Best of our wild blogs: 3 Feb 18

Biodiversity Beach Patrols: training registration opens 4 Feb (Sun)
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

4 Feb: Registration opens for Sisters Islands Intertidal walks in Mar 2018
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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

R.U.M. Scientific Workshop Day 2
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

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Flash floods could hit low-lying coastal areas in eastern Singapore on Saturday: PUB

Today Online 2 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE — Flash floods may hit low-lying coastal areas in eastern Singapore again on Saturday (Feb 3) if heavy rain coincides with unusually high tides, said the PUB in an advisory on Friday (Feb 2).

PUB’s comments comes after a high tide of 3.44m occurred around noon on Friday in eastern Singapore. It subsided after an hour.

The high tide resulted in seawater flowing inland through the roadside drain onto the junction of Amber Road and Mountbatten Road.

“(On Saturday), another high tide of 3.4m is expected to set in again at 12.45pm,” said the PUB. Tide levels of 3m and above are considered to be higher than normal.

“During the high tide periods, canals and drains which lead to the sea and are therefore influenced by tides, will see high water levels,” added the PUB. “Seawater may also overflow from the drains and flood the roads.

In the event of heavy rain coinciding with the high tides, flash floods may occur in the low-lying coastal areas such as Jalan Seaview, Meyer Road, Fort Road and Tanjong Rhu.

On Friday, PUB officers were on standby at the site in case they had to clear any chokages in drains, as well as warn drivers and pedestrians not to drive into or enter flooded areas.

“We advise the public to exercise care should flash floods occur, and avoid stepping into or driving into any flooded areas,” said the PUB.

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Sharks kept in Tanjong Pagar dental clinic moved to open sea pen in fish farm

Audrey Tan Straits Times 2 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE - Three juvenile blacktip reef sharks, which were kept in an aquarium of a dental clinic in Tanjong Pagar, have been moved to an open sea pen in a fish farm in the Johor Strait.

When The Straits Times visited the Braces & Implant Dental Centre in Tras Street at about 9am on Friday (Feb 2), staff from fish farm, OnHand Agrarian, were preparing for the move.

A plastic sheet was spread out on the clinic's carpeted floor to prevent it from getting wet and a blue tank for the transport of the sharks was being filled with water.

A dental clinic staff member said the clinic would replace the sharks with reef fish.

The move comes after the sharks were spotted in the tank in December by a Ms Linda Leong, who took a video and uploaded it on Facebook.

The video prompted Netizens and marine conservationists, led by underwater photographer Michael Aw, to voice their concern about the welfare of the animals and ask for them to be moved to a bigger facility.

The sharks now measure about an arm's length but will grow to between 1.6m and 2.9m once they hit adulthood.

While it is not illegal to keep the sharks in a tank, conservationists worry that the small space may constrict the growth of these animals.

Dr Jimmy Gian, owner of the dental clinic, said in December that he had purchased the sharks with the intention of releasing the animals when they grew beyond 0.6m, as the tank could not accommodate adult sharks anyway.

He added that the objective of the aquarium was to show the public "the beautiful side of sharks" and to change the perception that sharks are fearsome.

Blacktip reef sharks can be found in Singapore's waters although mainly in the coral reefs in the Singapore Straits.

Black tip reef sharks being prepared for transfer to Johor Strait fish farm

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum ichthyologist (fish expert) Tan Heok Hui said: "Blacktip reef sharks, as the name alludes, occur mainly in coral reef habitats. The Johor Strait has less salinity than Singapore Strait, due to large freshwater inputs."

Dr Tan added that sharks typically fare better in saline habitats compared to the estuarine conditions of Singapore's northern waters.

He also noted that sharks are better off in the wild if they are not fished.

Black tip reef shark being transferred into tank

Mr Shannon Lim, 32, owner of OnHand Agrarian, said he has seen other species of sharks in the Johor Strait, such as nurse sharks, and is confident the blacktips will do well there.

There are no plans to release the sharks into the wild, as the sharks come from Indonesia, he said, and it would not be ideal to mix them with native sharks.

“We have suggested that the clinic rear estuarine fish that are less wide-ranging, such as seahorses and seagrass file fish. These species are more confined to a smaller area.”

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Malaysia: Elephant sanctuary expected to be ready in August

mohd farhaan shah The Star 2 Feb 18;

JOHOR BARU: Work on the Johor Elephant Sanctuary (JES) in Kota Tinggi is 45% complete and the first phase is expected to finish by August this year.

Johor health, environment, education and information committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the RM15mil sanctuary was being built to address the conflict between wild elephants and humans in Kluang and Kota Tinggi.

He said JES was an urgent requirement following the encroachment of wild elephants in villages there and would give priority to aggressive elephants that were damaging surrounding plantations.

Ayub added that through the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) records, there were 70 wild elephants roaming Johor’s forests where 45 of them were deemed problematic.

“The difficult ones will be brought to JES for training before they are released into the forest,” he said.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Johor chairman Vincent Chow said JES could not permanently solve the conflict between elephants and humans, but more studies should be done to find a better solution.

“Elephants are wandering animals and they will move from one forest to another.

“The problem is humans have been slowly encroaching into the elephants’ traditional path via development or plantations.

“It is not the elephants’ fault because these are their usual routes,” said Chow, adding that no matter how long these wild elephants were trained, they would go back to following instinct when they return to the forest.

“Elephants need bigger territory and the Johor National Park is a good location because it is far away from any human activity.”

He urged the authorities to work together with MNS or other non-governmental organisations to come up with solutions to these problems.

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Malaysia: Man trampled by an elephant

Bernama New Straits Times 2 Feb 18;

GERIK: A man was seriously injured after he was trampled by an elephant at Km 19, of the Gerik-Jeli East-West Highway (JRTB), near a memorial monument at the highway yesterday.

Gerik police chief Supt Ismail Che Isa said in the incident around 4.30pm, the victim, M. Paramanazan, 69, who came from Sungai Siput Utara Perak suffered fractures to his left arm and rib, injuries to the right arm and was also believed to suffer from a broken neck.

“Paramanazan and his son, in his 40s, were travelling to Gerik through the JRTB route. When they reached the memorial, the victim who wanted a close-up view of the elephant got down from the lorry.

“However, he was suddenly chased and trampled by the elephant when he tried to approach the animal,” Ismail said in a statement here tonight.

The son’s victim who was driving the lorry brought him to the Gerik Hospital before he was transferred to the Taiping Hospital for follow-up treatment. -- Bernama

Lorry driver seriously hurt after attack by elephant on East-West Highway
ivan loh The Star 2 Feb 18;

GERIK: A lorry driver was badly injured after being trampled by an elephant near the memorial monument at KM19 of the East-West Highway here.

Gerik OCPD Superintendent Ismail Che Isa said M. Paramanazan, 69, from Sungai Siput Utara, is believed to have suffered a broken left arm, left ribs and injuries to the right arm, following the incident on Thursday (Feb 1) at about 4.30am.

"Paramanazan has been brought to the Taiping Hospital for treatment. He is believed to have broken one of the bones in his neck," he said, adding that no police report was made.

Supt Ismail said according to the victim's son, they were on their way to transport groundnuts to Sg Siput from Kelantan.

"Upon reaching the monument, the victim stopped his lorry and got down to look at an elephant, which was in the vicinity.

"He was then chased and stepped on by the animal.

"The victim's son, who was in the lorry, then brought him to the Gerik Hospital, before being transferred to Taiping," he added.

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Indonesia: Peatland mappers win $1million to help tackle Indonesian haze fires

Michael Taylor Reuters 2 Feb 18;

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An award-winning method for mapping Indonesia’s vast peatlands, developed by Dutch, German and Indonesian scientists, will help the Southeast Asian nation tackle annual fires that harm health in the region, the organizers of the prize said on Friday.

The International Peat Mapping Team (IPMT) will receive $1 million for winning the two-year competition, funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and managed by the U.S.-based World Resources Institute (WRI).

“To be able to manage peat well, we needed to have a map, and the map we had before was not that comprehensive,” said Nirarta Samadhi, director of WRI Indonesia.

Indonesian government agencies, which helped organize the competition, will start using the new methodology as soon as possible, said Supiandi Sabiham, co-chair of the judges.

The IPMT’s approach, which combines satellite imagery, LiDAR technologies and on-the-ground measurement, won for its accuracy, speed and affordability, added Sabiham.

Peat soils contain huge quantities of carbon in the form of organic matter, which accumulates over thousands of years and provides nutrients for plant growth.

Rainforests across Indonesia’s sprawling archipelago contain more than 15 million hectares of peatland - an area twice the size of Ireland - mostly on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo and in the easternmost province of Papua.

When peatlands are drained or cleared by fire, often to make way for oil palm plantations or farming, the carbon is released into the atmosphere where it traps heat, contributing to climate change.

Peaty soil is particularly flammable when dry, often causing fires to spread beyond their intended areas.

Each year smoke from fires used to clear land for agricultural expansion in Indonesia clouds the skies over large parts of Southeast Asia, raising concerns about public health.

Peat fires in 2015 were estimated to have caused up to 100,000 premature deaths, according to the WRI, and cost the Indonesian economy $16.5 billion, or nearly 2 percent of gross domestic product.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo set up an agency in 2016 to restore about 2 million hectares of damaged peatland, and imposed a moratorium on new concessions for oil palm.

The IPMT methodology will enable the Indonesian authorities to better manage peatlands, and help them create canals and wetting systems to protect peat in the dry season, WRI’s Samadhi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Open to students, engineers, consultants, scientists, companies and universities, the competition attracted 44 applicants from 10 countries.

Bambang Setiadi, a scientist in the IPMT team, said the prize money would be used to fund further research into peatlands, as well as scholarships for Indonesian students to attend German universities.

Reporting by Michael Taylor, Editing by Megan Rowling; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

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Indonesia: How climate change threatens Indonesia's marine tourism

Kathryn Curzon Jakarta Post 2 Feb 18;

While the Earth has only warmed around 0.74 degrees Celsius over the last 100 years, this small temperature increase is affecting ocean ecosystems and could impact upon the global marine tourism industry.

Coral reef tourism has a global value of US$36 billion per year, according to a scientific study mapping the global value and distribution of coral reef tourism. This study, published in the Marine Policy journal in August 2017, concluded that 30 percent of the world’s reefs are valuable to tourism.

Indonesia has a thriving coral reef tourism industry and also has the second largest manta ray tourism industry in the world, with an annual value of over $15 million.

While coral bleaching events and ocean acidification are well-documented effects of climate change, there are other stressors upon coral reefs that could undermine these valuable tourism industries.

Sea level rises, leading to coastal erosion, plus stronger and more frequent storms typical of the current climate, smother and destroy coral reef structures. Heavy rainfall cause land-based pollutants and nutrients to wash into the ocean, resulting in algal blooms and a reduction in available light at reefs. Changing ocean currents also affect reefs, by altering the connectivity of geographically distant reefs and water temperature profiles. These changes can lead to a lack of food sources and interrupt reef species’ ability to breed.

If left unchecked, these complex effects could reduce the value of marine tourism significantly as the quality of world-class Indonesian dive sites and idyllic tourism destinations deteriorate.

Thankfully a new global partnership to conserve the ocean, announced at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Jan. 25, should help address this. This new partnership, Friends of Ocean Action, will consist of leaders in science, technology, business and non-governmental groups aiming to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

Individuals can also do their part to minimize the effects of climate change by reducing their carbon footprint. Measures such as driving less, reducing waste and purchasing energy efficient appliances or light bulbs are easy ways to help. Indonesia’s coral reefs can be protected with simple measures such as using fewer garden chemicals that may run-off into the ocean, choosing sustainable seafood and practicing good reef etiquette.

For those looking to experience and support the marine tourism industry of Indonesia, there are 11,000 uninhabited islands and a wealth of world-class dive sites to choose from. Visitors can support national marine parks directly by choosing responsible tourism operators and ensuring they pay their park fees. Marine park fees are crucial for minimizing the human impact on marine parks, including by providing local subsidies to preserve the reefs and by educating locals and tourists about reef conservation.

Komodo National Park

The Komodo National Park, within the Lesser Sunda Islands, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers an area of over 1,700 square kilometers. It has been selected as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and its waters are rich with reef life and numerous fish species.

The park contains many small islands, providing a wide variety of dive sites, and water visibility of up to 30 meters.

It is a diver’s paradise of healthy reefs and currents that attract mantas, hammerheads, dolphins and mola mola. It is also a perfect destination for a cruise.

Raja Ampat Islands

Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago of over 1,500 small islands and shoals just off the northwest tip of New Guinea.

It contains the Misool Marine Reserve and Cenderawasih Bay, the largest marine national park in Indonesia. It was declared the most biodiverse place in the world in 2002 and contains more than 500 coral species.

There are plenty of shark species, mantas, turtles and reef dives to enjoy at Raja Ampat and it is best accessed on an Indonesian liveaboard.


Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi is a group of four remote islands in the Banda Sea and is a UNESCO Marine Biosphere Reserve that covers 13,900 sq km. It has been managed successfully as a reserve and, as a result, offers an exceptionally clear underwater environment.

New reefs have formed upon fossilized reefs and the lack of soil erosion provides visibility of up to a depth of 60 m. The fish and coral life are diverse and visitors can see pilot whales from November to March.

Bunaken National Park

Divers visiting Bunaken, in the Sulawesi Sea, can experience 70 percent of all fish species found in the Indo-Western Pacific Ocean. This marine national park has been so successful that many marine parks around the globe model their operations on those at Bunaken.

Five of the seven sea turtle species can be seen there, including the endangered green sea turtle. Dugong sightings are not rare and sperm whales are seasonal visitors in July and August.

It is one of the most diverse sites on Earth along with Raja Ampat.

Gili Islands

The three Gili Islands north of Lombok are well-known for their secluded beaches and healthy reefs. Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are all within the Gili Matra Marine Natural Recreation Park. Motorized transport is not permitted on the islands and the pristine reefs are supported by mangrove forests.

The reefs have numerous shallow dives, suitable for experienced and beginners, and are home to a variety of colorful hard and soft corals. Reef sharks and manta rays can be enjoyed where the islands disappear into deep waters. (kes)


The writer is a diver and writer for

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Hongkongers appetite for reef fish ‘unsustainable’, study shows

Hong Kong has the second largest per capita consumption of seafood in Asia, at more than three times the global average
South China Morning Post 1 Feb 18;

Environmentalists and academics warned the city, known as a “food paradise”, will fail to create a sustainable trade chain and marine environment if it continues its current trading and eating pattern.

The green activists also criticised the government for its “outdated” regulations on the trade of live reef fish, which allow for their import and export.

The study, which compiled data from the past two decades to shed light on the dark side of the trade, was jointly released by the University of Hong Kong’s Swire Institute of Marine Sciences, ADM Capital Foundation and the WWF Coral Triangle Programme on Thursday, around two weeks ahead of the Lunar New Year.

The festival falls on February 16 this year, and eating fresh seafood is part of the Chinese culinary tradition.

“The rate at which we are taking reef fish from our ocean, including juveniles, is simply not sustainable,” said Dr Yvonne Sadovy, a professor of biological science at HKU.

Fish being sold at Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market. Photo: Nora Tam
The most recent figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations showed Hong Kong had the second largest per capita consumption of seafood in Asia at 60kg, three times the world average.

The study found that between 20,000 and 30,000 metric tonnes of live reef fish were traded legally in Hong Kong each year, with a total value more than US$1 billion. The trade supplied mostly grouper and wrasse species, such as Napoleon fish, which can fetch as much as US$600 per kilo.

Waiter, there’s catfish in my grouper: Hong Kong customs struggles to fight false advertising
But the volume of imported trade could be underestimated by “as much as 50 per cent”, due to “inadequacies monitoring protocols and deliberate misreporting”, the study said. Such estimations were based on information from traders and organisations in other regions.

Sadovy added it was critical Hong Kong took steps to regulate before it is too late, adding popular wild-caught reef fish “could be gone in the next couple of decades”.

“We are not talking about not eating fish at all. What we are talking about is not eating so many wild fish that we destroy their populations,” she said.

A seller nets a Sabah grouper at North Point Ferry Pier seafood market. Photo: May Tse
“Traders, transport and logistics carriers are allowed to exploit a vacuum created by the inadequate and outdated regulations, loopholes in the law and lax enforcement of live seafood trade into, within and through Hong Kong,” said Geoffrey Muldoon, senior manager of the WWF Coral Triangle Programme.

One in 10 grouper species face extinction, with most eaten in Hong Kong
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau on Wednesday said importing and exporting live marine fish was allowed in Hong Kong, unless the fish were listed under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance.

Several grouper species, however, are considered “threatened” or “near threatened”, as opposed to “endangered”, according to the IUCN Red List, a global conservation status of plant and animal species.

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