Best of our wild blogs: 26 Jun 17



Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 08 Jul 2017
Love our MacRitchie Forest

25 Jun - 2 Jul: Week 8 of Pesta Ubin
Pesta Ubin 2017

Beting Bronok slowly dying
wild shores of singapore

ButterflyCircle : Conservation and Education
Butterflies of Singapore


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Steps to beef up process of wildlife impact assessment: Desmond Lee

Audrey Tan Straits Times 26 Jun 17;

When the Phase 1 environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the Cross Island MRT line was released in February last year, it described the impact of soil works on surrounding wildlife as "moderate".

But members of the public were left confused. What exactly does "moderate" impact mean?

There were concerns about how EIA studies are done after the release of the report which referred to possible plans for a tunnel under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) as part of the MRT line.

The Government now wants to strengthen the process, and the National Parks Board is working with partners to look at how it can be done, Mr Desmond Lee, Second Minister for National Development, told The Straits Times last week during his first interview as full minister.

"We are seeing how we can strengthen the EIA process, taking on board all the lessons that we picked up in the last few EIAs - improving baseline survey methodology, understanding of Singapore's perspective and situation," said Mr Lee, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs.

Baseline surveys are done to identify the different types of wildlife in an area. "So if an EIA consultant comes from abroad, they must recognise the fragility of our environment, the fragmentation of certain nature areas, and recognise that when they do an EIA, they have to recognise context."

More details will be revealed at a later date, added Mr Lee.

His comments come in the wake of two high-profile developments - the Cross Island Line, which is expected to be completed in 2030, and the Mandai eco-tourism hub.

In both cases, EIAs were done by international consultancy Environmental Resources Management, which was founded in Britain. It explored ways in which works could be carried out to reduce impact to surrounding flora and fauna.

When the two reports were released months apart last year, they were disputed by nature groups which pointed to the lack of clarity of terms used in the reports, and the lack of consideration of the Singapore context.

For instance, the EIA on Mandai had determined that impact could be reduced from "medium" to "small" if mitigation measures, such as forest restoration and avoiding work in certain areas, were enforced.

But the Nature Society (Singapore) pointed out that the magnitude of the impact could be underplayed, considering the project site's strategic location just outside Singapore's largest nature reserve.

Ecology consultants and scientists are encouraged by Mr Lee's announcement that the Government is looking into strengthening the processes behind EIAs.

On the importance of ensuring that EIAs are tailored to Singapore's context, Ms Natalia Huang, principal ecologist at environmental consultancy Ecology Matters, pointed to the uniqueness of Singapore's human-dominated environment and small size.

"Other countries may look at landscape-scale impacts spanning say, 100km, but Singapore doesn't have such a scale," she said.

Mr David Tan, a bird scientist from the National University of Singapore, said it is important that baseline studies involve more than just coming up with a checklist of species, adding that connectivity between green plots is also important.

He said: "It is also important to consider whether development works in an area would affect how animals move from place to place."


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Malaysia: Environment Ministry calls for freeze on open burning permits; cites dry monsoon

MOHD ROJI KAWI New Straits Times 26 Jun 17;

PETRA JAYA: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has instructed forest authorities nationwide to temporarily freeze the issuance of open burning permits as a preventive measure against the recurrence of the haze.

Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the move is made in light of the unusually dry monsoon season, which is expected to cast its spell over several parts of country beginning next month.

Open burning, said Junaidi, will only compound the situation and contribute to haze since the dry spell is expected to last until October.

“At the same time, Indonesian authorities have given their assurance that they will monitor (open burning) in their territory.

“In the past, open burning in Indonesia had triggered transboundary haze and affected Malaysia.

“We respect the commitment from Indonesian authorities and we should also do our part to stop haze from recurring,” the Santubong MP told reporters when met at his Hari Raya open house here today.


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Great Barrier Reef a $42 billion asset 'too big to fail': study

Martin PARRY AFP Yahoo News 26 Jun 17;

Sydney (AFP) - Australia's under-pressure Great Barrier Reef is an asset worth Aus$56 billion (US$42 billion) and as an ecosystem and economic driver is "too big to fail", a study said Monday.

The World Heritage-listed reef is the largest living structure on Earth and its economic and social value was calculated for the first time in the Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Using economic modelling, it said the reef -- bigger than Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined -- was worth Aus$29 billion to tourism, supporting 64,000 jobs.

The "indirect or non-use" value -- people that have not yet visited the reef but know it exists -- was estimated at Aus$24 billion, with recreational users such as boaters making up the rest.

The study, based on six months' analysis, comes as the reef suffers an unprecedented second straight year of coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change.

It is also under pressure from farming run-off, development and the crown-of-thorns starfish, with the problems compounded this year by a powerful cyclone pummelling the area.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation director Steve Sargent said the study showed that no single Australian asset contributed as much to international perceptions of "Brand Australia".

"At $56 billion, the reef is valued at more than 12 Sydney Opera Houses," he said.

"This report sends a clear message that the Great Barrier Reef -– as an ecosystem, as an economic driver, as a global treasure -– is too big to fail."

Commenting in the report, US presidential candidate turned conservationist Al Gore said the study was a "much needed, holistic view of the incredible economic value and opportunities provided by the Great Barrier Reef".

"Any failure to protect this indispensable natural resource would have profound impacts not only to Australia but around the world," he added.

- 'Priceless and irreplaceable' -

The study included a survey of 1,500 Australian and international respondents from 10 countries that found people value the reef for a range of reasons -– due to its importance for tourism but also the belief that Australia would not be the same without it.

Lead author, Deloitte Access's John O’Mahony, said it was clear the reef was "priceless and irreplaceable".

"But we’ve been able to look at it as an 'asset' that has incredible value on multiple fronts -- from its biodiversity and job creating potential to its support for critical industries and standing among international visitors to Australia," he said.

Australia last month hosted a summit of more than 70 of the world's leading marine experts to work on a blueprint on how best to respond to the threats facing the reef.

Options explored included developing coral nurseries, strategies to boost culling of crown-of-thorns starfish, expanding monitoring systems and identifying priority sites for coral restoration.

Key to the talks was the need to slash greenhouse gas emissions to prevent warming sea temperatures.

Canberra in 2015 narrowly avoided UNESCO putting the reef on its endangered list, and has committed more than Aus$2.0 billion to protect it over the next decade.

But it has been criticised for backing a huge US$16 billion coal project by Indian mining giant Adani near the reef, which environmentalists warn would harm the natural wonder.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg insisted protecting the reef was a priority.

"It is critical for reefs worldwide, including the Great Barrier Reef, that international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are effective," he said in response to the study.

"Australia is taking strong action to address the global threat of climate change having ratified the Paris Agreement which will see Australia reduce its emissions by 26 to 28 percent on 2005."


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Best of our wild blogs: 25 Jun 17



Chek Jawa is still alive!
wild shores of singapore

Afternoon Walk At Windsor Nature Park (24 Jun 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Movies Galore!
BES Drongos


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Best of our wild blogs: 24 Jun 17



Green Drinks: Mapping Food Sharing Landscape in Singapore
Green Drinks Singapore

Sharing Chek Jawa and Ubin with Youth Corps Singapore
wild shores of singapore


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More students to get a chance to plan the greening of their own schools

Yap Li Yin Straits Times 23 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE - Another 10 schools have joined a programme that gives secondary school students the chance to propose action plans to green their schools.

The Greenovate programme - a collaboration between the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC), Republic Polytechnic (RP) and Johnson Controls - was launched last June with an initial group of nine secondary schools.

Following energy audits by RP students and Johnson Controls, an energy service company, secondary school students in the programme draw up plans to improve the environmental sustainability of their school buildings.

Last year (2016), students from the first nine secondary schools achieved positive results with Commonwealth Secondary School and Woodgrove Secondary School attaining BCA's Green Mark Gold and GoldPlus certifications respectively.

The other schools will be undergoing assessment for the certification, which is a benchmarking scheme that aims to promote sustainability in the built environment.

Speaking on Friday (June 23) at the opening ceremony of the Build-it-Green (BiG) carnival, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, announced that the collaboration has been extended for another year.

The three-day carnival, held at Bedok Town Square, is aimed at families with children and hopes to raise awareness of the importance of being environmentally sustainable and eco-friendly. The event is jointly organised by the BCA and SGBC, for the third year running.

Mr Lee, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and National Development, said that all Singaporeans, especially the young, play a significant role in ensuring the environmental sustainability of the built environment.

"Changing our behaviour and mindset is the main challenge, which is why it is important to start young," he said.

The event also saw the release of an illustrated storybook entitled The Adventures Of Greco And Beco: The School In The Glass City, to further spread the green message of conserving resources to school children.

It is the sequel to a 2015 book, The Adventures Of Greco And Beco: The Glass House.

The BCA has also commissioned theVoice, a local performing arts company, to produce and stage a musical based on the new book. Performances will be held at shopping spaces and libraries from July onwards, and at all primary schools by end 2019. There was a preview on Friday for carnival visitors.

Nine-year-old Tan Kai Yee, who was at the carnival with her grandmother Madam Goh Ai Hock, 73, a retiree, said she is looking forward to seeing the performance at her school.

The carnival is open to members of the public and will run until Sunday (June 25).


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Malaysia: Carcass of endangered turtle found tied to rock

DINA MURAD The Star 23 Jun 17;


Picture credit to Mohd Forzi Zahari

PETALING JAYA: A group of divers on an excursion in Pulau Bidong on Wednesday stumbled upon a devastating sight – the carcass of a critically endangered hawksbill turtle tied to a rock.

The dead turtle was discovered by the group of nine divers in Terengganu's Underwater Gallery in Pulau Bidong.

"One of its hind legs (paddle-like flippers) was tied to a rock. Our dive instructor then cut the turtle loose," Universiti Malaya Terengganu (UMT) student Kong Mei Shuet, 21, told The Star Online on Friday.

According to Kong, someone must have tied the turtle to the rock.

"The knot was neatly tied to a rock and to the deeper part of the leg. It is impossible for a turtle's leg to be stuck that deep into that tightened knot," she explained.

Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles and need to surface occasionally to breathe.

"The body of the turtle simply floated to the surface after we released it from the rock. Before it floated away, we honoured it by taking it for one last swim. We do not want to bury it on land as the natural habitat for turtles is the ocean," said the marine biology student.

She expressed her dismay at the treatment of the rare and vulnerable species.

Kong also said that she was more motivated to protect the ocean after the encounter.


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Malaysia: Fatal accident claims life of endangered panther

T.N.Alagesh New Straits Times 23 Jun 17;


A male panther, locally known as 'harimau kumbang', was found dead along Jalan Sungai Yu-Merapoh near here yesterday. Pic by STR/MOHD RAFI MAMAT.

LIPIS: A male panther, locally known as 'harimau kumbang', was found dead along Jalan Sungai Yu-Merapoh near here yesterday.

State National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) director Ahmad Azhar Mohammed said the carcass of the protected animal was recovered some eight kilometers from the Sungai Yu eco-viaduct (wildlife crossing) about 10am on Thursday.

He said checks revealed the adult-sized panther might have been hit by a heavy vehicle between midnight and early yesterday before some villagers stumbled upon the carcass.

"The animal sustained injuries on the head and this is the first incident reported along the stretch near Sungai Yu in Lipis," he said.

Images of the panther has gone viral on social media with many expressing concern for the safety of the endangered species especially when they roam close to the main roads at night and early morning.

On June 19, a two-year-old elephant was found dead by the roadside of the Gerik-Jeli Highway in Gerik, Perak after a motorist crashed into the calf about 2.30am.


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World Heritage coral reefs likely to disappear by 2100 unless CO2 emissions drastically reduced - UNESCO Assessment

UNESCO Press Release 23 Jun 17;

Today, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre released the first global scientific assessment of climate change impacts on World Heritage coral reefs.

Soaring ocean temperatures in the past three years have subjected 21 of 29 World Heritage reefs to severe and/or repeated heat stress, and caused some of the worst bleaching ever observed at iconic sites like the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Papahānaumokuākea (USA), the Lagoons of New Caledonia (France) and Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles). The analysis predicts that all 29 coral-containing World Heritage sites would cease to exist as functioning coral reef ecosystems by the end of this century under a business-as-usual emissions scenario.

Bleaching is a stress response that causes coral animals to expel the microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) whose photosynthesis provides the energy needed to build three-dimensional reef structures. Mass bleaching is caused by rising water temperatures associated with climate change. It only takes a spike of 1-2°C to cause bleaching, and carbon emissions have caused a 1°C increase in global surface temperature since pre-industrial times. This effect has been magnified by strong El Niño and La Niña events. Ocean acidification caused by dissolved atmospheric CO2 weakens corals further.

“ The 29 globally significant coral reefs on UNESCO’s World Heritage List are facing existential threats, and their loss would be devastating ecologically and economically,” said Dr. Mechtild Rossler, Director of the World Heritage Centre. “These rainforests of the sea protect coastal communities from flooding and erosion, sustain fishing and tourism businesses, and host a stunning array of marine life.”

The social, cultural and economic value of coral reefs is estimated at US$1 trillion. Recent projections indicate that climate-related loss of reef ecosystem services will total US$500 billion per year or more by 2100, with the greatest impacts felt by people who rely on reefs for day-to-day subsistence.

Widespread coral bleaching was first documented in 1983, but the frequency and severity is increasing. The last three years were the hottest on record, and they caused a global bleaching event that reached 72% of World Heritage-listed reefs.

“We know the frequency and intensity of coral bleaching events will continue to increase as temperatures rise,” said Dr. Scott Heron, NOAA Coral Reef Watch and lead author of the assessment. “Our goal was to document climate impacts on World Heritage-listed coral reefs to date, and examine what the future may hold. The fate of these treasures matters to all humankind, and nations around the world are bound by the 1972 World Heritage Convention to support their survival.”

Coral communities typically take 15 to 25 years to recover from mass bleaching. The assessment looked at the frequency with which World Heritage reefs have been subjected to stress that exceeds best-case rates of recovery. It also examined future impacts to World Heritage reefs under two emissions scenarios. The results were sobering and concluded that delivering on the Paris Agreement target of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C” offers the only opportunity to prevent coral reef decline globally, and across all 29 reef-containing natural World Heritage sites.

The assessment was developed with satellite data from the United States National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch and received the support from the French Agency for Biodiversity (Agency Française pour la Biodiversité).

Impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage Coral Reefs
A First Global Scientific Assessment
http://whc.unesco.org/document/158688


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Best of our wild blogs: 22-23 Jun 17



Successful breeding of Yellow-bellied Prinia
Singapore Bird Group

Restoration of shattered coral reef at Raja Ampat on hold
mongabay.com


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The $100 Billion City Next to Singapore Has a Big China Problem

Beijing's capital controls are spooking some property buyers
Bloomberg News 23 Jun 17;


Construction continues on reclaimed land at Country Garden's "Forest City", with Singapore in the background.PHOTOGRAPHER: ORE HUIYING/BLOOMBERG

The $100 billion city rising from the sea next to Singapore has hit a roadblock: China’s capital controls.

The dream of a Malaysian version of Shenzhen — largely funded by Chinese developers and buyers — with hotels, offices, golf courses, tech parks and thousands of ritzy new apartments, is having to adapt after China’s government clamped down on an exodus of money for investment in overseas property.

Developers’ sales offices in China that once brought in buyers by the hundreds are now pushing developments in Chinese cities. Subsidized junkets that flew in prospective buyers to development sites in the southern Malaysian state of Johor have dwindled. And some buyers who paid deposits for yet-to-be-built homes are considering canceling their purchases.

“I feel I’m on the horns of a dilemma,” said Michelle Gao, who paid about 600,000 yuan ($87,825) toward the 1.2 million yuan cost of a two-bedroom apartment at Country Garden Holdings Co.’s vast Forest City development. “If the project relies so much on Chinese buyers like me, how on earth are they able to sell in future? Will the construction ever finish?”

The crackdown on outflows of money from China has spooked some buyers. While Chinese citizens are allowed an annual foreign exchange quota of $50,000, the government said in December that all buyers of foreign exchange must sign a pledge that they won’t use their quotas for offshore property investment. Violators would be added to a watch list, denied access to foreign currency for three years and be subject to a money-laundering investigation.

The restriction threatens to take the wind out of residential property sales in cities around the world where prices have been driven in the past few years by buyers from China. Few projects are likely to be affected as much as the Chinese-financed developments in Johor, some of which had relied on mainland customers for as much as 90 percent of sales.

Six Chinese buyers interviewed for this story said they paid a 10 percent down-payment to Country Garden in showrooms in China by swiping debit or credit cards or using payment services like Alipay. They said the property agents are now telling them they need to go to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau to swipe their cards to pay the balance of installments, or wire funds to Country Garden’s overseas accounts.

Many are worried that would still make them liable under China’s foreign exchange rules. This month, the Chinese government said domestic banks will have to provide daily reports of clients’ overseas transactions of more than 1,000 yuan.
“I was told it can still be done from Hong Kong, but I’m just scared now,” said buyer Elaine Xiao. “I don’t know what punishment I may get.”
Country Garden said the controls have not had a material effect on sales and construction at Forest City is continuing. It has completed a luxury hotel and handed over the first batch of 132 apartments on May 1.

The Johor developments stem from Iskandar Malaysia, a government effort to leverage Singapore’s success by building a new metropolis near the causeway that connects the island state to the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru. When the 20-year project was announced in 2006, it envisaged a total investment of 383 billion ringgit ($87 billion) and much of the early investment came from Singapore.

But then Chinese developers like Country Garden and Greenland Holdings Group Co. moved in with projects that dwarfed those of their Malaysian and Singaporean rivals. Country Garden’s “Forest City” alone called for a $100 billion high-rise town to be built on artificial islands within a few hundred yards of Singapore.

The projects were marketed in China, and thousands paid deposits for apartments that cost as much as double the rate per square meter of homes for Malaysian buyers in Johor Bahru.

A buyer whose family name is Yu said she doesn’t intend to pay the next installment on her apartment when it comes due this month. She said her agent advised her to swipe her credit card in Hong Kong to get around the rules. “I asked the sales agent will you take responsibility when I’m blacklisted in China?”

Yu, from Guangzhou, put down a deposit on a 1.2 million yuan, 59-square-meter apartment in Phase III of the project while visiting the vast landscaped sales gallery at the construction site in December. She’s among those now considering walking away from the agreement because of concern about breaking the rules.

Country Garden announced on June 20 it would proceed with stage 2 of the Forest City development, a $280 million plan that includes golf courses, an international school and another hotel. The developer said in April it was in discussion with fewer than 60 Chinese buyers who indicated their intention to cancel bookings. The company said it sold 16,000 residential units in Forest City last year.

Country Garden said earlier it had stopped marketing Forest City in its sales galleries in China and ceased organizing tours to its Johor projects for would-be buyers. Its agents in China are pushing domestic projects in the country’s tropical southern resort of Sanya and the seaside city of Beihai.

The developer said it has opened Forest City showrooms in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, and plans to open more this year in Vietnam, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Dubai, the Philippines and Laos.

Construction at Greenland’s Jade Palace development was suspended in November while the company considered revising the project density to build more, but smaller apartments, according to a sales agent with knowledge of the project. No construction work was going on during a weekday visit to the site in May.

In a response to written questions, Greenland said on June 3 that construction had not stopped and that the design of the apartments will be optimized pending feedback from previous buyers. It declined to give sales figures, but said it is looking for more buyers outside China.

Samuel Tan, executive director at KGV International Property Consultants, said approvals for all new serviced apartments in Johor have been frozen since 2014 and existing projects were introducing more affordable properties at around 600,000 ringgit instead of 800,000 to 1 million ringgit.

“Given the oversupply, we don’t foresee any recovery until 2019 for high-rise projects,” Tan said. He said China’s capital controls were only significant to the Chinese-owned projects.

The glut of properties being built in Johor has also affected local developers, Petaling Jaya-based Tropicana Corp. is giving a 25 percent rebate on the list price of homes they are marketing an interest-free, 36-month deferred payment plan.

Resale asking prices of properties in Johor have dropped 2 percent in the past two years, according to real estate listings website PropertyGuru.com.

Yu, the buyer from Guangzhou, worries that the thousands of apartments still to be built at Forest City will be hard to sell without Chinese buyers.

“My home is still in the ocean,” Yu said. “Locals will not buy homes with prices double the local rate. Without enough residents from China, everything will change.”


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