Best of our wild blogs: 21 Jun 17

Palm oil trade body calls out Singapore supermarket over sustainability claims

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Malaysia tackles 3km-wide tanker oil spill near Singapore

Today Online 20 Jun 17;

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia is using chemical dispersants to break up an oil slick off its coast after a tanker laden with marine diesel sank last week, a top official said Tuesday (June 20).

The MT Putri Sea, registered in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, went down on Thursday in a busy shipping lane off the southern state of Johor, near Singapore.

Authorities said all six Indonesian crew were missing and feared dead.

Two marine department boats were using chemical dispersants on the more than 3km-wide slick, Zulkifili Abu Bakar, director-general of the Maritime Enforcement Agency, said in a statement.

The oil spill is close to Petronas’ billion dollar refinery and petrochemicals integrated development project in Pengerang.

Mr Zulkifili said the spill had not affected shipping activities and that the affected area was not a fishing zone.

Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, natural resources and environment minister said a “tier one” response has been initiated to fight the oil spill.

“Measures are being put in place to ensure the oil slick does not reach land,” he said in a separate statement.

Tier one is regarded as a minor oil spill that can be resolved within days. AFP

Oil spill approaching RAPID project area in Pengerang
Malay Mail 20 Jun 17;

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 ― Part of the oil spill from the tanker, MT Putri Sea which caught fire and sank last Thursday is headed towards the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project area in Pengerang.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said RAPID had mobilised a Tier One response by utilising equipment and personnel to tackle the spill.

“The Department of Environment (DOE) and related agencies will continue to monitor the oil spill and take measures to tackle the incident,” he said in a statement here today.

On Thursday morning, the tanker was ablaze and sank 4.6 nautical miles from Tanjung Setapa, Pengerang.

Wan Junaidi said preliminary investigations found a kilometre-long oil slick offshore but until Saturday, there was still no sign of oil in the beach areas close to the scene of the incident. ― Bernama

MMEA: Operation to find six crew of MT Putri Sea ends
The Sun Daily 19 Jun 17;

JOHOR BARU: The search and rescue (SAR) operation for six crew of the tanker MT Putri Sea which went missing when it caught fire and sank near Pengerang, Thursday, was ended yesterday.

Southern Maritime Region (Operations) deputy director Maritime Captain Sanifah Yusof said the operation ended at 7pm because there was no indication on the missing crew.

"The MMEA Southern Maritime Region via the the Johor Baru Maritime Search and Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRSC) had conducted a SAR to find the six crew of the tanker MT Putri Sea which went missing after it caught fire and sank on June 15.

"The four-day operation until June 18 (yesterday) covered a search area of almost 45 nautical square miles and along the Pengerang coast," he said via a statement here today.

Sanifah said the operation involved more than 50 officers and personnel of various agencies including the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), Marine Operations Force (MOF), Fire and Rescue Department and Malaysian Civil Defence Force.

He said the operation was also aided by Singapore and Indonesia to find the crew in their respective waters, but were futile.

He said the SAR would be reactivated if there was a report on the location of the crew.

"Although the SAR is ended, the operation to clean up the oil spill is still going on, co-ordinated by the Malaysian Marine Department and assisted by the Department of Environment, MMEA and other related agencies," he said.

Early on Thursday morning, six Indonesian crew went missing after the tanker blew up and was believed to have sunk at 4.6 nautical miles south west of Tanjung Pengelih, near Pengerang.

The crew were Akhmad Faharuddin, 35; Muhamad Heri Hernanda, 28; Abdur Rahem, 31; Rendy Alamanda, 28; Sulkifli, 39, and Yohanis Sumari, 35.

MT Puteri was believed to be carrying crude oil and was registered at Malabo Port, Equatorial Guinea.

The report on its disappearance was received from the Singapore Police Coast Guard (SPCG) at 5am after the ship's agent failed to contact it.

Yesterday, RMN chief Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarlzaman Ahmad Badaruddin said KD Perantau detected an underwater object which was believed to be the sunken tanker MT Putri Sea using Multi-Beam Sonar. — Bernama

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Baby steps towards First World animal welfare in Singapore

The recently released code of conduct for pet owners not only educates them on expected standards of care, it also sets the right tone for animal welfare in Singapore, argues SOSD's Dr Siew Tuck Wah.
Siew Tuck Wah Channel NewsAsia 21 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) released a code of conduct for pet owners last Thursday (Jun 15) that specifies minimum standards which pet owners should comply with when caring for their pets.

Areas covered in the code include standards regarding accountability, animal housing and environment, and animal management and care. The code goes down to specifics, such as specifying the tether length for your dog.

At first glance, it may seem strange for AVA to release a document telling owners how they should look after their pets. But judging from how common it is to see some pet owners keeping too many animals or chaining their animals up for long periods of time, educating them on the minimum they must provide for their pets is a welcomed move.

However, the promulgation of the code goes deeper than that.

MINDEF and MND announced in May that dog handlers from SPF and SCDF's K-9 units and the Singapore Armed Forces' Military Working Dog Unit who live in public housing will be allowed to adopt their retired canine friends from June. (Photo: Ria Chen)

We are taking baby steps to shaping a society that upholds animal welfare. We are putting in place key building blocks that might not seem significant individually but are important foundations to ensuring a more humane, caring society.


Over the past three years, we have seen measures put into place, in line with the aim of fostering responsible pet ownership, greater responsibility in the pet industry and better animal welfare.

The code of conduct for pet owners is a culmination of past efforts in this direction. It was put together by a Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee for Animal Welfare (MSCC) formed in 2013 to follow up with the recommendations made by the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee (AWLRC) a year earlier.

The MSCC, established in October 2013, comprises Members of Parliament and representatives from animal welfare groups, the pet industry, the veterinary profession and AVA.

The AWLRC itself had proposed several changes after its year-long review, most notably to the Animal and Birds Act to increase the penalties against those convicted of animal cruelty. Besides that, the review also laid down concrete measures to improve animal welfare – such as setting a minimum age for buying pets, a mandatory pre-sale screening in pet shops and minimum standards for animal welfare. All 24 recommendations were accepted by the Government in 2013.

A significant step in ensuring animal welfare in the pet industry was earlier taken in August 2016 when AVA released the much needed code of conduct for the pet industry. It lists minimum standards on animal housing, management and care which pet businesses are expected to comply with and best practices which they are encouraged to adopt.

With this first code in place, it has become easier to prosecute wrongdoers who compromise animal welfare in pursuit of commercial gain – a problem which has been plaguing the pet industry.

For decades, many breeding farms, also known as puppy mills operate like factories, churning out litter after litter of puppies for sale, while breeding dogs are kept in deplorable conditions.

Over the past year, AVA has successfully prosecuted and punished farm owners who ill-treat the animals under their care, after the promulgation of the code. For example, a pet farm licensee who owned Top Breed Pet Farm was fined S$180,000 after failing to ensure the health and well-being of eight dogs under his care earlier in June.


Naysayers point out that both the codes for the pet industry and pet owners are not legislation, and failure to meet the minimum standards are not offences in themselves. Indeed, it was debatable deciding what was considered animal abuse and what was not in the past.

However, with both codes in place, AVA can now use non-compliance with the minimum standards specified in the codes as supporting evidence when prosecuting wrongdoers for animal cruelty. With these concrete guidelines, I believe that we will see more cases of animal cruelty brought to light in the near future.

Being able to successfully prosecute such cases citing violation of these codes will be the true litmus test of whether they make a sum difference.


This is only the beginning. Animal welfare in Singapore is still in its toddler stages.

The measures put in place so far are more legislative in nature, involving laying down the rules. What comes next is even more challenging – it involves changing what decades of relentless economic pursuit has produced.

Emphasis has to be placed on education on animal welfare issues, as well as community involvement, to foster a harmonious environment between pet owners and non-pet owners.

But we also require a mindset change about how we think about our pets, our environment and the stray animals around us. We need to be kinder, more compassionate and more tolerant.

This can only be done if the majority of Singaporeans begin to care for animals. Education is key and it begins with our young. I strongly believe in this and for this reason, I regularly give talks on animal welfare in schools, to students as young as pre-schoolers, through SOSD’s education and outreach programmes.

AVA is setting the right tone for animal welfare, and it is now up to every one of us to ensure that Singapore becomes the First World country we want it to be – not only in terms of economic growth, but also in other important areas, such as animal welfare.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah is President of SOSD, a Singapore-based organisation dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming stray and abandoned dogs

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Malaysia: Sabah to bring back ‘no plastic’ bag campaign

The Star 21 Jun 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The “no plastic” bag campaign is set to be re-launched in August.

This follows the scrapping of the prog­ramme in May 2015, when the use of funds collected from the sale of plastic bags to shoppers was questioned.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the rebranded Bawa Beg Bah (Bring A Bag) or 3B campaign would see participating outlets charging 20 sen for plastic bags on weekends and Mondays, with City Hall to manage the funds.

Under the previous campaign launched in June 2010, a total of 384 outlets were involved with the collected funds managed by the Environmental Action Centre under the Sabah Tourism Ministry.

Masidi pledged that the collection would be used solely for environment-related activities.

His speech at an event here yesterday was read out by his permanent secretary Datuk Ginus Yangus.

“We hope business outlets will support this rebranded campaign,” he said, adding that the 3B campaign aimed to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic bags for the sake of the environment.

Masidi also urged the public to give full support to the campaign, which was vital to help protect the environment.

At the event, a memorandum of understanding on Clean City, Healthy Community was signed between Gleneagles Hospital and City Hall.

Masidi said these efforts were aimed at making Kota Kinabalu a greener and more liveable city.

KK City Hall to manage funds collected from 'no plastic bag' campaign
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 20 Jun 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A rebranded no plastic bag campaign will kick off in August after the previous initiative was scrapped following calls for more transparency, with funds collected to be managed by the Kota Kinabalu City Hall.

Previously, funds were collected and managed by the Environmental Action Centre (EAC) under the Sabah Tourism Ministry.

Sabah tourism, culture and environment minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, in a speech delivered by his permanent secretary Datuk Ginus Yangus, said the rebranded campaign – Bawa Beg Bah (bring a bag, bah) or 3B – would see participating businesses collect 20 sen for every plastic bag used by customers on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.

The EAC will still collect the funds under the rebranded campaign.

A total of 384 businesses were involved in the previous campaign that started in June 2010.

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A third of the world now faces deadly heatwaves as result of climate change

Study shows risks have climbed steadily since 1980, and the number of people in danger will grow to 48% by 2100 even if emissions are drastically reduced
Oliver Milman The Guardian 19 Jun 17;

Nearly a third of the world’s population is now exposed to climatic conditions that produce deadly heatwaves, as the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere makes it “almost inevitable” that vast areas of the planet will face rising fatalities from high temperatures, new research has found.

Climate change has escalated the heatwave risk across the globe, the study states, with nearly half of the world’s population set to suffer periods of deadly heat by the end of the century even if greenhouse gases are radically cut.

“For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible,” said Camilo Mora, an academic at the University of Hawaii and lead author of the study.

High temperatures are currently baking large swaths of the south-western US, with the National Weather Service (NWS) issuing an excessive heat warning for Phoenix, Arizona, which is set to reach 119F (48.3C) on Monday.

The heat warning extends across much of Arizona and up through the heart of California, with Palm Springs forecast a toasty 116F (46.6C) on Monday and Sacramento set to reach 107F (41.6C).

The NWS warned the abnormal warmth would “significantly increase the potential for heat-related illness” and advised residents to drink more water, seek shade and recognize the early symptoms of heat stroke, such as nausea and a racing pulse.

Mora’s research shows that the overall risk of heat-related illness or death has climbed steadily since 1980, with around 30% of the world’s population now living in climatic conditions that deliver deadly temperatures at least 20 days a year.

The proportion of people at risk worldwide will grow to 48% by 2100 even if emissions are drastically reduced, while around three-quarters of the global population will be under threat by then if greenhouse gases are not curbed at all.

“Finding so many cases of heat-related deaths was mind blowing, especially as they often don’t get much attention because they last for just a few days and then people moved on,” Mora said.

“Dying in a heatwave is like being slowly cooked, it’s pure torture. The young and elderly are at particular risk, but we found that this heat can kill soldiers, athletes, everyone.”

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, analyzed more than 1,900 cases of fatalities associated with heatwaves in 36 countries over the past four decades. By looking at heat and humidity during such lethal episodes, researchers worked out a threshold beyond which conditions become deadly.

This time period includes the European heatwave of 2003, which fueled forest fires in several countries and caused the River Danube in Serbia to plummet so far that submerged second world war tanks and bombs were revealed. An estimated 20,000 people died; a subsequent study suggested the number was as high as 70,000.

A further 10,000 died in Moscow due to scorching weather in 2010. In 1995, Chicago suffered a five-day burst of heat that resulted in more than 700 deaths.

However, most heat-related deaths do not occur during such widely-covered disasters. Phoenix, for example, suffered an unusually hot spell last June that resulted in the deaths of at least four people. Hyperthermia, an excess of body heat, can lead to heat stroke and a potential inflammatory response that can kill.

Mora said the threshold to deadly conditions caries from place to place, with some people dying in temperatures as low as 23C. A crucial factor, he said, was the humidity level combined with the heat.

“Your sweat doesn’t evaporate if it is very humid, so heat accumulates in your body instead,” Mora said. “People can then suffer heat toxicity, which is like sunburn on the inside of your body. The blood rushes to the skin to cool you down so there’s less blood going to the organs. A common killer is when the lining of your gut breaks down and leaks toxins into the rest of your body.”

Global warming is a potent instigator of deadly heat, with research from University of California, Irvine this month finding the probability of a heatwave killing in excess of 100 people in India has doubled due to a 0.5C increase in temperature over the past 50 years.

“The impact of global climate change is not a specter on the horizon. It’s real, and it’s being felt now all over the planet,” said Amir AghaKouchak, UCI associate professor and co-author of that study.

“It’s particularly alarming that the adverse effects are pummeling the world’s most vulnerable populations.”

Elevated temperatures and dry conditions have been exacerbated by the clearing of trees, which provide shade and cooling moisture, in urban areas. Mora said that while adaption such as government heat warnings and the increased use of air conditioning has helped reduce deaths, this was not a viable long-term solution.

“The heat means that we are becoming prisoners in our own homes – you go to Houston, Texas in the summer and there’s no-one outside,” he said.

“Also, the increased use of air conditioning means that electrical grids fail, as has happened in New York City, Australia and Saudi Arabia. We need to prevent heatwaves rather than just trying to adapt to them.”

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