Best of our wild blogs: 26 Apr 17



Friend's day out Island Exploration at St John's Island, Lazarus and Seringat-Kias
Offshore Singapore

When starfruits fall from the sky and rare birds just fly by
Love our MacRitchie Forest

7th Parrot Count 2017
Singapore Bird Group


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Large wild boar hit by car near Lentor Avenue, driver reportedly unhurt

Lydia Lam Straits Times 24 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE - A large wild boar said to weigh up to 100kg was killed after being hit by a car near Lentor Avenue on Sunday night (April 23).

While the animal's leg was broken from the impact, the driver was not hurt, Lianhe Wanbao said in a report on Monday.

The incident happened at a road near Lentor Avenue, towards Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6, at about 8pm.

Wanbao reported that the boar had dashed out into the middle of the road, and the driver could not stop in time.

When Wanbao visited the scene, the driver had already left. A reader told the Chinese newspaper that he had not been injured.

Mr Kalai Vanan, deputy chief executive officer of Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres), told The Straits Times that the group did not receive a call about this case.

"It is unfortunate that the wild boar sustained injuries and died," he said. "They can be found in this area due to the close proximity to nearby nature areas like Lentor and Seletar."

According to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority's (AVA's) website, wild boars are "unpredictable animals and can be dangerous".

"Due to their solid body build, wild boars are considered to be particularly dangerous when involved in car accidents," said the advisory.

Mr Kalai said he advised the public to be alert when driving on roads where there are adjacent nature areas, and to look out for wild animals that may be crossing.

"In the event of an accident, please call us at 9783-7782," he said. "Do not approach the animal as they may be severely injured and defensive. If possible and safe, help to divert traffic and call the relevant authorities for help."

Last November, a motorcyclist was hospitalised after colliding with a wild boar on the Bukit Timah Expressway at night.

In April last year, another motorcyclist fractured his shoulder after running into a wild boar in the evening along the Seletar Expressway.

Here is what to do if you encounter a wild boar, according to an advisory by AVA, the National Parks Board and Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

- Be calm and move slowly away from the animal. Do not approach or attempt to feed the animal.

- Keep a safe distance and do not corner or provoke the animal i.e. by using flash while taking pictures.

- If you see adults with young piglets, leave them alone. These are potentially more dangerous because they may attempt to defend their young.


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New Zika cluster reported at Highland Road, Jansen Close in Kovan

Channel NewsAsia 25 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: A new Zika cluster has been confirmed at Highland Road and Jansen Close near Kovan, with two cases of locally transmitted infection, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Tuesday (Apr 25).

Both are residents in the area, said NEA, adding that it has started operations to kill mosquitoes in the area.

There are now three active Zika clusters in Singapore around the same neighbourhood. NEA said an additional case was confirmed at the Glasgow Road cluster on Monday and another new case at the Poh Huat Road West/Poh Huat Terrace/Terrasse Lane cluster on Tuesday.

The cluster at Flower Road/Hendry Close closed on Tuesday and is being kept under surveillance, said NEA.

It urged residents to be vigilant and continue to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats, as there could still be "asymptomatic or mild, undiagnosed cases which might result in further transmission of the virus if there are mosquitoes in the vicinity".

Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/new-zika-cluster-reported-at-highland-road-jansen-close-in-kovan-8791398

New Zika cluster identified at Highland Road/Jansen Close
Today Online 25 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — A new Zika cluster at Highland Road and Jansen Close has emerged, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (April 25).

The agency said on its website that two new cases had been reported in the past two weeks, and it has started vector control operations in the area.

However, the cluster at Flower Road/Hendry Close has since been closed and is under surveillance. The clusters at Glasgow Road and Poh Huat Road West/Poh Huat Terrace/Terrasse Lane are still active.

The NEA has urged residents and stakeholders to remain vigilant and to take immediate steps to eliminate mosquito-breeding habitats by practising the five-step Mozzie Wipeout.

Most people infected with the Zika virus do not develop symptoms, which heightens the risk of a Zika resurgence, as it may take some time before a reintroduced Zika virus is detected.

Members of the public are advised to seek medical attention if they are unwell, especially with symptoms such as fever and rash. They should also inform their doctors of the location of their residence and workplace.


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Malaysia: Sun bear injured by poacher's snare stages remarkable recovery

BRANDON JOHN New Straits Times 25 Apr 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A sun bear caught by a poacher's snare and left injured three weeks ago, was successfully treated and released back into the wild yesterday.

In a video uploaded to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit Facebook page, the adult male bear can be seen tentatively exiting its cage, which was unlocked by a ranger, before eagerly scurrying off into the woods.

According to unit veterinarian Dr Laura Benedict, the bear's current condition is in stark contrast to when wildlife rangers first found it on March 25, in a forest on Sabah’s east coast.

"He was (limping around) the Maliau Basin conservation area, with part of the snare still attached to his front paw.

"In addition to a deep cut caused by the trap, there was also a (badly) infected wound on his back, which was likely caused by a spear, locally known as ‘bujak’," she said when contacted.

Laura added that considering the injuries, the fact that the bear recovered so well is nothing short of amazing – though her team did meet with some difficulties.

"Being a wild animal, his natural instinct is to avoid or act aggressively towards humans – this made it quite challenging for us to treat him.

"But he eventually co-operated quite well, making the recovery process go much smoother," she explained.

Although this sun bear's story turned out well, concerns remain over the increase in poaching activities in Sabah, and the effect it is having on the state's endangered species.

"If poachers can do this in a protected conservation area like Maliau Basin, it means they can do it elsewhere just as easily.

"These acts of poaching need to stop before it is too late (for endangered animals to survive)," Laura added.


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Indonesia: Two caught apparently trading Sumatran tiger skin

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb The Jakarta Post 25 Apr 17;

The Kerinci Seblat National Park's Sumatran tiger preservation team claimed to have recently caught two people transporting a piece of a Sumatran tiger skin on the border of Bungo regency, Jambi province, and Dharmasraya regency, West Sumatra.

The team, together with another from the National Park Management Section Region 2 Merangin and the Bungo Police, on Sunday evening searched a car in which they said they found a bag containing a skin of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, the head of the park, Arief Toengkagie, said. The tiger was determined to have been a one-and-a-half-year-old female.

"The tiger could have been hunted some six months to a year ago in a forest in Dharmasraya,” Arief said on Monday.

The two suspects were Syamsir, 55, of East Dumai, Riau province, and Aris Sulardi, 57, of Koto Baru, Dharmasraya. Both were under investigation by the Bungo police. A third person ran away during the raid, Arief said.

The raid was conducted following a tip-off that Syamsir was allegedly about to procure a tiger skin in the area. Surveillance on him led investigators to a suspicious car that had stopped at a gas station.

"Syamsir could be the trader or middleman that looks for goods to be traded from hunters, while Aris' role is still being investigated," said Arief.

There are only between 162 and 174 Sumatran tigers left in the national park, he added.

The population continues decreasing year after year because of conflicts with people, as well as because of poaching.

"Illegal trade and poacher networks can be found in every area around the park," he said.


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Best of our wild blogs: 25 Apr 17



Hilltop Chestnuts & Dairy Fairies
Winging It

Conservation of Giant Clams – Part 4
Neo Mei Lin


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Cheaper, cleaner electricity for households on the cards

TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 25 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — The largest renewable energy provider here plans to shake things up when the energy market becomes fully liberalised next year, by offering households prices that are 15 to 30 per cent cheaper than current rates.

Consumers can also buy clean energy with a touch of their fingertips using a mobile app, which will allow them to track their carbon footprint.

Sunseap, which has already snagged several big solar-leasing contracts — including with technology giant Apple and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) — is among a growing number of licensed electricity retailers that have entered the fray in recent years, in anticipation of the Government’s move to fully open up the market in the second half of 2018 — which will allow another 1.3 million consumers, mainly households, to have flexibility and choice in their electricity consumption. The market has been gradually liberalised over the years with the contestability threshold lowered in phases, but households have not been brought on board so far.

Sharing its plans with TODAY recently, Sunseap managing director Frank Phuan said the homegrown company will offer a variety of price plans to suit households of varying sizes and energy needs.

“Just like a telco plan with talktime minutes, we will offer ... for instance a two-year plan, with a set amount of energy units according to your needs. If households can’t finish these units, it could be rolled over to the following month,” said Mr Phuan.

Sunseap plans to start marketing its price plans at the end of the year. It is in talks with telecommunication firms and banks on possible tie-ups for consumers to pay for electricity through their telco or credit card bills.

Mr Phuan revealed that households may opt for hybrid plans, which will essentially be a mix of traditional and alternative energy. “They would be able to choose to, for instance, set 20 per cent of their energy needs to be served by alternative energy, with 80 per cent still met by traditional energy,” said Mr Phuan.

Sunseap’s mobile app, when available, will enable consumers to sign up for energy plans, and track their previous month’s usage. Not only will consumers get to see how much they save on their electricity bills as compared to their rival’s prices, they can also find out how much carbon they save by using alternative energy, said Mr Phuan.

Currently, there are 24 licensed electricity retailers — including Sunseap — in Singapore, based on the Energy Market Authority website. The number has jumped by almost double since 2015 when Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran announced the timeline of the full liberalisation.

Sunseap, which was founded in 2011, can trace it roots back to the 1970s when Mr Phuan’s father started a solar systems manufacturing business. Six years ago, Mr Phuan and his friend, Mr Lawrence Wu, decided to branch out into solar leasing services.

The company has not looked back since: Sunseap says it has achieved 80 per cent market share of Singapore’s clean energy market. Apart from the Republic, the firm has offices in Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, India, Malaysia and Australia.

In 2015, it landed a contract with Apple to supply clean energy for its operations in South-east Asia, including for its offices and the upcoming Apple Store in Singapore. The company has also been awarded a few tenders by the HDB to install solar panels on the rooftops of housing blocks.

Mr Phuan said Sunseap achieved grid parity at the retail level a few years ago, which means that it can offer alternative energy at a price equal to or cheaper than what is provided by the traditional electricity grid.

He noted that the demand for clean energy has been on the rise: In 2011, the company delivered just two megawatts of power to its customers. Within a year, this rose to 15 megawatts. This increased further to 50 megawatts in 2014, and 80 megawatts last year. An 80-megawatt system can power more than 21,100 four-room HDB flats for a year.

By the end of next year, Sunseap is set to deliver 200 megawatts to its customers, such as government agencies and companies, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“There is a desire among the SMEs to contribute to reducing Singapore’s carbon footprint ... some companies are actually less driven by the discounts (that they can get by using clean energy) ... but rather, the motivation to do something sustainable,” he said.


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UK: Seagrass meadow research project aided by app launch

BBC 24 Apr 17;

Marine conservationists have launched an app to encourage the public to identify and monitor underwater seagrass meadows.

Research by Project Seagrass, formed by scientists from Cardiff University and Swansea University, has shown the meadows are in a "perilous state".

Seagrasses are plants that form dense underwater beds in shallow water.

It is hoped people will use the app to help scientists with monitoring, conservation and education efforts.

"The app provides ocean enthusiasts around the world with an opportunity to become citizen scientists who contribute to marine conservation with just a few taps of their phone", said Benjamin Jones, project co-founder and research assistant at Cardiff University's Sustainable Places Research Institute.

The team hopes to create a more comprehensive picture of seagrass meadows around the globe.

It hopes it will inspire new scientific research and conservation measures that can help protect ocean habitats.


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Japan: Emergency declaration warns of coral extinction

The Yomiuri Shimbun 25 Apr 17;

NAHA — The Environment Ministry has prepared an emergency declaration over coral deaths caused by rising sea temperatures from global warming.

In an emergency countermeasures meeting of experts held in Okinawa Prefecture on Sunday, the ministry inked out the declaration, which states that coral could die out in the waters around Japan by the 2070s.

The ministry concluded in the declaration that it will mainly promote the development of new technologies to transplant and cultivate coral, and designate coral reef areas to prioritize conservation. It will also promote measures against global warming.

Swift action sought

Experts and people engaged in the tourism and fishery industries expressed a sense of urgency over the bleaching and death of coral, seeking early action to conserve coral reefs, which are facing a mounting risk of extinction.

“At the current pace of global warming, there could be major coral bleaching every year all over the world,” an expert said at the emergency measures meeting in Okinawa Prefecture on Sunday. Another said, “It’s been predicted the coral habitat will disappear in the waters near Japan in the 2070s.”

Reports offering a grim outlook for the future of the coral habitat were presented one after another at the meeting, which was attended by over 50 experts.

According to an Environment Ministry survey, more than 90 percent of the coral in the Sekisei Lagoon in the prefecture, the largest such reef in the nation, has become bleached, and about 70 percent of it died in 2016. Sea temperatures rose last year due to global warming, and few typhoons approached the area, which kept cold and warm sea water separated.

The lagoon experienced mass bleaching in 1998 and 2007. The experts said last year’s bleaching was the worst ever recorded in the lagoon.

“We must take some action as soon as possible,” said meeting chair Makoto Tsuchiya, a professor emeritus at the University of the Ryukyus.

Those in the tourism industry are concerned that the mass bleaching and death of coral could deal a blow to the industry, given coral is an important tourism resource.

“It’s become difficult to find healthy coral in the Sekisei Lagoon,” said Tomoya Takeuchi, 35, secretary general of the Yaeyama Diving Association. The lagoon, where many tropical fish live, has attracted divers from around the world.

A 39-year-old executive of a diving shop on Ishigakijima island said he is concerned that death of coral could also affect other marine life.

Although there has not yet been a conspicuous effect on the local tourist industry due to the death of coral, Takeuchi said, “We should move ahead with activities to conserve coral with various organizations, to provide tourists with an opportunity to enjoy our beautiful sea.”

Yoshimi Higa, 53, who has cultivated coral in the village of Onna in the northern part of Okinawa Island, said he wants to preserve the ecological system.

“Death of coral would make the water look muddy, which will make it difficult to catch fish. We want to advance a plan to cultivate coral more for the preservation of the ecological system,” said Higa, who also is an executive member of the village’s fisheries cooperative association.

Bleaching reports up since ’80s

There have been increasing reports of coral bleaching worldwide since the 1980s, with many cases of serious bleaching being seen in the past few years.

According to the ministry, the worst coral bleaching so far took place from 1997 to 1998. Sea temperatures rose at that time partly due to the El Nino phenomenon, resulting in the loss of 16 percent of the world’s coral. About 40 percent of major coral in the Sekisei Lagoon died.

The same scale of mass coral bleaching hit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Hawaii, Samoa and other places from 2014 to 2016.

“Coral reefs account for only 0.6 percent of the global sea area, but they are home to 25 percent of all marine life,” said Hajime Kayane, a professor of coral reef studies at the University of Tokyo. “Should coral reefs be lost, fishery resources and the tourism industry will suffer a huge blow.”Speech


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Japan to exceed bluefin tuna quota amid warnings of commercial extinction

Conservationists call on Japan to abide by fishing agreements after reports annual quota will be exceeded two months early
Justin McCurry The Guardian 24 Apr 17;

Conservation groups have called on Japan to abide by international agreements to curb catches of Pacific bluefin tuna after reports said the country was poised to exceed an annual quota two months early – adding to pressure on stocks that have already reached dangerously low levels.

Japan, by far the world’s biggest consumer of Pacific bluefin, has caused “great frustration” with its failure to abide by catch quotas intended to save the species from commercial extinction, said Amanda Nickson, the director of global tuna conservation at Pew Charitable Trusts.

“Just a few years of overfishing will leave Pacific bluefin tuna vulnerable to devastating population reductions,” Nickson said in Tokyo on Monday. “That will threaten not just the fish but also the fishermen who depend on them.”

Decades of overfishing have left the Pacific bluefin population at just 2.6% of its historical high, and campaigners say Japan must take the lead at a summit in South Korea this summer.

In 2015, Japan and other members of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission agreed to curtail catches of immature bluefin, halving the catch of fish under 30kg from the average caught between 2002 and 2004.

But Japanese media reported last week that the country would reach its catch limit for younger tuna for the year through to June two months early.

Some fisheries workers have ignored the restrictions, aware that they will not be punished and can fetch premium prices for Pacific bluefin in Japan, where it is regarded as an important part of the country’s culinary heritage.

Campaigners support the fisheries commission’s aim of rebuilding stocks to at least 20% of unfished levels by 2034 – a target Nickson said was “realistic and attainable”. She said further inaction could revive calls for a two-year commercial moratorium on catching Pacific bluefin.

“No country in the world cares more about the future of tuna than Japan,” she said. “Japan can take the lead, but it must start by committing itself to the 20% rebuilding plan.”

If that fails, she added, “then a full commercial moratorium could be the only feasible course of action”.

Aiko Yamauchi, the leader of the oceans and seafood group for WWF Japan, said it was time to penalise fishermen who violated catch quotas. “The quotas should be mandatory, not voluntary,” Yamauchi said. “That’s why the current agreement hasn’t worked.”

About 80% of the global bluefin catch is consumed in Japan, where it is served raw as sashimi and sushi. A piece of otoro – a fatty cut from the fish’s underbelly – can cost several thousand yen at high-end restaurants in Tokyo.


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Best of our wild blogs: 24 Apr 17



One nature’s most spectacular events
The Hantu Bloggers

NUS Civet Research Team’s outreach report card for 1st quarter of 2017
Toddycats!

Featuring some recent additions to the Singapore Checklist
Butterflies of Singapore

Ball Moon Snail (Neverita didyma) @ Chek Jawa
Monday Morgue


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Coming Sembawang Hot Spring redevelopment draws mixed response

Some look forward to the area being spruced up, while others are concerned about its impact on the environment and residents' sense of heritage and belonging.
Rachel Phua Channel NewsAsia 23 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: For Aster Lee, going to the Sembawang Hot Spring was relief of more than one kind.

Ms Lee made her first visit to the hot spring along Gambas Avenue in April together with a group of brisk walkers. It was a place that she had been keen to visit for quite a while, she said.

The 62-year-old retiree said she had also been having knee aches since spraining it last December, but felt some of the pain ease after soaking her legs in the hot water.

At the hot spring, water continuously flows out from the taps, providing visitors with an ample supply of hot water for various uses. When Channel NewsAsia visited the site in April, Ms Lee’s brisk walking group was boiling a basket of eggs in a pail of water.

People were also spotted using the water to do their laundry.

“It was a really good experience. I enjoyed the hot spring water,” Ms Lee said.

Come end-2018, trips to this northern part of Singapore might be a tad different The National Parks Board (NParks) announced that the Sembawang Hot Spring area will soon be turned into a one-hectare park. Development of the park will start at the end of this year and is expected to be completed a year later.

Not that it could not do with a little sprucing up.

“At first, the place looked a little unsightly,” Ms Lee said, adding that she hopes more drainage facilities, toilets and trash bins will be installed during the redevelopment as this could help keep some of the mosquitoes and ants at bay. A drink stall could be also be set up.

Said Ms Lee: "The water can be used to make hard-boiled eggs, (while we enjoy) a kaya toast”.

Another member of her group agreed and gave some creative suggestions of his own.

“They could build a drain, just for your feet to soak in (as you) sit along an embankment,” 57-year-old Yeow Kok Hoong said.

Others Channel NewsAsia spoke to, however, wished the site could remain in its current state.

Mr Teo Lye Hock, 67, another member of the brisk walking group, hopes the place remains free of charge after the revamp, calling it a “poor man’s spa”.

Another visitor, 59-year-old Mdm Pan Hiew Lian said in Mandarin: “I’ve already been coming here for more than 20 years. I don’t want it to be redeveloped because I think it brings a sense of nostalgia. Redevelopment might make it better, but it’ll lose its charm.”

Mdm Pan added that she used to visit the hot spring once a week when she was living close by and though she lives at Bukit Gombak with her husband now, they still visit it twice a month.

Ms Lee and Mr Yeow also said that despite looking forward to the upgrades, the site should still keep its “rustic setting”.

CONCERNS OVER ENVIRONMENT, HERITAGE

Dr Grahame John Henderson Oliver, a senior lecturer at the Nanyang Technological University's Asian School of the Environment, said that the redevelopment is timely as the area is currently very bare, but that feedback should be gathered among residents first.

“I think if you’re going to do any development in Singapore now, you do an environment impact assessment report and publish it."

"People can review that and presumably there’ll be townhall type meetings where people with different vested interests - the local people, the development people - can all discuss and reach an agreement on how it could be,” he said.

However, one historian said modifying the hot spring’s present form could also mean losing a part of Singapore’s heritage. Mr Alex Tan Tiong Hee, the honorary secretary of the Singapore Heritage Society, said the hot spring is one of the few remaining places of interest outside of the city region that serves to highlight Singapore's heritage.

"It’s something that doesn't just cater to the folks living around Yishun or Sembawang, (but it's also a place to show) tourists, our friends, that outside the urban areas we still have landmarks," he said.

Mr Tan added that landmarks such as the hot spring help create, among residents, a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood. Without it, that sense of attachment is reduced.

NParks said that it will appoint a team of consultants to help with the design and implementation of the park. The consultants will also have to give a “comprehensive report on the hydrogeological study of the site”.

HOW THE HOT SPRING WAS FORMED

According to Dr Olivier, the hot spring’s formation is linked to Bukit Timah Hill.

At 165 metres, the hill is the highest point in Singapore and when rain falls, the rainwater seeps through the granite within the hill.

The rainwater then sinks to about 4.8 kilometres underground, where it gets heated up by the surrounding rocks and mantle to about 160 degrees Celsius and 190 degrees Celsius, he explained.

As more rain falls, the water underground is pushed out through the faults and cracks that connect the ground under Bukit Timah Hill and the Sembawang Hot Spring, he said. The water then cools to 70 degrees Celsius as it reaches the surface.


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