Best of our wild blogs: 29 May 17



Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 11 Jun 2017
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Shit Gets Real - 7 Dung Spiders and their Remarkable Mimicry
Macro Photography in Singapore

Short Afternoon Walk At Windsor Nature Park (27 May 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma) @ Upper Thomson Road
Monday Morgue


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'Nearly all shark's fin sold here from sustainable source'

Association says it uses regulated fisheries; conservation groups want better monitoring
Priscilla Goy Straits Times 27 May 17;

Almost all shark's fin sold here is from sustainable sources, said the Marine and Land Products Association yesterday, following the release of a study on Thursday that found Singapore to be a top trader of the controversial delicacy.

The group represents companies in the fishing and marine industry, including about 10 involved in the shark's fin trade. This makes up about 70 per cent of the shark's fin industry here, said Mr Yio Jin Xian, a representative of the association.

He wrote in an e-mail to The Straits Times yesterday: "We constantly strive to provide sustainable products from countries with well-documented federal regulations on shark fishing... We are continuously seeking sustainable solutions in the seafood industry."

A report released on Thursday ranked Singapore as the third-largest importer (after Hong Kong and Malaysia) and exporter (after Thailand and Hong Kong) of shark's fin out of the 68 countries and territories studied. It imported 14,134 tonnes and exported 11,535 tonnes between 2005 and 2013.

The report by wildlife trade-monitoring network Traffic and nature group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) looked at figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

There are 30 shark and ray species threatened with extinction listed in Appendix I and II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites); permits are needed for trade in these species. However, the study noted that Singapore did not have species-specific product trade codes for all 30, so trade in the other species might be illegal and unsustainable, but goes unnoticed.

Mr Yio said the association "strictly follows Cites regulations and international laws on endangered species". All shark's fin sold by members - which he estimates at about 90 per cent of what is sold here - is from sustainable sources, he added. The fins are from sharks processed in First World countries with fisheries that are regulated and have restrictions on the amount fished each year, he said.

"Those countries require the sharks to be fully used, so typically, the fins are shipped to Asian markets, and the rest is used in Western countries for dishes like fish and chips. Those fins are not processed on boats by fishermen who cut them off and throw the dead sharks back in the sea. It is the whole shark that's used, not the fins alone."

Said WWF-Singapore spokesman Janissa Ng: "With a quarter of the shark species in the world facing extinction, defining what is sustainable goes beyond quotas and sales practices."

There are no shark fisheries that have been independently certified sustainable; nor are there systems that can track shark products back to the point of harvest, she said.

"The Singapore authorities need to take measures that lead to greater transparency in the global shark trade, such as more robust monitoring of species-specific trade volumes, so there is a clearer picture of whether the trade of certain species is legal and sustainable," she said.


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A tiny island off Singapore may hold answers to energy’s future

Today Online 27 May 17;

SINGAPORE — On a small island off the southern coast of Singapore, a French energy company is experimenting with what it hopes will be the future of renewable power storage.

Engie SA is helping build a small, self-contained power grid on Semakau Island to demonstrate the usefulness of hydrogen gas in converting intermittent power from solar panels and wind turbines into stored fuel that can generate electricity days or even months later, when the need is higher.

Plummeting costs for solar and wind are helping renewable energy steal an ever-greater slice of the power generation pie from fossil fuels such as oil and coal. That makes it more and more vital to figure out how to spread out the brief but intense bursts of energy harnessed from the sun and wind to the more diffused needs of consumers. While battery storage has received most of the attention so far, hydrogen has “massive long-term potential,” said Didier Holleaux, executive vice president at Engie.

“Batteries are fine for intraday, or a few hours,” Mr Holleaux said in an interview in Singapore. “But if you produce energy in summer and need it in winter, or need it to last during a few cloudy days, then hydrogen would be the obvious solution.”

To be a solution, though, hydrogen storage costs would have to come down dramatically. A hydrogen-based energy storage system costs about 10 times more than a diesel back-up generator with similar power output, according to a Toshiba Corp. presentation at the World Smart Energy Week in Tokyo in March.

Hydrogen storage is basically a three-step process: electricity powers a chemical process know as electrolysis that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then stored until it’s needed, and is then pumped through fuel cells to generate electricity.

The biggest hurdle to commercial viability is the electrolysis process, Mr Holleaux said. Manufacturers are trying to make the water-splitting equipment cheaper and more efficient, but are probably 10 to 15 years away, Mr Holleaux said.

MICRO-GRID TARGET

“If efficiency is low in terms of how much energy is consumed to produce a unit of hydrogen, then it is not that attractive to produce and store hydrogen, regardless of scale,” said I-Chun Hsiao, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The Semakau Island project, which Engie is taking part in along with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and France’s Schneider Electric SE, aims to build demonstration micro-grids that integrate wind, solar, tidal and diesel power along with storage to provide electricity to small island communities not connected to traditional power plants. The micro-grid is expected to be operating by October, with hydrogen storage capabilities added next year, Mr Holleaux said.

Engie sees big opportunities for such micro-grids in Southeast Asia, especially in the Indonesian archipelago, where nearly 1,000 islands have populations that don’t have access to traditional power plants.

“It’s a region that’s open to innovation,” Mr Holleaux said. “Many countries are ready to leapfrog directly from no power at all to a completely decentralised type of power, rather than going through the traditional centralised, interconnected network.” BLOOMBERG


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Confessions of a wildlife photographer: Shooting animals the right way

Wildlife photographer Kennie Pan says key to taking good pictures is knowing the story you want to tell
Hariz Baharudin The New Paper 29 May 17;

When asked what makes a picture good, award-winning wildlife photographer Kennie Pan is reflective.

The laidback 27-year-old told The New Paper: "It's not just about the gear.

"It is about who you are as a person and what is the story you want to tell."

The words sound more sincere coming from the self-taught shutterbug, who did not let his humble origins stop him from chasing his dream of capturing animals on camera.

Mr Pan said he started out 12 years ago, armed with just a simple entry-level camera he found at home, because he did not have enough money to get a camera of his own.

He studied shots by photographers he admired, thinking about how they got the photos.

"I look at their photos and I feel inspired," he said.

"I knew I probably would not be able to get the shots they got because I don't have the privilege or the money, but I still wanted to try."

Driven by his passion, Mr Pan saved up to go on self-funded expeditions.

His interest has led him to stalking tigers at an Indian safari and seeking out rare kingfishers in the Philippines.

But the images that have won him awards were taken right here in Singapore.

In 2010, Mr Pan nabbed the prestigious grand prize (junior category) in the Biodiversity Wildlife competition.

The photo he took of a long-tailed shrike in a residential area came out on top out of 2,200 photos that were submitted.

Mr Pan got the shot using just a mid-range camera.

He said: "There is wildlife everywhere if you look... Every place has different species. It depends on what you want to shoot."

He was also a finalist at the One Eyeland Photography Awards in 2013.

The year after, he received honourable mentions in the professional category at the International Photography Awards, in the nature-wildlife category.

Whether it is trailing big cats, looking for an elusive snake or finding rare birds, Mr Pan said knowledge about the animals is just as important as the gear. To him, capturing the animals in their natural habitats is his way of offering a peek into their world.

"You have to know why you are photographing them, the story you wish to tell people when you take photos," he said.

"If not, you are just blindly shooting. You are just doing it for the sake of shooting.

"It is better to use your photos to say something."


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Malaysia: DoE stops RM1.2bil project “The Dubai of Ma­­lay­­sia”

SHARANPAL SINGH RANDHAWA The Star 29 May 17;

ALOR SETAR: A RM1.2bil mixed de­­velopment project in Kuala Ke­dah, dubbed “The Dubai of Ma­­lay­­sia” has been issued with an immediate stop-work order.

The order against the Aman Laut project was issued by the Depart­ment of Environment (DoE) through a notice dated May 15.

The ambitious project comprises high-end bungalows, chic condominiums, malls and luxury eateries, which will radically change the skyline beside the seafront.

Yesterday, DoE director-general Datuk Dr Ahmad Kamarulnajib Che Ibrahim confirmed that his department had issued the order.

He said the project has yet to obtain the approval of the DoE but workers had started reclamation work at the site.

“This is in accordance with the Section 34AA (2) of the Malaysian Quality Environmental Act 1974 (Amended) 2012 that no work can be carried out prior to getting the approval of the department.

“Only after it has been approved can work be carried out,” he added.

A Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) survey found that an area a distance of about 1km out to sea had been reclaimed and nearly 10ha of mangroves along the coast had been affected.

Kedah Environment Committee chairman Datuk Dr Leong Yong Long said the decision made by the federal department was temporary until further notice.

It was done to protect the coastal and sea environments in the area.

“This is also for the developer to comply with the pre-requirement of an Environmental Impact Assess­ment (EIA) report before proceeding with the project.

“The Kedah government is equally concerned about the EIA and has no objection to the ministerial action pending a full EIA report,” said Dr Leong.

“However, there is some work still going on at the site on the mainland which had already been approved by local authorities.

“This should not be misconstrued as defiance of the stop-work order by the department or the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environ­ment,” he added.

Kedah Housing, as well as Local Government and Water Resources Committee, chairman Datuk Badrol Hisham Hashim said they would speak to the developers and ask them to resubmit the EIA report.

The project, which was also said to transform the skyline of Kuala Kedah fishing town and elevate its residential and business standards, faced protests previously from NGOs and about 1,000 fishermen.

SAM issued a statement in March questioning the work carried out without the approval of the DoE while the fishermen claimed the project would jeopardise their income.

They too called for the project to be stopped, stating that the project had contravened environmental regulations and destroyed the area’s mangroves, adding that this would threaten the coastal fishermen’s livelihoods.


Stop work order issued for Kedah project
SHARANPAL SINGH RANDHAWA The Star 28 May 17;

ALOR SETAR: Aman Laut, a RM1.2bil mixed development project here dubbed the "Dubai of Malaysia", has been issued with an immediate stop work order.

The order was issued by the Department of Environment (DOE) through a notice dated May 15.

This was confirmed by DOE director-general Datuk Dr Ahmad Kamarulnajib Che Ibrahim.

"The move is in accordance with Section 34AA (2) of the Malaysian Quality Environmental Act 1974 (Amendment) 2012 that no work can be carried out prior to the approval of the department.

"Once it has been approved, only then should construction work be carried out," he said when contacted on Sunday.

The project, which comprises high-end bungalows, chic condominiums, malls and high-end eateries, was meant to transform the state, including the Kuala Kedah fishing town.

However, it was protested against by fishermen, who said the project had jeopardised their income.


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Best of our wild blogs: 28 May 17



Cerianthid search at Cyrene
wild shores of singapore


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As sea levels rise, Singapore prepares to stem the tide

Seawalls and rock slopes already protect over 70 per cent of Singapore's coastline. But experts suggest more ways to face the impact of climate change.
TANG FAN XI Straits Times 28 May 17;

With climate change will come rising sea levels, and while Singapore has taken steps to brace itself against the consequences, some experts say more can be done.

Sea levels are projected to rise between 0.25m and 0.76m towards the end of the century, according to Singapore’s Climate Action Plan published in 2016 by the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS).

As a low-lying island, the rise in sea level poses the most immediate climate change threat to Singapore, it said. Much of the country lies only 15m above the mean sea level, with about 30 per cent of the island less than 5m above the mean sea level.

So the authorities have been preparing early to safeguard Singapore.

In 2010, the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) carried out shoreline restoration works to stabilise a section of the beach at East Coast Park. This consisted of large sand-filled bags, laid several metres into the ground to be level with the low tide, helping to reduce sand erosion.

In 2011, the minimum land reclamation level in Singapore was raised from 3m to 4m above the mean sea level.

And last year, Singapore raised the coastal Nicoll Drive in Changi by up to 0.8m.

The BCA is now conducting the Coastal Adaptation Study (CAS), which aims to safeguard the country’s long term coastal protection needs, and is expected to be completed by end 2017.

Today, over 70 per cent of Singapore’s coastline is protected with hard structures such as seawalls and rock slopes. While lauding the efforts, experts have pointed out various ways in which these can be boosted.

Associate Professor of Geography at National University of Singapore (NUS) Wong Poh Poh, who also served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, believes that another approach which could help is the use of amphibious architecture, which he points out is cheaper than raising land or building seawalls. Such buildings stay on the ground during dry times. But when water comes, they float on the surface, while their foundations anchor them to the ground.

He gave the example of amphibious homes in Maasbommel, the Netherlands, which have concrete barges anchoring light timber-frame construction on top.

Prof Wong also feels that Singapore should incorporate more natural methods using mangroves to protect coastlines. He stressed the importance of mangroves which help to dissipate waves and trap sediment, potentially serving as a flexible form of coastal defence while preventing erosion.

“Utilising mangroves is not only less costly, if the process is done carefully, they are still able to be effective in protecting shorelines to keep up with rising sea levels, which hard methods such as sea walls are not able to adapt to,” he said.

Assistant Professor Dan Friess, a mangrove expert at the NUS Department of Geography, explained: “Mangrove restoration isn’t new in Singapore, with examples on Pulau Semakau and Pulau Tekong, and steps are currently underway to assess the potential for restoration on Pulau Ubin too.”

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the NUS Department of Geography pointed out that not many other countries have “similar constraints” like Singapore in terms of preparing for climate change - given its unique geographical circumstances as a low-latitude island city-state.

More research is needed to look at the impact of climate change on various parts of the urban system, noted Ms Helena Hulsman, associate director of Singapore operations at Deltares, which jointly undertakes applied research in water, subsurface and climate change with NUS under the knowledge alliance NUSDeltares.

Ms Hulsman suggested looking into coastal protection solutions through “building with nature”, giving examples of successful pilot studies of ecologically optimised coastal protection solutions in the Netherlands, using natural processes to increase wave dampening, reduce erosion and enhance soil stability.

Dr Aron Meltzner of Nanyang Technological University’s Earth Observatory of Singapore said there are overseas examples that Singapore can learn from. These include the Maeslant storm surge barrier in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, which augments a system of levees and dikes already in place, and the Thames Barrier, which is a movable flood barrier in the River Thames east of Central London.

There were regional fluctuations in sea levels long ago not due to global warming, and that could happen again in the future, exacerbating the effects of sea-level rise, said Dr Meltzner.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow from the NUS Department of Geography said in order to truly combat the problem of rising sea levels, more can also be done to “address the root cause of climate change” by relying more on non-fossil fuel energy sources such as solar energy or hydroelectric energy.

Ms Ria Tan, a nature enthusiast who runs the wildsingapore.com website, believes that the public and the Government need to have more conversations about these issues and how to solve them.

“I feel that more engagement has to be done in the face of rising sea levels as it is also a pressing issue that Singapore faces. More discussions and attention in this area can better allow agencies to understand the concerns of citizens and educate them on the issue, just like how the issue of water is heavily discussed,” said Ms Tan.

Prof Wong agrees that more open discussions have to be held by the Government with various groups within societies such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and citizens. He also feels that more people have to be trained to gain an expertise in climate change adaptations.

He said: “There is a lot more work to do if we truly want to combat rising sea levels and climate change."

What other countries are doing


MALDIVES


Aerial view of Maavelavaru Island Resort in Maldives. PHOTO: JLL HOTELS & HOSPITALITY GROUP
As the world’s lowest-lying nation - an average of only 1.3m above sea level , Maldives was the first to sign the Kyoto protocol to fight global warming, and has built sea walls constructed of concrete tetrapods surrounding its capital, Male, The Guardian reported

Since 1987, the government has also been reclaiming land. Hulhumale is a reclaimed island that now has hospitals, schools even government buildings built above the rest of Maldives.

The Maldivian government launched shore protection projects in 2015, which involved the construction of two breakwaters and a revetment, a sloping structure built to absorb the energy of incoming water.

THE NETHERLANDS


Bicycles are seen reflected in the water of a canal in Delft, Netherlands. PHOTO: REUTERS
The Netherlands is a flood-prone country with a quarter of its land below sea level.

This has made flood control critical, and the government has dedicated over €400 million (S$598 million) into flood protection a year.

The nation has built a system of dykes - walls or slopes that regulate water levels, dams and floodgates .

The Maeslant barrier, with two floating gates, each the length of the Eiffel Tower and weighing four times as much, that closes off the New Waterway, a ship canal, in case of a storm tide.
The barrier had to be closed once in 2007, and with the sea-level rise projections, it may have to be closed more often in the future.

The Dutch are also making use of a sea wall to protect Maasvlakte, Europe’s biggest port.
The wall is built using 20,000 concrete cubes, a slope of stones and constructed dunes, at the height of 14m, the maximum projected height of water in the year 2060.

These new storm protections cost €725 million.

VENICE


Gondolas and boat-taxis drive on the Canale Grande in Venice. PHOTO: AFP
Venice in Italy is facing the pressing problem of slowly sinking into the seas while facing the sea level rise at the same time.

This led to the passing of the MOSE - Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico or the Electromechanical Experimental Module - scheme by the government in 2003 to construct an artificial barrier in the sea which would protect the city from floods.

It cost £3 billion (S$5.4 billion) for construction, with estimated maintenance costs of £8 million (S$14.5 million) per year.

The system consists of 78 giant steel gates with huge panels fixed to concrete bases dug into the sea bed. Compressed air will be pumped into the hollow panels, forcing them to rise when a dangerous high tide is predicted, reported The Telegraph.

The system is currently close being finished. The barriers will be able to support a 3m tide and will protect Venice for a century, according to web magazine CityLab.

The city has also adapted in other ways. Raised walkways are installed-temporarily in busier parts of the city; and businesses block their doors until the water sinks. Sirens sound a warning throughout the city when high tides are forecast with information provided in real-time online, reported The Guardian. Canals are also dredged regularly.


Singapore Underwater: Travel through time and experience rising sea levels with ST’s virtual reality project
Rebecca Pazos Straits Times 28 May 17;

It is year 2500. The Merlion statue overlooking Marina Bay is half submerged. This is because sea levels could have risen by more than 6m, based on projections by scientists.

Hard to imagine what it might look like? Travel through time and see for yourself with The Sunday Times' first virtual reality (VR) project, Singapore Underwater.

You can experience it here: str.sg/SGunderwaterVR.

The project looks at the possible long-term impact of climate change and rising sea levels on Singapore.

Through VR , readers can experience for themselves scenarios that might otherwise be too distant in the future to imagine.

Still think climate change affects only future generations?

The project and accompanying essays also look at the more immediate impact we are already experiencing, from dry spells to unpredictable rainfalls.

To give a more complete picture, the essays also highlight the measures that Singapore and other countries have put in place to mitigate the impact of rising sea levels.

The VR project, created by the ST Digital team, uses web VR technology. This means it can be viewed on desktops, smart phones and tablets - just like a regular webpage - without having to download an app to view it.

But for the full immersive experience, readers are encouraged to use a VR headset or viewer.

ST will be giving away 300 Google VR Cardboards to readers. Be among the first to register at str.sg/cardboards.


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480 new species discovered in Singapore

Almost 150 species are world firsts; almost 20 rediscovered here over past five years
Lin Yangchen Straits Times 27 May 17;

Over the last five years, more than 480 new species of plants and animals have been discovered in Singapore by the National Parks Board (NParks), researchers and naturalists. And almost 150 of those are world firsts.

The agency also said yesterday that almost 20 species of plants and animals had been rediscovered here over the last five years.

NParks has also put the afterburners on its Species Recovery Programme, increasing the number of species to 94, up from 46 last year.

Other than that, the largest biodiversity survey by the public and plans for a new park connector in Thomson were two other causes for celebration at this year's Festival of Biodiversity organised by the agency.

The two-day festival, launched at Nex shopping mall in Serangoon yesterday by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, includes free art-and-craft workshops, a nature-inspired art exhibition, talks by local conservationists and guided walks in nature reserves around Singapore.

It is a collaboration between NParks and some 30 partners - including universities, schools and non-governmental organisations - to encourage appreciation of Singapore's natural heritage.

The festival is also the culmination of a week of activities organised by NParks, among which was a nationwide wildlife survey that involved nearly 3,000 members of the public at 84 sites.

It recorded almost 900 species of plants and animals from both land and sea, including a coral species new to Singapore.

Previous public surveys only involved one site at a time and far fewer participants, said NParks.

To ensure that species have access to suitable habitat, NParks undertakes projects to enhance natural areas around Singapore.

For example, the agency announced yesterday that one lane of Old Upper Thomson Road would be converted into a park connector by early 2019.

INSPIRING WORK

Seeing the animals for themselves in the forest, gets to them. And they realise they can actually do something about it. They get inspired when they see young people like us who are doing our bit.

MS CHLOE TAN, 28, who organises nature walks, public library roadshows and school talks for the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement, an independent group of nature lovers.
The road runs between the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and a patch of forest that will become Thomson Nature Park, and will become a one-way drive.

NParks said this would create a more conducive environment for both wildlife and park users.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and National Development, who attended the event, said: "While we marvel at our rich biodiversity, we cannot take it for granted. Conservation requires a long-term effort."

He added that as Singapore's conservation efforts bear fruit, there would be more human-wildlife encounters, and highlighted the importance of educating the public and developing new ways to manage human-wildlife issues.

Independent wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, 53, was heartened by the predominance of young leaders and volunteers taking on such roles. "We need youngsters to speak out, because it's their future," he said.

One of the participants is Ms Chloe Tan, 28, who organises nature walks, public library roadshows and school talks for the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement, an independent group of nature lovers.

She signed up when one of her tutors at the National University of Singapore needed someone to help set up the group's website.

She said many of the young volunteers are life sciences students, but there are also those who join nature walks and get converted.

"Seeing the animals for themselves in the forest, gets to them. And they realise they can actually do something about it. They get inspired when they see young people like us who are doing our bit," said Ms Tan.


Found: Rare orchid and secretive snake

Despite decades of biodiversity surveys - all the way back to the great naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace in the 19th century - new species are still being found. More than 500 animal and plant species were discovered or rediscovered in Singapore over the last five years, the National Parks Board (NParks) revealed yesterday at its annual Festival of Biodiversity.

One of them, a solitary carpenter bee, has been given the name "sayang", meaning "love" in Malay, on account of a heart-shaped marking on its back. Ceratina sayang, which lives alone in holes bored in wood, was found in a bloom of giant orchids in Dairy Farm Nature Park in 2014. At Bukit Timah Nature Reserve last year, an NParks staff stumbled upon an orchid, Acriopsis ridleyi, that had not been seen since 1889. Not taking any chances, the agency took it for propagation at the National Orchid Garden nursery.

One of the latest discoveries was made during a survey at Sisters' Islands Marine Park last week, when National University of Singapore Assistant Professor Huang Danwei discovered the coral Favites vasta in Singapore for the first time.

He was guiding members of the public taking part in one of the nationwide surveys, or BioBlitzes, by NParks.

Other discoveries include a tree that had been standing in the former Warren Golf & Country Club for years but was identified only in 2012 during the construction of NUS' University Town, and a secretive snake that leads a muddy existence in Nee Soon Swamp Forest. Both are new records for Singapore.

NParks said some of these species may play crucial but hidden roles in maintaining Singapore's natural habitats, and has taken measures to enhance their populations or protect their habitats.

94

Number of species in NParks' Species Recovery Programme.


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Malaysia: Puntung, one of Malaysia's last Sumatran rhinos, is dying of cancer

AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 28 May 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Puntung, one of Malaysia's last surviving Sumatran rhinos, is now at death's door.

The female rhino has been diagnosed with squamous cell cancer, which has been spreading rapidly over the last few weeks.

Specialists from various countries have all delivered the same devastating verdict: with or without treatment, the cancer will be fatal for the 25-year-old rhino.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga, announcing this, said that as of today, Puntung can no longer breathe through her left nostril.

"She can also no longer vocalise. She is in pain and her condition is declining fast.

"Other than administering painkillers, there is nothing more anyone can do," he said.

Tuuga said the department has been left with little choice but to make a very difficult decision.

"We are left with no other recourse except to agree with professional medical advice and accordingly, we have authorised euthanasia."

"This was a very difficult decision to make, but the specialists agree that on balance, this is the best out of a very small number of unpleasant choices," he said.

The euthanasia will be done on June 15.

In April, Puntung underwent an operation to extract two molars and a premolar from the upper left side of her jaw, which had been causing severe abscess.

The surgery was performed by veterinary dentist Dr Tum Chinkangsadarn from Thailand, who found that the source of the abscess was a formation caused by an accumulation of bacteria on the severely-calcified molars.

The calcification also loosened two adjacent teeth.

Tuuga said it turned out that the swelling on Puntung’s left cheek that alerted them to the infected tooth root had a more serious origin.

"After the surgery, the swelling progressed, and two subsequent biopsies revealed squamous cell carcinoma," explained Tuuga.

Sabah is home to only three out of the last few critically-endangered Sumatran rhinos. The remaining numbers are in Indonesia.

Puntung, another female rhino Iman, and male Kertam, are being cared by a non-governmental organisation, Borneo Rhino Alliance, at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu.

Puntung was captured in 2011. It was subsequently established that she was the last remaining wild rhino in the Reserve.

The loss of Puntung would prove to be a catastrophic loss to the future of the species as at 25-years-old, she still has a few years of egg production left to be used for in-vitro fertilisation.

Puntung, the Sumatran rhino, is dying
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 28 May 17;

KOTA KINABALU: All hope of saving Puntung – one of the remaining three Sumatran rhinos in Sabah – is gone after veterinarians confirmed that she is dying of squamous cell cancer.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said Puntung had earlier undergone dental surgery, which was believed could save her and her species.

However, euthanasia is now being considered.

“We thought that we had saved her from her life-threatening dental infection a few months ago.

“But now, it turns out that that the swelling on Puntung’s left cheek that alerted us to the infected tooth root had a more serious origin,” he said when contacted.

He said the swelling on Puntung’s cheek had progressed after her surgery and two subsequent biopsies revealed she has squamous cell carcinoma.

Tuuga said the cancer has been spreading rapidly over the past few weeks and specialists from several countries agree that it would be fatal – with or without treatment.

“As of today, Puntung can no longer breathe through her left nostril. She can no longer vocalise, she is in pain and her condition is declining fast.

“Other than administering painkillers, there is nothing more anyone can do,” he said.

Veterinarians and other specialists are now making preparations to perform Oocyte retrieval (the process of collecting mature eggs directly from a female’s ovaries, prior to their release from ovarian follicles) on Puntung.

If the procedure is succesful, Puntung may be able to contribute to the survival of her species.

Sabah’s Sumatran rhino population has dwindled to just three specimens in captivity, with the animal considered extinct in the wild.



Puntung to be put to sleep
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 29 May 17;

KOTA KINABALU: There will be only two Sumatran rhinos left in Sabah when the third will be put to sleep next month.

Puntung, which recently underwent dental surgery, was expected to recover from what was thought to be a tooth infection.

However Puntung is dying of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a form of cancer characterised by uncontrolled cell growth in the upper layers of the skin.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said Puntung, which is currently receiving palliative care, is expected to be euthanised on June 15.

“We thought we had saved her from her life-threatening dental infection a few months ago.

“But it turned out that the swelling on Puntung’s left cheek that alerted us to the infected tooth root had a more serious origin,” he said.

After the swelling on her cheek grew following the surgery, two subsequent biopsies revealed she had SCC, which has been spreading rapidly over the past few weeks.

“As of today, Puntung can no longer breathe through her left nostril. She can no longer vocalise, is in pain, and her condition is declining fast.

“Other than administering painkillers, there is nothing more anyone can do,” said Tuuga, who revealed that specialists from several countries said the outcome would be fatal, with or without treatment.

“Authorising euthanasia is one of the most difficult decisions to make, but it is the best option for the suffering animal,” he added.

Veterinarians are now making preparations to recover mature eggs from Puntung’s ovaries so that an artificial breeding programme can be carried out.

Those who have been involved in taking care of Puntung, especially the Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora) and the Sime Darby Foundation, were devastated by the news.

Bora executive director Dr John Payne said Bora accepted the opinion of experts that any form of conventional treatment would just prolong Puntung’s agony.

Payne thanked all those involved in monitoring Puntung in the wild since 2007, as well for her care since her capture and translocation in 2011.

Sabah’s Sumatran rhino population consists of a male called Tam, and two females, Puntung and Iman. Previous attempts to get Puntung and Iman to mate with Tam were unsuccessful as the uterus of both female rhinos were lined with cysts.

The animal is already considered extinct in the wild, even though the rest of the surviving population, estimated to be only several dozen, are believed to be still roaming the Kalimantan side of Indonesia.


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Malaysia: Tapir trapped in swamp rescued

The Star 28 May 17;

BALING: A 100kg tapir injured itself when it fell into a swamp at an oil palm plantation.

“It looked very tired,” said villager Zakaria Senawi, 65, after the animal was rescued.

He believed that the tapir had lost its way before it fell into the swamp in Kampung Charok Kelian here.

The herbivorous mammal, with injuries to its head and eyes, was found by the villagers at about 8.30am yesterday.

Baling District Civil Defence Force officer Mohd Faizol Ab. Aziz said they received a distress call at about 9.10am.

“The animal, weighing about 100kg, is believed to have been separated from its group,” he said. “It was exhausted, probably due to hunger.”

Mohd Faizol said four of his personnel, together with the help of firemen, wildlife officers and villagers, took about 30 minutes to pull the tapir out from the swamp.

It was later handed over to the state Wildlife Department.


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Best of our wild blogs: 27 May 17



Cerianthid search at Changi
wild shores of singapore

Reefy Changi still alive
wild shores of singapore

Mating Pygmy Squids
Hantu Blog


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Singapore has to manage population growth carefully: PM Lee

Lee Li Ying Channel NewsAsia 27 May 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has to manage the population carefully, even as it grapples with its low fertility rate and the issue of having a stable population, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday (May 27).

Mr Lee said that with the country's total fertility rate at about 1.3, Singaporeans are far from replacing themselves. About 30,000 babies are born as citizens every year and, to top up, about 20,000 foreigners become new citizens annually.

With about 50,000 new citizens every year, Singapore can "almost sustain a stable population", he added.

But it is not all about the numbers.

Mr Lee said: "We have to manage the inflow carefully, and make sure that the people who come can integrate into our society, make sure they have the abilities and skills to contribute to our economy, and make sure their hearts are in the right place and they will become good Singaporeans. We are a country, not simply a city or an economy."

The prime minister was speaking at the citizenship ceremony on Saturday, which saw 150 residents from Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West SMC officially became Singaporeans and presented with their citizenship certificates.

He also congratulated the new citizens and urged them to continue to deepen their roots here.


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