Best of our wild blogs: 4 Aug 11

Creepy killer barnacles on Changi
from wild shores of singapore

white-crested laughing thrush
from into the wild

An evening with the Toddycats!
from wild shores of singapore

New articles on Nature in Singapore website
from Raffles Museum News

Testing your drinking water - the whys and why nots
from Water Quality in Singapore

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100,000 asking to free Resorts World Sentosa dolphins

AsiaOne 4 Aug 11;

More than 100,000 people have petitioned to Resorts World Singapore (RWS) through to free the 25 dolphins that they are holding in captivity.

Dolphin activist Barbara Napoles started the petition on, the world's fastest growing social change platform, bringing the dolphins' plight to the attention of tens of thousands of animal lovers and tourists.

The dolphins are to become the latest attraction for the resort in Sentosa.

They were captured in Solomon Islands and are being held in Philippines while the facility is being built in Sentosa. Only 25 dolphins of the original 27 have survived in captivity so far.

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), a Singapore-based animal protection group, has gathered local and international support for the dolphins' freedom with their Save the World's Saddest Dolphins campaign.

Louis Ng, Executive Director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said: "The public has shown their strong support for the dolphins' release and we are confident that an increasing number of people will sign the petition urging RWS to make a moral and ethical decision to let the dolphins go."

Two years ago, Resorts World Sentosa responded to public outcry and cancelled plans for a whale shark exhibit.

More on Save the World's Saddest Dolphins facebook page.

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WWF-Malaysia: Poaching does occur along nesting beaches in Terengganu

The Star 4 Aug 11;

KUALA TERENGGANU: WWF Ma­lay­­­sia has refuted the state govern­ment’s claim that turtle eggs sold in Terengganu were from Sabah, Sarawak and the Philippines.

WWF Malaysia Terengganu Turtle Conservation team leader Rahayu Zulkifli said the statement by Turtle Sanctuary Advisory Board chairman Datuk Mazlan Ngah could be premature as poaching of eggs does occur along nesting beaches in the state.

“There are currently 20 beaches in the state in which licensed collectors are allowed to gather the eggs within designated sites.

“However, only eggs collected from 12 nesting beaches are sold to WWF Malaysia and the state Fisheries Department under the buyback scheme,” she said.

She added that local traders could clearly distinguish between locally derived turtle eggs, which fetch a higher price compared to those obtained elsewhere.

She urged the state government to investigate as the eggs could have been stolen from nesting beaches.

“Stealing from nesting beaches is an offence under the Tereng­ganu Turtle Enactment 1951 (Amen­ded) 1987.

“At present, there is no national ban on the consumption of turtle eggs, with only the sale of leatherback turtle eggs banned in Terengganu.

“Eggs of other turtle species continue to be consumed and traded,” she said.

Ban turtle eggs trade in Malaysia: WWF
AFP Google News 3 Aug 11;

KUALA LUMPUR — Conservationists Wednesday urged Malaysia to impose a national ban on the trade and consumption of turtle eggs to ensure the survival of the marine creatures.

Turtles once arrived in their thousands to lay eggs on Malaysian beaches but are now increasingly rare due to poaching and coastal development.

"WWF-Malaysia continues its call for a comprehensive ban on the consumption and trade of turtle eggs of all marine turtle species to ensure the survival of these majestic creatures," Environmental group WWF-Malaysia said in statement.

With no national ban on eating turtle eggs, they are sold openly in eastern Terengganu state where only the sale of leatherback turtle eggs is not permitted, the group said.

Turtle eggs are are also available elsewhere in the country.

WWF said contrary to popular belief most people consider the eggs a "delicacy" and eat them for pleasure, not as a source of protein or for their reputed medicinal or aphrodisiac effects.

WWF Urges State Government To Carry Out Investigation Into Origins Of Turtle Eggs Sold In Terengganu
WWF 3 Aug 11;

PETALING JAYA, August 3 – WWF-Malaysia urges for an investigation to be carried out by the Terengganu government on the origins of turtle eggs sold in the state. The national conservation trust responds to the statements made by Turtle Sanctuary Advisory Board Chairman, Datuk Mazlan Ngah, as reported by Bernama in ‘Board Says Turtle Eggs Sold In Terengganu Markets Not From State’, 26 July 2011. The article quoted Datuk Mazlan who said that the turtle eggs sold in Terengganu were from Sabah, Sarawak and the Philippines. WWF-Malaysia would like to stress here that this is a dangerous assumption to make based on the following facts.

There are currently 20 beaches in Terengganu which are tendered out to egg collectors who are licensed to patrol and collect all turtle eggs laid within specifically designated nesting beaches. Out of these, eggs collected from only 12 nesting beaches are being sold to WWF and the State Department of Fisheries under their respective egg buyback scheme due to their proximity to the nearest hatcheries. Rampant poaching does occur along nesting beaches and police reports have been made. We can then safely assume that some of the eggs sold in the State were locally derived. This is further corroborated during visits to the local market in Kuala Terengganu where traders clearly distinguish between locally derived turtle eggs which fetch higher prices compared to those allegedly sourced from elsewhere.

An investigation into the origins of these turtle eggs must be made a priority by the Terengganu government as the turtle eggs found sold in the local markets could have been stolen from the nesting beaches, which is an offence under the Terengganu Turtle Enactment 1951 (Amended) 1987. All turtle eggs in Sabah and Sarawak are protected under the law. Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 and Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 have listed marine turtles under their legislation as a totally protected animal, with the ban on turtle egg consumption and sale covering the whole state of Sabah.

In addition, under the Customs (Prohibition of Exports) Order 1988 – First Schedule and Customs (Prohibition of Import) Order 1988 – First Schedule, the import and export of turtle eggs are not allowed.

As for Philippines, turtles are listed under the CITES Appendix 1 (for species threatened with extinction). Commercial trade of these species is illegal, except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, for instance for scientific research.

The Chairman’s claims that turtle eggs were brought in from these three locations implies that all eggs currently sold openly in the markets are smuggled and hence illegally traded in Terengganu. For these reasons, WWF-Malaysia further calls for the immediate cessation of turtle egg trade until the source of eggs sold in Terengganu can be determined.

At present, there is no national ban on the consumption of turtle eggs, with only the sale of leatherback turtle
eggs banned in Terengganu while the eggs of other turtle species can continue to be consumed and traded. WWF-Malaysia continues its call for a comprehensive ban on the consumption and trade of turtle eggs of all marine turtle species to ensure the survival of these majestic creatures.

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Malaysia: Malaria spread by monkeys

Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 3 Aug 11;

KOTA BARU: The state Health Department believes that wild monkeys could have infected people in Kelantan's interior with malaria.

Deputy director Dr Wan Mansor Wan Hamzah said the monkeys could have carried the "plasmodium knowlesi" virus, which could be transmitted to humans through mosquito bites, resulting in malarial fever.

"The disease can cause death if no immediate action is taken."

He said there was a rise in the number of malaria patients with the most recent cases being detected in Kuala Krai, Jeli, Tanah Merah and Gua Musang.

"We suspect some of them may have contracted the fever from the macaques in the jungles in the districts.

"The malaria parasite is normally transmitted among monkeys by forest-dwelling mosquitoes before they infect humans through their bites."

Dr Wan Mansor said the situation was still under control and there were no casualties to date.

He said those who had higher risks of being infected through such viral transmission included game hunters, foreign workers who lived in jungle quarters, sport fishermen and rubber tappers.

"This high-risk group must avoid carrying out their activities at night as we have identified that the peak hours for the mosquitoes are from 8pm to 10pm and from 2am till 3am.

"Those who still have to enter forests during these hours must take greater precaution such as wearing long-sleeved shirts.

"We have also given the same advice to army personnel who are the frontliners in the jungles," he said.

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Malaysia: Selangor mangrove land ravaged

Stuart Michael The Star 4 Aug 11;

ABOUT 95% of mangrove swamp land along the coastal area in Selangor belong to individuals.

Selangor Forestry Department assistant director (operations and enforcement) Mohd Yussainy Md Yusop said the mangrove swamps stretched from Sabak Bernam right up to Sepang.

“The department only looks after the land which comes under the forest reserve and the rest is managed by the respective land offices.

“The owners are not supposed to burn or cut the mangrove trees on their land,” he said.

He added that the department did not have the authority to do anything if the owners chopped down the mangrove trees or cleared the land.

“It is sad that natural resources like mangrove swamps are given away to individuals. Mangrove areas should be protected instead of being developed.

“If a tsunami hits the Selangor coast, the mangrove swamps will act as a protective barrier against the huge waves.

“Even the eco-system at the mangrove swamp helps fishermen as it acts as a breeding ground for fish,’’ said Yussainy after visiting a clearing of mangrove swamp in Sepang on Tuesday.

StarMetro received complaints from environmentalists on the clearing of the land that occurred a few months ago.

A fisherman, who wants to be known only as Ismail, said he knew the individuals who owned the land.

“They are high profile people, including one who is a Datuk,” he said.

He added that the Kuala Langat District Council had planned to develop the area.

The Kuala Langat land office had given out 12 lots to individuals more than three years ago.

State Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment committee chairman Elizabeth Wong said she needed to see the evidence before deciding on the next course of action.

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The frontier of Bangladesh's tiger-human conflict

Anbarasan Ethirajan BBC News 3 Aug 11;

Hafizur Rahman Gazi still remembers the night when the powerful claws of a ferocious Royal Bengal tiger tore through his left arm and the back of his neck.

The fisherman was inches away from death and he instinctively hit the animal with the only weapon he had - a torch. He managed to escape with his bleeding wounds when the tiger relaxed its grip for a second.

The tiger had strayed into the village of Dokhin Kodomtola from the neighbouring Sundarbans mangrove forests, after swimming across the river Dhumkoli in February this year.

Standing on the banks of the river in Satkhira district, Mr Gazi said: "I am lucky to be alive. I still remember how the tiger pounced on me at lightning speed. I needed several stitches on my hand. Still I cannot fully stretch my hand or hold anything properly."

Mr Gazi, who is 50, and other villagers were trying to corner the tiger so that it could be tranquilised. They were part of an initiative to protect tigers, which are often killed by local people when they stray into villages bordering the Sundarbans forests.

After the tiger was tranquilised, forest guards and conservationists later released the animal deep into the Sundarbans forests in the country's south-west.

Villages like Dokhin Kodomtola surrounding the Sundarbans forests are on the frontline of an escalating human-animal conflict as both compete for the same natural resources.

The rivers, streams and canals are the only barriers which separate villages here from the mangrove forests that stretch along the border between Bangladesh and India. It is estimated that around 400 tigers live in the Sundarbans.

At the same time, nearly half a million people in Bangladesh depend on the Sundarbans for their livelihood. Fishermen venture deep into the mangrove forests in their rickety wooden boats to catch fish, crabs or gather wild honey. Tigers often attack them.

It is thought that around 80 people are killed every year by the tigers on the Bangladeshi side of the Sundarbans forests. The loss of so many lives forces many locals to treat tigers as their enemies - which is why very few escape alive after straying into villages.

"We avoid going to the toilet in the night because of the fear of tigers," said Asiah Khatun, a "tiger widow" in the village of Gabura, situated on a river island.
Critically endangered

Villagers in this impoverished fishing community live in huts. Their toilets, covered mostly by jute bags or thin bamboo screens, are normally built a few metres away from their homes.

Ms Khatun's father and husband were killed by tigers when they were fishing inside the Sundarbans. She says tigers are wandering into villages more often.

"It's true that after cyclones Aila and Sidr devastated the mangrove forests a few years ago, tigers are straying more frequently into villages looking for prey such as cows and goats," said wildlife conservation official, Tapan Kumar Dey.

"It may be they are not getting enough food or fresh water inside the Sundarbans."

Official figures show that at least 33 tigers have been killed since 2000, mostly in human-animal conflicts and some in poaching incidents.

For a long time, officials thought human-animal conflict was the biggest threat to tigers in the Sundarbans, one of the last refuges of the critically endangered species.

But a startling discovery in February has triggered fears of another kind of threat.

Following an undercover sting operation, Bangladeshi forestry department officials recovered three tiger skins, four tiger skulls and more than 30kg of tiger bones from an alleged poacher in the village of Bangla Bazar in Bagerhat district.

It was the largest haul of illegal tiger skins and bones discovered in the country for decades.
'Forests will vanish'

"We were shocked to find them. The poacher told us that they used poisoned wild boar carcasses as a trap to kill the tigers," Sundarbans forest official Mihir Kumar Doe told the BBC.

"Our investigations suggest that there may be organised poaching groups operating in the area. This is an alarming new trend."

The fear is that the poachers might have killed more tigers in recent years as there is an increasing demand for tiger skins and body parts in China and other south-east Asian countries. Tiger parts are used in traditional oriental medicine.

But Mr Doe said there was no evidence yet to suggest that the arrested poacher had any links with international crime syndicates.

The poacher was willing to sell the three tiger skins, skulls and other parts to undercover agents for about $25,570 (£16,000). The value would have gone up many times by the time it reached its intended destination.

Mr Doe admitted that the forestry department did not have sufficient manpower, weapons or training to counter the poachers who he said were increasingly using sophisticated techniques to trap the tigers.

He hoped a proposed Wildlife Crime Control Unit, to be set up with World Bank assistance, would help to address the issue.

Like Mr Gazi, many villagers strongly feel that protecting the tiger population in the Sundarbans must be given top priority before it is too late.

"If there are no tigers in the Sundarbans, the forests will vanish in no time. People will destroy the mangroves, which protect us like a mother from natural disasters like storms and tidal surges. So, the tiger is the main protector of the Sundarbans," said Mr Gazi.

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Australian Government Told to Investigate Illegal Logging in Sumatra

Jakarta Globe 3 Aug 11;

A labor union said the Australian government had a responsibility to probe allegations of illegal logging in Sumatra’s rainforests, the Australian Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday aired a program showing evidence that multinational Asia Pacific Resources International, or April, was illegally clearing Sumatran forests.

Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said that based on that program, April, an importer of paper goods into that country, should be subject to a government investigation.

“April have a lot of questions to answer — the federal government should start asking them immediately,” the union’s Michael O’Connor said in a statement.

“The disturbing thing is that the sustainability and labor standards we insist on at home do not appear to be being applied in Indonesia.

“These allegations underline the need to include all forest products, including paper products, in any measures to tackle illegal logging.”

O’Connor added that Australia had given Indonesia 200 million Australian dollars to stop illegal logging there.

“But in fact what we saw on [the ABC’s] ‘Foreign Correspondent’ is a broad-scale destruction of some of the most important wildlife habitat on the face of the planet.”

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