Best of our wild blogs: 18 Nov 17



Singapore got marine biologists meh?
Mei Lin NEO

Night Walk At Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (17 Nov 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

The haunted island in Northwest Singapore and its laird
The Long and Winding Road


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AVA investigating case of 5 hedgehogs abandoned at HDB garbage point

Lydia Lam Straits Times 17 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE - The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is investigating a case where five hedgehogs were found abandoned at the garbage point of a Housing Board block on Nov 10.

Wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres) had posted a photo of the hedgehogs on its Facebook page on Wednesday (Nov 15), alongside a photo of a single hedgehog that was found in the drain of a nature reserve last year and died soon after rescue.

Acres deputy chief executive Anbarasi Boopal told The Straits Times that the five hedgehogs were abandoned in a plastic box on Nov 10, and passed to Acres the day after. It is unclear where exactly they were found as they were handed over by a volunteer.

The hedgehogs were passed to the Singapore Zoo on Saturday as Acres does not have the permits to house exotic mammals.

Ms Boopal said Acres just attended to another abandoned hedgehog case on Wednesday morning.

"Pet abandonment is a serious issue," she said. "Online trade in illegal wildlife is rampant in Singapore, and people often buy without knowing that it is illegal, and then they do not know what to do with the animal when it falls sick."

A spokesman for AVA told The Straits Times on Friday that it is aware of the case of abandonment and is investigating the case.

This year, there were five cases where hedgehogs were kept illegally, with a total of nine hedgehogs involved, said AVA.

Meet some of HDB's exotic and illegal tenants

Last year, there were two such cases involving two hedgehogs.

There were no cases of illegal import of hedgehogs both last year and this year.

It is an offence in Singapore to illegally import or export, possess, sell, offer or advertise for sale or display to the public any illegal wildlife species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna or Flora (Cites).

It is also an offence to keep, sell or offer for sale wild animals not protected by Cites, such as hedgehogs.

Those found guilty may be fined up to $1,000, and the wild animal will be forfeited.

"Demand for such animals would fuel illegal wildlife trade. Wild animals are not suitable pets as they may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans and can be a public safety risk if mishandled or if they escape into our dense urban environment," said the AVA spokesman.

She added that mishandled wild animals may face unnecessary suffering, and wild animals that are not native to Singapore may pose a threat to our biodiversity if released into the environment.

Anyone with information on the case or other cases of illegal wildlife trade, such as photographic or video evidence, may contact AVA on its 24-hour hotline 1800-476-1600. All information shared with AVA will be kept confidential.

They can also contact Acres at acrescrime@gmail.com or call its 24-hour wildlife crime and rescue hotline on 9783-7782.

Additional reporting by Shelina Ajit Assomull


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Malaysia: Johor Sultan gives consent for straight bridge to Singapore

The Star 17 Nov 17;

JOHOR BARU: Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, has consented to the construction of a 25m-high Rapid Transit System (RTS) straight bridge across the Strait of Johor.

The ruler gave his consent at an audience granted to Land Public Transport Commission CEO Mohd Azharuddin Mat Sah and several other senior officers at Istana Bukit Pelangi here last Wednesday.

The audience was granted for the submission of three options on the RTS alignment after taking into consideration the proposal Sultan Ibrahim made when SPAD officers had an audience with the ruler on Sept 19.

"The sultan granted consent for a 25m-high bridge straight across the Straits of Johor. The alignment adheres to the technical guidelines of the Malaysian Marine Department that requires a minimum 25m air draft (clearance height from water to a vessel's height)," SPAD said in a statement here Friday.

The statement said SPAD wished to record its highest appreciation to Sultan Ibrahim for his support and consent for the RTS project.

SPAD also wished to record its appreciation to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan for his leadership and guidance in the RTS project, it said.

The construction of the RTS was proposed in May 2010 as an alternative transport for the 80,000 to the 100,000 users of the Johor Causeway daily.

It is expected to facilitate travel for up to 10,000 passengers every hour between the two stations, namely Woodlands in Singapore and Bukit Chagar in Johor Bahru. – Bernama


Sultan of Johor consents revised Rapid Transit System Link alignment design
Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 17 Nov 17;

JOHOR BARU: Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar has agreed on the revised Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link alignment design as proposed by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).

The ruler conveyed his agreement after granting an audience with SPAD chief executive officer Mohd Azharuddin Mat Sah and his senior management team at Istana Bukit Pelangi here on Tuesday, where they presented the ruler with several options for the project.

In a statement, SPAD said these alignment options took into account the suggestions made by Sultan Ibrahim during an earlier audience that the ruler granted on September 19.

“His Majesty has agreed to the option of a 25m high bridge which will cross the Straits of Johor in a straight line, while still complying with the Marine Department technical guidelines for a minimum of 25m air draught clearance.

“His Majesty also stressed the importance of ensuring adequate traffic dispersal at the RTS Bukit Chagar station area, and SPAD will act on it,” SPAD said.

The commission said it wishes to convey its gratitude to Sultan Ibrahim for giving his full support for the RTS project, and extended its appreciation to the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan for his guidance on the project.

In August, Sultan Ibrahim expressed his reservations on the proposed design of the RTS rail track, including an elevated bridge, linking Woodlands in Singapore and Bukit Chagar, Johor Baru.

Speaking during an exclusive interview with the New Straits Times Press group, Sultan Ibrahim said while he welcomed the project, he disagreed with the overall curve-shaped design of the track, as well as the plan to build the bridge as high as 30m above water in the middle section.

He was reported as saying that the bridge would disrupt the city skyline along the Johor Straits, adding the proposed curved design of the rail link, as well as the elevated bridge, was impractical, unsustainable and potentially costly.

In September, Abdul Rahman met Sultan Ibrahim to provide details on the RTS project and the ruler had expressed his views

The RTS, which was announced by the Malaysian and Singaporean governments seven years ago, is expected to accommodate up to 10,000 passengers an hour in each direction between its terminus stations at Bukit Chagar and Woodlands.

On the Singapore side, the rail link will join the republic's Mass Rapid Transit at its upcoming Thomson East Coast Line (TEL), which will open in phases from 2019 to 2024.


Johor Sultan approves straight bridge for JB-Woodlands rail link
Channel NewsAsia 17 Nov 17

JOHOR BARU: The Sultan of Johor has agreed to a revised design of a straight, elevated bridge for the Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail track connecting Johor Baru and Woodlands in Singapore.

Malaysia's land transport authority said in a media statement on Friday (Nov 17) that Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar agreed on the revised plan proposed by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) after a meeting on Wednesday.

The earlier plan was for a curved rail track as well as an elevated bridge as high as 30m above water in the middle section.

Sultan Ibrahim in August had criticised the previous design plan, saying that besides being impractical, unsustainable and potentially costly, the curved shape and 30m height would disrupt the city skyline along the Johor Straits, according to a previous NST report.

In its statement on Friday, SPAD said: "His Majesty agreed to the option of a 25m high bridge which will cross the Straits of Johor in a straight line while still complying with Marine Department technical guidelines for a minimum 25m air draught clearance.

"These alignment options took into account the suggestions made by His Majesty during the earlier audience that His Majesty granted on 19th September 2017."

Sultan Ibrahim also stressed the importance of ensuring adequate traffic dispersal at the RTS Bukit Chagar station area, which SPAD said it will "act on it".

The RTS Link was first announced in 2010, and is expected to begin passenger service by the end of December 2024.

Singapore has confirmed that its RTS terminus will be located at Woodlands North station, along the Thomson-East Coast MRT line, while Malaysia has chosen Bukit Chagar as its main terminal for the RTS.

The RTS Link will be able to carry up to 10,000 passengers in each direction every hour. Once it begins passenger service, the existing KTMB Tebrau shuttle will cease operations.
Source: CNA/kc


Johor Sultan agrees to straight bridge
Straits Times 18 Nov 17;

JOHOR BARU • The ruler of Johor has agreed to the construction of a straight elevated bridge for a new rail line linking Johor Baru and Woodlands, Malaysia's land transport authority said yesterday.

The earlier plan was for a curved bridge for the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link across the Strait of Johor.

Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar agreed on the revised route as proposed by the Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) after a meeting on Wednesday.

The ruler said in August that the curved bridge idea was impractical, unsustainable and potentially costly.

"His Majesty agreed to the option of a 25m-high bridge which will cross the Strait of Johor in a straight line while still complying with Marine Department technical guidelines for a minimum 25m air draught clearance," Spad said in a statement.

"His Majesty also stressed the importance of ensuring adequate traffic dispersal at the RTS Bukit Chagar station area, and Spad will act on it."

Asked for its reaction, a spokesman for Singapore's Ministry of Transport said: "Singapore has been in discussions with the Malaysian government on various aspects of the Johor Baru-Singapore RTS Link project, including its alignment."

The RTS link will connect Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru and the planned Woodlands North MRT station, which is part of the upcoming Thomson-East Coast (TEL) Line.

The TEL MRT line is expected to open in phases from 2019 to 2024. Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to jointly appoint an operating company to run and maintain the cross-border line's operating systems, with Singapore's SMRT Corp and Malaysia's Prasarana being invited to be part of the venture.

In August, Sultan Ibrahim told the New Straits Times in an interview that while he welcomed the RTS, he disagreed with the overall curved design of the bridge as well as building it 30m above water in the middle of the Strait of Johor. He said such a design would disrupt the Johor Baru city skyline.

The RTS, which was announced seven years ago, is expected to accommodate up to 10,000 passengers an hour in each direction between the two terminus stations.


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Malaysia: Kubang Pasu flood evacuees increase to about 1,000

ADIE SURI ZULKEFLI New Straits Times 17 Nov 17;

ALOR STAR: The number of flood evacuees in Kubang Pasu district has jumped to nearly 1,000 people this morning, an increase of one-fold compared to yesterday.

Bukit Pinang, a flood prone area in Kota Star is the latest location hit by flash floods, forcing 48 people from 13 families to seek temporary shelter at Surau Assyakirin, Kepala Batas since 10pm last night.

A spokesman with the state Civil Defence Force (APM) Natural Disaster Secretariat said all the 930 evacuees from 250 families are currently taking shelter at six relief centres in Jitra.

He said 278 victims from 72 families are taking shelter at Dewan Kampung Bata followed by another 130 from 30 families in Kampung Lahar.

"The other 222 victims from 63 families are seeking shelter at Dewan Kubur Siam, 202 from 54 families are placed in Dewan Jitra while another 50 from 18 families have been relocated to Dewan Tokong Cina in Jitra area.


Kedah flood update: Fine weather sends over 600 flood evacuees home
Zuliaty Zulkiffli New Straits Times 17 Nov 17;

KUBANG PASU: Shahrom Ali, 60, returning to check on her home in Kampung Paya Tok Teh here this morning, hopes that the floodwater will recede soon.

The elderly woman, who lives alone in a double-storey home, said her house is still inundated by water about half a metre high.

This, however, is slightly better compared to yesterday, Thursday, when the village under one-metre deep water.

"I hope the flood water will recede soon so that I can return and clean up my home," she said.

It will be a daunting task for Shahrom as she has injured herself after slipping when the house was flooded yesterday.

Despite her predicament, Shahrom, who is taking shelter at the Dewan Kampung Bata flood relief centre, is thankful to the authorities who have been helping her.

She is one of the 204 flood evacuees who are taking shelter at the relief centre.

Meanwhile the state Civil Defence Force (APM) director Lieutenant Colonel Mohd Zul Khairi Shamsudin said the situation is expected to improve today after the number of evacuees shot up to nearly 1,000 late yesterday.

He said the flash floods in Jitra were caused by a heavy rainy spell since Tuesday.

"This has resulted in the the rivers in Changlun and Sintok to overflow, triggering a flash floods in low-lying areas.

"However, we expect the situation will improve today, Friday, based on fairer weather. There is no high-tide phenomenon at the moment," he said.

Zul Khairi added that the Muda Agriculture Development Authority (Mada) and the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) are working to channel water from the river into the sea.

"We are still on alert while constantly monitoring updates from the Meteorological Department," he said when visiting the relief centres here.

He advised those living in low-lying areas to be on alert should rainfall last more than four hours.

He added that 100 APM personnel and officers from the Kubang Pasu and Kota Setar districts are on standby to help affected residents with the evacuation process.

As of 4pm today, over 600 flood evacuees in the Kubang Pasu district have been allowed to return home and more are expected to go home soon once the situation improves.


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Indonesia: World Praises Indonesia for Success with Peat Governance amid Climate Change

NetralNews 18 Nov 17;

BONN, NETRALNEWS.COM - The success of the Indonesian government in dealing with peatlands over the past two years has drawn attention of many countries in the world.

Indonesia is getting attention for being considered to have made an 'unusual leap' and achievements in peat governance, amidst the increasingly challenging threats to climate change.

One indicator is that if Indonesia has been routinely experiencing forest and land fires for decades, which mostly occur in peatlands, for 2016 and 2017, similar disasters can be addressed properly.

"We prove that Indonesia is not a lagging state [in peat governance]. Many references are taken from this conference. From Indonesia, the world learns about peatland governance," said Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya at the 23rd Conference of Party (COP 23 UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany, as quoted from the website of the Environment Ministry, Friday (11/17/2017).

Various efforts and government policies managed to reduce the number of hotspots significantly. Based on NOAA satellite data as of November 17, 2017, the number of hotspots was reduced from 21,929 (2015) to 3,915 or 82 percent in 2016. While in 2017, the hotspots were 2,546 or decreased by 91 percent from 2015 to 2017.

The same indication can also be seen from the monitoring of the TERRA NASA satellite. The hotspots were reduced to 95 percent from 2015 (70,971 hotspots) to 2016 (3,844 hotspots). Whereas in 2017 compared to 2015, it was reduced to 98 percent (2,326 hotspots).

Another indicator is the area of burning, from 2.6 million hectares (ha) in 2015 down to 128 thousand ha in 2017. This means that the area of forest and land fires is reduced by 95 percent.

Minister Siti Nurbaya revealed in an area of 2.6 million hectares burned in 2015, there are about 900 thousand ha of peatland forest. In 2016, there was a drastic decline of burning peatlands, to only about 67 thousand ha or decreased by 93 percent. Until November 17, 2017, peatland in Indonesia is burned only about 10 thousand hectares or has been reduced to 99 percent compared to 2015.

With these efforts, Indonesia has been able to successfully avoid the forest and land fires and smoke debris in 2016 and 2017, after previously taking place for decades.

"The restoration agenda in Indonesia is driven by science and because this is the biggest global effort to restore tropical peat, it will generate new insights and paradigms in tropical peatland management," said Minister Siti.


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Indonesia smugglers stuffed exotic birds in pipes

AFP Yahoo News 16 Nov 17;

Jakarta (AFP) - Smugglers who allegedly stuffed 125 exotic birds into drain pipes have been arrested in Indonesia, officials said Thursday, as part of a bid to clamp down on a lucrative illegal trade in wildlife.

Four men have been charged after 41 endangered white cockatoos and 84 eclectus parrots were discovered squashed into plastic piping that had been cut and sealed at each end by wire.

Police said the men were arrested in four separate locations in eastern Indonesia, and are part of a suspected wildlife trafficking ring.

They face a maximum five years in prison and 100 million Rupiah ($7,400) fine if found guilty.

The vast jungles of Indonesia are home to 131 threatened bird species, according to wildlife trade watchdog TRAFFIC, more than any other country except Brazil.

But there is also large-scale illegal trading of birds, which sees them sold in giant avian markets in Indonesia's major cities, or smuggled abroad.

Exotic birds are usually poached and trafficked by smuggling gangs for sale as pets and as status symbols.

The Philippines may have been the destination for the birds found on Monday because the suspects are linked to "a parrot smuggling network there", said Dwi Adhiasto of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which works with Indonesian authorities to halt such crime.

White cockatoos, which are native to the remote North Maluku province, are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Their global population is estimated to be between 43,000 and 183,000, IUCN says, but is in decline because of poaching, trafficking and habitat loss.


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Fishing 'best argument for seagrass conservation'

Jonathan Amos
BBC 17 Nov 17;

The importance of seagrasses is further emphasised in a new report that looks at how they underpin fishing worldwide.

These flowering plants, which grow in near-shore waters, are under intense pressure - some estimates suggest global losses are running at 7% a year.

The grasses provide shelter and food for many sea creatures and that makes them a natural draw to fishers.

But Richard Unsworth and colleagues say this valuable resource will need better management if it is to be sustained.

"Our study is really the first to show just how important seagrass meadows are to fishing," explained the researcher from Swansea University in the UK.

"Wherever you get seagrasses, you get fishing, basically," he told BBC News.

Seagrass meadows are found around every continent except Antarctica.

The plants cycle nutrients, stabilise sediments, and - as photosynthesisers - act as a "sink" for carbon dioxide.

They also provide nursery habitat for juvenile fish, which hide from predators among the stems.

However, the scale of the importance of the meadows to fisheries has been more supposition than fact because of a paucity of data on how they are actually used, according to Dr Unsworth.

His team set about correcting this by interviewing experts - including other scientists and fisheries managers - on what they were observing around the world.

The team also took in case studies covering all regions from the Philippines to Zanzibar, Indonesia, the Turks and Caicos Islands and locations in the Mediterranean.

The picture that emerges is much the same everywhere.

Fishers actively target seagrasses because they recognise the habitats' great productivity.

This is true from small-scale recreational activity all the way through to large-scale commercial practice.

The study details the types of tools and equipment used - from spears to nets - and the variety of species taken, from invertebrates such as crabs, shrimp and clams, to popular finfish such as mullet, herring and snapper.

One critical point to emphasise from the assessment is that many hundreds of millions of people worldwide depend on the catch from seagrass meadows for their daily protein intake.

This makes their conservation and proper management all the more important, says the team.

There is a claim that a meadow area equivalent to two football pitches is disappearing every hour.

Such statements are very hard to verify, but there is no doubt that seagrasses are being diminished by poor water quality in coastal areas as a result of agricultural and urban run-off, among several threats that also include insensitive fishing practices.

Team member Lina Nordlund, from Stockholm University, said: "The ecological value of seagrass meadows is irrefutable, yet their loss continues at an accelerating rate.

"Now there is growing evidence globally that many fisheries associated to seagrass are unrecorded, unreported and unmanaged, leading to a tragedy of the seagrass commons."

Leanne Cullen-Unsworth, from Cardiff University, added: "Arguments in support of seagrass have in the past too often focused on the fluffy - such as the conservation of seahorses.

"I don't want to dismiss seahorses' importance, but the reality is that seagrasses have much higher value in supporting fisheries. And I've come across numerous occasions where fishermen have been against conservation of seagrasses because they can't moor their boats in these locations, when it's those seagrasses that support their activity in the first place.

"What we need to do is increase the level of understanding and appreciation of these habitats."

The team's study - Global significance of seagrass fishery activity - is published in the journal Fish and Fisheries.

The tragedy of the seagrass commons
SWANSEA UNIVERSITY EurekAlert 17 Nov 17;

Writing in the Journal Fish & Fisheries, Dr Richard Unsworth of Swansea University (together with colleagues at Cardiff University and Stockholm University) examine the global extent to which these meadows of underwater plants support fishing activity.

"Wherever seagrass exists in proximity to people, our research finds that it's used as a key targeted fishing habitat" said Dr Unsworth, who is based at Swansea University's Biosciences department.

"Our research is for the first time recording how globally extensive the use of seagrass meadows as a fishery habitat is. In developing countries this activity tends to have a major significance for daily food supply and general livelihoods. In developed countries the role of this activity is more for recreation or species specific targeted fisheries (e.g. clams)."

Dr Nordlund from Stockholm University added "The ecological value of seagrass meadows is irrefutable, yet there loss continues at an accelerating rate. Now there is growing evidence globally that many fisheries associated to seagrass are unrecorded, unreported and unmanaged, leading to a tragedy of the seagrass commons".

In their article, the researchers highlight that because of their nearshore, shallow water distribution in sheltered environments seagrass meadows make great places to fish in all conditions. This leads to high intensity of fishing effort often all year round.

The authors have studied seagrass fisheries all around the world from the Philippines, to Zanzibar, Indonesia, the Turks & Caicos Islands and locations in the Mediterranean. They have found many similarities in the types of fishing gear used the major animal families that are fished and the extent of effort focused in these sensitive habitats.

Even in small seagrass meadows in Wales fishers can be seen targeting shrimp at low tide and placing gill nets to catch Bass. By providing a three-dimensional structure in an otherwise barren sea, seagrasses provide the perfect hiding place for fish and invertebrates such as crabs, shrimp and clams. This abundance of animal life is what attracts fishers.

"It is important that more recognition is given to the value of these habitats for supporting fisheries as they're being damaged and degraded globally." said Dr Cullen-Unsworth (Cardiff University), one of the co-authors who is also director of the marine conservation charity Project Seagrass who are working to highlight the importance and plight of these sensitive marine habitats.



Whether for recreation or sustenance, seagrass proves vital to fishing around the globe
Brooks Hays UPI 17 Nov 17;

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- New research reveals the importance seagrass plays as host to fishing activity.

When scientists looked at seagrasses and marine meadows around the globe, they found high levels of fishing activity are constant.

The research -- published this week in the journal Fish & Fisheries -- suggests scientists need to consider how to protect and manage seagrass ecosystems in order to promote healthier, more sustainable fisheries.

"If there is seagrass and people there is most certainly fishing," Lina Mtwana Nordlund, an ecologist at Stockholm University in Sweden, said in a news release. "It doesn't matter if it is a country with high or low human development, fishing occurs. But the reasons for fishing and the target species vary."

In less developed nations, seagrass tends to host subsistence fishing. Those fishing aren't usually targeting a specific species. Instead, they're trying to catch whatever's available, whether to feed their own family or sell to their neighbors.

In more developed nations, seagrass tends to host recreational fishing. Those fishing are typically targeting specific species.

In both lesser and more developed nations, marine meadows host all kinds of fishing techniques and equipment.

"The ecological value of seagrass meadows is irrefutable, yet their loss continues at an accelerating rate," warned Dr. Richard Unsworth, a researcher Swansea University. "Now there is growing evidence globally that many fisheries associated to seagrass are unrecorded, unreported and unmanaged, leading to a tragedy of the seagrass commons."

Researchers hope their work will inspire conservationists and policy makers to take steps to better protect shallow-water ecosystems where seagrass grows.

"Seagrass meadows are being damaged and degraded globally and urgent action is needed to stem the loss of seagrass meadows," said Mtwana Nordlund. "Their importance as a key fishing ground is yet another reason why we need to start appreciating the value of seagrass."


Seagrass is a key fishing ground globally
STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY EurekAlert 17 Nov 17;

New research demonstrates that seagrass meadows are important fishing grounds all around the globe. The work highlights that there is an urgent need to start appreciating and understanding this role to be able to build more sustainable fisheries. A study led by Dr Lina Mtwana Nordlund at Stockholm University, published in the scientific journal Fish & Fisheries, examines the global extent to which these underwater meadows support fishing activity.

"If there is seagrass and people there is most certainly fishing. It doesn't matter if it is a country with high or low human development, fishing occurs. But the reasons for fishing and the target species vary" says Dr Nordlund who is based at Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Science at Stockholm University in Sweden.

In countries with a low human development index score seagrass fishery activity tends to target anything one can find that can be eaten, sold or used as bait. These seagrass fisheries have a major significance for daily food supply and livelihoods. In countries with a very high human development index score, seagrass fisheries are more commonly recreational with specific species targeted, such as clams. The research highlights that nearly every type of fishing gear is used within seagrass fisheries.

"The ecological value of seagrass meadows is irrefutable, yet their loss continues at an accelerating rate. Now there is growing evidence globally that many fisheries associated to seagrass are unrecorded, unreported and unmanaged, leading to a tragedy of the seagrass commons" says co-author Dr Richard Unsworth, Swansea University.

The researchers from Stockholm University, Cardiff University and Swansea University highlight that because seagrass is generally found nearshore in shallow sheltered environments, it creates an accessible fishing ground in nearly all weather conditions.

The authors have studied seagrass fisheries all around the world from the Philippines, to USA, Indonesia, the Turks & Caicos Islands and locations in the Mediterranean. "Seagrass meadows are being damaged and degraded globally and urgent action is needed to stem the loss of seagrass meadows. Their importance as a key fishing ground is yet another reason why we need to start appreciating the value of seagrass" says Dr Mtwana Nordlund.


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Injured otter rescued and treated in first such operation

Afifah Darke Channel NewsAsia 17 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: The injured otter that was spotted with a deep cut on its back at a Pasir Ris Park canal last month was successfully treated on Thursday (Nov 16).

The operation was planned over three weeks by several agencies and volunteer groups of the Otter Working Group including the National Parks Board (NParks), Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, PUB and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

In an email to Channel NewsAsia, Mr Sivasothi who runs OtterWatch, said that the movements of the nine-month-old female pup - who was named Aquarius - and its family were closely monitored before capturing it for treatment.

"Stress to the family was reduced by minimising the number of people on site and working relatively quiet," said Mr Sivasothi, who is also a senior lecturer of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore.

The wounded otter with seven of his family members were eventually rounded up in an enclosure at Pasir Ris Park made by NParks at around 2pm.

The see-through enclosure ensured that the otters "could view their environs and not feel confined," explained Mr Sivasothi.

A WRS vet darted Aquarius and the pup became drowsy within seconds. When it was deemed safe for the vets to approach the targeted pup, the enclosure was opened for the rest of the family to swim away.

In less than fifteen minutes, the team of WRS vets had snipped off the rubber "O-ring" around the pup's body, which had cut into the otter's abdominal muscle, and attended to its wound by applying antibiotics, said Mr Sivasothi.

After a 30-minute observation period, where the pup rested within the enclosure, the otter was released.

It rested within the enclosure and the environs for a further 80 mins before walking out across the tidal flats and then swam away.

Mr Sivasothi said this was the first time that Otter Working Group had targeted a young adult amidst its family for capture. Previous cases have only seen the group working to rescue otter pups abandoned by their families.


Wounded otter pup successfully caught, treated in first such operation
Lydia Lam Straits Times 16 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE - The otter pup that was spotted last month with a wound from a ring around its body was successfully rounded up and treated in a five-hour operation on Thursday (Nov 16).

The young pup was corralled along with six other members of its Pasir Ris family at Pasir Ris beach, otter watcher Jeffery Teo told The Straits Times.

Volunteers and related agencies such as the National Parks Board have been tracking the otter on site from two days ago, Mr Teo said. The pup was caught at the river mouth near Sungei Tampines and darted around 2pm after the operation started in earnest from noon.

"More than 20 people were there, including the Wildlife Reserves Singapore and NParks," he said. "NParks built a special structure to catch the otters."

The operation is the first of its kind in Singapore where a wild otter was successfully isolated, treated and released.

Multiple attempts had been made to capture the single pup, which is believed to be eight to nine months old, but it was too fast and evaded capture.

The otter pup, which was born around February or March this year, is part of a family of nine or 10 that is known as the Changi family.

National University of Singapore (NUS) biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, who heads OtterWatch, told ST that the success came after three weeks of detailed planning.

"This was an operation three weeks in the making, starting with detailed observations and evaluation of procedures," he said. "The final procedure involved corralling most but not all of the family that were investigating the operations area. Once the vets succeeded in sedating the otter, the rest were released."

Mr Sivasothi said the otters were not restrained.

"This was important to reduce stress to the family," he said. "A smooth-coated otter family stays together so a single individual can't be easily isolated."

The Pasir Ris family has 11 otters - seven were caught in the enclosure, with two of these eventually escaping. Four others evaded capture.

After the otters were rounded up in the fence-like structure, veterinarians tranquillised the otter pup, which had sustained a deep wound from what looked like a ring of metal wire spotted around its torso last month. It turned out to be made of rubber.

It is unclear how the ring got trapped around the otter. It was removed and the pup was treated on the spot. Multiple veterinarians certified it healthy before it was released back to the wild.

"They all certified that she's good to go," said Mr Teo jubilantly over the phone.

Otters spotted on tarmac at Changi Airport, guided out to beach by airside safety team

The otter watchers have been tracking the pup, which sustained a wound that was visibly worsening, for weeks.

Mr Teo has tracked Singapore's otters for more than five years and is part of the Otter Working Group, a volunteer group set up with several government agencies including NParks, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and PUB last year.

On Tuesday, the same otter family had been spotted on the tarmac at Changi Airport, after heavy rain is believed to have forced them out of their holt.


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Singapore to declare 2018 Year of Climate Action

Channel NewsAsia 17 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore will designate 2018 as the Year of Climate Action, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli announced at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) on Thursday (Nov 16).

Speaking at the conference in Bonn, Germany, Mr Masagos said the move will complement Singapore's current efforts to build resilience against climate change, including diversifying the water supply and enhancing food security.

"As a small island city-state vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Singapore is committed to the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement," Mr Masagos said.

The minister noted that the rate of warming over Singapore from 1951 to 2012 was 0.26°C per decade, more than double the global average of 0.12°C over the same period.

The country's daily mean temperature is projected to rise by up to 4.6°C towards the end of the century and its mean sea level is estimated to rise by up to about 1m by 2100, according to him.

"Since our early years of nation building, Singapore has placed considerable emphasis on sustainable development ... Even so, we want to do more to instill awareness of climate change amongst our citizens and inspire and to support the Paris Agreement," he said.

In his speech on Thursday, Mr Masagos also announced that Singapore will join the Ministerial Declaration on Carbon Markets.

The declaration, endorsed by 19 countries led by New Zealand at the Paris climate change negotiations in 2015, states that interested countries will work together to develop standards and guidelines for using market mechanisms that ensure environmental integrity and avoid any double-counting or double-claiming of emissions reduction units.

As the incoming ASEAN chair for 2018, Singapore will also work with its fellow members and dialogue partners of the regional bloc to achieve climate objectives including reducing energy intensity in the ASEAN region by 20 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 and increasing the component of renewable energy in the ASEAN energy mix to 23 per cent by 2025, the minister said.


S’pore declares 2018 as ‘Year of Climate Action’
CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 17 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE — Next year will be designated the “Year of Climate Action” for Singapore, the Environment and Water Resources Minister announced on Thursday (Nov 16).

Speaking at the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Mr Masagos Zulkifli stressed Singapore’s commitment to fight climate change, given that the island-state is vulnerable to the environmental impact.

He said that while Singapore has placed considerable emphasis on sustainable development its early years of nation building, “we want to do more to instil awareness of climate change among our citizens and inspire them to act in partnership”.

Singapore is committed to the Paris Agreement, a pact made in 2015 by 195 nations to combat climate change, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

At this year’s conference, Mr Masagos also announced that Singapore would be joining the Ministerial Declaration on Carbon Markets. The New Zealand-led declarations were first initiated at the Paris conference. Through this, interested countries will work together to develop standards and guidelines for using market mechanisms that ensure environmental integrity, and avoid any double-counting or double-claiming of emissions reduction units.

Next year will see Singapore chairing the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean), and the timing is right to move ahead with plans in terms of energy use.

“We will work with fellow Asean members and our dialogue partners to advance the Asean Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation 2016 to 2025,” Mr Masagos said.

Singapore will try to reduce its energy intensity in the Asean region by 20 per cent come 2020, down from the levels in 2005, and increase the component of renewable energy in the Asean energy mix to 23 per cent by 2025.

On Thursday, Mr Masagos reiterated key policies that have been put in place this year.

In February, Singapore became the first country in South-east Asia to introduce a carbon tax, which is set to take effect from 2019. The tax rate is expected to be between S$10 and S$20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, which is within the range of what other jurisdictions have put into effect.

“The scale of solar energy deployment in Singapore is limited by space constraints and issues with intermittency, but we are not easily deterred,” he said.

Last year, Singapore launched the world’s largest floating solar panel test-bed atop a hectare of waters at Tengeh Reservoir. These floating test-beds might also be deployed at other reservoirs, Mr Masagos said. “Singapore is pushing ahead to increase our solar PV (photovoltaic) deployment to 350 MWp by 2020, and further to 1GWp beyond 2020,” he added.

Next month, Singapore’s first electric car-sharing programme begins, and 1,000 electric cars and 2,000 charging points will be deployed island-wide by 2020.

As the two-week UN conference comes to an end on Nov 17, a study by The Global Carbon Project and the University of East Anglia found that 2017 is looking to be the year with the highest levels of carbon pollution on record, due to a surge in fossil fuel consumption.

A recent report by the World Resources Institute also found that the number of countries that have already peaked their greenhouse gas emissions increased from 33 in 2000 to 49 in 2010.

Their findings estimate that by 2020, the number of countries that have already peaked, or have a commitment that implies an emissions peak, would grow to 53. By 2030, this would go up to 57.

The report noted that several developing countries are taking on commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the number of countries peaking and their peak emissions levels are not enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals to limit global warming to well below 2˚C.

The rate of warming over Singapore from 1951 to 2012 was 0.26˚C per decade, more than double the global average over the same period. The country’s daily mean temperature is also projected to rise by up to 4.6˚C towards the end of the century.


Singapore will work with Asean neighbours on climate change issues: Masagos
Audrey Tan Straits Times 16 Nov 17;

Singapore will work with its South-east Asian neighbours on strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change when it takes on the role of Asean chairman next year, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Thursday (Nov 16) at a United Nations climate change conference in Bonn, Germany.

There will be two areas of focus for this regional cooperation: reducing energy intensity, and increasing the use of renewable energy.

Mr Masagos said Singapore will work with its neighbours to advance the Asean Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation 2016-2025.

Among other things, the plan seeks to reduce energy intensity in the Asean region by 20 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. It also aims to increase the component of renewable energy in the Asean energy mix to 23 per cent by 2025.

The region's commitment to tackling climate change comes against a backdrop of extreme weather events. For example, the year 2016 was the warmest year on record, and the third consecutive year that record temperatures have been set.

Multiple natural disasters also hit the world, from drought in Africa, torrential floods in South Asia, as well as hurricanes and cyclones that pounded the Caribbean, North-east Asia, the Pacific and North America.

"Our hearts go out to the families affected and we hope that these areas will return to normalcy soon. The global community needs to work together, urgently and resolutely to stem the warming trend," Mr Masagos said when delivering Singapore's national statement to the international audience.

For its part, Singapore has pledged under the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent from the 2005 levels, come 2030. Emissions intensity is the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product.

It has also pledged to stop any increase to its greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030.

Singapore has implemented a slew of strategies to achieve these targets. This includes enhancements made this year to its Energy Conservation Act, which aims to get large polluters to be more energy efficient, and plans to implement a carbon tax from 2019, said Mr Masagos.

The Republic has also pumped money into research for innovations that can help the island state develop sustainably. It is banking on solar power to reduce its reliance on natural gas, and has invested in ways to better harness energy from the sun, by piloting floating solar systems, for example.

But Singapore wants to go one step further next year, by driving the climate change message not just among industries, but citizens too. To do this, Singapore will designate 2018 as the Year of Climate Action.

"We want to do more to instil awareness of climate change amongst our citizens and inspire them to act in partnership," said Mr Masagos.

At the Bonn conference on Thursday, 20 countries and two US states joined an international alliance to phase out coal from power generation before 2030. Since signing the Paris Agreement which aims to wean the world off fossil fuels, several countries have made national plans to phase out coal from their power supply mix.


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Malaysia: Shark population dwindles as demand for shark fin soup continues

Borneo Post 16 Nov 17;

SANDAKAN: The lucrative shark fin market continues to drive shark fishing including in Sabah’s waters, leading to a drastic decline in its population with some species becoming endangered from overfishing.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia Marine Conservation head Dr Robecca Jumin pointed out it was still common to see sharks sold at markets in the state and to receive photographic evidence of shark fins being sold to meet both local and international demand for shark fin soup.

A new report released by Oceana, the largest international advocacy organisation focused solely on ocean conservation, stated an estimated 100 million sharks are killed worldwide each year with reports that 73 million of them are caught specifically for shark fin soup.

This is despite extensive scientific work that shows most shark species keep populations of other fish healthy by removing the sick and old ones, thus stabilising the marine ecosystem.

Species of some sharks sighted in Sabah, such as the scalloped hammerhead, which is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as ‘endangered’, have been declining in population by up to 90 per cent in some areas.

Hammerhead shark fins are highly valued for their high fin ray count, hence it is the target in some areas worldwide.

Sabah’s civil society groups are carrying out advocacy campaigns, facilitating scientific research and engaging with the government in a bid to expedite processes that would bring about much needed protection for sharks in Sabah.

The groups are Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA), Scuba Junkie SEAS, Shark Stewards, Scubazoo, Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC) and WWF-Malaysia.

The groups are aware that the vast waters of the state may represent the final safe haven for many of the endangered species.

“The groups working collaboratively in Sabah appeal to the public to stop creating demand for shark fins.

The high demand for shark fins is leading to overfishing of sharks, which are also sought for their meat, skin, cartilage and liver oil,” Dr Robecca said.

The groups have previously stated their support for efforts by both the Federal and Sabah Fisheries Departments to list the great hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, winghead shark, oceanic white tip shark, oceanic manta and reef manta under the Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations 1999, which falls under the purview of the Fisheries Act 1985.

The group also called for more species such as the scalloped-hammerhead, all species of thresher shark and devil rays to be considered part of the list.

The Regulations, which currently only protect the whale shark and sawfish, state that no person shall fish for, disturb, harass, catch, kill, take, possess, sell, buy, export or transport any of the specified endangered species except with written permission from the director-general of Fisheries.

Meanwhile, SSPA chairman Aderick Chong said shark fin itself does not have nutritional value and could potentially be harmful to consumers due to bioaccumulation of toxins such as mercury when consumed in large amounts over a certain period.

Bioaccumulation is the build-up of substances in an animal’s body, which occurs when the animal takes in the substance at a rate faster than it can get rid of it.

Large marine predatory species, such as sharks, often build up in their bodies levels of mercury toxic and harmful to humans.

“We are at a point where there is no choice but to stop consuming shark fin soup and other shark related food.

If prestige or social norm is the reason for serving shark fin soup at events such as weddings, there are options such as the non-endangered Empurau which is also a highly prized fish,” he said.

SSPA hosted an exciting public showcase at Imago Shopping Mall on Nov 11 with support from Go Seafood Sdn Bhd which is working with chefs from selected restaurants to come up with a suitable dish using Empurau.

The dish was revealed during the event. — Bernama


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Malaysia: Bullet-riddled carcass of endangered pygmy elephant found in Sabah

The Star 16 Nov 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The bullet-riddled carcass of another Borneo Pygmy Elephant has been found in Sabah's east coast.

The carcass of the bull elephant, with its tusks intact, was found in an oil palm plantation along Jalan Merotai-Kalabakan in Tawau on Tuesday.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said on Thursday that it was likely the bull elephant was shot in another location but managed to escape.

The carcass of the elephant was found by plantation workers and wildlife rangers were alerted to the animal's remains.

On Sept 10, an elephant carcass was found in a plantation near Dumpas in Kalabakan and two weeks later another was found floating along the Kinabatangan river close to the Danau Girang Field Research Centre. Both carcasses were found with their tusks removed.


Bornean pygmy elephant found dead with gunshot wounds in Sabah

POLIANA RONNIE SIDOM New Straits Times 16 Nov 17;

TAWAU: A Bornean pygmy elephant carcass with three gunshot wounds was found within the Cenderamata Plantation at Jalan Merotai-Kalabakan, near here.

Plantation workers discovered the dead bull on Tuesday and alerted the authority. The elephant was believed to have been shot by poachers.

Sabah Wildlife director Augustine Tuuga said the department despatched officers to the site to conduct post-mortem and conduct further investigation.

“The tusk is still intact and post-mortem result found three bullets on the carcass. The elephant could have been shot elsewhere and fled.

“We are trying to track down the culprit and are also looking for those, who witnessed the shooting incident, so they can furnish us with information,” he said.

In September, the carcasses of two Bornean pygmy elephant – one without its tusks – were found in two separate locations in Sabah’s east coast.

The first discovery involved a male calf with its tusks still intact. It was found dead in the plantation area in Dumpas Tawau.

While an adult male elephant was found floating in the Kinabatangan river.

In August, plantation workers also spotted an adult Bornean pygmy elephant struggling for its life after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds in an oil palm plantation the Malua Forest Reserve in Kinabatangan.

The adult female elephant, however, succumbed to its injuries.


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Malaysia: MNS warns of environmental impact with massive land clearing activity at Bukit Sekilau, Kuantan

HIDIR REDUAN New Straits Times 16 Nov 17;

KUANTAN: The Pahang chapter of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) warned of escalating human-animal conflicts as land clearing at Bukit Sekilau in the state capital here drives more wildlife into urban areas.

Its chairman Noor Jehan Abu Bakar said that the situation unfolding at the 300m hill is alarming due to mass deforestation near an urban environment.

"The people nearby will be inundated with wild boars and monkeys because of loss of habitat up there.

"(Land clearing) will push animals to encroach onto human premises. There will be human and animal conflicts if we do not address the problem holistically," she said.

She was responding to the Bukit Sekilau land clearing issue which has raised public concern on environmental degradation and negative fallout on the surrounding human population.

Jehan explained that their own on-the-ground inspection revealed that the land clearing has led to habitat destruction, biodiversity erosion and environmental pollution, including air, water and noise pollutions, among others.

"We strongly feel that we need urban forest levels to stabilise the amount of carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," she said.

She also warned that Bukit Sekilau residents are rightly concerned about the heightened risks of mud floods from the cleared hill especially as the monsoon season is underway across the state.

"We are worried that the impact from this deforestation can be viewed in a bigger picture encompassing global warming, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity," she said.

The NST and Harian Metro had reported on residents’ concerns on land clearing in Bukit Sekilau.

The area is now an eyesore with evident bald patches. Residents worry about the adverse impact of the land clearing on the environment and surrounding population. The hill is very visible from many parts of Kuantan.

In a recent response to the report, state Basic Facilities and Environmental Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak said that state government agencies, including the Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK), district Land and Mines Office and state Minerals and Geoscience Department, were looking into the controversial project.

He said the agencies were told to look into all the documentation produced by parties involved with the land to determine whether their application for leave to clear land had been submitted to MPK.

He added that the agencies were also trying to determine whether the project required an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report to be tendered to the authorities.


‘Floods caused by logging activities’
The Star 17 Nov 17;

JITRA: Logging activities contributed to floods that forced nearly 500 people from their homes in 15 villages here and nearby Changlun.

Kubang Pasu MP Datuk Seri Mohd Johari Baharum said the felling of trees on Bukit Wang Perah in Changlun, which once was a beautiful hill, contributed to the floods.

He said poor drainage system and clogged drains were also contributory factors.

Johari, who visited evacuees at SMK Changlun yesterday, said floodwaters had receded in some places, enabling the victims to return home and the closure of SMK Changlun evacuation centre and surau at Kampung Betong and Kampung Tebing.

The Kampung Lahar surau took in 130 victims from 30 families and the Kampung Bata community hall sheltered 268 victims from 68 families.

Close to 500 villagers from 106 families in 15 villages were evacuated at the height of the floods which began inundating the villages from late Tuesday night.

The affected villages were Kam­pung Belukar, Kampung Nang Mah, Kampung Baru, Kampung Kubang Betong, Kampung Wang Perah, Kam­pung Changkat Setol, Kampung Paya Nomi, Kampung Kubang Kayu, Kampung Lahar, Kampung Paya Tok Kiong, Kampung Bata, Kam­pung Paya Tok Teh, Kampung Biak, Kampung Paya Kercut and Kam­pung Pahana.

Rohada Bakar, 52, said floodwaters rose to thigh level at her house at about 2am on Wednesday when a nearby river burst it banks after a three-hour downpour.

The housewife said the floods almost covered the bed of her bedridden husband Hasan Hamid, 68.

“It was a relief when Civil Defence Force personnel arrived to evacuate him, my 74-year-old sick mother and three children to SMK Chang­lun,” Rohada said. The family returned home yesterday.


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