Best of our wild blogs: 17 Apr 18

Seahorses and other odd fishes of Singapore's seagrass meadows
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Are Singaporeans Too Detached to Care About Plastic Waste?

21 Apr (Sat): Free screening of “A Plastic Ocean” at the Singapore Botanic Gardens
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Celebrate Earth Day in Singapore by battling marine trash @ Lim Chu Kang East (Sun 22 Apr 2018: 7.30am – 12.00pm)
Otterman speaks

Read more!

Rescued giant turtles, endangered tortoises sent home to Malaysia

Channel NewsAsia 16 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: Four giant Asian turtles and two elongated tortoises, an endangered species, were repatriated to their home country Malaysia on Monday (Apr 16).

It is part of efforts by Singapore's Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) to rehabilitate animals which have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.

Last February, the animal welfare group repatriated its first live reptile, an endangered Malaysian giant turtle named Rahayu, to Malaysia.

"Since then, we promised ourselves to do everything we could to give a second chance for Rahayu's friends still residing in our sanctuary," ACRES wrote in a Facebook post.

"It took us another whole year, but today we are finally sending Boltz, Andrea, Audrey, Ayu, Comot and Comel home to Malaysia!"

Of the six reptiles, the story of Boltz the Giant Asian Pond turtle has been most widely shared by ACRES. He was rescued in 2011 after a member of the public saw him being run over by a lorry. The accident left him with severe injuries, including a crack on his shell that looked like a lightning bolt, hence his name.

"I still remember the first night he came, he was all bleeding, he had massive bleeding, his shell was completely fractured, and we didn’t think he will make it. So many other turtles we have rescued with a similar fate didn’t make it," said ACRES deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan, adding the Boltz' resilience helped it on the road to recovery.

Then there was Comot the elongated tortoise which was found two years ago walking along the road near the nature reserve at Seraya Crescent, and Audrey who was found in 2011 wandering around a bus stop.

The repatriation of the reptiles was documented on social media through a series of live videos and updates.

At about 4.30pm, ACRES posted that the animals had left Singapore, and at 9pm, it said that they had passed the borders and were in the clear to proceed.

Mr Kalai said the repatriation was very important not just for animals: "It is also a message to everyone out there that many of these animals which are smuggled in - they do deserve a second chance at life."

"In the wild there will be no enclosure to confine them, they will be able to roam free and wild … Being endangered and vulnerable as they are, they can now meet other animals of the same species and reproduce," he added.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, who attended the repatriation event, highlighted the importance of raising awareness on the illegal wildlife trade.

"Wildlife trade is not going to be stopped simply by us saying it should be stopped, or having legislation," the minister said. "I think it can only come about through education. Human beings are innately good people."

"We look at the story of Boltz and the other turtles here, it’s really heart-rending. People look at them – they are small and cute, (they) take them as pets - (it) shouldn’t be done."

Source: CNA/mz/(gs)

6 rescued turtles sent back to Malaysia by Acres
Esther Koh Straits Times 17 Apr 18;

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) sent six rescued reptiles back to Malaysia yesterday, the first time that it has done a mass repatriation.

It is part of Acres' efforts to rescue, rehabilitate and repatriate wild animals nabbed by illegal traders for their meat or to be sold as pets.

Yesterday's batch consisted of four giant Asian turtles, categorised as a vulnerable species, and two elongated tortoises, deemed an endangered species.

The first reptile to be successfully released back to the wild was Rahayu, a Malaysian giant turtle, in February last year.

Acres deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan lamented that reptiles are preyed on by illegal traders on a large scale.

"For now, we are focusing on the repatriation of reptiles," he told The Straits Times.

Most of the six reptiles were found wandering in open spaces such as roads before they were rescued.

One of them, a giant Asian turtle named Boltz, was rescued in October 2011 after it had been run over by a truck. It suffered severe internal injuries as well as a large, lightning-shaped crack on its shell that inspired its name.

When Acres was set up in 2001, it focused on advocacy and educational work, raising public awareness on important animal protection issues that were previously unaddressed in Singapore. Its rehabilitation and repatriation efforts were a more recent development.

The construction of an animal shelter in Tengah was stalled in 2008 when the building contractor filled the site with contaminated earth and wood chips that rotted over time. Acres won its suit against A.N.A Contractor in 2015.

Despite the difficulties, Acres opened the Wildlife Rescue Centre in 2009 to begin the vital rehabilitation of rescued animals. In 2013, an outdoor sanctuary was built near the Acres office to house animals rescued from the illicit trades.

According to Mr Kalai, after Boltz was rescued seven years ago, it would look out of its cage longingly whenever it rained. This spurred Mr Kalai to build the outdoor sanctuary, which currently has about 160 wild animals.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who was present at yesterday's repatriation, said: "Small as we are, Singapore can make a difference (in wildlife conservation ) worldwide. At least within Singapore, we try and do the right things."

To this end, there have been improvements in terms of legislation and the public sector approach towards animal welfare.

Acres chief executive Louis Ng noted that his society had succeeded in getting the authorities to mete out stiffer penalties to illegal wildlife traders.

Those found guilty now face a maximum fine of $50,000 and/or two years' jail, on a per animal basis. Previously, they faced a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or a year's jail on a per species basis only.

Read more!

New maritime traffic technologies in the works to cut risk of collisions

Ilyda Chua Straits Times 16 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - With the Singapore port being a busy one where a ship arrives or leaves every two to three minutes, new technologies are being developed to improve congestion forecasts and minimise collisions.

The goal is to enhance navigational safety, for instance, through technologies that can predict and issue early warnings on the risk of collision, using technologies such as prediction or risk calculation models.

On Monday (April 16), technology firm Fujitsu Limited, Singapore Management University (SMU) and the Institute of High Performance Computing at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) announced that they are collaborating on innovative new technologies for vessel traffic management.

The technologies will utilise artificial intelligence and big data analysis to better manage Singapore's port and its surrounding waters in the Straits of Singapore and Malacca, they said in a press statement.

According to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), there are about 1,000 vessels in the Port of Singapore port at any given moment.

The project on vessel traffic management technologies is being done under the Urban Computing and Engineering Centre of Excellence, set up in 2014 by A*Star, SMU, and Fujitsu. The initiative is supported by the MPA.

In the statement, Captain M Segar, assistant chief executive of operations at MPA, said: "As Singapore develops future capabilities that will enhance our port operations, research and innovation will remain key to the maritime industry."

Read more!

Indonesia: Pertamina sanctioned for Balikpapan oil spill

Karina M. Tehusijarana The Jakarta Post 17 Apr 18;

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has told state-owned oil and gas company PT Pertamina to take responsibility for the restoration of polluted Balikpapan Bay in East Kalimantan, given its role in the recent oil spill that has devastated the local environment.

Responsibility for cleaning up the bay and its surroundings is one of the sanctions imposed by the ministry on the firm, Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said on Monday.

The ministry found that Pertamina’s refinery in Balikpapan lacked an early-warning system and had no automated monitoring. Siti said the sanctions would also compel the company to improve its pipeline inspection and prevention systems, which the ministry found to be sub-par. “We’ve imposed administrative sanctions on Pertamina’s RU V [Refinery Unit V], including the restoration of the environment from the pipeline leak,” she told lawmakers at the House of Representatives Commission VII overseeing energy and mineral resources and environmental affairs on Monday.

“[Pertamina] is the permit holder in the area and that is where we see [the responsibility],” Siti added.

The ministry had previously determined that the spill was caused by a burst undersea pipeline connecting Pertamina’s Lawe-Lawe terminal to its refinery in Balikpapan city. The leak on March 31 led to a fire that claimed five lives as well as causing ecological damage regarded as the largest environmental disaster in Indonesia in the past 10 years.

Around 40,000 barrels of crude oil affected 7,000 hectares of the bay. The oil slick also affected about 240 ha of mangrove forests and resulted in the deaths of protected species living in the bay.

Pertamina president director Elia Massa Manik said the company was prepared to improve its monitoring systems and had already taken part in a cleanup and environmental-restoration activities in the immediate aftermath of the spill.

Besides opening medical posts at eight locations around the area and a public kitchen, the company had allocated Rp 785 billion (US$57.3 million) for a labor-intensive environmental cleanup program involving 5,239 community members, he added.

Pertamina refinery director Toharso added that, regardless of who was at fault, the company was ready to pay out compensation for the families of those who died in the fire and for all those who had suffered losses because of the spill.

“We will ignore for the moment who was wrong and who was right,” he said. “Based on our sense of social responsibility, we have immediately started the cleanup up process and paid damages.”

Siti added that the ministry was still conducting its evaluation of the monetary value of the environmental damage from the spill, which would be used in civil proceedings against the responsible parties.

“If we take Balongan as a benchmark, this is many times that,” she said, citing a 2008 oil spill in Balongan district in Indramayu, West Java, which she said resulted in about Rp 100 billion in damages.

House Commission VII invited all related parties to the first meeting to discuss the oil spill disaster in Balikpapan on Monday.

Meanwhile, East Kalimantan Police special crimes director Sr. Comr. Yustan Alpiani said the investigation was ongoing and awaiting results from comparative analysis of material found on Panama-flagged collier MV Ever Judger’s anchor with that from the broken pipeline.

“We just need those results and testimony from expert witnesses to conclude the investigation and determine a suspect,” Yustan said in the meeting.

Balikpapan Port master Sanggam Marihot told lawmakers that there was an indication that the Panamanian vessel passing through the area had accidently dropped anchor in a restricted area, dragging the pipeline and causing it to burst.

Members of House Commission VII urged the relevant ministries, particularly the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, to improve its oversight of Pertamina’s other undersea pipelines to avoid such an incident from happening again.

“Commission VII calls on the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry to conduct a comprehensive review of all of Pertamina’s vital facilities and to carry out periodic monitoring and oversight to ensure that regulations are enforced stringently and correctly,” commission chairman Gus Irawan Pasaribu said, reading out the commission’s conclusion at the end of the meeting.

Deputy Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Arcandra Tahar, who was also present, said the ministry had already acted according to its responsibilities saying that it had sent its oil and gas inspector to the field to conduct an intensive investigation in the area to determine any violations.

Read more!

Indonesia: Another China-Japan battle expected over 'world's dirtiest' river

Moses Ompusunggu The Jakarta Post 15 Apr 18;

The multiyear rehabilitation project of the Citarum River in West Java is set to become another arena for Japan and China to flex their financial muscle, as the two global powerhouses eye a stake in what has been labelled as Indonesia's most ambitious environmental project to date.

For now, Japan and China, two countries that have faced off in head-to-head competition in some of the biggest projects under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's infrastructure development program, appear to be the most serious foreign economies that want, or at least have shown an interest, to do business in the Citarum.

Officials said Indonesia welcomes any country that wants to participate in the effort to clean up the Citarum as their involvement would only aid the implementation of the ambitious program.

"We are very happy to open opportunities to all parties [to participate in the Citarum’s rehabilitation project]," said Safri Burhanuddin, the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister’s undersecretary for human resources, science and technology and maritime culture, in an interview recently.

The Citarum has been dubbed the world's dirtiest rivers by several international organizations and media outlets since at least 2012. The 297-kilometer Citarum is the third-longest river in Indonesia's most populated island of Java, after Bengawan Solo in Central Java and Brantas in East Java.

To achieve the rehabilitation of the Citarum, Jokowi is setting an ambitious goal. He said he wanted to make the river's water “very clean” by 2025, having established in February a program nicknamed Citarum Harum (Fragrant Citarum), which will run for seven years. The government has yet to calculate the cost of the program.

The successful implementation of Citarum Harum would be a boost for the 30 million people living near the river, spanning from Bandung in West Java to Jakarta. They depend on the Citarum for water supply, hydropower and farming. Most of Jakarta’s raw water supply for tap water come from the Jatiluhur Dam, which captures water from the Citarum.

Past efforts to clean the Citarum

Human and business activity, such as the thousands of textile factories and millions of households dumping untreated liquid waste into the river, has contaminated the Citarum for decades.

The central government and West Java administration have previously implemented programs to clean the river. In 2010, the government launched the Integrated Citarum Water Resources Management Investment Program. The goal was to clean the river in 15 years and involved the central government, regional governments, NGOs and the private sector.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) calculated in 2008 that the program would cost Rp 35 trillion over 15 years, the equivalent of US$3.5 billion at the time. The bank loaned Indonesia $500 million for the program.

In 2013, the ADB and the World Bank released another report stating that two-thirds of the pollution was coming from municipal domestic waste and the rest from industrial and agriculture waste. The cost to treat domestic waste stood at Rp 14 trillion while industrial waste stood at Rp 1.6 trillion over 20 years, the report said. The financial benefit of cleaning the river, it went on, was estimated at Rp 2.1 trillion per year.

The results of the existing programs, however, have been invisible. In September last year, the river was in the international spotlight again after the Bencheghib brothers from France made a documentary about how dirty the Citarum was.

Attractive business opportunities

Yet for Indonesia's economic partners, Citarum Harum means business opportunities in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

Safri said Japan and China were the only two countries as of now that had officially presented proposals to rehabilitate the Citarum.

In late March, the Japan-Indonesia Coordination Agency gathered businesspeople who operated around the Citarum river basin at an event held in Bandung to present waste management technology that could be implemented in the region, said Safri.

Prior to the event, there was a meeting between Japan’s Deputy Environment Minister Arata Takebe and Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar on Jan. 19, in which the former agreed to help Indonesia rejuvenate the dirty Citarum.

Meanwhile, China's first intervention was manifested in a move by the Shenzhen Fountain Corporation, a listed Chinese water management company. It presented this month three Chinese water specialists offering "a comprehensive solution" to address the multilayered problems in the Citarum before high level Indonesian officials and water specialists at the BPPT auditorium in Central Jakarta.

One of the water specialists, Wang Hao, is an influential water adviser to Chinese government, Fountain assistant CEO Alexander Gevanno told The Jakarta Post. Wang is the director of the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research.

Alexander, an Indonesian, claimed the foremost aim of the seminar was for educational purposes in order to introduce the government to what China had carried out to address its water pollution problems and water scarcity. The company, however, admitted it was eyeing future business opportunities and aimed at handling two to three projects within the Citarum Harum program.

"I think we can demonstrate and provide the scheme with the lowest cost to supply clean water. Then, we can develop more business opportunities," Fountain CEO Andrew Zheng told the Post.

Officials said the Jokowi administration had a special expert team that would decide which technology or scheme offered by foreign countries was the most feasible for the Citarum Harum project.

"In the end, they [foreign countries] want to do business [in the Citarum] and each of party wants its technology to be used. We will examine the pros and cons of each proposal," said Safri.

In the seminar at the BPPT, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan hailed China's use of technology and achievements in handling its environmental problems, including water pollution and water scarcity.

"Let's use technology such as that presented by our friends from China," said Luhut, referring to the presentation by Fountain.

Read more!

Indonesia: Limitation of tourist visits to prevent komodo extinction

Aloysius Lewokeda Antara 16 Apr 18;

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - Komodo National Park is still awaiting the results of a study on the carrying capacity for the limitation of the number of tourists to the Komodo tourist area.

"We are reviewing the carrying capacity of various spots within the Komodo tourist area to determine the level of tolerance of natural resources available to the number of tourist visits," Head of Komodo National Park, Budi Kurniawan, stated here on Monday.

He noted that the Komodo National Park Authority plans to limit the number of visitors in order to prevent the stress faced by Komodo. Recently, the carrying capacity study has been conducted on more than 40 tourist spots in the Komodo tourist area.

Eleven of these dozens of spots have been studied and identified by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), especially for dive spots.

According to Kurniawan, Center for Eco-region Development Control (P3E) of Bali and Nusa Tenggara, along with the World Bank, is reviewing the spots that the WWF has not yet identified, including land tourist spots.

This study is expected to be completed in 2018, so that the relevant authorities can issue a policy to manage the number of tourists to the spots.

"The results of this study will reveal the maximum number of visitors who can visit the spots every day," he remarked.

Furthermore, the tolerance of the number of tourist visits to the conservation area cannot be estimated because it is dynamically related to ecosystem conditions.

According to Kurniawan, certain tourist destinations in Komodo Island can be closed at certain times to prevent the extinction of Komodo.

"Hopefully, this study estimates the maximum number of visits that are still tolerant related to the impact on the existing natural resource conditions," he revealed.

Editor: Bustanuddin

Read more!

Indonesia: Riau farmer injured after fighting off sun bears

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 16 Apr 18;

Dasril, 50, a farmer from Lubuk Ulat hamlet in Rokan Hulu regency, Riau, injured his thigh after fighting off two sun bears on Sunday.

Rokan Hulu Police chief Sr. Adj. Comr. Hasyim Risahondua said the farmer was attacked by the bears on Sunday while on his way to a rubber plantation where he worked, about three kilometers away from the hamlet.

“He was going to the plantation on foot. After walking for two kilometers, he heard the sound of an animal roar and suddenly two bears appeared in front of him,” Hasyim said Monday.

Dasril said a bear about 1.5 meters high attacked him, so he defended himself using a machete, eventually hurting the bear’s head and back. The bear ran away and was hiding in the bushes when a second bear appeared and mauled his left thigh. Dasril screamed until the bear eventually let him go and left.

“[Dasril] struggled to return home using a piece of wood to support him. After one kilometer, he couldn’t take it any longer and stopped. He was found by two local men who then walked him home,” Hasyim said, adding that Dasril was then rushed to a local hospital for surgery.

Dasril’s son Rio Andri asked the local natural resources conservation agency to capture the bears over fear of repeated attacks. (swd)

Read more!