Best of our wild blogs: 19 Jul 11

Singapore Biodiversity: An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment from Raffles Museum News and Otterman speaks

A history museum for all ages
from The Straits Times Blogs by Grace Chua

23-24 Jul (Sat-Sun): More biodiversity talks this weekend
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Wild Boar Day
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Coralline Record in Singapore Botanic Gardens
from Flying Fish Friends

PUI Goes the Spitting Spider
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Argh! I can’t stand the trash on Lim Chu Kang beach!
from Toddycats!

poaching kayakers @ SBWR 17July2011
from sgbeachbum and R.I.P. Great-Billed Heron @ SBWR

Sentosa Serapong quickly
from wild shores of singapore

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Resorts World Sentosa's Marine Life Park develops education programme

Sea Research Foundation and Resorts World Sentosa Ink a Multi-Faceted Agreement to Bring Mystic Aquarium Expertise and The JASON Project Science Programs to Asia
Agreement will focus on developing education programs for Resorts World Sentosa’s Marine Life Park located in Singapore
Business Wire 18 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sea Research Foundation, which oversees The JASON Project science programs in collaboration with the National Geographic Society, has entered into an agreement with Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), Singapore’s first integrated resort, to jointly develop a marine environmental curriculum for students in Southeast Asia. Contents of the curriculum will be drawn from Sea Research Foundation’s Mystic Aquarium, distinguished for its marine animal research and husbandry expertise.

As part of the three-year agreement, Sea Research Foundation, a global leader in marine research, deep-sea exploration and hands-on education, and the National Geographic Society will join forces with RWS’ new Marine Life Park (MLP) in Singapore to bring the award-winning JASON Project science programs to students in the region. The MLP will become the exclusive manager for The JASON Project in Southeast Asia, and Mystic Aquarium will assist in developing comprehensive pre-school to tertiary school programs at the new MLP.

The JASON Project is an internationally acclaimed multi-media science program that works collaboratively with schools and teachers to create hands-on and multi-media learning experiences in classrooms. The JASON Project was developed by the National Geographic Society and is now managed by Sea Research Foundation in collaboration with the National Geographic Society.

“Set to be a world-class park with a strong focus on education, research and stewardship, we are honored to be working with RWS and its MLP,” Dr. Stephen Coan, president and CEO of Sea Research Foundation said. “We share a deep commitment to engaging young people and learners of all ages in the importance of marine conservation and the fundamentals of science as a means for understanding the ocean environment.”

Mr. Tan Hee Teck, president and CEO of RWS, said: “We are very committed to research and education, and this focus is paramount as we move toward completing and opening our new Aquarium and the MLP. Our collaboration with Mystic Aquarium and The JASON Project – both globally renowned entities of the Sea Research Foundation - as well as the well-respected National Geographic Society, will put us in the forefront of science, conservation and education programs dedicated to our oceans and marine life. These programs will undoubtedly yield important resources for the students of Singapore and other Southeast Asian nations.”

Programs will include travelling teacher experiences that will take place in schools, on-property education programs, and interpretative and hands-on learning experiences.

The MLP and Sea Research Foundation will also collaborate on various biological research programs. Sea Research Foundation specializes in studying the immune systems of marine mammals and the correlation between marine mammal immune response to human health issues. The MLP team of veterinarians, marine mammal specialists and curators will provide additional expertise and support to expand such research.

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Encyclopedia celebrates wealth of Singapore's flora and fauna

Straits Times 19 Jul 11;

IT MAY be a small country, but Singapore has more than its fair share of different plants and animals.

Yesterday, an encyclopedia was launched to celebrate the island's exciting biodiversity.

With more than 1,500 entries, it is Singapore's first comprehensive reference to its flora and fauna, and celebrates almost 200 years of natural history study here.

Featured in the encyclopedia are species that do not exist anywhere else, such as the Singapore freshwater crab, and others that are critically endangered like the Singapore whiskered bat.

'Contrary to expectations, there are species in Singapore that are found nowhere else in the world, and they should be protected,' said Professor Peter Ng, one of the academics behind the book.

He estimates that Singapore may have more than 40,000 species of plants and animals, which he says is a big number for a small country.

Prof Ng added that he hopes to encourage Singaporeans to cultivate an interest in local creatures and plants, rather than concentrating only on those in other countries, such as pandas.

Called Singapore Biodiversity: An Encyclopedia Of The Natural Environment And Sustainable Development, the book was launched at the National University of Singapore (NUS) by President S R Nathan.

The first part contains essays on Singapore's natural environment and conservation efforts, while the second is an A-Z guide to its biodiversity.

NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said at the launch: 'This collection provides a detailed record of the key changes that have taken place in our environment over the past two centuries.

'It also highlights what must be done to preserve our natural heritage for future generations.'

The encyclopedia project was started by Prof Ng, director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, and Professor Leo Tan, director of special projects at the NUS Faculty of Science.

It took more than three years to compile and involved 65 contributors from academia, government agencies and environmental activist groups.

The encyclopedia was funded by $1.1 million of donations from firms such as Exxon Mobil Asia-Pacific and the Lee Foundation, as well as private entrepreneurs Sam Goi and Oei Hong Leong.

Prof Ng said he hopes the book will find its way into school and university libraries in Singapore over the next six months to a year.

He is also hopeful for the future of the plants and animals featured in the encyclopedia.

He said that despite the changes development has wrought on Singapore's landscape, 'if the policymakers and planners do things correctly and they plan correctly for sustainable development, there is still hope.

'We're still finding more (species), the story is not finished'.


Guide to Singapore's biodiversity launched
Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 18 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE : A comprehensive guide to Singapore's biodiversity was launched on Monday.

It is the country's first encyclopedia on Singapore's natural history and heritage.

The encyclopedia - "Singapore Biodiversity" - was launched by President S R Nathan along with key stakeholders of environment conservation in Singapore.

Those present included the Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, MP for Tampines GRC Mah Bow Tan, and Ambassador-At-Large at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Professor Tommy Koh.

Initiated by two National University of Singapore (NUS) professors, the encyclopedia has information from 65 contributors.

They come from academia, government agencies and environmental activist groups.

The production of the publication is supported by a S$1.1 million fund raised through donations.

From insects to flora and fauna, virtually every known living organism in Singapore is featured in the book.

The 552-page encyclopedia took three years to complete, and charts almost 200 years of natural history study in the country.

And it was quite an effort compiling information from so many contributors.

Professor Peter Ng, general editor of "Singapore Biodiversity", said: "That was a challenge. Getting all these guys together. And then reading it, editing, and checking to make sure the facts are correct.

"Another problem of course was that we always assumed that there was a whole amount of information already gathered that was easy for us to access and then just take and then edit. No. A lot of the information that we gathered for these chapters turned out not so easy to get."

Professor Ng said the core of the encyclopedia is its collection of essays.

They detail Singapore's ecosystems, past and present research, and tackle issues of climate change and public policy.

It also includes interviews with former ministers. The contributions include interviews with Mr Mah, former National Development Minister; Information, Communications and the Arts Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who was the former Environment and Water Resources Minister; and George Yeo, former Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The encyclopedia will serve as a resource material for scientists, policy makers and educationists.

But contributors are also hoping the book will strike a chord with young Singaporeans.

Professor Leo Tan, director of special projects at the Faculty of Science at NUS, said: "They are the custodians, they are responsible for the environment that they have to live in, raise their children in and maintain that quality of life."

The book will be on sale at bookstores islandwide from July 19, and will retail for S$65.

- CNA/ms

A guide to Singapore's biodiversity
Esther Ng Today Online 19 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE - He does not hate animals but Professor Peter Ng belongs to the camp which feels pigeons, mynas, crows and stray cats should be culled.

These fauna, along with the sparrow and the American red-earred terrapin sold widely in pet shops, are alien to Singapore's natural habitat, argues the National University of Singapore (NUS) conservation biologist.

"They compete with our native species of birds and other animals for limited resources like food and space," said Prof Ng, one of the editors of the first encyclopaedia on Singapore's biodiversity.

With the launch of the 552-page tome, Singapore Biodiversity - An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development, by President S R Nathan yesterday, Prof Ng hopes that more Singaporeans will be more aware of the island's rich biodiversity.

What makes this encyclopaedia different is that it does not just label animals and plants but provides a context on sustainable development and showcases what Singapore has done right or wrong in the past, said Prof Ng.

Professor Leo Tan, another editor of the book, noted non-native species were brought in by people by trains and boats in the past. But today, legally imported pets pose bigger problems because of the sheer number that make their way into the wild when pet owners tire of their pets and abandon them, added the director of special projects at the NUS Faculty of Science.

For instance, feral cats have been known to contribute or even cause the extinction of many species of animals. While Prof Ng does not have data on how many of the urban cat population have turned feral, he believes that they would pose a threat to native species if their numbers are left unchecked.

It would be "good if we start neutering as many stray cats as possible, as well as chip all pet cats so owners cannot let them go when they no longer care or let them roam all over", he said. "There are a lot of cat lovers and humane folks out there but we need to have a check and balance. If there are too many stray and feral cats - what they have to remember is that other animals will have to die to sustain them."

Animal welfare proponents have argued that stopping the pet trade will diminish the incidence of pet abandonment but Professors Ng and Tan feel this is not possible as Singapore practises free trade. The alternative is to educate people to be more responsible pet owners.

But the Cat Welfare Society and the Action for Singapore Dogs, saying that this approach is not effective, has called for sterilisation of strays to be stepped up.

Alien species are not limited to animals but flora as well. The commonly seen water hyacinth has the potential to indirectly alter soil water content, nutrient cycling and to modify the habitat.

Prof Tan said: "Alien species now dominate most non-forest areas and freshwater habitats here."

200 years of Singapore's flora, fauna captured in book
Joanna Seow Straits Times 18 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE'S biodiversity is more exciting and surprising than most people may think, if a new encyclopedia here is anything to go by.

'Contrary to expectations, there are species in Singapore that are found nowhere else in the world, and they should be protected,' said Professor Peter Ng, director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and one of the three editors of Singapore Biodiversity: An Encyclopedia Of The Natural Environment And Sustainable Development.

The book, which is Singapore's first comprehensive reference to local flora and fauna, celebrates almost 200 years of natural history study here.

It was launched at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on Monday afternoon by President S R Nathan.

National University of Singapore president Tan Chorh Chuan said at the launch: 'This collection provides a detailed record of the key changes that have taken place in our environment over the past two centuries.'

'It also highlights what must be done to preserve our natural heritage for future generations,' he added.

New species featured in Singapore eco book
my paper AsiaOne 19 Jul 11;

WITH its beautiful purple speckled shell measuring just 2cm in width, this species of crab had gone unnoticed along Singapore's shoreline until it was discovered last year.

The Lee's Purple Marine Crab (Leelumnus radium), named after the Lee Foundation, was recently classified under a new genus or family of species.

It is not the only creature discovered here recently.

The Jade Tree Snail (Amphidromus atricallosus temasek) - also known as the Temasek Tree Snail - was recently determined to be a new subspecies. It is believed to be found only in Singapore.

Readers can expect to find such nuggets of information in a new book called Singapore Biodiversity - An Encyclopedia Of The Natural Environment And Sustainable Development.

The landmark publication, which summarises what has taken place in the environmental scene in Singapore over the last 200 years, was launched yesterday at the National University of Singapore (NUS) by President S R Nathan.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan was also present at the event.

The 552-page hardcover publication is the combined effort of 65 contributors, including academics and environmental activist groups here. Published by Editions Didier Millet, the encyclopedia was edited by NUS faculty members Peter Ng, Richard Corlett and Hugh Tan.

NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said: "This collection provides a detailed record of the key changes in our environment over the past two centuries. It also highlights what must be done today to preserve our natural heritage for future generations."

It took three years to complete the encyclopedia, which was supported by a $1.1-million fund raised through donations from ExxonMobil Asia Pacific, Keppel Corp, Lee Foundation, Ngee Ann Kongsi, Mr Sam Goi and Mr Oei Hong Leong.

Comprising two parts, the first part of the book is a collection of essays and features offering a detailed introduction to Singapore's natural environment and conservation efforts.

It covers Singapore's natural environment, such as its climate and terrain; past and present research; and issues such as climate change.

The second part is as an A-Z guide of 1,500 entries covering virtually every known organism found here.

The book is available at NUS libraries and public libraries.

Life in an urban jungle
New book showcases the more than 40,000 native species of flora and fauna here
Chang Ai-Lien Straits Times 23 Jul 11;

AGAINST all odds, nature abounds in spectacular diversity in our midst.

Urban Singapore is teeming with wildlife, as the country's first biodiversity encyclopaedia shows in bounteous detail.

Filled with photographs, the 552-page book showcases everything from abalone - there are seven species here - to zooxanthellae, single- celled plants living in the tissue of corals.

Sixty-five scientists, nature experts, policymakers and environmental activists produced the mammoth tome, which also chronicles successes, threats and losses in wildlife conservation here.

The book took three years to compile and was brought to life by conservation champions Leo Tan and Peter Ng, professors at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Faculty of Science, with the help of a chief adviser, Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh.

'Bit by bit, this story came together, and it was a story worth telling,' said Prof Ng, who also heads the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. He was one of the book's editors, together with Professor Richard Corlett and Associate Professor Hugh Tan, his colleagues.

Its chapters cover the environmental scene in the country over the last 200 years, how it has tried to balance the often conflicting needs of economic development, conservation and preservation of natural heritage, and its hopes for the future.

Singapore Biodiversity - An Encyclopedia Of The Natural Environment And Sustainable Development also comes with an A to Z guide on virtually every known organism here.

The Republic is home to more than 40,000 native species of flora and fauna which have survived despite extensive habitat destruction.

Prof Tan noted that even biologists and scientists from overseas found this hard to believe, and were quick to underestimate Singapore's rich natural treasure trove.

'Then when they are finally convinced to come here to collect specimens, whether insects or crabs or coral, they are surprised time and time again.'

He added: 'The book also paints the landscape of Singapore's future and will hopefully inspire young people to play a role in shaping it.'

Indeed, some young people will get a chance to do so soon, as a result of the book's publication.

Donations towards producing the encyclopaedia - from ExxonMobil Asia Pacific, Keppel Corp, the Lee Foundation, Ngee Ann Kongsi and businessmen Sam Goi and Oei Hong Leong - were matched by $1.1 million in government funding, which will go into an endowment fund for a new Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree at NUS.

The undergraduate course is being developed and will be taught by professors from eight faculties, with the first batch of 50 students starting next month.

NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan noted that today's environmental issues are complex, spanning many fields.

The programme would nurture graduates who are able to think deeply and broadly, he said, and help to develop novel solutions for Singapore and beyond.

Prof Leo Tan added: 'Each faculty contains experts in their own fields with their own priorities.

'Getting this diverse group together was something of a miracle, but it was necessary because the environment cannot be dealt with by one person or group.'

The book, which was launched on Monday by the university's chancellor, President S R Nathan, is on sale at major bookstores for $65 (excluding GST).

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Dinosaurs part of Singapore's 'deep' history

Straits Times Forum 19 Jul 11;

WE WOULD like to comment on two interesting commentaries on our current endeavours to bring dinosaurs to the new natural history museum in Singapore.

We are delighted that Ms Ong Sor Fern ('What have dinosaurs got to do with S'pore?'; last Saturday) enjoyed her visit to the old museum and recognises the importance of having a new natural history museum that features Singapore's plant and animal life.

We remain committed to this and 90 per cent of the new gallery will celebrate the biodiversity of Singapore and South-east Asia. We are also planning for a heritage gallery that will showcase material from the original museum.

The funding from the initial donations has already been earmarked for safeguarding the historic collections and exhibiting these specimens.

However, modern natural history museums should not feature only today's biodiversity because it gives the erroneous impression that the planet's biota does not change. That is why all major museums use fossils of extinct species to introduce ancient 'lost worlds'. We must also remember that more than 100 million years ago, Singapore was part of a huge continent called Laurasia, a landmass on which dinosaurs roamed.

Dinosaurs are therefore part of Singapore's 'deep' history. Unfortunately, Singapore's tropical climate is not conducive to preserving dinosaur fossils. This is why we have started a fund-raising effort to acquire three spectacular dinosaurs that will educate the public about the history of life. These are also of exceptional scientific value because they are the best-preserved large sauropods ('long-necks') that have been unearthed in decades. They would anchor our exhibit on geological change, which would also feature Singapore's palaeontological history.

As to their educational value, Mr Ignatius Low ('Why we need dinos'; Sunday) rightfully observed that dinosaurs 'inspire and awe'. There is no doubt that dinosaurs attract visitors of all ages and backgrounds, and we can then be more effective in teaching them about global biodiversity, extinction and conservation. We see the specimens as a major catalyst for research and education, and are also convinced that they will significantly increase the visitorship to the galleries dedicated to Singapore's natural history.

Unfortunately, we will be able to showcase these specimens only if our fund-raising drive is successful. We hope Singaporeans will help us bring these dinosaurs to Singapore.

Professor Rudolf Meier
Chairman, Scientific Advisory Committee
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
National University of Singapore

Professor Peter Ng
Director, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
National University of Singapore

Professor Leo Tan
Director, Special Projects, Faculty of Science and
Chairman, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Fund-Raising Committee

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A history museum for all ages

Grace Chua Straits Times Blogs 18 Jul 11;

Grace Chua argues why money should be spent on three dinosaur skeletons for Singapore's educational sake

Lately, there has been some debate over whether the upcoming Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum ought to buy three dinosaur skeletons for $12 million.

Some, like my colleague Ong Sor Fern, argue that they would be a waste of money.

I'm going to argue that they represent some of the best value for Singapore, that money can buy.

By definition, a natural history museum is a story about the world's life and evolution. So it must go beyond Singapore's own natural history, rich as that itself is.

It would be parochial and somewhat myopic to say, oh, these dinosaurs weren't even found in the region.

Would our art museums turn down the chance to show off a Da Vinci or a Rembrandt just because they weren't Singaporean painters?

I hardly think so - or at least, they would think long and hard before turning one of the Old Masters down.

So it is with dinosaur fossils - specifically the diplodocid sauropods, the long-necked, plodding favourites of children's movies like Land Before Time.

As my colleague Ignatius Low put it (, they would give Singapore a sense of its own place in geology and time - putting the ambitious little city-state in its place while at the same time, teaching its children to dream big.

"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," he wrote.


You see, it's not about a blockbuster show. It's not about fossils being money-spinners. It's about children.

A museum gallery dedicated to the social and cultural history of fashion is appreciated by only a handful of adults.

But the natural history museum is for the Singaporean children - of all ages - who will tramp through it on school excursions, to surround the towering fossils and gape.

Do we or don't we want our children to grow up with that sense of wonder? Don't we want them to think beyond the local, to grow into citizens not only of Singapore, but of the earth?

That's why $12 million, not even of taxpayer money but charitable donations, is a bargain.

In Singapore education-spending terms, a $12 million price-tag is a drop in the bucket.

This year alone, the Ministry of Education budget for primary and secondary schools, special schools and junior colleges, is more than $5 billion. And dinosaurs are in themselves, an education.

Of course, it is necessary to also train curators and scholars, the experts who can explain the significance of these dinosaurs and put them - and Singapore - in their context in geologic and biological time.

But that will come when we see the value of having dino fossils in the first place.

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Pulau Sipadan Waters To Be Gazetted

Bernama 19 Jul 11;

SANDAKAN, July 19 (Bernama) -- There is a need to gazette the waters off Sipadan Island as a protection park to safeguard the marine life there, Sabah Parks Director Paul Basintal said.

At the moment only the island, stretching 13.5km, has been gazetted and the waters would be gazetted in the second phase.

He noted that 12 popular diving spots in the area did not come under the conservation zone.

Speaking to reporters after opening a Sabah Parks seminar here today, Paul said the process to make it a gazetted area was in progress, with the cooperation of relevant authorities, like the Semporna District Office, which had put up a public notice pertaining to the proposed gazette.

"There have been no objections till date," he added.

Paul said marine park Tun Mustapha Park in the north of Sabah, is also expected to be gazetted by 2015.

The park, which stretches to 1.1 million hectares, covers the waters off Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas, including 50 islands.

The park has the potential to be the largest marine park in Asia. Conservation of this zone would be done under the management of the Coral Triangle Support Partnership.

The proposal for this was approved by the state government in 2003.


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Malaysia: Probe into claims on turtle egg promotion

The Star 19 Jul 11;

KUALA TERENGGANU: An investigation will be carried out into allegations that some local tourist guides are encouraging tourists to eat turtle eggs.

Terengganu Tourism, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Datuk Abdul Rahin Said said the state government was clear on its stand to preserve the population of turtles as well as terrapins.

“We fear certain tourist guides may have obtained the eggs in the black market,” he told The Star yesterday.

He said the authorities would not compromise if it was found that errant tourist guides were promoting the eating of turtle eggs as a “must have food”.

“Turtles and terrapins are endangered, thus we will give our full co-operation in protecting them,” he said in response to allegations by WWF Malaysia that tourist guides had casually reminded tourists not to miss eating turtle eggs while they are in Tereng-ganu.

Abdul Rahin urged WWF Malaysia to provide information on its allegations.

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Indonesia: On the hunt for sea turtle eggs

Agus Wahyuni, Jakarta Post 19 Jul 11;

Tanjung Kemuning Beach is crowded with dozens of turtles from June to October.

The turtles arrive to lay their eggs, but before they hatch, their eggs are the targets of man — their primary predator.

This uninhabited beach is part of the illegal turtle egg trade, which involves both local markets and those of neighboring countries.

Located in Paloh in Sambas regency, West Kalimantan, Tanjung Kemuning borders the South China Sea to the north and Kampong Telok Melano at the western tip of Sarawak, Malaysia, to the west.

The gorgeous beach, with its 63-kilometer-long sloping shore of white sand, is a source of food and a good habitat for mother turtles, especially green, leatherback and hawksbills.

From Sebubus village, Tanjung Kemuning is accessible by motorcycle along a bumpy 20-kilometer-long path followed by a 42-kilometer trip along the shore when the tide has ebbed.

Sebubus villagers leave their farms and plantations for weeks to hunt turtle eggs on this beach.

One night, Sebubus local Agus was tracking turtle nests along Tanjung Kemuning. With a flashlight he walked the shore looking for traces of turtles on the low sand dunes.

One green turtle was climbing ashore, taking about 20 minutes to dig a nest hole and lay its eggs. After the turtle had left, Agus promptly reached into the nest and filled his sack with eggs. He returned home that same night.

Another hunter, Mizan from Temajuk village, had his own way of gathering eggs so as not to have to share with his peers. He rubbed out any traces of turtle prints on the sand and covered turtles with sand, waiting at a distance.

Only when all eggs were laid did he hurriedly take them home, later to be sold in Melano, Malaysia, where the price could double.

World Wildlife Federation (WWF) — Paloh turtle coordinator Dwi Suprapti said the smuggling of turtle eggs to Malaysia had been going on for quite some time. In Serikin, Sarawak, turtle eggs usually came from the Riau Islands instead of Paloh.

The price of one green turtle egg is around Rp 1,200 (14 US cents). The eggs are sold at local markets like those in Tebas, Sambas and Pinyuh in Pontianak for between Rp 1,500 and Rp 2,000.

In Serikin, eight eggs cost 10 Malaysian ringgit. They are resold at the same market at prices reaching three Malaysian ringgit per egg. Dwi said he once saw turtle eggs for sale in Serikin for as much as 2.5 ringgit, or Rp 7,000, for one egg.

Every night between 40 and 70 turtles arrive at Tanjung Kemuning during their egg-laying season, with each turtle laying between 100 and 125 eggs. In one night, there may be as many as 6,000-10,000 turtle eggs on the beach.

Agus and Mizan said they could gather between 100 and 200 turtle eggs, or even more barring village restrictions. Thirty-two percent of their profits must go to a village group lead by Bujang Syabrani, 20 percent to a breeding center managed by Syabrani and the remainder to the egg collectors themselves.

The rules began three years ago when Latif, a former employee at the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), was assigned to handle the Tanjung Belimbing Nature Tourist Park in Paloh. In August 2009, Latif was dismissed from the agency because of his involvement in turtle egg thefts and sales in several regions.

The scandal also included disguised breeding under the BKSDA, in which a number of breeders moved turtle nests under the cloak of protecting turtle eggs against natural predators.

Sambas Maritime and Fisheries Office head Dailami sent a letter of protest to BKSDA, which had been entrusted with the task of conserving the turtle zone. In the release of young turtles, BKSDA claimed to have freed thousands, while it was actually just dozens.

“The BKSDA has never cooperated with the Sambas regency administration either,” Dailami said. The BKSDA was also allegedly involved in the smuggling of turtle eggs to Malaysia and other regions. Over the years, the turtle population at Tanjung Kemuning has also been declining.

Syabrani initiated the construction of a 10-by-5-meter breeding center on the beach, which is big enough to accommodate thousands of young turtles. Two village groups handled the building of the center, which they funded themselves.

About 10 meters from the center, a wooden house has been set up for villagers to rest in the daytime and hunt turtle eggs at night. Fredy, 34, who is in charge of feeding young turtles, said dozens of baby turtles were eaten by predators every night.

But, man is still the most dangerous predator. In 2010, Fredy found four dead turtles, killed by hunters who couldn’t wait to get their eggs. The mother turtles were slashed in two and the eggs inside their bodies scooped out.

Sakawana Nature Explorers Association chair Iswono alleged that the turtle breeding business of both groups was a syndicate masked as a breeding effort.

In his view, breeding turtles by moving their eggs will reduce the quality of the turtles that hatch, with humans raising the young lowering their survival capacity.

Sebubus residents have seized control of turtle egg hunting grounds from the BKSDA of Tanjung Kemuning and Tanjung Belimbing. Usman, 46, an egg gatherer from Sebubus, said he sold turtle eggs in Sambas for Rp 2,500 to 3,000 an egg.

In April 2011, Pontianak’s maritime and fisheries control officers, with the aid of military border guards in Jagoi Babang, Bengkayang regency, confiscated 3,405 turtle eggs waiting to be smuggled to Sarawak through Serikin.

WWF Indonesia portfolio manager Sudarsono Kimpul said the best method for conserving turtles should be to let them live in their own habitat independently, without any human interference.

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2 tonnes of pangolins seized in Indonesia

TRAFFIC 19 Jul 11;

Jakarta, Indonesia, 18th July 2011—Customs officers at Jakarta’s Sukarno-Hatta Airport seized 1.732 kg of pangolin meat and a further 380 kg of pangolin scales on 10th July.

The de-scaled pangolins were packed in boxes labelled as fresh fish and destined for Singapore.

One suspect was arrested and if convicted faces a possible five years in prison.

The seizure is the latest in a number of foiled attempts to smuggle pangolins out of Indonesia. In May this year 7.5 tonnes of pangolins and 65 kg of scales were seized at the country's biggest port in Jakarta, en route to Viet Nam.

Pangolins in Asia are protected species in all their range states and international trade is currently not permitted under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

“While the Indonesian authorities should be congratulated for making this seizure, it is just one of a number of similar incidents recently in the region, highlighting the ongoing illicit trade” says Dan Challender, a researcher at the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) who is studying trade in Asian pangolins in co-operation with TRAFFIC.

According to Challender, in 2011 seizures of pangolins and their derivatives have been reported in Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand and Viet Nam.

“Rapacious demand for pangolins in East Asia, in particular from China and Viet Nam, where the animals are both consumed and used in traditional medicine practices, is fuelling the trade and driving pangolins towards extinction,” says Chris R. Shepherd, Deputy Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

“Enforcement efforts nationally, regionally and internationally must be improved if we are to reduce the smuggling of pangolins and save these iconic animals.”

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Indonesia appoints auditors for green palm oil body

Reuters 18 Jul 11;

JAKARTA, July 18 (Reuters) - Indonesia is forging ahead with its own green palm oil body to regulate and punish firms that do not adhere to environmental standards.

About a dozen independent auditors for the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) standard have been appointed, Gamal Nasir, Director-General of Plantation at the Agriculture Ministry, said on Monday.

The auditors will examine the entire operations of palm oil firms as part of the ISPO certification.

Indonesia is the world's largest producer of palm oil that is used in cosmetics, cookies and ice cream but is a major cause of deforestation as demand for the edible oil increases. The industry has come under increasing pressure to improve practices and halt deforestation blamed for speeding up climate change, ruining watersheds and destroying wildlife.

"They (auditors) could start the certification process now because we have appointed them and we also have asked them to do the certification. So, they can do it as soon as possible," Gamal told reporters on the sidelines of a parliamentary meeting.

He said the ministry had also sent a letter of invitation to related government institutions to take part in the ISPO group.

But in a possible sign the initiative could be slow to take off, Gamal said there had been no response from the institutions so far.

"We have decided that although we have not gotten a permanent ISPO Commission, ISPO secretariat and ISPO appraisal team, the auditors still can start the ISPO certification process right now, or early next month, at the latest," he said. "ISPO certification process will take only 1-2 months."

The planned ISPO commission would consist of officials from government institutions and ministries, palm oil associations and NGOs, Gamal had said previously.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), comprising planters, green groups and consumers, is the only other major organisation to have set up green standards for the whole industry.

But unlike RSPO, which does not impose sanctions on members who violate its voluntary standards, those found to be breaking ISPO rules will be punished by law, a ministry official said last November.

Earlier this year, the secretary-general of the RSPO described the ISPO as "excellent" and said it would complement the RSPO. .

Some major palm oil consumers such as Unilever stopped buying palm oil from Indonesian firm SMART on concerns over deforestation, while an Indonesian moratorium on new permits to clear forests may slow industry expansion. The moratorium came into force in May for an initial two years.

Indonesia's sustainable palm oil certification begins in August
Linda Yulisman, The Jakarta Post 19 Jul 11;

Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, will implement the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification next month, which will be mandatory for all oil palm plantations in the country, an official says.

Agriculture Ministry plantation director general Gamal Nasir said in Jakarta on Monday that 12 auditors, including PT Mutu Agung Lestari, which was appointed to conduct a trial implementation, would handle the certification process at plantations.

Plantations already certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) would be prioritized, as they had been assessed under similar criteria.

“It will take between one and two months to carry out the process at the palm oil plantations,” he said.

Gamal added that other palm oil plantations would be required to apply for the certification with the ISPO office, which would be established soon.

“I’ve requested that institutions related to handling palm oil issues, such as the Environment Ministry, Forestry Ministry, Industry Ministry and Trade Ministry, become part of the ISPO committee, office and evaluation team,” he said.

When asked about the fee that the plantations would pay for the certification, Gamal declined to comment, saying the topic was still under discussion.

“I guess the certification will not be expensive any more,” he said, adding that the government would consider the possibility of offering subsidies to smallholder plantations in the certification process.

In March, the government commenced a trial implementation of the certification scheme at 20 oil palm plantations as part of its effort to require oil palm plantations to apply for ISPO certification starting in 2012.

Included in the ISPO pilot projects were plantations controlled by PT Rea Kaltim Plan, PT Ivomas Tunggal, PT Sime Indo Agro, PT Sumber Indah Perkasa, PT Gunung Sejahtera and state-owned companies such as PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) III, V, VI and XIII.

The ISPO certification covered various measures such as plantation licenses and plantation management, cultivation techniques, environmental management, surveillance and responsibilities to employees and the community.

The Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki) chairman, Fadhil Hasan, welcomed the move, saying that the government needed to prepare the executing institutions and details on how the certification could be implemented.

“Dissemination of information about concepts and mechanisms of ISPO certification among palm oil industrial players is needed,” he said, adding that revisions could be made along with the implementation.

The ISPO scheme was unveiled last year by Agriculture Minister Suswono and was considered by many as a rival to the Kuala Lumpur-based RSPO, which, according to Indonesia’s palm oil industry, was biased toward buyer countries and too expensive.

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Study shows small-scale fisheries' impact on marine life

University of Exeter EurekAlert 18 Jul 11;

Small-scale fisheries could pose a more serious threat to marine life than previously thought. Research led by the University of Exeter, published today (19 July) in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, shows that tens of thousands of turtles from across the Pacific are being captured through the activities of small-scale fisheries.

Focusing on fisheries in Peru, the study suggests that thousands of sea turtles originating from nesting beaches as far away as Australia, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Galapagos, are likely to be captured each year as bycatch while they forage in Peru's waters. 'Bycatch' is the term used to describe fish or other sea animals being caught unintentionally by fisheries and is usually associated with large-scale industrial fishing, such as trawling and longlining.

This study shows the effect of small-scale nets and longlines on marine turtle bycatch. Some are kept for consumption and while the majority are released alive, they are often injured as a result of becoming tangled in fishing gear.

Senior author Dr Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter said: "We have known for a long time that, along with sharks, marine mammals and seabirds, marine turtles often become bycatch as a result large-scale fishing. It is only recently that we have begun to realise that small-scale fisheries may also have a significant impact on marine life. However, we were very surprised when our study revealed just how large an impact small-scale fisheries have on sea turtles."

The Pacific waters around Peru serve as important foraging areas for five species of marine turtle, including loggerhead, green, leatherback, olive ridley and hawksbill turtles. As part of a broad international collaboration to evaluate fisheries impacts, the researchers monitored four key Peruvian fisheries to observe fishing techniques and record the number of turtles caught. The team believes these data are vital for developing effective conservation strategies to reverse the declines of populations of marine turtles and other vulnerable species.

Fishing is a growing industry in Peru and the country is now home to more than 100 ports, nearly 10,000 fishing vessels and 37,000 people working in fisheries. The industry provides an increasingly important role as an employer in Peru. The research team suggests that changes to fishing practices, such as introducing circle hooks and dehookers to line fishing and using net illumination, could help reduce sea turtle bycatch.

University of Exeter Darwin Scholar and lead author Joanna Alfaro said: "Coastal communities in developing countries, such as those I work with in Peru, rely heavily on fishing for their food and livelihoods. In fact, these fisheries are among Peru's main employers. Therefore it is important to find solutions that can ensure the continuation of Peru's fisheries. IMARPE, a Peruvian government research body, will help implement these solutions in Peru's small-scale fisheries. We have already started working with local people in Peru to try and tackle to the problem of turtle bycatch."

"The findings of this study tells us that acting locally to reduce bycatch in small-scale artisanal fisheries will be essential to succeeding globally in the international effort to prevent further declines in marine biodiversity" said Dr Peter Dutton, a leading sea turtle scientist with the US National Marine Fisheries Service who, along with co-author Dr Jeffrey Seminoff, is working together with Peruvian and other international partners to implement recovery plans for endangered sea turtles in the Pacific.


This research was funded through Defra's Darwin Initiative and the US National Marine Fisheries Service.

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More Polar Bear Cubs Die As Arctic Ice Melts

Deborah Zabarenko PlanetArk 19 Jul 11;

Polar bear cubs forced to swim long distances with their mothers as their icy Arctic habitat melts appear to have a higher mortality rate than cubs that didn't have to swim as far, a new study reports.

Polar bears hunt, feed and give birth on ice or on land, and are not naturally aquatic creatures. Previous reports have noted individual animals swimming hundreds of miles (kilometers) to reach ice platforms or land, but this is one of the first to show these swims pose a greater risk to polar bear young.

"Climate change is pulling the sea ice out from under polar bears' feet, forcing some to swim longer distances to find food and habitat," said Geoff York of World Wildlife Fund, a co-author of the study.

York said this was the first time these long swims had been quantitatively measured, filling a gap in the historical background on this iconic Arctic species.

To gather data, researchers used satellites and tracked 68 polar bear females equipped with GPS collars over six years, from 2004 through 2009, to find occasions when these bears swam more than 30 miles at a time.

There were 50 long-distance swims over those six years, involving 20 polar bears, ranging in distance up to 426 miles and in duration up to 12.7 days, according to a paper for presentation on Tuesday at the International Bear Association Conference in Ottawa, Canada.


At the time the collars were put on, 11 of the polar bears that swam long distances had young cubs; five of those polar bear mothers lost their cubs during the swim, representing a 45 percent mortality rate, the study found.

Cubs that didn't have to swim long distances with their mothers had an 18 percent mortality rate, the study said.

"They're a lot like us," York said in a telephone interview. "They can't close off their nasal passages in rough waters. So for old bears or young bears alike, if they're out in open water and a storm hits, they're going to have a tough time surviving."

Two factors make it even harder for polar bear cubs to weather long periods in Arctic waters, said Steve Amstrup, a former scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey and now chief scientist at Polar Bears International, a conservation group.

"Young bears don't have very much fat and therefore they aren't very well insulated and cannot cope with being in cold water for very long," Amstrup said in the same telephone conversation.

Because they are leaner than their parents, Amstrup said, "they probably aren't as buoyant (as adult polar bears) so in rough water they'll have more difficulty keeping their heads above water.

The Bush administration listed polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because of the decrease in their Arctic ice habitat. That decision survived a legal challenge last month, and this month, Canada listed polar bears as a species at risk.

The Arctic is warming faster than lower latitudes due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the melting of sea ice in summer accelerates the warming effect.

Arctic sea ice extent -- the area covered by sea ice -- in June was the second lowest in the satellite record since 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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