Best of our wild blogs: 27 Sep 11

Pulau Ubin (26 Sep 11)
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Video clips of talks at the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III - 24Sept2011 from sgbeachbum

Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III - What went on?
from Psychedelic Nature

Resorts World Sentosa responds on sourcing of fishes for Marine Life Park
from wild shores of singapore

Cuttlefish and its Prey
from Pulau Hantu and Pulau Hantu’s Sand-divers

Endangered raptors - Grey-headed Fish Eagle
from Life's Indulgences

Strolling From MNT to LT
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Rose-ringed Parakeet Taking Peacock Flower Seeds
from Bird Ecology Study Group

REDD+ would leave some species unprotected
from news and How to monitor biodiversity for REDD projects

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RWS hiring more dolphin keepers

Huang Lijie Straits Times 27 Sep 11;

RESORTS World Sentosa (RWS) plans to double the number of keepers to 36 to provide care for its dolphins at its upcoming Marine Life Park.

In a press briefing yesterday on the integrated resort's recruitment drive, it said it had already hired 18 dolphin keepers since last year.

Its 25 dolphins are now housed at the Ocean Adventure park in Subic Bay in the Philippines.

Animal activists who object to the captivity of wild dolphins have been petitioning RWS for the release of the bottlenose dolphins back to their natural habitat off the Solomon Islands, near Papua New Guinea.

Two RWS dolphins died of a water-borne bacterial infection in Langkawi last October.

RWS declined yesterday to comment further on the controversial exhibit, but it had previously said it would be 'gravely irresponsible' to release the dolphins into the wild after three years under human care.

It said the number of dolphin keepers will double when the Marine Life Park opens in the second half of next year. This will allow the keepers to fulfil their added responsibilities in a full-fledged park without compromising on the quality of care for the dolphins. Among its current keepers are marine mammal specialists who have worked at Sentosa's Underwater World and the Singapore Zoo.

The recruitment of more keepers is part of a push to hire about 500 employees for the 8ha Marine Life Park, which includes an oceanarium housing more than 100,000 fishes and a theme park with water rides.

RWS' senior vice-president of human resource and training, Mrs Seah-Khoo Ee Boon, said it is 'optimistic' about meeting its labour needs and its priority would be to hire Singaporeans.

RWS seeks to fill 1,000 vacancies
Ong Dai Lin Today Online 27 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE - While Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) used to draw crowds of 6,000 to 8,000 to its recruitment fairs in 2009 during the economic downturn, a turnout of 500 to 600 now would be enough to make the integrated resort "very happy".

The tight job market has made it a challenge for RWS to hire, as it looks to fill about 1,000 vacancies for its new facilities, which will include a maritime museum and aquarium and two hotels, said senior vice-president of HR and training Ms Seah-Khoo Ee Boon.

More than 500 of the vacancies are in RWS' Marine Life Park, which is scheduled to open in the second half of next year. Some of the vacant positions include aquarists, marine mammal specialists and divers - specialised jobs which are challenging to fill. But the IR, which has held job fairs in HDB heartlands in recent months, will remain focused on hiring Singaporeans, stressed Ms Seah-Khoo at a press briefing yesterday.

While RWS will have to hire foreigners with expertise in running similar marine parks who can "transfer their knowledge to the local team", it is willing to hire Singaporeans who may not have the necessary qualifications and train them, if they have the potential.

For instance, for the 200 lifeguards it will need for the Marine Life Park, it has hired job seekers without lifeguard certification and will send them for training.

To address the labour squeeze, RWS, which employs 13,000 staff, has teamed up with the National Trades Union Congress' Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to reach out to more job seekers. It has also looked at improving productivity to reduce the reliance on labour. For instance, it bought machines that can clean and polish cutlery for its restaurants, said Ms Seah-Khoo.

She is optimistic about RWS' ability to hire. "We will focus locally … we are very confident that by word of mouth, when we have happy team members, when they feel very happy working here, they will talk to their friends about it and over time, we are very confident that we can create a brand name for ourselves as a good employer."

A passion for marine mammals
Ong Dai Lin Today Online 27 Sep 11;

He began his career as a junior keeper at the Singapore Zoo, and is now keeping his passion for marine mammals alive, as one of the 18 marine mammal specialists who care for the dolphins which will be part of RWS' Marine Life Park.

Speaking to the media via telephone from Subic Bay, Philippines, where the dolphins are being housed, Mr Kenny Ng, who cares for four of the 25 dolphins, said: "It was a good chance for me to enhance my skills with dolphins."

Each morning, the marine mammal specialists will check on the dolphins and prepare food for them, before joining them in the water for interaction and training.

Another specialist, Mr Daniel Ng, 38, said he sees the dolphins as his children: "They are quite playful, loving and mischievous."

RWS, which has maintained it is following international rules on the treatment of marine animals despite protests from animal welfare groups, hopes to eventually have 36 marine mammal specialists. ONG DAI LIN

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Building roads only one part of urban transport solution

Letter from Helen Lim Acting Director, Media Relations, Land Transport Authority
Today Online 27 Sep 11;

WE REFER to Mr Jose Raymond's letter "Improve our public transport system to reduce reliance on cars" (Sept 20) and Mr Goh Si Guim's letter "Making way for more roads not the solution" (Sept 14) (all letters in this post).

We agree that improving our public transport will help to reduce reliance on cars. This is why, to keep our roads smooth flowing, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) adopts a holistic approach in building Singapore's urban transport system.

This includes expanding our public transport network, building roads as well as managing traffic through measures such as the Vehicle Quota System and Electronic Road Pricing.

Given land constraints, our priority is to make public transport an attractive option for more Singaporeans. But even as we promote the use of public transport, roads are still needed to serve new developments and support economic growth. Buses also need smooth flowing roads to serve commuters.

Lornie Road is part of the Outer Ring Road System, which allows motorists to travel between the eastern and the western sides of the island without having to go through the city centre. It is also an essential road connection with the Pan-Island Expressway for motorists from residential estates in the central and northern parts of the island, such as Ang Mo Kio and Bishan.

Today, with increased traffic, Lornie Road experiences heavier traffic than before, especially during morning and evening peak hours. Poor traffic conditions are also observed on its slip roads connecting with PIE.

The alignment of the new road to alleviate this traffic was drawn up carefully with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the National Parks Board, taking into consideration immediate transport needs, future development plans for Bukit Brown and environmental factors.

Care was taken to avoid adversely affecting MacRitchie Reservoir Nature Reserve and the acquisition of private land.

When completed, the new road will increase road capacity to facilitate East-West travel. It will also provide connectivity for future housing developments in the Bukit Brown area.

To preserve the heritage of Bukit Brown Cemetery, the URA and the LTA will work with the Singapore Heritage Society and relevant stakeholders to identify and document key heritage elements of the cemetery. We thank Mr Raymond and Mr Goh for their feedback.

Cemetery's heritage value considered in Lornie Road changes, replies LTA
Straits Times Forum 27 Sep 11;

WE THANK Mr Liew Kai Khiun ('Rethink road widening affecting cemetery') and Mr Jacob Tan ('Why allow traffic lights to serve a private road at huge public inconvenience?') for their feedback on Sept 16.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) adopts a holistic approach in building Singapore's urban transport system. This includes expanding our public transport network, building roads, and managing traffic through measures such as the vehicle quota system and Electronic Road Pricing.

Given land constraints, our priority is to make public transport attractive for more Singaporeans. But even as we promote the use of public transport, roads are still needed to serve new developments and support economic growth. Buses also need smooth-flowing roads to serve commuters. Lornie Road is part of the Outer Ring Road System that allows motorists to travel between the east and the west without having to go through the city centre. It is also an essential connection with the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) for motorists from residential estates in the central and northern parts of the island, such as Ang Mo Kio and Bishan.

Today, with increased traffic, Lornie Road experiences heavier traffic, especially during the morning and evening peak hours. Poor traffic conditions are also observed on the slip roads connecting PIE and Lornie Road. The alignment of the new road to alleviate Lornie Road traffic was drawn up in careful consultation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and National Parks Board, taking into consideration immediate transport needs, future development plans for Bukit Brown, and environmental factors.

Care was taken to avoid adversely affecting the MacRitchie Reservoir Nature Reserve and acquiring private land.

When completed, the new road will increase road capacity to facilitate east-west travel. It will also provide connectivity for future housing developments in the Bukit Brown area.

To preserve the heritage of Bukit Brown Cemetery, URA and LTA will work with the Singapore Heritage Society and relevant stakeholders to identify and document key heritage elements of the cemetery.

Mr Tan asked about the traffic lights located along Sime Road. The traffic lights do not operate during the morning peak hours.

Besides providing access to Sime Road, the lights provide motorists, who wish to make a U-turn along Lornie Road, with the necessary traffic gaps to turn.

We will review the need for the traffic lights when the new road in Bukit Brown is completed.

Helen Lim (Ms)
Acting Director, Media Relations
Land Transport Authority

Building new road not the solution ...
It could become part of wider problem in future
Letter from N Varaprasad Today Online 3 Oct 11;

I THANK the Land Transport Authority for highlighting, in the letter "Building roads only one part of urban transport solution" (Sept 27), that Lornie Road is part of the Outer Ring Road System.

This is an important aspect of the ongoing debate on the proposed road cutting through Bukit Brown. Leaving aside the environmental impact for a moment, it becomes clear that the new road should not be seen in isolation, but as part of a wider system.

Hence my question is, what will happen further downstream? Farrer Road is already an eight-lane, two-way road and is heavily used and congested during peak hours. What will happen when the additional flow hits the narrow underpass under Commonwealth Avenue?

Do we keep on widening our roads and expressways ad-infinitum as we are doing now? Building the new road is not the solution; rather it will become part of a wider problem in future.

The solution lies in reframing the issue of land transport from one of speed and mobility to one of accessibility. If we can all access what we need with less travel, I am sure we will all do so. Driving around Singapore is not a touristic experience, unless you are a tourist.

Car ownership as a luxury
Today Online 3 Oct 11;

I refer to the letter "Building roads only one part of urban transport solution" (Sept 27). It is heartening to note that the Land Transport Authority "adopts a holistic approach in building Singapore's urban transport system".

However, measures such as the Vehicle Quota System and Electronic Road Pricing do not address an underlying problem behind the increase in car ownership: The easy access to car purchase through low monthly instalments.

As long as this continues, no matter how our public transport is improved, our roads will be overcrowded as the population increases.

It is hoped that the LTA takes steps in this regard, as the VQS and ERP measures seem more effective in collecting revenue than in containing the car population. Let us treat car ownership as a luxury, and make payments for car purchases felt heavier than at present.

Letter from M Lukshumayeh

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Malaysia: Rare crab re-appears in Malacca

R.S.N. Murali The Star 27 Sep 11

MALACCA: The re-appearance of a rare species of crab along the shores here has caused a stir among the people, especially Christians, due to a cross-like mark on its shell.

The crustacean, with the scientific name Charybdisferiatus, is a species of Malacostraca and is mainly found in Malaysian and Indonesian waters.

It was reportedly last seen in the Straits of Malacca in the 1960s.

The species is different from another commonly found species in the state and which also has a cross on its shell.

A fisherman from Tengkera here hauled a dozen of these crabs on Sunday, sparking a frenzy among locals who rushed to buy the crabs.

The fisherman, who only wanted to be known as Man, 65, said the crabs were considered scarce.

He claimed that the crab was last caught in small numbers in the late 1960s.

“Only minimal quantities of the crabs were caught. Many locals don't buy them to eat, but to preserve the shell as it's considered sacred,” Man said.

State Rural Development and Agriculture Committee chairman Datuk R. Perumal said the state would ask the Fisheries Department to record and monitor the landings of the rare crab.

“We may conserve the crab by breeding it,” he added.

A marine biologist, who declined to be named, said the crabs became rare after rapid development along the state coastline led to the deterioration of the mangrove swamps where the crabs thrived.

Legend has it that Saint Francis Xavier was sailing to Malacca from an Indonesian island sometime in the 16th Century when he was caught in a storm in the Straits of Malacca.

He then dipped his crucifix into the sea and prayed to God to calm the raging storm.

However, the crucifix slipped from his grip and fell into the sea. He prayed that he could get it back.

When he reached the shores of Malacca safely, St Francis saw a crab crawling on the beach and clutching the same crucifix between its claws.

Surprised, St Francis knelt down and recovered his crucifix.

He blessed the crab and the sign of a cross then appeared on its back.

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Malaysia: Tree-cutting activities harming fireflies

New Straits Times 26 Sep 11;

KUANTAN: The mangrove forest reserve along Sungai Kuantan and its tributaries has been the sanctuary for firely colonies which have impressed local and foreign visitors.

However, encroachment and pollution may affect the sensitive ecosystem, especially the berembang trees, which are the natural "display" area for fireflies to get their mates.

"Fishermen here are cutting down the trees and using the berembang sticks to make bubu (fish and crab traps).

"They are not only breaking the law but have also put the firefly colonies at stake," said Leisure Boating Centre Sdn Bhd owner Loo Jen Yeh.

Loo is among the people who helped discover the favourite spots for firefly colonies here and organised boat trips to the mangrove area for local and foreign tourists.

He said the existence of fish processing factories, sawmills and squatter homes along the rivers had also brought adverse effects to the mangrove forest and might slowly kill the berembang trees.

"I hope the enforcement agencies make regular patrols along Sungai Kuantan and its tributaries to ensure that the town's natural attraction is preserved," he told the New Straits Times.

Fireflies normally flock to berembang trees, scientifically known as Sonneratia caseolaris, and flash their brightest and pulsating light to attract their mates.

Although the trees are the areas where they socialise, the whole mangrove forest is crucial as it is on the ground that the female fireflies lay their eggs and the larvae grow to become adults.

Local scientists have said conserving the berembang trees was insufficient to protect the firefly colonies as the insects may spend up to 80 per cent of their lifespan on the ground.

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Malaysia: Reprieve for Miri crocodile

Desmond Davidson The New Straits Times 27 Sep 11;

MIRI: Work to drain a man-made lake in a popular recreational park here to snare a 4m crocodile has been stopped.

The week-long hunt for the reptile, that made a home for itself in the lake and successfully eluded officers from the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), had also been called off.

Draining the lake completely would kill all aquatic life there, the Civil Defence Department said yesterday.

The department had been given the task to drain the lake at Taman Bulatan in Pujut here.

Its spokesman, Iqbal Abdollah, said the water level at the lake, almost the size of a football field, was down to less than a metre when the order came to stop the pumps.

"The authorities have also decided to let the crocodile stay in the lake."

Iqbal said if the order had not come, the lake would have been completely drained by Sunday.

Despite using many traps and baits, crocodile hunters still could not snare the reptile.

One of the hunters said the reptile even managed to free itself from one of the traps.

Iqbal said Miri City Hall would post signboards around the lake to warn people of the crocodile, and not to swim in the lake or play near the water's edge.

"We will place officers to monitor the situation and make sure everyone takes the warning seriously."

SFC general manager Wilfred Landong had earlier said he personally preferred to let the crocodile live in the lake as long as safety features were put in place.

He had said the presence of the reptile could be an added attraction to the park by luring crocodile watchers.

Draining the lake to hunt the crocodile was a major spectacle in this oil town, with people making a beeline for the park just to see what was going on.

Lake being drained to catch 4m croc
Desmond Davidson New Straits Times 26 Sep 11;

MIRI: Authorities have resorted to the drastic measure of draining a man-made lake at a popular recreational park here to catch a crocodile that made its way there.

The oil town is abuzz with talk about the reptile.

Work to lower the water level at the lake in Taman Bulatan could take up to a week.

Crocodile hunters are on standby.The lake, the size of a football field, is about two metres deep.

“We’re giving this priority.

We want to catch the crocodile alive and relocate it to the wild,” said Sarawak Forestry Corporation general manager Wilfred Landong.

Landong, who is also the state chief wildlife warden, said the crocodile, estimated to be four metres in length, was believed to have made its way to the lake via the lake’s drainage system or crawled from Sungai Miri, 2km away. “Crocodiles have been known to crawl up to 100km,” he said.

Landong said, personally, he would prefer to leave the crocodile where it was. “There’s no danger to anyone if we add additional safety barriers.” The crocodile, first spotted a week ago, could be an added attraction in the park, he said.

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Malaysia: Thousands hectares set apart for aquaculture in Sabah

Durie Rainer Fong The Star 27 Sep 11;

KOTA KINABALU: Several thousand hectares of coastal lands and seas will soon be gazetted as aquaculture industrial zones to enable the sustainable management of aquaculture development.

This also includes the substantive on-going preparations by many stakeholders on the proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park, north of Sabah by 2015.

“This park will be the largest multiple-use park in South-East Asia,” said permanent secretary to the state Agriculture and Food Industry Ministry Datuk Ujang Sulani.

There was no point to pursue a future based on wealth creation, unsustainable growth that will deplete resources and displace communities, which will have dire consequences for future generations, he added.

“Hence, the decision to earmark these zones for sustainable aquaculture development,” he said at the second CTI Regional Exchange on the Implementation of Ecosystem Approach and Fisheries Management Activities in the Coral Triangle Countries workshop here recently.

Ujang said much attention had been placed on the issue of resource depletion and the impact of development to the health and biodiversity of the wider ecosystems in recent times.

“The Coral Triangle is a treasure trove of marine biodiversity and a source of aesthetic, spiritual, cultural and recreational values for the 120 million people that live within the region,” he said.

“Naturally I hope the workshop will come up with a management framework that is adaptable and workable to each country,” he said.

In this respect, Ujang explained that there are presently four mil ha of sustainable managed forests, mangrove, marine and wildlife reserves and sanctuaries in Sabah.

The Coral Triangle refers to a roughly triangular area encompassing the tropical waters of Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

The Triangle contains hundreds of species of reef-building corals in each eco-region.

Malaysia, principally Sabah, through its participation in the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Eco-region Programme, is also engaged in the Sulu Celebes Sea Sustainable Fisheries Management project.

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Floods kill 158 in Thailand, 61 in Cambodia

Reuters AlertNet 26 Sep 11;

BANGKOK, Sept 26 (Reuters) - The death toll from flooding in Thailand since mid-July has risen to 158, while 61 people have died in neighbouring Cambodia in the past two weeks, authorities in the two countries said on Monday.

More than 2 million acres of farmland in Thailand are now under water, an area 11 times the size of Singapore.

"Twenty-three provinces in the lower north and central Thailand are under water and nearly 2 million people have been affected by severe floods and heavy rain," Thailand's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said.

Flooding has also affected the capital, Bangkok, which sits only two metres above sea level. The Chao Phraya river has overflowed into roads in some areas, although the authorities have reinforced its banks to prevent serious flooding.

The Meteorological Department warned 39 provinces, mostly in central and northeast Thailand, to be ready for possible flooding and heavy rain in the coming week.

Thailand's main rice crop of the year is normally harvested from October. According to media reports, some farmers have started harvesting early to try to get their crop in before floods hit, which could result in lower yields.

Some may be unable to harvest properly because fields are inundated.

Thailand is the world's biggest rice exporter. It is forecast to produce 25.1 million tonnes of unmilled rice in the main crop, up from 24 million last year.

Its monsoon season usually runs from August to October.

After a teleconference with governors in flood-hit areas, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said 40 billion baht ($1.2 billion) was expected to be used in long-term projects for flood prevention, but she gave no detail of the projects.

In Cambodia, Keo Vy, deputy information director of the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC), said the death toll in provinces along the Mekong River and Tonle Lake was likely to rise once provincial authorities submitted new reports.

"The worry now is about a lack of food, and the health of people and animals," Keo Vy said, adding that 163,000 hectares (407,000 acres) of rice paddies and 63,000 homes were under water.

NDMC Vice-President Nhim Vanda said flooding in August had already damaged rice paddies around the country.

"The damage is now double," Nhim Vanda said. "We are worried that the water will go down slowly, which will destroy rice that is already planted."

Cambodia produces around 7 million tonnes of unmilled rice a year at the moment. Very little of it is directly exported. A great deal goes over the border to Vietnam to be milled and re-exported. (Reporting by Jutarat Skulpichetrat in Bangkok and Prak Chan Thul in Cambodia; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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Indonesia: President Signs Decree to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 26 Sep 11;

President Susilo Bambang Yuhdoyono has signed a presidential decree creating a National Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, known as RAN-GRK, but environmental groups have questioned whether the decree will actually produce any action.

Greenpeace doubts that the government will be able to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Although the Indonesian government listed forestry as pivotal to the efforts of reducing emissions, since Yudhoyono announced his commitment to reduce emissions, by 26 to 41 percent in 2009 mainly from the forestry sector, the forest conditions have not gotten better,” said Yuyun Indradi, forest campaigner from South East Asia Greenpeace.

The RAN-GRK decree is an action plan for implementing several activities, directly or indirectly, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions according to the national development target.

Cabinet secretary Dipo Alam said the decree was issued based on Indonesia’s geographical location, which makes it prone to the impacts of climate change.

“This is a follow-up to the Bali Action Plan agreement during the 13th Conference of Parties United Nations Climate Change Convention (COP-UNFCCC) in Bali, December 2007. It also fulfills the commitment of the Indonesian government to voluntarily reduce greenhouse emissions by 26 percent on our own or a reduction of 41 percent with international help,” Dipo said.

“For that reason, there should be guidance in the drafting effort and steps to reduce greenhouse emissions.”

Yuyun said the new decree is a test for the president to make his commitment a reality.

“The problems related to forests are complicated and it is not enough to solve them with the moratorium decree or with RAN-GRK.”

SBY Vows to Protect Forests
Arientha Primanita & Fidelis Sastriastanti Jakarta Globe 27 Sep 11;

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday stated his commitment to ensure sustainable development of the country’s environment and forests.

“I will continue my work and dedicate the last three years of my term as president to deliver enduring results that will sustain and enhance the environment and forests of Indonesia,” Yudhoyono said in a speech in his opening address at the Forests Indonesia Conference.

The president said the country’s people, economy, environment and way of life are tightly intertwined with its forests.

“Our success in managing our forests will determine our future and the opportunities that will be available to our children,” Yudhoyono said.

But he will need to work hard to convince the nation’s environmental groups, who have previously accused the government of making grand statements on conservation but failing to deliver results.

The conference was hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research and was attended by 900 participants from the government, the business community and civil society as well as foreign donors.

Its purpose was to discuss the future of forests in Indonesia, which has the third-largest amount of tropical forest in the world.

While many now recognize the importance of safeguarding the country’s many forests, however, they remain under “tremendous” pressure, Yudhoyono said.

“As a developing country, we are prioritizing economic growth and poverty eradication. But we will not reach those aims by sacrificing our forests,” Yudhoyono said.

Indonesia should be able to find a balance, he said.

“We must change the way we treat our forests so that they are conserved even as we drive hard to accelerate our economic growth,” he said.

Yudhoyono said he did not want to have to tell his granddaughter someday that the country failed to save its forests.

To alleviate the pressure on forests, Yudhoyono said the government had set up programs to enhance agricultural productivity as well as ensure an adequate stock of staple food, including rice.

The government has also launched a tree-planting campaign that will aim for at least one billion new trees annually, Yudhoyono said.

“It is said that ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ I would like to say: ‘A billion trees a year shields the world’s lungs from decay,’ ” he said.

Yudhoyono also said that Indonesia remained steadfast in its pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-41 percent by 2020.

Globally, deforestation accounts for up to 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. In Indonesia, however, that figure is 85 percent, making the country one of the highest emitters in the world, the president said.

“A long journey still awaits us. We know we must do more to address the primary sources of our greenhouse emissions, such as illegal logging, forest encroachment, forest and land fires and peat land drainage,” Yudhoyono said. “And indeed we are working hard and comprehensively to overcome these challenges.”

Yudhoyono emphasized the long-term importance of caring for the country’s forests while continuing to pursue a path of development.

Cifor director general Frances Seymour said that leadership was needed not only from the government but also from business and civil society to chart the best way forward for Indonesia .

“While there are some win-win opportunities to reconcile forest management to meet both global and domestic objectives, there will also be some trade-offs that will require leadership,” Seymour said.

REDD+ potential funds reach up to Rp270 trillion: CIFOR
Antara 26 Sep 11;

Bogor, West Java (ANTARA News) - The potential flow of funds from advanced nations to developing countries to deal with deforestation through REDD+ programs is estimated to reach up to US$30 billion or Rp270 trillion annually, according to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

"The potential funds flow from developed countries to developing nations for REDD+ programs is quite huge, reaching 30 billion US dollars," Budhy Kristanty, the spokesman of CIFOR said here on Monday.

The REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus) is a global mechanism to reduce emission and deforestation as well as forest degradation.

Under the REDD+ mechanism, it has also been agreed globally to boost conservation and sustainable forest management as well as to icnrease the world forest carbon reserves.

Budhy said Indonesia has the highest number of REDD+ pilot projects in various development stages.

"Indonesia has become an early participant in various bilateral and multilateral initiatives to prepare the implementation of REDD+ at the national level," he said.

The REDD+ program implementation plan at the national level will be discussed in a CIFOR conference on the future of Indonesian forests and the climate change to be held in Jakarta on Tuesday (Sept 27).

The conference is expected to be participated in by around 1,000 people consisting of experts, NGO activists and forest stakeholders.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to official open the conference.

The one-day conference is entitled "Forests Indonesia: Alternative futures to meet demands for food, fiber, fuel and REDD+".

The conference will feature agenda-setting keynote speakers and a series of engaging forums under two themes, namely "Trade and investment: Implications for forests", and "REDD+ in transition to a low-carbon future."

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Indonesia's SBY Pledges to Save the Forests
Asia Sentinel 29 Sep 11;

But we’ve heard that before

Although Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a conference in Jakarta Tuesday that he is committed to ensuring sustainable development of the country’s tropical forests, the third largest in the world, there are plenty of reasons to believe he won’t be able to keep that promise.

For instance, Yudhoyono made the statement in the middle of one of the worst years on recent record for smoke and haze extending across a wide swath of Southeast Asia. Haze from illegal burning has become a permanent feature in Jakarta, the country’s capital. The smoke, from illegal clearing of forest in Sumatra and Kalimantan, was so dense earlier this month that Singapore offered to send firefighting planes to try to douse the blazes out of a fear that decreased visibility could endanger the 300-kilometer per hour plus Formula 1 cars racing on the city’s road circuit in trials and the Grand Prix from Sept. 23 to Sept. 25.

The president has made repeated statements calling attention to the need to preserve the country’s forests. Indonesia, with almost no smokestack industries, nonetheless ranks third in the world behind China and the United States in the production of greenhouse gases, which are universally assumed to be the main cause of global warming, other than by cranks in the US Congress. While globally deforestation accounts for up to 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, in Indonesia, that figure is 85 percent, the president said.

“I will continue my work and dedicate the last three years of my term as president to deliver enduring results that will sustain and enhance the environment and forests of Indonesia,” Yudhoyono told the conference, which was hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research, adding that he didn’t want to tell his grandchildren someday that the country had failed to preserve its forests.

Privately, however, say sources in Jakarta, Yudhoyono regularly complains that orders his ministers simply ignore his orders. A recent poll has shown the administration’s once-high approval rating has fallen from 52 percent in January 2010 to just 38 percent today. Although there are myriad other reasons for his descending ratings, including a massive corruption scandal over construction of a sports facility, Yudhoyono said prior to the poll that only half of his orders are carried out.

The Forestry Ministry, headed by Zulkifli Hasan, a former businessman and secretary general of the National Mandate Party, would be a good place to start searching for orders to be carried out. The ministry earns US$15 billion in fees from land permits. It is currently being pursued by the

Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its Indonesian-language initials KPK, which is investigating the ministry for the granting of illegal permits.

According to the NGO Greenomics Indonesia, the forestry ministry’s lack of commitment to protecting its forests was demonstrated by an announcement in mid September that 7.4 million hectares of oil palm concessions in Kalimantan would be legalized and categorized as forest areas, and would be treated as additional forest cover for the purpose of mitigation of climate change. Under a Ministry of Forestry Regulation dated Aug. 25, the ministry is now using climate change mitigation as a legal justification to legalize plantations with legally defective licenses.

Thus, not only are the areas being cleared not being recorded as such, they will instead be treated as additional forest cover. But not only are oil palm plantations not considered to be mitigating climate change, the underlying peatland destroyed to allow for the clearing of plantations are -- or were – valuable carbon sinks.

Indonesia Corruption Watch, a private watchdog, was quoted by Reuters in an investigation of the country’s timber industry as saying illegal logging and violations in issuing forest use permits produce as much as US$2.3 billion in bribes annually. The Reuters story warned that corruption in the ministry was making a mockery of western attempts to set up a program for buying and selling carbon credits

The country’s 17,000 islands boast total forest cover today of 88.5 million hectares. Given growing population pressures as well as destroying forest and peatlands for oil palm plantations, primary forest is disappearing at a rate of about 2 percent per year. Some 28.07 million hectares of primary forest have disappeared since 1990, or 24.1 percent of forest cover, according to the website Mongabay, which monitors environmental degradation worldwide..

“Logging for tropical timbers and pulpwood is the best-known cause of forest loss and degradation in the country,” the NGO wrote in a report on Indonesia. “Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of tropical timber, generating upwards of US$5 billion annually, and more than 48 million hectares (55 percent of the country's remaining forests) are concessioned for logging. Logging in Indonesia has opened some of the most remote, forbidding places on earth to development. After decimating much of the forests in less remote locations, timber firms have stepped up practices on the island of Borneo and the state of Irian Jaya on New Guinea, where great swaths of forests have been cleared in recent years and logging firms have to move deeper and deeper into the interior to find suitable trees.”

One of the best examples of the forestry ministry’s corruption revolved around Wandojo Siswanto, Indonesia’s lead negotiator at the 2009 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark, and described as a “key architect” of Indonesia’s role in the UN’s Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissiions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developng Countries, known as REDD.

In December 2010, Wandojo was arrested and given three years in prison for taking a US$10,000. At the time, Wandojo was responsible for tendering a global positioning system procurement project for the ministry. At the time of the arrest, Wandojo insisted he had carried out the deal on orders from his superiors.

“A long journey still awaits us. We know we must do more to address the primary sources of our greenhouse emissions, such as illegal logging, forest encroachment, forest and land fires and peat land drainage,” Yudhoyono said in his speech. “And indeed we are working hard and comprehensively to overcome these challenges.”

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Australia: Turtles and dugongs die in droves

9News 26 Sep 11;

Deaths of turtles and dugongs off Queensland have nearly doubled this year as seagrass struggles to recover from floods, an international conference on rivers has heard.

The Department of Environment and Resource's Dr Julia Playford told the International River Symposium in Brisbane that the animals were scavenging mango seeds and algae because seagrass beds, their major food source, had been destroyed by sediment, turbidity and low salinity after last summer's floods and Cyclone Yasi.

She said one million tonnes of sediment had washed into Brisbane's Moreton Bay from the floods, three times the annual average in just 10 days.

South of Brisbane, 344,000 tonnes of sediment flowed down the Logan and Albert rivers, 10 times the annual load.

In the state's north, Cyclone Yasi had stirred up sediment at depths of up to 190 metres.

"That has been followed up with a significant increase of strandings of marine wildlife," Dr Playford told the symposium.

In the year to September 20, 150 dugongs had become stranded, with only three released, she said.

That's compared to 68 in the same period in 2010, 37 in 2009 and 30 in 2008.

Meanwhile, 999 turtles had died, compared with 555 in 2010, 625 in 2009 and 552 in 2008.

"When we find those animals we find that they are frequently emaciated, don't have seagrass in their stomachs," Dr Playford said.

"They are mostly dying from natural causes, from diseases, although there are some boat strikes and netting impacts."

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Fishing boats 'killing up to 320,000 seabirds a year'

Report says some albatross, petrel and shearwater species nearing extinction as fleets failing to implement simple measures
James Meikle 26 Sep 11;

Up to 320,000 seabirds a year are being killed worldwide each year by being caught up in fishing lines, according to a study being presented to the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity on Tuesday.

Some species and populations of albatross, petrels and shearwaters are being pushed to the edge of extinction because many fishing fleets are not taking simple measures to prevent birds chasing bait, experts will warn.

Some fleets have drastically cut the carnage though methods such as bird-scaring lines and weighting of hooks. But others are failing to monitor the problem or implement steps that could reduce the problem to "negligible proportions", according to authors of a study that is attempting to set a global baseline against which progress could be measured.

Much of the available data is poor, say researchers from the RSPB and BirdLife International, whose work for the global seabird programme will be discussed at Tuesday's conference in Aberdeen. They say that information is absent on bird deaths around Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Norway, distant Asian fishing grounds and the Mediterranean.

Their estimates of bird deaths range from about 160,000-320,000, with the Spanish longline fleet fishing the Gran Sol grounds off south-west Ireland potentially killing more than 50,000 birds a year (mostly shearwaters and fulmars), and the Japanese tuna fleet killing 20,000 birds a year, seriously affecting albatross populations.

Orea Anderson, policy officer for the programme and lead author of the study: "It is little wonder that so many of the affected seabird species are threatened with extinction – their slow rate of reproduction is simply incapable of compensating for losses on the scale this study has demonstrated."

Co-author Cleo Small said: "Using simple bird-scaring lines and weighting of hooks as they enter the water could dramatically reduce the number of seabirds being killed.

"With the UK's overseas territories in the south Atlantic holding a third of the world's breeding albatrosses, the UK has a major responsibility to ensure seabird-friendly fisheries. As for the EU, the findings of this review places a heavy onus on the forthcoming EU plan of action for seabirds to deliver a robust set of remedial measures capable of reducing the impact of longline and other fisheries on seabird populations."

Some successes in reducing seabird deaths have been achieved, including around South Georgia in the south Atlantic, where tough measures are said to have brought about a 99% reduction. South Africa achieved an 85% drop in its foreign-licensed fleet in 2008, and, Brazil in April passed a law requiring stringent bycatch measures in its domestic tuna fleets.

The Albatross Task Force, set up by Birdlife International and the RSPB, is also working on mitigation measures with the fishing industries in South Africe, Namibia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador. Steps include dying fish bait blue to make it less visible to birds; setting lines at night when birds are less active; or setting them deeper underwater, through chutes; and controlling discards of unwanted fish.

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