Best of our wild blogs: 18 Dec 17

Celebrating a decade of fun at Chek Jawa!
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

The Story of Shells – Part 2
Mei Lin NEO

Oriental House Rat (Rattus tanezumi) @ Tampines
Monday Morgue

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Malaysia: Country’s last surviving female Sumatran rhino severely ill

The Star 18 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Iman, the country’s last surviving female Sumatran rhino, is in a life-threatening situation and veterinarians cannot do much for it at the moment.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said Iman began bleeding from a uterine leiomyoma tumour three days ago.

“Usually, this can be treated with medication and supplements,” Tuuga said yesterday.

“However, Iman is refusing to leave her mud wallow and she has hardly eaten, so the usual treatment is not possible.

Tuuga said it is possible that the ruptured tumour is causing Iman pain.

Veterinarians are finding it difficult to examine Iman at its paddock in the Wildlife Reserve in Tabin, near the east coast Lahad Datu district.

This is because the heavy rainfall in Tabin this year has turned the paddock into a quagmire.

“Both Borneo Rhino Alliance veterinarians are constantly monitoring Iman along with the keepers.

“We are hoping for the best,” Tuuga said.

Iman and another female, Puntung, as well as a male, Tam, were the last three Sumatran rhinos in the country and scientists had hoped to get them to breed to revive the species.

However, wildlife experts had to euthanise Puntung in June after its skin cancer spread, causing the animal to suffer greatly.

Hopes of starting an artificial rhino breeding programme were dashed when scientists were unable to recover any eggs from Puntung’s ovaries.

Female Sumatran rhinoceros diagnosed with tumour in uterus
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 17 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The country's last female Sumatran rhinoceros is facing a serious health problem.

Sabah Wildlife department director Augustine Tuuga said the rhino, named Iman, is having tumour in her uterus.

"Usually, this can be treated with medication and supplements.

"But Iman is refusing to leave her mud wallow and she has hardly eaten, so the usual treatment has not been possible," he said in a statement, adding that she charges at anyone who goes near.

Augustine said the bleeding from her uterus started three days ago.

"It is believed that one of the larger tumours might have ruptured and is causing pain and bleeding.

"Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) veterinarians are constantly monitoring Iman along with the keepers. We are hoping for the best and will keep the public informed," he said.

Iman was the last wild rhino found in Malaysia. She was captured in Danum Valley and transported to Tabin Wildlife in Lahad Datu in March 2014.

Despite being diagnosed with severe fibroids in the uterus, she still produced eggs for the in-vitro fertilisation attempts.

Iman and another male rhino Kertam are kept at Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu under the care of BORA.

Augustine said Tabin has received nearly six meters of rainfall this year making Iman's paddock a quagmire and making things even more difficult.

The country lost another female rhino, Puntung, about six months ago.

Puntung was euthanised on June 4 after suffering three months from skin cancer.

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Malaysia: 15% of coastline being eroded

The Star 18 Dec 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: A study on coastal erosion in Malaysia found that 15.3% of the country’s coastline is experiencing erosion, says Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

The National Coastal Erosion Study (NCES) was carried out in 2015 to examine the issue of coastal erosion as a whole.

He said that the study found that the total length of the country’s coastline is 8,840km, comprising 3,772km in the peninsula, Sabah (3,753km), Sarawak (1,234km) and Labuan (81km).

“Kuala Nerus beach was one of the 44 areas, covering 55.4km, which was experiencing critical erosion. A total of RM90mil was allocated under the Rolling Plan Three of the 11th Malaysia Plan for coastal erosion control project which was scheduled to commence next year at the beach.

On a separate matter, Dr Wan Junaidi said the Department of Environment (DOE) will take action against landowners involved in the fire at an illegal dumpsite in Jalan Ulu Yam, Gombak, Selangor.

DOE personnel had gone to the site to conduct investigations following complaints it received on social media.

“Investigations revealed that the fire broke out at the hillside area near Jalan Utara Ulu Yam-Gombak, which is used as an illegal dumpsite. The fire covered 0.4ha,” he added.

He said the DOE was conducting daily monitoring and patrolling to ensure that there was no new open burning.

Under Section 29(A) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974, those found guilty of open burning can be fined up to RM500,000 or imprisoned up to five years, or both.

“Under this provision, landowners can also be penalised if open burning occurs on their land,” said Dr Wan Junaidi.

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Malaysia: Going organic pays off well

ruben sario The Star 18 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Going organic is paying off for a group of padi farmers near Mount Kinabalu whose produce is fetching up to five times more than regular rice.

Farmers like Senuil Darosin are selling their organically-grown, unpolished or brown rice for as much as RM15 per kg at tamu or traditional markets, and there is strong demand for it.

Senuil said switching to chemical-free cultivation methods by the farmers at Kampung Tambotuon, near Mount Kinabalu, has seen crop yields increasing as well.

“We are harvesting on average about three tonnes of padi per hectare and this is so much more than before we went organic four years ago,” said Senuil, the Kampung Tambotuan Village and Security Committee chairman.

He said the planting season was usually towards the end of May while the harvest was in November or December.

“We still harvest the traditional way, using the linggaman (a type of knife),” said Senuil, adding that the padi is milled to obtain rice at the village itself, which is about 100km from here.

Launching a gotong-royong (community effort) to harvest the padi last week, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin said the switch to organic cultivation methods was the right move because of increasing demand for such produce.

“More people are now looking for agriculture and livestock produce that is chemical-free because of health concerns,” said Yahya, who is also the state Agriculture and Food Industry Minister.

He said the site near the mountain would also attract visitors not only for its scenic location but also those keen to learn how padi is cultivated.


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Taiwan steel firm behind toxic dump in Vietnam fined again

AFP Yahoo News 17 Dec 17;

A Taiwanese steel firm behind a toxic spill that killed tonnes of fish in central Vietnam last year was fined for a second time for illegally burying "harmful" waste, official sources said Sunday.

The deadly dump from Formosa's $11 billion steel plant in Ha Tinh province sparked one of the country's worst environmental catastrophes, decimating livelihoods along swathes of coastline and prompting months of rare protests in the authoritarian country.

The firm was initially fined $500 million for pouring toxic chemicals -- including cyanide -- into the ocean in April 2016, and has now been ordered to pay an additional $25,000 on separate charges of burying harmful solid waste in the ground, according to the official Cong Ly newspaper.

A local contractor will also be fined $20,000 for helping to dispose of the 100 cubic metres of waste, added Cong Ly, the mouthpiece of the Supreme Court.

An official in Ha Tinh province confirmed the latest fine to AFP on Sunday, without providing further details.

The waste was buried in July 2016, and local residents reported seeing trucks ferrying the material to a farm belonging to the contractor hired to dispose of it.

Police confirmed the waste came from Formosa and launched an investigation last year. Officials would not comment on why it took more than a year to issue the nominal fines.

The toxic spill set off angry demonstrations against the company and the government in the one-party state that routinely jails its critics, including by affected fishermen who demanded greater compensation.

Several activists have been arrested and convicted for their involvement in the protests, including a 22-year-old blogger who was jailed for seven years last month.

Formosa's huge steel plant, which was under construction at the time of the disaster, was given the green light to resume operations in April after officials found it had addressed dozens of violations.

Several officials were punished or fired after the disaster, which saw beaches littered with fish, including large offshore species.

Communist Vietnam has been accused of ignoring environmental concerns on its march toward rapid development, though the issue has become a central issue for some groups who have taken up the cause on social media.

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Best of our wild blogs: 16-17 Dec 17

Singapore Bird Report - November 2017
Singapore Bird Group

Butterfly of the Month - December 2017
Butterflies of Singapore

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Flash floods in eastern Singapore, cars deep in muddy water in Pasir Ris Farmway

Lydia Lam Straits Times 15 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE - Flash flooding occurred in some parts of Singapore as heavy rain blanketed the island on Friday (Dec 15).

A video going around online shows vehicles deep in murky water in Pasir Ris Farmway. The cars parked along the road have their tyres nearly submerged in the muddy water.

A red vehicle is seen stranded in the middle of the road, with passengers alighting from it.

National water agency PUB had repeated the National Environment Agency's (NEA) warning of heavy rain expected over northern, eastern and central Singapore from 3.45pm to 4.45pm.

PUB tweeted of areas with high flood risks, such as Tampines Road, New Upper Changi Road and Chai Chee Road.

The country is currently experiencing the regional north-east monsoon, with wet weather conditions previously forecast for the first half of December.

The Meteorological Service Singapore had said in an advisory that there could be a monsoon surge in the second week of December, with a few days of cooler temperatures, occasionally windy conditions and widespread moderate to heavy rain in Singapore.

Thundery showers are forecast for Saturday afternoon, mainly over northern, western and central Singapore, according to NEA's 24-hour weather forecast.

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Malaysia: Perak seeks federal help over illegal sand mining


KUALA LUMPUR: THE Perak government is seeking federal help to probe into claims of illegal mining and export of sand from the state.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said the state had not approved the export of sand, although there were reports suggesting that the resource was traced to Perak.

“We have checked and we never gave any approval. We want to work with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to nab any culprits.

“Anyone with knowledge or suggesting that we allowed it, we would like them to cooperate with us and furnish us with information,” he told the New Sunday Times.

Zambry added that the matter was not only of concern to the state but also to the country.

The New Sunday Times had last month reported that the growing global demand for sand had led to smuggling in the country.

Contacts were made with a few local sand exporters, including those who claimed that their supply came from Sungai Perak.

The ministry had gone on record as saying that only three companies had been issued with approved permits to export sand, two of which were licensed to export it to India. The other is to feed the demand from Singapore.

The resource is only to be taken from Pahang and Kelantan rivers.

Industry sources claimed that sand could have been exported under the guise of something else in sacks or transferred illegally via sea lanes.

Checks revealed that there were close to 10 dredging stations operating along a 10km stretch from Kampung Senin to Teluk Kepayang, in Bota, with some located close to each other.

Mountains of sand extracted from the riverbed can be seen from afar on the riverbank.

Some operators were operating during odd hours, and sources revealed that this was to maximise profits.

At least 10 tipper trucks were lining up along a narrow kampung road, waiting to be loaded with sand.

Sources told the NST that sand dredging had been going on for decades. They added that the numbers had increased significantly, by almost two-fold, in the past few years.

‘Rampant sand dredging has harmful environmental, health effects’

Rampant sand dredging along Sungai Perak can lead to disastrous environmental and health effects.

The sudden increase in sand mining on both sides of the second-longest river in Peninsular Malaysia has raised questions among environmental observers.

Among the concerns were the proximity of some of the dredging stations to intake points for water treatment plants that supply half the population in Manjung district.

The sand mining had, on several occasions, forced the closure of treatment plants because their pumps were clogged.

“The state water authority had raised the issue with the state action committee and we hope something is done about this,” a source said.

“During the district-level meeting, the Department of Environment and the Lands and Mines Department issued a statement that they would not approve new licences or renew existing ones for sand mining in Bota,” the source added.

Water expert Dr Zaki Zainudin said river sand mining would cause harmful substances, which had settled on the riverbed, to resurface and contaminate the water.

“Sand contains organic elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, or heavy metal elements, such as iron, manganese or arsenic.

“When sand is dredged, these substances will resurface. This is not good, especially in large volumes.

“These harmful substances could seep into the source water if the sand mining is done upstream, or near water intakes,” said the water quality and modelling specialist.

Zaki said sand mining would increase the level of suspended solids in the river, causing it to turn murky, which was often referred to as the “teh susu” phenomena.

He added that excessive amounts of suspended solids in the river would disrupt the operations of water intake plants.

“This will force the authorities to use more coagulants, such as aluminium, to treat the water before it can be supplied to consumers.

“Organisms could react with (the extra) chlorine used during the disinfection process and produce trihalomethanes, such as chloroform, which can be hazardous to consumers.

“Heavy metals cannot be removed by conventional water treatment processes. These constituents would lead to health implications,” he said, adding that the negative impact from sand mining would be exacerbated during the dry season.

He added that suspended solids would destroy the breeding ground of river life and force migration.

“Fish and aquatic species indigenous to downstream reaches would be forced to migrate elsewhere. In serious cases, certain aquatic species, particularly the more sensitive ones, may face extinction.

“If there are aquaculture activities downstream, they too would be affected by suspended solids stirred up by the dredging.”

Sahabat Alam Malaysia field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said the non-governmental organisation had received reports from land owners who complained that they had lost their land to sand mining.

“Sand mining causes serious river bank erosion. It results in the river becoming wider and shallower.

“We have received complaints from land owners who claimed that their land is no longer accessible because of erosion, aggravated by sand mining.”

Sand extraction, Meor said, was also threatening river terrapin landing points in the state.

“River terrapins are considered critically endangered. Instead of helping to ensure the survival of the species, we are allowing sand mining to destroy their landing points.

“We hope the state government will not approve any sand mining within 2km of the River Terrapin Conservation Centre in Bota Kanan.”

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Vietnam: Experts seek to enhance water security in Mekong Delta

Experts gathered at a workshop in Hanoi on December 14 to seek measures to enhance water resources security amid climate change and energy development in the Mekong Delta region.
Vietnam Net 15 Dec 17;

According to Nguy Thi Khanh, Director of Green ID under the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA) - organiser of the workshop, the Mekong Delta is facing numerous challenges in ensuring water resources security and sustainable development.

Climate change and rising sea water level are taking place quicker than forecast, resulting in many extremist weather patterns that affect the livelihoods of local residents, she said.

Well-meant but misguided climate change interventions in the Mekong Delta are set to do more harm than good, and only a change in policymakers’ mindset can reverse the damage, said Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent researcher and expert, said.

The change in mindset would involve a shift from forceful interventions to embracing natural cycles, he said.

Thien, whose work focuses on the Mekong Delta’s ecology, was giving his assessment of Resolution No 120 on sustainable development for the Mekong Delta that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc signed in November.

The biggest problem is serious degradation of surface water quality caused by a series of ill-planned sluices, he noted.

In dealing with the serious threat to crops posed by worsening saline intrusion, authorities have built systems of floodgates to prevent seawater intrusion into rivers and canals, as also land being “eaten away” by the rising sea, he added.

However, without normal ‘water exchange’ between rivers and the sea, river flow is affected; they become stagnant and pollutants - some 2-3 million tonnes of fertiliser and 100,000 tonnes of insecticides or growth stimulants from agriculture apart from domestic and industrial waste – keeps building in the still waters. The practice thus far has been to open the sluice gates only when the pollution and water quality has reached unbearable levels.

So, in the “the country of rivers and water,” when surface water became unfit for consumption, Mekong Delta residents have been forced to dig deep for groundwater.

Thien highlighted the irony of this situation by referring to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous quote: “Water, water everywhere, nor a drop to drink.”

The irony gets deeper in the Mekong Delta. With some one million plus wells drawing up groundwater in the region, land subsidence has been occurring at the rate of 1.6cm per year. If groundwater exploitation continues at this rate, by 2050, the entire Mekong Delta would sink 0.88m compared to the 1990s, a result 10 times worse than the subsidence caused by rising sea level, Thien warned.

In this context, Resolution No 120 has brought some clear-mindedness and a good strategy that Thien felt could “steer the delta towards in a sound direction,” by not considering flooding or saltwater as mortal enemies, and seeing both fresh water and brackish water as important resources to harness.

If the spirit of the resolution is followed faithfully, the “self-purification” capability of the Mekong River system can be restored, surface water becomes usable again, and the need for groundwater reduced, leading to a deceleration of subsidence.

Thien also praised the resolution for doing away with ‘triple cropping,’ switching priority from maximising output to maximising the value-added component in the value chain.

International experts have for long pointed out the close interconnectivity between water, food and energy security. An exponentially growing population demands increasingly large amounts of food, but current popular agriculture models are both water-intensive and energy-intensive, which drive up exploitation of fossil fuels and water, leading to adverse climate impacts and a fall in crop output.

The Mekong Delta needs comprehensive master planning that reduces the water­-food-energy conflicts, said Le Anh Tuan, Deputy Director of the Climate Change Institute under the Can Tho University.

Tuấn urged the Government to rethink its electricity planning – reducing the proportion of coal power, stopping the construction of new coal power plants, and prioritising renewable energy – especially solar energy, an abundant resource in the southern region.

As the nation’s hydropower potentials are exhausted, the Government is envisioning 14 coal power plants to be built in the Mekong Delta region by 2030, with the majority of coal being imported. The move has been criticised severely by many energy experts and environment activists who consider this an extreme, backward step that goes against global “greening” trends.

Other workshop participants raised the impacts of hydropower plants and other water exploitation projects on upstream stretches of the Mekong River in China, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

They noted that in the past, the erosion rate trailed the rate of sediment deposits. However, as most of the sand and a large part of alluvium in the Mekong River are now blocked by the dams, the Mekong Delta is starved of the regular replenishment of its soil that used to happen during the annual flooding season.

Now, the erosion rate has “for the first time in 6000 years, surpassed the deposition rate,” and along with excessive sand mining, resulted in the recent rise erosion and number of landslides, Thien said.-VNA

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Best of our wild blogs: 15 Dec 17

Tell us what kind of mangroves YOU would like at Pulau Ubin!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Sat 13 Jan 2018 The 1st Biodiversity Challenge: Human-Wildlife Co-existence (open to all)
Otterman speaks

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Foodpanda customers can say ‘no’ to disposable forks and spoons from next month

SIAU MING EN Today Online 14 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE – From January, customers of food delivery company foodpanda will get the option to say “no” to disposable cutlery.

The company is also in talks with its partner eateries to replace their food containers -- often made of plastic -- with packaging made from sugarcane pulp, touted to be more sustainable.

Foodpanda told TODAY both initiatives will be tested in Singapore before they are rolled out to 11 other Asian and Eastern European cities it operates in.

The Berlin-based company wants to curb the increase in packaging used as its business grows, said foodpanda managing director Luc Andreani.

Its restaurant partners usually provide the disposable cutlery, while foodpanda provides paper bags for the deliveries.

The company, however, does not track the amount of packaging waste generated from its orders.

It is in talks with its top 20 restaurant partners – which make up half of its orders – to see if they are receptive to switching to food containers made of left-over sugarcane pulp.

The plastic-free alternative, supplied by a firm called VitalWare, is biodegradable but more costly.

“Our ambition for sustainable foodpanda packaging is that it will replace all restaurant packaging… (at) no additional costs,” said Mr Andreani.

Early last year, the company replaced the plastic bags used to pack food orders with Forest Stewardship Council-certified brown paper bags.

“We realised the impact that packaging has on our brand, and on the environment, and wanted to source something to reflect this,” he said.

The explosive growth of food delivery services worldwide has raised concerns about the industry’s environmental impact.

Disposable packaging is necessary for food delivery and ensures food safety, said Mr Teri Teo, a committee member of the Packaging Council of Singapore, an industry group of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation.

Anti-waste groups agree more should be done to cut excessive use of packaging.

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) has seen an increase in food packaging waste but its executive director Jen Teo said not all of it was traced to food delivery services.

“A busy lifestyle and the ready availability of takeaway or delivery food choices have combined to increase the amount of food packaging waste Singaporeans generate. We have also seen a move away from paper packaging towards the use of plastic containers and bags,” she added.

Disposable packaging becomes a problem when not disposed of or recycled properly, said Ms Teo. They can end up in the oceans and be consumed by fish and other marine creatures, eventually ending up in the food chain.

Ms Aarti Giri, the founder of non-profit group Plastic-Lite Singapore, said some restaurants use excessive packaging – from separate plastic bags for sauces, to individually wrapped cutlery.

Apart from giving customers the option to refuse disposable cutlery, food delivery companies can consider offering discounts to those who do so, she said.

But foodpanda said it would not offer incentives or rebates to customers who opt out. “Many customers are ordering food to their homes or offices, where cutlery is readily available. foodpanda hopes that this prompt alone would encourage customers to opt out,” said Mr Andreani.

It remains to be seen if other food delivery players will take steps to reduce packaging waste. Deliveroo declined to comment, while an UberEATS spokesperson said: “Food packaging is largely decided by our restaurant partners on what works best for their cuisine. We welcome and remain supportive of any eco-friendly initiatives that they would have.”

Studies should also be conducted to track the amount of food packaging used for takeaways and deliveries, in order to set reduction targets, said Ms Giri.

“Because out of sight is out of mind. People say they order (food deliveries) only once a week or once a month, but when there are lots of people doing that, (a lot of) waste is generated,” she said.

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New volunteer gardening initiative to make Istana grounds more accessible

CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 14 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE – Gardening enthusiasts will now get a chance to help shape the gardens at the Istana under a new Volunteer Gardeners@Istana programme.

Launched by President Halimah Yacob on Thursday (Dec 14), the programme will provide opportunities for the gardening community in Singapore to come together to maintain the greenery and landscape of the Istana.

Madam Halimah said: “The purpose (of the programme) is basically to encourage Singaporeans who are interested in community gardening to come and contribute their ideas and experiences, and also help to shape the gardens at the Istana.”

“The whole idea is also to engage and reach out to Singaporeans so that they feel that there is a part they can play in the Istanta garden,” she added.

She also said that this programme was a chance for volunteers to “develop collective memories” of the Istana.

Madam Halimah had previously said she wants to make the Istana more accessible to ordinary Singaporeans. The Volunter Gardeners@Istana programme is the second of such initiatives, with the first being the Picnic@Istana programme — which will see four picnics held a year — launched in November.

So far, about 50 people - from as young as 9 to 79-years-old - have signed up as volunteer gardeners, with the majority being in their 50s.

Volunteers will be involved in activities such as planting, pruning and harvesting of fruits, and will work in seven to eight areas within the Istana grounds including the Spice Garden, Japanese Garden and the front lawn of the Istana.

The sessions are set to begin in January next year, and will run for three days – Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays – on a chosen week each month. Each gardening session will last three hours, from 9am to 12pm.

At the launch on Thursday, Madam Halimah interacted with over 20 volunteer gardeners at the Spice Gardens. She said she is also hopeful that volunteers would develop memories of the Istana through the volunteer programme,

Volunteer gardener Ms Jean Tsai, who is in her 60s, said she was excited to be a part of this programme, which brings together “like-minded people interested in history and nature”.

The freelance editor said she has always had a keen interest in the flora and fauna since she was first exposed to horticulture in secondary school. Her flexible work hours make it easy for her to volunteer. “So as long as I can do the work, bend over (and plant the flowers), and my old bones don’t creak, I foresee myself volunteering for a very long time,” she said.

Depending on response, NParks group director at the Istana Mr Wong Tuan Wah said: “We are more than willing to accept as many volunteers as possible, and if there is overwhelming response we will definitely expand it to more days.”

Before the introduction of Picnic@Istana and Volunteer Gardeners@Istana programmes, the public could only visit the Istana during five open houses each year – during Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Labour Day and National Day.

Those interested to be a volunteer gardener can send enquiries to

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