Best of our wild blogs: 24 Sep 16



Night Walk Around The Neighborhood (23 Sep 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Eye In the Sky
Butterflies of Singapore


Read more!

Spotting wildlife along the streams in Singapore

Lea Wee The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Sep 16;

"When you think of Singapore's waterways, you may think of the many canals that cut through housing estates or the wider, scenic rivers such as Kallang River or Singapore River.

But there is a humbler kind of waterway that runs quietly through shady forested areas and which is more than pulling its weight in supporting native wildlife.

These are the natural freshwater streams.

Small, rarely deeper than 1m and slow-flowing, they are often the last of the natural habitats for native species, which struggle to find a place to live in built-up, urbanised Singapore.

These indigenous species include a spider that "walks" on water to prey on small fishes, called Singapore fishing spider (Thalassius albocinctus). Another is a male forest fighting fish which carries eggs in its mouth (Betta pugnax) and a forest-walking catfish that breathes in water and on land (Clarias leiacanthus).

Forest streams were in the news recently when it was announced that two rare streams in Lentor forest will be cleared for redevelopment, together with most of the forest.

There are "at least dozens" of similar streams in Singapore, most of which are found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, says Dr Darren Yeo Chong Jinn, an assistant professor at the department of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore.

He has been doing research on freshwater habitats since the mid-1990s.

Forest streams are different from other freshwater habitats such as concrete drains, canals, ponds and reservoirs because they have a high percentage of Singapore's original biodiversity.

These include at least 30 species of freshwater fish and more than 10 species of freshwater crabs and shrimps.

There are also native freshwater species of spiders, snakes, frogs, turtles and aquatic insects, as well as dragonflies and damselflies, which lay eggs in the water that hatch into aquatic larvae.

Native creatures thrive in and around natural streams because they provide a cool environment well-shaded by the forest canopy and by plants growing along the stream banks.

The stream beds are also made up of sand, clay, or mud and are often full of leaf litter and woody debris, which animals like to use as a cover from their predators.

According to Dr Yeo, the best time to sight the animals is in the morning and evening, when there is generally more activity.

He advises visitors to remain still at a spot and take some time to let their eyes adjust to the stream as its reflecting surface may make it difficult to see things at first.

He says: "This also gives the stream animals time to get acclimatised to the observer and the potentially big shadow cast over them.";

He adds that many forest stream fish are small and can be better observed with a pair of small binoculars.

Also watch out for wildlife such as frogs and reptiles at the edges of the stream.

He says: "If you are lucky, you may even catch glimpses of birds perched or flying through the surrounding vegetation and other mammals coming by to take a sip of water."

But remember not to step into the stream, as you may pollute the water or accidentally step on aquatic animals.

On the shy creatures, he says:"Just because you don't see them does not mean that they are not there. Many hide under leaf litter and debris or burrow into the sand and mud.

"Even if you do not step on the animals, it is stressful for them just trying to avoid you."

BUKIT BATOK NATURE PARK

This small nameless stream runs along the southern edge of the Bukit Batok Nature Park and winds through the forest.

It can be seen at three points along the forest track, where it flows under three small bridges.

The closest you can get to the water is at the Southern Plaza area, where people can go right up to its muddy edges.

When The Straits Times visited, there were fish, dragonflies and tadpoles in the water and a pair of waterhens.

Most of the fish in the water are introduced species and were most likely released by pet owners, says Dr Darren Yeo, an assistant professor of biology at the National University of Singapore.

These species include whitespot (Aplocheilus lineatus), guppies and mollies.

So far, they do not appear invasive, that is, they have not wiped out other native species, says Dr Yeo.

Some native species which can be seen there are a fish called whitespot (Aplocheilus panchax) and a dragonfly called the spine-tufted skimmer (Orthetrum chrysis).

When you visit the stream, it is possible to make an excursion to the rest of the nature park, which sits on a hill.

Bukit Batok Nature Park was once mined for granite in the 1900s and there is a quarry with a huge reflecting pool.

If you are good with steps, also visit the remains of a war memorial at the top of the hill.

The memorial was built by the Japanese to commemorate those who died during a fierce battle on the hill during World War II.

The memorial's structure, which included a shrine, has since been destroyed. All that is left are the steps leading to the shrine and two short pillars at the base of the staircase.

Now, at the top of the hill is the Mediacorp Transmission Centre.

• For more information on these trails, go to www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/walks-and-tours/going-on-a-diy-walk

PETALING STREAM NEAR TREETOP WALK

This stream near the end of the Petaling Trail belongs to a network of streams near TreeTop Walk in MacRitchie that drains into the MacRitchie Reservoir.

The TreeTop Walk trail starts from Venus Drive and takes about three hours to complete. The Petaling Stream comes into view at the end of the trail just after the TreeTop Walk and runs under the boardwalk.

Looking down from the boardwalk, you can spot small fishes at the surface of the water, snacking on insects that had fallen from the surrounding vegetation.

The fish include the white spot (Aplocheilus panchax), distinguished by an iridescent spot on the top of its head, Malayan pygmy halfpeak (Dermogenys collettei), a fish with a lower jaw that sticks out like a sharp snout, and the saddle barb (Systomus banksi), which can be recognised by a dark blotch on its back and sides.

Dragonflies abound, too. Perching on plants or flitting around, these pretty, hovering creatures come in shades of pink and red.

The common parasol (Neurothemis fluctuans) has a maroon body and wings.

The spine-tufted skimmer (Orthetrum chrysis) has a red body and black wings, while the crimson dropwing (Trithemis aurora) has a pink body and reddish- pink wings.

Dragonflies are common in forest streams as their larvae or nymphs are fully aquatic, says Dr Darren Yeo, an assistant professor of biology at the National University of Singapore.

He says: "They live underwater and can help control the population of mosquitoes by feeding on mosquito larvae."

Madam Low Cheng Yee, 44, who was at the trail with her twin sons, aged nine, says they would make a point to stop at the stream for at least 10 minutes every time they pass by.

Madam Low, who is self- employed, says: "It's very rare to see a natural stream in Singapore. I find it very relaxing to look at it while my sons love to spot fish and insects such as dragonflies."

STREAM AT LOWER PEIRCE

This nameless stream, which runs along part of the Cyathea Trail boardwalk before it drains into the Lower Peirce Reservoir, is a hub of social activity for all sorts of creatures.

On good days, kingfishers, sunbirds, forest birds, monitor lizards and even mousedeer can be seen going to the stream to hunt, bathe or take a sip of water.

There are three ways to access this stream along Old Upper Thomson Road: from the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park, the Casuarina or Jacaranda Entrance. It is a walk of about 15 to 20 minutes from each entrance.

For the most scenic route, take the entrance from the reservoir park. Follow a boardwalk to the edge of the reservoir, just next to the water.

Here, the view of the reservoir is framed by the greenery of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Then the boardwalk enters the forest and splits into a few trails. Take the Bamboo Trail, which will lead you to the Cyathea Trail, where the forest stream is.

But there is a humbler kind of waterway that runs quietly through shady forested areas and which is more than pulling its weight in supporting native wildlife.

These are the natural freshwater streams.

Small, rarely deeper than 1m and slow-flowing, they are often the last of the natural habitats for native species, which struggle to find a place to live in built-up, urbanised Singapore.

These indigenous species include a spider that "walks" on water to prey on small fishes, called Singapore fishing spider (Thalassius albocinctus). Another is a male forest fighting fish which carries eggs in its mouth (Betta pugnax) and a forest-walking catfish that breathes in water and on land (Clarias leiacanthus).

Forest streams were in the news recently when it was announced that two rare streams in Lentor forest will be cleared for redevelopment, together with most of the forest.

There are "at least dozens" of similar streams in Singapore, most of which are found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, says Dr Darren Yeo Chong Jinn, an assistant professor at the department of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore.

He has been doing research on freshwater habitats since the mid-1990s.

Forest streams are different from other freshwater habitats such as concrete drains, canals, ponds and reservoirs because they have a high percentage of Singapore's original biodiversity.

These include at least 30 species of freshwater fish and more than 10 species of freshwater crabs and shrimps.

There are also native freshwater species of spiders, snakes, frogs, turtles and aquatic insects, as well as dragonflies and damselflies, which lay eggs in the water that hatch into aquatic larvae.

Native creatures thrive in and around natural streams because they provide a cool environment well-shaded by the forest canopy and by plants growing along the stream banks.

The stream beds are also made up of sand, clay, or mud and are often full of leaf litter and woody debris, which animals like to use as a cover from their predators.

According to Dr Yeo, the best time to sight the animals is in the morning and evening, when there is generally more activity.

He advises visitors to remain still at a spot and take some time to let their eyes adjust to the stream as its reflecting surface may make it difficult to see things at first.

He says: "This also gives the stream animals time to get acclimatised to the observer and the potentially big shadow cast over them."

He adds that many forest stream fish are small and can be better observed with a pair of small binoculars.

Also watch out for wildlife such as frogs and reptiles at the edges of the stream.

He says: "If you are lucky, you may even catch glimpses of birds perched or flying through the surrounding vegetation and other mammals coming by to take a sip of water."

But remember not to step into the stream, as you may pollute the water or accidentally step on aquatic animals.

On the shy creatures, he says: "Just because you don't see them does not mean that they are not there. Many hide under leaf litter and debris or burrow into the sand and mud.

"Even if you do not step on the animals, it is stressful for them just trying to avoid you."

BUKIT BATOK NATURE PARK

This small nameless stream runs along the southern edge of the Bukit Batok Nature Park and winds through the forest.

It can be seen at three points along the forest track, where it flows under three small bridges.

The closest you can get to the water is at the Southern Plaza area, where people can go right up to its muddy edges.

When The Straits Times visited, there were fish, dragonflies and tadpoles in the water and a pair of waterhens.

Most of the fish in the water are introduced species and were most likely released by pet owners, says Dr Darren Yeo, an assistant professor of biology at the National University of Singapore.

These species include whitespot (Aplocheilus lineatus), guppies and mollies.

So far, they do not appear invasive, that is, they have not wiped out other native species, says Dr Yeo.

Some native species which can be seen there are a fish called whitespot (Aplocheilus panchax) and a dragonfly called the spine-tufted skimmer (Orthetrum chrysis).

When you visit the stream, it is possible to make an excursion to the rest of the nature park, which sits on a hill.

Bukit Batok Nature Park was once mined for granite in the 1900s and there is a quarry with a huge reflecting pool.

If you are good with steps, also visit the remains of a war memorial at the top of the hill.

The memorial was built by the Japanese to commemorate those who died during a fierce battle on the hill during World War II.

The memorial's structure, which included a shrine, has since been destroyed. All that is left are the steps leading to the shrine and two short pillars at the base of the staircase.

Now, at the top of the hill is the Mediacorp Transmission Centre.

• For more information on these trails, go to www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/walks-and-tours/going-on-a-diy-walk

PETALING STREAM NEAR TREETOP WALKThis stream near the end of the Petaling Trail belongs to a network of streams near TreeTop Walk in MacRitchie that drains into the MacRitchie Reservoir.

The TreeTop Walk trail starts from Venus Drive and takes about three hours to complete. The Petaling Stream comes into view at the end of the trail just after the TreeTop Walk and runs under the boardwalk.

Looking down from the boardwalk, you can spot small fishes at the surface of the water, snacking on insects that had fallen from the surrounding vegetation.

The fish include the white spot (Aplocheilus panchax), distinguished by an iridescent spot on the top of its head, Malayan pygmy halfpeak (Dermogenys collettei), a fish with a lower jaw that sticks out like a sharp snout, and the saddle barb (Systomus banksi), which can be recognised by a dark blotch on its back and sides.

Dragonflies abound, too. Perching on plants or flitting around, these pretty, hovering creatures come in shades of pink and red.

The common parasol (Neurothemis fluctuans) has a maroon body and wings.

The spine-tufted skimmer (Orthetrum chrysis) has a red body and black wings, while the crimson dropwing (Trithemis aurora) has a pink body and reddish- pink wings.

Dragonflies are common in forest streams as their larvae or nymphs are fully aquatic, says Dr Darren Yeo, an assistant professor of biology at the National University of Singapore.

He says:"They live underwater and can help control the population of mosquitoes by feeding on mosquito larvae."

Madam Low Cheng Yee, 44, who was at the trail with her twin sons, aged nine, says they would make a point to stop at the stream for at least 10 minutes every time they pass by.

Madam Low, who is self- employed, says: "It&'s very rare to see a natural stream in Singapore. I find it very relaxing to look at it while my sons love to spot fish and insects such as dragonflies."

STREAM AT LOWER PEIRCE

This nameless stream, which runs along part of the Cyathea Trail boardwalk before it drains into the Lower Peirce Reservoir, is a hub of social activity for all sorts of creatures.

On good days, kingfishers, sunbirds, forest birds, monitor lizards and even mousedeer can be seen going to the stream to hunt, bathe or take a sip of water.

There are three ways to access this stream along Old Upper Thomson Road: from the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park, the Casuarina or Jacaranda Entrance. It is a walk of about 15 to 20 minutes from each entrance.

For the most scenic route, take the entrance from the reservoir park. Follow a boardwalk to the edge of the reservoir, just next to the water.

Here, the view of the reservoir is framed by the greenery of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Then the boardwalk enters the forest and splits into a few trails. Take the Bamboo Trail, which will lead you to the Cyathea Trail, where the forest stream is."


Read more!

At FairPrice, sustainability is in its DNA

Lee U-Wen Business Times 23 Sep 16;

NTUC FairPrice, the largest supermarket chain in Singapore, on Thursday published its first sustainability report, which covers data and activities at all its 130 outlets and warehouse and logistics operations for the 2015 calendar year.

The 37-page document was released as part of a campaign by the co-operative to promote awareness on sustainability, environmental protection and volunteerism.

The report, which will be published annually, is "another milestone" in FairPrice's ongoing corporate social responsibility journey, said chief executive officer Seah Kian Peng.

"It affirms our commitment to ensure that through a determined focus on sustainability, we can continue to be a responsible and respected social enterprise recognised for 'doing well and doing good'," he said.

The report was developed based on the Global Reporting Initiative core guidelines, which is an internationally recognised standard on sustainability reporting.

Among FairPrice's achievements in 2015 was how it continues to stock over 5,000 products that are made in Singapore.

The organisation also invested S$1.1 million last year to support 270 small and medium-sized enterprises through a programme that sees local firms get help in managing their cash flow, and receive support to increase the awareness and sales of local products.

As for food safety, FairPrice has, since 2008, achieved the "Grade A" status by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore for excellence in food hygiene, sanitation and processing.

In terms of giving back to the community, FairPrice reported that more than S$98 million has been donated to the FairPrice Foundation to date since 2008. The target is to commit another S$50 million to the foundation by 2020.

The FairPrice Food Voucher Scheme has also received over S$13.2 million since 2002, while S$2.6 million was raised in 2015 for the NTUC-U Care Fund. FairPrice also donated S$80,000 worth of rice to low-income families.

FairPrice said in the report that it wants to extend its volunteering programme beyond employees to partners and customers.

As part of its community engagement campaign, there is an open invitation for the public to volunteer for charitable causes together with FairPrice staff, with the aim of achieving a total of 5,500 volunteer hours in 2016.

The supermarket giant is also looking to save 11 million plastic bags this year through its bring-your-own-bag initiative, called the FairPrice Green Rewards Scheme.

This would beat the 2015 figure of 10.1 million by about 10 per cent. The scheme rewards customers with a 10-cent rebate when they bring their own bags with a minimum spend of S$10.

The full sustainability report can be viewed at www.csr.fairprice.com.sg. An abridged version will be given to customers who either sign up for the volunteer programme, take part in the bring-your-own-bag initiative or complete an online quiz on the report.


Read more!

16 pregnant women in Singapore confirmed to have Zika

Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 23 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: A total of 16 pregnant women have been confirmed to have the Zika virus in Singapore, the Ministry of Health said on Friday (Sep 23), nearly a month since the first locally transmitted Zika case was identified by authorities.

The doctors of the pregnant women are following up closely with them to provide counselling and support.

As of Friday, there are 387 confirmed Zika cases in Singapore, according to data on the National Environment Agency's website.

Responding to queries by Channel NewsAsia, the Health Ministry confirmed that 658 Zika tests were conducted between Sep 7 and Sep 17.

Of these, 197 were for pregnant and or symptomatic individuals who required the test.

The Ministry also added that it is exploring plans to set up a national surveillance programme to monitor the development of babies born to pregnant women with Zika. It added that it is keeping close tabs on the pregnant women who have been notified to have the Zika virus infection.

Early results from a study in Brazil has linked Zika infection in pregnant women with microcephaly in their babies - a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems.

Microcephaly has been tracked by Singapore's national birth defects registry since January 1993.

Between 2011 and 2014, the annual number of microcephaly cases registered with the registry in Singapore ranged from five to 12 per 10,000 live births in Singapore.

There have been no microcephaly cases associated with the Zika virus infection reported in Singapore so far.

- CNA/dt


Singapore sees fewest new Zika cases in a week since start of outbreak
Channel NewsAsia 23 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: At the end of the fourth week since the first locally transmitted Zika case was announced in the Republic, the number of new patients affected by the disease appears to be plateauing beneath the 400 mark.

Two new cases were announced on the National Environment Agency (NEA) website on Friday (Sep 23), bringing the total number of newly infected patients confirmed since last Saturday to 19.


This is less than a third of the 65 cases in the same period a week ago, continuing a steadily decreasing trend of falling numbers from the 189 and 115 cases announced in the first and second weeks of the outbreak respectively.

As of Friday, 387 cases of Zika have been reported in Singapore. Of these, 16 are pregnant women, the Health Ministry confirmed in a separate development, adding that it is exploring plans to set up a national surveillance programme to monitor the development of babies born to Zika patients.


There are currently nine existing Zika clusters in the country. The Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive cluster remains the largest, with 291 cases linked to it as of Friday, and the Elite Terrace cluster the second largest, with 13 cases.

Data on the NEA website showed that neither of the two new cases announced on Friday is linked to existing Zika clusters.

The number of new dengue cases in Singapore also dipped this week, falling to a three-month low. A total of 175 dengue cases were reported in the week ending Sep 17, the second-lowest weekly figure this year and the lowest since Jun 11, according to figures on the NEA's website.

Like Zika, dengue is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. As at Sep 22, there are 36 active dengue clusters in Singapore, four times as many as current Zika clusters.


Read more!

Owner of pet grooming school jailed, fined for abandoning 18 dogs

VALERIE KOH Today Online 23 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — The owner of a dog grooming school was sentenced to six weeks’ jail and fined S$65,700 for dumping 18 dogs, mostly poodles, around the island, in the first prosecuted case of animal abandonment here.

Low Chong Kiat, 43, faced 49 charges under the Animals and Birds Act, ranging from abandoning the dogs to housing them without a licence.

District Judge Low Wee Ping chided him for committing these callous acts, despite being a professional in the industry.

“I hope this case will cause Singapore society to think about the welfare of the animals we have ... As the saying goes, an indication of how civilised a society is, is the way we treat our animals,” said the judge.

Low, who runs Prestige Grooming Academy, started out with a pet shop in Yishun in 2001, before expanding into a pet grooming school and a boarding-and-breeding business in 2009.

After a series of moves and closures, he ended up with a pet grooming school at Chun Tin Road and transferred the dogs from his breeding farm to the school’s premises.

In March this year, an inspection by an Urban Redevelopment Authority officer found 30 dogs housed illegally in the school building’s basement. Low, worried that his permit for the grooming business would be revoked, decided to abandon 18 dogs and re-home the remaining 12.

Between March 23 and 24, Low abandoned 12 poodles, four different pedigree dogs and two cross-breed dogs around Yishun, Tampines, Sengkang and Serangoon.

In one instance, he left a shih tzu and a maltese at the Boat House Condominium in Upper Serangoon, while returning a dog that he had groomed to its owner.

The matter came to light only after an informant told the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore that she saw Low abandoning three dogs at Yishun industrial estate.

The news spread over social media, and animal welfare groups rescued all the abandoned dogs.

Realising that his actions had been exposed, Low handed the remaining 12 dogs to animal welfare group Voices for Animals for re-homing.

Vet reports showed that two of the 30 dogs were in poor condition. A shih tzu was found with dental problems, skin conditions and corneal damage, while a maltese had a broken lower jaw and no teeth.

Appearing in court unrepresented, Low pleaded for leniency, claiming that he had to clear a large debt for his wife. “It’s not that I didn’t want to find a proper place. There was no space for us to rent.”

Deputy Public Prosecutor Bagchi Anamika pointed out that he could have taken the dogs to animal welfare groups. “... The accused travelled to various locations to disperse the dogs in small numbers; it can be inferred from this fact that he did so to avoid attracting attention to a large number of dogs being abandoned in a single location,” she said.

In response, Low claimed that he had done this so that the dogs would have a better chance of being adopted.

In his sentencing remarks, District Judge Low noted that the accused had abandoned a sizeable number of dogs and failed to ensure that two of them received medical care.

“One wonders how humans can subject animals to this kind of treatment,’ the judge said.

Low will start serving his jail sentence on Oct 21.


Read more!

WWF Scorecard Shows which Companies Kept Their Promises to Consumers on Palm Oil

WWF 23 Sep 16;

23 September 2016, Gland: While many palm oil buyers are taking the right actions on palm oil, some have failed to keep their promises to consumers or are still doing nothing at all to help reduce deforestation and other adverse impacts of producing the world’s most popular vegetable oil in some of the most vulnerable tropical habitats around the world.

The 2016 edition of WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard, looks at 137 major retailers, consumer goods manufacturers and food service companies from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan and India. Evaluated companies include such iconic brands as Carrefour, L’Oreal, McDonald’s, Nestlé, Tesco, and Walmart among others.

As with previous WWF Palm Oil Scorecards, this one measures how companies performed on basic steps such as joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), committing to and buying sustainable palm oil, and transparency. The Scorecard focuses on the year 2015, by which many companies pledged to consumers that they would be using 100% certified palm oil.

“WWF has published this Scorecard in 2016 because we wanted to evaluate what companies actually did in 2015 and not just what they said they would do,” said WWF Palm Oil lead Adam Harrison. “While we can report gratifying progress by at least half of the companies we looked at, 1 in 5 either did not respond or were doing very little on palm oil and are still hiding from this issue altogether. That is unacceptable behaviour considering the easy availability of certified sustainable palm oil.”

“More than half of the companies had promised us and their customers that they would be using only certified palm oil by 2015. While most of them did achieve their targets, it is a disappointment that 21 companies did not.”

The Scorecard shows that both large and small companies can easily source certified sustainable palm oil. However, due to their buying power, large users of palm oil are crucial to the transformation of the wider industry. A handful of these large users evaluated in the Scorecard – Unilever, Ferrero, FrieslandCampina, Reckitt Benckiser, Colgate-Palmolive, and ConAgra Foods – are showing their peers exactly how they too should be driving industry change by sourcing significant volumes of certified sustainable palm oil from any of the RSPO approved supply chains. Medium sized users of palm oil scoring equally well on buying certified palm oil included Walmart, Mars, Associated British Foods, General Mills, Kellogg's, and Danone. But buying CSPO is only the first step on the journey to change the industry.

The Scorecard also looks at how fast companies are taking the next step by moving to source certified sustainable palm oil from segregated supplies, rather than relying on trading certificates.

And according to this measure, company progress is much more patchy. Only three companies used 100% segregated certified sustainable palm oil in 2015 – Ferrero, Danone and Arnott’s. Of these companies, only Ferrero uses large volumes of palm oil. WWF commends these brands for leading the way to the ultimate sustainability goal for the industry– that certified sustainable palm oil becomes the standard commodity grade for all companies while uncertified palm oil becomes unacceptable.

Malaysia is the second largest palm oil producer with 1,363,518ha of palm oil plantations certified by RSPO. WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO Dato' Dr Dionysius Sharma said, “The demand for sustainably produced palm oil will drive a positive change in Malaysia’s palm oil industry. While the data did not include Malaysian companies, the ease of accessing a ready supply of locally produced RSPO-certified palm oil should serve as a catalyst towards local champions in this area.”

The Market Transformation Initiative (MTI) Programme has worked closely with companies to change their demand patterns towards sustainably produced goods and promote sustainable consumption. “This change requires a long term commitment and is not limited to large international players. Local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should take up this challenge to positively change their sourcing practices towards certified sustainable palm oil. We would certainly be ready to work hand-in-hand with them to initiate this commitment,” he added.

The 2016 Scorecard, the fourth WWF has published since 2009, scored 94 companies that were also assessed in the 2013 Scorecard. 75 of these companies made progress, while 11 seem to have stalled and 8 gone backwards. Whilst the overall direction of the sustainability journey is good for the majority of companies, WWF wants to see all brands taking responsibility for the palm oil they use.

The complete performance profile on each company is shared on the Scorecard website, as well as detailed, filterable tables showing how companies perform in comparison with others in their sector.

“The industry is at a critical stage on the journey to sustainable palm oil,” said Harrison. “More major brands are now using only certified palm oil yet laggard companies continue to drag their feet. That needs to change. WWF urges consumers to visit the Scorecard website and use it to reach out to companies to commend those that are leading the way and to tell the others to do better. We all have a role to play in demanding full participation and transparency of all palm oil buyers across the globe in order to stem the tide of deforestation and affect true sector wide transformation. “

For more information:
The 2016 Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard can be downloaded from http://palmoilscorecard.panda.org/


Read more!

Indonesian Conservationists Blame Reckless Development for Deadly Floods

Nurhadi Sucahyo Voice of America 23 Sep 16;

Less than a week after Indonesia faced its third round of deadly landslides and flash floods this year, some local environmental advocates are saying the sheer impact of the natural disasters is the result of more than just bad weather.

At least 26 people, including an 8-month-old baby and eight children, were left dead as torrential downpours pounded the vast tropical archipelago on Wednesday. A National Disaster Management Mitigation Agency spokesperson was quick to warn of increasingly heavy rains through January, partly because of La Nina, the opposite of El Nino, which has a general cooling effect.

In the Garut district of West Java, among the hardest hit areas, where 18 people remain missing, Abetnego Tarigan, director of Friends of the Earth Indonesia, the country's largest environmental organization, says man-made factors are also putting lives at risk.

“The function of this catchment area has changed," he told VOA's Indonesia Service, describing a natural watershed area that has been subject to commercial development in recent years.

On many Indonesian islands, forested catchment areas naturally absorb rainfall and guide surface runoff toward surrounding river and shoreline areas. But when paved development projects eat up the natural landscape, Tarigan said, the water can't be absorbed as efficiently, exacerbating the impact of floods and landslides.

"It was conservation forestry, so why did it become tourist facilities, where 10 percent of its area are allowed to be developed in concrete?" he said. "For sure, all these have influenced the disaster.”

In an archipelago nation where millions of people live in mountainous areas or on flood plains near rivers, landslides and flooding are common. But so long as heavy rains persist amid unchecked development, he said, resulting death tolls are likely to increase.

The primary culprit is what Tarigan calls "nature parks for tourism," a program that pairs private companies with government agencies to build tourism facilities in dedicated conservation areas, sometimes to support commercial interests.

Agung Ganthar Kusumanto, a West Java-based environmental activist, said the entrepreneurs who pair with government agencies to conduct conservation efforts aren't assuming responsibility for the consequences of developing watershed areas.

"Where is the role of Perhutani, in protecting the forestry?" he said, referring to Perum Perhutani, a state owned enterprise that is tasked with managing national forests in Java and Madura, and oversees some national development directives.

"If we look closer, the protected forestry area has become a vegetable farm,” he said.

Dedy Kurniawan, chairman of Indonesia Conservation Cadre Communication Forum, said development directives can't simply be issued from Jakarta, but must done in concert with provincial officials if the impact of heavy rains is to be kept in check.

“Spatial planning of Garut District area must be in accordance with the policies of the province," he said. "At issue is the infrastructure development and tourism facilities, such as road openings, hotels, etc, that are being built without prioritizing environmental preservation.

"In many cases," he added, "regulations made by the provincial government are not in accordance with the program of district government and the central government institute in charge of such an area.”

If tourism development continues to disregard preservation of the natural environment, he said, officials will have no way to attract tourists in the first place.

In June, heavy rains caused massive destruction when flood waters carried mud and rocks into Central Java province, the most populous region on the island, killing almost 50 people.

In May, 15 students on holiday at a popular tourist spot in western Indonesia were killed when a landslide swept through their campground.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Indonesia Service. Some information is from AP and AFP.

Death toll of Garut flash flood up to 30
Antara 24 Sep 16;

Bandung (ANTARA News) - Three more bodies were found on Friday, bringing to 30 the death toll from the flash flood that affected West Javas Garut district on Tuesday night (Sept. 22)

"So far, 30 bodies have been found," chief of the public relations and protocol of the National Search and Rescue (SAR) Office in Bandung, Joshua, said here on Friday.

One of the three bodies was found in the Limbangan sub-district while two others were discovered in Jatigede Dam, Sumadang district, West Java.

Joshua said officers were in the process of identifying the dead bodies. "Three were still to be identified," he added.

He pointed out that 22 people were still missing.
(Uu.S012/INE/KR-BSR/H-YH)


Garut flood victims` needs will be met: Minister
Antara 22 Sep 16;

Garut, W Java (ANTARA News) - Minister for Social Affairs Khofifah Indar Parawansa visited the public kitchen and shelter locations set up for flash flood victims in Garut, West Java, saying their logistical needs will be met.

"I have checked two public kitchens to ensure that the flash flood and landslide victims logistic needs are met," said the minister at the Garut Social Services office, Thursday.

In the public kitchen that prepared over two thousand portions of meals for both refugees and volunteers, the minister joined the participants from the Disaster Alert Youth Group (Taruna Siaga Bencana) to help them prepare meals for the refugees.

The minister also visited the public kitchen and refugee shelter in the Garut Resort Military Command (Makorem).

From both kitchens, Minister Khofifah thinks there are enough supplies to cater to refugees and volunteers.

"The most important thing is to ensure that the supplies are being evenly distributed as there are some victims, who are currently staying in a relatives house, and their logistic needs should still be fulfilled," she remarked.

The Operational Procedure Standards for disaster handling states that once a sub-district head issues an emergency decree, the authorities can release up to a hundred tons of the governments rice reserve.

Once the hundred ton-supply runs out, the regional Governor can then issue a decree that will allow access of up to 200 tons of the rice reserve.

If the emergency situation requires over 200 hundred tons of rice supply, the Social Minister will be the one to issue the decree.

"I have checked with the Bureau of Logistics and they have reserved 50 tons of rice in their warehouse for the Garut shelters," Khofifah added.

Flash floods and landslides hit a number of areas in the Garut sub-district on Tuesday due to the overflowing Cimanuk river, which was a result of heavy rainfall.

It is reported that 23 people were pronounced dead and hundreds of housing units were ruined due to the natural disaster.(*)


Read more!

Laos failing to curb illegal wildlife trade: Monitor

Channel NewsAsia 23 Sep 16;

BANGKOK: The illegal trade in pangolins, helmeted hornbills and other wildlife products is thriving in Laos, a monitoring group said Friday (Sep 23), urging the Southeast Asian nation to crack down on a lucrative commerce largely fuelled by demand in neighbouring China.

The authoritarian country has long been top transit hub for the smuggling of wildlife products, with widespread corruption and weak law enforcement allowing the criminal activity to flourish.

Wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC said Friday that endangered species such as pangolins and helmeted hornbills were being openly sold in Laos and that law enforcement against the illegal trade remained threadbare.

"Lao PDR clearly needs to address these issues as a matter of urgency or risk becoming dubbed the wildlife smuggling capital of Asia," TRAFFIC's Southeast Asia senior programme officer Kanitha Krishnasamy said in a statement.

Elusive and scaly ant-eating pangolins are critically endangered and ranked as the most trafficked mammal on Earth with more than a million traded in the past decade, according to conservation groups.

They are sought after in China and other parts of Asia for their meat, skin and scales.

The meat is considered a delicacy while the skin and scales are used in traditional medicine and to make fashion items like boots and shoes.

TRAFFIC researchers said they found thousands of scales for sale in northern Laos during a survey earlier this year and that more than 5,600 pangolins linked to Laos have been seized between 2010 and 2015.

Many of those animals were smuggled in from Thailand and taken into China or Vietnam.

Products from the critically endangered helmeted hornbill are also widely available in Laos, according to TRAFFIC.

Many shops selling the precious animal parts were operated or staffed by ethnic Chinese employees and prices were often listed in yuan or dollars, the group said.

The statement comes after a mission by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to Laos in July which also raised alarm bells about illegal trade in rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife products.

It said no arrests or prosecutions over wildlife products have occurred since 2012, adding that there are "significant loopholes" in national laws.

The reports come ahead of a 12-day CITES meeting that opens Saturday in South Africa aimed at curbing the rampant wildlife trafficking threatening to drive some species to extinction.

- AFP/hs

Laos promises to phase out tiger farms: Conservation groups
CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA Yahoo News 23 Sep 16;

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Laos has promised to phase out farms that breed endangered tigers for their body parts, a positive step from a country believed to be a major hub of wildlife trafficking in Asia, conservation groups said Friday.

The announcement by Laotian officials in South Africa came one day before the start of a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.

If implemented, the move could help to curb the illegal trade in tiger bones and other parts used in traditional medicine in areas of Asia, and protect the depleted population of tigers. Conservation groups say there are about 3,900 tigers in the wild.

Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese criminal networks are also involved in tiger farming and trading, according to the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency.

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which works with Laos on tiger protection, urged other Asian countries with commercial tiger breeding centers to follow the example of Laos.

"This commitment is a great example of a nation showing leadership to end the practice of breeding tigers, and we hope as well bears, to supply the demand for their body parts," said Susan Lieberman, head of the society's delegation at the meeting in Johannesburg of the 183 member countries of CITES.

The countries in the U.N. group have pledged to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

A CITES delegation traveled to Laos in July and concluded that criminal groups use Laos as a transit point to smuggle wildlife parts to other Asian countries. It also said the import and export of such items allegedly occurs in violation of CITES rules.

"Law enforcement authorities (in Laos) stated that no arrests or prosecutions related to illegal trade in rhino horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife specimens have occurred in the country since 2012," a CITES document said. Laotian officials said other nations in the trafficking chain should use their more abundant resources to help Laos and stop illegal trade, according to the document.

TRAFFIC, a conservation group, said the illegal trade in two other species — the pangolin, a burrowing mammal, and the helmeted hornbill, a rainforest bird — is also rife in Laos.

Pangolins are targeted for their meat, as well as scales that are used in traditional medicine to promote blood circulation, reduce swelling and treat other illnesses.

In Beijing, a practitioner of traditional medicine said his practices developed over thousands of years, but he and his colleagues are thinking of replacements for parts of endangered animals.

"It's no problem to use some bugs in the medicine if it can treat diseases," said Hu Guang, who writes prescriptions for his patients with an ink brush. "Why would you use some endangered animals as medicine? It is just not necessary."


Three reports shine spotlight on Lao PDR’s failure to tackle wildlife trafficking
TRAFFIC 23 Sep 16;

Johannesburg, South Africa, 23rd September 2016—The role of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) in the international trafficking of protected wildlife will be under scrutiny today in the lead up to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting that gets fully underway this Saturday.

During the CITES Standing Committee today, government representative members will examine a report written by the CITES Secretariat following a Mission to Lao PDR in July this year which is heavily critical of the way the country is failing to meet its requirements under CITES.

Their report highlights critical gaps in legislative coverage, a lack of law enforcement effort and a need to work with neighbouring countries to address transboundary trafficking of species along with a range of recommended actions.

The CITES Mission report also raises concerns “that rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife specimens are smuggled through Laos to other countries in Asia…the country is targeted by organized crime groups as a transit point.”

Illustrating Lao PDR’s poor record in addressing wildlife crime, TRAFFIC today released two reports into the country’s role in the trafficking of pangolins and the Helmeted Hornbill.

“TRAFFIC’s research has provided further insight to the serious failures to regulate wildlife trafficking highlighted by the CITES Secretariat’s Mission to Lao PDR,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy,, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Manager in Southeast Asia.

“Lao PDR clearly needs to address these issues as a matter of urgency or risk becoming dubbed the wildlife smuggling capital of Asia.”

According to TRAFFIC’s new report Observations of the illegal pangolin trade in Lao PDR (PDF, 4 MB), between April and July 2016 opportunistic surveys in seven northern regions of Lao PDR s found an estimated 2734 pangolins scales while 43 reported pangolin seizures involving an estimated 5678 pangolins implicating Laos were recorded between 2010 and 2015.

Pangolins are being heavily exploited in Asia and increasingly in Africa both for their meat and their scales, which are used in traditional medicine. All eight species - four each in African and Asia - are being considered for increased protection at the forthcoming CITES meeting because of the impacts of illegal trade.

According to a second TRAFFIC report Observations of the Helmeted Hornbill trade in Lao PDR, (PDF, 4 MB), between April and July 2016, TRAFFIC surveys recorded 74 Helmeted Hornbill products in three locations: 18 in Vientiane, 36 in Luang Prabang and 20 in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone.

The Helmeted Hornbill, a large rainforest bird, is unique in having a solid bill casque which can be carved and is frequently referred to as “hornbill ivory”. Despite being fully protected in their range States in Southeast Asia, numbers are increasingly being trafficked mainly to China, with Lao PDR acting as both a transit point and the hornbill ivory being sold in Lao PDR’s border towns with China.

The failure of law enforcement was also highlighted in the CITES Mission report, which notes “authorities stated that no arrests or prosecutions related to illegal trade in rhino horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife specimens have occurred in the country since 2012,” and that “significant loopholes” still exist in national legislation.

Particularly damning was their assessment of the CITES Scientific Authority in Lao PDR, which the Mission report states “did not seem to take a very active part in the day-to-day implementation of CITES.”

There has also been a lack of progress in addressing concerns over the laundering of captive bred specimens as wild-caught, with the Ministry of Science and Technology claiming it “does not currently have the capacity to conduct this type of research.”

In March this year, CITES recommended a suspension of trade in Long-tailed Macaques, various reptiles and an orchid from the Laos for persistent failure over a number of years to address such concerns despite repeated warnings and even trade sanctions for failing to do so.

At today’s Standing Committee meeting, members will decide whether Lao PDR must make significant improvements in their management of wildlife trade or potentially face serious trade consequences in July next year.


Read more!

Chinese poachers destroyed coral reefs in Spratly, Pag-asa islands — US biologist

GMA News 23 Sep 16;

Marine biologist John McManus said Chinese poachers had been using the propellers on their boats to destroy coral reefs at disputed islands Spratyls and Pag-asa, referred to as Thitu in China.

"I looked at the historical satellite imagery and found out that in every single case where they built their islands, a few years before, there had been the giant clam fishers who had used their boats to dig up the reef flat, killing all the corals," McManus said in a report by Maki Pulido for "News To Go" on Friday.

According to data, coral bleaching and reef scarring are evidence of systematic crushing through repeated scratching or scraping by Chinese poachers to harvest giant clams.

McManus added that aside from discovering the poaching method, the data also links the destruction of the corals to China's construction of artificial islands.

"They said their scientists went there. They looked around and they say 'Oh, this is all dead coral.' It was! It's the truth—it had been killed by the Chinese fishers," he said.

McManus is a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami and is also the director of the National Center for Coral Reef Research at the Rosenstiel School in the same university.

His research has been cited in the case filed by the Philippines against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which ruled in favor of the Philippines last July, three years after the case was filed in 2013.

McManus is pushing for a large Spratly Island International Peace Park, which would be managed together by concerned countries.

"There has to be coordination of fisheries management and coral reef management across the whole South China Sea or it will collapse," he said.

Peace parks have already been established in parts of Africa and on the Red Sea between Israel and Jordan.

The Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959 to turn Antarctica into a scientific preserve and to ban military activity in the continent, is an early example of an agreement between seven countries with overlapping territorial claims. It is also proof that territorial disputes do not need to end in armed conflict and violence. — Aya Tantiangco/VVP, GMA News

- See more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/582462/scitech/science/chinese-poachers-destroyed-coral-reefs-in-spratly-pag-asa-islands-us-biologist#sthash.pP1qcL7m.dpuf


Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 23 Sep 16



Of Vipers and Vivipary
Herpetological Society of Singapore


Read more!

Indonesia forest fires well-managed, fewer hotspots this year: Minister

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 22 Sep 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has said that the forest fires this year have been well-managed as seen by the reduction of hotspots of up to 88 per cent as compared to 2015.

Giving an update on the forest fires this year to lawmakers at the House of Representative on Thursday (Sep 22), Dr Siti Nurbaya said slight haze only occurred for a few days in August.

“Last year, there was thick haze (for) up to three months, but this year, slight thick haze happened between Aug 26 and 29 in Rokan Hulu, which affected Singapore for a few hours," said Dr Siti Nurbaya. She added that hotspots in Riau province went down by up as much as 81 per cent.

The land areas devastated by the fires were also much less this year. Dr Siti Nurbaya said more than 274,000 hectares were affected by forest fires across the archipelago, compared to more than 2 million hectares last year.

The fires also cost the government significantly much less money this year.

Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said that to date, it spent just about US$23 million fighting the flames. This is about 60 per cent less than what was spent during the massive fires in 2015, a year that saw the haze reach critical levels.

Last year's forest fires that destroyed swathes of land and contaminated air quality were one of the worst on record.

BNPB, whose job is to put out the fires, spent about US$57 million in 2015. That figure goes up even higher after taking into account the cost incurred by others involved in the firefighting effort, such as the Environment and Forestry Ministry, the army and police.

“Last year, about 1 trillion rupiah (was spent), because the forest fires were widespread and we had to use more from the budget, as compared with this year,” said BNPB's head of data, information and public relations, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

“If we look at the number of hotspots ... there are no rampant fires in several of the provinces. All have been managed by the government," he added.

At the peak of the crisis last year, there were about 2,000 hotspots on record each day. This year, there are much fewer of them. Satellite images show that in the last 48 hours, there were only 131 hotspots across the whole of Indonesia.

In August, when forest fires started to affect the air quality in Indonesia and the region, BNPB said it would be able to put out most of them by October. It is still confident this can be done, especially with the promise of more rain in the weeks ahead.

"We got lucky because the weather is on our side," said Yuyun Indradi, team leader of Greenpeace Indonesia’s Political Forest Campaign. "So, it's a wet-dry season and later on in October it will be the real wet season. So, we expect there will be no more fire."

The forest fires this year may not be as bad as 2015 but this is no guarantee of clear skies next year. “It’s not possible to have zero hotspots because the satellite detects not only big forest fires but also fires on factory rooftops,” said Dr Sutopo. “Small fires set by farmers are also considered as hotspots."

Green activists hope that the government will do more to ensure clear skies, and not rely too much on just divine intervention. "If (the government) does not want to see anymore hotspots, it has to be more serious (about) regulating, monitoring (and) enforcing the law,” said Yuyun Indradi.

But the Environment and Forestry Minister refuted claims that the lower hotspot numbers were primarily because of the wet weather. “The National Disaster Mitigation Agency still deployed 22 aircraft this year. Last year, between 27 and 29 aircraft were used. So, there were still intensive efforts to fight the fires,” said Dr Siti Nurbaya.

- CNA/ec


Read more!

Indonesia: Floods, landslides leave 23 dead

Ina Parlina, Agus Maryono and Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 22 Sep 16;

Heavy rains, arguably caused by the La Niña weather phenomenon that increases precipitation, have wreaked havoc in two regencies in West Java, leaving at least 23 people dead from rapid flooding and landslides in the past two days.

A flash flood struck Bayongbong, Karangpawitan, Garut regency, in the early hours of Wednesday after heavy rainfall hit the area starting on Tuesday evening and caused the Cimanuk and Cikamuri rivers to overflow.

At least 20 people were found dead and 14 others, including four children, were still missing as of Wednesday afternoon. Hundreds of people have had to leave their homes, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

Meanwhile, in Sumedang regency, landslides buried three houses in Ciherang village and two houses in Cimareme village, killing three people.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ordered on Wednesday Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa, as well as other relevant officials, to undertake immediate efforts to help the affected residents in Garut and Sumedang, as he extended condolences to the families of the victims.

“The President also wants people to raise their alertness in dealing with weather conditions, whether it is floods or landslides,” said presidential spokesperson Johan Budi on Wednesday.

Amid ongoing search and rescue efforts, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho warned people across the country of the increasing rainfall caused by La Niña.

A BNPB quick response team and the West Java Natural Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), as well as the military, have deployed personnel to help search for the missing victims and to assist the Garut BPBD and the Sumendang BPBD.

“Rainfall will continue to increase until it reaches its peak in January 2017,” Sutopo said. “That [La Niña] will bring more rainfall, heavier than normal, and therefore it can also trigger floods and landslides.”

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has also instructed the ministry’s secretary-general to study what environmental factors, like soil conditions and its geomorphology process, actually caused the landslides in Garut.

“There are many aspects that have to be resolved,” said Siti. “The problem is that [...] letting many houses be built in a disaster-prone area will also cause [such problems when disasters occur].”

Intense rain over the past three days has also caused flooding in a number of areas in Central Java, especially in Banyumas and Cilacap regencies where dozens of houses and hundreds of hectares of rice fields were inundated — causing possible crop failure.

Hundreds of people have been relocated to safer places because of the floods caused by a number of overflowing rivers, which was the result of continuous heavy rains in the southern part of Central Java.

The floods in the western part of Cilacap regency, which initially hit only Sidareja district, have now reached two other districts, Kedungreja and Gandrungmangu, engulfing about 600 houses with up to 1 meter of floodwater, said Cilacap BPBD.

In another part of the regency, two people in Kroya district were killed in floods that occurred over the past three days.

“If rain continues for the next couple of days, floods would definitely hit us as we are subject to flooding every rainy season,” said 43-year-old Saridin, a local resident of Sumpiuh district in Banyumas.



Relief aid, equipment rushed to victims of Garut flooding
Fardah Antara 22 Sep 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia is in mourning following the tragedy in Garut District, West Java Province, where flash floods have led to at least 23 deaths and left 18 others missing, four seriously injured, and 27 slightly wounded.

The natural disaster that displaced more than one thousand people, was triggered by incessant heavy rains, which caused the Cimanuk and Cikamuri rivers to overflow on Sept. 20 evening.

Dr Slamet Public Hospital, Tarogong Kidul police office, main roads, school buildings, and residential areas were submerged by floodwaters, which reached a height of up to two meters in one area, according to an eye witness.

The flood-affected sub-districts included Bayongbong, Garut City, Banyuresmi, Tarogong Kaler, Tarogong Kidul, Karang Pawitan, and Samarang.

Search efforts are still underway for the missing people, involving a joint Search and Rescue Team, which includes officers of the local Search and Rescue office (Basarnas), the Regional Disaster Mitigation office (BPBD), the military and the police, as well as Red Cross agents and volunteers, according to spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The search efforts have focused on three flood-affected locations - Paris, Cimacan, and Wado - and areas along the Cimanuk River basin, stated Joshua, a spokesman for the Bandung Basarnas.

Several victims were believed to have been swept away by the river current.

"Many people have been reported missing, so the search continues," he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of refugees have been accommodated at the district military office with the West Java BPBD helping cope with the emergency.

Relief aid has come in the form of funding, food, and medicine. Currently, the floodwaters have begun to recede, but the incident has left scenes of disaster in its wake.

Flood victims were accommodated in temporary shelters, among other things, at the Tarumanegara Regional Military Command Headquarters in Garut.

BPBD has set up command posts and managed food packages for the refugees. The Garut district head has named the district military chief as the leader in charge of mitigating the impact of the disaster and controlling the emergency situation.

Furthermore, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has ordered several relevant ministers to visit the disaster-hit district to coordinate rescue efforts and send relief aid.

On Sept. 22, Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa visited victims of the flood and held prayers for the deceased.

Each family of the deceased victims received Rp15 million as compensation from the minister.

Minister Parawansa also visited flood-hit residential areas in the district and Dr Slamet Public Hospital, which was also inundated.

She hoped the hospital could resume normal operations quickly to help flood victims needing medical treatment.

The minister also visited Cimacan Kampong in Tarogong Kidul Sub-district to distribute relief aid.

To help speed up the rescue efforts, the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry has deployed various necessary equipment and facilities to Garut.

The ministry has sent seven clean water tank trucks, 17 public hydrants, 20 knockdown toilets, one sludge truck, and 200 jerrycans of drinking water, according to spokesman of the ministry Endra Atmawidjaja in Jakarta, Sept. 22.

The facilities were provided for flood evacuees taking refuge in Gandasari Indah apartments, the local military office, Dr Slamet Hospital, and the manpower office.

The public works ministry has also dispatched 2,000 gabion wire baskets to confine local rivers that had spillover on their banks.

Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono also visited Garut to coordinate with Garut District Head Rudy Gunawan on the equipment and facilities needed to aid rescue efforts.

In the meantime, some 60 km from Garut, landslides triggered by heavy downpours hit several villages in South Sumedang Sub-district, Sumedang District, also West Java Province, on the same night (Sept. 20), killing four people and displacing over 700 villagers.

A road connecting Bandung and Cirebon in the Cadas Pangeran area was covered with mud from the landslide. The local police and disaster mitigation office had deployed heavy equipment to clear the mud.

In December last year, BNPB had warned that La Nina might intensify hydrometeorological natural disasters, such as floods, landslides, and whirlwinds, in parts of the country this year.

According to the agency, at least 315 districts and municipalities across the country are prone to flooding, that might affect more than 63.7 million people. Some 274 districts and municipalities are at risk of landslides.

Due to high precipitation, the provinces of Central, West, and East Java are prone to flooding, landslides, and strong winds, he pointed out.

Nearly 99 percent of the natural disasters hitting Indonesia in 2014, such as floods, landslides, and whirlwinds, were hydrometeorological in nature.

The agencys data revealed that 496 instances of whirlwinds, 458 occurrences of floods, and 413 incidents of landslides had affected Indonesia in 2014.

Landslides led to 338 deaths, displaced 79,341 residents, and damaged 5,814 houses in Indonesia in 2014.
(Uu.F001/INE/KR-BSR)


Garut flood victims` needs will be met: Minister
Antara 22 Sep 16;

Garut, W Java (ANTARA News) - Minister for Social Affairs Khofifah Indar Parawansa visited the public kitchen and shelter locations set up for flash flood victims in Garut, West Java, saying their logistical needs will be met.

"I have checked two public kitchens to ensure that the flash flood and landslide victims logistic needs are met," said the minister at the Garut Social Services office, Thursday.

In the public kitchen that prepared over two thousand portions of meals for both refugees and volunteers, the minister joined the participants from the Disaster Alert Youth Group (Taruna Siaga Bencana) to help them prepare meals for the refugees.

The minister also visited the public kitchen and refugee shelter in the Garut Resort Military Command (Makorem).

From both kitchens, Minister Khofifah thinks there are enough supplies to cater to refugees and volunteers.

"The most important thing is to ensure that the supplies are being evenly distributed as there are some victims, who are currently staying in a relatives house, and their logistic needs should still be fulfilled," she remarked.

The Operational Procedure Standards for disaster handling states that once a sub-district head issues an emergency decree, the authorities can release up to a hundred tons of the governments rice reserve.

Once the hundred ton-supply runs out, the regional Governor can then issue a decree that will allow access of up to 200 tons of the rice reserve.

If the emergency situation requires over 200 hundred tons of rice supply, the Social Minister will be the one to issue the decree.

"I have checked with the Bureau of Logistics and they have reserved 50 tons of rice in their warehouse for the Garut shelters," Khofifah added.

Flash floods and landslides hit a number of areas in the Garut sub-district on Tuesday due to the overflowing Cimanuk river, which was a result of heavy rainfall.

It is reported that 23 people were pronounced dead and hundreds of housing units were ruined due to the natural disaster.(*)


18 missing after floods in W. Java: BNPB
Antara 22 Sep 16;

Bandung (ANTARA News) - Eighteen people have gone missing due to recent flash floods in the district of Garut, West Java, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said here on Thursday.

"The team is still searching for the missing people," BNPB Chief Willem Rampangilei said when visiting the flood-affected location in Cimacan, Tarogong Kidul.

He said he had deployed national resources to find the missing people. The search team includes elements from the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency, the police, the military, volunteers and community members.

They carried out the search in three areas hit by the floods and along the Cimanuk river. The Bandung chapter of the National Search and Rescue Agency has determined search locations covering Paris field, Cimacan, Cimanuk and Wado.

He said 23 people had died because of the flood.


Read more!