Best of our wild blogs: 9 Jun 17

Straw-headed Bulbul Census at Ubin
Singapore Bird Group

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Father of family of otters at Singapore River dies; poisoning suspected

Chew Hui Min Straits Times 8 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE - One of the first otters that appeared in central Singapore has died, a community of otter watchers said on Thursday (June 8).

The father of a family of otters which live at the Singapore River began showing signs of illness last Thursday, said Mr Jeffery Teo, who is part of the Otter Working Group, made up of representatives from the public and various government and other agencies involved in the welfare of otters.

The formerly robust otter, estimated to be about seven years old, "got weaker and smaller, he was seen vomiting and struggled to swim and eat", he said.

The otter would also sleep on a grass patch while the rest of the family swam in the river, he added.

Otter watchers found blood in the otter's spraint, or dung, in the past week.

The last sighting of the otter by the group was on Wednesday at Jiak Kim Bridge. He was trying to eat but was too weak, and watching over the family but resting.

"He had no energy to join them," said Mr Teo.

Weak and lethargic otter dad at Singapore River at Tuesday (June 6) evening

The Otter Working Group was informed and an operation involving Wildlife Reserves Singapore and the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres) was planned for this week.

"As long as dad was with the family, we could not isolate him because trapping would cause unforeseen stress to the rest of the otters," Mr Teo said.

They were closely monitoring the otter and planning how to isolate him, but it was too late.

The otter dad was not seen away from his family before this, but has been missing for more than 36 hours as of Friday morning.

OtterWatch, a Facebook page dedicated to Singapore's otters, posted a photo of the otter on Thursday afternoon, with the phrase, "In Memory of 1st Otter in our City. Marina Dad, 2010 - July 2017".

Some suspect that the otter might have accidentally ingested rat poison.

"Recently, Marina dad is looking very tired. Fresh blood has been observed from his poo these 2 days. We are concerned if he has been poisoned," Mr Nick Soo posted on Facebook on June 6.

"Anyone know of a way to ascertain whether he has been poisoned?"

A resident in the area had also posted on Facebook that her dog was poisoned.

"My dog was recently poisoned along the Singapore River. The company Rentokil left rodent poison in the ground cover and bushes along the river, which is a busy walking area with a lot of dogs, kids and otters. Any of them can easily eat the poison without leaving the concrete path. There were no signs to warn of this. Is this legal? And if so, how do we change this?" she wrote on the Nature Society's Facebook page.

The otter, affectionately known as Ah Huat to otter watchers at Gardens by the Bay, first appeared at the Gardens in 2013 with his mate, which gave birth to five pups in 2014.

They had two more litters since, and moved to the Singapore River last year after losing their territory at Gardens by the Bay to the Bishan otter family.

Smooth-coated otters can live from eight to 10 years in the wild.

Related links
Otterwatch facebook group

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Singapore to review implementation of UN sustainable goals: Balakrishnan

Channel NewsAsia 9 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore will undertake a voluntary national review next year of its implementation of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals, with a particular focus on Goal 14 – Life Below Water, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan.

Speaking on Thursday (Jun 8) at a UN conference on Goal 14, Dr Balakrishnan highlighted the need for sustainable development of the oceans in a “balanced and integrated manner”, and in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“A rules-based international order provides the necessary framework for all states to operate on a common basis in the global environment. This is important even as we broaden our understanding of the ocean issues to include new areas such as the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction,” he said.

In line with this, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore, together with Jamaica, Argentina, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and the UN Office of Legal Affairs had organised an event on Jun 6 to discuss how UNCLOS can play a central role in efforts to achieve Goal 14.

He added that delegations need to be guided by science and data, instead of politics and polemics, in getting the “right balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability”.

Outlining Singapore’s efforts to protect its marine environment, Dr Balakrishnan noted that the country has put in place measures to contribute to cleaner and greener shipping. Its rich marine biodiversity shows its efforts have borne fruit, even though marine debris remains a concern, he said.

“The point is if a small busy port like Singapore can have such natural resources and is making efforts to conserve it, surely everyone else can and should do so as well.”

In his speech, Dr Balakrishnan also reaffirmed Singapore’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Paris Pledge, under which Singapore aims to reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The Foreign Affairs Minister also held bilateral meetings with the President of Palau Tommy Remengesau, Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin and Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“They reaffirmed the warm and friendly bilateral ties, and discussed ways which small states can support the achievement of the sustainable development goals,” the ministry said.
Source: CNA/dl

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Clean-up dive nets trolley, boat battery

20 divers collect more than 72kg of trash in 45 minutes at Sisters' Islands Marine Park
Audrey Tan Straits Times 8 Jun 17;

Metal nails, a discarded trolley and an old boat battery have their place in the scrapyard. Instead, these items ended up in a watery dumping ground: The Sisters' Islands Marine Park.

In just 45 minutes on Sunday, 20 divers collected more than 72kg of trash there, including plastic bags, disposable cutlery and wire mesh.

"It is surprising to find trash like the trolley and battery in the marine park, and it could be even worse in places that are not frequented by divers," said marine biologist Toh Tai Chong, who helped organise the event.

The volunteers did the underwater clean-up at Singapore's only marine park to mark World Oceans Day today.

The information from the clean-up was uploaded onto Dive Against Debris, an online portal which collates international marine trash data run by Project Aware - the environmental arm of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

Dr Toh, who is from the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI), told The Straits Times that such data helps to give a better picture of the regional trash situation.

For example, identifying trash "hot spots" could help conservation groups zoom in on the areas which need the most urgent action, he said.

An estimated eight million tonnes of plastics enter the oceans every year, said Ms Kakuko Nagatani- Yoshida, the Asia-Pacific coordinator for chemicals and waste at the United Nations Environment Programme, and Asian countries are among the worst culprits.

Everyone can make a difference she noted, adding: "Multiple solutions are possible, including avoiding single-use and non-essential plastic items in our daily lives and investing in better solid waste management on land."

Even though underwater clean-ups have been organised before, this was the first community-led one involving multiple partners.

Organisers included TMSI, dive centre The Submersibles as well as conservation group SeaKeepers Asia. The National Parks Board (NParks), which manages the marine park, as well as the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) supported the event.

Other than collecting trash, the volunteers also helped to rescue corals by picking up fragments that had been dislodged from the reef, and transferring them to NParks' coral nursery, which is also at the marine park south of the mainland.

"Eventually when they grow bigger, the corals will be attached onto artificial reefs there," said Dr Toh, whose research shows that coral fragments placed in nurseries could be transplanted to reefs to improve the habitat.

Said Dr Karenne Tun, director of the coastal and marine division at NParks' National Biodiversity Centre: "The two activities involve community volunteers and are very much aligned with our objectives of conservation, outreach and education at Sisters' Islands Marine Park."

Added MPA chief executive Andrew Tan: "For us, keeping the environment clean is as important as making sure that we are also the world's No. 1 port."

• To find out more about the marine trash situation, visit

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Residents in older HDB flats to get more efficient toilets for free

With the replacement, households can save up to five litres of water per flush and their water bills could be cut by 10 per cent as a result, PUB says.
Channel NewsAsia 8 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: PUB said on Thursday (Jun 8) it will roll out a project to help eligible families living in older Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats replace their non-water efficient nine-litre water closets with more water-efficient ones for free.

The project aims to help these families replace water closets, and any non-water efficient washbasin taps and kitchen sink taps, the national water agency said in its press release. With the replacement, households can save up to five litres of water per flush and their water bills could be cut by 10 per cent as a result, it added.

PUB said about 9,000 families currently on community assistance schemes and living in HDB flats built between 1986 and 1992 are expected to benefit from the project. These flats were fitted with nine-litre water closets, which were discontinued in 1992.

The first phase of the project will involve 5,700 households living in 3-room HDB flats, PUB said. Eligible households will be informed from June 2017, and they can then contact PUB or its appointed contractor to arrange for the replacement.

The second phase, for the remaining eligible HDB flats, will commence in October this year, the agency said.


This latest move comes after Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli's announcements on initiatives to enhance water efficiency and encourage water conservation during his ministry's Committee of Supply debate earlier this year.
Source: CNA/dl

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High-tech farms in Singapore take on cold-weather crops

Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 8 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: Kale is touted as a "superfood", eaten in salads and sandwiches, blended in green juices and even baked into chips.

The trendy greens are typically grown in temperate countries such as Australia and the US, but with the help of technology, such cold-weather crops - which typically would not survive in Singapore's climate - are now being grown in some high-tech vertical farms.

Local farms currently produce 12 per cent of Singapore's total vegetable consumption, exceeding the 10 per cent target set in 2009.

In line with the Government's push for farming productivity - such as the recently enhanced Agriculture Productivity Fund and the announcement that farmland would be set aside to promote high-tech farming - more farms are exploring new methods to grow crops previously thought to be impossible to cultivate in Singapore's climate.

One such farm is Sustenir, which grows hydroponic crops in a fully controlled environment. This includes making use of technology such as LED lights, air-conditioning ducts and an automated irrigation system to grow temperate produce such as kale, cherry tomatoes and strawberries.

Co-founder Benjamin Swan explained that the firm leverages technology to manipulate every facet of growth within the room, from humidity and temperature, to the nutrients in the water.

This has helped the farm cut the growth time of crops to two weeks - half the time needed at conventional farms - as well as customise its crops to fit customer preferences. For example, it has successfully modified the naturally fibrous and indigestible stems of kale crops to become edible.

Da Paolo Group is one eatery chain that sources its kale from the farm, and its group executive chef Andrea Scarpa said he found the produce "very comparable" to that found overseas.

"The taste profile is very, very similar to what we get imported. But for us it's even better, simply because you get to eat the entire plant from the top of the leaf down to the root," he explained.

"Traditionally when you eat kale you import from overseas, you'd have to rip off the stem, which is a huge waste - 50 per cent of your weight gone. But it's great (that) we get to use the whole thing when it's done locally.”

The 740 sq m farm, which is located in an industrial building, also plans to expand to tailoring edible flowers and micro-greens for its customers.

Another vertical farm thriving on technology is owned by Japanese electronics company Panasonic. The 1,154 sq m farm currently grows 81 tonnes of produce annually under its brand Veggie Lite, which supplies its vegetables to supermarket chains, hotels and restaurants. This includes more than 30 crop varieties such as green and red lettuce, swiss chards and sweet basil.

"By adopting technology from our parent company in Japan, we are able to control light, temperature and humidity to ensure optimum conditions,” a spokesperson for the farm told Channel NewsAsia.

"Through local production, we have the control to produce a stable supply of safe, fresh, high-nutrition and high-quality vegetables," the spokesperson said. "As importation involves more third parties and logistics arrangement, there are more concerns to be considered in ensuring the produce quality and freshness."

Veggie Lite aims to contribute 5 per cent of local vegetable production - or about 1,000 tonnes annually - by 2020.
Source: CNA/mz

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Malaysia: Alien fish invasion -- Melaka enforces ban on imported fish species

JANE RAJ New Straits Times 8 Jun 17;

MELAKA: The Melaka Fisheries Department today enforced a ban on imported genus and species of fish which pose a danger of disrupting the biodiversity and stability of the marine ecosystem here.

A total of 35 premises dealing with the sale of aquarium fish in Melaka, will be given explanation on the banned genus and species under Section 61 of the Fisheries Act 1985.

A total of 15 genus including Trout, Lepisosteus, Salmon, Sturgeon, Peacock Bass, Arapaima, Northern Pike, Serrasalmus, Serrasalmo, Pygopritis, Piaractus, Mylossoma, Myletes, Pygocentrus, Catoprian, Flower Horn, Myleus, Pristobrycon and species of Red Claw are banned.

Melaka Fisheries Department deputy director Doreen Wee Siew Leen led the operation and gave clarifications to 12 different premises this morning.

"Today, we will be giving clarification to the owners of the premises and will make them put up posters of the banned fish," she said.

She added that no one can sell, buy or rear the banned genus and species in Malaysia without a permission letter from the Fisheries Department.

She said the reason for banning these fish was because they pose a threat of becoming dominant and cause the extinction of native fish in the river.

This, she said, would also affect the economy and the industry if the banned fish breed in a large scale and kill other local species which contribute to the food supply.

"It would be a predator because it grows twice as big compared to our local fish. Fish such as mahseer and carp will decrease if we don't take action now," she said after the operation in Melaka Tengah.

These banned breeds of fish can also cause the local fish disease including the Koi Herpes Virus, Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome, Spring Viraemia of Carp.

Based on the inventory done by the department, local fish are decreasing due to this imported fish which are banned.

"Certain owners, are not able to care for these fish due to its rapid growth and expenditure. Eventually they will release those fish in any river nearby," she said.

Doreen said the fish which are banned will be an interference to the ecosystem, and biodiversity of a river.

"To those who does not possess a permission letter, they will be given one month to apply.

"If they do not take any action, we will carry on with the enforcement." she said.

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Indonesia: Five more hot spots detected in Jambi

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 8 Jun 17;

The Jambi Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) spotted five new hot spots in the province on Thursday.

Agency head Nurangesti said they detected two hot spots in West Tanjungjabung regency and three others in Batanghari regency, Sarolangun regency and Tebo regency.

“The confidence levels for these hot spots ranged from 60 to 89 percent,” Nurangesti said.

In response to the emergence of hot spots, the Jambi Land and Forest Fire task force has readied their personnel to watch each hot spot in the region. The task force also apprehended a farmer who was allegedly burning his own land in Tebo regency.

“We apprehended Amran, a 65-year-old farmer, for burning a 1.5-hectare plot of land,” said Col. Inf. Refrizal, the task force’s commander.

He added Amran allegedly cleared his land of trees and branches by burning it, so he could plant rubber trees on it. (kuka/ary)

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