Best of our wild blogs: 27 Dec 11

Fun new sightings at Tanah Merah
from wild shores of singapore

Ribbons: Terrestrial Nemerteans of Singapore
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

eagle clip 1 - nest landing with food @ Paris Ris
from sgbeachbum

Life in wastelands
from Urban Forest

Up Close with a Bird Dung Crab Spider
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Nature Society (Singapore)’s position paper on Bukit Brown Cemetery now available
from Green Drinks Singapore

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Dutch Unveil Latest Plan in War Against the Sea: a Massive Sandbar

Nicolas Delaunay AFP Jakarta Globe 26 Dec 11;

Kijkduin, Netherlands. In its age-old war to keep back the sea, low-lying Netherlands has dumped sand onto a surface larger than 200 football fields just off the coast — and will wait for nature to do the rest.

The wind, waves and ocean currents are the next “engineers” in this innovative project that will see the transferred sand — all 20 million cubic meters of it — driven landward to form a natural barrier against the North Sea’s relentless onslaught. The elements have started moving the tip of the bar, which already almost touches land at low tide.

Over a period of 15 to 20 years, the sand will wash toward the coast, reinforcing beaches and existing sand dunes that help protect the Netherlands, more than a quarter of which lies below sea level.

“Under natural circumstances, the Dutch coast would erode away slowly,” said Leo Linnartz, an ecology expert who advised the project’s developers on behalf of the World Wide Fund for Nature. Without reinforcing fragile shores, floods would eventually be inevitable, he said.

Over the decades, the Dutch have developed world-renowned expertise in the field of hydro-engineering, notably in constructing dams, dikes and bridges.

Around 17,500 kilometers of embankment have already been built along its coast and rivers.

The new project was conceived by a group of experts commissioned by the Dutch government to help solve the country’s ongoing headache. It used dredgers to suck up ocean-floor sand 10 kilometers off the coast then dump it closer to land. Some of the huge machines were able to carry as much as 10,000 cubic meters of sand at one time.

If the experiment works, the sandbar project, situated between the seaside suburbs of Kijkduin and Ter Heijde near The Hague, will be replicated elsewhere in the country. And the system could even be exported.

“We used to do it in such a way that we used a lot of stones and concrete and things like that,” said Linnartz. “But nowadays we prefer to work together with nature, to cooperate with natural forces.”

The idea of strengthening the coastline with sand is not new, Linnartz said. But placing it off the coast and allowing nature to take its course is not only a fresh approach to the problem but less harmful to the environment than simply dumping more sand on the dunes, he said.

While traditional shoring up happens around every five years, the new plan based on the sand’s natural movement will last 15 to 20 years.

Agence France-Presse

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Malaysia: Floods force evacuation of almost 3,000 in four states

The Star/Asia News Network AsiaOne 26 Dec 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: More people have been evacuated due to floods in Johor, Pahang and Sabah, while Sarawak was hit by floods Sunday night.

The total number of evacuees as at 10am Monday was 2,734, of whom 1,437 were in Johor, 946 in Pahang and 351 in Sabah. Seven families have been moved out in Sarawak.

In Johor, 300 more people were evacuated overnight to bring the total to 1,437.

The National Security Council portal reported that evacuees were being accommodated at 25 relief centres, 12 of them in Segamat, seven in Mersing and six in Batu Pahat.

It reported that the earth road leading to the Orang Asli village of Peta in the Endau-Rompin National Park was reportedly submerged by floods and the settlement can be reached only by boat or air.

According to the portal of the Drainage and Irrigation Department, the levels of two rivers remain above the danger point. The level of Sungai Muar in Bukit Kepong is 3.34m and in Buloh Kasap, Segamat, 9.47m.

The levels of rivers in other places are above the warning point, namely Sungai Bekok at the Bekok Dam in Batu Pahat (17.04m), Sungai Muar in Kampung Awat, Segamat (19.92m), Sungai Simpang Kiri in Seri Medan, Batu Pahat (2.19m), Sungai Senggarang, Batu Pahat (3.28m) and Sungai Lenik in Chaah Estate, Batu Pahat (5.60m).

In Pahang, the number of evacuees in the Rompin district rose to 946 from 618 overnight, according to a spokesman of the Pahang Police Flood Operations Room.

He said one more relief centre was opened Sunday night at SK Sarang Tiong, to house 137 evacuees, raising the number of relief centres to five.

"Some 422 evacuees are accommodated at SK Pianggu, 247 at the Teluk Gading hall, 119 at the Bukit Serok centre (119) and 21 at the Kampung Rekoh community hall," he said, adding that all the evacuees were from 13 villages in the district.

The spokesman also said the severed road link to the Mentelong and Denai villages was restored late Sunday evening.

In Sabah, the number of evacuees from Kampung Gum Gum in Sandakan rose to 351 from 341 overnight, said a spokesman of the Sandakan Municipal Council flood operations centre.

He said two more families were moved out after it was feared that their houses would be flooded at any time.

All the evacuees are being housed at the Gum Gum multi-purpose hall at Batu 16, he said.

The spokesman said the Sandakan district was experiencing intermittent to heavy rain.

In Sarawak, seven families were evacuated after several low-lying areas in the Samarahan Division were hit by floods Sunday night, after heavy rain over the past two days and very high tides, said a spokesman of the state operations room.

He said the two affected villages were Kampung Asajaya Hulu and Kampung Serpan Ulu.

"According to a report of the Samarahan district office, seven families have been moved out of their homes," he said.

He also said people in other low-lying areas have been advised to evacuate if the floodwaters continued to rise.

Several village roads were flooded Sunday night but major roads were passable to traffic, he added

More evacuated due to floods
The Star 27 Dec 11;

PETALING JAYA: More people have been evacuated due to floods in Johor, Pahang and Sabah.

In JOHOR, the flood situation in several districts saw 1,236 victims from 313 families being housed at 19 flood-relief centres.

As at 4pm, Mersing still has the highest number of evacuees with 679 victims, followed by Segamat (388) and Batu Pahat (151).

However, the flood relief centres in Pontian and Kluang have been closed as at 12pm and 2pm respectively, on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the National Security Council portal reported that the earth road leading to the orang asli village of Peta in Endau-Rompin National Park is still under water and the settlement can be reached only by boat or plane.

In PAHANG, the number of evacuees in the Rompin district has risen to 946 from 618 overnight, according to a spokesman from the state police flood operations room.

He said one more relief centre was opened last night at SK Sarang Tiong to house 137 evacuees, raising the number of relief centres to five.

“Some 422 evacuees are being put up at SK Pianggu, 247 at the Teluk Gading hall, 119 at the Bukit Serok centre and 21 at the Kampung Rekoh community hall,” he added.

In SABAH, the number of evacuees from Kampung Gum Gum in Sandakan rose to 351 yesterday morning from 341 on Sunday night, said a spokesman from the Sandakan Municipal Council flood operations centre.

All the evacuees are being housed at the Gum Gum multipurpose hall at Batu 16, he said.

In KELANTAN, 40 families from six villages living along the coastal areas of Bachok were forced to keep awake for more than eight hours on Sunday night due to high tides, strong winds and huge waves, Bernama reported.

Residents of Kampung Pantai Damak, Kampung Perupuk, Kampung Kubang Golok, Bachok old city near Pantai Irama, Kampung Tok Burung and Kampung Tanjung Chat said their houses were submerged in 0.2m to 0.4m of sea water.

3,800 flee flood-hit homes in Malaysia
Straits Times 27 Dec 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: Floods forced some 3,800 people to flee their homes in parts of Malaysia yesterday, as the country continued its battle against the year-end monsoon rain.

The authorities said that 1,236 evacuees were from the southern state of Johor, 625 were from Pahang, and 351 were from the East Malaysian state of Sabah.

About 1,600 people in Sarawak were also moved out yesterday after floods struck on Sunday night.

The National Security Council said the evacuees in Johor had been given shelter at 18 relief centres.

The council reported that the earth road leading to the orang asli village of Peta in the Endau-Rompin National Park - where 21 Singaporean tourists were trapped and rescued last week - had been submerged by floods.

By late afternoon yesterday, some rivers in Johor had reportedly breached their danger points.

Malaysia has been bracing itself for the north-east monsoon, which was expected to cause heavy rainfall across the country from last month.

Since early this month, floods have caused massive traffic jams in Kuala Lumpur. Up north in Kelantan, at least seven flood deaths have been reported since last month.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, more bodies have washed ashore after tropical storm Washi sent torrents of water, mud and logs cascading through riverside and coastal villages on Mindanao island in the middle of this month.

Fishermen joined Philippine navy sailors, police and firefighters in an ever wider search for bodies from entire villages swept away in one of the country's worst natural disasters.

The storm destroyed more than 10,000 houses and displaced more than 300,000 people who are now mostly in emergency shelters.

Nearly 1,100 had been reported missing, officials said yesterday. The death toll as of yesterday stood at 1,249, with about two-thirds of the bodies unidentified.

With more bodies found floating farther away, Office of Civil Defence head Benito Ramos said the authorities sought the help of fishermen to scour the sea.

'We've stopped counting the missing. There are no accurate figures,' he said. 'Those recovered, we don't know who they are. We have a system in place so that families can claim them later, based on fingerprints and dental records.'

President Benigno Aquino, who banned logging in February following previous flooding deaths that experts say were caused partly by deforestation and soil erosion, has ordered an investigation.


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Malaysia: Racing against time to build seawall

New Straits Times 27 Dec 11;

TERENGGANU: The adage "time and tide wait for no man" took on a literal twist for construction workers building a sea wall at Kampung Tok Jembal, near here, as unusually high tide and strong waves are expected to last until Thursday.

The sound of earth-movers working until late at night at the beach could hardly be heard against the loud crashing of waves on the rock barrier that they were building.

The weather forecast on the Meteorological Department website showed that waves of between 5.5 to 7.5 metres high, accompanied by winds of between 60 to 70 kilometre per hour, would continue to lash the Terengganu coastal area until Thursday.

On Nov 29, the New Straits Times reported that erosion caused by strong waves at the beach had caused four gazebos and several casuarina trees to plunge into the sea.

Terengganu Drainage and Irrigation Department director Mat Hussin Ghani said the effect of strong waves and high winds was made worse by the unusually high tide which started last Friday.

"On Sunday, the high tide which occurred between 9pm to 11pm reached 2.9 metres and the phenomenon will probably continue until today," said Mat Hussin when contacted yesterday.

Mat Hussin said the high water level could cause serious damage even without the strong waves.

"When the high tide occurs together with waves of over three metres, they generate a phenomenal force that may well reach further ashore."

He said the state government had given instructions to expedite the construction of the 450m stretch of the two-metre-high embankment costing RM2.5 million in view of the severe weather.

"The construction company is working until late at night to complete the embankment. However, we also have to acknowledge that we cannot really fight the forces of nature. We can only minimise the damage."

Mat Hussin advised fishermen to haul their boats further inland to avoid them being carried away or damaged by the strong waves that are expected to hit the coast.

"Parents should also prevent their children from swimming in the sea to prevent any untoward incident."

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Thailand: Waves wreak more havoc on southern coast

500 homes hit by flash floods in Phatthalung
Bangkok Post 27 Dec 11;

Strong waves and heavy downpours yesterday continued to lash the South, while the government and the army have accelerated assistance to help affected residents in six coastal provinces along the Gulf of Thailand.

Powerful winds and waves continued to pound several areas in Surat Thani province. Authorities built a sea wall stretching some 15-20km around Ban Pod beach in Don Sak district to protect the coastal area from the waves. However, ferocious waves damaged several sections of a road and bridges in the area.

Authorities yesterday warned residents living in Tha Chana, Chaiya, Tha Chang and Kanchanadit coastal districts to stay alert. Small fishing boats were told not to leave shore because of strong winds and high waves.

Many foreign tourists have flocked to the popular islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan islands for Christmas celebrations. But the celebrations were muted as red flags were raised at some sections of beaches.

In Phatthalung, heavy rains continued to ravage Kong Ra, Si Nakharin, Si Banphot, Khuan Khanun and Muang districts yesterday. Khuan Khanun was the worst hit as flash floods and forest runoff from the Banthad mountain range flooded over 500 households. Many houses were flooded to levels of 50-60cm. Rubber plantations, rice fields and roads were damaged by the flooding.

Phatthalung's disaster prevention and mitigation office yesterday warned residents living at the foot of mountains and low-lying areas to brace for possible flash floods, forest runoff and mudslides.

Wanchai Sakudomchai, director of the meteorology centre for the eastern South, yesterday forecast waves of up to 2 metres, from today until Saturday, in provinces along the Gulf of Thailand. There would be waves of 2-3 metres from Nakhon Si Thammarat down during this period, he said.

The Emergency Operations Centre for Floods, Storms and Landslides yesterday reported that six central provinces still remain flooded in parts. The provinces include Ayutthaya, Lop Buri, Nakhon Pathom, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi and Bangkok.

The floods that hit the North and Central regions have claimed 752 lives and three people are still missing. More than 1.5 million households with some 4 million people were affected, said the centre.

In the South, eight provinces _ Phatthalung, Trang, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Songkhla,Yala and Pattani _ have been declared disaster zones as floods and other natural disasters have affected 147,092 households with 472,227 people. More than 100,000 rai of agricultural areas were damaged. So far, 10 people have been killed in the natural disasters that struck the South.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday said she has assigned Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit to accelerate assistance to affected residents in six coastal provinces hit by strong waves.

She instructed governors in the six provinces to use reserve funds to provide relief assistance to residents affected by the waves.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said the army has coordinated with relevant agencies to provide assistance to affected residents in the six provinces along the Gulf of Thailand. He also warned residents and fishermen to closely monitor the weather before going to sea.

In Prachuap Khiri Khan, waves of up to four metres yesterday eroded about one kilometre of the coastline at Thung Pradu coastal village in Thap Sakae district. The waves also damaged several houses and shops.

Deputy Prachuap Khiri Khan governor Apinand Chantharangsi said the province yesterday declared Hua Hin, Sam Roi Yot, Kui Buri and Thap Sakae districts disaster areas.

An initial survey found more than 500 households have been affected by strong waves, Mr Apinand said.

He has asked officials to provide assistance to affected residents. Strong winds have hampered relief work, he conceded.

Mrs Somprapa Morakarn, chairwoman of the shop operators club of Hua Hin, said waves that hit the beach town yesterday morning washed away some shops and stalls. Many shop owners and staff fled as the waves hit, she said.

Athikul Budying, deputy mayor of Hua Hin municipality, yesterday ordered municipal officials to survey damage caused by the waves and help people move their belongings to higher ground. Tourists and residents were told not to swim in the sea.

In Chumphon, high waves and strong winds continued to affect several coastal areas, while officials were sent to survey areas damaged by the waves.

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Thailand seeks flood prevention plan as Bangkok clean-up operation continues

Authorities urged to tackle urban planning issues amid concerns climate change puts Thai capital at risk of more frequent flooding
Jonathan Watts 26 Dec 11;

Now the car parks have been cleared of crocodiles and the store room emptied of cobras, the managers at one of Thailand's biggest electronics companies have begun reclaiming their factory from Bangkok's worst flood in a century and wondering what more they can do to prevent the climate wreaking similar havoc in the future.

Cleaners scrub the floor with chemical cleaning agents, workers rip mouldy tiles from the ceilings and engineers try to salvage what equipment they can at the Hana Microelectronics factory.

Production is expected to resume any day. But it will not be business as usual for many months, if ever. Looming over this clean-up operation – like countless others in homes, businesses and government offices in the Thai capital – is a concern that such disasters will strike with more frequency in the future unless the human flaws and climate risks are addressed more seriously.

"The big question from our customers is: 'Will it flood again?'" said Worawit Sriburanasorn, a senior manager at Hana who fought the waters with diesel pumps and protective walls.

It is a question on many minds as Thai policymakers consider issues that are likely to affect other countries in the future: whether to build stronger defences, move to higher ground or otherwise adapt to the risks posed by political mismanagement and a changing climate.

"We are on the frontline of climate change. As we see rising temperatures, more rain and a higher sea level, Bangkok will be very vulnerable," said Seree Supratid, a professor at Rangsit University and government adviser.

"In the talks in Cancun and Durban, they just talk about reducing greenhouse gases, but the disasters are already here. We should shift the emphasis from mitigation to adaptation."

Almost five months have passed since the flooding began in the northern hills of Thailand and then spread slowly down through the central plains to inundate swaths of Bangkok, killing more than 500 people, affecting 12 million others and disrupting business at some of the planet's biggest industrial parks. The World Bank estimates the damage at 1.4tn baht (£29bn), making it one of the costliest disasters in human history.

The stories from the flood are still emerging. Among the most dramatic is that of Hana Microelectronics, which is a key supplier of sensors and chips for Apple's iPhone and also makes widgets, smart-card readers and touch pads for Samsung, Texas Instruments and Motorola.

When its Ayutthaya plant was deluged, the discovery of two crocodiles in the car park and a cobra in a store room disconcerted the staff, but the potential disruption to production caused global consternation. Apple was so worried that it offered helicopters to airlift the 100m chips inside.

The government dispatched the Thai navy to ferry 450 pieces of heavy machinery to an alternative factory so that manufacturing could resume. Even so, there was a gap of about two weeks.

Richard Han, the chief executive officer, estimated the damage to his plants and equipment at more than $30m (£19m). Lost business could cost three times as much again.

"Most of my customers will come back but they won't bring all their business back," he said. He too will move some production to an expanded operation in China to hedge against future floods.

"One thing we know is that unprecedented weather events are now happening on a regular basis. Add to that gross mismanagement and a lack of infrastructure and it is clear that the government are going to have to prepare better," he said. "My big worry is that insurers may not accept flood insurance any more. That could be a trigger for the Thai government to step in. If not, we'd have to build up reserves and self insure."

Elsewhere, several districts were still underwater as the end of the year approached. Near Don Muang airport, the motorway resembled a river with trucks, buses and jeeps leaving a wake behind them as they slowly navigated through the water.

On Buddhamonthon Road in West Bangkok, people were camping on bridges with their belongings stacked under tarpaulin. Some had lost everything. Uthai Muangpor was wading in a waist-deep pool that had once been the hospital car park where she ran a grilled banana kiosk. "I'm looking for my stove and pans," she said. "When the flood come, everything I owned floated away. I didn't have any valuables. But now even my clothes and mattress are gone."

The extent to which climate change is to blame is hard to quantify. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says Bangkok is one of the most vulnerable cities in the world because it sits on a flood plain and has been periodically inundated for centuries. It also suffers from severe subsidence and is at long-term risk from rising sea levels.

Scientists estimate that for each degree of warming, the amount of moisture in the air increases by 7%. This year is on course to be the wettest on record, according to the Met Office, which says 1,822mm of rain fell in the first nine months.

But even the most ardent campaigners for climate action acknowledge that the government must take the bulk of the responsibility. "The blame for the floods is 30% with nature and 70% with the mismanagement of the authorities," said Srisuwan Janya, a lawyer and founder of the Stop Global Warming Association. "The government responded too slowly and made errors. It need not have been this bad."

He said upstream dams did not release water early enough in the monsoon season so they had insufficient capacity to contain the huge volumes of rainwater that fell later. One of the three main flood channels running from the north to the south was shut off, adding to the pressure on the remaining two. As the water surged southward, Bangkok found itself more vulnerable than in the past because hundreds of its canals have been blocked up over decades of poorly regulated development. Political leaders then made matters worse by placing too high a priority on the city centre, which was kept dry at the expense of deeper water elsewhere.

The erratic climate may have confused decision makers.

At the start of the year, the primary concern was drought because the dry season in 2010 had been unusually severe. As a result, dam managers retained water in upstream reservoirs even after the first big rainfall in March, which was three times more than the average in northern Thailand. Faced by these extremes, it was difficult for dam managers to make judgments based on previous weather patterns. This is a key lesson of the flood.

"The difficulty of projecting droughts and floods will increase for sure," said Gernot Laganda, a climate specialist at the United Nations Development Program office in Bangkok. "We cannot rely on historic experience in managing these hazards. The world is not the same any more. Just because this is a once-in-a-century flood, we shouldn't assume that there won't be another like it for 100 years."

Faced by an increasingly "vicious interplay of prolonged droughts and fiercer bursts of rain", Laganda says it will be important to build strong monitoring systems and to start building climate flexible systems. Instead of building high walls and river defences today, he says it makes more sense to strengthen the foundations of existing structures so they can be raised as and when risks become more apparent.

The Bangkok governor, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, said the city needed to learn from the disaster. "It's a wake up call. We need to take a hard look at the problems that may arise from climate change and take a long-term perspective on how to deal with them." He has proposed more investment in flood mitigation and prevention, namely construction of more retention ponds, drainage tunnels and pumping stations. "It will cost a lot of money. But I don't think there is any other way unless we change our conceptual approach and allow some areas to be flooded during the flood season."

While a warming planet is part of the backdrop, engineers fear that it may be a distraction from the more pressing concerns of urban planning, erosion and sedimentation.

A debate is under way. Surajit Chirawate, who sits on the senate environment committee, says the government is making a mistake by relying on walls to deal with future floods. He believes Bangkok should be downsized and government offices should be relocated to higher ground. "People should not fight with the water. They should let it through. That is how we dealt with floods in the past. That is why Bangkok has so many canals. But now rich city dwellers are too distant from nature. What they are doing with their flood protection walls is actually increasing the level of the water."

Tension rose along with the water. Amid rumours that powerful politicians protected their own constituencies at the expense of neighbouring districts, several deluged communities turned to protest.

The most dramatic demonstration occurred at Yucharoen village near Don Mueng airport, where local residents furiously tore down a wall of sandbags.

"I was angry because the government did not help us until we protested," said Pattanan Thongsawad, who was among the demonstrators. "I wasn't thinking about fairness. I was only thinking about the people who were suffering."

A water mark is still visible in every home in the neighbourhood. Thongsawad said the village must prepare for similar disasters. "We want more concrete walls all the way around our community. That is the only way I'll feel secure. There will be more rain and more floods and we cannot rely on the government to deal with them."

With politics and climate both looking increasingly unpredictable, many now want more help but do not expect it.

"If it comes again, there is nothing we can do," said Sriburanasorn of Hana. "If every factory had to build its own flood defences, we wouldn't be able to afford to stay in business. The government must do it do restore confidence … I never want to go through that again."

Additional reporting by Sunisa Pui

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Malaysia: Rescued Indian Star Tortoises sent home

Sean Augustin New Straits Times 27 Dec 11;
Group urges authorities to monitor offenders closely

MORE than 600 Indian Star Tortoises were sent home to India last week after the smuggled reptiles were rescued by the authorities a few months ago.

A total of 599 tortoises, stuffed into two luggage bags, were rescued in August after authorities noticed that no one claimed the bags at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

A month later, the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) confiscated another 100 tortoises in Malacca, and the owner was given a "very stern warning".

All the tortoises were either infants or juveniles.

Perhilitan consultant Burhanuddin Mohd Nor said the repatriation of the tortoises last Thursday was the first this year.

Despite the fact that the species cannot be imported into Malaysia and it is illegal to own one as a pet, the Indian Star Tortoises can be found in pet shops.

Anyone found to be in possession of the species can be fined up to a maximum of RM100,000 per animal or imprisoned up to seven years, under the International Trade of Endangered Species Act 2008.

"We would like to advise those keeping the tortoises as pets to come forward and surrender them to us," Burhanuddin said.

"We also hope that the public will inform us of pet shops that sell the species."

The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (Traffic) said the Malaysian government should monitor offenders closely as the trade seemed to be more visible now, although underground.

Its senior programme officer, Kanitha Krishnasamy, said the rescue of the 699 reptiles showed that the trade was very active and a major threat to the tortoises, especially in Southeast Asia.

It is important that offenders are prosecuted and made to bear the cost of repatriating the animals as the process is not cheap."

She added that Traffic appreciated that the Malaysian government worked with the Indian government to send the tortoises home, where they belonged and would be protected.

The Indian Star Tortoise, or geochelone elegans, is found in scrub forests in India and Sri Lanka.

The species is said to be quite popular in the exotic pet trade, although India has banned its export.

The reptile was only recently added to the First Schedule of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

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Malaysia: Rogue male wild elephant caught

The Star 27 Dec 11;

KOTA BARU: The Kelantan Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) caught a rogue male wild elephant about 500m from the Jeli-Grik main road near the Batu Melintang camp in Jeli.

Its director Rahmat Topani said the elephant, believed to be between 10 and 15 years old and weighing 1.5 tonnes, was among 11 wild elephants caught by the department in Gua Musang, Kuala Krai and Jeli throughout the year.

He said acting on a report received from villagers of Kampung Jerek, Batu Melintang, a team of rangers from the Jeli office started tracking the elephant.

The team headed by Ismail Nordin spotted the elephant at about 9am yesterday and used sedatives to overpower the animal.

“The elephant is believed to have terrorised villagers in Kampung Dendong, Lawar, Belimbing and Kampung Pendok causing damage to their crops,” he said. — Bernama

15-year-old jumbo from rampaging herd caught
Sharifah Masinah Abdullah New Straits Times 27 Dec 11;
Wildlife Department mounts hunt after receiving reports

RANGERS from the state Wildlife Department captured an elephant on Sunday, believed to have been in a herd that destroyed crops in Batu Melintang, Jeli.

The bull elephant, named "Awang Jerek", was caught by rangers from the department's office in Jeli, led by Ismail Nordin, at 3.30pm.

State Wildlife Department director Rahmat Topani said the 15-year-old elephant, weighing about 1.5 tonnes, was the 11th captured by the department this year.

He said Awang Jerek was believed to have destroyed crops in areas such as Kampung Dendong, Kampung Lawar, Kampung Belimbing and Kampung Pendok over the past two years.

"We received reports from villagers that their banana and other fruit trees were destroyed by a herd of elephants.

"Following the reports, we mounted operations to track down the animals and managed to capture one of them."

He said Awang Jerek would be sent to the elephant conservation centre soon.

New home for jumbo
Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 31 Dec 11;

THE Kelantan Wildlife Department has sent the 20-year-old bull elephant, which it captured in Batu Melintang here last Sunday, to a national park in Terengganu.

The elephant, named Awang Jerek, was sent to the national park on Thursday with the help of two tamed elephants -- Che Mek and Lokimala.

Department director Rahmat Topani said the three-hour operation, which started at 9am, involved 18 workers of the National Elephant Conservation Centre in Kuala Gandah, Pahang.

"Like in the previous operations, we had to use Che Mek and Lokimala to escort Awang Jerek to ensure that the translocation process to Terengganu went smoothly," he said.

Rahmat said the department's rangers caught the rogue male elephant, weighing about 1.5 tonnes, about 500m from the Jeli-Grik main road near the Batu Melintang camp.

He said Awang Jerek, which was believed to have destroyed crops in Kampung Dendong, Kampung Lawar and Kampung Belimbing, was the eleventh elephant captured by the department this year.

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Phuket’s turtle nesting sites empty of eggs this year

Phuket Gazette 26 Dec 11;

PHUKET: Phuket’s marine wildlife experts have expressed concern that turtles are not laying eggs on many of the Andaman beaches historically used by the turtle population.

“The nesting season for sea turtles along the Andaman coast is usually from November to March. Their preferred nesting sites are Mai Khao Beach in Phuket, Tai Muang Beach in Phang Nga and some coastal areas in Satun province,” said Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong, head of the Marine Endangered Species Unit at the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC).

“Unfortunately, the turtles are not laying eggs on the usual beaches even though it is the nesting season,” he said.

The number of Leatherback, Olive Ridley and Green turtles are lower than before, a worried Mr Kongkiat explained.

“Climate is a major factor. It determines turtle population size as well as affecting the gender of the turtle’s offspring. The optimum temperature [for turtle nesting] is 29°C. If it’s too hot they won’t lay eggs,” he said.

An officer stationed at the Khao Lampi – Hat Thai Mueang National Park, in Phang Nga, also confirmed that no turtles had laid eggs on the beach this year.

National park officers are to monitor the situation closely, Mr Kongkiat explained.

“Encouragingly though, the turtles have continued to lay eggs on the beaches of the Similan islands, off the Phang Nga coast, all year round.

“Since January, about 100 nests have been counted, most of them made by Olive Ridley turtles,” Mr Kongkiat added.

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Oceans around Taiwan threatened by overfishing

The Taiwan Environmental Information Association said catches at coastal fisheries had dropped 42.69% since 2001, and 19.75% offshore
Lee I-chia Taipei Times 27 Dec 11;

Following three years of studies on the health of Taiwan’s coral reefs, the non-profit Taiwan Environmental Information Association yesterday said the ocean ecology surrounding Taiwan was threatened by overfishing and urged the three presidential candidates to enforce ocean protection policies.

The association said that from studies on the health of Taiwan’s coral reefs done by association volunteers beginning in 2009, it discovered that aside from the condition of coral reefs, a rapid exhaustion of fish in coral reef habitats was common.

Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network East Asia planning director and Penghu Symbiotic Algae Association chairperson Allen Chen (陳昭倫) said indicator fish species and invertebrate species that are edible, such as sweetlips, lobsters and sea urchins, are very scarce, a sign of exhaustion of marine resources caused by overfishing.

“Almost all the edible fish resources in these areas have been caught,” he said, adding that based on data provided by the Council of Agriculture’s Fishery Agency, the annual catch from coastal fisheries last year had dropped 42.69 percent in comparison with the catch in 2001, with a 19.75 percent drop in offshore fisheries.

He said that although the coral cover, the proportion of reef surface covered by live stony coral, over the seven surveyed sites varied, with Green Island (綠島) presenting the highest cover rate, the overall condition was considered “medium,” according to the Reef Check Worldwide organization’s standards.

The association said an agreement was reached at an international conference in 2003, held by the International Union Conservation of Nature, promising to set aside 12 percent of oceans worldwide as marine reserves, but currently less than 6 percent of Taiwan’s ocean area is protected by regulations.

Taiwan Environmental Information Association secretary-general Chen Juei-pin (陳瑞賓) urged the government and the three presidential candidates to set up marine reserves to ensure the sustainable development of the ocean, improve ocean protection and to push for tougher regulations.

He also said the association had sent a letter to all three presidential candidates on Wednesday urging them to recognize the importance of ocean protection, but that so far there have not been any replies.

“We can wait for their replies, but marine life cannot wait anymore. So we hope the government can give us answers as soon as possible,” he said, adding that the association would continue to monitor whether ocean protection policies are being enforced after the Jan. 14 elections.

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