Best of our wild blogs: 6 Dec 11

14 Dec (Wed): Free screening of "A Fall from Freedom" by ACRES
from wild shores of singapore

Season to be berry
from The annotated budak

Old world flycatchers
from Life's Indulgences

white-bellied fish eagle @ SBWR
from sgbeachbum

BioD Race@Tampines Eco Green
from PurpleMangrove

Heat loss by birds
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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New alignment for road cutting through Bukit Brown?

Hoe Yeen Nie Channel NewsAsia 5 Dec 11;

SINGAPORE: It is likely that the proposed new road that cuts through Bukit Brown cemetery in central Singapore will get a new alignment.

Channel NewsAsia understands that the road could bypass a cluster of graves belonging to key historical figures.

The announcement of plans for the road in September triggered an uproar among some Singaporeans, who said the cemetery should be preserved.

But authorities said the road can't wait, as congestion in the area needs immediate relief.

It is expected that the dual four-lane road will slice through a portion of the 80-hectare cemetery site, affecting 5 per cent of the 100,000 graves.

Construction of the road will begin in 2013.

In land-strapped Singapore, there are very few places immune to the forces of development. And a central theme in the Singapore story is the constant tussle between land for the living and space for the dead.

Since 1965, for instance, 156 cemeteries have been cleared for development, according to figures from the National Environment Agency.

One can also see that tension played out in Bukit Brown, which itself houses many graves shifted to the cemetery from private burial sites that had been acquired by the government throughout the 1900s.

Between 1922 and 1973, Bukit Brown was the only public Chinese cemetery in Singapore, and received the graves of many who were re-interred from other cemeteries.

Among those moved to the cemetery were graves of prominent men like Tan Kim Cheng and Cheang Hong Lim.

Charles Goh, an amateur historian, said: "It is not just a cemetery of dead people. It is a cemetery of the early Singaporeans that came, and in a way built up to what we are now. If you understand the heritage value, you will say, let's not do it."

The proposed road alignment led to concerns over the future of the graves.

But according to Mr Goh, who is in the construction business, survey pegs in the area now suggest that the alignment has changed.

The Land Transport Authority's original plan indicated a route that would require many iconic tombs to be cleared. These are located on a hill known commonly as Hill Three.

But the construction corridor appears to have shifted closer towards Lornie Road, raising the possibility that the graves of Ang Seah Im, Tan Kheam Hock and many others will be spared - for now.

The construction corridor measures about 130 metres wide, and delineates the area needed to be cleared for construction purposes. The actual width of the road will be about 40 metres, and - according to Mr Goh - appears to skirt around a few of the hills in the area.

In response to queries by Channel NewsAsia, the Land Transport Authority said the final alignment will only be fixed in February.

But the news is of little comfort for Tan Seok Bee.

The grave of her grandfather-in-law, Tan Boon Hak, will have to go. He was a wealthy timber merchant and the cousin of noted philanthropist Tan Kah Kee. He died in April 1923, and was one of the first to be buried at the cemetery.

Mrs Tan said: "He stays here, in a good place, under a good shade, so his descendants all have good jobs. So it is best that we still keep him here. (If) you suddenly move him, he may not be happy."

The controversy over Bukit Brown isn't just about a road.

In 40 years' time, the rest of the cemetery and the surrounding land, about 200 hectares, will be cleared for a new housing estate.

Plans for the future town, which will take up the 200-hectare site, have been contained in the Urban Redevelopment Authority's masterplans since 1998. The road will eventually serve the new town.

Land south of Bukit Brown, near the old Police Academy, will be developed sooner, in about 10 to 15 years' time. Conservationists object to this, saying the area is a carbon sink and an important feeding ground for birds.

Along with heritage groups, they want the land to be preserved.

Dr Ho Hua Chew, a member of the executive committee of the Nature Society, said: "People's needs can change. They may value the wooded area more, the cultural heritage more 20, 30 years down the road. So why destroy that option for the younger generation? Leave it open."

Dr Terence Chong, a member of the executive committee at the Singapore Heritage Society, said: "It is because we agree with the idea that land is scarce that we think it is so important not to just think in the old paradigm. I think some concessions should be made for heritage concerns."

Dr Chong added: "Right now, the rest of Bukit Brown has a window of about 30 years. They are not specific because they want the flexibility to decide depending on future needs. This means that the fate of the cemetery is not assured. As such, gazetting parts of the cemetery as heritage parks to ensure preservation regardless of changing circumstances is crucial."

Authorities said the road will go ahead. But they are open to ideas on what to do with the remaining space, and have started discussions with various groups.

For Mrs Tan, all this talk is far removed from her family's immediate concern.

They have started preparations to exhume their ancestor's grave, knowing that the Qing Ming Festival next year will be their last at Bukit Brown.

- CNA/ms

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Malaysia: Get ready for extreme weather, warns expert

S. K. Thanusha Devi New Straits Times 6 Dec 11;

THE freak storms and heavy downpours which struck certain areas in the country is a wake-up call for Malaysians to brace for extreme weather.

The floods in the east coast and northern areas of the peninsula were expected, but it was out of the ordinary for the central region, said Centre for Environment, Technology and and Development Malaysia (Cetdem) executive director Anthony Tan.

He described the recent heavy rain in Kajang and parts of Klang Valley as the worst he had ever experienced in his life.

He said the recent extreme weather the country was facing was due to climate change.

"Malaysia has not seen the worst yet," he said, referring to typhoons and floods which plague Bangladesh, Philippines and, of late, Thailand yesterday.

Tan said climate changes had affected rainfall patterns.

"The movie The Day After Tomorrow is a mild indicator as to what may happen next as extreme weather events are happening more frequently with devastating effect.

"Many development projects are being carried out from Port Klang to Gombak, and when it rains, drains would be clogged, thus triggering flash floods," he said.

"It is a wake-up call to local councils to make sure the drainage system is clean and clear," he said, adding that the country needs to invest in a proper drainage system.

The environment expert said proper planning in building construction was vital to prevent flash floods as low-lying lands would be more susceptible, leading to flash floods.

"We have to change the way we operate and construct buildings.

"The rumah Melayu was built on stilts for a reason. You won't be much affected by the floods and can tie your boat to the stilts. It's practical," he said.

"It is also a matter of land use and choosing where and how to have development projects, especially when it comes to low-lying areas."

He said Malaysians should understand the concept of global warming and climate change by now and prepare themselves for it.

Tan called on Malaysians not to panic at the current extreme weather pattern as it was a normal occurrence during the monsoon season.

A check at the National Security Council website saw the agency place Ledang (Johor), Manjung (Perak), Alor Gajah (Malacca), Sri Aman and Betong (Sarawak) on the flood watch list.

As of 4pm yesterday, flood victims at relief centres stood at 69 for Perak, followed by Johor (47), Malacca (19) and Sarawak (125).

Only two two relief centres are operating in Ledang, Johor, and one relief centre each in Alor Gajah, Malacca; Manjung, Perak and Sri Aman (Sarawak).

Brace for bad weather
New Straits Times 8 Dec 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: Winds over 60kph and waves more than 5.5 metres are expected to hit the east coast of the peninsula and the shores of Sabah and Sarawak, according to the Malaysian Meteoreological Department (MMD).

The areas affected include the waters off Pahang, East Johor, Sarawak, Tioman, Bunguran, Condore, Reef North, Reef South and Layang-Layang.

The MMD has issued a "category three" strong wind and rough seas warning for these areas -- an upgrade from the less severe second category announced late last month.

These conditions were expected to continue until Tuesday.

The MMD also upgraded a first category warning issued on Nov 28 to the second category for the waters off Kelantan, Terengganu, Labuan, Sabah (West Coast and Kudat), Samui and Palawan with strong northeasterly winds of 50 to 60kph and 4.5-metre high waves which were expected to occur until Tuesday.

Workers on oil platforms, fishermen and ferry and small boat operators have been advised to exercise caution due to the high waves, which were significantly higher than the usual ones which rise to a maximum of 2.5m during calm weather.

On land, floods may occur in Tumpat, Kota Baru, Bachok, Pasir Puteh, Machang and Pasir Mas districts in Kelantan and Besut, Setiu and Kuala Terengganu districts in Terengganu due to intermittent rains which were forecast to start over these areas from Friday until Saturday.

Prof Dr P. Agamuthu, a sustainable environmental management expert, said the emission of carbon dioxide from regional countries had had an effect on Malaysia's weather.

Malaysians, he said, needed to start reducing their carbon footprint and increase vegetation in the city.

"Everything boils down to global warming," he said, adding that the side effects included abnormal weather patterns.

"The direction of the monsoon has also shifted. A few weeks ago there was heavy flooding in Perlis and now the heavy rains have moved to the north-east side."

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Palm Oil-Based Biofuels Should Not Be Called Green, New Study Claims

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 5 Dec 11;

The benefits of biofuels derived from palm oil have once again been brought into question following a new report that says the reduced emissions from burning the fuel are far outweighed by the clearing of peatland forests to grow the crop.

The report from the Center for International Forestry Research (Cifor) focuses on three crops commonly used for biofuels — oil palms, soybeans and jatropha — in 12 sites around the world, including three in Indonesia.

It found that for palm oil in particular, the carbon debt, or net amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of using the crop as a biofuel, was the highest at 472.8 to 1,743.7 tons of CO2 per hectare.

The report attributed this to the fact that “most of the area expansion came at the cost of dense natural forest.”

“The highest debt was associated with plantation on peatland,” it said.

Louis Verchot, a Cifor researcher and co-author of the report, titled “Implications of Biodiesel-Induced Land-Use Changes for CO2 Emissions: Case Studies in Tropical America, Africa, and Southeast Asia,” said palm oil-based biofuels that required the clearing of natural forest would never bring about a net emissions reduction.

“The study also highlights the importance of proper spatial planning and awareness that all efforts conceived to be environmentally friendly can have unintended consequences,” he said.

It also found that using biofuel from oil palms planted in peatlands required the longest period of time to repay the carbon debt, ranging from 206 to 220 years.

By contrast, biofuels from soybeans grown in Brazil could repay their carbon debt in just 30 years, the report said.

Verchot said that although public demand for biofuels was increasing as a result of greater awareness of the need to slow climate change, crop-based fuels were not the way to go.

“These fuels have come under much criticism because of the clearing of land for plantations that results in deforestation, negative social impacts on local populations, threats to food security and increased carbon emissions as a result of land use changes,” he said.

The report, published in a special issue of the journal Ecology and Society, concluded that the outcomes “raise serious questions about the sustainability of biofuel production.”

Laura German, a Cifor scientist and lead editor of the journal’s special issue, said there needed to be a rethink of how the biofuel industry functioned.

“This paper shows that we cannot simply assume benefits for rural livelihoods and mitigation of climate change [from biofuel use], and suggests there needs to be more proactive efforts from both producer and consumer country governments, industry and civil society to steer the sector in a more sustainable and equitable direction,” she said.

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Over 13 million turtle hatchlings released from Sabah islands

New Straits Times 5 Dec 11;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Parks has released more than 13 million turtle hatchlings into the sea from the Turtle Islands National Park (TINP) in the last 21 years.

The park, located within Turtle Islands some 40km north of Sandakan, covers an area of 17.4 square kilometres.

Administered by Sabah Parks, it is noted for its green turtles and hawksbill turtles which lay their eggs on the beaches of the islands.

Sabah Parks director Paul Basintal said only one out of a thousand turtles released into the wild would survive.

"That is why we need to release as many turtles as possible. Recently, researchers found a considerable number of juvenile turtles in Mantanani Island (some 80km northeast of Kota Kinabalu).

"Based on studies, we found that the juvenile turtles in Mantanani Island are actually the hatchlings we released from TINP," he said at the Turtle Conservation Campaign held at Suria Sabah Mall here yesterday.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Ellron Angin officiated at the campaign aimed at promoting public awareness of the importance of turtle conservation.

In the past 21 years, Sabah Parks recorded 218,305 turtle nests at the hatcheries in TINP. During peak season, the number of turtle landings can reach up to 50 a night.

As of last year, Sabah Parks had marked 54,904 juvenile turtles since the turtle tagging programme was introduced in 1970s. From the tagging, it was found that these turtles have travelled to Palau in the Pacific Ocean and Kai Kecil Island of Indonesia, about 2,400km off Turtle Islands.

To a question on turtle egg poaching, Angin said most turtle eggs sold were from neighbouring countries.

"In Sabah, it is under control... we are very strict about this as turtle egg poaching is against the law under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997."

TINP consists of three islands namely Selingaan, Bakkungan Kechil and Gulisaan. The Turtle Islands consist of 10 islands, seven of which belong to the Municipality of Turtle Islands, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines. Bernama

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Malaysia: Fishery Resources May Become Extinct

Bernama 5 Dec 11;

KANGAR, Dec 5 (Bernama) - Fishery resources may become extinct if fishermen don't cooperate with the government to retain existing resources, said director-general of Fisheries Department Datuk Ahmad Sabki Mahmood.

He said in 40 years, fishery resources in Malaysian waters have declined significantly from 2.56 tonnes per sq km in 1971 to only 0.21 tonnes per sq km in 2007.

"However, ikan kembung is still in abundant but other wildlife species like dugong has depleted," he told reporters at a Marine Resources Management Care Programme in Kuala Sungai Baru near here today.

Sabki said the lack of fishery resources not affects Malaysian waters as researchers in United States predicted that by 2048, there would be no more fish in the ocean.

"That's the forecast in the United States but in Malaysia, the government constantly strives to ensure that the existing fishery resources are retained."

He said although fish can reproduce naturally, uncontrolled catch activities can lead to the extinction of marine life.

Excessive exploitation of breeding grounds like coastal areas and pollution due to industrial waste and oil spills also lead to decline in marine resources.

To this end, the government has introduced the Rakan Ikan programme where fishermen would inform information authorities of activities that could harm fishery resources.

Sabry said last year, 160,000 tonnes of fish worth RM710mil were landed in Perlis to make the state the second largest producer of fish after Perak.

However, catch in the last four years has declined between 2.3 percent and 10.2 percent, from 193,800 tonnes in 2007 to 160,000 tonnes in 2010.


No more fish by 2048?
Destructive techniques used by fishermen could wipe out marine resources
Sharanpal Singh Randhawa New Straits Times 6 Dec 11;

MALAYSIA'S waters could be left with zero marine resources if fishermen nationwide continue to make use of destructive ways and techniques to fish.

Fisheries Department director-general Datuk Ahamad Sabki Mahmood said research done by a team from the United States in international waters found that there would not be any fish or marine resources left by 2048.

He added that with the rapidly depleting marine resources caused by the destructive ways and techniques adopted by fisherman in Malaysia, it was not impossible for the country to face the same fate by 2048.

Local fishermen exploit fish breeding areas meant to boost fish population by using the pukat rawa sorong (drag nets) which are banned by the government.

The invasion of banned fishing zones by fishermen has also seen the fish population in the past 40 years declining rapidly, from 2.56 tonnes per sq km to 0.21 tonnes per sq km.

"Fish is known to breed naturally by themselves, but with the wrong and banned equipment used and without a systematic approach, marine resources will surely become extinct," he said at an awareness programme on marine resources held at Sungai Baru, near here, yesterday.

Ahamad Sabki said fishermen should be more responsible and aware that their actions would cost the government and the people in the long run.

"We have conducted and will go on conducting awareness programmes to educate fishermen on the best ways to fish and the best equipment to use."

He said the number of fishing boats in Malaysian waters was maintained at 47,000 and there were 129,000 fishermen nationwide.

Ahamad Sabki said the organisation Rakan Fish, whose members are fishermen, would play a role in reporting any misconduct or offences by fishermen.

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Marine Predators in Trouble

ScienceDaily 5 Dec 11;

Iconic marine predators such as sharks, tunas, swordfish, and marlins are becoming increasingly rare under current fishing trends, say University of British Columbia researchers.

In half of the North Atlantic and North Pacific waters under national jurisdiction, fishing has led to a 90-per-cent decrease in top predators since the 1950s, and the impacts are now headed south of the Equator, according to a new study published online December 5 in the journal Marine Ecological progress Series.

Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the French Consulate-General in Vancouver, researchers from UBC's Fisheries Centre modeled the impact of fishing around the world using global databases of fisheries catches from 1950 to 2006 and satellite images of phytoplankton, which are used to map where predators should be, based on food availability.

The scientists found that the exploitation of marine predators first occurred in coastal areas of northern countries, then expanded to the high seas and to the southern hemisphere. The decline of top-of-the-food-chain predators also means widespread and fundamental changes to both the structure and function of marine systems.

"Species such as tuna have been seriously exploited because of high market demand," says Laura Tremblay-Boyer, a PhD student at UBC Fisheries Centre and lead author of the study.

"A constant theme throughout our study of global marine ecosystems is that these top predators are today prey for human beings, assisted by some serious technology," says Tremblay-Boyer. "Top marine predators are more intrinsically vulnerable to the effects of fishing due to their life histories. Bluefin tuna, for instance, cannot reproduce until age nine."

In addition to low numbers in the northern hemisphere, the study shows a dramatic decline in the south seas, where wild-caught fish are sent to northern markets.

"After running out of predator fish in the north Atlantic and Pacific, rather than implementing strict management and enforcement, the fishing industry pointed its bows south," says co-author Daniel Pauly, principal investigator of the Sea Around Us Project at UBC. "The southern hemisphere predators are now on the same trajectory as the ones in the northern hemisphere. What happens next when we have nowhere left to turn?"

Under current fishing practices, biomass loss of predatory species is expected to occur in the southern hemisphere, but humans living in the south will not be able to rely on the north for their fish, the research team adds.

Journal Reference:

L Tremblay-Boyer, D Gascuel, R Watson, V Christensen, D Pauly. Modelling the effects of fishing on the biomass of the world’s oceans from 1950 to 2006. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2011; 442: 169 DOI: 10.3354/meps09375

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Pacific trade deal could help save species: U.S.

Reuters 5 Dec 11;

(Reuters) - Trade in illegally poached and harvested wildlife and wild plants could be curbed, possibly saving endangered species such as the New Zealand Kakapo parrot, by a proposed Trans-Pacific trade deal, a top U.S. trade official said on Monday.

"Whether it involves forest products manufactured from illegally harvested tropical timber, or body parts from threatened tiger species, or fins brutally torn from sharks at sea, more can be done to fight illegal trafficking in wildlife and wild plant products," Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said in a speech.

The United States is pushing for "ground-breaking" conservation provisions in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and also wants to curtail marine subsidies that encourage overfishing, Marantis said.

Global trade in illegally poached and harvested wildlife and wild plant species is estimated at tens of billions of dollars a year, he said.

The cost of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is valued at $10 billion to $23.5 billion a year, in addition to subsidies that help decimate global fish stocks, he said.

The White House is negotiating the TPP with eight other countries - Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Peru and Chile - that represent some of the most biologically diverse areas of the Asia Pacific.

"Peru is the third most bio-diverse country in the world. But 560 of its species are threatened - 45 critically endangered. Many of New Zealand's species are unique to that country and also under threat, such as the Kakapo - a large, flightless, nocturnal parrot," Marantis said.

"Chile is home to 151 threatened species, including the Chinchilla and Darwin's Fox," he said.

Japan, Mexico and Canada also have asked about joining the talks, making the TPP "the biggest game in town" in terms of negotiations to liberalize trade, he said.

Bilateral U.S. free trade pacts with Peru, Colombia, South Korea and Panama already have strong provision, but the United States hopes to go even further in the TPP pact, he said.

"Perhaps the most ground-breaking element of our proposal for TPP on environment is the inclusion of a conservation framework in the TPP environment chapter. This framework would require TPP parties to act to inhibit illegal trade in wildlife and wild plant products," Marantis said.

The United States is also proposing measures to protect wildlife species of special concern, to curb marine subsidies and deter illegal and unregulated fishing and to protect forest ecosystems from illegal logging, he said.

Mark Linscott, assistant U.S. trade representative for the environment and natural resource, spoke shortly after Marantis and acknowledged there were still "big gaps" between the United States and some other TPP members in the talks.

There is a "good dynamic" among the negotiators and that many of the TPP countries have made their own proposals for addressing environmental concerns," Linscott said.

But "that can't paper over that there are still significant gaps that we need to bridge," he said.

Supporters hope the talks will be concluded next year, but U.S. officials have avoided a firm deadline.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Philip Barbara)

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Poachers killed 23 rhinos in Zimbabwe this year: report

AFP Yahoo News 5 Dec 11;

The number of rhinoceros killed in Zimbabwe parks decreased to 23 this year from 30 in 2010 as parks authorities stepped up high-tech efforts to track poachers, state media reported Monday.

"We have just above 700 black and white rhinos and 23 have been poached this year," Caroline Washaya, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority public relations manager told The Herald newspaper.

"We managed to arrest 37 poachers and illegal dealers in rhino horns to date," she added.

Zimbabwe and its southern neighbour South Africa have been hard hit by rhinoceros poachers motivated by the lucrative market for the horn in Asia where it is used for medicinal purposes.

Washaya said parks authorities had been using methods such as placing tracking chips in the rhinos' horns, or removing the horns altogether, to prevent poaching.

"This year, a total of 100 rhinos were immobilised for ear notching and horn implanting to facilitate individual identification and monitoring in the field," she said.

Last month a US-based animal protection group, the International Rhino Foundation, launched Operation Stop Poaching Now to raise funds to equip rangers in Zimbabwe and South Africa with kits to better track rhino poachers.

The so-called "crime-scene kits" contain a camera, a metal detector, a GPS system, finger-printing materials and sealable evidence bags, according to the Foundation.

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Amazon forest loss at lowest in 23 years: Brazil

Reuters Yahoo News 6 Dec 11;

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon region fell to its lowest in 23 years in the year through July, the government said Monday, attributing the drop to its tougher stance against illegal logging.

Destruction of the Brazilian portion of the world's largest rain forest dropped 11 percent to 6,238 square km (2,400 square miles) over the 12-month period, satellite data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research showed.

That is less than a quarter of the forest area that was destroyed in 2004, when clear-cutting by farmers expanding their cattle and soy operations reached a recent peak.

Brazil has stepped up its monitoring and enforcement policies in the Amazon in recent years but the improvement has partly been driven by slower global economic growth that has reduced demand and prices for the country's farm produce.

Overall improvement in 2010/11 masked worrying rises in some Amazon states such as Rondonia, where deforestation doubled from the previous year. Forest clearing in the farming state of Mato Grosso rose 20 percent.

"Some states are still extremely sensitive," Environment Minister Isabel Teixeira told reporters. "Rondonia needs to be clarified, we need to understand what has caused the change in its profile."

Two large hydroelectric dams are being built in Rondonia, boosting the local economy and attracting migrant workers.

The drop in deforestation comes as Brazil's Congress debates an overhaul of the land law that environmentalists say would severely set back conservation efforts. The Senate is expected to approve the new forest code in the coming days.

Brazil's influential farming lobby says the reform, which would ease conservation requirements for land owners, is needed to end widespread uncertainty over the current regulations that farmers say is a burden on production.

(Reporting by Hugo Bachega; writing by Stuart Grudgings; editing by John O'Callaghan)

Brazil says Amazon deforestation down to lowest level
AFP Yahoo News 6 Dec 11;

Brazil said Monday that the pace of deforestation in its Amazon region fell to its lowest level since authorities began monitoring the world's largest tropical rainforest.

The head of the National Institute of Space Research (INPE), Gilberto Camara, said deforestation dropped to 6,238 square kilometers (2,408 square miles), between August 2010 and July this year, down 11 percent compared with the same period in 2009-20100.

"It's the lowest deforestation rate measured since INPE began its monitoring in 1988," Camara told a press conference.

"It's a great victory for Brazil. It's the lowest deforestation rate. The Amazon is a great instrument for carbon sequestration," one of the tools to combat global warming, said Aloizio Mercadante, the minister of science and technology.

Still, the area deforested in the year ending in July is four times the size of Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, according to the state Agencia Brasil.

Between August 2009 and July 2010, the Brazilian Amazon lost 7,000 square kilometers (2,700 square miles) of rain forest, until then the smallest loss recorded.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached a historic peak of 27,700 square kilometers (10,700 square miles) in 2003-2004.

Monday's announcement came a day before the Brazilian Senate was due to adopt a reform of forestry legislation which could reduce the protected area.

The bill, which would have to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies, has the backing of Brazil's powerful agribusiness sector.

The current forestry code, which dates back to 1965, limits the use of lands for farming and mandates that up to 80 percent of the Amazon remain intact.

Authorities say key reasons for Amazon deforestation are fires, the advance of agriculture and stockbreeding and illegal trafficking in timber and minerals.

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Gorillas, Tigers At Risk Due To Climate Change

Agnieszka Flak PlanetArk 5 Dec 11;

Several animal species including gorillas in Rwanda and tigers in Bangladesh could risk extinction if the impact of climate change and extreme weather on their habitats is not addressed, a U.N. report showed on Sunday.

Launched on the sidelines of global climate negotiations in Durban, the report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation shows how higher temperatures, the rise in sea levels, deforestation and excessive land use have damaged the habitats of certain species, especially in Africa.

"Many ecosystems have already been stressed by increasing population, historical and recent deforestation, unsustainable management practices and even invasive species," Eduardo Rojas-Briales, assistant director general at the FAO's forestry department, said at the launch of the report.

The most affected areas include mountains, isolated islands and coastal areas, which limit the possibilities for animals to migrate elsewhere and create new habitats.

"The remaining populations become enclosed in very small ecosystems, they have inbreeding problems ... and at the end these species may disappear," he added.


Wildlife migration may also lead to conflicts with humans as happened with the tigers in Bangladesh, Rojas-Briales said.

"Lifestock and even humans were attacked and of course there was retaliation by the local population, and the success that was achieved by protecting this species is now being reversed by habitat degradation," he said.

Other examples of affected animals included elephants in Mali, lions in the Serengeti and crocodiles in Malawi.

The report said an estimated 20-30 percent of plant and animal species will be at higher risk of extinction due to global warming and a significant proportion of endemic species may become extinct by 2050 as a consequence.

Other consequences could include the spread of invasive species and infectious diseases, it said.

The report urges more focus on restoration of damaged ecosystems, especially those key to tackling climate change such as mangroves, inland waters, forests, savannahs and grasslands.

The FAO also called for the creation of migration corridors for animals in areas where their movement was constrained.

The organisation said while more resources were flowing to biodiversity conservation, more action at the government and policy level was needed.

It also urged local communities to develop projects that mitigate the impact of climate change on wildlife, naming eco-tourism activities as an example.

(Editing by Sophie Hares)

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