Baby pangolin rescued 2 years ago released into the wild

Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE: An abandoned pangolin rescued by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) almost two years ago was released back into the wild on Tuesday (Sep 18), becoming Singapore's first ever case of a baby pangolin being hand-reared and rehabilitated for release.

Named after the Pokemon character Sandshrew, the pangolin was found weak, hungry and alone in the Upper Thomson area, and sent to the Wildlife Health and Research Centre in January 2017.

At the time of its rescue, the 1.5-month-old pangolin weighed 522 grams and would not have survived in the wild as it was still dependent on his mother.

After it was rescued, Sandshrew's carers bottle-fed it with milk replacer until it could be weaned. When it was old enough to forage, its carers would look for natural food sources so that Sandshrew could learn how to eat live prey and get used to the occasional insect bite.

Almost two years on, Sandshrew has grown to 6.4kg.

On Tuesday, it was taken by WRS and the National Parks Board (NParks) to an undisclosed location, where it will remain for about 10 days in an enclosure. The gate of the enclosure will be left open for it to leave voluntarily.

A radio tracking device attached to one of Sandshrew’s scales will allow its movements in the wild to be monitored. It will also be watched 24 hours a day to see how it is adapting to life in the wild.

"Being the first of its kind, the delicate operation could open up opportunities to develop protocols for future rescue and rehabilitation efforts for the species as a whole," WRS and NParks said in a release.

The update on Sandshrew's rehabilitation was provided by Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who also launched a national conservation and strategy action plan for Sunda Pangolin conservation in Singapore for the next 50 years.

The Sunda pangolin is critically endangered in the region – and is the world’s most widely trafficked mammal.

Among the five goals in the plan include gathering and sharing information on the animal, ensuring a self-supporting population of pangolins and establishing wildlife-conscious urban planning policies and measures.

“In 2009, Night Safari Singapore became the first zoological institution to display the Sunda Pangolin and later to breed the species under human care but this alone is not enough. To save this iconic animal, we need to work together on a comprehensive and coordinated plan,” said Mr Mike Barclay, Group CEO of Mandai Park Holdings.

Mr Desmond Lee added: "I hope we put this plan earnestly into action and also involve many Singaporeans in wildlife monitoring, bring young children on board through citizen science.

"Allow them to use technology to help participate in wildlife count and use the Sunda Pangolin and other wildlife as icons that we can find in our school textbooks and pre-school material and allow them to get a better feel of wildlife that inhabit this island."

Source: CNA/zl(aj)

Rescued baby pangolin set for return to the wild; national plan launched to protect critically endangered creatures
LOW YOUJIN Today Online 18 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE – Weighing just above 500g, the tiny Sunda Pangolin was barely a few months old when it was found stranded and alone around the Upper Thomson area in January last year.

Today, Sandshrew the pangolin has grown to a robust 6.4kg, thanks to the staff at the Wildlife Reserves Singapore's (WRS) Wildlife Health and Research Centre.

It embarked on its journey back into the wild on Tuesday (Sept 18) with a transfer to a soft-release enclosure. WRS staff will eventually leave the enclosure's gate open for it to leave voluntarily.

Sunda pangolins like Sandshrew – named after a Pokemon character – will receive better protection in future with the launch of the Sunda Pangolin National Conservation Strategy and Action Plan on Tuesday.

While the critically endangered species is believed to be breeding in the wild in Singapore, its numbers are not known.

The plan aims to gather information on its status and ensure its wild population in Singapore is viable through habitat protection and connectivity. It also aims to develop successful rescue, rehabilitation and release strategies.

By June next year, for instance, the Singapore Pangolin Working Group aims to consolidate data from camera traps to establish where the insect-eating scaly mammal can be found, and its estimated numbers in nature and military areas.

By August next year, it aims to complete an unbiased study on pangolin roadkill hotspots. Past research suggests roadkill is most likely the major threat to the pangolin in Singapore. In March this year for instance, a leopard cat, Sunda pangolin and sambar deer were found as roadkill in Mandai near works to build new attractions, leading nature enthusiasts to call for project developer Mandai Park Development to take more preventive measures.

By mid-2020, the group wants to establish a tracking protocol for pangolins using GPS tags, Very High Frequency and other techniques, among other targets.

A radio tracking device has been attached to one of Sandshrew's scales to allow staff and volunteers to track its movements.

Dr Sonja Luz, WRS' director of conservation, research and veterinary services, said the group also wants to develop protocols to ensure rescued pangolins are well cared for. These can be shared with other wildlife rescue groups in the region.

WRS currently has eight Sunda pangolins – one of eight species in the world – three of which were born in the Night Safari.

The slow-moving nocturnal animal, which curls up in a ball when it feels threatened, is considered to be the world's most trafficked mammal.

Dr Luz estimated that one million pangolins have been poached in the last decade, and said that 20 tonnes of pangolins and their parts are trafficked internationally every year. They are hunted and trafficked for their meat and scales.

While the threat of poaching is low here, it should be preempted, said conservationist N Sivasothi.

One of the immediate priorities, apart from information gathering, is road kill reduction, said Dr Adrian Loo, National Parks Board's group director of conservation.

While it is unclear how many pangolins have been killed by traffic over the years, available data showed most incidents from 2004 to 2017 to be around the central part of the island.

"We are currently working with various stakeholders to better understand where the roadkills are, and to introduce traffic calming measures," said Dr Loo.

NParks recommends that developers near pangolin habitats construct hoardings and engage a consultant to help in animal shepherding, he said.

Culverts, or drains that run beneath the road surface, are the best bet for pangolins' safe passage and studies have shown that they do use it, Dr Loo said.

Habitat enhancement of buffer parks, such as Rifle Range Nature Park, will also go a long way in aiding the survival of the species.

The pangolin conservation plan was first mooted last year when 50 conservationists, including international experts gathered at the Singapore Zoo.

National strategies are also in place for species such as the Singapore freshwater crab and the Raffles banded langur.

Baby pangolin rescued 2 years ago released back into the wild
Jose Hong Straits Times 18 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE - A stranded pangolin taken in by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) has been released back into the wild, almost two years after its rescue as a baby.

Named Sandshrew, it was taken on Tuesday (Sept 18) by WRS and the National Parks Board (NParks) to an undisclosed forest location, where it will remain for up to 10 days in an enclosure.

Observers have attached a radio tracking device to the Sunda pangolin to monitor its movements in the wild, where it will be watched 24 hours a day for up to one month to ensure that it is coping well in the rainforest.

"This is the very first documented case in the world where a hand-reared pangolin is being released back into the wild and tracked," said Dr Sonja Luz, WRS' director of conservation, research and veterinary services.

She said the enclosure location is kept secret to protect the pangolin from poachers, but added: "The thing I'm most worried about is him running onto a street or into the wrong habitat."

Sandshrew, named after a Pokemon character, is a Sunda pangolin, which is critically endangered and one of the world's most widely trafficked animals.

It was rescued in January 2017 when it was just 1½ months old, after it was found alone at a construction site in the Upper Thomson area.

Pangolin rescued 2 years ago as baby released back into the wild

When its rescue was reported in May 2017, WRS said Sandshrew would be released in a matter of months.

Dr Luz said the delay was because WRS had decided that it would track Sandshrew after its release, and that it needed the pangolin to grow large enough to fit the tracking device. The former 500g baby has since grown to a healthy 6kg.

"We also gave him more time for the re-wilding process to disconnect from humans. He's quite feisty now - he runs away from the keepers," she said with a smile.

Also launched on Tuesday was an action plan that laid out the conservation strategy for the Sunda pangolin in Singapore for the next 50 years.

The five goals in the plan include gathering information on the endangered creature, ensuring that it has breeding populations, and establishing wildlife-conscious urban planning policies.

In 2016, there were only an estimated 100 wild pangolins in Singapore, The Straits Times reported last year.

Mandai Park Holdings group chief executive Mike Barclay said: "In 2009, Night Safari Singapore became the first zoological institution to display the Sunda pangolin and later to breed the species under human care, but this alone is not enough."

He said: "We are thus optimistic that the National Conservation Strategy and Action Plan will allow pangolins to co-exist with us in our densely populated city."

Speaking at the launch of the plan, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee talked about including young Singaporeans in conservation.

"I hope that we… use the Sunda pangolin and other native wildlife as icons in our school textbooks and materials to allow young children to get a better feel of what we have on this island," he said.

Read more!

NEA, Alphabet Inc's Verily team up to fight dengue with AI

Cheryl Goh Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency’s (NEA) ongoing effort to suppress the urban Aedes aegypti mosquito population and fight dengue - Project Wolbachia - has received a technological boost.

NEA’s Environment Health Institute (EHI) announced on Tuesday (Sep 18) that it has teamed up with Verily (formerly named Google Life Sciences), the life sciences and healthcare company of US-based Alphabet Inc, to come up with an advanced, more efficient way to sort and release the male Wolbachia mosquitoes for Phase 2 of the field study.

The partnership was announced at the opening of the 5th Singapore International Dengue Workshop on Tuesday.

The sex-sorting technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) to accurately separate the males from the females. NEA currently uses a funnel-type device to separate them since female mosquitoes are larger than males. The AI sorting is less laborious and more accurate.

“Such a technology would prevent accidental release of female mosquitoes, which is important to ensure the effectiveness of the Wolbachia methodology in suppressing the urban Aedes mosquito population,” said NEA deputy chief executive officer Khoo Seow Poh.

Project Wolbachia uses Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes to suppress the Aedes aegypti mosquito population in Singapore. This is done because when male Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes mate with urban female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the eggs spawned do not hatch, resulting in a fall in the overall population.

Project Wolbachia uses Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes to suppress the Aedes aegypti mosquito population in Singapore. (Image: NEA)

Verily has also developed an automated release cart to dispense male Wolbachia mosquitos. It has been specially designed and tailored to fit into the lifts and long and narrow corridors of HDB blocks.

The cart is set to be tested at NEA’s Tampines West study site later this month.

For the trial, two carts will be deployed on the ground level and on higher floors - to ensure that the male Wolbachia mosquitoes are released more evenly.

With more of such male Wolbachia mosquitoes in the environment, there is a higher chance that the existing female Aedes aegypti will mate with them and lay sterile eggs, according to NEA.

Source: CNA/na(mn)

National Environment Agency to mass-produce mosquitoes for dengue control study
Linette Lai Straits Times 18 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE - Cutting-edge technology will be employed to mass-produce mosquitoes to make it easier for scientists to conduct research into ways to control dengue and other diseases.

The boffins need male mozzies, which do not feed on human blood, so they can inject them with a bacterium called Wolbachia.

These males are released and when they mate with females, the bacterium prevents the eggs from hatching, which in turn reduces the number of disease-carrying mozzies.

The Wolbachia study, as it is known, has been underway since 2016 and went up a gear in April with mosquitoes being released on higher floors in HDB blocks and at more frequent intervals.

The limiting factor has been getting enough males but a new initiative involving the National Environment Agency (NEA), local start-up Orinno Technology and Verily, a subsidiary of Google's parent company Alphabet, aims to make the process more efficient.

At present, producing mosquitoes on a large scale is a tedious undertaking.

Researchers have to count batches of larvae by hand and rely on manual methods to sort out males from the larger females, said Associate Professor Ng Lee Ching from the NEA's Environmental Health Institute.

They would then have to manually release batch after batch of mosquitoes at field testing sites.

"It's currently very labour-intensive," Prof Ng said, adding that the process is also subject to human error.

Adult mosquitoes, for example, may be weaker if they were overcrowded as larvae, or females may slip through the sorting process and affect the consistency of field experiments.

Prof Ng added: "If you want good quality mosquitoes, you must have very systemic production."

That is where the new initiative comes in. It harnesses a range of gadgets to inject more efficiency into the laborious process.

Orinno's technology can count 4,000 mosquitoes in three minutes, instead of the two hours a human would take.

And Verily's automated mosquito sex-sorter is hundreds of times more accurate than a human being, said Mr Nigel Snoad, product manager of the firm's Debug Project, which aims to use technology to improve the mosquito-rearing process.

Verily's automated cart is also designed to disperse Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in a controlled manner while navigating narrow Housing Board flat corridors. The cart will be tested in Tampines West later this month in a trial that will end in January.

Mr Snoad added that Verily's technology has already been tested in the United States and Australia with good results, although this will be the first time that it will be used in a highly urbanised environment.

"We had to solve the challenge of how to get it in the lift and across the narrow corridors," he said.

The initiative was announced at the Singapore International Dengue Workshop, which started on Tuesday (Sept 18) and ends next week

NEA deputy chief executive Khoo Seow Poh said at the event: "Dengue has posed an enormous health and economic burden on many countries where resources and expertise are limited.

"This situation underscores the need for greater inter-sectoral collaboration to maximise the resources we have, to build more effective dengue control programmes."

Prof Ng also took the opportunity to give an update on the Wolbachia study, saying that results have been "very promising" so far.

"The overall aim is to see a suppressed population in the community," she said. "We will be monitoring the results, monitoring more data, and we hope to achieve that in the next few months."

Read more!

Sembcorp to supply solar power to Facebook's Singapore operations

Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE: Sembcorp Industries will be powering Facebook's operations in Singapore, including the social media giant's first data centre to be located in Asia, the Singapore utilities company said on Tuesday (Sep 18).

Sembcorp said in a press release that it has signed a 20-year deal with Facebook to supply it with solar energy.

It will be installing panels on close to 900 rooftops in Singapore between the end of this year and 2020 to meet Facebook's renewable energy requirement. The offsite solar panels will total 50 MWp in capacity, it said.

Facebook said on Sep 6 that the Singapore data centre - its first in Asia - is estimated to start operating by 2022. The new facility, to be located at Tanjong Kling in the west of Singapore, will span 170,000 sq m.

Facebook announced on Sep 6, 2018 it will build its first data centre in Asia in Singapore. (Image: Facebook / Mark Zuckerberg)
“This agreement represents our first step towards supporting our Singapore Data Center and local offices with 100 per cent renewable energy," said Mr Bobby Hollis, head of global energy at Facebook.

Sembcorp has more than 2,500 megawatts of wind and solar power projects
across Singapore, China and India, and it plans to double its renewables portfolio and reduce its carbon intensity by around 25 per cent by 2022, the company said.

“As our world moves towards renewables and lower-carbon energy, there is an increasing demand for solutions that enable businesses to achieve growth while managing their impact on the environment.

"Sembcorp is actively working with companies in this, and supporting their efforts towards this dual objective,” said Mr Neil McGregor, group president & CEO of Sembcorp Industries.

Source: CNA/hm(ms)

Read more!

Indonesia: South Sumatra intensifies weather modification technology

Antara 18 Sep 18;

Palembang (ANTARA News) - The Government of South Sumatra Province is currently intensifying Weather Modification Technology (WMT) by sprinkling salt over clouds to prevent widespread land and forest fires.

Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology Chief for Weather Modification Sutrisno remarked here on Tuesday that the implementation of WMT in the context of handling land and forest fires in South Sumatra is still ongoing.

"We continue to work through the Air Task Force to look for clouds that have the potential to bring rain until now," Sutrisno noted.

According to Sutrisno, since September 14, 2018, until this day, the weather conditions are relatively dry, making it difficult for the team to conduct WMT.

"The clouds cannot develop properly, as the conditions are very dry. After cloud seeding, some clouds will form, but at times, they disperse and get evaporated again due to low humidity in the air and dry weather conditions," he noted.

He explained that in contrast to previous days, cloud growth was relatively better, so the team had many choices of spraying salt over clouds.

"The weather conditions have a cycle, and in the past few days, it was quite dry but in the next couple of days, it will likely improve again," he noted.

Based on predictions, such dry weather conditions are expected to occur until the next few days. In such dry conditions, conducting water bombing using helicopters becomes dominant.

Furthermore, Sutrisno said it was estimated that from September 19, 2018, weather conditions would improve again, with a marked cloud growth, so that WMT can yield optimal results.

Earlier, on Monday, forest and land fires occurred in the east cross road of Palembang, Inderalaya, and Ogan Ilir, which was estimated to ravage tens of hectares of land.

Reporting by Dolly Rosana
Editing by Otniel Tamindael

Editor: Otniel Tamindael

Read more!

Indonesia: Wildfire razes part of Mt Sadran forest area

Antara 18 Sep 18;

Ponorogo, East Java (ANTARA News) - A forest area located on the slope of Mount Sadran in Broto Village, Slahung Sub-district, Ponorogo District, East Java, was razed by a wildfire on Monday evening.

The forest area, belonging to the State Forestry Company, Perhutani, was located in West Ponorogo, second inspector Satrio Teguh, spokesman of the Ponorogo Police, stated here, Tuesday.

A joint team, comprising military and police personnel, local fire fighters, and volunteers, immediately rushed to the location to put out the fire on Monday evening, he stated, adding that the fire was successfully extinguished.

The cause of the fire was unknown, but the blaze destroyed at least one hectare area of teakwood forest owned by local farmers and 0.015 hectare of forest area belonging to Perhutani.

The ongoing prolonged drought has caused water shortage in several regions, such as in the provinces of East Nusa Tenggara and West Java, and triggered fires in forest areas, particularly in Kalimantan, Java and Sumatra.

On Java Island, wildfires were earlier reported to have razed forest areas located on the slopes of Mount Sindoro in Central Java Province, Mount Lawu in the border of the provinces of Central and East Java, Mount Argopuro in East Java Province, and Mount Sumbing and in Central Java.

Wildfires on Mount Sumbing, located in Temanggung District, has spread to a wider area, according to Gito Walngadi of the local disaster mitigation office, recently.

On Sunday, the fires were detected in five locations, measuring a total of 490.9 hectares on Mt Sumbing, he stated.

Nearly 170 personnel were deployed to extinguished the fires. A helicopter was also used to assist in the efforts on Monday.

Reporting by Louis Rika/Siswowidodo
Editing by Yosep Hariyadi

Editor: Otniel Tamindael

Read more!