Best of our wild blogs: 18 Jun 11

Seahorse surprises at Punggol shore
from wonderful creation

The Sea Anemone Workshop 2011: Day 3
from wild shores of singapore

Still in the club
from The annotated budak

House Crows and juveniles of Asian Koel
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Why Bukit Brown is needed for housing

Letter from Tan See Nin Director (Physical Planning) Urban Redevelopment Authority
Today Online 18 Jun 11;

WE REFER to Mr Ronald Chan's letter 'Why destroy natural habitat when other land available' (June 15).

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has been consciously conserving both built and natural heritage in our planning for Singapore.

For instance, just across the road from Bukit Brown is our Central Catchment, a large protected tropical nature reserve which has a special place in the heart of many nature lovers.

Planning for the long-term in land-scarce Singapore does require us to make difficult trade-off decisions.

We will have to continue to ensure that sufficient land is safeguarded island-wide, and find ways to make good use of our limited land in order to meet future demand for uses such as housing, industry and infrastructure.

Bukit Brown is needed in the future for housing, as it is centrally located and is close to established residential areas. There is provision for a future MRT station along the Circle Line to serve the area.

We thank the writer for his feedback.

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Mandai gazetted for Thomson Line Depot

Thomson Line Depot To Be Constructed In Mandai
LTA News Release 16 Jun 11;

1. The site for the Thomson Line (TSL) depot has been gazetted today after extensive engineering studies and site surveys. Located in Mandai, the depot will house the Operation Control Centre and provide stabling and maintenance facilities for TSL trains. Construction for the depot is scheduled to commence in end- 2012.

2. The construction of the TSL is part of plans to develop a comprehensive rail network system to meet future travel needs. It will improve rail accessibility along the North-South corridor and improve connectivity to the other lines.

3. The proposed TSL is fully underground, and will run along the North-South corridor, from Woodlands through the CBD to Marina Bay. There are plans for the line to interchange with the North-South Line at the existing Woodlands MRT station, and for the northernmost terminal station to be located in the vicinity of Republic Polytechnic. The proposed Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link between Singapore and Johor Bahru is planned to integrate with the TSL at the northernmost terminal station. The TSL is currently under detailed engineering study. Details of the TSL will be released at a later date after the study is completed.

4. While all efforts have been made to minimise land acquisition, one farm will have to be acquired to facilitate the construction of the depot. The Singapore Land Authority has gazetted the land affected by acquisition today.

Annex A: Artist Impression of Thomson Line Depot (pdf)

Thomson Line to terminate near Republic Polytechnic
It will integrate with rail system to Johor; land for depot in Mandai gazetted
Neo Chai Chin and Wayne Chan Today Online 17 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - Residents in Woodlands could see greater interest in their properties, while Singapore's largest orchid farm in Mandai will have to relocate, following the latest plans for the 30-kilometre Thomson Line (TSL) that will start running by 2018.

If the proposed Rapid Transit System Link between Singapore and Johor Baru goes according to plan, the two lines will be integrated at the TSL's northern-most terminal station, which the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced yesterday: At a site near Republic Polytechnic.

The station will be north of the Woodlands MRT Station, which will be the future interchange for the Thomson and North South lines, the LTA said.

Further details of the TSL, such as its alignment and the sites of other stations, will be released after detailed engineering studies are completed.

The four-carriage trains that will ply the fully underground line will be able to transport 40,000 passengers per hour in each direction. The new line was reported in 2008 to have 18 stations and will bring commuters to the Marina Bay area, passing through estates such as Ang Mo Kio, Sin Ming and Thomson.

With LTA's announcement, Dennis Wee Group director Chris Koh expects property prices near the future terminal station to rise once the Rapid Transit System Link is completed. Citing the heavy passenger movement between Singapore and Johor Baru daily, Mr Koh said: "I won't be surprised if prices go up by five to 10 per cent easily."

The LTA has also gazetted a site in Mandai for TSL's depot. Construction on the 32-hectare depot, set to be the largest here, will begin at the end of next year.

Singapore's fifth train depot - after Bishan, Changi, Ulu Pandan and Tuas (to be completed in 2016) - will house up to 90 trains.

As a result, the 43-hectare Orchidville farm - equivalent to the size of 60 football fields - will have to move. It has been on a 20-year lease from the Government since 1993.

Its owner Joseph Phua, 56, who will be entitled to statutory compensation under the Land Acquisition Act, told MediaCorp yesterday that over half of the 1.5 million plants - including some rare ones costing up to S$600 each - at the farm may have to be disposed of.

He also said he will likely have to downsize his operations to a fifth of what it is now, as it would be difficult to find a equivalent-size piece of land. The farm, which employs about 100 workers, will then have to retrench some employees.

Mr Phua will meet the authorities next month to discuss compensation and hopes to secure an alternative site in Mandai. He also hopes the cost of relocating could be defrayed.

"There are so many plants for us to move and to develop the piece of land isn't a matter of one month or two months. (The application process) already takes more than six months ... for a piece of land," he said.

Mr Phua said the farm, which receives about seven to eight tour groups a day and has a restaurant for corporate functions, will remain open till the end of next year.

Singapore-Johor rapid transit link by 2018
Channel NewsAsia 27 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore and Malaysian governments plan to open a rapid transit link between the city-state and the neighbouring city of Johor Bahru in Malaysia's south by 2018, both governments said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The terminating stations of the (rapid transit system) link will be in the vicinity of JB Sentral, Johor Bahru and in the vicinity of Republic Polytechnic, Singapore," the statement said.

"It is targeted that the RTS link will be operational by 2018. The RTS link will have a co-located (customs, immigration and quarantine) facility in Singapore and another co-located CIQ facility in Johor Bahru so that commuters need to clear immigration only once for each way of travel."

The announcement comes as Malaysia and Singapore officially sealed the Points of Agreement (POA) on Malayan railway land in Singapore.

The signing ceremony took place in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Monday.

Foreign Minister K Shanmugam signed on behalf of Singapore while Malaysia's side was represented by the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

The signing officially marks an end to year-long negotiations on implementation details that kickstarted following the landmark announcement of the POA breakthrough by the prime ministers of both countries in May 2010.

The joint statement by the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia said that preparations for the relocation of Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) from Tanjong Pagar to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint on July 1 are on track.

A joint venture company, called M+S Pte Ltd, and Iskandar JV Company will be established by Thursday.

M+S will develop the four land parcels in Marina South as an integrated development and the two land parcels in Ophir-Rochor, also as an integrated development.

Iskandar JV will undertake two wellness developments in Iskandar Malaysia.

In addition, Khazanah and Temasek will jointly consider other potential developments which are commercially viable in Iskandar Malaysia of up to 500 acres of land, inclusive of the said 215 acres.

Also on schedule is the implementation of the work plan to hand over the waterworks under the 1961 Water Agreement by Singapore free of charge and as a matter of goodwill after the expiry of the agreement on 31 August 2011.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed appreciation and satisfaction on the work done by the ministers and officials in achieving the historic breakthrough in the POA.

Both prime ministers also reiterated their commitments towards further strengthening bilateral relations.

They noted that the resolution of the POA would pave the way for the two countries to explore new areas of cooperation.

- CNA/ir

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Walking guide of wilderness in Singapore: The Green Corridor Walks

Cheah Ui-Hoon Business Times 18 Jun 11;

Green Corridor Walks
Along the railway track from Bukit Timah to Old Holland Road

IF you wanted to do a last-chance-to-do-it kind of walk, you've only this weekend (but hopefully more later) to join the Save the Green Corridor folks on their railway track hikes before the Tanjung Pagar railway station closes. The Malayan railway services packs up on June 30 after about 80 years on the island republic and, sadly, the tracks which have helped preserve a contiguous stretch of green woodlands in Singapore will be taken out from July 1 onwards.

Which means that the vegetation will soon grow and swallow up all vestiges and imprints of the former railway tracks, such that in a month or two it'll be as if Singapore never had a railway running through its centre for almost a century.

Singapore isn't just losing its Tanjung Pagar tracks, but also its Jurong Line which had long since been disused, but which provided a good walking guide into the woodlands between Teban Gardens and Sunset Way and had often been used by groups like the Singapore Adventurer's Club.

The Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) had put in a proposal for the government to preserve 40km and over 170ha of Malayan Railway land as a Green Corridor, and from the start of this month, has been holding weekly weekend walks to lots of interested folks along the railway tracks.

One of the easiest walks to do is between Bukit Timah Road (King Albert Park) to Old Holland Road for that 2- to 3-km stretch of railway. On the second Saturday of June, the walk was also timed to catch the Northbound and Southbound trains trundling along the tracks between 8 and 11am.

NSS member Margie Hall guided the walk and, knowing that this is a nostalgic walk more than anything else, allowed plenty of time for shutterbugs to record practically every metre of the trek. She also took the opportunity to explain the nature of first and secondary forests in the woodlands and to point out the birds that we could hear and see along the way. Despite it being muggy, this is one of the loveliest nature walks to do in Singapore - thanks to its 'wilderness' nature, given that much of the greens along the railway track are just natural forest.

Given its pending closure, the KTM railway tracks have probably never seen so much pedestrian activity in its 70-plus history in Singapore, all crammed into the space of one month. The railway masters have had a busy time entertaining queries from curious walkers, and shooing photographers as well as posers off the tracks - not to mention wedding couples - when there's a train approaching. Walkers should be cautious of the risks of walking along a 'live' railway track (you can't always hear the approaching trains, seasoned walkers warn) and also be cognisant of the fact that you're walking on Malaysian land.

For walks this weekend and possible future walks, go to .

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Take a DIY walking tour at Bukit Brown

Jessica Lim Straits Times 18 Jun 11;

BUKIT Brown Cemetery off Lornie Road will be turned into a walk-through museum tomorrow and next Sunday.

Visitors who show up between 8.30am and 11.30am those two days can take a walk through the place, making stops at some of the more prominent graves, which will be marked out with placards.

The information markers come courtesy of Asia Paranormal Investigators (API), a society which conducts guided tours for small groups through the cemetery.

API is welcoming larger groups to the cemetery in a drive to raise public awareness of the rich cultural heritage buried in the mounds and grass there, on the back of the announcement that Bukit Brown has been slated for housing development.

API founder Charles Goh said he hoped that those who visit the cemetery will 'realise what they are losing'.

He added that the walk-through museum will be a fixture if the public response on these two Sundays is good.

A ground-up movement calling for the conservation of the cemetery has picked up steam since the end of last month, when it emerged that the Government had plans for the 86ha of rolling hills.

An online petition calling for the conservation of Bukit Brown has attracted more than 170 signatures since it was launched on June 5.

Dr Irving Johnson, an assistant professor of South-east Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore who initiated the drive, said he plans to send the signatures with a letter to the President.

The Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) has also acted. It has produced a book titled Spaces Of The Dead: A Case From The Living to document the cemeteries here and to argue for them to be conserved as open-air museums or parks.

And more than a dozen readers of The Straits Times have written to the newspaper's Forum page to weigh in on both sides of the issue.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said last month, however, that the Government has to be 'very selective' about what to conserve because land is so scarce here.

It has not given a timeframe for the redevelopment, but plans for the Bukit Brown MRT station in Jalan Mashhor have already been drawn up.

A URA spokesman said the Government's land sales arm has noted the people's views, but added: 'While we cater for conservation, we also need to balance it against other needs in the community, such as housing for people.'

She added that Bukit Brown will be needed for housing, as it is centrally located and near established residential areas.

Those visiting the cemetery tomorrow or next Sunday can approach it from Lornie Road. From there, turn into Sime Road, which becomes Kheam Hock Road, and into Lorong Halwa, where the cemetery gates are.

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Harnessing hydrogen fuel cells for power

Firm launches cheaper power plant tech which uses renewable biomass
Jessica Cheam Straits Times 18 Jun 11;

A HOME-GROWN firm has cracked the secret to using hydrogen fuel cells for power - at a lower cost and using renewable biomass to boot.

Real Time Engineering (RTE) this week officially launched its fuel-cell power plant technology. It converts biomass such as sawdust, palm oil, fruit peels or plant waste into electricity - also known as 'waste-to-energy'.

RTE is behind the 1MW hydrogen power plant powering industrial landlord JTC Corporation's CleanTech One building.

JTC's $90 million building, which incorporates state-of-the-art green features like solar energy systems and sky gardens, will offer office space that can house up to 50 green businesses when it is completed by the end of the year.

The power plant, which was incubated at Temasek Polytechnic's (TP) Clean Energy Research Centre in Tampines for three years, is the fruit of a collaboration between researchers from both sides.

TP provided the engineering know- how to put together the fuel-cell power plant, while RTE developed a unique catalyst that enables hydrogen to be extracted from biomass at a low cost.

Hydrogen fuel cells work by converting the chemical energy of hydrogen into electricity and water. It has been tipped as a key clean energy of the future as global fossil fuel resources dwindle and the world looks to cleaner sources.

These sources, such as solar and wind energy, are vital as they do not emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, which scientists blame for causing climate change, compared with fossil-based fuels.

In a demonstration of a smaller 100- kilowatt system, tomato juice is fed into a reactor, where a catalyst converts it into hydrogen, carbon and water. The extracted hydrogen is used to power the fuel cell, which in turn produces electricity. Potable water and synthetic crude oil are produced as separate by-products.

This synthetic crude, which can be collected and sold to refineries for processing into transport fuel, is so-called 'carbon neutral', as it is produced from renewable biomass and can replace fossil- based fuels used in transport vehicles.

RTE managing director Philip Wong, the project's overall orchestrator, and Dr Wang Chi Sheng from Taiwan's National Cheng Kung University, designed and tested the system for six years before it reached commercialisation this year. Dr Wang is known for inventing the 'plasma reformer' - a process that breaks chemical bonds - which is patented worldwide.

But their plant would not have been possible without the collaboration of TP, which helped to design and integrate the fuel cells into the system, said Mr Wong.

TP's clean-energy centre director Gareth Tang said its research engineers built up its fuel-cell system design and integration over the years. 'The deep technical know-how in fuel-cell materials, design and controls were applied by our engineers and researchers in this project.'

The centre, set up in 2007 with funding from the Economic Development Board, conducts research and development into clean technology - marked as a pillar of growth for Singapore's economy.

Mr Wong puts the cost of a 1MW fuel- cell power plant, which has a life cycle of 20 years, at US$10 million (S$12.4 million). It takes 18 to 24 months to design, build and install one such plant.

The break-even period of this investment is three to five years, and the firm is in talks with organisations across Asia to set up four more power plants, he said. 'Some other advantages of this system are that it's reliable with no risk of blackouts, and it is not intermittent, unlike other sources such as solar or wind which depend on the elements for power.'

The cost of the power generated is competitive, even compared to national grid prices in many countries, he added.

RTE's efforts in fuel-cell power technology were recognised when it won the Prime Minister's Enterprise Challenge Prize in 2009.

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Indonesian government 'Dodging' Responsibility To Save Dolphins

Stephen Schaber & Ismira Lutfia Jakarta Globe 17 Jun 11;

The world’s largest sea pen for dolphin rehabilitation off the north coast of Java may be left unused as the government plans to release captive dolphins into the sea without preparing them for the wild, activists said on Thursday.

“Without rehabilitation the dolphins have a very small chance of survival,” Femke Den Haas, Jakarta Animal Aid Network founder, said on Thursday.

The Ministry of Forestry signed a memorandum of understanding with JAAN in October for a five-year plan to rehabilitate and reintroduce 70 captive dolphins to life on the high seas.

JAAN said it became aware of the government’s plan to return the dolphins directly back to the sea without prior retraining during meetings with Darori, the head of the Directorate General of Protection and Conservation of Nature (PHKA).

The group claimed the PHKA plans to release to the open sea dolphins that had been held at the Taman Safari Center in Batang and a traveling circus based in Kendal, Central Java, according to Den Haas. The circus holds permits for six dolphins but owns more than 20, he said.

JAAN spokesman Pramudya Harzani said the decision to bypass the plan was made by the ministry without any clear explanation.

“They just decided so and we are unclear why suddenly they are excluding us and want to release the dolphins without proper rehabilitation,” he said.

But the ministry was quick to deny allegations that it was breaching the agreement.

“We certainly hope that the program will go on as planned, but we are still assessing things, such as the technical preparation on the field,” said Bambang Novianto, the ministry’s biodiversity director.

Ric O’Barry, the world’s best-known dolphin activist and star of the 2009 Academy Award-winning documentary, “The Cove,” said on Thursday that the world was watching to see what would happen in this case.

“This is an opportunity for Indonesia to send a message to the rest of the world about how much it cares for nature,” O’Barry said.

He also said his son was producing a television special about the JAAN rehabilitation program for the show “Blood Dolphins” on cable television channel Animal Planet, which airs in Indonesia.

He added that he thought the Ministry of Forestry was completely unaware of the worldwide publicity, whether good or bad, Indonesia’s decision would attract globally.

“This is a potential windfall of positive publicity for Indonesia,” he said. “I hope the decision-makers do the right thing.”

O’Barry explained that staying in the sea pen in Karimun Jawa Island, which has cost $50,000 to build, would help the captive dolphins regain their strength to swim in the strong currents of the open sea.

“They haven’t been able to use their muscles to swim because they have been confined in small pens for a long time, and releasing them to the sea without rehabilitation will only mean killing them as they may not be able to survive,” O’Barry said.

Den Haas added that the dolphins must also be retrained to use their sonar.

“They stop using the sonar because it annoys them,” Den Haas said. “When in captivity they stop using it because the signal bounces [off the walls of the pool] and returns to them.”

Pramudya also said the dolphins would require between one and six months of rehabilitation, depending on length of captivity.

JAAN said ideally the dolphins would be released around Karimun Jawa Island because there was a good chance the dolphins could reconnect with their pods.

“Every dolphin has a unique sound and the ability to transmit its signal tens of miles,” Den Haas said. “We will utilize GPS pegging after release to monitor whether the dolphins have reunited with their families.”

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

Celebrity Says World Watching Indonesia’s Dolphin Decision
Stephen Schaber Jakarta Globe 16 Jun 11;

The world is watching to see if Indonesia is really going to release formerly captive dolphins directly to the wild or hand them over to a rehabilitation program, according to Ric O’Barry, the world’s most well-known dolphin activist and star of the 2009 Academy Award winning documentary, “The Cove.”

“This is an opportunity for Indonesia to send a message to the rest of the world about how much it cares for nature,” O’Barry said.

The Indonesian government stated its intention to release dolphins previously held in captivity directly back into the sea during meetings with the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), according to the animal rights activist group.

This circumvents a memorandum of understanding the government signed with the nongovernmental organization, which declared that all illegally kept dolphins will be placed in JAAN’s dolphin rehabilitation program before returning to the wild.

Dismay Over Plans for Indonesia’s Captive Dolphins

“This is a huge opportunity for positive publicity for Indonesia,” he said. “I would hate to see them blow it.”

O’Barry said his son was producing a television special about the JAAN rehabilitation program, located on Karimun Jawa Island, for the show "Blood Dolphins" on cable television channel Animal Planet, which screens in Indonesia.

The American campaigner has previously appeared on Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360 and the Oprah Winfrey Show, the US’s most popular daytime talkshow, to discuss his crusade to save dolphins from the captivity industry.

He said he thought the Minister of Forestry, the government agency responsible for dolphin conservation, was completely unaware of the worldwide publicity, whether good or bad, Indonesia’s decision will attract globally.

“This is a potential windfall of positive publicity for Indonesia,” he said. “I hope the decision makers do the right thing.”

He noted, however, that the Indonesian government had made improvements in the protection of dolphins.

“The positive thing is that [the government] has stopped the illegal capture of the dolphins and is intent on preventing further abuse,” he said.

But the dolphins, O’Barry emphasized, must be taught to live in the wild before returning to their natural habitat.

“[Directly releasing the dolphins] is them putting in great danger,” O’Barry said. “They need to rebuild muscle strength, become accustomed to swimming in tides and currents and learn how to hunt live food again.”

This controversy comes on the heels of the Australian cattle export ban. Australia suspended live cattle exports to Indonesia for up to six months after a documentary showing images of animal cruelty in Indonesian slaughterhouses aired on Australian television last month.

O’Barry, a dolphin activist for the past 40 years, is best known for his role in the award winning documentary, “The Cove,” which exposed the mass dolphin herding and killing practices conducted by fishermen in the traditional whaling town of Taiji, Japan.

Indonesia to review dolphin release plan: official
Yahoo News 17 Jun 11;

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia said Friday it would consider rehabilitating captive dolphins before releasing them into the wild, after animal welfare activists criticised a plan to dump them directly into the sea.

"We'll consider the concern of activists to put the captive dolphins in a rehabilitation programme before their release," conservation official Darori told AFP.

"Ultimately, we all want the dolphins to be healthy and survive after their release. We want their release to be a success," he said.

Activists say the dolphins from a zoo and a travelling circus need months of training to learn to swim straight, hunt, deal with ocean currents and use their sonar.

Without such rehabilitation they will almost certainly die in the open sea, they say.

The Jakarta Animal Aid Network said plans to release the mammals directly into the sea contravened a memorandum of understanding it had with the government to provide proper rehabilitation.

US dolphin activist Ric O'Barry, who was featured in the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove", said Indonesia would attract negative international publicity if it went ahead with plans to release them without rehabilitation.

"This is an opportunity for Indonesia to send a message to the rest of the world about how much it cares for nature," O'Barry was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Globe website on Thursday.

"They need to rebuild muscle strength, become accustomed to swimming in tides and currents and learn how to hunt live food again," he said.

There are reportedly about 50 dolphins illegally held in captivity in Indonesia, which has banned the illegal capture of dolphins in its waters.

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Malaysia: Swift action saves tapir in ditch

Hanif Salim New Straits Times 18 Jun 11;

KUANTAN: Swift action saved a 350kg tapir trapped in a ditch in Taman Kempadang Perdana, near here, early yesterday.

Passers-by who saw the animal in the narrow ditch around midnight alerted the State Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan), which sent five workers to its rescue.

But when they faced difficulties getting the animal out, they sought the help of the Fire and Rescue Department and Civil Defence Department.

Together with residents, they tried to pull the tapir out using a rope but failed as the animal's skin was slippery. Finally, they brought the animal out of the metre-deep ditch using water hoses provided by the firefighters.

State Perhilitan director Khairiah Mohd Shariff said the male tapir was believed to be 15 years old and a totally protected species.

She said it had been a challenging task to save the animal as it usually turned aggressive at night.

"Our men managed to calm it down by offering it daun senduduk (straits rhododendron)," she said, adding that the tapir suffered few scratches on the body when it was dragged out of the ditch.

However, they were minor injuries and the animal was released into a jungle nearby about 8.30am yesterday.

Taman Kempadang Perdana resident Rahidan Osman, 68, said she had stumbled upon the animal several times before.

"Perhilitan should release the animal into a bigger forest reserve as the jungle near our housing area is getting smaller because of rapid development."

Tapir rescued from drain bolts off into forest
The Star 18 Jun 11;

BERA: A tapir which was pulled out of a drain in Kempadang Perdana, Kuantan, in a rescue operation is now lost in a nearby forest.

State Wildlife and Taman Negara department (Perhilitan) director Khairiah Mohd Shariff said the animal dashed into the forest after being pulled out and the department personnel could not gave it any medical treatment.

She said there was a struggle as the 350kg adult male tapir turned aggressive possibly due to the minor injuries it sustained, or the prolonged contact it had with humans during the rescue.

She said the 15-year-old tapir had fallen into the drain late on Thursday and was extricated at 8.30am on Friday, after a makeshift stairway was built.

“We are worried about its injuries which could become worse.

“It could be hit by passing vehicles,” she said.

Khairiah said the department was conducting a search for the tapir to have it treated.

She also said that there was only one tapir in the area and not three as claimed by villagers.

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Drought and poachers take Botswana's natural wonder to brink of catastrophe

Aerial survey reveals some wildlife populations have shrunk by 90% in 15 years
David Smith The Guardian 18 Jun 11;

The Okavango delta in Botswana has suffered "catastrophic" species loss over the past 15 years, researchers have announced , in the latest sign of a growing crisis for wildlife in Africa.

Some wild animal populations in the delta, one of the wonders of the natural world, have shrunk by up to 90% and are facing local extinction, according to the most comprehensive aerial survey yet undertaken there.

The findings come after a study this month showed dramatic declines in animal numbers in the Masai Mara wildlife reserve, south-west Kenya, raising anxiety about the effectiveness of conservation across the continent.

The delta, in north Botswana, has about 50,000 islands among a series of channels, lagoons and swamps, whose waters reach the Kalahari desert. Travellers pay premium rates to stay in upmarket safari lodges, many accessible only by air, and for the chance to explore the pristine 16,000 sq km oasis.

Botswana has been careful to restrict visitor numbers and preserve the fecundity of this watery wilderness. But that strategy has suffered a blow from research which shows that some of the delta's most precious assets will be jeopardised unless urgent action is taken.

"The results were unexpected," said Mike Chase, founder of Elephants without Borders, which did the aerial survey of the region. "There has been a cosy pretence that wildlife is thriving and doing well in the Okavango delta. Our survey provides the first scientific evidence that wildlife is declining, and pretty sharply too. That cosy pretence has been blown out of the water."

He added: "It is still one of Africa's great wildlife destinations, but doing nothing will jeopardise that reputation."

Chase's study found that 11 species have declined by 61% since a 1996 survey in Ngamiland district, the location of the delta. Ostrich numbers were worst hit; there was a 95% drop, from 11,893 animals to 497 last year. Some 90% of wildebeest were also wiped out, along with 84% of the population of the antelope tsessebe, 81% of warthogs and kudus, and nearly two-thirds of giraffes.

"The decline of wildebeest has been catastrophic. The numbers have fallen below the minimum of 500 breeding pairs to be sustainable. They are on the verge of local extinction. These are grim statistics. You would have expected to see serious decline since the 70s in somewhere like Kenya, but our trend analysis only goes back to the 90s. To have seen decline on our watch is totally unacceptable," Chase said.

Chase suggested a drought in the 1980s and 1990s, plus bushfire, habitat encroachment and poaching, as the main reasons for the nosedive. "The causes are multiple and complex, but drought is the over-arching one."

This was not necessarily attributable to climate change, however, as the record dry spell has been followed by torrential rain and flooding this year. "We tend to move in 20- to 30-year cycles, and we are now moving into a wet cycle. There are rivers that now have water for the first time in years. We need to monitor how the animals respond." Poaching also had had a big impact. Chase said: "A poacher assumes that 100,000 is a lot of lechwe, but in 10 years they've been cut by half. Compared to other African countries we still have a great wildlife resource, but our anti-poaching unit is stretched. They can't respond to everything. They are trying."

Not all species experienced a downward trend; hippos increased at 6% a year, and the world's biggest elephant population appeared stable, with about 130,000 animals.

The researchers flew 100 metres above the delta in a Cessna aircraft with digital cameras mounted on each side, , conducting what Chase claims is was the most precise count yet of the animal populations.

"We've caught them at the right time," he added. "Wildlife is dynamic and, with a little help from fantastic conditions, anti-poaching measures and some government assistance, it will rebound. This is the goose that lays the golden egg for tourism."

The study was funded by Botswana's government and Chase was due to present his findings to ministers and scientists on Friday.

Some warned against panic. Richard Fynn, of the Okavango Research Institute at Botswana University, said: "A lot of the scientists I've spoken to here have urged caution about taking to much from these findings. People are saying this is a good start but we need to be careful about saying 'whoa, we have a big problem here'. We cannot be sure what the population levels were in the past and we need to do more detailed research. Yes, there are declines in certain species such as tsessebe, but I think we'll see a big increase in species such as zebra. To make it out as a catastrophe would be unhelpful."

Botswana, the world's biggest diamond producer, is beset by labour disputes and knows its diamond reserves will one day be exhausted. Tourism is the second biggest sector of the economy and crucial to diversification.

One politically sensitive topic is the fencing to separate wildlife from farmers' livestock. Joseph Okori, a local wildlife expert, said: "We did see a great impact from fences on species like springbok, kudu and zebra. When drought comes these fences blocked them from normal migration patterns and access to water."

The Okavango delta is not the only tourist destination in Africa to face a loss of natural bounty. Researchers found that in the Masai Mara, numbers of impala, warthog, giraffe, topi and Coke's hartebeest had declined by more than 70% over three decades.

Scientists at Hohenheim University in Germany, and the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, said wildebeest had again been badly hit: their celebrated migration now involved 64% fewer animals than it did in the early 1980s. Zebra numbers inside the reserve had fallen by three-quarters.

Joseph Ogutu, a senior statistician in the bioinformatics unit at Hohenheim University, said: "There is a crisis. And what we're seeing in the Mara is not specific to that region." The conflict between wildlife and farming livestock was seen as significant here too. Ogutu told of a 1,100% increase in cattle grazing in the reserve, along with poaching and changing land-use patterns – the primary causes of the Mara's downward trend in wildlife populations.

Conservationists believe there are lessons to be learned from both trouble spots. "One of the big problems in both the Mara and the Okavango delta is that we are not looking at how the land around them is managed," said

Drew McVey, species programme officer at WWF-UK. "It's very important that we have a more holistic approach to conservation and development and don't seen these as isolated islands. We need to think of them as full ecosystems."

But McVey denied that African wildlife was in crisis. "I tend to be an optimist. I do think we're in a very challenging period, balancing the demands for development with making sure they take into account the ecosystem. The issues we face as conservationists are changing."

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Madagascar Marine Resources Plundered by International Seafood Markets

ScienceDaily 17 Jun 11;

Fish catches in Madagascar over the last half-century are double the official reports, and much of that fish is being caught by unregulated traditional fishers or accessed cheaply by foreign fishing vessels. Seafood exports from Madagascar often end up in a European recipe, but are a recipe for political unrest at home, where two-thirds of the population face hunger.

These are the findings of a recent study led by researchers from the University of British Columbia's Sea Around Us Project in collaboration with the Madagascar-based conservation organisation Blue Ventures. The research, published online this week in the journal Marine Policy, used existing studies and local knowledge to estimate total fisheries catches between 1950 and 2008.

Foreign fishing fleets from Europe and Asia are placing huge pressure on Madagascar's fisheries by catching nearly 80,000 tonnes of seafood each year -- almost the same amount as local fishermen -- and are exacerbating the impact of overfishing at local levels. Consequently, catches of several key species groups seem to be in decline, including mostly exported shrimp, shark and sea cucumber.

The findings underline the importance of protecting local fisheries for food security through stronger fisheries management. Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island and is home to some of the world's poorest people. Two-thirds of the country's population is food insecure. Yet, the country has three monitoring vessels and nine speedboats to protect its waters from illegal fishing boats and monitor domestic fisheries.

"Both increasing pressure by local fishing communities and demand from the international market could accelerate the downward trends we see in Madagascar's fisheries," says Frédéric Le Manach, lead author of the study and a graduate student at the University of Plymouth in the UK and visiting researcher at UBC.

The local shrimp fishery, of prime importance for the national economy, has caught about 12,000 tonnes annually, but is now declining. Most of these shrimp are destined for export to developed countries.

"Securing Madagascar's fisheries for local consumption is of paramount importance to Madagascar's sustainable economic development," says Alasdair Harris, a marine scientist working in Madagascar. The authors suggest that the new data should be considered before allowing foreign fishing vessels further access to Madagascar's waters.

"This study is yet another demonstration of how overfishing impacts humans in different parts of the world," explains supervising author Dirk Zeller and senior research fellow with The Sea Around Us Project at UBC. "In the case of Madagascar, overfishing does not threaten to undermine a nice meal at a restaurant, but one of the mainstays of human survival."

The Sea Around Us Project is a scientific collaboration between the University of British Columbia and the Pew Environment Group since 1999.

Journal Reference:

Frédéric Le Manach et al. Unreported fishing, hungry people and political turmoil: the recipe for a food security crisis in Madagascar? Marine Policy, 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2011.05.007

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China: Water transfer project no cure-all for waste

Ho Ai Li Straits Times 18 Jun 11;

I WAS in Hubei talking to farmers who had to make way for a plan to pipe water from central Hubei to northern cities such as Beijing.

A neatly dressed man who said he was an official approached me and asked to see my press card. Another official was on his way and wanted to 'have a meal' with me, I was told, as he copied down my details. Never mind that it was 3pm and too hot to eat.

The man left. The villagers asked me to do the same. 'Get out before they stop you,' warned one of them.

Later, I was told villagers elsewhere had clammed up in front of reporters; others answered reporters' questions nervously in the presence of officials.

Their fear is understandable.

For the plan, called Nanshui Beidiao, or North-South Water Diversion, has come under even more scrutiny, what with severe droughts draining Hubei, the province of a thousand lakes.

A rare admission by Beijing last month that the Three Gorges Dam has led to serious problems has also raised doubts about the transfer, dwarfed only in scale by the dam.

On May 18, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao chaired a State Council meeting to look into 'urgent' environmental problems caused by the building of the dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project.

Underlining the severity of the problems, the State Council has set aside 100 billion yuan (S$19 billion) - about two-fifths the cost of the 254 billion yuan spent to build the dam - to repair the damage. Among other things, the Three Gorges project has left surrounding river banks more prone to landslides and earthquakes. It has also displaced at least 1.2 million people.

Much of the money will be used to compensate the people whose lives were disrupted by the move. Corrupt officials siphoned off some money meant for them. A state probe found that 12 per cent of the resettlement budget was pocketed by officials in 1999.

The worry is whether farmers living around the Danjiangkou Reservoir, one of Asia's largest and the source of water to be sent to Beijing, will encounter the same problems. One resettled farmer told me he was unhappy with the quality of his new dwellings and suspected that it was made of materials cheaper than promised. He and other farmers also wonder whether the water transfer project will cause similar environmental problems as the dam.

Projected to cost US$62 billion (S$76 billion), twice as much as the Three Gorges Dam, the water transfer is the largest water diversion project in the world. When ready by 2050, the water routes will span 4,350km - the approximate distance between Singapore and Beijing.

Under the plan, water will be piped from the south to the north via three routes - eastern, central and western. Water will be pumped into cities such as Beijing and Tianjin, and also north-western parts like Gansu and Inner Mongolia. Transferring water to these arid areas will boost industries, proponents of the plan say. Its supporters included Chairman Mao Zedong himself, who famously declared back in 1952: 'The south has a lot of water, the north little. If possible, it's fine to lend a little water.'

But what was the case in Mao's days nearly six decades ago might be changing.

Climate change has made rainfall unpredictable, noted Mr Peter Bosshard, policy director of California-based environmental group International Rivers. He said: 'Already, people and the eco-system in the lower Yangtze basin are crying out for water. How can you withdraw so much water to send to Beijing?'

Indeed, the south is getting drier - total freshwater reserves in the Yangtze went down to 172 billion cubic metres in 2009, a drop of 17 per cent from 2005.

Problems with pollution have also surfaced. Water pumped via the eastern canal from Yangzhou to Tianjin is expected to be so costly and polluted that the Tianjin authorities are looking at the desalination of seawater as an alternative instead.

Enormous infrastructure projects such as the water diversion scheme reflect the top Chinese leaders' penchant for engineering solutions, said Mr Bosshard, noting that many of them are trained engineers.

Indeed, China has traditionally sought ways to increase the supply of water rather than to manage demand.

Such massive solutions obscure the need for smaller efforts to change individuals' behaviour. Some city dwellers have little sense of the sacrifices made by their poorer cousins in the countryside just so that they don't have to fret about water.

A Chinese reporter recounted a meeting with a Beijing woman who threw away a half-drunk bottle of mineral water, saying it was too heavy to carry and would ruin the shape of her handbag. She said there was no need to worry about the capital running out of water - the North-South Water Diversion will come to its rescue. That is typical of the blind faith that many city dwellers in Beijing have in the water transfer to quench their thirst.

But, in fact, they are already living on borrowed water. The city drains the resource from nearby provinces like Hebei, as well as from beneath the ground.

In a country known for social campaigns, little has been done to drive home the message that water is precious. Nor is the operation of snow parks, spas and golf courses - which use a lot of water for leisure purposes - curtailed in the capital.

The water diversion project is seen to be a lifeline supplying Beijing with one billion cubic metres of water a year, almost a third of the amount it used up in 2009. But it is no cure-all that allows city folk to fritter away water with abandon. Unless a mindset change is engineered among people, no amount of water siphoned from the south will be able to quench their thirst for more.

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Higher agriculture commodity prices here to stay

OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2011-2020 published
FAO 17 Jun 11;

17 June 2011, Paris/Rome - Higher food prices and volatility in commodity markets are here to stay, according to a new report by the OECD and FAO.

The OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2011-2020 says that a good harvest in the coming months should push commodity prices down from the extreme levels seen earlier this year. However, the Outlook states that over the coming decade real prices for cereals could average as much as 20 percent higher and those for meats as much as 30 percent higher, compared to 2001-10. These projections are well below the peak price levels experienced in 2007-08 and again this year.

Higher prices for commodities are being passed through the food chain, leading to rising consumer price inflation in most countries. This raises concerns for economic stability and food security in some developing countries, with poor consumers most at risk of malnutrition, the report says.

"While higher prices are generally good news for farmers, the impact on the poor in developing countries who spend a high proportion of their income on food can be devastating," said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

"That is why we are calling on governments to improve information and transparency of both physical and financial markets, encourage investments that increase productivity in developing countries, remove production and trade distorting policies and assist the vulnerable to better manage risk and uncertainty."

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said: "In the current market context, price volatility could remain a feature of agricultural markets, and coherent policies are required to both reduce volatility and limit its negative impacts", noting that "the key solution to the problem will be boosting investment in agriculture and reinforcing rural development in developing countries, where 98 percent of the hungry people live today and where population is expected to increase by 47 percent over the next decades."

Action should focus in particular on smallholders in low-income food-deficit countries, he added.


The Outlook reinforces the core messages for mitigating and managing price volatility in a recent inter-agency report to the G20, Price Volatility in Food and Agriculture Markets: Policy Responses, coordinated by FAO and OECD on behalf of ten international organizations.

The report suggests, among other things, that G20 countries take steps to boost agricultural producitivity in developing countries, reduce or eliminate trade-disorting policies and establish a new mechanism to improve information and transparency on agricultural production, consumption, stocks and trade.


The Outlook, which covers fisheries for the first time, sees global agricultural production growing more slowly over the next decade than in the past 10 years. Farm output is expected to rise by 1.7 percent annually, compared to the 2.6 percent growth rate of the past decade. Despite this slower growth, production per capita is still projected to rise by 0.7 percent annually.

Per-capita food consumption will expand most rapidly in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America, where incomes are rising and populations growth is slowing. Meat, dairy products, vegetable oils and sugar should experience the highest demand increases, according to the report.

Global production in the fisheries sector is projected to increase by 1.3 percent annually to 2020. This is slower than growth over the previous decade, due to reduced or stagnant capture of wild fish stocks and lower growth rates in aquaculture, which underwent a rapid expansion over the 2001-2010 period.

By 2015, aquaculture is projected to surpass capture fisheries as the most important source of fish for human consumption, and by 2020 should represent about 45 percent of total fishery production, including non-food uses.

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Indonesia President in Japan sceptical of nuclear power

(AFP) Google News 17 Jun 11;

TOKYO — Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on a visit to disaster-hit Japan Friday voiced reservations about plans to build a nuclear power plant in his country, media reports said.

Yudhoyono also expressed sympathy with Japan, pointing out that both island nations, located on the seismically active Pacific Rim of Fire, had recently suffered devastating earthquakes and deadly tsunamis.

Indonesia has had plans to build its first atomic plant to go into operation in about a decade to help it meet rising energy demand fuelled by high economic growth in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

However, in separate interviews with Japanese news agencies, Yudhoyono suggested that Indonesia would not move towards nuclear power under his second term, which runs until 2014, Kyodo News agency said.

"If we could build energy sources other than a nuclear energy plant, we will choose those kinds of energy sources," he was quoted as saying by Kyodo, adding that atomic power is "very much debatable".

Speaking with Jiji Press about Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, he said: "We can never say that the same thing won't happen in Indonesia, which is prone to earthquakes.

"We'd better explore ways to use other energy sources before building nuclear power plants."

He also told Kyodo that Indonesia was willing to consider alternative energies such as geothermal, solar and hydroelectric power, while moving to limit the use of oil and coal in the long run.

In deciding on whether to go nuclear, his government would consider all factors, including the degree of public support.

In an earlier speech in Tokyo, Yudhoyono spoke of the way his country, having been hardest hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami, shared Japan's pain after its worst post-war catastrophe on March 11.

"We in Indonesia know exactly how you feel," Yudhoyono said in a speech at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

"The pain, the emotional pain, will be with us for quite some time. Feelings of sorrow, sadness and even helplessness will overwhelm you. Give yourself a moment to cry," the president said in his speech.

Yudhoyono was Saturday due to visit disaster areas hit by the quake and tsunami that left more than 23,000 people dead or missing.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko thanked the Indonesian president for his country sending rescue workers and aid after the disaster.

The president said "the Indonesian people and the government still have gratitude for assistance from Japan" during the 2004 tsunami. "I am convinced that the Japanese people will definitely recover from the disaster."

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Cuba: Seas to rise more than 30 inches by 2100

Yahoo News 17 Jun 11;

HAVANA – Cuban scientists calculate that median sea levels around the Caribbean nation will rise more than 30 inches by the end of the century due to global climate change, official media said Friday.

Models predict the sea will rise 10.6 inches (27 centimeters) by 2050, and 33.5 inches (85 centimeters) by 2100, Abel Centella, scientific director of the country's Meteorological Institute, was quoted by Communist Party daily Granma as saying.

There were no details of what preparations the island is undertaking, but Granma said scientists are closely monitoring sea levels.

Government scientist Marcelino Hernandez warned of the need to protect environments that can mitigate the effects of sea encroachment.

"Right now it is urgent to preserve mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass and sand beaches," Hernandez was quoted as saying. "Each of these ecosystems is a natural barrier to defend the coasts from the impact of climate change. If they deteriorate, the consequences will be worse."

International scientific studies have projected sea levels will rise between 30 and 75 inches (190 centimeters) by the end of the century, fed by melting glaciers and ice caps.

The rises will not be uniform worldwide due to currents, winds and other factors.

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Bonn climate talks end with no agreement on key areas

Progress made on technical issues, but non government groups criticise slow and convoluted pace of negotiations
John Vidal 17 Jun 11;

Two weeks of tense global climate talks wrapped up on Friday, with countries insisting they had made progress on technical issues but accepting they were still nowhere near agreement in the three key areas of finance, greenhouse gas emission cuts and the future of the Kyoto protocol.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat, defended the UN against charges by non-governmental groups that the talks were painfully slow and convoluted, saying the economic crisis in Europe and elsewhere was making it harder to make progress.

"Climate [change talks] are the most important negotiations the world has ever seen, but governments, business and civil society cannot solve it [climate] in one meeting. Countries are being very creative, exploring all options," she said at the close of the conference in Bonn.

Figueres warned that there could a gap between commitment periods for the Kyoto Protocol, the only global treaty legally binding rich countries to cut emissions - the first phase of which ends in 2012. "Governments can double their efforts and come forward with middle ground solutions and options which are acceptable to all sides," she said.

The EU, which was challenged to lead negotiations by committing itself to a second round of Kyoto, said developing countries had to prove they had met all agreements made in Copenhagen and Cancún last year.

"We are ready for an international deal ... but we need everyone aboard. A second commitment period on its own is not going to cut it. We need to see more progress [in other areas]," said Jozsef Feiler, EU spokesperson.

Non-governmental groups said they were deeply frustrated at the snail pace of negotiations and whole days lost while countries debated the agenda of the talks.

Bolivia, which was isolated at the end of the Cancún talks when it insisted on deeper emission cuts, said it was worried at the lack of ambition. "There have been some small advances in technical issues, but no advance at all in the key issue of pledges for emission reductions. If there are no new pledges [soon], we face a very difficult situation," said Pablo Solon, ambassador to the UN in New York.

"The developed countries are not moving. The problem we face is that we are on a path to [warming of] 4-5C. That is the reality. That worries us very much. The problem is the lack of ambition," he said

Quamrul Chowdhury, a negotiator with the G77 group of developing countries, said that the talks were like the end of a long cricket test match with both sides playing for a draw. "No-one wants to lose anything at this stage."

"Europe should use its power to secure a second commitment period of Kyoto, even if only as a stop-gap before the creation of an entirely new global deal," said Mohamed Adow, senior adviser on global advocacy for Christian Aid.

Climate chief pleads for 'high-level' push on Kyoto
Marlowe Hood Yahoo News 17 Jun 11;

BONN (AFP) – New talks on global warming ended here Friday with the UN's climate chief calling on world leaders to help resolve the fate of the Kyoto Protocol ahead of a key meeting six months down the road.

"There is a growing realisation that resolving the future of the Kyoto Protocol is an essential task this year and will require high-level political guidance," said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

"By Durban, governments need to come forward with options that will be acceptable to all parties," she told journalists, referring to the UNFCCC's annual gathering, taking place in November 28-December 9 in Durban, South Africa.

Kyoto is the only international agreement with binding targets for curbing greenhouse gases.

But 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.

A first commitment period covering nearly 40 industrialised countries -- except for Washington, which refuses to ratify Kyoto -- expires at the end of 2012.

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.

"It is not enough for the EU to simply sign up for another commitment period," said Belgium's Jurgen Lefevere, representing the European Commission.

"We only represent about 11 percent of global emissions. We need a solution for the remaining 89 percent as well."

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

The Protocol remains critically important because it contains proven market-based mechanisms for CO2 reduction and tools to quantify and monitor such efforts, Figueres argued.

If Kyoto collapses, it could stymie progress elsewhere in the hugely complex, dual-track talks, negotiators here warned.

Figueres said the fate of Kyoto is closely linked to progress in the parallel UNFCCC negotiations, which include all nations under the Convention.

These talks made headway in Bonn on technical matters, but remain deeply riven on the core issue of how to share out the task of slashing carbon pollution.

"Governments are realising that this link needs to be dealt with to get to a global solution, and that will require high-level leadership during the year."

There will be at least three opportunities for such dialogue between now and late November, she said, including a meeting of heads of state organised by Mexico on the margin of the UN General Assembly in September.

One option discussed being closed doors in Bonn is a "political" deal to extend Kyoto commitments "for one, two, three years," said Jose Romero, a veteran climate negotiator for Switzerland.

"That gives us some air to look for a solution" under the other track of the climate talks, he said.

The United States recognizes actions taken by China to slow the growth of its carbon emissions, but said they should be more transparent.

"That's the conversation that we are currently having with the developing government," said US negotiator Jonathan Pershing, who said he had met separately in Bonn with both his Chinese and Indian counterparts.

"But we haven't agreed on that. That is one of the outcomes that we think would be very significant in Durban."

Even if a scaled-down second round of Kyoto commitments -- including the EU and a few other small nations -- may be acceptable to some developing countries.

"It is better to have that than having nothing at all," said Grenada's Dessima Williams, chair of the the 43-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

At the same time, rich nations must "raise their level of ambition," she told AFP.

Under current trajectories, "we are looking at a 4.0 degree Celsius (9.2 degree Fahrenheit) increase in global average temperatures," she said.

The figure of 2.0 C (3.6 F) above pre-industrial levels is widely viewed as a safety threshold although many scientists say it is no guarantee of preventing extensive damage to the climate system, inflicting worsening floods, droughts, storms and rising seas.

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