Best of our wild blogs: 10 Aug 18

15 Sep (Sat): R.U.M. mangroves and coastal cleanup
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Ubin Also Instagrammable: 10 AUG - 16 AUG
Wan's Ubin Journal

Spying on ‘old’ giant clams…
Mei Lin NEO

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‘Cacophony’ of mynah birds a headache for some Potong Pasir residents

CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 9 Aug 18;

SINGAPORE — Some residents who live in a few condominiums in Potong Pasir have been putting up with noisy neighbours for the last two years and they cannot do much against the nuisance.

That is because the “troublemakers” are the javan mynahs, a species of small black birds with yellow beaks that are common in Singapore. They go “home” to roost in the trees less than 50m away from the residents’ apartments every evening and create a din.

A 60-year-old resident at Sennett Residences condo, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tay, said that the noise is “horrible” in the mornings and late at night.

“Whenever there is a public announcement from the MRT station nearby, or a driver honks his car horn, that is when it will set off a cacophony (of loud bird calls).”

Mr Tay, who works in the services line, said that he has seen the birds fly together in “big flocks” on several occasions. “It has been troubling my son. We moved in two months ago, and he’s complaining about how the birds wake him up before his alarm every day.”

While Mr Tay has raised the issue to his condominium’s management, he decided against bringing it up to the constituency’s grassroots leaders, saying that his priority is to first settle down in his new neighbourhood.

The disturbance is irritating residents living at two other nearby condos as well, the San Ritz Condominium and the Venue Residences and Shoppes.

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, Member of Parliament (MP) for the Potong Pasir ward, told TODAY that he has received email messages from these residents over the last one-and-a-half years, and he has been “on the ground” speaking to them about the birds.

“The noise is definitely loud, so I understand when my residents say they get woken up before their alarm clocks ring and are not able to hear the sounds from their television sets.”

The innumerable complaints he received led him to file a Parliamentary question, which was addressed by Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Monday (Aug 6).

Mr Wong said that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has worked with the National Parks Board (NParks) to prune the trees to discourage birds from roosting in the neighbouring Upper Serangoon Road area.

The javan mynahs, common in Singapore, go “home” to roost in the trees less than 50m away from the residents’ apartments every evening and create a din. PHOTO: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

AVA also conducted a four-day laser trial in September last year. Laser beams are aimed around the birds to scare them away and disperse them.

However, an AVA spokesperson told TODAY that the method worked only when officers were “present daily” to point the lasers during the time periods that the mynahs returned to roost. “It was also possible that the mynahs would become desensitised to the lasers following repeated application,” she added.

When TODAY visited the area on Tuesday, about 50 birds began to flock to the trees across the Sennett Residences at around 7pm. They began squawking, but the noise started to abate at around 7.30pm. By 7.45pm, it was all over.


Noise from mynahs has been bothering many residents across the island for years. From Clementi to Yishun, Changi Airport to Orchard Road, there have been complaints about the racket and droppings from these and other birds such as crows.

In the case of the shopping belt at Orchard Road, when buildings were redeveloped and trees were cut down, the mynahs had to seek new places to rest.

In various areas and at different times, sonic devices, tree pruning, hot gel applied to tree branches, repellents, lasers and even a hawk on loan from Jurong Bird Park to sacre away the mynahs have been used by the authorities to deter birds from roosting. In areas around Bukit Timah Plaza, for instance, the AVA tried using chemical deterrents.

It is bothersome enough for MPs to raise the matter at parliamentary sessions occasionally. In January this year, Mr Gan Thiam Poh, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, reported on behalf of his constituents that the mynahs were “noisy” and raised the suggestion of planting another species of trees.

In response, Mr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for National Development who was speaking on behalf of Mr Lawrence Wong then, said that “it is not about deploying more and more technology”, adding that no scientific method will deter birds from going back to sources of food.

Using technology may mean extra spending by the town councils managing the housing estates, which means conservancy charges paid by residents would have to be taken into account. In the long run, “it is more cost-effective and durable” to deter “uncivil behaviour”, Mr Koh said then.

For the longest time, the AVA has said that improper food disposal at eating establishments, uncovered rubbish dumps, littering, and irresponsible feeding of birds and stray cats can attract mynahs and strengthen their presence. This was the finding from a study on mynahs that it commissioned previously.

While NParks will continue with regular tree pruning, AVA said that the public can play a part by maintaining the overall cleanliness of their environment and not feed wild birds.


Research data from 2016, published by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which compiles a comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species, estimated the javan mynah population to be 168,000 in the year 2000.

While the species is abundant in Singapore, its numbers have plummeted in neighbouring regions such as Java and Bali in Indonesia, and it is listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN List.

Some residents at the Potong Pasir condos such as Ms Vasmi Priya said that while the birds do “sing” — sometimes “badly” — the noise is bearable and the birds should not be chased away.

“They are birds, and the trees are their homes, too. Honestly, I think the noise from the traffic is much worse,” the 28-year-old housewife said.

Mr Sitoh is aware of this other source of noise pollution and said that he has notified the Land Transport Authority about it and they will continue to work out solutions together.

The noise from traffic was also flagged by residents in the Venue Residences and Shoppes, about 300m away from Sennett Residences. These condos are located close to the Pan-Island Expressway.

As for the mynahs, the AVA said that bird-related issues are “often complex” and there is no standalone solution. It involves the joint efforts of town councils, government agencies and members of the public to mitigate and manage such issues.

It will therefore continue to work with the relevant stakeholders to find effective measures in managing this matter.

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Malaysia: Ban on large-scale oil palm plantations in Sarawak stays

Mohd Roji Kawi New Straits Times 9 Aug 18;

KUCHING: The Sarawak government continues to ban the development of large-scale oil palm plantations in the state, except on communal and NCR (native customary rights) lands.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg said the decision was made three years ago by his predecessor, the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem, fondly known as Tok Nan.

“The move was to protect our forests from further destruction. Thus, we will continue this policy,” he said.

Speaking at the Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad (SPOB) 50th Anniversary Dinner here on Wednesday, Abang Johari urged oil palm industry players to ensure that their plantations are managed in a sustainable manner.

“The policy introduced by Tok Nan remains effective today, as it was among the state’s efforts to conserve the forest and we will prevent any activity that could pose a threat to our natural resources,” he added.

Also present at the celebration were the Sarawak Yang Di-pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud and wife Toh Puan Ragad Kurdi Taib.

SPOB was the first company to develop an oil palm plantation in the state in 1968 and continues to be a pioneer in the industry.

Abang Johari said the state government is also committed to ensuring that 80 per cent of forest reserves are planted with quality logs, which will be the source of raw materials for the timber industry.

“Rain or water catchment areas located in the heart of Borneo will also be extended from 2.1 million hectares to 2.7 million hectares,” he said.

The catchment area could provide an alternative water supply for dams in Bakun, Baleh, Murum and Batang Ai, he added.

Apart from that, the Sarawak government plans to gazette six million hectares as permanent forest estate; while totally protected areas (TPAs) will be increased from 788,000 hectares to one million hectare.

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Indonesia to cap number of visitors to Komodo National Park

Ivany Atina Arbi The Jakarta Post 9 Aug 18;

The government plans to limit the number of visitors to Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara in a bid to maintain the ecosystem’s stability following a fire that razed hectares of savanna in the famous tourist destination.

The park, which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has welcomed a growing number of tourists both from Indonesia and overseas. However, the influx had caused several environmental problems impacting the natural landscape of the park, the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s director general for natural resources and ecosystems, Wiratno, said, adding that the fire was one of them.

Piles of garbage left behind by tourists also caused damage to the national park, he added.

Ministry data show that 10,250 people, 95 percent of them being foreigners, visit the Komodo National Park monthly. That number stands in stark contrast to the 130 people assigned to manage and monitor the park.

“More than 10,000 visitors every month is very much. We will limit it to 5,000 per month, probably,” Wiratno said, adding that he would issue a directorate general decree regulating the matter by the end of this year, after conducting some studies.

Once the new regulation is in effect next year, people planning to visit the park will need to register online, with signups limited by a daily quota.

A fire, allegedly caused by a cigarette tossed by a visitor, burned 10 hectares of the savanna vegetation of Gili Lawa Darat on Aug. 1. The West Manggarai Police has questioned 11 people over the blaze. (rin)

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New Zealand to ban single-use plastic bags

Marty MELVILLE AFP 10 Aug 18;

New Zealand became the latest country Friday to outlaw single-use plastic shopping bags, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying they will be phased out over the next year as a "meaningful step" towards reducing pollution.

New Zealand uses "hundreds of millions" of single-use plastic bags each year, many of which end up harming marine life, Ardern said.

"We need to be far smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start," she said.

"We're phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand's clean, green reputation."

Ardern said her coalition government, which includes the Green Party, was facing up to environmental challenges and "just like climate change, we're taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don't pass this problem to future generations."

Single-use plastic bags are among the most common items found in coastal litter in New Zealand and the environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the decision to outlaw them.

"This could be a major leap forward in turning the tide on ocean plastic pollution and an important first step in protecting marine life such as sea turtles and whales, from the growing plastic waste epidemic," Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Emily Hunter said.

A United Nations report in June said up to five trillion grocery bags are used globally each year, which is nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute.

"If tied together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped around the world seven times every hour" and like most plastic garbage barely any is recycled, said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

The UN said more than 60 countries had introduced bans and levies on single-use plastic items like bags.

But better waste management, financial incentives to change consumers' buying habits and research into alternative materials were needed to make any real change, it added.

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