Best of our wild blogs: 13-14 Jan 18

20 Jan 2018 (Sat): "Our Mangroovy Mangroves" - FREE Workshop at Pulau Ubin
wild shores of singapore

14 Jan (Sun): Registration opens for St John's Islands walk on 4 Feb (Sun)
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

NParks celebrates the start of International Year of the Reef 2018
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Singapore Bird Report – December 2017
Singapore Bird Group

Read more!

Weak trees felled by NParks to ensure safety

NParks has to balance removing trees at risk of falling and maintaining greenery via replanting
Samantha Boh Straits Times 14 Jan 18;

If you notice pockets of your estate looking bare, you are not alone.

Over the past year, trees around the island have been cut down, as the authorities weed out those deemed unhealthy, or to clear the way for new developments.

One such area lies along Yishun Central Road, where stumps are all that remain of more than five stately trees that used to line a road divider.

In its effort to keep Singapore green but safe, the Republic's national gardener has to balance removing trees at risk of falling and harming people and property, with maintaining a verdant, shady environment. In the area near Yishun Central, for instance, the National Parks Board (NParks) said routine inspections had found that the trees were structurally weak. The large trees were felled last month.

Mr Oh Cheow Sheng, group director of streetscape at NParks, said: "These had to be replaced as they may pose a higher risk of failure, especially during the recent period of wet weather conditions.

"Based on site conditions, replacement saplings were inter-planted between the affected trees to mitigate the loss of greenery."

More trees will be planted in the area within the next two months.

Other areas that have experienced a tree makeover include Tanjong Pagar, near Keppel Road, and the road leading to Mount Faber.

In November, a plot covered with Albizia trees opposite the Bukit Batok Nature Park was also cleared over safety concerns. Albizia trees are vulnerable to storms and are more prone to falling because of their brittle wood structure and shallow roots. NParks is replanting the plot with native plants.

Last March, The Sunday Times reported that 10,000 to 13,000 trees in Singapore could be removed to make way for transport and housing projects over the next 15 years. The authorities assured the public that all the affected trees will be replaced with one or more trees.

While NParks did not give figures on the number of trees that have been removed over the years, it did note that it has been planting trees aggressively to ensure that greenery is not lost.

"Overall, we planted approximately 50,000 trees in 2017, which is more than double the number of trees planted in 2013," said Mr Oh. He added that decisions to replace trees are made in the interest of public safety after careful consideration and in view of their site conditions. Older trees are more prone to pests, diseases and structural problems.

"Trees to be replaced are transplanted to other sites, where possible, or else they are replaced with other trees," he said.

Marketing executive Sheree Lieu, 27, said some of the old trees at Yishun Central had large roots which protruded from the ground, causing some residents to trip. "Replacing them might be a good thing."

Others, however, lamented the loss of their lofty neighbourhood sentinels which could have taken decades to grow.

Seeing numerous trees removed at one go in his estate has worried Mr Rikard Rosen, 54, who lives in Tanjong Pagar.

"While replanting is certainly being done, has anyone studied what impact removing old trees can have on our biodiversity?" he asked.

Mr Rosen, who runs a mobile technology company, said the younger trees do not provide as much shade, and removing the old trees means removing the different organisms, like insects, that live in them, which he worries will affect the surrounding ecosystem.

Dr Chong Kwek Yan, from the National University of Singapore's department of biological sciences, said large trees provide disproportionately more resources for animals, so removing mature trees to some extent will have an effect on the surroundings, though the impact will depend on the tree species.

Some resources are easily provided by other plants when the tree is removed, he noted. But old trees are particularly important for species such as woodpeckers, which excavate holes in decaying wood for nesting and these are subsequently used by other animals.

"However, these are precisely the trees that are the target of heavy pruning or even removal, because their weaker wood may pose a hazard especially in areas with high human activity. It's a difficult trade-off," he said.

It might take many years for a sapling to mature and reach a large size, with fast-growing species tending to have poorer quality wood which will pose problems when they are older. "Our streetscape managers therefore have an unenviable task of planning decades ahead to plant slower-growing saplings that will eventually replace others that will be removed in time."

Read more!

Malaysia: Cold weather due to Madden-Julian Oscillation phenomenon

ROHANIZA IDRIS New Straits Times 13 Jan 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: The cold weather which the country is experiencing now is due to the north east monsoon wind which is derived from the Siberian-Mongolian region and flows through via northern China into the South China Sea before moving into Malaysia.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Climatology and Oceanography Professor, Dr Fredolin Tangang @ Tajudin Mahmud said the sudden change in climate and cold weather will last another two to three days with Johor and Sarawak experiencing heavy rain.

Fredolin said the current thunderstorm and cold weather was called the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) phenomenon or is also known as the Madden-Julian Swing.

"The MJO phenomenon is part of the climate diversity in tropical areas that swings with frequency, normally once within 20/60 days," he told BH.

He was commenting on the cold weather of around 22 degrees Celsius which had gripped several places in the country.

Fredolin said occurrence of the MJO phenomenon normally takes place in the absence of El Nino or La Nina phenomenon but its presence can strengthen the El Nino generation process.

He adds that the Siberian-Mongolian high-pressure wind also caused a cyclone bomb that caused the cold weather in the eastern United States (US) and Canada to record temperatures below the freezing level.

He explained that besides the cold wind, the north east monsoon movements would also bring along heavy rainfall to the coastal areas in the Peninsular, for example in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Johor, which could result in floods.

"At the beginning of the north east monsoon we witnessed the east coast states being hit by the floods and by the end of Januarywe expect the same but this time it will be further down south, as it comes to an end.

"The same thing happened in 2007, when Johor was hit by a big flood but then I was not sure whether there was a presence of MJO or not (at that time)," he said.

He advised members of the public to stay alert and to look out for weather warnings during this wet season as well.

Translated from Berita Harian

Read more!

Malaysia: Flood situation in Johor worsens

nelson benjamin The Star 14 Jan 18;

JOHOR BARU: Continuous rainfall over the past few days has worsened the flood situation in Johor, and forced the evacuation of 1,395 people in three districts.

State health, environment, education and information committee chairman Datuk Ayob Rahmat said that as of 8am Sunday, the worse hit districts were Mersing with 1,261 victims, Segamat (103) and Kota Tinggi (31).

All the victims have been housed in 13 evacuation centres.

He said there were several road diversions in Mersing due to a landslip along Jalan Telok Arong.

He added that floodwaters have cut off access to Kg Batu 7 in Jementah.

"Three schools in Kluang - SK Punan, SK Ladang Mutiara and SK Seri Sedohok - have also been cut off due to the floods," said Ayob.

Floods worsen in Pahang, Johor and Sabah
The Star 13 Jan 18;

KUANTAN: Continuous rain over two days has worsened Pahang’s flood situation, forcing authorities to open another evacuation centre in Rompin.

The number of flood victims in the state increased to 357 people as compared to 318 the night before, after 39 people moved to the centre at Leban Chondong community hall.

Pahang Civil Defence Force director Kol Zainal Yusof told Bernama 64 people were still at an evacuation centre at SK Tekek, Pulau Tioman.

In Pekan, 254 victims remained at five centres due to stagnant flood waters.

Johor Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said 28 people from seven families have been moved to the evacuation centre at SK Air Papan in Mersing.

Another 34 from eight families were being sheltered at Balai Raya Kampung Tenglu, he said in a statement.

He added that a lane at Jalan Telok Arong in the same district has been closed to traffic due to a landslip but sections of the road were still accessible.

In Segamat, 46 people from 14 families are at Balairaya Gemereh, Balai Badang, while another 10 from two families are at Balairaya Kampung Pogoh Tengah.

In Sabah, rising water levels of the main river in Pitas district forced 10 people from three families to remain at the evacuation centre at Kampung Sinukab Kinabongan.

The Malaysian Civil Defence Force said two villages – Kampung Kabatasan Laut and Kampung Masin Besar Kanibongan – were still flooded.

Sarawak had to temporarily close one of its schools, SK Sungai Kelabit in Miri, due to floods which affected the school field, teachers quarters, generator shed and preschool.

The path to the school, which has 19 pupils, seven teachers and two administrative staff was also too dangerous to use.

Four other schools – SK Kuala Kenyana, SK Kuala Bok, SK Sungai Bong and SK Sungai Anak – were also affected by floods but the pupils were still able to continue studying.

More than 2,000 evacuated in Malaysia's Pahang and Johor as floods worsen
Straits Times 13 Jan 18;

KUANTAN - More than 2,000 people have been evacuated to flood relief shelters in Malaysia as a result of continuous rains in several states over the past few days.

The coastal areas of Pahang and Johor have been most affected, with Pahang recording the highest number of evacuees.

Continuous rain brought by the north-east monsoon over the past two days had worsened the flood situation in those states.

At least 1,457 people have been evacuated in Pahang as of Saturday (Jan 13), the national news agency Bernama reported. Those evacuated are being housed at 14 temporary relief centres.

The district of Pekan made up the most number of evacuees, with 1,210 people currently being housed at 10 relief centres. The districts of Rompin and Raub have also been hit by floods.

Over in Johor, at least 1,000 people have been evacuated so far. Most of them were from the districts of Segamat and Mersing.

In Mersing, some 965 people have been evacuated as of Saturday afternoon, compared to 530 in the morning. They are being housed at seven temporary relief centres.

In Segamat, there were 97 evacuees.

Over 1,000 evacuated from floods in Johor, Pahang and Terengganu
The situation in the state of Sabah improved on Saturday afternoon. All 10 evacuees affected by the rising water levels at the main river in Pitas district have since returned home.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department has issued a severe weather warning for several areas in Johor and Pahang until midnight.

Meanwhile, most of the states in peninsular Malaysia will experience temperatures lower than normal owing to overcast skies, continuous rain and a cold front from the north-east monsoon winds until Sunday.

Number of Pahang flood victims swell following incessant downpour
HIDIR REDUAN New Straits Times 12 Jan 18;

KUANTAN: A continuous downpour saw the number of flood evacuees in Pahang balloon to 1,290 victims from 331 families, sheltered at 12 relief centres in Pekan and Rompin tonight.

As at 10pm, the latest figure represents an increase from the 738 victims from 188 families sheltered at 10 flood relief centres in the two districts earlier at 5pm.

State Civil Defence Force director Col. Zainal Yusoff said that the number of victims in Pekan increased to 1,165 people from 297 families placed at 10 relief centres.

"Another two relief centres (in Pekan) were opened this afternoon, namely SK Permatang Keledang with 322 victims from 13 families; and SK Sri Biram (51 people from 13 families).

"Asides from that, other flood relief centres in Pekan are SK Seri Mutiara with 375 victims from 94 families; SMK Peramu Jaya (121 people from 35 families); SK Temai (93 people from 24 families); and the Pulau Manis flood relief centre (75 people from 22 families).

"Other flood shelters are the Kampung Lamir flood relief centre with 50 people from seven families; Tanjung Pulai Multipurpose Hall (39 people from five families); and SK Acheh (nine people from two families)," he said tonight.

With regards to Rompin, Zainal said 125 victims from 34 families had been placed in two relief centres since yesterday.

He said the flood shelters are SK Tekek with 63 people from 15 families and Leban Chondong Public Hall (62 people from 19 families).

Checks with the online portal showed that as at 10pm, three rivers in the state have exceeded the warning level, which increases risk of surrounding areas becoming inundated.

The three rivers are Sungai Pahang at Paloh Hinai, Pekan, with a reading of 10.17m (10.30m is the danger level); Sungai Lipis at Batu Malim, Lipis at 114.29m (114.80 is the danger level); and Sungai Belat at Seri Damai here at 4.20 (5.00m is the danger level).

Read more!

Indonesia: Hundreds of hectares of land to be converted into conservation forest

Antara 12 Jan 18;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Environment and Forestry Ministry has targeted to convert some 518,418 hectares of land into a conservation natural forest by 2026, an official said here on Thursday.

"We have converted hundreds of hectares of land of 31 forestry companies. These lands originally functioned as peatland conservation areas," Karliansyah, the ministry`s director general of pollution and environmental degradation management, said in Jakarta.

During the talk on implementations of peatland restoration policy in Jakarta, on Thursday, Karliansyah noted that the ministry has validated the business working plan revisions of the 31 companies.

Following the revisions, some 1,105,125 hectares of land will be set up for maintaining the peatland ecosystem, which comprises 717,583 hectares of protected zone and 387,542 hectares of cultivation area.

The ministry had earlier issued an instruction to 87 forestry companies in the country to restore some 2,443,648 hectares of peatland ecosystem.

However, until Dec last year, only 31 forestry companies expressed commitment to restore the peatland area, by reviewing their business plans.

The revised business plan will include the ecosystem restoration scheme by manually determining the minimum water level underground. The new document will pay more attentions to rainfall level, as well as the other supporting tools on preservation.

He stressed that some 14 companies have determined the minimum level of groundwater, as well as allocated 679,962 hectares of land for conservation, which is comprised of 388,159 hectares of land for conservation area and 291,803 hectares of land for plantation zone.

Meanwhile, the other 43 companies have not yet filed a request on validating their revised business working plans to the ministry.

The number of lands that has not yet been registered reaches 455,417 hectares, comprising of 177,138 hectares for the protected zone and 278,279 hectares for the cultivation area.

However, following the talk on some technical issues, the ministry has allocated some 3,932 hectares, as well as provided 397 logger information and 169 units of rainfall observation post to maintain the groundwater level of 45 forestry companies that have not yet submitted the revised documents.

Reported by Desi Purnamawati
Editor: Heru Purwanto

Read more!

Indonesia: Komodo dragon population reaches 3,012 in Komodo National Park

Antara 12 Jan 18;

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - The population of Komodo dragons in the Komodo National Park has reached 3,012 heads in 2017, according to Sudiyono, head of the park.

"Last year, the population was 3,012, and it tended to increase, particularly those on Gili Motang Nusa Kode isles, where its population was very small in the past," he stated here on Thursday.

He explained that the population of Komodo dragons (Varanus Komodoensis) in Labuan Bajo, West Manggarai District, is stable and not on the brink of extinction.

The giant lizards are found on the isles of Padar, Gili Motang, Nusa Kode, Komodo, and Rinca.

Adult Komodo dragons eat wild boars, deer, and horses, while the smaller ones consume insects and poultry.

Founded in 1980, Komodo National Park is home to the endemic Komodo dragon, the world?s only surviving prehistoric giant lizard.

The park includes three larger islands, namely Komodo, Rinca, and Padar, as well as numerous smaller ones, with a total area of 1,817 square kilometers.

In 1977, Komodo National Park was named a biosphere reserve by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In 1991, UNESCO named the island accommodating around three thousand komodo dragons as a world heritage.

reported by Aloysius Lewokeda


Read more!

Thailand seizes large elephant tusks worth over $450,000

KAWEEWIT KAEWJINDA Associated Press Yahoo News 12 Jan 18;

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai authorities have seized 148 kilograms (326 pounds) of African elephant ivory, including three large tusks, worth around 15 million baht ($469,800) from a Bangkok airport.

The haul from Nigeria consisted of the tusks and 31 tusk fragments that were seized Jan. 5 after the cargo was flagged by officials. The tusks were destined for China where there is a large demand for ivory, police Gen. Chalermkiat Srivorakan said Friday.

The size of the tusks shows they were taken from large African elephants, which remain scarce in the wild, and the tusks' discolored state indicates they had been kept in storage for a long time, said Somkiat Soontornpittakkool, an official from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

"From what I can tell, these ivory tusks were taken from very big elephants, and elephants of that size are now hard to find even in Africa," Somkiat said. "And judging from how the tusks look, they appear to have been taken a while ago. They weren't hunted recently. They were taken and stored for a while before smugglers sent them out."

A Customs Department statement said that the seized ivory will be impounded as police widen investigations to identify suspects involved in the smuggling.

Thailand had been considered to have the largest unregulated ivory market in the world and had been threatened with sanctions under the trade of protected wildlife species, but it introduced new laws and amendments in 2014 and 2015 to regulate domestic ivory markets and criminalize the sale of African elephant ivory.

Thailand is still considered a major transit hub and destination for smuggled tusks, but the biggest demand comes from China.

Last year, Thai officials seized 510 smuggled elephant tusk fragments in four separate cases, the Customs Department said. Rhinoceros horns, pangolin scales, turtles, and other exotic wildlife are also repeatedly smuggled through Thailand.

Read more!

Animal welfare groups call for higher standards for farmed chickens

Retailers and restaurants urged to sign up to new cross-European guidelines amid growing concerns over cruelty in intensive meat production
The Guardian 13 Jan 18;

New welfare standards for farmed chickens have been demanded by a large coalition of European animal protection groups, including the RSPCA, in a bid to address growing concerns about inhumane conditions in the intensive and large-scale production of meat.

Supermarkets and restaurants are being urged to sign up to the new blueprint, which represents the first time a single set of requirements has been agreed on across the continent.

The complexity of the lengthy supply chain and ugly side of the chicken business was exposed last year when a Guardian and ITV News investigation into the 2 Sisters operation revealed workers altering food safety records for poultry processed at the firm’s plant in West Bromwich. The UK’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken temporarily shut the plant following undercover filming which also revealed poor hygiene standards.

To help curb some of the cruellest aspects of the business – which sees fast-grown, over-bred birds collapsing under their own weight – the new standard stipulates the use of higher welfare breeds. It also bans inhumane live bird shackling during slaughter, and specifies more natural light and space, room to perch and “enrichment” items such as straw and vegetables for pecking.

The authors of the pan-European guidelines are urging retailers and food service businesses across Europe to commit to raising welfare standards across their entire chicken supply chain by 2026. Marks & Spencer is the first retailer to have signed up to the higher standards.

Broiler chickens – those raised for meat only – are produced more than any other farm animal for meat, by far, with a staggering 950 million slaughtered each year in the UK alone, and 50 billion worldwide. This is expected to increase rapidly and by 2020 to become the largest meat sector in the world. Fast food chain McDonald’s, traditionally a beef-focused business, now sells more chicken than beef and expects that by 2020 it will source more than 10 times the volume of chicken it does at the moment.

“Despite rapidly growing demand, there has been little progress made in improving the welfare of the majority of chickens bred for their meat,” said Sophie Elwes, farm animal welfare specialist at the RSPCA. “The scale of suffering is substantial, including the use of fast-growing breeds which can contribute to painful conditions such as severe lameness and heart defects. This January it will have been 10 years since chicken welfare was highlighted by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and sadly there hasn’t been as much progress as we hoped there would be.”

Oliver and Fearnley-Whittingstall’s two programmes highlighted housing, space and environment as important factors that compromise the welfare of chickens rather than the emerging issue of “turbo-charged” breeding and accelerated weight gain. The RSPCA says “genetic selection, especially that for fast growth, is likely to have the greatest impact on chicken welfare. It is also one of the biggest challenges to overcome, because fast-growing birds have changed the face of the industry and shaped consumer expectation for cheap chicken, with large yields of breast meat.”

Elwes added: “Retailers can often justify the selling of chicken reared to lower-welfare standards by citing … both ‘consumer choice’ and a range of price points, which in fact gives little choice to consumers on a budget other than to purchase intensively reared chicken.”

Recent polling by the RSPCA shows that eight out of 10 people (86%) who buy chicken expect the supermarkets to ensure that all chicken meat they sell is farmed to high welfare standards. Labelling may eventually be changed as a result of the new campaign, as in the UK currently only products labelled RSPCA Assured meet the new standard across all systems of production, eg indoor, free-range and organic.

Marks & Spencer head of agriculture Steve McLean said: “Animal welfare is at the heart of our business and we know how important it is to our customers. I’m proud of our record, however it is my responsibility to push the boundaries. We will therefore begin a series of trials in January designed to test the new standards and how they work in a commercial farming supply chain.”

Andrew Stephen, chief executive officer of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, commented: “This welcome consensus creates an opportunity for restaurants and the whole food service sector. We will be working to accelerate the sourcing and serving of meat from birds bred to these higher standards.”

Read more!