Best of our wild blogs: 30 Sep 12

My First Visit to the Labrador Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Butterfly of the Month - September 2012
from Butterflies of Singapore

Plant-bird relationship: 2. Moraceae (figs, etc.)
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Garden City Fund gets donation boost for coral reef survey

Channel NewsAsia 29 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board's Garden City Fund (GCF) will get a boost from a corporate donation for an upcoming survey of coral reefs.

The Air Liquide Group will donate more than S$50,000 to the fund.

Chairman of GCF, Professor Leo Tan, said: "It is with such partnerships that we can continue our efforts to conserve and sustain our biodiversity for present and future generations to enjoy."

Professor Tan added that Air Liquide is supporting an important national project that will contribute towards the management of Singapore's coastal and marine environment.

For the coral reef survey to be carried out, the GCF is seeking additional funds of S$220,000.

The coral reef survey, scheduled to start next year, is part of the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey, a national initiative to take stock of Singapore's marine ecosystem, species diversity and distribution.

- CNA/al

Air Liquide Group contributes to conservation of Singapore's natural assets
NParks Press Release 29 Sep 12;

The donation of more than $50,000 will go towards planting of 101 native trees at Punggol Waterway Park and an upcoming coral reef survey

Singapore, 29 Sep 2012 - To celebrate 101 years of pioneering work in gases for industry, health and the environment, over 250 participants from Singapore Oxygen Air Liquide (SOXAL) gathered at Punggol Waterway Park this morning to plant 101 native trees. The Air Liquide Group, together with the Air Liquide Foundation, will also contribute funds for an upcoming survey of coral reefs. Air Liquide Group’s total donation of more than $50,000 to the National Parks Board's Garden City Fund signals its commitment to the conservation of Singapore’s natural assets.

The planting of 101 native trees by the Air Liquide Group was made possible under the GCF’s Plant-A-Tree (PAT) programme. Launched in 2007, the PAT programme is an avenue for individuals and organisations to do their part for nature by planting trees at designated parks. To date, over 12,000 trees have been pledged and planted by some 16,000 participants, including more than 200 corporations.

Scheduled to commence in 2013, the coral reef survey is part of the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey, a national initiative to take stock of Singapore's marine ecosystem, species diversity and distribution. Led by NParks and partnering experts from tertiary institutions, non-governmental organisations and individual enthusiasts, the Survey began in 2010, and covers a range of habitats including mudflats, intertidal, coral reefs and the seabed of Singapore. For the coral reef survey to be carried out, the GCF is seeking additional funds of $220,000.

"We are encouraged by and thankful for the support from the Air Liquide Group. It is with such partnerships that we can continue our efforts to conserve and sustain our biodiversity for present and future generations to enjoy,” said Prof Leo Tan, Chairman of the Garden City Fund. “Air Liquide is supporting an important national project that will contribute towards the management of Singapore’s coastal and marine environment. As this is a huge undertaking, we would like to invite more private sector support for the coral reef survey.”

“In commemorating our centennial presence in Singapore, we find it appropriate to collaborate with the Garden City Fund to support their admirable efforts to drive key environmental concerns. Air Liquide’s gases are used to protect lives and support technologies that contribute to environment protection. Similarly, many of the gases we supply to our customers in Singapore are used to decrease polluting emissions or to produce energies of tomorrow. In addition, we believe that we can always do more and as such, we are constantly looking at different ways to make meaningful contributions to the environmental landmark in Singapore and this opportunity could not have come at a better time,” said Mr Christophe Chalier, Managing Director, SOXAL.

The tree-planting event was jointly organised by Air Liquide Group, GCF and NParks.

Read more!

Man vs monkey at MacRitchie

Joel Cooper Straits Times 30 Sep 12;

Who says Singapore is a safe country?

Only the other week, I was forced to step in after witnessing an attempted mugging.

Worse still, it happened in broad daylight on the crowded boardwalk of MacRitchie Reservoir Park.

The petite victim was clinging desperately to her bag as her assailant - a short, hairy chap - tried to wrestle it from her. I couldn't just stand by and do nothing. It was time to act.

"Get away from her," I shouted.

The mugger turned and glared, eyes boring into me with a look of pure animal rage. Then, releasing his grip on the woman's bag, he bared his teeth and hissed in contempt before scurrying off on all fours along the boardwalk.

Damn those cheeky monkeys.

I used to love hanging out with the long-tailed macaques of MacRitchie. But since witnessing this shameless attempted robbery, I have started to regard them as a bit of a menace.

It's not the first time that something like this has happened. Last year, a fitness corner was renovated near the entrance to the park. But before it had even been opened, the equipment was already being put to use - and I don't mean by senior citizens. Like a troupe of little furry gymnasts, the macaques swarmed all over it, balancing on the sit-up machine and hanging from the bars.

One of them was even perched proudly on the exercise bike like an Olympic cyclist about to start his workout. I was shocked. Here was this fresh, shiny facility designed for the wellbeing of old folk in the area being abused by a bunch of hairy interlopers.

Of course, the macaques have been making a nuisance of themselves for quite a while now, ever since some bone- headed park visitors first mistook them for pets and started feeding them. But even in the 11/2 years that I've lived in the area, the problem seems to have gotten worse.

Warnings that monkey feeders will be prosecuted don't appear to make much difference. At the entrance to the nature reserve, the surly primates can sometimes be seen sauntering about like teenage delinquents clutching empty chip packets or even cigarette cartons.

Littering, mugging, a taste for junk food: It seems the macaques are finally suffering one of the worst fates that could befall any creature. They are becoming human.

It's a tragedy that inevitably occurs whenever people and animals are thrown together by the relentless advance of modern living. MacRitchie may have escaped being sucked into the concrete wilderness, but even in their woodland oasis, the macaques cannot hide from mankind's corrupting influence.

Once, way back before the dawn of history, humans were mere guests in a world ruled by animals. Hunted by tigers and terrorised by floods, droughts or herds of stampeding elephants, our ancestors tiptoed around in fear of the mighty beasts they could not control.

Nowadays, we rule the roost. And if any other creature wants to survive in this plastic world that we've created, it had better be on our terms. Is it any wonder that the more the monkeys see of humans, the more they feel the need to act like us?

In a tiny, industrialised country like Singapore, the problem is especially acute. The garden city may be clean, green and blessed with well-run national parks, but that does not mean man and beast won't occasionally clash.

Less than two weeks ago, an elderly woman fell and broke her hip after a wild boar on Pulau Ubin started tugging at a bag of food she was carrying.

The biggest tragedy is that the only places where humans and animals can coexist happily are those where the people are poorest materially. The tribes of the Amazon basin have a fantastic relationship with the creatures of the forest. Unfortunately, they also have very little in the way of money, clothes or modern gadgets. And as soon as they acquire these things - which, let's face it, all of us want - the harmony is shattered forever.

I hope that we can find a way to live alongside the monkeys of MacRitchie. In the meantime, I've a suggestion for how to deal with those irresponsible buffoons who continue to offer them food. Simply send them to live in the forest and give the macaques their houses.

What better way to give both species a taste of how the other half lives?

I'll bet that after a few days spent trawling through household bills or negotiating the packed MRT, the monkeys will be itching to escape from the urban jungle.

Read more!

Malaysia: Protest at Pengerang refinery project

Mohd Farhaan Shah The Star 30 Sep 12;

PENGERANG: The Himpunan Hijau group held a demonstration over the RM60bil refinery and petrochemical project at Kampung Sungai Rengit here.

The protesters, mostly members of non-governmental organisations from outside the area, arrived early and were clad in green T-shirts.

They carried placards and banners highlighting the destruction to the environment and effects of the project to the livelihood of the residents.

It was largely a peaceful gathering which started at about 10am with speeches by several state opposition leaders. The crowd dispersed after noon.

Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the opposition was using the project as a political move to instil hatred towards the government.

She added that the opposition had been twisting facts about the project to gain votes.

She blasted the protest organisers for saying that she was invited to attend the event. "I did not received any invitation from them. This is the way Opposition works which is lying to the people," she said.

PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub told reporters at the rally that the party never opposed the project but reminded the Government of the welfare of the people in Pengerang.

"There are nine fishing villages that would be affected due to the project.

"The Government should have moved the project further down to Desaru where the spillover effect will benefit the people without affecting their lives," he said.

Salahuddin's statement seems to contradict his Pakatan Rakyat ally, Johor PKR chief Datuk Chua Jui Meng, who had called for the project to be scrapped.

Present at the rally were Johor DAP chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau and several Bersih 2.0 committee members, including Wong Chin Huat and Hishammuddin Rais.

Thousands protest against Malaysia petroleum hub
Channel NewsAsia 30 Sep 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands rallied in southern Malaysia on Sunday against a government-backed US$56 billion petroleum hub they say will force thousands out of their homes and damage a fishing community.

Environmentalists from across the country gathered in the sleepy coastal town of Pengerang where the project, spearheaded by state oil giant Petronas and also involving private companies, is due to be completed by 2016.

A coalition of local NGOS say the 170-billion-ringgit Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex -- an industrial park for the oil industry -- will harm the livelihoods of local residents and fishermen in an area famed for its lobsters.

On Sunday protestors, mostly dressed in green, heard opposition leaders promise to cancel the project if they come to power at national elections that must be held by the middle of next year.

Organisers said 8,000 demonstrators took part although reports estimated the crowd to be less than half that figure.

"We want development but not when it oppresses the people. The government must give the public the right to decide on the location of such projects," Anis Afida Mohd Azli, who is leading opposition to the project, told AFP.

She added the NGOs will hand over a list of demands to the state government on October 8.

The protest movement began early last year as local anger mounted against the 22,500-acre petrochemical hub.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has faced numerous protests over projects allegedly harmful to the environment since taking power a year after his Barisan Nasional suffered its worst ever electoral result in 2008.

A green movement, largely supported by the opposition, has gained momentum in recent years with Australian rare earths producer Lynas Corp bearing the brunt of the backlash over a planned plant near an eastern resort town.

- AFP/ck

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Newly discovered "Bubble shark" found in Philippines

DJ Yap Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network AsiaOne 30 Sep 12;

BATANGAS CITY - An odd-looking sea creature locally christened the "bubble shark" is breathing new life into a campaign to preserve a vital marine corridor straddling five provinces in the Southern Tagalog region.

Discovered only last year by marine biologists, the bubble shark, also described as an "inflatable shark" and believed to be a new species of swell shark, has been observed in waters off Batangas and Mindoro island.

It is so named because of its defence mechanism to puff up to twice its size in the face of danger.

For environmental officials, the discovery of the weird shark adds new meaning to efforts to save the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor (VIPMC), a bustling sea-lane renowned for having some of the highest concentrations of shore-fish and underwater life in the world.

"It's a wonderful sign," said Lynette Laroya, assistant director of the environment department's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

"It's a good indication that we have good diversity … And it shows that perhaps there are a lot of other species that have not been discovered out there," she said in an interview on the sidelines of the VIPMC Summit held in this city on Sept. 27 and 28.

Center of marine diversity

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, in a message read on his behalf by Undersecretary Analiza Teh, gave special mention to bubble sharks in his remarks, saying "they have been recorded thriving in the Verde Island Passage."

Laroya said the discovery of the bubble shark was especially important in light of the acknowledgment by a group of international marine scientists in 2006 that the Philippines was the "centre of the centre of marine diversity."

The attention given to a species that might be new to science highlighted the need to protect the habitat where it had been found, she said.

"The whole world is watching this. That means we have to protect our marine habitats and we have to prioritize the VIPMC," Laroya said.

Migratory wildlife

The VIPMC is both a bustling sea-lane for ships and vessels, and a pathway for migratory wildlife such as dolphin and tuna.

Although still under the process of verification, the presence of the bubble shark was discovered last year by a group of researchers who found a treasure trove of previously unknown terrestrial and marine wildlife during the 2011 Philippine Wildlife Expedition spearheaded by the California Academy of the Sciences.

The 42-day expedition by 43 international and local scientists yielded previously undocumented wildlife species, both in land and water, and even along the shorelines, the first attempt to study simultaneously marine and terrestrial habitats in the Philippines.

Beginning April 26, 2011, it encompassed waters in Lake Taal, Anilao and the Verde Island Passage in Batangas, and mountains in Makiling in Laguna, Banahaw in Quezon, Malarayat in Batangas and Isarog in Bicol.

According to an article on the science news website, one of the discoveries made by the researchers was a possible new species of swell shark, "a shark that pumps water into its stomach to puff up."

Camouflaged colour

Unlike its relatives in other seas, however, the shark found in the VIPMC "possesses a very distinctive camouflaged colour pattern," the report said.

Other swell sharks feature dark round spots, but the species found in the Philippines, based on pictures, have white or lighter spots instead.

"But very little is known yet about this species, as to whether it is really a new species, how large the population is, and whether it is endemic to us or just migrating," Laroya said.

The term "bubble shark" also appears to have been coined locally, as foreign reports identify the species either as swell shark or inflatable shark.

Laroya said environmental groups such as Conservation International had already known of the bubble shark for some time, but it only hit headlines when the scientists reported their findings to the media.

Flagship species

The publicity generated by a possible new species can amply benefit marine habitats, according to researcher Vera Horigue, a Ph.D. student in conservation planning at James Cook University in Australia.

"That's what we call flagship species. [It's important] because when you sell conservation to people, especially people who are not really interested or who do not really care, they need something else, like, why is it important?" she told the Inquirer.

"It's really helpful to get people to become interested, because you can show just how special the place is by the uniqueness of the species found in it," said Horigue, who is studying the management plans of certain marine protected areas in the Philippines, including those covering the VIPMC.

"It promotes the area; thus, funds pour in," she said.

Conservation strategy

Another unintended benefit is that any campaign to save a particular species will have an impact on lesser-known species that are part of the ecosystem. In the case of marine species, she said, the best way of conserving is to ensure that the habitat is left undisturbed through the skillful management of marine protected areas.

Horigue said her laboratory mates working on dugong and turtles found that they could apply their conservation strategy toward improving the condition of sea grass beds, the main food sources of dugong and turtles, and which the community would otherwise not care about.

The VIPMC covers parts of the coastal waters of Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon. It is said to have the largest concentration of marine life in the world, with more than 1,700 marine species recorded within a 10-square-kilometer area in the habitat.

It is both a highly productive fishing ground for traditional and commercial fishers and a development area for coastal and marine tourism, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

But the saltwater highway is threatened by overfishing, pollution and climate change. In 2009, a task force on the Verde Island Passage, as part of government efforts to protect and preserve the marine habitat, sought to guide provincial leaders in formulating and designing management plans for the VIPMC.

VIPMC Summit

It was agreed that the plan would be revisited after three years, which was why the DENR, along with its partner organisations and agencies, held the VIPMC Summit at the Pontefino Hotel and Residences in this city.

More than a hundred policy-makers from the five provinces with stakes in the marine corridor attended the summit where they discussed the challenges, the best practices and the most effective management plans for the conservation project.

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Malaysia: Sea turtles are still facing an uphill struggle

Conservation blues
Zuhaila Sedek New Straits Times 30 Sep 12;

Sea turtles are still facing an uphill struggle for survival especially in Terengganu, writes Zuhaila Sedek

SEA turtles are magnificent. They have journeyed the world’s oceans for more than 175 million years, outliving dinosaurs. Given the fact that they are descendants of ancient reptiles and have lived far longer than humans, they more than deserve our respect and care.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Besides being hunted for food, their eggs are gathered and sold for consumption too.

Luckily this happens only in Terengganu. Elsewhere in the country (Sabah, Sarawak, Pahang, Kelantan, Johor, Negri Sembilan and Malacca) there is a a ban on turtle egg trading.

Life & Times recently interviewed Abdul Khalil Abdul Karim, director of Terengganu’s Department Of Fisheries (DoF) and Syed Abdullah Syed Abdul Kadir, head of Turtle & Marine Ecosystem Center (TUMEC).

The interview was made possible with the help of WWF-Malaysia, a major champion of turtle conservation in the country.

Our country is home to four out of seven species of sea turtles in the world — leatherback (penyu belimbing), green (penyu agar), Hawksbill (penyu karah) and Olive Ridley (penyu lipas).

Abdul Khalil says the DoF has no power to impose a ban on turtle egg trading. This is because turtle conservation falls under the jurisdiction of State governments and Terengganu State’s enactment clearly states that turtle egg trading is legal. DoF is under the Ministry Of Agriculture And Agro-Based Industry.

“However, we can continue our conservation efforts. So far, we have done well in that respect,” he says, adding that DoF awareness programmes have been well-received by the public.

Abdul Khalil says sale of turtle eggs in Terengganu has been going on for generations.

“According to a recent survey, the older generation still eats turtle eggs. However, most young people are not interested. My prediction is that the act of eating turtle eggs will be less significant in future,” he says.

There are more than 35 beaches in the State and 13 are managed by DoF. Rangers patrol these 13 beaches regularly and monitor turtle landings.

They also collect eggs and send them to hatcheries. Every beach under DoF has a hatchery where the eggs are incubated and the hatchlings released into the sea.

However, more rangers are needed as villagers often steal the eggs, hampering conservation efforts. At beaches without rangers, DoF has appointed licensed egg collectors to collect the eggs. These are either bound to DoF or WWF-Malaysia. They collect the eggs and sell them to the two organisations. Prices vary according to species. It’s RM5 each for leatherback eggs, RM4 each for olive ridley and hawksbill and RM2 for green turtle eggs. Those with WWF-Malaysia are paid extra if the eggs they have collected hatch.

Abdul Khalil says egg collectors have to meet a quota set by DoF. They are required to sell 70 per cent of their collection to DoF. The remainder can be sold elsewhere.

“As long as the quota is met, our conservation work will run smoothly,” he says.

Last year, 377,494 eggs were hatched by the department.

“Although the number of turtles coming to our shores is decreasing, we are still able to meet the target set for our conservation work.”

Meanwhile Syed Abdullah fully supports the effort to promote the ban on the sale of turtle eggs. By doing so, the National Plan Of Action For Conservation And Management Of Sea Turtles will be able to meet its aim for a national ban on commercial sale of turtle eggs.

Because there is no ban right now, the government has to buy turtle eggs collected to carry out its conservation work. Even so, some of the eggs are still sold for consumption.

“I hope multinational companies, especially those with power plants in Terengganu, will donate money for turtle conservation work,” he says, adding that this will enable DoF to buy all the eggs for incubation.

Power plants are mostly located in Kerteh. According to a WWF-Malaysia representative, the stretch where the power plants are located were once sandy beaches.

“The plants are the main reason for the decrease in the number of turtles. They emit too much light and turtles hate this,” says Syed Abdullah. Turtles prefer quiet, dark and clean places to lay their eggs.

“Research shows that of 1,000 olive ridley hatchlings released into the sea, only one will live to be an adult and return to its place of origin,” says Syed.

Turtles face many natural and man-made threats. Natural threats include being eaten by predators such as sharks and other big fish. Crabs eat hatchlings too.

But man-made threats can be controlled, says Syed Abdullah. These include pollution, unbalanced development, turtle meat consumption, sale and consumption of eggs and poor hatchery practices.

Many turtles are also found dead and stuck to rubbish thrown in the sea. Syed Abdullah explains: “Plastic bags, for instance, can suffocate them. Turtles need to come out from the sea once in a while. When they are caught in plastic bags, they struggle to release themselves and end up dead.”

Unbalanced development also causes too much noise and light pollution which is harmful. Another threat comes from fishermen as many turtles get trapped in fishing nets and lines and are killed.

“Poor management of hatcheries is also a problem. Proper handling of eggs is crucial to ensure a high success rate. It is important to train workers properly,” says Syed Abdullah, adding that many turtles also get hit by ships.

One major threat to turtles is the consumption of its meat. Sea turtles are a delicacy in many parts of Asia, especially China, Fiji, the Philippines, Vietnam and Timor Leste where it is believed that eating turtles offers longevity and increased fertility.

Although Malaysians do not eat turtle meat, many still consume the eggs. And for this, they head for Terengganu.

Syed Abdullah says the people have to change their mindset about Terengganu as the place to buy and eat turtle eggs as otherwise, the demand for turtle eggs will never stop.

I am told that one of the most popular places to buy turtle eggs is Pasar Payang in Kuala Terengganu. When I am there, I am offered bags of turtle eggs “from Terengganu and Sabah”.

Those from Terengganu cost more as they are considered fresher.

“Yes, trading of turtle eggs is legal in Terengganu, but the eggs from Sabah shouldn’t have reached the market here. They should have been detected at the airport and not permitted to leave the State,” says Syed Abdullah, adding that Sabah imposes a strict ban on turtle egg trading.

He hopes Terengganu will soon be added to the list of States that ban the sale and consumption of turtle eggs.

“If the other States can do it, why not us?” he wonders.


• Sea turtle eggs are extremely high in cholesterol.
• The last leatherback turtle seen in the country was in 2010, at Rantau Abang, the country’s turtle sanctuary.
• Some sea turtles that came here to lay eggs have been tagged so that their movements can be monitored.
• Other types of sea turtles in the world are Loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley and Flatback.
• Although cloning is very controversial, it may be the only way to prevent the extinction of species such as the endangered leatherback.
• Recognisable turtles are known as far back as the Triassic Period (at least 180 million years ago), before the Jurassic Period.

Why do sea turtles cry?
Turtles have glands in their eyes that remove excess salt and these “tears” also wash away sand from the eyes.

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Philippines: WWF calls for regional moratorium on trade of live reef food fish

The Philippine Star 30 Sep 12;

MANILA, Philippines - Top sustainable seafood advocate World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recently launched a report revealing legal and policy gaps in the trade of live reef food fish in the Coral Triangle, highlighting the urgent need for a comprehensive management framework – starting with a moratorium on endangered Humphead Wrasse – to help address threats to the region’s dwindling seafood supply.

The report, Legal and Policy Gaps in the Management of Live Reef Food Fish Trade in the Coral Triangle Region, examines the legal and policy framework for the live reef food fish trade (LRFFT) in all six Coral Triangle countries – the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste.

“At the heart of this report is the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is one of the most challenging issues in the trade in live reef food fish in the Coral Triangle,” explains WWF Coral Triangle program strategy leader Dr. Geoffrey Muldoon.

“A regional moratorium on the trade and consumption of Humphead Wrasse, for starters, can serve as a model for the kind of comprehensive legal and policy measures the trade needs in this region,” adds Dr. Muldoon.

One of the world’s most massive, colorful and long-lived reef fish, the Humphead Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) can reach six feet from snout to tail and can tip the scales at over 200 kilos. Juveniles look somewhat like gray-green tilapia, while adults sport an impressive forehead bump. They are delectable and expensive, turning up in seafood restaurants, markets and even exotic Philippine pet retail centers like Cartimar.

Decades of unregulated collection has depleted global numbers. The Humphead Wrasse is now classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered and is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). While still allowing its local capture and international trade, the listing is intended to ensure that the species is fished sustainably.

In the Philippines, it is protected under Section 97 of Republic Act 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998. Mere possession of the fish can net a P120,000 fine and up to 20 years of jail time.

“The regulation of trade in Humphead Wrasse, while different from country to country, is consistently inadequate across the region. As an Appendix II listed species, non-detrimental findings (NDF), which sets a quota on exports, is required before trading in this species can occur. We believe the trade is not being monitored in accordance with the NDF studies that have been conducted. By imposing a moratorium on this species in Indonesia, combined with the existing export moratorium in Malaysia and export limitation in the Philippines, we will have restricted three major trading hubs in the Coral Triangle. This will help in monitoring and highlighting sustainability impacts from consumption in Hong Kong and China,” adds Dr. Muldoon.

Highly lucrative trade

The Coral Triangle, a six million square kilometer ocean expanse in Asia Pacific, contains roughly 37 percent of the world’s known coral reef fish species.

The trade in live reef food fish in the Coral Triangle was estimated to be worth over $810 million in 2002. High value species include Humphead Wrasse, selling for as much as HK$99 to HK$150 per kilo in luxury restaurants in Hong Kong and more than $350 per kilo in Beijing and Shanghai.

Aside from Hong Kong and mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore are the main importing and consumption markets of live reef food fish in the region. The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia have been key exporters for decades.

On the remote southern Philippine isles of Tawi-Tawi, divers with compressors search for young Napoleon Wrasse in shallow reefs and drop-offs. Once spotted and driven into cracks and crevices, the divers squirt a diluted mixture of sodium cyanide to stun and draw them out, inevitably killing all corals, sponges and other invertebrates around the site. If captured, the juvenile fish are reared in rudimentary shallow pens made of corals and limestone.

Traders from mainland China, Malaysia and other countries come to buy the fish, which are then kept alive in aerated, filtered holds. In December 2006, 359 juvenile Mameng were confiscated from the M/V Hoi Wan, a Chinese fishing vessel apprehended in Palawan. The find remains one of the most significant wildlife apprehensions in Philippine history. WWF-Philippines now works to promote viable alternatives to dwindling marine species such as Napoleon Wrasse through its Better Choices sustainable seafood campaign.

“The live reef food fish trade is largely an unregulated fishery in the region and poses serious threats to the health of coral reef environments and its ability to provide fish resources to an ever-growing global demand on seafood. There is currently no specific framework for live reef food fish management in the region, which presents a major weakness in ensuring the sustainability of the trade,” says Dr. Muldoon.

Why regulate trade?

The growing demand for live reef food fish, the destructive methods of obtaining and rearing reef fish, and the widening geographical scope of the trade all pose major sustainability concerns, raising the urgent need for more effective management.

Destructive fishing methods including cyanide fishing and fish bombing are still rampant in some parts of the region and are rapidly destroying critical coral reef ecosystems.

The capture of juvenile fish for aquaculture is likewise contributing to dwindling fish populations, threatening the food security and livelihood of millions.

“Up to 70 percent of reef fish in some places in the region are being taken from the ocean before they even have the opportunity to mature and reproduce, and this will have devastating effects on the delicate ocean food chain in the long term,” says Dr. Muldoon.

A management framework

The report puts forward the need for Coral Triangle countries to start analyzing governing laws and regulations on the capture and trade of live reef food fish with respect to existing international frameworks.

In addition to its analysis of key IUU issues, the report also examines relevant laws at the national level in Coral Triangle countries, looking at four key areas: ecosystem approach to fisheries management, port state measures, trade and market measures, and IUU fishing.

“Such an analysis will enable these countries to recommend appropriate legal and policy changes, both at the domestic and regional level, to address issues related to the control and management of live reef food fish trade,” concludes Dr. Muldoon. (30)

Download the full report at:

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Many nations lag in plan to slow extinctions by 2020: U.N.

Alister Doyle and David Fogarty Reuters 28 Sep 12;

(Reuters) - Many nations need to do more to slow extinctions of animals and plants under U.N. targets for 2020 that would also save the world economy billions of dollars a year, U.N. experts say.

Only a few countries -- including France and Guatemala -- have so far adopted new national plans to tackle threats such as pollution or climate change in line with a sweeping pact agreed in Japan in 2010.

"There is a lot more to do," David Cooper, head of the scientific, technical and technological unit at the Secretariat of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal, told Reuters by phone.

Almost 200 nations will meet in Hyderabad, India, from October 8-19 to review progress towards goals to protect life on earth that U.N. reports say is suffering the biggest wave of extinctions since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago.

Governments agreed in 2010 to 20 targets including phasing out damaging subsidies and expanding protected areas, for instance to save valuable coral reefs that are nurseries for fish or to slow deforestation from the Congo to the Amazon.

"There is substantial progress. Is it fast enough to achieve the targets by 2020 for most of them? Probably not overall," Cooper said. Biodiversity is threatened by a projected rise in the human population to 9 billion by 2050 from 7 billion now.

"We need a step up in the activities," he said as part of a series of interviews on the outlook for Hyderabad. Biodiversity underpins everything from food to timber production.

Many other countries, such as Australia, Brazil or China, were making progress. China, for instance, has made big strides in reforestation, Cooper said. The United States is not a member of the CBD.

Nations have also been sluggish in ratifying a protocol laying out rules for access to genetic resources, such as rare tropical plants used in medicines, and ways to share benefits among companies, indigenous peoples or governments.

So far, 92 nations have signed the Nagoya Protocol but just six have ratified, well short of the 50 needed for it to gain legal force. The target is for the protocol to be up and running by 2015.


"We were a bit too optimistic," said Valerie Normand, senior programme officer for access and benefit sharing at the CBD, who said the Secretariat had hoped for it to come into force this year. The Secretariat now expected entry into force in 2014.

Cooper said many of the targets set for 2020 would save billions of dollars a year, by ensuring that farming, logging or fishing can be managed sustainably. Some fisheries, for instance, have been exploited to the point of collapse.

In Nagoya, experts estimated that annual funding to safeguard biodiversity totaled about $3 billion a year but some developing countries wanted it raised to about $300 billion.

"These are big numbers but they are trivial compared to the benefits we are getting from biodiversity. If we don't act the costs will be very much greater," Cooper said.

Among concerns, 32 percent of livestock breeds are under threat of extinction within the next 20 years, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says. And 75 percent of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost since 1900.

"Because we don't really know the full impacts of climate change down the line, we don't really know what's going to happen in terms of growing conditions around the world. It's just safer for us to have a lot of these other varieties in our pocket," said David Ainsworth, spokesman of the CBD Secretariat.

Cooper said the pace of extinctions among the planet's estimated 9 million species -- plants, animals from insects to whales but excluding legions of tiny bacteria -- was perhaps 100 times the background rate estimated in fossil records.

"If you project the rates into the future, the rest of the century, they are likely to be 100 times larger still," he said. The rising human population threatens ever more habitats with expanding cities, farms and roads.

Among goals set in 2010 were to increase protected areas for wildlife to 17 percent of the world's land area by 2020 and to raise marine areas to 10 percent of those under national control. In 2010, respective sizes were 12.7 and 4 percent.

"I am optimistic" that the goal can be reached, said Sarat Babu Gidda, the CBD official who oversees protected areas.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by Jason Webb)

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Sep 12

Call of the Pin-striped Tit-babbler
from Bird Ecology Study Group

New articles on Nature in Singapore website
from Raffles Museum News

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Extend Singapore laws to haze culprits

Geh Min and Ivan Png for Straits Times 29 Sep 12;

INCE the mid-1990s, the haze seems to have become an annual but unhappy ritual for Singaporeans. Planters in Sumatra set fires to clear their land. South-west and south winds blow the noxious particles towards Singapore.

Singapore ministers intercede with the government of Indonesia. Meanwhile, the National Environment Agency (NEA) carefully monitors wind directions and posts hourly updates of the Pollutant Standards Index.

Earlier this week, Asean environment ministers met in Bangkok. As they have many times before, they discussed the issue of haze.

The Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre reported that this year, the number of hot spots in Sumatra has reached a new high, exceeding the levels in 2006.

As usual, the ministers turned attention to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. Since Asean members signed the agreement in 2002, all except Indonesia have ratified it.

In principle, a multinational agreement should resolve the haze problem. For instance, in 1991, Canada and the United States signed a bilateral Air Quality Agreement, committing to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. The two chemicals cause acid rain. Between 1990 and 2008, Canada had reduced sulphur dioxide emissions by 63 per cent. Over the same period, the United States reduced its emissions by 56 per cent.

So, the Asean environment ministers urged Indonesia to complete the ratification of the agreement. But, even if Indonesia did ratify the agreement, we might still have to hold our breath.

Open burning is already illegal under Indonesian law but, as Mr Sudarsono, of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, remarked: "(We) don't hear anything about regulations being enforced... So as long as they're never enforced, people will keep on burning the forests."

Singapore should not just wait for a change in wind direction or for the Indonesian government to rise to the occasion. There are two ways in which we could move forward.

One is to hold the perpetrators of the haze accountable. If a factory in Jurong emitted smoke or chemicals, it would violate Singapore's Environmental Pollution Control Act. And the NEA would vigorously prosecute the offender and stop the emissions.

Why should our law be any different for an Indonesian plantation? Whether the emissions come from Jurong or Jambi, the harm to our health, especially to that of children and older people, is the same. The harm to our economy - as tourists switch to other destinations and businesses choose other locations - is the same.
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Singapore's laws should apply to all polluters, wherever they may be located. In the early years of the haze, the open burning was blamed on small farmers, who ostensibly lacked the resources to clear their land in a less harmful way.

Now, Asean ministers have squarely placed the blame on big business. Unlike smallholders, corporate wrongdoers should be relatively easier to identify and, with their business and financial connections to Singapore, easier to prosecute.

If necessary, the Environmental Pollution Control Act should be amended accordingly. Lest some worry that Singapore is extending the reach of its national laws, it is worth recalling an obvious precedent. In 2007, Parliament amended the Penal Code to make sex with young people in other countries a criminal offence in Singapore.

The other way forward is to engage with Indonesian people on the ground. A good example is the Harapan Rainforest Initiative. An international consortium of non-governmental organisations including BirdLife International, Burung Indonesia, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has secured a 100-year licence to conserve and protect 100,000ha of lowland forest in the provinces of Jambi and South Sumatra.

Singapore Airlines is a financial sponsor of the Harapan Rainforest Initiative. The initiative directly protects the forest and the wildlife from cutting and burning. In addition, it provides local people with employment, and hence a stake in conservation.

More Singapore businesses should engage in efforts to provide meaningful economic opportunities to the people of rural Sumatra.

They and their families would be much better off (financially and physically) working on environmentally sustainable activities than clearing forests through open burning. The result could be a win-win for both Indonesia and Singapore.

Geh Min is a consultant ophthalmologist and past president of the Nature Society. Ivan Png is Lim Kim San Professor at the NUS Business School and professor of economics and information systems, National University of Singapore.

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Singapore population up at 5.31 million, 82% residents live in HDB flats

Channel NewsAsia 28 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's population has increased, due to growth of both the resident and non-resident populations.

The Department of Statistics (DOS), in its Population Trends 2012 report released on Friday, said the country's total population stood at 5.31 million as at end June 2012, up 2.5 per cent from a year ago.

It said there were 3.29 million Singapore citizens and 0.53 million permanent residents, and the rest were non-residents.

The number of Singapore citizens grew by 0.9 per cent, comparable to the growths in the last couple of years, while the number of permanent residents increased marginally by 0.2 per cent.

Growth in the number of non-residents was at 7.2 per cent, slightly higher than last year's 6.9 per cent. But DOS said it was significantly lower than the double digit percentage increases of 14.9 per cent seen in 2007 and 19.0 per cent in 2008.

An estimated 3.14 million Singapore residents were living in HDB flats this year, accounting for 82 per cent of Singapore residents, said the report.

It said there were 10 planning areas where at least 90 per cent of Singapore residents were staying in HDB flats. The proportion of HDB dwellers was the highest in Punggol, followed by Woodlands.

There were five planning areas with more than 200,000 Singapore residents, with Bedok, Jurong West and Tampines each having over 250,000 residents. Bedok had the highest number of residents at 295,200. The other two planning areas with more than 200,000 Singapore residents in 2012 were Woodlands (247,800) and Hougang (217,400).

The proportion of elderly aged 65 years and over was generally higher among Singapore residents staying in older estates. In 2012, the proportion of elderly was the highest in Outram, Downtown Core, Rochor, Queenstown, Bukit Merah, Toa Payoh and Kallang.

In contrast, the proportion of children aged below 5 years was generally higher among Singapore residents staying in relatively newer estates.

In 2011, HDB 4-room flats remained as the most common type of dwelling among resident households, at 32 per cent.

The next common type was HDB 5-room & executive flats (25 per cent), followed by HDB 3-room (20 per cent).

Those staying in condominiums and private flats formed another 11 per cent.

Reflecting the ageing population, the report said the median age of the resident population went up further to 38.4 years in 2012, compared to 38.0 in 2011 and 37.4 in 2010.

The proportion of Singapore residents aged 65 years and above rose to 9.9 per cent from 9.3 per cent last year.

This resulted in the ratio of residents aged 20-64 years to elderly residents aged 65 years and above trending downwards. The report said there were 6.7 residents aged 20-64 years to each elderly resident, compared to 7.2 last year.

Female residents outnumbered their male counterparts in Singapore. The sex ratio was 970 males per 1,000 females, down from 972 in 2011.

Turning to marriages, the report said a total of 27,258 marriages were registered in 2011, which was 12 per cent higher than the 24,363 registered in 2010. This was a rebound after a dip in 2010.

In 2011, 75 per cent or 20,315 marriages were first marriages where neither party had previously been married.

As for the fertility rate in Singapore, DOS said total live-births rebounded and increased by 4.4 per cent to 39,654 last year, from 37,967 in 2010.

Singapore's resident total fertility rate rose slightly from 1.15 in 2010 to 1.2 in 2011.

The department also noted the increase in the proportion with no children among married women in their thirties.

The proportion who was childless grew from 15 per cent in 2001 to 21 per cent last year among married resident women aged 30-39 years.

As for educational profiles, the population report said the educational levels of the resident population continued to improve over the years.

The share of university graduates also increased significantly from 14 per cent in 2001 to 25 per cent in 2011.

The population report was the eighth edition of an annual series that puts together different aspects of demographic statistics in one volume.

It comprises five sections, namely, "Population", "Households and Housing", "Family Formation and Dissolution", "Fertility" and "Mortality".

The report can be accessed online at the DOS website.

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Indonesia's Aceh revokes palm permit after legal challenge

Reuters 28 Sep 12;

(Reuters) - Indonesia's Aceh province has revoked a controversial permit issued to a palm oil firm accused of breaching a ban on forest clearing, a spokesman said on Friday, in a rare climbdown following a legal challenge by environmental groups.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by saving Indonesia's dwindling tropical rainforests, the world's third-largest, a pledge that won the promise of $1 billion from Norway should he succeed.

But the effort is being hampered by soaring global demand for palm oil, used in everything from biscuits to biofuel. Indonesia is the world's top producer of the edible oil, whose exports earn the country $20 billion a year.

Last year, the governor of Aceh breached a two-year ban on issuing permits to log and convert forests by giving permission for PT Kallista Alam develop 1,605 hectares (4,000 acres) of swamp, which includes protected peatlands.

The Aceh governor's move prompted legal action from environmental groups and probes by the police and government bodies, which led to the permit being revoked this week.

A spokesman for the Aceh province said the permit had been revoked on Thursday, and notification sent to Kallista Alam.

"It is important that there is rule of law in business and investing in Aceh, which provides benefits to the community," Muhammad Zulfikar, director of the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), said in a statement.

Officials of PT Kallista Alam could not immediately be reached for comment.

Former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf issued the permit to open 1,605 hectares of land for palm oil in the Tripa peatland area in August last year.

In the last few years, Indonesia has seen rapid growth in production of palm oil, with output this year expected to be between 23 million and 25 million metric tons (27.6 million tons), with around 18 million metric tons exported.

(Reporting by Reza Munawir in Aceh; Writing by Michael Taylor; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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Large Seagrass Find Along Sarawak's Turtle Island Waters Due To Reef Balls

Bernama 28 Sep 12;

KUCHING, Sept 28 (Bernama) -- The recent discovery of large seagrass acreage along the coast of Pulau Talang-Talang Besar near here indicates the success of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation's (SFC) reef ball project to prevent trawlers from encroaching into the waters off the turtle island.

SFC managing director/chief executive officer Datuk Ali Yusop said it would also promote the growth of seagrass found at a depth of between 30 and 40 feet, which was the main diet of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and dugong, besides being a habitat for many marine animals.

"Sarawak has long been a model state in environmental protection, with laws and legislative framework established to complement the efforts of the federal government, where several national parks, namely Tanjung Datu, Talang Satang, Similajau and Miri Sibuti, were gazetted for the purpose of marine conservation," he said.

Ali, who is also Controller of Wildlife, said this today, following SFC's successful reef cleaning and reef ball monitoring exercise, in conjunction with the month-long Malaysia Day celebrations along the coast of the island.

Assisted by 27 volunteer divers from here, including students from Uninversiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), it is aimed at inculcating awareness on the importance of reef and marine life, as well as to promote constructive partnership between SFC and the general public in the protection and conservation of marine creatures.


Seagrass find 'a boon for turtles'
New Straits Times 30 Sep 12;

KUCHING: A "huge seagrass" patch has been discovered at a depth of between 9.1m to 12.2m off Pulau Talang Talang Besar near Sematan.

The patch was found during a reef cleaning and reef ball monitoring exercise carried out jointly by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak students and volunteer divers two weeks ago.

The discovery is a significant find in the conservation of the endangered turtles as seagrass is an important diet of sea turtles.

The managing director and chief executive officer of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation Datuk Ali Yusop said the discovery was a good indication that the reef ball project, that was started in 1998, had successfully prevented trawlers from encroaching the waters off the island.

Talang Talang Besar is an important turtle nesting island in the state.

Ali said the reef cleaning and reef ball monitoring had promoted the growth of the seagrass, the main diet of Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) and dugongs (dugong dugon).

The cleaning and monitoring of the reef balls, aimed at inculcating awareness on the importance of reef and marine life as well as to promote collaboration and constructive partnership between corporation and the public in the protection and conservation of marine creatures, was held in conjunction with Malaysia Day celebrations.

This is the third consecutive year this exercise was organised.

"Coral reefs conservation is vital for the wellbeing of marine life.

"In Malaysia, the Federal Government has taken the initiative in conserving coral reefs by gazetting the majority of them as marine parks."

He added that compared with past years, not much rubbish was collected during the exercise this year.

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Four Leopards a week enter India’s illegal wildlife trade

TRAFFIC 28 Sep 12;

At least 4 Leopards a week are entering the illegal wildlife trade in India © TRAFFIC New Delhi, India, 28th September 2012—At least four Leopards have been poached and their body parts entered into illegal wildlife trade every week for at least 10 years in India, according to TRAFFIC’s latest study “Illuminating the Blind Spot: A study on illegal trade in Leopard parts in India” launched today by Dr Divyabhanusinh Chavda, President, WWF-India.

The study documents a total of 420 seizures of Leopard skins, bones and other body parts reported from 209 localities in 21 out of 35 territories in India during 2001–2010.

Statistical analysis is used to estimate the additional levels of “undetected trade” and concludes that around 2294 Leopards were trafficked in India during the period—an average of four animals per week over the 10 year period.

Leopards Panthera pardus are fully protected under India’s domestic legislation, and commercial international trade is banned under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

“TRAFFIC’s objective analysis has cast new light onto the sheer scale of the illicit trade in Leopard parts in India, which has hitherto been overshadowed by the trade in another of the country’s national icons, the Tiger,” said Dr Chavda at the launch of the report.

“Without an effective strategy to assess and tackle the threats posed by illegal trade, the danger is that Leopard numbers may decline rapidly as happened previously to the Tiger,” he further added.

Density map showing seizure "hotspots" Click to enlarge Uttarakhand emerged as a major source of Leopard parts in trade, while Delhi was found to be a major epicentre of the illegal trade, along with adjacent areas of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.

Dr Rashid Raza, Coordinator with TRAFFIC in India and the lead author of the study said: “Even though reports of illegal trade in Leopard body parts are disturbingly frequent, the level of threat to Leopards in the country has previously been unrecognized, and has fallen into our collective ‘blind spot’.”

Close to 90% of reported Leopard part seizures in India comprised solely of skins, making them the dominant body part found in illegal trade during the 10 year period. Other body parts, particularly bones, are known to be prescribed as substitutes for Tiger parts in traditional Asian medicine.

It is believed most Leopard parts are smuggled out of India to other countries in Asia, often via the porous border with neighbouring Nepal. Earlier investigations indicated many of the Leopard parts found for sale in northern Myanmar, northern Laos and the ethnic Tibetan regions of China originated from India.

The report recommends the establishment of a Task Force to tackle illegal trade in the areas identified as having the highest levels of Leopard-related crime, as well as better regional co-operation between source, transit and market countries through initiatives such as the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN).

An official database along the lines of “Tigernet”, used for Tiger conservation in India, would also help monitor the illegal Leopard part trade. Studies are also needed to assess the levels of threat from human-Leopard conflict in the country, according to the report.

Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF-India said: “The Leopard is among the most charismatic large animals in the world, and plays an important ecological role in the forests it inhabits.”

“Any increase in external market demand could easily lead to a decimation of Leopard numbers in India, but I am hopeful this latest analysis will provide the impetus to catalyse effective conservation action; particularly increased effectiveness of law enforcement initiatives to curtail the illegal trade in Leopard body parts.”

TRAFFIC’s work on the Leopard trade in India is supported by WWF-India and WWF-UK.

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Sep 12

Red guards
from The annotated budak

raptor mobbed @ balang padifields - Sept2012
from sgbeachbum

IUCN to kick-off Green List for 'fully conserved' species
from news by Jeremy Hance

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Let the land be, please

Pang Kong Eng Today Online 20 Sep 12;

Mr M Lukshumayeh thought that the land next to Whampoa Community Club is "unsafe for recreation", has been "unused for almost 40 years" and suggested that "work" be done to "Put this land to safer, more effective use" (Aug 29, online).

In fact, that land has been serving important needs effectively over that period and had gone unnoticed, almost. One need only be observant to notice the facts lying beyond the veil of grass.

First, let us reconsider the assumption that good use of land equates to being built-up or set upon by human traffic.

A 2006 study in the Netherlands showed that green spaces in an urban environment have a positive effect on health, well-being and social safety. Scientific and medical research elsewhere have drawn similar conclusions.

Singapore is land-scarce and our people are stressed, precisely why we need green spaces like the plot in question. This is even more so in the heartlands. The land is providing essential health and social benefits which we enjoy without setting foot on it.

Second, the piece of land has been a precious educational resource. It is undisturbed, because of its unevenness and potholes, and blessed with rich biodiversity, such as egrets, herons and kingfishers in the mornings and evenings.

Children get to listen to crickets, frogs and birds singing in the rays of the setting sun, right in their neighbourhood. Such is the fabric from which imagination and mental resilience are weaved. Any work done to "make it safer" may unwittingly sterilise it.

Thirty years ago, there was a similar field in front of the current kindergarten at Block 85 of the same neighbourhood. Before work was done to that field, it had a healthy population of toads, frogs and other flora and fauna.

After reading about tadpoles and guppies, we would go to field to look at the real thing. Now, children may read or sing a rhyme about toads croaking, but we have denied them that authentic learning experience.

I once asked a class of 40 pupils if they knew from where a chicken comes. "The supermarket," came their reply, sadly. The only form of chicken they know, other than pictures and videos, is usually cooked, most likely from a fast-food restaurant.

Gardening, qigong, t'ai chi, taekwondo and silat have their values. Yet, the learning and inspiration from the presence of nature is immeasurable. That land is more than useful as it is.

Put this land to safer, more effective use
M Lukshumayeh Today Online 29 Aug 12;

The Singapore Land Authority has allowed the State land next to Whampoa Community Club to be used for recreation, a good gesture with a downside: The plot of land is unsafe for recreation, as it has potholes and is uneven.

The irony is that the land has been unused for almost 40 years.

Work could have been undertaken to make it safer, whether for recreation or sports use, so that this fairly sizeable State land could be put to more effective use in land-scarce Singapore, especially in the heartlands, for more people.

It is not too late for imaginative ideas that would put the land to greater use, including for interest groups such as in gardening, qigong, t'ai chi, taekwondo or silat, since the limited area within the Community Club is overused.

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Underground, the next frontier for Singapore

Soil studies for long-term plan are in progress, says BCA chief
Lim Yan Liang Straits Times 28 Sep 12;

SINGAPOREANS may one day live, work and play below ground in vast, subterranean caverns that make today's underground malls look like home basements.

This is because the Government is keen to look at how to expand Singapore's limited space in unexplored ways, said Building and Construction Authority CEO John Keung in an interview with The Straits Times.

"Of course you can build up, but there is a limit, because we have airports. You can reclaim, but there is also a limit, as you need to keep fairways and anchorages for your port," said Dr Keung.

"The only thing left is to go underground."

Studying the feasibility of expanding Singapore's space by digging down started in 2010, when BCA set up the Singapore Geological Office to carry out soil studies.

Plans are also in the works to collaborate with local universities and the Earth Observatory of Singapore to study rock fractures and the composition of local soil.

"Of course, this is a longer-term thing: we are looking at 2050, 2100," said Dr Keung.

Since 2008, BCA has embarked on new areas of work, with longer timelines, far outside its traditional purview.

Another long-term project could see the Government usher in a sophisticated flood protection system for the island to deal with rising tides caused by global warming.

Since the Coastal and Project Management Department was formed within the BCA in 2008, the statutory board has led other government agencies in coastal protection efforts.

The six-person department has made working trips to study strategies adopted by other coastal countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain.

A three-year study initiated by BCA in 2010, on the impact of rising sea levels on Singapore's coast and possible economic implications, will conclude soon.

"We are also the coastal protection authority of Singapore," said Dr Keung.

"We are looking at the impact of sea-level rise on our shore line. We want to know, if it rises by half a metre, a metre or two metres, what happens?"

Even as BCA widens its long-term role, Dr Keung said one of the statutory board's more immediate goals is to overturn the perception that the construction industry is dirty, noisy and unglamorous, and to attract more Singaporeans to the sector.

To do that, BCA has been encouraging greater mechanisation of construction firms here.

It is doing that by subsidising up to 50 per cent of the cost of buying productivity-boosting hardware such as scissor lifts and automated wheel- washers, and software like Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools, which replace traditional two-dimensional plans and drawings.

Dr Keung said $67 million of the $250 million Construction Productivity and Capability Fund (CPCF) set up in 2010 by the Government has been disbursed to more than 1,600 companies here. Of this, more than $9 million has been used to subsidise BIM software to help local companies stay competitive not just here, but overseas as well.

From next year, BCA will also mandate that all architectural drawings submitted must use BIM, whether they are private or public projects. From 2014, this will include structural plans drawn up by engineers, and by 2015, all plans and drawings.

"Our architects know that if they want to compete for projects overseas, or in the region, they need to use BIM because the other consultants are using it."

The agency has also been making a big push for local firms to adopt prefabrication and precasting, which further reduces the need for manpower at worksites, in addition to reducing the levels of noise and pollution associated with traditional construction sites.

"If you look at our industry in the next three to five years, I am quite confident that there will be more on-site assembly rather than on-site construction," said Dr Keung.

In sum, BCA's goal is to remain the guardian of Singapore's built environment, said Dr Keung.

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Fond memories of sleepy, rural Punggol

Straits Times 28 Sep 12;

SLEEPY Punggol Point, once known for its rows of seafood eateries, may no longer be a place in the Singapore of today, but it still has a place in Mr Lee Hsien Loong's heart.

The Prime Minister can remember the first time he visited the area in 1967, when he was a 15-year-old boarding the ferry from Punggol Point to the Outward Bound School.

"Punggol was a very rural environment," he said, recalling how he would get "suddenly lost" on orienteering exercises in the kampung and secondary jungle areas.

"Today, you can't get lost in Punggol any more," he said with a tinge of nostalgia.

Mr Lee was responding to a question on whether he loved or missed any part of Singapore which has since been built over.

The importance of memories in defining the "soul of the nation" was a key theme of the Prime Minister's National Day Rally last month. In his speech, he reminisced about vanished places dear to him, and stressed the importance of memories of old places and friends in keeping Singapore the best home.

His memories of Punggol Point, however, were more recently sparked by a visit on Sunday to the "beautiful new town" of Punggol West. The area has undergone an extensive makeover over the years, from pig farms being resettled from the 1970s and bustling seafood restaurants moving out in 1994, to the building of new housing estates.

In 2007, Mr Lee unveiled plans for Punggol 21-Plus, setting the stage for the homes, parks and watersports facilities that have since sprung up there. The centrepiece is the 4.2km-long Punggol Waterway, which he opened last year.

And while he has fond memories of the old Punggol, the new Punggol is "better", said Mr Lee of the town, which will be almost as big as Ang Mo Kio.

"There's one 'Ang Mo Kio' coming up, south of the Punggol Waterway. And north of Punggol Waterway, another 'Ang Mo Kio' will rise one day, progressively."

At the same time, Mr Lee took comfort in the fact that a bit of the old Punggol has been retained.

Kelong Bridge, one of five footbridges along the waterway, looks like one of the old fishing villages which used to dot Punggol's shoreline. A stretch of Old Punggol Road, which used to lead to Punggol Point, and an old bus stop have also been conserved.

"I'm not sure if the bus still stops there any more, but they've kept the old bus stop," he quipped. "I think it's a nice microcosm of how Singapore has changed in one generation."


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Flash floods hit some parts of Singapore

Ng Kai Ling Straits Times 28 Sep 12;

FLASH floods hit several parts of Singapore last night when heavy showers came down islandwide for about an hour.

Kim Tian Road, Tanjong Pagar Road and Marina South underpass were affected, although waters receded in less than an hour.

National water agency PUB said that flash floods were also reported in Jalan Bukit Merah, Mount Elizabeth Road, South Bridge Road and New Bridge Road, but there were no signs of flooding when it investigated.

Business owners along Trengganu Street told The Straits Times last night that the road flooded between 9.30pm and 10pm.

"The rain was very heavy and water just started flowing in from Temple Street. The water was about ankle-deep," said Mr Feng Shi Hua, who runs a souvenir shop at the corner of Temple Street and Trengganu Street.

He added that some of his goods were damaged but not severely.

Mr Lee Ah Soon, who runs a street stall along Trengganu Street, managed to save his mooncakes from being damaged.

He added: "When I saw the water rising, I quickly moved them to the table."

Last night the National Environment Agency (NEA) carried a heavy rain warning on its website.

Typically, this happens when there is rainfall with rates exceeding 50mm in an hour and affecting more than one-fifth of the island.

Weather forecast for the next two days is for cloudy skies, with late morning and early afternoon showers on Sunday.

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Malaysia: Protected song birds seized

New Straits Times 28 Sep 12;

JOHOR BARU: A boat carrying protected song birds worth about RM100,000, was detained by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) in the waters off Teluk Ramunia in Pengerang, Johor on Wednesday.

The vessel was stopped by MMEA enforcement personnel at 11.25am and they found more than 150 protected white-rumped sharma (or commonly called burung murai batu) packed in plastic baskets.

MMEA southern region operation director, Maritime Captain Ibrahim Mohamed said a agency boat on routine patrol had spotted the boat which then sped off.

"We managed to stop the boat after a 10-minute chase at about 1.5 nautical miles south-east from Teluk Ramunia," he said yesterday.

On inspection, the agency's personnel found 16 plastic baskets filled with more than 150 protected song birds.

The white-rumped sharma is a protected bird species and it is an offence to be in possession without proper documentation.

The birds, which are prized as song birds in Malaysia, can fetch up to RM600 per bird depending on their size.

Ibrahim said investigations revealed that the boat from Pasir Gudang and en-route to Penggerang when it was intercepted by the MMEA patrol.

A local man, in his 40s, was detained. The suspect did not have any documents or permits for the birds.

He claimed that he was only told to deliver the birds to the location in Penggerang.

Ibrahim said the seized boat and suspect were sent to the Stulang Darat jetty. The case has been transferred to the Johor Baru Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) for further action.

"The case is being investigated under Section 60(1)(a) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 for having in possession protected animals without a licence which carries a maximum penalty of up to RM50,000 or jail term or both," he said.

Bird smuggling bid foiled
Desiree Tresa Gasper The Star 28 Sep 12;

JOHOR BARU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has successfully thwarted an attempt to smuggle 150 white-rumped Shama birds in Pengerang.

Maritime operations director Maritime Capt Ibrahim Mohamed said the protected species were in 16 plastic cages and believed to have been transported from Pasir Gudang here yesterday.

“Officials noticed a suspicious looking fibreglass boat at around 11.15am and when they approached for inspection, the driver suddenly steered away,” he said.

Capt Ibrahim said officials immediately gave chase and after 10 minutes they managed to detain the boat off Teluk Ramunia.

“We discovered a large stack of plastic cages filled with birds.

“We also arrested a local man in his 40s who was handling the boat,” he said.

Capt Ibrahim said the boat did not have any registration number.

“Investigations revealed that the man was trying to transport the birds from Pasir Gudang to Pengerang.

“The man, however, claimed he was only following instructions and did not know where the birds were from,” he said.

He added that the man also did not have documents to certify that he was allowed to transport the birds.

“The Shama has an estimated market value of between RM300 to RM600 each depending on size.

“The bird is protected and possessing or transporting it without proper documents is illegal,” he said.

Capt Ibrahim said the birds were handed over to the state Department of Wildlife and National Parks for further action.

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Forest Fires Rage in Central Java, East Kalimantan

SP/Imron Rosyid & Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 27 Sep 12;

Solo/West Kutai. Forest fires have razed thousands of hectares of land in Central Java and East Kalimantan as an unusually intense and protracted dry spell drags on, officials reported on Wednesday.

In Karanganyar, Central Java, more than 500 hectares of forests and tree nurseries on the slopes of Mount Lawu have been torched since Monday, with the fires still raging as of Wednesday.

Aji Pratama, head of the Karanganyar Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), said the extremely dry conditions and strong winds were fueling the flames and making it hard for firefighters to douse them.

“The fires started in Ngawi district [in East Java] and have spread here because of the winds,” he said.

“It’s not just the brush and shrubs that are getting burned, but also trees, especially pines.”

Much of the affected area on Mount Lawu consists of logging concessions that include pine, acacia and eucalyptus trees.

Sunardi, a resident of Ngargoyoso subdistrict further down the slope, said the ash from the burning vegetation was raining down on residential areas. He added residents were afraid that the fire would reach their homes.

“We’re 25 kilometers away from the fires, but you never know with the way the wind’s blowing,” he said.

Maryono, coordinator of the district emergency response unit, said the size of the scorched area was increasing by the hour, with the fire now encroaching on a community forest.

Rina Iriani, the Karanganyar district head, said fires were not an uncommon problem on Lawu’s slopes, but this year’s blaze was worse because of the dry conditions and strong winds.

She said she had ordered all hiking routes in the area to be temporarily closed and called on resident’s living on the mountain’s slopes to help in putting out the fires.

In West Kutai, East Kalimantan, forest fires have razed more than 1,500 hectares of land since Monday. A harsh dry spell has also been blamed for the extent of the disaster there.

Yustinus A.S., head of the district forestry office, said the fires were not believed to be man-made. He said the affected area, on the periphery of the Kersik Luway orchid park, a forest conservation area, had previously experienced severe fires lasting several months in 1987 and 1997.

“Both those previous times we lost around 5,000 hectares of forest. This time it’s only around 1,500 hectares, most of which was forest area that was replanted after the 1997 fire,” Yustinus said.

He added that firefighters and residents alike were trying to put out the flames and prevent the fire spreading to the orchid park.

Haze from the fire is also causing problems at West Kutai’s Melalan Sendawar Airport, where visibility was down to one kilometer on Wednesday, well below the usual three kilometers.

The conditions forced the airport to freeze operations from Wednesday. Suparno, the airport manager, said scheduled flights to Samarinda and Balikpapan had to be canceled because of the haze. “We don’t know yet when we can reopen the airport,” he said.

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Waves continue to sweep injured turtles onto Phuket

Phuket Gazette 27 Sep 12;

The turtle recovered yesterday, like many before it, had a flipper amputated, most likely by a discarded fishing net. Photo: Kritsada Mueanhawong

PHUKET: Officers at the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) recovered a juvenile Olive Ridley sea turtle suffering from lacerations, and its front left flipper amputated entirely, from Mai Khao Beach yesterday.

“We received a report from The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation that the turtle had washed ashore in front of Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa – Marriott at Mai Khao Beach,” Dr Patcharaporn Gaewmong, a veterinarian for the Endangered Species Unit (ESU) at PMBC, told the Gazette

“We retrieved the turtle and brought it back to our center for treatment. Staff here cleaned its wounds and started it on an antibiotic regime. We will continue to monitoring its health,” she said.

An examination by ESU staff, revealed that the turtle had cuts to its front left flipper, which Dr Patcharaporn thinks was probably as a result the young turtle fighting to free itself from discarded fishing net.

“Some 30 turtles have been found washed ashore since June. Most of those had cuts to their flippers from fishing nets,” she said.

“We are trying our best to save them.” she added.

Those interested in making a difference by cleaning the reefs of Phuket and the surrounding islands of rubbish and discarded fishing nets are encouraged to join Go Eco Phuket, the Phuket Gazette and hundreds of individuals in what is expected to be the world’s biggest coral reef cleanup this Sunday.

Kritsada Mueanhawong

Carnage to Phuket’s marine life continues
Phuket Gazette 28 Sep 12;

PHUKET: In just one day, half a dozen Olive Ridley sea turtles were rescued in Phuket, all suffering lacerations caused by fishing nets, and a young dolphin was stranded on Mai Khao Beach.

Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong, head of the Endangered Species Unit (ESU) at the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), revealed yesterday that ESU officers received a report from lifeguards at Karon Beach that three adult turtles had washed ashore.

Later, the center received another report telling them that three more turtles had washed ashore in separate locations along the coastline from Mai Khao to Phang Nga.

Of the three rescued at Karon Beach, Dr Kongkiat said, “They were all female Olive Ridley sea turtles, their shells measuring about 50-60 centimeters long.

“We brought them back to the center for examination and treatment as they were all suffering from cuts to their flippers.”

In addition to damaged flippers, examinations revealed that their shells were in poor condition, exhibiting bacterial or fungal growth. From that, ESU staff assessed that the three turtles were caught in fishing nets for about a month.

Dr Kongkiat’s team also responded to the three turtles reported washed ashore in the north of Phuket.

“We received a report from villagers that one sea turtle washed up on Tah Chat Chai Beach in Mai Khao. A second and third turtle were reported ashore in Phang Nga province. All three were females and had also been ensnared by finishing nets for about a month,” Dr Kongkiat said.

“They are all undergoing treatment at the center,” he added.

According to Dr Kongkiat, over the past five decades the number of Olive Ridley turtles laying eggs along the western beaches of Phuket and Phang Nga had dropped from somewhere between 500 to 1,000 to only about 10 to 30.

PMBC Officers believe that having turtles washing ashore in numbers is a good sign that many more turtles are out at sea trying to get to the beaches in order to lay their eggs.

“I hope a lot more Olive Ridley sea turtles can avoid the fishing nets and other dangers and make it to the beaches safely to lay their eggs,” he added.

Notwithstanding the six turtles they had to deal with yesterday, ESU staff also recovered a young female dolphin that had beached in Mai Khao.

Identified as a Spinner dolphin, Dr Kongkiat estimated that the marine animal is around one year old, a meter in length and weighing about 20 kilograms.

“The dolphin is still able to swim unaided but her balance is not very good. We believe she has an internal infection,” he said.

Two weeks earlier, two dead dolphins washed up on Mai Khao Beach, said Dr Kongkiat.

“Spinner dolphins in the Andaman Sea usually live in schools of about 20 to 100. Sometimes they are found living with other species of dolphins,” Dr Kongkiat explained.

Asked about the cause of dolphin strandings, Dr Kongkiat replied that the monsoon season, which brought with it rough seas and strong waves, was most likely the cause.

– Kritsada Mueanhawong

Three more injured turtles wash up on Phuket's beaches
Phuket Gazette 29 Sep 12;

PHUKET: Another three young Olive Ridley sea turtles were discovered washed up on Phuket beaches yesterday. All were missing limbs, presumed to have been severed by discarded fishing nets.

Dr Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong, who heads the Endangered Species Unit at the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), told the Phuket Gazette that the turtles were discovered by local residents and lifeguards at Kata Beach and Yanui Beach, in the south of Phuket, and at Surin Beach further north.

“The three turtles had flippers cut off by fishing nets. We have provided some initial treatment for their injuries. One of them is a female, but the rest two are too young to identify their gender,” said Dr Kongkiat.

“The three turtles bring the total number of injured ones that have washed ashore local beaches since July to 40. All are now in our care to 40. All of them are Olive Ridley turtles. Most of them are disabled,” Dr Kongkiat added.

– Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Philippines: Tubbataha Reef hailed as conservation model

Julie M. Aurelio Philippine Daily Inquirer 28 Sep 12;

The Philippines’ Tubbataha Reef was recently recognized by an international policy research body for the excellent care of the heritage site, hailed as a model in coral reef conservation.

The World Future Council gave one of two Silver Awards to the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act, the policy measure that created a protected marine sanctuary of almost 100,000 hectares of high-quality marine habitats containing three atolls and a large area of deep sea.

The Tubbataha Reef, which sits in the center of the Sulu Sea southeast of Palawan, is located within the Coral Triangle, a global focus for coral biological diversity. It is home to a wide diversity of marine life and is a popular dive site.

World Heritage Site

It was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in 1993. It is administered as part of Cagayancillo, Palawan, and is under the protective management of the Department of National Defense.

In a statement, the World Future Council lauded the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act for ensuring the effective management of the Unesco World Heritage Site.

Model in conservation

“Tubbataha has demonstrated that with carefully planned management, local communities need not bear the burden of closed protected areas, but can be their primary beneficiaries; as a nursery site for fish, the reef supports local artisanal fisheries,” the council said.

The World Future Council also praised the management of the Tubbataha Reef by local authorities and nongovernment organizations, citing the excellent condition of the reef compared with neighboring sites.

“The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act has been hailed as a model of coral reef conservation and already similar legislation has been enacted in the neighboring Apo Reef,” the statement added.

The second Silver Award was given to Namibia’s Marine Resources Act of 2000 “for instituting an ecologically and economically viable fishing industry.”

Winning top honors was the Micronesian country of Palau, which received the Future Policy Award for 2012 for two outstanding marine policies, the Protected Areas Network Act, initiated in 2003, and its Shark Haven Act from 2009.

The World Future Council said the three winning countries “contribute most effectively to the sustainable management of the world’s oceans and coasts for the benefit of current and future generations.”

Leading by example

The winners were announced at a press conference recently at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

According to its website, the World Future Council is an international policy research organization that provides effective policy solutions for decision-makers.

“With the Future Policy Award we want to cast a spotlight on policies that lead by example. The aim of the World Future Council is to raise awareness for exemplary policies and speed up policy action towards just, sustainable and peaceful societies,” said Alexandra Wandel, World Future Council director.

The winners will receive their awards on Oct. 16 at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, India.

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Countries Agree New Plan for Global Shark Conservation

press release AllAfrica 27 Sep 12;

Bonn — Government representatives from 50 countries have gathered in Bonn, Germany, for the first meeting of signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks concluded under the UN Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)

Participants adopted a new conservation plan, which aims to catalyze regional initiatives to reduce threats to migratory sharks. Signatory states also agreed to involve fishing industry representatives, NGOs, and scientists in implementing the conservation plan.

Under the agreement, countries agreed to exchange information among government bodies, scientific institutions, international organizations and NGOs. Improved monitoring and data collection will help assess the structure, trends and distribution of shark populations necessary to design targeted conservation measures.

The MoU on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (2010) is the first global instrument dedicated to migratory sharks and complements a suite of existing wildlife and fisheries agreements.

Since migratory sharks cross the high seas and national waters of different states, closer collaboration between countries is needed to tackle over-fishing and other threats.

"The Convention on Migratory Species welcomes the continued cooperation among governments and partners and challenges participants to take meaningful actions to promote shark conservation within their waters and on the high seas," said CMS Acting Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema.

Sharks are under serious threat around the globe. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified 17 percent of more than 1000 assessed species as threatened, according its 'Red List' criteria. Sharks are caught intentionally or as accidental "by-catch" in virtually all types of fisheries worldwide.

The new conservation plan will encourage fisheries-related research on incidental and direct shark catches with the aim to ensure that all shark catch is sustainable.

In particular, governments will work with fishing industries, regional fisheries management organizations, scientists and NGOs to avoid the capture of two of the largest sharks in the world: the basking shark and great white shark. These shark species are considered endangered migratory species and are listed in Appendix I of CMS.

Other species targeted by the conservation plan include mako, spiny dogfish, porbeagle, basking, white, and whale sharks

Countries also stressed that the accidental capture of sharks in fishing gear needs to be more closely regulated. Participants at the Bonn meeting agreed to encourage catch quotas to ensure sustainable use of targeted sharks and stricter limits on endangered shark species. No international fishing quotas have been established to date for the short and long fin mako sharks, which traverse ocean basins, are fished by multiple countries, and are covered by the CMS agreement.

The conservation plan also suggests that sharks should be landed with their fins still attached in order to prevent shark "finning" (slicing off a shark's fins and discarding the body at sea). The high value of fins has created an economic incentive for shark finning , but to date, more than 60 fishing nations, including the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU), have banned the practice.

However, in the EU and some other countries, processing sharks on board vessels is still allowed in some cases. This means that shark fins can be removed from carcasses and stored separately under a fin-to-carcass weight limit that can be difficult to properly enforce. In 2011, the European Commission proposed putting an end to these permits and requiring that sharks be landed with their fins attached. On 19 March 2012, the Council of the European Union endorsed the Commission's approach. The proposal is currently being debated by the European Parliament.

It is estimated that 26 to 73 million sharks are killed every year to support the global shark fin market. Shark fins, used in the traditional Asian dish shark fin soup, are among the world's most valuable fishery products. The price of shark fins reached more than US$ 700 per kilo in 2011, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Sharks are also sought for meat and liver oil and, increasingly, their cartilage skeletons are also marketed.

Most sharks are long-living species that grow slowly, mature late, and produce few young. These biological factors make sharks particularly vulnerable to overfishing and mean that populations can be slow to recover once depleted.

Representatives from other UN bodies such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as well as INTERPOL also participated at the meeting of signatories, in addition to leading NGO representatives and shark fisheries experts.

CMS is working with Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to promote the conservation and sustainable use of sharks.

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Recognition at last for Alfred Russel Wallace, who lived in Darwin's shadow

Victorian naturalist's extensive collection of specimens and papers appear together for first time in online project
Ian Sample The Guardian 27 Sep 12;

Alfred Russel Wallace arrived in Singapore in 1854 with a simple plan in mind. He would survey the region's wildlife and ship specimens back to London for sale to museums and wealthy collectors. His financial security rested on the foreign exotica for which Victorians had a seemingly insatiable appetite.

The British naturalist amassed thousands of insects and birds during eight years in southeast Asia. And though Wallace's strange creatures sold for good money back home, the collection had a more profound value. Through studying the animals, Wallace hit on one of the world's greatest scientific discoveries: the theory of evolution through natural selection.

Wallace's work on the theory, along with major insights into biodiversity, are described in thousands of pages of books, articles, drawings and paintings, which appear together for the first time today, in a web project directed by John van Wyhe, a historian at the National University of Singapore. The Wallace Online project was funded by an anonymous US donor, and comes ahead of next year's centenary of Wallace's death.

Wallace's publications were distributed among thousands of magazines and newspapers, and had never been collected together in one place. The project contains 28,000 pages of searchable documents and 22,000 images. They include stunning pictures of blue-throated bee eaters, asian fairy-bluebirds and meticulous drawings of butterflies and beetles.

Van Wyhe, who directed a similar project for Darwin's works several years ago, said the Wallace collection was intended as a reliable source of information on the naturalist whose name was so eclipsed by Darwin's. "This needed to be done for Wallace. He's far less well known than Darwin, and it's high time people had reliable material on his work," van Wyhe said.

The history of science is littered with names overlooked, but few so much as Wallace. In July 1858, the first papers on natural selection were read aloud at the Linnean Society in London, one from Darwin, the other from Wallace. Though both men announced the theory at the same time, Darwin's publication, On the Origin of Species, the following year was the seed of revolution that made senior scientists take notice.

The book was not the only factor. Victorian modesty played a part in Wallace's diminished place in history, and perhaps some deference to what he, a poor and unprivileged man, saw as the great figures of science. "The Victorians were falling over themselves to be more modest than everybody else. Modesty was a high virtue. So Wallace, from the very beginning, referred to it as Darwin's theory, and he never relented to the end of his life," said van Wyhe.

From 1855, Wallace published a series of articles that came ever closer to declaring the theory of evolution through natural selection. In the midst of a malarial fever, on the island of Ternate in Indonesia, he had a moment of clarity, that many are born, lots die, and only a few survive. He sent an essay from the island to Darwin, who passed it to the great geologist, Charles Lyell, who then proposed it to the Linnean Society alongside an essay from Darwin.

"It's one of the greatest ironies in history. Wallace sends his essay to the one man in the world who has been working on this for 20 years. And Darwin, again the perfect gent, passes it to Lyell, and they decide to publish essays from them both," said van Wyhe.

Wallace's thorough survey of wildlife led to another breakthrough in 1859, known today as the Wallace line. He noticed that species on either side of an invisible line between Australia and Asia were substantially different, despite being close geographical neighbours. The observation clashed with the thinking of the day, that species were created for their particular environment. Wallace proposed the animals came from two ancient, larger landmasses, a Super Asia and a Super Australia, which had long since sunk beneath the waves. "He couldn't have imagined plate tectonics, which is the real explanation, and that Australia started out in South America," said van Wyhe.

Among Wallace's other writings are notes on local cuisine. In a passage on the durian fruit, Wallace describes a large coconut-sized fruit with short, stout spines, liable to fall from trees and cause spectacular wounds to the unwary. "When brought into a house the smell is often so offensive that some persons can never bear to taste it. This was my own case when I first tried it in Malacca, but in Borneo I found a ripe fruit on the ground, and, eating it out of doors, I at once became a confirmed Durian eater," he writes. Having declared the taste almost impossible to describe, he offers "a rich butter-like custard, highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but intermingled with it come wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, brown sherry, and other incongruities".

In other papers, Wallace laments the rate at which species are being forced to extinction, and makes one of the earliest calls for conservation. He likens species to letters that make up the volumes of Earth's history, and their loss obliterating an invaluable record of the past.

"Future ages will certainly look back upon us as a people so immersed in the pursuit of wealth as to be blind to higher considerations," he writes from the Malay archipelago in 1863.

Evolution theorist Alfred Russel Wallace goes online
Jonathan Amos BBC News 27 Sep 12;

The great naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace now has an online presence to match that of Charles Darwin.

The two men independently formulated the theory of evolution by natural selection, and announced it in tandem in July 1858

But it is one of those quirks of history that Darwin got all the fame.

His collected works were digitised and posted on the web in 2006. Now, the writings and drawings of Wallace have received the same treatment.

The effort has been completed by the same historian, too - John van Wyhe.

But whereas Dr van Wyhe produced Darwin Online from Cambridge University, UK, he has led the new Wallace Online project from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Wallace was a major scientific figure in South East Asia.

"What this should hopefully do is result in a major upgrade in the quality of writing about Wallace," the historian told BBC News.

"Next year is the centenary of his death. Just like 2009 was the big Darwin year, 2013 will be the big Wallace year. And I hope now that people have access to all of his literature, it will make a big difference to what they say and write about him."

Wallace Online gathers together in one place for the first time all of the naturalist's writings and illustrations.

There are 28,000 pages of searchable documents and 22,000 images. Among the online gems is that first announcement of the theory of evolution delivered to a London scientific meeting 154 years ago.

It remains one of the great coincidences in scientific history that the one person Wallace should choose to approach to share his ideas on natural selection was the only other scientist who separately had come to the same conclusions - Charles Darwin.

Quite why Wallace never achieved a similar level of fame has long been debated, but the lower profile should not be seen as a reflection on the man's talents or achievements, argues Dr van Wyhe.

The Wallace Online collection certainly bears testament to a prolific output. Like Darwin, Wallace was also a great traveller, spending large chunks of time in Brazil (1848-1853) and in South East Asia (1854-1862).

"It's very appropriate that we've done Wallace Online from NUS because Wallace was the pioneering figure in the study of this part of the world," said Dr van Wyhe.

"He spent eight years here, using Singapore as his base. He made major discoveries - he discovered hundreds of new species, going to places no naturalist had ever gone to before. And then, of course, there is The Wallace Line."

The Wallace Line is a term still in use today and refers to the sharp division between the types of animals in Australia and those on the Asian archipelago.

Wallace identified this abrupt transition, but could not satisfactorily explain it. Nor would he have been able to.

It is only with the 20th Century theory of plate tectonics that scientists can now describe how Australia, with its unique flora and fauna, was delivered from another part of the globe and abutted to South East Asia.

Dr van Wyhe said: "Wallace is an amazing example of somebody who had no privilege, no wealth, no connections - and who went out on his own to make his own way in the world; and he discovered so many amazing things, not just evolution.

"That's why for so many people, he remains such an inspiring figure.

"He's the sort of person that you can aspire to be. You can just do it yourself through independent thinking and hard work."

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