Best of our wild blogs: 11 Sep 17

14 Oct (Sat): FREE workshop on Singapore Celebrates Our Shores 2018
wild shores of singapore

Moult of Blue-clawed Swimming Crab (Thalamita crenata) @ Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon)
Monday Morgue

Read more!

'Balloon run' to take place without balloons

Event organisers scrap idea over concerns that balloons will create litter, harm wildlife
Audrey Tan Straits Times 11 Sep 17;

Some air was taken out of a planned novelty "balloon run" - one where participants would hold on to balloons as they completed a course - after organisers scrapped a seemingly key component: balloons.

But the decision, which was made based on the potential impact those balloons might have had on the environment, did not appear to deflate the mood for the October event. Instead, the announcement on the event's Facebook page last week garnered positive responses.

Users thanked organisers for scrapping plans to distribute helium balloons, which they say could float away and end up as litter on Singapore's roads and waterways, and pose a risk to wildlife that may ingest the discarded material.

The Run for Good Balloon Run is organised by the Central Singapore Community Development Council (CDC) and the Kampong Glam Community Sports Club.

Balloons will still be used to decorate the event venue, and runners will learn how to craft simple balloon sculptures during the event.

But extra trash bins will be provided to ensure the balloons are disposed of properly, organisers told The Straits Times. "Volunteer marshals will also go around to help runners dispose their trash and ensure that the environment is kept clean," said a spokesman for the CDC.

The green initiatives were implemented after people took to the event's Facebook page earlier this month to express concerns about the possibility of balloons ending up as litter. Earlier publicity material had said that helium balloons would be distributed to participants running the 2km or 5km route in Lavender. Organisers have since decided to not give these out.

A CDC spokesman said balloons were chosen for the event as they bring people joy and make them smile. "We wanted an element of happiness while encouraging more people to Run for Good."

The event aims to get residents to run for a good cause. Participants pay $12 to take part, with proceeds going to Hope Centre and Peace Connect, which help vulnerable children, families and elderly people.

The CDC spokesman said it was aware of Singaporeans' concerns for the environment, and that it was happy to incorporate their feedback. But "we would also like to invite any concerned environment community group to, in future, approach us directly to discuss, share their concerns and knowledge".

Ms Ria Tan, an environmentalist who had called on organisers to reconsider distributing helium balloons, said she was glad that the CDC had scrapped plans for them after hearing about their harmful effects. Added Ms Tan, who runs wildlife site "Hopefully, for their next mass event, they could consider more environmentally- friendly alternatives."

The CDC added: "We are constantly learning and looking at ways to improve how we run our programmes."

Related link
Help stop mass balloon event by CDC on 1 Oct (Sun) on wild shores of singapore

Read more!

A*STAR develops sensor platform for companies to test green building solutions

Rachel Phua Channel NewsAsia 10 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's research arm, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*STAR, has developed a new platform for companies as testbed for green building products in a tropical climate.

The system, called the Intelligent Building Energy and Environmental Monitoring and Control System, or i-BEEMS, was co-developed by researchers from A*STAR’s Experimental Power Grid Centre (EPGC) and Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC).

The platform, which is currently housed at the EPGC on Jurong Island, works by tapping on a network of sensors that measures various atmospheric and energy-consuming elements to evaluate how effect a green building solution is.

It compares the building's performance figures without the product, and the new set of data when a building product is introduced.

i-BEEMS has close to 200 sensors placed around the EPGC building, and monitors the building’s elements in real time. Measurements are categorized under three groups: the building’s energy consumption, such as the amount of air-conditioning, utilities, and lighting different parts of the building is using; the indoor environmental quality, such as the amount of air pollutants and level of noise produced; the outdoor environmental conditions, such as the wind speed, amount of rainfall and visible light.

Besides observing how the product affects the building’s functions, the data collected is also transferred to a virtual model of the EPGC, where the researchers can test the product’s effectiveness in “many different scenarios which may not be measured on the field,” Dr Koh Wee Shing, a senior scientist at the IHPC, and one of the co-developers of the platform, told Channel NewsAsia during a visit to the centre.

Being housed at a facility with an experimental power grid also means that companies can test how their product reacts to any changes in electricity levels, said Mr Alex Chong, a senior manager at A*STAR's EPGC, and another co-developer of i-BEEMS.

He added that having i-BEEMS operating on a building at Jurong Island also means the product will be tested in “harsh weather conditions”, as it is close to chemical plants and shipyards that “filled the atmosphere with dirt”.

It also comes as Singapore is pushing for more environmentally-friendly building solutions. The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has set a national target of at least 80 per cent of all buildings in Singapore to be certified green by 2030. According to one report by the BCA, this means that the buildings must be “energy and water efficient, with a high quality and healthy indoor environment, integrated with green spaces and constructed from eco-friendly materials”.

"In general there's a push from different government agencies to green the buildings as well as to improve energy-efficiency,” Mr Chong said. “With all these initiatives, I think … there's some motivation for the companies to come up with new products and solutions that would allow building owners to address these concerns.”

He added that he was driven to create the platform as there are a “limited” number of sites for industry players to test out their solutions, which on the other hand, are aplenty in the market.


Mr Chong added he started developing the system – which cost “a few hundreds of thousands” of dollars to develop but has a “minimal” operational cost – in mid-2014. i-BEEMS hosted its first test-bedding project with commercial players in January this year, where it helped to test out a new type of glass panel solution developed by glass manufacturer AGC Group.

AGC group is testing how their double-glazed glass panel sets work in a tropical climate, as their products are usually created for use in temperate countries such as Japan, Mr Lim Yew Meng, AGC Asia Pacific’s executive director said.

The glass product that the company is testing at EPGC, the ATTOCH, has been installed in more than 200 projects in Japan since 2012, Mr Lim added, but it needed to test how well the glass panes work in a hot and humid climate first before “putting it on the market”.

"And it is a common practice in Singapore that the developer, the architect, the consultant, would prefer an independent third-party data report instead of our in-house report or data,” Mr Lim said.

AGC will be testing their product with i-BEEMS till the end of this year, but Mr Chong said that the research team is also currently in discussions with several other companies to test their products at the centre.

He added that he hopes to add a data analytics software to i-BEEMS so that it can help to interpret the data collected, and allow it to test 'smart' technologies and devices in the future.
Source: CNA/mn

Read more!

Malaysia: Need for uniform conservation laws for turtles

Nuradzimmah Daim New Straits Times 10 Sep 17;

THERE is a need to have uniform laws, as states enforce their regulations, including those on illegal trade, and the ban on turtle egg consumption.

Stringent laws, matched with increased effort in public education, may provide hope to the endangered species.

In its analysis and experience on the ground, World Wildlife Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF Malaysia) showed that state laws governing turtles were inadequate and unable to protect turtles.

“There is no uniformity of laws on turtles in Malaysia, which creates loopholes in the enforcement of laws.

“In the peninsula, comprehensive banning of turtle egg possession and trade for all species has yet to be enacted, and thus, continues to be a huge problem for enforcement.

“Sabah and Sarawak have accorded protection to turtle eggs for all species for decades,” said WWF Malaysia’s Melaka Hawksbill Turtle conservation project team leader Lau Min Min recently.

She said the turtle trade mostly happened in Sabah, where turtles were poached from the waters and eggs were smuggled in from neighbouring countries.

In Sabah, turtles are a “Totally Protected Species” under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 managed by the Sabah Wildlife Department. The high demand for turtle meat and shells in the international black market, compounded by the large areas of water surrounding Sabah, proved a challenge for surveillance, detection and enforcement, providing easy access to poachers.

“Due to the numerous cases of illegal retrieval documented in the past few years, enforcement agencies teamed up and established a state-wide turtle anti-smuggling task force in 2015 to increase enforcement in selected areas where poaching and trade regularly happened.

“WWF Malaysia provides technical support to the agencies and pushes for improved enforcement efforts,” Lau said.

The laws, she said, must also cover protection of beaches identified as turtle nesting sites through gazettement to prevent encroachment and deter poachers.

She said while Melaka’s beaches had the highest nesting population of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, with 400 nests identified, none of them had been gazetted as turtle sanctuaries.

The nesting population of hawksbill turtles recorded from 2006 to 2015 in Melaka was stable, with approximately 400 nestings yearly.

“However, based on data recorded for Pulau Upeh, the turtle island of Melaka, the population has declined by more than 50 per cent in the last 10 years. Loss of habitat due to rapid coastal development continues to threaten the future of this species. Melaka is home to the second largest population of this species in Malaysia.

“In Terengganu, however, the population of hawksbill turtle has declined by more than 90 per cent compared with 20 years ago.”

Lau said the population of leatherbacks, one of the most iconic turtles in the world, had plummeted from more than 10,000 nestings in the 1950s to zero in the last six years, while the Olive Ridley turtle population in Malaysia had similarly recorded a drop of 99.9 per cent.

“Green turtles, on the other hand, showed positive changes, with more eggs being secured for incubation following intensified patrolling during the annual nesting season, and an increase of more than 40 per cent in nestings recorded in the last 25 years.”

In Sabah, the main turtle nesting population is in the Turtle Island Park in Sandakan, managed by Sabah Parks.

The three islands in the park are home to one of the largest populations of green and hawksbill females in Malaysia.

In recent years, based on Sabah Parks’ data, there has been a general increase in green turtle nestings and a decrease in hawksbill nestings.

Read more!

Malaysia: Leatherbacks return to Rantau Abang?

Zarina Abdullah New Straits Times 10 Sep 17;

DUNGUN: The return of a leatherback turtle at the Rhu Cikgu beach in Rantau Abang has got everyone excited.

As this is the first landing of the highly endangered species at the once popular leatherback nesting site since 2010.

The landing was discovered by a traditional turtle egg collector Hasang Husing (correct) while combing the beach at about 6am today.

Hasang said he was walking along the beach and saw turtle tracks leading to a site where he discovered a fresh nest but was not sure if it was from the leatherback turtle species.

“The track seemed to have been created by a big and heavy animal. I have not seen such tracks for a long time,” added Hasang who had been collecting turtle eggs for some 30 years.

He alerted the Fisheries Department about the nest and officers from the Rantau Abang Turtle sanctuary who arrived at the nesting site this morning confirmed that it was the nest of a leatherback turtle.

State Fisheries director Zawawi Ali said the leatherback had laid 93 eggs and the animal was expected to return to lay five more times between Sept 19 and 30.

“This is an exciting find as it proved that some of the leatherback turtle hatchlings released some 40 years ago have reached maturity and are returning to the same beach were it they were hatched.

He however cautioned that it is already late in the turtle nesting season.

“We will be monitoring the beach to ensure that the return of this leatherback is not disturbed,” he said adding that his man would be patrolling the beach and protect the nest from predators, including poachers.

Zawawi said the eggs had been retrieved and relocated to the incubating site nearer to the sanctuary and it should hatch in about 60 days.

“The same female is expected to lay some 450 eggs. This is truly exciting since we have not had this opportunity for so many years,” he added.

Read more!

Thailand: Phuket haze alert no cause for alarm, says disaster chief

Tanyaluk Sakoot The Phuket News 8 Sep 17;

PHUKET: A haze alert issued by the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Phuket Office (DDPM-Phuket ) today is no cause for alarm, DDPM-Phuket Chief Prapan Kanprasang has confirmed to The Phuket News.

Standard procedures have been in place since heavy haze from mass burn-offs on Sumatra, southwest of Phuket, in October 2015 blanketed Phuket with what officials confirmed was Phuket’s “worst haze ever”.

Flights were redirected and hospitals issued free masks as people were admitted for breathing difficulties.

“The alert was posted under an order issued by the Ministry of interior,” DDPM-Phuket Chief Prapan explained to The Phuket News.

“We knew this alert was coming. It only calls for DDPM officers to be prepared in case heavy haze affects areas across Southern Thailand,” he said.

The alert, issued and signed by Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, is dated Sept 4 and orders DDPM officials across Southern Thailand to be on alert for heavy haze.

The order specifically identifies the Andaman provinces of Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi, Rarong, Trang and Satun as areas where officers are to be ready for heavy haze.

It also calls for officers in the southern provinces of Surat Thani, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Phatthalung, Songkhla, Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala to be on alert.

The order was issued following the national DDPM headquarters in Bangkok receiving a report confirming that 200 fire spots on Sumatra and on Borneo were ablaze and the ensuing smoke was causing haze.

Countries already affected by haze were Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore, said the report.

Disaster officials in Thailand were already on alert throughout August and were ordered to remain on alert throughout September, noted the Ministry of Interior order.

Specifically, the order called for DDPM officials to respond to heavy haze by performing the following:

Inform people about haze situation in their areas and advise them on how to protect themselves from smoke inhalation.
Encourage people to not contribute to the problem by not burning off garbage at their homes and to encourage people to recycle their waste.

Contact the provincial public health offices and local administration offices to hand out masks to people.

Identify locations for temporary shelters where people susceptible to the effects of smoke inhalation will not be exposed to heavy haze. Arrange for local water truck services with high-pressure hoses to be able to be deployed to areas to reduce haze by spraying water.

Follow the standard situation management plan. If the situation becomes more severe, contact DDPM superior officers in Bangkok.

“Of course we will follow the actions as ordered in the alert,” Mr Prapan told The Phuket News.

“Being prepared is the only way to mitigate consequences in such situations,” he added.

Phuket haze worst ever: official
Saroj Kueprasertkij The Phuket News 7 Oct 17;

PHUKET: The air quality in Phuket today was the worst on record, the Regional Environmental Office 15 confirmed to The Phuket News this afternoon (Oct 7).

The day began with a hazy sunrise, with the PM10 reading, which records the level of particle dust and smoke in the air, rising to 170 at 8am. A good clear day would offer a reading of somewhere between zero and 50.

“But the afternoon was the worst. At 3pm, Phuket recorded a PM10 reading of 200,” said Dr Pornsri Suthanaruk, Director of Regional Environmental Office 15.

By sunset today, the Thai Pollution Control Department (PCD) officially reported an all-day PM10 high of 214 – so far, a new record.

However, the clouded skies and the PM10 readings was no real cause for alarm, Dr Pornsri stressed.

Despite, the elevated PM10 readings, Phuket today scored an Air-Quality Index (AQI) of only 141, which the PCD does not consider hazardous.

According to the PCD, any AQIs from 101-200 qualifies air quality only as “Affected”. For this category, the PCD notes: “People with breathing problems are to stay indoors. Young and elderly persons must not engage in strenuous physical activity outdoors. Any exercise should be done indoors.”

Regardless, the Phuket Provincial Health Office is continuing to hand out free basic face masks to children, the elderly and people with breathing conditions, such as asthma.

PPHO Deputy Director Dr Krit Sakulpat today re-confirmed that no patients had been admitted to any hospitals in Phuket for serious ailments brought on by the haze.

“We have asked all hospitals in Phuket to report the number of patients with respiratory problems to our office. So far, we have not received any reports, but we will keep a close eye on it as it might take up to three days for people to become seriously affected,” he said.

Meanwhile, the end-of-term break for all Thai curriculum schools has spared many educators the decision of what to do with hordes of children wanting to play outside.

“Only a few [Thai] schools are open for their summer courses or unfinished exams, but they are still not allowing students to spend extended periods outside the buildings or to play,” explained Somporn Chua-sakul Director of Phuket Educational Strategy Office.

“The director of every school has the right to close their own school if they believe the closure is necessary,” he added. “And to close a school for more than seven days requires permission from us.

Phuket haze health readings spiral, hospitals issue free masks

Tanyaluk Sakoot The Phuket News 6 Oct 17;

PHUKET: The Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO) has maintained its health warning from the Indonesian fire haze that has blanketed Phuket, but has confirmed that so far it has not received any reports of people being admitted to hospital for breathing difficulties.

The news follows the PPHO issuing an advisory on Sunday (Oct 4) urging children, the elderly and any persons with breathing difficulties to stay indoors. (See story here.)

The health warning was reiterated on Monday when air-quality readings reached critical levels (see story here) and today (see story here).

“We receive updates from the Pollution Control Department (PCD), Phuket Office, every day,” PPHO Director Dr Bancha Kakong told The Phuket News today (Oct 6).

“So far the PCD has reported that the levels of sulfur oxide in the haze from the fires has yet to reach dangerous levels here. We have not received any reports of people admitted to hospital for respiratory problems, and the situation is not serious enough to ask schools to close.”

In the meantime, however, government hospitals are handing out free face masks.

“As a precaution, children, the elderly and people with respiratory conditions can receive free Nexcare masks,” Dr Bancha said.

“Other people should not need masks, but we still urge all people to stay indoors and especially not to exercise outdoors at this time.

“If the situation changes, we will inform the public as soon as possible,” he said.

However, as of 6pm on Tuesday, after The Phuket News spoke with Dr Bancha, the Division of Air Quality Data, under the PCD’s Air Quality and Noise Management Bureau ( reported that Phuket air-quality had deteriorated.

After recording a PM10 reading of 140 in the early hours of Tuesday, the air had cleared to safe reading 80 by early afternoon.

By nightfall, however, the haze blanketed the island and sent the PM10 spiralling back up to a categorically “Unhealthy” reading of 107. (See here.)

The “Unhealthy” range is described as “Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”

Read more!