Best of our wild blogs: 12 Dec 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [5 - 11 Dec 2011]
from Green Business Times

Cyrene with Shell volunteers
from wild shores of singapore

Flying snakes
from Life's Indulgences

In the skim of things
from The annotated budak

Want to know more about Raffles Lighthouse?
from Nature Spies

111210 Semakau
from Singapore Nature

Total Lunar Eclipse Dec 10 2011
from Fahrenheit minus 459 and wonderful creations and Singapore Nature and Nature's Wonders

Spotted Box Crab
from Monday Morgue

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Psychedelic gecko, "Elvis" monkey in new Mekong finds

Reuters 12 Dec 11;

Dec 12 (Reuters) - A wildly-coloured gecko, a fish that looks like a gherkin, and a monkey with an Elvis-like hairstyle are among the more than 200 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year, environmental group WWF said on Monday.

The area's diversity is so astonishing that a new species is found every two days, but regional cooperation and decision-making must take centre stage to preserve its richness, the group added.

The dangers posed to local wildlife were highlighted earlier this year, when WWF said that Vietnam's Javan rhinos have been poached into extinction.

"While the 2010 discoveries are new to science, many are already destined for the dinner table, struggling to survive in shrinking habitats and at risk of extinction," said Stuart Chapman, Conservation Director of WWF Greater Mekong, in a statement.

Among the new species highlighted in the report "Wild Mekong" is a gecko with bright orange legs, a yellow neck, and a blue-gray body with yellow bars on its bright orange sides, discovered on an island in southern Vietnam.

Then there is a black and white snub-nosed monkey whose head sports an Elvis-like hairstyle, found in Myanmar's mountainous Kachin state. Locals say the animal can be spotted with its head between its knees in rainy weather as it tries to keep rain from running into its upturned nose.

Other featured creatures among the 208 new finds include a lizard that reproduces via cloning without the need for male lizards, a fish that resembles a gherkin, and five species of carnivorous pitcher plant, some of which lure in and consume rats and even birds.

"Mekong governments have to stop thinking about biodiversity protection as a cost and recognise it as an investment to ensure long-term stability," Chapman said.

"The region's treasure trove of biodiversity will be lost if governments fail to invest in the conservation and maintenance of biodiversity, which is so fundamental to ensuring long-term sustainability in the face of global environmental change."

Despite restrictions, trade in wildlife remains an active threat to a range of endangered animals in the region, with some hunted because body parts -- such as rhinoceros horns -- are coveted ingredients in traditional Asian medicine.

Others, such as Mekong dolphins, face threats from fishing gear such as gill nets and illegal fishing methods, prompting the WWF in August to warn that one dolphin population in the river was at high risk of extinction.

The Greater Mekong region covers Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. (Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)

'Elvis' monkey, psychedelic gecko found in SE Asia
AP Yahoo News 13 Dec 11;

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A psychedelic gecko and a monkey with an "Elvis" hairdo are among 208 new species described last year by scientists in the Mekong River region of Southeast Asia, a conservation group announced Monday.

The animals were discovered in a biodiverse region that is threatened by habitat loss, deforestation, climate change and overdevelopment, the WWF said in a report.

The newly described species include a "psychedelic gecko" in southern Vietnam and a nose-less monkey in a remote province of Myanmar that looks like it wears a pompadour.

"While this species, sporting an Elvis-like hairstyle, is new to science, the local people of Myanmar know it well," the Switzerland-based group said in its report.

The region is home to some of the world's most endangered species, including tigers, Asian elephants, Mekong dolphins and Mekong giant catfish, the group said.

"This is a region of extraordinary richness in terms of biodiversity but also one that is extremely fragile," said Sarah Bladen, communications director for WWF Greater Mekong. "It's losing biodiversity at a tragic rate."

The Mekong flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

In October, WWF announced Vietnam has lost its last Javan rhinoceros, making the 40 to 60 Javan rhinos living in Indonesia the last remaining members of their species.

More Than 200 New Species Discovered in Mekong
WWF 12 Dec 11;

A new monkey, a self-cloning skink, five carnivorous plants, and a unique leaf warbler are among the 208 species newly described by science in the Greater Mekong region in 2010 and highlighted in a new WWF report.

A total of 145 plants, 28 reptiles, 25 fish, 7 amphibians, 2 mammals, and 1 bird were all discovered within the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia that spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan.

At the same time, the Mekong’s wild places and wildlife are under extreme pressure from rapid, unsustainable development and climate change.

Protecting their future

WWF warns the Greater Mekong’s valuable natural assets and species will continue to disappear without accelerated efforts to green the region’s economies. The extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam, recently confirmed by WWF, is a tragic indicator of the decline of biodiversity in the region.

“This report is an affirmation of what we know—that the Greater Mekong offers unparalleled diversity in nature—and what must be done,” said Rebecca Ng of WWF’s Greater Mekong Program. “The rich natural treasures of the region could be lost if regional governments don’t recognize that protecting biodiversity is an investment to ensure long-term sustainability, especially in the face of global environmental change.”

The six leaders from the Greater Mekong Sub-region are meeting in Myanmar from December 19-20. WWF is calling upon them to put the benefits of biodiversity, and the costs of losing it, at the center of decision-making and regional cooperation.

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Malaysia: Terengganu Releases 66,000 Baby Turtles To Sea In 2011

Bernama 11 Dec 11;

KUALA TERENGGANU, Dec 11 (Bernama) -- The Terengganu Fisheries Department has released about 66,000 baby turtles to the sea this year.

Its director Zakaria Ismail said the baby turtles were from a total of almost 100,000 eggs that were incubated by the department between March and November this year.

"Most of the turtle eggs were bought by the department together with the World Wildlife Fund, Terengganu," he said when contacted, adding that the hatching programme was to ensure that turtles in Terengganu would not become extinct in future.

According to him, there were now about 115 turtle egg nests where the eggs had not yet hatched, while the department had nine turtle egg incubation and hatching centres including in the islands of Perhentian, Redang and Kapas.

Zakaria said this year had seen the most number of turtle eggs being incubated with 30,660 in Redang Island, followed by Perhentian and Kemaman district with more than 23,800.

He said the department also carried out a sea terrapin hatching programme, with 1,590 baby terrapins produced this year from the 3,577 eggs incubated, mainly in Setiu.


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Finding Nemo may soon be impossible on the Reef

One in six Nemo characters face extinction
Hunting, fishing greatest threats
Seahorses the most at risk species
Brian Williams The Courier-Mail 11 Dec 11;

ONE in every six species related to characters in the smash hit kids' movie Finding Nemo is threatened with extinction.

Scientists analysed risks faced by Nemo, the charismatic clownfish, and more than 1500 other species related to characters in the 2003 animation.

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Canada's Simon Fraser University scientists, led by Loren McClenachan, found that hunting and fishing posed the greatest threat to their survival.

"Putting Nemo in office aquariums, making soup out of Anchor the shark's fins and selling Sheldon the seahorse as curios has taken a toll," Dr McClenachan said.

"Our research highlights how very little we know about many of these animals.

"It's unthinkable that the characters in Finding Nemo could become extinct, but this is the reality unless we pay more attention to the diversity of marine life."

All species of marine turtles, more than half of all hammerhead sharks, mackerel sharks and eagle rays (all characters in the movie) are threatened.

Seahorses are the most threatened group of bony fish, with two in five species at risk of extinction.

Despite a need for conservation, regulation of trade in endangered marine species is lacking for those with high economic value, like sharks.

Threatened sharks and rays needed protection against international trade, compared with all other groups.

Fewer than one in 10 species of threatened sharks and rays considered in the study is protected by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.

Griffith University research released last week shows protection can work for marine species. Fishermen are reaping the rewards of the Queensland Government putting aside 16 per cent of Moreton Bay in green zones, with scientists finding the protected areas are producing more fish.

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Australia: Protecting biodiversity would limit damage

Nicky Phillips Sydney Morning Herald 12 Dec 11;

THE impact of climate change on Australia's animals and plants could be significantly reduced if other threats to biodiversity are managed, a new report says.

The review, the most detailed scientific paper on the impact of climate change on the region to date, says climate change is unavoidable because global emissions are not yet under control. Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands are particularly vulnerable, it says.

The report's lead author, the conservation biologist Richard Kingsford, said the effects of global warming could be offset by more than half by reducing the impact of feral animals, pollution, habitat loss and other threats to Australia's ecosystems.
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Global warming will have consequences for all plant and animal species, from micro-organisms to large mammals living on land, in freshwater systems and the ocean, said Professor Kingsford, the director of the Australian wetlands and rivers centre at the University of NSW.

The review cites many independent scientific studies that demonstrate the effects of global warming on biodiversity, and its projected impact.

Rising temperatures will exceed some species' tolerance, especially in alpine regions, while increases in fire and drought will alter vegetation, favouring grasslands over trees and woodlands.

Rising sea levels will have a significant impact on low-lying islands, especially in the Pacific, while an increase in ocean acidification will affect marine animals with calcified skeletons.

"Ultimately we are dependent on biodiversity for our livelihood," Professor Kingsford said. "Plants provide the oxygen we need; the water we get from rivers is supported by catchments filled with plants and animals, and most of our food is supported by biodiversity."

Already many changes among animals and plants have been observed, Professor Kingsford said, such as coral bleaching, altered flowering patterns and shifts in the migration times of animals, particularly birds.

The last resort to prevent extinction for some species would mean relocation to a new habitat, he said.

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Brazil's Belo Monte dam better than alternatives: study

AFP Yahoo News 12 Dec 11;

Brazil's Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the heart of the Amazon will have fewer environmental effects than fossil-fuel alternatives and will be cheaper than other renewable energy sources, state media said Sunday.

Agencia Brasil cited a study by Federal University of Rio de Janeiro experts stating that alternatives to the controversial, $11 billion dam "would have bigger environmental impacts or would not have sufficient consistency to meet the anticipated growing demand for electricity in Brazil over the next few years."

"Belo Monte is an efficient project, which must be implemented. Brazil needs energy and any new energy generation has an environmental impact," Professors Nivalde Jose de Castro, Andre Luis da Silva Leite and Guilherme Dantas argued.

"In this study, it is clear that hydro-electricity offers a better cost-benefit in relation to other sources," Castro told Agencia Brasil.

The dam, which would produce more than 11,000 megawatts, or about 11 percent of Brazil's current installed capacity, would be the world's third biggest -- after China's Three Gorges dam and the Itaipu dam on the border of Brazil and Paraguay.

But its construction has been the subject of legal wrangling for decades.

The project also has come under international criticism, including from Oscar-winning movie director James Cameron of "Avatar" fame, who said rainforest indigenous tribes could turn to violence to block its construction.

But President Dilma Rousseff's government said the project should be allowed to go ahead.

The project is expected to employ 20,000 people directly in construction, flood an area of 500 square kilometers (200 square miles) along the Xingu river and displace 16,000 persons.

The government had pledged to minimize the environmental and social impact of the dam and asserted that no traditional indigenous land was to be affected.

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Geo-Engineering: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come?

Deborah Zabarenko PlanetArk 12 Dec 11

The mainstream approach to climate change does not seem to be working so some scientists and policymakers say it may be time to look into something completely different: re-engineering Earth's climate.

Variously called geo-engineering, climate remediation and planet hacking, the idea is to do on purpose what industry and other human activities have done inadvertently, which is to change the amount of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and as a result, cool it down.

The concept has been around for nearly a century, from about the same time scientists and engineers noted the warming effect carbon dioxide emissions had on climate. Until quite recently, the notion has been relegated to the fringes of debate. Global climate talks have focused instead on curbing future emissions of greenhouse gases, known as mitigation.

But in the lead-up to the latest round of U.N. climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, there have been serious examinations of what it might take to start countering the effects of increasing carbon dioxide in the air.

The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank that takes on the kind of gnarly issues most other organizations will not touch, released a national strategic plan on "the potential effectiveness, feasibility and consequences of climate remediation techniques" in October.


Harvard University offered a discussion paper in November on how climate engineering might be governed. Its author, Daniel Bodansky of Arizona State University, started with a question that sums up how some skeptics feel about the United Nations' tactics to curb climate change:

"How much are we willing to bet that countries will succeed in preventing dangerous climate change by cutting their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases?"

The unspoken answer is, not much. So exploring research into geo-engineering may make sense, the author argues.

In research published in October in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, climate experts used computer models to determine what type of tests might work in the future to figure out geo-engineering's risks and effectiveness.

Geo-engineering refers to either keeping warmth from getting into the atmosphere by cutting down on sunlight, or taking climate-warming carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Solar radiation management might be accomplished by whitening the clouds to make them reflect more sunlight, injecting sulfur aerosol particles to do roughly the same thing, or using space-based methods.

Carbon dioxide removal could be done by sucking it out of the air with structures called mechanical trees, by fertilizing the deep ocean with it, or through a process called enhanced weathering. This involves digging up rocks that absorb carbon dioxide, pulverizing them and spreading them around.


The prospect sends a chill through scientists and policymakers because:

* It could be implemented unilaterally but could have global effects;

* Once in place, solar radiation management would have to be kept up for centuries;

* Even if it worked as designed, it would not reverse the effects of climate change, and might discourage efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or adapt to a warmer world;

* The potential for unintended consequences is considerable.

However frightening this may be, it is important to know what geo-engineering might do, said Steve Hamburg, chief scientist at Environmental Defense Fund and co-chair of the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative.

"I would no way go close to even saying we have a conversation about deploying it," Hamburg said by telephone. "But we won't be able to ensure that someone doesn't take action ... We could easily come to a climate tipping point, some kind of climate surprise, unprepared, without the information to make an informed decision about what our options are. That's the most scary thing."


Ken Caldeira, a climate expert at the Carnegie Institution for Science, also has urged examining what could be learned from computer models and other tests.

He discounted concerns that go-it-alone actors might deploy geo-engineering techniques but he did not think international treaties would prevent a leader from using geo-engineering if the leader's political survival demanded it.

Caldeira said "a wise and gradual deployment" of geo-engineering could cut the risk from greenhouse gas emissions but "given the large potential for political and military conflict resulting from a geo-engineering deployment," he reckoned it might not be worth the risk.

Eli Kintisch, who literally wrote the book on this subject, titled "Hack the Planet," suggests this may be a bad idea whose time has come because doing nothing is untenable.

Instead of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the two decades since the 1992 U.N. Earth Summit in Rio, they have risen 49 percent. U.N. negotiations this week aimed at mitigating global warming are unlikely to reach a deal to do that anytime soon.

"It's a combination of caution, fear and curiosity that's driving scientists to explore a field which five years ago was really off the radar for mainstream climate scientists," Kintisch said by telephone.

Caldeira, emailing from a research site on One Tree Island off the Australian coast, offered a blunt assessment on geo-engineering: "I think we should all stop worrying about this and spend this time thinking about how we might reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

(Editing by Bill Trott)

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