Best of our wild blogs: 26 May 17



Launch of the Biodiversity Library of Southeast Asia
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

3 June (Sat): R.U.M. at Balik Chek Jawa
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative


Read more!

Bat man has a secret mission on Pulau Ubin

Despite its small size, Singapore is home to a large variety of animal and plant species. But conserving them is an ongoing challenge. In this five-part weekly series to mark the ongoing Biodiversity Week, The Straits Times has been highlighting some success stories. Today, in the last part of the series, we look at the bats of Pulau Ubin, and ask NParks officers why they love their jobs.
Samantha Boh Straits Times 26 May 17;

With their hairy bodies, razor-sharp teeth and macabre appearances in horror films, bats are feared by many.

However, these creatures of the night actually help maintain a balance in the ecosystem - pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and keeping insect populations in check.

Their numbers worldwide are under threat, with their habitats destroyed by deforestation or colonies wiped out by humans because of fears fuelled by myths about vampires.

In Singapore, the lack of forested areas makes it difficult for bats to thrive. That's why they have earned themselves a spot in the National Parks Board's (NParks) species recovery programme, which is aimed at conserving Singapore's endemic and threatened plants and animals.

About 30 bat boxes and two bat houses, man-made structures for bats to roost in, have been set up across Pulau Ubin. They are meant to promote the growth of more colonies, and to attract new bat species to the island.

NParks' focus is on species that are critically endangered in Singapore, including the Megaderma spasma, known commonly as the Lesser false vampire bat, that lives on Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong, and the Hipposideros cineraceus, or the Ashy roundleaf bat, which has been spotted only on Pulau Ubin.

The Ashy roundleaf bat was first recorded here three years ago and, so far, two colonies have been found in abandoned structures, said NParks manager for conservation Noel Thomas, who spotted them during one of his nature surveys.

The exact location of their dwellings is a well-kept secret, to protect the bats from being disturbed by human activities.

This bat species, named after its leaf-shaped nose, is not endangered in other parts of South and South-east Asia but its numbers are believed to be small here, and estimated at fewer than 100, said Mr Thomas, who is studying them.

They are forest-dwelling bats which use echolocation. This means the bats produce sounds that bounce around their surroundings and return to their ears, to detect insects to feed on.

Their sighted cousin, the Lesser false vampire bat, is a more established species here with about 120 individuals. Several colonies are found in disused structures around Pulau Ubin. It looks like the vampire bat but does not consume blood, feeding primarily on insects.

"Insect bats can go out and consume insects in large numbers at night, so they do play that ecological role to maintain a balance in nature by keeping insect numbers in check," said Mr Thomas, 35.

Globally, bats make up one-fifth of all mammals, with about 1,000 species of bats, many of which are fruit and nectar bats.

Fruit bats help to disperse seeds while nectar bats pollinate flowers by carrying pollen on their furry coats from one flower to another as they feed on nectar. "They are also important for scientific research... as they have strong antibodies that protect them from contracting diseases," added Mr Thomas.

As part of the bat species recovery programme, the bat boxes and houses were placed last December in various habitats across Pulau Ubin, such as mangroves and coastal forests, to provide more roosting options.

"These species of bats that reside in rainforests around South-east Asia roost in large tree holes which can hold hundreds of bats, but we don't have that kind of environment here," said Mr Thomas, who will be checking all the structures for bat colonies next month.

Research, however, shows that it can take up to three years for bats to colonise such structures. Another effort to promote the conservation of bats includes a survey of known bat colonies to ensure that their environment is hospitable.

BAT FACTS

Only mammals capable of sustained flight

Associated with vampires in Western cultures, but believed to bring good luck in Asia

There are about 1,000 species of bats, and they make up one-fifth of all mammals

All bats are nocturnal

Bats live an average of 20 years

The popular phrase "blind as a bat" is not quite right - some bats have well-developed eyes which they use to hunt their prey


NPARKS OFFICERS ON WHY THEY LOVE THEIR JOBS AND BIODIVERSITY

MS BAZILAH IBRAHIM, HERBARIUM MANAGER, SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENS

I love my job because... of the experiences it allows me to be part of. Also, I have awesome colleagues at the Herbarium. They are genuinely passionate about what they do and are always willing to share their knowledge about plants. As a bonus, I get to work in a pretty neat environment.

I find herbarium work fascinating because... I get to work on specimens that have passed through the hands of many celebrated botanists and collectors. I also get a glimpse of Singapore's history and its natural heritage.

I feel that biodiversity is important because... we rely on it for science, research, the economy and more. It tells the story of our natural heritage.

MS HOLLY SIOW, MANAGER OF BIODIVERSITY (TERRESTRIAL), NATIONAL BIODIVERSITY CENTRE

I love my job because… I feel like I can make a tangible difference to the future of biodiversity conservation in Singapore.

I find frogs fascinating because... given their permeable skin (which makes them vulnerable to environmental contaminants), studying the frogs in an area can tell you a lot about the general health of the ecosystem. They are also adorable.

I feel that biodiversity is important because... it plays a critical part in many aspects of our life, such as the views we wake up to each morning, the food we eat, the clothes we wear and even the air we breathe.

MR ZESTIN SOH, MANAGER OF PARKS

I love my job because... there is rarely a typical day at the office. My job allows me to be involved in activities revolving around my passions - working with nature and people in Singapore.

I find bees fascinating because... they arecritical to ecosystems but are under-appreciated and misunderstood. Most people do not realise that Singapore is home to more than 100 native bee species, and that they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours - even blue.

I feel that biodiversity is important because... so many incredible stories about the natural world that possess the ability to thrill and teach lie within its intricacies. Also, biodiversity is an irreplaceable part of our natural heritage - we would not be Singapore without it.

MR NOEL THOMAS, MANAGER FOR CONSERVATION (PULAU UBIN)

I love my job because... I get to monitor species that are threatened and propose measures to aid their conservation.

I find bats fascinating because... they communicate in ways we cannot detect without special equipment and are the only flying mammal. They are nocturnal animals that work hard to pollinate our flora and keep insect numbers in check.

I feel that biodiversity is important because... it takes many species to form ecosystems that provide services used by all living things. Better species diversity means natural sustainability for all life forms.


Read more!

Singapore must be more transparent in shark fin trade: Report

Singapore was ranked the world’s second-largest shark fin trader by value after Hong Kong, according to trade figures from 2012-2013, say conservationist groups Traffic and WWF.
Channel NewsAsia 26 May 17;

SINGAPORE: Conservationist groups called on the Singapore Government to improve transparency and conduct "more robust monitoring" to tackle the global shark fin trade, after the country was found to be one of the world's largest shark fin trader by value.

According to the latest report released by wildlife-trade monitor Traffic and conservation group WWF on Friday (May 26), Singapore was ranked the world’s second-largest shark fin trader by value after Hong Kong, according to trade figures in 2012-2013.

The recorded export and import values of shark fin in Singapore was S$50.4 million and S$65 million, respectively, during that period, second only to Hong Kong's S$57.2 million for export and S$215.4 million for import trade, the report said.

Traffic and WWF added that in-depth analysis into the shark fin trade was hampered by a lack of detail in Singapore Custom's import and export data. They recommended that Singapore Customs begin recording shark data using detailed Harmonised System Codes (HS Codes), developed by the World Customs Organisation for the classification of goods.

The system allows for better distinction between dried and frozen shark products, which is critical for accurately determining actual trade volumes and provide further insight into the species in trade, WWF and Traffic said.

Accurate, openly available information would also enable individuals and businesses to make responsible choices about which products they ​consume, they added.

“Any country that dominates a particular trade has an extra responsibility to ensure it is transparent and traceable,” Ms Kanitha Krishnasamy, senior programme manager for Traffic in Southeast Asia, added. “Key to any effort aimed at enabling legal and sustainable sourcing, and long-term viability of shark populations, is the open availability of product-specific trade data."

According to a survey by WWF released in February 2016, three out of four consumers in Singapore think the government is not doing enough to protect sharks and would support legislation against shark fin consumption.

Commenting on the latest report, Ms Elaine Tan, CEO of WWF-Singapore, said: “Support to reduce the consumption of shark fin has grown as more people and businesses now believe in keeping sharks off our plates and in the oceans."

"The fact that Singapore is a significant trader means that the solution to the global shark crisis lies right here on our shores. More robust monitoring of volumes and protected species will set a positive precedent for other countries and contribute to healthier shark populations and oceans,” she added.

Singapore edging up as world’s second-largest shark’s fin trader
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 26 May 17;

SINGAPORE — Despite various moves here in recent years, such as hotels removing shark’s fin from their restaurant menus, for example, Singapore has moved up the ranks to become the world’s second-biggest trader of the product, a report has found.

Traffic, a wildlife-trade monitoring network, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which published the report, noted that an in-depth analysis of the trade here was hampered by a lack of detail in the Singapore Customs’ import and export data.

They urged the government department to begin recording data on the trade using the internationally recognised harmonised system (HS) codes developed by the World Customs Organisation, and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has told them that this was under way. The use of HS codes to classify goods, including shark commodities, was introduced in 1967, Singapore Customs told TODAY.

The report indicated that Singapore should “immediately scrutinise” its practices including its HS codes, which do not distinguish the different types of shark products or provide for all protected species.

The analysis of Singapore’s role in the shark and ray trade found that, on the export front, the country placed second after Hong Kong, with trade valued at US$40 million (S$55 million) between 2012 and 2013.

This was 11.1 per cent lower than Hong Kong’s US$45 million. Singapore is also the second-largest importer of shark’s fin after Hong Kong. Imports over the same period were valued at US$51.4 million, compared with Hong Kong’s US$170 million. As a re-exporter of the product, Singapore is placed second as well, averaging 2,422 tonnes yearly between 2012 and 2013 — which is one-tenth of the world’s total exports. It re-exported the commodity to countries such as Hong Kong, China and Japan.

A Traffic report in 2013 showed that Singapore was one of the world’s top four exporters and the third-largest importer of shark’s fin between 2000 and 2009.

In recent years, businesses from hotels to airlines have taken steps to stem the trade. In 2014, Singapore Airlines Cargo stopped carrying shark’s fin on its flights. That year, hotel giants, including Hilton, also said no to dishing out the ingredient at the properties they own and manage.

In their report, Traffic and the WWF said that more detailed codes would allow shark products to be distinguished between “dried” and “frozen”, which is crucial to determining trade volumes accurately.

The two groups have started discussions with the AVA to put in place product commodity codes for all

30 species of sharks and rays that are subject to international trade restrictions under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Such information would also allow individuals and firms to make “responsible” choices on the products they consume or use, they added.

The impact of hunting sharks for their fins has been the subject of much debate. More than 70 million sharks are killed yearly across the globe, and many species are caught at “unsustainable levels”, Traffic and the WWF said.



Calls for better traceability after report identifies Singapore as world’s second largest shark fin trader
TRAFFIC 26 May 17;

Singapore is the world’s second largest shark fin trader by value after Hong Kong according to a new report by TRAFFIC and WWF, who are calling on Singapore to improve transparency in the global shark fin trade through more robust monitoring.

The recorded value of the export trade was US$40million (S$50.4 million) for 2012–2013, a close second after Hong Kong’s US$45 million (S$57.2 million), while the corresponding figures for import values were US$170 million (S$215.4 million) for Hong Kong, with Singapore well behind but still second on US$51.4 million (S$65 million).

Analysis of Singapore-specific trade data showed that the country imported 14,114 tonnes of shark fin over a six year period from 2005–2014*. According to the report, The Shark and Ray Trade in Singapore (PDF, 3 MB), the country was also the world’s second largest re-exporter of shark fin after Thailand, accounting for 10% of the world’s total exports from 2012–2013, averaging 2,422 tonnes per year.

“Any country that dominates a particular trade has an extra responsibility to ensure it is transparent and traceable,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Senior Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia. “Key to any effort aimed at enabling legal and sustainable sourcing, and long-term viability of shark populations, is the open availability of product-specific trade data.”

In-depth analysis was hampered by a lack of detail in Singapore Customs’ import and export data, and the report recommends a number of changes in the way information is gathered. For example, Singapore Customs should begin recording shark data using detailed Harmonized System Codes (HS Codes), developed by the World Customs Organization for the classification of goods. TRAFFIC and WWF have been informed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) that this is underway.

More detailed information will allow for distinction between dried and frozen shark products, which is critical for accurately determining actual trade volumes, and provide further insight into the species in trade—clearly vital information. Accurate, openly available information would also enable individuals and businesses to make responsible choices about which products they consume.

Sharks and rays found for sale in Singapore. Singapore's import / export figures of rays reveals that there is high domestic demand.
“Support to reduce the consumption of shark fin has grown as more people and businesses now believe in keeping sharks off our plates and in the oceans. The fact that Singapore is a significant trader means that the solution to the global shark crisis lies right here on our shores. More robust monitoring of volumes and protected species will set a positive precedent for other countries and contribute to healthier shark populations and oceans,” said Elaine Tan, Chief Executive Officer of WWF-Singapore.

TRAFFIC and WWF have embarked on discussions with the AVA based on findings of the report, targeting the full implementation of product commodity codes for all 30 species of sharks and rays subject to international trade restrictions under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

More than 70 million sharks are killed every year around the world, with many species caught at unsustainable levels. According to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, nearly 25% of sharks and rays now face extinction, with overfishing for fins and meat the major drivers. Slow growth, late maturing and the production of few young further leave them vulnerable to overfishing and slow to recover from depletion.

About the report
The Shark and Ray Trade in Singapore is the first detailed analysis of the country’s role in the shark and ray trade, and provides a full picture of Singapore’s role in the shark fin and ray trade from source to market. It was conducted as part of the global WWF and TRAFFIC Shark & Ray Initiative.


Read more!

Indonesia: 310 hectares of rice fields inundated in Langkat, North Sumatra

Antara 26 May 17;

Langkat, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Rice fields measuring a total of 310 hectares were flooded in the sub-districts of Sei Lepan and Babalan, Langkat District, North Sumatra Province.

Of the total, 270 hectares were located in Lama Village, Sei Lepan Sub-district, Miswandi, a local agricultural coordinator, revealed here, Thursday.

Moreover, 20 hectares of rice fields and 12 hectares of corn fields were inundated in the Harapan Baru Village. Corn fields in the villages of Suka Damai and Hinai Hanan were also flooded.

In the Babalan Sub-district, flooding affected 20 hectares of rice fields in North Pelawai Village.

Noto Atmojo of the local disaster mitigation office said flooding also affected the palm oil plantations, including 100 hectares in Harapan Baru Village and 10 hectares in Lama Village.

Floods have hit several villages in Sei Lepan Sub-district, Langkat District, North Sumatra Province.

The flooding affected a total of 526 families and displaced at least 29 families.

"They are taking refuge, as flooding has affected their homes," Noto Atmojo of the local disaster mitigation office stated here, Thursday.

The floodwaters, reaching heights of up to 80-100 centimeters, affected 156 families and displaced 29 of them in Lama Baru Village.

Floods also affected 155 households in Lama Village, 98 families in Harapan Baru Village, and 48 others in Harapan Jaya Village.

In addition to the Babalan Sub-district, Langkat District experienced floods due to the overflowing of Lepan River.

Tens of houses in the villages of South Pelawi and North Securai were inundated.

The local disaster mitigation office has set up emergency tents to accommodate the flood victims and deployed several rubber boats for evacuation.(*)


Floods hit Langkat District in North Sumatra Province
Antara 25 May 17;

Langkat, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Floods have hit several villages in Sei Lepan Sub-district, Langkat District, North Sumatra Province, and displaced at least 29 families.

"They are taking refuge, as flooding has affected their homes," Noto Atmojo of the local disaster mitigation office stated here, Thursday.

A total of 457 families were affected by the floods in Sei Lepan. The flooding was caused, as a 15-meter-long dyke had burst.

The floodwaters, reaching heights of up to 80-100 centimeters, affected 156 families and displaced 29 of them in Lama Baru Village.

Floods also affected 155 households in Lama Village, 98 families in Harapan Baru Village, and 48 others in Harapan Jaya Village.

In addition to the Babalan Sub-district, Langkat District experienced floods due to the overflowing of Lepan River.

Tens of houses in the villages of South Pelawi and North Securai were inundated.

The local disaster mitigation office has set up emergency tents to accommodate the flood victims and deployed several rubber boats for evacuation.(*)


Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 25 May 17



3 Jun, 2017 (Sat): Balik Chek Jawa with the Chek Jawa community
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Secretive Critters Always Spark My Curiosity
Love our MacRitchie Forest

31 May (Wed): Green Drinks Documentary Night - Disobedience
Green Drinks Singapore


Read more!

Malaysia: Sabah to fight nature with nature

RUBEN SARIO The Star 25 May 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Researchers are racing against time to breed a tiny insect that they hope will destroy an aquatic plant that is drying up lakes and ponds around Sabah.

State Agriculture Department director Idrus Shafie said the Salvenia Molesta had thus far infested 19 out of the 20 oxbow lakes in the Kinabatangan region in Sabah’s east coast.

He said the fast-growing aquatic fern that could double its area from 10sq m to 20sq m in just three days choked lakes and ponds in Kota Belud, Tuaran, Paitan and Papar.

They believed the fern, native to South America, was brought in as an ornamental plant for aquariums and later discarded in drains or lakes where it began to spread rapidly.

He said the department was alerted about the infestation by Kinabatangan villagers in 2015 and were shocked when satellite imagery showed that almost all of the oxbow lakes there were choked with the weed.

The plants dry up the lakes as they displace the water.

“They are upsetting an entire eco system,” Idrus added.

He said the department brought in more than 350 of the Cyrtobagous salviniae weevils from Melaka last year and had been breeding these insects at its research centre in Tuaran and at the Tungog oxbow lake in the Kinabatangan.

“The weevils will take at least another year before we have enough to contain the situation.”

The weevils, originally from Australia, were used to control a similar infestation of the water ferns in the peninsula during the 1980s.

He said there was no fear of the insects – about the size of rice weevils – getting out of control as they were host specific in that they only consumed that particular water fern.

“We saw at the Durian Tunggal lake in Melaka, where the weevils could only be found among the remnants of the water ferns there,” Idrus added.


Read more!

Malaysia: Cops save 141 pangolins bound for the pot

SHARANPAL SINGH RANDHAWA The Star 24 May 17

ALOR SETAR: A total of 141 live pangolins were rescued by police following a raid at a double-storey house in Taman Desa Seraya here.

Police also found a stash of the animal's scales during the raid.

Kota Star district police chief Asst Comm Mohd Rozi Jidin said the raid was conducted about 2pm Tuesday following a tip-off.

"We received information of suspicious activities carried out and we sent a team to the scene to investigate. We had to break open the front door of the house before we found the endangered animals in sacks and boxes," he said.

ACP Mohd Rozi added that the pangolins were handed to the Kedah National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) for further action.

Meanwhile, Kedah Perhilitan director Muhammad Ali Che Aman said that they were investigating the case under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

He said that, offenders could be fined between RM50,000 and RM100,000, sentenced to a maximum of three years' jail or both if found guilty.


Poacher’s pangolin stash sniffed out
The Star 25 May 17;

ALOR SETAR: A strong smell coming from a double-storey house in Taman Desa Seraya led to the rescue of 141 live pangolins.

Police had to break down the front door with the help of firemen and discovered the scaly anteaters in sacks and boxes inside.

Kota Setar OCPD Asst Comm Mohd Rozi Jidin said they raided the house at 2pm on Tuesday after being told of suspicious activities inside.

“We rang the doorbell and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. We had to force open the locked door and found the animals,” he said.

Police believe that the pangolins, weighing between 2kg and 5kg each, were meant for consumption both locally and in neighbouring states.

ACP Mohd Rozi said they also seized a car which was said to belong to the suspected poacher. It had false registration plates and a forged road tax disc.

He added that the endangered animals had been handed over to the state Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) for further action.

The case is being investigated under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act, which carries a maximum fine of RM100,000 or up to three years’ jail, or both.

Pangolin meat is considered an exotic delicacy, while the scales are used in traditional medicine.

It is said that the live animal can fetch between RM400 and RM600 per kilo.

A neighbour, who declined to be named, said he had noticed a stench coming from the house since Saturday.

He said a man would usually come by at around midnight and leave at about 6am.

“He would be there only for a short time and in the wee hours,” the neighbour said.

“We could hear water running and some washing going on inside the house. Some of us tried ringing the doorbell to find out what was going on, but no one would answer.”

Another neighbour said she had not seen the suspect but could always hear water flowing out of the house into the drain.

The owner of the house, who wanted to be known only as Gun, was shocked to learn that his property had been used as a transit point for an endangered species.

“I rented out the house to a man from Seremban for two years,” Gun said.

“I have not seen him because he is always busy. The monthly rental was usually deposited into my bank account.”


140 live pangolins rescued from house in Alor Star
ZULIATY ZULKIFLI New Straits Times 24 May 17;

ALOR STAR: A total of 140 live pangolins were rescued following a police raid at a house in Taman Desa Seraya, Jalan Lencong Barat here, yesterday.

Kota Star district police chief Assistant Commissioner Mohd Rozi Jidin said the raid was made about 2pm following a tip off.

“We received information of suspicious activities at the location and sent a team to investigate.

“We had to break open the front door of the house before we found the endangered animals in sacks and boxes,” he told a press conference this morning.

He said also found were scales, empty sacks and boxes.

Rozi said the pangolins were handed to the Kedah National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) for further action.

Kedah Perhilitan director Muhammad Ali Che Aman, when contacted, said the department is investigating the case under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

He said guilty parties could be fined not less than RM50,000 and not more than RM100,000 or up to three years’ jail, or both.


Read more!

Thailand: Parks Dept orders dugong project to be revised

APINYA WIPATAYOTIN Bangkok Post 25 May 17;

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has ordered Hat Chao Mai's national park chief to revise the dugong monitoring project in Trang province after an activist group lodged a complaint, saying equipment used in the project could endanger the rare species.

The three-month project started in April. Satellite tracking tools have been attached to three dugongs in the area as scientists study their behaviour and habitat.

Parkpoom Witantirawat, coordinator of the Saving Andaman Network Foundation, who opposes the project, said some dugongs have moved out of the national park to Libong island since the study started.

He said the satellite tracking device could be dangerous as its long cords could get caught around fishing equipment.

He said it did not make sense to monitor three dugongs especially when local fishermen have been working closely to protect the animal by setting aside an area of 100,000 rai to protect its habitat. They avoid using any fishing equipment in the area which could be harmful to the mammal.

However, he admitted some kinds of fishing equipment not friendly to dugongs can still be found, so further talks are needed with fishermen.

Thailand has about 160 dugong, with five or six dying a year. More than 90% are living in the Libong Non Hunting Area and the rest in Hat Chao Mai National Park.

Sontham Suksawang, director of the National Park Office, said the department was worried about conflicts between forest officials and locals over the dugong.

"The national park's chief has acknowledged the department's concerns and understands we need scientific research and local participation. Research should be done based on local acceptance," he said.

He said the department has suggested the Hat Chao Mai National Park chief could review the project or the satellite microchips could be removed.

The project is carried out with the support of the National Science and Technology Development Agency, with the aim of studying the dugong's habitat so the department can set up a proper management zone for the species, which is now at risk of extinction due to the harm inflicted by fishing devices.

Manoch Wongsuryrat, chief of the Hat Chao Mai National Park, wrote on Facebook recently the project was being carried out under the supervision of scientists from Chulalongkorn University.

He said the research team was striving to protect the dugong population based on scientific methods.


Read more!

2 endangered turtles debut at SEA Aquarium after rescue, rehab

Channel NewsAsia 23 May 17;

SINGAPORE: After more than a year of rehabilitation, two rare rescued turtles joined the SEA Aquarium's marine life collection on Tuesday (May 23), Resorts World Sentosa said in a joint media release with SEA Aquarium.

One of them, a critically endangered male hawksbill turtle nicknamed Hawke, was "in poor condition" when it was found in the sea by a member of the public, SEA Aquarium said. Hawke arrived at the aquarium on Mar 24, 2016.

The turtle, which was estimated to have been between five and eight months old at the time, was believed to have been abandoned by its owner, who had kept it illegally as a pet. It had developed a pyramided carapace - a shell deformity likely attributed to poor nutrition and care.

The other, an endangered green sea turtle that aquarists named Louie, was found in a drain by another member of the public. It was a week-old hatchling that weighed all of 20 grammes when it was handed over to SEA Aquarium on Sep 28, 2015.

Aquarists and the animal health team "spared no effort" in caring for the two young turtles, SEA Aquarium said. These include feeding the turtles species-specific diets, monitoring their growth, measuring their body weights monthly and observing their behaviour with other fish.

Both turtles were gradually moved from separate, smaller homes to larger habitats where they could be slowly introduced to other species.

Louie has grown to almost 12 kilogrammes - still a fraction of the 200 kilogrammes that green sea turtles can grow to.

Hawke now tips the scales at a healthy 17 kilogrammes. Hawksbill turtles can weigh as much as 70 kilogrammes, the aquarium said.

The two turtles are now housed at the aquarium's Shipwreck Habitat, with species such as the pompano, threadfin trevally and shark ray, which are deemed compatible with the turtles. This provides inter-species interaction which is not only good for the animals, but allows visitors to witness the dynamics of marine life, the aquarium said.

The aquarium added that it is open to exploring the possibility of releasing the turtles in the future, in partnership with the authorities, but added that this "requires careful consideration, taking into account key concerns including the suitability of wild habitats and poaching, which must be thoroughly addressed to ensure their survival in the wild".


Rescued turtles make debut at S.E.A. Aquarium
Abigail Ng WY Straits Times 24 May 17;

When Louie, an endangered green sea turtle, arrived at Resorts World Singapore's S.E.A. Aquarium in September 2015, it measured no more than 5cm and weighed 20g.

More than a year on, it weighs at least 10kg, and yesterday was one of two sea turtles that debuted at the aquarium's Shipwreck Habitat in celebration of World Turtle Day.

Louie was found by a member of the public in a drain, while the other, a critically endangered hawksbill turtle, was found in the sea in poor condition. Named Hawke, it had developed an irreversible shell deformity due to poor nutrition and care.

S.E.A. Aquarium took in both turtles with the permission of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). In response to queries, AVA said rescued or confiscated animals are sent to Wildlife Reserves Singapore or Resorts World Sentosa while investigations are ongoing. It added that the animals may be absorbed into zoological collections.

But Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, said turtles with no incapacitating injuries or deformities should be released into the wild. Once hatched, sea turtles are independent, she said.

Ms Ria Tan, who runs the wildsingapore.com nature website, noted that wild turtles are commonly found in Singapore waters.

Aquarium curator Akira Yeo said the turtles are presently not suitable for release. "They are still in their juvenile stage, so we will continue to provide care. If a suitable release programme is found, we are happy to work with them."


Read more!

Indonesia: Widespread hotspots mark the start of dry season

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 23 May 17;

Hotspots have sprung up in several regencies across Riau in the last two days marking the start of dry season in the province.

Data collected by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Pekanbaru from Terra and Aqua satellites on Tuesday morning detected seven hotspots, which had spread in four regencies across Riau. Three hotspots were detected in Pelalawan, followed by Kuantan Singingi, which recorded two hot spots. Indragiri Hilir and Siak had one hotspot each.

“The seven hotspots have a confidence level of more than 50 percent. If we analyze them deeper, two out of the seven hotspots have a higher confidence level, reaching up to 70 percent. These two hotspots are both in Kuantan Singingi,” BMKG Pekanbaru data and information head Slamet Riyadi said on Tuesday.

“With a confidence level of above 70 percent, they can be categorized as fire spots so we need to check the condition in the field to ensure whether land fires have occurred,” he said.

Slamet said the number of hotspots detected on Tuesday morning was similar to what was found on Monday afternoon. Therefore, related authorities must be alert to the potential for forest fires that will continue to increase as the dry season progresses, he added.

“The temperature is quite high, reaching 34.5 degrees Celsius. Rainfall has declined so the potential for forest fires will increase. Dry peatlands will easily catch fire during this season if we don’t prevent it,” said Slamet. (dis/ebf)


Read more!

Vietnam: Bái Tử Long recognised as Vietnam's 6th ASEAN Heritage Park

Viet Nam News 23 May 17;

QUẢNG NINH — Bái Tử Long National Park in the northern province of Quảng Ninh has been recognised as the 38th ASEAN Heritage Park.

The national park meets all the criteria to become an ASEAN Heritage Park, including ecological integrity, preservation of genetic diversity, sustainable utilisation of resources and the provision of opportunities for outdoor recreation, tourism, education and research.

The park covers a total area of nearly 16 hectares with more than 9 hectares of sea and 6 hectares of islands. It is home to nearly 2,000 species of flora and fauna, of which, 72 animal species and 30 plant species have been listed in the Việt Nam Red Book.

An award ceremony for the park was held in Ha Long city on May 19, coinciding with a ceremony to mark the International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22) and International Migratory Bird Day (May 10).

“Being aware of the importance of biodiversity, the government has taken steps to enhance conservation work. Until now, 43 provinces and cities nationwide have constructed and implemented action plans on biodiversity,” said Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Nguyễn Linh Ngọc.

In a bid to strengthen the biodiversity work, Ngọc asked the community, especially the young and businesses to raise awareness about the importance, as well as the role and value, of biodiversity and sustainable tourism to socio-economic development

Over the years, the park has rescued, taken care of and released back into nature more than 200 forest animals and five sea turtles. It has collaborated with international organisations to implement projects including sea turtle preservation, enhancing management capacity and biodiversity conservation, and supporting eco-tourism development and environmental education.

The ASEAN Heritage Park programme is an initiative by the ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity implemented since 2002.

Previously, the title was bestowed on five national parks in Việt Nam, including Ba Bể, Hoàng Liên, Kon Ka Kinh, Chư Mom Ray and U Minh Thượng.

Việt Nam currently has 8 Ramsar sites (Wetlands of International Importance), 9 World Biosphere Reserves, 6 ASEAN Heritage Parks and 63 important bird areas identified by Birdlife Conservation. —VNS


Read more!