Best of our wild blogs: 31 Aug 11

10th Sep - Free Chek Jawa Boardwalk trip
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Cyrene: mainly molluscs with shark!
from wild shores of singapore and Psychedelic Nature and Singapore Nature

Other Critters and Plants @ Semakau Island On 20 Aug
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Aug 11

Paint along with Pui San 25 Sep
from Art in Wetlands

Marine Life in Singapore and the Impact of Man - N. Sivasothi 27 Aug 2011 from sgbeachbum and News from International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

What makes a dive special?
from Compressed air junkie

Protists in Singapore - New Website!
from The Biology Refugia

Fishy day at Tanah Merah
from wonderful creation

Meter-long batfish at Pulau Hantu
from Pulau Hantu and Football sized Reef Cuttlefish

Oil-slicked East Coast: morays and more!
from wild shores of singapore

The function of colourful facial bands in mangrove crab (Perisesarma) communication from Raffles Museum News

Big damage in Papua New Guinea: new film documents how industrial logging destroys lives from news

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Malaysia: Sabah wants ban on shark fishing

AFP 29 Aug 11;

KUALA LUMPUR — A Malaysian state on Borneo island, known for its world-class dive sites, is seeking to ban shark fishing to protect the species, which draws thousands of tourists each year, a minister said Monday.

Masidi Manjun, state tourism, culture and environment minister, said Sabah hopes the law can be changed by the end of the year to impose a blanket ban on killing sharks, which are mainly hunted for their fins to make soup.

"We want to make sure that the ban is a blanket ban of all types of sharks in Sabah," he told AFP.

"Tourists come to see the rich variety of marine life that we have in Sabah, and that includes sharks. It makes economic sense for us to protect our sharks," he added. "The moment they are gone, people will go elsewhere."

Masidi said 42,000 divers, two-thirds of them foreigners, visited the state last year, bringing in more than 190 million ringgit ($64 million) in revenue.

He said the state is currently consulting with Malaysia's attorney general to change a federal law to introduce the ban for Sabah.

He added that over the past 25 years, some 80 percent of the state's sharks had disappeared and they could now only be spotted at four sites.

Masidi could not say how much the trade in shark's fin was worth. But a bowl of the soup, which is considered a delicacy in parts of Asia, especially among Chinese diners, can easily cost more than 100 ringgit (around $35), he said.

In 2007, Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Ministry struck shark's fin soup off menus at official functions to help conserve the species.

Traffic, an international network that monitors the trade in wildlife, said early this year that Malaysia was the world's 10th biggest catcher of sharks.

Worldwide up to 73 million sharks are killed every year, primarily for their fins, it said.

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Reconstruction at Alexandra canal to prevent floods

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 29 Aug 11;

SINGAPORE: A 250-metre stretch of Alexandra Canal, between Zion Road and Kim Seng Road, will be reconstructed to improve drainage and prevent floods.

The national water agency PUB said on Monday the stretch will also be transformed into a scenic waterway with recreational spaces.

The canal will be widened and deepened from an original 27m-by-3m trapezoidal drain into a 28m-by-5.7m U-shaped drain.

This is expected to improve drainage capacity and help alleviate flooding at nearby low-lying areas such as the junction of Alexandra Road and Lower Delta Road, and the area between Jervois Road and Prince Charles Crescent.

PUB has awarded the public tender for the Reconstruction of Alexandra Canal project to Eng Lam Contractor Co (Pte) Ltd at S$46.8 million.

The project starts next month and is scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of 2014.

PUB said the transformation of the waterway will bring a softer, more natural landscape to the busy urban setting.

A rain garden will also be incorporated to help treat rainwater runoff from the promenade so cleaner water flows into the canal.

Four cantilever viewing decks will also be constructed together with landscaping to allow visitors to enjoy views.

- CNA/ck

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Why typhoon is not likely to hit Singapore

Storms usually move towards poles and away from the equator
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 30 Aug 11;

A TYPHOON that has hit Taiwan and the Philippines over the past few days is unlikely to strike Singapore, experts told The Straits Times.

This is because typhoons - also called cyclones or hurricanes in different parts of the world - usually move towards the poles and away from the equator.

They also usually form more than 10 degrees north and south of the equator, said Dr Adam Switzer, a National Research Foundation fellow and principal investigator at Nanyang Technological University's Earth Observatory of Singapore.

More than 61,000 people were evacuated from their homes in the Philippines over the weekend, after Typhoon Nanmadol, the strongest storm to hit the country this year, lashed the northern edge of the main island of Luzon, causing landslides and floods.

The 16 reported dead so far were buried in landslides, including two children who were killed in an avalanche of rubbish at their city's dumping grounds.

The typhoon then moved on to Taiwan and drenched it in 50cm of rain yesterday, before heading towards China.

No deaths have been reported in Taiwan so far.

A typhoon is essentially a storm spinning at great speed. Very few have occurred within 1.5 degrees - or 170km - of the equator in the phenomenon's recorded history. Singapore is about 137km north of the equator.

Scientists told The Straits Times that typhoons require water hotter than 26 deg C, a condition that can be found near the equator.

But they also require a natural phenomenon called the Coriolis effect, a result of the earth's rotation.

The effect, which produces the typhoon's extreme circular motion, is weakest near the equator. This means typhoons are extremely unlikely to form near the equator, the scientists said.

Typhoon Vamei, which hit eastern Malaysia in 2001, is a rare example in recorded history of a typhoon that formed near the equator. It caused $5.4 million worth of damage and killed five people.

This type of storm was previously thought to be impossible, and scientists at the Naval Postgraduate School in the United States concluded in their post- disaster report that it was caused by a perfect storm of factors, including the rare persistence of both a low pressure area and a cold surge in the region.

They estimated that a typhoon like that one was likely to happen only once every 100 to 400 years.

But scientists warned that although Singapore is not likely to be directly affected by typhoons, there are indirect costs.

These include the closure of international finance institutions such as the Hong Kong stock exchange, potential damage to overseas investments from Singapore companies and the loss of crops from overseas suppliers.

Dr Switzer said: 'In short, big typhoons are locally devastating and regionally important events, which often have global consequences in the future.'

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Preserving 4 Percent of the Ocean Could Protect Most Marine Mammal Species, Study Finds

ScienceDaily 26 Aug 11;

Preserving just 4 percent of the ocean could protect crucial habitat for the vast majority of marine mammal species, from sea otters to blue whales, according to researchers at Stanford University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Their findings were published in the Aug. 16 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of the 129 species of marine mammals on Earth, including seals, dolphins and polar bears, approximately one-quarter are facing extinction, the study said.

"It's important to protect marine mammals if you want to keep the ocean's ecosystems functional," said study co-author Paul Ehrlich, professor of biology and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford. "Many of them are top predators and have impacts all the way through the ecosystem. And they're also beautiful and interesting."

Mapping marine mammals

To pinpoint areas of the ocean where conservation could protect the maximum number of species and the ones most vulnerable to extinction, the researchers overlaid maps of where each marine mammal species is found. Their composite map revealed locations with the highest "species richness" -- the highest number of different species.

"This is the first time that the global distribution of marine mammal richness has been compiled and presented as a map," said co-authors Sandra Pompa and Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. "The most surprising and interesting result was that all of the species can be represented in only 20 critical conservation locations that cover at least 10 percent of the species' geographic range."

The researchers identified the 20 conservation sites based on three main criteria: how many species were present, how severe the risk of extinction was for each species and whether any of the species were unique to the area. The scientists also considered habitats of special importance to marine mammals, such as breeding grounds and migration routes.

Nine key sites

It turned out that preserving just nine of the 20 conservation sites would protect habitat for 84 percent of all marine mammal species on Earth, the scientists found. That's because those nine locations have very high species richness, providing habitat for 108 marine mammal species in all.

These nine sites, which make up only 4 percent of the world's ocean, are located off the coasts of Baja California in Mexico, eastern Canada, Peru, Argentina, northwestern Africa, South Africa, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, the study reported.

The researchers also looked at how pollution, local climate disruption and commercial shipping overlapped with species richness in or near the nine key sites. "At least 70 percent of the richness areas coincide with regions highly impacted by humans," said Pompa and Ceballos. "This is powerful information that obliges us to enhance marine conservation."

Factoring in other impacts, such as overfishing and global climate change, would likely reveal even more negative effects on the nine conservation sites, the authors said.

"The next 2 billion people we're going to add to the planet are going to do much more damage to the ocean than the previous 2 billion did," said Ehrlich, president of the Stanford Center for Conservation Biology. "Humans reach for the low-hanging fruit first, so to speak, but for the ocean that's gone now."

Unique creatures

While nine of the conservation sites harbor numerous marine mammal species, the remaining 11 sites boast species found nowhere else. Preserving these areas is important, because species that live exclusively in one place may be at especially high risk for extinction, the authors said. For example, the critically endangered vaquita, or gulf porpoise, lives only in the upper northern Gulf of California, and only a few hundred individuals remain, the researchers noted.

"We need to conserve what's left of the biota of the planet, both on land and in the sea," said Ehrlich. "We need to know where the biodiversity is before we can take many of the necessary steps to conserve it. This is just a start on the mammals of the sea."

The study was supported by grants from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, EcoCiencia Sociedad Civil, Mexico's National Council for Science and Technology and the Cetacean Society International.

Journal Reference:

S. Pompa, P. R. Ehrlich, G. Ceballos. Global distribution and conservation of marine mammals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; 108 (33): 13600 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1101525108

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U.N. Agency Warns Of Possible Bird Flu Resurgence

Catherine Hornby PlanetArk 29 Aug 11;

The United Nations warned of a possible major resurgence of bird flu and said a mutant strain of the H5N1 virus was spreading in Asia and elsewhere.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Monday urged increased surveillance and preparation for a potential outbreak of the virus, which it says has infected 565 people since it first appeared in 2003, killing 331 of them.

The virus was eliminated from most of the 63 countries infected at its peak in 2006 after mass poultry culling, but since 2008 it has been expanding geographically in both poultry and wild birds, partly due to migration patterns, the FAO said.

"The general departure from the progressive decline observed in 2004-2008 could mean that there will be a flare-up of H5N1 this fall and winter," the FAO's chief veterinary officer, Juan Lubroth, said in a statement.

He said the appearance of a variant strain of the virus in China and Vietnam was a concern, because it appeared to be able to sidestep the defenses of existing vaccines.

The circulation of the virus in Vietnam also poses a direct threat to Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia as well as endangering the Korean peninsula and Japan, FAO said.

The latest human death occurred earlier this month in Cambodia, which has registered eight cases of human infection this year, all of them fatal, the agency added.

Countries that could face the biggest problems are Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Indonesia and Vietnam, where the FAO said the virus is still firmly entrenched.

It said recently affected areas included Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Bulgaria, Romania, Nepal and Mongolia.

"Wild birds may introduce the virus, but people's actions in poultry production and marketing spread it," said Lubroth.

"Preparedness and surveillance remain essential ... no one can let their guard down with H5N1," he added.

(Editing by Barry Moody and Jane Baird)

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Aug 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [22 - 28 Aug 2011]
from Green Business Times

On writing and keeping nature journals
from Diary of a Boy wandering through Our Little Urban Eden

Good Vis Day @ Pulau Hantu
from colourful clouds and the Hantu Blog

Surprises again at Semakau
from Psychedelic Nature and Singapore Nature and wild shores of singapore

from Monday Morgue

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Concert pushes for release of dolphins

my paper AsiaOne 29 Aug 11;

Close to 1,000 people turned up for a concert at the Speakers' Corner at Hong Lim Park yesterday in a show of support for the release of 25 dolphins belonging to Resorts World Sentosa.

The concert was organised by the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society in collaboration with Young NTUC.

The Sentosa integrated resort bought the dolphins between 2008 and 2009 and is currently housing them in Ocean Adventure Park in Subic Bay in the Philippines while awaiting the opening of its Marine Life Park here next year.

Those who attended the event also formed the shape of a giant leaping dolphin for an aerial photograph.

Standing up for dolphins
Straits Times 29 Aug 11;

Some 1,000 animal lovers yesterday gathered at Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park to urge Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) to let its wild-caught dolphins go. The mammals, currently kept in the Philippines, are destined for RWS' Marine Life Park.

The crowd listened to speeches and songs by local acts at the event, organised by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society with Young NTUC.

Activists rally for dolphin release by ReutersVideo on YouTube

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Aug 11

Massive flaring at Jurong Island
from wild shores of singapore

Butterflies @ Semakau Island On 20 Aug
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Life History of the Yellow Streak Darter
from Butterflies of Singapore

Farting birds – food for thought
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Florida's Reefs Cannot Endure a 'Cold Snap'

ScienceDaily 26 Aug 11;

Remember frozen iguanas falling from trees during Florida's 2010 record-breaking cold snap? Well, a new study led by scientists at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science shows that Florida's corals also dropped in numbers due to the cold conditions.

"It was a major setback," said Diego Lirman, associate professor at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study. "Centuries-old coral colonies were lost in a matter of days."

The chilly January temperatures caused the most catastrophic loss of corals within the Florida Reef Tract, which spans 160 miles (260 kilometers) from Miami to the Dry Tortugas and is the only living barrier reef in the continental U.S.

Members of the Florida Reef Resilience Program, a group composed of Florida scientists and resource managers, conducted a month-long survey of 76 reefs sites from Martin County to Key West, both during and shortly after the unusually cold weather.

The research team compared the mortality rates of corals from the cold event to warm-water events, such as the highly publicized bleaching event in 2005, and concluded that the cold-water event cause even more widespread morality than previous warm-water events. The results were published in the August 2011 issue of the journal PLoS One.

The study found coral tissue mortality reached over 40-percent for several important reef-building species and that large colonies in shallow and near-shore reefs were hardest hit. This is in contrast to a less than one-percent tissue mortality caused by warm-water events since 2005. Coral species that had previously proven tolerant to higher-than-normal ocean temperatures were most affected by the cold-water event.

"This was undoubtedly the single worst event on record for Florida corals," said Lirman.

Ice-cold Arctic air swept into Florida in early January 2010, plummeting air temperatures to an all-time low of 30°F (1°C) and dropping ocean temperatures to a chilly 51°F (11°C).

"The 2010 cold-water anomaly not only caused widespread coral mortality but also reversed prior resistance and resilience patterns that will take decades to recover," the study's authors conclude.

Florida's reefs are located in a marginal environment at the northernmost limit for coral development. Corals have adapted to a specific temperature range and are typically not found in areas where water temperatures drop below 60°F (16°C).

Changes in climate patterns as well as others impacts, such as coastal development, pollution, overfishing and disease have put added stress on coral reefs worldwide. The authors cite the need to improve ecosystem resilience through reef restoration, pollution reduction efforts and the use of management tools, such as marine protected areas, in order for coral reefs to survive future large-scale disturbances.

"We can't protect corals from such an extreme event but we can mitigate other stresses to help them recover," said Lirman.

The study was supported by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, The Nature Conservancy, and the ARRA program.

Journal Reference:

Diego Lirman, Stephanie Schopmeyer, Derek Manzello, Lewis J. Gramer, William F. Precht, Frank Muller-Karger, Kenneth Banks, Brian Barnes, Erich Bartels, Amanda Bourque, James Byrne, Scott Donahue, Janice Duquesnel, Louis Fisher, David Gilliam, James Hendee, Meaghan Johnson, Kerry Maxwell, Erin McDevitt, Jamie Monty, Digna Rueda, Rob Ruzicka, Sara Thanner. Severe 2010 Cold-Water Event Caused Unprecedented Mortality to Corals of the Florida Reef Tract and Reversed Previous Survivorship Patterns. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (8): e23047 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023047

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Emerging powers call for extending climate deal

AFP Yahoo News 28 Aug 11;

Brazil, South Africa, India and China said Saturday that November's UN climate talks should aim to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding global deal to cut greenhouse gases.

The four key emerging powers -- seen as critical to the success of any future effort to combat climate change -- said keeping Kyoto alive should be the "central priority" at the key UN summit in South Africa.

The bloc released the statement after two days of talks in southeast Brazil to prepare for the next UN climate conference scheduled to take place in Durban from November 28 to December 9.

The ministers "reaffirmed that the Kyoto Protocol is a cornerstone of the climate change regime," it said.

Xie Zhenhua, a top Chinese climate change official, said he hoped the statement would "send a sign to the international community that we are pursuing efforts to make the Durban conference a success."

The four countries also said they hoped ministers gathered in Durban would work to get the Green Climate Fund -- which aims to channel billions of dollars in aid to poor countries exposed to climate change -- off the ground.

The Durban meeting is seen as the last chance to renew the Kyoto Protocol, whose initial five-year commitment period, covering 37 industrialized countries, expires at the end of 2012.

Its future is uncertain because China and the United States, the world's top two polluters, are not subject to its constraints.

Japan, Canada and Russia have all rejected a new round of carbon-cutting commitments, and the United States and the European Union have already said there is zero chance of reaching a binding emissions deal in Durban.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said Friday that the four emerging market countries have "done a lot to combat climate change and presented ambitious objectives."

"We demand that industrialized countries set more meaningful objectives toward CO2 reductions than what they have presented up to now," he said.

South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and India's deputy environment minister J.M. Mauskar also participated in the meeting at Inhotim.

Emerging powers press rich world on CO2 cuts
AFP Yahoo News 26 Aug 11;

Brazil, South Africa, India and China called Friday on industrialized nations to step up their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a key UN climate summit later this year.

"We demand that industrialized countries set more meaningful objectives toward CO2 reductions than what they have presented up to now," Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota told a meeting in Inhotim, Brazil.

The bloc of four emerging market countries "has done a lot to combat climate change and presented ambitious objectives," Patriota said.

China's climate change minister Xie Zhenua called for greater cooperation from industrialized countries at the next UN climate conference scheduled to take place in Durban, South Africa from November 28 to December 9.

"We want to deepen the dialogue with developed nations so that a joint effort for the Durban conference will yield satisfactory results and equality for all parties," he added.

European Union and US leaders have however already warned that there will be no binding deal on emissions at this year's climate summit in South Africa.

The key issues for participants ahead of Durban are how to bring timid agreements reached in Cancun, Mexico last December to life and whether or not to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which is the only international agreement with binding targets for curbing greenhouse gases and expires next year.

Its future is uncertain because China and the United States, the world's No. 1 and No. 2 polluters, are not subject to its constraints.

Agreed in skeletal form in 1997 and implemented in 2005 after agonizing talks over its rulebook, Kyoto commits 37 advanced economies to trim six greenhouse gases by an overall five percent by a 2008-2012 timeframe compared to 1990.

Washington was one of the chief architects of the protocol but never ratified the treaty.

Former president George W. Bush said Kyoto was fatally flawed because it does not require developing giants, already major polluters, to take on similar constraints.

European countries are generally on track for their emissions reductions, but Canada is poised to miss its target by a wide margin.

At the same time, emissions by China, India, Indonesia and Brazil have rocketed -- nations bound by Kyoto account for less than 30 percent of global CO2 emissions, which hit record levels in 2010.

Japan, Canada and Russia have said they will not sign up for a new round of carbon-cutting vows.

The European Union (EU) says it will only do so if other nations -- including emerging giants such as China and India, which do not have binding targets -- beef up efforts in a parallel negotiating arena.

Developing countries, though, insist the Protocol be renewed in its current form.

The host of the upcoming UN conference, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, and India's deputy environment minister J.M. Mauskar also participated in the meeting at Inhotim.

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Aug 11

Tree Felling: The Saddest Sight in CIAG (City In A Garden)
from Flying Fish Friends

Malaysian Plovers
from Life's Indulgences

Olive-Backed Sunbird’s Affinity for Bicycles
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Sand and Singapore
from The Diplomat blogs

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Counting birds is no flight of fancy

Trackers have to be quiet, brave rough terrain and learn to recognise bird calls
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 27 Aug 11;

COLLEGE lecturer Yong Ding Li can recognise at least 1,200 birds by ear.

The 27-year-old trains by listening to an online database of bird calls and by visiting forests around the region.

The skill may seem esoteric but will be useful tomorrow, when the Nature Society conducts its annual census on the autumn migration habits of birds.

Mr Yong Ding Li, on how the more experienced counters rely on their ears because it is faster

The census, one of seven the society conducts each year, helps to track changes in the bird population here.

Last year, volunteers counted 8,666 birds at 28 sites across Singapore during one census.

Mr Yong said more experienced counters rely on their ears because it is faster.

'If you spend all your time looking up at the trees for birds you will miss out on many of them,' he said.

The counters begin their work at 7.30am, when the birds are at their loudest, and stop at 10.30am, when bird activity generally dies down.

Each route of the census is conducted by at least two counters - one to track the birds and the other to take notes.

They follow a fixed route and note every bird they see or hear along the way.

When the tracker spots a new entry, he quietly points it out to the note-taker, who writes the entry in shorthand.

Mr Yong said difficulties include making sure each bird is new and not simply one that has flown further down the counters' path.

To address this, counters have to know if the species like to move around and how quickly they can travel.

He gave the example of babblers, elusive forest birds which like to remain at the same spot. 'So if you hear another one after 100 steps, it's probably not the same one,' he said.

It is a job that requires experience, and the ability to be quiet and careful in rough terrain.

This may be why most of some 200 bird counters here are middle-aged men who have time to spare for the activity, and who do not mind the outdoor nature of the work, counters told The Straits Times.

The Nature Society does not discriminate against novices, and pairs them with more experienced counters.

After each census - a gruelling three-hour test of concentration - the notes are collated by a coordinator at the society and published on its website.

Mr Yong said Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is one of the harder sites because the birds there tend to hide high in the trees and are hard to hear and spot. Experienced counters usually record some 25 to 30 species there.

The lack of experienced manpower is another problem the society faces, a reason for the wide estimates of the migratory birds which pass through or stay in Singapore, which range from 20,000 to 50,000.

Certain areas rich in bird life are also off-limits to the counters, such as the military zones of Pulau Tekong and the stretch of scrub, brushland and secondary forest from Lim Chu Kang to Raffles Country Club, which runs more than 10km.

Mr Yong said he knows there are many bird species in the two areas because he heard them during his national service.

'I mentally took notes when I was marching around,' he said.

Mr Alan Owyong, chairman of the bird group at the Nature Society, said more people have come forward to join the counts in recent year.

'But of course, we always welcome more,' he said.

Birds common to Singapore shores


Common in parks and secondary forests in many parts of Singapore.

Most easily spotted around the Singapore Botanic Gardens and on Pulau Ubin.


A colourful native woodpecker.

Found in parkland and secondary forests throughout Singapore.


Common in parkland, scrub and marshy areas in most parts of Singapore.


Common migratory bird of prey in Singapore.

Can be easily seen in the Southern Ridges in October and November.


Colourful garden bird found in parks, mangroves and even roadside trees in Singapore.

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20 endangered Siamese crocodiles hatch in Laos

Jerry Harmer Associated Press Yahoo News 26 Aug 11;

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — One of the world's rarest crocodile species has moved a little bit further from extinction with the hatching of 20 wild eggs plucked from a nest found in southern Laos.

Experts believe there could be as few as 300 Siamese crocodiles remaining in the world's swamps, forests and rivers, so the discovery of the nest — the first found in the mountainous, jungle-clad country since 2008 — is a significant step in the rehabilitation of a species that was declared extinct in the wild in 1992.

Since then, tiny populations have been discovered in remote corners of its range, which used to include most of Southeast Asia. Still, the crocs remain critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, the acknowledged authority on the status of global biodiversity.

Under the soft red light of an incubator, the 20 baby crocodiles tapped and cracked their way into the world last week. Their nest was found in the southern province of Savannakhet in June by a team of villagers trained by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which is working to save the species in landlocked Laos.

"The feeling was one of elation," Chris Hallam, who coordinates the organization's crocodile project in Laos, told The Associated Press about the hatching.

"When you look at the global population and the population in Laos it represents quite a significant number of individual crocodiles," he said.

The crocs were hatched at the Lao Zoo, just outside Vientiane, where they were moved to protect them from predators such as snakes and monitor lizards.

Hallam said the crocodiles will be raised in captivity for 18 months before being released back into the wild.

And it seems they won't be alone. Villagers recently found another nest in Savannakhet with 20 eggs inside. Because those crocs are so near to hatching, conservationists decided to leave them where they are with village teams keeping an eye on them.

The Siamese crocodile grows up to 10 feet (3 meters) in length but is generally docile. Their passive nature made them all the easier to hunt. In recent decades thousands were captured and sold to crocodile farms that sprung up across Southeast Asia, feeding a vogue for its renowned soft skin and a taste for its meat.

Several thousand of the crocodiles remain in farms and in zoos, though many have been crossbred with bigger species, reducing still further the numbers of pure Siamese crocodiles.

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Malaysia national holiday snared by poachers

WWF 26 Aug 11;

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia – Fresh snares set for tigers have been discovered by WWF-Malaysia’s monitoring team only a short distance from the country’s East-West Highway, a major road that connects Peninsular Malaysia’s northeast to its northwest.

The discovery came just less than a month after the release of ‘On Borrowed Time’, a documentary that highlights the severity of the poaching and illegal wildlife trade in the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex, a wildlife hotspot that is located in the northern state of Perak and crosses into Southern Thailand.

“Since early August, 12 snares have been detected and deactivated by the team, with even more expected to be found in the area. Based on the sizes and types of snare, it is very clear that poachers are targeting large mammals such as tigers,” said Dato’ Dr. Dionysius Sharma, CEO/Executive Director of WWF-Malaysia.

WWF-Malaysia and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia immediately alerted the Perak Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) for the swift removal of these threats to wildlife.

Another camera-trap in the area captured a photo of possible poachers, just a day before the team trekked in to retrieve the cameras and detected the snares. The wire snares were camouflaged so well that the foot of one of the team’s field assistants had gotten caught in it.

The photo was shared with DWNP earlier this month to assist in their investigations.

WWF-Malaysia and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia urge enforcement agencies to be vigilant in their monitoring and to conduct rigorous patrols on the ground. Poachers are likely to take advantage of the country’s national holiday period at the end August, which marks the end of Ramadan and Malaysia Independence Day. This is already evident from the snares that have been discovered in the past three weeks alone.

“It’s painfully clear that the poachers ravaging Malaysia’s wildlife are getting more efficient. This begs obvious questions about whether enforcement authorities are managing to keep pace with the criminals. Sadly, it appears that they are not. Even simple actions like regular patrolling and establishment of the planned multi-agency task force at Belum-Temengor are stalled,” said Dr. William Schaedla, Regional Director for TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

More alarmingly, a camera-trap placed in the area has also captured the photo of a three-footed Malayan sun bear. The injury seen in the photo is consistent with an animal having lost a limb while trying to free itself from a snare.

Under the new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, any person who sets or uses any snare for the purpose of hunting can be subject to fines ranging from RM50,000 to RM100,000 (US$16,700 – US$33,500) and imprisonment for a maximum of two years.

At the launch of ‘On Borrowed Time’ last month in conjunction with World Tiger Day 2011, WWF-Malaysia and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia called 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.

From 2008 to 2010, 142 snares have been discovered and de-activated in the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex. Over 400 wild animals, such as Sambar deer, pangolins, elephants and tigers have been poached inside the protected and numerous poacher camps have also been found.

Concern over rise in illegal wildlife hunting in Belum-Temengor forest reserve
Lee Yen Mun The Star 28 Aug 11;

PETALING JAYA: Poachers are getting more cunning and efficient, and many quarters are questioning whether the enforcement authorities are able to catch up with them.

Animal rights groups and wildlife enforcement agencies have ex-pressed concern that illegal poaching will increase at the Belum-Temengor forest reserve.

Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic regional director Dr William Schaedla, who said poachers in the country were getting increasingly “efficient”, blames the availability of access roads through protected areas of the forest for facilitating the illegal hunting.

Dr Schaedla said poachers had become more brazen, judging by the latest discovery of 12 fresh snares by the WWF-Malaysia monitoring team near the East West Highway.

The shocking find was made in the first three weeks of this month alone.

“Based on the evidence gathered, poaching activities are becoming more regular because of the absence of patrols.

“We are worried that more wild animals will end up in the cooking pot during the holidays,” Dr Schaedla said when contacted yesterday.

A camera image produced by WWF-Malaysia showed a three-footed Malayan sun bear, which the organisation believes lost a limb while trying to free itself from a trap.

The Malayan sun bear, easily identified by the distinct crescent patch on the animal's chest, is an endangered species.

WWF-Malaysia and Dr Schaedla have raised questions over the ability of enforcement personnel in keeping pace with the criminals.

“Even simple actions like regular patrolling and setting up a multi-agency task force at Belum-Temengor have apparently stalled,” Dr Schaedla claimed.

WWF-Malaysia and Traffic South-East Asia have lodged reports of its findings with the Perak Wildlife and the National Parks Department (Perhilitan).

Perak Perhilitan chief Shabrina Mohd Shariff said there were many entry routes into the forest area, including the Royal Belum and Temengor forest reserves.

She, however, refuted the claims of animal rights groups that her department's officers had slackened in their patrolling efforts.

The department, she said, deployed a team of four to patrol East West Highway entry points every day from 8am to 5pm.

“We know our presence is important in deterring poachers. However, the Royal Belum Forest Reserve is under the jurisdiction of the state government and not the department,” Shabrina said.

“Following the report by the animal rights group, the state Perhilitan sent a nine-man team to survey the location of the snares.

“We found the camping site of a group believed to be that of illegal immigrants from Thailand numbering four to six persons,” she said.

The discovery of the snares came less than a month after Traffic and WWF-Malaysia released a public documentary featuring the severity of illegal wildlife trade in the area.

Under the New Wildlife Conservation Act, any person who sets up or uses any snare for the purpose of hunting is liable to a fine of up to RM100,000 and two years' jail.

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Indonesia: Coral reef destruction caused by Montara oil well explosion

Antara 26 Aug 11;

Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - Timor Sea observer Ferdi Tanoni said the destruction of coral reefs in Sawu waters in East Nusa Tenggara was caused by the 2009 explosion of an oil well in the Montara oil field.

He said here on Friday he disagreed with the view of the ministry of fisheries and marine resources that 90 percent of the coral reef damage was caused by blast fishing.

"I am convinced the damage to coral reefs in Sawu waters was caused by the explosion of the Montara oil well in the West Atlas Block in the Timor Sea on August 21, 2009 and not by blast fishing," he said commenting on the results of a fisheries ministry`s observation.

The chief of the Care West Timor Foundation (YPTB) based in Kupang said it was impossible for blast fishing to cause such damage because traditional fishermen never used explosives to fish in deep seas.

The Sawu waters which have been declared by the ministry of fisheries and marine resources as a national conservation area are the migration lane of various kinds of whales from the north to the south of Australia.

The Sawu waters are also the main crossing lane for passenger and cargo ships from and to Kupang through Tenau port, he said.

Tanoni who is also a former immigration agent of the Australian embassy said he believed the damage suffered by coral reefs in Sawu waters was the result of the Montara disaster that spilled hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil into Indonesian waters in the Timor Sea.

The crude oil spill was also accompanied by black tin and other hazardous materials which had later been submerged to the bottom of the sea by hazardous dispersant by the Australian Maritime Security Authority (AMSA).

He said the dangerous dispersant powder used by AMSA had also been used to overcome the oil spill in Mexico Bay some time ago but had later been stopped because of its potential danger to human health as well as coral reefs and other sea biota.

"Referring to the Mexico Bay case I am convinced the damage on the coral reefs in Sawu waters was the result of hazardous materials coming from the Montara oil well explosion and the dispersant used by AMSA," he said.

Based on that he said the YPTB and its alliances would file a lawsuit against PTTEP Australasia, the company that has polluted the Timor Sea to ask for its social, economic and health accountability for coastal residents in East Nusa Tenggara.

He said seaweed farming on coastal areas in the province has no longer produced harvests due to oil pollution while traditional fishermen`s catch has also dropped following the Montara oil well explosion.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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UN lifts Nigeria wildlife trade suspension

AFP Yahoo News 27 Aug 11;

The UN wildlife trade regulator said Friday it was lifting its 2005 suspension on wildlife commerce with Nigeria, citing the country's improved efforts to combat illegal trade.

"Nigeria has significantly reduced illegal trade," Juan Vasquez, a spokesman with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, told AFP.

He said that the regulator had called on states to suspend such dealings with Nigeria as it was the "hub" of much illegal wildlife trade in West Africa, notably in ivory but also in reptile skins.

"What has changed is political will, and the authorities have shown a positive engagement to stamp out illegal wildlife trade," Vasquez said.

The agency visited areas for black-market ivory commerce in 2010, but "ivory could no longer be found there", said the spokesman.

While he acknowledged that illegal trade has not disappeared completely, "there are now laws in place and being implemented which ensure that this trade is controlled".

"We will continue to monitor the situation, but we recognize the positive efforts of Nigeria," Vasquez said.

According to the CITES website, some 19 other countries, including Belize, India and Tanzania, among the 175 signatories of the convention are still subject to trade restrictions.

Vasquez added that trade restrictions exist for over 34,000 plant and animal species, some 900 of which are endangered.

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 Aug 11

Frequently Asked Questions about Marine Life Park
from Resorts World Sentosa Marine Life Park Blog (and comments to the posts)

Coastal Cleanup @ Pandan Mangrove – registration open!
from Toddycats!

The Weevil's Wedding Vows
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Butter … Fly … Fish
from Compressed air junkie

juvenile sunbird @ seletar link mangrove 21Aug2011
from sgbeachbum

How many species - why do we care?
from The Biology Refugia

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Candidates' views on RWS dolphins issue

Tessa Wong Straits Times 26 Aug 11;

ANIMAL rights group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) has sought the views of the presidential candidates on animal rights and the issue of keeping dolphins in captivity.

It is campaigning to free 25 dolphins kept in the Philippines and destined for the Marine Life Park attraction at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).

It sent e-mail messages to the candidates on Aug 15 seeking their views and received answers from Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr Tan Kin Lian. Its representatives caught up with Dr Tony Tan and Mr Tan Jee Say to seek their responses.

The candidates' replies were reproduced in a statement it issued yesterday.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock said: 'As an animal lover, I hope that animals born in the wild should not be confined for entertainment. They are born free, let them stay free.'

Mr Tan Kin Lian thought it was a difficult decision, because if the dolphins were released, they might be 'accidentally captured' and killed by fishing fleets. On the other hand, if they were moved to the park, they 'might not be happy in their environment'.

Dr Tony Tan said: 'We should be concerned about animal welfare and biodiversity. I know that Acres is very passionate about the dolphin issue and this is something we should look into.'

And Mr Tan Jee Say said: 'Moral issues don't just extend to humans but also to animals... I think it's part of my values for conscience, empathy. I think (dolphins) are lovely creatures, they give us a lot of joy. We should help, promote and protect them.'

Presidential Candidates Speak Up for Animals and Dolphins
by Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins
ACRES Press Release 25 August 2011


SINGAPORE, 25 August 2011 – ACRES is delighted that all four presidential candidates have spoken up about the need to address and the importance of animal welfare issues.

ACRES wrote to the presidential candidates on 15 August urging them to share their views with regard to Resorts World Sentosa’s (RWS) plan to house wild-caught dolphins at their upcoming attraction.

Between 2008 and 2009, RWS damaged Singapore’s good international reputation by buying 27 wild-caught Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) from the Solomon Islands. In 2010, two of the dolphins died whilst undergoing training, despite the top-class care that RWS had promised.

Replying to ACRES, Dr. Tan Cheng Bock said “As an animal lover, I hope that animals born in the wild should not be confined for entertainment. They are born free, let them stay free.”

Mr. Tan Kin Lian said “The decision on what is the correct thing to do is a difficult one. If the dolphins are released back into the wild, they run the danger of being accidentally captured and killed by the fishing fleets of the world. On the other hand if they are moved into Marine Life Park, they would lose their freedom and be caged in an artificial environment. While the dolphins might be safe from physical harm, they might not be happy in their environment.

To resolve this impasse, I would like to urge both ACRES and RWS to approach the matter with a positive attitude. Both ACRES and RWS have similar goals of marine conservation, research and education. They should work together to come up with a solution where the dolphins are safe from physical harm and at the same time have happy, meaningful lives.”

ACRES has been engaged in a dialogue with RWS for the past five years. However, to date, RWS has yet to respond specifically to our concerns, despite our repeated requests.

“If RWS agrees to release the dolphins back into the wild, these dolphins will regain their freedom and live a life free from exploitation. Marine mammal specialist and star of The Cove, Ric O’Barry, is offering the possibility of setting up a rehabilitation and release project for these dolphins in conjunction with RWS. The dolphins will be released into a protected area.

It is true that wild dolphins may not enjoy a carefree life, but they do enjoy freedom and the choice of where to go, what to eat (live fish) and who to socialise with, and they will not be forced to perform behaviours that they don’t want to do. ACRES is confident that any animal will choose freedom over captivity if given a choice” said Mr. Louis Ng, Biologist and Executive Director of ACRES.

In a meeting with Dr. Tony Tan on 20 August, he said “we should be concerned about animal welfare and biodiversity. I know that ACRES is very passionate about the dolphin issue and this is something we should look into."

“I take good interest in the care of dolphins and call for more volunteers for this good cause of ACRES and would offer my support as part of my message platform of compassion, empathy and conscience” said Mr. Tan Jee Say.

It is very important that we have a President who is mindful of cruelty to and exploitation of animals, and we thank the president candidates for sharing their views.

ACRES will be holding a first-of-its-kind concert to save the world’s saddest dolphins. To be held on 28 August at the Speakers’ Corner, the concert will see the largest-ever gathering of animal lovers at the Speakers’ Corner, to urge Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) to release their remaining 25 wild-caught dolphins.

Contact: Louis Ng (Executive Director, ACRES)


Tel (O): +65 6892 9821

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Exporting Singapore's river-cleaning expertise

Water governance and planning are areas where Singapore can make tremendous contributions to the world
Asit K Biswas and Leong Ching Business Times 26 Aug 11;

AS SEPTEMBER creeps up quietly on us, a little-known anniversary will come to pass with no particular fireworks - next month is the 25th anniversary of the cleaned-up Singapore River.

In an age where more people are living in cities, and more rivers flowing through these cities are used as open sewers and convenient rubbish dumps, the story of the Singapore River deserves to be told, and told loudly, especially as only two other rivers in the world had a similar clean-up: the Thames in the UK, and the Cuyahoga in the US.

In Singapore, the idea of a clean-up came in the mid-1970s, when the island had already left its fishing village image far behind. It was shaping up to be a bustling metropolis, with several tall buildings in the financial district and the buds of an industrialisation programme in Jurong.

But the Singapore River, running through the heart of financial and commercial area, was a noxious, polluted and highly visible reminder of how backward the country really was in terms of key infrastructure and environmental management.

Today, 25 years after a decade- long clean-up, the Singapore River is flanked on both sides by retail shops, eating outlets and posh residences. Riverside property prices have skyrocketed.

Economic sense

The gains are not merely social and recreational. As countries with polluted rivers will attest, it is good, hard-headed economic sense to clean up rivers because waste water imposes a tremendous cost in terms of human and environmental health.

For example, the World Bank has estimated that in 2007, the cost of pollution for China was a staggering US$100 billion a year. This figure, from the combined health and non-health costs of outdoor air and water pollution, represents 5.8 per cent of the country's GDP.

Water pollution, meanwhile, is taking the overall cost of water scarcity to about one per cent of GDP.

Cleaning up a river therefore has direct economic benefits in terms of public health and quality of life. At the same time, there are positive externalities such as an increase in property values, improved ecological infrastructure and a greater public awareness and appreciation of a community resource.

The Singapore River serves a powerful demonstration effect, especially for the world where the main water problem at present relates to quality and not quantity.

Accordingly, if a fledgling, developing country such as Singapore, circa 1977, with a per capita GDP of $7,022, was able to clean up Singapore River, so too can other countries. At the time, it spent $300 million and 10 years in the clean-up.

In June, India signed an agreement with the World Bank for a US$1 billion loan to clean up the river Ganges. One third of the country's people live along its banks.

This is not the first time India has attempted to do so. Water specialists have already said that cleaning up the Ganges is an effort that will take decades.

It will need far more than US$1 billion. It will also need strong and sustained political will and improved water governance all over the Ganges Basin.

But India is making a start, which is important since all water bodies in and around urban centres of the developing world are now already seriously contaminated. The water quality situation is steadily deteriorating.

Singapore itself should remember the river clean-up, if only to refocus the water industry here on its expertise and competitive edge in the niche areas of river quality improvement, better water governance and functioning and efficient institutions.

During the Singapore International Water Week last month, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam noted that the National Research Foundation (NRF) has a total of $470 million committed to research and development in the water sector.

This money is meant to help achieve Singapore's goal of growing the value-added contribution from the water-related sector from $0.5 billion in 2003 to $1.7 billion by 2015, and doubling jobs in the sector to 11,000 by then.

Contrary to the widespread belief that urban water management in Singapore has become one of the best in the world primarily because of the use of advanced technology, in our view, this development has been possible because of good governance, functioning institutions and long-term planning.

Within this framework, technology has played a useful role.

Regrettably, in most countries of the world, both developed and developing, water governance and planning continue to be poor.

These are areas where Singapore can make tremendous contributions to the world and simultaneously help the economy of Singapore and significantly increase further its employment potential.

This will truly be a win-win situation for Singapore as well as the rest of the world.

Missing out

By mostly focusing on the 'hard' side (technology) of urban water management and not giving enough attention to the soft side (governance, planning and institutions), we believe that Singapore is missing out in maximising its potential in important areas.

Emphasis on the 'soft' side will also ensure that Singapore has a chance in becoming the knowledge hub of the urban water world.

Singapore's expertise in governance, planning, policy implementation, and functioning institutions are not the stuff of high technology.

Many cities of developed and developing world badly need such expertise.

These are the factors that enabled the country to clean up the Singapore and Kallang rivers successfully and cost-effectively.

The writers are distinguished visiting professor and doctoral candidate respectively at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Prof Biswas is also the founder and chief executive of Third World Centre for Water Management, Mexico

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Malaysia: Turtle Conservation Efforts In Terengganu Showing Results

Bernama 24 Aug 11;

DUNGUN, Aug 24 (Bernama) -- The turtle conservation efforts taken by Terengganu has started to show positive results with an increase in the population of the species.

Terengganu Fisheries Department director Zakaria Ismail said every year about 80 per cent of the turtle eggs had been hatched at the Turtle Information and Sanctuary Centre in Rantau Abang, here.

Terengganu is the second state attracting the largest number of turtle landings after Sabah, especially four species, namely the Green turtle (Chelonia Mydas), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata), Olive-ridley turtle (Lepidochelys Olivacea) and a small quantity of Dermochelys Coriacea turtles.

He said last year, 401,761 turtle eggs were collected, comprising 397,789 eggs from the Green turtle, Hawksbill turtle (3,480) and the Leatherbacks (492).

"Of the total, about 70 per cent of the young turtles were hatched and released into the sea. Turtle conservation efforts were also carried out by the private sector which has also indicated encouraging results," he told Bernama here.

According to Zakaria, there are 12 areas that were converted into reserved landing areas in Terengganu, among them are Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Redang, Setiu, Rantau Abang, Dungun, Paka and Kertih in Kemaman.

In a related development, he said efforts were being taken to reduce the traditional habit of eating turtle eggs in Terengganu.

"This is because it has been a tradition here to eat turtle eggs while demand for turtle in increasing in the state compared with other states," he said.

He said the department was carrying out a campaign themed 'Not to Eat Turtle Eggs' among the younger generation.

"We always conduct information sessions and hold exhibitions in schools, encourage the public to visit the Turtle Information and Sanctuary centre and have dialogues with fishermen since many of the turtles die after being caught in fishing nets.

"The level of public awareness on the importance of protecting and conserving turtles has now increased," he said.

Zakaria said most of the turtle eggs being sold in the state were not from the local turtles but believed to have been brought in from several neighbouring countries.


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Malaysia exposed as major transit point after seizure of 1,000 elephant tusks

The Star 26 Aug 11;

PETALING JAYA: A container of anchovies headed for Malaysia from Africa turned out to be no small fry. Hidden within the strong smelling anchovies were more than 1,000 elephant tusks.

The killing of more than 500 elephants for the tusks has now turned the spotlight on Malaysia as a significant transit point for the illegal elephant ivory trade.

Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (Traffic) South-East Asia senior programme officer Kanitha Krishnasamy said Malaysia had been named in the latest Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) report as “a country of concern”.

“Malaysia has progressively gained prominence in successive ETIS analyses as a transit point for African ivory because of a growing number of illegal shipments passing through its ports,” she said in a statement.

Foreign wires reported yesterday that more than 1,000 elephant tusks destined for Malaysia were seized by Tanzanian authorities on Tuesday.

AFP reported that 1,041 elephant tusks were hidden in a container of anchovies, in the hope that the smell would discourage closer inspection by the authorities.

Krishnasamy said the latest seizure “represented the death of at least 500 elephants”.

She said it was doubtful Malaysia was the end destination of these illegal shipments based on previous seizures in Thailand and Vietnam.

She urged the Wildlife and National Parks Department, Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and the Customs Department to document all ivory stockpiles seized and report the matter to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Krishnasamy urged the Govern­ment to work with African nations to put a stop to the trade.

“If we do not act now, we will be contributing to the demise of the wild elephant population,” she added.

Tanzania Police Seize Poached Elephant Tusks
Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala PlanetArk 25 Aug 11;

Tanzanian authorities have seized more than 1,000 elephant tusks hidden in sacks of dried fish at Zanzibar port which were destined for Malaysia, officials said on Wednesday.

Like other countries across sub-Saharan Africa rich with wildlife, Tanzania has suffered from increased poaching in recent years as criminals kill elephants and rhinos for their tusks which are used for ornaments and in some medicines.

A total of 1,041 elephant tusks were stashed in a container with 114 sacks of dried sardines earmarked for export. The tusks nabbed in Zanzibar likely originated from mainland Tanzania.

Two suspects have been arrested and are being questioned, Zanzibar police spokesman Mohammed Mhina said.

"We don't know yet how much the elephant tusks weigh but Interpol officials from Dar es Salaam have arrived to investigate the incident."

Mhina said shipping documents for the container laden with elephant tusks show the consignment was destined for Malaysia.

Rampant poaching in the Serengeti -- a park in north Tanzania famed for its sweeping plains and vistas of Africa's most spectacular wildebeest migration -- in the 1960s and 70s saw the population of black rhinos in the country plummet from over 1,000 to just 70.

Most of the elephant tusks smuggled from the east African nation end up in Asian countries, according to police.

(Editing by Yara Bayoumy)

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Sea turtle who had global following found dead

Matt Sedensky Associated Press Google News 25 Aug 11;

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Andre, a sea turtle who survived catastrophic injuries and underwent a year of rehabilitation and innovative surgeries, has been found dead, three weeks after he was released off the Florida coast.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center, which had cared for the turtle, said he was found Wednesday on Hutchinson Island. David McClymont, the center's president, said staffers were able to identify the turtle from a tag that had been placed on him, but he was in such bad condition they couldn't determine what killed him.

"The staff and the entire volunteer base are deeply saddened," he said Thursday.

Just three weeks ago, a raucous crowd of hundreds gathered to watch Andre crawl into the sea and swim away. Onlookers hugged, wiped away tears and talked of the inspiration the reptile gave them.

Amid the disappointment over the sea turtle's death, his caretakers said the herculean efforts they took to save Andre — including several procedures considered animal firsts — were already helping others.

"The scientific advancements we made while rehabilitating Andre are already being applied in the treatment of other threatened and endangered sea turtles," the center said in a statement.

When Andre was found stranded on a sandbar on June 15, 2010, he had gaping holes in his shell, the result of two apparent boat strikes. More than three pounds of sand were inside him, along with at least a couple of crabs, a raging infection and a collapsed lung. His spinal cord was exposed, pneumonia was plaguing him and death seemed certain.

Any one of those injuries could have killed him, but his flippers were working and his neurological function appeared normal. So after beachgoers pulled him ashore on a boogie board, veterinarians began what became a yearlong effort to save him.

To help remove fluid and other materials and close his wounds, doctors used a vacuum therapy system. To help close gashes in the shell, a local orthodontist installed braces similar to those used on humans. And to fill in the gaping holes, doctors employed a procedure typically used to help regrow breast tissue in mastectomy patients and abdominal tissue in hernia patients.

The turtle's story was followed by many of the 225,000 annual visitors to the center and through a round-the-clock webcam. Children flooded him with mail and checks flowed in from around the world to support his care.

Green sea turtles have persisted since prehistoric times, but are endangered today. Only a small fraction of hatchlings survive and even fewer go on to reach adulthood and reproduce.

At 177 pounds when he was released, Andre was believed to be about 25 years old.

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New monkey species discovered in the Amazon

The discovery of a new type of titi monkey was made in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil
Damian Carrington 25 Aug 11;

A monkey sporting a ginger beard and matching fiery red tail, discovered in a threatened region of the Brazilian Amazon, is believed to be a species new to science.
Photograph: Julio Dalponte/WWFThe primate was found in relatively untouched pockets of forest in Mato Grosso, the region that has been worst-affected by illegal deforestation and land conflicts. Julio Dalponte, the scientist who made the discovery, said it showed the extraordinary biodiversity of the area and the vital importance of conservation.

The expedition, backed by conservation group WWF, also found probable new fish and plant species, all of which are now being studied. "We have taken an important step towards gaining better knowledge of the fauna in the western Mato Grosso region, which is still a puzzle with many pieces missing," said Dalponte.

The new animal is a type of titi monkey, many of which have startling facial hair. As a group, they have only recently become known to scientists, with 25 of the 28 species discovered since 1963. Finding new species of monkey is still relatively rare, with only about one a year found internationally.

The expedition scientists observed 47 already known mammal species, including jaguar, anteaters and armadilloes, as well as hundreds of different birds and fish.

This week, a separate study found that the total number of species inhabiting the planet is about 8.7 million, of which 90% are as yet undiscovered. Most of the land animals yet to be identified are insects but scientists say that finds of large new animal species, such as the new titi monkey, illustrate our limited our knowledge of the planet's biodiversity.

The activities of humans, such as the destruction of habitat, are driving tens of thousands of species to extinction each year, a rate comparable with the great mass extinctions that have occured in the Earth's distant past. .

Expedition to unexplored areas of Amazon uncovers new species
WWF 24 Aug 11;

Mato Grosso, Brazil: The discovery of a new primate species and suspected new fish and plant species and the presence of other animals in endangered categories highlight an urgent need for management plans for some of the last unexplored areas in the Amazon.

The discoveries were made on an expedition backed by WWF-Brazil in December 2010 to a part of Mato Grosso state that is considered to be an unexplored area in the Meridional Brazilian Amazon. The team discovered a new primate species and possible new fish and plant species and also sighted five animals on the endangered species list of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA).

Researchers took specimens of the discoveries which are now being examined and detailed studies will verify if these do in fact come from a new species.

The team of 26 people made up of researchers and support staff, covered around 950km of forest inside the four protected areas of the Guariba-Roosevelt Extractive Reserve, the Tucumã State Park and the Roosevelt River​ and Madeirinha River Ecological Stations.

The areas were created back in the 1990s but now are under threat from social and environmental problems including serious land tenure conflicts, illegal deforestation, illegal fishing activities, and exploitation of local labour in irregular activities such as large scale ranching and commercial plantations.

The aim of the expedition was to gather information to support the improvement of the management plans for the Mato Grosso state protected areas.

Exciting discoveries

Forty-eight different species of mammals were confirmed to be living in the region, including armadillos, anteaters, deer and monkeys and a primate species that is being considered as new to science. This species is being described at Emilo Goeldi Museum in Pará.

The team members investigating the region’s fish registered 208 species, of which 192 have had their identities confirmed and 16 are still being processed. Among these last 16 there may also be two previously undescribed species. The team’s bird specialists identified 313 bird species, including two migratory species and some that had previously only been registered in other South American countries.

The team studying fish also brought two possible new species back to the laboratories; one is a catfish and the other a tetra, a small brightly coloured freshwater fish. Other very small fish were found, known locally as ‘piaus’ and they too may have new species among them.

The expedition also discovered several threatened species, according to the expedition’s preliminary report signed by the biologist in charge of the mammal species studies Júlio Dalponte. These animals were: the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis).

Geographer Gustavo Irgang, who with WWF-Brazil was jointly responsible for the overall coordination of the expedition, said “We fulfilled our schedule, there were no serious setbacks and we got back to our laboratories and study centres with the possible discovery of new species. We only have reasons to celebrate”.

Over the coming months all the information will be set out in reports that will provide support for the formulation of management plans for the protected areas.

Under threat

The region drained by the Guariba and Roosevelt rivers lies within the Juruena-Apuí block. The block consists of around nine million hectares and is covered by forests, some of them flooded, and patches of Cerrado formation. Together they are home to 500 species of birds and a variety of primate species.

Since the year 2003, WWF-Brazil has been working in this area to combat deforestation and contribute to the conservation of the Amazon.

The area explored by the expedition team is overrun with illegal loggers and occupied by huge cattle farms.

Violence associated with land tenure conflicts and social problems such as lack of health or education services and electricity supplies are very common throughout the area. Additionally, there are environmental problems like predatory forms of fishing, contamination of river water, deforestation, unchecked expansion of agricultural activities and lack of surveillance and inspection on the part of the state and federal environment authorities.

One person trying to deal with some of these problems is Edelso Ferreira Rodrigues who is manager of the Tucumã State Park and the Roosevelt River and Madeirinha River Ecological Stations. In his struggle to protect these areas he faces a number of challenges, “Logistics here are naturally complicated and up until a few months ago we did not even have a boat for the work in the protected areas. I carried out inspections using borrowed or hired boats and often had to pay for the fuel out of my own pocket” says Edelso.

But according to Edelso the government is starting to allocate a larger budget for these PAs equipment is starting to arrive and members of the government’s technical staff make their visits more frequently.
“The process has already progressed a lot even though the steps have been very gradual” says Edelso “However slow the process may be, we are intensifying our activities here including the inspections that need to be carried out in this area.”


The state of Mato Grosso was the state with the most destroyed vegetation in its territories in January 2011, according to the most recent issue of the bulletin Forest Transparency – the Legal Amazon published by the Deforestation Warning Service of the Man and the Amazon Environment Institute (SAD/Imazon).

The bulletin reports that in the first month of 2011, 47 square kilometres of vegetation in Mato Grosso was destroyed, the equivalent of over half of all the devastation registered for the Amazon in the same period.

Mato Grosso also heads the list for degraded forest areas, which are areas that have been intensely exploited by logging activities or affected by the setting of fires.

In January 2011 the State had 353 square kilometres of degraded forests corresponding for 93% of the areas for the entire Amazon region at the time.

Biologist Fátima Sonoda is environment analyst in the Environment Department of the State Government and said “I feel that the question of Protected Areas needs to be taken much more seriously, especially by decision makers and the public sector”.

“What we need to do is to make constant efforts to increase the quantity and quality of our partnerships and call on companies, non- governmental organisations, and research institutes to intensify their conservation work”.

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Study on global plant die-off faces questions

Kerry Sheridan AFP Yahoo News 26 Aug 11;

A study on plant productivity that said drought and global warming were killing off plants worldwide is now being questioned by scientists, according to research published Thursday.

In the study published in the journal Science last year, researchers Maosheng Zhao and Steven Running of the University of Montana used NASA satellite data to show that productivity declined slightly from 2000-2009.

Those findings contradicted previous studies from the 1980s and 1990s that showed warmer temperatures in some parts of the world were driving longer growing seasons and greater plant growth around the globe.

Having more plants on Earth would be good news because it would help offset greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing more carbon dioxide.

While Running noted at the time that the findings came as "a bit of a surprise," the study raised concerns about global food security, biofuels and our understanding of the carbon cycle.

The new questions about the study, published in Science on Thursday, are posed by scientists at Boston University in the United States and the Universities of Vicosa and Campinas in Brazil.

A press release distributed to reporters by Boston University said their study is "refuting earlier alarmist claims that drought has induced a decline in global plant productivity."

Statements included by the researchers describe Zhao and Running's model as "erratic," "poorly formulated," and showing no "trends that are statistically significant."

However, scientists who were not involved in either paper said this was an excellent example of the scientific process at work, and should not be cast otherwise.

"The Boston University press release -- using the term 'alarmist' -- speaks of a university trolling for media as distinct from a university seeking to communicate excellence," Andy Pitman, co-director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said in an email to AFP.

"Those involved in this exchange of views are all well respected and excellent scientists. What is going on here is the scientific method. Zhao and Running publish a paper. Others attack it. Others defend it. Over time we determine who is right. Perfectly legitimate science."

Pitman, who has seen the study but was not involved in it, said the new analysis points to a smaller trend of plant loss but still shows declines over large swaths of territory in southeast Asia and China.

"This does not mean that there has been no decline, or that Zhao and Running's results were wrong, rather it highlights how strong research groups can reach different conclusions when using different assumptions," Pitman said.

"That opens up a rich vein of future research."

One of the key issues raised by critics was how the Zhao and Running study found a 0.34 percent reduction in the southern hemisphere's plant productivity, offset slightly by a 0.24 percent increase in the northern hemisphere, for a net decline of 0.1 percent over a 10-year period.

"This is the proverbial needle in a haystack," Simone Vieira, co-author and researcher at the State University of Campinas, Brazil, said in a statement.

"There is no model accurate enough to predict such minute changes over such short time intervals, even at hemispheric scales."

Lead author Arindam Samanta, a graduate of Boston University who is now at Atmospheric and Environmental Research Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts, said the initial study's model was based on data from a decade when temperatures were on the rise.

"Their model has been tuned to predict lower productivity even for very small increases in temperature. Not surprisingly, their results were preordained," said Samanta.

According to NASA scientist Compton Tucker, who also reviewed the data, key questions to be resolved are whether the first study was accurate and whether its findings could be replicated over a longer period.

"It's just like studying the stock market for a few years versus 30 years," Tucker told AFP.

"Most people think you need a record of about 30 years of whatever data you are using in order to indicate a trend."

He said the publication of questions on the initial research should help advance knowledge in the area.

"This is science, where you take one step forward and two steps back," he said. "It's important for this to-and-fro to be able to play itself out."

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Best of our wild blogs: 25 Aug 11

Pelagic Outing August 2011
from Con Foley Photography

Will there be any dugongs 100 years from now?
from wild shores of singapore

Oriental Magpie Robin in comfort behaviour
from Bird Ecology Study Group

It's August!
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

trashy seletar link mangrove ~ 21Aug2011
from sgbeachbum

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Malaysia: Orang utans of Malua branch out

New Straits Times 24 Aug 11;

KOTA KINABALU: A plot of forest where logging had ceased appears to have helped the survival chances of its resident orang utan.

Experts believe some 500 orang utans can be found in the 34,000ha Malua area, located between the Kinabatangan and Lahad Datu districts.

An international expert, Dr Marc Acrenaz said the area, also known as Malua Biobank, supports one of the highest densities of the species.

"The Malua Biobank is critically important for the survival of the orangutan," he said, adding that the species were slowly becoming endangered due to habitat loss.

"For an orang utan to survive, it is important to preserve large contiguous blocks of lowland rainforests," Dr Acrenaz added. Sabah Forestry Department Malua Wildlife Unit Leader Hadrin Lias said the discovery was made following recent ground and aerial surveys.

"The area is one of the most important refuge for orang utans in Borneo," he said, adding this was the result of conservation efforts.

Hadrin said revealed that logging in the area ceased in 2007 and was has been regularly patrolled by the authorities. A second 'wildlife' bridge was recently constructed across the Malua river to allow orang utans from outside the plot to enter.

The bridges, made up of chains, provide the primate hand and footholds to cross the river, mimicking overhanging tree branches.

The Malua Biobank is a pioneering public-private partnership to restore and protect endangered lowland rainforests, established in 2008. It also manages environmental credit sales, which in turn, would be utilised to run its conservation activities.

It is a joint venture between the Sabah Forestry Department, the Sabah Foundation or Yayasan Sabah and the EcuProducts Fund.

Darius Sarshar, director of New Forests Asia, the company that manages the Malua Biobank, said the results reinforced the significance of the initiative.

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Indonesia: Thirteen new hotspots detected in Riau

Antara 24 Aug 11;

Dumai, Riau (ANTARA News) - At least 13 new hotspots have developed in Riau Province, according to the Riau Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

Of the 13 new hotspots, nine were found in Indragiri Hilir District, three in Indragiri Hulu, and respectively one in Kuantansingingi, Siak and Bengkalis Districts, Warih Puji Lestari, an analyst of the Riau BMKG said here on Wednesday.

In addition to Riau Province, other provinces such as Riau Island, West Sumatra, Lampung, Bangka Belitung, Jambi, and South Sumatra have also recorded new hotspots.

Riau Island has one new hotspot, West Sumatra three, Lampung eight, Bangka Belitung 10, and Jambi 36 hotspots. And the largest number of new hotspots, namely 128, are found in South Sumatra.

Sumatra Island had 204 hotspots on Tuesday (Aug 23), and 230 on Monday (Aug 22).

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 18 Satellite detected one hotspot in Aceh, two in Bengkulu and one in North Sumatra on Monday (Aug 22), Warih said.

"But, on Tuesday (Aug 23), the hotspot in the three provinces were gone, probably because of rains," he said.

Almost every year during the dry season several provinces in Indonesia are hit by forest and plantation fires.

In general the fires are man-made. Fire is usually seen as a cheap, easy and fast way to clear land for agriculture and plantation activities, but it is usually uncontrollable.

The Indonesian government has been committed to cutting the number of hotspots by 20 percent annually through preventive efforts, in order to meet Indonesia`s pledge to reduce its emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Dengue fever under attack through smart mosquito control

AFP Yahoo News 25 Aug 11;

Scientists Wednesday reported promising results from tests on a new way of assailing dengue fever by stealthily weakening populations of mosquitoes carrying the virus which causes the deadly disease.

"The results show we can completely transform local (mosquito) populations in a few months," said Michael Turelli, a biologist at the University of California at Davis. "It's natural selection on steroids."

Dengue affects between 50 and 100 million people in the tropics and subtropics each year, causing fever, muscle and joint ache as well as potentially fatal dengue haemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome.

The disease is caused by four strains of virus that are spread by the mosquito Aedes aegypti. There is no vaccine, which is why scientists are focussing so intensely on mosquito control.

In 2009, Turelli and others hit on the idea of inserting a naturally-occurring bacterial parasite called Wolbachia to shorten the mosquito's lifespan so that the virus would not have enough time to develop.

Initial excitement was followed by disappointment. The strain of Wolbachia they used was somewhat virulent and knocked out the mosquitoes before they had the chance of spreading into the wild mosquito population.

Going back to the drawing board, the scientists found a non-virulent strain of Wolbachia in the fruitfly Drosphila -- a standard choice for laboratory research -- and believed they had the answer.

Introduced into the mosquito, the germ prevented the insect from becoming infected by the dengue virus.

Yet it was also harmless. The mosquito's fitness, a measure of its ability to survive and reproduce, was reduced only by about 10 to 20 percent.

The Wolbachia is a symbiotic bacterium, meaning that it exists by living in harmony with its host.

It lives inside cells and is maternally inherited, thus raising the possibility that after a few generations, the introduced dengue-free mosquitoes eventually outnumber dengue-carrying counterparts.

After long consultations with the government and regulators, the investigators released hundreds of thousands of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in two locations in Queensland, Australia, this year.

Early results suggest that the introduced mosquitoes have thrived, reaching 100 percent of mosquitoes that were captured and analysed in one location and more than 80 percent in the other. Some were also spotted several kilometers (miles) beyond the release area.

The experiments "herald the beginning of a new era in the control of mosquito-borne diseases," said Jason Rasgon, a specialist at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, Maryland, in a commentary also carried by Nature.

"The advantage of population-replacement approaches is that, once established, they are self-propagating. And because the mosquito population is simply changed rather than eliminated, effects on the ecosystem should be minimal."

The paper appears in Nature, the weekly British science journal.

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Climate Fluctuations May Increase Civil Violence

Wynne Parry Yahoo News 25 Aug 11;

Global climate fluctuations bear some responsibility in violent conflicts, according to a new study that has linked the hot, drier weather brought by the El Niño climate pattern with civic conflicts within the affected countries.

Using data from 1950 to 2004, the researchers concluded that the likelihood of new conflicts arising in affected countries, mostly located in the tropics, doubles during El Niño years as compared with wetter, cooler years. The weather El Niño brings had a hand in roughly one out of five conflicts during this period, they calculate.

"We believe this finding represents the first major evidence that global climate is a major factor in organized violence around the world," said Solomon Hsiang, the lead author of the study who conducted the research while at Columbia University. [10 Ways Weather Changed History]

This conclusion — that fluctuations in climate can contribute to violence in modern societies — is a controversial proposal. In this case, the researchers admit they have yet to untangle the mechanisms that link a change in sea surface temperature with, for example, a guerilla war.

A natural climate fluctuation

El Niño refers to the irregular warming of the surface of the Pacific Ocean near the equator. This alters the behavior of the ocean and the atmosphere, disrupting weather around the planet — normally wet regions dry out, and dry regions become wet. El Niño happens roughly every four years, though it is not completely predictable, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The study focused on areas, primarily in the tropics, where El Niño brings hot, dry weather to land, as more rain falls over the ocean.

Hsiang and colleagues looked at civil conflicts — in which more than 25 battle-related deaths occurred in a new dispute between a government and another, politically incompatible organization — in El Niño and other years.

Among nations that are strongly affected by El Niño, they calculated that the annual risk of conflict rose between 3 percent and 6 percent during an El Niño event. By modeling a world in a perpetually moist, peaceful state (no El Niño), they found that 21 percent fewer conflicts occurred during the 54-year-period. This doesn't mean that the climate cycle caused one in five conflicts, rather that it contributed to one in five, according to the researchers.

But not all countries warmed by El Niño responded the same way.

"We find it is really the poorest countries that respond to El Niño with violence," said Hsiang, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University. "There are a large number of relatively wealthy countries in the tropics, for example, Australia, that experience large climate fluctuations due to El Niño, but they do not lapse into violence."

Ice on the road

The researchers admit that they have yet to explain how unusually warm sea surface temperatures are connected with violence. El Niño can clearly lead to droughts and natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes, but connecting those effects through to human behavior becomes tricky.

There are theories: El Niño-influenced events can put a strain on societies, particularly on the poor, leading to income inequality and increased unemployment, which may make armed conflict more attractive, according to the researchers. Psychological factors may also contribute.

"When people get warm and uncomfortable, they get irritated. They are more prone to fight, more prone to behave in ways that are, let's say, less civil," said Mark Cane, a study researcher with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. "I think all of these things contribute, and they are all quite real."

Hsiang compared El Niño's role in violence to that of winter ice on a road in a car accident: The ice alone doesn’t cause the accident, but it contributes to it.

An earlier, controversial study lead by economist Marshall Burke linked civil war in sub-Saharan Africa with warmer-than-average temperatures.

Why do we fight?

Although we frequently engage in it, we still don't fully understand the causes of violent conflict, according to Halvard Buhaug, a senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, who was not involved in the current study. [The Evolution of Fighting]

No conflict has a single cause, and researchers have come quite far in identifying a few common factors — poverty, inequality, political exclusion of minority groups and political instability — that can lead to civil violence, Buhaug said.

"From the recent study, one would be tempted to add climate or climate cycles. I think that would be premature," he said.

While it's possible that changes in climate brought down ancient civilizations — the collapse of ancient Egypt, the Mayan Empire and others have been linked to extreme climate fluctuations — Buhaug is less open to the same causal link for the modern world.

While Hsiang and colleagues show that El Niño and violent conflict tend to coincide, they do not provide the evidence that one can cause the other, he said. In order to establish a causal relationship, the researchers need to look at individual cases, and trace out precisely how an unusual climactic event, like El Niño, led to a specific conflict.

"Until we are able to do that, I don't think we are in a position to claim there is a causal relationship between climate and conflict," Buhaug told LiveScience.

Though scientists have yet to study that causal relationship in modern times, researchers have shown how environmental stress plays a role in violence — for instance, the influence of a drought in the Rwandan genocide, said Thomas Homer-Dixon, a professor at the University of Waterloo and chair of global systems at the Basillie School of International Affairs. Climate change is expected to behave like some other environmental stresses, said Homer-Dixon, who wasn't involved in the current research.

"This story is becoming clearer, it is not really told yet," he said. "[The current study] is a very important contribution to that overall story."

The future

If a natural climate cycle is contributing to violent conflict, what can we expect from climate change caused by humans, who are pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere?

The study itself doesn't address human-caused climate change, but its findings do have implications, according to Cane.

"It does raise the reasonable question: If these smaller, shorter lasting and by-and-large less serious kinds of changes in association with El Niño have this effect, it seems hard to imagine the more pervasive changes that will come with anthropocentric climate change are not going to have negative effects on civil conflict," Cane said.

The research appears in the Aug. 25 issue of the journal Nature. Kyle Meng, of Columbia University, also contributed to the study.

El Nino doubles risk of civil wars: study
Deborah Zabarenko Reuters Yahoo News 25 Aug 11;

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The El Nino climate cycle, which spreads warm, dry air around the globe every four years or so, doubles the risk of civil wars in 90 tropical countries, researchers reported Wednesday.

And because El Nino patterns can be predicted up to two years in advance, scientists suggest their findings could be used to help prepare for some conflicts and the humanitarian crises they cause.

Historians and climate specialists have noted signs that changes in climate sent past societies into conflict and decline, but this is the first study to quantify the link between El Nino's heat, the droughts that follow, and upheaval in countries that bear the brunt of it.

Between 1950 and 2004, one out of every five civil conflicts were influenced by El Nino, scientists reported in the journal Nature.

El Nino starts as a large patch of warm water in the tropical Pacific and influences global climate and weather across much of Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, Australia and the Americas.

This pattern can cause large crop losses and increased risk of natural disasters like hurricanes and the spread of infectious diseases, study co-author Kyle Meng of Columbia University's Earth Institute.

"These events can lead to increases in income inequality ... and a labor market effect," Meng said in a telephone briefing. "These lead to increased unemployment, which makes the opportunities to fight a little bit more attractive."


It is also often more difficult for governments to enforce laws during severe weather events, he said.

Peru in 1982 and Sudan in 1963, 1976 and 1983 showed remarkable links between El Nino patterns and civil unrest, the researchers found. Other countries with a strong link between violence and El Nino include El Salvador, the Philippines and Uganda in 1972; Angola, Haiti and Myanmar in 1991, and Congo, Eritrea, Indonesia and Rwanda in 1997.

The researchers focused on internal civil conflicts because since 1950, these account for 80 to 90 percent of all conflicts.

Some 40 percent of the conflicts that occurred would probably have happened anyway, but the stresses of El Nino made conflict more likely, and sometimes made it happen earlier. Poorer countries were at the greatest risk, the scientists said.

"It's the poorest countries that respond to El Nino with violence," said study co-author Mark Cane, a climate scientist at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

To get their findings, the researchers correlated El Ninos from 1950 to 2004 with civil conflicts that killed more than 25 people in a given year, including 175 countries and 234 conflicts, over half of which caused more than 1,000 battle-related deaths.

Countries with weather controlled by the El Nino cycle had a 6 percent chance of civil war breaking out when the hot, dry El Nino pattern was in force, the scientists reported. That was double the 3 percent chance of internal conflict when the cooler, wetter La Nina pattern prevailed.

The study does not predict how the El Nino cycle might change in a warmer world, but Cane said climate change might make the Earth "more El Nino-like."

"What (the study) does show, beyond any doubt, is that even in this modern world, climate variations have an impact on the propensity of people to fight," Cane said. "And it is frankly difficult to see why that won't carry over to a world that is disrupted by global warming."

(Editing by Warren Strobel and Xavier Briand)

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