Best of our wild blogs: 12 Apr 17

In pictures: Indonesia's fire free villages

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Bangladesh sand exported to Singapore

Export of sand
Financial Express Bangladesh 11 Apr 17;

IT is reported that the sand from Brahmaputra and Jamuna rivers is going to be exported to the Maldives and Singapore. A dredging company has already applied to the ministry concerned to sell overseas the sand to be lifted through dredging from the river bed of Jamuna. City state Singapore has extended its area by importing sand from abroad. The Maldives also intends to do the same as it is under the threat of going down in the Indian Ocean due to climate change.

Sand will be exported at one taka per cubic feet whereas the current market price per ton of sand is Tk 1,000. When export actually takes off, the price will go up in local market by several times and then the dredging company will be the sole owner of the sand lifted.

According to the Directorate of Geological Survey, 54 kg of different mineral elements are available in one ton of sand at the Gaibandha portion of river Brahmaputra which can be sold for Tk 325 thousand (approx) and the remaining sand can be used for construction of building.

Reasons behind Singapore and the Maldives importing sand are to extend and consolidate their land area. If we export sand by dredging our rivers the chars of these rivers will gradually disappear and people of the char area will lose their homesteads. What will happen to them? The only solution could be to establish laboratories for separation of the minerals and setting up related industries on both banks of the rivers.

Md. Ruhul Amin
Asstt.Vice President
Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd.
Beanibazar Branch, Sylhet.

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Birds of a feather flock together for rare sighting

Ng Jun Sen, The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Apr 17;

They look like a scrum of photographers covering a celebrity event or a football match.

Since last week, groups of about 20 photographers have spent hours staring at a hole in a tree opposite Pek Kio Market and Food Centre, all waiting to capture the rare sight of parrots and chicks in an urban environment.

As soon as one of the blue-crowned hanging parrots pops out, a flurry of shutter clicks can be heard, along with gasps of "oohs" and "ahs".

Well-known nature guide Subaraj Rajathurai said the excitement near Block 51, Kent Road, is probably due to the rare location.

The wildlife consultant from Strix Wildlife Consultancy said parrots, which tend to live high in the canopy, cannot make their own holes to nest in, so they use those left by other birds, such as woodpeckers.

But in this case, the parrots chose a hole that was around 5m above ground, which offers a good angle for shutterbugs, armed with long lenses that can cost thousands of dollars.

Mr Subaraj said: "When the bird is nesting, or raising its young, it regularly comes back to the same spot. Otherwise, as a woodland specialist, it tends to live in the tree canopy and its small size means it can be hard to see."

But once the chicks are capable of leaving the nest, their parents will leave too. These chicks usually nest for about three weeks.

Some shutterbugs, like retiree Victor Tan, 58, waited nearly two hours before he was able to snap a picture of the parrots and one of the chicks yesterday.

The former IT professional first heard of them last week from one of his birdwatching WhatsApp groups, through which the news has spread quickly around the island.

Said Mr Tan: "It was very crowded when I got there in the morning. There were older retirees like me, young people and also office workers who took along their cameras during lunch hour."

This not-so-secret spot has been the subject of chatter among birdwatching groups and shutterbugs since one unknown enthusiast spread the news.

Pictures of the birds began appearing on Facebook hobby group Birds, Insects N Creatures of Asia (Bica) last Saturday, drawing more photographers to the site.

These groups have become more popular of late, with Bica growing to nearly 13,000 members since the group's creation in 2012.

Another hobbyist, who declined to be named, said he rushed to the spot last week after returning from overseas. "We can't really see the chicks but the adults will return every hour or so to feed them," he said. "It's kind of interesting."

Mr Subaraj said the photographers should be careful about disrupting the nest, such as going too close or attempting to feed the birds.

Noise from the rapidly firing camera shutters can also scare the parents away and cause the chicks to die, he warned.

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5 new baby otters draw crowds at Singapore River

Chew Hui Min, Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Apr 17;

A new bevy of baby otters was born in the heart of the city this month, drawing much attention from residents and passers-by who came across them at the Singapore River.

When The Straits Times went down on Monday (April 10) afternoon, the family had just ventured out for an afternoon swim in the River.

There were five otter pups, each about six weeks old, and they were taking one of their first swimming lessons.

The scene soon drew a crowd, even as an officer from the National Parks Board (NParks) went around to put up signs on otter watching "ettiquette".

Many took out their cameras and mobile phones to snap photos and videos as the adult otters coaxed the pups into the water.

It was quite a jump for the young pups from the bank of the Singapore River, which is a vertical wall.

One by one the seven adults and three pups dived into the water, but two babies remained on the bank.

The otters in the water squeaked and barked at the two pups, which ran along the bank for a few minutes, before jumping into the water - one after the other.

When the brief swimming lesson ended, the family ran up some steps to rest on a small patch of grass by the river side.

Before venturing on land, one of the adults peered cautiously over the edge of the river bank.

By then, about 20 people, including a group of children on their way home from school, had gathered.

Members of the otter watching group reminded them to give the otters space.

The skittish mammals can get startled when humans get too close.

"I told them to keep a comfortable distance so that the otters could do what they want to do, instead of having to be on the guard all the time," said Mr Bernard Seah, a wildlife photographer and frequent otter watcher.

"If you give them enough space, you can also observe them for a longer time."

When the otter saw that the coast was clear, the rest of the family followed.

While this family of otters have been sighted at the Singapore River for some time, this is the first time there are baby otters at this location.

They moved here from Marina Bay in late 2015.

On Sunday, about 80 people gathered to watch them, in a scene similar to the crowds at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in 2015.

There was a stir when the otters there had a bevy of three pups in 2015, and photos and videos of the Bishan otter family went viral.

The Bishan otters moved to the Marina Bay area in late 2015 after winning a "territorial dispute" and "kicking out" the otters originally living there.

Soon after, the losing party made the Singapore River their new home.

Otter watchers who have been observing the families over the years said that they may face difficulties raising babies at this very public location, which has limited access to resting points on land.

"They lost their prime territory at Marina Reservoir, so now the only place to raise their kids is along the Singapore River," said Mr Mr Jeffery Teo, a member of the Otter Working Group.

"If they lose this home due to too much human disturbance, they may have nowhere else to go to."


Keep your dog on a tight leash.
Don't touch, chase or corner the otters. Observe them from a distance.
Don't talk loudly, and don't use flash photography.
Don't feed the otters
Don't litter or leave sharp objects in the water

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URA seeks feedback on study to turn Kallang Park Connector into seamless cycling route

Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 11 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has concluded a study on improving connectivity along the Kallang River and is seeking public feedback on its recommendations, it said on Tuesday (Apr 11).

Ideas were sought in 2015 to see if the 10km Kallang Park Connector, which links Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Kallang Riverside Park, can be improved so that it can serve as a seamless cycling route.

Currently, there are certain points along the route where cyclists have to dismount, make long detours or carry their bicycles along overhead bridges.

Presenting details of the study, URA said findings include upgrading two existing underpasses under the Central Expressway (CTE) and at Geylang Road.

For example, the CTE underpass, which is now dimly lit and with a low height clearance, will be deepened and widened. It will also feature garden-like settings and public seating, turning it into a gathering space for the community, the authority said.

The study also suggested building four new underpasses at Kallang Bahru Road, Upper Boon Keng Road and Sims Avenue to make travel faster and more seamless.

In areas where underpasses are not feasible, such as along Serangoon and Bendemeer roads, the study proposes adding traffic junctions so that pedestrians and cyclists do not have to walk a distance to climb existing overhead bridges.

The most challenging crossing for cyclists, however, is the overhead bridge over the 16-lane Pan Island Expressway (PIE). Currently, cyclists have to carry their bicycles up and down flights of stairs on the bridge, then cycle a short distance on narrow sidewalks in a housing estate before rejoining the park connector.

That could soon change with the URA study, which noted that one solution is to create an elevated spiral crossing ending at an empty plot of land along the river which has the potential to be transformed into a park. The proposed bridge also has a gradual incline, making it wheelchair-friendly.

There are also plans to enhance that length of the river, by widening the now narrow sidewalk and putting in a boardwalk.

Last month, URA raised five broad ideas on the rejuvenation of the Kallang River as part of a preliminary conceptual plan for the rejuvenation of the Kallang River and announced that it would be seeking public feedback at an exhibition called A River Runs Through It.

The exhibition runs at The URA Centre Atrium from Mar 29 to May 2, 9am to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays.

URA is now seeking feedback on the recommendations raised in the study at the same exhibition and will refine the proposals after the exhibition ends.

- CNA/mz

Kallang River area set to be walking, cycling haven
ALFRED CHUA Today Online 12 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — Connectivity and access for pedestrians and cyclists will be enhanced at several spots along the Kallang River, as part of a makeover of the 14km-long water body announced last month.

Providing more details on the rejuvenation plans yesterday, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said at a media briefing that it has identified seven locations where accessibility will be improved, but is currently hindered by major roads — the Central Expressway (CTE), the Pan Island Expressway (PIE), Serangoon Road, Bendemeer Road, Kallang Bahru, Boon Keng Road and Sims Avenue.

At the Sims Avenue area near Kallang MRT Station, for example, a new underpass will be built to shorten the time taken to travel across the road and act as a connector between Kallang MRT and the Singapore Sports Hub. With traffic crossing at Geylang Lorong 1, which is in the vicinity, getting crowded especially when events are held at the Sports Hub, the proposed underpass will also provide an alternative route for pedestrians and cyclists.

A spiral bridge spanning across the PIE will also be constructed, where parks and other related amenities could be built at the foot of the crossing which links to Mar Thoma Road.

The PIE project would be the most challenging because of the expressway — spanning 16 lanes — that divides the river, said URA executive architect Sean Tan. Currently, pedestrians and cyclists need to climb up an overhead bridge with more than 130 steps. When completed, the new bridge will allow those with mobility issues, including wheelchair users, to make the journey across.

In all, two underpasses — running under the Central Expressway (CTE) and Geylang Road — will be enhanced, while three new ones will be built at Sims Avenue, Kallang Bahru, and Upper Boon Keng Road.

Lighting will be improved in the CTE underpass, which links Toa Payoh Lorong 8 and Potong Pasir Avenue 1. The underpass, which has a height clearance of about 2m, will also be widened and deepened to provide more headroom for cyclists.

Seating areas and garden-like features, for example, could also be built. To supplement the pedestrian crossing currently in place, the new Kallang Bahru underpass will be constructed near Kallang Bahru Ville housing estate, and provide a link to the vicinity of Kallang Distripark. At Upper Boon Keng Road, the new underground link will be constructed between the areas near Block 12 Upper Boon Keng Road and Geylang Lorong 1.

Instead of underpasses, signalised pedestrian crossings will be up at Bendemeer Road and Serangoon Road. This was because there are electrical cables, among other things, running under the roads, which would require any underground links to be built deeper down, said the URA.

The initiatives to bring about a “long and continuous park experience” will not only create an “attractive environment” for people to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, they will also connect communities, Mr Tan said.

The URA had started looking into improving connectivity along Kallang River since 2014. A year later, it invited consultants to propose design and technical solutions.

The URA is seeking public feedback on the facelift for Kallang River, with an exhibition, A River Runs Through It, held at the URA centre from March 29 to May 2.

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Expect a car-lite, sustainable retail-friendly estate

Lee Xin En, The Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Apr 17;

The tender for the first private home and retail site on offer to developers at the upcoming Bidadari housing estate is no ordinary one.

The tender document for the 2.54ha site, set to yield 825 homes as well as shops, comes with a raft of stipulations aimed at shaping the site into a landmark project. It is envisioned as a "community in a garden" which is environmentally sustainable and car-lite.

Developers also have to build a community centre and neighbourhood police branch, and are strongly encouraged to work with tenants of the retail portion on productivity initiatives.

Analysts note the tender includes many more requirements than for typical residential sale sites - more on par with those for major Government Land Sales (GLS) commercial sites.

In a first for a site outside the Central Business District, bidding developers will be required to reduce the number of car-park spaces from the usual level.

The first site to have this requirement was a mixed-use site at Central Boulevard, acquired for $2.57 billion by a subsidiary of IOI Properties last year.

In the tender document for the Upper Serangoon site, the Housing Board - the appointed land sales agent - stipulated the developer "is required to apply to the Land Transport Authority to take up a 20 per cent reduction under the range-based car-parking standards for the residential component".

An LTA spokesman said that "given the excellent connectivity to public transport network and support for walking and cycling, a lower car-parking provision under the prevailing range-based car-parking standard is in line with the move towards a car-lite Singapore".

The project is next to Woodleigh MRT station.

Mr Ong Teck Hui, JLL's national director of research and consultancy, said it was "significant" that the developer's proposal will be subject to design reviews by a panel chaired by HDB.

He said this is a requirement of prominent GLS sites, including recent ones like the Central Boulevard site, Lendlease's Paya Lebar Quarter, as well as older sites such as one adjacent to Raffles Hotel and another site which has become Chijmes.

He singled out the productivity initiatives as being particularly interesting.

The successful bidder is "strongly encouraged to work with" tenants of its coffee shops, restaurants, retail and entertainment outlets to adopt productivity initiatives.

These include digital services that enable automated ordering and payment, as well as investing in self-check out systems.

Despite the numerous conditions, analysts expect bidding for the site to be competitive.

Mr Ong expects seven to 10 bidders, though one deterrent is the "high absolute land price" owing to the large size of the development.

Mr Desmond Sim, CBRE's head of South-east Asia research, expects 10 to 14 bids.

He said: "Even with more stringent tender conditions, developers will still be interested because of the lack of development sites in the market. You can look at the community centre and police post as a downer on margins, but they can also be seen as creating catchment for commercial space."

The tender for the 99-year leasehold site closes on June 13.

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Third Zika cluster of the year emerges at Poh Huat Terrace, Terrasse Lane

Today Online 11 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — The third cluster of locally transmitted Zika virus infection in Singapore this year has been reported at the Poh Huat Terrace and Terrasse Lane area.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (April 11), the case involves two residents living in the area near the junction of Hougang Avenue 2 and Yio Chu Kang Road.

This latest development comes on the day the year's first Zika cluster at the nearby Simon Place was closed. The Simon Place cluster, which is less than 2km away, was first discovered two weeks ago.

The second Zika cluster of 2017, which was reported last week, is also nearby at Flower Road/Hendry Close.

Residents staying around Poh Huat Terrace and Terrasse Lane have been notified of the latest case on Tuesday, and vector control operations are underway, said NEA.

Prior to the latest two cases, NEA officers were already conducting preventive inspections in the vicinity.

Vector control operations will continue at the Flower Road / Hendry Close cluster, NEA said. The Simon Place cluster will also continue to be kept under surveillance.

Residents are requested to allow NEA officers to carry out inspections and indoor spraying of their homes.

NEA also urged all residents and stakeholders to maintain vigilance and take immediate steps to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats by practising the 5-step Mozzie Wipeout.

2 new Zika cases confirmed at Poh Huat Terrace, Terrasse Lane
Channel NewsAsia 11 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: Two cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection have been confirmed at the Poh Huat Terrace and Terrasse Lane area near Hougang, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (Apr 11).

Both cases are residents in the area, it added.

NEA said it was notified of the cluster on Tuesday and has started operations to kill mosquitoes in the area. It urged residents to let NEA officers carry out inspections and indoor spraying of their homes.

The latest cluster is not far from the two other Zika clusters reported in Singapore this year. The first cluster, at Simon Place, was closed on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after cases there were confirmed. NEA said the area will be kept under surveillance.

The agency is also continuing with operations to control the mosquito population in the Flower Road and Hendry Close area, where two cases were confirmed last Thursday.

It added that even before the latest cluster was notified, "NEA has been conducting preventive inspections in the vicinity to detect and destroy any potential mosquito breeding habitats".

Members of the public are advised to seek medical attention if they are unwell, especially with symptoms such as fever and rash, said NEA.

- CNA/ek

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Malaysia, Johor: Garbage kills almost all life in Sungai Tebrau -- MNS

Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 11 Apr 17;

THE pollution at Sungai Tebrau, mainly due to illegal rubbish dumping, has caused marine life in the river to become almost non-existent, with only a few species of fish able to survive.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) vice-president Vincent Chow said the pollution had turned the river into a low-oxygen environment, a condition, which few species could tolerate.

“Species like cockles and mussels can’t live in Sungai Tebrau because of the low oxygen environment.

“Only species like the non-native South American armoured catfish or suckermouth catfish can tolerate such an environment.”

He said the authorities needed to understand all aspects of the problems to effectively tackle the issue of river pollution in the state.

“Besides cleanliness, they need to understand the river’s water quality and aquatic life. A dirty river does not mean that aquatic life cannot thrive in it,” said Chow, who is also MNS Johor chairman.

He said it was important for all relevant agencies to be involved in efforts to resolve this issue.

“The involvement of agencies is needed to resolve this problem, not only certain agencies such as local councils or the Department of Environment.

“We have to take a holistic approach to solve this problem once and for all.”

He said the authorities could approach non-governmental organisations, such as MNS, in its efforts to solve the problem because they could have the know-how in the matter.

“MNS, for example, has a lot of information and knowledge on the matter and we are more than willing to help the authorities.

“All they need to do is to contact us and have a discussion on how we can help,” he told the New Straits Times.

Meanwhile, Chow said the authorities could take measures to reduce pollution in Sungai Tebrau.

“They could widen the river so that silt and mud can flow out.

“The authorities need to be serious in monitoring and enforcement to prevent people from dumping rubbish into the river.”

State Health, Environment, Education and Information Executive Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat last month announced that the state’s Economic Planning Unit and Department of Irrigation and Drainage had been tasked to coordinate the clean-up of Sungai Tebrau.

Ayub said the river, which was inundated with rubbish, would undergo a clean-up programme with help from representatives from government departments.

The issue of pollution in Sungai Tebrau was highlighted by Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar after he took an airboat ride along the river and saw the rubbish being wantonly dumped into it.

Chow said he was grateful to the ruler for highlighting the matter.

“This has been going on for too long. Now is the time for the authorities to take action.”

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Malaysia: Jumbo in Jeli caught after feasting on bananas at farms

Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 11 Apr 17;

JELI: Rangers from the Kelantan Wildlife Department yesterday captured a male elephant which was believed to have been the animal causing damage to rubber and banana farms here in Kuala Balah.

The department’s director Mohd Hasdi Husin said the 14-year-old elephant was roaming in the area when it was caught by the rangers about 4.30pm.

He said the elephant was believed to be in a herd of seven or eight elephants which have been reported to be running wild in several areas near the villages since last month.

“We have received reports from villagers that their rubber and banana farms were destroyed by elephants and sent our rangers to the area yesterday who later captured the jumbo,” said Mohd Hasdi today.

He said the elephant was the second capture in Jeli this year.

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