Best of our wild blogs: 22 Dec 11

Places - All at Sea

Revisiting Rustic Chek Jawa
from Coolest Insights

Licking good
from The annotated budak

Red Junglefowl Hens’ Plumage
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Yellow Bittern@SBG
from PurpleMangrove

A new, natural venue for water quality monitoring (WQM) - Tampines Eco Green (TEG) from Water Quality in Singapore

New analysis supports claim that paper giant cleared part of its tiger sanctuary in Indonesia from news by Rhett Butler

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Better to be safe than sorry about sharks

Straits Times Forum 22 Dec 11;

SHARKS are caught virtually everywhere and indeed some member countries of the European Union are catching, consuming and trading sharks on a big scale ('They are not endangered; blame Western nations, not Asian tastebuds' by Mr Tan Keng Tat; last Thursday).

While it is true that not all sharks are definitively endangered, it is also true that we cannot be sure they are not, because there is insufficient scientific data on the number of sharks left today.

A high proportion of the species of sharks is listed as data deficient in the 'Red List' of threatened biodiversity compiled by the World Conservation Union.

There is no doubt that there are uncertainties with regard to the current conservation status of sharks.

So, it is better to be safe than sorry. Many shark species are very slow-growing, which means that a sudden drop in numbers can threaten their survival and hinder their chances of survival.

Christina Lee (Ms)
Campaigns Officer
Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres)

Saving sharks: Not wrong to target Asia
Straits Times Forum 23 Dec 11;

MR TAN Keng Tat is wrong about shark-finning practices ('Misconceptions about sharks'; Dec 15).

Only the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) determines risk status - not, as Mr Tan claims, the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

While Cites governs trade protection of species, it is based on the votes of 175 governments, and votes are subject to economic incentives, fin industry lobbyists and regulatory enforcement difficulties. For example, four proposals were introduced last year to list eight IUCN endangered shark species on a Cites global trade treaty, but Japan and China rejected the proposals.

It is not difficult to see why - shark's fin soup is a huge industry in this region. While much of the finning may not take place in Asia, it is to feed a voracious Asian appetite, and longlining is one of the newer tools of the trade.

Thankfully, eight countries signed a declaration in September to create shark sanctuaries in their waters.

Mr Tan compares sharks to frogs and snails, but unlike these animals, sharks cannot be farmed en masse. Sharks reproduce very late and have very few young, making them biologically vulnerable to overfishing.

Many companies are trying to drive change. Singapore's Fairmont Hotel, Cold Storage Singapore and China's Peninsula Hotel Group have removed shark's fin products from their inventory.

Basketball star Yao Ming, owner of the aptly named Shanghai Sharks, is now a WildAid ambassador to raise awareness about this issue.

More than 73 million sharks are killed each year for 5 per cent of their cartilaginous body parts that do not even have a taste. Once we fin these sharks to extinction, our children and grandchildren will inherit an irreversibly damaged marine ecosystem.

Let us support the sharks during the upcoming Chinese New Year, by giving them a holiday from our dining tables, and choosing abalone, fish maw soup or ginseng soup instead.

Dr Juliana Chan

Misconceptions about sharks
They are not endangered; blame Western nations, not Asian tastebuds
Straits Times Forum 15 Dec 11;

THE World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore's claim that more than 180 species of sharks were listed on the endangered list last year has no merit ('Removing shark's fin from the menu'; last Friday).

Last year's United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting in Doha declared that sharks are not an endangered species.

Members of the convention, who represent 175 governments, define an endangered species as one which is threatened with extinction and ban international commercial trade in such species.

The convention did not list any shark species as endangered.

Instead, the convention only sought trade regulation for three (basking shark, great white, and whale shark) out of about 400 species of sharks.

The three are not necessarily threatened with extinction.

Under Singapore's Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act of 2006, the same three species are similarly listed for trade regulation, and not on the list of species that are endangered or threatened with extinction.

Also, proposals to regulate trading of four more shark species at the Doha meeting were rejected.

Trying to stop a traditional culinary practice, especially when sharks are not an endangered species, is culturally insensitive and is bound to fail.

It is like asking the Japanese to give up their tuna sashimi, the French their frogs' legs and snails, Western socialites their caviar canapes or Englishmen their fish and chips, made from millions of pounds of meat from sharks like the porbeagle and the spiny dogfish.

The reality is that the main threats to the sharks are the well-equipped pelagic fisheries of developed nations like Spain, Portugal, France, Britain and the United States, using some 10km of longlines and up to 10,000 hooks.

These large-scale fishing dragnets target the more valuable blue fin tuna and swordfish, but millions of sharks are caught unintentionally and killed instead.

The Singapore chapter of the WWF's mission to save sharks is commendable. But instead of dwelling on polemics, it should campaign for longlines to be banned or regulated globally as this will reduce the bycatch exponentially.

Tan Keng Tat

Only 5 deaths annually, and sharks don't target humans for killing

IN THE article ('Hong Kong's shark's fin traders feel pressure to change';, Nov 28), a Hong Kong seller commented that there were so many sharks that they would kill us if we did not kill them.

It is a common misperception that sharks kill or eat humans. Popular culture has portrayed sharks as mindless man-eating machines that have developed a taste for human flesh, a la the hit movie Jaws.

Although millions of people swim, surf, snorkel and dive in the oceans annually, an average of five people die from shark attacks yearly.

People who are attacked by sharks usually die from blood loss, not because they are eaten. Sharks swim faster and are stronger and bigger than us. If they were out to kill us, diving with sharks would not have been possible, and the fatality rate would far exceed five.

On the other hand, the chances of getting killed by falling coconuts, lightning and bee stings far outnumber shark-induced fatalities.

Sharks play important roles in the marine ecosystem. They weed out the weak, sick and the dead marine life, thus preventing an outbreak of diseases. They improve the gene pool of their prey by leaving the stronger ones behind to reproduce.

As apex predators, their absence will affect the food chain negatively all the way down to marine vegetation and shellfish.

As Chinese New Year looms next month, we will repeat our shark conservation campaign held earlier this year.

We urge consumers to make informed decisions and celebrate the festive season with sustainability in mind.

Most reputable Chinese restaurants can offer ready alternatives to the traditional shark's fin soup for customers.

Jennifer Lee (Ms)
Project: FIN

He'll say it again with facts... Sharks aren't endangered, don't blame Asia
Straits Times Forum 24 Dec 11;

DR JULIANA Chan's claim that more than 73 million sharks are killed each year for 5 per cent of their cartilaginous body parts has no merit ('Saving sharks: Not wrong to target Asia'; yesterday).

Dr Shelly Clarke, whose doctorate is on the topic, estimated that 'as of 2000, the fins of 38 million sharks per year were being traded but that the number could range as low as 26 million or as high as 73 million'.

But she warned that she frequently reads the 73 million figure without any reference to the fact that it was her highest estimate; and almost as often she reads an estimate of 100 million for which she cannot find any scientific basis.

'Even more troubling,' she added, 'some sources quote these figures as the number of sharks killed for their fins. The truth is that no one knows how many sharks are killed for their fins'.

She cautioned that 'exaggeration and hyperbole run the risk of undermining conservation campaigns' and 'selective and slanted use of information devalues and marginalises researchers, who are working hard to impartially present the data'.

The United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), whose members represent 175 governments, is the only global watchdog to regulate trade on endangered species, not the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Cites has not listed any shark species on the endangered list and proposals to regulate trading on a few more species last year in Doha were rejected as they could not garner a two-thirds majority of the democratic votes.

Under the laws of Singapore, Britain, the United States, Japan, China and Malaysia, to name a few, no shark is listed on the endangered list.

Dr Chan's claim that 'longlining is one of the newer tools of the trade' to 'feed a voracious Asian appetite' is rhetoric. Pragmatism dictates that these fisheries target not sharks but more valuable swordfish and giant bluefin tuna.

But sadly, millions of sharks will continue to be caught unintentionally in longlines and killed by the industrial-scale fisheries in the West.

Excoriating Asia will not stop the deadly bycatch; only legislation or regulation will.

Tan Keng Tat

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Take the green lead, Singapore

Republic's initiatives can nudge others towards deeper, binding targets
Grace Chua Straits Times 22 Dec 11;

THE United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa, earlier this month resulted in what some have called 'a plan to make a plan': an agreement for all countries to negotiate a new regime of greenhouse gas emissions cuts by 2015 and have it take effect by 2020.

The current Kyoto Protocol was extended for another five-year commitment period, but it covers only developed nations.

What's a developing country to do in this interim grey area? They could get some pointers from Singapore, perhaps.

Though the island state aligns itself with the Alliance of Small Island States and the developing world Group of 77 (G-77), which want the developed world to bear responsibility for the emissions it put into the atmosphere, it bears characteristics of both developed and developing countries.

Hence, the Republic serves as a model of how a relatively advanced economy could navigate the tricky shoals of climate change.

Singapore has close relationships with both Eastern and Western nations, and Asian countries in particular look to it on many counts. For example, it has collaborated with China on projects like the Suzhou industrial park and a planned eco-city in Tianjin.

But the implication is that serving as a role model means Singapore must shoulder some responsibilities, and tackling climate change is one of those responsibilities it must bear.

Singapore's stance is: It is keen on a binding agreement that all countries adhere to, according to their respective responsibilities and capabilities.

Singapore Environment Council executive director Jose Raymond commented: 'As a small island state, Singapore certainly has a vested interest in a legally binding deal being reached as soon as possible.

'The longer it takes, the greater our vulnerability to climate change, and the greater our investment in mitigation and adaptation measures will be,' he said.

But torn between its twin interests as a small vulnerable island state and an economy that relies on energy-intensive industries such as petroleum refining, it can be a little split personality.

Arguably, it is not absolutely necessary for Singapore to go any greener.

Compare cutting emissions with the case of electricity. Electricity is not subsidised here, to encourage people to use less. But for many residents middle-class and up, electricity is a small proportion of overall costs, compared with the overall benefit they derive from running the air-conditioner and the computer 24/7.

Likewise, Singapore now has such a high gross domestic product - US$43,867 (S$56,800) per capita - that adapting to the impact of climate change would be a small proportion of overall costs, compared with the potential short-term benefit of continuing to produce carbon emissions by encouraging consumption and industrial growth.

At the same time, Singapore is not sitting around waiting for a real deal, so to speak, before it starts cleaning house. In 2009, it announced it would cut emissions by 7 per cent to 11 per cent by 2020 if no global, binding deal was reached, and by 16 per cent if one was.

Already, other emerging economies that have grown very fast in the past few decades - such as South Korea and China - are adopting similar voluntary targets.

Singapore's targets are down from the 'business as usual' case - in other words, if it continued on the growth trajectory it was on. If no changes were made, Singapore was predicted to have reached some 72 million tonnes of emissions by 2020.

It is aware it will have to pay for adaptation measures anyway, and has already raised minimum levels for land reclamation and new building platforms.

But the crux of the matter is that Singapore's current energy demand outstrips its current alternative energy supply.

With constant cloud cover and intermittent wind, Singapore is not able to take full advantage of alternative energy sources like solar and wind power.

So it must rely on energy efficiency to achieve those cuts, and has put a new Energy Conservation Act up for discussion, meant to rein in large energy users. (In fact, this is an important symbolic shift, signifying a willingness to use the law instead of simply offering energy users monetary incentives to improve.)

But energy efficiency goes only so far.

That's why Singapore is genuinely concerned about meeting more stringent binding targets, if in future, all countries must limit their emissions.

Speaking to The Straits Times after the UN talks, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan acknowledged that Singapore might have to purchase carbon offsets one day, depending on how future negotiations go.

Still, Singapore could do more to go green systematically - for example, taxing cars by emissions instead of fuel type, truly supporting the use of public transport and cycling, or offering tax incentives to cleaner and more energy-efficient firms.

That suggests one way to be a role model. The Republic is an emerging economy, which has grown very fast in a few short decades, and countries like China and Thailand are on a similar trajectory (and so are their carbon emissions). While the island state taking the plunge will not transform the world's climate, it can, by its own action yet, nudge such emerging economies towards deeper, binding targets.

This is not to single Singapore out.

Many countries at the negotiations were also loath to commit to internationally binding, absolute targets, even though they had passed domestic legislation to trim emissions.

With its energy performance requirements and green building legislation, Singapore is already on something approaching the right track.

But now it needs to take the lead and make the difficult decision on how much further to go.

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Beach goers urged to look out for anything fishy

Straits Times 22 Dec 11;

POLICE are urging the public to look out for suspicious activities at popular beaches.

Since April, posters have been put up at beaches including Changi Beach and those at East Coast Park, Pasir Ris Park and Admiralty Road West.

A police spokesman said that they plan to put up more posters in other coastal areas frequented by the public.

The orange and blue signs are displayed at beaches in the east and north, which are more open to intrusion from other countries.

They aim to alert the public to activities such as entry by illegal immigrants, the smuggling of goods like contraband cigarettes, and the illegal berthing of boats.

'The police seek the assistance of the members of public to report suspicious activities, such as the unloading of items and persons, along the coastline,' a police spokesman said.

Visitors The Straits Times spoke to at East Coast Park said the posters were prominent and acted as a reminder for them to look out for anything unusual.

However, four out of 10 visitors interviewed did not even notice them until they were pointed out to them.

Some, like Canadian Rosanne Herbert, who has lived here for seven years, were surprised to see them.

'I never thought there would be some kind of danger here, but I would report it if I saw anything unusual,' said the 46-year-old aromatherapist.

The police spokesman said the posters have been effective in heightening public awareness of coastal security issues and educating people on the importance of reporting suspicious activities.

On July 22, for example, a family called police to report suspicious activity they had noticed.

Their nine-year-old son saw people transferring items onto East Coast beach from a boat and the parents called the police.

However, the activities were later verified to be legitimate.

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Supermarts freeze prices of Thai rice

Straits Times 22 Dec 11;

THREE supermarket chains here have promised to freeze the prices of their Thai house-brand rice till the end of February, amid concerns about rising rice prices following floods in Thailand.

The first to announce the decision yesterday was NTUC FairPrice, followed by Giant and Shop N Save in the evening.

FairPrice sells nine types of house-brand rice from Thailand - from basic white rice to the superior Thai Hom Mali variety. The supermarket chain sells 35 types of house-brand rice in all, including varieties from countries such as Cambodia and Australia.

It also announced last month that it is holding the price of its house-brand Vietnamese rice till February. It sells only one type of house-brand rice from Vietnam.

Currently, its most popular type of house-brand Thai rice, Double FP Thai Hom Mali Premium Quality Fragrant Rice, costs $11.45 for a 5kg bag. FairPrice Thai White Rice costs $6.20 for a 5kg bag. Giant and Shop N Save were unable to provide more details.

Mr Seah Kian Peng, FairPrice's chief executive officer (Singapore), said the prices of Thai rice had eased off a bit recently.

'Prices have softened in the past week as the flood situation improves. This has allowed us to hold prices,' he said, adding that he hopes the trend will continue.

'We know many of our customers still love Thai rice, so we are making a commitment to hold prices till after the Chinese New Year celebrations.'

Just last month, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan assured consumers that the floods in Thailand - Asia's 'rice bowl' - would not send rice prices up here.

He cited two reasons: Importers have long-term contracts with their suppliers, and there is a range of sources there.

FairPrice is also able to hold rice prices steady as it has more than three months' worth of rice stockpiled.

Last year, Singapore imported 310,135 tonnes of rice. Some 53 per cent came from Thailand, 26.2 per cent from Vietnam and 13.8 per cent from India. The rest came from countries such as Myanmar, the United States and China.


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Malaysia: Inquest into KL flood prompts new measures

Flooding at main artery raises question over touted drainage tunnel
Hazlin Hassan Straits Times 22 Dec 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: Last week's massive flooding at one of the capital's major arteries, Jalan Tun Razak, has prompted City Hall to launch new flood mitigation measures.

It has also raised a question: Why didn't a RM1.9 billion (S$780 million) flood drainage tunnel prevent the deluge, which caused traffic to come to a standstill for at least two hours in the evening?

The so-called Stormwater Management And Road Tunnel (Smart) was launched with much fanfare in 2007. It was designed to carry traffic on its upper decks on dry days and channel rainwater away from the city during heavy storms.

Last week's flooding enraged thousands of motorists who were trying to get home from work. In an editorial, the usually pro-government The Star newspaper blamed poorly planned new projects constructed along and over the river.

At Monday's Kuala Lumpur City Hall budget meeting, KL Mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail said the city would spend RM85 million on long-term measures to prevent recurrences at Jalan Tun Razak.

This will include RM20 million to divert water from Sungai Bunus, which runs through the area, to the nearby Lake Titiwangsa.

Other parts of the country are also flooding because of the unusually heavy rain. In Johor yesterday, the number of flood victims evacuated to the state's 41 relief centres rose to more than 3,000.

In the last few years, the Smart has been credited with saving KL from major floods.

The Star said in its editorial: 'Motorists were irritated when the tunnel had to be closed to accommodate the draining of rainwater to the retention ponds, but, generally, city folk were impressed.'

Smart officials protested that their tunnel could only do so much.

'The Smart does not cover the whole of KL,' Smart's control centre director Low Koon Sing told The Straits Times. 'The flooding caused by Sungai Bunus is outside the protection of the Smart.'

He added that last Tuesday, the day of the huge floods, the tunnel diverted 1.2 million cu m of rainwater, preventing even worse floods.

That was the day when Sungai Bunus recorded rainfall of 230mm in less than two hours, according to the Drainage and Irrigation Department.

But The Star asked in its editorial: 'Why was this not thought of earlier when billions were being spent on the Smart and the other flood mitigation projects implemented over the years?'

Environmentalist Gurmit Singh, of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia, said poor urban planning and littering were to blame for the floods.

'The drainage system is not well-maintained, and people throw all sorts of things in the drains,' he told The Straits Times. 'That's why flooding is so common in urban areas.'

'The development near Sungai Bunus was allowed up to the point of the river bank, and that may have reduced the capacity of the river,' he added.

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Growing Population Is Seen Taking Its Toll on Indonesia’s Land and Water

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 21 Dec 11;

Population pressure is taking its toll on Indonesia’s already heavily stressed environment, with land degradation and water security the two main concerns, according to the Environment Ministry’s annual review.

The ministry’s 2010 State of the Environment Report, released on Tuesday, covered the topics of water, air and atmosphere, land and forest, coastal and ocean ecosystems, biodiversity, energy, waste and hazardous waste management.

It attributed the increasing number of cases of pollution and environmental degradation to a rapidly growing population, infrastructure development, increasingly consumer-oriented lifestyles, weak enforcement of environmental laws and a lack of officials to enforce them.

“This report is what I like to call a dashboard, an indicator,” Akhmad Fauzi, one of the report’s authors, said at its presentation.

“If you look at a car’s dashboard, you can see the speed, fuel level and other information. It works the same here: The report gives you a snapshot of the state of our environment. It shows you its limits, hence it gives policy makers the data to make decisions based on current conditions.”

The wider picture gleaned from the report, Akhmad said, suggests that the exploitation of the country’s natural resource wealth, which contributes up to 25 percent of state revenue, has resulted in widespread environmental degradation.

Compensating for this damage, he added, will require a massive investment.

The report also highlighted that a growing human population, combined with the inability of the state and private sector to create enough jobs, had led to social and economic problems that in turn were having a direct impact on land and forest degradation.

“The proportion of land in critical condition is increasing, and this means we’re seeing other issues crop up such as water security,” Akhmad said.

“That’s because you need catchment areas to store water, which in our case is forests.”

The report also said there was a higher proportion of critical land in agricultural areas than in forest areas, particularly in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Java, which the authors linked to massive agriculture pressure.

“If planters were not greedy in the economic sense, then there wouldn’t be any problems even if they have large population pressures, as in rural areas,” he said.

“This is different in the big cities, where economic and population pressures are too high, which leads to all these problems.”

Berry Nahdian Furqon, executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), questioned the report’s assertion that population pressure was to blame for putting the environment under strain. He said the exploitation of natural resources to meet growing global demand was a key factor.

“It’s about the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources,” he said. “We extract our own natural resources but they end up being exported, everything from coal, gas, pulp and paper to palm oil.”

He added there also needed to be more stringent enforcement of environmental laws in the future.

“It would be great if everyone was fully aware of environmental issues, but it’ll take a long time to make that happen. So in the meantime, we need to ‘force’ that awareness through strong regulations and strict law enforcement,” he said.

Balthasar Kambuaya, the environment minister, said his ministry was trying to balance the need for environmental stewardship with the need to sustain the country’s economic growth.

“We want achieve 7 percent growth in the GDP [next year], but not at the expense of the destruction of our environment,” he said.

“That’s why all companies need to be diligent about their Amdals [environment impact analysis reports].”

He also urged greater grassroots awareness of the need to restore damaged areas and preserve existing ecosystems throughout the country.

“There are examples at local levels across the country, such as in Surabaya, where residents are to a large extent aware of environmental issues without having to be told about them,” he said.

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China to release six pandas into wild

AFP Yahoo News 21 Dec 11;

Six captive-bred pandas will be freed into an enclosed forest in southwestern China next year in the first mass release of the highly endangered animals, the official Xinhua news agency said Wednesday.

It said the six, aged two to four, had been chosen from 108 captive-bred animals at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, and researchers believed the mass release would increase their chances of survival.

A total of 10 pandas have been individually released since 1983, it said, but only two remain in the wild, with the breeding centre taking six back after they lost weight, one found dead and the other also believed to have died.

Despite three years of preparatory training the confirmed fatality, Xiang Xiang, a five-year-old male, was found dead a year after his 2006 release, following a fight with wild pandas in a remote part of a nature reserve.

"Human-raised pandas have great difficulty surviving in the wild," Xinhua said, citing a statement from the breeding centre.

China engages in "panda diplomacy", using the endangered but iconic bears as diplomatic gifts to other countries, and also runs a lucrative trade hiring the animals out to foreign zoos.

Only around 1,600 remain in the wild in China, with some 300 others in captivity.

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Jaguar Photo Reveals Conservation Success Story Yahoo News 22 Dec 11;

A photo released by a conservation group today (Dec. 21) shows a female jaguar and her two cubs in Bolivia's best-conserved national forest.

The jaguars were photographed near the Isoso Station of the Santa Cruz-Puerto Suarez Gas Pipeline in Kaa Iya National Park in Bolivia. The adult jaguar, nicknamed Kaaiyana, has been seen with her cubs in the area for over a month and has lived near the park for at least six years, according to conservationists with the Wildlife Conservation Society, which releases camera-trap photos on an ongoing basis.

"Kaaiyana's tolerance of observers is a testimony to the absence of hunters in this area, and her success as a mother means there is plenty of food for her and her cubs to eat," said John Polisar, coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society's jaguar conservation program.

The Wildlife Conservation Society has conducted extensive research in the area and estimates that at least 1,000 jaguars live in the Gran Chaco Jaguar Conservation Unit, a 47,000-square-mile (124,000-square-km) area spanning southern Bolivia and northern Paraguay.At more than 13,200 square miles (34,400 square kilometers), Kaa Iya National Park is the largest protected area in Bolivia. The park guards the biggest and best-conserved dry forest in the world. The creation of Kaa Iya in 1995 marked the first time in South America that a protected area was established through the initiative of an indigenous people, the Guaraní-Isoceño.

The Kaa Iya Foundation, supported by the Wildlife Conservation society and private energy companies, surveyed the jaguars in the area. Kaayiana was first seen at the Isoso site in 2005 with male jaguars, and again in 2006 with a cub. The Kaa Iya park guards work to prevent illegal hunting and settlements along the right-of-way to the gas pipeline and ensure the protection of wildlife, including jaguar prey, in the park.

"The photographic histories of jaguars in the area by WCS and the reproductive success of this female are testimony that conservation efforts have been effective," said Julie Kunen, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Latin America and Caribbean Programs.

Jaguar Photo Shows Conservation Success in Bolivia
Wildlife Conservation Society NewsWise 22 Dec 11;

Dramatic Photo Shows Jaguar and Cubs from Bolivia’s Kaa Iya del Gran Chaco National Park

1,000 jaguars live in the vast bi-national Gran Chaco Jaguar Conservation Unit spanning southern Bolivia and northern Paraguay

Newswise — NEW YORK (DATE) – The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) released today a dramatic photo of a female jaguar and her two cubs near the Isoso Station of the Santa Cruz-Puerto Suarez Gas Pipeline in Kaa Iya National Park in Bolivia. The adult jaguar, nicknamed Kaaiyana, has been seen with her cubs in the area for over a month; though WCS conservationists have confirmed she has been a resident in the vicinity for at least six years.

“Kaaiyana’s tolerance of observers is a testimony to the absence of hunters in this area, and her success as a mother means there is plenty of food for her and her cubs to eat,” said Dr. John Polisar, Coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Jaguar Conservation Program.

At more than 13,200 square miles (34,400 square kilometers), Kaa Iya National Park is the largest protected area in Bolivia and safeguards the most expansive and best-conserved dry forest in the world. It is found in a transition zone between Chacoan and Chiquitano dry forest ecosystems and includes unique vegetation and rare wildlife such as giant armadillos, Chacoan titi monkeys, and Chacoan peccaries. The creation of Kaa Iya in 1995 marked the first time in South America that a protected area was established through the initiative of an indigenous group, the Guaraní-Isoceño people.

WCS has conducted extensive research in the area and estimates that at least 1,000 jaguars live in the Gran Chaco Jaguar Conservation Unit, a 47,000 square-mile (124,000 square kilometer) area spanning southern Bolivia and northern Paraguay. With support from the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, WCS is promoting conservation action across the Gran Chaco.

The construction of the 1,900-mile (3,100 kilometer) Bolivia-Brazil gas pipeline that cuts across Kaa Iya National Park and the Isoso indigenous land required developing institutional alliances to minimize environmental impacts. With the participation of private energy companies, which make up Gas TransBoliviano (GTB), as well as the Isoso indigenous organization, and an independent member, the Kaa Iya Foundation was created in 2003 as a mechanism to deliver a match with WCS funds to conduct wildlife research and environmental education in the park, which is funded and managed by the Bolivian government.

Among the research efforts first supported by the foundation were jaguar surveys. Kaayiana was first detected by WCS researcher Dr. Andrew Noss at the Isoso site in 2005 with male jaguars, and again in 2006 with a cub. The Kaa Iya park guards work with GTB personnel to prevent illegal hunting and settlements along the right-of-way to the gas pipeline and ensure the protection of wildlife, including jaguar prey, in the park.

“The photographic histories of jaguars in the area by WCS and the reproductive success of this female are testimony that conservation efforts have been effective,” said Julie Kunen, WCS Director of Latin America and Caribbean Programs.

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