Best of our wild blogs: 18 Apr 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [11 - 17 Apr 2011]
from Green Business Times

Encounter with an injured Ruddy Kingfisher
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A Rare Encounter
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

四月华语导游 Mandarin guide walk@SBWR, April
from PurpleMangrove

Environmental Awareness in the City
from Just across the Horizon

Raffles Lighthouse
from One-North Explorers

Abandoned driftnet check at Mandai mangroves
from wild shores of singapore

(Abandoned) Railway Track (Part 2) Photography Walkabout
from Photojournalist

African Giant Snail
from Monday Morgue

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Eco-City can be model for others: SM

First residents will move in next year
Grace Ng Straits Times 18 Apr 11;

BEIJING: The progress made by the Sino-Singapore Eco-City project has been 'truly amazing', but it can do even more to become a model that other cities in China can draw lessons from, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said yesterday.

'Going forward, the whole idea of Eco-City is that it should be replicable and scalable, which means that what we do over here can be done in other parts of China,' he said, during a visit to the northern coastal city of Tianjin.

So the joint venture will need to put more emphasis on its 'software' - the intangible aspects, such as administrative efficiency and creating an environment in which people can live harmoniously with one another and with nature.

It should also 'serve as a catalyst for more developments' in the Binhai New Area, a fast-growing industrial zone in which it sits, Mr Goh added.

'So this project should not be seen in isolation; it should hold lessons for other cities which are trying to develop along what I call ecological lines,' he said. Mr Goh was speaking to reporters yesterday after a tour of the joint venture's 4 sq km start-up area, envisioned to eventually grow into a 30 sq km green city for 350,000 residents.

During his visit about three years ago, he recalled seeing 'nothing but wasteland, salt farms, no development whatever'. This time, he saw lush greenery, a wastewater lagoon being reclaimed and the construction of many buildings from a National Animation Centre to public housing in full swing.

He officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony of Seasons City - a new office, retail and serviced apartment development with many eco-friendly features built by Keppel Land China.

He also witnessed the signing of six new agreements with a combined investment worth 500 million yuan (S$96 million) to support eco-friendly ventures in the Eco-City.

This will bring the total investment to date to 2.9 billion yuan.

'I would say the progress is very rapid, I am very satisfied,' Mr Goh said. 'What is more important is whether the Chinese are satisfied,' he added.

Today, he will meet Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing to discuss various bilateral issues, including the Eco-City. Mr Wen has visited the Eco-City several times and has 'taken a personal interest' in the project.

'From my understanding, he is satisfied,' said Mr Goh.

Tianjin's deputy party secretary, Mr He Lifeng, also spoke positively of the project yesterday during his meeting with the Singapore leader.

'We can say that the Eco-City has demonstrated itself as a role model,' he said.

Looking forward, Mr Ho Tong Yen, chief executive of the Eco-City's master developer, said that next year, the first batch of residents will move into the Eco-City, and the start-up area will be completed in the following year in September.

A new economic core, called the Eco-City Centre, which may become a model for future green urban business centres, will also be developed.

'In the next two years, our priority would be... to create an eco-friendly and vibrant environment, where residents can work, live and play and enjoy a high quality of life,' said Mr Ho.

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Singapore: Most say no go to waste cooking oil for vehicles

Lack of education on biodiesel, inconvenience of pump locations cited
Jessica Lim Straits Times 18 Apr 11;

EVERY time dentist Anthony Goh wants to fill up his 70-litre diesel truck, he has only two pump stations to choose from.

They're located in Tuas and Ang Mo Kio industrial estates, and going there can be a hassle as he lives in Holland Grove.

On top of it, the 43-year-old - whose Mercedes Benz truck runs solely on biodiesel made from waste cooking oil - can get fuel only five days a week as the pump stations are not open on weekends.

'When I hit the half-tank mark, I make time to go down to the pump so I don't have to worry about running low on the weekend,' said the dentist who works at Mount Alvernia Hospital. He had opted to use the fuel for environmental reasons.

'No one offers to clean my windscreen, and I don't get credit card discounts. But in the end, it is about the feel-good factor you get from helping save the environment.'

The fuel, made from used cooking oil collected from restaurants and hawker centres here, burns more cleanly than fossil fuels, and has much less harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide, and sulphur oxides and sulphates, which are major components of acid rain. It is also unlike other biofuels made from crops grown on land that would probably otherwise be used for growing food.

It is also slightly cheaper than commercial fuel at $1.40 per litre, compared with commercial diesel at about $1.60.

Yet despite the benefits, Mr Goh is among a small number of consumers who have chosen to use the fuel.

Demand at Alpha Biofuels, which operates the two pump stations here and is the only firm producing the fuel for the domestic market, has dived in the past year. Its chief executive Allan Lim, 38, said it now tops up 200 tanks weekly, down from 1,000 in 2009. It had eight pump stations that year, but started to shut them down from June last year. 'We believed Singaporeans would embrace our environmentally-friendly business, but we were wrong. Most will not go out of their way to buy the product.'

Apart from limited pump stations, there were also other challenges, such as competition from suppliers selling industrial diesel for as low as $1.20 per litre.

'We were bleeding money, and we had to increase prices by 20 per cent last year. We lost even more customers then,' said Mr Lim, who added that business is only lucrative if used oil was given to them for free or at a token sum. He now makes ends meet by selling the fuel in bulk to construction and transport companies.

It is not the only company forced to look elsewhere. Cooking-oil recycler pioneer Biofuel Research was set up in 2003 and primarily produces biodiesel from waste cooking oil and by-products from Malaysian palm refineries for export to countries like Denmark and India. It tried selling the fuel to consumers three years ago, but stopped after six months.

Said its manager Kom Mum Sun, 37: 'We delivered it, and people could also fill up their own tanks in Tuas. But it was just not profitable. Consumers were not educated about biodiesel, the location of the pump was a problem and people were just not bothered.'

Consumers like Mohammed Fadzil, 30, who was using biodiesel, cite several reasons for stopping. The civil servant started using the green fuel four years back and noticed cleaner exhaust fumes. But he switched back to regular diesel last year:'I stopped because the pumps were open at irregular hours. I also wasn't sure about the source of the used oil. It might have come from a non-halal restaurant.'

The waste-oil movement is global. In Britain, for instance, thousands of people are thought to be running their cars on such fuel, made in their own backyards.

Industry watchers like market research firm Frost and Sullivan's Mr Satish Lele however, do not think that the fuel is likely to take off on a massive scale here.

Said the firm's Asia-Pacific vice-president for industrial technologies: 'Only a very small percentage of people will take to such a product here, and a proper supply chain has to be set up. It will also be difficult to remain competitive, especially when commercial diesel prices go down.'

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Singapore Park Connectors: cyclists can wheel out bike trail tips

NParks invites them to plug scenic spots, offer ideas to improve network
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 18 Apr 11;

CYCLING routes by the people, for the people.
By the year's end, cyclists in the park connectors here will have access to recommendations - provided by their fellow cyclists - to restaurants, heritage spots and scenic views along these biking trails.

Beyond this, cyclists and other park connector users will also be encouraged to offer ideas to improve the network, said Mr Bernard Lim, the assistant director of the National Parks Board's (NParks) Park Connector Network.

The information on the network, which will eventually take cyclists from Bukit Timah to Marina Bay, will be posted on the NParks website.

The data-banking is off to a rolling start.

Since NParks launched an online feedback form for members of the public in January, it has received about 10 replies a week; it also keeps in touch with local cycling groups here for their input.

Retiree Mina Chan and her friends form one such 'resource' group. Aged between 40 and 60, these avid cyclists try out a different park connector every weekend, and, for the last five years, have offered NParks updates on the condition of the tracks and alerted it to danger spots.

Ms Chan already has a route to recommend to fellow cyclists - the waterfront stretch between Alexandra Canal and the Singapore Flyer.

Another cyclist, Mr Han Jok Kwang, 56, has petitioned NParks successfully to keep the gravel stretch through hilly terrain in the western loop connector.

'I asked NParks to keep it because it gives cyclists variety,' he said.

Mr Lim said that, without Mr Han's petition, NParks may have levelled the terrain and laid tarmac so everyone - even beginner cyclists - can use it.

NParks considers suggestions as long as they do not compromise safety, he said, although such assessments can be subjective.

He said the call for input from cyclists aims to make the routes more personal for users of the park connectors. 'We spent the first few years building up the infrastructure; now let's see what else we can do with it,' he said.

The Park Connector Network consists of seven parts, to be developed by 2015 (see graphic). By then, it will have 300km of bike paths.

Mr Lim said, with the cycling community contributing information, the pan-island network can be made safer too.

'Our employees and sub-contractors check the routes every day but they cannot cover everything because the routes are too long. Having more eyes helps us catch more things.'

Mr Pan Wee Yeow, a retiree who rides twice a week, said seasoned cyclists can identify problems before injuries occur. These include blind corners that need mirrors to be set up and where speed-reducing strips may be advised. He added that regular cyclists can also spot growing problems that may otherwise go unnoticed, such as faulty lighting or algae on the paths, which makes them slippery.

NParks said it fixes minor problems such as faulty lights within two days of being notified; problems requiring more work, such as levelling bike paths to prevent jarring bumps, may take up to a week.

Mr Pan hailed NParks' move to get the public involved, given that more people are taking up cycling.

There are no statistics on the cycling population here, but cycling clubs say the number of people on two-wheelers has exploded in the last five years.

The OCBC Cycle Singapore event last month, a ride of up to 60km along East Coast Park, attracted more than 10,000 participants, twice the number two years ago.

For Mr Han, cycling is about going back to a simpler pastime.

He said: 'We have the integrated resorts, gadgets, all the fancy diversions. Sometimes, things don't need to be so high-tech. Sometimes, all you need is a road and a bike.'

Members of the public may e-mail to join NParks' mailing list and to get the link to the feedback form.

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Singapore: Online volunteering on the rise

More lending a hand overseas and at home - via cyberspace
Carolyn Quek Straits Times 18 Apr 11;

FINANCIAL services management consultant Wong Yin Mei, a 38-year-old Singaporean living in Tasmania, Australia has made her presence felt in Nigeria and Afghanistan.

In 2006, she wrote a research proposal for a Nigerian non-governmental organisation, and then spent the next four years putting in about five hours a week as a manager in the Bureau for Reconstruction and Development in Afghanistan - without even visiting either country.

She did this online, after finding the work through the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Online Volunteering Service, which has been using the Internet to connect non-profit groups with volunteers from around the world.

One of the more established online volunteering platforms, it had 40 Singaporeans on its register last year, up from 15 in 2006. A spokesman said online volunteer numbers have grown elsewhere too.

At home, online volunteering has also grown. Official figures are unavailable, but bodies using online volunteers include the YMCA of Singapore, where they upkeep its Facebook page, and Marine Parade Family Service Centre, where they work as cyber youth counsellors.

Online volunteers often help in short-term tasks like logo design, but longer-term projects are also available.

Another UNV online volunteer, 30-year-old Swetha Jegannathan, an Indian expatriate living here, has dedicated herself to helping Pacodet, a non-profit developmental organisation in Uganda.

The former business analyst who is currently not working has written research proposals on food security and the environment, sought funding opportunities for Pacodet and come up with ways to increase its visibility on the Internet.

Volunteers like her form a pool of highly skilled people, which Pacodet's director Stanley Okurut is hard-pressed to find out there in Africa.

Working as a volunteer so far removed from the agency one is helping is not always smooth sailing. Volunteers have to deal with poor communications networks, said Mr Okurut by e-mail.

Mrs Jegannathan and Ms Wong say another challenge lies in the lack of face-to-face communication, which makes it hard to build rapport.

What is clear is that skills are needed, even if physical presence is not, so this form of volunteering is ideal for busy working professionals, who can ride on the round-the-clock nature of the Internet to do this work.

Ms Wong said: 'You can do it through e-mail and Skype. Developing organisations need help in presenting their work to international donors, so those with skills in writing, graphic and Web design, marketing and strategic planning can help enormously.'

And taking it global means you can direct your efforts towards the causes you believe in, she added.

Mr David Fong, the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre's director for SG Cares, its volunteering portal, said online volunteering is a powerful supplement to on-site volunteering.

However, on-site volunteering puts one in direct touch with the beneficiaries, which some volunteers say is a key part of volunteering, he added.

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Dolphin Rescuer Richard O'Barry Has an Indonesian Mission

Ismira Lutfia Jakarta Globe 17 Apr 11;

In the 2009 Academy Award-winning feature documentary “The Cove,” Richard O’Barry says if there is a dolphin in trouble anywhere in the world, his phone will ring — and that is exactly what happened when 72 captive dolphins in Indonesia needed to be taken back to the open sea.

The phone call came from the Jakarta Animal Aid Network, a nonprofit animal rights group, which is working with the Earth Island Institute that is sponsoring the release initiative. O'Barry works for the institute as a marine mammal specialist.

The group needs O’Barry’s help to help rescue illegally-captured bottlenose and spinner dolphins and release them back to the sea in Karimun Jawa National Park, located off the northern coast of Central Java. It is part of a five-year cooperation program involving JAAN, the Forestry Ministry and the Earth Island Institute.

The dolphins are held captive by traveling animal shows and other groups that falsely claim to be concerned with their welfare. It didn’t take long before O’Barry landed in Indonesia to supervise the building of a 90-square-meter sea pen — the largest ever in the world for a dolphin rehabilitation program — that will house the aquatic mammals, once they are rescued, before their release back into the wider sea.

O’Barry and the JAAN team flew over the coast on a chartered airplane to look for a suitable location for the sea pen. They finally settled on a spot about a quarter of a mile away from the shore of one of the islands in the national park, where the dolphins could be supervised while they readjusted to their natural habitat.

A survey conducted by JAAN has revealed that many dolphins are held in captivity by institutions in Indonesia operating under the guise of conservation, education and therapy. The group carried out the survey after receiving reports of abuse from members of the public concerned about the aforementioned traveling circuses.

“Traveling dolphin shows are the most abusive shows in the world. They’ve been outlawed in other countries,” O’Barry said.

When moving between cities, the dolphins are confined in small tanks, which is very stressful for mammals that normally travel about 40 miles a day, O’Barry said.

The conditions are even worse than those experienced by animals in zoos, since dolphins are very sensitive to sound and lose their sonar ability when confined in a small space.

Unfortunately, O’Barry’s initial dolphin-saving mission in Indonesia last month came to a halt when he and the JAAN team — along with his son, who was supposed to film the event for the “Blood Dolphin” television series on Animal Planet — had to cancel the rescue of the first three dolphins for reasons O’Barry said were still unclear.

“I have no idea why it takes so long to do such a simple thing,” he said. “Just take them from the tank into the sea pen, it’s a simple move.”

O’Barry conceded, however, that such a problem was not uncommon in other countries, since business entities that feature dolphins are usually backed by affluent people with powerful connections.

“It is a multi-billion [dollar] industry around the world. That is why there are such shows, they pay taxes to the government, and the government supports them. That’s the problem,” he said.

O’Barry’s efforts to raise public awareness of the reality that lies behind the dolphin’s smile — which he refers to as nature’s greatest deception, because it gives people the illusion that the mammals are always happy — is just one of the many missions he has been involved in over the past 40 years. He has worked in over 70 countries since he turned from a renowned dolphin trainer to a dolphin rescuer.

O’Barry used to capture and train dolphins for the 1960s children’s television series “Flipper,” a job that catapulted him to international stardom. His change of heart came in 1970 after Kathy, one of the five dolphins he had trained for the series, died in his arms.

“I was young and foolish. When you’re a dolphin trainer, you have to lie to the public every day and to yourself and I got tired of doing it,” he said.

As a result of O’Barry’s new outlook and the popularity of “The Cove,” a 2009 documentary that analyzes and questions Japan’s dolphin-hunting culture, dolphin shows at marine mammal parks and oceanariums around the world have been on the decline.

According to O’Barry, the claim that dolphin shows educate the public and promote scientific research couldn’t be further from the truth.

“What does it teach you to see a dolphin suffer and what do the young children really learn from the dolphin? They learn that abusing nature is alright and that is really dangerous to their young minds.”

What should be inspiring to children, O’Barry said, is the fact that 8,000 people who inhabit Karimun Jawa are getting involved in the rehabilitation project.

However, even though dolphin hunting is on the decline, he said, there have been increased efforts to breed the mammals in captivity.

“If it was my decision, there would be birth control for dolphins. There is no need for a dolphin to be born in captivity just to do a show and tricks. Nobody learns anything from it and there is no connection between dolphins and conservation. You don’t have to put them in captivity to like dolphins,” he said.

One of the activities that is still in high demand is swimming with dolphins, which, O’Barry said, unfairly tasks dolphins with amusing and entertaining. “It’s an endless line of swimmers that the dolphins have to amuse,” he said.

Another culprit is dolphin-assisted therapy, whose practitioners claim it can help autistic children overcome the disorder. According to O’Barry, such so-called therapy is just a money-making scam and there is no scientific proof that dolphins can help to heal people.

He backed his arguments with scientific research by Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and behavioral biology expert from Emory University in the United States, which shows that dolphin-assisted therapy is nothing but a fad that has not been proven to work as a treatment for mental or physical disorders.

“It is hypocritical to capture the dolphins and destroy their lives to enhance ours,” O’Barry said.

He added that instead of improving the life of autistic children, the costly treatments would only improve the lifestyle of the business owners who prey on desperate parents willing to go to any lengths to make their child’s life easier.

Right now, O’Barry’s main priority is releasing the 72 dolphins back to the wide open sea, and giving them back their natural habitat. “I can read their body language and I can tell when they are ready to go,” he said. “Hopefully, their family will come to the sea pen and that will be the best time to let them go.”

Dolphins have a life expectancy of up to 60 years but for O’Barry, it is not a question of how long the dolphins’ life-span is but their quality of life. “Right now, those dolphins are on death row. Putting them back in nature is not a science project but it is the right thing to do,” he said. “They need us to leave them alone. That’s what we need to do. Leave them alone.”

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Malaysia: More Turtle Conservation Awareness Programmes In Future

Bernama 17 Apr 11;

LUMUT, April 17 (Bernama) -- The Fisheries Department will create more awareness programmes on the conservation of turtles and other endangered marine species to prevent their extinction.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum said the programmes will emphasise more on school students.

"These programmes will include exhibitions, seminars on the management of endangered marine species, burying turtle eggs in hatching areas as well as turtle rescue demonstrations," he told Bernama after launching the Endangered Marine Species and Turtle Conservation Awareness Programme at Segari Turtle Management Centre, near here Sunday.

He said this will ensure that marine species such as turtles are protected as studies found that landings have dropped drastically due to turtles being hunted for their eggs, meat, shell and as pets.

Meanwhile, Fisheries Department director-general Datuk Ahmad Sabki Mahmood said data from 2001 to 2010 showed that 31,851 turtles landed on our shores and almost 2.5mil eggs were collected for hatching.

He said 1.9mil turtles were hatched at six turtle management centres which were then released into their natural habitat.

"The Fisheries Department has set up seven Turtle Management and Conservation Centres nationwide in a bid to prevent their extinction.

"The effort which began in the 1960s includes Segari Turtle Management Centre in 1990," he said at the same event here today.

Besides Segari, there are also centres in Pengkalan Balak (Melaka), Cherating (Pahang), Kerachut (Penang), Rantau Abang and Ma'Daerah (Terengganu).


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Malaysia: Less poaching with 3-way help

M. Hamzah Jamaludin New Straits Times 17 Apr 11;

KUANTAN: It is quite hard to check poaching in the vast jungles of Pahang, but close cooperation between the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan), non-governmental organisations and the public has made the job easier.

State Perhilitan director Khairiah Mohd Shariff said NGOs have also helped create awareness among the public and the Orang Asli.

"We were having difficulties in preventing the Orang Asli from being exploited, but with the help of NGOs, many of them have realised that it is an offence to capture protected species."

Khairiah said it was difficult to take the Orang Asli to court as they did not live in one place or understand the law.

Khairiah said public awareness on the issue had improved and many people had contacted the department and the NGOs to report poaching activities.

Among the most active NGOs are those under the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers or Mycat.

Mycat members include the Malaysian Nature Society, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (Traffic) Southeast Asia and World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF)-Malaysia. Mycat is being supported by Perhilitan for joint implementation of the National Tiger Action Plan for Malaysia.

Khairiah said the recent success in the arrest of a restaurant owner in Kuala Lipis for possession of tiger parts and other exotic animal meat was due to public tip-off and cooperation from the NGOs.

During the raid, the Perhiltan team found bottles containing tiger skin and claws, believed to have been part of the exotic delicacies served at the restaurant.

It is learnt that tigers could fetch up to RM300,000 each on the black market.

They also found 17kg of barking deer meat, two skinned mousedeers, 54 pheasant feathers and a live white-breasted waterhen.

Traffic senior communications officer Elizabeth John said many of the NGOs had organised awareness programmes for the Orang Asli to ensure that they would not be exploited by poachers.

"Some prefer to contact the NGOs as they want to remain anonymous.

"We will immediately inform Perhilitan when we receive such information."

Elizabeth said those with information on poaching and trafficking of animals, particularly tigers, can contact MYCAT hotline number at 019-3564194.

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Fishermen in Amazon See a Rival in Dolphins

Alexei Barrionuevo New York Times 16 Apr 11;

IGARAPÉ DO COSTA, Brazil — Along the rivers of the Amazon rain forest, people still recount legends in which pink dolphins are magical creatures that can turn into men and impregnate women. Brazilian musicians write songs about them, singing lovingly about the “eye of the river dolphin.”

But for Ronan Benício Rego, a fisherman in this tiny settlement, pink dolphins are both rival — and prey.

Standing on the muddy banks of the river here recently, he said he had killed river dolphins many times before, to use as bait to catch a catfish that is sold to unknowing consumers in Brazil and Colombia.

“We want to make money,” said Mr. Rego, 43, the president of the community here. Two dead dolphins could yield about $2,400 in catfish sales in a single day of fishing, he said.

But bait is not the only objective. Though the pink dolphins are protected by law, the fishermen see them as nettlesome competitors for the catches that feed their families, and their frustration sometimes boils over.

“I have harpooned some just to be mean,” Mr. Rego said, lifting a harpoon to demonstrate how he would spear dolphins at close range.

The illegal slaughtering of dolphins is on the rise here, threatening one of the storied symbols of the Amazon and illustrating the challenge of policing environmental law in such a vast territory, researchers and government officials say. Hundreds, if not thousands, of the estimated 30,000 river dolphins plying the Amazon region are dying every year, they say.

Miguel Miguéis, 41, a Portuguese researcher from the Federal University of Western Pará who studies river dolphin populations around the city of Santarém, said the high rate of killings could lead to their extinction. “They are killing their culture, their folklore,” Dr. Miguéis said. “They are killing the Amazon.”

Several hours upriver from here, in the biological reserve of Rio Trombetas, where river dolphins swim in an Amazon tributary teeming with piranhas and crocodiles, Dr. Miguéis said he had seen the dolphin population fall to a little over 50 earlier this year from about 250 in 2009.

“I am really worried about what is happening at the reserve,” Dr. Miguéis said.

Brazil’s environmental laws strictly prohibit the killing of dolphins and many other wild animals. Violators could face up to four years in prison. But enforcement in the vast Amazon is a huge challenge for Ibama, the Brazilian environmental protection agency, which has 1,300 agents covering the entire country. The Brazilian Amazon alone is larger than India.

Fishermen in Igarapé, about three hours by boat from Santarém, said agents from Ibama had never visited their community of about 350 people.

Luciano Evaristo, the director of environmental protection with Ibama, acknowledged a growing problem with the killing of river dolphins in the Amazon related to high demand in Colombia for the catfish, and he vowed to crack down on the practice.

Using dolphin meat as bait for the catfish “is horrible, and Ibama will stop this,” Mr. Evaristo said. “When Ibama gets there, many people will be arrested.”

Yet here in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, many people are indifferent about the killings. At an open-air market in Santarém, vendors sell genitals removed from dead dolphins as good luck charms for sex and love. Jars of oil from river dolphin fat sit alongside oil from anacondas and crocodiles. The dolphin oil potion, which sells for about $25 a small bottle, is used to treat rheumatism, a saleswoman explained.

At a Santarém fish market, customers said they had no idea fishermen were using dolphins to catch the catfish, known as piracatinga in Brazil. Still, they said protecting dolphins was not a priority.

“I would eat the fish if I knew it ate dolphins because the dolphins are healthy and come from the Amazon River,” said Teresa Oliveira, 67.

Local legends, dating to before Columbus arrived in the New World, have long warned Amazon residents to be respectful but wary of the river dolphins, which they believe have magical powers and can do evil.

“I always tell my daughters to stay away from the water during their menstrual cycle,” said Maria Siqueira, 59, who lives in Trombetas. “Just like my mother told me, I tell them the dolphin will impregnate them.”

Legends aside, the slaughtering of Amazonian dolphins has become a serious concern for Brazilian officials. Mr. Evaristo said Ibama planned to investigate the possibility that Brazilian fishermen were involved in an organized criminal operation with ties to Colombia.

About a decade ago, overfishing of a popular fish in Colombia called capaz collapsed the stocks and practically wiped out the species, said Fernando Trujillo, the scientific director of the Omacha Foundation, an environmental group in Bogotá. Seeking a substitute, fish processors and vendors began using the piracatinga from Brazil. In Colombia this scavenger fish is known as “mota.”

“The consumer has no idea what he is buying and consuming,” Mr. Trujillo said. “And they have even less of an idea that dolphins are being killed to catch this fish.”

Andrés García, 31, who runs a fish stall in the Paloquemao market in Bogotá, said he would stop selling the catfish if he knew it was being caught with dolphin meat. “More than one of us would say no to this practice,” Mr. García said. “The dolphin is an animal threatened with extinction. I wouldn’t want to support something like that.”

Mr. Trujillo said he had found the species of catfish linked to dolphin killings in two grocery store chains in Colombia, Éxito and Carrefour. Press officers for both companies denied that the chains were buying the fish from Brazil, saying that they buy the catfish from Venezuela, though Mr. Trujillo doubted that the companies knew how the fish were caught.

Dr. Miguéis, the Portuguese biologist, has been on a crusade since 2005 to protect the river dolphins and identify their killers. He and some of his students identified several small settlements near Santarém where fishermen had turned to killing pink dolphins to attract the catfish. The fishermen sell them to local fish-processing plants, which then export the catfish to Colombia and other countries, he said.

Fishermen in Igarapé said they got the idea from Colombian fishermen. A few years ago, a group of Colombians near the triple frontier with Peru and Brazil taught at least two Brazilians a special technique in which they submerge a gloved hand into the water holding pieces of dead dolphin bones. The catfish, attracted by the dolphins’ strong odor, quickly latch onto the bait, fishermen said.

Among those who learned the technique was a man from Santarém who goes by Pelé, the name of the famous Brazilian soccer player. Pelé, in turn, came to Igarapé and taught some of the fishermen, including Mr. Rego, the “hand in glove” technique using dolphin bait, the fishermen said.

“People could not believe he could fish so many tons in one night,” said Nélio da Silva Campo, 32. “He became a professional at it.”

The fishermen soon discovered that the catfish was a potential bonanza. “In just two hours we would be making 100 reals,” Mr. Rego said, more than $60. “It was fast.”

Mr. Rego and other fishermen said they had stopped slaughtering dolphins about a year ago, fearing action by the authorities, and now used pig meat to catch the catfish instead. But two of their wives said the fishermen continued to kill dolphins, sometimes in front of their homes.

“I saw many die here,” said Silvia Rego de Santos, 31.

In Igarapé, veteran fishermen like Edilson Rocha, 58, recount stories of their battles with the pink dolphins. To the fishermen, the dolphins are abundant in the river and should not receive special environmental protection. They say they cause a nuisance by getting caught in their nets trying to feed.

“We don’t like him; we are his enemy,” said the burly Mr. Rocha, minutes after hoisting a stingray from the river with a lone fishing line. “I killed one when I was waiting for the fish to bite,” he continued. “He kept coming closer and the fish were leaving, so I harpooned the dolphin. I couldn’t stand it anymore.”

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Possible to have same power with less damage with alternative Mekong dams

WWF 18 Apr 11;

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: A new study by WWF on aquatic ecosystem connectivity reveals that the Mekong region could have equivalent power but dramatically less damage to river functioning by opting for tributary rather than main channel dams.

Poorly evaluated and uncontrolled dam development could also take the Mekong to a tipping point past which vital natural processes, such as sediment- and nutrient transport and fish migration, could no longer be taken for granted, WWF warned.

“No part of the Mekong River still provides connectivity to all the 13 ecosystem types classified by a recent WWF study,” said Nikolai Sindorf from WWF Conservation Science Program. “The impact of continuing incremental dam development will disconnect more-and-more ecosystem processes.”

“Where it gets alarming is the disproportional amount of negative impact from dam construction on the lower mainstream of the river such as Xayaburi, a dam proposed in northern Laos. The Mekong is extremely sensitive to the impacts of mainstream dams because of its layout - a very long mainstream fed by relatively short tributaries.“

Xayaburi, the first of 11 dams proposed for the Mekong stream, is projected to produce 1260 MW of power while reducing the basin’s total connectivity by five percent. In contrast the 1070MW Nam Theun 2 dam on the Nam Theun River in Laos took only 0.8 per cent out of the Mekong’s connectivity, and the 1540MW Se San cascade of 6 dams decreased connectivity by just 1.2 per cent.

The proposed Xayaburi dam would cut 9 aquatic ecosystems upstream out of a total of 13 using WWF’s classification. Meanwhile, both Nam Theun 2 and the Se San cascade only block a single ecosystem in much smaller parts of the basin.

Ecosystem connectivity is critical to maintain the river and its reproductive processes. The study shows graphically that the 50 larger dams located on tributaries already cause serious interruptions to relevant river processes. In the new study, which quantifies the fragmentation by cumulative dam development on the Mekong river system by WWF scientists, “ecosystem connectivity” was measured by the overlap of those ecosystem processes vital to river functioning under an array of conditions such as land cover, hydrology and seasonal factors.

“The impact of basin-wide dam planning on ecosystem connectivity needs to become one of the measures against which projects are assessed,” said Dang Thuy Trang, Manager, Sustainable Hydropower and River Basin Programme, WWF Greater Mekong Programme. “This will make it easier to develop the Mekong basin with a much lower environmental footprint. Ultimately, this would lead us to a situation where local energy demands are met, and relevant ecosystem processes are conserved basin-wide.

WWF is calling for a 10-year delay in the approval of the mainstream dams to fully consider the costs and benefits of their construction and operation. Immediate energy needs can be met from multiple hydropower projects on some selected Mekong tributaries where connectivity impacts are disproportionally lower.

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Arctic's Icy Coastlines Retreat as Planet Warms

Wynne Parry, LiveScience Yahoo News 17 Apr 11;

In the high latitudes, climate change projections must take a new factor into account: Ice. In the Arctic, the loss of sea ice is likely to have dramatic repercussions, including greater erosion, which can present problems for the people and economic activity in this region, according to two new reports.

Sea ice is disappearing from Arctic waters at an unprecedented rate — more rapidly than predicted by the most extreme projections in the most recent assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, according to the researchers.

The rapid decline — 2010 had the third smallest summer ice cover of the past 30 years — suggests that human-caused climate change is being augmented by natural fluctuations, said Volker Rachold, a researcher with the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany who contributed to two recent reports on the Arctic coastline. "Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain the rapid loss of sea ice we are seeing at the moment," Rachold said.

Less sea ice means more open water, which means stronger waves generated by wind. These, in combination with warming temperatures and more storms, mean more erosion of coastlines. Rising sea levels are also expected to enhance erosion. One of the reports, a study published in the journal Estuaries and Coasts, found an average rate of erosion of 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) per year for the Arctic coast. It identifies the Laptev, East Siberian and Beaufort seas as the areas with the highest rates of erosion.

Icy coasts are vulnerable

Some coastlines are more vulnerable than others. Rocky shorelines easily outlast the frozen sediments — the permafrost coast — that lines Arctic terrain. Sixty-five percent of the coastline facing directly into the Arctic Ocean, and 34 percent of the world's coastline, are Arctic permafrost.

These sediments can be rich in ice, making them sensitive to erosion, because warmer temperatures and waves wear away at them, Rachold said.

Coastal erosion and warming temperatures — record high temperatures extended across Greenland and the Canadian Arctic last summer — could exacerbate global warming by releasing gas hydrates contained in the permafrost. Gas hydrates are ice-like crystals composed of water and gases, often methane, a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide; however, the implications of the release of gas hydrates aren't fully understood, according to Rachold.

The human dimension

Permafrost sediments are often flat and low-lying, making them good locations for settlements. Unfortunately, in some places, erosion can vary up to 33 to 98 feet (10 to 30 meters) per year. Storms are a particularly potent cause of erosion, according to the second report, The State of the Arctic Coast 2010. Both reports were prepared by teams of international scientists.

Many Arctic communities have a history of dealing with retreating land. Even so, some are in dire situations.

For example, Shishmaref is a community of indigenous Inupiaq located on a barrier island in Northwest Alaska. The island, a quarter of a mile wide and 3 miles in length, is made of fine sand and permafrost. After watching both its northern and southern shorelines steadily creeping inward, punctuated by severe storms, the community decided to relocate to the mainland, according to the Shishmaref Erosion & Relocation Coalition. [Climate Change Redraws World Maps]

Sea walls and other barriers are options for some communities, but they are costly and funds are limited, the report says, which points out that changes will also affect economic activity, which in the Arctic focuses on extracting natural resources, such as fishing.

Monitoring the Arctic coast should be a priority so people can adapt to changes and make sure future development is sustainable, according to the second report, which assesses the physical, biological, social and policy dimensions of the effects of climate change on the Arctic coasts.

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