Best of our wild blogs: 5 Nov 17

Pitcher Plant Hybrids
Urban Forest

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden
Butterflies of Singapore

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Commentary on nuclear energy sparks debate over risks, safety

Singapore is not ready, say experts, following ST Opinion contributor's article advocating it
Sue-Ann Tan Straits Times 5 Nov 17;

Singapore is not ready to tap nuclear energy - this is the stance of the Government and experts in the field whom The Sunday Times spoke to.

Their responses come after a debate in the past two weeks between writers to The Straits Times Forum page and ST Opinion contributor Lim Soon Heng.

Mr Lim, managing director of shipyard planning company Emas Consultants, said Singapore should move towards nuclear power. In a commentary on Oct 24, he pointed out that there are "more than 450 nuclear power plants in operation and 60 under development" worldwide.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Lim advocated building a floating plant offshore. This would keep it away from residential areas and also reduce the risk of the reactor overheating.

"Accidents happen when coolants are not circulating properly and there is a meltdown," he said. "If the nuclear plant is floating, the surrounding water will provide additional coolants that can keep it from overheating."

Mr Lim is also the managing director of Floating Solutions, a firm that provides help for those involved with offshore, floating structures.

In response, Forum writers argued that nuclear reactors carried the risk of accidents, which would have vast consequences for a small country like Singapore. Letter writer Teoh Woi Khon suggested Singapore should adopt a "wait-and-see approach" instead of rushing into harnessing nuclear energy.


Safety should be the main concern. Singapore... is too small and too densely populated to allow for a standard modern nuclear plant.

PROFESSOR CLAUDE GUET, research programme director at the Energy Research Institute at NTU.
Experts agree that nuclear energy is not currently suitable for Singapore, but this could change when new and safer technologies are developed.

Professor Claude Guet, research programme director at the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), said: "Safety should be the main concern. Singapore... is too small and too densely populated to allow for a standard modern nuclear plant."

He added that moving towards nuclear energy is also a multi-step process, including building up "excellent engineers" and setting up a legal framework and safety authority.

"We have to be well aware that it is a long-term commitment requiring a political consensus to a large extent," he said.

National University of Singapore (NUS) professor Lim Hock, director of the Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative, said: "With the current technology where the reactor core can overheat and release radioactive elements into the environment, it is a real risk.

"There can be many layers of protection, but nothing is ever 100 per cent (foolproof).

"In the case of Fukushima, it was triggered by a natural disaster beyond human control."

Prof Lim was referring to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. He added that the initiative's mission is to learn more about nuclear energy and develop expertise in the area, so that if there is any nuclear fallout in the region, Singapore will be able to deal with it.

Aside from concerns about the environmental and health impacts of using nuclear energy, "people are also concerned over where a nuclear power plant can be located", said NTU communications professor Shirley Ho.

"There is the fear of nuclear technologies being weaponised," she added.

The Government's stance on nuclear power has not changed since the Ministry of Trade and Industry's statements in 2012. At the time, it concluded that current nuclear energy technologies were not suitable for Singapore.

In a statement to The Sunday Times, the National Research Foundation (NRF) said: "We will continue to monitor the progress of these nuclear energy technologies to keep our energy options open for the future."

NRF said that it would also keep strengthening its capabilities to understand nuclear science by supporting research in these areas.

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Malaysia: More needs to be done to protect Malayan tapir, other animals - Animal rights activist

Veena Babulal New Straits Times 4 Nov 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Animal rights activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has once again called for all parties to step up efforts to protect the Malayan tapir.

This follows the death of a tapir in Hulu Langat which is widely believed to have been the result of a botched rescue attempt.

Lee, who is patron of the Selangor Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) told the New Straits Times that this had to be done through a more comprehensive and effective awareness campaign.

Drawing on the incident on Oct 26 where a tapir wandered into Taman Desa Saujana, Batu 14, Hulu Langat and fell into a drain, he said rapid development would continue to push wildlife into wandering into human settlements.

However, he stressed that those without knowledge about rescuing the endangered species, or any other animal for that matter, should not attempt to do so.

Lee said they should, instead, call the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan), as its officers were the experts in the matter.

“We do not want the same thing to recur where members of the public and those from agencies who do not know how to handle animals that are lost, injured or trapped in a human settlement or near the road (botch a rescue attempt). At the same time, we do not want wildlife carcasses to be mutilated and its parts stolen for its supposed medicinal properties,” said Lee, drawing on a separate incident in April where a dead tapir was found in Simpang Slow Temiang near Kuala Krai in Kelantan with its skin and nose removed.

In the Oct 26 incident, Perhilitan officers had found that some parts of the adult male tapir, such as its ears, front leg, trunk and skin were mutilated.

Their initial observations suggested that a possible cause of death was stress and inappropriate rescue methods used in the operation.

The Civil Defence Force has since denied that its personnel or firemen present had mishandled the tapir and instead claimed the animal was strangled and tied with ropes by the public before their arrival.

Lee called on members of parliament to raise the matter in the Dewan Rakyat so a special allocation can be included in the 2018 Budget to address the issue.

He said funds should be made available to organise a massive awareness campaign and implement plans such as building habitats and special routes for animals in high-risk areas.

“More animal viaducts need to be built with the help of Perhilitan along the highways and roads that cut through animal habitats or their migration routes,” said Lee.

He said 40 tapirs have been killed in road accidents since 2010, with the latest incident some two months ago involving a pair of tapirs at the Gebeng bypass in Kuantan.

“Perhilitan’s records show that there are 61 road and highway networks that have incidents of roadkill. And the five with the highest number of cases are Jalan Kuala Lipis-Gua Musang, Jalan Kulai-Kota Tinggi, Jalan Gua Musang-Kuala Krai; East Coast Expressway 2 and Jalan Taiping-Selama,” said Lee.

He said that new land transport routes, including the High Speed ​​Rail (HSR) project between Malaysia and Singapore and the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) that will connect Kuala Lumpur and the east coast states, must also take animal habitats and migration routes into account.

Lee said that the conflict between man and wildlife was deplorable, based on media reports, and he believes that many are also unaware that Malayan tapirs are on the verge of extinction, with only 1,200 to 1,500 left in the wild in the peninsula.

“Although the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which replaces the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, provides higher penalties to those who kill wild animals, lack of awareness among the community has caused this problem to persist.”

Under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, individuals who take body parts of protected animals can be charged under Section 68 and fined up to RM100,000 or jailed up to three years or both.

Ill treatment of wildlife is also punishable under Section 86 o

f the act, with anyone found guilty liable to a fine of up to RM50,000 or imprisonment of up to a year, or both.

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Malaysia: Sabah Wildlife team foils duo's attempt to sell off pangolin

AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 4 Nov 17;

PENAMPANG: Sabah wildlife enforcement personnel nabbed two people for illegal possession of a pangolin worth RM880 at Donggongon town here, this afternoon.

Acting on a tip-off, Sabah Wildlife Department deployed the team to a carpark area at the town to intercept an animal trafficking activity in progress.

Its director Augustine Tuuga, in a statement said the suspects were a local man and woman, both aged 42 from Penampang.

“They were trying to sell the pangolin to a ‘customer’ at the parking lot, where the transaction was supposed to take place.

“The pangolin was found in a sack placed at the back seat of the woman’s Proton Persona car,” he said, adding that the man had earlier offered to sell the pangolin via social media.

Tuuga said the live pangolin weighs about four kilogrammes (kg) and the duo were trying to sell it for RM220 per kg.

They were detained for investigation under Section 41(2) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 for illegal possession of a protected species.

The offence carries a fine between RM30,000 and RM100,000 or jail term between one year and three years or both, if convicted.

On Oct 26, wildlife enforcement team had also nabbed two men aged 25 and 27 from Papar for illegal possession of a live pangolin.

Couple caught red-handed trying to sell pangolin in carpark
stephanie lee The Star 4 Nov 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A man and a woman have been caught red-handed trying to illegally sell pangolins in Donggonggon, Penampang near here Saturday.

The two suspects, both aged 42, were nabbed while trying to sell the pangolin to a customer at a carpark at about 1pm.

The two suspects were believed to have advertised about their "business" via social media.

Acting on a tip-off from the public, an enforcement team from the Sabah Wildlife Department, assisted by members of Wildlife Rescue Unit (appointed Honorary Wildlife Warden) was dispatched to the location where the transaction was supposed to take place.

They were trying to sell the pangolin at RM220 per kilogram. The live pangolin weighs 4kg.

The duo will be investigated under Section 41(2) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 for illegal possession of a protected species.

The penalty for illegal possession of pangolin is a fine of a minimum of not less than RM30,000 but not exceeding RM100,000 or jail of not less than one year but not exceeding three years, or both, if convicted.

This is the second arrest following an earlier one on Oct 26 where two men aged 25 and 27 from Papar were arrested for illegal possession of a live pangolin.

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Half of Hawaii's coral reefs bleached in 2014-15

Associated Press Business Insider 3 Nov 17;

HONOLULU (AP) — Nearly half of Hawaii's coral reefs were bleached during heat waves in 2014 and 2015 and fisheries close to shore are declining, a group of scientists told state lawmakers.

The scientists from the Nature Conservancy briefed the lawmakers on Thursday about what they called unprecedented for Hawaii's sea life.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said 56 percent of the Big Island's coral were bleached, along with 44 percent along West Maui and 32 percent around Oahu.

The scientists said more severe and frequent bleaching is predicted.

"In the 2030s, 30 to 50 percent of the years will have major bleaching events in Hawaii," said Kuulei Rogers of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

When ocean temperatures rise, coral expel the algae they rely on for food. This causes their skeletons to lose their color and appear "bleached."

Coral can recover if the water cools. But they die if high temperatures persist. Eventually reefs degrade, leaving fish without habitats and coastlines less protected from storm surges.

As for Hawaii's fish, University of Hawaii researchers compiled data for 15 years and found a 90 percent decline in overall catch from the last 100 years, which includes fish such as ulua, moi and oio.

"What we found was pretty overwhelming," University of Hawaii scientist Alan Friedlander said. "About 40 percent of the species will be classified as overfished. The correlations are more people, less fish."

Friedlander suggested expanding marine reserves and said gear restrictions and size limits help, but bag limits and quotas don't work.

Those who fish argued against more regulations.

"If the fishermen don't stand up and come down here and fight for fisherman's rights now, we'll lose more than we can possibly ever imagine," said Makani Christensen of the Hunting, Farming and Fishing Association.

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