Best of our wild blogs: 11 Jan 12

Day of Snails at Cyrene with Shell volunteers
from wild shores of singapore

'It looks like a Komodo dragon': Huge monitor lizard spotted in Kallang River
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

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Urbanisation has led to increase in storm water run-off: Expert panel

Esther Ng Today Online 11 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE - Urbanisation was officially acknowledged for the first time yesterday as part of the reasons behind the increase in storm water run-off, as the expert panel on drainage design and flood prevention measures revealed its recommendations on flood mitigation in Singapore.

"Urbanisation has undoubtedly led to an increase in storm water run-off in Singapore," the panel said in its statement. "There is therefore a strong argument for introducing measures to mitigate the effects of such urbanisation."

However, the panel - formed in June last year after flooding in the Orchard Road area in 2010 - stressed that these effects are often "complex" and will require further analysis.

The 12-member panel's recommendations include more dynamic weather modelling and infrastructural improvements, but it noted that a whole-scale up-sizing of Singapore's drain infrastructure would be expensive and disruptive.

A "better approach" was to reduce and delay run-off at source such as with storage tanks, rain gardens, roof-top gardens and porous pavements.

"We would like regulations brought into Singapore which require new developments to install source-controlled measures, so that the impact of development is mitigated," said panel member Professor David Balmforth, executive technical director of MWH UK, an engineering firm. "We also believe there's potential of retrofitting these measures to existing buildings."

These measures are to be complemented with diversion canals, storage tanks along "pathways" of drains, drain capacity improvements, and finally, flood barriers, raised platform levels - some of which is already being done, but "could be carried further", noted Prof Balmforth.

When contacted, the PUB said it will be studying the recommendations of the panel.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan had announced in Parliament on Monday that the PUB was looking into raising the capacity of Stamford Canal to reduce the risk of flooding.

Asked whether this would run counter to the panel's recommendation, Prof Balmforth said: "It would be unusual to produce a range of measures in a city that didn't involve some upgrade of some conveyance capacity somewhere, but that's not the same as investing in wholesale capacity upgrade of the city area, that's an important distinction to make."

Additionally, the panel recommended that the PUB moves towards a more integrated "risk-based" approach to better forecast the weather, said panel chairman Chan Eng Soon.

Based on additional analysis done with the Meteorological Services, the panel noted some clear trends in recent decades: Higher rainfall intensity and increased frequency of intense rains - consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's findings, said Professor Chan.

The panel reiterated that the PUB has advanced modelling capabilities and has already collected high quality data, but more could be done. For instance, the error margins could be in centimetres rather than in 10 to 50 cm.

With more accurate data, PUB will have a faster lead time to react and provide the public with better information, Prof Chan said.

Use local storage tanks, green roofs to tackle flooding: Expert panel
Esther Ng Today Online 10 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE - To mitigate the effects of flooding, the expert panel on drainage design and flood protection measures has recommended the use of local storage tanks, green roofs and porous pavements.

Announcing its findings and recommendations in a media briefing today, the panel also suggested improving the pathways of water flow through means such as diversion canals, retention ponds, as well as raised platform levels.

The 12-member panel, comprising local and international experts, noted that urbanisation has led to an increase in storm water runoff and that the Stamford Canal - blamed for the Orchard Road floods - did not have the capacity to drain away the runoff generated by downpour on June 16, 2010 and June 5 last year.

But the panel did not recommend wholesale upsizing of the Canal. A better approach would be to reduce and delay runoff upstream, coupled with diverting excess elsewhere, suggested the panel.

Additionally, the PUB needs to move toward a more dynamic modelling approach to manage changing weather patterns as well as enhance its flood warning system so that the public has access to better information to make informed decisions should a flood occur, it added.

The panel was appointed on June 30 last year to review drainage design and flood protection measures that will be implemented in Singapore over the next decade. It is chaired by Professor Chan Eng Soon, dean of the faculty of engineering at the National University of Singapore.

Upsizing Stamford Canal not best solution: expert panel
Evelyn Choo/Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 10 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: The panel of experts appointed to review Singapore's flood protection measures submitted its report on Tuesday, after a six-month consultation period.

It proposed that national water agency PUB collect high-resolution data to get a better idea of Singapore's flood modelling profile, and the government look into new ways to tackle the surface runoff upstream rather than focus all efforts on the downstream.

The panel said a general widening of drains and canals in Singapore is not the best long-term solution for flood prevention. This holds true for the Stamford Canal which, the panel noted, had been designed to the standards in place at that time rather than standards more typical today.

It said the canal no longer has the capacity to drain away the volume of rainfall generated by storms like those in June 2010 and June 2011.

The panel does not believe that the whole-scale upsizing of the Stamford Canal is the best long-term solution to addressing flood risks on Orchard Road.

It suggested the government look into ways to store water in the Orchard Road area further upstream, such as through the use of roof tops, a water retention pond, storage tanks along the Stamford Canal's route to relieve its burden or a diversion canal to bring the water elsewhere.

New buildings should have water-retention roofs to make up for increased urbanisation and existing buildings should be retrofitted, said the panel.

Pavements could also be made porous to absorb some water and preventing all of it from rushing into canals, added the 12-member panel comprising local and international experts.

These measures control flooding at the source, said a member of the panel, Professor David Balmforth.

The panel acknowledged that these measures and the gathering of more accurate higher-resolution data on water drainage will require significant investment.

But Professor Balmforth, MWH UK's executive technical director, said: "What the experience in the rest of the world that the overall cost of doing it that way is generally significantly less than if you concentrate on trying to increase conveyance capacity all the time."

The panel said Singapore should also look into drainage systems that can deliver multiple benefits, for instance, water storage solutions that can serve as a source of water in times of drought.

The panel was appointed on June 30 last year to review drainage design and flood protection measures that will be implemented in Singapore over the next decade. It is chaired by Professor Chan Eng Soon, dean of the faculty of engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

- CNA/cc/ir

Quick fixes and better data to fight floods
Expert panel suggests both short- and long-term measures
Feng Zengkun & Grace Chua Straits Times 11 Jan 12;

ROOFTOP rain gardens and porous roads are some of the immediate ways to alleviate flooding problems in Singapore, says an expert panel on floods.

But in the longer term, the Government needs to gather better data about how much rain falls and how it flows and pools across the island.

It also needs to upgrade its computer modelling systems so that its flood predictions are more accurate.

The panel, made up of 12 local and foreign experts, made these and other recommendations yesterday after wrapping up a six-month study.

It had been appointed by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan after a flood in June last year inundated the Tanglin area.

The thrust of the report was that solving Singapore's flood woes will require managing the entire chain of rainwater flow. While some of this will mean embarking on big infrastructural projects, other measures can be implemented quickly.

The quick fixes: mandating that rooftop rain gardens or green roofs be built on top of new buildings and retrofitting old ones; redeveloping roads to make them porous; installing flood barriers and raising buildings' thresholds.

But while these can be achieved in the short term, what is more crucial is the collection and study of topographic and weather data, they said.

Professor Chan Eng Soon, head of the panel and dean of the engineering faculty at the National University of Singapore, said most of the relevant drainage data collected by agencies here has been limited to water movement within drains and canals.

The Government needs to create a digital map of the country's landscape and ground surface types, and build a computer model that can better predict where water will go above-ground and which areas may be flooded, he said.

The panel said that currently, only some areas in Singapore are very well-mapped, such as the Orchard Road area. 'You must understand the entire catchment to know how water is going to flow,' said Prof Chan.

The experts also noted that the latest technology can measure the height of the land to an accuracy of 10cm. But Singapore is still relying on topographical data which was estimated - in some parts - using aerial photographs which can be inaccurate by whole metres, not centimetres.

Prof Chan said installing more rain gauges to measure rainfall - a project which national water agency PUB has already embarked on - will also produce more granular data on rainfall in specific areas.

But he noted that it would take time for such data to support any conclusions about changes in weather patterns. The panel had access to only 30 years' worth of consistent data, which it said was not enough.

Ms Elena Pison San Pedro, a meteorologist at research organisation DHI Singapore, said 30 years is the minimum for a climate change study, and phenomena that affect rainfall patterns, such as El Nino, can occur in cycles that take five to 20 years.

'Rainfall is still one of the most difficult variables to model due to its high... variability, especially in Singapore's tropical weather,' she said.

More robust data aside, the panel agreed with PUB that a detention pond and a diversion canal could be longer-term solutions.

The water agency is studying the possibility of building these, but Dr Balakrishnan said in Parliament on Monday that the pond would require land the size of two to three football fields, while the canal, which will re-route water from the maxed-out Stamford Canal to the Singapore River, will cost between $300 million and $400 million.

Mr Kam Yim-Fai, a panellist and chief engineer of the land drainage division at Hong Kong's drainage services department, said the Hong Kong government built an underground water storage tank in Kowloon in 2004 and reduced floods there. The project cost HK$285 million (S$47 million) and the tank was hidden under football and rugby fields.

'This could be useful in Singapore if the tank is installed in a low-lying area, so water flows there naturally. It should also be located close to the flood-prone area,' he said. The panel declined to comment on where such a tank could be located in Singapore, saying it needed more information from a modelling system.

The experts also suggested creating smaller storage tanks along Stamford Canal's route to relieve its burden. Such tanks are traditionally sited above ground to reduce cost and for easier maintenance, but underground versions have been used in Hong Kong and Chicago.

Mr Veera Sekaran, managing director at Greenology which installs green roofs, said the panel's suggestion to build rain gardens will be effective only if they cover 5 to 10 per cent of the catchment area.

Ms Lee Bee Wah, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for the Environment and National Development, said the drainage solutions need to be aligned with the country's land-use master plan and global weather patterns.

Panel's suggestions


Create rain gardens to capture and retain rain

Build green roofs

Build local storage tanks and ponds at ground or underground level

Improve drain capacity

Design temporary storage space such as basement amphitheatres - for recreation but can be used to hold rain water.


Build porous pavements to soak up rain water

Build a diversion canal or canals


Raise platform levels

Install flood barriers


Enhance flood warning system for the public

Invest in modelling tools

Expanding Stamford Canal 'not a long-term option'
Kezia Toh Straits Times 11 Jan 12;

THE panel of specialists set up to look into the flooding problem has concluded that upsizing the Stamford Canal is not the best way to fend off flash floods in the long run.

It suggested that a better way would be to reduce and delay the flow of rainwater into the canal, and to divert the excess flow elsewhere.

This could be done, for example, with small storage tanks along the canal's route, or by building a diversion canal upstream of Orchard Road, leading to the Singapore River.

The 4km-long Stamford Canal, which runs along Orchard Road, has been fingered as the culprit of floods in the shopping belt for its failure to drain away the runoff from heavy downpours.

The floods of June 2010 and last December caused damage to goods in the basement shops of Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza as well as inconvenience to shoppers.

National water agency PUB had previously estimated that the canal's capacity would have to be increased by 30 per cent to prevent a repeat of such floods.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan also acknowledged in Parliament this week that widening and deepening the canal was not feasible.

The panel said that while the move to raise a 1.4km stretch of Orchard Road between Orange Grove Road and Cairnhill Road after the 2010 flood has reduced the flood risk for a large part of the Orchard Road area, more in-depth studies are necessary to determine if the road-raising 'has moved the flood risk from one location to another'.

As for speculation that the Marina Barrage contributed to the floods in Orchard Road, the panel dismissed the idea.

It said the barrage removed the impact of high tides on low-lying areas and released excess storm water from the catchment.

It did not cause the floods in Orchard Road in 2010 and last year, as its influence did not extend that far upstream, said the panel.

PUB 'has done well managing floods for 40 years'
Straits Times 11 Jan 12;

DESPITE the recent flood episodes, national water agency PUB has done well to manage the drainage and flood situation in Singapore in the past 40 years, acknowledged the expert panel.

This, despite rapid urbanisation, which makes it harder for rainwater to seep into the ground.

Singapore's storm drainage, said the panel, also compares well with other metropolitan areas.

Civil engineering professor Yong Kwet Yew, who is vice-president of the National University of Singapore and one of the panellists, noted that the number of flood-prone areas has been reduced dramatically.

From 3,200ha in the 1970s, such areas have been reduced to just 56ha today.

This will be further reduced to 40ha next year.

Over the last 30 years, the Government has invested $2 billion in upgrading drainage infrastructure.

PUB continues to spend about $150 million each year improving existing infrastructure in a bid to fend off floods.

But the panel added that the likelihood of more intense rain will burden the network of canals and drains here.

This refers to high intensity storms lasting less than an hour, to prolonged rainstorms with moderate rainfall intensities.

It cited rainfall intensity records over the past 30 years, showing a trend towards higher rainfall intensity, and the frequency of intense rain.

The data came from the meteorological services under the National Environment Agency (NEA).

These rainfall trends are also consistent with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report.

In view of this, PUB needs to conduct further studies and review the design of its drains, said the panel.

It also attributes the three flooding incidents in Orchard Road over 18 months as part of the 'random nature of rainfall patterns'.

Two malls - Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza - at the premier shopping belt were hit by flash floods on Dec 23. Last June, water flowed into Tanglin Mall and St Regis Residences, and in 2010, large swathes of the Orchard and Scotts Road junction were submerged.

Panel advises getting better data before drainage review
Mapping S'pore's ground elevation digitally among recommendations
Lynn Kan Business Times 11 Jan 12;

AN international expert panel said that with mounting rainfall in Singapore, PUB has to take up more advanced and comprehensive methods to measure water levels and flow in the drainage system.

More specific and accurate data would help PUB 'review its drainage design considerations to account for these observed changes in rainfall patterns'.

In particular, PUB should map Singapore's ground elevation digitally to figure out how rainwater 'runs off' overground - not only in drains - and improve on flow monitoring to track how fast water runs through a channel in a certain amount of time.

The Expert Panel on Drainage Design and Flood Prevention Measures was formed by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources last June 30 to review how Singapore tackles flood risks in the next decade. It will likely submit its full report by the end of the week to the ministry.

The panel, which met over a period of six months, stressed repeatedly that PUB has collected 'decent' data in the past.

'PUB has already ventured into more advanced modelling. With time, they should be able to get there,' said panel chair Chan Eng Soon, the dean of National University of Singapore's engineering faculty.

The 12-person panel also recommended Singapore introduce a 'wide range' of solutions in infrastructure rather than delve into the costly affair of deepening or widening drains and canals.

These ideas include turning rooftops into water collection points, building porous pavements, installing tanks in canals, and erecting anti-flood barriers.

Any new ideas should have multiple uses besides flood mitigation, and so, would require agencies to work together closely.

Besides cost issues, expanding drain capacity would not be 'flexible' enough of a solution given mercurial climate change patterns. Though Singapore has experienced three flash floods in Orchard Road in the past 18 months, the panel pointed out that Singapore is equally prone to prolonged drought because dry months have become increasingly dryer.

Said panellist Yong Kwet Yew: 'Singapore's infrastructure in any intervention scheme therefore has to take flooding into account as well as consider how to use collected water in periods of prolonged drought.' Some of the recommended measures should come to pass relatively quickly, such as requiring new buildings to feature detention ponds, said panel member David Balmforth.

However, major infrastructure overhauls would need a longer time to plan and would not happen until a few years later.

The expert panel also said that 'wholescale expansion' of the Stamford Canal, which runs through the Orchard Road shopping belt, is not ideal.

The panel's comments backed what Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in parliament on Monday.

Dr Balakrishnan said that the Stamford Canal would ideally have to be expanded by one-third to cope with higher rainfalls going forward, but said that it was a costly and disruptive undertaking.

Said Professor Balmforth: 'It might be sensible to do limited upsizing at particular key points. It may well prove from the modelling work that the Stamford Canal would be one of these places.'

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Malaysia: Resort staff rescue stranded pygmy killer whale

The Star 11 Jan 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Staff of a beach resort here have rescued a pygmy killer whale stranded by the shore during low tide.

Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa security personnel discovered the stranded whale at about 7am.

According to resort staff, they swiftly steered the mammal to the water and monitored it closely.

Whale of a tale: Ken carefully holding the pygmy killer whale that was stranded by the shore during low tide at Tanjung Aru Beach yesterday.

The resort staff also notified WWF-Malaysia who informed the Sabah Fisheries Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and Dr Lindsay Porter from St Andrew’s University’s Sea Mammal Research Unit to assist in the mammal’s rescue.

They decided to move the animal to the resort’s enclosed sea lagoon where it would be safe from boats and fishermen until it can be released into the wild.

The mammal’s condition remained unclear as it didn’t have any visible injuries though it appeared weak and listless.

A volunteer team from the NGO Leap (Land, Empowerment, Animal, People organisation) has been organised to monitor the animal with attempts to feed it.

“The appearance of this rare whale is very exciting and shows the continued importance of Sabah’s seas for marine life and bio-diversity,” said Ken Kassem, WWF-Malaysia head of marine conservation.

Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa will continue to provide assistance to WWF and Leap while the animal remains in its lagoon.

Pygmy killer whale beached at Tg Aru
Chok Sim Yee Borneo Post 11 Jan 12;

KOTA KINABALU: A pygmy killer whale, Feresa attenuate, was found stranded on Tanjung Aru beach yesterday morning.

The mammal was discovered on the beach during low tide by a security personnel from Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa at 7am.

He immediately carried the mammal back to the water and monitored it while staff at the resort notified WWF-Malaysia, which in turn asked the Sabah Fisheries Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and Dr Lindsay Porter from St. Andrew’s University’s Sea Mammal Research Unit to assist in rescuing the whale.

Although the mammal bore no visible injuries, its health status was unclear as it appeared weak and listless.

The pygmy killer whale was later moved to the resort’s enclosed sea lagoon to protect it from boats and fishermen until it could be released back to the wild.

A volunteer team from Land, Empowerment, Animal, People (L.E.A.P.) has been formed to monitor and feed the whale.

WWF-Malaysia marine conservation chief Ken Kassem said the appearance of the rare mammal is very exciting as it shows the importance of Sabah waters to marine life and biodiversity.

“We sincerely hope that this particular animal will recover soon and live a long and healthy life,” he said.

The resort will continue to provide assistance to WWF and L.E.A.P while the animal remains at the lagoon.

Pygmy killer whale released to the wild
Chok Sim Yee The Borneo Post 12 Jan 12;

KOTA KINABALU: The pygmy killer whale which was found stranded on Tanjung Aru beach on Tuesday morning was yesterday released back to the wild.

A group of onlookers cheered when the Sabah Wildlife Department, with the assistance of Dr Lindsay Porter from St. Andrew’s University’s Sea Mammal Research Unit, Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa Kota Kinabalu, WWF-Malaysia, Borneo Dream and L.E.A.P (Land, Empowerment, Animal, People), successfully guided the whale onto a stretcher and lifted it to a speedboat to be returned to the sea.

The mammal, which has been named Tony, was discovered by a security personnel of Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa Kota Kinabalu at 7am on Tuesday.

The whale was moved to the resort’s enclosed sea lagoon to protect it from boats and fishermen till it could be freed.

Around 30 to 40 volunteers, comprising divers, surfers, students, hotel guests, staff from WWF-Malaysia and and L.E.A.P., took turns for 15 to 20 minutes each throughout the night to try to feed the mammal and keep it afloat under the supervision of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

Porter, when met yesterday, said the pygmy killer whale probably originated from Sabah waters or adjacent waters.

However, little is known about this species, which belongs to the dolphin family, she said.

“It has been identified from the east coast and Semporna, but we know little about the biology of the animal,” Porter said.

She said the species usually travels in a group of 50 to 100, and the reason the pygmy killer whale got stranded on the beach is unknown.

She believed there could be infections or illnesses that were not visible from its exterior.

Meanwhile, WWF-Malaysia marine conservation chief Ken Kassem said, “We try to make it feel comfortable, regain its energy so that we can release it and give it a fighting chance to survive.

“The pygmy killer whale, around two metres in length, is not juvenile but has not reached its adult size either.

“It is hoped that the 30-plus hours rest enabled the whale to recuperate and return to its natural habitat.

“The cause of the whale’s stranding is unknown and there is a possibility that it may not survive this ordeal.”
Sabah Wildlife Department director Laurentius Ambu said there was very little that could be done to treat marine animals.

“After a long rest and signs of improvement we felt it was best to release it to the wild.

“We thank Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa and all the volunteers for their support and assistance,” he said.

Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa general manager Andrew Steele, who was among the volunteers who swam out to the sea to aid in the release, commended the spirit of care, humanity and community shown by volunteers in effort to save the pygmy killer whale.

“We often forgot about caring and humanity, caring about the environment till something like this happened, which bring us back to a more caring society,” he said.

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Malaysia: Borneo elephants now totally protected species under law

Borneo elephants now classified as totally protected species under wildlife laws
The Star 11 Jan 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Those who kill Borneo elephants will now face a mandatory jail term as part of Sabah’s efforts to upgrade its conservation of the animal.

State Tourism, Culture and En­­vironment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the elephant was classified as a totally protected species under its wildlife laws.

“This means that as far as our elephants are concerned, if you kill, you go to jail,” he said when closing a wildlife conference here yesterday.

The conference was jointly organised by the state’s Wildlife Depart­ment and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

Under the totally protected classification, those convicted of killing the animals will be liable for a mandatory jail term of up to five years.

Previously, those convicted of killing these animals, which were listed only as protected, were liable to a fine of up to RM30,000 or three years in default or both.

Masidi said the state was also finalising its draft of a request to the Federal Government to amend the Fisheries Act to prohibit the hunting of sharks in Malaysian waters.

“We hope that with such changes, we won’t see the sale of shark’s fin in this country soon,” he added.

On concerns that the state’s agricultural sector was impacting the environment, Masidi said: “We know we are blessed with an abundance of natural assets and we are determined to protect them.

“But Sabah, too, has its peculiarities and among these is that we are dependent on agriculture to eradicate poverty.

“So, you can criticise us but please see our side of the story, too.”

Meanwhile, Sabah Wildlife De­­partment director Laurentius Ambu said among the consensus reached at the conference, which was atten­ded by conservationists and oil palm industry representatives, was the need to push zero tolerance for wildlife killing.

“If companies would make it clear to their staff that they would be fired if they were found to be killing wildlife illegally, this could be a highly effective tool,” said Laurentius, adding that such an approach should be taken for protected species.

He said participants also highlighted the need for the maintenance of forest corridors in plantations.

“If such corridors no longer exist, these should be re-established wherever possible. It is, however, recognised that corridor establishment is expensive and challenging, and needs to be done together with other management tools,” he added.

Action plan to protect Sabah's 3 iconic animals
Daily Express 10 Jan 12;

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah launched, Monday, three five-year State Species Action Plans for the orang-utan, elephant and rhinoceros, respectively, that will provide a platform for better protection of the three flagship species.

The launching was officiated by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok at the opening of two-day Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium (SWCC), jointly organised by Sabah Wildlife Department and Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) together with the Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT), Danau Girang Field and HUTAN - Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme, at the Le Meridien, here.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun and Wildlife Director Dr Laurentius Ambu, among others, were present.

Urging the plantation industry to collaborate with the State Government in implementing these Species Action Plans, Dompok was certain that with the cooperation from all parties concerned the oil palm industry can co-exist in a sustainable manner with the environment.

The plans are part of the nation's continued commitment towards conservation and continuation of its unique flora and fauna, he said.

"Being one of the world's mega centres of biodiversity, Malaysia has constantly become the focus of the international community and we have led the way in showcasing our effort in wildlife conservation and protection," said Dompok.

Malaysia pledged to maintain 50 per cent of the country's landmass under forest cover at the Rio Convention in 1992 and is still honouring this pledge 20 years on.

"Our unique wildlife and biodiversity are our natural heritage, and we owe it to ourselves not to deny our future generations these privileges and environmental treasures that we now enjoy. This demonstrates Malaysia's commitments on the approach towards sustainable development," he said.

Dompok said the SWCC 2012 which has aptly adopted the theme "Harmonising Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation with National Development" is the next step forward to better address and manage wildlife conservation issues through a multi-stakeholder approach.

"This is important taking into account that any recommendations should be holistic in nature and aimed at balancing the needs of the people, economy and nature, which forms the basic tenets of sustainability," he said.

Dompok also spoke of the country's palm oil industry's contribution to conservation, saying the industry itself has become more involved in this effort, giving a new synergy to the term 'corporate social responsibility'.

He said the Government in collaboration with the palm oil industry had launched the Malaysia Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF) in 2006, with the objective of spearheading wildlife and environment conservation efforts in Malaysia.

The MPOWCF was launched with an initial funding of RM20million of which RM10million is a grant from the Government and the balance of RM10million is provided by the palm oil industry.

The fund is administered by the MPOC, which also has the overall responsibility to manage the various conservation projects funded through MPOWCF.

Since its inception, he said MPOWCF has initiated a number of wildlife and biodiversity conservation projects, adding this has contributed to among others the establishment of the country's first Wildlife Rescue Centre in collaboration with the Wildlife Department.

The other projects are the Jungle Patrol Unit in Tangkulap-Pinangah Forest Reserve, inventory of Sabah's Orang-utan population, the Orang-utan Infant Care Unit in Bukit Merah and the satellite tracking and conservation of Bornean Banteng in Sabah.

These initiatives reflected the commitment by the Malaysian palm oil industry to environment conservation and wildlife in the country, he said.

In addition, the Borneo Elephant Wildlife Sanctuary (BEWS) which is in the planning stage is aimed at reducing potential human-elephant conflicts and create a controlled public access sanctuary to better understand and care for these animals.

Dompok also applauded the strong presence of various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at the colloquium, both from the local and international fraternity.

"Today, the environment favours a scenario where NGOs can work together with the government and industry, to improve the quality and standard of operations and sustainability," he said, hoping that NGOs would provide alternative perspectives to policies and actions, and give meaningful recommendation on how the government can improve the practices.

This is the constructive approach that we can all look forward to in achieving sustainable growth and environmental conservation, he said, inviting local and international NGOs to assume an active role with the palm oil industry in achieving common sustainable goals.

"I am optimistic that Malaysia can work together with the various NGOs in wildlife conservation and environmental protection," he said.

About 250 local and international delegates from a multitude of backgrounds representing government agencies, NGOs, universities, foundation, zoos as well as corporate bodies primarily in the palm oil industry and tourism are taking part in the SWCC 2012.

Both Ministers also witnessed the signing and exchanging of four memorandums of understanding (MoUs) between the Wildlife Department and MPOC, WWF-Malaysia, The Rhino and Forest Fund and SOS Elefanti, as well as another MoU between the BCT and KTS Plantation Sdn Bhd.

Rescued animals will be housed in the new sanctuary in Kinabatangan
The Star 12 Jan 12;

KOTA KINABALU: A sanctuary for the rehabilitation of rescued Borneo pygmy elephants is expected to be operational in the middle of this year.

Sabah Wildlife Director Dr Laurentius Ambu said 2,000ha of land has been reserved for the sanctuary, known as the Borneo Elephant Wildlife Sanctuary, in Kinabatangan.

“We do not intend to house all the (rescued) elephants there. We will keep the animals there for treatment and then we will release them back into the wild,” he told reporters after the opening of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium 2012 here.

The colloquium was opened by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

Ambu said about 20 elephants initially would be housed for treatment and rehabilitation once the sanctuary was operational.

He said there were 60 to 100 elephants of the pygmy species to be located and rescued using satellite tracking.

Pygmy elephants, a smaller kind of the elephant species, are considered endangered, with about 2,000 left in Sabah.

The sanctuary, will be operated by the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, will consist a rescue facility and a research and education division.

Dompok had urged the Malaysian oil palm industry to collaborate with the state in implementing the Species Action Plan, particularly for the conservation and rehabilitation of Sabah’s three iconic species such as the orang utan, the Borneo pygmy elephant and the Sumatran rhinoceros.

“I am optimistic that, with the cooperation of all the parties, the oil palm industry can co-exist in a sustainable manner with the environment, particularly in Sabah,” he said. —Bernama.

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Malaysia: Foreign Tourists Keen To Be Turtle Conservation Volunteers In Terengganu

Bernama 10 Jan 12;

KUALA TERENGGANU, Jan 10 (Bernama) -- A number of foreign tourists from countries like England, Australia, German and the United States have shown interest to volunteer in the state's turtle conservation programme.

Terengganu Fisheries director Zakaria Ismail said among the activities that volunteers could participate in were monitoring the beach, assisting to bury the turtle eggs for incubation and checking the nests.

"The number of foreign tourists eager to volunteer increases every year," he said when contacted by Bernama here today.

According to Zakaria, the department encourages and readily accepts such participation from foreign and domestic tourists alike as it would also directly show the world that Terrengganu, and Malaysia in general, is concerned and committed to conserving the habitat.

In another development, he said the department managed to produce more than 86,000 turtle hatchlings through its hatching programme between 1996 and 2010.


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Indonesia: WWF finds five wild cat species in Riau Province

Antara 10 Jan 12;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in a research project conducted in 2011 obtained proof of the existence of five unique wild cat species in forest areas in Riau province, a Fund officer said.

The five wild cat species were the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), stone cat (Pardofelis marmorata), golden cat (Catopuma temmincki), and congkok cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), WWF animal expert Sunarto said here Tuesday.

The five rare cat species lived in an area located between the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park and Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve in Riau province and had been spotted by cameras mounted purposely at a number of points in their habitat.

The area where the cats` existence was recorded is known as a wildlife corridor or passage connecting the nature conservation regions of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park and Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve.

Sunarto said five different cat species were found in the area but no tiger species except the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae).

"There is no other tiger species than the Sumatran tiger in Riau. But its population number is alarmingly low," he said without mentioning the exact figure.

Sunarto said it was difficult to say how large the Sumatran tiger population now was exactly because a head count of the animals would require an intensive effort covering all natural forest areas in Riau.

"We are not even monitoring them yearly because doing so is quite costly. What we have done so far is just some research and sampling in a few places," he said.

Sunarto said that the main focus of the monitoring effort is in the central parts of Sumatra such as Tesso Nilo and Rimbang Baling, where Sumatran tigers are still found in several regions.

An effort to determine the Sumatran tiger population more exactly was also difficult because of the geographic variations in their numbers, Sunarto said.


Editor: Suryanto

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Vietnam: Rare dolphins discovered in Kien Giang

VietNamNet Bridge 10 Jan 12;

Scientists from the Institute of Tropical Biology have found around 20 Irrawaddy dolphins in the sea around Ba Lua Island in the Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve.

In their survey of terrestrial biodiversity of islands in Ba Lua archipelago in June 2010, researchers from the Institute of Tropical Biology unveiled a skeleton of Irrawaddy dolphin on Hon Da Bac Island.

Last September, the group discovered more than 20 Irrawaddy dolphins in the sea around the Ba Lua archipelago. They also excavated two skulls of this species on the island.

Scientists do not have the accurate statistics of the community of Irrawaddy dolphins in Ba Lua, but over 20 is a large number in comparison with 7-10 dolphins discovered in other surveys in the Malamyapa Strait or in the Mekong River in the past.

The Center for Biodiversity and Development will cooperate with local and international organizations to preserve this species.

Vietnam has a little information about Irrawaddy dolphin.

Dr. Vu Ngoc Long, a member of the research group, said that the newly-discovered community of dolphin is separated from the recorded communities in Songkhla Lake of Thailand and the one in the upper region of the Mekong Delta.

Little research on the Irrawaddy dolphin has been conducted in Viet Nam and they are not listed in the country's Red Book of endangered species, Long said.

On January 12, the researchers will travel to Thailand to work with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to work out a detailed plant to protect the dolphins, he said. In the meantime, researchers have joined hands with local fishermen to track the population of dolphins in the Ba Lua Archipelago.

Five populations of Irrawaddy dolphin, whose scientific name is Orcaella brevirotis, were thought to be living in Vietnamese waters.

The Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) is a euryhaline species of oceanic dolphin found in discontinuous subpopulations near sea coasts and in estuaries and rivers in parts of the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia.

Entanglement in fishnets and degradation of habitats are the main threats to Irrawaddy dolphins. Conservation efforts are being made at international and national levels to alleviate these threats.

Some Irrawaddy dolphin populations are classified by the IUCN as critically endangered; in Lao PDR, Cambodia, Vietnam (Mekong River sub-population), Indonesia (Mahakam River sub-population, Borneo), Burma (Ayeyarwady/Irrawaddy River sub-population), the Philippines (Malampaya Sound sub-population), and Thailand (Songkhla Lake sub-population).

Irrawaddy dolphins in general however, are IUCN listed as a vulnerable species, which applies throughout their whole range. In 2004, CITES transferred the Irrawaddy dolphin from Appendix II to Appendix I, which forbids all commercial trade in species that are threatened with extinction.

Le Ha

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Philippines: Massive mangrove project to bring fireflies to Donsol

Kristine L. Alave Philippine Daily Inquirer 11 Jan 12;

A shower of flying “stars” will soon accompany whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon province, thanks to a massive mangrove planting project on the coast of one of the country’s top tourist draws.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines started to plant 10,000 mangrove seedlings in Donsol’s Sibago village last December to enhance and protect the ecosystem that is shared by whale sharks and tiny organisms like plankton and fireflies.

The mangroves enrich nutrients along the coast and in the water, attracting both whale sharks and fireflies, the WWF said.

“Whale sharks congregate in Donsol because of the plankton. Plankton consume nutrients discharged by Donsol’s still-healthy rivers, one of the few habitats where fireflies still thrive,” said WWF-Philippines project manager Raul Burce.

“Remove mangroves and the fireflies shall be driven off. Without the healthy rivers needed by fireflies, plankton populations cannot bloom and the whale sharks will migrate elsewhere. If one component crashes, the others follow suit. This can be catastrophic for the people of Donsol,” Burce said.

The project in Donsol came on the heels of the government’s new tourism campaign with the slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”

The WWF said Donsol was an example of how good environmental management and tourism programs could improve the lives of communities.

WWF-Philippines CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan said: “The key here is balance. Without it, the productivity of our natural systems will crash. Strike a balance between conservation and development, and we can ensure sustainability.”

Donsol’s economy has boomed as tourists flock to its waters to see the whale sharks.

A total of 24,191 local and foreign visitors swam with the gentle giants from December to June 2011.

Donsol’s municipal tourism office estimated that the 2010 season alone generated more than P100 million from transportation, food, lodging, registration fees, and whale shark, mangrove and firefly tours.

Around P20 million was retained by the local government, bolstering incomes and improving lives.

Known in Filipino as “bakawan,” mangroves are considered to be one of the most productive of marine habitats—able to generate 500 kilograms of seafood per hectare annually.

The roots of the trees provide shelter for marine life, and their fallen leaves are used for food.

The roots of the mangroves also absorb heavy trace metals, minimizing coastal erosion and preventing inland saltwater contamination.

Mangroves also protect the soil from erosion and the communities from storm surges caused by typhoons. This is important for the residents of Donsol as they live in a region frequented by tropical storms.

The importance of mangroves in the Philippines, with its 36,289 kilometers of coastline and a largely shore-borne population, has been recognized by the environment and agriculture departments.

Recently, the Department of Agriculture earmarked P237.5 million for the planting of new mangroves and the setting up of “aquasilvi” projects in coastal communities.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources also included mangroves as a priority area in its national greening program.

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Christmas Island ship poses threat to wildlife

Samantha Hayes 10 Jan 12;

There are fears a ship breaking up in the port of Christmas Island could pose a serious threat to protected sea life in the area, like the Whale Shark.

The carrier ship Tycoon was being loaded with phosphate when it lost its moorings in a storm on Sunday and was abandoned by the crew.

The 100 metre chemical carrier the split in two in rough seas, similar to the MV Rena in Tauranga, spilling phosphate and oil into Flying Fish Cove.

"Diesel is very toxic to marine organisms and may damage both coral reef on the north coast of Christmas Island and possibly the plankton system,” says the WA Conservation Council’s Dr Nic Dunlop.

Those who came to watch or help were coated with oil – 130 tonnes was on board the ship, as well as the ship's cargo - 260 tonnes of phosphate in sealed 50 kilogram bags.

Once in the water, the phosphate could block out u-v rays and bleach coral.

January is when the world's largest fish - the whale shark – arrives in the waters of Christmas Island to feed on spawning land crabs.

"Christmas Island is a critical habitat for whale sharks one of the few places in the world,” says marine biologist Brad Norman.

The Tycoon's moorings snapped in monsoon conditions on Sunday, forcing the crew of 15 to jump for their lives. Two were injured but all were rescued by the navy.

The phosphate company says the Tycoon shouldn't have even been in port - it was due to leave days ago - but was delayed by poor facilities.

The ship is now sinking and can't be salvaged. Focus has shifted to the clean up and how to get supplies to Christmas Island's residents when the broken ship is blocking the only port.

3 News

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