Best of our wild blogs: 16 Aug 17

Pulau Ubin Nocturnal Bird Survey Report
Singapore Bird Group

From tarsiers to cloud rats, scientist strives to save Philippine species

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Singapore buildings ‘can withstand tremors from strongest quake’

They will remain structurally safe due to good construction, support from lift shafts: Experts
Jose Hong Straits Times 16 Aug 17;

When an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 hit Sumatra at the weekend, Singaporeans living in residential areas such as Sengkang and Tanjong Rhu felt the earth move.

As objects in their homes shook and rattled, the thought in many residents' minds was: Can my Housing Board block withstand the tremors?

"Yes" was the response of experts interviewed by The Straits Times.

"The quake would have to be three to four times stronger to cause some light damage in Singapore," said Associate Professor Li Bing of Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Even tremors from the strongest quake possible at the nearest fault zone to Singapore would not topple tall buildings here, like a 25-storey HDB block, the experts added.

Most likely, the building will experience low-level damage, but it would be structurally safe, said Assistant Professor David Lallemant of NTU's Earth Observatory of Singapore.

One reason is the lift shafts inside tall structures, he added. These shafts are built to support and prevent the buildings from swaying too much.

Prof Lallemant likened it to a shelf from furniture retailer Ikea: "The back part of the shelf - the metal 'x' - is what keeps it from swaying."

Another reason is that Singapore's buildings are well constructed, Prof Li said, adding: "Just as healthy people are less likely to get diseases."

In June 2000, Singapore was also shaken by tremors from an earthquake in Sumatra that measured 6.5 on the Richter scale.

They happened at around midnight and hundreds of residents from East Coast to Yio Chu Kang fled their homes as the series of strong tremors shook their beds and caused things to fall out of their cupboards.

Then Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng emphasised that such natural occurrences were normal. Singaporeans should not be too worried or concerned, he said, adding: "If the earthquake is very severe, then Singaporeans will of course feel it in their homes".

Since then, the Government has also adopted a set of building codes that includes guidelines on making new buildings more resistant to earthquakes.

It was introduced in 2013 by regulator Building and Construction Authority (BCA). Older buildings that undergo major renovations will be brought up to the new standards.

Around the same time, a study concluded that it is unlikely for a quake to occur near and powerful enough to damage buildings in Singapore.

It was done by Professor Pan Tso-Chien of NTU's Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management.

The fault zone nearest to Singapore is the Sumatra fault and the strongest recorded earthquake it generated was of magnitude 7.7 in 1892.

In 1943, an earthquake struck at the point of the Sumatra fault that is closest to Singapore, around 400km away. The most powerful tremor it caused was of magnitude 7.6.

A BCA spokesman told The Straits Times that seismic waves from earthquakes along this fault zone closest to Singapore would arrive here at levels not significant enough to cause structural damage to buildings.

However, senior research fellow Aron Meltzner of NTU's Earth Observatory of Singapore urged caution. Although no similarly powerful tremors have occurred along the Sumatra fault since World War II, this does not mean it will not happen in the future, he said.

"Magnitude-7.7 earthquakes have happened in our historical past. We should plan for the likelihood of that within our lifetime," he added.

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Malaysia: It’s not supposed to rain but weather experts know why

The Star 16 Aug 17;

PETALING JAYA: The heavy bouts of rain these few days are raising many an eyebrow because this time of the year is when Malaysia is, by norm, hot and dry.

But weather experts aren’t surprised.

“The downpour in many areas in Peninsular Malaysia is caused by the north-westerly winds coming from the Indian Ocean, transmitting high humidity to Malaysia.

“The rains in Sabah and Sarawak are caused by high moisture levels in the air and active oscillation, resulting in thunderstorms,” said Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment director-general Alui Bahari.

He said the rains would subside on Friday.

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wira Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said firemen were busy responding to weather-related disasters. And so is the Malaysian Civil Defence Force (APM).

A spokesman told The Star that APM officers and assets were already deployed to flood hotspots.

“Our role is to carry out rescue operations and transport victims to the relief centres,” he said. “We also clean and inspect the victims’ homes for any venomous creatures.”

APM also provides training, especially to those living in flood-prone areas, on what needs to be done should a disaster occur.

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Malaysia: Higher cost of environs-friendly containers cause for concern

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 15 Aug 17;

JOHOR BARU: Many food operators are still hesitant about making the switch from polystyrene containers to environmentally-friendly food packaging due to the higher cost involved.

Federation of Hawkers and Petty Traders Association Malaysia president Yow Boon Choon said the difference in cost was about 1:3 in ratio and some of them were not keen to pay more for the environmentally-friendly food packaging such as biodegradable plastic containers.

He said such food packaging costs about 20 sen each compared to the few sen for each conventional polystyrene container.

Yow, also Johor South Petty and Mobile Traders Association chairman, said the traders did realise that it was a healthier choice and better for the environ­ment to make the switch but that the cost is still a main concern for them.

“At least 30% of the food operators in Johor have already made the switch from polystyrene ahead of the state government’s move to make Johor plastic and polystyrene-free starting from January 1 next year.

“The remaining operators have expressed their fear that the new packaging would increase their operational costs.

“But I am sure that once more people start to use and get used to the environmentally-friendly containers, the price will become cheaper,” he said.

He said most food operators absorb the cost of takeaway con­tainers and only a small number impose such charges on customers, which varies from 30 sen to 50 sen.

Yow said the federation had advised food and beverage operators, especially in Johor, to make the switch soon as it benefits the consumers and gives them peace of mind when taking away their food in environmentally-friendly packaging.

He said he hopes that they would gradually start making the switch so that there would not be a rush to buy the new containers when the time draws near for the ruling to be implemented.

“I also hope the state government will be strict and firm in the implementation of the no-polystyrene ruling come next year.

“This is to prevent the traders from suffering losses once they stock up on the new takeaway containers and also inconsistency,” he added.

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Cambodia: Rare crocodile eggs hatched at conservation center

SOPHENG CHEANG Associated Press Yahoo News 15 Aug 17;

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Nine eggs of an endangered crocodile species found in the wild in June and taken to a conservation center in southern Cambodia have hatched, conservationists announced Tuesday.

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society and Cambodia's Fisheries Administration said the eggs of nine Siamese crocodiles have hatched at the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center after being retrieved from the wild to protect them from poachers and predators.

The WCS says the crocodile, with an estimated global population of around 410, is found only in Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, with the greatest number in Cambodia. The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature because its numbers are rapidly shrinking.

The June discovery of 19 eggs was the first Siamese crocodile nest recorded in six years of research and protection in Koh Kong's Sre Ambel area.

The conservation center was established by the two organizations to safeguard endangered reptiles such as Siamese crocodiles and Royal turtles.

"We will take care of these hatchlings until they are able to survive in nature on their own," the groups' joint announcement quoted Som Sitha, WCS's technical adviser for the Sre Ambel Conservation Project, as saying. "We will then release some to the wild, and others will be kept for breeding."

His colleague Tun Sarorn, caretaker of Royal turtles and Siamese crocodiles at the center, expressed her excitement over the hatchlings.

"I am so excited to see these hatchlings. It is the first time I have taken care of them since arriving at the center," she was quoted as saying. "Before seeing them, I was surprised to hear their voices from inside the eggs. It was amazing, and I felt so happy because I realized they are coming out. I will feed them all in the next few days with small fish and frogs."

A different conservation group, WWF-Cambodia, separately announced encouraging news about another endangered species, the Irrawaddy, or Mekong, dolphin, which has a worldwide population of about 7,000, 90 percent of that in Bangladesh. In Cambodia, and Laos, there are an estimated 80 adults in the Mekong River. WWF-Cambodia announced Tuesday that from January through this week, they recorded two dolphin deaths and eight births, an improvement over the same period last year when there were four deaths and four births.

"More than ever, there is hope to believe it is possible to reverse the trend of the Mekong Dolphin decline," the group said in a statement.

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Can We Feed The World With Farmed Fish?


For years, scientists and activists have sounded the alarm that humans' appetite for seafood is outpacing what fishermen can sustainably catch.

But new research suggests there is space on the open ocean for farming essentially all the seafood humans can eat. A team of scientists led by Rebecca Gentry, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that widescale aquaculture utilizing much of the ocean's coastal waters could outproduce the global demand for seafood by a staggering 100 times.

Their paper, published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, could have significant implications for a planet whose human population is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050. Nearly every coastal country has the potential to meet its own domestic demand for seafood, "typically using only a minute fraction of its ocean territory," write the authors.

In their research, the scientists analyzed the potential of virtually every square mile of the ocean's surface for producing 120 different species of fish and 60 species of bivalves – that is, mussels, clams, oysters and scallops. They immediately eliminated ocean waters deeper than about 650 feet, since ocean aquaculture generally requires anchoring floating pens and cages to the seafloor. They sought out areas rich in dissolved oxygen and phytoplankton – essential for bivalves, which filter microscopic food from the water.

The researchers also excluded marine protected areas and regions where floating pens and cages might block shipping lanes and port entries or interfere with oil extraction.

They calculated that marine aquaculture could produce 16.5 billion tons of fish per year, or about 4,000 pounds per person.

"And we were being very, very conservative in our calculations," says co-author Halley Froehlich, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Barbara.

Froehlich says it's not likely that aquaculture will be practiced in every feasible location. "And we certainly would never need so much production," she says. "That number was really an overestimate to show what the potential is."

Still, even with a downsized calculation using a much more realistic fraction of the ocean's surface, the numbers are impressive: The scientists' math shows that an area of water about the size of Lake Michigan – roughly 1/67th of a percent of the ocean's surface – could produce about 110 million tons of fish and shellfish per year. That's about the amount of seafood caught annually by commercial fishermen, and about five times the globe's current aquaculture production, Froehlich says.

While the production potential of aquaculture is clearly massive, such volumes of fish and shellfish could not be grown without costs. Aquaculture can offer environmental benefits – but only under certain circumstances, and there are many ways in which aquaculture can go wrong.

Salmon farming in British Columbia has been associated with declines in certain streams' runs of wild salmon, since a parasite called the sea louse that sometimes thrives amid densely raised farmed fish can attack wild fish. (The issue is a contentious one, and scientists, activists and fish farming lobbyists still disagree over how directly salmon farms have impacted wild salmon.)

Many aquaculture operations also rely on wild-caught fish as feed. This has driven overfishing in some places, like Peru, whose anchovy population has been. Shrimp farming operations in Southeast Asia have become notorious for destroying mangrove thickets and pouring harmful effluent into estuaries.

"So, we know and we've seen how aquaculture can be done incorrectly, and we're looking at the potential for improvements," Froehlich says.

Max Troell, a scientist at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, co-authored an essay published in the same issue of Nature Ecology & Evolution that analyzes Gentry's and Froehlich's findings.

"The work of Gentry and colleagues shows that space is currently not a limiting factor for the expansion of oceanic aquaculture," Troell writes.

But there are other constraints. Growing fish means feeding them, and this, Troell tells The Salt in an email, requires either catching wild fish or growing high-protein vegetable crops on land. Since these are products already consumed by people, Troell notes in his commentary piece, "reducing competition with human food resources will be key for sustainability."

In a 2014 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Troell and several co-authors assessed aquaculture's potential to improve the resilience of the planet's food systems. In that paper they asked, "[D]oes continued growth in aquaculture enhance or undermine the potential of the global food system" to feed humanity?

The jury remains out on that question.

In an email interview, Troell tells The Salt that, if aquaculture production of fish is scaled up dramatically, "[t]he link to terrestrial feed sources will increase," and so will environmental impacts.

"For filter feeders like mussels, the story is different," he says.

Unlike fish, they don't need to be fed, since they filter naturally occurring nutrients and organic matter from the water.

This, says Troell, makes them "very beneficial species to scale up" in aquaculture.

Growing them could even be good for the environment. Froehlich tells The Salt that dense flotillas of shellfish pens could actually mitigate some types of pollution. For instance, such pens could be useful at river mouths, where nutrients from inland farmlands can cause algae blooms that, in turn, deplete the water's oxygen and create so-called "dead zones" – like the massive one that develops every summer in the Gulf of Mexico, thanks to polluted Mississippi River discharge.

Froehlich is continuing to study aquaculture's potential to sustainably feed the world, with some focus on different types of feed and how efficiently farmland can be used to help produce fish and shellfish. She notes that "fish are extremely efficient at converting feed material into body mass," and that some species can turn food into fat, bone, muscle and other tissue at a conversion ratio of nearly one to one. "That's a pound of feed in, and a pound of fish out," she notes.

Froehlich believes seafood consumption will eventually replace a considerable amount of land-based meat production, and she hopes to quantify the extent to which this could alleviate agricultural pressures on land and water resources.

"There's a discussion and a movement of people switching to pescatarian diets," she says. "So, we want to know, what will that translate into?"

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Best of our wild blogs: 15 Aug 17

Cyrene with dugong signs, stars and more!
wild shores of singapore

OCBCcares Fund for the Environment – how to submit an competent proposal? Training workshop on Thu 24 Aug 2017: 4.00pm – 7.00pm
Otterman speak

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Singapore scientist wins Asean award for research on rice

VALERIE KOH Today Online 15 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE — Singapore might not be a rice-producing country, but that has not stopped it from contributing to research in the field.

Last week, Dr Yin Zhongchao, 50, was named the Outstanding Rice Scientist of Singapore at the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) Rice Science and Technology Ambassadors Award.

To mark Asean’s 50th anniversary, the inaugural award was given to 15 rice scientists and farmers across the region at a ceremony in the Philippines.

Dr Yin, a senior principal investigator at Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory who has been studying how to genetically improve rice grains, was the only winner from Singapore.

He said yesterday in an interview with TODAY: “Young Singaporeans may prefer bread or spaghetti, but rice is a staple, especially in Asia ... (As) a food safety concern, rice is important to us.”

Much of his research is underscored by the need to boost productivity in paddy fields, and to keep bacteria from destroying harvests.

Containing bacteria is important for farmers during seasonal monsoons or floods, which could cause bacteria to spread, Dr Yin said.

Without advancements in research and development, bacteria could kill up to 80 per cent of a harvest and affect the quality of the remaining crops.

Dr Yin, who is married with two sons, attained Singapore citizenship in 2006. He was born into a family of rice farmers in Anhui, China.

As a child, he learnt to transplant rice on paddy fields and harvest grains. Later, he pursued postgraduate education in plant genetics, focusing specifically on rice.

At the invitation of a former supervisor, he moved to Singapore to study bacterial diseases in rice after getting his PhD in 1997.

In 2005, Dr Yin and his research team published their findings on a cloned gene — Xa27 — in a scientific journal. Once introduced to rice grains, the gene builds resistance to bacterial blight, which causes the wilting of seedlings and drying of leaves.

The team modified another gene, Xa10, to keep pace with the evolution of bacteria, and in another breakthrough in 2015, they were able to use the modified gene to build resistance to 26 bacterial strains from various countries including China, Japan and Australia.

Dr Yin’s team also worked on the Xa10 and Xa27 genes to induce products that could trigger “cell death”.

“The bacteria is either killed by the death of the cell, which produces a lot of toxin, or by the loss of nutrition,” he said. “(So, it) cannot spread further to the surrounding healthy cell (of the rice grain).”

On his award, his employer Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory said that it “recognises Dr Yin’s outstanding scientific research in the field of understanding bacterial diseases in rice, as well as his positive contribution to rice productivity improvement at the Asean level”.

Last year, Dr Yin was part of the team that contributed seven varieties of Singaporean rice seeds to the Norwegian Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a secure seed facility.

Among them was a variety known as Temasek Rice, modified to be disease- and weather-resistant.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), which nominated him for the award, said Temasek Rice has favourable qualities such as high yields, and fungal and bacterial resistance.

“The development of Temasek Rice is a successful example of research benefiting people and the environment,” it told TODAY.

Dr Yin’s team also works closely with farmers in the region to develop sustainable farming practices to improve productivity and the livelihoods of the rice farming community, and their work would help to contribute to the long-term food security for the region, the AVA added.

Despite these breakthroughs in agricultural science, Dr Yin feels that his work is hardly done.

“I want to learn how bacteria infects rice plants and then grow new rice with greater resistance,” he said.

“As a scientist, we cannot say we’ve finished research in a certain field. In rice bacteria, there are still many questions that (have) to be answered.”

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Factory farming in Asia creating global health risks, report warns

Growth of intensive units has potential to increase antibiotic resistance and could result in spread of bird flu beyond region
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 14 Aug 17;

The use of antibiotics in factory farms in Asia is set to more than double in just over a decade, with potentially damaging effects on antibiotic resistance around the world.

Factory farming of poultry in Asia is also increasing the threat of bird flu spreading beyond the region, with more deadly strains taking hold, according to a new report from a network of financial investors.

Use of antibiotics in poultry and pig farms will increase by more than 120% in Asiaby 2030, based on current trends. Half of all antibiotics globally are now consumed in China alone. The Chinese meat and animal feed producers New Hope Group and Wen’s Group are now among the 10 biggest animal feed manufacturers in the world.

The growth of Asian meat production in intensive units is also producing a rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the food chain, with emissions likely to rise by more than 360m tonnes, the equivalent of running 100 coal-fired power plants for a year. There are knock-on impacts such as deforestation, as China’s need for animal feed is responsible for more than a third of Brazil’s soybean production.

The report, Factory Farming in Asia: Assessing Investment Risks, comes three years after a meat scandal in China, in which suppliers to McDonalds, KFC and others were found to be using dirty meat and products past their sell-by date. It also comes in the midst of a growing food scandal in Europe, which has required the recall of millions of eggs tainted with harmful chemicals, and as concerns have been aired over the impact of Brexit on imports of farm products to the UK.

Asian food companies have rapidly expanded their meat production in response to growing populations and the tastes of the rising middle class, but this expansion has come to the detriment of food safety.

Jeremy Coller, of Coller Capital, said: “Investors have a big appetite for the animal protein sector in Asia. But the growth is driven by a boom in factory farming that creates problems like emissions and epidemics, abuse of antibiotics and abuse of labour. Investors must improve the management of sustainability issues in the Asian meat and dairy industries if they want to avoid a nasty bout of financial food poisoning.”

However, the report also found that deploying modern techniques could assist in reducing the impact of factory farming – for instance, by using barcodes to enable consumers to check the provenance of eggs, by reducing greenhouse gases and improving the health of livestock.

Avian flu is an increasing threat, with the latest strain to take hold in China, H7N9, proving more deadly than previous strains. It has already killed 84% more people in the four years since its emergence than the H5N1 strain that came to public attention in 2006. Affected industries in China include suppliers to McDonalds and Walmart. An outbreak of bird flu in South Korea in 2016-17 resulted in the cull of a fifth of the country’s flock.

The authors of the study recommended that investors assess the risks of food production in the assets they hold, as financial firms can persuade the companies they fund to make improvements in their supply chain. But they said awareness among investors was currently too low and should be raised.

Previous food scandals have damaged the finances of multinational companiessuch as McDonalds and KFC. Jaideep Panwar, sustainability and governance manager at APG Asset Management Asia, said: “[This] reminds investors to keep a close eye on the long-term risks of food assets in Asia.

“The evolution of what are now early stage regulatory moves in Asia, supplier conditions introduced by international brands and import restrictions can have an impact on the productivity of Asian producers and their access to markets. Investors will assess the ability of companies in the meat supply chain to position themselves ahead of these risks.”

Melissa Brown, partner at Daobridge Capital in Hong Kong, added: “Few issues are as politically sensitive in Asia as food safety. Yet far too many food sector equities have been priced as if [these] risks don’t matter and that good risk management won’t be recognised in the market.”

The report was published on Monday by the international investment network FAIRR and the Asia Research and Engagement consultancy.

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Best of our wild blogs: 14 Aug 17

East Asian Ornate Chorus Frog (Microhyla fissipes) @ Windsor Nature Park
Monday Morgue

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Skyscrapers pose fatal risk to migratory birds: Study

Audrey Tan Straits Times 13 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - Skyscrapers have become an intrinsic part of the skyline in land-scarce Singapore but they are posing a problem for migratory birds.

And buildings in the central and western parts of the island are the ones birds are most likely to crash into, a new study has found.

The study, put together by bird scientists and researchers from institutions such as the Nature Society (Singapore) and National University of Singapore, found that, between 1998 and 2016, 237 migratory birds collided with buildings, and 157 of them or about 66 per cent, died.

Of the 237 collisions, 115 took place in the Central Business District area and a few residential areas on the fringes of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

In the west of the island, there were 57 collisions, largely in areas with heavy industrial land use on the edge of the Western Catchment area.

The two areas accounted for 73 per cent of all reported collisions in Singapore.

The study, the first to document bird and building collisions in South-east Asia, also found that certain species of birds are more likely to collide into buildings than others.

The study said: "The birds most vulnerable to collisions with man-made structures are migratory species whose routes pass through major urban centres.

"The problem is exacerbated by light pollution from urban buildings at night, which both attracts and disorientates night-flying birds, leading to increased collision rates in urban areas."

The rise in bird-building collision rates is not unique to Singapore. In North America, estimates of bird deaths from collisions range from 100 million to 1 billion birds a year.

In New York, a growing number of building owners are switching off non-essential lights after becoming aware about the fatal attraction birds have to lights.

Since 2005, more than 90 buildings in the city, including the Rockefeller Centre, Chrysler Building and the Time Warner Centre, have joined the Lights Out programme, which encourages buildings to take a lights-off approach to keep birds safe.

In Singapore, four species - the blue-winged pitta, yellow-rumped flycatcher, western hooded pitta and oriental dwarf kingfisher - together make up 53 per cent of all collisions.

The blue-winged pitta and the western hooded pitta fly into Singapore from the Indochina region, and do so largely at night.

"They may be particularly vulnerable in the vicinity of high-rise, brightly lit housing and office blocks, which are a feature of modern Singapore's skyline and are a deadly attraction to birds," said the study.

The study was done by Mr Low Bing Wen, Mr Yong Ding Li, Mr David Tan, Mr Alan Owyong and Mr Alfred Chia.

It was published in the June (2017) issue of Birding Asia, the bulletin of the Oriental Bird Club - a Britain-based society for ornithologists studying Asian birds.

Mr Alfred Chia, who is from the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, said all it takes is for people to turn off the lights in high-rise buildings, instead of leaving them on throughout the night.

He said: "It may not be practical or feasible for building authorities to make it mandatory for building owners and developers to install bird-friendly glass in building facades."

Bird-friendly glass is a special kind of glass that has UV-reflective patches, which make the glass more visible to passing birds.

As for the current situation, Mr Chia said: "There is one thing that can be immediately done and at no cost - switching off lights in tall office buildings in the city at night. It will contribute positively to minimising the incidences of birds crashing into buildings."

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Roots & Shoots growing strong in Singapore

Jessie Lim Straits Times 14 Aug 17;

The Singapore chapter of a service learning programme that grooms young people to make a difference for animals, the environment and the community has grown in a decade from a single school to more than 25 schools, from pre-school to tertiary levels.

Roots & Shoots, which has a global network, is a youth-oriented service programme founded in 1991 by renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. The Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), or JGIS, which celebrated its 10th year, runs the local Roots & Shoots network.

Explaining why Roots & Shoots has grown over the decade, Mr Tay Kae Fong, 39, JGIS president, said: "More young people feel empowered. They believe they can make a difference so that the environment, animals and people can develop in a sustainable way, together."

Other key programmes of JGIS include eco-literacy classes for secondary schools and monkey walks to educate the public about the long-tailed macaque, a monkey species native to Singapore.

Its Roots and Shoots conference, on Aug 8, brought together 13 local Roots & Shoots groups. The students and educators presented their projects, which included caring for migrant workers and the human-macaque conflict.

The highlight of the one-day conference, organised by JGIS and held at the Singapore Chinese Girls' School, was a keynote address by Dr Goodall.

Living in harmony with the macaques was at the heart of Ms Quek Xiao Tong's Roots & Shoots project, which she started during the December holidays in 2013.

Ms Quek and her team set up an outreach booth at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, talking to visitors over six weekends about the importance of not feeding the monkeys, as it makes the monkeys reliant on humans for food.

"Roots & Shoots showed that I can be an advocate for the environment and that people can change their mindsets about nature," she said.

Ms Quek, 20, now a second-year undergraduate doing environmental studies in the National University of Singapore, recently finished a three-month internship at JGIS, during which she helped to prepare for Dr Goodall's visit.

Eleven-year-old Benz Chong Tze Jun presented an individual project about macaque behaviour at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve during the conference.

This is the first year that the Ministry of Education and JGIS have collaborated on the Individualised Research Study, where Primary 5 pupils in the Gifted Education Programme research a project based on personal interests.

Benz made nine trips to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and MacRitchie Reservoir this year, and observed that the macaques at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve spent about 80 per cent of feeding time consuming natural food, and 20 per cent eating food provided by humans.

"With knowledge comes empowerment to educate the people around us, so that we can learn to co-exist with nature in harmony," the Primary 5 Nanyang Primary School pupil said.

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