Best of our wild blogs: 31 May 18

1 Jun: Registration opens for Chek Jawa intertidal walks in July 2018
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

10 Jun (Sun): Balik Chek Jawa
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

24 Jun (Sun): FREE Ubin mangroves fun with R.U.M.
Pesta Ubin 2018

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Endangered whale shark fins found in Singapore Airlines shipment to HK

Reuters 30 May 18;

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Shark fins from endangered species including the giant, placid whale shark were found in a Singapore Airlines shipment to Hong Kong in May, highlighting the widespread challenges the Chinese territory faces in regulating the trade.

The 980 kgs (2,150 pounds) shipment of assorted fins came from Colombo, Sri Lanka via Singapore. Singapore Airlines, which bans shark fin cargo, said in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the shipment had been labeled as “Dry Seafood”.

Hong Kong permits imports of shark fins, viewed as a delicacy, but shark species listed by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) must be accompanied by a permit.

Hong Kong is the world’s largest trading hub for shark fins and has moved to stop illegal trading.

On the fringes of the former British colony’s industrial Western district where the Singapore Airline’s shipment was sent to, warehouses brim with bags of shark fins while dried seafood stores are stacked high with the product.

Gary Stokes, Asia director at Sea Shepherd, who discovered the endangered fins within the shipment, said: “This is another case of misleading and deceiving. The shipment came declared as ‘dried seafood’ so didn’t flag any alarms.”

Singapore Airlines said it had sent out a reminder to all its stations to immediately conduct sampling checks on shipments labeled ‘dried seafood’ and had blacklisted the shipper. The airline was not able to provide further details.

A Sea Shepherd investigation last year revealed that Maersk, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Australia Cargo, which ban transport of shark fins, were targets of shark fin smuggling including those from endangered species.

Viewed as a status symbol, shark fin is typically consumed in a shredded jelly like soup believed to have nourishing benefits. Restaurants across Hong Kong serve the delicacy, including one of the biggest chains, Maxims, which is half-owned by a unit of conglomerate Jardine Matheson Group.

Over 70 million sharks are killed annually, pushing over a quarter of species into extinction according to WWF.

Despite activists helping to dent the volume of shark fins coming into Hong Kong by 50 percent over the past 10 years, illegal supply has continued to boom with the government seizing thousands of kilograms including those from threatened hammerhead and oceanic white tip sharks.

Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Michael Perry

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Man caught smuggling live bird in potato chips tube via Woodlands Checkpoint

Ng Huiwen Straits Times 31 May 18;

SINGAPORE - A 23-year-old Malaysian man was caught smuggling a live bird inside a potato chips tube via the Woodlands Checkpoint on Sunday (May 27).

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that officers found the tube - which was labelled as seaweed flavoured - hidden in the glove compartment of a Malaysian-registered car.

The case has been referred to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority for further investigations, with the bird currently under its care, ICA said.

In its post, ICA said that the health status of smuggled animals is unknown and that importing them into Singapore without a licence could introduce exotic diseases, such as avian influenza, to the country.

AVA also took to its Facebook page to remind travellers not to bring live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit.

The public can visit AVA's website at or download its mobile app SG TravelKaki for more information.

"Our borders are our first line of defence in safeguarding Singapore's security," ICA said.

It added that it will continue to conduct security checks on passengers and vehicles at checkpoints to prevent attempts to smuggle in undesirable people, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contraband items.

Anyone convicted of smuggling animals or live birds into Singapore may be jailed for a year, fined up to $10,000 or both.

Man caught smuggling live bird in potato chips tube
Channel NewsAsia 31 May 18;

SINGAPORE: A 23-year-old man was caught on Sunday (May 27) for smuggling a live bird he had hidden in a potato chips tube.

The Malaysian national, who had placed the container in the glove compartment of the car he was driving, was caught at Woodlands Checkpoint, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

The man has been referred to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the bird is under AVA's care, ICA said.

Smuggling animals with unknown health statuses may introduce exotic diseases such as avian influenza, ICA said. Those who import animals and live birds without a licence may be fined for up to S$10,000 and/or jailed for up to a year under the Animals and Birds Act.

"Our borders are our first line of defence in safeguarding Singapore’s security," ICA said.

"The ICA will continue to conduct security checks on passengers and vehicles at the checkpoints to prevent attempts to smuggle in undesirable persons, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contrabands," it added.

Source: CNA/na(hm)

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New substation in Pasir Panjang to be built below ground, to free space in land-scarce Singapore

ASYRAF KAMIL Today Online 30 May 18;

SINGAPORE — Utility provider SP Group will be building Singapore’s first 230kV underground substation at the former Pasir Panjang Power District, as part of the country’s push to locate supporting infrastructure underground.

Announcing this on Wednesday (May 30), National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that the underground substation will be integrated with a new commercial building on top of it.

“We are in the process of drawing up plans to rejuvenate the area, and this additional space will mean that there are more opportunities for development,” he said at the launch of the Underground: Singapore’s Next Frontier exhibition in URA Centre.

The old Pasir Panjang Power Station was decommissioned in 1987. In terms of maximising the use of subterranean space, setting up the underground facility will free up three hectares of land above ground, which is about the size of three football fields.

Mr Wong noted that there are “many more substations, storage facilities and transport infrastructure all over Singapore” and the priority is to locate these below ground.

“If we combine all of that and progressively locate many of these facilities underground, there is tremendous potential for us to start thinking about the possibilities for future development.”

He added that Singapore started using more of its underground space decades ago “with underground utility cables, and water and sewage pipes”, as well as building South-east Asia’s first underground cavern for oil storage and the world’s most advanced underground ammunition facility.

However, there is “still much more” to explore in this “new frontier”. “We are still far from maximising the potential of underground space in Singapore,” he said.

By next year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will release the 3D Underground Master Plan for selected pilot areas. It will show what is already in the ground, what could be built in the future, and the regulations and requirements for industry.

“With an accurate 3D map, we can look at safeguarding underground space for future use... We can also plan more holistically for aboveground and underground possibilities, to ensure they are compatible, integrated and seamless,” Mr Wong said.

He reiterated that the Government does that have any plan to locate residential spaces below ground. Instead, with supporting infrastructure underground, it helps to “free up surface land for more homes, more amenities, and more green spaces – things that matter to Singaporeans, and that can improve the quality of life for everyone”, he added.

In studying how England, Finland and Japan go about planning the use of underground spaces in their cities, Mr Wong said that apart from harnessing 3D technology, there is also the need to get accurate information and data. This means access to geological data, utility plans and building records.

To help industry players in this area, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) will launch a centralised, one-stop portal for all underground utility plans by the end of this year. The Integrated Land Information Service website will allow engineers or construction firms, for example, to buy underground plans.

From July this year, the SLA and the Building and Construction Authority will be putting up geological information collected from government projects on the website. Such data will be freely available as a reference for site investigation and construction works.

To facilitate the expansion of Singapore’s underground network, the Government is on the lookout for partners with specialised expertise from all fields, Mr Wong said. “We are even prepared to look at providing funding support for (research and development) and feasibility studies, to support innovative ideas that make full use of technologies to push the boundaries of underground space.”

Singapore's largest underground substation to be built at Pasir Panjang
Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 30 May 18

SINGAPORE: Singapore will build its largest underground substation yet, with the capacity to power more than two public housing towns when completed by 2025. Building the substation underground will free up three hectares - or more than three football fields of space - of land.

SP Group will construct the 230kV underground substation, which will have a commercial development sitting on top of it, on the site of the former Pasir Panjang Power District, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Wednesday (May 30), at the launch of an exhibition showcasing Singapore’s underground projects.

“We are in the process of drawing up plans to rejuvenate the area so that additional space that’s freed up by pushing the substation underground means there are more opportunities for redevelopment,” said Mr Wong.

“This is just for one substation. And we have many more substations, storage facilities and transport infrastructure all over Singapore.

"So if you combine all of that, and progressively locate many of these facilities underground, there is tremendous potential for us to start thinking about the possibilities for future developments.”

The new development will sit on the same compound as the Pasir Panjang Power Station, which was decommissioned in 1987.


A 3D Underground Master Plan is also being developed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and will be unveiled for selected pilot areas by 2019.

The master plan will allow the authorities to plan for both “aboveground and underground possibilities, to ensure that they are compatible and seamless”.

“The map will show what is already there in the ground, what we plan to build in the future, and the regulations and requirements for industry,” said Mr Wong. “All this can be updated whenever things change on the ground.”

He also emphasised that the Government has no plans to build homes underground.

“Some people have asked if we're planning for homes to be located underground in the future. Let me be very clear that we have no intention of putting residential homes underground,” said Mr Wong.

Instead, the master plan’s priority will be to locate supporting infrastructure underground, such as utilities, storage facilities and transport infrastructure. The Government is also “actively looking” to have common services tunnels in growth areas such as the Jurong Lake District, Mr Wong said.

To provide more accurate data to facilitate underground development, a centralised platform collating different types of information for underground planning will also be made available.

Industry players will be able to purchase them from the Singapore Land Authority’s Integrated Land Information Service, which will serve as a one-stop portal for all utility plans.

Geological information collected from government projects will also be shared on the platform from July this year.

Source: CNA/ec(hm)

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Malaysia: Sun bear cubs and other wildlife infants openly sold online

fatimah zainal The Star 30 May 18;

KOTA KINABALU: From sun bear cubs and tapir calfs to slow loris and hornbills, the illegal wildlife trade is booming online and must be stopped, said wildlife biologist Dr Wong Siew Te.

Dr Wong, who found many such businesses brazenly operating on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, said it was sad that such illegal activities were still widespread in Malaysia.

Despite these sales being illegal under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, hundreds of juvenile protected animals are still being killed, captured and sold as pets and for individual profits, said Dr Wong.

Dr Wong, who is known for his studies on the sun bear and for founding the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan, was shocked to discover sun bear cubs being sold online.

One Instagram page had more than 500 posts advertising protected infant animals for sale.

“The protected wildlife species that are sold include the calfs of the highly endangered Malayan tapir, sun bear cubs, infant gibbons, infant leaf monkeys, slow loris, leopard cat kittens, juvenile raptors, hornbills, civets, and more.

“All of these protected wildlife infants possibly had their mothers killed by illegal poachers in order to obtain these infants,” he said.

On the BSBCC Facebook page, Dr Wong on Wednesday (May 30) shared a video he found on the Instagram page which was advertising a sun bear cub for sale.

It showed a man bottle feeding milk to the cub.

“The sun bear is a totally protected species in West Malaysia and Sabah, and protected species in Sarawak.

“No one is allowed to sell, to kill, to keep, and to possess any body parts of sun bears,” Dr Wong wrote in his post accompanying the video.

Since the online business is being conducted in the peninsula, Dr Wong had reported the matter to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) which told him that the matter will be investigated.

He said the discovery of sun bear cubs being sold online comes just two weeks after BSBCC celebrated Sun Bear Day on May 16, which was aimed at raising public awareness on the protection and conservation of sun bears.

“If we keep quiet and choose to do nothing, soon our forests will be empty,” he said.

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Thailand: Dead or alive, search for whale shark continues off Phuket

Eakkapop Thongtub Phuket News 21 May 18;

PHUKET: The director-general of the Department Of Marine And Coastal Resources (DMCR) has confirmed that they will continue to search for another five days for the whale shark seen on video strung up on a fishing boat between Koh Hei and Koh Racha, south of Phuket, last Friday (May 18).animals, crime, military, marine, transport,

However, it is still unclear whether the whale shark, which are listed as endangered, actually classed as 'vulnerable to extinction' and protected in Thai waters with a ban on fishing all whale sharks, was dead or alive when it was put back into the sea.

Speaking to The Phuket News yesterday (May 20), DMCR director-general Jatuporn Buruspat said, “We are very concerned about Thailand’s marine life after finding out about the whale shark caught off Phuket on May 18. This is disgusting behaviour.

“We will keep looking for this whale shark as we have yet to find any trace of it. If we can’t find the whale shark floating in the sea in next five days we will presume it is still alive.

“If we do find it dead then we will next have to recover the body to find the cause of death,” Mr Jatuporn explained.

Following the video being released on social media on Friday, the Royal Thai Navy at 9:30am on Saturday (May 19) went to Seang Arun Pier in Rassada Pier to search for the boat seen on the video with the whale shark strung up.

A The Phuket News reporter joined the search with navy officials and was told that a crew member of the “Aqua” dive boat saw the incident and shouted out to the crew of the fishing boat until they eventually released it back into the sea.

It was believed that the whale shark was dead, The Phuket News reporter was told.

Chief of Staff of the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command Adm Pichet Tanaset led the inspection at Seang Arun Pier and confirmed that it was the “Sang Samut 3” fishing vessel that was seen in the video with the whale shark.

Both the Sang Samut 3 and Sang Samut 2 were apprehended at the pier and the captain of the Sang Samut 3 was immediately taken to Chalong Police Station for questioning.

“Somsamai Meejom is the captain of the boat. He has been taken for questioning at Chalong Police Station,” Adm Pichet confirmed.

“The Department of Fisheries and DMCR Phuket office are currently looking into the incident and they will decide whether they believe Mr Somsamai’s is guilty of committing any crime.

“If they believe that he has then he will be charged accordingly. I expect the penalty against him to be very serious,” Adm Pichet said.

Mr Jatuporn added, “I don’t want any incident like this to happen again. If anyone has any information regarding damage to marine life, please inform the DMCR.

“I have also asked the tourist police at Royal Thai Police in Bangkok to support us as they can help to inform tourists about laws regarding protected marine life.”

Ban sought on otter trawling after whale shark snared off Phuket
PRATCH RUJIVANAROM The Nation 23 May 18;

AN ONLINE petition campaigning for a ban on a form of fishing was launched yesterday after an endangered whale shark was caught by a trawler in the waters off Phuket last Friday.

Piya Thedyam, creator of the campaign on for ending the use of so-called otter trawls, emphasised that the marine ecosystem, biodiversity and seafood sustainability of Thai seas were in great danger as long as this destructive fishing equipment was still allowed to operate in Thai waters.

For these reasons, Piya started seeking signatures for the online petition to Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach in an effort to preserve the marine ecosystem, ensure the survival of rare aquatic animal species, and promote sustainable fishing, as the otter-trawlers had just proven the harm they were doing to marine life by snaring the whale shark in their nets off the coast of Phuket.

“I would like to use the case of this whale shark to motivate the fishermen, seafood lovers, and all people to show solidarity in protecting our beloved oceans, marine animals and our sources of seafood by signing the petition to criminalise [otter] trawling and come up with high penalties for using this destructive fishing equipment,” he said.

“If we still allow these trawlers to operate freely in the sea, we may witness rare aquatic animals such as whale sharks or sea turtles become the next victims, while the very fine net of the trawls will scoop up anything in their path, including juvenile fish, cutting down the reproduction cycle, until there are no fish left for us in the sea,” he added.

The petition is open for signatures at

Whale shark a wake-up call
Bangkok Post

The fate of an unlucky whale shark -- believed to be pregnant -- that became entangled in a Thai fishing trawler's nets about a fortnight ago remains unknown.

What we do know is the 7-tonne fish was drawn onto the boat, which is a big no-no for any fishermen who accidentally catch such a rare and protected species.

The story made headlines when a diver shared a clip he made after accidentally encountering the trawler, Sang Samut 3, near an island off Phuket on May 18.

From the clip, which angered many members the Thai public, the creature was in dire straits as she was non-responsive and her skin had lost its shininess, as she was seen tied to the trawler's mast. Considering her injuries, some academics said she had zero chance of surviving.

The crew finally released her back into the ocean -- after the group of divers complained vigorously about the situation -- and she has not been seen since.

As expected, the story drew a knee-jerk reaction from Thai authorities.

A frantic search for the whale shark by the Marine and Coastal Resources Department has also apparently failed. It filed charges against 17 people aboard the trawler and temporarily suspended its operations pending the results of an ongoing investigation.

In a bid to defend himself and those on board, the captain claimed neither he nor his crew had the faintest idea there was a 7-tonne fish trapped in its net.

If they had, they would never have hauled it up, he said, but conservationists remain sceptical.
In a media interview, Jatuporn Buruspat, head of the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, said the actions of the trawler crew were not acceptable.

"I was shocked to see the picture [of a whale shark being dangled from the mast]. I don't want to believe fishermen would dare commit such an act," he told the media.

The official said the crew had breached several laws, overseen by his agency and the Department of Fisheries.

If found guilty, they could face a fine of between 300,000 baht and 3 million baht and quite possibly have to serve a jail term.

Mr Jatuporn, while citing the need to improve local conservation efforts, also mentioned the restrictions his agency faces in such tasks.

More importantly, Mr Jatuporn admitted that improper fishing methods are a major cause of deaths and injuries of rare, endangered species like dolphins and other aquatic life in Thai waters.

At least one sea cow and two dolphins have washed up on Thai beaches in the first five months of this year, and all three deaths were linked to fishing operations.

The female whale shark is merely the latest and possibly the saddest example of this scourge given how brutally she was treated.

The creature would have had a higher chance of survival if the crew had not breached the code of conduct for responsible fisheries and immediately released her back into the sea.

At the very least, this should serve as a wake-up call.

The crew members, particular the captain of the Sang Samut 3, deserve the maximum punishment available. This would set an example for others.

Meanwhile the Coastal and Marine Department, as well as the Department of Fisheries, need to streamline their efforts, close all loopholes, and strengthen the ability of local groups to carry out conservation efforts.

Public education about the need to save endangered species is also necessary.

And priority must be given to make sure such a sad incident as this is not repeated.

The news of the whale shark also comes at a crucial time.

Thailand will join the rest of the international community in celebrating Ocean Day in a few weeks' time under the theme of "Healthy Oceans, Healthy Lives".

But the country will have little to celebrate if such issues as these are not quickly addressed.

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Japanese hunters kill 120 pregnant minke whales during summer months – report

Conservationists call for end of ‘abhorrent’ whaling programme, which Japan argues is conducted for scientific purposes
Daniel Hurst The Guardian 30 May 18;

More than 120 pregnant whales were killed during Japan’s annual “research” hunt in the Southern Ocean last summer, a new report has revealed.

Of the 333 minke whales caught during the controversial 12-week expedition, 181 were female – including 53 immature ones. Figures show that of the 128 mature female whales caught in the hunt, 122 were pregnant.

“Apparent pregnancy rate of sampled animals was high (95.3%) and no lactating animal was observed in this survey,” said a technical report submitted to the International Whaling Commission.

Conservationists seized on the document as further evidence of the “abhorrent” whaling programme, which Japan argues is conducted for scientific purposes.

“The killing of 122 pregnant whales is a shocking statistic and sad indictment on the cruelty of Japan’s whale hunt,” Alexia Wellbelove, a senior program manager at Humane Society International, said in a statement.

“It is further demonstration, if needed, of the truly gruesome and unnecessary nature of whaling operations, especially when non-lethal surveys have been shown to be sufficient for scientific needs.”

In 2014, the international court of justice ordered a temporary halt to the annual slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean, finding that the Japanese programme known as Jarpa II was not for for scientific purposes.

But Japan resumed whaling in the region two years later under a revamped whaling plan, that included reducing its catch quota to about a third.

“Research effort began 60 minutes after sunrise and ended 60 minutes before sunset, with a maximum 12 hour per day,” said the report, prepared by representatives of the Institute of Cetacean Research – a whale research agency that is associated with Japan’s fisheries ministry. It was co-written with authors from the fisheries processing company Kyodo Senpaku and Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

“One or two minke whales were sampled randomly from each primary sighted school using harpoons with a 30g penthrite grenade,” it said, referring to an explosive material.

“Sampled whales were immediately transported to the research base vessel, where biological measurements and sampling were carried out.”

The report said 11 targeted whales managed to get away before being hit, mainly because they had moved into an area where sea ice was dense.

Wellbelove called on Australia and other anti-whaling countries to send “the strongest possible message to Japan that it should stop its lethal whaling programs”.

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Mar 18

For kids! Singapore shores at the Festival of Biodiversity 2-3 June
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Catch up with these new children's books on Singapore's seagrasses and corals!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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Indonesia: Rafflesia Kemumu blooms in North Bengkulu

Antara 29 May 18;

Rafflesia kemumu is blooming in the forest area of North Bengkulu region. (Dokumentasi Riki Rahmansyah)

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - A rare Rafflesia kemumu flower is currently in full bloom in a forest area near Tebing Kaning Village, North Bengkulu District, Bengkulu Province.

"The flower has been in full bloom for two days," Riki Reptian, coordinator of the North Bengkulu Rare Flower Community, stated here, Monday.

The forest serves as a habitat for Rafflesia kemumu, which was identified as a new species of the Rafflesia flower by Agus Susatya, a forestry lecturer at the University of Bengkulu, in 2017.

Bengkulu is currently home to five species of Rafflesia flowers: Rafflesia arnoldii, Rafflesia bengkuluensis, Rafflesia gadutensis, Rafflesia hasselti, and Rafflesia kemumu.

Three species of Rafflesia -- Rafflesia arnoldii, Rafflesia kemumu, and Rafflesia gadutensis -- are found in Bengkulu`s Boven Lais protected forest.

"The three species are unique and have become icons of the tourism industry in North Bengkulu," he noted.

Rafflesia kemumu is expected to remain in full bloom for the next three days.

The diameter of Rafflesia kemumu is similar to that of Rafflesia gadutensis but smaller than that of Rafflesia arnoldii.

Its color is more orangish and brighter than Rafflesia gadutensis and Rafflesia arnoldii.

Reported by Helti M Sipayung
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 May 18

Zebra Dove Courtship Ritual
Singapore Bird Group

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Childhood pet leads to primatology calling

Dr Andie Ang is dedicated to the conservation of wildlife in Singapore
Jan Lee The New Paper 28 May 18;

Primatology is not the career a young Singaporean girl usually dreams of.

Until she gets a monkey.

When she was 10, Dr Andie Ang's family received a monkey as a gift from a relative.

It was a male vervet monkey from South Africa, and the family named him Ah Boy.

She loved the monkey with all her heart.

"I would bring him outside on my bicycle, play with him and feed him every day. We groomed each other too," recalled Dr Ang, now 33.

But the wild animal was not meant to be a pet.

When it grew to its full size, it had to be chained up in the house, for fear it might scratch and injure someone.

Eventually, keeping the monkey in the flat got too dangerous and it was moved to a factory in Tuas.

The sadness in Ah Boy's eyes as it got older started to affect Dr Ang.

She said: "No matter what I did and tried, it just seemed sad and bored."

To help her beloved pet, she did more research into the natural habitat and habits of monkeys, and soon found that being alone and away from the wild was not the way for animals like Ah Boy to live.

So Dr Ang made the decision to give it up willingly at 15.

Dr Ang said: "I knew I had to return him to the wild. But it was so heartbreaking to part with him. I knew I was never going to see him again."


In a bid to find Ah Boy a suitable home, Dr Ang reached out to several agencies including the then newly formed Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).

Blue, the dancing monkey featured as the logo of Acres, is actually based on Ah Boy.

Dr Ang said: "When Louis Ng (the founder of Acres) first saw Ah Boy, Ah Boy looked so sad that Louis decided to call him Blue. I am thankful to Louis."

Her time with Ah Boy, who was eventually released into the wild in Zambia, sparked something in Dr Ang.

At 18, on the brink of entering university to study engineering, she changed her mind and switched to life sciences at the National University of Singapore.

After furthering her studies in the US, she is now a leading primate researcher in Singapore, working to conserve the Raffles' banded langur, a breed found only in Singapore and Johor in Malaysia.

No one had spotted the notoriously shy langurs in years when Dr Ang embarked on her project 10 years ago.

She said: "I was told I could try to look for them in the forest for a few months but if I did not see any, I would have to give up.

"When I finally saw them two months in, I was so thrilled. It is not extinct."

The Raffles' banded langur is an endangered species, with just some 50 of them in Singapore.

Aside from chairing the langur working group, Dr Ang is the president of an environmental group, the Jane Goodall Institute in Singapore.

She also assists in education and awareness-raising campaigns to help Singaporeans live in harmony with wildlife.

Increasing urbanisation here has closed the distance between humans and wildlife, and encounters can range from annoying to dangerous.

Complaints of macaques going into residences foraging for food are common among those living near the nature reserves and forests of Singapore.


Dr Ang said such concerns are worsened by human behaviour such as poor food waste disposal or an insistence on feeding monkeys.

She said: "Sometimes people think these macaques are pitiful because they do not have enough food in the forests. But they do, and we should not feed them.

"Feeding them does more harm to them. It encourages the monkeys to leave their forest home to get easy food from us.

"With more food given out by people, the monkey population will increase at an unnatural and unsustainable rate..."

Dr Ang said she regularly comes across food left out for monkeys. She believes that having tougher enforcement of laws related to wildlife can help.

"Education and enforcement have to go hand in hand in order to stop people from feeding wildlife," said Dr Ang.

Currently, under the Parks and Trees Act, there are penalties such as fines for those caught feeding wild animals, but the law is difficult to enforce unless perpetrators are caught in the act.

The law only applies to those caught feeding within nature reserves and national parks.

Feeding of animals such as wild boars that appear outside of such places is not banned.

Last year, a wild boar was injured after colliding with a car and charged at people in the area.

A police officer shot it, and the animal was later euthanised.

Such incidents can make cultivating empathy for animals, especially those that come into contact with humans, difficult.

Calls for the culling of such animals are not uncommon, and Dr Ang takes on the tough job of emphasising to Singaporeans the importance of conservation.

"One of the biggest myths, I think, is that we do not have a lot of wildlife," said Dr Ang.

According to information from National Parks, Singapore is home to some 40,000 kinds of non-microbial organisms - which includes flora, fauna, animals and insects on land and sea.

Many of these species are native to Singapore, and some are so rare as to garner international attention.

The Neptune's cup sponge, a sea creature shaped like a goblet, was thought to be extinct until it was re-discovered in Singapore waters in 2011.

The critically endangered Singapore freshwater crab is also only known to exist here.


Dr Ang added: "There are some people who may say that there's not much wildlife to conserve in Singapore, but that is not true. Singapore has amazing biodiversity of which some are only found here and nowhere else."

Conservation is rapidly becoming an issue both in and out of Singapore, with South-east Asia being a particular hotspot for illegal wildlife trade.

Said Dr Ang: "Demand for tiger bones, rhino horns, elephant tusks, bear bile, shark's fin and such stems from persisting beliefs in baseless information and the desire to display one's wealth and status."

Consuming tiger bones will not help treat illness or improve vitality, she said.

But not all is lost, even as the struggle for an end to the black market for exotic animals and their parts continues.

"Education outreach goes a long way," she said.

"With more people becoming aware of the issues with consuming shark's fin, there is less demand, for example, during weddings, and more pressure for restaurants to stop serving it completely."

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Buddhist groups step up reminders to followers to avoid releasing animals on Vesak Day

Khoe Wei Jun Straits Times 28 May 18;

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Buddhist Federation and other experts are encouraging devotees to not release animals to mark Vesak Day, but to consider alternatives instead, including going vegetarian.

Buddhist groups have been regularly educating followers on the issues associated with releasing animals, but in the lead-up to Vesak Day on Tuesday (May 29), the groups say followers need to be reminded.

Venerable You Wei, the chairman of the federation's education committee, said: "It will be ironic to consume meat and liberate life."

He added: "Vegetarianism saves many more animal lives than life liberation."

The practice of releasing animals on Vesak Day and on other special occasions is known as "fangsheng" among Chinese Buddhists, and "jiwitte dana" (the gift of life) among other Buddhists such as Theravada Buddhists, said Dr Neena Mahadev, an anthropology professor at Yale-NUS College.

Dr Mahadev, who specialises in the study of religion, in particular Buddhism, said Singaporean Buddhists "tend to be mindful of the broader ecosystem and are educating themselves on which animals are appropriate for release, and which will survive in the wild".

Mr Chan Chow Wah, a researcher of Buddhism, who is a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute in Britain, said: "Animal release, if done in the right context, is not an issue. For example, releasing a captured wild animal to its original habitat."

But many Buddhists believe it is not appropriate in Singapore. Said Mr Chan, who is a Buddhist: "In urban places like Singapore where animals for sale are bred in captivity, releasing these animals causes suffering as they are unable to survive when they are released."

Other than adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, Mr Chan said, there are other ways to show compassion to animals. These include doing animal rescue work and supporting animal shelters. He said that these activities take place all year round in the Singapore Buddhist community.

More Buddhist followers are aware of how releasing animals also jeopardises the environment.

Dr Tan Wee Hin, a biological science professor at NUS, said: "Introducing animals such as red-eared terrapins and fish can change the environment, such as the quality of water, to become harmful to other species and increase the competition for limited resources."

The National Parks Board (NParks) has been working with volunteers to spread awareness, using exhibitions, roadshows and school outreach activities. NParks volunteers have also been looking out for animal release in nature reserves and parks.

Those caught releasing animals can be fined up to $50,000 under the Parks and Trees Act, jailed for up to six months, or a combination of both.

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Rainbow Warrior ship makes first official visit to Singapore to spread green message

Esther Koh Straits Times 28 May 18;

SINGAPORE - A ship with a famous name returned to Singapore on Monday (May 28) to continue its global mission for action against climate change.

The Rainbow Warrior, first launched by environmental organisation Greenpeace 40 years ago, is making its first official visit to Singapore, having previously visited only to rest its crew and stock up on supplies.

The third version of the Rainbow Warrior will be docked here for three days, as part of Greenpeace's five-month climate action tour of South-east Asia.

More than 100 Singaporeans from environmental groups and civil service sectors have been invited to view a climate change exhibition and attend a campaign talk aboard the ship on Tuesday (May 29).

"Greenpeace is grateful for the opportunity to be here in Singapore with the Rainbow Warrior," said its captain, Mr Peter Willcox. "She is a very special ship… (she) stands in solidarity with the people who are fighting to reclaim their rights to a healthy and peaceful environment."

Greenpeace was founded in 1971 in Vancouver, Canada, with a message of a green and peaceful future, which it chose to spread by ship.

Its first flagship - also called Rainbow Warrior - held its first voyage on April 29, 1978, to Iceland, to oppose the commercial whaling programme there.

But its exploits have not always been welcome. On July 10, 1985, the first Rainbow Warrior was bombed by the French secret service, in an attempt to counter the ship's protest against French nuclear testing in Mururoa Atoll.

Mr Willcox started sailing with Greenpeace in 1981, and was appointed captain the same year. He witnessed the 1985 bombing, which resulted in the death of photographer Fernando Pereira.

Mr Willcox said he would not trade his job for anything else in the world. "I have three children. I want to leave them some kind of planet that's fit to live on, and right now we're not doing it. We're failing miserably.

"My motivation is that I'm concerned. I don't want to leave a big mess for my children to clean up."

The 16-strong crew aboard the Rainbow Warrior come from 10 different countries worldwide, including Lebanon and Indonesia.

The Rainbow Warrior's South-east Asian voyage began in the Philippines in February. It has since visited Indonesia and southern Thailand, before arriving in Singapore.

It will travel from Singapore on Wednesday to Malaysia, before rounding up the trip in Phuket.

Built from scratch and designed specifically for Greenpeace's environmental missions, the Rainbow Warrior is one of the most energy-efficient ships in operation today. It sails primarily using wind power, rather than fuel, due to its 55m-high A-Frame mast system, which carries far more sail than a conventional mast of the same size.

On average, the Rainbow Warrior burns half a tonne of fuel a day, as compared with a typical ship of the same size which burns close to four tonnes.

Executive director of Greenpeace South-east Asia, Mr Naderev "Yeb" Sano, said: "It is fitting that the Rainbow Warrior is here in Singapore as the Government has marked 2018 to be the Year of Climate Action. We hope to work closely with the Singapore Government and civil society in the future, and look forward to what the country can deliver under the Paris Agreement."

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Malaysia: Sandakan ‘river of death’ a threat to lives and livelihood

stephanie lee The Star 28 May 18;

KOTA KINABALU: It is a river of death, with hundreds of freshwater fish found floating along the Se­­galiud River in Batu Sapi, Sandakan.

They are believed to have died from waste pollutants discharged from factories and mills in the area.

Segaliud River, like the Kinaba­tangan River nearby, is a source of water to thousands of villagers in Sandakan and its surrounding areas.

But the stench was obvious when Batu Sapi MP Datuk Liew Vui Keong visited the area following complaints from villagers.

“It looked like they had been dead for at least three days,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He said the villagers claimed that the river could have been polluted with pesticides, fertilisers and sediment from logging activities as well as effluent from palm oil mills that were nearby.

Liew said a police report had been lodged by the village head who alleged that the mills had discharged effluents into the river.

He said the villagers relied hea­vily on the river as a source of income as they catch fish, prawns, clams and crabs to earn a living.

He estimated that each household could lose about RM150 each day.

Liew said it could take about two months to clear the river of the pollu­tants.

This would mean that more than 60 registered fishermen in the area could face a loss of about RM9,000 if they were unable to fish for two months, he said.

Liew said that there were at least another 100 fishermen who did not register with the Fisheries Depart­ment.

The villagers also claimed that the water quality had declined and they were worried about its impact on their health.

Liew said he would take the matter up to the Agriculture and Food Industries as well as the Health and Well-being ministries for further action.

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Indonesia, home to six rare turtle species


World Turtle Day is celebrated every May 23 to protect turtles, tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world.

According to their scientific classification, turtles belong to the diapsid group of the order Testudines, which is part of the class Reptilia. Some Testudines species have already gone extinct.

Turtles are one of the oldest reptile groups, even older than snakes or crocodiles. There are 365 turtle species known to be alive today, but some of them are highly endangered.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia has revealed that the archipelago is home to six out of seven of the world’s marine turtle species, as it provides important nesting and foraging grounds, as well as important migration routes at the crossroads of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. has compiled a list from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of threatened or near-threatened marine turtle species in Indonesia, along with their conservation status.

1. Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback turtle) – vulnerable, population decreasing

2. Chelonia mydas (green turtle) – endangered, population decreasing

3. Caretta caretta (loggerhead turtle) – endangered

4. Natator depressa (flatback turtle) – threatened species, data deficient

5. Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill sea turtle) – critically endangered, population decreasing

6. Lepidochelys olivacea (olive ridley sea turtle) – vulnerable, population decreasing

The hawksbill sea turtle, which is categorized as critically endangered, is the nearest to being extinct.

According to WWF Indonesia’s coordinator of marine species conservation, Dwi Suprapti, observations have hinted at the significant decrease of turtles in Indonesian waters.

The study looked at turtles’ nesting and egg-laying habits on numerous beach.

“In Indonesia, sea turtles mainly nest at Sangalaki Beach in the Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan; Paloh Beach in West Kalimantan, Pangumbahan Beach in West Java; Jeen Womom Beach, West Papua,” Dwi said.

Aside from natural factors, humans also contribute to the decreasing turtle population by capturing the animals for food, poaching then and selling off their body parts, and polluting the rivers and oceans with plastic waste.

“Recently, a turtle died at Paloh Beach because there was a plastic sheet blocking its stomach,” Dwi revealed.

Activists continue to reiterate that turtles need to be protected as they are an important part of ocean ecosystem. wrote that turtles maintain healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs, providing key habitat for other marine life, helping to balance marine food webs and facilitating nutrient cycling from water to land.

The animals, therefore, contribute significantly to the ocean.

Dwi emphasized that the illegal hunting and trading turtles must be reported to the authorities. This can be done through:

1. The Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA) (,

2. Office for Marine, Coastal and Resources Management (BPSPL),

3. GAKKUM Lingkungan & Kehutanan app (Environment and Forestry Law Enformencement) operated by Environment and Forestry Ministry

4. e-Pelaporan Satwa Dilindungi app run by the Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim)


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Indonesia: Tiger chased away from plantation areas to conservation park

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 28 May 18;

A Sumatran tiger that reportedly attacked a resident of Kerinci, Jambi, last week had returned to its natural habitat in the Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) after being chased away from plantation areas, a conservation official has said.

The Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency’s (BKSDA) conservation division head, Udin Ikhwanuddin, said the agency’s rangers had monitored the movement of the 2-year-old tiger since Friday and concluded that the endangered species had left the plantation areas where it had been wandering about over the last several days.

As reported earlier, a Sumatran tiger mauled Rusmayati, 58, a resident of Pungut Mudik village in Air Hangat Timur district, Kerinci regency, on Thursday. She was severely injured in the attack.

Udin called on locals to stay alert because it was still possible for the tiger to return to the settlement areas. “We are calling on all residents to understand that humans and animals can live together peacefully,” he said.

Udin further said residents living near the TNKS could protect the national park from damage so that tigers could live peacefully in their habitat.

TNKS data shows that around 166 tigers live in the 1.36 million-hectare conservation area. Illegal logging activities in and around TNKS have threatened their habitat. (ebf)

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 May 18

Pesta Ubin begins!
wild shores of singapore

Butterfly of the Month - May 2018
Butterflies of Singapore

American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) @ Upper Seletar Reservoir Park
Monday Morgue

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Biophilic design key to making Singapore a city in a garden

TAN SHAO YEN Today Online 27 May 18;

Having long been known as the Garden City, Singapore has now set its sights on becoming a City in a Garden.

Used to the abundance of plants and trees well integrated into our parks, roads, waterways and even our buildings, when visiting places overseas, many Singaporeans often find it uncomfortable when they are surrounded by the concrete jungle with little green in sight.

Hence, the concept of biophilic design – which seeks to connect or integrate natural elements and living things such as vegetation, flowing water, and sunlight with the built environment - would certainly resonate with many Singaporeans.

But the benefits of biophilic design go beyond aesthetics and it is useful for us to understand how we can promote its wider adoption here.

American biologist Edward O. Wilson first popularised the term “biophilia” in 1984, referring to the idea that humans have an innate attraction to nature and living things.

Singapore has a long history of imbuing our city with nature.

In recent years, specific greening initiatives such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (Lush) 2.0 Programme and the National Parks’ Skyrise Greenery scheme have helped to intensify the integration of greenery with our high density developments.

Biophilic elements may be seen in many of the iconic buildings that make up Singapore’s beautiful skyline.

You may already have noticed that the sophisticated roof of Changi Airport’s Terminal 3, with its light reflective panels and skylights, is designed to evoke an image of a rainforest’s canopy.

Or consider Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, in which the building blocks overlook a central garden and the neighbouring pond and park. At upper levels, balconies are decorated with scented plants; and walls are adorned with cascading greens, creating the impression that the whole hospital is enmeshed in nature.

Many other aspects of biophilic elements can also be found in key attractions such as Gardens by the Bay, education institutions such as The Hive @ NTU, and even commercial facilities such as Solaris in One-North.

Biophilic design is not the same as green design, although the two concepts share some similarities.

In general, green design focuses on the sustainability of a building in terms of safe, effective, and efficient use of resources. Architects and engineers ask questions like “Does this feature contribute to reducing energy and water usage?”, “Is this material safe for the environment?”, “Can we incorporate renewable energy sources to this building?”, and “Can we achieve thermal comfort with natural ventilation instead of air-conditioning?”

Biophilic design compliments green design by incorporating natural elements into buildings, and achieves sustainability in different ways.

The ecosystems that biophilic design introduces can help to improve air quality; provide natural forms of temperature control; channel natural lighting; create spaces for the growing of food; and support urban ecology such as migratory birds and wildlife.

Biophilic design is often also green design, but not all green features can be considered biophilic.

There are many benefits to working or living in a building that connects with nature.

Studies have shown that biophilic elements have positive physical and psychological effects on the inhabitants.

For example, patients in hospital rooms that received natural sunlight needed less pain medication than other patients. A connection with nature is also found to positively impact cognitive performance, and improve concentration, attention as well as perception of safety.

Yet there remain some challenges in promoting biophilic design in Singapore.

Some building owners or developers might think that it is purely about aesthetics, and question the cost and necessity of such features.

Others are concerned about the maintainability of the building, since live plants and flowers must be constantly tended to.

Some only want the greenery, but not the creatures they attract.

For architects and designers, the process of biophilic design therefore often involves educating clients and the users.

Beyond this, there is a need to also help Singaporeans understand and embrace the value of biophilic design.

After all, biophilic design and Singapore’s City in a Garden ambitions are inextricably linked.

Architects and urban planners will also have to continue to keep themselves updated about this relatively new field of design.

Google, for example, has been testing the effect that biophilic features - such as natural light, plants, terraces, water features, and even sunshine-simulating full-spectrum light – have on employees in its American offices.

Such studies would certainly contribute to the body of knowledge for biophilic design.

This is an exciting time, and I look forward to seeing how our built environment and city will continue to evolve and become ever “greener” – both metaphorically and physically.


Tan Shao Yen is President of Board of Architects and the CEO of CPG Consultants.

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Malaysia: Protect the environment, Dr M urged

The Star 28 May 18;

PETALING JAYA: A collective of 17 conservation groups and personalities, including celebrity Maya Karin, has written to the Prime Minister, calling for stronger protection of the country’s environment and natural resources.

It includes, among others, World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia), Danau Girang Field Cen­tre, Malaysian Nature Society, Wa­­ter Watch Penang and the Society of Conservation Biology-Malaysia Chap­­ter.

The letter dated May 24 was written in the wake of an online petition initiated by the group, which garnered over 28,000 signatures within 10 days after it was put up on May 13 on

The petition called upon the Prime Minister and the new Paka­tan Harapan Government to maintain and strengthen a dedicated environmental portfolio within the Cabinet.

The group also asked Dr Mahathir to choose a minister with “genuine interest in protecting the environment” to head the portfolio.

In the letter, the group said Malaysians were concerned about the declining state of the country’s natural environment, which included forests, highlands, coral reefs, rivers, mangroves, seagrass, ocean and all wildlife.

“This ecosystem provides valuable servi­ces such as clean water, fresh air, sources of protein, medicine, recreation and many more,” said the group, adding that it was crucial in supporting the people’s livelihood and general well-being.

While Malaysia is considered among the top 17 countries with a rich biodiversity and is well known for its natural beauty, the group said protecting and managing this was a “huge and challenging task”.

“Most developed countries have a dedicated ministry which is responsible for helping their countries achieve international commitments,” it said.

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Malaysia: Hundreds of fish found dead in one of Sandakan's raw water sources

Stephanie Lee The Star 27 May 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Hundreds of dead fish were seen along the Segaliud River in Batu Sapi in Sandakan on Sunday, causing a foul stench to linger in the area.

Segaliud River, like the Kinabatangan River nearby, is a source of water supply to Sandakan and its surrounding areas.

It is believed that effluent discharged by plantation mills in the area polluted the river and caused this.

Villagers there claim that the river water quality has declined seriously which could impact the supply to Sandakan and Batu Sapi.

Batu Sapi MP Datuk Liew Vui Keong was in the area to see the situation for himself after receiving complaints from villagers.

"I could smell the stench from the dead fish along the river when I got there. It appears they have been dead for at least three days," he said in a statement.

He said villagers who live along the river say its waters are heavily polluted with pesticides, fertiliser and from plantations, plus waste effluent from palm oil mills as well as sediment from logging.

Liew said a police report had been lodged by the village head who claimed that there are five mills nearby which were discharging effluent into the river.

He also said that this was a recurring incident, which continued even after some of the owners had previously been fined by the courts.

Liew said he will take the matter up to the Agriculture and Food Industries as well as the Health and Well-being ministries for further action.

"We will also consider taking legal action against the offenders," he said.

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Indonesia: Dugong sellers thwarted in West Sulawesi

The Jakarta Post 27 May 18;

A fisherman named Safaruddin was about to go out to sea on Saturday when he reportedly found the body of a dugong on Garassi beach in Nepo village, Wonomulyo district, Polewali Mandar, West Sulawesi.

According to his account, there were wounds all over the protected animal’s 2.5-meter-long body. He alleged that the dugong was killed by poachers.

“It was already dead when I found it. This is the third time we have found a dugong body around here,” Safaruddin said as reported by on Sunday.

When Polewali Mandar Water Police officers went to the scene to remove the dead creature, some local residents had reportedly stolen it. They had reportedly cut the body into pieces and planned to sell it on Battoa island.

However, the police thwarted their attempt, arrested the culprits and seized the dugong body as evidence.

Dugongs are listed as endangered in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). (vla)

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Thailand: Coral bleaching found off Phuket

The Thaiger The Nation 27 May 18;

The marine ecology division of the Marine Biological Centre has reported on research about coral bleaching in the areas around Phuket.

The first stage of coral bleaching has been found in some areas around Koh Payu (Ao Kung area), Koh Maithon, Koh Aew and Koh Hey. In some areas in the seas where the research was conducted the water temperature has reached 31 degrees Celsius.

The report says that coral has started to bleach since late April this year.

The Marine and Coastal Researcher and Development Institute have issued a warning to closely follow up on the phenomenon.

Some coral in the Koh Aew area is damaged while around Koh Maithon coral is still plentiful. The report says that coral colour saturation of about 5% to 10% has been lost. Most of the coral species affected are Porites Coral.But the report also says that Acropora Coral, Pocillopora Coral and Montipora Coral appear to be in normal condition whilst they’ll be closely watched to see if there’s any change. The researchers believe the cause of the coral colour drop is an increase of water temperatures in the area since April.

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Hong Kong: Massive beach clean-up for sea turtles

AFP Yahoo News 27 May 18;

More than two thousand volunteers hit the beach on an outlying island of Hong Kong for a mass rubbish clean up Sunday as environment campaigners warned plastic is killing sea turtles and other wildlife.

There has been increasing concern over the amount of rubbish in Hong Kong waters which washes up on its numerous beaches. Authorities and environmentalists have pointed the finger at southern mainland China as the source.

Last year, a massive palm oil spillage from a ship collision in mainland Chinese waters clogged Hong Kong beaches.

But there is evidence that Hong Kong is also to blame. In 2016, local media reported that syringes and medical waste washed ashore from clinics in the city.

Sunday's clean-up took place on Shek Pai Wan, near Sham Wan -- known as "Turtle Cove" — on Hong Kong's Lamma Island.

Sham Wan is one of the few regular sea turtle nesting grounds in southern China and is closed to visitors from June to the end of October, but campaigners said no nests have been recorded in the area in the past six years.

"Turtles aren't making it to the beach to lay eggs," said Aquameridian campaigner Sharon Kwok, adding that turtles are dying, ending up tangled in nets, hit by high-speed boats and ships, and most often, because of trash ingestion.

"Turtles are mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish and eating them," said Kwok, explaining they are incapable of throwing them up as they have barbs in their mouths.

Volunteers gathered dozens of bags of trash including drinking straws, forks and spoons, polystyrene, toothbrushes and plastic bags on the sandy beach.

With much of the plastic waste broken into small pieces, participants needed to use sifters to pick them out.

"From a far distance it looks like it is just normal stones and pebbles, but if you look closer, there's actually quite a lot of small plastics, and turtles can easily think that is food," said 14-year-old volunteer Tommy Tsui.

This year seven green turtles have already washed ashore in Hong Kong according to Kwok, but environmentalists believe more have died and their carcasses have sunk.

Campaigners are urging the government to expand the "restricted area" around Sham Wan, extending it beyond the dry-sand beach which is already protected to the rocky shoreline as well as the shallow waters of the bay.

"I hope that they can expand the restricted area further along the sea and the survival rate of turtles will be higher," said 13-year-old volunteer Caitlin Chiu.

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 May 18

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 9 June 2018 (Sat)
Love our MacRitchie Forest

24 Jun (Sun): FREE Pedal Ubin 2018 with the NUS Toddycats
Pesta Ubin 2018

Discover Pulau Ubin with the month-long Pesta Ubin 2018 with lots of free activities!
Otterman speaks

Bird Records Committee Report (May 2017)
Singapore Bird Group

Night Walk At A Secret Place (25 May 2018)
Beetles@SG BLOG

New children's books on Singapore's seagrasses and corals!
wild shores of singapore

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Indonesia: Kerinci resident injured in tiger attack

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 26 May 18;

A Jambi woman, 58, was attacked by a tiger as she was working on her farm on Thursday.

Rusmayati, a resident of Pungut Mudik village, Air Hangat Timur district, Kerinci regency, Jambi, suffered serious wounds on her right shoulder, back and forehead.

She is currently undergoing medical treatment at Mayjend A.Thalib General Hospital (RSU) in Sungai Penuh city, Jambi.

The Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency’s (BKSDA) conservation division head Udin Ikhwanuddin said the incident happened when Rusmayati and her husband, Usman, 60, were working on their farm at 2:30 p.m. local time on Thursday.

“The tiger attacked her from behind,” Udin said on Friday.

Helped by Datrizal, a member of the District Military Command (Kodim) 0417/KRC, Usman brought his wife to a health clinic in Sungai Penuh after the attack.

“Currently, Rusmayati is still in intensive care. She underwent surgery at RSU Mayjend A.Thalib at 8 p.m. local time on Thursday,” said Udin.

He added that BKSDA Jambi personnel and a Sumatran tiger patrol team were investigating the incident. (ebf)

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 May 18

2nd June 2018 (Saturday): Herp Walk with the HSS and VSG (Festival of Biodiversity Edition)
Herpetological Society of Singapore

10 Jun (Sun): Chek Jawa and Leave No Trace Discovery with Better Trails
Pesta Ubin 2018

22 Jun (Fri): MAD for Musang! for kids with Cicada Tree Eco-Place
Pesta Ubin 2018

The Long-tailed Macaque Working Group is recruiting: human surveyors and monkey guards!
Otterman speaks

Living reefs of Terumbu Semakau
Offshore Singapore

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What Could Happen If Malaysia Builds Three More Islands

Wade Shepard Forbes 25 May 18;

Fisherman Haji Rossli looked out across the bay, but could hardly fathom what could soon be built there. "Surprised? No, we were shocked," he told me when I asked what his reaction was when he first learned of the plan that calls for his remote fishing village to be transformed into Malaysia's next outpost of progress. Three manmade islands are set to be constructed where there is only sea today, upon which a new smart city, industrial zone, and transportation hub will be built.

The Penang South Reclamation (PSR) Project

It is called the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project, and is, in and of itself, nothing unusual in the context of 21st century Asia--a region that is urbanizing so rapidly that the creation of another new city, another new dot on the map, hardly makes its way into the international news stream. Perhaps just as typical is the fact that this new city is set to be constructed on land reclaimed from the sea, a development strategy that has taken on bonanza-like proportions across the region in recent years.

The PSR is one of the more ambitious land reclamation projects for urban development in the world today. An estimated 189 million cubic meters of sand and rock are set to be hauled in from the Malaysian state of Perak to make artificial islands measuring 9.3, 4.45, and 3.23 square kilometers, respectively. These new islands are designed to flow within the natural contours of the coastline, neatly filling in three bays and extending the reach of Penang farther out to sea.

However, unlike other reclamation projects in Penang—which have seen new coastal extensions and artificial islands created for luxury high-rises and shopping malls—the Penang South Reclamation project is slated to be a fundraiser for the Penang state government’s ambitious new transportation masterplan. Essentially, the government plans to take out a bridge loan to pay for their long-awaited project on the contingency that they will be able to repay it via selling the new land to developers.

The Reclamation Bonanza

Traditional fishing village beneath the new luxury high-rises of the STP 1 project in the north of Penang.

“The majority of the people live nearby the water and most cities are located nearby water—water is life and always has been the center of economic activities,” summed up Kees-Jan Bandt, the CEO of Bandt Management & Consultancy, who has in-depth experience with reclamation projects around the world.

New cities built on reclaimed land have become one of the hottest trends in urbanization, providing what amounts to a developmental magic act: government officials can virtually point their fingers out to sea, say "voila," and a blank slate of prime positioned, high-value real estate almost instantly appears. Over the past decade, countries throughout Asia have been reclaiming land en masse:

Cities on China’s coast reclaimed an average of 700 square kilometres of land–that’s about the size of Singapore–from the sea every year from 2006 to 2010 for new houses, industrial zones and ports. The 130 sq km of land that was reclaimed to build the new city of Nanhui was significant enough to reconfigure China’s national map, and the reclaimed land for the Caofeidian economic zone was twice the size of Los Angeles.

Malaysia has massive reclamation works under way for the 700,000-person Forest City in Johor; the Philippines is reclaiming 1,010 acres from the sea for its New Manila Bay – City of Pearl; Cambodia is building a slew of Chinese-financed properties on reclaimed land; Dubai has turned reclamation into an art form; and Sri Lanka is building a new financial district on the dredged and deposited land of Colombo International Financial City. Around a quarter of modern-day Singapore was open sea when the nation state came into existence in 1955.

This new construction land becomes a wild card for governments and developers — they get blank slates of land to develop without the hassles and expenses inherent to relocating people, settling with existing land owners, and redeveloping an already established area.

Big profits

This is where one of the new islands for the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) will be constructed.

The economic incentives for reclaiming land are clear: according to Ocean University of China professor Liu Hongbin, the immediate profit from selling reclaimed land in China can fetch a profit in the ballpark of 10- to 100-times the cost of producing it.

The environmental impact

While there are economic benefits to developing this underutilized stretch of Penang, the local fishermen are worried about the impact on the local maritime ecosystem and, by extension, fear for their livelihoods.

“In this area there is a lot of plankton, a lot of fish and prawn come here,” Rossli explained as he pointed out to the bay. “What will happen to them when they build this project? Maybe they will go to other places.”

His fears are not unfounded, as there are already examples around Penang of what his fishing grounds could soon become. Massive reclamation projects have been happening here since 1975, as the island rapidly grows not only economically but physically as well. In the east, a massive reclamation project saw a new highway and commercial and residential strip appear. In the north, the controversial Seri Tanjung Pinang (STP) project has moved into its second phase, decimating the local fisheries and debilitating the nearby villages which depend on them.

“Before, there were many fish. Now, nothing,” fisherman Mohd-Ishak Bin Abdul Rahman told me previously about the plight of Tanjung Tokong, his village which now sits in the shadows of the mostly vacant luxury condos that were built on reclaimed land at STP 1.

“In terms of impacts to the local community, it has affected the local fishermen the most,” explained Mageswari Sangaralingam, a Penang-based research officer for Friends of the Earth Malaysia. “The reclamation projects have resulted in loss of fishing ground and project activities will adversely impact marine life, the fisheries sector, and thus the livelihood of the fisher community.”

She added that the numerous reclamation projects around the periphery of Penang has changed the island’s coastal hydrology and geomorphology.

“[The environment] will change, it will change,” Rossli lamented. “They will take material from another country and dump it to make an island… So it's not suitable for the fish.”

If Penang’s STP project in the north is a model to go off of, Rossli's fears are warranted. The local crab population there was decimated by mud that the fishermen believe came from the reclamation site.

“The fishermen don't like our project because they say our project is a threat,” Rosmady Mat Abu, who works for the consortium looking to develop the PSR project, told me when I met him on site. “But we do a survey [and found that] the fish is not around this area, only 30%.”

However, for Haji Rossli and many of the other fishermen of Permatang Damar Laut, losing a full third of their fishing grounds to the new islands is significant.

“If the place is still like it is right now everyday we can go and fish there and get some money,” Rossli explained. “If they make an island there it will be difficult for the fishermen, and in the market the price of fish may rise up higher and higher. How am I going to support my family?”

“As fishermen point out, not only the fishes are becoming extinct, even fishermen will soon be extinct as they lose fishing grounds,” Sangaralingam added.

These environmental concerns are real -- so much so that earlier this year Beijing put an end to all reclamation projects not backed by the central government.


Land reclamation in Penang—as well as in other parts of Malaysia—has become a politically contentious strategy for development. With Mahathir bin Mohamad back in power as the country's new prime minister, his administration's intentions for the PSR project still remain to be seen. Although it has not gone unnoticed that Mahathir's ten main government ministries conspicuously lacks one charged with protecting Malaysia's environment.

Wade Shepard is the author of Ghost Cities of China. Traveling since '99. Currently on the New Silk Road. Read my other articles on Forbes here.

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Malaysia: Logging made water polluted, say villagers

joash ee de silva The Star 26 May 18;

KUANTAN: It has been a challenging week for the villagers of Kuala Kenau and the surrounding areas in Sungai Lembing near here.

About 100 of them have seen their water source polluted, turning brown and muddy.

Mohd Nawi Mat Arif, 48, who has lived in the village since he was born, said the dirty water had caused them much difficulty.

“Sometimes we have no choice but to use the brown water to wash clothes. If the shirt is white, it will turn brown,” said Nawi.

Wan Suhaili Wan Kamaruzaman, 34, said she had to send her youngest child to the clinic for itchiness after bathing with the water.

“The doctor gave him antibiotics and an ointment. He is getting better,” said Wan Suhaili.

“Some of us have a treated water supply but it is expensive and it is not switched on 24/7, so we still use water from the catchment area.”

The villagers are blaming logging activities around the water catchment area at Bukit Segantang as the source of the pollution.

Wan Mohd Rasidi Wan Mohd Alih, 51, said the water catchment area had supplied water to their houses for decades.

“When a company started logging near the water catchment area last week, our water turned into teh tarik,” Rasidi said.

“When there is heavy rain, the water would turn muddy and villagers would have to walk 40 minutes up the hill to get clean water,” he told reporters yesterday.

After the villagers took reporters to the logging site and the water catchment area, Sintanmas Timber director Datuk M.K. Tan came to the village to meet the press.

He claimed the firm did not fell trees around the water catchment area, adding it had the necessary permits, including the Environ­mental Impact Report for logging.

“We didn’t log trees near the water catchment area and stopped once we came near it,” said Tan.

“It is hard to say who is at fault with regards to the pollution, but for now we will stop logging to investigate the matter.”

Sungai Lembing state assemblyman Datuk Md Sohaimi Mohamed Shah, when contacted, said he was surprised to hear of the case, explaining that he had reminded the Forestry Department since 2014 not to allow logging activities near water catchment areas.

“These places are very important for the villagers.

“I will try make a visit to Kampung Kuala Kenau and maybe bring Fores­­­try Department officials toge­ther to solve this issue,” he said.

100 Sungai Lembing residents suffering after water source is contaminated

KUANTAN: More than 100 residents of Kampung Kuala Kenau in Sungai Lembing have been forced to use murky water for their everyday chores, including meal preparation, for the past week.

They claim the source of the water had been contaminated due to logging activities nearby.

The residents said many of the houses in the village were not supplied treated water by Pengurusan Air Pahang Bhd (PAIP) and had to rely on the Bukit Segantang water catchment area located about 2km away.

Resident Wan Mohamad Rasidi Wan Mohd Alih, 51, claimed the problem began on May 20, adding that logging activities were at its height then.

He said the water catchment area had been the main source of water ever since the village began a century ago, but the water there was now murky with sediment from the logging activities, sand and leaves from the felled trees.

"The water coming out of the pipes is not just murky... it also contains sand. It's the colour of tea and it gets worse whenever it rains. We have never had this problem before," he said.

Another resident, 43-year-old Wan Khairuddin Wan Noda, claimed the situation had, in a short space of time, caused skin problems, including itchiness, among some residents, especially those who use it to bathe.

“Even though they know that using contaminated water would bring problems, they have no other choice as not all of them can afford to pay for piped water.”

Housewife Wan Suhaili Wan Kamaruzzaman, 34, said it was difficult for her to prepare food for the family for sahur and buka puasa meals.

“I have to collect the water and let the sediment settle first before using it. Even though I am wary of using the water, I have no other choice as this is the only water we have.”

Checks by the New Straits Times Press showed that there were indeed logging activities some 500m from the water catchment area. The water seemed to be a murky, yellowish brown colour.

It is understood that the logging activities, carried out by Sintanmas Timber Sdn Bhd and covering some 24.96ha, is legal. It began on March 23 and will go on till June 22.

Sintanmas Timber director Datuk M.K. Tan, when contacted, denied that the logging had caused any contamination of the water.

“We have followed all the regulations. But, we will investigate the claims anyway,” he said.

Dept: Logging activities did not contaminate catchment pond
The Star 27 May 18;

KUANTAN: The Pahang Forestry Department has denied allegations that logging activities caused the contamination of the water catchment pond at Bukit Segan­tang in Sungai Lembing here.

Its director Datuk Dr Mohd Hizamri Mohd Yasin said logging was not being carried out near the pond, which was reportedly a source of water supply for about 100 residents in Kampung Kuala Kenau here.

He said the department had issued a logging licence in the area involving 25ha of state government land of non-virgin jungle status, divided into two blocks.

“Work is at 15% and involves only Block A.

The department, said Dr Mohd Hizamri, had also carried out a field inspection at 5pm on Friday.

“We found that the catchment pond is still clear, not murky at all and still being used by some villa­gers,” he said.

Dr Mohd Hizamri was respon­ding to claims by Kampung Kuala Kenau residents that the 100-year-old water catchment pond had been polluted since May 20, following logging activities.

He said he had held consultations with representatives of the residents near the forest to get their views on March 14.

Besides those from Kampung Kuala Kenau, the session was also attended by representatives from Kampung Sungai Mas, Kampung Melayu Sungai Lembing, Kampung Jeram Takar and Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Mas, he said.

“During the session, there were no objections against the logging activities and the representatives also signed a letter agreeing to these,” Dr Mohd Hizamri said. — Bernama

Logging licence plan to be amended to prevent pollution at water catchment pond
Mohd Rafi Mamat New Straits Times 30 May 18;

KUANTAN: The State Forestry Department has decided to amend the licence approval plan for logging activities at Bukit Segantang water catchment pond near Sungai Lembing here.

Its director Datuk Dr Mohd Hizamri Mohd Yasin said the move was to ensure the water source will be safeguarded and not polluted with mud, especially after heavy downpour.

He said the land located near the pond was not a forest reserve or virgin forest, as claimed by certain quarters, which resulted in some confusion. The land belongs to the state government.

“After discussing with the logging firm Sintamas Timber which was given approval to carry out the land clearing (logging) works, we decided to amend the plan so that it will not affect the water catchment pond. The people living there use water from the source for their daily needs.

“We hope the latest directive will allow the water catchment pond which has been used for some 50 years to be free from pollution and will not jeopardise the livelihood of the people in the vicinity,” he said today.

He said the Forestry Department’s Deputy Director (Operations) Datuk Mohd Basri Abdul Manaf and Kuantan Forestry Department Officer Ismail Ali Kamarudeen, along with representatives of Pahang’s Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), the residents, and the logging firm had visited the water catchment site recently.

Hizamri said following a discussion they all agreed to the idea to amend the plan.

He said the department had decided to establish a buffer zone along Sungai Kuala Kenau and the logging firm will not be allowed to cut the trees in the respective area to avoid pollution and soil erosion.

“The residents’ representative is advised to make an application to gazette the water catchment pond as a source of water so that the area will not be developed or other projects will not be carried out in the future.

“The department will make a suggestion to the district level committee to gazette the respective river site and the pond as a water catchment area to ensure the area will not be disturbed and instead preserved,” he said.

Last week, some 100 residents from Kampung Kuala Kenau claimed that the water catchment pond had been polluted since May 20, following logging activities in Bukit Segantang and they had to use the murky water for their daily use including preparing meals.

They have been relying on water supply from the pond which was located some 2km from their village as not all the homes were equipped with pipes to supply clean water from Pahang Water Management Berhad (Paip).

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Vietnam: Endangered large-antlered muntjac found in Quang Nam

Nhan Dan 25 May 18;

NDO/VNA – A camera trap has caught the large-antlered muntjac, one of the rarest and most threatened mammal species of Southeast Asia, for the first time in the central province of Quang Nam.

The mammal is classified as a rare and endangered animal in the red book.

The provincial Forest Protection Department said that the photographs captured two individuals, a male and a female, which are both mature and of reproductive age.

They were taken in November last year as part of a biodiversity monitoring and assessment supported by the World Wild Fund Vietnam (WWF Vietnam), US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz - IZW) and local authorities.

“Large-antlered muntjacs do not currently exist in captivity, so if we lose them in the wild, we lose them forever. Scientists are racing against time to save the species. Addressing the snaring crisis to protect wildlife in the forests of central Vietnam and setting up captive assurance populations are vital if we are to succeed,” said Benjamin Rawson, Conservation Director of the WWF Vietnam.

The muntjac, which was first discovered in central Ha Tinh Province in 1994, is endemic to evergreen forests in the Truong Son (Annamite) Mountains bordering Vietnam and Laos. The rare animal has been found in protected areas in the central province of Thua Thien - Hue in 2013 and in the central province of Thanh Hoa in 2016.

The tiny deer has been absent for years due to illegal snare hunting. In 2016, in response to the snare-driven decline of the species the status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species of the large-antlered muntjac was changed from Endangered to Critically Endangered.

The survey team is now expanding camera trapping efforts to other areas in the region, including places with high biodiversity potential in Thua Thien - Hue and the north of Quang Nam.

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Best of our wild blogs: 25 May 18

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Tree Nest Hole for Rent at Pasir Ris Park II
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Malaysia: SAM wants sand mining at Perak turtle landing site stopped

Bernama New Straits Times 24 May 18;

LUMUT: Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has called for all sand mining activities at the river mouth of Sungai Puyu in Pantai Pasir Panjang, Segari here to cease immediately to prevent the destruction of turtle landing sites at the area.

Its research field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said the activities have caused problems at the only turtle landing area in Perak which stretched over seven kilometres.

He said the area has been categorised as a 'level 1 environment sensitive area' which could not be developed for any activities or change of land use except for low-impact tourism economic activities, education and research.

"When the sand mining began, we are worried it may disrupt the natural habitat and affect the number of turtle landings.

"The state government should give attention to environmental protection and not only on development.

"In fact, according to licensed turtle egg collectors appointed by the Fisheries Department, turtle egg collection in the area has fallen,” he told reporters here today.

Meor Razak also called for the protected turtle landing site as well as the nearby forest areas to be gazetted as a State Park. — BERNAMA

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Dugong and sea turtle poo sheds new light on the Great Barrier Reef’s seagrass meadows

James Cook University The Conversation AU 25 May 18;

Just like birds and mammals carrying seeds through a rainforest, green sea turtles and dugong spread the seeds of seagrass plants as they feed. Our team at James Cook University’s TropWATER Centre has uncovered a unique relationship in the seagrass meadows of the Great Barrier Reef.

We followed feeding sea turtle and dugong, collecting samples of their floating faecal matter. Samantha then had the unenviable job of sifting through hundreds of smelly samples to find any seagrass seeds. These seeds range in size from a few centimetres to a few millimetres, and therefore can require the assistance of a microscope to be found. Once any seeds were found, they were stained with a chemical dye (Tetrazolium) to see if they were still viable (capable of growing).

Why is this important for turtles and dugong?

Green sea turtles and dugong are iconic animals on the reef, and seagrass is their food. Dugong can eat as much as 35 kilograms of wet seagrass a day, while sea turtles can eat up to 2.5% of their body weight per day. Without productive seagrass meadows, they would not survive.

This relationship was highlighted in 2010-11 when heavy flooding and the impact of tropical cyclone Yasi led to drastic seagrass declines in north Queensland. In the year following this seagrass decline there was a spike in the number of starving and stranded sea turtles and dugong along the entire Queensland coast.

The seagrass team at James Cook University has been mapping, monitoring and researching the health of the Great Barrier Reef seagrasses for more than 30 years. While coral reefs are more attractive for tourists, the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area actually contains a greater area of seagrass than coral, encompassing around 20% of the world’s seagrass species. Seagrass ecosystems also maintain vibrant marine life, with many fish, crustaceans, sea stars, sea cucumbers, urchins and many more marine animals calling these meadows their home.

These underwater flowering plants are a vital component of the reef ecosystem. Seagrasses stabilise the sediment, sequester large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and filter the water before it reaches the coral reefs. Further, the seagrass meadows in the Great Barrier Reef support one of the largest populations of sea turtles and dugong in the world.

Seagrass meadows are more connected than we thought

Samantha’s research was worth the effort. There were seeds of at least three seagrass species in the poo of both sea turtles and dugong. And lots of them – as many as two seeds per gram of poo. About one in ten were viable, meaning they could grow into new plants.

Based on estimates of the number of animals in the coastal waters, the time it takes for food to pass through their gut, and movement data collected from animals fitted with satellite tags, there are potentially as many as 500,000 viable seeds on the move each day in the Great Barrier Reef. These seeds can be transported distances of up to 650km in total.

This means turtles and dugong are connecting distant seagrass meadows by transporting seeds. Those seeds improve the genetic diversity of the meadows and may help meadows recover when they are damaged or lost after cyclones. These animals help to protect and nurture their own food supply, and in doing so make the reef ecosystem around them more resilient.

Understanding recovery after climate events

Seagrass meadows have been under stress in recent years. A series of floods and cyclones has left meadows in poor condition, and recovery has been patchy and site-dependent.

This research shows that these ecosystems have pathways for recovery. Provided we take care with the environment, seagrasses may yet recover without direct human intervention.

This work emphasises how much we still have to learn about how the reef systems interconnect and work together – and how much we need to protect every part of our marvellous and amazing reef environment.

Disclosure statement
Samantha Tol receives funding from various research grants and income from coastal projects and consultancies.

Paul York receives funding from various research grants and income from coastal projects and consultancies.

Rob Coles receives funding from various research grants and income from coastal projects and consultancies.

Alana Grech does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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