Best of our wild blogs: 30 Apr 18

Of Fireflies and Mangroves: Singapore Story
The Entomologist Lounge

Stealthy sotong and awesome octopuses of Singapore's seagrass meadows
wild shores of singapore

Rough Golden Toadfish (Lagocephalus lunaris) @ Pulau Ubin
Monday Morgue

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Local beekeeper wants to save pollinators from extermination

LOW YOUJIN Today Online 29 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE – Mr Xavier Tan, 52, wishes that more people would give him a buzz when they encounter a beehive in their homes, instead of calling the pestbusters.

Rather than using pesticide to exterminate the entire colony, which is what commercial pestbusters do, Mr Tan offers a non-destructive alternative: He removes beehives by locating the queen bee and its larvae, placing them in a box, and coaxing the rest of the colony to follow.

The hives are then transplanted to locations such as The Ashram – a halfway house in Sembawang – and other parts of Singapore, which he declined to reveal.

It is a time-consuming process that can take up to six hours, and has to be done in the evening when a majority of the bees have returned to the hive after a day spent foraging.

“People want a humane way of removing the hives … so my customers were glad when they found out about my services,” said the founder and owner of Nutrinest, a one-man operation in Singapore that conducts educational workshops, humane bee removal and beekeeping.

Charging between S$150 and S$300 for his hive removal services, depending on the complexity of the task, Mr Tan has been receiving an average of about two requests a week. He started offering his services in 2014, after learning that pest controllers in Singapore remove beehives using pesticide, which result in the extermination of the entire colony.

“In France, it’s a crime to kill bees with pesticide,” said the beekeeper who has launched a petition urging the Singapore Government to pass a similar bill. France adopted a law in 2016 that would effectively ban bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides this year.

But Mr Tan is a long way from his goal of gathering 500 signatures; as of April 27, he has less than 40.


In an island where apiculture – or beekeeping is uncommon – the former global logistics manager at software company Hewlett-Packard stumbled onto the hobby in 2009, after he was given the “golden handshake”.

He picked up the trade from a veteran beekeeper from Malaysia, who got him interested in the pollinators’ conservation, particularly around 2010 when forests were being cleared and hives needed to be saved. Since then, he has invested in an apiary in Malaysia with his mentor.

Asked about his passion for bees, paraphrasing a quote by the famed theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, Mr Tan said: “Without bees in the world, in four years’ time, humans would be extinct.”

Scientists discovered the Colony Collapse Disorder in 2006, a disease that decimated the bee population worldwide. As the pollinators are responsible for a third of the world’s food crops, the discovery naturally sparked a panic about a potential food shortage.

While the bee population have since risen, Mr Tan remains concerned.


“Bees don’t go around stinging people for no reason … it kills them too,” the tanned apiarist told TODAY, adding that misconceptions about bees are the reason why most people fear them.

To prove a point, Mr Tan built an arched garden trellis within The Ashram that he says will attract the bees. And on May 20, he intends to mark Singapore’s first World Bee Day by inviting the public to walk through the arch and experience how harmless the bees are.

He is on a mission to educate the public on the benefits of bees and to embrace beekeeping. For example, before offering his humane beehive removal service, he would try to convince his clients to keep the hives if they do not pose any danger. But only 10 per cent take up his suggestion.

“It is a rare opportunity for children to learn about bees … just don’t disturb them and you should be fine,” said Mr Tan, who advises anyone who encounters a beehive to move slowly around them.

In fact, he went on to explain that a beehive serves as a barometer of health for its surroundings. The existence of a beehive in one’s property is a good thing because it indicates a hale and hearty eco-system, which is turn beneficial for people.

“If you see see a lot of bees disappearing, it probably means the area has a lot of chemicals,” added Mr Tan, who joked that anyone looking to purchase a new landed property should seek one with a beehive.


Getting a beekeeping licence in Singapore would help him and other beekeepers in making apiaries more mainstream, and give the public greater confidence that what they do is legal, he said.

But according to Mr Tan, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) would not issue a relevant beekeeping license, citing a lack of a suitable entity that could provide the licensing framework.

Responding to media queries, the AVA did not address the licensing issue. An AVA spokesperson said: “Hobbyists keeping bees in their own private residences should exercise caution to prevent causing inconvenience to the community and posing a risk to public safety”.

Meanwhile, Mr Tan said the National Parks Board and an international school did express some interest about establishing an apiary, but they wanted only the stingless variety – the Trigona.

It is a proposition that Mr Tan does not agree with, as he does not want people to form the wrong perception that bees do not sting.

Mr Tan said pairing a Trigona colony with a stinging variety such as the Apis cerana would serve as an important education tool. He believes people must learn to respect both varieties and to co-exist with them.


In the meantime, Mr Tan does what he can to spread the word about the benefits of bees. Besides humane beehive removal, he produces honey too from the 20 hives he maintains in Singapore, which is sold to hotels, restaurants and cafes.

While the frequency of honey extraction is subjective on the “strength of the bee colony” as well as the availability of flowers, Mr Tan estimates he does a harvest every three to four months.

A mature hive is able to yield between two and three kilograms worth of honey at each extraction, which Mr Tan sells for S$100 per kilogram.

“It is very light, fragrant and sweet … the taste is complex because of the variety of pollen the bees forage from.”

One client, The Grand Hyatt, said Mr Tan’s honey fits its food philosophy of sourcing from cooperative growers and local farmers.

The hotel’s director of culinary operations Lucas Glanville said that the beekeeper’s honeys “possess unique taste properties which are not available elsewhere”, and guests who tried it at the recent Farm to Table dinner in March were impressed.

He also sells the liquid gold to honey lovers at farmers’ markets or from his website. Be warned though, the wait time for his Singapore-made honey can be up to half a year.

Supply is limited, and Mr Tan has no intentions of taxing his busy bees for commercial profit.


Singapore has four species of bees: the stingless bee (Trigona), Asian Honey Bee (Apis cerana), Dwarf Honey Bee (Apis andreniformis), Giant Honey Bee (Apis dorsata)
The colony size of an average hive is about 10,000 to 20,000 bees.
Bees will travel up to 2km from their hive to forage for food.
A single bee will seek out up to 2,000 flowers in a day.
There are two ways to tell if store-bought honey is authentic: it should not freeze when left in the freezer, and it should crystallize at the base over time.
The taste of honey is determined by where the majority of the collected pollen comes from.

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Marsiling Park opens with new mangrove habitat, enhanced amenities for residents

CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 29 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE – After almost two years of redevelopment works, a popular park at Marsiling now has a new name and improved facilities for residents.

Marsiling Park, formerly known as Woodlands Town Garden, was opened on Sunday (April 29) after a 22-month overhaul that gave the park a new mangrove habitat and enhanced recreational amenities.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who is also the adviser to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Grassroots Organisations (GROs), graced the opening on Sunday morning with some 800 residents who attended a community event held in conjunction with the park's opening.

The 13-hectare park near Marsiling MRT station now features an enhanced mangrove forest with more than 1000 saplings of mangrove species, such as Api Api and White Teruntum.

Previously, the mangrove forest was blocked from public view by a dense layer of vegetation, which prevented the growth of new mangrove saplings.

Mangrove species that were endangered locally, like the Berembang, were also reintroduced.

The redevelopment works will open up opportunities for the public to learn more about mangrove ecosystems, said the National Parks Board (NParks).

Students from schools in the area, such as Marsiling Secondary School, will be involved in the monitoring of the flora and fauna at the mangrove area and document fauna species sighted throughout the park.

The data collected will help guide the development of long-term conservation management strategies, NParks added.

First opened in 1983 as Woodlands Town Garden, the park was renamed in 2016 after a public consultation process. At the time, residents expressed a strong interest in the renaming and the name Marsiling Park was eventually chosen.

Acting upon the feedback from residents, who stated that they wished to enjoy the park at all times of the day, NParks also installed more lamp posts to allow visitors to take evening strolls in the park.

Activity areas for children were also improved. For example, the butterfly playground has been complemented with educational interpretive boards to inform visitors about butterfly species that can be found within the park.

At another play area, equipment that makes musical sounds when played creates a different play experience for children. To cater to families, the park also has a new food and beverage outlet that is open round the clock.

To encourage residents in the Marsiling precinct to frequent the park more regularly, a community brisk walk event was also held on Sunday morning.

More activities, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, will also be held at the park later this year, said NParks.

Marsiling park known for vice activities reopens after two-year facelift
Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 29 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: A park in Marsiling that became infamous for its vice activities reopened on Sunday (Apr 29) after nearly two years of enhancement works.

The former Woodlands Town Garden, now known as Marsiling Park, was closed for upgrading in July 2016 following feedback from residents.

Media reports had said residents complained about vice activities at the park, and those living in the area had avoided the park as they felt unsafe.

Speaking at the park’s reopening on Sunday, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said: "In the last few years, as you saw from the media reports, we had some vice activities in this area."

The park has now been transformed with the help of grassroots leaders, NParks as well as President Halimah Yaacob, who pushed for the park to be upgraded during her time as Member of Parliament for Marsiling, Mr Wong said.

The 13ha park now has a new butterfly-shaped playground – the only one of its kind in Singapore – a new boardwalk, heritage corner as well as a cafe that is open around the clock.

Lighting has also been improved and activity areas are now well-lit to allow visitors to enjoy the park and use its facilities in the evenings, NParks said.

The mangrove area has also been enhanced to allow visitors to get closer to nature. More than 1,000 saplings of mangrove species such as Api Api and White Teruntum were planted. Critically endangered local mangrove species such as the Berembang have also been reintroduced to boost the biodiversity and ecological resilience of the mangrove.

The park is part of the six “star attractions” that was introduced last year to revitalise the Woodlands estate. Other attractions include new recreational and residential developments.

As part of the third batch of estates under the Housing and Development Board’s Remaking Our Heartlands programme, the Woodlands estate will be spruced up over the next five to 10 years.

Source: CNA/cy

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Consumer works to avoid disposables with own utensils

Low Li Ping Today Online 30 Apr 18;

Since January, Miss Khee Shihui has avoided using more than 200 single-use disposable utensils, straws, plates, bowls, cups and takeaway boxes - all made from plastic and styrofoam.

The 35-year-old freelance facilitator does so by bringing reusable utensils such as cups and lunchbox wherever she goes.

As @tabaogirl on Instagram, she regularly posts about her successes and failures at avoiding disposables.

It all started last May when she found out about the frightening extent of coral bleaching, caused by global warming, on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

In her journey to zero waste, she has received mixed responses from food and beverage (F&B) businesses here.


Workers at one place once rejected her request to put the cold drink in her own cup for fear that she would complain on social media that she received "less quantity", Miss Khee told The New Paper.

But she has also encountered accommodating workers at F&B outlets who have even offered to help wash her containers.

Local halal F&B chain Stuff'd started allowing customers to use their own containers from last month.

Previously, it did not allow that due to the possibility of cross contamination.

Mr Chin Zheng, a customer service officer at Stuff'd, said: "Since then, we reached out to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) again for clarification, and they reassured us that as long the containers are clean, dry and empty, food can be packed into them."

Ms Sandra Zhang, 45, a project manager at Food from the Heart, a non-profit organisation that distributes food to the needy, said hawkers have never rejected her request to use her own containers.

"Some remember my special requests when I bring my own food containers," she said.

"It is such a shame to throw away plastic food containers that have only been used for less than an hour but took so much more time and resources to make." - LOW LI PING

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Runners race for a greener planet at Income Eco Run

Audrey Tan Straits Times 29 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - Mass runs are usually known for generating huge amounts of waste, but insurance company Income is trying to change that with its annual Income Eco Run.

Some 9,000 participants laced up their running shoes for the run on Sunday (April 29) not just to get their hearts pumping, but also in a race for a greener planet.

Of the participants, 2,000 of them were Zero Waste runners who declined to receive a finisher tees, race medal, or both.

Other waste-reducing measures at the event include the recycling of all paper cups used, as well as the composting of some 700kg of banana peels. The fruit is usually distributed during mass run events.

The green efforts from the run, now in its ninth edition, will be incorporated into a report by the Singapore Environment Council to calculate the waste generated per capita during the event. It is the first time that this is being done for the Income Eco Run.

Results of the report will be released next month, and Income will use the insights to set new green targets for the next run.

Income chief marketing officer Marcus Chew said it was encouraging to see runners committing to a journey towards zero waste.

He said: "Building a more sustainable future requires the collective effort of everyone, and we want to thank all our runners for coming down today. We hope that participants will leave today's run feeling inspired to take a step, big or small, to create a greener world and help Singapore become more future ready."

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Thai environment protesters stage largest demonstration since start of military rule

Reuters 29 Apr 18;

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Over a thousand people gathered in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai on Sunday, police said, to protest against the building of a government luxury housing project on forested land, in one of the largest demonstrations under military rule.

The gathering was one of the largest since Thailand’s junta took power following a 2014 coup. The junta imposed a ban on public gatherings of over five people and has largely curbed freedom of expression through various orders and used military and police force to block public gatherings.

Ariel images of the housing project for judges, circulated on social media over the past few months, showed construction has carved into the forested foothills of Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep mountain, inciting public anger.

The police estimated over a thousand people took part in the protest on Sunday which it said proceeded in an orderly fashion.

“Around 1,250 people took part in the protest,” Police Colonel Paisan, deputy commander of Chiang Mai Police told Reuters.

“The protesters were focused on environmental issues and not politics, and they cleaned the street afterwards,” Paisan said. He said the organizers made a proper request for the gathering beforehand and so the protest was allowed to proceed.

Protesters, many wearing green ribbons, demanded the government demolish the new buildings that encroach into Doi Suthep mountain, saying the government must comply in seven days or face more protests.

Public officials have defended the project, pointing out construction was legal and on state-owned land which does not encroach into the national park that covers the mountain.

Officials also said protesters could face legal action if the housing is demolished and that the homes should be used for 10 years before the public can reassess any environmental impact.

Construction started in 2015 and has faced opposition from local environmental groups who regard the mountain as sacred for Chiang Mai and as a “natural lung” for the north’s largest city.

The military government, which has promised to hold an election next year, has faced a growing number of public protests in recent months, including a pro-democracy demonstration in Bangkok last month demanding the military withdraw support for the ruling junta.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-umEditing by Christopher Cushing

Thai environment protesters claim victory in battle over forest housing
Reuters 6 May 18;

CHIANG MAI, Thailand (Reuters) - Environmental activists in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai claimed victory after the country’s military government agreed in talks on Sunday not to use forested land to develop luxury property.

It follows a protest in Chiang Mai last week in which more than 1,000 demonstrators protested against the construction of a government luxury housing project earmarked as homes for judges on land in the foothills of the province’s famous Doi Suthep mountains.

Last week’s gathering was one of the largest since Thailand’s junta took power following a 2014 coup.

It was also one of a growing number of anti-government protests around Thailand, including in the capital Bangkok, that are putting pressure on the military government before a general election planned for early 2019.

Green ribbons symbolizing the environmental movement have appeared in public places in Chiang Mai, including on lamp posts and on cars, over the past week.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha sent Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana, a minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, to Chiang Mai on Sunday to talk to protest leaders.

“We have concluded that no one will be living in this housing estate,” Suwaphan said after a meeting with the activists, adding that the area “will eventually be restored to the forest.”

Decisions on the future use of the land currently under development, which includes 45 houses, will be taken later this week, Suwaphan said, adding that the government will form a committee with activists and representatives from the local community to determine further steps to restore the land.

However, Suwaphan said construction of the homes already under way would have to continue in order for the government to honor its agreement with the construction firm involved.

He added that nobody would live in the finished homes.

Photographs of the construction of a government luxury housing project earmarked as homes for judges on land in the foothills of the province's famous Doi Suthep mountains are on display at an art fair organised by environmentalist groups in Chiang Mai, Thailand May 6, 2018. REUTERS/Panu Wongcha-um
Activists hailed the decision as a victory.

“What we have now is a promise that Doi Suthep forest will be restored,” said Teerasak Roopsuwan, one of the movement’s leaders.

“I think this could be a model for other parts of the country that public projects must not only be legal, but they must also consider local people’s opinions,” Teerasak said.

Sawat Chantalay, a Chiang Mai environmental activist, told Reuters that the activists will continue to organize public events to create awareness about such issues.

“This housing estate is like an open wound that reflects layers of problems Thailand has accumulated over many years,” said environmental activist Wattana Wachirodom.

“But if the government doesn’t fix this then people could rise up,” said Wattana.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um in CHIANG MAI, Thailand;Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Adrian Croft

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