Best of our wild blogs: 23 Jan 17

Ubin with the RUMblers
wild shores of singapore

Changi Creek and Sungei Ubin after the oil spill
wild shores of singapore

Night Walk At Pasir Ris Town Park (20 Jan 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Snubnose Pompano (Trachinotus blochii) @ Changi
Monday Morgue

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Singapore has strict criteria for sand imports, says Government, as controversy over Cambodian imports brews

SIAU MING EN Today Online 23 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE ­— The Republic stopped importing sand from Cambodia after a ban took effect in November last year, said the Ministry of National Development (MND) as the issue of sand imports once again takes the spotlight.

Responding to media queries, the MND also stressed that Singapore sets strict criteria for imports of sand, including on environmental protection, but reiterated that sand is imported on a commercial basis and it is the contractors who must meet the criteria. It also said that Singapore has not come across any illegal shipments of sand here.

In Nov, Cambodian authorities reportedly temporarily halted sand exports by companies that hold valid permits after local activists found discrepancies in the export and import trade data from the United Nations. The data showed that Singapore reported 73.6 million tonnes in sand imports from Cambodia since 2007. Yet the Cambodian government reported that only 2.7 million tonnes left for Singapore.

The extraction and export of Cambodian sand has been controversial, as firms allegedly extract sand in defiance of quotas, destroying coastal mangrove systems in the process and affecting the livelihoods of local fishing communities.

Aside from Cambodia, Singapore also imports sand from the Philippines and Myanmar, according to media reports.

Earlier this month, the Cambodian Daily reported that Mother Nature, a non-governmental organisation, was exploring bringing lawsuits against government agencies and companies involved in sand exports to Singapore.

The MND said the Government does not condone any trade or extraction of sand that breaches the source countries’ laws and regulations, and contractors “must source sand from legally permissible areas, comply with all the environmental protection laws of the source country, and have the proper sand export documentation and permits from the relevant authorities in the source countries”.

On the discrepancy in sand trade figures, the MND spokesperson said they are unable to verify this as the figures reported by various parties and countries are dependent on their own calculation formulas that the ministry is not privy to.

She also noted that Singapore has not encountered instances of smuggled sand, or contractors bringing sand into Singapore carrying fake export permits. “The authorities will investigate any such instances and take enforcement action, if evidence is provided,” she added.

Sand is often used in the construction industry to produce cement or used for land reclamation. According to a 2014 United Nations Environment Programme report, Singapore is the largest importer of sand worldwide.

The volumes of sand imported annually into Singapore vary according to the availability of sand and the requirements of the reclamation and construction projects, said the MND. No figures breaking down the uses of sand in Singapore were available.

Speaking to TODAY, Mother Nature co-founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson said in Cambodia that quotas are on how much sand mining companies can extract, but the companies tend to exceed this as there are no checks and law enforcement.

He also claimed that Cambodian government agencies had “wilfully assisted” these companies by turning a blind eye to violations of regulations or issue documents that do not represent the full amount of sand that was being exported.

The MND said that as sand is not a natural resource in Singapore, it would be “highly challenging” to achieve self-sufficiency. Nonetheless, Singapore has been exploring alternative methods, such as recycling excavated materials from the construction industry to replace a proportion of sand in some reclamation projects, said the spokesperson. The reclamation project in Pulau Tekong will also use a method called empoldering to reduce the amount of sand needed.


Singapore’s sand imports have sparked controversy over the years, with environmental activists pointing to the environmental impact from the extraction process.

Malaysia imposed a ban on sand exports in 1997, but Malaysian media have previously reported instances of sand smuggling, allegedly destined for Singapore.

In 2007, Indonesia announced a ban on the export of land sand to Singapore, citing concerns that sand extraction activities were leading to environmental degradation. At the time, 90 per cent of Singapore’s sand imports came from Indonesia, and the ban sparked a supply crunch, leading to a search for sand from other sources.

Cambodia and Vietnam are also source countries, but in 2009, Cambodia banned the export of sand from rivers, although exports from areas where sand was replenished regularly was still allowed. Vietnam followed suit in the same year.

In 2010, anti-corruption non-governmental organisation Global Witness alleged in a report that the Cambodian government was engaging in corrupt practices and ignoring environmental safeguards against sand dredging, and that Singapore was buying sand unsustainably dredged from the rivers in the Koh Kong Province.

Singapore rejected the allegations, stressing that it requires sand vendors to act responsibly and observe source country regulations.

Strict rules in place for import of sand: Government
Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Jan 17;

Singapore has denied accusations that it illegally imported sand from Cambodia, saying "strict controls" are in place to ensure contractors source sand legally and in line with local environmental rules.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) said the Government does not condone the smuggling of sand or the use of forged export permits - accusations levelled at it by Cambodian environmentalists.

"Thus far, Singapore has not encountered instances of smuggled sand, or contractors bringing sand into Singapore carrying fake export permits," a spokesman for MND said in response to media queries.

In fact, Singapore has ceased importing sand from its neighbour since last November, in compliance with a ban on all sand exports by the Cambodian government, he added.

This superseded a May 2009 partial ban on certain types of sand.

The MND statement comes amid a growing clamour among Cambodian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) accusing Singapore of excessive sand dredging that they say has threatened mangrove swamps, fish stocks and livelihoods.

A discrepancy over just how much sand Singapore has imported also gave rise to charges that the trade enriched local politicians in Cambodia.

Between 2007 and 2015, Singapore recorded 70 million more tonnes of sand from Cambodia than it reported sending over, according to a United Nations database. The MND said it was unable to verify this.

Cambodian NGO Mother Nature has since engaged Singapore lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam to look into whether Singapore has broken any laws "in relation to the social and ecological destruction the mining has caused, or... the government (is) importing Cambodian sand which is tainted by issues of corruption, smuggling, tax evasion etc", its founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson told The Cambodia Daily on Jan 5.

Mr Thuraisingam told The Straits Times he was approached by the NGO earlier this year, but said it was too early to give more details.

In its statement, the MND spokesman stressed that the import of sand from Cambodia is done on a commercial basis, and the Government does not condone any trade or extraction of sand that breaches the source countries' laws.

Contractors must "source sand from legally permissible areas, comply with all the environmental protection laws of the source country, and have the proper sand export documentation and permits from the relevant authorities in the source countries".

He added: "The authorities will investigate any such instances and take enforcement action, if evidence is provided."

When contacted, Singapore Contractors Association Limited president Kenneth Loo said: "Whenever we import it, we do it the correct way - not cowboy style."

Indonesia and Malaysia have previously also banned exports of sand to Singapore, which uses sand for both reclamation and construction.

Previous reports cited Myanmar and the Philippines among Singapore's current suppliers.

Singapore is the world's largest importer of sand, according to the UN Environment Programme.

By 2030, the Government expects to reclaim another 5,200ha - the size of nine Ang Mo Kio towns.

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Malaysia: Hulu Terengganu residents reel from "worst monsoon season in living memory"

BERNAMA New Straits Times 23 Jan 17;

KUALA BERANG: For local residents here who have been hit by three major floods in just one month, this is the worst monsoon season ever experienced in Hulu Terengganu.

Yunoh Arif, 67, from Kampung Tok Lawit, said previously, there were only two waves of floods, but this year, there were three, forcing him to move for the third time on Saturday.

"As far as I can remember, from the time I was a child we have never been hit three times over one month. Twice over one month or two months was normal," he said when met at the Tok Lawit flood relief centre here yesterday.

"It is tiring having to move and shift heavy items to higher ground. And when the floods have receded, there is the massive clean-up.

Fortunately I have my grandchildren to help me," he said. Semek Mohamad, 51 from Kampung Nibong, said the floods which hit this time was exceptional.

"In 1986, it was bad... it was a big flood, but it hit us only once that year.

"But this year, we have to leave our homes three times... this is really a test on us," she said. Another victim, Latifah Mohd Arif, 33, from Kampung Kuala Ping, said she was relieved when the weather was hot and sunny after the second floods, but sadly, it rained heavily again and once again, her house was inundated.

"This is such a challenging time for me, as it is difficult to keep shifting with a three-month-old baby to take care of," said Latifah, who had to leave her house at 5am on Saturday. - BERNAMA

National flood update: Evacuee numbers drop in Kelantan, T'ganu, rise in Sabah
BERNAMA New Straits Times 22 Jan 17;

KOTA BHARU: The number of flood victims in Kelantan dropped to 10,126 people from 2,846 families as of 5pm today, from 11,654 people from 3,300 families at 1pm.

Based on the Social Welfare Department's 'Infobanjir' application, all evacuees are currently housed at 57 relief centres in seven districts in the state.

A total of 5,113 people from 1,363 families are taking shelter at 23 relief centres in Kota Bharu, and 2,520 from 689 families are at 10 relief centres in Pasir Puteh.

In Pasir Mas, 19 relief centres were opened to house 1,785 victims from 600 families, while Bachok recorded 522 victims from 141 families at one relief centre.

Machang has 122 victims from 35 families in one centre, while Tanah Merah’s centre houses 18 victims from six families. Kuala Krai has 46 people from 12 families at two relief centres.

Three relief centres in Tumpat, which this afternoon housed 1,171 victims from 340 families were closed after all evacuees were allowed to return home.

According to Kelantan's 'ebanjir' portal, the water level at Sungai Golok in Rantau Panjang rose to 10.16 metres at 5pm, compared to 10.06 metres at noon. The danger level for the river is at 9.0 metres.


In Terengganu, the flood situation continues to improve, with the number of evacuees declining to 1,470 as at 6pm from 2,917 at noon.

Twenty-eight relief centres are housing 427 families in five districts in the state.

In Besut, 387 evacuees from 92 families are still at five relief centres as at 6pm, down from 735 people (170 families) at noon.

In Setiu, 179 flood victims from 41 families are still taking shelter at four relief centres, down from 836 (from 217 families) at noon.

The flood situation in Hulu Terengganu improved a little, with 666 victims (from 240 families) at relief centres in the evening, compared to 1,203 people (from 431 families) at noon.

In Dungun, 34 people (from 10 families) are still taking shelter at four relief centres.

However, in Kemaman, there was a slight increase to 204 evacuees (from 44 families) at relief centres.

The Drainage and Irrigation Department, through its website, reports that only one river, Sungai Dungun at Kuala Jengai, is above the danger level, with a reading of 23.07 metres, but still a drop from 23.34 metres recorded at noon today (the danger level is 21 metres).

Three rivers in three districts which recorded readings above their danger levels at noon are now just above the warning levels.

The three rivers are Sungai Telemong at Kuala Ping in Hulu Terengganu, Sungai Nerus at Kampung Langkap in Setiu and Sungai Tebak di Kemaman.


In Sabah, the number of flood victims at five relief centres - including two opened today - in three districts, rose to 514 people from 143 families as at 4pm.

Sabah State Disaster Management Committee (JPBN) secretariat chief, Col Mulliadi Al-Hamdi Ladin, said 346 victims from 82 families in the district of Kota Marudu are still at SK Taritipan, while 35 people are at the Damai Agricultural Training Centre's hall, which was reopened today after closing on Jan 20.

Thirty-nine flood victims from 11 families in Paitan, a sub-district of Beluran, are still housed at the Kampung Binsulung hall.

In the district of Pitas, 35 victims from seven families are still at SK Salimpodon, while another 59 from 18 families are at SK Rukom. - BERNAMA

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Malaysia: Struggles of our sea turtles

INTAN MAIZURA AHMAD KAMAL New Straits Times 22 Jan 17;

Adult and juvenile turtles get a second chance at life at the Gaya Island Resort’s Marine Conservation Centre, writes Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal

BLINK. Blink. After a deep, peaceful slumber, he must have felt like he’d just woken up to a circus. Surrounding his makeshift home in the bright blue plastic tray are inquisitive humans, jostling to peer at him up close, like some exhibit, chatter rising to a crescendo as they mull over his next course of action. He must have been glad to be ensconced in the matching blue blanket as he pondered his escape.

The juvenile Hawksbill turtle, the star attraction on this balmy morning, is due to be released into the sea after having spent several days at the Gaya Island Resort’s Marine Conservation Centre under observation. He’d found himself trapped in a fisherman’s bubu (fish trap) and subsequently brought here by the fishermen for further action. Not having done so would have meant a hefty fine or punishment for them as the Hawksbill, considered by many to be the most beautiful of all sea turtle species for their colourful shells, is a critically endangered species.

According to SEE Turtles, a body set up in 2008 to protect sea turtles through eco-tourism, their population has declined more than 80 per cent in the last century, due to the trade in their exquisite carapace (shell), also known as “tortoiseshell”.

“Oh, he’s just groggy from the medication we injected into his body. It’s for his antibodies,” someone whispers into my ear. Turning around to trace the source of the information, I clap eyes on an attractive lady, clad in an all-black ensemble, the words Wildlife Rescue emblazoned across the back of her dark T-shirt. “He’s been here just under three days. We took some blood samples for tests. Now he’s good to return to the waters.”

Pulling on a pair of gloves (‘...because reptiles have harmful salmonella on their skin...’), she crouches down and gingerly coaxes the gentle reptile out of his tray. And like a prisoner receiving his long-awaited pardon for a crime he didn’t commit, the Hawksbill regally clambers out of his sterile home and onto the warmth of the powdery soft sand. Waiting across from him in the warm shallow grey-green water, lying on his front, a water-proof camera clasped in position, is the Resort’s resident marine biologist Scott Mayback, the man responsible for conceptualising and implementing the centre’s various marine conservation programmes.

Zig-zagging his way across the sand, his compass the sea, the Hawksbill finally gets his taste of home as the waves caress his beautiful hard body, and drift him further away from the shore, where an audience has gathered to pay their silent farewells. “Stay safe, little one,” I mutter to myself, as I feel a tear threatening to escape my right eye.


Gaya Island is set within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a group of five islands located off Kota Kinabalu, each with fringing coral reefs. The Marine Centre is nestled on the secluded Tavajun Bay, which is accessible either by a five-minute boat ride from Gaya Island Resort’s jetty or through a 45-minute trek.

The centre was launched in 2013 and has since then, rescued, treated and cared for multiple endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and one critically endangered Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). Prior to today’s turtle release, four other turtles had been released into the waters — Bobby, Ninja, Carmen and Nick Jr, all of which have undergone rehabilitation and research.

There are four coral reef display tanks at the centre, which offer visitors the chance to learn more about reef life. These tanks are also used to produce coral fragments, which would subsequently be returned to the sea. Outside the turtle rescue centre is a 14,000-litre recovery tank for housing sick or injured sea turtles so they can have a better shot at survival. This recovery tank also houses a coral nursery that establishes an artificial environment to aquaculture coral fragments that will be returned to the sea to help rejuvenate and enhance the natural reefs.

The centre is committed to leading the community in marine conservation and is a strong advocate of three conservation pillars — Turtle Rescue, Coral Reef Restoration and Conservation through Education.


With his clean shaven head and serious demeanour, Mayback, the New Yorker at the helm of YTL’s marine conservation efforts at Gaya Island Resort can appear daunting at first. He has that “no nonsense” look of a man who has no time for meaningless chats. But pull him aside and whisper the words “marine”, or “corals”, or “turtles” and watch his sleepy eyes light up.

The 39-year-old, who grew up in Long Island, US, a place of beautiful beaches and estuaries which he delighted in as a child, has been in the country for the last eight years, and with YTL ever since the Resort opened. A graduate in marine biology from the University of Oregon, his love affair with marine life began after a backpacking trip in Central America. “After graduation, I backpacked to Central America where I finished in Honduras. I got my dive licence there. I fell in love with the reefs and decided that I wanted to be somewhere where I could do this all the time,” shares Mayback, making himself comfortable on the wooden seat by the jetty for our chat. Around us is the mesmerising vista of the beautiful aquamarine waters of Gaya Island.

So it was to the Land Below the Wind, Sabah, that he headed, finding employment with a local company where he helped set up a marine conservation centre and aquarium. He picked up invaluable hands-on experience in coral reef restoration as well as turtle rehabilitation. But three years later, due to a lack of funding, Mayback left for greener pastures and into the arms of his present employer, YTL.

The Marine Centre, shares Mayback, plays its part in the protection of sea turtles by rescuing and rehabilitating injured or sick sea turtles, and is the first of its kind in the country. This project was initiated with research results showing six out of seven species of sea turtles are endangered or critically endangered worldwide.

Why? Due to fishing, over-development, pollution, or turtles getting stranded, caught unintentionally by fishermen or becoming sick or injured.

“Malaysia has been doing turtle conservation for 50 years but the focus has mostly been on hatchlings — eggs, nesting etc. But not much has been done for adult turtles or injured juveniles,” says Mayback, before adding: “Maybe there have been parties who’ve done stuff here and there but there’s yet to be a dedicated centre.”

The centre first tasted sweet success when it managed to save Bobby, the sea turtle found floating, unable to dive down or even eat due to an intestinal blockage caused by an infection. With much care, Bobby, of the green turtle species, was rehabilitated within five months and released into the sea in conjunction with the centre’s launch.

“Then we had Ninja, another green turtle, which was chronically debilitated. He was malnourished and covered in barnacles. We nursed him back to health and returned him to the sea once we had confirmed that he was well enough to leave. He was with us for more than three months. Since then, we’ve done further turtle rescues and also looked after turtle hatchlings received from Sabah Parks,” shares Mayback, eyes shining.

Through the course of his work here, Mayback confides that he has seen everything, from turtles with fractured skulls as a result of being hit by a boat, to those with fractured shells, and others that are chronically debilitated, which means that they’re so sick that they can’t even dive down into the water. “They end up floating on the surface wasting away like a starving person. You can see their bones,” says Mayback, eyes clouding at the memory.


Virtually a one-man show here at the Marine Centre, challenges are a given. But it’s not so much the workload that Mayback offers as his biggest challenge when posed the question — it’s the emotions that engulf him when an animal is lost or when he sees a turtle being washed up to shore in a perilous condition. “It’s important to be able to separate your emotions from it because you need to learn as much as you can. It’s very challenging, especially if you’ve been keeping it (the animal) for a while and you become attached to it like a pet. It’s emotionally taxing to lose an animal in your care. But you must do your best to separate that and learn from every casualty.”

Suffice to say, sad casualties are aplenty. “There was one time when a turtle was brought here and it was suffering from a neurological disorder. It just kept swimming upside down. We suspected that it had gotten too close to fishermen using bombs to fish,” shares Mayback.

Brows furrowing, he adds: “Last year, three turtles in a row were brought in to us. But their cases were just too serious. We weren’t able to do anything and they died eventually. Each time this kind of thing happens, we learn. and we continue to learn.”

Preparing to return to the centre to complete his day’s job, I ask Mayback for a “take-home” message. Without hesitation, he replies: “Every single piece of plastic you drop, whether you live in the city or high up in the mountains, will eventually find its way into the ocean. And what do you think will happen?

“Just do this simple thing. If you have plastic, dispose of them properly.”

His voice low, he concludes: “Go out there and experience nature and wildlife — if you can. Then you’ll understand why it’s so important to protect them. You can’t protect something you don’t really care for.”

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Best of our wild blogs: 21 - 22 Jan 17

Sat 04 Feb 2016: 7.45am – 11.00am @ Lim Chu Kang – Let’s throw out the trash this Chinese New Year
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Butterfly Photography 101 - Part 3
Butterflies of Singapore

Singapore Raptor Report – December 2016
Singapore Bird Group

Toddycats roll out a quarterly animal shelter spring cleaning project with “The Shelter Pawject”

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Farms affected by Johor oil spill can resume fish sales: AVA

Channel NewsAsia 20 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Eleven fish farms that were affected by the massive oil spill off Johor more than two weeks ago have been given the green light to sell fish again, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority on Friday (Jan 20).

Fish samples from those farms have passed the food safety evaluation.

The sales suspension remains, however, for crustaceans like lobsters and crabs. Another farm, which only produces molluscs, is also not able to resume business as food safety evaluation for crustaceans and molluscs is still ongoing.

A total of 12 farms were affected by the oil spill on Jan 3 which was caused by a collision between two container vessels off Johor. "Most of the farms in the East Johor Strait have completed clean-up and put up mitigation measures like canvas skirting to prevent re-entry of residual oil," said AVA.

It added that it will continue to monitor the situation and conduct sampling at the farms.

- CNA/gs

Suspension lifted at some fish farms
Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Jan 17;

Some of the 12 fish farms in the East Johor Strait have had their sales suspension lifted.

The announcement by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) yesterday came in the wake of a collision between two container vessels in the strait separating Singapore and Malaysia on Jan 4.

The collision resulted in roughly 300 tonnes of oil being spilled into the surrounding waters.

As of yesterday, two farms which produced only fish were allowed to sell their stocks.

While another nine farms were given the green light to sell their fish, the sales suspension was not lifted for crustaceans and molluscs sold by these farms due to ongoing food-safety evaluation, AVA said.

Similarly, the sales suspension remained for one farm which produced only molluscs.

Read Also: NParks volunteers help with oil spill cleanup efforts at Chek Jawa over the weekend

An AVA spokesman said: "Most of the farms in the East Johor Strait have completed clean-up and put up mitigation measures to prevent re-entry of residual oil.

"Fish samples collected from the farms have also passed our food-safety evaluation."

Meanwhile, AVA will continue to monitor the situation and conduct sampling at the East Johor Strait coastal fish farms.

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Trials done to remove, disperse mynas, says AVA

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 21 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) does not control the population of mynas in Singapore, but it has conducted two trials to test “removal” and “dispersal” methods.

In July 2015, it conducted a mist-netting trial in Hougang, trapping mynas in nylon nets made up of three to four panels that overlap to form pockets. Eleven mynas were trapped during the three-day trial and were euthanised because relocation was not feasible, the AVA said.

It added that mist-netting is a common trapping method used by conservationists to capture birds for monitoring and bird banding: “The method is humane, as the birds are captured alive with minimal human intervention.” The agency has not used mist-netting since the trial.

Last year, the AVA began a fogging trial that is ongoing in Yishun and Clementi. Selected trees are fogged with a chemical made of methylated soybean oil and a grape extract that repels mynas by causing a brief, temporary burning feeling in the mouths, throats and other parts of their faces. With repeated fogging, the AVA hopes that the birds will learn to avoid the areas. The chemical is not known to have adverse effects on humans or animals and has been successfully used in the United States to prevent birds from feeding on crops.

“If successful, fogging may help supplement existing measures for more effective, long-term management of myna-related issues in Singapore,” the AVA said, adding that it is evaluating the effectiveness of this method.

From a study on the Javan myna that concluded in 2013, the AVA found that removal of food sources would help curb its population in the long run. The study also recommended that AVA take a multi-pronged approach of dispersal and removal as short-term measures to manage myna-related issues.

Measures have also been deployed for other birds — the AVA controls the crow population, and started a trial in 2015 using a drug that acts as oral contraceptives for pigeons. In February 2015, it embarked on a year-long trial of using bird-deterrent gels at Block 755 Choa Chu Kang North 5, and observed that this was effective in stopping birds from roosting where the gels were placed.

The agency has shared the findings with parties such as town councils and building managers to see if they would like to try the gels.

“Bird-related issues, including nuisances caused by mynas, are often complex and there is no standalone solution,” the AVA said. 

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Creative conservation may help globally threatened species: Study

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 21 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — You probably could not tell from the abundance of Javan mynas in Singapore, but the yellow-beaked grey bird is a victim of the illegal wildlife trade in its native range in Java, where its population has plummeted.

Its wild population in Java and Bali in Indonesia is estimated to be between 2,500 and 9,999. In contrast, more than 100,000 of them are found in Singapore, where they were introduced via the caged bird trade and have been established since 1925.

Dr Luke Gibson of the University of Hong Kong and Mr Yong Ding Li, a Singaporean PhD student at Australian National University, have proposed in a new research paper two ways in which Singapore and other cities can help in the conservation of globally threatened species.

The harvest of mynas and other species introduced here, such as the Red-breasted parakeet and Goffin’s cockatoo in Singapore, could offset demand from the pet trade in their native ranges, they said.

The Red-breasted parakeet is quite common on Pulau Ubin and the western catchment area, and its population here is likely to be in the thousands, Mr Yong said. The Goffin’s cockatoo, also called the Tanimbar cockatoo, is found on the remote Tanimbar Islands of Indonesia, and its Singapore population is believed to have originated from captive individuals that escaped. It has since built sustaining populations in places such as Changi Village, and Mr Yong estimated that there are a few hundred of them in Singapore.

A second approach is for these populations to be reintroduced to their native ranges to buffer declining populations.

“As many species disappear from their native ranges while thriving in other parts of the world where they have been introduced, we urge conservationists to explore innovative approaches to protect species,” the authors wrote in the paper, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

The suggestions may invite questions on whether introduced populations would indeed ease pressure on native populations and how their impact can be effectively monitored. Would the harvesting of introduced populations also reinforce the notion that it is acceptable to keep wildlife as pets?

Mr Yong said that to some extent, the trade in pet birds is driven by humans’ fondness for rarer species. “I think harvesting these populations could increase the supply of individuals of these animals and thus affect supply chains. When this happens, it may not be so attractive to keep such species as pets,” he told TODAY. “I believe such a solution is better than maintaining the status quo.”

With wildlife trade, some species pushed to the brink of extinction have at the same time been deliberately or accidentally released in new places and have established feral populations, threatening the native species and habitats of those places.

In Singapore, the Javan myna has out-competed the Common myna. Elsewhere, invasive populations of Burmese pythons have caused populations of native mammal species in the Florida Everglades to crash, while in their native South-east Asia, the pythons have been relentlessly harvested for their skin, for medicine and for the pet trade.

Other experts agree with the authors’ proposals and precautions to be taken. Dr Darren Yeo of the National University of Singapore’s Freshwater and Invasion Biology Laboratory noted that the authors have flagged the need to first consider if harvesting of introduced populations would elevate demand and poaching of native populations. Regulations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) may have to be met if the species is threatened, Dr Yeo added. “If Cites is not applicable to introduced populations, then there must still be measures to ensure or certify that the traded individuals are indeed from the introduced populations,” he said.

On the suggestion to re-introduce animals drawn from introduced populations, Dr Chris Shepherd, regional director of wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic in South-east Asia, agreed that such efforts should not be pursued until populations in their native ranges are better studied and have receive improved protection. Otherwise, the re-introduced populations would simply be hunted out again, he said.

Disease transmission is a threat and the genetics of many species in the region have not been adequately worked out, so there is a risk of trans-locating species or sub-species into areas where they are not native, 
Dr Shepherd added. “If these considerations are met, this is a feasible conservation strategy and ... is one of the actions considered for the Javan myna under the conservation strategy for South-east Asian songbirds in trade (arising from a summit in September 2015),” he said.

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Upgrading along Kallang River, Sungei Whampoa to bring residents closer to water

Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 22 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Viewing decks and new spaces have been built along Kallang River and Sungei Whampoa, as part of national water agency PUB’s Active, Beautiful and Clean (ABC) Waters programme.

The project at Kallang River was officially opened on Sunday morning (Jan 22) by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim who is also the MP for Jalan Besar GRC.

The project involved an upgrade of a 320-metre stretch to feature a promenade that is significantly widened from 3 to 15 metres, so pedestrians and cyclists can use the recreational space together.

There is now also a ramp for the wheelchair-bound to access the upgraded promenade. Room has been set aside for plants - particularly those that attract butterflies, like the Rose Myrtle - to increase biodiversity in the area.

There are also rain gardens with specially-selected plants and soil to cleanse rainwater from the promenade, before it goes into the river. And a touch of nostalgia - shelters have been built to mimic the masts of vessels that often sailed along Kallang River in the 19th century.

All this is meant to bring the community closer to Singapore’s waters. For instance, Kong Hwa School which is the project’s first adopter, is coming up with a learning trail for its students.

“The ABC Waters design features, such as the rain gardens, coupled with the tradition and significance of the Kallang neighbourhood, make for great learning opportunities and reinforce character and citizenship education beyond the classroom,” said Mr Jerry Yang, a teacher.

The upgrading works along Kallang River cost about S$3.8 million, and is the first ABC project to be opened this year.

Similar enhancements have been made further upstream at Sungei Whampoa, which flows into Kallang River. For example, the previously fenced up and unused space beside Whampoa Community Club has been spruced up.

There are now lookout decks along a 450-metre stretch for residents to relax and carry out various activities.

There is also a rain garden built here, to clean the rainwater runoff from the newly upgraded CC, before it is discharged into the canal. Efforts have also been made to green the canal walls. These enhancements, which cost about $1.8 million, will officially be opened in February.

“ABC Waters @ Kallang River and Sungei Whampoa are really about building for the future. Both projects were planned to be integrated with upcoming development works in the vicinity”, said PUB’s Chief Sustainability Officer Mr Tan Nguan Sen.

“As both Kallang River and Sungei Whampoa flow into the Marina Reservoir - a source of water supply, we hope residents will help to play their part in keeping the waters free from litter so that all of us can enjoy cleaner, clearer waters and a better living environment”, he added.

- CNA/mn

A chance to enjoy Kallang River thanks to A, B, C
JEONG HONGBIN Today Online 22 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Residents living along the Kallang River between Upper Boon Keng Road and Sims Avenue now have more ways to enjoy the riverfront with new boat-shaped viewing decks and a wider promenade for taking in the evening breeze.

The S$3.8 million improvements, which took one-and-a-half years to complete, comes under Singapore’s national water agency PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme, which aims to transform the nation’s water bodies beyond their utilitarian function.

At ABC Waters@Kallang River, the pathway for cyclists and pedestrians have been doubled to 6 metres wide, and now has in place of stairs, making it easier for cyclists and wheelchair users to access the riverfront.

The new viewing decks, with a design inspired by the masts of early sailing vessels which used to ply the river, are expected to become the new landmarks in the area. Two rain gardens, which will detain and cleanse rainwater that run off the promenade before it gets discharged into the river, can be used as outdoor classrooms for students.

Kong Hwa School has already ‘adopted’ the space, with a plan to design an ABC Waters Learning Trail to augment its curriculum for students. Kolam Ayer Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) also has plans to use the area to hold various grassroots events to promote community bonding.

The project was officially opened on Sunday (Jan 22) by Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

Further upstream at Sungei Whampoa, a second ABC Waters improvement has also been completed. The S$1.8 million remodelling took one year, and is expected to be officially opened on Feb 26.

This ABC Waters @ Sungei Whampoa project includes a lookout deck, seating, a boardwalk and a rain garden along the 450m stretch of the river between Kim Keat Road and Central Expressway (CTE).

“We hope through the enjoyment of these places, residents can develop a sense of ownership towards our waters and understand also the importance of having to keep our waterways clean,” said Cheng Geok Ling, PUB’s deputy director of sustainability.

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Malaysia: Sipadan orca sighting unusual, but not unheard-of occurrence

AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 21 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The sighting of a pod of orcas by a group of divers in Sipadan waters last Sunday was not a first, as the marine mammals have been spotted in Sabah waters several times before.

This was shared by other divers following New Straits Times’ online report on the recent encounter near the world-renowned island.

Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures managing director Richard Swann told the NST that there had been several sightings in the past, wherein orcas were seen passing through waters off Sipadan and Layang-Layang islands.

"Although I have yet to encounter them, I know others who have. They spotted a pod of orcas in Sipadan waters a few years back.

"The killer whales were seen chasing dolphins, but I am not sure if (the divers) were able to document the event, because the boat… could not catch up (with the mammals)," Swann said.

He added that another group of divers spotted killer whales near Layang-Layang in March last year.

Swann, who is a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Platinum course director, has been diving in Sabah for over 10 years.

During his dives in the state, he has encountered whale sharks and dolphins.

"I (saw) melon-headed whales (often referred to as 'blackfish' or 'false killer whales') in 2005 in Sipadan waters, but I missed the killer whales.

"At that time, there could have been hundreds of dolphins... probably more than a thousand (different) species. As for melon-headed whales, it is hard to say (how many of them there were), as they seemed to be very cautious and kept their distance.

"Every now and again, there is a huge number of dolphins passing through and predators naturally follow, on occasion.
"It can be breath-taking, (it’s) like some kind of marine convention, and they socialise when they come together, unless being hunted – then they are just on full speed," said Swann.

Last Sunday, 32-year-old diver Faridzul Adzli Mad Adim encountered about eight orcas and took videos of them swimming and jumping out of the water.

His videos, which he posted on his Facebook page, have garnered more than 8,000 views.

Meanwhile, Sabah Fisheries Director Ahemad Sade said presence of killer whale in Sabah waters was not common but noted they have been spotted in waters off Semporna.

"As for now we can tentatively identify it as killer whale by looking at the white spot under the dorsal fin (based on Faridzul's video).

"The orcas could have used our waters as part of their migratory route since waters off Sipadan is quiet deep.

"The area is also a migratory route for yellow fin and big eye tuna," he said.

While it carries the name ‘whale’, this marine mammal belongs to the dolphin family and is its largest member.

Although killer whales tend to inhabit cold oceans, they can be found in all of the world's major seas, from the Arctic and Antarctica, to various tropical regions located in and around the equator.

They usually prey on squid, octopus, seal, sea lion, sea otter, ray, dolphin, shark, baleen whale and of course, bony fishes. Occasionally, turtles and seabirds, including penguins, are added to their diet.

Sipadan divers spot orcas in Malaysian waters, awestruck by encounter
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 21 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: In what was supposed to be another typical fun dive, a group of 14 divers were treated to an experience of a lifetime when they spotted a pod of orcas in the tropical waters off the east coast of Sabah.

The presence of killer whales near the world-renowed Sipadan Island took them by surprise last Sunday while they were completing their first leisure dive at the South Point diving site.

Faridzul Adzli Mad Adim, 32, said it was about 11am when they resurfaced and the boatman told them to get on the boat.

He was with a Swedish, four Hungarians and four Chinese divers together with three dive masters.

"The boatman signalled us to get out off the water, saying we had to move to the open sea. He sounded excited.

"We were wondering what had happened when he told us that he just saw an orca jumped out of the water," he told New Straits Times when contacted.

The group kept their eyes peeled as the boatman took them further out to the open sea, about 10 minutes away from South Point.

"And then we saw the killer whales and they were jumping out of the water about five metres away from us. Everyone shouted excitedly and we were in awe," added Faridzul.

Although he was unsure, the executive officer with the Sultan of Selangor's Office, said there could have been eight orcas at that time.

He said the group tried to get closer to the pod but each time they did, the orcas moved away.

"Probably they were afraid of the engine's sound so one of the dive masters told the boatman to turn it off.

"We stayed for 30 minutes to enjoy the sight. It was everyone's first encounter with orcas and we were suprised that it appeared in our waters since they are known to live in cold waters," he said, adding that the sea temperature was about 25 degrees Celsius.

This sighting of killer whales or Orcinus orca is believed to be the first in Malaysian waters.

While it carries the name whale, this marine mammal belongs to the dolphin family and it is its largest member.

Although killer whales are often found living in cold ocean waters they can also be found in all of the world's major oceans from the Arctic and Antarctic to various tropical regions located in and around the equator.

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Malaysia Land reclamation: Adhere to environmental guidelines, Wan Junaidi tells Malacca

ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL New Straits Times 21 Jan 17;

MALACCA: The Malacca government has been warned by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to ensure all coastal development works adhere to its guidelines, particularly the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Order 2015.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar yesterday urged the state government to study the impact of rapid reclamation along the Klebang coast to ensure no adverse impact on the environment and livelihood of those dependent on marine life.

In reaction to escalating issues surrounding reclamation and coastal development in Klebang here, Wan Junaidi reminded the state government of the implementation of the EIA Order.

“The ministry, through the Department of Environment (DOE), is responsible for the EIA and Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) reports, but we do not object to the state’s development.”

He said every project must adhere to regulations, particularly the Quality of Environment Order 2015 and EIA Order 2015.

“Reclamation in Klebang began in 2012 and it is guided by the EIA Macro Study, which was reviewed by the DOE to form guidelines in planning for reclamation projects in Malacca,” said Wan Junaidi.

Issues and public concern over allegedly excessive reclamation along the Klebang coast, have triggered alarm bells in recent weeks, with fishermen complaining about illegal sand mining alongside reclaimed areas.

Public concern has also been highlighted by the poor level of dialogue, especially over the sale of commercial land on reclaimed plots, raising questions whether such projects were done to enable land sales.

Wan Junaidi said reclamation in Malacca was conducted by companies that had been given concessions by the state government prior to the enforcement of the EIA Order 2015 and were guided by the DOE’s EIA Macro review 1999.

Reclamation of areas not more than 50ha were not subjected to the EIA Order, prior to amendments made in 2015.

“The amendments were made in 2015 in view of the rapid development of the coast, thus, it means that reclamation of areas not more than 50ha are required to provide a Schedule 1 EIA report,” said Wan Junaidi.

Reclamation of more than 50ha, he said, required a Schedule 2 EIA report, which compelled public exhibit and dialogue for the purpose of approval by the DOE director-general.

Wan Junaidi said the proposed EIA and DEIA dual system would require compulsory extensive procedures for all development projects in the country.

The proposal for the new system is to be tabled before the cabinet, Federal Land and the National Physical Development Councils before being implemented.

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Malaysia: Poachers target Asian jumbos

SIM LEOI LEOI The Star 22 Jan 17;

PETALING JAYA: Elephants in Malaysia and parts of Asia may be in the crosshairs of poachers hunting for ivory.

Ivory tusks from Asian elephants are a lot rarer than those from Africa and fetch a higher price, said an international group probing the illegal wildlife trade.

Investigators from the Wildlife Justice Commission said given the unique nature of these tusks, these might attract a significant price.

“Our investigators have been offered so-called Asian ivory on va­rious occasions.

“Asian ivory is a lot rarer than those from Africa and a higher price is charged,” they said in an e-mail here.

The investigators, responsible for toppling some of South-East Asia’s most prolific illegal wildlife traders, were responding to the recent case in Sabah where two Bornean elephants were killed for their tusks.

One of the elephants – known as Sabre among the scientists – had a pair of uniquely reversed tusks and was previously featured in newspapers.

The investigators said given the unique nature of the tusks, these were unlikely to be cut up for jewellery or chopsticks.

“These would most likely be sold as a pair of tusks,” they said.

On the possible route for the tusks to be smuggled out of the country, the investigators said given the large movement of people in and out of Sabah, these could be transported by air (passenger baggage or cargo) or by sea.

“Once they reach mainland Ma­­lay­sia, they may be transported by vehicles across the Thai border and from there, they could make their way through Laos to China or Viet­nam or flown out from Kuala Lum­pur directly to China,” they said.

Although China had pledged to close its ivory market by the end of this year, the investigators said the final destination country was still likely to be the republic.

“The closing of the official markets will not necessarily stop all trade in ivory. It may just force it underground,” they said.

The commission’s executive director Olivia Swaak-Goldman said the fact that the world’s smallest elephants were being killed for their ivory showed the length these criminal networks would go to and the need to crack down on them.

“They are escalating their efforts to locate ivory,” he said.

Dr Chris R. Shepherd, regional director for Traffic in South-East Asia, said as only male Asian elephants had tusks, poachers might be desperate to take every opportunity to acquire the tusks.

“If preventive measures aren’t taken now and closer monitoring of wild elephant populations is not put in place, Malaysia could see more of its wild elephants killed for the ivory trade,” he said.

Asked if the closing down of China’s market would see a shift to other countries in the region, he said: “It’s possible that some countries in South-East Asia may become a greater market focus following the closure of China’s ivory markets but it is difficult to say with certainty which country is most vulnerable.”

With the exception of Malaysia and Brunei, Dr Shepherd said all other South-East Asian countries had some level of ivory trade.

“The latest case doesn’t firmly indicate the existence of a local market,” he said, calling the matter unusual and demanding for a more detailed investigation.

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