Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jan 18

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 10 Feb 2018 (Sat)
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Discover Sungei Buloh!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Favourite Nectaring Plants #15
Butterflies of Singapore

Weaver Ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) @ Lorong Halus
Monday Morgue

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Collision into buildings cause of many birds' deaths: Study

Audrey Tan Straits Times 29 Jan 18;

Birds here are dying from encounters with an unexpected "predator".

A new study by scientists here has shown that almost a third of resident birds found dead in Singapore over a four-year period were killed because of collisions with buildings.

Between November 2013 and last October, a total of 362 bird carcasses were picked up by ornithologists from institutions such as the National University of Singapore (NUS), non-profit body BirdLife International and Nature Society (Singapore). They were alerted to the carcasses by members of the public.

The study's lead author from NUS, Mr David Tan, said 104 of the carcasses were found at the base of buildings and exhibited forms of facial injury or head trauma, confirming that their deaths were the result of building collisions.

It was not possible to pinpoint the causes of deaths for most of the carcasses - 225 of them - although the remainder were killed by, among other things, vehicular collision and attacks by animals such as cats.

The rise in bird-building collision rates is not unique to Singapore. In North America, estimates of bird deaths from collisions range from 100 million to one billion a year.

The Singapore study, published last November in The International Journal of Tropical Veterinary and Biomedical Research, also found some species of resident birds were more susceptible to building collisions. Pink-necked green pigeons, Asian glossy starlings and Asian emerald doves seemed exceptionally vulnerable, making up 64 out of the 104 carcasses found.

The fact that all three species are forest-edge fruit-eaters suggests that both feeding patterns and habitat affect a species' susceptibility to collision, the study said. "Given the patchy distribution of parks and forest fragments in Singapore, it is likely these nomadic forest-edge frugivores pass through urban areas as part of their foraging movements, which increases the likelihood of building collisions occurring," the scientists wrote in the paper.

Dr Yong Ding Li from Nature Society (Singapore) said this suggests that buildings near nature areas could incorporate wildlife-friendly measures in their designs, such as reducing the use of huge glass panes which birds tend to crash into.

The findings of the recent study mirror the results of an earlier one focusing on causes of death for migratory birds in Singapore, done by the same group of researchers. That study, published last June, found that between 1998 and 2016, 237 migratory birds collided with buildings and 157 of them died.

On the need to differentiate between migratory birds and resident birds, Mr Tan said: "Migratory birds are pass-through species, not long-term residents, so the factors that result in collisions may be different.

"For example, why is Jurong West a death hot spot for migratory birds, but not for resident birds?"

But the latest study found two regions where resident and migratory collision hot spots overlap: in the Clementi area, near the NUS campus, and in the Central Business District. Finding out the reasons for this - such as whether it was due to light pollution-is what the scientists hope to do next.

In New York, a growing number of building owners are switching off non-essential lights after becoming aware of the fatal attraction birds have to lights. Since 2005, over 90 buildings in the city, including the Rockefeller Centre, have joined the Lights Out scheme, which encourages buildings to take a lights-off approach to keep birds safe.

Here in Singapore, scientists are hopeful that more can be done to reduce bird-building collisions. Mr Tan is in touch with owners of buildings where dead birds have been found, such as at Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) on Pulau Ubin.

An OBS spokesman said a staff member has found three bird carcasses over the past two years. "As part of our efforts to better understand and appreciate the biodiversity of our flora and fauna on Pulau Ubin, we welcome the opportunity to work with Mr David Tan on his research efforts."

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NSS wants public to snap and upload photos of wildlife on app

Audrey Tan Straits Times 29 Jan 18;

See a bird, butterfly or squirrel outside your window?

The Nature Society (Singapore), or NSS, wants to know all about it: How it looks, where you spotted it and at what time.

All that is needed is a free mobile phone application called iNaturalist. With it, people can simply snap a photograph of the animal or plant encountered, then upload it onto the app along with details such as the date, time and location it was spotted.

The data will be publicly available, and would be useful for researchers learning more about the biodiversity in an area, said Dr Anuj Jain, part of the NSS team spearheading this effort.

"We will also be able to identify the changes in flowering and fruiting patterns of garden plants and understand the impacts of climate change better," he said.

The effort is part of NSS' new citizen science programme, Every Singaporean a Naturalist, which aims to get people to document the wildlife they encounter at work, school or play.

"We hope that by getting people to document the wildlife they encounter on a daily basis, it would help them be aware of the biodiversity that thrives even in the city. That is the first step towards greater appreciation of wildlife," said Dr Anuj.

NSS is starting the programme with a pilot involving six organisations - four primary and secondary schools including Queenstown Primary School and Unity Secondary School, as well as two university clubs from the Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore.

But the hope is that everyone in Singapore will join the programme, he added.

Audrey Tan

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NParks sets up first-aid room on Pulau Ubin

KENNETH CHENG Today Online 28 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE — With cycling accidents on Pulau Ubin showing no signs of a let-up, the authorities have set up a first-aid facility on the island, heeding public calls in recent years for a formal space to attend to the injured.

The National Parks Board (NParks) told TODAY in response to queries that the first-aid room at the Ubin Living Lab opened in February 2016.

The lab is situated in the southwest of the island for education and research, and other uses.

Dr Adrian Loo, NParks’ acting group director of conservation, said that the first-aid room is equipped with an examination couch, first-aid materials and equipment such as stretchers, wheelchairs and an automated external defibrillator.

Since it opened, it has provided services for about 50 walk-in cases. Most of the people needed treatment for cuts and abrasions.

The same first-aid materials and equipment are available at the Ubin-HSBC Volunteer Hub — a one-stop centre several minutes by foot from the Ubin Jetty, Dr Loo added.

NParks staff members are at both spots to provide first aid during operation hours throughout the week.

The Ubin Living Lab opens from 9.30am to 4.30pm and the Ubin-HSBC Volunteer Hub, from 8.30am to 5.30pm, on weekdays and weekends.

In January 2015, TODAY reported that NParks was considering having a first-aid facility on the island at the suggestion of residents and visitors.

After the report ran, the Singapore Red Cross expanded its First Aider on Wheels programme to Pulau Ubin, deploying personnel to the island on public holidays since July 2015, and the second Sunday of every month since March or April 2016.

They are stationed at a first-aid post in the Ubin-HSBC Volunteer Hub.

Last year alone, Red Cross first-aiders attended to 100 to 120 casualties on the island, a spokesperson for the humanitarian agency told TODAY. At least half the cases were cycling-related, and common injuries included abrasions on the elbows and knees.

Less than 5 per cent of these casualties had to be evacuated by the Police Coast Guard to the mainland — some with head injuries from collisions or suspected heart attacks, the Red Cross spokesperson added.

Last year, the Police Coast Guard evacuated 52 casualties from Pulau Ubin to the mainland, up from 46 in 2016. Roughly 60 per cent of these cases last year were involved in cycling-related accidents, a police spokesperson said.

Besides the provision of first aid on the island, Dr Loo from NParks said that various measures have been in place to promote safe cycling.

These include notice boards at the jetty reminding visitors of safe cycling practices, and signs along the trails advising cyclists to dismount and push their bicycles, or to slow down at certain spots.

The island’s bicycle rental shops also offer protective gear, including helmets.

Dr Loo said: “We urge cyclists to exercise personal responsibility by wearing helmets and protective gear, observe signs that apprise them of the difficulty level of the trails and to adopt safe practices.

“Novice and younger cyclists should also be accompanied by experienced, adult cyclists.”

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Malaysia: Stranded baby whale rescued by marine cops, fire brigade and villagers in team effort

muguntan vanar The Star 28 Jan 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A baby whale that was stranded in shallow waters close to Sabah’s east Lahad Datu town was safely pushed back to open sea as firemen, marine policemen and ordinary folks got together in a collective effort to rescue it.

The whale weighing at least 400kg with a length of 4.5m was slowly pushed out of the shallow waters till it was brought out to deep sea about three-kilometres away.

“It just swam away from our view. I believe it is safe now,” Lahad Datu Fire and Rescue Services Station head of operations Mazran Mohammad Noh said.

He said the whole operation was completed about five hours after they received a call from the public at about 10.06am on Sunday (Jan 28) stating that the whale was stuck in knee deep waters near Lahad Datu POIC container port area.

“Eventually, we used a boat to trawl the whale into open sea,” he said, adding the operations involving five firemen and 10 marine policemen apart from members of the public ended by 2.17pm.

It’s a big fish, it’s a whale … nope, it’s a dolphin
stephanie lee The Star 29 Jan 18;

KOTA KINABALU: The “big fish” that was stranded along the coast of Lahad Datu on Sunday is actually a dolphin and not a baby whale as reported earlier.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the dolphin, which may have been mistaken as a baby whale by rescuers due to its size, has yet to return to the open sea.

“We tried bringing it further from the shore on Sunday after it was spotted but it returned (to the shore) not long after,” he said on Monday.

He said the dolphin was spotted early in the morning and rescuers, including marine police and firemen, tried to bring it out to the open sea.

“However, it returned late in the evening,” Tuuga said, adding they found some minor injuries on the dolphin but were not sure how it got them.

He said rescuers would try to return the stranded dolphin to the open sea again on Monday.

He said apart from the minor injuries, the dolphin looked healthy and that efforts were being undertaken to send it off again.

“We hope it will return to where it belongs and not come up near the shore again,” Tuuga said.

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Philippines: DENR to regulate tourism in El Nido, Palawan to prevent another ‘Boracay’

Jonathan L. Mayuga Business Mirror 28 Jan 18;

TO prevent the problems besetting Boracay from being repeated in El Nido, Palawan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is now taking a proactive approach before environmental problems become unmanageable.

In a press statement, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said he wants to implement policies to help minimize the negative impact of tourism in El Nido.

Reports showed El Nido is beset with problems of diminishing water quality, biodiversity loss, flooding and proliferation of informal settlers, business establishments and structures without a permit, and a host of other problems.

“I want people to experience the beauty of El Nido and other natural wonders of our country for as long as possible,” Cimatu said.

The DENR chief added he had instructed all DENR personnel to address such priorities as clean water, clean air and solid-waste management hounding island tourist destinations like El Nido and Boracay.

Officials of DENR in Mimaropa have identified El Nido as a priority area. El Nido used to be known for promoting sustainable tourism. Situated within the province known as the country’s last ecological frontier, El Nido boasts of rich flora and fauna, breath-taking landscapes and small-island scenery, lagoons with pristine waters.

El Nido is also hosting unique bird species and is frequented by large marine wildlife like the sea or marine turtles, sea cow or dugong, dolphins, sharks and rays.

“We do not want El Nido to face the same problems of Boracay,” DENR Mimaropa Regional Director Natividad Bernardino said in the same press statement.

Bernardino was referring to the mounting garbage problem and water contamination due to unregulated activities in Boracay.

Big resorts in Boracay are facing closure if they are found violating environmental laws. The DENR is in the process of validating a list of resorts not connected to the existing sewer system on Boracay Island.

The House committee on tourism is currently conducting an investigation into the problems besetting Boracay Island, known for its white-sand beaches and pristine waters. Foremost of these problems is its mounting garbage problem.

Acting on the problem last year, Cimatu had immediately stepped in. Within 20 days in June and July last year, 1,906 tons of garbage were hauled from Boracay to Aklan.

Two weeks ago, Cimatu and Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo agreed to step up efforts to save Boracay, including penalizing establishments violating environmental and other laws.

“We value El Nido’s contribution to the economy of Palawan and of the country. We cannot help but worry that the magnitude of tourist activities in El Nido is already way beyond its carrying capacity,” Bernardino said.

The 2016 report of the El Nido Municipal Tourism Office said tourist arrival in the town increased by more than 30 percent annually in the last three years, with last year reaching almost 200,000.

This does not only mean increased revenue for the town, but also increased demand for fresh water, timber, and other construction materials, use of fuel and consumer goods, and activities in the islands, all of which exert tremendous pressure on the rich biodiversity of El Nido.

Bernardino said the Protected Area Management Board of El Nido-Taytay Protected Area already passed a resolution limiting tourist entry and activity in three of the most-visited places in El Nido.

In the Big Lagoon, only 60 guests will be allowed at any one time or a maximum of 720 guests per day. In the Small Lagoon, a maximum of 30 guests will be allowed at any one time or a total of 360 persons per day. For the Secret Beach, only 12 visitors will be allowed at any one time or a total of 144 a day.

Limits on the number of conveyances have also been set – maximum of five boats in the anchorage area and 30 kayaks inside the Big Lagoon, only 15 kayaks inside the Small Lagoon, and two boats in the anchorage area of Secret Beach.

Moreover, activities such as fishing, cliff jumping, grilling of food, and playing of loud music have been prohibited in the three spots.

In another resolution, PAMB identified the Strict Protection Zone, areas with high biodiversity value, that shall be closed to human activity except for scientific research and/or ceremonial use by indigenous communities. These include Helicopter Island, Balinaud Beach, Turtle Island, and Pacanayan Island.

In the coming months, the DENR also plans to conduct inspection of all establishments in El Nido and ensure compliance on the disposal of solid and liquid wastes, monitor air and water quality, validate tenurial instruments of business and residents, and monitor strict observance of environmental laws, and other measures that will help lessen the harmful impact of tourism activities on the environment, people’s livelihood, and tourism itself.

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Thailand: Ecologist rates Thai coral reef decay rate as alarming

Bangkok Post 29 Jan 18;

The total area experiencing coral reef damage in Thailand has increased from 30% to 77% in just one decade, according to marine ecologist Asst Prof Thon Thamrongnawasawat.

Asst Prof Thon, deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University, said 77% or 140,000 out of total 107,800 rai of coral reef area in the Thai seas is in a sorry state, with unhealthy coral reefs expanding at an alarming rate.

In 2008, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said 42,000 rai (30%) of total 140,000 rai of corals was devastated.

Asst Prof Thon blamed tourism and polluted water released by beachfront hotels, resorts and residential houses as the main cause for the unhealthy coral reefs.

He added the situation was also exacerbated by plastic trash dumped in water, which can infect coral and cause them long-term harm.

Asst Prof Thon singled out water contamination as the largest contributor to the degeneration of coral reefs in the country, as only 30% of polluted water goes through waste water treatment process.

Besides, reefs were also being damaged by sediments from landfills along coastal areas, he said.

"All of this [the degeneration of corals] is a result of man-made pollution, especially the influx of tourists which is not being handled properly. Over the past two or three years, Thailand has had no problems about coral bleaching, but the degeneration has continued to this day," Asst Prof Thon said.

The marine ecologist also voiced his concern over the 77% damage to the country's coral reefs, which in his view is a considerable figure.

Meanwhile, Petch Manopawitr, a scientist of the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN, pointed out to plastic waste as a cause for coral diseases.

He said Thailand was ranked the fourth in the world among countries which produce the most amount of marine waste, according to an assessment by US-based non-profit marine conservation group, Ocean Conservacy, last year.

He said plastic waste in the Thai seas has worsened the health of corals and referred to a latest article in Science magazine about research which found out that coral reefs digest plastic garbage and suffer as a consequence.

Mr Petch added that previous research jointly conducted by Cornell University, James Cook University and Prince of Songkla University in 2014 showed coral reefs can be damaged by plastics.

The research was conducted on coral reefs on 159 locations in Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and Australia.

In related development, Worapot Lomlim, chief of Hat Noppharat Thara–Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park, said on Saturday the authorities would inspect coral reefs around Koh Bida Nok in Krabi today.

The move comes after a complaint from locals that a group of Japanese tourists brought vinyl boards to the water and took photos with corals there, which may have caused damage to the coral life.

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