Best of our wild blogs: 9 May 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [2 - 8 May 2011]
from Green Business Times

Life History of the Peacock Pansy
from Butterflies of Singapore

Nesting of the Black-naped Oriole: 2. Nest attachment
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A selection of birds @ SBWR 08May2011
from sgbeachbum

Strange nudibranch at Cyrene
from wild shores of singapore

Of balloons and political rallies
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Red Palm Weevil
from Monday Morgue

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Food operators rebuff Sabah’s proposed shark hunting ban

Ruben Sario The Star 9 May 11;

KOTA KINABALU: Restaurateurs here are questioning the Sabah government's proposed move to ban shark hunting.

Describing the proposal as “not making sense”, Sabah Restaurant Association chairman Lim Vun Chen said sharks should be allowed to be harvested like any other marine creature.

He also claimed that many fishermen, especially in Sabah's east coast, depended on sharks for their livelihood.

Lim, the Pan-Malaysia Restaurant and Chef Association vice-president, said the perception that sharks were only hunted for their fins was wrong as their flesh, skin and even bones were much in demand.

“The skin is used for fish maw soup, the bones are also made into soup or dried and ground into powder and made into capsules as some believe these contain medicinal properties.

“Shark's skin now fetch between RM20 to RM30 a kilo while the flesh is sold for RM8 a kilo. The fishermen are making a decent living from this creature. Why deny them their livelihood?” he added.

He said the effectiveness of Sabah's efforts to conserve sharks was also questionable if there was not a worldwide fishing ban.

“We conserve our sharks here, but then they swim out to the South China Sea and get caught by the Chinese or Vietnamese fishermen instead. What is the point?” Lim added.

He also noted that most shark fins served in the state were imported from nearby countries.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said on Saturday the state government was studying the legal aspects on the proposed shark hunting ban.

He said the move that would require amendments to the State Wildlife Protection Ordinance would be introduced by year-end.

Masidi said it was important to start protecting the marine creature as its population had dwindled to only 20% of its original population.

He said that in Sabah, sharks could only be spotted in four areas and if nothing was done, the creature could disappear entirely as had happened in waters off the peninsula.

Other measures include getting Malaysia Airports Berhad to bar retailers from selling shark fins in airports in the state while the state had also taken shark fin soup off the menu of its official functions.

Chinese groups back plan to ban shark hunting
The Star/Asia News Network Asia One 8 May 11;

PETALING JAYA: Chinese groups here have come out in support of the proposed ban on shark hunting by the Sabah government.

Malaysia Chinese Food Consumer Association vice-chairman Wilson Chia said shark hunting is a cruel act and his association fully supports the ban.

He said the association also discouraged the community from choosing shark fin soup as the main course during functions.

"The dish can easily be replaced with abalone or prawns," he said.

The Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia deputy secretary-general Dr Chin Yew Sin welcomed the proposed ban and called on the Chinese community to also support the move.

"We have hundreds of other dishes to choose from besides shark fin soup," he said, adding that restaurants also had various substitutes for the delicacy.

Malaysian Nature Society urged the state government to not just ban shark hunting but the consumption of shark fin soup as well.

"We hope Sabah will serve as an example for other states," said its head of communications Andrew Sebastian, adding that it had been campaigning against the consumption of shark fin since 2007.

Malaysian Animal Welfare Society president Shenaaz Khan called for the hunting ban to be extended to other wildlife as well.

She said many people would not consume shark fin if they were aware of how shark fins were obtained.

"The fishermen just cut off the shark's fins before throwing the animal back into the sea to die," she said, adding that many restaurants were becoming more environmentally conscious and had taken the delicacy off their menus.

Malaysian state plans ban on shark hunting
Associated Press Yahoo News 9 May 11;

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian state plans to ban shark fishing in a bid to bolster tourism and conserve a species hunted mainly for fins that are used to create a culinary delicacy, an official said Monday.

Masidi Manjun, tourism, culture and environment minister in eastern Sabah state on Borneo island, said local activists and foreign tourists have complained about cruel shark finning activities by local fishermen.

He said the state government is aiming to impose the ban starting next year. It would make Sabah the first state in Malaysia — one of the world's top shark-catching countries — to impose such a ban.

While there is no official data on the shark population, Masidi estimated only 20 percent of sharks spotted in the state 15 years ago are still in Sabah waters.

"There are only four coastal areas now where sharks can be spotted," he told The Associated Press. "If we don't do something about it, sharks may disappear from our waters completely. We will also lose tourism dollars."

Tens of millions of sharks are killed across the globe every year, mainly for their fins. Activists say finning is inhumane and a threat to the ocean ecosystem because fishermen slice the fins off the shark and toss the fish back into the water to die.

Shark fin soup, widely sold across Asia, can sell for more than $80 a bowl and is often served at weddings and banquets as a symbol of wealth.

Restaurant operators in Sabah oppose the ban, saying that sharks are also harvested for their flesh, skin and bones, which can be made into soup.

"We conserve our sharks here, but then they swim out to the South China Sea and get caught by Chinese or Vietnamese fishermen instead. What is the point?" said Sabah Restaurant Association chairman Lim Vun Chen.

Masidi said the state would not ban the importation and sale of shark fins for now but would educate consumers on the cruelty of shark finning. Sabah's government has already taken shark fin soup off the menu for official functions, he said.

Tourism is a major revenue earner for Sabah, which is famed for the rich biodiversity in its rain forests and dive sites teeming with coral reefs and marine life.

Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, says up to 73 million sharks are killed annually. Malaysia ranks among the world's top 10 shark-catching countries, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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Camera captures tiger cubs in forest under imminent threat of clearing

WWF 9 May 11;

Pekanbaru, Indonesia – WWF camera traps recorded an astounding 12 tigers in just two months in the central Sumatran landscape of Bukit Tigapuluh, including two mothers with cubs. A video camera trap in the same area has also captured footage of three young tiger siblings playfully chasing a leaf.

Sumatran Tigers on Camera Trap from WWF on Vimeo.

“Our team was thrilled to discover 47 tiger images in our camera traps, from which we identified six unique individuals,” said Karmila Parakkasi, who leads WWF’s tiger research team in Sumatra. “That was the highest number of tigers and tiger images obtained in the first month of sampling we’ve ever experienced. And then the results from the second month were even more impressive—not just one tiger family but two, with another six tigers.”

The forest where the tigers were recorded is under imminent threat of being cleared by the pulp and paper industry, despite being designated a “global priority Tiger Conservation Landscape”. It is one of six the government of Indonesia pledged to protect at last November’s tiger summit of world leaders in Russia. The area, known as Bukit Tigapuluh, or “Thirty Hills”, is located in Riau and Jambi provinces in Central Sumatra.

There are an estimated 400 critically endangered Sumatran tigers left in the wild. Evidence of three cubs surviving is extremely rare, WWF tiger experts said, and was captured by cameras located in the forest that are triggered by infrared sensors.

“What’s unclear is whether we found so many tigers because we’re getting better at locating our cameras or because the tigers’ habitat is shrinking so rapidly here that they are being forced into sharing smaller and smaller bits of forests,” said Parakkasi.

WWF’s analysis found the tigers are concentrated in locations with good forest cover, which includes natural forest areas inside a land concession belonging to a subsidiary of Barito Timber Pacific. As soon as pending permits are granted by the government, the company could clear the forest to supply the wood to Asia Pulp & Paper of Sinar Mas Group. Prominent conservation groups including WWF have urged the two companies and the government of Indonesia to protect these forests instead.

“This video confirms the extreme importance of these forests in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem and its wildlife corridor,” said Anwar Purwoto, director of WWF-Indonesia’s Forest and Species Program. “WWF calls for all concessions operating in this area to abandon plans to clear this forest and protect areas with high conservation value. We also urge the local, provincial and central government to take into consideration the importance of this corridor and manage it as part of Indonesia’s commitments to protecting biodiversity.”

Between 2004 and 2010, Bukit Tigapuluh lost 205,460 hectares of forest to pulp and paper and the palm oil industries.

The Sumatran tiger and the other five surviving tiger subspecies – the Amur, Malayan, Bengal, Indochinese and South China – number as few as 3,200. WWF is working to build the political, financial and public support to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022.

Forest clearance threatens Sumatran tigers: WWF
Yahoo News 9 May 11;

JAKARTA (AFP) – Conservation group WWF Monday urged companies to drop plans to clear Indonesian forest areas where infra-red cameras have captured footage of rare Sumatran tigers and their cubs.

The video recorded in March and April shows two mothers with four cubs and another six of the critically endangered big cats in the Bukit Tigapuluh wildlife reserve in eastern Sumatra.

"That was the highest number of tigers and tiger images obtained... we've ever experienced," WWF tiger researcher Karmila Parakkasi said in a statement.

The 12 tigers are concentrated in locations with good forest cover, which includes natural forest inside a land concession belonging to Barito Pacific Timber, wood supplier to regional giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), the statement added.

"This video confirms the extreme importance of these forests in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem and its wildlife corridor," the WWF's forest and species programme director Anwar Purwoto said.

"WWF calls for all concessions operating in this area to abandon plans to clear this forest and protect areas with high conservation value," he added.

"We also urge the local, provincial and central government to take into consideration the importance of this corridor and manage it as part of Indonesia's commitments to protecting biodiversity," he said.

There are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. Environmental activists say the animals are increasingly coming into contact with people as a result of their natural habitat being lost due to deforestation for timber and palm oil plantations.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been under pressure from environmentalists to implement a promised two-year moratorium on the clearing of natural forest and peatland, which was due to begin January 1.

Norway agreed in May last year to contribute up to $1 billion to help preserve Indonesia's forests, in part through the moratorium.

A summit in Russia in November 2010 of the 13 countries that are home to wild tigers was the first meeting of top state officials and international organisations on the threats posed to the animal, and was the first step to unblocking funds needed to launch a five-year 350 million dollar plan of action to save the cat.

The Indian subcontinent is home to half of remaining animals as well as responsible for 54 percent of all tiger poaching.

China is the primary consumer of tiger-derived products, which are used in Chinese traditional medicine.

Russia's Amur tigers, which populate the Far Eastern Primorye region, have also suffered from habitat destruction and become targets for poachers eager to sell them across the Chinese border.

WWF takes images of rare tigers in logging forest
Reuters 9 May 11;

(Reuters Life!) - The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has recorded images of 12 endangered Sumatran tigers, including a mother playing with cubs, in an Indonesian forest that it said is about to be cleared by loggers.

WWF, which estimates that there are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, captured the images on camera traps in the Bukit Tigapuluh forest on central Sumatra island, which has seen rampant deforestation for palm oil and paper plantations.

Karmila Parakkasi, leader of WWF's tiger research team in Sumatra, said the number of big cats seen in two months of observation was impressive.

"What's unclear is whether we found so many tigers because we're getting better at locating our cameras or because the tiger's habitat is shrinking so rapidly here that they are being forced into sharing smaller and smaller bits of forests," Parakkasi said.

Still images show six individual tigers and a mother with a cub, while the video shows footage of another mother and three young cubs playfully chasing a leaf.

WWF said Indonesia's government had pledged to protect this forest area, but it was inside a land concession belonging to a subsidiary of Indonesian paper firm Barito Timber Pacific. The firm was not immediately available for comment.

"As soon as pending permits are granted by the government, the company could clear the forest to supply the wood to Asia Pulp & Paper of Sinar Mas Group," said WWF, adding that it and other environmental groups have opposed the clearance plan. Indonesia agreed with Norway a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear forest, under a landmark $1 billion deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, but it has yet to be signed into law as ministries wrangle over details.

The moratorium was expected to slow rapid industry expansion by the world's largest producer of palm oil, used to make everything from biscuits and soap to biodiesel and seeing growing demand from consumers in fast-growing Asia.

In the last 50 years, Indonesia has lost both the Bali tiger and Java tiger.

(Reporting by Alfian; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Alex Richardson)

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Whale sharks can now be tracked in Donsol

Juan Escandor Jr. Inquirer Southern Luzon 8 May 11;

NAGA CITY—If you’re going to Donsol town in Sorgoson for an encounter with a “butanding” (whale shark) on a clear day, you are not likely to get disappointed.

According to data obtained by the Department of Tourism (DOT) from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 165 whale sharks are now in the waters of Donsol.

The number was determined through photo identification and satellite tracking systems introduced by the WWF to protect the “gentle giants,” considered the world’s biggest fish, from the intrusive activity of interacting with humans.

Maria Ravanilla, tourism regional director, said the WWF was relaying the information to her office to promote and market the butanding interaction, the main tourism product in Donsol.

One of the rules to avoid stressing the sea creatures is to limit the number of supervised interactions to one boat-one whale shark, with a maximum of 30 boats allowed at any given time in the open sea.

Ravanilla, however, lamented that the rules were violated during the Holy Week with some 5,000 tourist arrivals reported. “Tourists became impatient and would curse if it took them a long time to wait,” she said.

The WWF tracking showed that the same whale sharks visit Donsol every year, usually from January to May.

Also, the waters appear to be both feeding and breeding grounds following the discovery of a 15-inch juvenile in the area, Ravanilla said.

The whale sharks are monitored through photo identification, which recognizes them individually from the pattern of white spots on the dark side. The method is similar to that used in discerning the constellations from night images used by the Hubble Space Telescope, according to WWF information given to the DOT.

The photo identification of whale sharks visiting Donsol has been going on since 2007. Data are stored in Ecocean, an Australia-based research organization, and are accessible through an Internet-based software application.

The WWF has so far recorded a total of 328 whale sharks in Donsol, of which 154 were recorded last year.

Whale shark interaction remains the top ecotourism attraction in the country, with a 10 percent growth of tourist arrivals in Sorsogon during the first quarter of 2011.

The WWF described whale shark photo-identification as a non-invasive approach in understanding the uniqueness of individual animals.

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Citizen science: Armies of volunteers aid research

Mary Esch Associated Press Yahoo News 8 May 11;

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – Environmental scientist Chris Bowser pulled a tiny shrimp-like creature from the muck in an eel trap as teenagers in chest waders surrounded him in the rushing Fall Kill, where they were collecting transparent baby eels.

"This is called a scud, or amphipod," Bowser said, launching into a riff on the food chain and pollution.

"Are you going to eat it?" a girl interrupted.

"What? No!" Bowser snapped, then reconsidered and popped it in his mouth. "Tastes like shrimp seasoned with mud."

Besides being a researcher in the state's Hudson River Estuary Program, Bowser leads citizen projects that collect reams of data for scientists and resource management agencies while engaging volunteers in hands-on science and teaching them something about the world around them. His Steve Irwin-style exuberance and enthusiasm for his subject matter make Bowser an ideal leader in the rapidly expanding world of citizen science.

Once restricted mainly to counting birds — most famously, in Audubon's 111-year-old Christmas Bird Count — citizen science has expanded rapidly in recent years, both in number and variety of projects. Some projects count things — fireflies, ladybugs, frogs, herring. Others record data on water quality, weather, flower budding and other phenomena. Still others already have the data but need a lot of people to sort through it.

Darlene Cavalier, whose ScienceForCitizens website brings together volunteers and research projects, said she started the site when she was a graduate student writing a thesis on promoting citizen science. The site's growth from a blog listing about 40 projects in 2006 to a busy portal with more than 400 projects in its database today mirrors the expansion of citizen science in the U.S., Cavalier said.

"My goal is to get as many people as possible involved in citizen science projects," said Cavalier. The more people learn about science and build a personal connection to research, the better they'll be able to participate in policy decisions related to science and the environment, she said.

For researchers, volunteers provide free labor and are able to complete a great deal of work in a short time if there are a lot of them. Galaxy Zoo was launched in 2007 to enlist volunteers to classify photographs of a million galaxies. More than 250,000 people have participated so far, providing information used in numerous peer-reviewed journal articles.

"Professional science communities were a little wary of involving the public in the past because of trust issues and concerns about bad data," Cavalier said. Better design of projects and new methods of weeding out bad data have overcome much of that concern, she said.

Janis Dickinson, director of citizen science at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is co-author of a book soon to be published about the lab's highly regarded citizen science projects, which include Project FeederWatch, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and eBird, a global online tool where birders enter sightings into a massive database.

"The book is about how we can harness the Internet to create conservation communities that are actually practicing data collection over huge and relevant geographic scales that really encompass the distributions of the organisms that we're concerned about," Dickinson said. "The Internet allowed us suddenly to be able to take in data from a broad public, now globally with eBird, and then process that data and provide tools to the public so they can visualize and manipulate the data."

As citizen science has become more sophisticated, the scientific community has embraced it, Dickinson said.

"Ten years ago when our researchers tried to publish they'd usually get a peer reviewer who was skeptical of the data," Dickinson said. "We don't see that any more. The research associate working in my group, who did his Ph.D. working from citizen science data, submitted a paper last August that was one of the fastest accepted I've ever seen."

Bowser said researchers are becoming more accepting of volunteer-based data collection, but only if the protocols are straightforward enough and the citizens participating are trained and able to follow those protocols carefully.

"This eel project is a great model for citizen science," Bowser said after wading ashore and leaving the students to their eel counting and water sampling. "For one thing, the species has a real demonstrated conservation need. We've seen a decline in American eels — in some populations 80 to 90 percent — since the 1970s, and we're not sure why. The data we collect goes to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which wants this information."

Volunteers like to know they're doing something with real value, he said. They also like the fact that it requires a time commitment of just two months in the spring.

"Also, the eel has this very compelling story," Bowser said. "They're born in the ocean in the Sargasso Sea, then travel thousands of miles as baby glass eels to swim up rivers and populate the watersheds. And they're charismatic in an underdog, Humphrey Bogart kind of way."

"It's good for kids to get outdoors and see what's out there," said 20-year-old Jorge Reyes-Bravo, who started working on the eel project when he was in high school and continues to volunteer now that he's in community college majoring in environmental studies. "We don't want to see species disappear. We want to figure out why they're disappearing and help them."



Eel study:

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Montana Tribes Ready For Historic Return Of Buffalo

Laura Zuckerman PlanetArk 9 May 11;

For the first time in nearly 140 years, the Indian tribes of northeastern Montana are preparing for the return of wild buffalo that are descended from herds that once thundered across the vast American West.

The Sioux and Assiniboine tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in coming months will claim dozens of buffalo originating from Yellowstone National Park, home to the last free-roaming, purebred bands of buffalo, or bison, in the United States.

On Monday, Montana wildlife officials plan to inspect 5,000 acres at Fort Peck that have been readied for the arrival of the native buffalo, which for centuries provided food, clothing and spiritual sustenance to American Indians.

The inspection marks a milestone in a years-long plan by federal, state and tribal managers of Yellowstone bison to give Native Americans in Montana custody of an assortment of bulls, cows and calves to cultivate new herds on tribal lands.

For American Indians, whose fortunes in the 19th century declined with eradication of the herds they depended on, the buffalo's return symbolizes fresh hope for an ancient culture.

"It's the beginning of a whole new chapter for the bison and for us. It brings us right back to where we were," said Robert Magnan, head of Fort Peck's fish and game department.

Systematic hunting of buffalo west of the Mississippi cut their numbers from tens of millions to the fewer than 50 animals that found refuge at Yellowstone in the early 20th century. That population has since grown to some 3,700 head.

Unlike other bison in the United States that exist in national parks and refuges and are commercially ranched, the Yellowstone herd has not been crossed with domestic cattle and has roots dating to prehistoric times.

The planned transfer of animals is expected in coming months at Fort Peck, where $250,000 has been spent on preparing pasture and 26 miles of fencing for several dozen buffalo.

Fort Peck is to be the first of several reservations in Montana to provide new homes where buffalo can safely roam.

The bison to be claimed by the tribes are part of a Yellowstone band the state quarantined in 2005 and culled for brucellosis, a disease that can cause cows to miscarry.

Brucellosis is one of several reasons Montana's billion-dollar cattle industry supports killing most buffalo that wander from Yellowstone into Montana in search of food in the winter and objects to relocation of the iconic animals.

The return of buffalo to Indian tribes comes at a critical time for Yellowstone bison. Roughly 700 of the park's herd have been corralled this year after attempting to embark on their historic winter migration into Montana.

Hundreds of the captive bison were slated for slaughter when Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer granted them a stay of execution in February.

A plan that took effect last month to let Yellowstone buffalo into designated parts of Montana without facing capture or slaughter has raised the ire of ranchers. Errol Rice, head of the state Stockgrowers Association, has called on bison managers to revoke the plan.

"We continue to be faced with an array of challenges because of bison, and our family ranchers must have a voice," he said.

In a sign of growing dissension, two buffalo were illegally shot and killed in April outside Yellowstone's north entrance near Gardiner, Montana.

Such conflicts will not prevent Montana from keeping its pledge to tribes, said Art Noonan, deputy director of the state's wildlife and parks agency.

"Our intent is to get them bison," he told Reuters.

Magnan said the time was right for tribes to step in.

"Bison took care of Native Americans for centuries and provided everything we needed -- food, clothing, weapons and tools," he said. "Now they're in trouble, and it's our turn to take care of them."

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Ellen Wulfhorst)

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Kenya's Construction Boom Hurting Unique Game Park

Wangui Kanina PlanetArk 9 May 11;

A construction boom risks destroying a game park on the Kenyan capital's edge, where lions hunt in the shadows of skyscrapers, a wildlife official said.

Nairobi has a population of about three million people but that is expected to surge to eight million within two decades, fuelling demand for housing and commercial property.

Analysts say sky-high land prices in the capital are forcing Kenya's middle class to seek affordable plots on the outskirts.

Julius Kipng'etich, managing director of the state-run Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), says human settlement expansion and growth in industries pose a threat to Kenya's oldest national park next to the city.

Tourism is Kenya's number two foreign exchange earner after tea, while construction was the fastest growing sector in east Africa's biggest economy in 2010.

The economy is projected to grow by 5.7 percent this year from 5.2 percent in 2010.

"The upswing of the economy brings its own challenges, such as human settlements encroaching on protected areas. So the encroachment of the park comes from high class settlements and the slums that follow them," Kipng'etich told Reuters in an interview at the KWS offices.

Hundreds of acres around the park are mainly owned by nomadic Maasai, who subdivide and sell land to outsiders eager to build, he said, as a family of warthogs roamed outside the KWS headquarters and the occasional spine-chilling roar from the park's lions could be heard.

Established in 1946, the Nairobi National Park provides a chance for visitors to experience a safari game drive and view Kenya's famed wildlife between meetings, Kipng'etich said.

Most of the animals roam on the much bigger plains and come to the park through an open southern boundary for water during the dry season, but this vital corridor is increasingly restricted by fences and human settlements, he said.

The park has about 83 rare black rhinos, which poachers drove close to extinction in the 1990s as they sought their huge horns thought to have medicinal values. There are also about 38 lions in the park.


KWS and the Wildlife Foundation, a nongovernmental organization, have been working with communities in the area to protect the park by encouraging land practices that support conservation.

In one program the two bodies lease the land from the Maasai at competitive prices to discourage the subdivision and sale of land.

Another -- the predator program -- ensures that the owners of livestock killed or eaten by lions and other predators in the park are compensated at market price whenever possible.

"We have six kilometers of the corridor still open due to the partnership with the Wildlife Foundation," he said.

Some conservationists say the park should be fenced to contain wild animals and minimize conflicts with human. But Kipng'etich -- in his seventh year at the helm of the wildlife body -- differs.

"It would be tragic to have a closed system within the city. It will just be like slowly killing the natural park so it is our wish that this ecosystem remains open," he said.

(Editing by George Obulutsa)

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Palm Oil Companies Hope to Persuade EU to Lower Its Standards for Imports

Jakarta Globe 8 May 11;

Indonesian palm oil producers hope the Asean-European Union Business Summit leads to a breakthrough in exports of crude palm oil to Europe, which fell sharply after more stringent environmental regulations were put in place last year.

Derom Bangun, vice chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Board (DMSI), told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday that exports to EU countries fell after it instituted carbon footprint and conservation requirements for companies exporting palm oil to its member nations.

Indonesia’s exports to Europe in 2010 were just 15 percent of its 15.6 million tons of overall CPO shipments, down from 20 percent in 2008.

“The toughest difficulties are in exporting biodiesel. Requirements for such products to enter the market remain burdensome,” said Derom, adding that most Indonesian producers could not afford to pay for the greenhouse gases released when removing forests for palm oil cultivation.

Industry Minister M.S. Hidayat said last week that the government had formed a special team to identify various trade barriers that hamper exports of commodities, particularly palm oil, to the EU.

“We hope we can finish the identification of the trade barriers soon and overcome them so that our exports to Europe will not face constraints,” Hidayat said on Thursday.

Once the EU’s trade standards are verified, he continued, industries in Indonesia are expected to adjust their products to ease the country’s exports to Europe.

The government has also asked the EU to adjust its trade standards, with Hidayat claiming that the restrictions posed on Indonesian products were overly demanding.

“They set a relatively high standard. They do not want to accept CPO that is produced from plantations on peat land. I think it is an old issue, but it can be overcome because we do not export CPO produced from plantations on peat land areas,” the minister said.

Other obstacles include verification standards and attempts by environmental groups to bring to light destructive practices by palm oil producers, which the companies have claimed is a smear campaign.

To help prime Europe for future exports, the Agriculture Ministry has launched a “green product” campaign for palm oil. Agriculture Minister Suswono said the campaign took place through seminars and meetings between officials from Indonesia, Spain and France.

The 27-member EU is Indonesia’s second-largest trade partner, with annual bilateral commerce of Rp 253 trillion ($29.6 billion).

Antara, JG

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Aceh Angry Over Sale of Carbon Credits to Miner

Nurdin Hasan Jakarta Globe 7 May 11;

Banda Aceh. Officials have lambasted an Australian carbon broker for selling the marketing rights for carbon credits created through a forest conservation project to a Canadian mining firm.

According to a press release from Toronto-listed East Asia Minerals, Carbon Conservation included the sales and marketing rights to the carbon credits as part of the 50 percent equity the miner acquired in the broker.

East Asia Minerals said it paid $500,000 and issued 2.5 million shares to Carbon Conservation in the deal.

Makmur Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Aceh administration, confirmed that Carbon Conservation had signed on to help create carbon credits in the 700,000-hectare Ulu Masen forest conservation project.

However, he said that if Carbon Conservation had auctioned off the sales and marketing rights to those credits, then its contract with the Aceh administration would have to be reviewed.

“We may even cancel the contract if we find that they’ve abused the agreement [by selling the rights to a mining firm],” he said.

Vanda Mutia Dewi, coordinator of the environmental group Greenomics Indonesia, also lashed out at Carbon Conservation for giving up the rights to the miner.

“East Asia Minerals has mining interests in Aceh, and Carbon Conservation had the exclusive right to sell and market the carbon credits from Ulu Masen,” she said. “Clearly there’s a conflict of interest here. Carbon Conservation has abused its contract with the Aceh administration.”

Hasbi Abdullah, speaker of the Aceh legislature, said he was surprised the Aceh authorities had never been involved in the talks about the equity stake that Carbon Conservation had sold to East Asia Minerals.

“It’s that kind of move that’s dangerous for the future of Aceh’s forests,” he said.

“We’ll immediately summon Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf to explain how this was allowed to happen,” he added.

“The governor must answer for this mess because it was his administration that struck a deal with the foreign firm without informing the legislature, and subsequently causing losses to the province.”

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Hong Kong told to revamp air pollution rules

Yahoo News 8 May 11;

HONG KONG (AFP) – The Hong Kong government has been told to hammer out a timetable for new air quality rules amid increasingly vocal criticism of pollution in the global financial hub, a green group said Sunday.

The order from the city's ombudsman comes several months after Friends of the Earth Hong Kong asked the Chinese territory's leaders for an explanation of its outdated air quality objectives, largely unchanged since the late 1980s.

The environmental group filed a formal complaint last year over the city's pollution rules.

"We think the government was dragging its feet and (this decision) means they need to give a clear timetable for when the new air quality objectives will be released," Edwin Lau, the green group's director, told AFP on Sunday.

The watchdog's decision is non-binding but Lau said the order was "a little bit of a victory" since it could not force government action on the issue, and stopped short of accusing officials of "maladministration."

A spokesman for the ombudsman could not be reached Sunday, but the watchdog previously declined to comment on its probe, citing privacy laws.

The city's Environmental Protection Department was quoted by the Sunday Morning Post as saying the ruling was "welcome" and it was "working closely with the concerned bureaux and departments and other stakeholders with a view to drawing up a practicable timetable."

Hong Kong's roadside air pollution hit record levels last year as air quality continues to be a big health issue in the city of seven million, with critics warning that it would drive away talented professionals.

A survey last year by public policy think tank Civic Exchange found one-quarter of residents would like to leave Hong Kong to escape its pollution.

Emissions from factories in southern China, which seep over Hong Kong's border, combined with local emissions from power plants and transport, generate an almost daily thick blanket of haze over the teeming metropolis.

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Nuclear 'cheapest low-carbon option' for UK energy

Richard Black BBC News 9 May 11;

Nuclear power will remain the cheapest way for the UK to grow its low-carbon energy supply for at least a decade, according to government advisers.

But renewables should provide 30-45% of the nation's energy by 2030, says the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

Its new report suggests ministers may want to temper ambitions for offshore wind, which is still fairly expensive.

The coalition asked the CCC to advise on options for a low-carbon future shortly after taking office a year ago.

"People argue that offshore wind is very expensive - and it's true, it is more expensive at the moment than some other technologies, so nuclear at the moment looks like the lowest cost low-carbon option," said CCC chief executive David Kennedy.

"But we can expect significant cost reductions over the next two decades across a range of technologies, whether wind, marine or solar, and that's why these technologies are promising."

Wind could replace nuclear as the cheapest option within about 15-20 years, he indicated.

By 2030, the cost of using these low-carbon technologies rather than fossil fuels would put about £50 onto the average household's energy bill.

However, bills could actually go down if plans to improve energy efficiency, such as boosting home insulation, come to fruition.
Hard target

The committee's advice comes against a number of different targets and constraints.

First, there are European Union targets under which the UK has to achieve a 15% share of renewables by 2020, and a 34% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels.

It is already most of the way to the second of those targets, thanks mainly to the "dash for gas", measures to clean up methane emissions from landfill sites and the recession; but the renewables target is likely to prove tougher.

The government's main strategy is to encourage the installation of offshore wind farms - committee calculations suggest that even if 10MW turbines come into the market, at least 3,600 would be needed.

Here, the committee has two concerns. Some of that electricity could be generated more cheaply through onshore wind or buying renewable electricity from overseas; and currently, financial incentives end in 2020.

"There isn't anything in the way of government support after 2020 - it falls off a cliff - so we have to ask, 'why would you expect anybody to build an offshore wind turbine factory in the UK?'" said Mr Kennedy.

"So we're saying the government should commit to renewables support through the 2020s, and we've got offshore wind and marine technologies in mind here."

The committee is also looking at the government's long-term target of a cut of at least 80% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and asking what policies are needed in order to get on the right road.

They say that by 2030, it would mean generating virtually all electricity through low-carbon technologies - nuclear, renewables, and perhaps fossil-fuel stations that capture and store the carbon dioxide they produce.

Nuclear and renewables would each have about a 40% share, the report envisages.

This would require an additional two or three nuclear reactors on top of those developers are already planning to build.

The total amount of electricity generated would be about 20-25% larger than today, with the additional energy going to replace some of the heating currently done through burning gas and coal, and to power a burgeoning fleet of electric vehicles - 10 million by 2030.

"Smart batteries" in those vehicles would be among the resources used to store electricity at times of low demand and release it during peaks, helping to "smooth out" the supply across the day.

About 30-35% of the remaining heat requirement could be supplied through renewable technologies such as heat pumps and biogas, the committee says.

Only in transport would there be an enduring requirement for fossil fuels, with biofuels constrained by issues such as the increasing need for land to grow food crops.
Clean future?

Environmental groups have given the report a mixed reception.

"It's great that the committee has recognised the huge role renewable energy could and should be playing in taking Britain towards a clean, prosperous future - and is right to call for a dramatic increase in investment to make this happen," said Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns with Friends of the Earth.

"But nuclear power can't be part of the answer - our analysis shows it will divert vital money and effort away from developing renewable energy, and the jobs and industries it could bring to the UK.

"We've had 50 years of successive governments pandering to the nuclear lobby. If their promises of cheap, low-carbon energy were true, they would have been delivered by now."

EDF, one of Europe's largest energy companies that is aiming to build new reactors in the UK, welcomed the nuclear emphasis.

"The CCC has said that safe nuclear power, the lowest cost, large scale, low-carbon electricity source, is a key element; we agree," it said in a statement.

"EDF Energy has already taken steps to respond to early lessons from Fukushima.

"The designs we propose for the future already build in the lessons from previous extreme events, inside and outside our industry [and] we will take account of new lessons from Japan."

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Rich Nations Miss U.N. Climate Finance Deadline

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 9 May 11;

Rich countries have missed a U.N. deadline for outlining aid to help developing nations combat climate change.

Among industrialized nations, only Russia and Ukraine sent letters to the United Nations by the May 1 deadline -- only to say they did not feel obliged to contribute under a deal to provide almost $30 billion in initial "fast-start" climate funds from 2010-12.

The lack of response is a setback to the deal, under which aid is meant to rise to $100 billion a year by 2020.

"There are too many empty multilateral accounts," said Colin Beck, representative of the Solomon Islands at the United Nations.

"Developed countries continue to teeter in honoring even their modest commitments," said Clifford Polycarp, of the Washington-based World Resources Institute, which tracks climate aid pledges.

At a meeting of almost 200 nations in Cancun, Mexico, in December, industrialized nations agreed to give details of their first fast-start funds by May 2011 as part of a wider deal that included a plan to set up a Green Climate Fund.

The website of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, which oversees commitments, only has letters from Moscow and Kiev. It spells out that it interprets "by May" to mean "by May 1."

But deadlines set by U.N. agencies are often flexible and rich nations are expected to submit details soon, Polycarp said.

The cash is meant to help developing nations curb their rising greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, ranging from more droughts to rising sea levels.

But developed nations face problems in keeping pledges for 2010-12 aid, which now add up to about $30 billion. Japan is hardest hit, after the March earthquake and tsunami, while the United States and many others face budget cuts.

Rich nations promised new and additional climate funds at a 2009 summit in Copenhagen, and repeated the pledge in Cancun. Rich nations have done most to cause global warming, by emitting most greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution.

Beck said the uncertainty about the funds "summarizes the fragile trust and confidence that emerged from Cancun."

An international report this week said seas could rise by more than previously expected, up to 1.6 meters (5ft 3in) this century, a big worry for coastal communities and island states from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean.

The Cancun Agreements included a goal of limiting a rise in average world temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times. Temperatures have already risen by about 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.1 F).

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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