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  Straits Times Forum 12 Jan 07
Some people ignorant of wildlife around them
Letter from Anthony Lee Mui Yu

Straits Times 7 Jan 07
Bee attack: Don't fight back, just run

Straits Times Forum 10 Jan 07
Snapping shots on mobile phone instead of rendering help first
Letter from Cho Yan Fatt

Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 07
50 students and a teacher attacked by bees in Labrador Park

By Wong Mun Wai

SINGAPORE: A group of students and a teacher were attacked at Labrador Park by a swarm of bees on Friday. The Singapore Civil Defence Force said they were stung on their necks, arms and legs at about 12.30pm.

The Personnel Decontamination Vehicle was deployed immediately. Paramedics set up a triage to assess the injuries, and 51 casualties 50 students and one teacher were sent to two hospitals. CNA/so

Straits Times 7 Jan 07
Bee attack: Don't fight back, just run

Flailing your arms or killing a bee will only provoke the swarm, says pest-control expert
By Vincent Leow

CONTRARY to popular belief, if you are being attacked by bees, you should not jump into a pond or a swimming pool. They will just wait for you to emerge. Neither should you retaliate, advises Mr Romaita Abdul Rahim, operations manager of pest control company Pesterminator. Flailing or swinging your arms will only provoke further attack. And do not swat the bees, he added, because the crushed bee will emit a chemical scent that attracts other bees to attack.

Which is exactly what happened to an elderly woman in one of two bee attack incidents on Friday. She was set upon by a swarm of bees just outside the hawker centre on Zion Road at about 2pm. She tried to swat them away with a towel, but they continued their attack, said finance executive Wee Keng Hor, who wrote in to Stomp, The Straits Times' online interactive portal.

What the woman should have done is cover her face and run as quickly and as far away as she could. Bees may pursue for up to 400m. They are slow fliers and most people can outrun a bee. When you are running away, do so in a straight line, protecting your face and avoiding other people, or they too may come under attack. The bees should eventually give up and return to their hive, said Mr Romaita. 'From my experience, I have run for more than 500m before the bees' attack subsided,' he said.

In the Zion Road attack, the elderly woman suffered stings on her nose, ears and mouth and was taken to hospital.

But of course, the best safety advice, say experts, is to avoid an encounter with bees altogether. Be alert for danger. Bees sting to defend their colony, so be on the look out for bee swarms and colonies. An extremely aggressive colony may attack any threat within 30m.

Be alert for bees coming in and out of an opening such as a crack in a wall. Listen for the hum of an active bee colony. Watch out for bees that are acting strangely. Quite often bees will display some preliminary defensive behavior before going into a full-fledged attack. They may fly at your face or buzz around over your head. These warning signs should be heeded, as the bees may be telling you that you have come into their area and are too close to their colony for comfort - both theirs and yours.

Outdoor enthusiasts can hardly be expected to go around in bee suits, but a small handkerchief or mosquito net device that fits over the head could easily be carried in a pocket.

People who have been attacked say the worst part is having the bees sting your face and eyes. If your vision is affected, it will also make it more difficult to escape. So even though a net over your head may leave the rest of your body exposed, it will allow you to see where you are going as you run away from the colony or source of the bees. If you do not have a net, grab a blanket, a coat, a towel, or anything that will give you momentary relief while you look for an avenue of escape.

But the covering device is not going to protect you for long. The idea is to use it to help you get away. If you have nothing else, pull your shirt up over your face. The stings you may get on your chest and abdomen are far less serious than those to the face.

Try to find shelter as soon as possible. Take refuge in a house, tent or a car with the windows and doors closed. Some bees are bound to enter with you, but it will be darker and probably cooler inside which will confuse the bees and you should be able to swat them or vacuum them up.

Even if you do get stung a few times, remember that each bee can sting only once. As long as the number inside the shelter with you is small, you have the advantage.

After the bee attack in Zion Road, the National Environment Agency (NEA) found the bee hive in a tree at a worksite near the hawker centre.

In the other incident, a teacher and a group of 50 students from Ping Yi Secondary School were taken to hospital after they were attacked during an outing. The group of 70 students and several teachers were walking from the Labrador Nature Reserve off Pasir Panjang Road towards the Ministry of Education's Labrador Adventure Centre.

Dr Wong Chin Khoon, a consultant at the Children's Emergency Department at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, said: 'Most of the children suffered between one and eight stings. Thankfully, none of them had allergic reactions to the toxins from the bees, which can be life-threatening.'

The National Parks Board (NParks), which manages the reserve, was informed of the attack and pest control experts were called in, but no hive was found. 'The bees were probably looking for a nesting place and the victims' noise and movements might have triggered the bees' attack,' said Mr Romaita, who has been in the business for 13 years.

There is no particular season when bees are more likely to attack, he said. 'Bees usually attack only when provoked. The two incidents that happened within a day are purely coincidental. Maybe the recent heavy rain has caused damage to the bees' hives and prompted them to swarm around to look for other nesting grounds.'

An NParks spokesman said that park managers here conduct regular checks of the parks and reserves, and bee hives are something they look out for.

The NEA said that there is no single regulatory body that does regular checks for hives in public areas. However, members of the public can contact NEA on 1800-2255-632 when they spot bee hives in public places. NEA will forward the information to the relevant authorities to destroy the hives.

Straits Times Forum 10 Jan 07
Snapping shots on mobile phone instead of rendering help first
Letter from Cho Yan Fatt

I refer to the article, 'Bee attack, don't fight,just run' (ST, Jan 7), which showed pictures taken by Mr Wee Keng Hor of a poor and helpless elderly woman being attacked by bees.

I am wondering why Mr Wee did not help this poor woman. Was taking pictures of her more important than helping her run away from the bees?

In another incident, a teacher and a group of students from Ping Yi Secondary were also attacked by bees. But the teacher's first reaction was to help the students. He even used his body to shield them from the bee attack.

I hope people will not be too quick to pull out their mobile phones with camera and video functions but to help those in need first.

Straits Times Forum 12 Jan 07
Some people ignorant of wildlife around them
Letter from Anthony Lee Mui Yu

THE Sunday Times article on Jan 7, 'Bee attack: Don't fight back, just run', is balanced journalism - educative and fair.

This contrasts with previous fear-mongering reports on 'killer bees' which miscast unaggressive local species as their dreaded Africanised cousins in the Americas.

Competing literacies leave many 'bio-illiterate'.

Recent giveaways include a Channel News Asia presenter who ascribed the film, Gorillas In The Mist, about Diane Fossey, the late mountain gorilla specialist, to Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee expert.

A local article referred to chimpanzees, which are apes, as monkeys.

Another writer feared that monkeys on one of the Southern Island might throw stones - they don't, but apes might.

Another writer mislabelled the whale shark - a fish - as a marine mammal. Years ago, a reporter sensationalised the harmless, plankton-feeding whale shark as a potential maneater.

Some youngsters mistake the ubiquitous monitor lizard, which is much smaller and not life threatening, for the rarely seen crocodile. This may explain signs (still there?) at MacRitchie Reservoir that differentiate these animals pictorially - to obviate panic?

In the Dec 31 Sunday Times story, 'Korean study mamas', one of them complained: 'Singapore is so clean, so why are there lizards crawling on the walls of our apartment? We are really scared of them.'

Why must non-humans always be filthy and threatening by default? House lizards (geckos) don't smell, whereas - unwashed - we and our pets reek and exchange bacteria.

That creatures exist to attack us is self-flattering. Gecko droppings show their pest-control role. Cleaning up after them after initially being startled when they panic at our intrusion. Admire their adaptation to our environment - don't fear or despise them.

American author Mark Twain said: 'The more I see of people, the more I like my dog'.

We have no monopoly on human traits. Some wild dolphins, summoned by drums, herded fish into tribal fishermen's nets for mutual benefit. Lacking muscles to access honey, the honey guide bird uses body language to lead animals or humans towards a beehive to share the spoils. Kamuniak, a wild lioness in Kenya, adopts several oryx calves for company instead of eating them which baffled zoologists no end.

Animals don't deserve short shrift. Bio-literacising ourselves via documentaries, and so on will outgrow a distrust of - overwhelmingly less dangerous - non-humans.

Don't we owe our own species honesty, humility, edification and justice too?

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