Best of our wild blogs: 6 Sep 11

Pit Vipers of Singapore
from Life's Indulgences

First lab session (5 Sep 2011)
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Free events at Parks Festival celebrates our biodiversity!
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [29 Aug - 4 Sep 2011]
from Green Business Times

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ACRES accused of 'cyber attack'

Tan Weizhen Today Online 6 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE - The controversy over the capture and captivity of 25 wild dolphins for Resorts World Sentosa's (RWS) Marine Life Park attraction has taken a new twist, with the resort accusing animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) of "cyber harassment" on its Facebook wall.

RWS has claimed that ACRES orchestrated an attack on its Facebook wall constituting of a "barrage of repetitive and abusive messages" - leading to the resort to temporarily suspending postings on its Facebook wall last Saturday evening, while ACRES said the IR had blocked ACRES' followers on the RWS Facebook page, and has been uncommunicative over the issue.

In a statement, RWS said that while it welcomed "constructive dialogue", this incident "contravened the true spirit of building a genuine Facebook community of (RWS) fans ... it also inconvenienced our fans".

RWS, which declared the incident "cyber-harassment", alleged ACRES had called on its followers to carry out the attack between 9am last Saturday and 9pm on Sunday, and that ACRES followers were creating new accounts to do this.

However, Mr Louis Ng, executive director of ACRES, told Today that the purpose of the messages was to put up photo petitions urging the resort to release the dolphins, among other similar messages, and followers had been urged to stay civil. "We are just people who are very passionate about this cause, and have urged them to respond, but they have not replied to a single message," he said.

Wall postings were allowed again yesterday morning. Today understands that the resort only blocked users who were abusive or sent repetitive messages. The controversy began when it emerged that dolphins were caught in the Solomon Islands last January for RWS, and two died in captivity while in a holding area in Malaysia.

Brand online intelligence company Brandtology said that most companies start an online fan page thinking that it is only for their fans. "But it is not something they can control once they open themselves to the world. Such blocking will only draw more negative attention," CEO Eddie Chau said. He said that Asian companies tend to be less receptive in managing stakeholders online compared to American or European companies, due to cultural differences. Tan Weizhen

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Smuggling of rhino parts goes online

Channel NewsAsia 5 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE: Rhinoceroses are a protected species, and it is illegal to import their horns here. However, some traders allegedly get round the law by taking the transactions online.

In a correspondence via email, a Channel NewsAsia reporter contacted a seller, allegedly based in Singapore, who claimed to be able to ship the horns over in two days.

This, the seller said, could be done via an international mailing service, disguising them as art pieces.

The demand for horns exists, as some believe they can treat cancer.

But practitioners of traditional chinese medicine said there is no scientific evidence to prove this.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority said it has not seized any illegally-smuggled horns since 1995.

But a local animal welfare group said the illegal acts are still going on.

Mr Louis Ng, executive director at the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society said: "Sometimes they are smuggled in powder form, which is the same property as our fingernails, so it's hard to detect with our current measures in place. But what we really need to do now is employ sniffer dogs, that can sniff out rhino horns, bear parts, tiger parts, (and) live animals. That would be a more effective deterrent."

- CNA/cc

Activists flood RWS site with messages
Straits Times 6 Sep 11;

ANIMAL rights activists have flooded Resorts World Sentosa's (RWS) Facebook page with hundreds of messages calling for it to release its captive dolphins.

The barrage of posts by supporters of a Singapore-based pressure group forced RWS to block some users and disable the page's comment function.

Yesterday, a spokesman called the activists' behaviour 'premeditated cyber harassment'.

He said blocking users was 'never an ideal response', but added: 'We cannot and will not tolerate any misuse of our Facebook page with spam, repetitive or abusive messages.'

The mass messaging session was carried out last Saturday and Sunday by supporters of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society.

One supporter inundated the page with the same post asking RWS to join her 'dolphins killers team' as it is 'extremely well known for torturing and murdering dolphins'.

Yesterday, the pressure group's executive director, Mr Louis Ng, said comments like these were unfortunate because he had called for the posts to be polite.

But he vowed not to give up the campaign until the dolphins are released. 'We will not budge as long as they have them.'

RWS has 25 of the mammals in captivity in the Philippines and intends to feature them in its planned Marine Life Park. Two other dolphins died of a bacterial infection last October.

Mr Shashi Nathan, director of Inca Law, said that while online campaigns like this may not be good Internet etiquette, there is little RWS can do as its Facebook page is meant to be open for public discussions.

He added that the company 'would have legal remedies if there are messages that are obscene or defamatory, but otherwise, beyond deleting the messages, there is nothing much it can do'.


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NUS develops new technology to treat ballast water

Channel NewsAsia 6 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE: A new more compact and environmentally-friendly technology developed locally to disinfect ballast water in ships may soon be used on vessels plying international shipping routes.

The new technology is developed by a team of researchers from the Faculty of Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

It treats the water using electrolysis and is already approved by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

The system uses a patented and cost-effective electrode and a series of supporting devices to treat ballast water over a period of 10 to 12 hours.

An NUS spin-off company has been formed to commercialise the technology in the next few years.

The IMO requires all existing ships to be fitted with such systems by 2016.

The development of the system was funded by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

Ballast water is taken on and discharged by ships to maintain their stability while loading and unloading cargo. It is disinfected to prevent aquatic organisms being transferred from one environment to another, which could be harmful to the biodiversity of the local marine ecosystem.

- CNA/fa

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Indonesia: Hotspots cause thick smog in west sumatra

Antara 5 Sep 11;

Padang, W Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Thick smog from 85 newly detected hot spots is reported to be covering West Sumatera province.

According to the head of the West Sumatra Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG)`s observation and information section, Syafrizal, recent satellite monitoring had detected 85 hotspots in Sumatra, spread across South Sumatera, Lampung, Bengkulu and Riau.

"The smog is causing low visibility, namely only 5-6 kilometers," Syafrizal said here Monday.

"The hot spots indicate forest fires and people who had deliberately set fire to open up new cultivation land," he said.

Moreover, with the current hot and dry weather, forests werte prone to fire and local citizen have been asked to be more alert to the danger of fires.

Syafrizal also said dry winds from Australia to Asia were blowing the smog from South Sumatra to West Sumatra.

Mild rain might overcome the thick smog and put out the hot spots that have caused it, he said.

In the Padang region, the smog lasted from morning until noon, and did not affect commercial flights at the international airport.

Flights were not been disrupted as Minangkabau International Airport (BIM) in Padangpariaman was equipped with landing systems instruments that assist airplanes in overcoming low visibility , Syafrizal said.

He also asked motorists in West Sumatra to be more careful because of the low visibility.

"Those who want to drive through the mountains and hills, had better turn on their fog lights because the fog is thicker in those areas," he said.

According to weather forecasts for West Sumatra for the next few days, there would be cloudy skies and the potential of light rains in the afternoon and evening.

Temperatures might reach around 20 degrees Celsius in the morning and 31 degrees Celsius during the day with 55-80 percent humidity.

Editor: Aditia Maruli

BMKG detects 85 hot spots in Sumatra
Antara 5 Sep 11;

Padang, West Sumatra (ANTARA News) - The Padang Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Tabing had detected 60 hot spots in Sumatera on Monday.

"The hot spots had been located in South Sumatra, Riau, Bengkulu and Lampung causing these areas covered by a mist of smoke," head of the Padang BMKG Observation and Information center Syafrizal said in Padang Monday.

He said most of the hot spots had been located in South Sumatra province producing a mist of smoke reaching West Sumatra.

"Right now visibility in almost all of West Sumatra reached 5-6 kilometers," he added.

BMKG predicted that the mist of smoke will continue up to the next few days considering the dry wind blowing from Australia to Asia, causing a hot weather.

"Hot and dry weather may trigger forest fires and the local people are called on to watch out for these adverse developments," he said.

He said the mist of smoke could disappear only if it rains.

He said while visibility reached only 5-6 kilometers, flights at Minangkabau international airport in Padangpariaman are still safe.

"Flights had practically not been disrupted because Minangkabau international airport (BIM) in Padangpariaman is also fitted with sophisticated landing instruments assisting the landing of planes," he said.

He also called on motorists on the local roads to be very careful in the limited visibility.

"Motorists passing hills and high places need to use their fog lamps especially in areas with thick mist of smoke," he said. (*)

Editor: B Kunto Wibisono

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Malaysia: Responsible fish farming gains new ground

WWF 1 Sep 11;

Grouper farmers from the states of Johore, Selangor and Penang have banded together to establish the Marine Fish-Farmers Association of Malaysia (MFFAM). This development is significant as the three states account for approximately 80% of Malaysian farmed fish production.

At a meeting held on the 26th June 2011 in Subang, grouper farmers from the states of Johore, Selangor and Penang have banded together to establish the Marine Fish-Farmers Association of Malaysia (MFFAM). This follows preparatory meetings held in each of these states that were supported by WWF-Malaysia, the WWF Coral Triangle programme and the Malaysian Department of Fisheries. This development is significant as the 3 states account for approximately 80% of Malaysian farmed fish production.

“It is hoped that through the MFFAM, members can be influenced to adopt best practices in order to meet market demand sustainably,” says Gangaram Pursumal, Manager of the Peninsular Malaysia Seas Programme at WWF-Malaysia.

Membership of this association will be open to all marine fin-fish aquaculture related associations, companies or organizations. The association will have a governing council comprising 12 members, with WWF-Malaysia likely to be playing a key role.

Designed to promote and advance knowledge on all aspects of sustainable aquaculture, the association is being established at a time when the mariculture sector, which is dominated by grouper culture including for the Live Reef Food Fish Trade (LRFFT), is the fastest growing aquaculture sub-sector in the Asia-Pacific region.

While in the past the production needs of this industry was almost exclusively met from the unsustainable practice of harvesting wild-caught juveniles, there has been a growing trend toward “full-cycle” aquaculture with hatcheries now accounting for up to 30-35% of all grouper for grow-out. And while sourcing fish from hatcheries as opposed to wild-caught juveniles is a positive development, there is a need for best practices and standards to be adopted across the entire production process.

Developments in grouper aquaculture are occurring within a heavily market-driven and often poorly regulated environment. Moreover, grouper production in Southeast Asia is mainly comprised of small-scale farmers. Working with these small-scale producers to main-stream improved practices can be challenging and needs the support of broad associations such as the MFFAM to facilitate improvements in farming practices.

The WWF Coral Triangle programme has acknowledged that grouper farmed in cages is among the worst environmental performers globally due to issues such as feed inefficiency, cage farming effluent and habitat impacts, potential for disease transfer, etc.

While not promoting grouper farming as a means to indirectly reduce pressure on wild stocks, “the WWF Coral Triangle programme is committed to promoting better grouper farming practices, especially responsible full-cycle mariculture of LRFF, in this sector,” says Dr Geoffrey Muldoon, LRFFT Strategy Leader for the WWF Coral Triangle programme.

Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) can be one way to accelerate the expansion and uptake of best practices. WWF is uniquely placed to build on its strong links with government, the private sector, technical institutions and GAAs to forge these PPPs and obtain multi-stakeholder buy-in to the idea of adopting best-practice standards. It is hoped to have at least 2 “demonstration sites” established in the Coral Triangle that are trialling best “farming” practices across the production cycle.

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Whales and dolphins need more protected areas

IUCN 5 Sep 11;

A new book, Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises is released, calling for accelerated efforts to conserve marine mammals by protecting a greater area of the ocean. Currently only 1.3% of the ocean is protected but many new Marine Protected Areas are being created. Erich Hoyt, the book’s author and IUCN’s cetacean specialist, examines current and future developments in ocean protection.

“At least 300,000 whales and dolphins a year end up dead in fishing nets alone, as so-called by-catch,” says Erich Hoyt, author, member of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean Specialist Group and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. “Whales in some areas have been found to be emaciated. And scarcely a year since the BP Gulf Oil disaster, it’s business as usual in large parts of the Gulf and elsewhere.”

The need for greater protection is urgent and the book highlights some positive developments in this respect. “Marine protected areas are steadily getting bigger which is good news for large marine predators with big habitats,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. “However, most of them are still too small, too few and far between, with too little enforcement to adequately protect whale and other highly mobile marine animal habitats.”

“To safeguard critical ocean ecosystems and highly mobile species, we need to set aside more untouched ocean wilderness areas in the high seas,” says Patricio Bernal, Coordinator, Western Gray Whale Conservation Project. “Outside of national jurisdiction, the high seas contain only a handful of protected areas. Without effective protection this huge area, which is equivalent to 64% of the ocean’s surface, will continue to be heavily exploited in the next few years.”

The book is a key resource for cetacean scientists and managers of Marine Protected Areas. Since most of these areas promote whale and dolphin watching and marine ecotourism, the book is also useful for finding some of the best places to spot the 87 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises in 125 countries and territories around the world.

The book is published by Earthscan / Taylor & Francis and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

The World Map of all Proposed and Existing Marine Mammal Protected Areas, © Lesley Frampton, Calvin Frampton and Erich Hoyt:

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Australia: Call to shell out funds for starving sea turtles

Brad Ryan ABC News 5 Sep 11;

Traditional owners on the far north Queensland coast are asking for government funding to help starving sea turtles.

The Mandubarra Land and Sea Corporation on the coast near Innisfail, south of Cairns, says a self-imposed ban on Indigenous hunting has helped to boost sea turtle numbers.

However, it says that was before Cyclone Yasi wiped out large tracts of seagrass, which is a major food source for the turtles.

Authorities say the number of turtles being washed up on north Queensland beaches has increased 700 per cent in a year.

Mandubarra spokesman James Epong says traditional owners are running a program to replant seagrass but they need funding.

"All the expenses have been covered by the elders in the group," he said.

The corporation has applied for funds under the Federal Government's Reef Rescue program.

Call to probe illegal dugong, turtle trade
Francis Tapim ABC News 6 Sep 11;

Wildlife documentary maker Ben Cropp is calling for urgent an investigation into the black market trade of turtle and dugong meat in Queensland.
Over the weekend, Mr Cropp and environmental campaigner Bob Irwin called on traditional owners across Australia to stop hunting for a year to give the endangered marine species a chance to recover.

Mr Cropp says Queensland's summer of disasters has killed off sea grass beds and impacted on numbers, but traditional hunting and the illegal trade of turtle and dugong meat is a big part of the problem.

He says the animals are dying at an alarming rate and the government has to do more to protect them.

Mr Cropp is concerned some Indigenous communities have resorted to selling the meat for cash.

"It is so common - the sale of turtle and dugong meat - and that has escalated the killing, probably doubled, tripled, the killing," he said.

"That is what has got to be stopped and the only way to stop that is to simply make a law that dugong and turtle meat cannot be taken out of the community.

"We know that dugong and turtle meat is sold now - you have only got to go to the airport and see the people come through with eskies.

"If you stop them they are going to say, 'sure, I brought some dugong meat down for my family' but it's rubbish - they are selling it."

Mr Cropp says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are hunting in green zones and it should not be allowed.

He says the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is too lenient on Indigenous people when it comes to traditional hunting rights.

Mr Cropp says he supports the right to hunt for traditional food but not in protected areas.

"You and I - if we went and took a turtle you would get five years' jail, but they are allowed to go into green zones and hunt turtles," he said.

"That to me is wrong - these areas are for all Australians."

James Epong from the Mandaburra group in far north Queensland says poachers are killing turtle and dugong meat for sale locally and overseas.

Mr Epong says the illegal sale of turtle and dugong meat is no secret, with people selling it in local pubs and it being sent overseas.

He says one man allegedly made $80,000 last year.

"There is an overseas market - you can buy a 20 to 30 kilogram pack of dugong," he said.

"There is a black market where they are transporting the turtle and dugong meat overseas.

"Up Cairns way, some lad made $80,000 for one year of poaching.

"Now the breeding season starts, these poachers they come along with their boats and shooting them or spearing them and just taking them."

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Fears in Miami That Port Expansion Will Destroy Reefs

Lizette Alvarez The New York Times 3 Sep 11;

MIAMI — As Miami prepares to dredge its port to accommodate supersize freighters, environmentalists are making a last-ditch effort to protect threatened coral reefs and acres of sea grass that they say would be destroyed by the expansion.

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection is on the verge of granting a final permit to the Army Corps of Engineers, which will be free to conduct 600 days of blasting to widen and deepen the channel for the port of Miami, across from the southern part of Miami Beach.

“It won’t fare well for us, the bay, the coral reefs, the fish stocks and the sea grass,” said Laura Reynolds, the executive director of the Tropical Audubon Society.

“You can bring this all back to the economy,” Ms. Reynolds said. “People come here to fish, boat, sail, snorkel and dive and go to the beach.”

Florida has seen steep declines in coral in the last 25 years, and last year’s cold snap devastated the reefs closest to shore. Some of those lost 70 percent to 75 percent of their coral, said Diego Lirman, a University of Miami scientist who was part of a team that conducted a survey of the coral last year and published its findings in August.

Environmentalists also question whether the potential harm to Biscayne Bay, with its pristine waters and sea life, is too high a price for a port expansion that may not bring the economic windfall that is expected.

Shipping consultants say the port of Miami is in fierce competition with other Eastern ports — including Port Everglades, just an hour away in Fort Lauderdale — to receive the superfreighters that will sail through the Panama Canal in 2014 once it has been widened. South Florida, because of its location, is not likely to become a hub compared with cities farther north, like Savannah and Charleston, experts say.

“The prospect of Miami becoming a big hub, this is not going to happen,” said Asaf Ashar, a ports and shipping consultant. “Miami is the end of the peninsula. It’s difficult to get into it.”

But with ports around the country moving forward with dredging plans, cities do not want to be left behind. In Miami, the actual dredging is expected to begin next year.

State environmental officials said there were plans to mitigate the damage to coral, sea grass and the bay, some of which is part of a state preserve. About seven acres of coral is expected to be directly affected by the blasts, and the Army Corps of Engineers will be required to transplant much of it to a trough between two reefs.

All stony coral larger than about 4 inches will be chiseled out and moved to the trough. All soft coral greater than about 10 inches will also be transplanted. Elkhorn and staghorn coral, which are categorized as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, may be sent to a coral nursery, according to the plan.

At the same time, nearly eight acres of sea grass will be damaged during the expansion. To make up for that, the corps will seed 25 acres in a large underwater hole a bit farther north.

The state also temporarily increased the threshold of just how milky the water can get in the area of the dredging — another concern for environmentalists — but officials said the silt and sediment plume would largely be contained, in part by underwater curtains.

“The damage is the minimum amount necessary to do the project,” said Mark Thomasson, the director for the water resource management division at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which issues the permits. “That’s the directive we were given to do this project.”

Once abundant and diverse, the coral in Florida and the Caribbean has gradually declined. Last winter, as ocean temperatures dipped into the 60s, some coral species on near-shore reefs were killed off altogether.

“One-hundred-year-old corals were wiped out within a week,” said Mr. Lirman of the University of Miami. “These were the jewels of the Florida reef tract.”

One particular kind of coral, the elkhorn, which helps build and stabilize reefs, has been almost wiped out over the last 25 years because of storms, disease and warming ocean temperatures, which end up bleaching coral.

A new study by two biologists found that bacteria from human fecal waste had played a major role in choking elkhorn coral. For years, human waste from the Florida Keys seeped, or in some cases poured, into the ocean via septic tanks and pipes. The sewage system is now being upgraded.

“There were a couple of acres of this coral, and now there is enough to cover your desk,” said Ken Nedimyer, president of the nonprofit Coral Restoration Foundation in the Florida Keys, which grows and restores coral through an underwater nursery.

In the last five years, scientists and environmentalists have worked to bolster and rebuild reefs in the area. The University of Miami operates one of a network of four nurseries that are growing elkhorn and other kinds of coral to transplant to reefs along South Florida’s coast. The university also runs a coral reef research facility that investigates what makes coral sick and what makes it healthy.

“We can turn a chunk into a hundred chunks in a year or two,” Mr. Nedimyer said of elkhorn coral.

Last month, Biscayne National Park managers proposed ambitious plans to further protect the area’s marine life by creating a 16-square-mile reserve that would put large tracts of reef off limits to lobster hunters and fishing enthusiasts. The plan would call for new no-motor zones for boats and areas where speed must be reduced.

For environmentalists, the concern with the corps’ mitigation plans is that some coral will be missed, that the transplanted coral and sea grass may not survive and that muddied waters from the dredging and hundreds of blasts will do long-term damage to the bay.

“You will have tremendous stress to the reef system for a project that may not even have any economic justification,” said Blanca Mesa, a volunteer for the Sierra Club Miami. “Biscayne Bay is actually a crystal-clear bay. It’s that way because we have acres and acres of sea grass beds filtering silt and sand out. It’s part of the beauty. It’s a shallow tropical lagoon that was never contemplated as a deep-dredge port.”

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Philippines creates haven for endangered duck

AFP Yahoo News 6 Sep 11;

The Philippines has created a protected area to save a species of endangered wild duck, with just 5,000 of the birds remaining, government documents released on Monday said.

The 27 hectare (67 acre) "wetland critical habitat" was set up for the Philippine duck, a species found only in the Philippines whose numbers have been falling due to hunting and habitat destruction, the documents said.

The environment department order created the protected area in the largely-agricultural Cabusao district in the east of the country.

"Ensure that existing ecosystems in the critical habitat are preserved and are kept in a condition that will support the perpetual existence of the Philippine duck," the department order instructed local authorities.

The Philippine duck, whose scientific name is "Anas luzonica", is rated as "vulnerable" by the conservation group BirdLife International, which estimated in 2005 that as few as 5,000 of them may be left.

On its website, BirdLife said the main threats to the species were excessive hunting and the use of its habitats for drainage and aquaculture -- the farming of aquatic organisms -- and excessive use of pesticides in rice farms.

The duck is described as having a blue-grey bill, a "rusty cinnamon" head and neck, and brown and grey feathers. It feeds on fish, shrimps, insects, rice and other plants.

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Malaysia: 695 elephant tusks seized in Port Klang

Teh Eng Hock The Star 6 Sep 11;

PORT KLANG: Barely two weeks after a seizure of elephant tusks worth RM2.3mil in Penang, the Customs Department here found two containers filled with 695 elephant tusks valued at RM3mil.

“The shipment was declared as recycle crush plastic' (sic) and was on transit from the Dar es Salaam port to China,” Customs assistant director-general Datuk Zainul Abidin Taib said.

Zainul said the tusks, hidden among the recycled plastic in the 20-foot containers, weighed about 2,000kg and were seized on Friday.

On Aug 19, 664 elephant tusks weighing 1,586kg were seized in Penang.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Zainul said both shipments were from Tanzania, and had stopped for transhipment in Malaysia, with China being its final destination.

On the Port Klang seizure, he said they had sent a team to “escort” the two containers, after being tipped off by Customs officers in Penang, to the department's marine enforcement store.

A Customs team checked through the two containers and found 92 plastic bags of tusks amidst the recycled plastics.

Zainul said there was a possibility that the same syndicate was behind the Penang and Port Klang cases due to the same modus operandi.

“Investigations are ongoing. So far, no arrest has been made in both cases,” he said.

Zainul said they wanted to find out why the smugglers had chosen to transit in Malaysia instead of sailing directly to their final destination.

“Logically, it is not cost-efficient to stop for transit,” he said.

He added that the perpetrators had violated the International Trade in Endangered Species Act, which carries a fine of up to RM100,000 per animal, or a maximum of RM1mil in total.

Zainul said those with more information on smuggling activities should contact the Customs Department at 1800-88-8855.

“We want to prevent Malaysia from becoming a transit hub for illegal goods,” he said.

Last week, wildlife monitoring trade network Traffic regional director Dr William Schaedla said Malaysia had emerged as a major hub for illegal ivory trade in the past few years.

News reports have stated that at least 20 tonnes of illegal ivory have passed through Malaysian ports since 2003.

Just a week ago, 794 African ivory tusks were confiscated by Hong Kong authorities after they arrived by sea from Malaysia.

The tusks, estimated to be worth HK$13mil (RM4.97mil), were concealed in a consignment declared as non-ferrous products for factory use.

The seizure came after another report that about 1,000 elephant tusks hidden in a container of anchovies, bound for Malaysia late last month, were seized by Tanzanian authorities.

Malaysian customs foils bid to smuggle ivory worth RM3m
G. Surach The New Straits Times 5 Sep 11;

PORT KLANG: The Customs Department has foiled another attempt by an international ivory syndicate to smuggle two tonnes of elephant tusks worth RM3 million at West Port here.

Its assistant director-general Datuk Zainul Abidin Taib said following a tip-off from their Penang counterparts, the enforcement officers seized two containers on Friday.

Upon full inspection yesterday, the officers discovered 695 African elephant tusks wrapped in 92 plastic bags tucked in the middle of the plastic sacks containing used plastics.

"The goods were declared as used plastics when it was listed on the shipping bill of loading at the two containers."

He said the nation's ports were currently being used as a transit point to ship these goods from Africa to China.

"In this case, the goods had come from the port of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and was heading to Hong Kong, China when we managed to intercept it."

Asked on the possibility of locals being involved, Zainul dismissed the suggestion, stating that the demand for ivory in the country was close to none.

"The modus operandi of the syndicate is to avoid direct shipment of these illegal goods from African ports to China which is considered risky and may lead to thorough checking by Chinese port authorities.

"By using our ports as a transit point, the Chinese authorities would not inspect the goods believing that it has gone through strict inspection here," Zainul told reporters at the Selangor Customs headquarters in North Port, near here yesterday.

Although no arrests have been made so far, Zainul said the department would be raising its efforts to curb wildlife smuggling.

"We will be fine-tuning and beefing up integration, cooperation and information networking with other national and international law enforcement agencies."

Zainul added that they were currently investigating the seizure for false declaration and smuggling while the Wildlife and National Parks Department was investigating the case under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008.

It was reported earlier than more than 1,000 elephant tusks were seized by local authorities when they foiled two attempts to smuggle them through Pasir Gudang and Butterworth Ports, over the past two months.

In the first case on July 8, the Wildlife and National Parks Department and Customs Department seized a container of 405 African elephant tusks declared as plywood at the Pasir Gudang Port.

The second case was on Aug 21 at Butterworth Port, where 664 African elephant tusks were discovered in a container from the United Arab Emirates.

Zainul urged the public to inform the Customs Department of any suspected smuggling activities via their toll-free line 1-800-88-8855.

Large ivory seizure in Malaysia - the third in past three months
TRAFFIC 5 Sep 11;

Malaysia, 5th September 2011—The Royal Malaysian Customs has seized two containers filled with 695 elephant tusks in the country’s largest port, bringing to three the number of large-scale seizures of ivory in the past three months.

The shipment, labeled as “recycled craft plastic” originated in Tanzania and was destined for China, said Customs assistant director-general Datuk Zainul Abidin Taib.

The tusks, weighing close to 2,000 kg were packed in gunny sacks and hidden under the plastic material, the same way it had been in the shipment seized a fortnight ago in Penang, Zainol said.

The seizure in Penang on 21st August, consisted of 664 African elephant tusks hidden in a container from the United Arab Emirates. The 1.5 tonne seizure, declared as “used plastics”, was made at the Butterworth Port, in the northwest of Peninsular Malaysia.

In an earlier seizure on 8th July, the Wildlife and National Parks Department and Customs Department seized a container of 405 African elephant tusks declared as plywood at the Pasir Gudang Port, in the southernmost state of Johor.

Speaking on the latest seizure, Zainul said it would not have been possible without information from the public.

“We hope the public will continue to co-operate with Customs and provide us with timely information,” he told TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

No arrests have been made so far but Zainul said investigations into the three recent cases would continue.

Malaysia has come under a harsh spotlight in recent months for its role as a transshipment point in high-profile ivory seizures in Hong Kong and from Kenya and Tanzania.

“This latest in a series of major ivory seizures in Malaysia is both heartening and disappointing,” said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Regional Director Dr William Schaedla.

“It’s heartening because it shows that the country’s authorities can and will take action on the problem. It’s disappointing because it clearly validates what TRAFFIC has been saying for some time now – Malaysia is a major transshipping country for illegal ivory.”

Schaedla congratulated the Customs Department on the successful seizures and urged continued vigilance both in Malaysia and in the region.

“Illegal wildlife trade is fluid. Now that the ivory traffickers have been caught out using some of Malaysia’s ports they are likely to move through others in an effort to keep their black market business alive.”

Malaysia Seizes More Illegal Tusks, 3,194 Nabbed in Two Weeks
Environment News Service 6 Sep 11;

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, September 6, 2011 (ENS) - Nearly 700 elephant tusks stuffed in gunny sacks and marked "recycled craft plastic" were confiscated Friday by Malaysian Customs officials at Port Klang in the state of Selangor.

Officials of the Selangor Customs Department seized the shipment following a tip from their Penang counterparts, said Datuk Zainul Abidin Taib, Royal Malaysia Customs Department assistant director-general of enforcement, at a news conference.

The 695 tusks seized weighed about 2,000 kilograms (two metric tonnes). The shipment originated in Tanzania and was destined for China, said Zainul.

The tusks were packed and hidden in the same manner as another shipment of tusks seized August 19 in Penang, he said, suggesting that the same smuggling syndicate was responsible in both cases.

The 664 African elephant tusks seized in Penang were hidden in a container from the United Arab Emirates. The 1.5 tonne seizure, declared as "used plastics," was made at the Butterworth Port, in the northwest of peninsular Malaysia.

In an earlier seizure on July 8, the Wildlife and National Parks Department and Customs Department seized a container of 405 African elephant tusks declared as plywood at the Malaysia's Pasir Gudang Port, in the southernmost state of Johor.

To date, no arrests have been made, but Zainul said investigations into all cases will continue.

Because Malaysian ports handle millions of containers each year, inspection of them all is impossible and only those identified by a tip are examined.

Commenting on the latest seizure, Zainul said it would not have been possible without information from the public. "We hope the public will continue to co-operate with Customs and provide us with timely information," he told the Southeast Asia branch of TRAFFIC, the international wildlife traffic monitoring organization.

"This latest in a series of major ivory seizures in Malaysia is both heartening and disappointing," said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Regional Director Dr. William Schaedla.

"It's heartening because it shows that the country's authorities can and will take action on the problem," said Schaedla. "It's disappointing because it clearly validates what TRAFFIC has been saying for some time now - Malaysia is a major transshipping country for illegal ivory."

Schaedla congratulated the Customs Department on the successful seizures and urged continued vigilance in Malaysia and across the region.

"Illegal wildlife trade is fluid," he said. "Now that the ivory traffickers have been caught out using some of Malaysia's ports they are likely to move through others in an effort to keep their black market business alive."

Friday's ivory seizure was the fourth in 14 days directly linked to Malaysia; Customs officials in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Tanzania have confiscated a total of 3,194 elephant tusks in the four seizures.

On August 19, a China-bound shipment from Tanzania was seized in Malaysia with 664 elephant tusks.

On August 23, 1041 elephant tusks bound for Malaysia were seized on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. Two suspects were interrogated in the ongoing investigation.

Last week, officials in Hong Kong seized 794 African elephant tusks on a shipment from Malaysia. A suspect was arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

On September 2, officials in Malaysia seized 695 elephant tusks shipped in from Tanzania, bound for China.

A fifth seizure of 405 tusks on July 8 at Pasir Gudang Port brings to 3,599 the total of tusks confiscated over the past two months linked to Malaysia - representing an estimated 1,800 elephants killed for their ivory.

Two of the four shipments seized in the past two weeks originated in the Tanzanian port of Dar-Es Salaam, which was highlighted in a recent report by the Elephant Trade Information System, the world's largest database on ivory seizures, as one of "the most prominent ports of exit for ivory moving to Asian markets."

The International Fund for Animal Welfare applauded the achievements of the Malaysian and other Customs authorities but warned that the flow of illegal ivory will continue as long as prices for ivory in China remain above those seen during the elephant poaching crises of the 1970s and '80s.

"Looking at the thousands of elephant tusks seized in the last couple of weeks we must immediately ask ourselves how many tusks are slipping through the net?" said Kelvin Alie, IFAW's program director for wildlife trade.

"It seems clear that Malaysia has become a major transit point in the ivory trade but there are numerous other transit points such as Singapore or Vietnam that link the African range states being devastated by poaching with the seemingly insatiable demand of China," Alie said.

"In the end we must have a complete ban on international ivory trade to try and stop the losses amongst our elephant populations," he said.

In 1989, legal trade in African elephant ivory was halted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES. Two legal sales of stockpiled ivory from elephants that died of natural causes have been allowed since then, but conservationists say the legal sales have masked illegal trading, which has skyrocketed since the last legal sale in 2009.

According to media reports between 50,000 to 100,000 containers enter Malaysia's ports every month and only those which are singled out via intelligence or tip-offs are inspected. International criminal syndicates, who often smuggle drugs, arms and other illegal goods, are known to be heavily involved in the trafficking of ivory and benefit from a lack of international coordination.

"IFAW has funded Interpol's Ecomessage award to encourage international cooperation in tackling this nefarious and multimillion-euro business that is devastating our ecosystem," said Alie.

The Interpol Ecomessage award is presented to the country or countries that have contributed the most to the international exchange of intelligence relating to environmental criminals. Botswana and Poland were recognized in 2010 for the value of their information and their consistency in submitting ecomessages.

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Encyclopedia of Life catalogues more than one-third of Earth's species

The field guide for citizen scientists, which aims at bringing all species on the planet together, has reached the 750,000 milestone
Damian Carrington 5 Sep 11;

An ambitious attempt to create an encyclopedia of every known species on Earth has reached a major new milestone.

The Encyclopedia of Life (EoL), a free and collaborative website, said on Monday it now has pages for each of 750,000 species, meaning more than one-third of all the planet's 1.9m species are now covered.

"EoL is the ultimate online field guide for citizen scientists," said Jennifer Preece, dean of the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. "There are many online sites dedicated to specific groups of species such as insects, birds or mammals. Not since Noah, however, has there been an effort like this to bring all the world's species together."

The site uses content from 180 partners to bring together images, videos and scientific information, including 35m pages of scanned literature created by the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The new site allows members to create their own collection of species.

"The virtual collections put life into meaningful contexts from scholarly ones such as Invasive Insects of North America or Endangered Birds of Ecuador to personal collections such as A Checklist of Trees in My Backyard. Only imagination and energy limit the possibilities," said Jesse Ausubel, vice president of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation which helps fund the EoL.

The EoL's directors say they want it to become a microscope in reverse, or "macroscope", helping users discern large-scale patterns. By aggregating information for analysis, they say the EoL could, for example, help map vectors of human disease, reveal mysteries behind longevity, suggest substitute plant pollinators for a growing list of places where honeybees no longer provide that service, and foster strategies to slow the spread of invasive species.

Founded in 2007, the EoL had 30,000 species pages by the beginning of 2008, making the new version a huge expansion. Renowned the Harvard University biologist Edward O Wilson, one of the driving forces behind the EoL, said the new site "opens EoL's vast and growing storehouse of knowledge to a much larger range of users, including medicine, biotechnology, ecology, and now increasingly the general public".

The EoL has more than 1m more pages in place awaiting content from partners and members. But a recent estimate concluded that there are a total of 8.7m species on Earth, excluding bacteria and viruses, suggesting many more pages will need to be added to EoL in the future.

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Healthy ecosystems essential for future food security: global report

ECOS Magazine Science Alert 6 Sep 11;

A major global report co-authored by an Australian academic highlights the need for healthy ecosystems as the basis for sustainable water resources and stable food security for people around the world, including Australia.

According to Charles Sturt University’s Professor Max Finlayson, healthy ecosystems help produce more food per hectare of agricultural land, are more resilient to climate change and produce more economic benefits for poor communities.

Professor Finlayson says the main message of the report, An Ecosystems Services Approach to Water and Food Security, is that the way the world manages the connections between ecosystems, water and food could help us prevent water scarcity and meet the food demands of a global population tipped to reach nine billion by 2050.

‘Diversifying our crops, planting trees on farms and improving rainwater collection are important practical steps we can take to improve these connections,’ he adds.

The report urges policymakers to consider farmland, fisheries and other agricultural areas as ‘agroecosystems’ that provide sources for food and services, such as purifying water and regulating floods.

‘The degradation of these other services has already caused the loss of soil nutrients and an increase of soil salinity, which in turn has decreased food production in many major cropping areas, including the Murray–Darling Basin in Australia,’ says Professor Finlayson.

‘This decline may also be exacerbated by climate change.’

A major challenge to increasing food production is access to sufficient water for livestock, irrigation and fisheries, as well as domestic and industrial uses, says Professor Finlayson.

‘Maintaining healthy, resilient ecosystems to ensure water is available for agriculture and other ecosystem services is essential for long-term food security. Groundwater reserves are already in decline in such major breadbaskets as the North China plains, the Indian Punjab and western USA.’

The report shows how an ecosystems-based approach to agriculture could result in more efficient water use, a reduction in the annual loss of up 10 million hectares of degraded agricultural land, and fewer crop losses due to pests and diseases.

Lead scientific editor, Eline Boelee of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) – which partnered with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in publishing the report – commented that agriculture is ‘both a major cause and victim of ecosystem degradation’.

‘And it is not clear whether we can continue to increase yields with the present practices. Sustainable intensification of agriculture is a priority for future food security, but we need to take a more holistic “landscape” approach.’

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Patchy reefs ‘good for fish’

Vital clues to coral reef recovery have been identified in a remarkable research project in which three scientists laboured to hand-build 30 coral reefs from hundreds of tonnes of rock and gravel.
James Cook University Science Alert 6 Sep 11;

Working in a shallow, sandy area of Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea, the team constructed their artificial reefs over several weeks, with just a boat and their bare hands, to find out whether it is possible to rescue a damaged coral reef from obliteration and restore its richness.

“When a reef suffers a heavy impact— such as a storm or outbreak of coral bleaching—there are two different effects on the coral habitat,” Dr Mary Bonin of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and James Cook University said.

“First, a lot of the habitat that was once available to fish is totally lost. And second, the habitat that still remains is often fragmented, or broken up into smaller patches.

“We wanted to figure out if the increased habitat patchiness is actually a problem for coral reef fishes, or whether it is really the loss of habitat that causes fish to decline following an impact.”

With JCU and CoECRS colleagues Professor Geoff Jones and Dr Glenn Almany, Dr Bonin set out to construct 30 real-life coral reefs in an open sandy area where there were no natural reefs nearby.

Each ‘reef’ was constructed from boulders and coral debris, carted manually from the shore in a 6m boat, crowned with a square metre of living bottlebrush coral and stocked with 20 small blue and yellow damselfish. After a time it acquired richer diversity, as baby fish came in on the current and settled.

The scientists then simulated the effects of habitat loss – the sort of colossal damage that reefs suffer during a bad bleaching event or cyclone – habitat fragmentation, where the existing reef is broken into smaller fragments, and a combination of the two.

“As you’d expect, the effects of a loss of 75 per cent of the habitat were awful. With most of their home gone, the fish just disappeared,” Dr Bonin said. “But when we divided some of the reefs into three separate parts we found that fish survival and diversity actually improved for a time.

“We think this is because a fragmented or patchy habitat reduces the competition between fishes, creating more room for the weaker ones or for newcomers to settle. When the habitat is just a single patch, the tough guys will tend to dominate the whole area and drive the others away.”

The researchers’ finding challenges a widely-held view that habitat fragmentation always leads to a dramatic loss of fish numbers and diversity.

“Habitat fragmentation has had a bad wrap,” Dr Bonin said. “Our findings suggest that it is actually habitat loss that is the major problem for coral reef fishes following an impact.

“It is certainly the case that in the small areas we created and studied, you get a positive effect on fish numbers and diversity from habitat fragmentation - whereas habitat loss of 75 per cent or more is a disaster.”

Because fragmentation can bring greater diversity, there may be things which reef managers can do to restore badly-damaged coral communities by mimicking its effects.

“The fact that habitat patchiness can have a positive effect on fish diversity is really exciting because it means that even if it isn’t possible for managers to restore an entire coral reef, it will still be highly beneficial to restore small patches of habitat” says Dr Bonin.

“We now want to investigate what happens over much larger areas, and examine how the degree of isolation of the remaining habitat fragments influences species’ responses to a disturbance.”

Even in Australia’s well-managed Great Barrier Reef zone most of the coastal fringing corals have been lost – so a tantalising question is whether they could gradually be restored over time, providing human impacts from the land are also reduced.

With coral reefs facing growing losses from global warming, ocean acidification (caused by humanity’s carbon emissions), storms and other human impacts like pesticides, sediment and nutrients, understanding how to bring them back is becoming critically important to the management of treasures such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the team says.

“Whether the patch-scale patterns documented apply to the larger reef landscape is currently unknown, but should be emphasized in future research, given the increasing degradation of coral reef habitats worldwide,” they say.

Their paper, “Contrasting effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on coral-associated reef fishes” by Mary Bonin, Glenn Almany and Geoffrey Jones, appears in Ecology, the journal of the Ecological Society of America.

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Total Arctic sea ice at record low in 2010: study

Gerard Wynn Reuters Yahoo News 6 Sep 11;

500 MILES FROM THE NORTH POLE (Reuters) - The minimum summertime volume of Arctic sea ice fell to a record low last year, researchers said in a study to be published shortly, suggesting that thinning of the ice had outweighed a recovery in area.

The study estimated that last year broke the previous, 2007 record for the minimum volume of ice, which is calculated from a combination of sea ice area and thickness.

The research adds to a picture of rapid climate change at the top of the world that could see the Arctic Ocean ice-free within decades, spurring new oil exploration opportunities but possibly also disrupted weather patterns far afield and a faster rise in sea levels.

The authors developed a model predicting thickness across the Arctic Ocean based on actual observations of winds, air and ocean temperatures.

"The real worrisome fact is downward trend over the last 32 years," said Axel Schweiger, lead author of the paper, referring to a satellite record of changes in the Arctic.

He was emailing Reuters at the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise, in the Arctic Ocean between the Norwegian island of Svalbard and the North Pole.

"(It fell) by a large enough margin to establish a statistically significant new record," said the authors in their paper titled "Uncertainty in modeled Arctic sea ice volume."

The researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle checked the model results against real readings of ice thickness using limited submarine and satellite data.

The approach has some detractors because it is focused is on modeling rather than direct observations of thickness, and therefore contains some uncertainty.

Sea ice area is easier to measure by satellite than ice thickness, and so has not needed a modeling approach.

Ice thickness is just as important or more so in helping understand what is happening in the far north. Some experts argue that part of the reason the ice area has dramatically fallen in recent years is because it has been thinning for decades.

The authors said their Pan-arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) in general agreed well with actual observations, although "modeling error" was possible.

The Arctic sea ice area fell below 4.6 million sq km last week with two weeks of the melt season still to go, compared with the record low of 4.13 million sq km in 2007.

By comparison, the minimum ice extent in the early 1970s was about 7 million square km. Ice melts every year during the summer and reaches a minimum extent in mid-September.

Most experts now agree that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in late summer at some point this century but disagree about exactly when.

While sea ice itself does not raise sea levels when it melts, a warmer Arctic could speed up melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which is freshwater ice trapped over land and contains enough water to raise world sea levels by 7 meters.

Arctic ice cover hits historic low: scientists
AFP Yahoo News 11 Sep 11;

The area covered by Arctic sea ice reached it lowest point this week since the start of satellite observations in 1972, German researchers announced on Saturday.

On September 8th, the North Pole's icy skull cap shrank to 4.24 million square kilometres (1.637 million square miles), about half-a-percent under the previous record low set in September 2007, according to the University of Bremen's Institute of Environmental Physics.

The Arctic's dwindling summer sea ice is described by scientists as both a measure and a driver of global warming, with negative impacts on a local and planetary scale.

It is also further evidence of a strong human imprint on climate patterns in recent decades, the researchers said.

"The sea ice retreat can no more be explained with the natural variability from one year to the next, caused by weather influence," Georg Heygster, head of the Institute's Physical Analysis of Remote Sensing Images unit, said in a statement.

"Climate models show, rather, that the reduction is related to the man-made global warming which, due to the albedo effect, is particularly pronounced in the Arctic."

Albedo increases when an area once covered by reflective snow or ice -- which bounces much of the Sun's radiative force back into space -- is replaced by deep blue sea, which absorbs the heat instead.

Temperatures in the Arctic region have risen more than twice as fast as the global average over the last half century.

The Arctic ice cover has also become significantly thinner in recent decades, though it is not possible to measure the shrinkage in thickness as precisely as for surface area, the statement said.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Center, which likewise tracks Arctic ice cover on a daily basis, has not announced a record low ice cover. Data posted on its website only covered the period through September 6.

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UN chief vows 'real results' on climate change

(AFP) Google News 5 Sep 11;

TARAWA, Kiribati — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday vowed to the leader of Kiribati, a low-lying Pacific nation threatened by rising seas, to keep pressing for "real results" against climate change.

Ban described the small Pacific nation, where some villagers have already had to relocate to escape rising sea levels, as standing on "the frontlines" of the global warming debate.

"I will bring your concerns back to the world, to the United Nations General Assembly (this month) and to the climate change negotiations in Durban later this year," he told an audience including Kiribati President Anote Tong.

"I will keep pressing for progress until we get real results," the UN chief said on a visit to the tiny nation.

The November 28-December 9 Durban climate summit aims to kickstart talks on how to address the issue of global warming, before the binding emissions targets of the Kyoto Protocol expire next year.

However, a range of powers including the United States and European Union have already said it will not result in a binding deal on carbon emissions.

The Kiribati leader applauded Ban for his political commitment, but remained pessimistic after past climate summits which have dashed the hopes of low-lying nations such as his own.

"It is most unfortunate, but perhaps correct, to say that any further significant progress on climate change negotiations is highly unlikely in the near future," Tong said.

Ban headed from Kiribati to New Zealand later Monday to attend the Pacific Islands Forum, a summit of 16 regional nations beginning Tuesday where climate change is expected to dominate the agenda.

U.N. Chief Urges World To Redouble Efforts On Climate Talks
Pauline Askin PlanetArk 8 Sep 11;

U.N. Chief Urges World To Redouble Efforts On Climate Talks Photo: Reuters/Truth Leem
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a forum organized by the Korea Broadcasting Journalists Club in Seoul August 11, 2011.
Photo: Reuters/Truth Leem

The world needs to redouble efforts to fight climate change ahead of global talks in Durban, with time running out to save millions of lives in countries to be hit hardest, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

Ban, winding up a visit to Australia and small Pacific nations including several likely to be swamped by rising sea levels, said critics of climate change science were wrong.

"The facts are clear. Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Millions of people are suffering today from climate impacts. Climate change is very real," Ban said in a speech at Sydney University.

"Environmental migrants are starting to reshape the human geography of the planet. This will only increase as sea-levels rise and deserts advance. We cannot burn our way to the future," he said.

Hopes have dimmed for a new global climate pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012, after U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders failed to agree in Copenhagen in 2009 on a new deal limiting global warming.

Leaders of 193 countries are set to meet for the next annual U.N. climate summit in November in Durban, where talks could stall again if rich and poor nations renew squabbling over how to share out emissions cuts and whether to extend the existing protocol.

Ban rejected criticism that little progress had been made so far in several rounds of global climate talks, most recently in Mexico, which he said had delivered climate adaptation measures to protect vulnerable people.

The Durban conference must keep building on that progress, he said, and agree to ambitious mitigation targets that would ensure any increase in global average temperature remained below 2 degrees Centigrade.

"Moreover, given that the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires next year, a political formula must be found to ensure that a robust, post 2012 climate regime is agreed upon, and is not delayed by negotiating gamesmanship," Ban said.

He said many countries were already taking steps to combat climate shift.

China had pledged to reduce carbon intensity by up to 45 percent and now led the United States in clean-energy capacity, he said, while India was planning to lift clean energy investment by more than 350 percent in this decade.

"These actions are vital on their own, but they can also inspire progress in the global negotiations, creating a virtuous cycle. My advice to you. Be bold. Be brave. Think big," he said.

Australian's government has also taken measures to fight climate change and unveiled plans two months ago to impose a tax on carbon emissions from July 2012, before moving to a carbon trading system from mid-2015.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Monday after talks with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard that Europe and Australia aimed to link their trading schemes.

Ban said he had seen for himself this week in the tiny island nation of Kiribati how fears of rising seas and swamping tides were terrifying local people, while the drought crisis and conflict in the Horn of Africa had put 12 million lives at risk.

The U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres told Reuters last month governments were very much "on track" to deliver on the main commitments agreed at a Mexico summit last year, related to finance, technology and climate adaptation.

At the 2010 talks in Cancun, governments agreed to set up a Green Climate Fund to manage $100 billion a year by 2020 in aid to the poor nations most at risk of climate change.

(Editing by Ed Davies)

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