Best of our wild blogs: 8 Jan 18

Registration now open for Chek Jawa intertidal walks in February 2018
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

21st January 2018 (Sunday): Herp Walk @Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Herpetological Society of Singapore

The Singapore Jays
Butterflies of Singapore

Blue Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa caerulea) @ Henderson Waves
Monday Morgue

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Hybrid cars zooming ahead in Singapore, fuelled by rebates

Christopher Tan Straits Times 7 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE - Close to one-fifth of Singapore's taxi fleet is made up of petrol-electric hybrid models - up from zero just 10 years ago - and experts say the trend has a positive, if small, impact on air quality.

According to Land Transport Authority statistics, there were close to 4,000 hybrid taxis on the road as at the end of November last year, making up about 17 per cent of the cab population. In 2008, there was not a single hybrid taxi here.

Petrol-electric hybrids, which are powered by a petrol engine paired with one or more electric motors, have grown in popularity with the general motoring public, too.

There are now around 20,000 hybrid passenger cars here, making up more than 3 per cent of the population - four times what it was in 2012.

An emissions-based taxation scheme has fuelled the trend because it accorded for up to $30,000 and $45,000 in rebates for hybrid cars and taxis, respectively.

The same scheme has made diesel passenger cars more popular. The cohort has grown by more than twentyfold since 2012 to reach nearly 15,000 units as at last November, or 2.5 per cent of the population.

Since taxis clock more than three times the mileage of an average passenger car, observers reckon the migration from diesel to hybrid would contribute to cleaner air.

Asian Clean Fuels Association director Clarence Woo said: "This is definitely good news. The World Health Organisation has classified particulate matter - which diesel engines produce more of - as carcinogenic. And diesel emissions on the whole are also carcinogenic. So, here, we are really killing two birds with one stone."

Diesel proponents have pointed out that diesel engines produce less carbon dioxide. And that they produce more torque, making diesel vehicles more driveable in the city.

Mr Woo, however, said hybrids are just as efficient, adding that petrol engines have also improved in the power department.

Mr Neo Nam Heng, chairman of diversified motor group Prime, said almost all his taxis are now hybrid.

Prime Taxi, which has around 700 cabs, was the first to roll out hybrid models back in 2009. Mr Neo said: "A diesel Hyundai Sonata averages around 8 cents per km. A Toyota Prius (hybrid) matches that.

"The other thing is, taxi drivers can go to any of the 100-plus petrol stations to fill up. They don't need to drive all the way back to their own depots to buy diesel. Again, this saves time and fuel."

Hybrid opponents point to the cost of battery replacement as a deterrent. Authorised Toyota dealer Borneo Motors charges $5,200 to replace a Prius hybrid battery.

Mr Neo said: "We bring in our batteries. And we supply to others, at $2,200 each.

"And don't forget, a hybrid taxi is not liable for annual diesel tax."

The tax was $5,100 a year, reduced to $4,250 from last February.

The popularity of hybrids may wane from this year, though.

This is because the stricter Vehicular Emissions Scheme accords smaller rebates for such vehicles.

For instance, the Toyota Prius now falls in the Neutral band, attracting no rebate - down from a rebate of $30,000. The scheme is also likely to make it more punitive to buy a diesel car.

Singapore University of Social Sciences transport researcher Walter Theseira said: "Diesel used to be the preferred choice for high-intensity light vehicle use because of superior fuel economy and durability.

"But now scientific evidence suggests the pollution gap between diesel and petrol is large and may not narrow much in the real world.

"Hybrids which offer superior fuel economy fill the gap. Their durability has also been proven in fleet use across the world."

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Energy security also requires electricity to be affordable

Recent news and commentary over the past few months on energy security have focused on the diversification of energy resources but there are other important factors to consider, says an expert from the Singapore University of Social Sciences.
Chang Youngho Channel NewsAsia 8 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: Along with sustainability, energy security is another household term which anyone can say something about.

In news reports and commentary, energy security typically refers to the availability of energy resources.

The inaugural Singapore-International Energy Agency Forum held on the sidelines of the Singapore International Energy Week last October presented an increasing concern on energy security in the ASEAN as one of four insights.

The forum identified a surge in importing energy resources and costs due to a lack of availability of energy resources in the region as a key challenge, a combined effect of decreasing domestic supply of and increasing demand for energy resources.

In a similar vein, a recent commentary by KPMG on Channel NewsAsia interpreted energy security as increasing energy supply by utilising solar photovoltaic technologies and building up access to liquefied natural gas.

Diversification of energy resources and supply sources make up a frequently cited definition in the discussion of energy security.

But the discipline of economics defines energy security as “an adequate and reliable supply of energy resources at a reasonable price”.

It seems energy security has many connected dimensions and failing in any one criteria suggests our energy security may be at threat.


Narrowly defining energy security as national access to energy resources might assure us that Singapore has the means to import or grow its own sources of energy on the surface.

Sufficient wealth to import energy resources like natural gas, petroleum, crude oil and coal for a resource-scarce country like Singapore is indeed a critical prerequisite.

But there are other conditions that must be fulfilled in the translation pathway to ensuring Singapore can confidently and sustainably harness energy to grow our economy and power Singaporeans’ day-to-day electricity needs.

Recent news that electricity tariffs will increase by an average of 6.3 per cent or 1.26 cents per kWh from Jan 1 to Mar 31, 2018 compared with the previous quarter illustrates the importance of ensuring affordability to households and businesses, even as energy sources are readily available at a national level.

SP Group attributed the increase to "the higher cost of natural gas for electricity generation, which increased by 14 per cent compared to the previous quarter".

If the fuel to power our economy gets more expensive, it may dampen economic growth and increase our cost of living. In such a scenario, it is hard to argue that we have energy security.


Affordability aside, even if we have reserves of energy resources on Singapore soil, we must also have the proven technologies to harness and deliver energy to the end-user.

About ten years ago, the discovery of large reserves of shale rock formations in the US spurred excitement about the prospects in achieving the country’s goal of energy self-sufficiency. But the boom in shale was only realised after the wider adoption of fracking that allowed for the extraction of deeply buried shale reserves.

China in comparison, hasn’t been able to afford the expensive fracking technology to exploit its shale reserves and continues to rely on energy imports. Today, it remains the world’s largest net importer of petroleum and is currently the largest foreign buyer of US oil.

These two examples illustrate an important question: Recent advancements in the field of energy has allowed countries to harness previously unknown and untapped sources of energy but are countries like Singapore applying these technologies widely enough?

I would argue that it was only when Singapore recently moved to proliferate solar photovoltaic cells and testbeds that we can truly say we are one step closer to leveraging solar energy and ensuring our energy security.

Funding by the Government for urban solutions and sustainability through energy research and develop under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan may also provide a much needed boost.


One factor we have taken for granted in Singapore is public trust and acceptance in the way our energy needs are being met.

The story elsewhere can be different, especially in countries where debates on nuclear plants and “dirty coal” make energy security a politically charged issue.

Despite many years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, many Japanese citizens have lost faith in nuclear safety regulation and a majority favours phasing out nuclear power. Pressing energy needs combined with fresh impetus to meet Paris Agreement obligations have put additional pressure to double down on efforts to rev up otherwise idle nuclear reactors.

In Europe, although coal can generate greater energy compared to oil and natural gas, many countries shun coal given its negative environmental impact, a charge led by strong climate change lobby groups.

Closer to home, in some larger Southeast Asia countries, the need to build extensive distribution networks across the country to deliver natural gas has led to the Myanmar government taking back large tracts of land.

Similarly, recent years have seen the Laos government clearing land near the Mekong to build dams for hydropower.

Both exercises have encountered resistance from affected residents in the area.

As Singapore matures into a developed country, who is to say that Singaporeans will not become more environmentally conscious? A party to the Paris Agreement, Singapore may be more keenly aware of our carbon footprint, which may see some Singaporeans demanding for clean energy.

And in a small country, where the built-up environment is dense, will residents accept living near the next power plant?


It seems we need a better, more comprehensive set of measures if we are to more credibly ascertain Singapore’s energy security.

Apart from availability of resources, we must also consider whether we have suitable technologies that can extract and deliver electricity in a manner that is cost- and carbon-efficient to households and businesses.

Singapore should therefore work on developing applicable energy technologies and making energy resources more affordable to households and business, even as it strives to increase our national access to energy resources.

Dr Chang Youngho is a senior lecturer at the School of Business at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

Source: CNA/sl

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Malaysia: Sabah still trying to get Indonesia's help on rhino breeding programme

AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 7 Jan 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Talks are underway to get the Indonesian government on board in initiating a breeding programme for rhinoceros to ensure their survival, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said today.

He said the state government has been working on the matter for some time but so far, both parties have yet to come to an agreement.

“We (state government) have always been talking to them (Indonesian government). I think what is needed actually is to get things done. But so far, we have not succeeded.

“There are matters that needed to be considered, which we probably have not met but suffice to say talks are always ongoing,” he said when met at the opening of Camaca Gelato Concept CafĂ© here, today.

Sabah is currently facing extinction of Sumatran rhinoceros species with only two known individuals – a female nicknamed Iman and male nicknamed Kertam - currently surviving at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu.

In Dec last year, Iman, the country’s last female Sumatran rhinoceros, was diagnosed with tumour in her uterus.

Although, Iman’s condition was improving on Dec 25, the rhino still suffers from vaginal discharge.

“There have been a lot of suggestion and theories to treat Iman but none succeeded. We have got in touch with some of the best experts in the treatment of rhino but sad to say we have yet to find cure.

“Iman is the only female left and to me, that is even more difficult. We have to think twice before engaging treatments, which have not been proven yet,” said Masidi.

Iman was the last wild rhino found in Malaysia. She was captured in Danum Valley and transported to Tabin Wildlife in Lahad Datu in March 2014.

Despite being diagnosed with severe fibroids in the uterus, she still produced eggs for the in-vitro fertilisation attempts.

The country lost another female rhino, Puntung, last year. Puntung was euthanised on June 4 after suffering three months from skin cancer.

Meanwhile, on the effort to upgrade pangolin status to a totally protected species, Masidi said works on the legal aspect are still ongoing.

“For me, I want it to be done immediately but Sabah Wildlife Department needs some time to prepare the necessary laws and whatever required for the proposal to upgrade (pangolin status),” he said.

Currently, pangolin is protected under Part 1 Schedule 2 of Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment, which allows hunting with permits.

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Indonesia: 'World's ugliest pig' spotted in Indonesia

Agence France-Presse Jakarta Post 7 Jan 18;

Rare images of the "world's ugliest pig" have been captured in Indonesia, researchers said Friday, offering a window into a little-known species believed to be on the brink of extinction.

The number of endangered Javan warty pigs -- males are distinguished by large warts on their faces -- has plunged since the early 1980s due to hunting and forest habitat loss, according to the UK-based Chester Zoo.

British and Indonesian researchers laid camera traps in the forests of the Southeast Asian nation's Java island in the hopes of capturing images of the elusive creature.

Their goal was to get a clearer sense of population levels and find ways to boost conservation of a "highly threatened species".

"It was even feared that many, if not all, populations had become extinct until their existence was confirmed by the zoo's cameras," the zoo said as it released the images.

The research "could eventually be used to establish new protection laws for the species as, currently, they are not protected by Indonesian law", it added.

The pigs -- which are only found on Java -- are similar in size to European wild boars but are more slender and have longer heads, the zoo said.

"Males have three pairs of enormous warts on their faces," said Johanna Rode-Margono, Chester Zoo's Southeast Asia field program coordinator.

"It is these characteristics that have led to them being affectionately labelled as 'the world's ugliest pig' but, certainly to us and our researchers, they are rather beautiful and impressive."

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Indonesia: Rare Rafflesia Gadutensis completely blooms in Bengkulu

Antara 8 Jan 18;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - An endemic Rafflesia gadutensis flower has completely bloomed at Boven Lais conservation forest in North Bengkulu district, Bengkulu province, an environmentalist said here on Sunday.

"The flower is still blossoming perfectly since Saturday (Jan 6), and the view is breathtaking," Riki Septian, the coordinator of Bengkulu Utara Care for Rare Blooms Community (KPPL) said.

After the ranger found the blooming flower, local tourists have packed the conservation zone since Saturday.

Most of the tourists were seen taking pictures with the rare Rafflesia gadutensis, which has been dubbed as the largest flower in the world.

Septian said, for the tourists who want to see the Rafflesia flower, they have to be assisted by the rangers during the trekking, and viewing activities.

The rangers, he explained, need to guide the tourists, because the flower which was found near the Palak Siring Kemumu waterfall is situated within the conservation area.

Therefore, the ranger needs to ensure any visits made by the local would cause no harm to the flower and its habitat, Septian remarked.

"All visitors should be guided by the rangers, in order to ensure that the flower`s young buds would continue to flourish normally," he stressed.

In order to see the rare blooming "corpse" flower, people need to take five-minutes trekking, by following the concrete stairs in the conservation forest.

After stepping the stairs, the visitors need to take the left side, in order to see the protected flower.

"People are still able to enjoy seeing the rare blooming flower for the next three days," he noted.

Apart from Rafflesia gadutensis, the Boven Lais conservation forest is a home for other Rafflesia species, such as Rafflesia arnoldii and Rafflesia kemumu, the new endemic bloom found in Bengkulu.

First discovered by W. Meijer in Ulu Gadut, West Sumatra in 1984, the Rafflesia gadutensis is distinct to other species, because of its special "white-dots" pattern and the smaller petal size for only 40-60 centimeter in diameter, while the average Rafflesia would extend to some 100 cm in diameter.

As a jungle parasite, the Rafflesia flower has no trunks, roots, or leaves.

Apart from its gigantic size, the bloom also gains popularity worldwide due to its strong "corpse" odor.

Reported by Helti Marini Sipayung
(Uu. KR-GNT/a014)
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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