Best of our wild blogs: 28 May 18

Pesta Ubin begins!
wild shores of singapore

Butterfly of the Month - May 2018
Butterflies of Singapore

American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) @ Upper Seletar Reservoir Park
Monday Morgue

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Biophilic design key to making Singapore a city in a garden

TAN SHAO YEN Today Online 27 May 18;

Having long been known as the Garden City, Singapore has now set its sights on becoming a City in a Garden.

Used to the abundance of plants and trees well integrated into our parks, roads, waterways and even our buildings, when visiting places overseas, many Singaporeans often find it uncomfortable when they are surrounded by the concrete jungle with little green in sight.

Hence, the concept of biophilic design – which seeks to connect or integrate natural elements and living things such as vegetation, flowing water, and sunlight with the built environment - would certainly resonate with many Singaporeans.

But the benefits of biophilic design go beyond aesthetics and it is useful for us to understand how we can promote its wider adoption here.

American biologist Edward O. Wilson first popularised the term “biophilia” in 1984, referring to the idea that humans have an innate attraction to nature and living things.

Singapore has a long history of imbuing our city with nature.

In recent years, specific greening initiatives such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (Lush) 2.0 Programme and the National Parks’ Skyrise Greenery scheme have helped to intensify the integration of greenery with our high density developments.

Biophilic elements may be seen in many of the iconic buildings that make up Singapore’s beautiful skyline.

You may already have noticed that the sophisticated roof of Changi Airport’s Terminal 3, with its light reflective panels and skylights, is designed to evoke an image of a rainforest’s canopy.

Or consider Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, in which the building blocks overlook a central garden and the neighbouring pond and park. At upper levels, balconies are decorated with scented plants; and walls are adorned with cascading greens, creating the impression that the whole hospital is enmeshed in nature.

Many other aspects of biophilic elements can also be found in key attractions such as Gardens by the Bay, education institutions such as The Hive @ NTU, and even commercial facilities such as Solaris in One-North.

Biophilic design is not the same as green design, although the two concepts share some similarities.

In general, green design focuses on the sustainability of a building in terms of safe, effective, and efficient use of resources. Architects and engineers ask questions like “Does this feature contribute to reducing energy and water usage?”, “Is this material safe for the environment?”, “Can we incorporate renewable energy sources to this building?”, and “Can we achieve thermal comfort with natural ventilation instead of air-conditioning?”

Biophilic design compliments green design by incorporating natural elements into buildings, and achieves sustainability in different ways.

The ecosystems that biophilic design introduces can help to improve air quality; provide natural forms of temperature control; channel natural lighting; create spaces for the growing of food; and support urban ecology such as migratory birds and wildlife.

Biophilic design is often also green design, but not all green features can be considered biophilic.

There are many benefits to working or living in a building that connects with nature.

Studies have shown that biophilic elements have positive physical and psychological effects on the inhabitants.

For example, patients in hospital rooms that received natural sunlight needed less pain medication than other patients. A connection with nature is also found to positively impact cognitive performance, and improve concentration, attention as well as perception of safety.

Yet there remain some challenges in promoting biophilic design in Singapore.

Some building owners or developers might think that it is purely about aesthetics, and question the cost and necessity of such features.

Others are concerned about the maintainability of the building, since live plants and flowers must be constantly tended to.

Some only want the greenery, but not the creatures they attract.

For architects and designers, the process of biophilic design therefore often involves educating clients and the users.

Beyond this, there is a need to also help Singaporeans understand and embrace the value of biophilic design.

After all, biophilic design and Singapore’s City in a Garden ambitions are inextricably linked.

Architects and urban planners will also have to continue to keep themselves updated about this relatively new field of design.

Google, for example, has been testing the effect that biophilic features - such as natural light, plants, terraces, water features, and even sunshine-simulating full-spectrum light – have on employees in its American offices.

Such studies would certainly contribute to the body of knowledge for biophilic design.

This is an exciting time, and I look forward to seeing how our built environment and city will continue to evolve and become ever “greener” – both metaphorically and physically.


Tan Shao Yen is President of Board of Architects and the CEO of CPG Consultants.

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Malaysia: Protect the environment, Dr M urged

The Star 28 May 18;

PETALING JAYA: A collective of 17 conservation groups and personalities, including celebrity Maya Karin, has written to the Prime Minister, calling for stronger protection of the country’s environment and natural resources.

It includes, among others, World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia), Danau Girang Field Cen­tre, Malaysian Nature Society, Wa­­ter Watch Penang and the Society of Conservation Biology-Malaysia Chap­­ter.

The letter dated May 24 was written in the wake of an online petition initiated by the group, which garnered over 28,000 signatures within 10 days after it was put up on May 13 on

The petition called upon the Prime Minister and the new Paka­tan Harapan Government to maintain and strengthen a dedicated environmental portfolio within the Cabinet.

The group also asked Dr Mahathir to choose a minister with “genuine interest in protecting the environment” to head the portfolio.

In the letter, the group said Malaysians were concerned about the declining state of the country’s natural environment, which included forests, highlands, coral reefs, rivers, mangroves, seagrass, ocean and all wildlife.

“This ecosystem provides valuable servi­ces such as clean water, fresh air, sources of protein, medicine, recreation and many more,” said the group, adding that it was crucial in supporting the people’s livelihood and general well-being.

While Malaysia is considered among the top 17 countries with a rich biodiversity and is well known for its natural beauty, the group said protecting and managing this was a “huge and challenging task”.

“Most developed countries have a dedicated ministry which is responsible for helping their countries achieve international commitments,” it said.

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Malaysia: Hundreds of fish found dead in one of Sandakan's raw water sources

Stephanie Lee The Star 27 May 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Hundreds of dead fish were seen along the Segaliud River in Batu Sapi in Sandakan on Sunday, causing a foul stench to linger in the area.

Segaliud River, like the Kinabatangan River nearby, is a source of water supply to Sandakan and its surrounding areas.

It is believed that effluent discharged by plantation mills in the area polluted the river and caused this.

Villagers there claim that the river water quality has declined seriously which could impact the supply to Sandakan and Batu Sapi.

Batu Sapi MP Datuk Liew Vui Keong was in the area to see the situation for himself after receiving complaints from villagers.

"I could smell the stench from the dead fish along the river when I got there. It appears they have been dead for at least three days," he said in a statement.

He said villagers who live along the river say its waters are heavily polluted with pesticides, fertiliser and from plantations, plus waste effluent from palm oil mills as well as sediment from logging.

Liew said a police report had been lodged by the village head who claimed that there are five mills nearby which were discharging effluent into the river.

He also said that this was a recurring incident, which continued even after some of the owners had previously been fined by the courts.

Liew said he will take the matter up to the Agriculture and Food Industries as well as the Health and Well-being ministries for further action.

"We will also consider taking legal action against the offenders," he said.

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Indonesia: Dugong sellers thwarted in West Sulawesi

The Jakarta Post 27 May 18;

A fisherman named Safaruddin was about to go out to sea on Saturday when he reportedly found the body of a dugong on Garassi beach in Nepo village, Wonomulyo district, Polewali Mandar, West Sulawesi.

According to his account, there were wounds all over the protected animal’s 2.5-meter-long body. He alleged that the dugong was killed by poachers.

“It was already dead when I found it. This is the third time we have found a dugong body around here,” Safaruddin said as reported by on Sunday.

When Polewali Mandar Water Police officers went to the scene to remove the dead creature, some local residents had reportedly stolen it. They had reportedly cut the body into pieces and planned to sell it on Battoa island.

However, the police thwarted their attempt, arrested the culprits and seized the dugong body as evidence.

Dugongs are listed as endangered in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). (vla)

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Thailand: Coral bleaching found off Phuket

The Thaiger The Nation 27 May 18;

The marine ecology division of the Marine Biological Centre has reported on research about coral bleaching in the areas around Phuket.

The first stage of coral bleaching has been found in some areas around Koh Payu (Ao Kung area), Koh Maithon, Koh Aew and Koh Hey. In some areas in the seas where the research was conducted the water temperature has reached 31 degrees Celsius.

The report says that coral has started to bleach since late April this year.

The Marine and Coastal Researcher and Development Institute have issued a warning to closely follow up on the phenomenon.

Some coral in the Koh Aew area is damaged while around Koh Maithon coral is still plentiful. The report says that coral colour saturation of about 5% to 10% has been lost. Most of the coral species affected are Porites Coral.But the report also says that Acropora Coral, Pocillopora Coral and Montipora Coral appear to be in normal condition whilst they’ll be closely watched to see if there’s any change. The researchers believe the cause of the coral colour drop is an increase of water temperatures in the area since April.

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Hong Kong: Massive beach clean-up for sea turtles

AFP Yahoo News 27 May 18;

More than two thousand volunteers hit the beach on an outlying island of Hong Kong for a mass rubbish clean up Sunday as environment campaigners warned plastic is killing sea turtles and other wildlife.

There has been increasing concern over the amount of rubbish in Hong Kong waters which washes up on its numerous beaches. Authorities and environmentalists have pointed the finger at southern mainland China as the source.

Last year, a massive palm oil spillage from a ship collision in mainland Chinese waters clogged Hong Kong beaches.

But there is evidence that Hong Kong is also to blame. In 2016, local media reported that syringes and medical waste washed ashore from clinics in the city.

Sunday's clean-up took place on Shek Pai Wan, near Sham Wan -- known as "Turtle Cove" — on Hong Kong's Lamma Island.

Sham Wan is one of the few regular sea turtle nesting grounds in southern China and is closed to visitors from June to the end of October, but campaigners said no nests have been recorded in the area in the past six years.

"Turtles aren't making it to the beach to lay eggs," said Aquameridian campaigner Sharon Kwok, adding that turtles are dying, ending up tangled in nets, hit by high-speed boats and ships, and most often, because of trash ingestion.

"Turtles are mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish and eating them," said Kwok, explaining they are incapable of throwing them up as they have barbs in their mouths.

Volunteers gathered dozens of bags of trash including drinking straws, forks and spoons, polystyrene, toothbrushes and plastic bags on the sandy beach.

With much of the plastic waste broken into small pieces, participants needed to use sifters to pick them out.

"From a far distance it looks like it is just normal stones and pebbles, but if you look closer, there's actually quite a lot of small plastics, and turtles can easily think that is food," said 14-year-old volunteer Tommy Tsui.

This year seven green turtles have already washed ashore in Hong Kong according to Kwok, but environmentalists believe more have died and their carcasses have sunk.

Campaigners are urging the government to expand the "restricted area" around Sham Wan, extending it beyond the dry-sand beach which is already protected to the rocky shoreline as well as the shallow waters of the bay.

"I hope that they can expand the restricted area further along the sea and the survival rate of turtles will be higher," said 13-year-old volunteer Caitlin Chiu.

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