Best of our wild blogs: 25-26 Sep 16



Fun with mangrove flora ID!
The Leafmonkey Workshop

Towards a Circular Economy for Singapore
Green Drinks Singapore

Reservoir Dogs 3: Waxing LyricBills
Winging It

Wild Birds and Habitats-A Digital View
Singapore Bird Group

Tenpounder (Elops sp.) @ Chek Jawa
Monday Morgue


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Road to replace Changi Coast Road to open next year

Karamjit Kaur, Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Sep 16;

A new road to replace Changi Coast Road will open between April and June next year to facilitate works to give the airport a third runway.

The current 6km road will then close, as Changi Airport looks to handle more flights through the development of a new passenger terminal, Terminal 5, and the extra runway, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman told The Straits Times.

Works to link the third runway to the airport's two existing landing and take-off strips will include building a 40km network of taxiways.

Changi Airport Group has already awarded the first two contracts, worth more than $2.2 billion in total, for the runway works.

The project is expected to be completed by the early 2020s.

Based on air traffic projections, Singapore could handle 700,000 flights a year by the end of the next decade - double its current traffic.

The number does not include flights that fly over Singapore, which also come under the responsibility of air traffic controllers here.

Today, Singapore manages about 300,000 such flights a year.

The new road, which will hug the eastern coastline, will be wider and more scenic.

From a dual two-lane road, there will be three lanes on each side, the LTA spokesman said.

The project also includes the widening of Tanah Merah Coast Road.

Work started in 2014 and, to date, about 75 per cent has been completed, she said.

A new park connector running between Tanah Merah Coast Road and Aviation Park Road will also be constructed along the new Changi Coast Road to replace the existing connector.

Cyclist and retail manager Junaidi Hashim, 34, is looking forward to the new stretch.

"The current road is not ideal any more for cycling because of the many heavy vehicles that move up and down, dropping bits of debris here and there," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to a more pleasant ride along the coast when the new road opens."

However, the spokesman for LTA added: "Motorists and cyclists who use the road network in the area are reminded to obey all traffic rules and advised to exercise caution, as the area is expected to be heavily used by heavy vehicles for the airport's expansion works."

Works in Changi East are expected to last until the end of the next decade when T5 is slated to open.

By then, Changi Airport will be equipped to handle up to 135 million passengers a year, from 66 million today.


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30-ha forest to be cleared for new neighbourhood at Teacher's Estate

Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia 25 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: To make way for a new neighbourhood in the Teacher's Estate area, clearing work has begun at a large part of a 30-hectare secondary forest just off Yio Chu Kang Road.

Bound by Tagore Road, Upper Thomson Road, Munshi Abdullah Avenue and Yio Chu Kang Road, land preparation work will take about five years.

Currently, low hoarding of about three metres high has been put up and this could be extended to nine metres to shield residents from the dust and noise.

The area will eventually comprise a variety of private homes which are set to be developed over the next 10 to 15 years. This was made known in the 2014 Master Plan and will allow the new neighbourhood access to the upcoming Lentor MRT station which is set to be completed in 2020, as part of the new Thomson-East Coast Line.

The hoarding is also part of a wildlife management plan, to shepherd animals to nearby green areas before the land is cleared.

The Nature Society had previously said several nationally and globally threatened animals have been spotted in the site including the young banded leaf monkey, sunda pangolin and the sunda slow loris.

Authorities, however, hope that by closing off sections progressively, animals will be guided to a forested area in the north, or through an underground tunnel or drain culvert, to the nature reserve or the new Thomson nature park in the west.

Two vegetated areas near Munshi Abdullah Walk will also be kept for at least five years, as they are not affected by immediate work.

Updates on land preparation work and details about the new park were shared with residents by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and NParks at a dialogue this evening.

The new 50-hectare nature park is bound by Upper Thomson Road and Old Upper Thomson Road.

It's set to be completed in the second half of 2018 and currently stands on abandoned agricultural land.

The site also used to be an old Hainanese village in the 1970s and authorities say its traits will be incorporated into the design.

The park is one of four new nature parks which will serve as buffers to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

- CNA/xk


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Malaysia: Mangrove clearing leads to recent floods

SERI NOR NADIAH KORIS New Straits Times 25 Sep 16;

PANTAI REMIS: THE destruction of mangrove forests along the coastal areas is to be blamed for the recent floods that occurred during the high tide phenomenon in several states.

In fact, the problem had been predicted by environmentalists and green non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which had highlighted the importance of mangrove forests.

The forests act as buffer zones and natural “sponges” that reduce the impact of high tides and tsunamis.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) field researcher Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said many years ago, the NGOs had raised the issue and had done so again in 2007, when the authorities gave the green light to clear mangrove trees at several areas nationwide.

“For instance, in Pantai Remis, about 70ha of mangrove forest were cleared for a reclamation project,” he said.

Checks by the New Sunday Times at several places here confirmed that mangrove trees could hardly be found and only Api-api trees, or the Avicennia species, could be found. As for the 70ha reclaimed area, most of it were covered with red soil.

Rows of double-storey terrace houses could be seen in the area. Villagers claimed that they were bought by outsiders.

There were also shrimp ponds located near the beach. The remaining vacant land had been marked for development into a new housing area.

“The high tide phenomenon is a normal phenomenon that occurs several times a year.

“However, heavy rain and the lack of buffer zones to absorb water from the sea and rivers will cause floods,” said Razak, who claimed that the clearing of the mangroves was the main reason for the recent floods here.

On Tuesday, 76 people from 15 families here were evacuated after the water level rose to 1.2m due to the high tide phenomenon.

Razak said the problem could be overcome by replanting mangrove trees to rejuvenate the ecosystem.

“After the tsunami in 2004, the authorities issued orders to preserve mangrove trees at least 500m from the shore,” he said.

He said during the 70th National Land Council meeting, it was agreed that the mangrove forests in permanent forest reserves should be maintained.

He said the meeting also agreed that the protected forests should be expanded with more land for mangroves under the state government gazetted, as it would become a “security of tenure” for such an important ecosystem.

Razak said although the reclamation here was already approved, the NGOs hoped that the state government would take action to stop the problem from worsening.

“We are fine with any development projects as long as Mother Nature is protected,” he said, refuting claims made by the authorities that NGOs were always opposed to development projects.

Sungai Batu Pantai Tin fisherman Rodzi Arop, 59, said the floods had worsened due to the reclamation project, adding that effluents from the shrimp farms, which began operation in 2006, had killed the mangrove trees.

“Previously, the high tide never hit our homes as the mangrove trees reduced the impact.”

He said the mangrove forest had protected the village from the impact of the 2004 tsunami.

“Although fishing boats and jetties were damaged by the tsunami, our village was intact, thanks to the thick mangrove forest,” he said.

Rodzi said the villagers were scared that their homes would be damaged by floods and tsunami if the mangrove forest were not protected.


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Indonesia: Conservation Efforts for Critically Endangered Rhinos Not Enough to Save Them -- WWF Indonesia

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 22 Sep 16;

Jakarta. The World Wildlife Fund has slammed conservation efforts to save Javan and Sumatran rhinoceros from extinction as "insufficient" in a statement released Thursday (22/09).

According to WWF Indonesia, the Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorinus sumatranus) population is not increasing and in a worse position than the Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) which, despite inadequate habitation, continues to grow.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry claims there are 63 Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon National Park in Banten, West Java, and 100 Sumatran rhinos in Kerinci Seblat National Park between four provinces — Jambi, Bengkulu, West Sumatra and South Sumatra .

While the Javan rhinos population has increased from 57 in 2014, the population has halved in 10 years.

"As the population of Sumatran rhinos in the wild is reaching critical levels, conservation efforts in Indonesia need to be directed towards semi-natural breeding programs, as habitat protection alone is not enough to save them," WWF Indonesia conservation director Arnold Sitompul said in the statement.

In 2015 the government launched a drive to protect wildlife and set a target population growth of 10 percent by 2019 for 25 of the country's near-extinct species.

WWF Indonesia will celebrate World Rhino Day on Sept. 22 at the Global March for Rhinos in Banda Aceh, Aceh, on Saturday with a series of educational events and newborn Javan rhino calves as the main attraction at Ujung Kulon park.


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Indonesia: ‘River schools’ aim to boost preservation, stop floods

Ganug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post 24 Sep 16;

In a bid to raise public awareness on the importance of rivers and how to deal with floods, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is developing river education centers, known as “river schools”, in flood-prone regions.

Once the public understands the importance of rivers, it will be easier to convince them to take part in river preservation programs.

The latest education center opened for the public is a river school in Sewu subdistrict, Jebres, Surakarta. The center was officially opened by the agency’s disaster risk reduction director Lilik Kurniawan.

Lilik said 23 regencies had established river schools so far and 50 others were expected to be established next year.

“We will continue this movement to preserve rivers,” Lilik said on Friday.

He added that the schools were expected to help improve people’s awareness on the importance of risk reduction, especially for floods.

“Of the 20 regions located along the riverbank of the Bengawan Solo River, 12 have expressed a commitment to preserving the river to control the risk of floods and landslides,” Lilik said.

Surakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Gatot Sutanto said river schools were different from schools in general. They were community-based learning programs on everything about rivers.

“In a river school, people will receive knowledge about river management, preservation and maintenance,” Gatot said.

Through river schools, he said, people were made aware of the potential dangers of rivers.

He said his side had prepared material for discussions, training and practical lessons to help volunteers learn at the schools.

“The point is, the people are given education on flood disaster risk reduction,” he said.

Sewu subdistrict head Henoch Sadono said over 100 volunteers had signed up for the schools. It is expected that the program will be attended by 1,000 volunteers next year.

He said in Surakarta the volunteers were divided into several groups, each with a supervised river. “Together with the community they will make the rivers healthy,” he said.

Henoch said river management in his area had actually been going on for the last year. Some river enthusiasts had even planted fragrant roots, horticulture and mapped out areas prone to flooding.

Separately, Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi “Rudy” Rudyatmo said his administration had prepared books on rivers and disaster mitigation and handling. He said the books had been provided in cooperation with the Surakarta-based Sebelas Maret University (UNS) and the BPPB.

Apart from that, he said every three months the Surakarta administration would also send a number of volunteers from river schools to participate in training on river management and disaster mitigation at the BNPB.


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Fiji: Minimal damage to reef from storm but extensive coral bleaching

Repeka Nasiko Fiji Times 26 Sep 16;

A POST-Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston reef assessment in the Mamanuca region has shown there was minimal damage caused by the Category 5 storm.

However, the survey carried out by the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) discovered a high amount of coral bleaching in marine systems under the care of the organisation.

MES project officer Marica Vakacola said the MES team carried out the in-house study for interested member resorts including those used for snorkelling by guests.

"The task objective is to assess the impacts of (Severe) Tropical Cyclone Winston together with the mass bleaching activity that has been reported to be occurring on resorts in-house reefs in the Mamanuca region," she said.

"The assessment team consisted of two MES staff that have carried out the assessment and saw minimal damage was done by TC Winston but 50 to 80 per cent of all surveyed reef have been affected by the bleaching activity.

"The method that was used in assessing the reef was done by using a one metre by one metre quadrant and randomly placed along the surveyed reef where the bleached corals present in the quadrant was tallied and recorded.

"It was evident that the Acropora species was greatly affected by the two natural threats — Tropical Cyclone Winston and global climate change which occurred side by side resulting in the degradation of the reef's health status in the region."

She said during the assessment, it was obvious that the number of common reef fish together with ornamental fish species were low. She added MES would like to thank its member resorts for their continuous support in the marine conservation work they had carried out in the Mamanuca region.


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Best of our wild blogs: 24 Sep 16



Night Walk Around The Neighborhood (23 Sep 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Eye In the Sky
Butterflies of Singapore


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Spotting wildlife along the streams in Singapore

Lea Wee The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Sep 16;

"When you think of Singapore's waterways, you may think of the many canals that cut through housing estates or the wider, scenic rivers such as Kallang River or Singapore River.

But there is a humbler kind of waterway that runs quietly through shady forested areas and which is more than pulling its weight in supporting native wildlife.

These are the natural freshwater streams.

Small, rarely deeper than 1m and slow-flowing, they are often the last of the natural habitats for native species, which struggle to find a place to live in built-up, urbanised Singapore.

These indigenous species include a spider that "walks" on water to prey on small fishes, called Singapore fishing spider (Thalassius albocinctus). Another is a male forest fighting fish which carries eggs in its mouth (Betta pugnax) and a forest-walking catfish that breathes in water and on land (Clarias leiacanthus).

Forest streams were in the news recently when it was announced that two rare streams in Lentor forest will be cleared for redevelopment, together with most of the forest.

There are "at least dozens" of similar streams in Singapore, most of which are found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, says Dr Darren Yeo Chong Jinn, an assistant professor at the department of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore.

He has been doing research on freshwater habitats since the mid-1990s.

Forest streams are different from other freshwater habitats such as concrete drains, canals, ponds and reservoirs because they have a high percentage of Singapore's original biodiversity.

These include at least 30 species of freshwater fish and more than 10 species of freshwater crabs and shrimps.

There are also native freshwater species of spiders, snakes, frogs, turtles and aquatic insects, as well as dragonflies and damselflies, which lay eggs in the water that hatch into aquatic larvae.

Native creatures thrive in and around natural streams because they provide a cool environment well-shaded by the forest canopy and by plants growing along the stream banks.

The stream beds are also made up of sand, clay, or mud and are often full of leaf litter and woody debris, which animals like to use as a cover from their predators.

According to Dr Yeo, the best time to sight the animals is in the morning and evening, when there is generally more activity.

He advises visitors to remain still at a spot and take some time to let their eyes adjust to the stream as its reflecting surface may make it difficult to see things at first.

He says: "This also gives the stream animals time to get acclimatised to the observer and the potentially big shadow cast over them.";

He adds that many forest stream fish are small and can be better observed with a pair of small binoculars.

Also watch out for wildlife such as frogs and reptiles at the edges of the stream.

He says: "If you are lucky, you may even catch glimpses of birds perched or flying through the surrounding vegetation and other mammals coming by to take a sip of water."

But remember not to step into the stream, as you may pollute the water or accidentally step on aquatic animals.

On the shy creatures, he says:"Just because you don't see them does not mean that they are not there. Many hide under leaf litter and debris or burrow into the sand and mud.

"Even if you do not step on the animals, it is stressful for them just trying to avoid you."

BUKIT BATOK NATURE PARK

This small nameless stream runs along the southern edge of the Bukit Batok Nature Park and winds through the forest.

It can be seen at three points along the forest track, where it flows under three small bridges.

The closest you can get to the water is at the Southern Plaza area, where people can go right up to its muddy edges.

When The Straits Times visited, there were fish, dragonflies and tadpoles in the water and a pair of waterhens.

Most of the fish in the water are introduced species and were most likely released by pet owners, says Dr Darren Yeo, an assistant professor of biology at the National University of Singapore.

These species include whitespot (Aplocheilus lineatus), guppies and mollies.

So far, they do not appear invasive, that is, they have not wiped out other native species, says Dr Yeo.

Some native species which can be seen there are a fish called whitespot (Aplocheilus panchax) and a dragonfly called the spine-tufted skimmer (Orthetrum chrysis).

When you visit the stream, it is possible to make an excursion to the rest of the nature park, which sits on a hill.

Bukit Batok Nature Park was once mined for granite in the 1900s and there is a quarry with a huge reflecting pool.

If you are good with steps, also visit the remains of a war memorial at the top of the hill.

The memorial was built by the Japanese to commemorate those who died during a fierce battle on the hill during World War II.

The memorial's structure, which included a shrine, has since been destroyed. All that is left are the steps leading to the shrine and two short pillars at the base of the staircase.

Now, at the top of the hill is the Mediacorp Transmission Centre.

• For more information on these trails, go to www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/walks-and-tours/going-on-a-diy-walk

PETALING STREAM NEAR TREETOP WALK

This stream near the end of the Petaling Trail belongs to a network of streams near TreeTop Walk in MacRitchie that drains into the MacRitchie Reservoir.

The TreeTop Walk trail starts from Venus Drive and takes about three hours to complete. The Petaling Stream comes into view at the end of the trail just after the TreeTop Walk and runs under the boardwalk.

Looking down from the boardwalk, you can spot small fishes at the surface of the water, snacking on insects that had fallen from the surrounding vegetation.

The fish include the white spot (Aplocheilus panchax), distinguished by an iridescent spot on the top of its head, Malayan pygmy halfpeak (Dermogenys collettei), a fish with a lower jaw that sticks out like a sharp snout, and the saddle barb (Systomus banksi), which can be recognised by a dark blotch on its back and sides.

Dragonflies abound, too. Perching on plants or flitting around, these pretty, hovering creatures come in shades of pink and red.

The common parasol (Neurothemis fluctuans) has a maroon body and wings.

The spine-tufted skimmer (Orthetrum chrysis) has a red body and black wings, while the crimson dropwing (Trithemis aurora) has a pink body and reddish- pink wings.

Dragonflies are common in forest streams as their larvae or nymphs are fully aquatic, says Dr Darren Yeo, an assistant professor of biology at the National University of Singapore.

He says: "They live underwater and can help control the population of mosquitoes by feeding on mosquito larvae."

Madam Low Cheng Yee, 44, who was at the trail with her twin sons, aged nine, says they would make a point to stop at the stream for at least 10 minutes every time they pass by.

Madam Low, who is self- employed, says: "It's very rare to see a natural stream in Singapore. I find it very relaxing to look at it while my sons love to spot fish and insects such as dragonflies."

STREAM AT LOWER PEIRCE

This nameless stream, which runs along part of the Cyathea Trail boardwalk before it drains into the Lower Peirce Reservoir, is a hub of social activity for all sorts of creatures.

On good days, kingfishers, sunbirds, forest birds, monitor lizards and even mousedeer can be seen going to the stream to hunt, bathe or take a sip of water.

There are three ways to access this stream along Old Upper Thomson Road: from the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park, the Casuarina or Jacaranda Entrance. It is a walk of about 15 to 20 minutes from each entrance.

For the most scenic route, take the entrance from the reservoir park. Follow a boardwalk to the edge of the reservoir, just next to the water.

Here, the view of the reservoir is framed by the greenery of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Then the boardwalk enters the forest and splits into a few trails. Take the Bamboo Trail, which will lead you to the Cyathea Trail, where the forest stream is.

But there is a humbler kind of waterway that runs quietly through shady forested areas and which is more than pulling its weight in supporting native wildlife.

These are the natural freshwater streams.

Small, rarely deeper than 1m and slow-flowing, they are often the last of the natural habitats for native species, which struggle to find a place to live in built-up, urbanised Singapore.

These indigenous species include a spider that "walks" on water to prey on small fishes, called Singapore fishing spider (Thalassius albocinctus). Another is a male forest fighting fish which carries eggs in its mouth (Betta pugnax) and a forest-walking catfish that breathes in water and on land (Clarias leiacanthus).

Forest streams were in the news recently when it was announced that two rare streams in Lentor forest will be cleared for redevelopment, together with most of the forest.

There are "at least dozens" of similar streams in Singapore, most of which are found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, says Dr Darren Yeo Chong Jinn, an assistant professor at the department of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore.

He has been doing research on freshwater habitats since the mid-1990s.

Forest streams are different from other freshwater habitats such as concrete drains, canals, ponds and reservoirs because they have a high percentage of Singapore's original biodiversity.

These include at least 30 species of freshwater fish and more than 10 species of freshwater crabs and shrimps.

There are also native freshwater species of spiders, snakes, frogs, turtles and aquatic insects, as well as dragonflies and damselflies, which lay eggs in the water that hatch into aquatic larvae.

Native creatures thrive in and around natural streams because they provide a cool environment well-shaded by the forest canopy and by plants growing along the stream banks.

The stream beds are also made up of sand, clay, or mud and are often full of leaf litter and woody debris, which animals like to use as a cover from their predators.

According to Dr Yeo, the best time to sight the animals is in the morning and evening, when there is generally more activity.

He advises visitors to remain still at a spot and take some time to let their eyes adjust to the stream as its reflecting surface may make it difficult to see things at first.

He says: "This also gives the stream animals time to get acclimatised to the observer and the potentially big shadow cast over them."

He adds that many forest stream fish are small and can be better observed with a pair of small binoculars.

Also watch out for wildlife such as frogs and reptiles at the edges of the stream.

He says: "If you are lucky, you may even catch glimpses of birds perched or flying through the surrounding vegetation and other mammals coming by to take a sip of water."

But remember not to step into the stream, as you may pollute the water or accidentally step on aquatic animals.

On the shy creatures, he says: "Just because you don't see them does not mean that they are not there. Many hide under leaf litter and debris or burrow into the sand and mud.

"Even if you do not step on the animals, it is stressful for them just trying to avoid you."

BUKIT BATOK NATURE PARK

This small nameless stream runs along the southern edge of the Bukit Batok Nature Park and winds through the forest.

It can be seen at three points along the forest track, where it flows under three small bridges.

The closest you can get to the water is at the Southern Plaza area, where people can go right up to its muddy edges.

When The Straits Times visited, there were fish, dragonflies and tadpoles in the water and a pair of waterhens.

Most of the fish in the water are introduced species and were most likely released by pet owners, says Dr Darren Yeo, an assistant professor of biology at the National University of Singapore.

These species include whitespot (Aplocheilus lineatus), guppies and mollies.

So far, they do not appear invasive, that is, they have not wiped out other native species, says Dr Yeo.

Some native species which can be seen there are a fish called whitespot (Aplocheilus panchax) and a dragonfly called the spine-tufted skimmer (Orthetrum chrysis).

When you visit the stream, it is possible to make an excursion to the rest of the nature park, which sits on a hill.

Bukit Batok Nature Park was once mined for granite in the 1900s and there is a quarry with a huge reflecting pool.

If you are good with steps, also visit the remains of a war memorial at the top of the hill.

The memorial was built by the Japanese to commemorate those who died during a fierce battle on the hill during World War II.

The memorial's structure, which included a shrine, has since been destroyed. All that is left are the steps leading to the shrine and two short pillars at the base of the staircase.

Now, at the top of the hill is the Mediacorp Transmission Centre.

• For more information on these trails, go to www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/walks-and-tours/going-on-a-diy-walk

PETALING STREAM NEAR TREETOP WALKThis stream near the end of the Petaling Trail belongs to a network of streams near TreeTop Walk in MacRitchie that drains into the MacRitchie Reservoir.

The TreeTop Walk trail starts from Venus Drive and takes about three hours to complete. The Petaling Stream comes into view at the end of the trail just after the TreeTop Walk and runs under the boardwalk.

Looking down from the boardwalk, you can spot small fishes at the surface of the water, snacking on insects that had fallen from the surrounding vegetation.

The fish include the white spot (Aplocheilus panchax), distinguished by an iridescent spot on the top of its head, Malayan pygmy halfpeak (Dermogenys collettei), a fish with a lower jaw that sticks out like a sharp snout, and the saddle barb (Systomus banksi), which can be recognised by a dark blotch on its back and sides.

Dragonflies abound, too. Perching on plants or flitting around, these pretty, hovering creatures come in shades of pink and red.

The common parasol (Neurothemis fluctuans) has a maroon body and wings.

The spine-tufted skimmer (Orthetrum chrysis) has a red body and black wings, while the crimson dropwing (Trithemis aurora) has a pink body and reddish- pink wings.

Dragonflies are common in forest streams as their larvae or nymphs are fully aquatic, says Dr Darren Yeo, an assistant professor of biology at the National University of Singapore.

He says:"They live underwater and can help control the population of mosquitoes by feeding on mosquito larvae."

Madam Low Cheng Yee, 44, who was at the trail with her twin sons, aged nine, says they would make a point to stop at the stream for at least 10 minutes every time they pass by.

Madam Low, who is self- employed, says: "It&'s very rare to see a natural stream in Singapore. I find it very relaxing to look at it while my sons love to spot fish and insects such as dragonflies."

STREAM AT LOWER PEIRCE

This nameless stream, which runs along part of the Cyathea Trail boardwalk before it drains into the Lower Peirce Reservoir, is a hub of social activity for all sorts of creatures.

On good days, kingfishers, sunbirds, forest birds, monitor lizards and even mousedeer can be seen going to the stream to hunt, bathe or take a sip of water.

There are three ways to access this stream along Old Upper Thomson Road: from the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park, the Casuarina or Jacaranda Entrance. It is a walk of about 15 to 20 minutes from each entrance.

For the most scenic route, take the entrance from the reservoir park. Follow a boardwalk to the edge of the reservoir, just next to the water.

Here, the view of the reservoir is framed by the greenery of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Then the boardwalk enters the forest and splits into a few trails. Take the Bamboo Trail, which will lead you to the Cyathea Trail, where the forest stream is."


Read more!

At FairPrice, sustainability is in its DNA

Lee U-Wen Business Times 23 Sep 16;

NTUC FairPrice, the largest supermarket chain in Singapore, on Thursday published its first sustainability report, which covers data and activities at all its 130 outlets and warehouse and logistics operations for the 2015 calendar year.

The 37-page document was released as part of a campaign by the co-operative to promote awareness on sustainability, environmental protection and volunteerism.

The report, which will be published annually, is "another milestone" in FairPrice's ongoing corporate social responsibility journey, said chief executive officer Seah Kian Peng.

"It affirms our commitment to ensure that through a determined focus on sustainability, we can continue to be a responsible and respected social enterprise recognised for 'doing well and doing good'," he said.

The report was developed based on the Global Reporting Initiative core guidelines, which is an internationally recognised standard on sustainability reporting.

Among FairPrice's achievements in 2015 was how it continues to stock over 5,000 products that are made in Singapore.

The organisation also invested S$1.1 million last year to support 270 small and medium-sized enterprises through a programme that sees local firms get help in managing their cash flow, and receive support to increase the awareness and sales of local products.

As for food safety, FairPrice has, since 2008, achieved the "Grade A" status by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore for excellence in food hygiene, sanitation and processing.

In terms of giving back to the community, FairPrice reported that more than S$98 million has been donated to the FairPrice Foundation to date since 2008. The target is to commit another S$50 million to the foundation by 2020.

The FairPrice Food Voucher Scheme has also received over S$13.2 million since 2002, while S$2.6 million was raised in 2015 for the NTUC-U Care Fund. FairPrice also donated S$80,000 worth of rice to low-income families.

FairPrice said in the report that it wants to extend its volunteering programme beyond employees to partners and customers.

As part of its community engagement campaign, there is an open invitation for the public to volunteer for charitable causes together with FairPrice staff, with the aim of achieving a total of 5,500 volunteer hours in 2016.

The supermarket giant is also looking to save 11 million plastic bags this year through its bring-your-own-bag initiative, called the FairPrice Green Rewards Scheme.

This would beat the 2015 figure of 10.1 million by about 10 per cent. The scheme rewards customers with a 10-cent rebate when they bring their own bags with a minimum spend of S$10.

The full sustainability report can be viewed at www.csr.fairprice.com.sg. An abridged version will be given to customers who either sign up for the volunteer programme, take part in the bring-your-own-bag initiative or complete an online quiz on the report.


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16 pregnant women in Singapore confirmed to have Zika

Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 23 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: A total of 16 pregnant women have been confirmed to have the Zika virus in Singapore, the Ministry of Health said on Friday (Sep 23), nearly a month since the first locally transmitted Zika case was identified by authorities.

The doctors of the pregnant women are following up closely with them to provide counselling and support.

As of Friday, there are 387 confirmed Zika cases in Singapore, according to data on the National Environment Agency's website.

Responding to queries by Channel NewsAsia, the Health Ministry confirmed that 658 Zika tests were conducted between Sep 7 and Sep 17.

Of these, 197 were for pregnant and or symptomatic individuals who required the test.

The Ministry also added that it is exploring plans to set up a national surveillance programme to monitor the development of babies born to pregnant women with Zika. It added that it is keeping close tabs on the pregnant women who have been notified to have the Zika virus infection.

Early results from a study in Brazil has linked Zika infection in pregnant women with microcephaly in their babies - a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems.

Microcephaly has been tracked by Singapore's national birth defects registry since January 1993.

Between 2011 and 2014, the annual number of microcephaly cases registered with the registry in Singapore ranged from five to 12 per 10,000 live births in Singapore.

There have been no microcephaly cases associated with the Zika virus infection reported in Singapore so far.

- CNA/dt


Singapore sees fewest new Zika cases in a week since start of outbreak
Channel NewsAsia 23 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: At the end of the fourth week since the first locally transmitted Zika case was announced in the Republic, the number of new patients affected by the disease appears to be plateauing beneath the 400 mark.

Two new cases were announced on the National Environment Agency (NEA) website on Friday (Sep 23), bringing the total number of newly infected patients confirmed since last Saturday to 19.


This is less than a third of the 65 cases in the same period a week ago, continuing a steadily decreasing trend of falling numbers from the 189 and 115 cases announced in the first and second weeks of the outbreak respectively.

As of Friday, 387 cases of Zika have been reported in Singapore. Of these, 16 are pregnant women, the Health Ministry confirmed in a separate development, adding that it is exploring plans to set up a national surveillance programme to monitor the development of babies born to Zika patients.


There are currently nine existing Zika clusters in the country. The Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive cluster remains the largest, with 291 cases linked to it as of Friday, and the Elite Terrace cluster the second largest, with 13 cases.

Data on the NEA website showed that neither of the two new cases announced on Friday is linked to existing Zika clusters.

The number of new dengue cases in Singapore also dipped this week, falling to a three-month low. A total of 175 dengue cases were reported in the week ending Sep 17, the second-lowest weekly figure this year and the lowest since Jun 11, according to figures on the NEA's website.

Like Zika, dengue is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. As at Sep 22, there are 36 active dengue clusters in Singapore, four times as many as current Zika clusters.


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Owner of pet grooming school jailed, fined for abandoning 18 dogs

VALERIE KOH Today Online 23 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — The owner of a dog grooming school was sentenced to six weeks’ jail and fined S$65,700 for dumping 18 dogs, mostly poodles, around the island, in the first prosecuted case of animal abandonment here.

Low Chong Kiat, 43, faced 49 charges under the Animals and Birds Act, ranging from abandoning the dogs to housing them without a licence.

District Judge Low Wee Ping chided him for committing these callous acts, despite being a professional in the industry.

“I hope this case will cause Singapore society to think about the welfare of the animals we have ... As the saying goes, an indication of how civilised a society is, is the way we treat our animals,” said the judge.

Low, who runs Prestige Grooming Academy, started out with a pet shop in Yishun in 2001, before expanding into a pet grooming school and a boarding-and-breeding business in 2009.

After a series of moves and closures, he ended up with a pet grooming school at Chun Tin Road and transferred the dogs from his breeding farm to the school’s premises.

In March this year, an inspection by an Urban Redevelopment Authority officer found 30 dogs housed illegally in the school building’s basement. Low, worried that his permit for the grooming business would be revoked, decided to abandon 18 dogs and re-home the remaining 12.

Between March 23 and 24, Low abandoned 12 poodles, four different pedigree dogs and two cross-breed dogs around Yishun, Tampines, Sengkang and Serangoon.

In one instance, he left a shih tzu and a maltese at the Boat House Condominium in Upper Serangoon, while returning a dog that he had groomed to its owner.

The matter came to light only after an informant told the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore that she saw Low abandoning three dogs at Yishun industrial estate.

The news spread over social media, and animal welfare groups rescued all the abandoned dogs.

Realising that his actions had been exposed, Low handed the remaining 12 dogs to animal welfare group Voices for Animals for re-homing.

Vet reports showed that two of the 30 dogs were in poor condition. A shih tzu was found with dental problems, skin conditions and corneal damage, while a maltese had a broken lower jaw and no teeth.

Appearing in court unrepresented, Low pleaded for leniency, claiming that he had to clear a large debt for his wife. “It’s not that I didn’t want to find a proper place. There was no space for us to rent.”

Deputy Public Prosecutor Bagchi Anamika pointed out that he could have taken the dogs to animal welfare groups. “... The accused travelled to various locations to disperse the dogs in small numbers; it can be inferred from this fact that he did so to avoid attracting attention to a large number of dogs being abandoned in a single location,” she said.

In response, Low claimed that he had done this so that the dogs would have a better chance of being adopted.

In his sentencing remarks, District Judge Low noted that the accused had abandoned a sizeable number of dogs and failed to ensure that two of them received medical care.

“One wonders how humans can subject animals to this kind of treatment,’ the judge said.

Low will start serving his jail sentence on Oct 21.


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