Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 - A Year of Lucky Breaks

It's that time of year when I really should take a few minutes to reflect on what the heck I've been doing for the past 365 days! On the work front, it's been a crazy year, 25 hours-a-day in the office, with hardly any time to spend with my fellow fauna and flora friends!!! Gone are the days of post-Himachal fitness but yet I've trick myself into believing that even without time spent on training, I could still get by with my equally delusional torturemates....and if I were to follow Mingloid's Guide to Getting Oneself a Podium Finish, I would be a prime example of someone who chalked up all the lucky break brownie points for a year of hopeless vegetating.....

January - Heart on Wheels, Malacca to Singapore, 2007 first Singapore-Malaysia Charity ride covering over 250 km over 2 days...met some cool friends like Simon, George and Jeannie....the Cool Clucks Clan....and my first overseas ride with Mart since we went tandem during the days of riding with the visually handicapped...

February - Whitewater Rafting, Chiang Mai, Thailand 2007
....not the first time I've been whitewater rafting, but a first with Mart and Max....definitely one of the highlights of this trip....the afternoon was spent on the ATV, and the rest of the trip was decadence 101!

March - Whaleshark Diving at South Leyte, Philippines 2007
....whaleshark galore!!!!! this was one of the best whaleshark safaris I've been on...and definitely highly recommended for anyone who hasn't had a chance to come face to face with these gentle giants!!! 2 fins up!

April - Sabah Adventure Challenge, Sabah Malaysia 2007 first adventure race for the year with Teammates Ming and Ken of Team WTF (What the F***).....after 3 days of pure hell (temperature sure felt like it), managed a 9th place out of 24 close to smelling the asses of the top 8 teams.....

April - Law Society Bench and Bar Games, Singapore 2007
....our 10th victory over the Malaysian ladies soccer team! yippie! also started a lawsoc ladies soccer blog archiving the games we've played for over a decade....yikes.....boy, are we old farts!

April - China National Series, Kunming, China 2007
....first time I followed Max da Commissaire to China to witness a local mountain biking event organised to select world-class athletes to represent China in the Olympics! Oh...Commissaire's in town, ah owww! Oh....still gotta finish the video of the she-warrior women bikers who can kick the asses of our male bikers anytime!

May - Pan Pacific City Chase, World's Largest Urban Adventure, Singapore 2007
....Team MingLing's first urban race....not counting the Ace Adventure Race series which borders on being an urban race of sorts.....surprisingly, managed again a 9th overall position, but think we may have been 2nd or 3rd for the mixed category...surprise surprise, for a slack team like ours, having gotten lost twice at Kent Ridge!!!

June - Singapore Adventure Race, Singapore 2007
....Team WTF reprises it's role as the f*****-up team, this time with me and Ken...the first time I've buddied up with K..K....Kenny! Once again, we caught up during the biking leg to 1st position, but lost it all during the run, when we were overtaken by Esther and Teck Wee's teams, and then got majorly lost at MacRitchie thanks to Ken's navigational skills! Topo King! Still turned in a respectable 9th out of 27 teams I guess. What's it with 9s? And btw, our team number was 69.....I got shat on by a bird twice after the race, and that number struck 4D several times! If I'd been a 4D junkie, I'd be out riding everyday with my retirement fund!

July - Penang Eco-Challenge, Penang Malaysia 2007
...the first KOTRT-organised adventure race, and first time Ken and I teamed up with super-athlete Teck Wee of SART-TITUS fame! What were we thinking???? Team WeeKennyLingus (try pronouncing that whil trying not to grin) managed to clinch the surprise champion trophy....thanks to 2 lucky breaks - first, the Malaysian commando team missing a checkpoint, and secondly, our twin-engine engineer, Teck Wee! Woot!

August - Ace Adventure Challenge IV, Singapore 2007
....Team BechaKennyLingers (note the change from Lingus to Lingers) only trained once, though we were familiar with each other's weaknesses and weaknesses (did I say that twice)! Seeing that we were up against super strong competition, Ken, Becks and I decided it would be a "fun" race! From being the last in the pack after the team biathlon leg, we slowly overtook the competition on the biking leg in the darkness of sanddunes, and eventually made our way to 4th position for the mixed category! Not bad for a 2-gal, 1-guy team, though it was debatable whether we should have joined the all-girl category given Kenny's preference for dresses! Haha! This was also a first 2-part overnighter race for us.....the extreme running route at Ubin was definitely something I'd rather forget! :P

September - Bike Escort Services, AVIVA Ironman, Singapore 2007
.... First time leading one of the top female triatheles in the world! Later learnt that she struck gold at Kona! Oh.....I'm not worthy.......

September - Climb On Mountain Bike Speed Trial, Tampines, Singapore 2007
....My first attempt at a northshore type riding set-up (not counting Kent Ridge), which landed me with a sprained ankle! Stubbornly, I continued to ride and conquered all the teeter! Ok, had to contend with hobbling all over the place.....forgetting that as one gets older, recovering pace would be snailpace! Will I be able to ride again???? Xian....

September - Welcome Saskia Lee-Mager, Singapore 2007
....Maximuzz and Lingers brought home Saskia Lee-Mager....and life has never been the same again.....hachew! Bless our new sweetie! :)

September - Krank 6, MTB Open, Lorong Halus (6-hr MTB enduro), Singapore 2007
.... Despite a sprained ankle and fitness befitting a carrot, Mingloid forces Lingers to form Team MingLing and relishes in torturing her in her most unfit state! It was pay back time! This was my most ill-prepared race, but somehow, we managed to ride into the night and took home the 2nd place medal for the mixed category (if I'd been a man, we may have come in 4th in the mens open category)! Riding on trash felt....trashy, but I'd gladly do it again for the late Ian, whose visions of this enduro race finally came true!

November - Togoparts 11 (11-hr MTB enduro), Tampines Singapore 2007
....Just when we thought we'd do better at enduro races than most of the young and foolish cheongsters, after careful analysis, this was really a sprinting race, something that most of us sucked at! The competition was wild, with the likes of Teams Hammergel, Junaidi and other super-fit mountain bikers, COTES, the top-adventure racers in Singapore like Esther and Alvin and Kim Hong's teams etc. can kiss any chances of kissing the top 5 positions goodbye! Teamed up with Mingloid, Birdman Eric and Angela of ALG fame to form Team DirtAdidtion 1. It was only during the last 2 hours that we realised there was hope of our smelling a podium finish! Xiongalingam! Just when I thought I could lay down on the ground and take a nap! It was a combo of consistent riding, 2 ladies advantage and the bonus points which landed us in 2nd overall position! :)

November - IMBA Trailbuilding, Pulau Ubin Singapore 2007
....Happily became a coolie building a rock garden under the tutelage of Joey Klein of IMBA....managed to take on some of the double black diamond sections of the trail.....will be back with a vengeance once I brush up on my bike chucking skills...and maybe a full face helmet???

December - Penang Jamboree, Penang Malaysia 2007
....Yeah......didn't get majorly lost this year. Also managed to collect 8 stickers for what is arguably the toughest Penang Jamboree todate! Came in after the super female cheongsters Penang State rider and Linda....was pure torture with the recurring sprained ankle and cramps, but the feeling after completing it was pure heaven! :)

This about sums up my adventures for 2007 (or at least what I could remember of this year)! So, you think it all boils down to luck? Hmmm......maybe? But I do foresee more trouble brewing for 2008.....hmmm.....

If I don't manage to speak to any of you before the end of this year, here's wishin' ya all a belated Christmas and a great year of adventures to come in 2008!!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

Penang Jamboree 2007 - Mingloid's Video

Photos and write-up...akan datang.....

Friday, November 30, 2007

Diamonds are a gal's best friend...

My first DBD attempt at the Ubin MTB trail.....

btw, DBD = Double Black Diamond....without the air....

[Video taken by trailmaster, HM from DirTraction....big thanks to Eric and other spotters for urging me on....last thing I need is an ankle resprained before the Penang Jamboree! But promise, will need to at least attempt the rest as soon as I get meself some full body armour!!!]

Monday, November 19, 2007


We'd like to thank Adidas and DirTraction for believing in us underdogs!

Judging from who we were up against at the start of the day, I still can't believe Team DirtAdidtion 1 (Ming, Angela, Eric and moi) managed to bag 2nd place on the podium! Woot!

Me hoping to write me account of this race within this century - meanwhile, check out Mingloid's report. Don't choke!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Makin' zzzzzz....and dreaminz of....

Wonder what Maximuzz and Saskia are dreaminz of?

Dun know about our little 4 month old sweetie, but THIS is definitely what's poppin up in Max's dreams....

BTW, we got a collar called "rogz" (note the "z" at the end)! How cool is that?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Crank 6 Results - gettin' kinda cranky!

If Mingo could come up with a heartbeat wave chart, you'd see the times when I was dead and then became a zombie again....did I say, again?.....

The flow chart evidence....more photos available here...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Short report on Crank 6 by Mingloid

Above, the top mens team coming in strong...

Below, extract from here (for memory sake)....

......We just tried to have some fun and just to keep going.

Not easy having fun from 3-5pm when you're baking in the oven while riding on sand, pushing up gravel hills and riding through mud that sticks to everything!

We can only remember the first lap and the last few... the rest in between, we were just riding with blank minds....

We stopped after lap 2 to change Ling's shoes and to platform pedals. Too much mud on the cleats, plus she was riding with a 1/2 healed sprained ankle.

Stopped once more to top up water, and the last stop was to put on lights at 5.30pm. Ling came back to life after it got cooler.

The last 4 laps were without stopping.... almost at the brink of cramping!

Riding at night was something else... even though we knew the trail well by then, it looked very different at night, and you cannot see the bottom of the steeper slopes. Scary stuff.

Actually, this torture was exactly what Ian Ng whould have loved to have seen. He played a big part in getting through to the authorities on this trail. Now that he's in the sweet Holy Trail in the sky, his team @ Basecamp/SART has carried on to organise this event.

Ian Ng, this is for you!


Monday, October 08, 2007

Super Doggy Day Photos from Janice

Max gettin' a shoulder rub from 'em big paws...

Ling gettin' weightlifting trainin' from the 7 kg furball
- still lighter than BlueBones,
but my bike doesn't struggle while being carried

(ok, Saskia doesn't struggle, but she sure is heavy,
coz she's just Saskia)....

Lick here for more of Janice's photos...

Saskia's First Pooch Gathering at Botanics

For complete wrestling match details, lick here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A New LEASH of life for Saskia

Wana know what I've been up to lately? Just lick here and dun forget to give me a treat! Wooferz!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More Trashy Pictures

More photos of Crank 6...

These photos (extracted from are probably a better reflection of the type of surfaces that we rode on....soft powdery, just add water for mud, loose gravel, lallang....

And the albums...

Must add though that none of the photos in my album were taken by me. They were borrowed from the MTBRiders Website! 10Q!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Eu-Cyc-logy : Cycling Memorial in tribute to Ian Ng (aka Ah Pui)

What did we do last Saturday afternoon from 2.30 - 8.30 pm? Almost kena baked alive under the microwave for 6 hours, cycling like mice around a 4 km-per-lap rubbishdump at Lor Halus, trying me best to complete the first enduro mountain bike race to hit Singapore!

Mingloid : partner-in-crime team-mate who took revenge on me during my weak-ling moment by torturing me in my least prepared state of fitness. Tsk tsk tsk! Ok, ok, if he weren't there pushin' me, I would have checked-out after the 1st lap!

Dat's me : bad mental and physical health - characteristically bad knees, wore ankle guards for first time while recovering from bad sprained ankle, bout of food poisining, sleep deprivation from burning midnite oil in office + entertaining new puppy and scooping up pee and poop almost 24x7 - and almost forgot how to use cleats, having gotten very comfortable training with adventure racing shoes for few months before couch-potato-ankle-recovery-time! Oh, not forgettin' almost kena heat stroke from scorching, merciless sun! Wah piang eh!

How did we do? I guess Team MingLing did alright, completing 9 laps in 6 hours! Am sure could have done more laps if I had been fitter or trained for it, but not much help since champion was unbeatable naval diver Esther + pardner who lapped us twice!

Why stupidly suffer so much? Well, in a nutshell, it was to give Ian the satisfaction in looking down on us with an evil grin (with his hand on the microwave "high heat" knob) while we suffer away and saying to himself, "Haha! Tekan by me....once again!" :P

Thanks to Ian for his vision of multi-hour torture...and kudos to the SART fellas, Basecamp and the other organisers who made this happen! And thanks for the photographer from the mtb website who took these photos! :) More photos of the recce trip these fellas went on before the race.

More photos coming right up.

Oh, and not forgettin' my personal bike mechanic and pompomboy, Maximuzzi and my furball sweetie, Saskia, who kept me pedalling.....pedalling....and pedalling....

By the way, I was wearing the innov-8 shoes which Ian's still my favourite racing shoe!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Saskia, Protector of Mankind

Say "woof" to the new addition to the Mager family....Saskia Mager! She's slightly over 3 months old, and everything about her screams "Caesar", my old trusted friend of over 10 years who's in doggie heaven!

When most friends ask, "what's her name" and we say, "Saskia", we either get a raised eyebrow or quizzical looks! Max's dad says "what? sounds communist!?"

Well, "Saskia" was a name that belonged to a gorgeous Italian-German friend of mine back in school in Japan (her surname was "Terzani, daughter of famous der Spiegel journalist and author, Tiziano Terzani). This "Russian" sounding name also cropped up coz I've been spending too many late nights in the office workin' burning the midnight oil on a Russian deal! And poor Max was spending too many nights by his lonesome so I thought the best present I could give him for his birthday was a companion.

A goggle search later on a website revealed that....

The girl's name Saskia \s(a)-skia, sas-kia\ is of Danish and Old German origin, and its meaning is "the Saxon people". From "sachs". Also possibly "valley of light". Name of the wife of the 17th century Dutch painter Rembrandt. Use of her name in the Netherlands can be traced to her; however, the derivation of Saskia from the name of the Saxon people is uncertain. The name could also possibly be of Slavic origin, and related to Sasha, a short form of Alexandra. Actress Saskia Reeves.

So, that name is of "Dutch" descent!

Another website explained the possible slavic roots :-

Name: Saskia
Meaning: Protector of Mankind
Gender: Girl
Origin: Slavic

To us, I'd say she'll be our valley of light for many years to come.

Also, "Protector of mankind" kinda has a superhero ring to it, doncha think?

Ok, there goes our new furniture! Yikes!

Friday, September 14, 2007


12 September 2007 late 7pmish on a Wed evening on 60th floor of Republic Plaza

I'm still stuck in the office. Boo hoo! In fact, the office is still packed at this time. After staring at the computer the whole day, the words on the screen start to mysteriously unscramble.

I thought to myself, "Is it just me or are the words moving? I feel kinda giddy...could I be.....overworked?"

Just then, my Ozzie colleague, who is stretching beside her while photocopying documents, comes over to discuss "work" with me.

I asked her, "Is this office......shaking?"

Ozzie : "I don't know, I'm stretching so I wouldn't know...but anyway, here are the amendments to the documents.....[blah blah blah]....."

But the words went in one ear and out the other as the swaying sensation became more obvious.

I exclaimed to all, "I think there's an earthquake guys!"

Everyone in the office seemed more amused than scared. In my opinion, the mood was uncomfortably "calm".

Having been earthquake trained (after living in Tokyo for 4 years), we were taught to duck and take cover under our desk, and to immediately evacuate out of the building at the soonest moment. But then after that, we assemble in a field surrounded by tall buildings. If you asked me, I'd say, "errr....u sure we shld be standin' here?"

Anywayz, in our situation, what does one do in a swaying building 60 storeys off the ground?

And where are all the announcements from the building management to vacate the building? Will it be safe to take the lifts? We hear a gazillion "false alarms" every now and then from the broadcast speakers, but nada in such a potentially dire situation.

My first instinct was to grab my bag and leave. No one seemed to share the same self-preservation enthusiasm that I showed. Perhaps it was because I've been a victim of a life-threatening evacuation situation when my boat sank years ago and realise it was better to be safe than sorry. Or was I being paranoid and overly giasu? After all, we were taught from an early age that Singapore is immune to earthquakes so there's nothing to be afraid of.

After the tremors continued for more than 5 minutes, I rounded up a few colleagues, and we made our way down to the first floor. Unscathed, we appeared on the ground floor, though thoughts of being stuck in the lift and of cables snapping did cross our minds. In fact, I learnt from my colleague that our CEO actually came up with a theory that we would not kick the bucket if the lift kicked the ground floor! There was some physics theory to that but to me, it remained just that...a theory.

Upon reaching the lobby, we saw lots of panicky late-workin' office workers scurrying to leave their offices. I asked our security guard if they felt the earthquake. The lady said mildly, "No, we didn't, but I guess that is why all these people are vacating their buildings". about us folks in this building? Weren't you going to make an announcement to get us out? I learnt from my colleagues who returned to the office that an announcement was in fact later made. But hey, that was "after" the fact! We could have been burried under the rubble by then! Duh!

So, the question is : is Singapore free from earthquakes? Check out the answers from this website :

"In known history, Singapore has not experienced an earthquake.

Singapore is located in an area sandwiched by the Java trench in the west and south, and the Philippine plate and trench in the east.Thus Singapore is located in a seismically stable zone, free from earthquakes.

Most of the shallow and bigger earthquakes are in western Sumatra and Java because of the deep subduction zones to the west-east and south-north of the Java trench. Earthquakes that occur near Singapore are usually deep earthquakes and weak.

However this does not exclude us from being affected by weak tremors once or twice a year due to a strong earthquake located in western Sumatra.The tremors are weak and are felt by a few people living on high floors over certain specific areas of the Singapore.

In the interest of the public, Meteorological Services Division has set up a compact network of seismic sensors around the island to monitor the effects of these earthquakes from western Sumatra. The data are made available to engineers to help them ascertain the tremor effects on structures. These data are also made available to researchers in the universities. The information is also made available to the general public whenever a tremor incident occurs in Singapore."

But with all the geological changes caused by climate and other changes, who knows what may happen next!

Dug out some news about last Wed's earthquake....

Source: Channelnewsasia
Singapore buildings sway after strong quake hits IndonesiaPosted: 12 September 2007 1941 hrs

SINGAPORE : Singapore buildings swayed after an earthquake measuring 7.9 hit Indonesia on Wednesday evening.

The massive quake struck off the western coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island, prompting authorities to issue a tsunami warning, meteorologists said.

The undersea earthquake, which hit at 6:10 pm (1110 GMT), struck in the sea some 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the city of Bengkulu, at a depth of roughly 15 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

The quake was strongly felt in the capital Jakarta, some 600 kilometres away, with tall buildings swaying.

An official at the Indonesian Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said a tsunami warning had been issued.

India's Government Ocean Centre has also issued a tsunami alert for Andaman Islands.

Indonesia was the nation worst hit by the earthquake-triggered tsunami of December 2004, which killed some 168,000 people in Aceh province alone.

The archipelago nation sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where continental plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. - AFP/ch/ms

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Climb On! Mountain Bike Speed Trial

Helped the DirT folks at the Climb On event last weekend. DirTraction organised a mountain bike speed trials competition which saw a group of about 20 riders going back to their biketrial roots to complete the mini-makeshift Northshore-style obstacle course without putting both legs on the ground!

On Sat, the winners of the Mens Open and Junior categories were determined. Afraid of embarrassing myself with a face plant in front of all the riders, I decided to leave it to Sunday to test out the obstacles when no one was around.

Sun was a free-for-all trial day, and I trusted BlueBones 'nuff to take a risk on those skinnies! After several attempts, managed to clear the course! Woo hoo! Somewhere within the course of the day, I twisted my ankle and got meself some bandages to straighten the unsightly bulge! The first aid medic asks me to continue twirling my ankle round and round coz that was his grandma's secret ingredient to a faster healing of a sprained ankle (couldn't believe that he gave that advice, and worse still, couldn't believe I took it)!

Thank goodness it was only a bad sprain...dunno what I'd do if it were a hairline crack!Yikes! Either way, am out of action for sometime! Sigh....

The highlight of Sunday was indisputably this little boy! Let me retrace the conversation Luke and I had with him....(disclaimer : me memory's pretty bad so not everything you read is 100% accurate) :-

Luke : "Eh fatty, come here, I want to talk to you..."

John obediently runs towards Luke.

Luke : "Do you play basketball?"
John : "Eh, how you know ah?"
Luke : "Because you are wearing a basketball jersey!"

John chuckles.

Luke : "So, what's your name?"
John : "John".
Luke : "Now, that's a real basketball player's name! What's your surname?"
John : "Toh".
Luke : "John Toh! Your friend is riding the course, you want to try it? "
John : "I have no bike."
Luke : "Ok, you can use Huimin's bike, but first, you must walk the course, ok?"

John nods, and starts to walk the course in 1 direction, and then back in the opposite direction.

Luke : "Ok, now you can practise on your bike".

John wears his borrowed helmet, steps over Huimin's bike, and attempts the first ramp, and almost falls over.

Luke : "Ride on the grass first!"

John obediently rides "around", but not "on" the obstacles. Tirelessly, he rides, rides, circles, circles, circles.......

John takes a short breather and runs for some water.

John : Eh, can I ride my own bike here?"
Ling : "Of course you can. Where is your bike now?"
John : "It's at home. Can I borrow your phone? I want to call my mother and ask her to bring my bike down."

After a short conversation with his mom, he rushes off. I later learnt that he took a bus home (ok, it's somewhere in Tampines, but still....), picks up his bike, and cycles back again.

When he appears with his heavyass purple BMX bike, John was the talk of the town! He slowly but surely gains confidence on the course and starts to conquer the obstacles one at a time.

John, in his so adrenalin-pumped state, even sidetracked and took on the flying fox challenge. "I believe I can fly" must have been playing in his mind!

But alas, he suddenly froze up and was stuck 10 metres off the ground for quite a while! It took lots of coaxing to get him back to ground level! After the rescue, his confidence was at an all-time low. His usual chatty banter was reduced to silence as he pushed his bike to a corner.

Just when we thought he'd given up, he starts cycling around the course again like a maniac as if he had a Redbull fix, and even manages to master most of the groundlevel obstacles, the ramps AND the sea-saw on his BMX!

One of Huimin's bike spokes eventually twang-ed and no bike was available for the public to test. John, without a second thought, loans his bike out to complete strangers so that they can experience same thrill that he'd experienced that afternoon!

He just made me chuckle whole day long! I think Luke has created a bike monster in him! Hahahahaha!
For more photos, click here.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Weekend of Unzipping and Escort Services

Last weekend was no ordinary weekend in the adventures of merciless.

Upzipped on Saturday
Had a blast hanging out with Becks, Ming, Chris and their friends and kids at the Forest Adventure! Was like a mini adventure race with all the fun ropes sections (ziplines, treeclimbing, freefall from treefall) all strung into 2 hours of pure adrenalin-pimpin' fun! They are offering $25 for 2 pax up to this weekend, and I highly recommend this exhilirating ride of a lifetime...err....weekend? Photos right here, taken by moi using Mingloid's waterproof Pentax camera!

Escort Services on Sunday
Tuned into a different channel on Sunday, channel 70.3. Couple of us helped out with as bike escorts for the top 3 elite male and female category participants for the running leg. For photo account, click on channel 70.3.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Good News : Greater Whale Shark Protection in Taiwan

Taiwan bans whale shark consumption, trade by 2008

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/21/07

Taipei, Taiwan ‹ Taiwan will ban the harvest and sale of whale sharks beginning in 2008, a decision that could have repercussions at the Georgia Aquarium and other facilities where the world's largest fish are displayed.

"From the beginning of next year there will be a total ban on catching and selling whale sharks and whale shark meat," Lan Wei-tern, a spokesman for Taiwan's Fisheries Agency, said Monday.

The ban strikes whale shark from Taiwanese grocery shelves and menus, and at other Asian markets where whale shark meat from Taiwan is consumed.

The ban also would halt Taiwan's export of whale sharks to aquariums. The Georgia Aquarium, the world's largest aquarium, has three whale sharks from Taiwan, a major supplier of whale sharks. It is negotiating to get two more this summer from the Taiwanese government, before the ban takes effect.

The aquarium had four whale sharks until January, when a male, Ralph, died. A necropsy showed the fish died of peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdomen. He also had stomach perforations, possibly caused by force-feeding through a PVC pipe.

Taiwanese officials say they want to know more about Ralph's death before approving the export of two more.

Jeff Swanagan, president and executive director of the Georgia Aquarium, said Taiwan made the right decision to stop whale shark trade.

"Georgia Aquarium applauds Taiwan for its leadership in conservation in the region, moving from a fishing-based economy around whale sharks to an eco-tourism-based economy around whale sharks," Swanagan said in a statement.

An aquarium spokesman declined comment on how the ban would impact any future plans to acquire whale sharks.

According to Taiwanese fisheries oficials, the aquarium is planning to export next month two male whale sharks already in captivity in an offshore pen.

The ban recognizes "world opinion" as well as domestic concerns about the world's largest fish, said Chu Yung-cheng, another fisheries department spokesman.

"Many Taiwanese have developed a sense of environmental protection," Chu said.

The species needs protecting, said Brad Norman, director of Ecocean, an Australian nonprofit group working worldwide to protect whale sharks. He called the ban "absolutely fantastic."
"The number of whale sharks has dropped dramatically over the past few years and the ban sends a message both to Taiwan and the rest of the world that officials there recognize how imperiled this animal is," Norman said.

Rhincodon typus, the whale shark, is a mysterious animal ‹no one knows how far whale sharks migrate, their life expectancy, or how many exist in the wild.

Numbers from the fisheries agency indicate that the species is under pressure in Taiwanese waters.

In 1995, according to records, Taiwan caught 270 whale sharks. In 2001, the catch dwindled to "about 100," said Zhuang Shouzheng, an associate professor at National Taiwan Ocean University.

The next year, 2002, Taiwan set an 80-fish quota of whale sharks. Also that year, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora classified whale sharks as "vulnerable to extinction."

Taiwan's quota in 2006 was 60 whale sharks; this year, the government cut it to 30. Taiwanese fishermen so far this year have caught 39.

They've freed nine to comply with the 30-shark limit, according to the fisheries agency.

Numbers indicate that whale sharks aren't thriving.

Shark-watchers at the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park in Australia, for example, said they've seen "one of two" whale sharks daily this year; in previous years, they cataloged six or seven every day, said Norman.

"It's a really, really critical time right now," Norman said. "Their current number is such that we really can't sit on our hands."

The big fish are "iconic species," said Jason Holmberg, an Oregon researcher who has studied whale sharks in Australia and the Honduras.

"They are gentle giants, the 'safe' shark," said Holmberg, who cheered Taiwan's decision.

They're also pretty tasty.

Monday night, at the Really Good Seafood restaurant in downtown Taipei, a plate of whale shark stir-fried with garlic shoots sold for about $12.

Restaurant manager Kuo Yaoming said the meal‹ also called "tofu shark" for its soft, white flesh ‹ is not as popular as it once was.

"Now, more Taiwanese want to protect the environment," he said.

Other nations feel similarly protective. The Maldives, where locals used oil from whale sharks' livers to treat boat hulls, forbade whale shark fishing in 1995. In 1998, the Philippines put an end to the practice.

India followed in 2001.

Yet the ban is not worldwide; whale sharks can still be taken for food or display from some nations' waters, said Holmberg. The Belize government for example, might agree to export a whale shark, he said.

But the ban still helps, Holmber said. "A lot of conservationists," he said, "feel that now is the time for whale sharks."

Craig Simons reported from Taipei. Mark Davis from Atlanta.

Taiwan hesitant to supply Whale sharks

Copyright Stefan (Creative Commons License)

The Taiwanese government has reportedly been hesitant in supplying a pair of Whale sharks requested by the Georgia Aquarium, three months after the mysterious death of a previous specimen.

According to a report from Atlanta Journal Constitution, officials from the Taiwan Fisheries Agency have raised concerns about the death of the Georgia Aquarium's previous Whale shark, Ralph, after it requested two more of the fish for its displays.

Hung Kuoyao of the Taiwan Fisheries Agency told the AJC that they did not want to see another Whale shark die. He said that the Georgia Aquarium may need to send representatives to Taiwan to argue their case before the government allows further sharks to be exported.

The previous shark, which died in January 2007, was 6.7m/22' long. It had been a resident at the Aquarium along with another male named Norton since June 2005, several months before the facility officially opened.

The sharks were joined in last year by two female Whale sharks.


An external parasite found in the Aquarium, described as a "leech", led to a series of treatments being administered to the tank housing Ralph and Norton.

After several of the treatments, the appetites of the two male Whale sharks declined. The two female Whale sharks, which were not exposed to as many doses of the chemical, have not shown the same behaviour.

According to the Georgia Aquarium, Ralph's health declined further and he began to lose his appetite and was swimming abnormally, and had to be force-fed to keep him alive. AJC claims that the remaining male Whale shark, Norton, is also being force-fed because he too is no longer
feeding normally.

Regular medical examinations were made in the following weeks to allow staff to monitor the fish's health.

The Aquarium said: "As precautionary measures, supportive therapy (food, fluids, medications, etc.) for Ralph and Norton was administered; thorough diagnostic testing was begun; water quality and other environmental parameters were reviewed, and exhaustive around-the-clock
behavioral monitoring was initiated. Additionally, the method of treating the leeches was changed."

A necropsy was undertaken by staff from the University of Georgia College of Medicine last month, which revealed that the shark had a stomach abnormality not seen in the surviving Whale shark, Norton.

"Findings show that Ralph's stomach appeared abnormal, because it was thin-walled and perforated. This likely caused peritonitis, which led to Ralph's death. There is no evidence that anything in the Ocean Voyager¹s environment led to Ralph¹s death," said Jeff Swanagan, the Georgia Aquarium's executive director.

Captive whale sharks

The sharks came from Hualien in Taiwan, where the sharks are a food species with an annual harvest quota. The Georgia Aquarium is one of only four aquaria in the world housing Whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, the world's largest fish species.

The Georgia Aquarium worked with the Taiwanese government to obtain the fish, which are the only captive specimens outside Asia, and the world's largest collection of the species in an aquarium.

The two female Whale sharks, named Alice and Trixie, were added to the Aquarium in June 2006, after being exported from Taiwan in a specially modified UPS Boeing 747.
Unnamed chemical

Hung Kuoyao told AJC that representatives from the Aquarium travelled to Taiwan after the death of Ralph: "They reported [to] us on how they exhibited and fed the shark and also their research on the death of it.

"So our experts will check very carefully on the conditions of transportation and how they will feed the two whale sharks. Our experts will decide on whether we need people from Georgia to come again and report to us on this."

AJC claims that the Aquarium has not named the chemical that may have been responsible for the sharks' loss of appetite, but it has confirmed that the chemical will not be used again.
AJC says that external experts believe the medication administered may have been dylox. Its sources claim that dylox can cause loss of appetite in sharks and rays when used improperly.

ACAP Whaleshark Video (with footage of whaleshark I took in Anambas)

Below is the web link of a documentary recently produced by Rebecca Chen of ACAP to raise awareness about whale sharks in Taiwan.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Basking Shark mistaken for Blue Shark?

Victor sent me to this piece of rather sad news posted on the People's Daily Online.

Wonder how the journalist could have mistaken a basking shark for a blue shark? Ok, maybe not everyone is an expert on sharks, but in this day and age where you can even do a quick search on the net for fish identification charts made widely available, it's disheartening to know that misinformation like this goes unnoticed.

So what's the big deal in wrongly identifying the species,? For one, a basking shark is as harmless as a whaleshark and faces the risk of extinction. The Blue Shark is known to attack humans (though doubt it is by choice) and is probably soon to becoming overfished? Did the reporter not bother to find out what species of shark that was before he wrote this report? It would give those who read the article a blind lead to identify the species (if they should ever encounter one again) as a "blue shark" and perhaps a licence to fish yet another poor victim of extinction outta the sea!

And I wonder what the businessman was going to do with the shark after he purchased it for over SGD20k?

Place yourself in the shoes of this child. What will he think? That a Blue Shark was captured, and it was ok for me to stamp my feet all over this rare find? Perhaps, he witnessed how valuable it is in monetary terms to capture such a shark when the businessman dished out that 100k yuan in exchange for its carcass?

It does not abode well for those who could potentially be guardians of our sea in the future.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Adam Baki Writes About MTB Himachal 2006

It's been some time since the MTB Himachal 2006, but I still remember it as it if were just last week (errrr....well, sorta).

I have a window of 1 hr to clear some backlog, so will start with this article written (in Hungarian) by our fellow mountain biker, Adam Baki, who together with 2 other Hungarians, participated in this Indian race for the second time since its inception in 2005!

I haven't the faintest idea what it all means, but the photos sure bring back fond memories! Am sure he's got lots to say about the organisation of this event! Ahem!

\[Above : Ms MTB Singapore, Becks, probably the first Singaporean lady to appear in a Hungarian MTB bike magazine. O, and that's bitsa me in her shadow (heng ah!)]

Adam took some awesome photos of this trip (and his other MTB trips). Check out his journalistic style album!
It's been almost a year. Think I'd better finish my race report for this event!

Ace Adventure Challenge 2007 Official Results

The official results for Ace Adventure Challenge IV : Adventure Unlimited are out on the ACE website.

Team BechaKennyLingers placed :-
- 3rd (out of 18) for Mixed Category for Stage 1
- 7th overall (out of 44) for Stage 1
- 4th (out of 18) for Mixed Category for Stage 2
- 11th overall (out of 44) for Stage 2 (must be all the @$&)@@*$&*& running on this leg!)
And finally, 4th (out of 18) for the race!!! Woot!

Considering we got Becks in in the last minute (a break from her child-bearing programme) and only trained once together as a team (and what a slack training it was), I guess we did alright! :)

Race report hopefully up when photos of this race are available! Wonder when that will be? Hmmm....