Best of our wild blogs: 18 Jul 11

Return to reefs of Terumbu Bemban
from wild shores of singapore and Singapore Nature

17 Jul (Sun): Sharing about the Mega Marine Survey
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

The “Great Oyster From Singapore” (Tridacna gigas) at the International Fisheries Exhibition, London, 1883 from Otterman speaks

Forgotten Shores
from The Long and Winding Road

American Bullfrog
from Monday Morgue

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Why we need dinos

The $12m skeletons are worth having for their power to inspire and awe
Ignatius Low Sunday Times 17 Jul 11;

Last week, I went online and donated $300 towards the new natural history museum's purchase of a family of three full-sized dinosaur skeletons that will cost $12 million.

When I told some friends and colleagues about it, I was genuinely surprised at their dismay.

'Waste money!' was one friend's emphatic response. 'I can think of a hundred ways to better use the funds.'

A colleague in the newsroom was more considered. Why do museums have to resort to such 'blockbuster' tactics to bring in the crowds, she asked.

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which is what the new natural history museum is called, already has a wonderful collection of South-east Asian specimens, she argued.

Dinosaur bones from Wyoming in the United States would be out of place conceptually. And $12 million is not a small sum, either, she added. This could be better used to improve the facilities of the museum or fund outreach programmes.

Gee whiz, I thought to myself. I clearly hadn't considered any of that.

'But, but, it would be so cool!' is now my standard, stammering defence for taking the low road, for the crime I had clearly committed against artistic integrity.

I guess I was just thinking about the feeling of absolute wonder and amazement a child would feel walking into a huge sunlit hall one day and coming into contact with these giant creatures from an almost unfathomable past.

I could imagine the questions he or she would ask.

'What sort of dinosaurs are these?'

Oh, they are diplodocid sauropods, famous for having super long necks and even longer tails.

'Cool! What did they eat?'

They ate only plants. But to help digestion, they ate stones that would grind the food in their stomachs. This is what chickens today do.

'Wow! How old are they?'

145 million to 155 million years old. When they were around, plants hadn't even evolved to have flowers yet.

'Whoa! Are they really a family? So cute.'

Yep, the kid's dad might say with a smile.

Just like we are.

Okay, I admit that I'm dramatising this Steven Spielberg-style for full 'wide-eyed wonder' effect, so let's get down to the tough questions.

Will such an exhibit bring in tourists?

For sure, it will. And they will help stimulate the local economy in the process.

But is such an exhibit just for tourists?

Clearly not, as long as we keep entry prices reasonable. And this is where the donations come in.

If the dinosaurs are fully paid for by donors, then they arrive effectively free of charge to the museum, which can then show them at a minimal fee to visitors. In fact, Singaporeans will benefit much more from having the dinosaur exhibits on their doorstep, than tourists who can afford to travel the world.

The nearest country Singaporeans would have to travel to to see something similar would be Thailand, in two museums located in obscure small towns in the north-east of the country.

Beyond that, there are exhibits in popular holiday destinations such as Japan and the US, but they are again located in far-flung places, typically where the remains were excavated.

But economics aside, the argument comes down to whether a bunch of dinosaur skeletons is something really worth having in a small plot of land in western Singapore.

My answer would be yes, for two reasons. The first has something to do with the power to inspire, much underrated in today's cost-benefit crazy society.

Nearly every interview I have read with a world-famous creator - be it a scientist, musician or architect - contains a little story about something he or she had seen as a child or as an impressionable youth.

That thing that they saw sparked something so strong in them that they eventually ended up eschewing the safer paths and careers in life of being a banker, an accountant or some other type of cog in the world's corporate machinery.

To me, the massive remains of creatures that are more than a hundred million years old may well be the springboard to our youngsters developing careers not just in paleontology (which will no longer be that obscure thing that the character Ross in the classic sitcom Friends studied).

They could also be inspired to become biologists, geologists and earth scientists, even historians and journalists.

Others might be struck by their encounter with the dinosaurs in a different way and base music, paintings, books or plays on what they saw.

The second reason why the dinosaurs would be worth having is that they would be one of those displays that will give Singaporeans a sense of their place not just in the world, but also in time.

We live in a fast-paced global city of commerce where the next transaction, event, project or career move is often all that we have on the horizon.

Few things in this world would give us a more instant perspective on life than standing there, all tiny, next to some of the biggest creatures that once roamed the earth but were suddenly extinguished by Nature.

In fact, my view is that there are not enough experiences like that in Singapore that have the power to give us pause and make us think about who or what we are for a change - not just what we are meant to do next.

This is why, in the current debate over the preservation of the old KTM railway land, I am on the side of those who prefer to keep things as they are.

And even though former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has expressed his preference for his home to be eventually demolished, I hope that he will re-consider.

Yes, curious tourists will traipse through these sites and take a million meaningless photographs.

But so many more Singaporeans of tomorrow will stand on the tracks and remember that this nation was once a part of Malaysia.

And they will look around the basement of the Oxley Road house in wonder, imagining the tense meetings the founding fathers had at modern Singapore's birth.

It is for all these silly reasons that I wish that the three dinosaurs do eventually make their way here.

And when they do, my claim to fame in the decades to come will be that I was just, in that very small way, proudly responsible.

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KTM greenery to be preserved: Khaw

Fiona Low Straits Times 18 Jul 11;

THE iconic tracks of the KTM railway will be dismantled from today, but Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan assured the public that the lush greenery surrounding them will be preserved.

Walking the tracks with his family and pet chihuahua Tammy yesterday evening, the minister added that after the tracks are dismantled, parts of the path will be reopened to the public again.

Speaking to reporters after the walk, Mr Khaw said there were many possibilities for housing development in the areas currently occupied by the tracks.

'But we will do it in a way where we can still preserve this green spine. I'm quite sure it can be done and it will be very nice. We can have urban development but still maintain the greenery,' he said.

The railways tracks will be dismantled and returned to Malaysia by the end of the year as part of the agreement between the two countries.

Mr Khaw said that his ministry had initially hoped to keep the tracks open to the public for two months before starting to dismantle them. But that timeframe was shortened because the contractors were worried that the dismantling could not be completed by the year-end deadline.

Most of the 26km green link from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands will be closed from today, except a 3km stretch between Rifle Range Road and The Rail Mall which will stay open until the end of this month.

Mr Khaw said the contractors will have to rush to finish removing the tracks, and may have to work overtime.

'But the commitment with Malaysia is year-end so we have to deliver, just as they delivered on their agreement to move the railway,' he added.

About 200 people walked alongside Mr Khaw on the 1.5km stretch between Holland Drive and Tanglin Halt. The walk was organised by the Ministry of National Development's recreational club.

Earlier in the day, three presidential hopefuls - Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Mr Tan Kin Lian and Mr Tan Jee Say - were also spotted walking the tracks.

It was also crowded with people like Ms Kalavathy Govindarajoo, 42, who was there with her husband to take pictures.

'It is a piece of history and a place of good memories for me,' she said. 'I hope they will convert the Bukit Timah station into a museum. It would be a good place to show future generations what our railway was like.'

Three presidential hopefuls join railway buzz
Qiuyi Tan and Evelyn Choo Channel NewsAsia 17 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE: It's the last day the full 26-kilometre stretch of the KTM Railway from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands is open to the public.

And adding to the buzz on the tracks were three presidential hopefuls - Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Kin Lian and Tan Jee Say.

When asked, Dr Tan Cheng Bock said he was checking out what he called a "hot topic".

"As presidential candidates, you don't discuss the issues. We only have to abide by the Constitution, and that is safeguarding the reserves and appointment of special top echelon leaders in the civil service. But that does not preclude me from taking an interest," said potential presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

"I will definitely take an interest in all the developments, not only to the KTM. There are so many new issues coming up and as president (hopeful), I cannot stay away from it," he added.

He said it's the government's job to get people's views about plans for the area, but he will give his "two cents' worth".

And he wants to make sure that the area is developed in a way that Singaporeans can feel it's part of their home.

As for Mr Tan Kin Lian, he said he has other more pressing concerns.

"The campaign issue is more on what kind of president the people of Singapore want. So I'll be focusing more on the duties of the president, and what the president can do for the people," he said.

Scores of Singaporeans were out with their cameras, and both men added to the photo opportunities.

Also present was the latest presidential hopeful, Mr Tan Jee Say.

Mr Tan is a former member of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) who contested in the recent General Election (GE).

He said: "I've been walking around too, it's something I picked up from the GE days, so it's nothing unnatural. But it's good timing and I hope to step it up."

All three presidential hopefuls said they are there to join the crowd on the historic last day the train tracks are open to the public.

And on the area's redevelopment, their comments were similar - that is, not too much concrete, keep the greenery and the nostalgia.

And the crowds continued to throng the railway tracks later in the day. They were joined by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan and his family. He had earlier invited the public to bring their pets along.

Tammy, a six-year-old chihuahua, is the pride and joy of Mr and Mrs Khaw. The couple decided to bring her along on their first walk on the railway tracks.

Many others joined in the reminiscing - with their "best friends" faithfully tagging along.

"I think it was nice of him (Mr Khaw), in that it does promote kindness to animals to include them. I didn't see any cats; they might have been a bit stressed. But I think our dogs enjoyed it," said Deirdre Moss, outgoing Executive Director of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Mr Khaw also took the opportunity to survey the surrounding buildings. He had mentioned in a recent post online, that there were opportunities to keep a green spine for nature and leisure.

A three-kilometre stretch of the tracks from Rifle Range Road to the Rail Mall will remain open till July 31.

- CNA /ls

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Government agencies 'may need to engage public sooner over projects'

Royston Sim Straits Times 18 Jul 11;

IF THE recent Maplewoods episode is anything to go by, government agencies may need to engage the public sooner rather than later when it comes to major rail and road construction projects, say some MPs and political observers.

They noted that Singaporeans are now more vocal and, with the rise of social networking, are able to quickly drum up support from like-minded people.

Residents, they said, expect to be engaged and consulted before construction works begin, not informed when no changes can be made.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak said government agencies will now have to show they are more open to suggestions and consultation. Said the former chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee on Transport: 'What people don't want is to hear that a project is already fixed and nothing can be changed.

'They want to see the authorities engaging them from the planning phase, and I urge government agencies to be more flexible and open. Some good ideas can come out of residents' suggestions.'

Residents at Maplewoods, a Bukit Timah Road condominium, found out in May that a launch shaft - a giant hole in which tunnel boring machines are inserted - would be sited outside their estate as part of the King Albert Park MRT station worksite.

They protested, and called for the shaft be relocated, citing concerns about pedestrian and traffic safety.

Work was halted as Land Transport Authority (LTA) officials sought to address their concerns. Dialogues were held, in which residents made known their unhappiness loudly.

Last week, the residents were told by Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Vivian Balakrishnan that work had to resume, and that LTA had sufficiently addressed their safety concerns. After a month's delay, work restarted last Friday.

Earlier this year, condominium residents along Yio Chu Kang Road also protested after the LTA revealed the northern alignment of the North-South Expressway (NSE). Residents from Castle Green and Nuovo condos have submitted appeals to request the semi-tunnel portion of the NSE running by their homes be changed to a closed tunnel.

Mr Charles Chong, MP for Joo Chiat, said the Maplewoods episode is something that will likely be repeated by other groups of residents as the Government continues to expand its rail and road network. He observed that as people become increasingly articulate, more have come forward to express their views.

MRT works could pass through his ward when the Eastern Region Line is built, and he hopes the LTA will engage residents early. 'They may not be able to please everybody, but they should show that they have tried their best to eliminate any nightmares,' he said.

Dr Lim expects more protests to arise when the LTA reveals the southern alignment of the NSE, which will pass through densely built-up areas.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said people's expectations that they will be listened to have increased after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech at the swearing-in of his new Cabinet in May that the Government would engage all segments of society.

Former Nominated MP Zulkifli Baharudin agreed, saying more people are coming forward as the Government strives to make itself more accessible.

Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser of the National University of Singapore's sociology department said the Maplewoods episode suggests a new form of relationship and engagement between the Government and the public, that it is 'no longer business as usual'.

But political analyst Derek da Cunha cautioned against linking the Maplewoods episode to a more emboldened electorate : 'Here, you had people in a private residential estate standing up for themselves when their interests were directly impacted. There is nothing unusual about that.'

But, he added, with the planned NSE and Downtown Line 3 going through heavily built-up areas, including private estates, more of such episodes can be expected.

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New 'riverfront' project launched at Rochor Canal

Straits Times 18 Jul 11;

AT THE moment, it is just an ordinary stretch of canal. Soon, however, the 1.1km route between Jalan Besar and Crawford will be transformed into an attractive 'riverfront' with decks and seating areas.

The $48 million project at Rochor Canal is the latest addition to water agency PUB's Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme. This scheme aims to transform utilitarian drains, canals and reservoirs so they resemble beautiful streams and lakes.

The new 'Rochor River' will be integrated with surrounding developments and allow people to enjoy scenic views of the waterway.

A Gateway Plaza will be built at an open area near Ophir Road to stage community events, and rain gardens will be incorporated along Rochor Canal to treat rainwater run-off so cleaner water flows into the canal.

The project was launched by Ms Denise Phua, an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, near Crawford Court yesterday. About 300 people attended.

PUB chief executive Khoo Teng Chye and his appointed successor, former Navy chief Chew Men Leong, were also present. The agency has so far completed 15 projects under its programme, which it introduced in 2007.

A revitalised Alexandra Canal was officially opened in March after PUB spent 23 months and $34 million transforming a 1.2km stretch of the canal from Tanglin Road to Delta Road.

The improvements included decking over a 200m-long portion of the canal near Tanglin Road to create a water cascade and water play area.

Other completed projects include Bedok Reservoir, where new facilities such as floating decks at the reservoir bank were added.

In the Kolam Ayer housing estate, a 250m stretch of Kallang River was transformed with improved landscaping along the river banks, a floating deck and a water wheel.

Two other projects in the programme will be completed by this year: one to integrate Kallang River with Bishan Park, and Phase Two of the MacRitchie Reservoir makeover.

The Rochor Canal project will be completed in 2014. PUB will implement more than 100 such projects islandwide in the next 15 to 20 years.


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Number of threatened bird species in Indonesia increases

Antara 17 Jul 11;

Bogor, West Java (ANTARA News) - The number of threatened bird species in Indonesia has increased from 122 in 2010 to 123 in 2011, according to an NGO activist.

Of the 123 threatened bird species, 18 were categorized as critically endangered, 31 endangered, and 74 vulnerable, Ria Saryanthi, the manager for conservation and development of Burung Indonesia, said here on Sunday.

"All of them are included in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)," Ria stated.

Burung Indonesia is a non-government organization (NGO) engaged in wild bird preservation in Indonesia and has forced partnership with the UK-based Bird life International.

The status of Gosong Sula or Sula Megapode bird (megapodius bernsteinii) has worsened from (near threatened) to vulnerable, she said.

The bird population has decreased due to the degradation of their natural habitat, she added.

More than a half of the 18 critically endangered species are found in lowland rain forests on small islands such as Sangihe, Siau, Buru, Banggai (Sulawesi Island), Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores (Nusa Tenggara Islands), and Bali.

"Except Bali, all the small islands are in Wallacea area," Ria said.

Among the critically endangered species are Sariwang sangihe or Caerulean paradise-flycatcher (Eutrichomyias rowleyi), kacamata sangihe or Sangihe White-eye (Zosterops nehrkorni), anis-betet sangihe or Sangihe Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla sanghirensis), celepuk siau or Siau Scops Owl (Otus siaoensis) and tokhtor sumatera or Sumatran Ground Cuckoo (Carpococcyx viridis).

According to Ria, the bird population has declined significantly and their natural habitats have been damaged.

The lowland rain forest coverage and quality in Indonesia have affected the survival of birds, she said.

Over a half of Indonesia`s endangered bird species live in the forests.

The current problem is that not all Bird Important Regions (DPB) are within conservation areas, as some of them are found in production forests, she explained.

"Protection must be made by giving priority to DPB for birds," Ria said.

Indonesia is a mega bird diversity country. Of the world`s total 10,000 bird species, 1,594 are found in Indonesia, including 353 endemic species.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Hope for slow loris in Sabah

Roy Goh New Straits Times 18 Jul 11;

KINABATANGAN: It is one of the most common primate species owned illegally as pets in Asia, but there is hope yet for the Bornean slow loris in Sabah.

A male was caught recently and fitted with a VHF (very high frequency) radio-collar before being released into the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) director Dr Benoit Goosens said the collar, at less than three per cent of the animal's body weight, could help scientists learn more about the timid-looking animal.

"Little is known about the Bornean slow loris, particularly in Sabah... any information collected will be important in better understanding the species, from sleeping site locations and preferences, to ranging behaviour.

"With this study, we hope to raise awareness of the importance of protecting nocturnal primates as well as protecting orang utans, proboscis monkeys, sun bears and elephants," he said.

Goosens said the joint effort between the centre and the Sabah Wildlife Department was funded by the on-going Nocturnal Primate Project from the Columbus Zoo and Cleveland Zoological Society in the United States.

State Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said next to macaques, the slow loris was the second most common primate species owned illegally as pets in Asia.

"Although slow lorises are protected by law from international and commercial trade, the greatest growing threat to slow lorises is the illegal pet trade," he said, adding that the animal was also in demand for the medicinal and ornamental trade.

On top of that, slow lorises faced high mortality rates when transported to markets, due to starvation, dehydration and infections from dental health injuries, as their teeth were removed to increase sales, added Ambu.

"The Bornean slow loris is one of the two cryptic nocturnal primates, with the Western tarsier, which lives in Borneo. It is the only species equipped with a toxic defence and hunting mechanism, producing a toxin or poison by combining its saliva with secretions from its upper arms," said Danica Stark, a primatologist based at DGFC involved in the project.

Homing in on slow loris
The Star 18 Jul 11;

KOTA KINABALU: The Bornean slow loris has become the latest species to be fitted with a radio collar as conservationists try to understand its behavioural pattern.

With little known about the nocturnal primate, particularly in Sabah, the collar will help researchers get a better understanding of the animal's sleeping sites and preferences as well as its movement behaviour.

The slow loris named “Krik” (which is one of the words used to describe the noises they make a clicking, chirping noise) was fitted with a radio collar by Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) in the forest of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary recently.

“Although slow lorises are protected by law from international and commercial trade, the greatest growing threat to slow lorises is the illegal pet trade. It is the second most common primate species owned as pets in Asia, next to macaques,” Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said.

He said they had also become an important species for medicinal and ornamental trade.

Lorises face extremely high mortality rates in markets as transportion causes starvation and dehydration.

“They also suffer infections from dental injuries when their teeth are removed to increase their sales,” added Dr Laurentius.

Primate expert Danica Stark, who is part of the project, said the Bornean slow loris was one of two mysterious nocturnal primates.

The other is the Western tarsier that lives in Borneo.

“The slow loris is the only species equipped with a toxic defence and hunting mechanism, producing a toxin or poison by combining its saliva with secretions from its upper arms,” Stark explained.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said the ongoing Nocturnal Primate project was funded by Columbus Zoo and Cleveland Zoological Society in the United States.

He said it was the first time a slow loris from Sabah was fitted with a radio collar and DGFC research assistant Baharudin Resak was monitoring the primate's movements within the forest.

“The collar weighs less than 3% of the body weight, so it will not hinder the animal as it moves around the forest searching for insects, lizards and other prey,” Dr Goossens said.

“We also hope to raise the awareness in Sabah on the importance of protecting nocturnal primates as much as protecting orang utans, proboscis monkeys, sun bears and elephants,” he added.

He said a radio collar had already been fitted on a tarsier while Borneo pygmy elephants and a saltwater crocodile had satellite collars.

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Community of Rare Gibbons Found in Vietnam

Jakarta Globe 18 Jul 11;

Hanoi. The lively morning calls of a rare species of gibbon has led to the discovery of the only known "viable" community of the talkative primates in remote Vietnamese forests, conservationists said Monday.

A "substantial" population of 455 critically endangered northern white--cheeked crested gibbons were found living at high altitudes and far from human settlements on the border with Laos, Conservation International (CI) said.

Researchers, who had previously found sparse groups in other areas, used the animals' "loud, elaborate and prolonged" calls to locate the creatures in Pu Mat National Park in Nghe An province, northern Vietnam.

The community represents two thirds of the total number in Vietnam and the "only confirmed viable population" of the variety worldwide.

"This is an extraordinarily significant find, and underscores the immense importance of protected areas in providing the last refuges for the region’s decimated wildlife," said CI president Dr Russell Mittermeier.

Gibbons, which are threatened across the world, are considered the "most romantic" of primates as they mate for life and serenade their partners with song.

Habitat loss and hunting for the pet trade and the "assumed medicinal value of primate body parts" are among the major threats to the creatures in Vietnam, the CI statement said.

White--cheeked gibbon numbers are thought to have declined by as much as 80 percent in the last 45 years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Mittermeier, who also works with the IUCN, described the species as "on the brink of extinction".

They are believed to be "functionally extinct" in China and while there could be significant numbers in Laos, CI said a lack of research means the situation in the country is unclear.

But CI said plans to build a road through the Pu Mat area to increase patrols on the Vietnam--Laos border pose a "serious threat" to the future of the rare primates.

"The major issue will be the hunting of these gibbons that were previously protected by the harsh terrain; so gun control will be vital," said primatologist Luu Tuong Bach, a consultant to CI who led field surveys for the research.

"Without direct protection in Pu Mat National Park, it is likely that Vietnam will lose this species in the near future."


Largest population of rare gibbon found in Vietnam
AP Yahoo News 18 Jul 11;

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Conservationists listening to a critically endangered primate's morning calls in central Vietnam's mountains heard a surprising response. About 455 animals were counted there based on their calls, making it the largest known population of northern white-cheeked crested gibbons.

In this July 2011 photo released by Conservation International, an adult female northern white-cheeked crested gibbon, right, carries its baby as an adult male sits nearby at Pu Mat National Park, Nghe An province in Vietnam. About 455 northern white-cheeked crested gibbons were discovered in the National Park during a survey by the wildlife group Conservation International. The group is the largest known remaining population of the critically endangered primate. (AP Photo/Conservation International, Terry Whittaker)

Wildlife group Conservation International conducted the census in 2010 by recording the loud song-like vocalizations the gibbons use to mark territory and attract and keep mates.

The primates were in 130 different groups living in thick jungle of the mountains near the Laos border, the group said in a statement Monday. Earlier surveys elsewhere in Vietnam had not documented any populations larger than a dozen groups.

The primate was known to exist in China, Vietnam and Laos. It is considered functionally extinct in China, but its numbers are unclear in Laos because little research has been conducted there.

The count was conducted in Pu Mat National Park in Nghe An province, and the conservation group expressed concerns about planned road projects that could destroy habitat in the place where the species has its last known viable population.

"The major issue will be the hunting of these gibbons that were previously protected by the harsh terrain," Luu Tuong Bach, a Conservation International consultant who led the surveys, said in the statement. "Without direct protection in Pu Mat National Park, it is likely that Vietnam will lose this species in the near future."

All of the 25 gibbon species existing worldwide are threatened, and eight of the Indochinese crested gibbon species are near extinction, including the northern white-cheeked crested gibbon.

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Asian Wetland Symposium opens today

Joe Leong Borneo Post 18 Jul 11;

KOTA KINABALU: The three-day Asian Wetland Symposium (AWS) is scheduled to start here today to address the complex issue of how to achieve integration in biodiversity conservation, particularly the linking of forests on highlands and those in wetlands.

Speakers from Japan, China, the Philippines, India, Korea, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia will present a host of working papers for discussions over six technical sessions in the next few days.

The opening is expected to be officiated by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, after speeches by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Sri Douglas Uggah Embas, and Sabah State Secretary Datuk Sukarti Wakiman, who is also the organising chairman of the symposium.

The theme for the AWS Sabah 2011 is “Integrated biodiversity conservation: Linking forests and wetlands”.

Its primary intent is to enhance synergy in the delivery of the targets and goals of the Ramsar Convention, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme and United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF).

The opening session shall be followed by a series of keynote addresses by officials of these international conventions.

There will also be a special presentation by Naotake Okubo, chairman of the Keidanren Committee on Nature Conservation, Japan and a speech by Ma Guangren, director general, Wetland Conservation and Management, State Forestry Administration, China.

This symposium forms part of a series of international symposia aimed at providing a platform for active discussion on issues related to wetland conservation and the wise-use of wetland resources.

An announcement on the event says it is the premier forum for management, research, education and public awareness on wetlands.

A special plenary session for Sabah will take place on Wednesday with presentations that include eco-tourism, the success of the ‘Tagal System’ in reviving and conserving fisheries resources in the state, and the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life.

Other Sabah topics that would be tabled for deliberations at the AWS include wetlands conservation through education and restoration, the conservation of the Klias Peat Swamp Forest, marine park management, and wetland education and outreach experience of the Sabah Forestry Department.

The organizers say the AWS Sabah 2011 aims to identify practical strategies and mechanisms for enabling integrated biodiversity conservation with a focus on linking forests and wetlands.

They hope to bring together key stakeholders in Asia – forestry, wetland and biodiversity practitioners, policy and decision-makers, and the business sector – to among others, discuss issues related to biodiversity conservation in forest and wetland ecosystems.

The symposium also hopes to determine a set of practical actions for integrating biodiversity conservation in forest and wetland ecosystems in the Asia region, in line with global objectives under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention.

One of the mandates of the AWS Sabah is to review progress in terms of delivering the actions identified in the ‘Hanoi Call to Action’ and to develop a new declaration to be delivered to the Ramsar COP11, to be held in Romania next year.

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