Best of our wild blogs: 8 May 17

10 -14 May - Week 1 of Pesta Ubin
Pesta Ubin 2017

Terumbu Semakau Intertidal Trip
Offshore Singapore

Petai Trail with the BES Drongos (6 May 2017)
BES Drongos

Let Us Discover Yet Again
Love our MacRitchie Forest

American Bullfrog (Rana (Aquarana) catesbeiana) @ Tampines Quarry
Monday Morgue

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Tampines set to use ‘green’ pesticide in HDB bin chutes

WONG PEI TING Today Online 8 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — The routine thermal fogging of chutes will become a thing of the past in Tampines come July, when the cockroach and mosquito population in public housing blocks will be kept in check with a more environmentally friendly method.

The new solution, involving an odourless and even edible form of liquid pesticide that is enzyme-based and made of soya bean, palm and tapioca extracts, underwent a month-long trial in four bin chutes in Tampines between October and November.

In that period, more than 1,200 cockroaches were killed within a matter of four seconds to five hours, said scientist Christo Niemandt, who devised the formula with Singapore-based company E-Organic Solutions.

And that is only “20 per cent of what we could count and see”, Mr Niemandt added, as the roaches would infect other roaches in their colonies, causing more to die.

Mr Anthony Goh, CEO of the product’s distributor, Isoteam, told TODAY the enzyme treatment would be more expensive, however, costing about S$10 per chute. Pesticide methods now cost town councils about S$5 to S$8 per chute, he said.

Noting that about six other town councils have expressed their interest, Mr Goh said prices will come down gradually when more town councils come on board.

At a demonstration of the new pest control method yesterday, Tampines Town Council chairman Baey Yam Keng said it would reduce annoyance for residents, since it does not set cockroaches on a “run and fly” frenzy.

He added that the method is not as noisy as fogging, and does not emit any fumes or odours.

The organic compound, made of good micro-organisms, attacks naturally occurring pathogens in pests such as cockroaches and mosquitoes, killing them by affecting their metabolism. It is “quite targeted” and does not act on dragonflies or bees, which do not have the pathogens, added Mr Baey.

The enzyme treatment will be rolled out in some 650 chutes in about 120 blocks in Tampines West from June 17, and extended to Tampines’ four other divisions a month later.

For a start, the enzyme will be sprayed twice a month. The frequency will be reduced when the situation “has stabilised”, said Tampines West property manager Albert Yee.

It could be “more cost-effective” in the long run, said Mr Baey, as spraying need not be as regular as the current fogging method, which is done nearly every quarter.

The solution is now being used only in Indonesia’s chicken and pig farms, but Isoteam chief strategy officer Albert Teng said he intends to also reach out to hawker centres here, where cockroach infestation could be better tackled in non-toxic ways.

The new method comes as a relief for Tampines resident Tang Wai Cheng, who squirms whenever she sees cockroaches near the chute at her home during thermal fogging. “The new method is better for the environment,” said the clinic assistant. “It’ll also help people with asthma, like me, who would close the windows whenever fogging is conducted.”

Tampines to use environmentally friendly anti-roach treatment from June
Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 7 May 17;

SINGAPORE: Tampines estate from June will start a new environmentally friendly enzyme treatment to control the cockroach population, said Tampines Town Council in a release on Sunday (May 7).

Called Cockroaches, Mosquitoes and Odour Removal (CMO), the new water-based treatment uses enzymes from edible plants to attack pathogens in cockroaches. This will upset the pests’ metabolic system, resulting in carbon dioxide gas to be released in their bodies, killing them within five hours.

The treatment can also control the cockroach population as cockroaches infected by it can infect other cockroaches through contact. Resultant eggs from the infected cockroach will also be infected.

While deadly to cockroaches and mosquitoes, the solution is harmless to humans. In addition, it does not contaminate water as it does not contain any chemicals or pesticides.

In October 2016, a month-long trial of the enzyme treatment was conducted and was found to be effective. Tampines West will be the first to start the treatment in June. From July, it will be extended to all the other divisions in Tampines.


Speaking to Channel NewsAsia at a demonstration of the new treatment, Member of Parliament (MP) for Tampines GRC Baey Yam Keng said that while the new treatment is more expensive, it will be more cost saving.

"With lesser frequency of having to spray this at the chutes, and expected better results in terms of controlling the number of cockroaches, we believe that this will end up being a better, more cost-effective method for us," said Mr Baey.

He added that Tampines Town Council will provide subsidies to its vector control operators to help kickstart the new treatment.

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Malaysia, Johor: Water projects in the works


ISKANDAR PUTERI: The Federal and state governments are expected to carry out several water supply projects starting next month as a long-term plan to ensure water sufficiency in Johor.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said the first step is the Layang 1 Project, a raw water transfer project that would see 159 million litres per day (mLd) moved from the Seluyut Dam in Kota Tinggi to the Upper Layang Dam – enough to fill 64 Olympic-sized pools.

He said long-term plans included the Sungai Johor Water Resources Project, which could eventually yield 600mLd.

To further ensure water security, Hasni said the Layang 2 Project would be undertaken next year to transfer about 159mLd of raw water from Sungai Ulu Sedili Besar to the Upper Layang Dam.

He added that Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd (PAAB) would build a new water treatment plant near Upper Layang Dam that was capable of supplying 318mLd.

“The Sungai Johor Water Resources Project, Layang 2 Project and new water treatment plant are still in the discussion stages, although they are expected to be implemented next year,” Hasni told the state assembly sitting here yesterday.

He said the Federal Government had also suggested that a barrage be built at Sungai Muar to prevent seawater from entering existing water treatment plants during high tide, and that PAAB was expected to undertake the project next year.

Water supply projects, he said, were also expected to be carried out in Mersing, Segamat and Kluang.

These include transferring raw water from Sungai Lenggor to Mersing’s Congok Dam, upgrading the Pemanis water treatment plant and piping system in Segamat, and building a new water treatment plant in Kahang, Kluang.

The state currently supplies treated water to 99.7% of its residents via a network of pipeline stretching 21,910km.

“The state government also makes sure that all the water treatment plants in all districts have a reserve margin of between 10% and 15% to cope with demand,” he said.

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Malaysia: Ulu Muda wildlife under threat

SIM LEOI LEOI The Star 8 May 17;

PETALING JAYA: The Ulu Muda Reserve in Kedah, which is already facing risk as a water catchment area, is in danger of having its wildlife poached.

Poachers and hunters from as far as Laos and Myanmar have been detected in the forest, which is one of two places in Peninsular Malaysia where the spotted leo­pard is found.

Researchers from the Wildlife Con­­servation Research Unit (WildCRU) from Oxford University have found evidence of poaching during their recent 18-month study on the population of clouded leo­pards in the area.

In an open letter urging the Kedah government to accord official protection to the area, WildCRU said its researchers had encountered multiple signs of illegal poaching and harvesting activities.

“In total, we found 20 gun shells and probably, six to seven felled agarwood trees.

“Our camera traps have revealed multiple detections of people from Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, armed with harvesting and hunting tools,” it said.

Pictures of poachers caught in WildCRU’s camera traps were also attached with the letter.

The destruction of salt licks, on which animals depended for their essential mineral nutrients, would also negatively disrupt their population, said WildCRU.

“Opening up logging roads will increase accessibility for the already existing illegal activity,” it said, adding that this would further decimate the wildlife population and jeopardise the ecosystem as well as ecotourism activities in the Ulu Muda area.

It was recently reported in The Star that almost a year after rampant logging near the Ulu Muda Re­­serve that affected the water catchment area and left the dam there exposed, a new trail for timber lorries had been found.

The new trail at the catchment area in the forest reserve near Sik is believed to have been used by loggers since early this year.

Stretching from the Malaysian border with Thailand at Yala to Baling in the north of Perak and about twice the size of Singapore, it is said to be a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers.

However, logging is legal.

The 163,000ha Ulu Muda forest complex, covering seven forest re­serves, is an important water catchment forest for Perlis, Kedah and Penang.

WildCRU is part of the Zoology Department in Oxford University, founded in 1986 with members from more than 30 countries.

Asked how they knew that the poachers were foreigners, its main researcher Dr Cedric Tan said they had found packages of instant noddles with Thai language as well as based on personal communication with local villagers.

“There was no report lodged,” he said to a question whether WildCRU had reported such intrusions to the authorities.

An e-mail of the letter was sent to the Department of Town and Country Planning in Kedah on April 20, added Dr Tan.

Hymeir Kamarudin, operator of Earth Lodge in Ulu Muda, said he had bumped into poachers several times and even cornered a few, in the presence of his guests.

“They tried to run away. I’ve cornered them before but they kept mum. We also had pictures of poachers in our camera traps,” Hymeir said, adding that it had some 10 cameras within 3km from the lodge.

He said he could understand it if the local people were to harvest agarwood, bamboo, rotan and herbs from the forest for their own use.

“It’s when people harvest for commercial use for sale in the fo­reign market that they take more than they need,” he said, adding that he had reported to the Forestry Department as well as Perhilitan about the poachers.


WildCRU: Conserve area for spotted leopards’ sake
The Star 8 May 17;

PETALING JAYA: The Ulu Muda Forest Area is only one of the two known places in Peninsular Malay­sia where the spotted leopard can be found, said the Wildlife Conser­vation Research Unit (WildCRU).

In an open letter to the Kedah government, the research team from Oxford University in England said the area has the potential of becoming one of the major players as Malaysia’s flagship protected areas.

The Endau Rompin National Park is the other one.

“Camera traps at other forest sites have only detected the me­­lanistic leopard (commonly known as the black panther),” said WildCRU.

The rarity of the spotted leopard in areas south of the isthmus of Kra – the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula in southern Thailand and Myanmar – increased the importance of the Ulu Muda forest reserve as a valuable conservation area, it said.

Both the spotted and the melanistic leopards are of the same species (Panthera pardus), which has been listed as vulnerable by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Besides acting as an important wildlife corridor connecting the fo­rests in Thailand to the Pedu Forest Reserve in Kedah, resear­chers have also found Ulu Muda to be a highly suitable habitat for the clouded leopards due to its good forest cover and high elevation.

“Yet, the density of the population is estimated to be at one individual per 100km sq, lower than that of any other intensively studied sites in Malaysia.

“This could be attributed to illegal hunting and ongoing logging,” it said.

The clouded leopard is also categorised as vulnerable under IUCN.

During the research, scientists came across 54 species within just 120km sq of their camera grid, in­­clu­ding 37 mammals, 15 birds and two reptiles.

Forty-three per cent of the mammals detected (16 species), four bird species and one species of reptiles are considered as near threatened, vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

On April 21, a group of 10 non-governmental bodies including WWF Malaysia, the Malaysia Na­­ture Society from Penang, Kedah and Langkawi and Water Watch Penang, said the area was also home to species such as the Asian elephant, the Malayan tapir, the Malayan sun bear and the serow as well as more than 300 species of birds.

“It is one of the only two areas in Malaysia where all 10 species of Malaysian hornbills are found, including the rare and endangered plain-pouched hornbill,” it said.

Group warns against poaching activities in Ulu Muda Reserve
The Star 11 May 17;

PETALING JAYA: A group of 11 conservation bodies are voicing concern over the future of the Ulu Muda Reserve in Kedah as a wildlife refuge following the recent discovery of poaching activities.

The group said it was clear that poaching and encroachment activities were present in the area, one of only two places in peninsular Malaysia where the spotted leopard could be found.

“Based on studies, poaching can be facilitated by easy access into forests via roads, including logging roads, and this needs to be curbed by immediate attention and intensifying enforcement efforts.

“Failure to do so can lead to localised extinction of many rare and endemic species, the loss of wildlife based eco-tourism and ultimately may result in disrupting the whole balance of the ecosystem services these forests provide,” it said in a joint statement yesterday.

The group, which included WWF-Malaysia, the Malaysian Nature Society from Kedah, Penang and Langkawi, Water Watch Penang, Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka) and Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES), is responding to poaching activities discovered by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) from Oxford University.

WildCRU had come across evidence of poaching during their recent 18-month study on clouded leopards in the reserve.

“It is also a water catchment area of national significance,” the group said, adding that it also supplied water to industries and rice fields.

It was recently reported in The Star that a new trail of timber lorries had been found, believed to be in use since early this year. Logging is legal.

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Malaysia: On a mission for a greener Camerons

FERNANDO FONG New Straits Times 7 May 17;

Nature lover Ramakrishnan Ramasamy’s goal to save Cameron Highlands is filled with challenges. As the president of the non-governmental organisation, Regional Environment Awareness Cameron Highlands, he faces constant threats from those who want him to back down.

FOR Brinchang boy Ramakrishnan Ramasamy, life is inextricably intertwined with an uphill battle to save Cameron Highlands from environmental degradation.

The third child of four siblings, his love for nature started when he was young, having been a Boy Scout and later a King’s Scout — the top grade and honour in scout training.

He is an avid mountaineer, and was part of the expedition which saw the first Malaysian mountain climber, Datuk M. Magendran, conquering Mount Everest in 1997.

Ramakrishnan, who runs his own business supplying groceries and cooking gas to residents and businesses, also leads the local chapter of the Malaysian Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (MVFRA) in Cameron Highlands.

But to the public, he is known as the president of the non-governmental organisation, Regional Environment Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach), since 2000.

This is his story:

“I could not bear to see Cameron Highlands in shambles.

“The region is still reeling from negative environmental impact from unsustainable farming practices and commercial over-development.

“These actions have resulted in a host of problems, from falling ground temperatures to landslides, dying rivers, traffic jams, littering and polluting of the water supply.

“Disorder was the order of the day. This was not the Cameron Highlands we all know.

“Reach was established in 1999 at the suggestion of the Malaysia Nature Society and WWF Malaysia.

“I was made the president the following year and have been leading the organisation ever since.

“At that time, the public didn’t care about the woes besetting the natural environment in Cameron Highlands.

“Despite the economic growth spurred by tourism and agriculture, the local community seemed to have become more self-centred on their material needs and ignorant of the needs of Mother Nature.

“So, I turned to the media to try to turn things around. I speak out in my capacity as Reach president.

“Over the years, I have enjoyed a cordial relationship with the press, including TV3 personality Datuk Karam Singh Walia, who is famous for his environmental exposes.

“One of the first issues we raised was about water shortages in Cameron Highlands.

“We then moved on to highlight other problems such as corruption, illegal forest clearing, unsustainable farming practices, water pollution, the influx of illegal migrant workers and the need for reforestation.

“My crusade for a greener environment inevitably incurred hatred and enemies from among those with vested interests in the rapidly growing agricultural activities and commercialisation of Cameron Highlands.

“On many occasions, there were unknown individuals who issued warnings and even death threats to me.

“They wanted me to stop speaking out against issues that plagued Cameron Highlands.

“There’s too much at stake here.

“People have been far too engrossed, for a long time, in amassing wealth regardless of the environmental consequences.

“The laws are there, but there is lack of enforcement on the ground.

“Despite the threats, I remain steadfast in my mission.

“I even had to change my mobile phone number a few times because of constant harassment. Even my vehicle had been vandalised on several occasions.

“In 2003, we gained another milestone with the setting up of a biodiversity centre in Gunung Brinchang to promote and support the teaching of environment and science topics.

“We work with schools, universities, the corporate sector and also the local community to learn and engage in biodiversity.

“Down the road, Reach continues working on new ideas such as recycling programmes and the publication of books on the flora and fauna in Cameron Highlands.

“A great deal of our work relies on working closely with the locals as they are the eyes and ears for effective monitoring of all that is happening in Cameron Highlands.

“At times, we got so much information from them — some of which are damaging to the reputation of local agencies and town councils — that I was accused of having moles planted.

“As the president, I’m aware of my responsibility to make the correct statement based only on facts.

“Due to my outspoken nature, I have been asked to join a political party.

“However, I declined because this has never been part of my goals.

“I am well aware that despite my constant struggle in championing the environment, Cameron Highlands will not be able to return to how it was.

“But I hope, at the very least, we have done our part in outlining the steps for the future generations to undertake as we define and build the culture of quality tourism.

“Even if we can get more people who want to save Cameron Highlands to come on board, our mission is already a success.”

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Indonesia to seek UN support to curb illegal fishing

Antara 6 May 17;

Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia will seek the support of the United Nations to declare illegal fishing as a transnational organized crime, Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Susi Pudjiastuti said here on Saturday.

"With it being declared as a transnational crime, it will be easier for all countries to conduct coordination to deal with it," she said after speaking at a national seminar on "Innovation, Technology and Social Entrepreneurship" at Muhammad University.

She stated that she planned to raise the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as a transnational organized crime at a side event of the UN General Assembly.

"We will be facilitated by Mr. Peter Thomson (President of the UN General Assembly) to hold a side event through which we can call on the UN to support us in declaring the IUU fishing as a transnational crime," she noted.

Like terrorism, illegal fishing will be able to be tackled internationally if categorized as a transnational crime, she explained.

"It is because the activity is transnational with regard to countries involved, crews who are from various countries, and the flags flown, which are also from various countries," she remarked.

It often involves other crimes too such as smuggling, human trafficking, narcotic drug smuggling, slavery, and smuggling of rare animals.

"Therefore, international cooperation is indeed needed to deal with the IUU fishing," she asserted.

Susi revealed that the Indonesian initiative has actually been supported by many UN member countries such as Norway, Papua New Guinea, and many European countries. (*)

Indonesia seeks global support against poaching
Imanuddin Razak The Jakarta Post 13 May 17;

With illegal fishing practices extending beyond the country’s territorial borders, Indonesia is seeking international assistance in tackling the multi-dimensional problem.

It is to campaign for her zero-tolerance approach on illegal fishing that Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti attended conferences in the United States.

“We have to push for more action against illegal fishing. Sharing with all of you here of what we have done in the last two years, the results are remarkable, as we have managed to increase our catches,” Susi told the Global Leadership Symposium in Washington DC on Thursday.

Addressing a gathering of maritime scientists, activists and enthusiasts at the Pew Charitable Trusts headquarters, she said the sinking of 380 foreign boats caught poaching in Indonesian waters had had a significant deterrent effect on illegal fishing activities and subsequently increased local fishermen’s catches. She said that local fishermen had caught 2.6 million tons of fish in 2006. That figure had more than tripled to 9.9 million tons in 2016 and was expected to reach 12 million tons this year.

Adding more data to her presentation at the symposium, the minister revealed her ministry’s findings on yellowfin tuna and 20 other types of fish that had reportedly vanished from Indonesian waters in the last 15 to 20 years due to uncontrolled and illegal fishing activities.

“The recovery rate of our fishes has gone beyond logical thinking. All of this is the result of our seriousness in combating illegal fishing,” Susi said.

Yet, combating illegal fishing alone was not enough, especially when poachers had become more creative and aggressive in conducting illegal fishing activities in Indonesian waters, exploiting the limited infrastructure and the limited capacity of maritime authorities to monitor and safeguard the seas.

“Indonesia does not have enough patrol boats and surveillance systems to oversee our waters,” she told the audience.

In her meeting with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of the US Senate Oceans Caucus later in the day, Susi brought up the issue of complicated documentation practices by foreign poachers.

“One of the foreign vessels sunk by us was a vessel that had 32 flags in its compartment and had changed ownership 12 times, making it difficult to [track down] the true owner in charge,” she said.

In addition to Indonesia’s limited capacity to protect its waters against the increasing capacity of poachers to steal fish within its territory, Susi called for US assistance in equipping Indonesia with coastal radars that could provide satellite images on the presence of such poachers.

“We have received assistance from Australia and Norway for the satellite monitoring of poachers mooring their vessels at high seas and [exploiting] our limited capacity to constantly monitor our seas to steal our fish,“she told Whitehouse.

Indonesia needed at least six radars to be stationed at Sabang Port in Aceh, Natuna in Riau Islands, Saumlaki and Morotai in Maluku, Biak in Papua and in waters near Timor-Leste.

In response, Senator Sheldon said he would bring up the issue at a bipartisan congressional meeting in September.

Ending her US campaign on Thursday, Susi attended and addressed the 2017 Peter Benchly Ocean Awards at the Smithsonian National History Museum. Being selected as this year’s recipient of the award in the national stewardship category, Susi called for international support and cooperation to combat rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

She said IUU fishing was not only a problem for Indonesia, but for many countries of the world, adding that it should become a global concern for food sustainability.

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