Best of our wild blogs: 9 Sep 11

Sudden trash build up at East Coast? ICCS swings into action!
from wild shores of singapore

Outward Bound Singapore’s first ICCS cleanup – report on Stomp’s Youthphoria
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Nesting of the Black-naped Oriole: 2. Feeding chicks
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Precious menagerie

The William Farquhar collection of rare watercolours have finally found a permanent home
deepika shetty Straits Times 9 Sep 11;

The 477 rare and exquisite watercolour drawings of South-east Asian plants and animals that make up the William Farquhar collection have done some travelling in their 200 years.

They have gone from Malacca, where they were commissioned, to Britain, and more recently, popped up at a Sotheby's auction in London in 1993, which led to a full circuit back home to South-east Asia, and Singapore.

The journey home began thanks to cultural philanthropist Goh Geok Khim, the 80-year-old founder of local brokerage firm GK Goh, who bought the William Farquhar collection of natural history drawings for $3 million in 1993.

But the full story of the journey of the collection - which can be seen in a new light at the National Museum from next week - has only just emerged.

For two years, they stayed with the auction house as Mr Goh did not know how to store them.

When he finally did bring them to Singapore to donate to the National Museum, it was in remarkable style.

Mr Goh hand-carried the collection on a Singapore Airlines flight from London.

His only condition for his generous donation was to have a permanent space for the watercolours of animals, birds, fish, reptiles, insects and plants, which were commissioned by Farquhar - the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore from 1819 to 1823 - when he was based in Malacca.

The drawings were exhibited here in 2007 in a show called The Empire Of Nature, but now Mr Goh's wish is finally being fulfilled on Tuesday with the National Museum's re-opening of The Goh Seng Choo Gallery. It is named after his father, who was interested in nature, especially botany.

The 76 sq m gallery on the second floor of the museum will feature a rotating selection of about 70 works at any one time, in keeping with conservation guidelines.

The collection almost did not make it to Singapore, reveals a chatty Mr Goh in an interview at his 33rd floor office in the Singapore Land Tower.

Someone else had out-bid him in the first round, but for the collection to leave the UK, it needed the approval of the Royal Heritage Board.

In the time it took to get the clearance, the successful bidder lost interest and it was offered to MrGoh. He recalls that it was on the insistence of his art- and heritage-savvy son, Yew Lin, that he became interested in the collection in the first place.

'When my son told me about this collection, my question was: Why do I want to buy this? To which he responded, you can buy it, keep it and make a lot of money on it someday or give it all away,' he says.

It is worth $11 million today, but Mr Goh clearly has no regrets about donating it to the museum when he explains why he purchased the entire collection: 'I was reluctant to see the collection broken up and sold as separate drawings because the collection as a whole has much historical value.

'I made the decision to acquire the whole collection to keep it intact and make it available for future generations.'

On why he kept it at Sotheby's for two years, he says: 'I had not seen the entire collection but I knew I could not bring it back immediately due to the humidity here.'

That was a decision that was well worthwhile.

Museum director Lee Chor Lin says: 'We are highly aware that these early 19th-century watercolour paintings retained their brilliance because they had not been exposed to light for nearly two centuries before they became part of the National Museum collection in 1995.

'It is important, as the custodian of the collection, that we ensure the longevity of these works and their quality will outlast us for centuries to come, for the greater good of future Singapore. To do this, we must calibrate the exhibiting schedule carefully so as not to overexpose them to light and temperature unnecessarily.'

The show's curator, Mr Daniel Tham, estimates that each work which goes on display needs to be 'rested' for a few years before being displayed again.

On the significance of this collection, museum director Lee says: 'As we do not have a comparable set of paintings specifically about Singapore's flora and fauna, Farquhar's collection will be the nearest evidence of Singapore's natural habitat around 1819.'

Pre-dating the era of photography, the detailed watercolours offer a rare look at the rich bio-diversity of the Malayan Peninsula in the 19th century.

To do justice to the meticulously documented works, Mr Tham has presented the first exhibit through four main sections. These show Farquhar's fascination with natural history.

Says Mr Tham, 30: 'The works document Farquhar's exploratory journeys in search of new discoveries, the animals and birds in his zoo, experimental gardening as well the artists' struggles to accommodate Farquhar's demands for scientific realism in natural history artworks.'

Says Ms Yvonne Choo, a public relations professional in her 40s: 'When the collection was first exhibited in the 1990s, I visited it frequently and enjoyed examining the details of the flora and fauna of our part of the world depicted by different artists.

'I am glad it is returning as a permanent exhibition as I remember it as a must-see, unique collection. It also made me appreciate all those unknown and unnamed commissioned artists who created these fascinating works.'

200-year-old treasure

The William Farquhar collection of natural history drawings comprises 477 watercolour drawings of animals, birds, fish, reptiles, insects and flora and fauna.

Rendered by Chinese, Indian and Malay artists, the paintings were commissioned by Singapore's First Resident and Commandant, Major-General William Farquhar, when he was based in Malacca.

Farquhar was with Sir Stamford Raffles when he founded Singapore in 1819. He was left to manage the colony for four years after Raffles left. He died in Perth, Scotland, in 1839 at the age of 65.

The collection was acquired for $3 million by Mr Goh Geok Khim, the 80-year-old founder of brokerage firm GK Goh, at a Sotheby's auction in London and donated to the museum in 1995.

The 200-year-old collection is now worth at least $11 million. It has great historical importance. The only other similar collection, which belonged to Raffles, was destroyed in a ship fire when the founder of Singapore returned to England in 1824.

Where: The Goh Seng Choo Gallery, Level 2, National Museum, 93 Stamford Road
When: Opens next Tuesday, 10am to 8pm daily
Admission: Free
Info: Call 6332-3659/5642 or go to

Farquhar feted at last
Cheah Ui-Hoon Business Times 16 Sep 11;

HE spent four years in Singapore, with the monumental task of laying out the foundations of a new British settlement. In contrast, his superior who signed the deal which obtained the island from Johor, was in Singapore for only a few months.

As founder, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles's name lives on in abounding posterity here though, while Singapore's First Resident William Farquhar only got a street named after him, and that too was wiped off Singapore's map years ago because of development.

The ill-remembered Farquhar finally gets some due acknowledgement in a petite-sized gallery at the National Museum which will showcase - not his achievements in Singapore's early administration - but in Natural History. This is thanks to the donation to the museum by local brokerage firm owner Goh Geok Khim, who had purchased the collection from the Royal Asiatic Society in 1993.

The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings is a tangible record of his interest in the topic dating back to the time he was Resident of Malacca. It was Farquhar who mentored Raffles in natural history studies and 'its documentation through art', according to a British Library publication on Raffles'own Natural History drawing collection.

For this first unveiling of the collection, 72 drawings have been put up in low light and the works will be rotated every year, drawn from the 477 drawings in Farquhar's collection. For the first exhibition, curator Daniel Tham picked drawings and grouped them under four sections to show the context of the 19th-century colonial mindset at the time.

In the first, the Spirit of Exploration records Farquhar's journeys to make new botanical discoveries. The wild nutmeg (gymacranthera farquhariana) is the only species today named after Farquhar. Under Experimental Gardening, drawings of the nutmeg, pepper, gambier and durian reflect Farquhar's enthusiasm for valuable crops - as under his supervision, cloves and nutmeg were planted at the foot of Government Hill, or Fort Canning.

In Art and Science of Natural History: Artistic Influence, the selection highlights the style of unnamed Chinese artists whom Farquhar commissioned, such as the blue wash behind white objects, to accentuate the outline. Drawings of birds are also the most lifelike, owing possibly to the artist's background in traditional Chinese art.

Farquhar's zoological contributions are showcased in the centre of the gallery, reflecting how zoology was his foremost interest. Farquhar was involved in the discovery and identification of several indigenous species, such as the Malayan tapir (above). He had not only submitted a description to the Asiatic Society of Bengal but raised one as a pet, but in the race to be published, Farquhar lost out to a French zoologist. Not that he was unduly concerned, notes Mr Tham.

For those who can't wait to see the whole collection- seeing that it will take a while for the drawings to be rotated, the museum has a publication containing Farquhar's entire collection published last year, entitled Natural History Drawings: The Complete William Farquhar Collection. It is available at major bookstores and the museum's shop. There is also an older catalogue self-published by GK Goh, in a limited-edition run,also available at the Museum Shop.

The National Museum's Goh Seng Choo Gallery (the former Balcony space on the upper Rotunda) and sixth permanent gallery is open daily from 10am to 8pm and admission is free. The museum is located at 93 Stamford Road, its website is

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Database on medicinal herbs set to sprout

Feng Zengkun Straits Times 9 Sep 11;

HOUSEWIFE Jenny Lam, 42, grows a plant called the seven-star needle in the garden of her condominium apartment, and eats a few leaves from it every week in the firm belief that it wards off diabetes and cancer.

'Sometimes I also give it to my dog when he's sick, and he gets better,' she said.

A researcher from the National University of Singapore (NUS) wants to interview at least 100 people like her, who grow or buy medicinal herbs for their own consumption.

Associate Professor Koh Hwee Ling, of NUS' Department of Pharmacy, says the medical effects of common herbs here have not been properly documented, and she wants to create a database of their benefits and side effects in a pioneering project.

From the interviews, Dr Koh and her team hope to produce a guide for homeowners who want to grow their own herbs.

Some plants may also be selected for experiments.

Already, about 80 people have stepped forward in the past year, with information on some 60 species of plants in all.

The most commonly used ones are aloe vera, ginger and bittergourd, believed to fight off hypertension, acne and flu.

More exotic remedies include chewing the bitter seeds from the fruit of mahogany trees, which is believed to prevent cancer. The trees are found along the east coast and in older estates such as Yio Chu Kang.

But Dr Koh hopes to carry out still more interviews to make the database comprehensive.

In particular, she and her team hope cancer patients and survivors will step forward with their remedies.

She said: 'These patients are more likely to try different ways to help themselves, and their experience would be invaluable.'

Anyone who has used freshly grown medicinal herbs in the last five years may volunteer to be part of this project. They will be interviewed in person and be required to supply a sample of the plants they use.

They are also encouraged to share their medical records.

Dr Koh says the information will be kept confidential and volunteers can choose to withdraw from the study at any time.

The project is expected to end in 2013, but the team aims to complete all interviews by next September.

Volunteers can e-mail or call 6516-3120 and ask to speak to Dr Koh.

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The haze could be back in the next few days, says NEA

Esther Ng Today Online 9 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE - Singapore could experience hazy conditions in the next few days should fires from razing and logging in the region persist and with winds from the south expected to blow over from Sumatra.

The National Environment Agency yesterday said that hotspots with slight to moderate smoke haze have been detected mainly over the central and southern parts of Sumatra.

The South-west Monsoon season from June to September is the traditional dry season for the region. It is also when logging companies and farmers clear the land by razing it.

The impact of the haze is dependent on factors such as the proximity and extent of the fires, the strength and direction of the prevailing winds and the incidence and amount of rain.

Periods of dry weather, interspersed occasionally with the thundery showers in the afternoon and "Sumatra" squalls in the pre-dawn and early morning, are common and expected during this season.

Singapore's 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index reading as of 4pm yesterday was 47, which was within the good air quality range.

Meanwhile, general practitioners Today spoke to said they have yet to see an increase in the number of patients with breathing difficulties due to the haze.

"It's still early days - I haven't had anyone come in with haze-related health problems yet, maybe when the PSI hits 78 or the hundreds," said Dr Clarence Yeo from Killiney Family & Wellness Clinic.

Chronic asthma sufferers should have their inhalers with them even in the absence of a haze, he added.

And if the haze should get worse, asthmatics should "stay indoors, avoid strenuous outdoor activities and drink lots of water," said Dr Ng Siau Peng from Frontier Healthcare in Ubi.

Madam K Shanti, 77, an asthmatic, told Today that she did not notice the haze at all.

"I'll still go for my morning walks. I always have my inhaler with me," she said.

Last October, the three-hour PSI reading hit a high of 108, which was in the moderate range.

And, while that PSI reading was not near the highest recorded in Singapore on Sept 18, 1997, when it hit 226, it was enough for the inter-agency Haze Task Force to swing into action, and two ministers - former Minister for Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim and former Foreign Minister George Yeo - had registered their concerns with their respective Indonesian counterparts.

Haze set to hit Singapore?
Wayne Chan Channel NewsAsia 8 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said haze could hit Singapore over the next few days, with hotspots in Sumatra increasing to 381 on Thursday.

That's the highest number of hotspots recorded so far this year.

NEA said dry weather conditions in the southern and central parts of Sumatra have led to an increase in hotspots there, over the past few days.

But the winds over Singapore are blowing from the southeast, and are likely to keep the smoke haze away.

However, if winds change direction and start blowing from the south, the haze could come to Singapore.

Singapore's 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading at 4pm on Thursday was 47, which is still within the good air quality range.

The reading at 4pm on Wednesday was 36.

Transboundary haze in the southern ASEAN region is due to land and forest fires caused by "slash and burn" farming practices in Indonesia, particularly Sumatra and Kalimantan, during the traditional dry period between June and September.

The impact of smoke haze is dependent on factors such as proximity and extent of the fires, strength and direction of prevailing winds, and incidence and amount of rain.

NEA said it is monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates should the air quality deteriorate.

For more information, the public is advised to refer to NEA's PSI website, twitter site or call the NEA Call Centre at 1800 CALL-NEA (1800 2255632).


Hazy conditons ahead with hotspots detected in Sumatra
Ng Kai Ling Straits Times 9 Sep 11;

Singapore may experience hazy conditions in the next two weeks as winds from the south are expected to blow smoke over from Sumatra.

The National Environment Agency said in an air quality update that hotspots with slight to moderate smoke haze had been detected in the central and southern parts of Sumatra.

The months of June to September is the traditional dry season for the southern Asean region when farmers and logging companies in Sumatra and Kalimantan take to razing the land.

Singapore's 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index reading at 4pm on Wednesday was 36, which was within the good air quality range.

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Indonesia: Sumatran Tiger Castoffs May Hold Key to Survival of the Species

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 7 Sep 11;

Cisarua, Bogor. Behind an unassuming gate, marked simply with a “Staff Only” sign, deep inside the Taman Safari Indonesia conservation park, lies the best chance for the continued survival of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger.

This is the Sumatran Tiger Breeding Facility, set up in 1992 and now home to 22 “troubled” tigers — those that have been trapped by poachers or villagers, those that have preyed on livestock and those believed to have killed and eaten humans.

Each of the 11 male and 11 female tigers here have their own harrowing history. Two of them, Salamah and Ara, female juveniles caught in boar traps set by villagers inside palm oil plantations in Aceh, had to have a paw amputated because of the seriousness of their injuries. Though accused of being man-eaters, the accusation has never been proven. At the park, they are affectionately referred to as “tripods.”

The latest addition is Tupan, an 8-year-old male who was brought to the facility on the verge of death.

Like many of the others, he was caught in a trap in his natural habitat after spooking villagers with his frequent encroachments into their area. When wildlife authorities reached him, they found he had been shot twice several days before being captured.

Following intensive treatment, he has made a full physical recovery.

“Most of the tigers that we keep here are disabled to some extent,” Retno Sudarwati, a senior veterinarian at the park, tells the Jakarta Globe.

“We have three-legged tigers, tigers who have had their tails lopped off, even toothless tigers. They need to be in peak physical condition to survive in the wild, so can you imagine them going after prey on just three legs? They wouldn’t survive long out there.”

Health, Hygiene, Happiness

Each tiger gets its own cage here, furnished with a log that they can sharpen their claws on, a hammock where they usually nap and a small pond to drink from. They also get an adjoining outdoor play cage and another cage where the keepers feed them.

The park also has a breeding facility that the tigers take turns occupying. Unlike their home cages, the “Rumah Batak” breeding facility is open to visitors.

“I know it’s not the kind of sophisticated facility that you’d probably imagine, but we do pay serious attention to the cleanliness of the cages and the tigers’ health.” Retno said.

“We keep detailed records of each and every one of them. If they exhibit the slightest issue, the keepers are obliged to inform us.”

Careful Calculation

The tiger facility is not just about saving maimed or threatened individuals. Its mission is far more important: to ensure the continued existence of the species by creating a genetically diverse gene pool from the animals it hosts, as well as those held at every zoo in the country.

“It’s not just about putting a male and a female tiger together in a cage and expecting them to mate, nor is it about producing a set number of cubs.” Retno said. “It doesn’t work that way. Each tiger is paired off with the best candidate. It takes a lot of careful calculation to ensure the purity of the gene pool.”

For example, Tupan would never be mated with Lintang, a female adult, because their bloodlines are too similar.

Instead, he would be paired off with females like Tina or Jenaka to produce an entirely new bloodline.

“The bottom line is that we want to make their bloodlines as varied as possible,” Retno said. “We want to make sure that over the next five years, we can prevent inbreeding as much as possible.”

To that end, the facility has compiled a stud book — a registry of the known parentage of all the tigers ever tagged in the country, whether in the wild or in captivity. This allows scientists at the park to work out which individuals are best suited for pairing to ensure a diverse gene pool.

Sperm Bank

Though painstakingly clinical, putting together the stud book is the basis for making sure that no matter what happens to the wild population of the species, there will always be enough variety in the genetic resources available to sustain the species.

That means collecting sperm from all the tigers held in captivity in the country since 1995. All that sperm, which makes up the Sumatran Tiger Genome Resource Bank, is stored at the park in containers kept at a frosty minus 180 degrees Celsius.

“This sperm bank is the stock, just in case something happens, we still have their sperm,” Retno said.

However, she points out that regenerating the species simply from the stored sperm is something the park does not yet have the technology to do.

“We’re still developing the technology to make use of this resource, so we’re getting there,” she said.

The Sumatran tiger is one of five remaining tiger subspecies in the world, and is also the most threatened, with only 400 individuals believed to be remaining in the wild. Categorized as critically endangered, it is just a step away from being extinct in the wild.

It is the only tiger left that is endemic to Indonesia. Two other subspecies, the Javan tiger and the Balinese tiger, were driven to extinction in the 1930s and 1980s, a fate that Retno and her team at Taman Safari do not want to see befall the Sumatran tiger.

“This facility here is our backup. If we could turn back time and breed the other two species the same way, we might still have them today,” she said.

The irony that the fate of the Sumatran tiger rests with a handful of individuals deemed most threatening to humans or unfit to survive in the wild is not lost on Retno.

“These animals are rare and precious individuals,” she said. “We can’t just kill them because they’re man-eaters or maimed, but we can make the most of them as a valuable resource in our conservation efforts.”

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Indonesia: As Ministry Dolphin Release Stalls, JAAN Fury Surfaces

Ismira Lutfia Jakarta Globe 8 Sep 11;

A prominent animal rights group plans to take legal action against the Forestry Ministry for dodging its commitment to release captive dolphins back to the sea, its lawyer said on Wednesday.

The commitment, which was signed in October 2010, was to involve a joint effort by the Jakarta Animal Aid Network, the Forestry Ministry and the Earth Island Institute to implement a five-year plan for dolphin protection, rehabilitation and release.

JAAN’s lawyer, Romy Daniel Tobing, said his client was prepared to take “the necessary legal enforcement measures” to see that it was upheld.

“Both the JAAN and the government, in this case the Forestry Ministry, are lawfully equal parties to this commitment,” he said.

An initial rehabilitation of two out of the 72 dolphins in captivity in Indonesia had been scheduled for June.

The dolphins would have been placed in a 90-square-meter sea enclosure — the largest in the world for a dolphin rehabilitation program — before being released back into their natural habitat, the waters off the northern coast of Java.

The plan stalled, though. In June, the JAAN lambasted government plans to release captive dolphins into the sea without preparing them for the wild.

“We have had more meetings with the government since then and they said they were committed to the initial plan, but they remain empty promises so far,” said Femke Den Haas, founder of the JAAN.

“The dolphins remain confined to their small tanks in the traveling circus and the so-called conservation agencies.”

Officials from the ministry’s directorate of biodiversity, which is in charge of the program, were not available for comment on Wednesday.

The plan was first hatched when concerned parties informed JAAN of a traveling circus featuring dolphins as one of its attractions.

The group began tracking down other captive dolphins. It found a number of the animals in the possession of institutions operating under the guise of conservation, education or therapy after allegedly obtaining them illegally from poachers on the northern coast of Java.

Dolphins are protected under 1999 government regulations on plant and animal preservation. The majority of the captive dolphins in Indonesia are bottlenose dolphins, which are classified under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

While the species is “not necessarily now threatened with extinction, [it] may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation.”

Dwi Nugroho Adhiasto, coordinator of the wildlife crime unit at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said dolphins in Indonesia were also in peril from poaching.

He said it was common for fishermen to kill them for tearing into their fish nets.

“They are also caught to be chopped into bait because their foul-smelling flesh attracts fish,” Dwi said.

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Sabah Parks staff remove two tonnes of dandelions but problems persist

Ruben Sario The Star 8 Sep 11;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Parks staff have weeded out nearly two tonnes of dandelions from the Kinabalu Park but they have yet to root out the problem.

Despite their efforts to remove this invasive species over the past decade, dandelions have continued to persist, especially at the higher altitudes on Mount Kinabalu.

Sabah Parks director Paul Basintal said that besides Mesilau, the dandelion a common weed from Northern Hemisphere countries was concentrated largely at the Layang Layang and Laban Rata areas, located some 3,350m high on the mountain.

He said the dandelion was a tenacious species because it could either propagate through its roots or seeds dispersed by the wind.

“So, when we remove the dandelion, we have to take out every part of the plant, right down to the roots. It is tedious and time consuming but this is something we have to do,” said Basintal.

He said officials of Unesco which had awarded Kinabalu Park its World Heritage Site status were aware of the dandelion problem and Sabah Parks' efforts in tackling it.

Basintal said Sabah Parks officials, who first noticed the dandelions on the mountain some time in 1998 or 1999, immediately started on their efforts to remove them.

However, he said they were uncertain how the species had ended up in Sabah.

Officials believe some dandelion seeds, which could have been wedged in the shoes or bags of tourists visiting Kinabalu Park more than a decade ago, had since germinated and thrived in the park's cool climate.

On Tuesday, Basintal had said that the dandelion appeared to be displacing local plants and that it was beginning to dominate the Kinabalu Park by killing off native species.

Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) president Wong Tack said Sabah Parks should consider getting volunteers involved in regularly weeding out the dandelion plants.

“I'm sure there are NGOs, schoolchildren among others, who would like to help out. This will also give them a sense of taking responsibility and caring for the mountain,” he said.

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Malaysia's Borneo tribes lose test case over mega-dam

M. Jegathesan AFP Yahoo News 9 Sep 11;

A 12-year legal battle by indigenous tribes in Malaysia against their ancestral land being seized to build a mega-dam on Borneo island ended in defeat Thursday in the nation's top court.

Indigenous people present at the court said they were devastated by the ruling, while activists said it could encourage the government to requisition more land on Malaysia's part of Borneo and create "internal refugees".

"It is an unfair decision. I have not been fully compensated," said Ngajang Midin, 50, of the Ukit tribe, as tears rolled down his face. He has already moved to higher ground and the multi-billion-dollar dam has begun operations.

"My cocoa and pepper trees are underwater. My ancestors' graves are buried under the sea of water," he said.

The fight, seen as a test case, began 12 years ago when the state government of Sarawak requisitioned land for the controversial Bakun hydroelectric dam and a timber pulp mill on Borneo, famous for its biodiversity.

About 15,000 people were forcibly relocated to make room for the dam and a reservoir about the size of Singapore, which began generating power last month.

Many have made an unhappy transition to life in drab resettlement areas, and representatives of the evicted indigenous people launched a series of legal appeals.

But these culminated Thursday in a unanimous dismissal by a three-judge panel from Malaysia's highest court, the Federal Court, which found the eviction had not violated the tribal peoples' constitutional rights.

"I hearby dismiss the appeal and uphold the orders of the courts below," chief justice Zaki Azmi, of the Federal Court, said in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Colin Nicholas, founder and coordinator of the Center for Orang Asli Concerns -- whose name uses the Malay term for indigenous people -- said the decision could turn the indigenous groups into "internal refugees".

"Natives use blockades and negotiations (and when it fails) they come to court for justice. But that justice was not delivered. It is disappointing," he told AFP.

"The fear now is these people will become internal refugees because they can be forced to relocate," he said.

Ngajang, who has moved to higher ground with his family, said he was afraid for the future.

"I fear we will be driven out from our own land. I will end up like a squatter," he said.

"Our lives are only filled with darkness and uncertainties."

The case was brought by members of indigenous tribes including the Iban, Dayak, Kayan, Kenyah and Ukit peoples, some of the many ethnic groups living on Borneo, which is split between Malaysia, Indonesia and the sultanate of Brunei.

A lawyer for the group, Baru Bian, said that more tribal people in Sarawak might now be forcibly moved in the name of development.

"There is a possibility the move to displace natives in Sarawak will gain momentum," he said.

About 200 cases of indigenous people fighting state acquisition of their land are ongoing in lower courts.

Transparency International has labelled Bakun a "monument of corruption", and analysts have questioned how the Malaysian government can ever recover the money it has sunk into the project.

The dam, one of the world's tallest, has been dogged by problems since its approval in 1993, and the delays have incurred large cost overruns.

The construction costs for Bakun have added up to at least $2.6 billion, making it among the most expensive infrastructure projects in Malaysian history.

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Australia: Clans agree to stop dugong hunting

9News 9 Sep 11;

Four traditional owner groups have agreed not to hunt dugong for the next five years and limit their take of green turtles to 20 a year.

The groups, from central Queensland, imposed the bans after negotiations with the state government, says Environment Minister Vicky Darling.

The announcement comes amid a spike in deaths for both endangered species, with many blamed on starvation after this year's floods wiped out seagrass beds.

The agreement covers waters from Burrum Heads, south of Bundaberg, to Curtis Island off Gladstone, a distance of several hundred kilometres.

Ms Darling said the floods had had a devastating effect on sea grasses in the region, a primary food source for dugong and sea turtles.

"That's why we are seeing increased numbers of strandings and deaths of these animals this year and anything we can do to stem the numbers of deaths is more than welcome," she said in a statement.

Under the Native Title Act, traditional owners have the right to hunt dugong and sea turtles, which are both protected species.

Under the self-imposed ban, the Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang, Taribelang Bunda and Bailai people have temporarily given up that right.

Earlier this week, wildlife campaigner Bob Irwin called for a moratorium on traditional hunting to address a significant drop in the populations of both endangered species.

Ms Darling said the agreement would help traditional owner groups manage their seafood resources and monitor their waters for illegal poachers.

"These are real outcomes for sustainable hunting that are occurring right now through genuine engagement with Traditional Owners."

Last month, the government revealed 649 turtle deaths had been reported in the first seven months of 2011 - up more than 200 on the same period last year.

It also said 96 dugongs had washed up dead on the state's coastline in the first seven months of this year, compared with 79 for the whole of 2010.

Researchers have said the actual toll would be much higher, as those are only the animals that have been found.

Starvation as a result of the recent natural disasters is being blamed for many of the deaths.

But the conservation group WWF says both species are suffering from broader threats including coastal development and boat strikes from a dramatic ramp up in shipping activity related to the mining boom and other industries.

Clans agree to stop dugong hunting
AAP Sydney Morning Herald 9 Sep 11;

Four traditional owner groups have agreed not to hunt dugong for the next five years and limit their take of green turtles to 20 a year.

The groups, from central Queensland, imposed the bans after negotiations with the state government, says Environment Minister Vicky Darling.

The announcement comes amid a spike in deaths for both endangered species, with many blamed on starvation after this year's floods wiped out seagrass beds.
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The agreement covers waters from Burrum Heads, south of Bundaberg, to Curtis Island off Gladstone, a distance of several hundred kilometres.

Ms Darling said the floods had had a devastating effect on sea grasses in the region, a primary food source for dugong and sea turtles.

"That's why we are seeing increased numbers of strandings and deaths of these animals this year and anything we can do to stem the numbers of deaths is more than welcome," she said in a statement.

Under the Native Title Act, traditional owners have the right to hunt dugong and sea turtles, which are both protected species.

Under the self-imposed ban, the Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang, Taribelang Bunda and Bailai people have temporarily given up that right.

Earlier this week, wildlife campaigner Bob Irwin called for a moratorium on traditional hunting to address a significant drop in the populations of both endangered species.

Ms Darling said the agreement would help traditional owner groups manage their seafood resources and monitor their waters for illegal poachers.

"These are real outcomes for sustainable hunting that are occurring right now through genuine engagement with Traditional Owners."

Last month, the government revealed 649 turtle deaths had been reported in the first seven months of 2011 - up more than 200 on the same period last year.

It also said 96 dugongs had washed up dead on the state's coastline in the first seven months of this year, compared with 79 for the whole of 2010.

Researchers have said the actual toll would be much higher, as those are only the animals that have been found.

Starvation as a result of the recent natural disasters is being blamed for many of the deaths.

But the conservation group WWF says both species are suffering from broader threats including coastal development and boat strikes from a dramatic ramp up in shipping activity related to the mining boom and other industries.

Minister rejects probe into turtle, dugong poaching claims
Kirsty Nancarrow and Josh Bavas ABC News 9 Sep 11;

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says he will not investigate allegations turtle and dugong meat are being sold on the black market in north Queensland.

Mr Burke says it is not the Federal Government's place to ban traditional hunting.

Environmental campaigners, some traditional owners and the Liberal National Party (LNP), want hunting restricted to help populations recover after Cyclone Yasi.

They say the practice is accelerating the decline of the animals in north Queensland waters.

Mr Burke says it would be "patronising" for the Government to impose a ban on Indigenous residents taking the animals.

He says the Federal Government will instead spend $5 million consulting traditional owners on how to manage the problem.

Mr Burke says the talks may lead to Indigenous rangers having a greater role in monitoring illegal practices.

"There's a whole host [of options] and I suspect the answer to that question will be different for different communities," he said.

"There's no point in me telling a team of bureaucrats based in Canberra to kick off an investigation into something like this.

"You really need to have the eyes and ears on the ground and that begins through a far more respectful approach, then just pretending there's a quick political solution to this."
Local management

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has welcomed the financial assistance to help protect the animals.

But WWF conservation manager Cliff Cobbo says the educational programs need to be managed by local groups themselves.

"There's a whole gamut and a whole range of issues that could be addressed," he said.

"We're looking to secure investment for these communities to ensure that there's appropriate leadership around the issue, around sustainable harvest.

"Basically it's up to the communities to decide on what type of measures that those education programs can be delivered at a local level.

"There are a number of education programs that I think can be developed in some of these local Indigenous communities.

"The issue there is that these types of programs need to be owned and delivered by the local communities, hence they need to customise the packages at a local level."

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India: WWF launches new urban forests campaign

The Times of India 9 Sep 11;

HYDERABAD: The Hyderabad chapter of World Wildlife Foundation-India (WWF) on Thursday launched its 'Cities for Forests Campaign' in the city to raise awareness about the need for urban forests. As part of its four-month-long initiative (September to December) WWF will encourage students and youth from across Hyderabad to come together to study the existing forest cover of the city and in turn help authorities preserve them better.

Speaking at the launch held in KBR National park, state director of WWF-India Farida Tampal said, "The United Nations General Assembly has declared the year 2011 as the International Year of Forests. Keeping with that, we have started this programme in Hyderabad to highlight the importance of green cover within the urban pockets of the twin cities."

Elaborating further, Tampal said that over the next few months, students from over a dozen city schools would be conducting surveys across localities to document the number of indigenous and exotic trees in Hyderabad. "Once we have a comprehensive data, we can appropriately urge the civic authorities to take up plantation of more native species (neem, tamarind, fig) as against exotic ones," the WWF representative said explaining why Hyderabad is in dire need for such trees. "A lot of exotic trees have surfaced in the city over the last few years.

While these trees have their advantages and add to Hyderabad's green cover, they are also easily perishable, because they are not accustomed to local conditions. It is, therefore, important that we have more indigenous trees to check the ailing health of our urban forests," she said.

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Mangrove protection: Study in Tanzania finds fishery improvements outweigh fuelwood losses

University of Rhode Island EurekAlert 8 Sep 11;

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 7, 2011 – When the government of Tanzania established Saadani National Park in 2005, it enhanced protection of the coastal mangrove ecosystem from further degradation. A study by a team of University of Rhode Island researchers found that the new park caused a short-term negative effect on the livelihood of those who harvest mangrove trees for fuelwood but a long-term benefit to their local communities from increased fishing opportunities.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on August 22.

"There is international concern for protecting precious tropical mangrove ecosystems that sustain an abundance of wildlife and fisheries habitat," said Catherine McNally, a URI doctoral student studying natural resources science. "A basic issue, however, is whether the protection afforded by national parks cause the local people's livelihoods to decline so much that they find themselves unable to climb out of poverty. It's a question that people are confronting all over the developing world."

McNally, along with Emi Uchida, assistant professor of natural resource economics, and Art Gold, professor of natural resources science, say that the rural poor are highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. In the area where the park was established, McNally analyzed satellite imagery to document that mangrove cover declined by 27 percent from 1990 to 2005 as a result of the trees being harvested for fuelwood and charcoal production. From 2005 to 2009, when the park was established and harvesting was restricted, mangrove cover declined by just one percent.

Mangroves are a highly important nursery ecosystem for fish and shrimp, and it is used by birds and other wildlife that attract tourists as well.

"If the park hadn't been established and harvesting of the mangroves continued, then eventually the shrimp and fishery harvest would decline because of the rapid degradation of the habitat," Gold said. "It's likely that the livelihood of the fishermen would also decline."

Using advanced econometric techniques, Uchida combined data obtained from a survey of 150 residents living near the park with changes in mangrove cover near their communities. The analyses demonstrated that the number of people who reported shrimping as a livelihood increased from 16 percent to 23 percent after the park opened, and fishing increased from 27 percent to 43 percent. Many of the households entering these fields had previously harvested the mangroves for fuelwood and charcoal.

"Globally, environmental degradation tends to happen in places where there is extreme poverty. In such cases, we cannot solve environmental problems without addressing poverty at the same time," Uchida said. "What this study found is promising: the protected area in Tanzania has been able to slow down the degradation of mangroves and at the same time provide new income opportunities for the poor."

According to the researchers, although some individuals fared poorly as a result of the more restrictive land use in the new park, protection of the mangroves improved the livelihoods of many community members. McNally noted that local residents receive additional benefits of improved roads and better availability of water and educational opportunities because of the infrastructure that came with the establishment of the park.

"One concern, however, is that the big shift of people into the fisheries sector could harm the fishery unless proper fishery management practices are implemented," said McNally.


The research was funded by the URI Coastal Institute, with technical and logical assistance from the URI Coastal Resources Center and the Tanzania Coastal Management Partnership

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127 areas to be proposed as English marine conservation zones

Sea users and interest groups decide list of areas that will protect rare and threatened marine wildlife and habitats
John Vidal The Guardian 8 Sep 11;

Much of the sea around the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly , major estuaries and islets off the east coast, as well as reefs, trenches, sandbars and remote places seldom seen by humans, are included in a list of 127 sea areas that have been proposed as new nature reserves.

The zones range from a giant 5,800 sq km (2,240 sq mile) patch on the edge of British territorial waters in the western Channel to a minute 0.09 sq km speck of rock off Dorset, from the sea floor below some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world in the Channel to the muddy waters off the northern Irish coast where Dublin Bay prawn thrives.

The total area expected to be named as new nationally important marine conservation zones (MCZs) is more than 37,000 sq km – about twice the size of Wales. Nearly half the sites are off the south-west coast and in the Channel. Wales and Scotland are expected to designate other marine conservation areas later this year.

"Together they will conserve a mixture of wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology," said a spokeswoman for the MCZ project.

"They are being recommended not just to conserve the rare and threatened, but the range of marine wildlife – from seahorses to sunset cup corals, and from honeycomb worm reefs to estuarine rocky habitats in English waters."

The project has conducted more than 2,500 interviews and held 155 meetings in what has been called a "people to parliament" approach to decision-making.

Conservationists today welcomed the list as one of Britain's most significant natural protection initiatives in decades, but said that the level of safeguards proposed for the nationally important sites varied from tight to potentially weak. Decisions about how the sites are managed, and what activities can or cannot take place in them, will only be made once formal designation is confirmed next year.

However, only 20 of the 127 sites are proposed to be highly protected "reference" sites where any exploitation or damage by industry will be banned. Nearly half the sites are expected to contain highly protected areas within them, while the oil and gas, wind and dredging industries will be allowed some access in some areas. Only 2% of the sites are expected to be given full protection.

In what has been described as "robust" arguments, industry objected to some areas and conservationists had to compromise to arrive at the final list.

"Sites we were sorry to see dropped due to industry concerns include Flamborough-Helgoland, the north Norfolk chalk reefs and the Farne Islands," said the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), one of the many organisations that helped to determine the sites.

But other landmark places proposed by ecologists were chosen, including the Needles off the Isle of Wight and the Manacles rocks off Cornwall.

"Protected sites are desperately needed to protect our seas so that marine habitats and ecosystems can begin to recover from decades of degradation," said Richard Harrington of the MCS.

"Conservation for the UK's marine environment has taken a major step forward. The thousands of species of sealife and habitats that live hidden under our waters need just as much protection as those that we can see on land," said marine minister Richard Benyon.

The unique process of allowing sea users to choose the sites rather than government took nearly two years, but is expected to avoid arguments and disputes later.

Unlike proposals for forests and planning areas, which were decided by government ministers without proper consultation, the 127 sites were only recommended following long negotiations between dozens of sea users and interest groups - including the oil and gas, wind and fishing industries, eco-tourism and conservation groups, ports and shippers.

"It has been challenging. Over 2,500 interviews have been conducted and 155 meetings held. Over 1 million individuals' interests have been represented, and it has enabled marine industries such as fishing, ports and offshore renewable energy to share their views alongside conservationists, landowners and recreational sea users," said the MCZ spokeswoman.

Marine protection bids unveiled
Richard Black BBC News 8 Sep 11;

Protection for key nature sites in UK seas has come a step closer with the unveiling of proposals to create over 100 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).

The zones range from tiny stretches of coastline to large tracts of sea floor.

The proposals stem from the 2009 UK Marine Bill and cover seas abutting the English coast and waters around Wales more than 12 miles from the coast.

They will be assessed by an expert panel before the government makes its final decision, probably next year.

The panel will also have to finalise levels of protection in each zone, as the Marine Bill allows regulators a lot of flexibility in what to prohibit (such as fishing) for which periods of the year.

If all proposals are approved, just over a quarter of English waters would end up under some kind of protection. Currently, the total is way under 1%.

But the zones are also supposed to be designed in such a way as to leave room for other activities such as industries and recreation.

"Today has seen our ambition to put in place special protection areas for marine life off the coast of England take a significant step forward," said Environment Minister Richard Benyon.

"The thousands of species of sealife and habitats that live hidden under our waters need just as much protection as those that we can see on land."

Scotland's Marine Bill passed only last year, so Scottish bids for protected areas are a little behind, but are expected to materialise next year. The Northern Ireland assembly has still to legislate.

'Coherent' aim

The ultimate aim is to create an "ecologically coherent" network of protected areas around all UK coasts, safeguarding important natural habitats while allowing other activities such as recreational angling, commercial fishing, surfing and marine energy to go ahead.

Four different groups were formed to develop the portfolio of proposals in different parts of England and Wales.

They have brought together stakeholders that - at least in principle - cover all parties with an interest in the seas.

The group covering south-west England, for example, numbered representatives of the minerals industry, renewable electricity companies, charter boat skippers, scuba divers and the Ministry of Defence among a set of 41 stakeholders consulted.

The hope is that with a lot of the consultation already undertaken, the proposals should chart a relatively straightforward course through the approval process.

"We will scrutinise the recommendations carefully," vowed Peter Ryder, chairman of the Marine Protected Area Science Advisory Panel that will now assess the bids.

"And in October (we) will provide our scientific assessment on the extent to which the resulting composite network of MCZs and existing Marine Protected Areas is likely to achieve the goal of ecological coherence."

Among the sites proposed for protection are:

Chesil Beach, Dorset's remarkable stretch of shingle
Land's End
the Silver Pit, a relic of an ancient sub-glacial valley in the seabed off the Yorkshire coast
the Donna Nook seal colony in Lincolnshire
tracts covering thousands of square kilometres of seabed off the Cornish coast

The government and its advisors hope that in part, the protection measures will benefit industries such as tourism and fishing, by securing features that divers like to visit and by providing secure "nurseries" for juvenile fish.

"All MCZs should be fully protected from damaging activities and bottom-towed fishing gears, and our work has shown overwhelming public support for this stance," commented Melissa Moore, senior policy officer with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

"Fully protected sites have been shown to yield a fourfold increase in the weight of marine species, whilst species diversity increases by 20%."

While some proposed areas have already been struck off the list by industry concerns, she said, conservationists welcomed the proposals that "are desperately needed so that marine habitats and ecosystems can begin to recover from decades of degradation."

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La Nina returns, bringing more severe weather to the US

AFP Yahoo News 9 Sep 11;

The weather phenomenon known as La Nina is returning for another season, likely bringing more drought, heavy rains and severe weather to some parts of the world, US forecasters said Thursday.

Experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center upgraded last month's La Nina Watch to a La Nina Advisory, the agency said in a statement.

The back-to-back emergence of the trend -- which causes cooler than average temperatures in the Pacific Ocean -- is not unheard of and happens about half the time, NOAA said.

"La Nina, which contributed to extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter," it said.

The June 2010 to May 2011 La Nina "contributed to record winter snowfall, spring flooding and drought across the United States, as well as other extreme weather events throughout the world, such as heavy rain in Australia and an extremely dry equatorial eastern Africa."

Over 12 million people across the Horn of Africa are reeling from the region's worst drought in decades, which led the United Nations in July to declare the first famine this century.

The weather pattern was blamed for extremely heavy downpours in Australia, Southeast Asia and South America over late 2010 and early 2011.

"This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center.

The northwestern United States can brace for a colder winter than usual while southern US states should see a warming trend, he said.

La Nina Gets Reborn, Will Strengthen During Winter: CPC
Rene Pastor PlanetArk 9 Sep 11;

La Nina Gets Reborn, Will Strengthen During Winter: CPC Photo: Reuters/Eric Miller
A man helps push his neighbor's car up a hill after more than twelve inches of snow fell in Minneapolis, February 21, 2011.
Photo: Reuters/Eric Miller

The dreaded La Nina weather anomaly, blamed for both drought and record snowfall in the U.S., has returned and will garner strength during the coming winter, the Climate Prediction Center forecast Thursday.

"While it is not yet clear what the ultimate strength of this La Nina will be, La Nina conditions have returned and are expected to gradually strengthen and continue into the Northern Hemisphere winter (of) 2011-12," the CPC said in a monthly update.

It said waters in the eastern half of the equatorial Pacific Ocean cooled in August, and the "oceanic and atmospheric patterns reflect the return of La Nina conditions."

The CPC is an office under the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. It issues monthly reports on the El Nino and La Nina weather phenomena. Both weather patterns often follow one another in the Pacific.

El Nino is an abnormal warming of waters in the Pacific and led to the failure of India's vital monsoon in 2009/10.

La Nina is the opposite and is often linked to the ramping up of storms in the Atlantic basin which threaten oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

It has already been an active storm season, with Hurricane Irene running up the U.S. East Coast and wreaking havoc through heavy rains and floods from North Carolina to Vermont bordering Canada.

Currently, three systems were being tracked in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea which may threaten the U.S. Gulf and East Coasts.

La Nina was blamed in part for the severe snow storms which struck the U.S. last winter and the worst drought in a century which has ravaged Texas and swathes of the southwestern part of the country.

El Nino means "little boy" in Spanish and was named after the Christ child when it was first observed by Latin American anchovy fishermen one Christmastime in the 19th Century. La Nina means "little girl" in Spanish.

(Editing by John Picinich)

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