Best of our wild blogs: 31 May 18

1 Jun: Registration opens for Chek Jawa intertidal walks in July 2018
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

10 Jun (Sun): Balik Chek Jawa
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

24 Jun (Sun): FREE Ubin mangroves fun with R.U.M.
Pesta Ubin 2018

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Endangered whale shark fins found in Singapore Airlines shipment to HK

Reuters 30 May 18;

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Shark fins from endangered species including the giant, placid whale shark were found in a Singapore Airlines shipment to Hong Kong in May, highlighting the widespread challenges the Chinese territory faces in regulating the trade.

The 980 kgs (2,150 pounds) shipment of assorted fins came from Colombo, Sri Lanka via Singapore. Singapore Airlines, which bans shark fin cargo, said in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the shipment had been labeled as “Dry Seafood”.

Hong Kong permits imports of shark fins, viewed as a delicacy, but shark species listed by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) must be accompanied by a permit.

Hong Kong is the world’s largest trading hub for shark fins and has moved to stop illegal trading.

On the fringes of the former British colony’s industrial Western district where the Singapore Airline’s shipment was sent to, warehouses brim with bags of shark fins while dried seafood stores are stacked high with the product.

Gary Stokes, Asia director at Sea Shepherd, who discovered the endangered fins within the shipment, said: “This is another case of misleading and deceiving. The shipment came declared as ‘dried seafood’ so didn’t flag any alarms.”

Singapore Airlines said it had sent out a reminder to all its stations to immediately conduct sampling checks on shipments labeled ‘dried seafood’ and had blacklisted the shipper. The airline was not able to provide further details.

A Sea Shepherd investigation last year revealed that Maersk, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Australia Cargo, which ban transport of shark fins, were targets of shark fin smuggling including those from endangered species.

Viewed as a status symbol, shark fin is typically consumed in a shredded jelly like soup believed to have nourishing benefits. Restaurants across Hong Kong serve the delicacy, including one of the biggest chains, Maxims, which is half-owned by a unit of conglomerate Jardine Matheson Group.

Over 70 million sharks are killed annually, pushing over a quarter of species into extinction according to WWF.

Despite activists helping to dent the volume of shark fins coming into Hong Kong by 50 percent over the past 10 years, illegal supply has continued to boom with the government seizing thousands of kilograms including those from threatened hammerhead and oceanic white tip sharks.

Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Michael Perry

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Man caught smuggling live bird in potato chips tube via Woodlands Checkpoint

Ng Huiwen Straits Times 31 May 18;

SINGAPORE - A 23-year-old Malaysian man was caught smuggling a live bird inside a potato chips tube via the Woodlands Checkpoint on Sunday (May 27).

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that officers found the tube - which was labelled as seaweed flavoured - hidden in the glove compartment of a Malaysian-registered car.

The case has been referred to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority for further investigations, with the bird currently under its care, ICA said.

In its post, ICA said that the health status of smuggled animals is unknown and that importing them into Singapore without a licence could introduce exotic diseases, such as avian influenza, to the country.

AVA also took to its Facebook page to remind travellers not to bring live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit.

The public can visit AVA's website at or download its mobile app SG TravelKaki for more information.

"Our borders are our first line of defence in safeguarding Singapore's security," ICA said.

It added that it will continue to conduct security checks on passengers and vehicles at checkpoints to prevent attempts to smuggle in undesirable people, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contraband items.

Anyone convicted of smuggling animals or live birds into Singapore may be jailed for a year, fined up to $10,000 or both.

Man caught smuggling live bird in potato chips tube
Channel NewsAsia 31 May 18;

SINGAPORE: A 23-year-old man was caught on Sunday (May 27) for smuggling a live bird he had hidden in a potato chips tube.

The Malaysian national, who had placed the container in the glove compartment of the car he was driving, was caught at Woodlands Checkpoint, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

The man has been referred to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the bird is under AVA's care, ICA said.

Smuggling animals with unknown health statuses may introduce exotic diseases such as avian influenza, ICA said. Those who import animals and live birds without a licence may be fined for up to S$10,000 and/or jailed for up to a year under the Animals and Birds Act.

"Our borders are our first line of defence in safeguarding Singapore’s security," ICA said.

"The ICA will continue to conduct security checks on passengers and vehicles at the checkpoints to prevent attempts to smuggle in undesirable persons, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contrabands," it added.

Source: CNA/na(hm)

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New substation in Pasir Panjang to be built below ground, to free space in land-scarce Singapore

ASYRAF KAMIL Today Online 30 May 18;

SINGAPORE — Utility provider SP Group will be building Singapore’s first 230kV underground substation at the former Pasir Panjang Power District, as part of the country’s push to locate supporting infrastructure underground.

Announcing this on Wednesday (May 30), National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that the underground substation will be integrated with a new commercial building on top of it.

“We are in the process of drawing up plans to rejuvenate the area, and this additional space will mean that there are more opportunities for development,” he said at the launch of the Underground: Singapore’s Next Frontier exhibition in URA Centre.

The old Pasir Panjang Power Station was decommissioned in 1987. In terms of maximising the use of subterranean space, setting up the underground facility will free up three hectares of land above ground, which is about the size of three football fields.

Mr Wong noted that there are “many more substations, storage facilities and transport infrastructure all over Singapore” and the priority is to locate these below ground.

“If we combine all of that and progressively locate many of these facilities underground, there is tremendous potential for us to start thinking about the possibilities for future development.”

He added that Singapore started using more of its underground space decades ago “with underground utility cables, and water and sewage pipes”, as well as building South-east Asia’s first underground cavern for oil storage and the world’s most advanced underground ammunition facility.

However, there is “still much more” to explore in this “new frontier”. “We are still far from maximising the potential of underground space in Singapore,” he said.

By next year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will release the 3D Underground Master Plan for selected pilot areas. It will show what is already in the ground, what could be built in the future, and the regulations and requirements for industry.

“With an accurate 3D map, we can look at safeguarding underground space for future use... We can also plan more holistically for aboveground and underground possibilities, to ensure they are compatible, integrated and seamless,” Mr Wong said.

He reiterated that the Government does that have any plan to locate residential spaces below ground. Instead, with supporting infrastructure underground, it helps to “free up surface land for more homes, more amenities, and more green spaces – things that matter to Singaporeans, and that can improve the quality of life for everyone”, he added.

In studying how England, Finland and Japan go about planning the use of underground spaces in their cities, Mr Wong said that apart from harnessing 3D technology, there is also the need to get accurate information and data. This means access to geological data, utility plans and building records.

To help industry players in this area, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) will launch a centralised, one-stop portal for all underground utility plans by the end of this year. The Integrated Land Information Service website will allow engineers or construction firms, for example, to buy underground plans.

From July this year, the SLA and the Building and Construction Authority will be putting up geological information collected from government projects on the website. Such data will be freely available as a reference for site investigation and construction works.

To facilitate the expansion of Singapore’s underground network, the Government is on the lookout for partners with specialised expertise from all fields, Mr Wong said. “We are even prepared to look at providing funding support for (research and development) and feasibility studies, to support innovative ideas that make full use of technologies to push the boundaries of underground space.”

Singapore's largest underground substation to be built at Pasir Panjang
Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 30 May 18

SINGAPORE: Singapore will build its largest underground substation yet, with the capacity to power more than two public housing towns when completed by 2025. Building the substation underground will free up three hectares - or more than three football fields of space - of land.

SP Group will construct the 230kV underground substation, which will have a commercial development sitting on top of it, on the site of the former Pasir Panjang Power District, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Wednesday (May 30), at the launch of an exhibition showcasing Singapore’s underground projects.

“We are in the process of drawing up plans to rejuvenate the area so that additional space that’s freed up by pushing the substation underground means there are more opportunities for redevelopment,” said Mr Wong.

“This is just for one substation. And we have many more substations, storage facilities and transport infrastructure all over Singapore.

"So if you combine all of that, and progressively locate many of these facilities underground, there is tremendous potential for us to start thinking about the possibilities for future developments.”

The new development will sit on the same compound as the Pasir Panjang Power Station, which was decommissioned in 1987.


A 3D Underground Master Plan is also being developed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and will be unveiled for selected pilot areas by 2019.

The master plan will allow the authorities to plan for both “aboveground and underground possibilities, to ensure that they are compatible and seamless”.

“The map will show what is already there in the ground, what we plan to build in the future, and the regulations and requirements for industry,” said Mr Wong. “All this can be updated whenever things change on the ground.”

He also emphasised that the Government has no plans to build homes underground.

“Some people have asked if we're planning for homes to be located underground in the future. Let me be very clear that we have no intention of putting residential homes underground,” said Mr Wong.

Instead, the master plan’s priority will be to locate supporting infrastructure underground, such as utilities, storage facilities and transport infrastructure. The Government is also “actively looking” to have common services tunnels in growth areas such as the Jurong Lake District, Mr Wong said.

To provide more accurate data to facilitate underground development, a centralised platform collating different types of information for underground planning will also be made available.

Industry players will be able to purchase them from the Singapore Land Authority’s Integrated Land Information Service, which will serve as a one-stop portal for all utility plans.

Geological information collected from government projects will also be shared on the platform from July this year.

Source: CNA/ec(hm)

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Malaysia: Sun bear cubs and other wildlife infants openly sold online

fatimah zainal The Star 30 May 18;

KOTA KINABALU: From sun bear cubs and tapir calfs to slow loris and hornbills, the illegal wildlife trade is booming online and must be stopped, said wildlife biologist Dr Wong Siew Te.

Dr Wong, who found many such businesses brazenly operating on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, said it was sad that such illegal activities were still widespread in Malaysia.

Despite these sales being illegal under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, hundreds of juvenile protected animals are still being killed, captured and sold as pets and for individual profits, said Dr Wong.

Dr Wong, who is known for his studies on the sun bear and for founding the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan, was shocked to discover sun bear cubs being sold online.

One Instagram page had more than 500 posts advertising protected infant animals for sale.

“The protected wildlife species that are sold include the calfs of the highly endangered Malayan tapir, sun bear cubs, infant gibbons, infant leaf monkeys, slow loris, leopard cat kittens, juvenile raptors, hornbills, civets, and more.

“All of these protected wildlife infants possibly had their mothers killed by illegal poachers in order to obtain these infants,” he said.

On the BSBCC Facebook page, Dr Wong on Wednesday (May 30) shared a video he found on the Instagram page which was advertising a sun bear cub for sale.

It showed a man bottle feeding milk to the cub.

“The sun bear is a totally protected species in West Malaysia and Sabah, and protected species in Sarawak.

“No one is allowed to sell, to kill, to keep, and to possess any body parts of sun bears,” Dr Wong wrote in his post accompanying the video.

Since the online business is being conducted in the peninsula, Dr Wong had reported the matter to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) which told him that the matter will be investigated.

He said the discovery of sun bear cubs being sold online comes just two weeks after BSBCC celebrated Sun Bear Day on May 16, which was aimed at raising public awareness on the protection and conservation of sun bears.

“If we keep quiet and choose to do nothing, soon our forests will be empty,” he said.

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Thailand: Dead or alive, search for whale shark continues off Phuket

Eakkapop Thongtub Phuket News 21 May 18;

PHUKET: The director-general of the Department Of Marine And Coastal Resources (DMCR) has confirmed that they will continue to search for another five days for the whale shark seen on video strung up on a fishing boat between Koh Hei and Koh Racha, south of Phuket, last Friday (May 18).animals, crime, military, marine, transport,

However, it is still unclear whether the whale shark, which are listed as endangered, actually classed as 'vulnerable to extinction' and protected in Thai waters with a ban on fishing all whale sharks, was dead or alive when it was put back into the sea.

Speaking to The Phuket News yesterday (May 20), DMCR director-general Jatuporn Buruspat said, “We are very concerned about Thailand’s marine life after finding out about the whale shark caught off Phuket on May 18. This is disgusting behaviour.

“We will keep looking for this whale shark as we have yet to find any trace of it. If we can’t find the whale shark floating in the sea in next five days we will presume it is still alive.

“If we do find it dead then we will next have to recover the body to find the cause of death,” Mr Jatuporn explained.

Following the video being released on social media on Friday, the Royal Thai Navy at 9:30am on Saturday (May 19) went to Seang Arun Pier in Rassada Pier to search for the boat seen on the video with the whale shark strung up.

A The Phuket News reporter joined the search with navy officials and was told that a crew member of the “Aqua” dive boat saw the incident and shouted out to the crew of the fishing boat until they eventually released it back into the sea.

It was believed that the whale shark was dead, The Phuket News reporter was told.

Chief of Staff of the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command Adm Pichet Tanaset led the inspection at Seang Arun Pier and confirmed that it was the “Sang Samut 3” fishing vessel that was seen in the video with the whale shark.

Both the Sang Samut 3 and Sang Samut 2 were apprehended at the pier and the captain of the Sang Samut 3 was immediately taken to Chalong Police Station for questioning.

“Somsamai Meejom is the captain of the boat. He has been taken for questioning at Chalong Police Station,” Adm Pichet confirmed.

“The Department of Fisheries and DMCR Phuket office are currently looking into the incident and they will decide whether they believe Mr Somsamai’s is guilty of committing any crime.

“If they believe that he has then he will be charged accordingly. I expect the penalty against him to be very serious,” Adm Pichet said.

Mr Jatuporn added, “I don’t want any incident like this to happen again. If anyone has any information regarding damage to marine life, please inform the DMCR.

“I have also asked the tourist police at Royal Thai Police in Bangkok to support us as they can help to inform tourists about laws regarding protected marine life.”

Ban sought on otter trawling after whale shark snared off Phuket
PRATCH RUJIVANAROM The Nation 23 May 18;

AN ONLINE petition campaigning for a ban on a form of fishing was launched yesterday after an endangered whale shark was caught by a trawler in the waters off Phuket last Friday.

Piya Thedyam, creator of the campaign on for ending the use of so-called otter trawls, emphasised that the marine ecosystem, biodiversity and seafood sustainability of Thai seas were in great danger as long as this destructive fishing equipment was still allowed to operate in Thai waters.

For these reasons, Piya started seeking signatures for the online petition to Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach in an effort to preserve the marine ecosystem, ensure the survival of rare aquatic animal species, and promote sustainable fishing, as the otter-trawlers had just proven the harm they were doing to marine life by snaring the whale shark in their nets off the coast of Phuket.

“I would like to use the case of this whale shark to motivate the fishermen, seafood lovers, and all people to show solidarity in protecting our beloved oceans, marine animals and our sources of seafood by signing the petition to criminalise [otter] trawling and come up with high penalties for using this destructive fishing equipment,” he said.

“If we still allow these trawlers to operate freely in the sea, we may witness rare aquatic animals such as whale sharks or sea turtles become the next victims, while the very fine net of the trawls will scoop up anything in their path, including juvenile fish, cutting down the reproduction cycle, until there are no fish left for us in the sea,” he added.

The petition is open for signatures at

Whale shark a wake-up call
Bangkok Post

The fate of an unlucky whale shark -- believed to be pregnant -- that became entangled in a Thai fishing trawler's nets about a fortnight ago remains unknown.

What we do know is the 7-tonne fish was drawn onto the boat, which is a big no-no for any fishermen who accidentally catch such a rare and protected species.

The story made headlines when a diver shared a clip he made after accidentally encountering the trawler, Sang Samut 3, near an island off Phuket on May 18.

From the clip, which angered many members the Thai public, the creature was in dire straits as she was non-responsive and her skin had lost its shininess, as she was seen tied to the trawler's mast. Considering her injuries, some academics said she had zero chance of surviving.

The crew finally released her back into the ocean -- after the group of divers complained vigorously about the situation -- and she has not been seen since.

As expected, the story drew a knee-jerk reaction from Thai authorities.

A frantic search for the whale shark by the Marine and Coastal Resources Department has also apparently failed. It filed charges against 17 people aboard the trawler and temporarily suspended its operations pending the results of an ongoing investigation.

In a bid to defend himself and those on board, the captain claimed neither he nor his crew had the faintest idea there was a 7-tonne fish trapped in its net.

If they had, they would never have hauled it up, he said, but conservationists remain sceptical.
In a media interview, Jatuporn Buruspat, head of the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, said the actions of the trawler crew were not acceptable.

"I was shocked to see the picture [of a whale shark being dangled from the mast]. I don't want to believe fishermen would dare commit such an act," he told the media.

The official said the crew had breached several laws, overseen by his agency and the Department of Fisheries.

If found guilty, they could face a fine of between 300,000 baht and 3 million baht and quite possibly have to serve a jail term.

Mr Jatuporn, while citing the need to improve local conservation efforts, also mentioned the restrictions his agency faces in such tasks.

More importantly, Mr Jatuporn admitted that improper fishing methods are a major cause of deaths and injuries of rare, endangered species like dolphins and other aquatic life in Thai waters.

At least one sea cow and two dolphins have washed up on Thai beaches in the first five months of this year, and all three deaths were linked to fishing operations.

The female whale shark is merely the latest and possibly the saddest example of this scourge given how brutally she was treated.

The creature would have had a higher chance of survival if the crew had not breached the code of conduct for responsible fisheries and immediately released her back into the sea.

At the very least, this should serve as a wake-up call.

The crew members, particular the captain of the Sang Samut 3, deserve the maximum punishment available. This would set an example for others.

Meanwhile the Coastal and Marine Department, as well as the Department of Fisheries, need to streamline their efforts, close all loopholes, and strengthen the ability of local groups to carry out conservation efforts.

Public education about the need to save endangered species is also necessary.

And priority must be given to make sure such a sad incident as this is not repeated.

The news of the whale shark also comes at a crucial time.

Thailand will join the rest of the international community in celebrating Ocean Day in a few weeks' time under the theme of "Healthy Oceans, Healthy Lives".

But the country will have little to celebrate if such issues as these are not quickly addressed.

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Japanese hunters kill 120 pregnant minke whales during summer months – report

Conservationists call for end of ‘abhorrent’ whaling programme, which Japan argues is conducted for scientific purposes
Daniel Hurst The Guardian 30 May 18;

More than 120 pregnant whales were killed during Japan’s annual “research” hunt in the Southern Ocean last summer, a new report has revealed.

Of the 333 minke whales caught during the controversial 12-week expedition, 181 were female – including 53 immature ones. Figures show that of the 128 mature female whales caught in the hunt, 122 were pregnant.

“Apparent pregnancy rate of sampled animals was high (95.3%) and no lactating animal was observed in this survey,” said a technical report submitted to the International Whaling Commission.

Conservationists seized on the document as further evidence of the “abhorrent” whaling programme, which Japan argues is conducted for scientific purposes.

“The killing of 122 pregnant whales is a shocking statistic and sad indictment on the cruelty of Japan’s whale hunt,” Alexia Wellbelove, a senior program manager at Humane Society International, said in a statement.

“It is further demonstration, if needed, of the truly gruesome and unnecessary nature of whaling operations, especially when non-lethal surveys have been shown to be sufficient for scientific needs.”

In 2014, the international court of justice ordered a temporary halt to the annual slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean, finding that the Japanese programme known as Jarpa II was not for for scientific purposes.

But Japan resumed whaling in the region two years later under a revamped whaling plan, that included reducing its catch quota to about a third.

“Research effort began 60 minutes after sunrise and ended 60 minutes before sunset, with a maximum 12 hour per day,” said the report, prepared by representatives of the Institute of Cetacean Research – a whale research agency that is associated with Japan’s fisheries ministry. It was co-written with authors from the fisheries processing company Kyodo Senpaku and Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

“One or two minke whales were sampled randomly from each primary sighted school using harpoons with a 30g penthrite grenade,” it said, referring to an explosive material.

“Sampled whales were immediately transported to the research base vessel, where biological measurements and sampling were carried out.”

The report said 11 targeted whales managed to get away before being hit, mainly because they had moved into an area where sea ice was dense.

Wellbelove called on Australia and other anti-whaling countries to send “the strongest possible message to Japan that it should stop its lethal whaling programs”.

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