Best of our wild blogs: 14 Jun 18

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Vanished for decades from Singapore’s shores, jong racing makes a comeback

The Singapore Sailing Federation is out to revive the centuries-old Malay jong boat race - once a common sight here up till the 1970s - in upcoming Pesta Sukan regattas.
Lam Shushan Channel NewsAsia 14 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: It was an unusual sight for spectators at last Sunday’s National Sailing Championships, as six toy-sized, unmanned sailboats raced alongside the regatta dinghies at East Coast Park.

The brightly coloured, wooden-hulled boats called jongs sailed in an exhibition event organised by the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF), as part of efforts to revive the centuries-old Malay tradition of jong racing.

“We want to recognise that this is very much part of Singapore’s history and tradition,” said SSF chief executive Lim Han Ee.

Up to half a century ago, jong racing was popular with children, while their larger manned versions called kolek were sailed by older men around the coastal areas like Katong, Siglap and Pasir Panjang.

Mr Fawzi Nasir, who co-organised the demonstration event, used to sail his family’s kolek around St John’s island where he grew up in the 1960s.

“It’s a dying sport. Since the 1970s we haven’t had these traditional races in Singapore,” said the 48-year-old.

Mr Rohaizan Zain, SSF assistant general manager, said: “Our older staff have memories of these jongs - some used to stay on Pulau Tekong or the other islands, and these are the activities that they lived and grew up with.”

Said Mr Lim: “We’re doing this with the view of bringing it back as a race in the Pesta Sukan - it’s a great way to re-engage the community and welcome new people into the sport of sailing.”

Mr Rohaizan added: “This is also a way to make our young sailors realise that we have deep roots in sailing - these traditional boats originate from here, it’s part of our maritime culture.”


Jongs come in different sizes - from hull lengths of less than a metre, to almost two metres long. The bigger ones could easily be mistaken as a boat meant for man, but jongs are designed to sail on their own, unmanned - meaning every component of the boat has to be carefully adjusted before it is set into the water.

“You need to calibrate the sails and outriggers, and it really takes some skill on reading the wind direction,” said Mr Fawzi.

Unlike a normal sailing dinghy where a sailor leans out from the boat, the jong uses a weighted beam called an outrigger attached to its side. This enables the sails to catch wind, propelling the boat forward without capsizing.

Jongs can reach speeds of up to 8-10 knots - impressive considering these boats are made by hand, and often by islanders with no formal training in boat making.

“It may look very simple but once you get into it you realise that these guys are masters at what they do,” said Mr Lim, an ex-national sailor himself.

Mr Lim only came to know about the sport about a month ago when he brought a team of sailors from Singapore to witness a regatta in Desaru, where almost 200 participants showed up with their jongs.

“It was helluva fun. People were really into their discipline and activity, and I thought, ‘wow, why don’t we have this in Singapore?’” he said.

In other places like the Riau Islands, traditional regattas still take place frequently - and these kampong-versus-kampong competitions attract spectators by the thousands.

Mr Lim says the SSF will start a category for jongs in the next Pesta Sukan Regatta in August.

But looking for participants may not be so easy, said Mr Mazlan Nasir, Mr Fawzi’s brother.

I called all my old-time kampong friends to come for this demo event but no one was interested, and none of them have jongs anymore.

Still, people like Mr Fawzi’s family and Mr Lim have ambitious hopes to revive the sport: “We will start small. All you need is five or six jongs for a race, but if we can get more than 20 participants, that would be a good number.

“We will gauge the interest and if people start coming, they want to buy (jongs) and participate, then it’s a way to grow the community,” said Mr Lim.

Mr Lim also hopes to attract participants from Indonesia and Malaysia in the future.

“It’s one of those things that can easily go into the hundreds. Then it’ll become a regional Southeast Asian event,” said Mr Lim.

Boatmaker Mr Ilol, 58, who came to Singapore from the Riau Islands for the jong demo, said: “I’ve been sailing jongs since I was a kid. In the past we only played it in kampongs, but now I feel very proud that it’s becoming an international sport. It’s part of our Malay culture and we should preserve it.”

Watch CNA Insider’s earlier video, Racing Time And Tide

Source: CNA/yv

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Woman fined S$3,600 after trying to sell illegal wildlife on Carousell

Channel NewsAsia 13 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: A 22-year-old woman has been fined S$3,600 for illegally keeping a civet cat and a red-footed tortoise, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Wednesday (Jun 13).

Desiree Lim was caught after the Animals Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) reported an alleged sale of illegal wildlife on online platform Carousell.

AVA said it then carried out a sting operation with the help of ACRES, and seized a civet cat and a red-footed tortoise, which is a protected wildlife species.

“Further investigations at Lim’s home revealed that she was also keeping a hedgehog and a snapping turtle. This was taken into consideration during sentencing,” said AVA, adding that all the animals seized were placed under the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

It is an offence in Singapore to keep or sell wildlife species and convicted offenders can be fined up to S$1,000.

If the species is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), such as the red-footed tortoise, those convicted can be jailed for up to two years or fined a maximum of S$500,000.

Source: CNA/gs(hm)

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Man fined S$5,000 for smuggling live bird in potato chips tube

Channel NewsAsia 13 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: A 23-year-old man has been fined S$5,000 for illegally importing a White-Rumped Shama into Singapore by hiding it in a tube of potato chips, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a joint release on Wednesday (Jun 13).

Lim Ke Yi had hidden the tube of potato chips in the glove compartment of a Malaysia-registered car he was driving, and was caught at Woodlands Checkpoint on May 27.

Lim did not have a licence issued by AVA for the import of birds. A second charge of failure to ensure that the animal was not subjected to unnecessary suffering was taken into consideration.

The import of animals and birds without a licence is an offence under the Animals and Birds Act. Those convicted may be fined a maximum of S$10,000, jailed up to 12 months, or both.

The ICA said in a Facebook post on May 30 that the bird had been transferred to AVA's care following the discovery.

Animals that are smuggled into Singapore are of unknown health status and may introduce exotic diseases, such as bird flu, into the country, the AVA and ICA said in the release.

"Wildlife are not suitable pets as some may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans and pose a public safety risk if mishandled or if they escape into our dense urban environment. Non-native animals may also be a threat to our biodiversity if released into the environment," the release said.

Source: CNA/aj(hm)

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Indonesia: Scientific evidence needed to support Balikpapan coal pollution claims

N.Adri The Jakarta Post 13 Jun 18;

Business entities, in conjunction with the Indonesian Coal Mining Association (APBI), have said scientific evidence is needed to prove that coal loading and unloading activities have caused pollution in waters off Manggar, Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.

“This is because physically, we know that coal is rock and cannot be dispersed by water,” APBI chairman Eko Prayitno said on Tuesday.

He said coal loading and unloading activities must be conducted offshore because buyers arrived with large cargo vessels with capacities of between 60,000 and 100,000 metric tons. “It is much more effective and efficient for it to be done at sea,” Eko said, adding there was only a small chance coal would fall into the sea.

On June 9, around 200 fishermen from Manggar staged a mass protest by surrounding a coal processing boat in Manggar, around eight miles from shore. They demanded the coal workers cease their loading and unloading activities as it disturbed their fishing.

According to the fishermen, a significant amount of coal had fallen into the sea, and that they were more likely to catch coal than fish or shrimp. “We can only pull in coal now,” said Sakkirang, a 50-year-old fisherman who organized the mass protest. (dpk/ebf)

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Flood damage would double without coral reefs: study

Marlowe HOOD, AFP Yahoo News 13 Jun 18;

Paris (AFP) - Loss of coral reefs around the world would double the damage from coastal flooding, and triple the destruction caused by storm surges, researchers said Tuesday.

Coupled with projected sea level rise driven by global warming, reef decline could see flooding increase four-fold by century's end, they reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Without coral to help absorb the shock, a once-in-a-century cyclone would wreak twice the havoc, with the damage measured in the tens of billions of dollars, the team calculated.

"Coral reefs serve as natural, submerged breakwaters that reduce flooding by breaking waves and reducing wave energy," said Michael Beck, lead scientist at The Nature Conservancy research and environmental group, and a professor at the University of California in Santa Cruz.

"Unfortunately, we are already losing the height and complexity of shallow reefs around the world, so we are likely already seeing increases in flood damages along many tropical coasts," he told AFP.

Not all coral reefs are declining, and reefs can recover from bleaching, overfishing and storm impacts, Beck noted.

"But the overall pattern of signficant losses across geographies is clear."

Much of the world's 71,000 kilometres (44,000 miles) of coastline with shallow reefs -- concentrated in the tropics -- has been decimated by coastal development, sand mining, dynamite fishing and runoff from industry and agriculture.

Coral is also highly sensitive to spikes in water temperature, which have become sharper and more frequent with climate change.

A marine heatwave in 2016, for example, killed off nearly 30 percent of Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef. Damage from yet another bout of destructively warm water in 2017 has yet to be assessed.

Global coral reefs risk catastrophic die-offs if Earth's average surface temperature increases two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, earlier research has shown.

- Undervalued natural assets -

The 196-nation Paris Agreement seeks to cap global warming "well below" that threshold, but the planet has already warmed by more than 1 C.

Combining coastal flooding and economic models, the new study calculated -- country by country -- the value of coral reefs as a barrier against storm-related wreckage.

Globally, seaside flooding is estimated to cause nearly $4 billion dollars (3.4 billion euros) a year in damages.

With the erosion of the top metre (three feet) of coral reefs worldwide, that figure rises to $8 billion, Beck and his colleagues found.

"The topmost living corals will die and can break off very quickly," said Beck.

The countries most at risk from coral reef loss are Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico and Cuba, each of which could avoid $400 million in damage per year if reefs are maintained.

Saudi Arabia, the United States, Taiwan and Vietnam would also become significantly more vulnerable to flooding with severe coral erosion.

"When we consider the devastating impact of tropical storms in just the past few years -- Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Typhoon Haiyan -- the effects would be much worse without coral reefs," Beck said.

The study adds to a growing body of research seeking to calculate the monetary value of assets and services -- long taken for granted -- that Nature provides us for free.

Mangrove forests, for example, also protect against storm surges and serve as nurseries for dozens of aquatic species. They are disappearing at the rate of one-to-two percent per year, scientists say.

Likewise, bee populations that pollinate tens of billions of dollars worth of crops each year are collapsing.

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Rise in global carbon emissions a 'big step backwards', says BP

Coal rebound and slowing efficiency gains in 2017 suggest Paris goals may be missed, says oil firm
Adam Vaughan The Guardian 13 Jun 18;

The renewed upward march of global carbon emissions is worrying and a big step backwards in the fight against climate change, according to BP.

Emissions rose 1.6% in 2017 after flatlining for the previous three years, which the British oil firm said was a reminder the world was not on track to hit the goals of the Paris climate deal.

Renewable power generation grew by 17% last year, led by wind and followed by what BP called “stunning” growth in solar.

But strong economic growth led to above-average energy demand, coal use bounced back in China and efficiency gains slowed down, causing emissions to jump, the company’s annual statistical review of world energy found.

Spencer Dale, the group’s chief economist, said: “At first blush, from an energy transition perspective, these numbers potentially look a bit disappointing.”

The emissions rise was “slightly worrying” and a “pretty big backward step”, he said. “It suggests to me we are not on a path to the Paris climate goals.”

However, the economist said there was an inevitability to the backsliding, because 2014-16 had seen an exceptionally fast shift to greener power sources, led by short-term targets in China.

“I am more worried by the lack of progress in the power sector over the past 20 years, than by the pickup in carbon emissions last year,” he said.

Dale said the power sector, in which BP has a limited presence, should do most of the heavy-lifting when it comes to future emissions cuts.

“It’s frustrating that so much energy is devoted to other bits of the [energy] sector where you get relatively little bang for your buck,” he said, in reference to emissions savings from switching from oil-burning cars to electric ones.

BP said the world’s appetite for oil remained strong, as it grew 1.8% last year.

Production cuts by Opec and Russia had achieved their aim of bringing oil supply and demand back into balance, Dale said.

But he cautioned that oil prices – which recently hit $80 (£60) per barrel but have since fallen back to about $76 – were now so high they were beginning to curb oil demand.

“If we saw oil prices maintain at these levels, that would eat into oil demand,” he said.

BP reported profits up 71% for the first three months of the year, off the back of the resurgent oil price.

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