Best of our wild blogs: 14 Nov 17

Green Drinks X: Ten Year Celebration!
Green Drinks Singapore

Singapore Bird Report – October 2017
Singapore Bird Group

greenshanks & a murder @ SBWR - Nov2017

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Confessions of a primate researcher in Singapore

Jan Lee New Paper 13 Nov 17;

Kate and Spade, Blackberry and Burberry, Snow White and Snowflake - Miss Sabrina Jabbar, 27, rattles off these names with a chuckle.

They are names given to unique mother and child combinations of an endangered primate species in Singapore - the Raffles' banded langur.

A primate researcher, Miss Jabbar is part of a working group here led by primatologist Andie Ang to understand and better protect the species. She is also a volunteer at the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore).

Miss Jabbar said that although people often think that primates are indistinguishable within species, they have unique faces and personalities.

Observing primates for a living means she spends weekdays trekking in the forests of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve from 7am to 5pm, often with Dr Ang.

These trips cover a distance of 15km and staring at trees waiting for langurs to appear, collecting poop samples and walking in the rain with a camera are all par for the course.

Miss Jabbar first got involved with wildlife after her O levels, when she worked at the Night Safari and later the Singapore Zoo. Her time there piqued her interest in primates.

To pursue that interest, she joined the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society.

That was where she started "monkey guarding", a little-known programme she still helps monitor today as a volunteer.

She trained security guards of residences in Bukit Timah in identifying macaque hot spots, prominent macaques, high-risk behaviours that attract the animals and the steps to deter them from entering the premises.

"It is better than simply setting traps and culling the animals because that does not solve the problem," said Miss Jabbar.

Sometimes she is called to assist in accidents, as in 2013, when a macaque named Mia was found with a fractured pelvis below a bridge in MacRitchie Reservoir.

She helped nurse the monkey back to health before releasing it back into the wild.

Coincidentally, Mia was found at the same spot two years later, pregnant and with injuries.

The two rescues means Mia is familiar with Miss Jabbar. Even now, when their paths cross on Miss Jabbar's field trips, Mia sometimes smacks her lips at her - a sign of affection.


Always be prepared for what might happen in the forest. Snacks, water, raincoats and portable chargers are a must.

Do not get too attached to the animals. Monkeys who "imprint" on humans may find it hard to live in the wild again.

Exercise regularly. Being a primate researcher can be a physically demanding occupation.

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More checks on public drains ahead of monsoon season: PUB

Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 13 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: Ahead of the Northeast Monsoon season, routine checks of drainage systems at critical installations as well as construction sites have been ramped up to prepare for heavy rain and possible flash floods, said PUB on Monday (Nov 13).

The national water agency said it is working with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to inspect road tunnels, vehicular underpasses as well as selected MRT stations -including Chinatown, Orchard and Cityhall - with flood protection barriers.

It is also stepping up checks at about 100 major construction work sites to ensure that public drains around the sites are free flowing.

This is on top of bi-monthly checks at 28 construction sites located close to major canals to make sure that no debris or construction materials obstruct the canals.

Predictive and preventive measures have also been put in place. Currently, PUB has 208 water level sensors installed in major drains and canals across Singapore. These sensors provide real-time data on water levels and serve to enhance PUB's live monitoring of site conditions during heavy storms. This is complemented by some 200 closed-circuit television cameras which help to monitor flood-prone areas and hot spots.

The National Environment Agency will also increase the frequency of its checks and cleaning of public drains and Drop-Inlet Chambers in low-lying areas and hotspots.

Flood advisories have also been issued to businesses and residents residing in flood-prone areas such as Lorong Buangkok and Jervois Road as well as reminders to building owners to inspect and ensure their on-site drainage systems are operationally ready.
Source: CNA/zl

PUB steps up prevention measures against flash floods
Cheow Sue-Ann Straits Times 13 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE - National water agency PUB has been stepping up flood prevention measures since October, to meet the increased likelihood of flash floods.

The measures include sending out advisories to residents and businesses in flood-prone areas, stepping up inspections of construction sites near drains and canals, as well as increasing checks on critical areas such as road tunnels, vehicular underpasses and flood barriers for Orchard Road developments.

At a briefing on Monday (Nov 13), PUB said it will focus more on construction sites with major canals running through them.

Mr Choy Wai Kwong, chief engineer for drainage operations at PUB, said 28 sites have been identified, including the work site in Stagmont Ring near Choa Chu Kang.

These sites have major drains going through them, so there will be a much larger impact, he said. "If there is a blockage, it will disrupt the flow of more minor drains, causing floods to affect more areas," he added.

Higher rainfall is expected during the north-east monsoon season, which typically lasts from October to March.

In the past three years, Singapore has averaged nine flood-days a year, with levels reaching up to about 200 to 300 mm in specific spots.

Businesses, residents more prepared for flash flood ‘season’
SIAU MING EN, CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 13 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE — After suffering some S$15,000 in losses due to a flash flood on Christmas Eve in 2015, the Roti Prata House along Upper Thomson Road is not taking any chances.

Mr Syed Ridzwan, 40, who works at the eatery patronised mostly by the supper crowd, said: “We used to put our flour and eggs very close to the ground, but now we put them on tables or on the second floor (of the shophouse).”

Business along the stretch of shophouses were disrupted when heavy rains caused flood waters to enter their premises. The knee-deep waters damaged goods and electrical appliances.

An investigation by national water agency PUB later found that Sato Kogyo, the contractor for the Upper Thomson MRT Station — which is part of the Thomson-East Coast Line being constructed — had carried out unauthorised work on the public drainage system.

At a press briefing on Monday (Nov 13), the PUB said that it has stepped up checks at construction sites, particularly those that have works at major canals. Close to 30 of these sites are already subjected to checks twice a month to ensure the canals are functioning and unobstructed.

Inspections will also be more frequent at another 100 smaller worksites near drains and canals, to check for obstructions.

The agency also conducts checks at critical areas such as road tunnels with pumped drainage systems, namely the Marina Coastal Expressway, Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway and the Central Expressway, as well as 16 vehicular underpasses.

Since last month, its officers have been issuing flood advisories to more than 600 residents and businesses in flood-prone areas.

This is in anticipation of rainy conditions brought about by the North-east Monsoon, which typically falls between December and March.

Most of the businesses along the Upper Thomson Road stretch told TODAY that they are optimistic things would not be so bad this time round, going by what they have observed in the last couple of weeks.

Ms Bernice Ong, 30, owner of Salted Caramel ice-cream parlour, said: “We have not been facing much inconvenience or problems in the past couple of days when there was heavy downpour.”

Rainwater flows towards the drain holes outside the shop “quite quickly”, she added.

In January this year, a flash flood struck the area again and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that measures were taken to raise the drainage capacity there. It had been widening the existing canal along Upper Thomson Road and Jalan Keli as part of construction works for the new MRT station, while Sato Kogyo had changed the drain covers to open ones to facilitate the flow of water. Sandbags were also used to prevent water from flowing into the shophouses.


Singapore sees an average annual rainfall of about 2,330mm. During the North-east Monsoon, the average monthly rainfall for December and January is 318.6mm and 234.6mm respectively, compared to the combined average of 161.3mm for the other months of the year, a spokesperson from the Meteorological Service Singapore said.

PUB told TODAY that flash floods have occurred on 12 days this year so far, compared to 10 last year, and six in 2015.

Floods here usually reach about less than 30cm in height and subside in about 30 minutes.

Low-lying areas that are prone to flooding include Lorong Buangkok, Jalan Seaview off Mountbatten Road, Tanjong Katong Road South, and Jervois Road near Alexandra Canal.

Advisories given to residents and businesses in such areas provide information on how to view closed-circuit TV (CCTV) images of road conditions, or to get updates on flood conditions. PUB has 208 sensors installed in major drains and canals here to provide real-time data on water levels. To monitor floods, members of the public may view images from 49 of the 200 CCTVs used for real-time monitoring of road conditions.

Some residents at Jalan Seaview told TODAY that they have seen the PUB advisory, but most said that they do not think their houses would be flooded during the monsoon period. The junction between Tanjong Katong and Mountbatten Road used to experience flooding, but the problem has been resolved years ago, they said.

One resident, who gave her name as just Mrs Sim, 42, said that during her home renovations about 3.5 years ago, the authorities had required that the family build their house on higher ground as a flood prevention measure.

Others such as retiree Teh Geok Chew, 76, said that a flooding incident is unlikely to happen, given that the authorities have “upgraded” the drains and installed CCTV cameras to monitor the situation.

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Malaysia: Borneo’s fame as biodiversity hotspot gets a boost

The Star 13 Nov 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Borneo’s reputation as a biodiversity hotspot has been reaffirmed with the number of new species of frogs identified on the island doubling over the past 20 years.

An initial comprehensive list of 90 species of the amphibians were identified in the Field Guide to the Frogs of Borneo, in its first edition in 1997.

The list however had expanded to 180 species in its latest 2017 edition launched by Special Tasks Minister Datuk Seri Teo Chee Kang last week.

Naturalist Datuk C.L. Chan, who heads the Kota Kinabalu-based Natural History Publica­tions that published the field guide, said the identification of many new species was an indication of Borneo’s rich diversity.

“Previously they were only able to collect samples in conservation areas such as Kinabalu Park and Danum Valley,” Chan said.

“There are perhaps another 20% more species yet to be identified.”

He said it was worrying that there could be some local frog species that went extinct before they could be identified.

“Some frog species are hardy and thrive in agriculture areas such as padi fields while others depend on a pristine environment to survive,” Chan said.

In the field guide, the authors stated that threats to Borneo’s frogs and other wildlife include the opening of land involving the removal of vegetation that increases siltation of streams.

This was compounded by runoff containing chemicals such as fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.

The researchers said other threats facing local frog species was the rearing of foreign species such as the American bullfrog and Taiwanese frog that were being farmed in Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan.

“Both have the potential to spread across disturbed habitats with expected deleterious impact on resident frog populations,” they wrote in the field guide.

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Australia: Live sex show returns to Great Barrier Reef for repeat performance next month

Daniel Bateman, The Cairns Post 14 Nov 17;

Scientists nervously awaiting weather forecasts for Great Barrier Reef this summer, fearing bleaching
THE world’s greatest sex show is likely to return for a repeat performance next month.

Divers have been wowed by the annual coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef, which was triggered over three nights last week, starting Wednesday.

Scientists believe, like previous years, this year’s mass reproductive event will be split over two months, with a second major spawning set to occur on the natural wonder in early December.

There has been concerns that consecutive mass coral bleaching may have dampened corals’ reproductive potential this year, however videographer and marine scientist Stuart Ireland, of Calypso Reef Imagery, said this did not appear to be the case last week.

“It was very similar to previous years,” he said.

“I was out at Moore Reef, and we probably saw about 10-20 per cent of the corals go off on the nights we were out there.

“So that’s a considerable amount, considering it’s going to be spread out over probably 6-8 nights with a split spawn, rather than concentrated down to 2-3 nights.

“It’s definitely substantial, and seeing that the corals that were under stress from bleaching, that’s quite amazing.”

During coral spawning, coral polyps produce millions of eggs and sperm, which they release simultaneously into the water.

The phenomenon usually occurs after a full moon, under specific conditions including day length, tide height and salinity levels.

Australian Institute of Marine Science researchers are in the process of surveying corals at various reef sites to determine whether the Reef’s overall reproductive output had been affected by bleaching.

AIMS researcher Dr Andrew Negri said the surveys, which involved close examination of coral polyps to see how many eggs were present, could take up to 12 months to complete.

“Logic would tell us that the overall reproduction of those northern sections (of the Reef) is very much going to be down on previous years,” he said.

He said the reports of large amounts of eggs in the water was a “glimmer of hope” that corals had been able to survive the two mass bleaching events.

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From the Everglades to Kilimanjaro, climate change is destroying world wonders

Number of natural world heritage sites at serious risk from global warming has doubled in three years, says the IUCN, including the Great Barrier Reef and spectacular karst caves in Europe
Damian Carrington The Guardian 13 Nov 17;

From the Everglades in the US to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, climate change is destroying the many of the greatest wonders of the natural world.

A new report on Monday from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reveals that the number of natural world heritage sites being damaged and at risk from global warming has almost doubled to 62 in the past three years.

Those at high risk include iconic places from the Galapagos Islands to the central Amazon and less well known but equally vibrant and unique sites such as the karst caves of Hungary and Slovakia and the monarch butterfly reserves in Mexico.

Coral reefs are particularly badly affected by rising ocean temperatures, from the Seychelles to Belize, where the northern hemisphere’s biggest reef is situated. Global heating is also causing mountain glaciers to rapidly shrink, from Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to the Rocky Mountains in Canada and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch – home to the largest Alpine glacier.

Other ecosystems being damaged are wetlands, such as the Everglades, where sea level is rising as the ocean warms and salt water is intruding. In the Sundarbans mangrove forest on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal, two islands have already been submerged and a dozen more are threatened. Fiercer storms are also increasing the risk of devastation.

Rising numbers of wildfires are damaging the beautiful Fynbos flowerscapes in the Cape region of South Africa and the Monarch butterfly site in Mexico. Elsewhere, warming is melting the permafrost in the newly declared Qinghai Hoh Xil heritage site, which is at 4,500m altitude in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

Australia is especially exposed as it has 10 natural heritage sites where climate change damage is rated as high or very high risk, from its Gondwana rainforests to Shark Bay in western Australia and islands such as Fraser and Macquarie.

The new IUCN report was launched at the UN climate summit being held in Bonn, Germany, where the world’s nations are working to put the 2015 landmark Paris agreement into operation.

“Protection of world heritage sites is an international responsibility of the same governments that have signed up to the Paris agreement,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general. “This report sends them a clear message: climate change acts fast and is not sparing the finest treasures of our planet. This underlines the need for urgent and ambitious national commitments and actions to implement the Paris agreement.”

Climate change is one of a range of factors that mean about a third of the world’s 241 natural heritage sites are being damaged, with invasive alien species being the top threat. Then, after global warming, comes unsustainable tourism, followed by other problems like poaching and construction.

Prince Charles, the UK’s heir to the throne and longtime environmentalist, said: “Climate change is in actual fact becoming regarded as the fastest growing threat, its impacts already visible in many of the sites. This report highlights the incredibly urgent need to expedite the global response to climate change.” A further 55 sites around the world are expected to be harmed by climate change in the future unless warming is curbed.

“Natural world heritage sites also play a crucial role supporting local economies and livelihoods,” said Tim Badman, director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “Their destruction can thus have devastating consequences that go beyond their exceptional beauty and natural value. In Peru’s Huascarán national park, for example, melting glaciers affect [people’s] water supplies.”

The report does include some success stories, showing that the destruction of nature’s most precious sites can be tackled. In Ivory Coast’s Comoé national park, for example, elephant and chimpanzee populations have recovered thanks to better management and international support after the end of conflicts.

But overall, the number of sites with good status has fallen, leaving Andersen to ask: “If we cannot secure the highest quality protection for the world’s most precious natural areas, what will this say about our ability to fulfil our collective commitments towards the planet, including the Paris agreement?”

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First CO2 rise in four years puts pressure on Paris targets

Matt McGrath BBC 13 Nov 17;

Global emissions of CO2 in 2017 are projected to rise for the first time in four years, dashing hopes that a peak might soon be reached.

The main cause of the expected growth has been greater use of coal in China as its economy expanded.

Researchers are uncertain if the rise in emissions is a one-off or the start of a new period of CO2 build-up.

Scientists say that a global peak in CO2 before 2020 is needed to limit dangerous global warming this century.

The Global Carbon Project has been analysing and reporting on the scale of emissions of CO2 since 2006.

Carbon output has grown by about 3% per year in that period, but growth essentially declined or remained flat between 2014 and 2016.

The latest figures indicate that in 2017, emissions of CO2 from all human activities grew by about 2% globally.
There is some uncertainty about the data but the researchers involved have concluded that emissions are on the rise again.

"Global CO2 emissions appear to be going up strongly once again after a three-year stable period. This is very disappointing," said the lead author of the study, Prof Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia.

"With global CO2 emissions from human activities estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2 degrees C, let alone 1.5C."

The most important element in causing this rise has been China, which is responsible for around 28% of the global total. Emissions there went up 3.5% in 2017, mainly because of increased coal use, driven in the main by a growing economy.

Another important factor in China has been lower water levels in rivers which have seen a drop in the amount of electricity made from hydro-power, with utilities turning to coal and gas to make up the shortfall.

US emissions have continued to decline but the fall has been less than expected. Higher prices saw a drop in the use of natural gas for electricity - with renewables and hydro-power picking up the slack.

Coal use has also grown slightly in the US this year, with consumption up about a half of one percent.

India's emissions are projected to grow by about 2%, which is a considerable decrease from around 6% per year over the last decade.

However, experts believe that this may be a temporary drop-off caused by a number of factors that have hampered the consumption of oil and cement.

Action required

Europe also saw a smaller decline than expected, falling by 0.2% compared with 2.2% over the last 10 years.

One common theme around the world is continued use of gas and oil, says Prof Le Quéré.

"There have been lots of ups and downs in the use of coal but in the background there has been no weakening in the use of oil and gas. And that is quite worrisome."

The report has been launched in Bonn where UN negotiators are trying to move forward with the rules for the Paris climate agreement.

Researchers involved with the study say they are not moving fast enough.

"Lots of diplomats are working out the rules but that is all a little bit meaningless unless they go back home to their countries and ratchet up climate action and that is where the gap is," said Dr Glen Peters, from the Centre for International Climate Research in Norway.

"These countries have to be pushing on with the policies, but everything keeps getting pushed back."

The report is sure to increase tensions in Bonn between developed and developing nations.

There is increasing resentment about the fact that all the focus is on future commitments made under the Paris climate agreement but very little on the years before it becomes active.

Poorer countries want the richer ones to increase their carbon-cutting actions over the next three years.

"The climate will not let us wait until 2020 when the Paris agreement comes into force," said Nicaragua's chief negotiator, Paul Oquist.

"Climate change is happening now and it's vital that immediate actions to cut emissions become a feature of this summit."

The new research on carbon emissions has been published simultaneously in the journals Nature Climate Change,Earth System Science Data Discussions and Environmental Research Letters.

Fossil fuel burning set to hit record high in 2017, scientists warn
The rise would end three years of flat carbon emissions – a ‘huge leap backward’ say some scientists, while others say the longer term trend is more hopeful
Damian Carrington The Guardian 13 Nov 17;

The burning of fossil fuels around the world is set to hit a record high in 2017, climate scientists have warned, following three years of flat growth that raised hopes that a peak in global emissions had been reached.

The expected jump in the carbon emissions that drive global warming is a “giant leap backwards for humankind”, according to some scientists. However, other experts said they were not alarmed, saying fluctuations in emissions are to be expected and that big polluters such as China are acting to cut emissions.

Global emissions need to reach their peak by 2020 and then start falling quickly in order to have a realistic chance of keeping global warming below the 2C danger limit, according to leading scientists. Whether the anticipated increase in CO2 emissions in 2017 is just a blip that is followed by a falling trend, or is the start of a worrying upward trend, remains to be seen.

Much will depend on the fast implementation of the global climate deal sealed in Paris in 2015 and this is the focus of the UN summit of the world’s countries in Bonn, Germany this week. The nations must make significant progress in turning the aspirations of the Paris deal into reality, as the action pledged to date would see at least 3C of warming and increasing extreme weather impacts around the world.

The 12th annual Global Carbon Budget report published on Monday is produced by 76 of the world’s leading emissions experts from 57 research institutions and estimates that global carbon emissions from fossil fuels will have risen by 2% by the end of 2017, a significant rise.

“Global CO2 emissions appear to be going up strongly once again after a three-year stable period. This is very disappointing,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the UK’s University of East Anglia and who led the new research. “The urgency for reducing emissions means they should really be already decreasing now.”

“There was a big push to sign the Paris agreement on climate change but there is a feeling that not very much has happened since, a bit of slackening,” she said. “What happens after 2017 is very open and depends on how much effort countries are going to make. It is time to take really seriously the implementation of the Paris agreement.” She said the hurricanes and floods seen in 2017 were “a window into the future”.

The new analysis is based on the available energy use data for 2017 and projections for the latter part of the year. It estimates that 37bn tonnes of CO2 will be emitted from burning fossil fuels, the highest total ever.

The main reason for the rise is an expected 3.5% increase in emissions in China, the world’s biggest polluter, where low rains have reduced low-carbon hydroelectric output and industrial activity has increased. India’s rise in emissions was modest compared to previous years at 2%, while the US and EU are both on track for small falls.

2017 is likely to be the hottest year ever recorded in which there was no El Niño event, a natural global cycle that temporarily nudges up global temperature. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere also saw a record jump in 2016, and other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture and industry are also rising.

“The news that emissions are rising after the three-year hiatus is a giant leap backwards for humankind,” said Amy Luers, executive director of Future Earth, a global research initiative. “Pushing the Earth closer to tipping points is deeply concerning. Emissions need to peak soon and approach zero by 2050.”

However, climate economist Prof Nicholas Stern, at the UK’s London School of Economics, said: “I would not be alarmed. There will be some fluctuations, for example around poor rains and hydro. We should also remember that the methods used to calculate emissions will have their own errors.”

He said there is strong climate action in China: “It has a very clear strategy, particularly on coal and energy efficiency and they are getting, and will get, results.” But Stern said it remains vital that all countries ramp up the ambition of their emissions pledges and that richer countries support action across the world.

Climate scientist Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University in the US, said the research was authoritative but also urged caution, noting that the 2% projected rise in emissions is small relative to the overall uncertainties in the data. “It seems to me they are over-interpreting the 2017 numbers and jumping the gun a bit. Can’t we wait until the actual numbers are in to do a post-mortem?”

The ability to monitor emissions quickly and accurately is of growing importance. The Paris agreement is based on voluntary cuts by nations, and without verification that pledges have been fulfilled, the trust that underpins the deal could be eroded. “This puts immense pressure on the scientific community to develop methods that can truly verify changes in emissions,” said Le Quéré.

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