Best of our wild blogs: 30 Apr 18

Of Fireflies and Mangroves: Singapore Story
The Entomologist Lounge

Stealthy sotong and awesome octopuses of Singapore's seagrass meadows
wild shores of singapore

Rough Golden Toadfish (Lagocephalus lunaris) @ Pulau Ubin
Monday Morgue

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Local beekeeper wants to save pollinators from extermination

LOW YOUJIN Today Online 29 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE – Mr Xavier Tan, 52, wishes that more people would give him a buzz when they encounter a beehive in their homes, instead of calling the pestbusters.

Rather than using pesticide to exterminate the entire colony, which is what commercial pestbusters do, Mr Tan offers a non-destructive alternative: He removes beehives by locating the queen bee and its larvae, placing them in a box, and coaxing the rest of the colony to follow.

The hives are then transplanted to locations such as The Ashram – a halfway house in Sembawang – and other parts of Singapore, which he declined to reveal.

It is a time-consuming process that can take up to six hours, and has to be done in the evening when a majority of the bees have returned to the hive after a day spent foraging.

“People want a humane way of removing the hives … so my customers were glad when they found out about my services,” said the founder and owner of Nutrinest, a one-man operation in Singapore that conducts educational workshops, humane bee removal and beekeeping.

Charging between S$150 and S$300 for his hive removal services, depending on the complexity of the task, Mr Tan has been receiving an average of about two requests a week. He started offering his services in 2014, after learning that pest controllers in Singapore remove beehives using pesticide, which result in the extermination of the entire colony.

“In France, it’s a crime to kill bees with pesticide,” said the beekeeper who has launched a petition urging the Singapore Government to pass a similar bill. France adopted a law in 2016 that would effectively ban bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides this year.

But Mr Tan is a long way from his goal of gathering 500 signatures; as of April 27, he has less than 40.


In an island where apiculture – or beekeeping is uncommon – the former global logistics manager at software company Hewlett-Packard stumbled onto the hobby in 2009, after he was given the “golden handshake”.

He picked up the trade from a veteran beekeeper from Malaysia, who got him interested in the pollinators’ conservation, particularly around 2010 when forests were being cleared and hives needed to be saved. Since then, he has invested in an apiary in Malaysia with his mentor.

Asked about his passion for bees, paraphrasing a quote by the famed theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, Mr Tan said: “Without bees in the world, in four years’ time, humans would be extinct.”

Scientists discovered the Colony Collapse Disorder in 2006, a disease that decimated the bee population worldwide. As the pollinators are responsible for a third of the world’s food crops, the discovery naturally sparked a panic about a potential food shortage.

While the bee population have since risen, Mr Tan remains concerned.


“Bees don’t go around stinging people for no reason … it kills them too,” the tanned apiarist told TODAY, adding that misconceptions about bees are the reason why most people fear them.

To prove a point, Mr Tan built an arched garden trellis within The Ashram that he says will attract the bees. And on May 20, he intends to mark Singapore’s first World Bee Day by inviting the public to walk through the arch and experience how harmless the bees are.

He is on a mission to educate the public on the benefits of bees and to embrace beekeeping. For example, before offering his humane beehive removal service, he would try to convince his clients to keep the hives if they do not pose any danger. But only 10 per cent take up his suggestion.

“It is a rare opportunity for children to learn about bees … just don’t disturb them and you should be fine,” said Mr Tan, who advises anyone who encounters a beehive to move slowly around them.

In fact, he went on to explain that a beehive serves as a barometer of health for its surroundings. The existence of a beehive in one’s property is a good thing because it indicates a hale and hearty eco-system, which is turn beneficial for people.

“If you see see a lot of bees disappearing, it probably means the area has a lot of chemicals,” added Mr Tan, who joked that anyone looking to purchase a new landed property should seek one with a beehive.


Getting a beekeeping licence in Singapore would help him and other beekeepers in making apiaries more mainstream, and give the public greater confidence that what they do is legal, he said.

But according to Mr Tan, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) would not issue a relevant beekeeping license, citing a lack of a suitable entity that could provide the licensing framework.

Responding to media queries, the AVA did not address the licensing issue. An AVA spokesperson said: “Hobbyists keeping bees in their own private residences should exercise caution to prevent causing inconvenience to the community and posing a risk to public safety”.

Meanwhile, Mr Tan said the National Parks Board and an international school did express some interest about establishing an apiary, but they wanted only the stingless variety – the Trigona.

It is a proposition that Mr Tan does not agree with, as he does not want people to form the wrong perception that bees do not sting.

Mr Tan said pairing a Trigona colony with a stinging variety such as the Apis cerana would serve as an important education tool. He believes people must learn to respect both varieties and to co-exist with them.


In the meantime, Mr Tan does what he can to spread the word about the benefits of bees. Besides humane beehive removal, he produces honey too from the 20 hives he maintains in Singapore, which is sold to hotels, restaurants and cafes.

While the frequency of honey extraction is subjective on the “strength of the bee colony” as well as the availability of flowers, Mr Tan estimates he does a harvest every three to four months.

A mature hive is able to yield between two and three kilograms worth of honey at each extraction, which Mr Tan sells for S$100 per kilogram.

“It is very light, fragrant and sweet … the taste is complex because of the variety of pollen the bees forage from.”

One client, The Grand Hyatt, said Mr Tan’s honey fits its food philosophy of sourcing from cooperative growers and local farmers.

The hotel’s director of culinary operations Lucas Glanville said that the beekeeper’s honeys “possess unique taste properties which are not available elsewhere”, and guests who tried it at the recent Farm to Table dinner in March were impressed.

He also sells the liquid gold to honey lovers at farmers’ markets or from his website. Be warned though, the wait time for his Singapore-made honey can be up to half a year.

Supply is limited, and Mr Tan has no intentions of taxing his busy bees for commercial profit.


Singapore has four species of bees: the stingless bee (Trigona), Asian Honey Bee (Apis cerana), Dwarf Honey Bee (Apis andreniformis), Giant Honey Bee (Apis dorsata)
The colony size of an average hive is about 10,000 to 20,000 bees.
Bees will travel up to 2km from their hive to forage for food.
A single bee will seek out up to 2,000 flowers in a day.
There are two ways to tell if store-bought honey is authentic: it should not freeze when left in the freezer, and it should crystallize at the base over time.
The taste of honey is determined by where the majority of the collected pollen comes from.

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Marsiling Park opens with new mangrove habitat, enhanced amenities for residents

CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 29 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE – After almost two years of redevelopment works, a popular park at Marsiling now has a new name and improved facilities for residents.

Marsiling Park, formerly known as Woodlands Town Garden, was opened on Sunday (April 29) after a 22-month overhaul that gave the park a new mangrove habitat and enhanced recreational amenities.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who is also the adviser to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Grassroots Organisations (GROs), graced the opening on Sunday morning with some 800 residents who attended a community event held in conjunction with the park's opening.

The 13-hectare park near Marsiling MRT station now features an enhanced mangrove forest with more than 1000 saplings of mangrove species, such as Api Api and White Teruntum.

Previously, the mangrove forest was blocked from public view by a dense layer of vegetation, which prevented the growth of new mangrove saplings.

Mangrove species that were endangered locally, like the Berembang, were also reintroduced.

The redevelopment works will open up opportunities for the public to learn more about mangrove ecosystems, said the National Parks Board (NParks).

Students from schools in the area, such as Marsiling Secondary School, will be involved in the monitoring of the flora and fauna at the mangrove area and document fauna species sighted throughout the park.

The data collected will help guide the development of long-term conservation management strategies, NParks added.

First opened in 1983 as Woodlands Town Garden, the park was renamed in 2016 after a public consultation process. At the time, residents expressed a strong interest in the renaming and the name Marsiling Park was eventually chosen.

Acting upon the feedback from residents, who stated that they wished to enjoy the park at all times of the day, NParks also installed more lamp posts to allow visitors to take evening strolls in the park.

Activity areas for children were also improved. For example, the butterfly playground has been complemented with educational interpretive boards to inform visitors about butterfly species that can be found within the park.

At another play area, equipment that makes musical sounds when played creates a different play experience for children. To cater to families, the park also has a new food and beverage outlet that is open round the clock.

To encourage residents in the Marsiling precinct to frequent the park more regularly, a community brisk walk event was also held on Sunday morning.

More activities, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, will also be held at the park later this year, said NParks.

Marsiling park known for vice activities reopens after two-year facelift
Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 29 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: A park in Marsiling that became infamous for its vice activities reopened on Sunday (Apr 29) after nearly two years of enhancement works.

The former Woodlands Town Garden, now known as Marsiling Park, was closed for upgrading in July 2016 following feedback from residents.

Media reports had said residents complained about vice activities at the park, and those living in the area had avoided the park as they felt unsafe.

Speaking at the park’s reopening on Sunday, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said: "In the last few years, as you saw from the media reports, we had some vice activities in this area."

The park has now been transformed with the help of grassroots leaders, NParks as well as President Halimah Yaacob, who pushed for the park to be upgraded during her time as Member of Parliament for Marsiling, Mr Wong said.

The 13ha park now has a new butterfly-shaped playground – the only one of its kind in Singapore – a new boardwalk, heritage corner as well as a cafe that is open around the clock.

Lighting has also been improved and activity areas are now well-lit to allow visitors to enjoy the park and use its facilities in the evenings, NParks said.

The mangrove area has also been enhanced to allow visitors to get closer to nature. More than 1,000 saplings of mangrove species such as Api Api and White Teruntum were planted. Critically endangered local mangrove species such as the Berembang have also been reintroduced to boost the biodiversity and ecological resilience of the mangrove.

The park is part of the six “star attractions” that was introduced last year to revitalise the Woodlands estate. Other attractions include new recreational and residential developments.

As part of the third batch of estates under the Housing and Development Board’s Remaking Our Heartlands programme, the Woodlands estate will be spruced up over the next five to 10 years.

Source: CNA/cy

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Consumer works to avoid disposables with own utensils

Low Li Ping Today Online 30 Apr 18;

Since January, Miss Khee Shihui has avoided using more than 200 single-use disposable utensils, straws, plates, bowls, cups and takeaway boxes - all made from plastic and styrofoam.

The 35-year-old freelance facilitator does so by bringing reusable utensils such as cups and lunchbox wherever she goes.

As @tabaogirl on Instagram, she regularly posts about her successes and failures at avoiding disposables.

It all started last May when she found out about the frightening extent of coral bleaching, caused by global warming, on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

In her journey to zero waste, she has received mixed responses from food and beverage (F&B) businesses here.


Workers at one place once rejected her request to put the cold drink in her own cup for fear that she would complain on social media that she received "less quantity", Miss Khee told The New Paper.

But she has also encountered accommodating workers at F&B outlets who have even offered to help wash her containers.

Local halal F&B chain Stuff'd started allowing customers to use their own containers from last month.

Previously, it did not allow that due to the possibility of cross contamination.

Mr Chin Zheng, a customer service officer at Stuff'd, said: "Since then, we reached out to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) again for clarification, and they reassured us that as long the containers are clean, dry and empty, food can be packed into them."

Ms Sandra Zhang, 45, a project manager at Food from the Heart, a non-profit organisation that distributes food to the needy, said hawkers have never rejected her request to use her own containers.

"Some remember my special requests when I bring my own food containers," she said.

"It is such a shame to throw away plastic food containers that have only been used for less than an hour but took so much more time and resources to make." - LOW LI PING

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Runners race for a greener planet at Income Eco Run

Audrey Tan Straits Times 29 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - Mass runs are usually known for generating huge amounts of waste, but insurance company Income is trying to change that with its annual Income Eco Run.

Some 9,000 participants laced up their running shoes for the run on Sunday (April 29) not just to get their hearts pumping, but also in a race for a greener planet.

Of the participants, 2,000 of them were Zero Waste runners who declined to receive a finisher tees, race medal, or both.

Other waste-reducing measures at the event include the recycling of all paper cups used, as well as the composting of some 700kg of banana peels. The fruit is usually distributed during mass run events.

The green efforts from the run, now in its ninth edition, will be incorporated into a report by the Singapore Environment Council to calculate the waste generated per capita during the event. It is the first time that this is being done for the Income Eco Run.

Results of the report will be released next month, and Income will use the insights to set new green targets for the next run.

Income chief marketing officer Marcus Chew said it was encouraging to see runners committing to a journey towards zero waste.

He said: "Building a more sustainable future requires the collective effort of everyone, and we want to thank all our runners for coming down today. We hope that participants will leave today's run feeling inspired to take a step, big or small, to create a greener world and help Singapore become more future ready."

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Thai environment protesters stage largest demonstration since start of military rule

Reuters 29 Apr 18;

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Over a thousand people gathered in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai on Sunday, police said, to protest against the building of a government luxury housing project on forested land, in one of the largest demonstrations under military rule.

The gathering was one of the largest since Thailand’s junta took power following a 2014 coup. The junta imposed a ban on public gatherings of over five people and has largely curbed freedom of expression through various orders and used military and police force to block public gatherings.

Ariel images of the housing project for judges, circulated on social media over the past few months, showed construction has carved into the forested foothills of Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep mountain, inciting public anger.

The police estimated over a thousand people took part in the protest on Sunday which it said proceeded in an orderly fashion.

“Around 1,250 people took part in the protest,” Police Colonel Paisan, deputy commander of Chiang Mai Police told Reuters.

“The protesters were focused on environmental issues and not politics, and they cleaned the street afterwards,” Paisan said. He said the organizers made a proper request for the gathering beforehand and so the protest was allowed to proceed.

Protesters, many wearing green ribbons, demanded the government demolish the new buildings that encroach into Doi Suthep mountain, saying the government must comply in seven days or face more protests.

Public officials have defended the project, pointing out construction was legal and on state-owned land which does not encroach into the national park that covers the mountain.

Officials also said protesters could face legal action if the housing is demolished and that the homes should be used for 10 years before the public can reassess any environmental impact.

Construction started in 2015 and has faced opposition from local environmental groups who regard the mountain as sacred for Chiang Mai and as a “natural lung” for the north’s largest city.

The military government, which has promised to hold an election next year, has faced a growing number of public protests in recent months, including a pro-democracy demonstration in Bangkok last month demanding the military withdraw support for the ruling junta.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-umEditing by Christopher Cushing

Thai environment protesters claim victory in battle over forest housing
Reuters 6 May 18;

CHIANG MAI, Thailand (Reuters) - Environmental activists in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai claimed victory after the country’s military government agreed in talks on Sunday not to use forested land to develop luxury property.

It follows a protest in Chiang Mai last week in which more than 1,000 demonstrators protested against the construction of a government luxury housing project earmarked as homes for judges on land in the foothills of the province’s famous Doi Suthep mountains.

Last week’s gathering was one of the largest since Thailand’s junta took power following a 2014 coup.

It was also one of a growing number of anti-government protests around Thailand, including in the capital Bangkok, that are putting pressure on the military government before a general election planned for early 2019.

Green ribbons symbolizing the environmental movement have appeared in public places in Chiang Mai, including on lamp posts and on cars, over the past week.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha sent Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana, a minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, to Chiang Mai on Sunday to talk to protest leaders.

“We have concluded that no one will be living in this housing estate,” Suwaphan said after a meeting with the activists, adding that the area “will eventually be restored to the forest.”

Decisions on the future use of the land currently under development, which includes 45 houses, will be taken later this week, Suwaphan said, adding that the government will form a committee with activists and representatives from the local community to determine further steps to restore the land.

However, Suwaphan said construction of the homes already under way would have to continue in order for the government to honor its agreement with the construction firm involved.

He added that nobody would live in the finished homes.

Photographs of the construction of a government luxury housing project earmarked as homes for judges on land in the foothills of the province's famous Doi Suthep mountains are on display at an art fair organised by environmentalist groups in Chiang Mai, Thailand May 6, 2018. REUTERS/Panu Wongcha-um
Activists hailed the decision as a victory.

“What we have now is a promise that Doi Suthep forest will be restored,” said Teerasak Roopsuwan, one of the movement’s leaders.

“I think this could be a model for other parts of the country that public projects must not only be legal, but they must also consider local people’s opinions,” Teerasak said.

Sawat Chantalay, a Chiang Mai environmental activist, told Reuters that the activists will continue to organize public events to create awareness about such issues.

“This housing estate is like an open wound that reflects layers of problems Thailand has accumulated over many years,” said environmental activist Wattana Wachirodom.

“But if the government doesn’t fix this then people could rise up,” said Wattana.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um in CHIANG MAI, Thailand;Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Adrian Croft

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Apr 18

What are the benefits of Singapore mangroves?
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Now online: Singapore's marine life at the Natural History Museum
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Morning Walk At Upper Seletar Reservoir (28 Apr 2018)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Sexual Dimorphism : Part 1
Butterflies of Singapore

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Pigeon population will keep growing unless people stop feeding them: AVA

MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng intends to propose a bill to empower citizens to stop pigeon feeders.
Jalelah Abu Baker Channel NewsAsia 29 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: If you are concerned about pigeon droppings dirtying your laundry or other hygiene issues, it may come as a surprise to hear that it's not the birds which are causing the problem. In fact, their feeders are.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said that actively feeding pigeons and food litter are the main factors contributing to the growth of the pigeon population.

The authority was responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia on the root cause of the decades-old issue, and the effectiveness of the current penalties for pigeon feeding.

A spokesperson cautioned that the pigeon population will continue to grow if food is readily available, which will make pigeon-related issues worse, such as droppings on window ledges.

“Enforcement alone will not solve the pigeon-feeding problem,” she said.

The penalty for feeding pigeons is a fine of up to S$500. AVA penalised 130 people in 2016, five of whom were repeat offenders. Last year, that went up to 218, of whom eight were recalcitrant. As of Mar 20 this year, 93 people had been penalised, out of whom one was a repeat offender.

At the same time, AVA numbers suggest that concern about pigeons is increasing, with 5,500 instances of feedback in 2017, a 34 per cent increase from 4,100 in 2016.

The spokesperson added that pigeons are not native birds and are an invasive species. “Their droppings dirty the environment, and leftover food from pigeon feeding may attract other pests, like rats, that carry diseases and pose a risk to public health,” she said.

They can also potentially spread diseases to humans through contaminated droppings or via contact with diseased or dead birds, she added.


The authority has installed about 100 cameras since 2016, the spokesperson said. “Through the use of these cameras, AVA has taken enforcement actions against recalcitrant pigeon feeders, who are subjected to heavier penalties,” she said.

The presence of cameras also serves as a deterrent to pigeon feeding, she said, adding that in cases where the photos or video footage of the alleged feeders are available, AVA will also work with the respective Town Councils to put up notices at the feeding spots to appeal for information from members of the public.

AVA said that it takes a multi-pronged approach, which involves long-term planning to better understand and tackle the issue at its root, and shorter-term measures in order to address immediate threats to public health and safety.

Banner urging the public not to feed the pigeons, in Balam Road. (Photo: Jalelah Abu Baker)
In the long term, AVA conducts studies and analyses surveillance and feedback data to formulate a science-based management approach and continue efforts to educate the public on the right behaviour to have towards animals, the spokesperson added.

“As animal-related issues are often complex, there is no single solution,” she said.

She added that the public has a part to play.

“The public can play a bigger role in managing pigeon-related issues by talking to others about the downsides of feeding. By leveraging their sphere of influence, members of the public can help change the behaviour and perspectives within their community,” she said.

AVA also urged members of the public not to feed pigeons, and to report pigeon feeders.


Laws to empower citizens to stop animal feeders, including pigeon feeders, could come into effect, if MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng has his way.

Mr Ng told Channel NewsAsia during an interview about upcoming plans to conduct a public consultation on amending the Wild Animals and Birds Act. He is looking to file a private member’s Bill to make changes to the Act, which he believes currently has gaps.

He said that citizens could be issued with a warrant card in order to have powers to stop feeders and collect their details.

"Then feeders will know there are people watching," he said.

Among the changes he wants to introduce is the introduction of fines for feeding wild animals regardless of the location. He said the changes will address feeders regardless of the environment the animals are in, as enforcement prescribed in current laws distinguish between protected areas and other public areas.

When it comes to pigeons, he stressed that the feeding of pigeons and easy access to food for them are the problems.

“The issue is that we have been treating the symptoms - the pigeons - instead of the root cause, easy availability of food,” he said.


He recalled an incident that proved his point, although it did not involve pigeons. Some months ago, a monkey started turning up in the heart of his ward in Yishun. Mr Ng’s response was to get people to go door-to-door to give residents a simple instruction: Do not feed the monkey.

Residents heeded the advice, and in no time, the monkey left and was not seen again. Mr Ng pointed to this as a sure sign that if people do not feed the animals and watch from a distance, birds and animals will be less of a problem.

“If people don’t feed them, they are not going to breed rapidly,” he said, adding that current measures could be counter-productive, or not effective.

“If they were effective, this issue will not be decades-old,” he said.

He also addressed another solution AVA has tried: Feeding contraceptives to pigeons. He said this is not sustainable as it requires the birds to be fed without fail, and that increasing manpower to deal with such issues is not sustainable either.


When Channel NewsAsia visited some areas singled out for their pigeon problems in Ang Mo Kio, Boon Lay and Bukit Batok, residents pointed to recalcitrant feeders as culprits. However, they can be difficult to catch in action, they said.

One resident in Ang Mo Kio said that feeders wait till no one is around, and by the time she sees the food, the feeder is nowhere to be found. She added however, that even if she catches the offender red-handed, she would not know what to do.

Mr Jimmy Chua, 62, who takes care of a community garden in Ang Mo Kio Ave 10, said that he has come to the garden and seen it littered with items like bread crumbs and other food, thrown by people from windows that overlook the area.

“It’s so dirty. I know they live in this block, but I don’t know who they are or when they throw,” he said.

Mr Ng, who has also experienced residents complaining to him about pigeons, said that pigeon feeders think they are doing good and may not be aware of the harm they are doing.

MP for West Coast GRC, and the area’s town council chairman Patrick Tay echoed the view. While he said pigeons are “not a major problem” in his ward, he said they are a challenge to deal with.

“The main challenge are the feeders. They believe they are doing it out of compassion and kindness, and continue doing so,” he said.

Source: CNA/ja

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Use of poisoned bait not allowed: AVA on suspected stray dog poisoning in Yishun

Channel NewsAsia 28 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has addressed a widely shared online post by a group of animal lovers which claimed AVA contractors could be behind the suspected poisoning of a stray dog in Yishun.

In a Facebook post late Friday (Apr 27), AVA said it had deployed external contractors to remove stray dogs in Yishun Avenue 6, after receiving feedback that the animals were chasing members of the public in the area. It had also ascertained that they were a "public safety risk".

However, it emphasised that contractors are not allowed to use "poisoned bait". "All external contractors have to follow a set of guidelines jointly developed by AVA and SPCA," the authority said.

AVA added that it was informed that a dog carcass was disposed of, but that it "did not receive any reports on alleged poisoning of stray dogs in the area".

Its statement came in response to a viral post on the "Yishun 326 Tabby cat" Facebook page.

The group alleges that a stray dog was found dead after residents from the Yishun Riverwalk estate saw three men in a silver van visiting the area over the course of a few evenings.

"One of them was holding to a plastic bag and went into the forested area then returned empty-handed. The residents confronted them but they ignored (sic) and walked off. The next day, a dog carcass was found," the post read.

Volunteers from the Yishun 326 Tabby cat group said they later found dog food, gloves and "white powder" on the items in the forested area.

The group posted images of the dead dog and said it had made a police report.

Mr Louis Ng, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC and founder of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), weighed in on the matter on Saturday.

"Reading about animals being poisoned is something which makes me angry and many of you have written to me about the suspected stray dog poisoning case at Yishun Ave 6," he said.

He added that he has spoken to the authorities about the case and they assured him that use of poisoned bait is prohibited.

He also urged people with information on the incident to reach out to the authorities.

Source: CNA/na

AVA responds to stray dog 'poisoning case' in Yishun, says it does not use poisoned baits
Lydia Lam Straits Times 28 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has responded to an alleged case of stray dog poisoning in Yishun, saying it does not allow the use of poisoned baits.

The incident had been flagged by animal activist page Yishun 326 Tabby Cat, which posted photos of a dog carcass. The page claimed that residents at Yishun Riverwalk had noticed on Monday (April 23) that a silver van had been frequenting the area.

Three men are said to have been spotted with a plastic bag at a field where a pack of stray dogs are often seen. A plastic bag containing dog food and a pair of gloves covered with white powder were found later, the Facebook page said.

It alleged that the three men were contractors engaged by AVA.

"When called, AVA refuted the poisoning but admitted they did engage contractors to solve the complaint case whereby stray dogs ran after cyclists," said Yishun 326 Tabby Cat.

The group also claimed that it has filed a police report over the matter.

AVA addressed the claims in a Facebook post on Friday (April 27).

It stressed that all external contractors it engages for stray dog management have to follow a set of guidelines developed by AVA and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"Poisoned baits are not allowed to be used," said AVA.

It said it had responded to "recent feedback on stray dogs chasing members of the public in the Yishun Avenue 6 area".

After it conducted surveillance of the area, it "ascertained that there was a public safety risk", and activated contractors to remove the stray dogs.

However, AVA said it did not receive any reports on the alleged poisoning of stray dogs in the area, and the carcass has reportedly been disposed of.

AVA usually requires a carcass to perform autopsy for investigations. Without a carcass, it is difficult to ascertain cause of death.

AVA said its priority in stray dog management "is to ensure that public safety and public health are not compromised".

It added that impounded animals removed by activated contractors are checked when they arrived at AVA.

It works with animal welfare groups to rehome animals that are deemed suitable for rehoming.

"All external contractors have to follow a set of guidelines jointly developed by AVA and SPCA," said AVA. "These guidelines cover how contractors can capture, handle and transport animals, as well as the types of equipment that are allowed to be used in animal management operations."

Yishun MP Louis Ng, who is founder of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, addressed the matter in a Facebook post on Saturday.

"Reading about animals being poisoned is something which makes me angry and many of you have written to me about the suspected stray dog poisoning case at Yishun Avenue 6," he wrote. "I have spoken to AVA about this case and they have assured me that poisoned baits are not allowed to be used."

Those with information on this case can contact AVA at 1800-476-1600.

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Malaysia: Counting birds to save nature

Who says you can’t be part of a global environmental survey on birds, right from your own little garden?
Elena Koshy New Straits Times 28 Apr 18;

FOR most of my life, I hardly paid attention to birds. It was only as I grew older and more introspective did I become a person whose heart lifts whenever she hears an Asian koel singing, or the distinctive Helmeted hornbill calling, and who hurries out into the garden to spot the skittish Olive-backed sunbird flitting amongst my hibiscus. I watched them, drew them and soon stumbled into a hobby that seemed like a veritable rabbit hole into a world of natural wonders. I became a birdwatcher and I was never the same again.

Birdwatching is an adventure that begs to be embarked. A treasure hunt of sorts that leave you skulking through forest trails and the great wilderness beyond to look at beautiful flighty creatures that refuses to adhere to your well laid-out plans. They hide between branches, take flight before you can raise your trusted binoculars to your eyes and sometimes coyly make calls loud enough for you to twitch around excitedly but remain covertly hidden, much to your frustration.

You stalk wild creatures, not looking at pictures of them. You’re dependent on weather, geography and time of day. If you miss the Helmeted hornbill, there isn’t another showing for hours on end. It’s at heart, voyeuristic and you can’t do it without technology. To bring these creatures closer, you must interpose binoculars between yourself and the wild world. But the beauty about birds is that you can really find them anywhere. Out in your garden, in parks, in the cities, in our forests — the skies are literally the limit.

While the aesthetic beauty of birds remains undisputed (at least through the eyes of avid birdwatchers), these creatures play an even more significant role in determining the health of our planet. They’re the “canary in the coal mine” for our environment. Their health, abundance and distribution can signal trends in the health of the larger environment. What bird populations also usefully indicate is the health of our ethical values. One reason that birds matter — ought to matter — is that they’re our last, best connection to a natural world that’s otherwise receding.

On May 5, Global Big Day by eBird, a global ornithological network, invites you to be a part of a large movement of citizen scientists, to count birds. Your observations, alongside millions of others from countries around the world, will be compiled to power data-driven approaches to science, conservation as well as education.

Global Big Day

The skittish nature of birds makes them notoriously hard to count. There aren’t any sensors or apparatus invented to date that can note the type and number of birds in the area. Only people. Until the emergence of eBird which began collecting daily global data in 2002, one-day counts were the only method.

Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University and the National Audobon Society, eBird began with a simple brainwave - that every birdwatcher has unique knowledge and experience.

Tapping into that idea, eBird came up with an online database of bird observations that gathers basic information on bird abundance and distribution. By engaging with the common man and amateurs to participate in citizen science, eBird is an example of crowdsourcing and has been praised as an example of democratising science, treating normal citizens as scientists, giving access to the public and providing them a platform to use their own data and the collective data generated by others.

eBird compiles and documents bird distribution, abundance, habitat use and trends through checklist data collected within an easy but scientific framework. Birdwatchers enter when, where and how they went bird watching. They fill out a checklist of all the birds seen and heard during the outing.

eBird’s free mobile app enables offline data collection anywhere in the world. It also offers incentives for birdwatchers to stay involved with apps that enable them to compile and keep their life lists (records of the species they’ve seen), compare their sightings with other birdwatchers and know where to look for birds they haven’t seen before.

The Global Big Day is an initiative spearheaded by eBird to gather birdwatchers from all over the world to stand on the common ground of birds, and record their sightings in one day, no matter where they are.

A spokesman from eBird says: “For us, Global Big Day is a celebration of birds. By bringing people together, Global Big Day showcases the great birds from each region while helping to bring awareness to birding and conservation, regionally and globally.”

The Malaysian connection

In this part of the world, eBird Malaysia is a collaborative project managed by the Wild Bird Club Malaysia (WBCM), a non-profit and membership-based organisation whose mission is to conserve Malaysia’s unique birds and their habitats through promoting best practices for birdwatching.

“On Global Big Day, we’d like to call out to all bird watchers in Malaysia to participate in this massive bird counting exercise. Why not head to your favourite birding spot on May 5 and count birds? It could be your backyard, or the highland forests of Frasers Hill, the mangroves of Kuala Selangor or

even the wilds of Belum,” says Mark Ng, vice-president of WBCM, before adding with a smile: “Bring your family and friends, and make it an event so that more people can get to know about birds and nature!”

“If you live in Malaysia, you’re lucky to have this wonderful diversity of fascinating birds filling every corner of this nation,” continues Andrew Sebastian, bird guide, chief executive officer of Ecotourism & Conservation Malaysia (ECOMY) and WBCM member. “Malaysia is home to 796 species. Sixty four are endemics, found nowhere else in the world.”

While birds have instincts and the physical abilities to survive diverse, even harsh conditions that evolution has bequeathed to them, human beings, points out Sebastian, are reshaping the face of the planet — its surface, climate and oceans — too quickly for birds to adapt by evolving. “The future of most bird species depends on our commitment to preserve them. The question we have to ask ourselves is: are they valuable enough for us to make the effort? The answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’. They’re integral to our survival. It’s hard to imagine a world without birds in it.”

“Here’s your chance to make a difference,” chips in Ng. “Participate in this event and submit your findings on ebird Malaysia. If you’ve not done birdwatching before and are looking to explore this

interesting hobby, join us at the Wild Bird Club. Birdwatching is a wonderful way for people to connect back with nature.”

Join the Global Party

For birdwatchers, Global Big Day has given their pastime a new sense of purpose. Whether you see one bird or a thousand, it’s significant. And knowing that your observations can be used to make a difference to protect birds and their habitats, make this pursuit a meaningful one. And thanks to eBird, it’s not limited to just one single day, but all year round.

Join like-minded bird watchers from the Wild Bird Club Malaysia, participate in their activities and get to know our wondrous Malaysian avian species. From black and red broadbills, wreathed hornbills to the inquisitive sunbird perched on your windowsill, you can be sure that birdwatching may be just the adventure you’re seeking to embark.

As author and director of Cape May Bird Observatory puts it so succinctly: “Without birds, nature could lose her voice and the planet, its most engaging envoys. Birds matter precisely because they matter to us. Birds are real, elements that live within our sensory plane. They spread their wings and bridge the gap between our world and the natural world.”

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Can Indonesia's Komodo Dragons survive Chinese tourists?

The famed apex predators are able to kill anyone who gets near, but may themselves fall prey to Indonesia’s tourism ambitions
ERNEST KAO South China Morning Post 28 Apr 18;

The Komodo dragon can smell blood up to 4km away – and Agus, a forest ranger and guide at Komodo National Park, the only place in the world where this ancient lizard can be observed in the wild, can testify to their lethality.

Recently, a village carpenter had to have his leg sawed off after being bitten by one. And last year, a Singaporean tourist was attacked while trying to take a photo.

The reptiles have more than a dozen types of venom in their saliva that can prevent blood clotting.

“They don’t really think,” Agus says of the near-endangered animal, which feeds on local deer, water buffalo and wild pigs and can grow up to three metres long. “They act on basic instinct and are opportunistic carnivores. They need meat. Any meat.”

On this mild spring day, five adult Komodos are lazing in the shade by the rangers’ mess on Rinca, one of the three main islands in the protected park’s 26-isle archipelago, drawn in by the smell of food.

One of them flicks a pale forked tongue out to sample the air before making a slow stride to another spot in the shade. A small group of tourists snap pictures from a distance. None of them are speaking Chinese.

It is unusually tranquil for a Unesco World Heritage Site and one that, since 2011, has been called one of the world’s “seven new wonders of nature”. But foreign visitor numbers to one of Indonesia’s oldest national parks have been soaring in recent years – and a new influx of mainland Chinese visitors is expected in May.

Until 2011, few foreign visitors, barring the occasional diving enthusiast – the park is home to 50 world-class dive sites – or photographer, stepped foot on this less-travelled part of eastern Indonesia. It is a one-hour speedboat ride from the fishing town of Labuan Bajo, which itself is a one-hour flight east of the popular resort island of Bali.

Created in 1980, the park is nestled in Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands between East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara. The relative isolation of Rinca, home to about a fifth of the park’s 5,000 Komodo dragons, and the park’s other islands such as Komodo and Padar, has largely helped insulate its delicate ecosystem from development for decades.

The lizards’ large size is put down to a phenomenon known as “island gigantism”, a phenomenon caused by the absence of other carnivorous animals on an isolated land mass. The park topography itself seems to come straight out of Jurassic Park. Its rocky outcrops of volcanic origin sprout from the seas and are covered in lush green during the rainy season; its jagged mountain ranges, punctuated by open savannahs, are inhabited by prehistoric reptiles.

Buffered by mangroves, reefs, pink sand beaches and the azure waters of the Flores Sea, the park’s marine protected area is home to more than 1,000 species of fish, including manta rays, and 385 coral.

Around 278,000 tourists visited Labuan Bajo last year and of this figure, less than one per cent were from China, the country’s biggest source of inbound tourists. By contrast, the more well-known Bali received more than 5 million tourists, the bulk from China and Australia.

But fortunes could change for Labuan Bajo come May, when the park will receive its first large tour groups from China. Between then and the end of next year, 100 Chinese tourists are expected to arrive on the park’s shores every day, according to officials. That compares to an average of just 50 Chinese tourists a month since 2016 and even fewer before that.

Fifteen cruise ships are expected to make Komodo island a regular port of call, each carrying hundreds of passengers. The influx of cruises and Chinese tourists is expected to provide a significant boost to the 70,000 park visitors it received in 2017, mostly locals from Jakarta and the rest Europeans and Americans.

The expected increase mirrors a surge in Chinese tourists to Southeast Asia in general. Chinese tourist arrivals to the region have soared from around 4 million a year in 2006 to more than 20 million in 2016.

Divers explore a coral reef near Komodo island, Indonesia. Southeast Asia's biologically diverse coral reefs will disappear by the end of this century, wiping out coastal economies and sparking civil unrest if climate change isn't addressed, conservation group WWF has warned. Photo: Reuters

Agus looks to the coming surge with anxiety. While rangers depend on tourist revenues for income, the unspoilt environment is what appeals to the 500 to 1,000 daily visitors who already visit the park for trekking, snorkelling, diving, sunbathing or to see the dragons.

“This is the last natural habitat for the Komodo dragon,” he says. “Too much tourism will not be good for the local marine life or [the park]. We need to balance tourism [with conservation] of the ecosystem.”

The ties that bind Papua and Indonesia
More tourists means more noise, litter, sewage, waste and possibly, more limbs ripped off from overexcited visitors. More rangers, guest houses, toilets and amenities will be needed as well as a bigger water supply and waste disposal infrastructure. More signs explaining the rules of the park will have to be put up in Chinese.

“[More traffic] won’t just affect the Komodo dragon. It will disturb other animals like deer and wild pigs that the dragons feed on,” says Abdul Rahman, a Komodo National Park official and former ranger.

“Komodos depend on them for food. They are cannibalistic, if they don’t get enough food, they will start to eat each other.”

It will be hard for rangers to just say no. While the park is managed by the national government, rangers are not salaried officials. Each ranger gets about 40,000 Indonesian rupiah (HK$23) for every forest walk they conduct as well as a cut of the revenues from the refreshment stands and gift shops they run.

A Komodo dragon in the Komodo Island National Park in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Komodo island has been named among the world’s new seven wonders of nature. Photo: EPA
A Komodo dragon in the Komodo Island National Park in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Komodo island has been named among the world’s new seven wonders of nature. Photo: EPA

They will benefit from tourism more than any other stakeholder. Park revenues, Rahman says, are expected to see “70 to 80 per cent growth” after May.

“For money, it’s good, yeah. But for the park, I think not so good,” he says. “We need to set a maximum number of visitors that come every day. I think 3,000 per month is a reasonable number.”

Meanwhile, Labuan Bajo, the capital of West Manggarai Regency, is pouring resources into developing its tourism industry in line with the national target of attracting 500,000 foreign tourists – the final number is still under consultation – to the Flores region by next year.

Augustinus Christofer Dula, regent of West Manggarai, one of the eight regencies that divide the island Flores, admits that the government has been rather nervous about hard-selling the region’s tourism potential given the lack of capacity to absorb a sudden influx of visitors.

But with the region listed as one of 10 “potential Balis” by the national government, his hope is that Labuan Bajo will one day offer just as much.

Move over Aussies, the Chinese are coming. And Indonesia can’t get enough of them
Things are moving in the right direction. Labuan Bajo’s tiny airport has recently been refurbished with a shiny new terminal now plastered with Komodo dragon motifs and billboards. There are aspirations for it to become an international airport. New ports and marinas are in the pipeline. An international hospital catering to foreigners opened its doors in 2015.

Hotels are being built or expanded with new wings, some with jetties that provide speedboat services straight to Komodo National Park.

The aim, understandably, is to draw in the Chinese tourist dollar. “Chinese people believe in dragon myths,” Dula says. “Hopefully more of them will want to come and see the living dragons here.”

Dula says that in 2016-17, only 101 Chinese tourists came to Labuan Bajo. “We want more,” he says. “Our hope is that by inviting more Chinese tourists, we can develop our economy. When tourism grows, the economy will too.”

But how many tourists are enough? Over the years, concerns have been raised over Komodo National Park’s managerial and environmental issues, from land disputes, waste management and freshwater security issues to the impact of destructive fishing, oil spills, coral damage and conflicts between the fisheries and tourism sectors, according to WWF Indonesia.

Studies on Komodo National Park’s master plan and its maximum carrying capacity by the group last year found that it had huge potential for development as a prime tourism destination, but concluded the ecosystem was “very sensitive to irresponsible tourism”.

“The waste generated in Labuan Bajo [amounts to] 12.8 million tonnes per day,” said WWF Indonesia marine tourism coordinator Indarwati Aminuddin.

“Labuan Bajo is also lacking in clean water, followed by energy, food … its natural resources are also under pressure from fishing and other activities. From both studies, it is estimated that tourism carrying capacity is below 300,000 individuals per year.

There is a real concern that pristine areas of Indonesia such as Labuan Bajo could go the way of Bali.

In recent years, a Bali overrun by tourists has been besieged by concerns of pollution, waste management and freshwater scarcity.

A recent report by the Bali Water Protection Programme, for example, suggested that the island’s water table had dropped more than 50 metres in some areas in less than 10 years.

“In terms of environmental issues, the costs impacted by mass tourism … are only realised on a disaster basis,” says Satrio Wicaksono, forests and landscape manager at the World Resources Institute Indonesia, an environmental research organisation.

Protected parks aside, resort towns all over Southeast Asia have been under similar threats. The Philippine government recently announced the six-month closure of Boracay island, which the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte described as a “cesspool”, to recuperate its overwhelmed infrastructure.

“Since the area is very sensitive, Komodo National Park management needs to implement immediate action to manage the number of visitors in every tourism location in a national park area so that they can have impact monitoring in the areas,” Aminuddin added.

Back in Labuan Bajo, Dula understands the risks of giving into the trappings of mass market, commercial tourism as well as the potential impact it will have on sustainability.

He says a visitor quota to the parks should be implemented and hopes the national Ministry of Forestry and Environment that manages national parks can delegate more authority to the local government to run Komodo and control tourist flows. “Tourism will be nothing if the Komodo dragon goes extinct,” he says. ■

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Indonesia: Migrating birds from Siberia, Alaska land in West Kalimantan


A group of migrating birds from Siberia, captured by camera on Tengkuyung Beach, Kubu Raya regency, West Kalimantan, earlier this month. (Courtesy of Abdurahman Alqadrie, Ketapang Biodiversity Keeping/-)

Thousands of migrating birds have landed on several beaches in West Kalimantan.

Environmental activists say that this means the area is still well-preserved, though pollution can be seen on some places.

The activists have carried out birdwatching activities on Tengkuyung Beach in Teluk Pakedai subdistrict, Kubu Raya regency, West Kalimantan, since September 2017.

They found thousands of beach and river birds migrating from Siberia, Alaska and Europe.

Abdurahman Algadrie, director of Ketapang Biodiversity Maintenance, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that there were around 21 species of birds on the beach from September to April. They looked for food and stayed there for survival, and will begin flying home in May.

“They will return to their places of origin for breeding purposes. Come migration time, they will come back with their new offspring,” said Abudrahman.

In the previous migrating period last year, 10 Storm’s storks were found in a river. The species is considered endangered, with a population of only 500 worldwide.

These migrating birds have become an attraction in the area, especially for researchers. Moreover, the Kubu-Batu Ampar waters have been detected as a habitat for river dolphins, with several NGOs surveying the area.

Wahid, a senior citizen, said that for the last three years, the government had built infrastructure to make the location more accessible for visitors. However, he added that the visits did little to boost the local economy.

Yusran, head of Kubu Raya Planning and Development Agency (Bappeda), said that with a limited budget, ecotourism activities were being improved.

“Ecotourism has a number of impacts. Other than preserving the environment, it also has added value for local people,” said Yusran.

The area has only been developed in the last 10 years, with a budget of Rp 1.5 trillion and a proposed development budget of Rp 2.9 trillion. (wng)

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Mission 2018: bring the Paris climate pact to life

Marlowe HOOD, AFP Yahoo News 28 Apr 18;

Paris (AFP) - Front-line negotiators from more than 190 nations gathering for climate talks in Bonn on Monday face a daunting task: bring the 2015 Paris Agreement to life.

The world's only climate treaty pledges to cap global warming at "well under" two degrees Celsius and prevent manmade CO2 from leeching into the atmosphere by century's end.

But it left a mountain of critical rules and procedures to be worked out.

"This may sound like a technical exercise, but it matters," Todd Stern, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC and the top climate diplomat under Barack Obama, said in a recent speech.

"Guidelines have a lot to do with how strong the regime becomes."

The deadline for completing this "rule book" is the November climate summit in Katowice, Poland. The agreement itself goes live in 2020.

Negotiators have had more than two years to hammer out the fine print but -- as per usual -- have procrastinated.

"It's no secret that things have not been going swimmingly so far," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based advocacy and research group.

How quickly the world weans itself from fossil fuels, improves energy efficiency, and learns how to suck CO2 out of the air will determine whether climate change remains manageable or unleashes a maelstrom of human misery.

The window of opportunity for holding the rise in temperature at 2 C (3.6 F) -- much less the 1.5 C ceiling the Paris pact vows to consider -- has grown perilously narrow.

- Avoiding a 3C world -

A single degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming so far has already accelerated species extinctions, deadly droughts and flooding, and superstorms engorged by rising seas.

"Gradualism won't get the job done," said Stern. "We can't produce the results those scenarios call for without full-on commitment."

But trend lines are moving the wrong way: after remaining flat for three years, global CO2 emissions in 2017 went up by 1.4 percent, dashing hopes that they had peaked.

US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of Paris pact -- along with US efforts to boost fossil fuel technologies -- have not helped, even as China, France, Germany and Canada have stepped in to fill the breach in climate leadership.

Voluntary national pledges made under the treaty to cut carbon pollution, if fulfilled, would yield no better than a 3C world. Once-every-five-year reviews of these commitments don't kick in until 2023.

Negotiators know this is too late.

"The scale and pace of climate action must increase dramatically, and immediately so," reads a UN summary of written submissions to the Fiji-inspired Talanoa Dialogue, designed to inspire more ambitious CO2-slashing pledges.

Still, negotiations have bogged down.

Under pressure, the rift between rich and developing countries that stymied climate talks for more than two decades before the 2015 accord put all nations on the same page has reemerged.

- Danger of backsliding -

For the rulebook, "transparency" has emerged as a hot-button issue.

Rich nations, for example, favour a standardised yardstick for the measurement, reporting and verification of carbon-cutting pledges, with limited exceptions for the poorest countries.

Developing nations have pushed back, calling for greater "flexibility".

"This is an old debate," said Meyer. "Developed countries are concerned that some developing ones are trying to take us back to the past."

When it comes, however, to the rich-nation promise of $100 billion (82 billion euros) per year in climate finance from 2020, the issue cuts the other way.

"It has been frustrating to hear some developed countries celebrate their climate leadership even as they fall well short of the modest commitments they have made," said Thoriq Ibrahim, environment minister for the Maldives and chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States.

A key complaint by recipient nations is that rich ones have failed to map how and when money promised will be delivered.

Working out a coherent "user's manual" for the Paris agreement is also crucial for the signals it sends to the private sector, which must take the lead in the shift to a low-carbon global economy, Canadian environment minister Catherine McKenna told AFP.

"The markets need to see that governments are committed on climate action," she said in Paris last week following a meeting with her French counterpart Nicolas Hulot.

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Apr 18

May 2018 sampling events for NUS–NParks Marine Debris Monitoring Programme
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

The Return of the Indian Pond Heron to Bidadari?
Singapore Bird Group

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Zero-waste shopping? Packaging-free grocery store opening in Singapore

Consumers planning to visit this new grocery store at Jalan Kuras will have to bring their own jars and bags, or pick up one of the store’s recycled containers to fill them with items they want.
Tang See Kit Channel NewsAsia 28 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: It was about a year ago when Ms Florence Tay came across a video on Facebook showing a zero-waste provision store in Europe.

Decked out with self-service dispensers containing food items, the store provided no plastic bags or other forms of packaging and required customers to bring their own containers.

“I thought it was a great idea that took a step further when it comes to minimising the use of unnecessary packaging, especially plastic”, said the Singaporean who makes the effort to bring her own reusable container, cutlery and water tumbler whenever she goes out.

“I liked it so much that when I saw the message ‘Share the video if you like one in your neighbourhood’ at the end of the video, I did and even bookmarked it.”

Fast forward a year later, a grocery store with a similar do-it-yourself (DIY) and packaging-free concept will be opening its doors in the quiet neighbourhood of Sembawang Hills Estate.

And one of its owners is none other than Ms Tay.


Called UnPackt, the store is currently preparing for its soft launch on May 5 and its concept of having no food packaging may likely make it the first of its kind in Singapore.

Like the video that inspired Ms Tay, customers keen to do their grocery shopping at UnPackt will be encouraged to bring their own reusable packaging.

Before going about their shopping, customers will need to weigh their containers, jars or bottles on a weighing scale provided so that the weight can be noted down and later excluded from their bills. After filling up each container with the food item they like, customers will need to weigh their containers again at the counter before making payment.

Though cleaned recycled containers and shopping bags – most of them donated by members of the public – will be available for free, this means that it’s best for consumers to do some planning before heading down to UnPackt.

This “mindful planning” of one’s shopping list will help to curb impulse purchases and reduce waste, said Ms Tay.

“We are quite the opposite of supermarket shopping," she said.

"We encourage you to come with a shopping list so that you only buy what you really need. But if you do forget or see something else that you need, pick up one of our recycled containers and we hope that you will continue to use these containers or even bring them back.”

Ms Tay, a marketing manager turned entrepreneur, and her co-founder Jeff Lam have thus far invested about S$100,000 to get things started, with the bulk of the money going into rental and renovation works to refurbish the 1,200-sqft shophouse space.

As a start, the grocery store will focus on selling food items, with a majority being healthier options such as rice with lower glycaemic index, organic pasta and superfood powders.

These will be kept in large dispensers or gravity bins to minimise individual packaging. It will also be stocking locally-made cleaning supplies, such as cold-pressed soap bars and an eco-enzyme detergent made by local social enterprise ecosenses and non-governmental organisation MINDS.

Ms Tay said the bigger focus on food items from the get-go boils down to how it is hard to find food, especially organic ones, with zero packaging in Singapore.

With the absence of individual packaging, the owners of UnPackt think they could reduce retail prices by about 5 per cent and hope that would “lower the entry barrier” for people to take the first step in changing their consumption habits.

“The price that consumers pay usually involves the costs of buying packaging materials and the manpower costs at the packaging facilities of manufacturers,” said Mr Lam.

“Because we buy in bulk, there is no packaging costs that we need to transfer to our customers. Our research indicate that bulk purchases are usually 5 per cent lower than packaged items so we will price ours accordingly.”

Added Ms Tay: “People tend to have the idea that going green requires additional costs but we want to prove that wrong by making our prices affordable.”

Eventually, the duo aims to expand the store offerings to consumer items, such as eco-friendly body wash, shampoos and other plastic-free alternatives like stainless steel straws, making it a “one-stop shop” for sustainable living.


Other plans on the pipeline include rolling out a recycling scheme where members of the public can donate their cleaned containers and bottles.

Once its operationally stable, the social enterprise also intends to hire full-time employees, with a preference for single mums and senior citizens. For this, UnPackt is already in touch with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to find suitable candidates.

When that happens, the empty room at the back of the grocery store will be converted into a children’s playroom for single-mum employees to bring their kids to work.

Ms Tay, who is a single mum herself, said this is due to her own experience of finding it difficult to juggle both work and family.

“It’s really hard for single mums, especially those with lower education levels, to find a job. With childcare centres costing about S$600 to S$700 a month, it is just so much tougher for them,” she said.

But before that, the two founders are concentrating on promoting the store’s zero-waste concept.

Mr Lam admitted that he had doubts initially when Ms Tay first approached him with the idea, but his interest in curbing food waste soon helped him to come round.

The bachelor who is living alone said even with conscious purchasing efforts, he still finds it difficult to do grocery shopping for one. He reckons that a store like UnPackt will help singles like him.

But the 37-year-old still thinks there could be slower business on weekdays when the grocery store opens, and expects potential customers to have “plenty of questions” given that the concept of having no food packaging in a grocery store goes against what Singaporean consumers are used to.

“We have all been brought up in an environment where everything is convenient. Our food comes with packaging and that’s associated with being clean,” said Mr Lam.

“There may be people who won’t be able to accept food that doesn’t come in packaging so I think we will have to do a lot of explaining to do for that,” he added.

Ms Tay is more hopeful.

Citing a survey that she had put out while preparing for the launch of UnPackt, more than 1,000 respondents indicated that they are willing to support a zero waste grocery store. She has also received emails from schools that would like to arrange excursion trips to UnPackt for their students.

However, the owners have had to battle with one dilemma. While they have taken steps to be more eco-conscious and avoid disposables, both Ms Tay and Mr Lam said they still have a long way to go before they can call themselves as "zero wasters".

“This was something that Jeff and I debated several times. Can we call ourselves owners of a zero waste store if we ourselves haven’t fully achieved a zero waste lifestyle?” said Ms Tay.

While most of the furniture in the store are second-hand items and recycled materials, there are things that are brand new, such as the self-service gravity bins used to store food items.

With zero-waste organic products being hard to find in Singapore, the duo also had to source for these overseas, which inevitably creates packaging and food miles.

“That’s something that we had to overcome but we’ll like people to know that we are not zero wasters yet. We are working towards that and hopefully, everyone can join us.

“Perhaps becoming more eco-conscious can start from something simple. A slight change in lifestyle can be cultivated into habits. If everyone does that, the effect will accumulate and grow,” said Ms Tay.

Source: CNA/sk(ms)

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Malaysia: Elephant in rest area along highway terrifies travellers

MOHD JAMILUL ANBIA MD DENIN New Straits Times 27 Apr 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: Travellers who stopped at the R&R near Puncak Titiwangsa, Gerik, were terrified when an elephant appeared at the rest and relax area before destroying fences in the compound.

Wildlife and National Park Department (Perhilitan) director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said his officers in Gerik received information about the elephant from the police.

“Five Perhilitan officers rushed to the R&R along East - West Highway upon receiving the information. When the team arrived, the elephant had, however, re-entered the nearby forest.

“No unwanted incident happened, and the elephant only destroyed the fences at the R&R,” he said when contacted today.

According to the photos taken by the R&R workers, it was a male elephant with a foot size around 38.1cm.

Photo of the 3m tall elephant appearing and destroying fences at the R&R has gone viral on the social media.

Kadir added that following the incident, Perhilitan would monitor the area as a preventive measure to avoid untoward incidents.

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Indonesia: Significant Progress in Forest Fire Prevention - Carbon Conservation

Suksmajati Kumara Jakarta Globe 27 Apr 18;

Jakarta. In 2015, Sumatra and West Kalimantan were hit by the worst forest and peatland fires in history, which have blanketed much of Southeast Asia in toxic haze. The air-pollution crisis brought Indonesia into the local and international media spotlight.

To prevent forest fires and the damage they do to the environment, livelihood and health of many, APRIL, a major producer of fiber, pulp and paper, and the Indonesian government came up with the Fire Free Village Program (FFVP). It was introduced in Riau province on Sumatra's east coast in 2015.

The program aims to address the underlying causes of fires, such as slash-and-burn farming, by means of education and raising awareness of the devastating impacts they have on communities in Indonesia and neighboring countries.

This month, following the completion of the program's third year, a record number of FFVP participants will receive "No Burn Village Rewards" — special funding granted to villages dedicated to implementing fire-free cultivation. From the funding, the beneficiaries will be able to finance their community infrastructure projects and further improve their forest fire prevention and response programs.

Carbon Conservation, a multi-stakeholder group made up of forestry and agriculture companies, has been commissioned to assess and review the FFVP. The Singapore-based group was established in Australia in 2007. It specializes in conservation, sustainability and environmental finance.

According to Carbon Conservation's most recent report, 15 of the 18 villages participating in the FFVP in 2017 deserved the full reward. APRIL's strategic fire and protection manager, Craig Tribolet, said this demonstrates increased community acceptance of the importance of fire prevention, and willingness to be involved in the cause.

"The rewards are an important indicator that communities are experiencing the full value of the program. It shows that the education and capability building elements of the program that encourage communities to take ownership and become fire resilient are working," he said, adding that the government's support played a crucial role in the implementation of FFVP's fire-free policies.

"It's also important to acknowledge the support of the government, whose increased focus on fire prevention and law enforcement has helped generate behavior change at village level," he said.

In 2015, the project involved 27 villages, which were selected in a fire risk assessment process. In 2017, nine new villages were brought aboard, making the FFVP currently cover an area of 622,112 hectares. Each of the participating villages is located in Riau.

In other areas, where the fire risk is lower, APRIL is carrying out an education-based Fire Aware Communities program, which now engages 50 villages.

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Indonesia: Floods, landslides, tornado batter Java this week

Gisela Swaragita, Arya Dipa and Ganug Nugroho The Jakarta Post 27 Apr 18;

Extreme weather incidents are marking the ongoing shift from the rainy season to the dry season in Java, as various parts of the island have been hit with heavy rain and twisters, causing floods, landslides and lots of damage.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has issued warnings on the potential for heavy rain and predicts the bad weather to last until Saturday.

Twisters lashed several areas in Central Java’s Wonogiri regency this week, collapsing 40 houses and damaging at least 60 others.

Besides damaging houses, the tornado also knocked down big trees in Jatirejo village of the same regency. Falling trees had hit houses, hawker shops and electricity poles, Wonogiri Disaster Mitigation Agency head Bambang Haryanto said on Thursday.

Despite the losses, Bambang said there had not been any evacuation of residents.

He said the agency’s volunteers were helping residents clean up and repair damaged houses.

“We have asked the volunteers to stay alert, because the weather remains unpredictable,” Bambang said.

A tornado also hit neighboring Klaten regency last Wednesday, uprooting trees that damaged dozens of houses in four districts.

The intense vortex, which hit around 7 p.m., also caused blackouts as electricity wiring was damaged.

“People fled from their houses, because they feared they might collapse. The strong wind swirled, bringing down trees and blowing off roof tiles,” said Irmawan Andriyanto, head of Barepan village, which sustained the most severe damage in Klaten.

The incidents claimed no human lives but caused what is estimated to be hundreds of millions of rupiah in losses.

A tornado also caused panic among people in the nearby city of Yogyakarta, where internet users uploaded photos of the swirling wind seen from several vantage points of the city on Tuesday.

The city itself was spared by the tornado, although it was drenched in heavy rain and lashed with strong winds.

Cianjur regency of West Java was hit with a landslide and flooding on Wednesday due to three hours of intense rain in the afternoon. Several areas of Kertajadi village and Cidamar village of Cidaun district in the regency were inundated.

Meanwhile, a landslide blocked a major road in Wangunjaya village of Naringgul district that day. Soil falling off a 70-meter cliff piled up on some 100 meters of the road connecting Naringgul and Ciwidey district in West Java’s Bandung regency.

The Cianjur Disaster Mitigation Agency said overflow from the Cidamar and Cidaun, the main rivers in the area, had flooded 30 hectares of rice fields and damaged seven houses.

“According to the latest information, 160 houses are impacted by the floods,” West Java Disaster Mitigation Agency mitigation operations manager Budi Budiman Wahyu said.

The bursting of the Cidaun river dam is said to be the cause of the flooding, but an assessment of the disaster is ongoing.

The disasters on Java Island had been sparked by the flow of wet air from the Indian Ocean, which had increased the potential of heavy rain with thunder and strong winds, BMKG deputy head of meteorology Mulyono R. Prabowo said.

The same conditions were predicted to affect many other areas of the archipelagic country.

Mulyono warned about the potential for high waves of up to 4 meters in almost all Indonesian waters.

However, the extreme weather would end soon, probably in early May, when the dry season is predicted to start, the BMKG said.

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Dutch rewilding experiment sparks backlash as thousands of animals starve

A scheme to rewild marshland east of Amsterdam has been savaged by an official report and sparked public protest after deer, horses and cattle died over the winter
Patrick Barkham The Guardian 27 Apr 18;

It is known as the Dutch Serengeti, a bold project to rewild a vast tract of land east of Amsterdam. But a unique nature reserve where red deer, horses and cattle roam free on low-lying marsh reclaimed from the sea has been savaged by an official report after thousands of animals starved.

In a blow to the rewilding vision of renowned ecologists, a special committee has criticised the authorities for allowing populations of large herbivores to rise unchecked at Oostvaardersplassen, causing trees to die and wild bird populations to decline.

It follows growing anger in the Netherlands over the slaughter of more than half Oostvaardersplassen’s red deer, Konik horses and Heck cattle because they were starving. After a run of mild winters, the three species numbered 5,230 on the fenced 5,000-hectare reserve. Following a harsher winter, the population is now just 1,850. Around 90% of the dead animals were shot by the Dutch state forestry organisation, which manages the reserve, before they could die of starvation.

For two months, protesters have tossed bales of hay over fences to feed surviving animals as the Dutch Olympic gold medal-winning equestrian Anky van Grunsven joined celebrity illusionist Hans Klok in condemning the “animal abuse” on the reserve. Ecologists and rangers received death threats from the rising clamour on social media. Protesters compared “OVP” to Auschwitz.

Oostvaardersplassen was only created in 1968 when an inland sea was drained for two new cities. An industrial zone turned into a marshy haven as it lay undeveloped during the 1970s. Dutch ecologist Frans Vera devised the innovative use of wild-living cattle and horses to mimic the grazing of extinct herbivores such as aurochs, and Oostvaardersplassen became an internationally renowned rewilding reserve, celebrated in a 2013 Dutch film called The New Wilderness.

But in a drastic “reset”, a special committee convened by the provincial government this week called for a halt to the rewilding principle of allowing “natural processes” to determine herbivore populations. Instead, large herbivore numbers should be capped at 1,500 to stop winter fatalities, the committee said, with new forest and marsh areas created for additional “shelter” for the animals.

“This experiment has absolutely failed,” said Patrick van Veen, an animal biologist whose petition to stop animal cruelty at Oostvaardersplassen has been signed by 125,000 people. “You’d expect 20 or 30% to die of natural causes including starvation each year but the population grows in summertime and there is no control mechanism – normally you’d have predators such as wolves but it’s too small an area to have predators.”

As the report was delivered, a small group of women stood outside the provincial government building wearing purple ribbons. A watching policeman joked with them that they were “the hooligans”.

For protesters, Oostvaardersplassen is a secretive experiment devised by distrusted elites – public access is restricted to much of the reserve because the wild Heck cattle are considered dangerous. Jamie Wiebes said OVP made her “ashamed” to be Dutch.

Alongside a band of 50 people, she’s risked €400 fines – and high-speed trains – to lug bales of hay across a railway line and feed the animals over the fence. The group said they delivered 410 bales on one night. “It’s not only the hunger, it’s neglect,” said Wiebes. “The horses have open wounds, their hooves are broken, their teeth are broken, they have white mites on their backs. If you put up a fence, you have to take care of what’s behind the fence – you do in zoos, and even in prisons you have to provide child molesters with food and water. You cannot do a ‘project’ with animals. They are living things.”

From public lookouts, and from trains that skirt its southern border, Oostvaardersplassen in late April looks a bleak and denuded landscape: dead trees collapsed across tightly grazed grass and visibly thin horses and deer. Rangers now move animal carcasses – deliberately left to provide food for everything from beetles to ravens – away from the railway line because of public distress.

But a tour of the full 5,000 hectares with Han Olff, professor of ecology at the University of Groningen , reveals a different picture. Half the area is marshland into which the grazing animals don’t go, creating a sanctuary for rare birds from bearded tits to sea eagles.

“Some people say the ecosystem is dying. Some people, like me, say the ecosystem is just coming alive,” said Olff, pointing out that the dead trees are a source of food for hundreds of beetle species and shelter for small mammals.

Olff admitted the committee’s report had been “a bit of a setback for what’s called rewilding – trusting natural processes, putting in large grazers, letting go of the traditional management of cultural landscapes”. But he rejected the idea that this version of rewilding was abusive towards the grazing animals whose populations are regulated by the natural availability of grass.

“A small group of people have made a tremendous noise, especially horse owners,” he said. “They withhold a free life from their horses and justify that by feeding them too much food. Here the horses can choose its own mates, form social groups and sometimes die because in the herd they are the weakest link.”

Ecologists hope that if more of the reserve is opened up to the public, visitors will better understand that the challenging sights – dead carcasses, dead trees and thinner-than-livestock animals – “are part of the cycle of life, to use a Disney term,” said Olff. “People say it’s a desert, it’s been overgrazed but they don’t see the landscape variability, so we need to much better allow access to the grazing and marsh areas to tell the story of this young, developing ecosystem.”

According to Olff, the biodiversity of Oostvaardersplassen is still burgeoning. Bird declines are not because of “overgrazing” by the large herbivores but due to a loss of reedbed because it’s grazed by geese. And while bird species such as reed warbler have disappeared from the heavily grazed areas, they are still present in the marshes, and new species – lapwing, avocet, shellduck – have arrived because the grass is tightly grazed. The trees that have died are species that can’t adapt to grazing but those that can, such as blackthorn, are very slowly replacing them.

“There isn’t another Oostvaardersplassen in western Europe. People tend to focus on what you lose and ignore what you gain. It’s just changing, it’s not better or worse, it’s just something different. Traditional conservation managers make a plan saying ‘This is what we want to keep – period’. This dynamic way of managing nature is new, it’s different but it’s not an experiment.”

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EU agrees total ban on bee-harming pesticides

The world’s most widely used insecticides will be banned from all fields within six months, to protect both wild and honeybees that are vital to crop pollination
Damian Carrington The Guardian 27 Apr 18;

The European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees.

The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on Friday, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses.

Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed, in part, on the widespread use of pesticides. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that attract bees, such as oil seed rape, in 2013.

But in February, a major report from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors (Efsa) concluded that the high risk to both honeybees and wild bees resulted from any outdoor use, because the pesticides contaminate soil and water. This leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers or succeeding crops. A recent study of honey samples revealed global contamination by neonicotinoids.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for Health and Food Safety, welcomed Friday’s vote: “The commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from Efsa. Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment.”

The ban on the three main neonicotinoids has widespread public support, with almost 5 million people signing a petition from campaign group Avaaz. “Banning these toxic pesticides is a beacon of hope for bees,” said Antonia Staats at Avaaz. “Finally, our governments are listening to their citizens, the scientific evidence and farmers who know that bees can’t live with these chemicals and we can’t live without bees.”

Martin Dermine, at Pesticide Action Network Europe, said: “Authorising neonicotinoids a quarter of a century ago was a mistake and led to an environmental disaster. Today’s vote is historic.”

However, the pesticide manufacturers and some farming groups have accused the EU of being overly cautious and suggested crop yields could fall, a claim rejected by others. “European agriculture will suffer as a result of this decision,” said Graeme Taylor, at the European Crop Protection Association. “Perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but in time decision makers will see the clear impact of removing a vital tool for farmers.”

The UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the ban was regrettable and not justified by the evidence. Guy Smith, NFU deputy president, said: “The pest problems that neonicotinoids helped farmers tackle have not gone away. There is a real risk that these restrictions will do nothing measurable to improve bee health, while compromising the effectiveness of crop protection.”

A spokesman for the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs welcomed the ban, but added: “We recognise the impact a ban will have on farmers and will continue to work with them to explore alternative approaches.” In November, UK environment secretary to a full outdoor ban.

Neonicotinoids, which are nerve agents, have been shown to cause a wide range of harm to individual bees, such as damaging memory and reducing queen numbers.

But this evidence has strengthened recently to show damage to colonies of bees. Other research has also revealed that 75% of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany and probably much further afield, prompting warnings of “ecological armageddon”.

Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, said the EU ban was logical given the weight of evidence but that disease and lack of flowery habitats were also harming bees. “Also, if these neonicotinoids are simply replaced by other similar compounds, then we will simply be going round in circles. What is needed is a move towards truly sustainable farming,” he said.

Some experts are worried that the exemption for greenhouses means neonicotinoids will be washed out into water courses, where they can severely harm aquatic life.

Prof Jeroen van der Sluijs, at the University of Bergen, Norway, said neonicotinoids will also continue to be used in flea treatments for pets and in stables and animal transport vehicles, which account for about a third of all uses: “Environmental pollution will continue.”

The EU decision could have global ramifications, according to Prof Nigel Raine, at the University of Guelph in Canada: “Policy makers in other jurisdictions will be paying close attention to these decisions. We rely on both farmers and pollinators for the food we eat. Pesticide regulation is a balancing act between unintended consequences of their use for non-target organisms, including pollinators, and giving farmers the tools they need to control crop pests.”

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Better forecast, better preparedness – investing in improved weather services

ADELINE CHOY World Bank ReliefWeb 27 Apr 18;

Sun or rain? Most of us rely on the daily weather forecast to know what to wear or whether to bring an umbrella. However, for millions of people living in flood prone areas, timely and accurate forecasts, as well as early warning, can impact more than just clothing choices –they can help minimize flooding impacts.

Floods are the most frequent and damaging among natural hazards. Between 1980 and 2016, floods led to economic damages exceeding US$1.6 trillion, and more than 225,000 people losing their lives. Compounded by rapid urbanization and climate change, these losses will likely increase, especially in fast-growing countries.

There is a Chinese saying, ‘a single tree does not make a forest, a single string cannot make music’. By combining water, weather and climate studies, hydromet services help to understand, predict, and warn people of impending hazards. For example, early warnings of floods provide longer lead times for evacuation to safer locations, and protect important assets. Weather information and predictions can also help make better investment decisions; for example, how to use water resources more efficiently to manage implications of wet and dry seasons across different sectors.

This potential for smart technology to minimize risk of flooding was highlighted at the InterMet Asia Conference in Singapore, supported by the Urban Floods Community of Practice. Bringing together the public and private sector, the conference presented participants with an array of state-of-the-art tools, forecasting systems and ‘smart’ solutions to tackle flooding, including the following:

Cloud computing systems, for better weather forecasting at lower costs. Cloud computing can help private or public weather service providers avoid the high costs related to purchasing and maintaining the high-performance computing infrastructure needed to run numerical weather forecast models. Cloud computing services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud enable forecasting to be performed with multiple models and computers, combining various data sources, which can result in more accurate predictions and better preparation for the next flood.

Internet of Things (IoT), for more accurate flood predictions and planning. New technologies and applications such as low-cost sensors, mobile phones to an IoT network, allow the collection of large amounts of complex and real-time data that can inform the assessment and monitoring of flood risks. Within an IoT network, data can be pooled and mapped in one cloud location, to provide a “big picture” outlook on a given emergency. Moreover, flood sensors, mobile phones, barometric pressure monitors, and dam alert systems, can over time inform better long-term flood preparedness.

Impact-based flood forecasting and early warning. Advising about the scope and likely impact of a given hazard, impact-based forecasting and early warning can help bridge the gap between producers of information and users of information.

Improved data visualization using Virtual Reality (VR) platform. Visualization can help bridge data and human intuition, by allowing for an immersive experience which can help make large amounts of information easily understandable. This can in turn enable better decision-making.

How can countries harness these tools and solutions to strengthen resilience against floods and how can we foster closer public, private and academic partnerships? Singapore might offer some valuable insights. The island is a global hydrohub, with an ecosystem of 180 water companies and more than 20 water research centres spanning the entire water value chain. Faced with growing threats of weather and climate extremes induced by climate change, Singapore is investing heavily in national meteorological services and advancing research in the weather and climate of Singapore and Southeast Asia. The recent opening of the WMO Regional Office in Singapore signals the importance of the island nation as a regional hub for Global Weather Enterprise in the region.

The World Bank Group and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) Hydromet Program supported both events. GFDRR, together with the regional teams, is helping to strengthen institutions, observation networks and forecasting, and service delivery. Introducing new technologies and, more importantly, sharing of knowledge is a critical part of this continuous work to improve weather services and enhance disaster resilience of communities.

The Urban Floods Community of Practice (UFCOP) is a global initiative led by the World Bank to share operational and technical experience and solutions for advancing an integrated approach to urban flood risk management. The initiative is jointly led by the World Bank Social, Urban, Rural and Resiliency and Water Global Practices, with support from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the WB Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC) and other development partners.

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