Best of our wild blogs: 31 Jul 11

Work on Bukit Timah Eco-Link begins
from The Biology Refugia

Life History of Arhopala amphimuta amphimuta
from Butterflies of Singapore

Fishes galore on oil-slicked Tanah Merah
from wild shores of singapore and More plastic spill on Tanah Merah

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Preserve ecological gem in Bedok

Sunday Times 31 Jul 11;

I was dismayed to learn that the heavily wooded forest that abuts onto the hill at Bedok Reservoir Park will be sliced off for an upcoming low-rise residential development by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Picture the new scenario: a condominium that dominates the landscape, with signposts stating that trespassers will be prosecuted; the din during the construction when one is trying to enjoy nature at the hilltop; and the many giant trees that will be felled, which will destroy the natural habitats of birds and other wildlife.

The hill is a prominent landmark for many joggers and nature lovers. By turning its vicinity into a residential estate, the whole scene will become an eyesore.

We should consider safeguarding as much of the natural environment as possible.

It has taken decades for the trees in the area to grow to such a mature stage, particularly the giant banyan trees. The lush vegetation also serves as a carbon sink and natural air-conditioner.

The National Parks Board could perhaps take over this verdant oasis and make it accessible to the public. This green parcel alongside Bedok Reservoir hill could be conserved as an avian sanctuary and a haven for little creatures.

I hope that URA would listen with a heart and preserve this ecological gem.

Sor Boon Kia

Greenery fast vanishing in Fernvale
Sunday Times 31 Jul 11;

Ten years ago, my husband and I chose our new flat at Fernvale in Sengkang, lured by promises of 'lush greenery'.

However, over the last few years, we have witnessed blocks of new flats sprouting up around us with alarming speed. The promised lush greenery is fast disappearing, and Fernvale is in danger of becoming densely populated.

While I understand that a certain level of population is required to support commercial activities in the area, the Housing Board should revisit its initial blueprint for Fernvale and ensure that the overall concept is maintained, while providing new residential projects.

I hope that in the years to come, I will still be able to enjoy the view of green fields and open skies when I look out of my windows.

Ang Chin Chin (Ms)

Care taken to save trees in Bedok
Sunday Times 7 Aug 11;

We thank Mr Sor Boon Kia for his letter last Sunday ('Preserve ecological gem in Bedok').

We recognise the importance of keeping our green spaces as Singapore develops. However, given Singapore's land limitations, we need to take a balanced approach to ensure that sufficient land is also provided for our housing needs.

Even when we released the land parcel at Bedok Reservoir Road/Bedok North Road for residential development, we have been careful to retain the existing public access to the hill, as well as the mature banyan trees within Bedok Reservoir Park.

The site boundaries of this development will also not encroach upon the bird sanctuary within Bedok Reservoir Park, which is safeguarded as park land.

The proposed development has been kept low-scale so as to keep it compatible with the surroundings.

The developer is also encouraged to sensitively design the development to keep the existing topography and retain as many trees as possible.

Hwang Yu-Ning (Ms)
Group Director (Physical Planning)
Urban Redevelopment Authority

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Poaching problem growing in Singapore

Higher number of cases reported to AVA only tip of the iceberg, say nature lovers
Judith Tan Straits Times 31 Jul 11;

Night-time is not safe for wild birds and animals here, it seems.

Under the cover of darkness, poachers are trapping wildlife, said nature lovers, who added that the higher number of cases reported to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) represents only the tip of the iceberg.

The AVA handled 22 cases last year, more than double the figure of 10 the year before.

Of the 22 and 10 cases, 20 and nine were linked to birds. AVA said two people were fined between $300 and $500 for trapping spotted doves in 2007 and 2009.

More offences were also committed in the parks and nature reserves. Since January this year, the National Parks Board (NParks) has issued 10 notices of offence, compared to 12 for the whole of last year.

The culprits could be fined or given a warning, said its spokesman.

But nature lovers, like public relations manager Ng Li Huang, feel that the numbers caught merely scratch the surface.

'They would turn up during dusk and at night, after the park rangers have left,' said Ms Ng, 49, who often spots them when she jogs in the Venus Drive and Lower Peirce areas.

Poachers catch the animals for food, to keep as pets or to sell them to pet shops.

Some of the animals caught are endangered, such as the pangolin, straw-headed bulbul and red junglefowl.

Sometimes, other unintended animals fall victim too. Last month, The Straits Times reported stray dogs being maimed by wild-boar traps in forested areas in the north. Animal activists had also posted pictures online of injured dogs, with some missing up to three limbs.

It is not known who is laying the traps, though groups of men have been seen entering the forested areas. It is believed they were hoping to snare the wild boar for food.

Businessman and nature lover Jim Chua, 37, who feeds stray dogs in wooded areas in the east, dismantled three wild-boar traps recently.

'One wild boar even lost a foot in these traps and now has to depend on volunteers, like myself, to get sustenance,' he said.

The authorities are fighting back.

Dr Leong Chee Chiew, commissioner of parks and recreation at NParks, said its officers are authorised to apprehend and prosecute anyone caught in the act.

'The traps and devices are also confiscated as evidence and subsequently destroyed and disposed of when the case is concluded,' he said.

Its rangers also work beyond the nine-to-five shifts to deter illicit activities.

AVA investigates and conducts checks in areas where poaching is reported and staff will revisit the places to ensure there is no poaching.

While national water agency PUB has allowed for more recreational activities such as fishing in selected areas in reservoirs since 2006, it is believed many also cast lines at illegal spots, often under the cover of darkness.

A PUB spokesman said it takes a serious view of poachers who use nets to catch fish 'as this will deplete the fish stock and affect the ecosystem'.

'Our officers carry out daily patrol and enforcement in the reservoirs, including weekends and public holidays,' she added.

PUB is also working with residents, park users and other government agencies to educate the public on not fishing illegally, she said, adding that it has built fishing jetties and designated fishing grounds for the public.

If you suspect or spot any poaching activity, call AVA on 6227-0670, PUB on 1800-284-6600 or NParks on 1800-471-7300.


Under the Wild Animals and Birds Act, it is an offence to trap, keep or kill wild animals and birds (except those in the Schedule such as crows, mynahs and pigeons) without a licence from the AVA.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 and forfeiture of the birds or wild animals. Offenders may also be charged with animal cruelty if the animal is found injured.

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Keppel Club, River Safari receive ABC Waters Certification 2011

Lynda Hong Channel NewsAsia 30 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE: A 107-year-old country club and an upcoming river safari were both awarded the Active Beautiful and Clean (ABC) Waters Certification 2011.

Keppel Club and River Safari received the certifications for their environmentally friendly water features.

The country club, which has been in its original location since 1904, said its greening practices started four years ago.

Deputy Manager of Keppel Club, Desmond Chua, said the managing of golf courses are now becoming more environmentally friendly.

He added that the widely-held perception that golf courses use too much chemical and waste too much water is changing.

Mr Chua said: "Superintendents who manage the golf course are now equipped with the latest information, knowledge, to develop integrated pest management programme, that will put them in a very responsible way of managing the golf course, which uses chemicals in an orderly manner, in a systematic style.

"Previously, people felt that golf courses excessively use chemicals to maintain their golf courses. But right now, with education and proper training and knowledge."

The club's need for water is provided naturally, using rainwater to irrigate and wash heavy machinery with its nine ponds that are interconnected underground.

Over at the River Safari, one of their ABC Waters Design Features is the open air multi storey carpark at River Safari channels.

Fourteen per cent of the total catchment area rainwater flows down to a bio-retention planter box where it will be filtered by four layers of sand and soil before being channelled to a nearby pond.

Cham Tud Yinn, Director, Exhibit Design & Development, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: "River safari is a project where basically we want to highlight how freshwater habitats are endangered and this is the best showcase for river safari.

"For us, being so near the Seletar Reservoir, our first priority is to protect the environment around us, and highlight the beauty of freshwater habitats, and this is the best example for the project."

More similar systems will be implemented near the River Safari's freshwater animal habitats.

- CNA/fa

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New Shrews Found in Indonesia

New Shrew Review
National Geographic News 27 Jul 11;

Photograph courtesy Jake Esselstyn

A newfound white-toothed shrew of the Crocidura genus (pictured) is one of four potential new shrew species discovered during an April field survey of Mount Tompotika, a small mountain on the eastern tip of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. DNA analyses currently underway will reveal which of the mammals are truly new to science.

Like all shrews, the mammals have small eyes and a sharply developed sense of smell for rooting out small invertebrates such as earthworms, said team member Jake Esselstyn, a biologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.

"People don't appreciate how little we know about the natural world—even basics like how many species there are on Sulawesi," Esselstyn said.

"This kind of work is important to [show] how many species live in particular places, what their evolutionary history is, and how we can preserve natural biological communities."

—Christine Dell'Amore

Published July 27, 2011

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Malaysia: Nature gets a helping hand from sci-fi tech

Chai Mei Ling New Straits Times 31 Jul 11;

The aircraft glided across the skies over a vast expanse of forest, a sensor strapped to its underside capturing detailed and breathtaking shots, before this only seen in the realm of science fiction.

The hyperspectral imaging kit is able to identify individual trees, and amazingly -- after lab work -- zero in on the species.

Tree canopies will be bathed in a multitude of colours when scanned, as if buckets of paint had fallen off the sky and rained on the treetops.

In a population of mangroves, bakau minyak stands out in striking red, bakau kurap is swathed in turquoise, berembang purple, membuta emerald, piai pink, perepat yellow and gedabu bright green.

The rainbow of colours is a result of the vegetation's "varying reflectance", says Dr Alias Mohd Sood of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

When the sun shines upon objects, some of the rays are scattered and reflected.

This reflected energy is what's measured by the sensor, resulting in different colours, depending on the strength of the reflectance.

"In vegetation, chlorophyll absorbs red and blue lights but reflects green. That's why we see the leaf as green. That's the theory of light," says Alias.

While the human eye sees visible light in three bands, and satellite imaging captures eight, spectral imaging breaks down the electromagnetic spectrum into many, many more.

Up until two years ago, the airborne hyperspectral imaging system had over 200 bands, extending beyond the visible, which is why it could capture a colour and divide it into many more sub-colours.

When the sensor, attached to the belly of an aircraft, flies over forests, everything that makes up the texture of its canopy -- the combination of leaves, the shape of the leaf, the size, thickness, the branches, the subcanopy -- will be registered.

"Different plant species have different canopy textures, so they reflect light in their own way.

"That's why they appear in different colours in images," says Alias, a specialist in remote sensing, with a forestry background.

The system, put together by Professor Kamaruzaman Jusoff of UPM, was first used in the 1990s.

It detected cracks in boulders along the highway, surveyed forest reserves and mapped sedimentation in rivers.

After much fine-tuning by the forest engineering survey expert, the system was commercialised in 2004 through a joint venture between UPM and Aeroscan Precision (M) Sdn Bhd.

Among the company's earlier projects were mapping the Gunung Stong Forest Reserve in Kelantan, making an inventory of Kuala Lumpur's forested areas, and charting the coral distribution in Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Terengganu.

Then, two years ago, the company replaced the near-obsolete sensor with the latest technology -- one which comes with 488 bands at a cost of RM2.4 million.

The increased bandwidth propelled the potential of the kit's application to new areas.

The kit could now tell not just the tree condition, but also help zero in on the degree of its health, says Izani Ibrahim, chief operating officer of Aeroscan Precision.

This added edge is especially useful in the agriculture sector.

Healthy, stressed and dead trees can be revealed in a single imaging -- unhealthy trees have less chlorophyll, which in turn reflect less light. So, they register a weaker or duller colour.

"Imagine the time and manpower saved from reducing the need for plantation workers to go down to the ground and inspect each and every tree on hectares and hectares of land.

"If one-fifth or more of the tree is infected, there is no point saving it. Let it die. If the degree of infection is lower, treatment can still be carried out," says Izani.

Another useful function of the system is to identify nutrient level.

"In the oil palm business, fertiliser constitutes 50 to 60 per cent of the cost. If the tree health is already at an optimum level, there's no need for blanket application of fertiliser.

"If you're healthy, why take additional vitamins and supplements? This is precision agriculture -- applying the right amount of fertiliser to the right trees at the right time. And you save money," Izani adds.

Aside from species identification and mapping of tree height, diameter and tree crown feature, the imaging system is also able to capture tree stand count, forest health and density, timber volume estimation and vegetation index.

The kit also makes a better information-gathering tool in marine ecology, as it's able to perform ocean depth measurement and mappings of coral reef, water quality and beach infrastructure.

It can tell hard, soft and dead corals apart, the classification of coral genus and seaweed and seagrass distribution.

As the sole provider of hyperspectral imaging service in the country and the Southeast Asian region, Aeroscan Precision plans to expand its offerings overseas.

Its services has been sought by Arab countries to inventory their date plantations and map out tree health.

It is also working on sharpening the sensor's detection of valuable resources, such as minerals, gaharu in karas trees, and honeycombs on tualang trees.

Although the system is useful to detect illegal logging because it provides near real-time imagery, the noble intention of the practice is outweighed by the surging cost.

An area is surveyed only upon request because it is expensive to rent an aircraft, onto which the sensor is strapped.

Aircraft rental ranges from RM4,000 to RM4,500 an hour, and flights should only take place between 10am and 2pm -- the brightest hours of the day -- and only if the weather is good.

Rain, haze and a cloud cover of more than 20 per cent spell added cost, as the company still has to foot the aircraft rental bill despite not being able to fly.

Because of these limitations, hyperspectral imaging service does not come cheap. Aeroscan Precision charges RM30 to RM60 per hectare surveyed, an area of about 2.5 football fields.

Nevertheless, Izani stresses the importance of conservation.

The mapping of rare and endangered tree species is crucial so that the country is aware of the wealth of biodiversity that it has and can forge a better understanding on conservation methods.

Having an inventory of the distribution of corals will also encourage protection of the nation's marine ecosystem.

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Third of freshwater fish threatened with extinction

Freshwater fish are the most endangered group of animals on the planet, with more than a third threatened with extinction, according to a report being compiled by British scientists.
Richard Gray The Telegraph 30 Jul 11;

Among those at the greatest risk of dying out are several species from UK rivers and lakes including the European eel, Shetland charr and many little known fish that have become isolated in remote waterways in Wales and Scotland.

Others critically endangered include types of sturgeon, which provide some of the world's most expensive caviar, and giant river dwellers such as the Mekong giant catfish and freshwater stingray, which can grow as long as 15 feet.

The scientists have blamed human activities such as overfishing, pollution and construction for pushing so many species to the brink of extinction.

They also warn that the loss of the fish could have serious implications for humans. In Africa alone more than 7.5 million people rely on freshwater fish for food and income.

The precarious status of the species has been revealed in interim results from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List assessment of freshwater fish.

Dr William Darwall, manager of the freshwater unit at the IUCN in Cambridge, said: "There are still some big gaps in our knowledge, but of the 5,685 species that have been assessed, 36 per cent of them are threatened.

"Compared to mammals, where 21 per cent are threatened, and birds, where 12 per cent are threatened, it is clear that fresh water ecosystems are among the most threatened in the world.

"Sadly, it is also not going to get any better as human need for fresh water, power and food continues to grown and we exploit freshwater environments for these resources."

The IUCN conducts assessments on the status of species around the world. It most recently completed an assessment of amphibians and found 30 of the planet's amphibians are threatened with extinction.

The assessments form the basis for conservation groups and governments to conserve biodiversity and protect the most threatened species.

There are an estimated 15,000 freshwater fish species that have been discovered and so far 5,685 of them have had their status assessed.

The preliminary results of the assessment were revealed at the annual conference of the Fisheries Society of the British Isles at Bournemouth University.

Professor Rudy Golzan, director of the centre for conservation ecology at Bournemouth University, said: "Freshwater biodiversity is a crucial issue and more important than people think. Billions of people rely upon freshwater species for food and work.

"We have to find ways of reducing impacts on these ecosystems while allowing people to continue to use the resources that freshwater environments have to offer."

In the UK a relative of the salmon, called the Gwyniad, is found in just one lake in Wales called Llyn Tegid, where it became trapped after the end of the last ice age.

The introduction of another fish called the ruffe, which preys upon the eggs and young Gwyniads, has seen their numbers fall to as low as 31 females since the 1980s.

The European eel, another species found in UK streams, rivers and lakes which is an important food source for many birds and other fish, has also declined by 90 per cent since the early 1980s.

Atlantic sturgeon, which is the source of one of the most expensive forms of caviar and were once common in rivers around Europe including the UK, is now only found in the Garonne river in France, where it has an estimated wild population of between 20 and 750.

The results show that in Africa around 28 per cent of freshwater fish are threatened while in Europe 38 per cent are threatened.

Among the most threatened with extinction are giant freshwater species such as the Mekong giant catfish, which can grow up to 10 feet long, may have as few as has just 250 individuals left in the wild.

The Mekong freshwater stingray, which grow up to 15 feet long and can weigh up to 1,300lbs, has suffered declines of up to 50 per cent in Thailand and Cambodia.

The giant Mekong salmon carp has also seen numbers plummet by more than 90 per cent due to overfishing and damage to its habitat.

Scientists fear that dam construction in China, Laos, and Thailand will further threaten these species by cutting off fish populations and preventing the species from reaching their spawning grounds.

Professor David Dudgeon, chair of ecology and biodiversity at the University of Hong Kong, said: "There are eight Chinese dams in the upper reaches of the Mekong river while there are another 11 dams planned downstream.

"They will prevent many threatened species from reaching their spawning sites upstream. The impact on the people there will be huge too as they will reduce flow by 70 per cent."

Other species such as the knifetooth sawfish, found in inshore estuaries of the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Indonesia have seen numbers plummet due to over fishing.

The red tailed shark from lowland streams in Thailand and the Nilgiri shark in India are also critically endangered.

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jul 11

Yesterday, I was smitten by dinosaurs!
from wild shores of singapore and The long road to the new natural history museum

Little Terns hovering before plunge-diving
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Lornie Trail On 16 July
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Saving the wrong rhino in Indonesia?
from news

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Work begins on Eco-Link@BKE

Channel NewsAsia 30 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE: Work has started on Southeast Asia's first ecological corridor, Eco-Link@BKE, that links two nature reserves across the Bukit Timah expressway (BKE).

The National Parks Board (NParks) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) broke ground on Saturday to mark the start of construction.

Eco-Link is part of Singapore's efforts to conserve biodiversity in its urban landscape.

The hourglass-shaped Eco-Link will be built across the BKE to connect Singapore's largest primary and secondary forests, as well as the Bukit Timah and central catchment nature reserves.

NParks and LTA said it's important to preserve the habitats in the nature reserves because they're home to three quarters of Singapore's native plant species and more than 1,000 animal species.

Linking two high points on opposite slopes of the nature reserves and measuring 50 metres at its narrowest point, Eco-Link will be a forest habitat in itself.

When ready in 2013, populations of native animals such as flying squirrels, monitor lizards, palm civets, pangolins, porcupines, birds, insects and snakes, will be able to travel between the nature reserves to find other food sources, homes and mates.

This will also help plant species to propagate through pollination and dispersal by the animals.

Eco-Link will also benefit visitors.

For the first few years, it'll be restricted to the public while ecological monitoring is conducted to assess its effectiveness as a wildlife corridor.

When ready, NParks will consider public access in the form of guided walks on the bridge and the areas around it.

There are also plans to have educational and outreach activities to raise the awareness and appreciation on biodiversity conservation.

Already, students are helping to carry out various reforestation planting works, plant and animal surveys as well as project work to study aspects of the ecology of the forest.

Since the start of the project, nature groups, non-governmental organisations, tertiary institutions, volunteers and government agencies have been working closely with NParks and LTA to conduct feasibility studies and ecological monitoring surveys.

This close partnership will continue even after the construction of Eco-Link is completed.

The project costs S$17 million, covering construction, survey, research and planting works.

- CNA/ck

Work begins on SEA's first ecological corridor at BKE
Wayne Chan Today Online 31 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE - Work has begun on South-east Asia's first ecological corridor, Eco-Link@BKE, to connect Singapore's two biggest nature reserves across the expressway.

The hourglass-shaped S$17-million Eco-Link@BKE is part of Singapore's efforts to conserve biodiversity in its urban landscape, and will be built across the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) to connect Singapore's largest primary and secondary forests, as well as the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment nature reserves.

The animals in the two reserves, which have been separated for more than 20 years since the BKE was constructed, will be able to travel across a bridge to "find each other" when the link - which will be a forest habitat - is completed in 2013.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower, Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin, said there is potential for more of such links to connect the rest of Singapore's parks and nature reserves.

Said BG (NS) Tan: " This is something we will track to see in terms of wildlife, fauna, flora, insects and so on.

"We are looking at other potential projects as well but they can take many different forms - sometimes even a narrow strip, like for small birds. They don't need huge strips, they just need plants along the way and they can flit from tree to tree."

Access to the public will be restricted for the first few years, while ecological monitoring will be continued to assess its effectiveness as a wildlife corridor.

When ready, the National Parks Board will consider allowing public access in the form of guided walks on the link.

Work begins on link for two nature reserves
Sia Ling Xin Straits Times 31 Jul 11;

The idea of building a link to reinstate the connectivity between the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves, conceived six years ago, became reality yesterday as construction on the link started.

It was members involved in the Singapore Green Plan 2012 - a 10-year blueprint towards environmental sustainability - who came up with the idea.

The $17 million project, set to be completed by December 2013, is the first ecological corridor that connects two nature reserves over an expressway in South-east Asia.

When the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) was completed 25 years ago, movement of wildlife in the area was cut short. Animals often turned into roadkill while trying to venture out in search of food and mates.

Since then, conservationists have bemoaned the potential loss of bio-diversity, as species like the rare banded leaf monkey were cut off from their counterparts on the other side of the BKE.

The eco-link will enable animals, birds and insects to move around freely in the area.

All these, in the longer term, will help 'restore the ecological balance in these fragmented habitats and provide a conducive environment for our bio-diversity to thrive,' said Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development, who attended the project's ground-breaking ceremony yesterday.

He operated an excavator and dug into the earth as a symbolic gesture of the beginning of construction.

The minister added that while it was still early days, the Government was exploring the idea of creating more linkages, such as connecting the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to the Bukit Batok Nature Park.

While public access to the link will be restricted in the initial years as experts need to monitor and assess its ecological benefits, there are plans to allow the public to view the link through guided walks in future.

Construction begins on Ecological Corridor
Business Times 2 Aug 11;

THE National Parks Board (NParks) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) held a groundbreaking ceremony late last week for Eco-Link@BKE, South-east Asia's first ecological corridor that will connect two nature reserves over the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE).

The Eco-Link is part of Singapore's efforts to conserve biodiversity in its urban landscape, and will connect Singapore's largest primary and secondary forests: the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment nature reserves.

The Eco-Link will join the two high points on opposite slopes of the nature reserves and will measure 50 metres at its narrowest point.

'These two nature reserves have been separated by the BKE for more than 20 years . . . When completed, the Eco-Link will enable animals, birds and insects to move freely along the connecting bridge, allowing for the effective exchange of native plant and animal genetic materials between the two nature reserves,' said Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower.

Eco-Link will not only benefit wildlife; visitors will also be able to enjoy guided walks later. The option is currently being considered by NParks. However, for the first few years, access will be restricted to the public while ecological monitoring is conducted to assess its effectiveness as a wildlife corridor.

The total cost of the project is $17 million and it includes construction, survey, research and planting works.

Read more!

Progress in shark conservation, but ...

Letter from Jennifer Lee Today Online 30 Jul 11;

I refer to the commentary "Moral progress measured by animal welfare" (July 18).

On top of the progress cited for land animals, shark conservation has also taken a turn for the better this year, a result of the growing recognition of the importance of apex predators.

In the first quarter, California - one of the largest consumers of fins outside Asia - pushed for a ban on shark's fins. The regulation is pending approval.

Earlier this month, Fiji announced intentions to review and amend its fishing management laws to ban the trade of all shark products.

Meanwhile, the Bahamas banned shark fishing and Chile placed a ban on shark finning, the inhumane practice of throwing the lower-value shark carcasses back into the water once they are de-finned, in order to save space on board vessels for more valuable fins.

Taiwan also announced plans for regulations early next year that would require fishermen to land sharks in port with their fins attached. This will aid in species classification, counteract the issue of wastage and may reduce the amount of fins harvested, as more fishing trips would be needed.

However, there are more underlying issues than meet the eye. Firstly, the Taiwan regulation does not protect endangered sharks.

Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies a third of the world's sharks as "threatened", the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora sets trade restrictions for only three species.

The issue of sustainability is left unaddressed because a quota is not set to limit the number of catches in Taiwan to sustainable levels, to allow time for populations to recover. There are also no measures to stop fishermen from docking at other ports to unload their stocks.

The effectiveness of this new regulation remains in question if complementary measures, such as setting catch quotas and trade restrictions for threatened species are not in place.

Ultimately, as long as demand exists, fishermen will fish accordingly, and the most important role falls back on consumers, who control the power with their dollars.

Moral progress measured by animal welfare
Today Online 18 Jul 11;

Mahatma Gandhi acutely observed that "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated". To seek to reduce the suffering of those who are completely under one's domination, and unable to fight back, is truly a mark of a civilised society.

Charting the progress of animal-welfare legislation around the world is therefore an indication of moral progress.

Last month, parallel developments on opposite sides of the world gave us grounds for thinking that the world may, slowly and haltingly, be becoming a little more civilised.

First, the British House of Commons passed a motion directing the government to impose a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

The motion followed the release of undercover footage, obtained by Animal Defenders International, an animal advocacy group, of a circus worker repeatedly beating Anne, an elephant. The measure was, at least initially, opposed by the Conservative government but supported by members of all political parties. In a triumph for parliamentary democracy, the motion passed without dissent.

More controversially, the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament passed a law giving the Jewish and Islamic communities one year to provide evidence that animals slaughtered by traditional methods do not experience greater pain than those that are stunned before they are killed. If the evidence cannot be provided, stunning before slaughter will be required in the Netherlands.

At times, it has seemed that gains for animals in Western countries have been outweighed by increasing animal abuse in China, as growing prosperity there boosts demand for animal products. I found it difficult to watch the videotape of the beating of Anne, but that recording did not compare to videos I have seen of animal cruelty in China.

Sickening footage available online shows bears kept in cages so small that they cannot stand up, or in some cases move at all, so that bile can be taken from them. Worse still (if one can compare such atrocities) is a video showing fur-bearing animals being skinned alive and thrown onto a pile of other animals, where they are left to die slowly.

In light - perhaps one should say darkness - of such images, it is sometimes suggested that animal welfare is exclusively a Western concern. But that is implausible, given that Buddhist tradition places more emphasis on concern for animals than Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

Long before Western philosophers included animals in their ethics, Chinese philosophers like Zhuangzi said that love should permeate relations not only between humans, but between all sentient beings.

Nowadays, China has its own animal-rights campaigners and there are signs that their message is beginning to be heard.

One recent sign again concerns circuses. Chinese zoos have drawn crowds by staging animal spectacles and by allowing members of the public to buy live chickens, goats and horses in order to watch them being pulled apart by lions, tigers and other big cats. Now the Chinese government has forbidden state-owned zoos from taking part in such cruelty.


Welcome as these initiatives are, the number of animals in circuses and zoos is tiny compared to the tens of billions of animals suffering in factory farms. In this area, Western countries have set a deplorable example.

Recently, however, the European Union has recognised that the intensive confinement of farm animals has gone too far. It has already outlawed keeping veal calves in individual stalls and in six months, it will be illegal in all 27 EU countries, from Portugal to Poland and from Britain to Greece, to keep laying hens in the bare-wire cages that today dominate the egg industry around the world. In January 2013, keeping breeding sows in individual stalls will also be prohibited.

The United States lags behind Europe in getting rid of the worst forms of abuse of farm animals. The problem does not lie with voters, who, in states such as Florida, Arizona and California, have shown that they want farm animals to have better protection than the animal industries typically provide.

The biggest problems are in those states that lack a mechanism for citizens to initiate a referendum on how farm animals should be treated. Unfortunately, this group includes the Midwestern and southern states, where the majority of America's farmed animals are produced.

China's central government can, if it so chooses, ensure that animal-welfare laws apply throughout the country. The animal-welfare movement in China should not be satisfied with its small but conspicuous success regarding animal abuse in zoos. It must move on to the far more significant target of better living conditions and more humane deaths for bears and fur-bearing animals, as well as for cows, pigs, laying hens and chickens.

There remains many other countries with deplorable animal-welfare standards. In Indonesia, for example, Animals Australia, a national animal protection organisation, recorded undercover videos showing such brutal treatment of Australian-raised cattle that Australia's government suspended cattle exports to the country. Now, some Members of Parliament are calling for a permanent ban.

The best hope for further progress, it seems, lies in animal welfare becoming, like human rights, an international issue that affects countries' reputations. PROJECT SYNDICATE

Peter Singer is Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, The Ethics of What We Eat and The Life You Can Save.

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Why rail track has to be closed to public during removal

Straits Times 30 Jul 11;

AS AGREED with Malaysia, Singapore must remove the railway tracks and ancillary structures along the former KTM railway line, and hand them over to Malaysia by Dec 31 ('SLA should let public enjoy railway walk for next few years' by Mr Liew Kai Khiun; last Saturday).

This is a very tight timeline given the extensive work required: The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) must remove 26km of railway tracks in five months. SLA started removal works on July 18.

During the removal, we try to use existing tracks as access routes for heavy vehicles to move in to disassemble and remove the railway tracks and ancillary structures.

Where this is not practical, SLA has identified, in consultation with the National Parks Board, additional access routes that have minimal impact on existing vegetation and undergrowth. After the completion of removal works, the contractors will reinstate and turf the terrain.

For safety reasons, we must restrict public access to areas affected by ongoing works. The rail corridor will be reopened to the public after removal works have been completed and the area ascertained to be safe for public access. More information on the reopening will be provided later.

As for the development plans for the former railway lands, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is carrying out a comprehensive review that will also consider the plans for the surrounding areas.

As part of its review, the URA will study the possibility of marrying development and greenery, such as applying innovative strategies to maintain a continuous green link along the rail corridor without affecting the development potential of the lands.

The URA welcomes feedback and ideas from the community in shaping the future development plans for the railway lands, and we thank Mr Liew for his suggestions. The public can provide their ideas at

Lee Seng Lai
Land Operations (Private) Division
Singapore Land Authority

Tan See Nin
Director (Physical Planning)
Urban Redevelopment Authority

Preservation fever
Straits Times 30 Jul 11;

'Let the authorities do their job.'

MR LEONG SOW PHONG: 'While I can understand the concerns of many who have a sudden surge of interest in preserving the KTM railway track, let us not forget that this thorny issue of having the Malaysian Customs, Immigration and Quarantine facility at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station has finally been resolved after a stalemate of many years. The railway track cuts across Singapore, hindering development plans for better use of our land, and we should let the authorities do their job of moving our country forward. I am proud of our country's progressive culture that balances nostalgia and development. There is no shortage of gardens, parks, reservoirs, offshore islands and so on for nature lovers to explore. I am also confident that the authorities will look into creative ways of conserving the railway station, after gathering so much feedback from the public on retaining a piece of our history.'

SLA should let public enjoy railway walk for next few years
Straits Times 30 Jul 11;

IN THE fortnight after the last Malaysian train departed from Tanjong Pagar station, members of the public walked enthusiastically along the now-defunct rail route.

They included ministers like Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin and Mr Khaw Boon Wan, who, impressed with the potential of conserving the route as a promising 'green spine', have been urging the public to come forward with feedback.

However, as much as many would like to continue to contribute their ideas towards this concept that, according to BG Tan, may take years to evolve, several concerns have been raised about public access to this route from next month as well as the existing historical and natural features along it.

Currently, the old Tanjong Pagar station and its surrounding land are closed to the public by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), disappointing many walkers who thought they could start their journey from the southern tip of the route.

The SLA is also silent on whether any construction and redevelopment work would be undertaken that may potentially threaten the existing natural environment and compromise the heritage around the premises.

While we understand issues of public safety and that of protection against scrap metal thieves and souvenir hunters, the relevant authorities can still make arrangements to keep the entire path of the former rail route open to the public to enjoy while discussions are ongoing.

We also hope that any temporary and makeshift construction and demolition work would be minimised, especially on the thick, natural vegetation along stretches from Holland Road to the Bukit Timah station, as well as the religious shrines and gardens that people in the vicinity have built and planted over the years.

It would be a waste if the entire stretch of the route gets fenced off and boarded up from next month, and Singaporeans return to an altered and damaged landscape the day these barriers are lifted.

Hence, with just perhaps minimal improvement work to facilitate public access and some accommodation for safety considerations, we believe that the former railway line can be an instant and temporary park connector for Singaporeans for the next few years while plans for its use are being finalised.

Liew Kai Khiun
Project Co-ordinator
Green Coordinator Project
for Singapore Heritage Society and Nature Society of Singapore

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Vietnam to have first international day for tigers

VietNamNet Bridge 30 Jul 11;

The first international day for tigers will be held in Hanoi on July 31, to raise the awareness of protection of this endangered species.

A workshop, games and exhibition with the topic “combating wildlife trading”, including tiger trading, will be held, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

In Asia, tigers are being hunted and traded illegally to meet man’s requirements. In Vietnam, tigers are mainly used to make products that are considered as medicines like tiger bone glue and tiger bone alcohol. Their skin and meat are used to make souvenirs or cuddly tigers.

According to statistics by the Education of Nature Vietnam (ENV) in 2010, there are less than 30 tigers in nature in entire Vietnam.

Nick Cox, an expert of the WWF Greater Mekong Sub-region, said that Vietnam is a hot spot in tiger trading from Southeast Asia to China and also for local demands.

As carnivorous animals, tigers help ensure the numbers of bait animal species in control to maintain the balance and stability of the ecological system, Cox explained the significance of protecting tigers.

Pauline Verheij, manager of the anti-tiger trading program of the TRAFFIC organization, confirmed that there are little evidences about the effect of tiger bones in curing diseases and in all cases, there are replacements that are much cheaper and legal than tiger bones.

According to Verheij, breeding tigers at farms are much costly than hunting them in the nature (around 250 times higher), tigers have become the targets of hunters.

The international day for tiger in Vietnam is jointly held by the WWF, the Biodiversity Preservation Agency and TRAFFIC.

In the brink of distinction of tigers in the nature, Russia held the Summit of countries that have tigers, with the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders of 13 tiger-having countries committed to take action to preserve this species. The goal of these countries is the number of tigers in the nature to double from 3,200 to 6,400 by 2022.

Attending countries in the Tiger Summit included: Russia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam.


Vietnam makes great efforts in tiger conservation
VOVNews 29 Jul 11;

(VOV) - A children’s painting awards ceremony and an exhibition on combating the trafficking of wild animals were held in Hanoi on July 29 in response to International Tiger Day.

The celebration is held annually by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Vietnam, Biodiversity Conservation Agency, and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, TRAFFIC.

Over the years, Vietnam has exerted significant efforts in tiger conservation by banning tiger hunting and putting the animal on the list of endangered species in need of protection.

However, hunting, illegal trade and illicit transport of this iconic animal are becoming prevalent due to the huge potential for economic profit.

According to the 2010 Report from Education for Nature-Vietnam, the country is on the verge of tiger extinction.

It is estimated that only 3,200 wild tigers survive worldwide, their population having decreased by about 95 percent and their range by 93 percent since 1900. This steep decline is mainly due to heavy poaching and the illegal trade in tiger paraphernalia to supply a thriving black market demand. As well as this, loss of habitat due to deforestation and an increase in the number of animals preying on tigers have also led to their decline.

Vietnam is a significant market for tiger products, as illegal medicines made from tiger bone and tiger wines have become popular, especially among the wealthy, because of their supposed remedial powers.

The demand for tiger parts in Vietnam has led to animals being smuggled in from elsewhere in the region. In March and June of last year, three tigers sourced from Laos were seized in Vietnam, believed to be intended for further domestic distribution. The country is also a transit point for a range of illegal wildlife products, including tiger products, being smuggled to China from other countries.

“Tigers are integral to maintaining healthy, balanced forest landscapes, yet they remain at high risk of becoming extinct in the wild. Vietnam has lost most of its wild tigers, so it's most important contribution at the moment is to play a part in halting the illegal international tiger trade and domestic consumption of tigers. It's as simple as that,” said Nick Cox, Regional Manager of WWF's species programme.

Vietnam’s Global Tiger Day activities will focus on reducing the demand for tiger products and promoting the conservation of wild tigers. Events include exhibitions, a tiger film, children’s activities, performances and a workshop with officials to discuss progress thus far and the next steps in tiger conservation.

“Tigers have long played an important role in our culture and in our ecosystems. Vietnam sees Global Tiger Day as an opportunity to increase public appreciation for this iconic species and to further discuss real solutions for its long term survival,” said Ms Hoang Thi Thanh Nhan, Deputy Director of Biodiversity Conservation Agency under the Vietnam Environment Administration.

Following the event, international experts from the 13 tiger range countries will attend a workshop in Hanoi from August 2-4 to discuss the implementation of the Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP) which aims to double the number of wild tigers by 2022.

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WWF Malaysia: Wrestle the poachers

Isabelle Lai The Star 30 Jul 11;

PETALING JAYA: There is a desperate need to heighten enforcement efforts against rampant poaching at the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex (BTFC) before tigers and other endangered animals are lost forever.

WWF Malaysia and Traffic claimed yesterday that over 400 wild animals had fallen victim to “relentless illegal hunting” since 2008 due to insufficient enforcement by the Government's district-wide Belum-Temengor Joint Enforcement Taskforce.

They claimed its limited resources within enforcement agencies, nearly non-existent joint patrols and a lack of intelligence-led investigations had resulted in the forest complex “littered with snares and foreign poacher camps, while locals hunt at will”.

WWF Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said an increase in enforcement personnel was vital in maintaining constant presence on the ground to prevent poaching.

“We need a set of people who are visibly patrolling and monitoring the area. That is the best deterrent,” he said at the launch of their newly-released documentary On Borrowed Time.

Traffic South-East Asia regional director Dr William Schaedla praised the new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, saying it was one of South-East Asia's best.

However, he cautioned that it would be useless unless tangible enforcement efforts were made.

He pointed out that there were 80-odd entry points along the Gerik-Jeli highway, which enabled poachers to easily sneak into BTFC.

“If we can secure these points, we'd have won the lion's share of the battle,” he said.

The 10-minute documentary, launched in conjunction with World Tiger Day, showed footage of poachers setting up their traps and camps.

It also showed a male tiger that died shortly after being rescued from a trap.

The 130-million-year-old BTFC is older than the Amazon and Congo Basin, and has one of the highest potential landscapes for tiger survival.

Currently, Malaysia is estimated to have around 500 tigers in the peninsula.

On Borrowed Time can be viewed at WWF Malaysia and Traffic's YouTube pages.

New documentary sheds light on poaching crisis in Belum-Temengor forests
WWF Malaysia 1 Aug 11;

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 29 July 2011 – Malaysia must intensify efforts to stop poaching in the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex or risk losing one of its most important strongholds for wild tigers and other endangered wildlife, warns a newly released WWF Malaysia-TRAFFIC documentary.

‘On Borrowed Time’, launched in conjunction with this year’s World Tiger Day, trains a spotlight on the poaching crisis in Belum-Temengor and calls for the problem to be put on the national agenda.
These forests in northern Perak are of critical importance for the conservation of tigers and other endangered species, yet research and monitoring by WWF-Malaysia and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia since 2008 have documented decimation of the wildlife by relentless illegal hunting, with little standing in poachers’ way.

In the last three years, 142 snares were discovered and de-activated. Over 400 wild animals, such as Sambar deer (rusa), gaur (seladang), pangolins (tenggiling), serow (kambing gurun), elephants and tigers, were poached in the forest complex. Numerous foreign poacher camps were also found inside a protected area.

“We promote places like these as Malaysia’s green gems but when biodiversity is truly under threat, where are her champions? If the silence and inaction continues, it is only a matter of time before the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex is emptied of wildlife. There’ll be little to shout about then,” said Dato’ Dr. Dionysius Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia.

A district-wide multi-agency enforcement taskforce established to combat poaching and encroachment in the area has taken some steps since its establishment in 2010. However, efforts have been piecemeal at best and ground checks show the problem persists.

Limited resources within enforcement agencies, nearly nonexistent joint patrols and a lack of intelligence-led investigations have left this forest complex littered with snares and foreign poacher camps, while locals hunt at will.

“The bottom line is, if enforcement is not taken seriously, we will lose tigers and myriad other species. There is no excuse for any agency not doing the job. Sharing a treasure means sharing the responsibility to protect it,” said Dr. William Schaedla, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s Regional Director.

Dr. Schaedla added, “If Malaysia is to save tigers and other endangered species, the time to act is now. Zero tolerance towards poachers and illegal wildlife traders is essential.”
‘On Borrowed Time’ calls for a revitalisation of the Belum-Temengor Joint Enforcement Taskforce, the pursuit of poachers and encroachers to the full extent of the law and for all agencies working in the area to show equal effort and commitment towards enforcement.

Filmed by award-winning Malaysian documentary makers Novista, On Borrowed Time can be viewed at the respective WWF-Malaysia and TRAFFIC Youtube pages at :

WWF-Malaysia Youtube Channel
Traffic Network

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Indonesia: Two elephants die of suspected poisoning in Bengkulu

Antara 29 Jul 11;

Bengkulu, Sumatra (ANTARA News) - The bones of two wild elephants which had died of suspected poisoning, were found in a plantation a near an elephant training center in Seblat, North Bengkulu District, recently.

They seemed to have eaten fertilizer like what had happened to four elephants which had been found dead previously, Amon Zamora, the head of the Bengkulu Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) said here on Friday.

Eight elephants had been found dead in Bengkulu over the past two years. Amon Zamora suspected that the animals had died after eating fertilizers provided by unknown persons.

He said the increasing number of dead elephants had something to do with efforts to downgrade the status of the elephant training center (PLG) into an other purpose area (APL).

Many parties wanted to take of the PLG Bengkulu area because the area is rich of coal reserves, he explained.

There are now around 150 elephants inside the 6,800-ha PLG area.

"We are trying to arrest those poisoning the wild elephants by involving various parties including the community and the military," he said.

Supartono, also of the BKSDA said his office has suspected those behind the poisoning of the elephants, but it will need further investigation because the chain also involved local community.

BKSDA would tighten security around the PLG area, he said.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Bengkulu authorities urged to probe elephant deaths
Antara 6 Aug 11;

Bengkulu, Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Environmental NGO ProFauna has urged Bengkulu authorities to probe the deaths of eight Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus) around the Seblat Elephant Conservation Center (PKG), north Bengkulu.

"We urge the law enforcers to investigate the eight elephant deaths because it is strongly believed that they died not because of natural causes but because they were killed deliberately by poisoning and hunting," ProFauna Bengkulu Representative Radius Nursidi said here on Friday.

The deaths of the eight elephants during January-July 2011 demonstrated that the Bengkulu Natural Conservation Agency (BKSDA) had not optimally protected Sumatran elephants, according to ProFauna.

"We suspect that there is a systematic effort by certain parties to wipe out elephants from the Seblat PKG," he said.

A number of parties had been wanting to convert the forest area into mining and plantation areas.

"By killing the wild elephants around the PKG area, it will be easier for certain parties to use the forest area," he said.

None of the elephant deaths that were reported to the authorities has been dealt with successfully so far and so there was no deterrent factor, he said.

He hoped the local authorities would soon conduct a thorouhg investigation into the elephant deaths.

According to ProFauna data, there have been 17 elephant deaths since 2004 in areas around the Seblat PKG.

In addition to elephants, the Seblat PKG also shelters Sumatran tigers (Phantera tigris Sumatrae) and Siamang gibbon (Symphalangus syndactylus).

ProFauna suggests that the status of the area be upgraded to a wildlife sanctuary in order to protect and preserve the animals in the forest area.

Conflicts between Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) and humans have increased over the past few years claiming lives among both humans and elephants but mostly among the giant animals.


Editor: Suryanto

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jul 11

Blog Log July 24, 2011
from Pulau Hantu

Our sandy shores are alive!
from wild shores of singapore

Slaty-breasted Rails
from Life's Indulgences

Two talks about our shores!
from wild shores of singapore

Madras thorn (Pithecellobium dulce), a little known bird tree
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A long love affair with dinosaurs – let’s get some of our own!
from Otterman speaks

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Singapore, Malaysia conduct chemical spill exercise at Tuas

Wayne Chan Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) and Johor's Department of Environment (DOE) conducted an emergency exercise at the Tuas Second Link on Thursday morning.

The exercise simulates the spillage of hazardous chemicals on both land and sea at the crossing. It was held on the Malaysian side for the first time, 500 metres away from the Singapore Tuas Checkpoint, and included some new elements.

Each year, about 110,000 tonnes of hazardous chemicals are transported between Malaysia and Singapore.

While there have been no accidents involving the transportation of hazardous chemicals at the crossing, NEA said the exercise ensures that the relevant emergency response agencies are able to react quickly to minimise the consequences of such accidents.

NEA chief executive officer Andrew Tan said, "The bilateral exercise underscores the strong cooperation between both countries in ensuring that agencies are ready to respond to any chemical spill accident on the Second Link in a coordinated and effective manner."

The 27 agencies (20 from Malaysia and 7 from Singapore) and 540 personnel (340 from Malaysia and 200 from Singapore), led by the NEA and DOE finished the task of clearing the simulated chemical spill half-an-hour ahead of time on Thursday morning.

Mr Tan said: "What you have seen this year is a more complex exercise involving more casualties, involving three different types of chemicals. And also involving the difficult task of trying to evacuate the casualties as well as contain the chemical spill which is combustible."

Director-General of the Department of Environment of Malaysia, Dato Hajah Rosnani Binti Ibarahim, said: "I see an improvement in terms of coordination from both sides. Singapore's SCDF and Malaysia's BOMBA are working very closely. The environment agencies are working very closely.

"But what is important is that we have to continue to work closely in terms of communication. Communication is very important in all incidences because that will dictate how fast we can react."

This is the eighth exercise conducted to test the operational effectiveness of the Emergency Response Plan (ERP) jointly developed by NEA and DOE as part of the bilateral cooperation programme under the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment.

- CNA/cc/ac

500 tackle 'chemical accident'
The New Straits Times 29 Jul 11;

JOHOR BARU: It was only a simulation exercise of a "chemical accident" at the Second Link here, but the slow moving traffic at times got some motorists worried that it was for real.

The joint emergency response exercise by Singapore and Malaysian government agencies began about 10am with the "accident" occurring at a spot some 500m from the island republic's Tuas checkpoint.

It resulted in that part of the road leading to the checkpoint being closed and traffic diverted to one of the two lanes on the opposite side of the road heading to Malaysia.

The exercise, called the 8th Malaysia-Singapore joint exercise on emergency response plan for chemical spills on the Second Link, ended at 11.15am with 500 personnel from both countries participating.

Department of Environment director-general Datuk Rosnani Ibarahim said that although no major accidents had ever occurred at the Second Link, there was still a need to prepare.

Singapore's National Environment Agency chief executive officer Andrew Tan said there were always lessons to be learnt from such exercises as it allowed those involved to see how each agency responded to emergencies.

Yesterday's exercise saw a tanker carrying 20 tonnes of phenol bound for Singapore being involved in an "accident" with a motorcyclist and pillion rider.

It then "slammed" into a car and a lorry transporting sulphuric acid and nitric acid.

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UN Needs To Establish World Environment Organisation

Soraya Jamal Bernama 29 Jul 11;

KUALA LUMPUR, July 29 (Bernama) -- There is a need to establish a World Environment Organisation (WEO) under the United Nations as the current governance arrangements for the sector have failed to meet the expectations.

Developed over the course of 40 years, since the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1972, the challenges have outgrown the system, Science Adviser to the Prime Minister, Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid said.

The current international environmental governance framework no longer serves the interests of governments. It has not reversed or even contained the environmental degradation over the last few decades.

"Right now environmental issues are governed internationally by a hodgepodge of institutions spread across the UN. In fact there are more than 40 different UN agencies with environmental programmes," Dr Zakri noted.

Only a major overhaul of the governance system will heed the reforms needed to address the challenges of environmental sustainability.


Over the years, the international community has adopted hundreds of multilateral environmental agreements, all with their own secretariats and administrations.

Speaking at a two-day workshop recently, Dr Zakri said last year there were more meetings than the calendar days in the year.

He added that the last five years of meetings under a fraction of these agreements, have produced over 5,000 decisions that the countries are supposed to act upon through national efforts.

The workshop, convened by Asean, UNEP, Office of the Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malaysia and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), is part of the preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20) next year.

"The system has become insanely complicated and virtually impossible for the developing countries to participate meaningfully," he said.

The only countries that cope with the system are the richest countries of the world, while the poor developing nations are becoming disenfranchised, he added.

"This scenario calls for a change. Developing countries need to think clearly about their needs for the environment and get over this stigma that the 'environmental agenda' is only for the rich," Dr Zakri explained.


History has shown that most of the global organisations that we have today were actually designed and negotiated by the developed world, while the developing countries have stood on the sidelines and watched it taking place.

But the environment issue goes to the heart of development, livelihoods and the well being of all of us.

Moreover there is a growing economy based on market niches in green technology, and green goods and services - market opportunity that Malaysia and many other Asian countries are quickly realising.

"We need a WEO that will help develop new ideas, share experiences and assist the countries in making a transition to a green economy. We have to help the poorest nations become partners in a green economy and not create a parallel development track, one for the haves and one for the have-nots," Dr Zakri said.

He added that a WEO must be the anchor that can rationalise current environmental governance and ensure that developing countries are equally represented and able to participate in the system within their own financial means.


The current approach has to change, especially when it comes to redesigning a new environmental governance system.

It must have a development focus and be better aimed at responding to developing countries' needs, Dr Zakri said.

This means, a WEO must have certain and distinctive priorities.

"It must be a democratic body with universal membership where each country has one vote, not weighed voting as in the case of many financial assistance agencies, where donor countries have more votes compared to recipient countries," he explained.

Developing countries need implementation support, especially technical assistance, capacity building and technology support.

A WEO, therefore, must have an implementation arm to respond to developing countries' needs.

Right now implementation support falls through the cracks in the UN system as no one agency is responsible for this within the environmental sector, meaning that in the end it is the developing countries that are losing out.

This is especially the case for multilateral environmental agreements where there are many promises of support, but only a few mechanisms and no clear institution to help countries implement their commitments.


However, the proposed creation of the WEO to anchor the global efforts for the environment may be a sensitive issue for several countries, Dr Zakri said.

"Almost instinctively, the words 'world' and 'organisation', when heard together by developing country diplomats, makes them react against it, saying that it would be another World Trade Organisation (WTO) and that is the last thing we need," he noted.

The reality is that there is a serious need for WEO and the proposals for it look nothing like a WTO.

Most of the UN specialised agencies are actually not at all like the WTO.

Organisations such as the WHO, FAO or Unesco provide consultative and facilitative functions and assist the countries to meet the global commitments derived from mutual agreements.

They are not at all regulatory like the WTO, which sets standards and reduces barriers to trade.

AseanN and developing countries need to engage in the debate and form a proposal that takes their needs as developing nations to Rio+20.

"Otherwise, we may end up with yet another global organisation that is established without our needs in mind, or worse, after marginalising the developing countries," Dr Zakri concluded.


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Malaysia: No sale of Terengganu sea turtle eggs, says board

The Star 29 Jul 11;

MARANG: The Terengganu Turtle Sanctuary Advisory Board has denied that turtle eggs being sold in markets in the state, were collected locally.

Board chairman Datuk Mazlan Ngah said the eggs were from Sabah, Sarawak and the Philippines.

“I don’t see any Terengganu turtle eggs being sold openly in the markets, but if they are being sold secretly then I would not know,” he told Bernama on Tuesday.

Mazlan who is also state secretary said licensed collectors in the state were only allowed to sell the eggs to the Fisheries Department for its hatcheries.

He said the board was finding it difficult to prevent the sale of turtle eggs in the local markets as they had actually come from elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the sale of leatherback turtle eggs were totally banned in the state, he stressed.

Mazlan said the state government was proposing to gazette more turtle landing areas as sanctuaries in a bid to increase their population.

He added that Ma’ Daerah Kerteh in Kemaman was in the process of being gazetted as a turtle sanctuary — Bernama.

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Leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean

Researchers map long-range migrations and habitats of leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service EurekAlert 27 Jul 11;

Endangered leatherback sea turtles migrate and forage across vast areas of the Pacific Ocean and Indo Pacific seas and require greater international collaboration for their protection, according to a recent study conducted by NOAA Fisheries Service and western Pacific research and conservation scientists.

The study, published today in the journal Ecosphere, is based on data from 126 leatherbacks tracked by satellite and supports continuing research to improve conservation efforts for this endangered species by better understanding how oceanographic features influence their migration and foraging behavior.

Leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) are the largest of all marine turtles, weighing up to 2000 pounds (900 kg) and measuring almost six feet (2 m) in length. The demise of several leatherback populations around the Pacific has been caused by extensive harvesting of eggs and breeding females on the nesting beaches by indigenous populations, as well as accidental capture in fishing operations. Some of the last remaining Pacific nesting populations are found in the western Pacific in Indonesia, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Female leatherbacks lay their eggs on tropical nesting beaches before migrating to foraging areas around the world to feed on jellyfish. Leatherbacks are seasonal visitors to the west coast, including the central California coast, traveling across the Pacific and arriving in late summer and fall to forage on large aggregations of brown sea nettles (Chrysaora fuscescens).

Lead author Scott Benson and senior author Peter Dutton, both with NOAA Fisheries Service, began tracking leatherbacks from their California foraging grounds in 2000 and, after documenting that the California turtles came from nesting beaches in the western Pacific, expanded the study there.

The combined results have fundamentally changed the scope of conservation efforts for Pacific leatherbacks by demonstrating the need for many nations and communities around the Pacific Ocean to conserve the species. "Tracking the turtles on their extraordinary migrations over the years has allowed us to finally piece together the complex linkages between their breeding areas and feeding areas," said Dutton. "The leatherbacks have acted as international ambassadors, leading us to join with partners on both sides of the Pacific in a concerted effort to conserve leatherbacks."

Protecting and rebuilding leatherback sea turtles has been a priority for NOAA since it listed them as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2000. NOAA Fisheries Service restricts commercial fishing in large areas north of Hawaii and off the United States west coast because of concern over accidental bycatch of leatherbacks, and has been working to revise which areas are designated as critical habitat for the turtles.

"Our telemetry data will help us develop better analytical models to help fisheries managers predict when and where leatherbacks might be found in areas targeted for fishing," said Tomoharu Eguchi with NOAA Fisheries, a co-author of the paper.

The western Pacific nesters foraged not only in distant temperate ecosystems of the North Pacific, but also in temperate and tropical Large Marine Ecosystems (LME's) of the southern hemisphere and Indo-Pacific seas.

"We discovered a much greater diversity of foraging behavior than previously thought for Pacific leatherbacks," Benson said. "The foraging areas we identified exhibited a wide range of oceanographic features, including mesoscale eddies, coastal retention areas, current boundaries, or stationary fronts, all of which are known mechanisms for aggregating leatherback prey."

The paper also identifies foraging areas in the East Australia Current Extension and the Tasman Front, drawing attention to the potential threat from the intense fishing by international fleets in these waters.

"The turtles nesting at Papua Barat (Indonesia), Papua New Guinea, and other islands in our region depend on food resources in waters managed by many other nations for their survival," said Ricardo Tapilatu from the State University of Papua (UNIPA). "It is important to protect leatherbacks in these foraging areas so that our nesting beach conservation efforts can be effective."

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Sarawak Plan To Gazette Kuala Lawas As National Park

Bernama 28 Jul 11;

LAWAS, July 28 (Bernama) -- Sarawak plans to gazette a new area made up mainly of water bodies in Kuala Lawas near here as another national park in a move to protect and conserve marine life, State Second Minister of Resource Planning and Management, Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said.

He said the proposed national park that features fringe mangrove along the coastline has become a favourite feeding ground for dugongs and green turtles and would play an important role in marine eco-system.

Speaking at the South East Asia Regional Workshop on Dugong here Wednesday night, he said the plan was among the State's commitment to protect and conserve the invaluable heritage and wealth of wildlife.

He said to date, a total of 206,344 hectares of water bodies had been gazetted as totally protected areas to conserve endangered marine species such as sea turtles, marine mammals, sea horses, coral and marine eco-system.

"It is in our greatest interest to constantly improve our current approaches and innovatively transform our assets into legacies that will continue to provide beauty and wonder for generations to come," he added.

Awang Tengah also welcomed the move to organise the workshop here as it had the biggest sea grass beds in Malaysia which stretches along 30 kilometres of beaches.

He said aerial sighting surveys for large marine life that was conducted in 2001, 2007 and 2008 had confirmed the existence of viable dugong population in the area.


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Indonesia: Haze in Central Kalimantan

Haze disturbs air traffic at Sampit's airport
Antara 28 Jul 11;

Sampit, Central Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - Haze from forest and plantation fires has forced the authorities of Haji Asan airport here, East Kotawaringin District, to delay a flight on Thursday morning.

"The flight schedule at Haji Asan Airport in Sampit currently begin to be disturbed by haze especially in the morning," Head of the airport`s Security and Safety Section Harianto said here on Thursday.

The visibility of in the airport`s runaway in the morning at 100-150 meters, while the ideal visibility for aviation is 500-1,000 meters minimally.

The arrival of Merpati Nusantara Airlines (PT MNA) with flight no. MA 60 was delayed from 7.30 am WIB to 8 am WIB, pending for the haze to go away.

Two weeks ago, several flights were also delayed due to the haze covering the airport in Sampit.

"Due to the haze, plane arrivals and departures are often late," Head of Haji Asan Airport Maruli Tua Edison Saragih said here on July 8.

The runway was often covered by haze especially in the morning, he said.

Some flights were forced to delay their landing pending the haze covering the runway to disperse, he added.

Several flights had to cycle in the air for three times before landing due to the limited visibility.

The airport needed an instrument landing system to help guide pilots wanting to land their planes, he said.

"We have proposed to have the instrument to the central office, but until now it has not been realized. The instrument is badly needed for flight safety," he said.

He hoped that the haze would not get ticker in the future because it could endanger the flights.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Indonesia: 15 million hectares of forests destroyed from 2000 to 2009

The Jakarta Post 27 Jul 11;

Indonesia lost 15 million hectares of forests from 2000 to 2009, a study conducted by Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) says.

"In 2000, Indonesia had 103 million hectares of forest, but only 88 million hectares left in 2009. Therefore, the speed of deforestation during those years was 1.5 million hectares per year," said FWI executive director Wirendro Sumargo on Wednesday.

"That is the fastest tropical deforestation in the world," he added.

He explained that among the 15 million hectares of forest destroyed, 5.5 million hectares were in Kalimantan. "The worst condition was in Central Kalimantan, which lost 2 million hectares," he said.

The study was conducted by analyzing Forestry Ministry data on the condition of Indonesia’s forests in 2000 and then comparing it to data from satellite photos (landsat) in 2009. "There were 200 scenes of landsat of Indonesian forests we analyzed. Each scene covered around 185 square kilometers," said Wirendro.

According to the study, deforestation was mainly caused by oil palm plantations and pulp companies.

"The root was our corrupt political and economic system. Government policy is often inconsistent and less strict, and it is therefore very easy for many parties (palm oil and pulp companies) to cause deforestation," he said.

According to the Forestry Ministry, from 1997 to 2000, the speed of deforestation in Indonesia was 2.8 million hectares per year because of massive forest fires occurring mostly in 1997-1998.

A previous study conducted by FWI showed that from 1985 to1997, Indonesia lost 21.6 million hectares of forest, with the speed of deforestation at 1.8 million hectares per year. (aaa)

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Vietnam army smuggling timber in Laos: activists

AFP Yahoo News 29 Jul 11;

The Vietnamese army is playing a key role in smuggling wood from the jungles of Laos, a multi-million dollar activity that threatens millions of livelihoods, a new report said Thursday.

Hanoi denied the claim of the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which said its undercover operations revealed one of the biggest loggers in Laos to be a company owned by Vietnam's military.

Although Laos has some of the Mekong region's last intact tropical forests, its export ban on raw timber is "routinely flouted on a massive scale" to feed "ravenous" industries in Vietnam, China and Thailand, the EIA said.

"What is happening here is almost displaced deforestation. Vietnam is almost annexing swathes of Laos to feed its industry," Julian Newman, campaigns director of the EIA, said at the report's launch in Bangkok.

The group's undercover work focused on the army-owned Vietnamese Company of Economic Cooperation (COECCO), which it said sources most of its logs from Lao dam clearance sites.

"Widespread" corruption among the Lao government's forestry officials has enabled the timber smuggling, with 500,000 cubic metres, worth at least 150 million dollars, crossing the Laos-Vietnam border each year, the EIA said.

A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry in Hanoi later denied the claims when questioned at a press conference.

"There is no smuggling of timber or logging from Laos by the Vietnamese army," said Nguyen Phuong Nga.

"All illegal logging and smuggling of timber will be strictly dealt with according to Vietnamese law."

Newman said it was ironic that Vietnam "recognises the need to protect its own forests while it is taking indiscriminately from next door".

The forests of Laos, a key source of food for its population, covered 70 percent of the land-locked country in the 1940s, dropping to 41 percent in 2002. By 2020, the figure could be as low as 30 percent, the EIA said.

"The governments of Vietnam and Laos urgently need to work together to stem the flow of logs and curb the over-exploitation of Laos? precious forests before it?s too late," said Faith Doherty, head of EIA's forest campaign.

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India’s tigers gain numbers but not ground

WWF 28 Jul 11;

New Delhi - Results of the recent tiger population estimation exercise released today show that the numbers of the highly endangered big cat in India have increased in the country.

The estimated population of 1,706 individual tigers represents a 20 percent increase from the last survey in 2006, which estimated a number of 1,411. The increase is based on the survey of additional areas as well as an increase in the number of tigers within high-density populations.

These results are the highlights of the Indian Government’s report - Status of Tigers, co predators and prey in India, 2010, which was released by Sri Jagdish Kishwan, Additional Director General (Wildlife), Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India at an event organized by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) at WWF-India in New Delhi earlier today.

This countrywide assessment of tigers, co-predators and prey included all 17 tiger states, and involved 477,000 work-days by forest staff and 37,000 work-days by professional biologists, making it the largest exercise of its kind in the world.

“After the 2006 pan India tiger population estimation, the present exercise is even more comprehensive in terms of the area covered and methodologies used,” said Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO of WWF India. “The involvement of conservation partners, including WWF, has led to broad based efforts and built a stronger constituency and capacity for tiger conservation in India.”

Despite the good news, the detailed report warns that tigers are still in danger due to an overall 12.6 percent loss of habitat, meaning more tigers are being squeezed into smaller areas, which could lead to a lack of dispersal and consequent loss of genetic exchange between populations, and an increase in human-tiger conflict.

Dr. Y V Jhala, lead author of the report said, “The loss of corridors does not bode well for the tiger. Poaching can wipe out individual tiger populations, but these can be re-established by reintroductions as has been done in the Sariska and Panna Reserves. However, once habitats are lost, it is almost impossible to claim them back for restoration.”

WWF-India partnered with the NTCA and the Wildlife Institute of India, which led the massive estimation exercise. WWF played a role in the exercise across the landscapes where it works in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, covering both tiger reserves as well as habitats outside tiger reserves and connecting corridors.

The report further states that tigers require good forests and prey, along with undisturbed breeding areas, for long-term term survival. It is hoped that the recommendations in the report will lead to planning decisions that balance India’s long-term development needs with conservation concerns to secure a future for the country’s most iconic species.

“These results are encouraging, and we congratulate all the partners in India for achieving something like this on a scale never attempted before. This huge task undertaken by the partners perfectly represents the scale of action we need to take to turn around the future for the tiger,” said Mike Baltzer, Leader of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative “Unfortunately, while the results indicate an increase, they also provide evidence of even more pressure on the tiger and its habitat, we must keep up the momentum and redouble our efforts to ensure the tiger has a future in India and throughout its range in Asia and the Russian Far East.”

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Uganda frees smuggled parrots back into the wild

AFP Yahoo News 27 Jul 11;

Ugandan wildlife officials on Thursday released hundreds of rare African parrots back into the wild six months after they were rescued from animal smugglers.

Authorities reintroduced the 200 grey parrots to their natural habitat in the Kibale national park, 350 kilometres (217 miles) west of Kampala, following months of treatment at the country?s largest zoo.

"They have been in captivity for so long now that at first they refused to come out ... eventually though they started moving out and flying off," said Lilian Nsubuga, the Uganda Wildlife Authority spokeswoman.

Eight of the parrots were unable to fly because they were either overweight or had damaged wings and would be returned to the zoo, she said.

Nsubuga said that the parrots, which were secretly transported to the park last week in several specially constructed containers, were each tagged with a ring on their beaks and would be monitored by a team of wildlife experts.

Ugandan police discovered around 130 of the birds in January as they were being illegally transported across he country's porous border with Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dozens of the birds later died after tests carried out by wildlife authorities showed that they had been sedated with alcohol-infused sugarcane ahead of the journey.

A second consignment of over 100 undocumented birds was later discovered at a warehouse close to Uganda?s main airport in Entebbe following a tip-off.

Wildlife officials said that the birds were likely meant to be smuggled to Europe, America or East Asia, where they can fetch up to $2,000 (1,400 euros) each on the black market.

Trade in African grey parrots is restricted under an international treaty regulating the cross-border trade in endangered species.

Uganda is famed for its rich birdlife with over 1,000 species documented in the country, but officials say that animal smuggling is becoming increasingly big business.

No one has yet been arrested in connection with the seized parrots, wildlife authorities said.

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Thailand: Bangkok sea reclamation project won't work, says academic

Pongphon Sarnsamak The Nation 29 Jul 11;

The Pheu Thai party's megaproject to reclaim 300 square kilometres of new land in the Gulf of Thailand could have a severe environmental impact and fail to protect Bangkok from flooding, an environmental academic said yesterday.

The project would need at least 4 billion cubic metres of sand to reclaim 300,000 rai of land in the Gulf of Thailand. This would totally destroy marine biological resources in the sea, which provide food for local people, said Seri Supparathit, a director of Sirindhorn International Environmental Park's Energy for Environment Centre.

The Pheu Thai Party announced the policy during the general election campaign. It would reclaim land for three provinces, Samut Prakan, Samut Songkhram and Samut Sakhon. It is aimed at protecting Bangkok from severe flooding caused by rising sea levels.

The land would be sold to foreigners who wanted to build homes and accommodation on new land, like in Dubai. The land would be valued at Bt 20 million per rai.

But Seri said the land reclamation in the Gulf of Thailand could block five key canals in Bangkok's Bang Khun Thian district, which drain water from the mainland.

"This project would create severe floods, instead of preventing Bangkok from sinking into the water," he said.

Floods in Bangkok are caused by massive amounts of floodwater flowing down from the North. The government could fix this problem through construction regulations, Seri said.

Seri added that the megaproject could also cause severe coastal erosion to nearby areas such as Samut Prakan and Chonburi province by changing sea currents.

"The Pheu Thai party needs to conduct an indepth study to see the impact on the environment and local people before moving forward with this project," he said.

Meanwhile, Prasut Changchareon, the president of Bang Khun Thian coastal community, said he welcomed the project if it did not cause severe impact on the mangrove forest in Bang Khun Thian district, which is now being eroded by sea water.

More than 4.7 square kilometres of coastal areas in Bang Khun Thian district are being eroded by the sea.

"We are now fighting against severe coastal erosion to get our land back," he said.

Local villagers have installed thousand of bamboo sticks and sandbags in the mangrove forest area to protect against the sea and mud.

However, local villagers are confused by the Pheu Thai Party's policies and have asked the party to come up with a clear policy on new land reclamation, said Prasut.

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