasas.

So far, 17 primary schools have been closed due to the floods in the state, thus affecting 1,337 pupils. -- Bernama

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Malaysia: Terengganu agriculture industry on alert for red weevil beetle infestation

ROSLI ZAKARIA New Straits Times 25 Feb 17;

KEMAMAN: State Agriculture Departments here have been directed to inspect all date palm and to destroy trees determined to be infested with red weevil beetles.

"This move is crucial, because red weevil beetles find a convenient host in date palm, and they are now attacking coconut trees," said Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

He said agriculture officers need to go to the ground to identify date palm trees to instruct owners to destroy the host trees, failing which, the department would have to act.

He also warned farmers against importing plants without going through the legal process, including undergoing strict quarantine procedures.

"We need to look at the threat posed by the red weevil beetle seriously. The future of our palm oil industry is at stake," Ahmad Shabery added.

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Indonesia: Whale shark dead after being caught up in trawl

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 26 Feb 17;

A 6-meter whale shark weighing more than 1 ton got caught in the trawl of a fisherman in Selakau waters, Sambas regency, West Kalimantan, on Friday. Residents later cut the protected animal up and distributed the pieces.

Officers from Selakau Police and the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) questioned the fisherman, identified as Gustian, over the incident. He said the animal had accidentally become caught up in a trawl he had put out in waters around 20 kilometers off the shore. When he had discovered the shark in the net, Gustian claimed, it had already been dead.

Gustian, who had been out fishing with his son that day, said they had been unable to release the whale shark from the trawl, so he decided to pull it to the pier.

Gustian said he was not aware that whale sharks were a protected species. He said he did not know who had ordered the local residents to cut the shark into pieces and take them home.

Pictures of the whale shark went viral on social media, showing local residents, including children, crowded around the carcass of the animal on Selakau Beach.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia’s West Kalimantan program manager, Albert Tjiu, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday there had been no clear information on whether Selakau waters were the habitat of whale sharks. However, he said, a WWF researcher conducting a survey in the area had heard of a similar incident last year. (ebf)

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