Best of our wild blogs: 31 May 11

Volunteer Log: Jimmy Goh
from Pulau Hantu

Judy Quah’s sunbirds return to nest yet again
from Bird Ecology Study Group

110529 Chestnut Avenue
from Singapore Nature

Pulau Ubin's Wayang
from Life's Indulgences

Damselfly (16b) - Amphicenis gracilis, Male
from Nature Photography - Singapore Odonata

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Losing sight in the haze of fire-fighting

Euston Quah & Helena Varkkey Straits Times 31 May 11;

THE early arrival of the haze this month has renewed concerns about forest fires in the region.

As far back as 1972, South- east Asia has experienced pollution almost every year from burning grass, forests and peat, mostly in Indonesia. This transboundary haze affects the health of some 75 million people and the economies of six Asean nations, with the damage amounting to some US$4.5 billion (S$5.6 billion), more than the combined costs of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and India's Bhopal chemical disaster.

Singapore is extremely vulnerable to the haze not only because it is so close to the fires but also because, as a people- driven economy, anything affecting the health of its workforce will hit labour productivity. And with travel and tourism accounting for almost 10 per cent of its gross domestic product, the country needs to protect its image as a clean and green destination.

Oil palm plantations in Indonesia are a major source of the fires, with plantation owners using cheap and poorly controlled burning methods to clear land for planting. But a large proportion of the land is foreign owned, which makes it hard to allocate blame. The government has authority over and responsibility for all the land in Indonesia. But if foreign investors own a plot of land, should their country be held responsible too? This issue has been at the crux of the haze debate.

The region should go beyond allocating blame and focus more on the causes of the haze. Indonesia is relatively powerless in policing its vast forests because of internal law and enforcement constraints. Plantation owners often deny using fire to clear land, and blame shifting cultivators for starting fires in their small holdings, which later spread to the plantations.

To overcome this deadlock, Indonesia should adopt the law of strict liability, whereby if a fire occurs in a plantation, its owner is responsible whether the fire started there or not. This principle should hold regardless of who owns the land.

At the moment, proof of negligence must be shown, which is susceptible to delays and transaction costs. As for shifting cultivators, they can be brought on board by offering them incentives and payment if the fires are reduced.

Related to the enforcement problems is the complicated nature of Indonesia's decentralised governance system.

The coordination of responsibility for forest fires and haze is spread unevenly across many central and local agencies, with many overlaps. This gives rise to the classic problem of public good and common property, where everyone owns the commons, yet no one is compelled to be fully responsible for it.

But Indonesia is making some headway. As part of the United Nations' Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation project, it has signed a letter of intent with Norway for US$1 billion, linked to a moratorium on opening new plantations on its peatlands for two years, to identify which parts are safe for further development.

But it has been less forthcoming in regional efforts. It is the only country which has not ratified the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which would streamline aid to it in the event of fire and haze. The Indonesian government has been facing opposition on ratification from plantation lobby groups. Jakarta may be concerned that it does not have a good grasp of the haze situation yet, and that committing to the agreement would incur monetary and political costs. In any case, it may see no point in ratification since it will get help from Asean with or without it.

But by paying too much attention to maintaining its lucrative plantations, Indonesia may be underestimating its losses. The central government in Jakarta, located far away and upwind from the source of most of the fires, may not fully realise the effects of the smoke on its own local communities, as well as on tourism and the economy at large. It may also have underestimated the loss of goodwill in the region and internationally, which will hurt its economy and future business cooperation.

Singapore acknowledges that Indonesia is a developing country that faces crippling problems of corruption. Singapore also understands its position as the more affluent neighbour, and is willing to help. But the Republic should be careful not to suffer twice; first from the haze and then from the assistance that may cost more than the initial damage.

Its latest effort in working with Indonesia on haze management is the Singapore-Jambi project, where it 'adopted' a regency called Muaro Jambi to directly help the community manage its land better. Although there were criticisms that the project focused on too small an area and did not engage with large plantations enough, it was able to report zero fires in the Jambi area in 2009 and last year.

Hopefully, this will encourage other regional heads to set up similar schemes. But Indonesia must realise that Jambi's successes represent only a small step forward in a larger challenge, which will require much political will at both the central and local level to overcome.

Cooperation among countries is crucial, but when the root cause lies within one country, it remains for that country to do all it can to bring about a solution.

Euston Quah is professor of environmental economics at the Nanyang Technological University and Helena Varkkey is completing her doctoral studies at the University of Sydney, Australia.

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Malaysia: Tiger on the prowl

Farik Zolkepli The Star 31 May 11;

MARANG: Two villages here are facing huge problems due to their livestock being killed.

Residents of Felda Rantau Abang and Kampung Gong Che Lah are living in fear of a tiger which is prowling in their neighbourhood.

Cattle herder Sidak Amad Besar, 50, from Felda Rantau Abang said 15 of his cows were missing since last Wednesday.

Initially, Sidak thought that someone had stolen his livestock, but he later discovered that the disappearance of the cattle was the work of a tiger.

“I discovered the carcass of my cows on Saturday and based on the marks on their bodies, the wound were inflicted by a large predatory animal.”

Sidak added that he chanced on an encounter with the tiger which was seen devouring one of his cows.

“I finally witnessed the action of the animal that has caused me a huge loss,” he said and added that he was lucky to leave the scene unharmed.

Apart from Sidak, some villagers in the nearby Kampung Gong Che Lah had also suffered the same fate.

“They were complaining of more than three cows missing since last week.

“I thought the tiger was only prowling around my village, but after hearing the same tales from villagers in Kampung Gong Che Lah, this is becoming a widespread issue,” he said.

Farmer Abdul Razak Omar, 74, said he spotted the tiger roaming around his farm and destroying his crops.

“I got the shock of my life when I saw the huge animal.

“It was so big, I didn’t think twice and bolted,” he said.

Another villager Mohd Zaharudin Husin, 41, said other residents have also sighted the tiger and urged the Wildlife Department to take action before anyone gets hurt.

“I hope the authorities can catch this animal before it attacks us,” he said.

Cows killed by one tiger, says dept
New Straits Times 30 May 11;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Terengganu Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) said the attacks on villagers' cows in Felda Rantau Abang in Dungun was the work of a lone and injured tiger.

Its director, Yusoff Shariff, said the tiger could have started preying on the cows as it could not hunt.

He said there were also complaints of cows being attacked in nearby Kampung Jambu Bongkok, and he believed it could be the work of the same animal.

Although the villagers claimed there were more than one tiger after discovering paw prints of different sizes, Yusoff said checks showed there was only one tiger involved.

"We believed the tiger could have been injured either from a gunshot or a hunter's trap.

"The two settlements are located next to each other and are within the animal's hunting range. We have set up traps at both locations."

Yesterday, the New Sunday Times reported that villagers around Felda Rantau Abang were scared to go outdoors after dark following the attacks on their cows.

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Indonesian government prepares US$5 Million to preserve coral reefs

Antara 30 May 11;

Wangi-wangi, SE Sulawesi (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government prepares US$5 million funds for sustainable preservation and management of coral reefs at the world coral triangle in Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi.

"The Indonesian government through President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono provides five million dollars for sustainable preservation and management of coral reefs in six countries of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI)," CTI spokesman Imran said in Wakatobi on Sunday.

Speaking at a meeting of the Association of District Administrations (APKASI) Imran said there there were two reasons Indonesia wanted to play a major role in preserving coral reefs in the six CTI member countries.

He said the first was that Indonesia has wider coral reefs than those of the other five other countries and was prepared to turn 20 million hectares of mining areas into national marine parks.

And the second, Indonesian waters have the most diversity of coral reefs namely 70 species of the world`s 850 species.

"The Caribbean sea has only 50 coral reefs and the Red Sea only 300," Imran said.

He added that besides having a very rich variety of coral reefs, Indonesian waters, especially in Wakatobi district, have various natural resource potentials for millions even billions of people.

Therefore, coral reefs in Wakatobi must be protected from damage to make them to remain sustainable for a certain period of time.

"The management and utilization of natural resources in Wakatobi waters at the center of world coral triangle should consider the principles of sustainable use," Imran said.

He said that to support the management and utilization of natural resources in Wakatobi waters, the government of Indonesia through the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry would soon establish a Coral Reefs Conservation School in Wakatbi.

The first school in ASEAN and even in the world, was scheduled to be inaugurated by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in conjunction with the opening of Sail Wakatobi-Balitung 2011 later.

"The establishment of Coral Reefs Conservation School in Wakatbi is part of the government attention to protecting and preserving the coral reefs from damage," Imran said. (O001/H-NG/O001)


Editor: Ella Syafputri

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Indonesian environmental group calls on president to evaluate oil palm plantation development

Antara 30 May 11;

Pontianak, West Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - The West Kalimantan chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) has called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to evaluate the massive way in which oil palm plantations were being opened in the country and to abandon plans to build a nuclear power plant.

"We hope the government will not force its will in developing oil palm plantations and planning to build a nuclear power plant without paying attention to their social and environmental aspects," said Hendrikus Adam, chairman of the West Kalimantan chapter of WAHLI`s Research and Campaign Division.

West Kalimantan reportedly has around four million hectares of oil palm plantations, exceeding the quota of 1.5 million hectares.

The massive development of oil palm cultivation in West Kalimantan could cause conflicts between indigenous people as owners of traditional land and plantation developers.

"We and the people need certainty and a clear stance of the government in protecting the people`s right to enjoy good and healthy environmental conditions," he said.

According to the local WALHI`s data, there have been 6,632 ecology-related disasters. Data from Oil Palm Watch shows there have been 630 conflicts regarding oil palm plantations and 200 monoculture plantation conflicts up to 2010.

From 1980s to 2009, a total of 229 companies have received licenses to open 3.57 million hectares of oil palm plantations, but only 318,560 hectares have been developed, according to data from the Dayakology Institute and Oil Palm Watch collected from six districts in West Kalimantan Province.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to visit Pontianak on May 30 and 31, 2011.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Indonesia Allows Underground Mining in Forests, Minister Says

Yoga Rusmana and Dinakar Sethuraman Jakarta Globe 30 May 11;

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week issued a decree allowing underground mining in some protected forests for coal and minerals, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said.

"The ruling is aimed at improving existing management of forest use for mining," Hasan said at Coaltrans Asia Conference in Bali.

"Miners must have mining and land-use permits from the local administration and forestry ministry to operate in protected forests."

Primary forests and peatlands are excluded from the decree, as the government has imposed a two-year ban on mining and expansion of plantations in those areas, Hasan said.

Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of power station- coal and tin and is rich with other minerals such as copper, nickel and bauxite.


Greenomics questions moratorium map`s accuracy
Antara 30 May 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Greenomics Indonesia has questioned the accuracy of the Indicative Map attached in the Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on Moratorium on New Logging Concession for Primary Forests and Peat Lands.

"Based on the sampling test carried out by Greenomics toward primary forest blocks in the indicative map, at least nine major blocks claimed as primary forests actually have the condition more dominated by secondary forests," Greenomics Indonesia Executive Director Elfian Effendi said in a press statement here Monday.

Greenomics said secondary forests have been claimed as primary forests especially on Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands.

"There are indications, the Presidential Instruction wants to maximize the area coverage of moratorium in the conservation areas and protected forests to give an impression that the total forest coverage under the moratorium regulation is very large. Allegedly, it has been done by upgrading the status of secondary forests into primary forests," Elfian said.

According to the forestry ministry`s data based on the 2005/2006 satellite image, the primary forets in the conservation areas constituted only 53.32 percent, while the secondary forests 4.68 percent.

The protected forest coverage having primary forests reaches 45.29 percent, while the secondary forests without forests 50.40 percent.

"The data was the condition of around five years ago. The current condition is different because the coverage of primary forests in conserved and protected forests have depleting," he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed the long-awaited Presidential Instruction on deforestation moratorium to help curb the climate change impacts and preserve the remaining tropical forests and biodiversity in it.

The news on the two-year moratorium decree was revealed to the press by Agus Purnomo , a presidential aide for climate change affairs, on May 19, 2011.

Deforestation is one of the primary sources of gas emissions causing global warming. With the very high deforestation rate at 1.1 million hectares per year, Indonesia has been accused as the world`s third-largest gas emitter.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Greens Blast ‘Hidden Mining’ Decree
Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 1 Jun 11;

Activists have blasted a presidential decree that allows underground mining in protected areas, saying it will result in the exploitation of forest ecosystems.

Hendrik Siregar, a campaigner with the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), said on Tuesday that the decree signed last month went against the government’s commitment to protecting the environment.

“[Forests] need to be guarded because of their ecological value. No kind of mining, no matter the method, should be taking place in protected areas,” he said.

Under the decree, resource exploitation in protected forests is allowed as long as it is done underground and does not violate the terms of use on the land.

The regulation also requires operators to build infrastructure that supports production activities in the protected area.

To qualify for a permit, applicants must compensate the government with land that is twice the area of the concession they are seeking to mine.

They are also obliged to replant trees and rehabilitate river catchment areas of the same size as their concession. The permits are valid for 20 years and can be extended.

Hendrik said that while the government had touted the geothermal power industry as one of the beneficiaries of this decree, there were no provisions in it specifically mentioning anything about geothermal exploitation.

Dyah Paramita, a researcher with the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law, said the decree allowed miners to bypass existing prohibitions against mining in protected areas defined by the Forestry Ministry.

“It sets no environmental standards for underground mining,” she said. “This decree wasn’t well thought out. It’s as if the government said, ‘Let’s just put this thing out there first, then we’ll think about the impact to the environment later.’ ”

Dyah also said that with few miners now meeting their obligations to rehabilitate land, there was no guarantee that underground miners would leave forests intact.

She said: “Let’s be frank here — we’re still having difficulties with rehabilitation from surface mining, so how do you expect it to go with underground mining?

“It’s truly regrettable that this decree was issued because protected areas serve a crucial function as catchments of underground water,” Dyah said.

“How do we know that underground mining won’t affect these water reserves? We can’t even fully monitor the impacts of surface mining, so how do you monitor something hidden?”

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Indonesia seizes haul of pangolin meat bound for Vietnam

Reuters 26 May 11;

Tonnes of dead pangolins, an endangered scaly animal, were seized by Indonesian customs on Thursday, foiling an effort by smugglers to ship the meat to Vietnam, officials said on Thursday.

Indonesia's customs office found 309 crates each containing between six to 10 adult and baby pangolins, weighing a total of 7.5 tonnes, at the country's biggest port in Jakarta, said a customs official. It also found 65 kilograms of pangolin scales.

"The most outrageous thing here is they even exterminate the young pangolins, the ones that when curled up are about 20 centimeters long," Rahmat Subagio, the head of the port's customs and excise office, told Reuters.

Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are meant to be a protected species in Indonesia. The endemic wildlife of the sprawling archipelago of tropical forests, from orangutans to Javan rhinos, is under threat from widespread logging and poaching.

The exporting company had covered up the illegal shipment with frozen smelly fish, but customs received a tip-off and X-rayed the container to discover pangolin shapes.

Local media reported earlier this month that a customs office in northern Sumatra island had also foiled an attempt to illegally smuggle about 1,700 pangolins to Vietnam, where eating the creature is believed to improve health.

A 2010 report by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, and conservation group the WWF, said trade in pangolins is well established in Southeast Asia and seized specimens were just a fraction of the actual wildlife trade.

(Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee)

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Philippines Biodiversity Threatened Before It’s Discovered

Kara Santos IPS 30 May 11;

BATANGAS, May 30, 2011 (IPS) - "Every time we go in the water, someone discovers something that's never been seen before," says Dr. Terrence Gosliner, leader of the ongoing 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition.

Gosliner is dean of science and research collections at the California Academy of Sciences, which is conducting its largest expedition to date. He describes the richness of marine life in the Philippines as "seemingly endless." Though he has been coming back for over 20 years on various expeditions, he still manages to find at least one new form of life during every dive.

"Many people believe that the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has the richest coral reefs, but that’s not true," says Gosliner. "It’s actually the countries in the Coral Triangle (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) that have the richest coral reefs in the world.

"For every group of animal that we are studying here, we've found new species already in the first three weeks of the expedition," Gosliner tells IPS as his team prepares to explore the marine resources of the Verde Island Passage, a 1.14 million-hectare area of water shared by various coastal and island provinces.

Past research by scientists suggest that the area is "centre of the centre" of marine shorefish biodiversity. Scientific researchers say that it is home to more documented species than any other marine habitat on earth.

Gosliner estimates that they have already discovered around a hundred new species in all the areas of scientific study in the expedition. But despite being one of the "hottest of the hotspots" Gosliner says that the biodiversity in the Philippines remains relatively unknown. Scientists believe that many new species remain to be discovered in the country.

He adds that coral reefs are highly threatened in most places due to unsustainable harvesting, pollution, rising sea temperature and ocean acidification.

Even as scientists continue their expedition to discover new species, news reports surfaced that an entire reef complex twice the size of Manila was decimated off the coast of Cotabato, in the south of the country.

According to a news report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, officials confirmed that poachers harvested more than 21,000 pieces of black coral and killed 161 endangered turtles and other marine life.

The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition is the first expedition to make a comprehensive survey of both terrestrial and marine diversity. Until June, 2011, academy botanists, entomologists and marine biologists will be exploring shallow-water reefs, the deep sea, and terrestrial and freshwater areas of the Philippines for new life and documenting the biodiversity of the island nation.

The expedition aims to come up with an assessment of the Philippines’ biodiversity to help future conservation decisions and policies. The academy is working with government, local schools and conservation groups.

Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan, professor at the De la Salle University, one of the expedition’s local academic partners, points out the importance of studying the biodiversity because many species are already threatened even before they are properly documented.

"This site is very near urban areas that do not manage their solid waste," he tells IPS on a small island near the dive site where candy wrappers, old rubber slippers and other debris litter the shoreline. In their underwater explorations, Licuanan says it's not uncommon to find plastic bags and old diapers wrapped around corals and dry cell batteries dissolving on the ocean floor.

Verde Island is also one of the busiest sea lanes, where commercial and industrial ships and passenger ferries from southern islands regularly pass to reach capital Manila.

"The impact of people is very noticeable on the beach and water. Imagine if an oil spill were to happen in the area," adds Licuanan. At present, no infrastructure is in place to contain a major oil or chemical spill and the nearby Batangas Bay is quickly becoming a major refining and petrol chemical centre in the country.

Unlike other countries where marine protected areas (MPAs) are uninhabited, here, rows of diving resorts and communities stretch across the shoreline. Lavish private resthouses and resorts can also be found on small pocket-sized islands.

Because of the threats, environmental groups like Conservation International (CI)-Philippines have been working with local governments and communities to promote the conservation of marine resources of Verde Island Passage.

"We have been able to establish new marine protected areas in coastal communities and provide training and support to locals who make up Bantay Dagat (Sea Watch) to help enforce laws in the MPAs," says Romeo Trono, executive director of CI. According to Trono, there's been a marked improvement of 80 to 90 percent from the 1980s, when the area was known as a major hub for illegal fishing activities, yet the area faces new threats because of tourism.

Now, one of CI's main concerns is to work with other dive resorts and locals in the area in terms of managing their waste.

"It's a challenge to educate people on the importance of biodiversity in promoting healthy ecosystems," he says. "We want to show people how protecting the area can lead to improvement in the quality and quantity of resources in the future."

But aside from discovering new species, Gosliner says that what makes the expedition unique is that the team is also conducting educational outreach activities, while on location, for students, teachers and local government leaders to show the relevance of biodiversity in their lives and the need to protect it.

"Hopefully, we want the results of what we do to help people living in mountain and coastal communities to have a more sustainable livelihood in the future," he tells IPS. "That there's a way of utilising the marine, agricultural and natural resources and the richness of the biodiversity of the Philippines to promote greater economic development and sustainability for local communities."

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Stoves, Seeds Could Save African Forests: Report

Deborah Zabarenko PlanetArk 30 May 11;

Efficient cookstoves and better crop seeds could play a key role in saving forests in sub-Saharan Africa, helping to cut emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide, environmental experts reported on Sunday.

This is important, since deforestation and forest degradation are the second-largest source of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions after the burning of fossil fuels. While forests stand, they take in and lock up carbon dioxide; when they burn, they release it into the atmosphere.

International plans to pay developing countries to stop destroying tropical forests could backfire because they fail to account for one important benefit poor agricultural countries get from clearing forests: charcoal to use as a cooking fuel.

A team of African, British and U.S. scientists and economists looked at what was happening in Tanzania, where the poverty level is high, food supplies are insecure and forest is being rapidly converted to farmland.

If a program simply pays Tanzania not to cut down its forest, the people who need cooking charcoal and farmland may be worse off, even as carbon-holding trees stay standing, said the report's lead author, Brendan Fisher.

But if a climate program added efficient cookstoves that use less charcoal and better quality crop seeds for greater yields, the benefit of keeping the forests intact would outweigh the cost to local people, said Fisher, of Princeton University and the University of East Anglia.


"There might be a chance to store carbon and improve food security and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa on the cheap," Fisher said by telephone. The research was published in the journal Nature Climate Science.

The study aims to build on an international climate mechanism called REDD+ -- short for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation -- where developed countries pay developing countries for forest conservation.

Fisher and his co-authors proposed a modification to this plan which they dubbed Smart-REDD, calculating how much crop yields and fuel efficiency would have to increase to compensate for the costs of forest preservation.

They figured Smart-REDD would cost $6.50 per ton of carbon dioxide saved, almost double the $3.90 cost needed to compensate forest users for loss of charcoal and farmland in Tanzania. But $6.50 is still far less than the current price of carbon, about $24 per ton in the European Trading Scheme, the authors said.

Even a doubling of crop yields could be possible with a carbon price of $12 a ton, the team reported.

"From our calculations, it may be possible to link large increases in food production and food security with carbon conservation in extraordinarily biodiverse forests, and all at a pretty low cost," co-author Andrew Balmford of Cambridge University said in a statement.

This would be possible in Tanzania, where agricultural production and fuel efficiency are low and could be improved with better cookstoves and seeds, Fisher said.

It wouldn't be economically practical in parts of Southeast Asia where lowland rainforests are being cut down for timber and agriculture, specifically palm oil plantations. The break-even price for Smart-REDD there would be about $50 per ton of carbon dioxide saved, he said, more than double the European carbon price.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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India Takes Unique Path To Lower Carbon Emissions

Krittivas Mukherjee PlanetArk 30 May 11;

With four times the population of the United States, an economy growing 8-9 percent a year and surging energy demand, India's race to become an economic power has propelled it to No. 3 in the list of top carbon polluters.

India's greenhouse gas emissions will keep rising as it tries to lift millions out of poverty and connect nearly half a billion people to electricity grids. But it is also trying to curb emissions growth in a unique way, fearing the impacts of climate change and spiralling energy costs.

The government is betting big on two market-based trading schemes to encourage energy efficiency and green power across the country of 1.2 billion people, sidestepping emissions trading schemes that have poisoned political debate in the United States and Australia.

"The policy roadmap India is adopting to curb emissions is innovative -- something that will make industries look at making efficiency the center-piece rather than some step that follows an ineffective carrot and stick policy," said Srinivas Krishnaswamy, CEO of green policy consultants Vasudha India.

In the world's first such national market-based mechanism, called Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT), India is starting a mandatory scheme that sets benchmark efficiency levels for 563 big polluting from power plants to steel mills and cement plants, that account for 54 percent of the country's energy consumption.

The scheme allows businesses using more energy than stipulated to buy tradeable energy saving certificates, or Escerts, from those using less energy, creating a market estimated by the government to be worth about $16 billion in 2014 when trading starts.

The number of Escerts depends on the amount of energy saved in a target year.


A three-year rollout phase is set to start in September and will help India curb about 100 million tonnes of carbon emissions, the government estimates.

The rollout is aimed at working out hiccups in the process for companies to measure and report their energy use.

India has already rolled out a renewable energy certificate (REC) trading scheme for wind, solar and biomass power plants. Green power comprises about 8 percent of energy production in India, while coal generates more than 60 percent, leading to a hefty coal import bill.

Trading for the REC scheme, which currently occurs once a month, has picked up as more projects participate, underpinning a government plan to ramp up solar power from near zero to 20 gigawatts by 2022, about one eighth of power generation now.

On May 25, a total of 14,002 RECs were traded during the REC trading session on the Indian Energy Exchange valued at $4.6 million, compared with 260 units at the previous session in April.

But concerns remain about how both initiatives will evolve because of a lack of data and trained manpower as well as weak penalties for firms that refuse to comply.

"India has an issue of manpower and data. You look at incomes, industrial activities are growing, the share market might boom but hiring manpower, (building up) capacity and institutions is a long-term game," said Girish Sant, energy analyst at non-profit think tank Prayas.

Some analysts also point to technical gaps in the PAT scheme, including how various units of one company would be graded. There were also limitations that allow REC certificates to be traded only once, limiting the early entry of intermediaries or market makers.

"In order to have an effective cap-and-trade or market mechanism that aids desired reduction in energy use, it is necessary to have targets that are neither too easy nor too difficult to achieve," said leading Indian clean energy project developer and advisory Emergent Ventures in a report on PAT.

But industry observers said it still makes sense for India to opt for a national energy efficiency scheme rather than carbon emissions trading.

"Because the target is intensity, so you are basically asking people to reduce their intensity and that matches the overall target," said Sant of Prayas.

The government has pledged to cut carbon intensity -- the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic output -- by between 20 and 25 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels.

Emissions trading would need an absolute emissions cap, something India does not want to do, saying it needs to keep its economy growing and competitive.

Adapting to the national policy and creating a unique market are a function of time and communication, said Vishwajit Dahanukar, managing director of Managing Emissions, a clean energy project developer, advisory and asset manager.

"That's basically it. It's just early days," he told Reuters from Mumbai.

Rival China is also looking at promoting energy efficiency but most of the government's planned efforts focus more on carbon emissions trading to achieve national climate and pollution goals.

In April, a senior Chinese official said the government would launch pilot emissions trading schemes in six provinces before 2013 and set up a nationwide trading platform by 2015, Thomson Reuters Point Carbon reported. The programme would be based on provincial-level energy consumption targets.

The Chinese government is also considering a cap-and-trade scheme for energy savings in its buildings sector, which accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the country's overall emissions.

According to a government directive, the mechanism would create energy saving credits but the programme was still in the early planning stages, with trading some years away.

"As Chinese industry is much more organised and the political system allows stringent monitoring, it becomes a little easier for them to use emissions trading," said Siddharth Pathak, Greenpeace India's policy officer for climate and energy, told Reuters.

"Also the push back from Indian industry would be much more than China."

(Additional reporting by David Fogarty in Singapore and Ratnajyoti Dutta in New Delhi)

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German Drought Threat To Biodiesel Producers

Michael Hogan PlanetArk 30 May 11;

Drought will sharply cut the rapeseed harvest in Germany, which produces about a quarter of the European Union's crop, and is likely to force biodiesel producers to cut output.

About 75 percent of Germany's rapeseed is used by its biodiesel industry, the largest in the EU.

"The biodiesel producers must seek to find alternative supplies or may face the prospect of cutting their production," said Claus Keller of German commodity analysts FO Licht.

Drought in the past four weeks has caused huge damage to Germany's 2011 rapeseed crop which may slump 22.6 percent or 1.3 million tonnes on the year to 4.4 million tonnes.

"I think a German rapeseed harvest of this size could cause problems for biodiesel producers," said Keller.

A 4.4 million tonnes rapeseed crop would produce about 1.7 million tonnes of rapeseed oil, he said.

"German biodiesel production requires at least 2 million tonnes of rapeseed oil in the 2011 calendar year," Keller said. "This supply will not be present."

Germany' biodiesel industry has some 5 million tonnes of annual capacity, the largest producer in the EU's 21.9 million tonne biodiesel sector, according to the EU biodiesel association EBB. German biodiesel output is largely used for blending with fossil fuels to protect the environment.

Germany generally produces around a quarter of the EU's annual rapeseed crop of about 20 million tonnes. There is concern about drought hitting rapeseed in other EU countries but so far major irreparable crop damage has only been reported in Germany.

Another problem is that Germany has imposed EU regulations ahead of other most other member states which compel raw materials for biofuels to be certified as coming from sustainable agriculture, a move aimed at protecting tropical rain forests.

"The certification will make it very difficult in Germany," said Thomas Mielke, head of global oilseeds analysts Oil World. "It will be a real headache, especially for the biodiesel industry."


Mielke said that no single alternative supply source for consumers seeking to replace lost German rapeseed was currently visible.

"There will certainly have to be larger imports of oils and of biodiesel," said Mielke.

Oil World expects a rise in EU rapeseed imports in the next year from Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. Canola/rapeseed could also be bought from Australia and Canada.

There will also be some demand shift to soyoil from South American producers such as Argentina and palm oil from Malaysia and Argentina.

German rapeseed oil consumers are also likely to buy as much as possible elsewhere in the EU, tightening the bloc's supply balance, traders said.

"The German crop problem is likely to become an EU issue as it is likely that German consumers will buy as many supplies as possible from other EU countries," one oilseeds trader said. "Ukraine, Argentina, and the palm oil exporters such as Malaysia and Indonesia are likely to get big new business from Europe in coming months."

Traders are now anxiously watching for signs of rapeseed crop damage in other EU producers.

"If drought also hits crops in the EU's second largest rapeseed producer France this could cause pretty serious rapeseed oil supply problems," Keller said. "Rising rapeseed prices are to be expected and they are rising already."

Euronext European benchmark rapeseed futures have risen about five percent in the last week.

"Rapeseed has suffered damage in Germany and I think we will see a supply shortage in Europe, said Siegfried Hofreiter, head of Germany's largest farm company KTG Agrar. "For rapeseed we will see a seller's market in the new year."

Germany's leading biodiesel producers include Verbio, Biopetrol and U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill.

(Editing by William Hardy)

Read more!

German nuclear shutdown sets global example: Merkel

Deborah Cole Yahoo News 31 May 11;

BERLIN (AFP) – Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany could serve as a global trailblazer with its decision Monday to phase out nuclear power by 2022 but France, Europe's biggest producer, said it will not follow suit.

Merkel said the "fundamental" rethink of energy policy in the world's number four economy, prompted by the disaster in March at Japan's Fukushima plant, opened new opportunities for business and climate protection.

"We believe we as a country can be a trailblazer for a new age of renewable energy sources," she told reporters.

"We can be the first major industrialised country that achieves the transition to renewable energy with all the opportunities -- for exports, development, technology, jobs -- it carries with it."

Yet neighbour France, while saying it "respected" the German position, insisted it was not ready to give up nuclear energy which Prime Minister Francois Fillon described as a "solution for the future".

"We think that for some decades at least we will not be able to do without nuclear energy," added Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

The German plan, hammered out by Merkel's ruling coalition in marathon overnight negotiations, will see the country shutter all 17 of its nuclear reactors, eight of which are currently off the electricity grid, within 11 years.

"We want the electricity of the future to be safer and at the same time reliable and affordable," Merkel told reporters as she accepted the findings of an expert commission on nuclear power she appointed in March.

"We learned from Fukushima that we have to deal differently with risks," added the chancellor, whose popularity suffered over her earlier pro-nuclear stance.

Seven of the eight reactors already offline are the country's oldest, which the government shut down for three months pending a safety probe after the Fukushima emergency.

The eighth is the Kruemmel plant, in north Germany, which has been offline for years because of technical problems.]

Six further reactors will shut down by 2021 and the three most modern will stop operating the following year 2022.

Monday's decision, which could run into legal challenges from energy companies, means Germany will have to find the 22 percent of its electricity needs that were covered by nuclear power from other sources.

A draft implementation plan to be debated next week would focus on hiking energy efficiency to reduce electricity use, building new power plants fired by greenhouse gas emitting natural gas and coal, expanding the production of wind energy, and improving the supply network from wind farms.

Thorny questions remained unanswered, including finding a permanent storage site for the highly radioactive waste and slashing CO2 emissions.

The decision represents a humbling U-turn for Merkel, who in late 2010 decided to extend the lifetime of the reactors by an average of 12 years. This would have kept them open until the mid-2030s.

That decision was unpopular even before the earthquake and tsunami that severely damaged the Fukushima facility, sparking mass anti-nuclear protests in Germany.

The Fukushima accident has ignited a renewed global debate about the safety of nuclear power, with opinions differing widely.

Nuclear opponents slammed the deal Monday and said they would stage fresh demonstrations next month to demand a faster phase-out.

France, meanwhile, said nuclear power allowed the country with its 58 reactors to provide electricity at prices about 40 percent cheaper than other European countries, on average.

"German households, for example, pay twice as much for their electricity," claimed France's Industry Minister Eric Besson.

Sweden said the German decision would lead to a disjointed energy policy that failed to adequately address climate change.

Poland and nuclear-free Austria, however, welcomed the German move.

"This decision by a highly industrialised country will have a very strong signal effect. It shows that scrapping nuclear power is both possible and feasible," said Austrian Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich.

And Poland, considering launching its first nuclear power station in 2020, said it would rethink its plans.

The United States and Britain have announced plans to build new reactors as an alternative to producing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Italy scrapped nuclear power in 1987, one year after the Chernobyl disaster, while Switzerland said last week it would phase out atomic energy by 2034.

Despite German U-turn, nuclear here to stay in Europe
Christian Spillmann Yahoo News 30 May 11;

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Fears over nuclear safety after radiation leaks at a Japanese plant triggered by an earthquake and tsunami have pushed Germany and Switzerland to call time on atomic energy, but nuclear's days are far from over in Europe.

Including Germany, which will close the last of its 17 reactors in 2022, 14 of the 27 European Union states produce nuclear energy.

The biggest producers are France, with 58 reactors in operation and another two in the pipeline, and Britain, with 19 currently in use and another eight to come on-stream.

The others are: Sweden (with 10), Spain (8), Belgium (7), the Czech Republic (6), Finland (4), Hungary (4), Slovakia (4), Bulgaria (2), Romania (2), the Netherlands (1) and Slovenia (1).

Switzerland, whose government recommends phasing out by 2034, has five reactors, to which must be added 32 in Russia and 15 in Ukraine. Another is also being built in Belarus, which is causing great unease in EU neighbour Lithuania.

While Switzerland's stance was more surprising, having originally announced plans to replace its plants, Berlin's decision showed the way, Austrian environment minister Nikolaus Berlakovich said Monday.

"This decision by a highly industrialised country will have a very strong signal effect. It shows that scrapping nuclear power is both possible and feasible," he said.

"Germany's decision strengthens me in my conviction 'Move out of nuclear energy and into renewables'," he said.

The issue is hot also in Spain, where solar is the big renewable source, in Belgium, and in Scotland, a state-less energy fulcrum that is home to about a quarter of Britain's nuclear capacity, but whose new, separatist majority government does not want any new reactors built there.

Already negotiating control of existing oil and gas revenues off its shores, the Scottish government in Edinburgh instead wants to jumpstart wind, wave and tidal development around a tense referendum on independence set for 2014.

Everywhere, though, the question of electricity supply remains vital.

"In the case of closure, it will be necessary to import energy probably from France, in other words produced by the nuclear sector," underlined Belgium's energy minister Paul Magnette.

"Germany now risks landing in a position with a very uneven energy policy," Swedish environment minister Andreas Carlgren also noted. He pointed out that Berlin will also revert to its coalmines, planned closures for which triggered a wave of strikes.

However, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania each also have new reactors planned -- even if Italy has frozen thoughts of returning to the technology it abandoned in 1987.

Even Japan has not given up on atomic energy, as Prime Minister Naoto Kan confirmed at last week's G8 meeting of major industrialised states in France.

China, an emerging renewables world leader alongside smaller specialist producers such as Denmark, also has 34 nuclear projects slated, 26 of which are already undergoing construction.

EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger is aware that 30 percent of the bloc's energy comes from nuclear generation.

While Greenpeace insists 68 percent of EU electricity needs can come from renewables by 2030 and 99.5 percent by 2050, nuclear output still has priority access to transportation grids.

Read more!

CO2 emissions highest ever in 2010: IEA

Yahoo News 30 May 11;

PARIS (AFP) – Carbon dioxide emitted by energy use hit a record high last year, dimming prospects for limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Monday.

Breaching the 2.0 C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold sharply increases risk of severe climate impacts, including flooding, storms, rising sea levels and species extinction, scientists have warned.

"Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history," the Paris-based IEA said in a statement posted on its website.

After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions climbed to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt), a five-percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, the agency said.

Moreover, 80 percent of projected greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 from energy sources are "locked in" as they will come from power plants already operating or under construction.

"This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2.0 C (3.6 F)," said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol.

UN climate change talks have agreed that average global temperatures should not increase by more than 2.0 C (3.6 F).

To achieve this goal, long-term concentration of greenhouse gases must peak at about 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, barely five percent more than in 2000, scientists say.

This target will slip beyond reach if global energy-related emissions in the year 2020 exceeds 32 Gt, the IEA has calculated.

The rise in emissions over the next decade must be less than the jump between 2009 and 2010, the agency cautioned.

"Our latest estimates are another wake-up call," said Birol.

"The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emission that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2.0 C (3.6 F) target is to be attained."

The UN's top climate official said the figures underscored the urgency for political action.

"The IEA estimates ... are a stark warming to governments to provide strong new progress this year towards global solutions to climate change," said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

UN climate talks, resuming in Bonn next Monday, remain deadlocked on how to achieve the 2.0 C (3.6 F) target.

Even the Kyoto Protocol, whose first round of emissions-cutting pledges for rich nations expires at the end of 2012, may be in jeopardy as key nations say they do not favour renewal.

"The figures mean that the world is very far from achieving the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more that two degrees Celsius," EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement, calling on other nations to set binding targets and emissions trading schemes as has the European Union.

Emerging countries say emission limits will stunt their development and argue that only rich economies can afford green technology which can boost living standards and cut emissions.

The IEA estimated 40 percent of global emissions in 2010 came from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) club of advanced countries.

But these only accounted for a quarter of the annual emissions growth. The rest came came from rapidly developing countries, led by China and India.

On a per-capita basis, OECD countries emit on average 10 tonnes, compared with 5.8 tonnes for China, a voracious burner of coal, and 1.5 tonnes in India.

Global carbon emissions reach record, says IEA

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 May 2011

5 Jun is World Environment Day!
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity! and Toddycats!

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [23 - 29 May 2011]
from Green Business Times

Lornie Trail Part 1
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

black tip reef shark @ Semakau 28May2011
from sgbeachbum

Knobblies at Beting Bemban Besar
from wonderful creation

Burrowing Snake-eel
from Monday Morgue

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Letter from Ric O’Barry to Resorts World Sentosa on dolphins

from the ACRES "Save the World's Saddest Dolphins" facebook page 30 May 11;

May 28, 2011

Mr. Tan Hee Teck, CEO
Resorts World Sentosa

Cc Ms Aw Kah Peng, CEO
Singapore Tourism Board

Dear Mr. Tan:

I am contacting you on behalf of the Dolphin Project of Earth Island Institute. Our organization is working to protect dolphins around the world and prevent dolphins from being removed from the wild for captivity.

We know that Resorts World Sentosa has dolphins now being kept in the Philippines that were captured in the waters of the Solomon Islands.

We would like to offer the possibility of setting up a rehabilitation and release project for these dolphins in conjunction with Resorts World. Your cooperation would ensure that these dolphins be returned to their natural habitat where they can thrive, as opposed to keeping them in captivity, separated from their original home range, their pod and their extensive social environment.

In helping return these dolphins, Resorts World would show the people of Singapore and the world that you are a true steward of the environment and a responsible company sensitive to the harm captivity inflicts on dolphins.

We have reached an arrangement with the villagers of the Solomon Islands for them to stop killing dolphins in exchange for funding from Earth Island to help develop alternative energy, clean water, and sustainable fishing. We believe that if the people of the Solomon Islands can end their 450-year-old hunts to help dolphins, Resorts World can too.

We know the people of Singapore love dolphins. Most Singaporeans would object to keeping dolphins in captivity if they knew the dangers to the dolphins and the horrific capture practices of the Solomon Islands and other dolphin capture countries.

Thank you for your consideration of our proposal.

Richard O’Barry
Marine Mammal Specialist

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Bukit Brown to make way for housing

Heritage buffs want cemetery conserved but URA says land required to meet growing needs
Jessica Lim Straits Times 30 May 11

IF HERITAGE enthusiasts have their way, Bukit Brown Cemetery off Lornie Road would stay untouched.

But in land-scarce Singapore - and especially since Bukit Brown is sitting on a large tract of land - the reality is that the dead will have to make way for the living sooner or later.

The 86ha graveyard, along with the already-exhumed Bidadari in Upper Serangoon Road, has been earmarked for housing developments, although the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has not given a timeframe for this.

Already, plans for the Bukit Brown MRT station have been set, although it will remain closed until the area is more developed.

Meanwhile, the 200-member Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) has produced a book titled Spaces Of The Dead: A Case From The Living to document the cemeteries here and argue for their conservation in the form of open-air museums or parks.

To clear them away would cause the community to incur 'a great loss', said SHS president Kevin Tan, who edited the book.

But a URA spokesman explained: 'We have to take a balanced long-term approach in land-use planning, and be very selective in what we conserve because of our land scarcity.

'As our population grows, we have to meet increasing land needs for various uses. Bukit Brown and Bidadari occupy large land areas that will be needed for housing purposes, and are not included in our conservation plans.'

The 300-page book compiles articles and photographs of cemeteries by various authors.

Launched last Saturday, it aims to change the mindsets of two groups of people - town planners who might be thinking of exhuming cemeteries for redevelopment needs, and members of the public who might fear such places.

That cemeteries give important insights into a people's social and historical life is not lost on tourists, who are more open to visiting them.

'Such cemeteries are an intrinsic part of community life,' said Dr Tan, adding that tourists often visit a country's tombs to learn more about its people and culture.

When The Straits Times visited Bukit Brown recently, people on horseback from the nearby Singapore Polo Club were seen clip-clopping along the winding, vehicle-free paths, sharing them with joggers and dog-walkers.

Many of Bukit Brown's 80,000 tombstones are weather-worn and lost in the undergrowth. Some, such as the tomb of prominent Chinese businessman Ong Sam Leong and his wife, draw attention with their size and showiness.

Bukit Brown is among 60 cemeteries here. All but one - Choa Chu Kang Cemetery - do not accept new burials, said the National Environment Agency, which oversees many cemeteries here.

In 1952, available records indicated there were 229 registered burial grounds, including many small ones that have since been exhumed.

The bustling Ngee Ann City shopping centre and the housing estates of Bishan and Tiong Bahru sit on what were once burial grounds.

Mr Eric Cheng, 36, chief executive of real-estate agency ECG Property, noted that the sites on which Bukit Brown and Bidadari are located are 'prime spots for housing'.

Noting the precedent set here for turning cemeteries into housing estates, he said: 'These places are usually developed after the land has been fallow for some time. People forget they were ever cemeteries. It is not a challenge to market such properties.'

Former Nature Society (Singapore) chairman Ho Hua Chew, who wrote one of the chapters in the new book, conceded that SHS' cause was a tough fight because the Government is 'very pro-development'.

The avid bird-watcher, who noted that 85 bird species have been recorded in Bukit Brown, expressed hope that people would read the book and go there to appreciate the place.

Businessman and permanent resident Mark Zagrodnik, 47, who has jogged there, is already doing that. He described it as a 'beautiful, natural space'.

On the other hand, administrative officer Cathy Wee, 27, has not even heard of Bukit Brown. She said: 'I wouldn't even think of conserving it.'

Interesting plots

Bukit Brown Cemetery:

A 2m-tall statue of a Sikh guard (right) watches over the remains of 19th-century tycoon Ong Sam Leong.

The tombs of the tycoon and his wife, rediscovered in 2006, occupy an area the size of 10 three-bedroom flats.

The presence of the guard points to the practice of wealthy individuals in Singapore who recruited guards, mainly from northern India, as watchmen for their property.

It is clear Ong wanted a continued role for them in his afterlife.

The grave of a man named Fang Shan, which dates back to 1833, was found by cemetery explorer Raymond Goh, 46, in late 2008. Historians and history buffs believe this may be the oldest grave in Singapore.

Bidadari Cemetery:

It included the grave of Dr Chen Su Lan, who died in 1972. Known as the 'Grand Old Doctor', he was a campaigner against opium addiction and tuberculosis among workers.

In 1945, he founded the Chinese YMCA and two years later, the Chen Su Lan Trust and the Chen Su Lan Methodist Children's Home.

His tomb was exhumed in 2002.

Bukit Brown part of what we call home
Straits Times 11 Jun 11;

I REFER to the article about Bukit Brown cemetery ("Bukit Brown to make way for housing"; May 30).

There is an old Muslim cemetery at 426 Siglap Road which I understand is also zoned for residential development.

It is a fond landmark, mentioned in tourist information about Katong as: " obscure Muslim cemetery at the peak of Siglap... rumoured to be haunted. It holds the tomb of Sheikh Ali, a descendant of ancestral Malay kings and princes".

I believe the Asian civet cat lives there and there are wonderful flora and fauna.

In the article on Bukit Brown cemetery, it was mentioned "the dead will have to make way for the living" and that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) takes a balanced long-term approach and is very selective in what is conserved because of land scarcity.

Actually such places should remain for the sake of the living.

To URA, these places, when viewed separately, carry historical information too insignificant for conservation.

But in fact, they are vital elements for forming and perpetuating precious, lasting memories in the hearts and minds of Singaporeans - carved out, not from exciting events, but simple daily living. They give character, soul and beauty to that larger home/community where we form relationships, live, work and play.

I believe it is this intricate web of deep-rooted memories - not money - that makes us call Singapore our home, keeps us resilient, loyal to the end and motivated to seek the good of our nation and society.

These memories are a part of the short history of Singapore. How we take care of our history affects the quality of our future generations, our true heritage.

Fail to cherish this - by destroying places and spaces that matter to community life - and our history, and our future generations, could become that much shallower, meaner and weaker.

Audrey Yang (Mrs)

Read more!

Wildlife poachers in Malaysia: Bolder and creative 'hunters'

New Straits Times 30 May 11;

WHEN Sharun Abdul Latiff joined the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) as a ranger, little did he realise that he would be exposed to life-threatening situations.

Two years ago, the 56-year-old, who is now with the Temerloh office of the Wildlife Department, was attacked by a poacher armed with a parang. Luckily, he escaped with just a gash on his arm.

The poacher, a repeat offender who was let off the hook after paying a fine, was hunting wild boar when he was cornered by an enforcement team led by Sharun.

Sharun says poachers are the biggest threat to endangered animals in the country.

Despite constant efforts by the authorities, they have become bolder and more creative.

They have been caught packing birds in PVC tubes or carrying them in hand luggage, using the postal service to transport wildlife and mixing wildlife with products, such as fruits, to be exported.

With tighter enforcement, Sharun says the department hopes to curb poaching and smuggling.

From 2008 to last year, the department thwarted 109 attempts to smuggle protected and endangered animals, with 21 smugglers fined a total of RM17,100.

The department's cooperation with the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network also foiled 306 smuggling attempts between 2004 and 2009.

In the past few years, the department has upped the ante in the fight against poachers and smugglers.

This includes working with agencies like the armed forces, the Anti-Smuggling Unit and the police; establishing 13 border checkpoints; and identifying hot spots in Johor, Pahang and Terengganu.

There have been instances when their efforts were undermined by the action of the so-called protecters.

Recently, five Malaysian soldiers on anti-poaching duty were suspended after they posted photographs of a dead Great Pied Hornbill bird, with its throat slashed, on Facebook.

It was reported that the group was part of a force protecting the Royal Belum-Temengor rainforest in Perak when they came across the bird, which they claimed had been shot by a hunter.

Last year, a Perhilitan officer was investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for allegedly abusing his powers to issue permits.

Perhilitan director-general Datuk Abd Rashid Samsudin says all Malaysians have the responsibility to protect and preserve the country's biodiversity.

Orang Asli lured into trapping rich pickings
New Straits Times 30 May 11;

MIDDLEMEN are using the Orang Asli to hunt endangered animals.

As the Orang Asli are allowed to hunt certain animals for their own consumption, the middlemen pay them to trap and kill wildlife that is in demand in the market.

Pahang Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Khairiah Mohd Shariff says the Orang Asli are targeting leopards and bears.

She says the syndicates rely on the Orang Asli to trap the animals as they realise that these people are familiar with the routes used by the animals as well as their resting places.

"Our investigations reveal that the Orang Asli will capture the endangered clouded monitor lizards usually found in oil palm plantations and hand them over to middlemen. The lizards are usually destined for cooking pots in exotic meat restaurants overseas.

"The demand for the wildlife has spurred the Orang Asli to hunt for the animals as they have come to realise the high value of certain animals."

Khairiah says the syndicates are using the Orang Asli to shield their activities from the authorities.

She says Perhilitan officers have, on numerous occasions, spotted Orang Asli selling the Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot (burung serindit) along the Kuantan-Segamat Highway but nowadays, the Orang Asli have become bolder and are keeping wildlife organs in their homes.

In a recent seizure, the department found chunks of leopard, bear and deer meat as well as slaughtered mousedeer in a refrigerator at an Orang Asli village headman's house.

Several days later, the department rescued 41 endangered clouded monitor lizards from a nearby Orang Asli settlement. Both seizures took place in Pahang.

Read more!

Only 1% of Philippines' coral reefs remains pristine -- WWF 29 May 11;

‘Public-private partnership needed to eliminate rape of seas’

MANILA, Philippines - The public and private sector should work together to finally stop the rape and plunder of the country’s marine resources, said the World Wide Fund for Nature.

In a statement, WWF Philippines Vice Chairperson and Chief Executive Jose Ma. Lorenzo said the response to the problem should be “national and systemic. The response can be no less.”

WWF released the statement amid news that the destruction brought about by the recent smuggling try of some P35 million worth of illicit shipments from the coast of Cotabato covered 5 times the size of Metro Manila.

Initial estimates showed that poachers only destroyed twice the size of Metro Manila to be able to harvest 196 kilos of sea whips corals, 161 heads of preserved hawksbill and green turtles, 7,300 pieces of seashells and 21,169 pieces of black corals.

For WWF, the confiscated hauls, including a recent one from Cebu, “are merely symptomatic of what has been happening throughout the country - illegal, unregulated and unreported extraction of marine wealth.”

WWF said the country sits at the apex of the so-called Coral Triangle. Over 27,000 square kilometers of coral reef cover the Philippines seas. A single square kilometer can produce over 40 metric tons of suno, talakitok and other forms of seafood.

However, 50 years of nonstop destructive commercial and poorly managed artisanal fishing has left only 5% in excellent condition. Only 1% remains “pristine.”

Lorenzo said: “Government can be a catalyst. However, it is private sector involvement that keeps sustainable efforts in place for the long term, maintaining supply chains throbbing and productive. Ultimately, legal and sustainable incomes for local communities are going to be the straw that will break this camel's back.”

Malacanang earlier called for a boycott of the black coral items.

Lorenzo asked: “How much of the government budget assigned to [agriculture] is for sustainable fisheries and new formulas for food security? And, how much of those budgets filter down to the local governments who manage the front lines? Is the private sector being engaged to establish sustainable formulas? Are there any incentives and rewards in place for workable solutions?”

Turtle haul prompts Philippines to call for action
AFP Yahoo News 30 May 11;

MANILA (AFP) – Southeast Asian countries must act now to protect the region's biodiversity in the face of those who want to plunder its resources for a quick profit, the Philippine president said on Monday.

As an example of the threat, President Benigno Aquino cited the discovery this month of a huge shipment of illegally harvested corals and preserved sea turtles, seized at Manila's port before they could be smuggled abroad.

"This single act of environmental pillage is only symptomatic of a larger problem," Aquino said at an event for the launch of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.

"Our region is on the brink of losing a significant number of endangered species due to multiple cases of deforestation, wildlife hunting, climate change, pollution and population growth," the president said.

Aquino said the region's biodiversity should be considered a competitive advantage that can be sustainably exploited.

"Unfortunately, there are those who still see the environment as nothing more than a means to make an easy and quick profit without regard for the long-term consequences," he said.

Although the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) only occupy three percent of the world's surface, the region is home to more than 18 percent of all known plant and animal species, making it one of the planet's richest and most diverse regions, Aquino said.

Anger has risen over the plundering of the Philippine environment since 124,000 pieces of illicitly harvested sea fan and sea whip corals and 158 stuffed sea turtles were found at the port on May 11.

The amount of coral recovered could mean that an area ranging from 7,000 to 21,000 hectares (17,290 to 51,870 acres) of the sea floor had been plundered, officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said.

Read more!

Ugly fish to rescue threatened species

Ella Ide Yahoo News 30 May 11;

GENOA, Italy (AFP) – Converts to Italy's Slow Food movement can see past a few poisonous spines and bulging eyes: the scorpion fish and needlefish may be ugly but they are cheap, sustainable and taste fantastic.

"It's time to go back to eating 'poor' fish, the types that your grandma used to eat years ago. Not only are they tasty and cheap, they can save other fish from dying out," fisherman Roberto Moggia said at Italy's Slow Fish event.

Moggia and other small scale fishers threatened by industrial fishing have gathered together for four days in Genoa to give curious consumers hooked on tuna and salmon a taste of the more unusual fish they are missing out on.

Species at high risk of extinction -- from bluefin tuna to swordfish and eel -- are replaced by a large variety of sleek, spikey, flat or bloated fish of differing colours, laid out on display or served up raw, salted or pickled.

"Slow Fish brings people up close with the more unusual types of fish which are slowly making their way back into kitchens by the back door," said 49-year old Moggia, showing off his counter of whiskered and scaly sea creatures.

Visitors to the fair, held on the north Italian city's wind-blown sea front, sampled delicacies from free-range Australian oceanic trout to the Dutch Oosterschelde lobster and alternative sushi rolls, made with sustainable fish.

"We've replaced tuna and salmon with leerfish and horse mackerel, and people really can't taste the difference," said Nicola Fattibeni, a gastronomy student who helped organise the sushi session, complete with on-site Japanese chefs.

"But we're not just trying to save at-risk fish. The idea behind Slow Fish is also to help save another species: the local fisherman," he added.

While small-scale fishermen are often credited with helping protect the marine environment, their numbers are dwindling in the face of profit-seeking trawlers harvesting vast amounts of fish, large numbers of which are often dumped.

"We can probably change the way we eat, but we definitely have to change the way we fish," EU Commissioner for Fisheries Maria Damanaki said at the start of the event, organised by the Slow Food movement for "good, clean and fair food."

Many fish are being caught too early to give them chance to reproduce, but attempts to encourage sustainable fishing have already seen the list of stocks consumers are strongly advised not buy drop from 14 to 11 this year.

Damanaki also told reporters the EU was cracking down on illegal fishing, which disrupts the ecosystem, lowers fish quality and creates unfair competition. They are using a points system like the one used for driving licences.

Fattibeni and his fellow gastronomy students at the sushi stand said the problem with fish like tuna was that their flesh is often full of toxins.

"Salmon, for example, is a fatty fish which absorbs toxins from ship waste and other pollutants, particularly in the Atlantic Ocean and in Asia. Tuna feast on smaller fish full of these toxins and accumulate even more."

Visitors unsure how to tell whether they're buying the right sort of fish or what condition it is in can join in on the fair's 'personal shopper' tours.

"I do try and think about what fish I buy in the supermarket. Everyone should make an effort really. We can't better the world but we can at least not make it worse!" said Livia Polgacini.

Nearby, visitors queued for tasting sessions with international chefs who rustled up 'poor' fish dishes for them to try and offered advice such as how to impress your mother-in-law with little more than a common sardine.

"In my restaurant we don't serve tuna anymore, we use local products and traditional recipes... one of my favourites is a Venetian recipe for stargazer fish from the 1300s," said 44-year old Italian chef Gianluca Cazzin.

Dressed in his chef's garb, Cazzin explained to guests sampling his fried soft-shell crab and Roman cockle pasta just how important a role restaurants have to play in changing attitudes towards eating sustainable fish.

"Ethically speaking, people cannot go on eating fish like tuna or swordfish. The less sought-after types are great and they also cost less, but it's up to us to come up with the dishes and turn 'poor' fish into 'good' fish," he said.

"We have to preserve species for future generations by giving them the chance to reproduce. No one's going to die of hunger if we don't eat tuna for 10 years," he added.

"I hope that our children will still be able to see them swimming around in 20 years."

The seas are emptying at an alarming rate as overfishing plunders fish stocks to unsustainable levels. The 'Slow Fish' fair in Genoa highlights environmental concerns and hopes to convince consumers to look after the oceans.

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Bubbling sea signals severe coral damage this century

Richard Black BBC News 29 May 11;

Findings from a "natural laboratory" in seas off Papua New Guinea suggest that acidifying oceans will severely hit coral reefs by the end of the century.

Carbon dioxide bubbles into the water from the slopes of a dormant volcano here, making it slightly more acidic.

Coral is badly affected, not growing at all in the most CO2-rich zone.

Writing in journal Nature Climate Change, the scientists say this "lab" mimics conditions that will be widespread if CO2 emissions continue.

The oceans absorb some of the carbon dioxide that human activities are putting into the atmosphere.

This is turning seawater around the world slightly more acidic - or slightly less alkaline.

This reduces the capacity of corals and other marine animals to form hard structures such as shells.

Projections of rising greenhouse gas emissions suggest the process will go further, and accelerate.

"This is the most realistic experiment done to date on this issue," said Chris Langdon, a coral specialist from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Miami, US.

"So I don't have any qualms about believing that what we found will apply in other parts of the world."

The water becomes progressively more acidic closer to the vents that are bubbling CO2.

This allows the researchers to study the impacts on coral at different levels of acidity.

Seawater has an average pH of about 8.1; this is already about 0.1 lower than before the industrial age and the large-scale human emissions of greenhouse gases associated with it.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that by the end of the century, emissions may have risen so much that pH may fall to 7.8.

In the Papua New Guinea site, few types of coral grew at pH7.8.

Reefs still formed, but were dominated by one particular type, the Porites, which form massive shapes largely devoid of the branches and fronds that characterise reefs rich in species.

"We saw only a few speces of coral, and none of the structually complex ones that provide a lot of cover for fish," Professor Langdon told BBC News..

"The much simpler forms support many fewer species, and theory suggests they create an environment that would be very vulnerable to other stresses."

In an even more acid part of the study site, with a pH of 7.7, the scientists report that "reef development ceased".

Here, seagrasses dominate the floor - but they lack the hard-shelled snails that normally live on their fronds.

This is the second published study of a "natural lab" for ocean acidification.

The first, from a site in Mediterranean, found snails with their shells disintegrating; but the PNG site offers a snapshot of the future that might be more applicable to the world's tropical coral hotspots.

"The results are complex, but their implications chilling," commented Alex Rogers from the University of Oxford, who was not part of the study team.

"Some may see this as a comforting study in that coral cover is maintained, but this is a false perception; the levels of seawater pH associated with a 4C warming completely change the face of reefs.

"We will see the collapse of many reefs long before the end of the century."

The scientific team behind the new research, drawn from Australia, Germany and the US, suggests that the picture from PNG may underplay the threat.

Reefs in the acidic zones of the study site receive regular doses of larvae floating in from nearby healthy corals, replenishing damaged stocks.

This would not be the case if low pH levels pertained throughout the oceans.

In addition, corals at the site are only minimally affected by other threats; there is little fishing, local pollution, or disease.

By contrast, a major survey published earlier this year found that three-quarters of the world's reefs were at risk - 95% in southeast Asia - with exploitative and destructive fishing being the biggest immediate threat.

Ocean Acidification Will Likely Reduce Diversity, Resiliency in Coral Reef Ecosystems
ScienceDaily 29 May 11;

A new study from University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science scientists Chris Langdon, Remy Okazaki and Nancy Muehllehner and colleagues from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Max-Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Germany concludes that ocean acidification, along with increased ocean temperatures, will likely severely reduce the diversity and resilience of coral reef ecosystems within this century.

The research team studied three natural volcanic CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea to better understand how ocean acidification will impact coral reefs ecosystem diversity. The study details the effects of long-term exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide and low pH on Indo-Pacific coral reefs, a condition that is projected to occur by the end of the century as increased human-made CO2 emissions alter the current pH level of seawater, turning the oceans acidic.

"These 'champagne reefs' are natural analogs of how coral reefs may look in 100 years if ocean acidification conditions continue to get worse," said Langdon, UM Rosenstiel School professor and co-principal investigator of the study.

The study shows shifts in the composition of coral species and reductions in biodiversity and recruitment on the reef as pH declined from 8.1 to 7.8. The team also reports that reef development would cease at a pH below 7.7. The IPCC 4th Assessment Report estimates that by the end of the century, ocean pH will decline from the current level of 8.1 to 7.8, due to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

"The seeps are probably the closest we can come to simulating the effect of human-made CO2 emissions on a coral reef," said Langdon. "They allow us to see the end result of the complex interactions between species under acidic ocean conditions."

The reefs detailed in this study have healthy reefs nearby to supply larvae to replenish the reefs. If pH was low throughout the region -- as projected for year 2100 -- then there would not be any healthy reefs to reseed damaged ones, according to Langdon.

The research was funded by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the University of Miami, and the Max-Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology through the Bioacid Project (03F0608C).

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

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China to step up fight against plastic addiction

Yahoo News 29 May 11;

BEIJING (AFP) – China will expand a ban on free shopping bags, state media said, as it tries to further curb its addiction to plastic in a bid to rid the country of "white pollution" that clogs waterways, farms and fields.

Bookstores and pharmacies nationwide will soon be forbidden to give out free plastic bags, joining the ranks of supermarkets that have had to charge for shopping bags since June 1, 2008, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

On that day, China also banned the production, sale and use of ultra-thin plastic bags, becoming one of only a few nations around the world to take such tough measures.

Quoting Zhao Jiarong, deputy secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planner, the report said the government would also step up its crackdown on the illegal use of plastic bags.

But she did not say when bookstores and pharmacies would have to start charging for the bags they give out.

China -- the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter -- has some of the world's worst water and air pollution after rapid growth over more than 30 years triggered widespread environmental damage.

Around three billion plastic bags were being used daily in China before the 2008 ban. Since then, according to the NDRC, people have used at least 24 billion fewer plastic bags every year, the report said late Saturday.

Dong Jinshi, vice chairman of the International Food Packaging Association in Beijing, told AFP late last year that as many as 100 billion plastic shopping bags may have been kept out of landfills as a result of the law.

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 May 11

The Synaptid sea cucumber in Semakau is...
from Urban Forest

Shark on Semakau!
from wild shores of singapore

Pulau Semakau (28 May 2011)
from Project Driftnet Singapore and sgbeachbum

Observation Notes on the Variability of Two Blues
from Butterflies of Singapore

Nesting Grey Herons: 10. Sexual assault
from Bird Ecology Study Group

110527 Venus Drive
from Singapore Nature

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Free the dolphins

Capture practices are cruel, says Ric O'Barry
Sandra Davie Straits Times 29 May 11;

Free the dolphins.

That is the appeal which Mr Ric O'Barry, who shot to fame with his film on the capture and killing of the marine mammal in Japan, is making to Resorts World Sentosa.

RWS plans to showcase 25 wild-caught dolphins as one of the attractions at its oceanarium slated to open by the year end.

In a letter sent last Friday to the integrated resort's chief executive Tan Hee Teck, Mr O'Barry, who works for United States-based environmental group Earth Island Institute, has urged him to show Singaporeans RWS is a 'true steward of the environment' and 'a responsible company sensitive to the harm captivity inflicts on dolphins'.

The marine mammal specialist, 72, has also offered his help to rehabilitate and release the dolphins back to the wild, in the Solomon Islands, off Papua New Guinea.

'Your cooperation would ensure that these dolphins (are) returned to their natural habitat where they can thrive, as opposed to keeping them in captivity, separated from their original home range and their pod,' he wrote, adding that most Singaporeans would object to keeping dolphins in captivity if they knew the capture practices.

The activist, who investigated the dolphin hunts in the Solomon Islands for a TV documentary last year, said they are cruel.

'It is not that much different from what happens in Taiji, Japan. The dolphins are corralled into a cove by the villagers. The healthy ones are caught to be sold to aquariums but the others are speared, clubbed and stabbed to death.'

Dolphin-hunting nations such as Japan have defended the practice as being centuries-old. Taiji officials have said that the Japanese government allows about 19,000 dolphins to be killed each year and Taiji hunts about 2,000 a year.

The Japanese have also asked Western nations to understand and respect different food cultures.

RWS has never revealed how much it paid for the 27 bottlenose dolphins bought from Canadian dolphin trader Chris Porter in 2008 and 2009.

The plan to exhibit them along with whale sharks had drawn flak from environmental groups and animal lovers here. In May 2009, RWS scrapped the plan to exhibit whale sharks, saying it might not be able to care for the animals which can grow to more than 12m and weigh 15 tonnes.

Nine of the 27 dolphins had been sent to a holding facility in Langkawi, Malaysia, while the rest were housed in Ocean Park Adventure in Subic Bay in the Philippines.

Two dolphins died in Langkawi last October from a bacterial infection arising from contact with contaminated soil and surface waters. A few months later, the remaining seven were sent to the Philippines.

Local group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), which sent a team to Langkawi, noted that the sea pens were too small, rusty and in a high boat traffic area which would have been stressful to the dolphins.

RWS said the marine mammals were moved to the Philippines not because of the poor water quality in Langkawi but to 'continue integrating the dolphins into social groupings'.

It added that it will proceed with its plan to have a dolphin exhibition in its oceanarium. The 8ha Marine Life Park was part of its proposal when it won the bid in 2006 to build the Sentosa integrated resort.

Last Friday, in response to another campaign launched by Acres to free the dolphins, Mr Tan said the company was following international rules on the treatment of marine animals.

Speaking on the sidelines of the official opening of RWS' Universal Studios, he added that the dolphins are 'very healthy' and expected to be brought here in the next 12 months.

RWS later issued a statement, saying the team was providing the 'very best care' to the dolphins, including a superior diet and veterinary attention. It added that it was committed to marine research, conservation and education.

Asked to respond to Mr O'Barry's appeal, an RWS spokesman said yesterday his CEO will do so after he has seen the letter.

Contacted by The Sunday Times in Miami, Mr O'Barry said it was ironic that RWS should talk about conservation and education.

'The act of catching and confining these animals in concrete tanks and training them to become something they are not, cannot possibly contribute towards constructive education on marine life and environmental issues.'

Mr O'Barry, who is aware of RWS' record earnings, hopes it would take up his offer. Last quarter, RWS' pre-tax profits of $537.9 million trumped its competitor Marina Bay Sands' performance of US$284.5 million (S$350 million).

'If Resorts World frees the dolphins, not only will it show good corporate citizenship, it will also be a massive windfall of good publicity for them.'

He also appealed to Singaporeans to support his cause and do their bit to persuade RWS to free the dolphins. 'I have always admired Singapore from afar, for being this little island nation that does amazing things.

'Resorts World and Singapore can set an example here for being true stewards of the environment and helping to protect and preserve the different species that make our planet a beautiful, rich place.'

In Sentosa, dolphins are a draw at another attraction called Underwater World, which is run by Haw Par Corporation.

'Flipper' trainer seeks to make amends for past
Straits Times 29 May 11;

In the 1960s, Mr Ric O'Barry helped spark a worldwide fascination for dolphins by training five to play Flipper on TV.

The series, about a bottlenose dolphin which kept company with a Florida park ranger and his kids, made people want to reach out and touch these seemingly sociable creatures.

Marine parks sprang up to cash in on that.

But he had a change of heart when Kathy, one of the dolphins which played Flipper, died.

'Kathy looked me right in the eye,' he said. 'Then she took a breath, and never took another one. She sank to the bottom of the tank,' he recalled, adding that he was quite certain that her death was a suicide.

He explained: 'Every breath a dolphin takes is a conscious effort, so they can decide not to take the next breath. That's what I mean by suicide.'

It was just before Earth Day, 1970. The next day, he found himself in jail for trying to free a dolphin.

'I completely lost it,' he admitted in a phone interview with The Sunday Times. He went on to set up the Dolphin Project to free captive dolphins and educate people about their plight.

For years, he had been trying to get the media to focus attention on what happened to the dolphins in Taiji, Japan. He managed to do that in 2009, when he worked with film-maker Louie Psihoyos.

The Cove went on to win Best Documentary at the Oscars.

In the documentary on the annual hunt of wild dolphins in Taiji, fishermen in boats bang pipes underwater. Fleeing this sound, the dolphins are corralled into a secluded cove.

The healthy ones are caught to be sold to aquariums but the others are speared, clubbed and stabbed to death, as recorded in the documentary, portions of which were shot secretly.

Mr O'Barry said the dolphin hunts in the Solomon Islands are no different. The residents use stones to create a sound that enables the hunters to drive the dolphins into an inlet.

'The dolphins are ripped from their natural environment, separated from their families and pod mates, held in nets, transported in trucks, hoisted into cargo planes and flown to distant locations. Is it any wonder that many die in the process?'

Survivors are 'condemned to a life in a concrete tank, listening to the hum of the filtration system and the screams of the audience'.

While wild dolphins can live for 60 years, in captivity they often die prematurely. Captive ones routinely suffer from ulcers, he said, adding that they frequently go blind and have skin problems.

Many also succumb to stress-related conditions like pneumonia, as well as self-inflicted injuries or those caused by accidents or confrontations with other confined dolphins.

Mr O'Barry, who works with US-based environmental group Earth Island Institute, said he will never give up the fight to free dolphins in captivity.

'It's my way of trying to right the wrong I committed in helping to boost the captivity industry through the Flipper series.'

Sandra Davie

For more on the issue see ACRES "Save the World's Saddest Dolphins" facebook page

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