Best of our wild blogs: 17 Dec 11

Why Supporters of The Green Corridor Should Support Bukit Brown Too from AsiaIsGreen

Common Flameback attacking own reflection
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Question on phytoremediation
from Water Quality in Singapore

Reflections by Jessie
from Senior High Student Council EXCEL Exposure and Reflections by Alvin and Wen Xin

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Malaysia: Plastic litter killing crocs in reptile park

Hariz Mohd New Straits Times 16 Dec 11;

MALACCA: More than 50 crocodiles at the Crocodile and Recreation Park in Ayer Keroh here have died from eating non-digestible materials thrown by visitors.

This has cost the park an estimated RM150,000 since it was opened in 1987.

Park supervisor Amran Ahmad said the cold-blooded reptiles were tough, but not when it came to swallowing non-digestible stuff, especially plastic bags.

"Since I started working here in 1989, more than 50 crocodiles of various species have died.

"In most cases, post-mortems revealed that the reptiles had died of severe lung inflammation, which was caused by consumption of plastic bags," he told the New Straits Times at the park yesterday.

Amran said in several cases, plastic bags were found in the stomach of dead crocodiles.

"We have come across a lot of rubbish being thrown by visitors... food containers, water bottles, plastic bags, clothing, slippers and even diapers. The more visitors we have, the more rubbish we would collect in the pools at the end of the day.

"From our experience, visitors would usually throw things into the pool to make the crocodiles move as they lie motionless."

He said visitors continued to throw litter at the reptiles despite the presence of signboards warning them not to do so.

"There is not much we can do to prevent this as we cannot issue fines or take any action against the errant visitors. What we can do is only to advise them.

"To lessen the problem, we will now explain to the visitors that crocodiles are not always lively.

"And there are also staff given the task to help urge the crocodiles to move so that visitors would not throw things at them."

The park's zoology officer, Siti Nabila Abdul Karim, said crocodiles normally did not die instantly after consuming the rubbish, as health complications could take up to several years and cause a slow and painful death.

"Non-digestible products like plastic bags will cause digestion problems to the reptiles. When this happens, the crocodiles would start to lose their appetite and weight.

"We can only try to help them to eat more, including giving supplements. We cannot conduct surgery on crocodiles as there is no anaesthetic for these reptiles," she said.

The park receives about 200,000 visitors every year, with up to 2,500 visitors per day during school and public holidays.

Visitor Badrul Hisyam Ishak, 33, who went to the park with his wife and two sons, said he was shocked when told that crocodiles could die from swallowing plastic bags.

"I never knew that. When we were visiting the pools, I saw litter like water bottles and food containers in them." Reporting by Hariz Mohd

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Aceh mangroves 'offered little tsunami protection' in 2004

Prime Sarmiento SciDev 16 Dec 11;

[MANILA] Coastal vegetation offered little protection against the 2004 tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia, according to a "seminal" contribution to the debate about mangroves and tidal waves.

There has been much debate about whether coastal forests can cut the impact of tsunamis. For example, following the tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean in December 2004, early assessments indicated that areas with dense mangroves had suffered fewer casualties and less property damage.

However, scientists have criticised planting mangroves as 'bioshields', saying they destroy natural ecosystems and there is little evidence that they protect against tsunamis.

In the new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month (15 November), researchers from Germany and Indonesia collected data from the coastlines of Aceh, the Indonesian province severely affected by the 2004 tsunami. The area has dense tree cover, including mangroves, which was expected to serve as a bioshield.

The researchers found that coastal vegetation reduced the number of human casualties by three to eight per cent. But vegetation situated behind villages had the opposite effect — increasing the number of casualties by up to six per cent, possibly because people were swept against the trees by waves.

Furthermore, even coastal vegetation could do nothing to protect people against extreme wave height, they say.

"For sustainable and effective coastal risk management, location of settlements is essential, while coastal vegetation should be regarded as an important livelihood provider rather than just as a bioshield," the researchers noted.

Sonya Dewi, head of the spatial analysis unit at the World Agroforestry Centre's South-East Asia regional office, and one of the study authors, told SciDev.Net that they focused on "understanding the tree cover's mixed role in managing risks" and not just the effectiveness of mangroves in helping communities survive a tsunami.

To protect against a tsunami, she suggested that "settlements should be sufficiently far from the coastline while maintaining coastal vegetation" and escape routes to the closest, highest point should be maintained.

"We hypothesise that with less extreme wave height the positive effect of coastal vegetation will be more significant, but similar studies should be conducted to test this," Dewi said.

In an accompanying commentary, Roland Cochard of the Institute of Integrative Biology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, hailed the study as "seminal" and said it had "a remarkable set of data".

"To date, few studies focusing on bioshields have convincingly taken account of wave variability caused by [tsunamis]; conclusions regarding the role of vegetation have, therefore, tended to reflect personal bias … In contrast, [this] work … controls the overriding off-shore effects by selecting a fairly uniform, flat sedimented (without coral reefs) coastline."

But Jurgenne Primavera, manager of the Community-Based Mangrove Rehabilitation Project in the Philippines — which is building a greenbelt along the Philippine coastlines — said that mangroves "are the first defence against rising waves so that you can do an upland retreat".

Link to full paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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Malaysia: Stamping out logging menace

Punitha Kumar New Straits Times 16 Dec 11;

THE number of illegal logging cases nationwide has been on the decline since 2006 as the Forestry Department moves with the times in its bid to arrest illegal loggers and prevent forest encroachment.

Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department enforcement director Zahari Ibrahim said there were 54 cases last year, and as of this October, only 17 cases were reported, including illegal felling in both forest reserves and government land.

"The enforcement division has cracked down on illegal logging activities and loggers are wary of continuing this illicit business.

"Today, the percentage of illegal logs going out of the forests is an insignificant 0.01 per cent."

Zahari said rapid technological growth contributed in the decline with the use of remote sensing technology and geographic information systems (GIS).

Apart from that, regular monitoring and reporting activities through frequent patrolling were also conducted.

Other measures included:

- a Forest Checking Station that recorded on all trees felled and removed;

- checking of all logs transported out of licensed logging areas;

- dimensions of logs measured and entered into Tree Tagging Record; and,

- proper issuance of Removal Passes to transport logs by a designated and authorised forest officer.

Between Jan 1, 2006 and October this year, the department reported 152 illegal activities in forest reserves and 63 cases in government lands.

Pahang reported the highest number of cases (75) but Perlis and Penang reported zero illegal logging since 2006.

He said the effectiveness of the department's enforcement activities had been enhanced with the recruitment of 62 more officers and the establishment of its new Legal Affairs and Prosecution Division.

Sarawak Forestry Department managing director Ali Yusop said the number of illegal logging cases there had dropped tremendously with 51 cases in 2007 and as of this October, only 10 cases reported.

"In 2009, there were 41 cases but last year the numbers dropped to only 14 and this is due to effective enforcement."

The Sabah Forestry Department also reported a steady decline of illegal logging cases since 2006.

Its enforcement and investigation division head Joseph Vun said both forest reserves and state lands had seen a steady decline over the past five years.

He said as of this November, there were only seven cases reported for forest reserves and 14 for state lands. This was compared with five years ago, when there were 31 cases in forest reserves and 37 on state land.

If found guilty, illegal loggers are liable to a fine not exceeding RM500,000 and to a jail term of not less than a year and not exceeding 20 years.

Vun added sustainable forest management included proper tree felling according to forestry rules and strict licensing by the government.

It was reported recently that the Forestry Department was testing a new device which uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to curb illegal logging.

The German devices are tags individually fitted to trees to record legally-felled trees.

RFID tracked log movement from tree felling till deployment at a saw mill.

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Malaysia: Seven Indonesians Nabbed, Thousands Of Mangrove Logs Seized

Bernama 16 Dec 11;

JOHOR BAHARU, Dec 16 (Bernama) -- Seven Indonesian illegal immigrants have been detained by the authorities in connection with the seizure of thousands of mangrove logs retrieved from illegally-felled trees in Kota Tinggi.

The suspects were working as lumberjacks in the vicinity of Sungai Pacat in Tanjung Belungkor when they were nabbed in an integrated operation about 5pm yesterday.

Two chain-saws, three-blade hand-saw and an axe, among others, were seized from the foreigners in the operation which involved various government enforcement agencies, including the state Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Marine Operations Force investigating officer Inspector Mohamad Azam Mohamad Shahal said today, initial investigations revealed the suspects, aged between 23 and 40, had worked for the past 20 days without a permit.

"We found thousands of mangrove logs which were ready for collection by a group which was expected to arrive at Sungai Pacat," he said, adding that the case was referred to the state forestry department.


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