Best of our wild blogs: 17 Jan 12

Labrador 'No-Fishing' Fishing - Jan2012
from sgbeachbum

Reclamation at Jurong near Cyrene continues
from wild shores of singapore

Many die for that single illegal animal purchase
from Otterman speaks

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Anglers on newly opened Berlayar and Punggol walkways

Boardwalks for walking or ... ?
Letter from Mary Maloney Today Online 14 Jan 12;

THE report "Will pedestrians, cyclists co-exist?" (Jan 9) prompts me to raise a question and make a request after a morning walk at Labrador Park.

I noticed many cyclists in groups along the new boardwalk there. Pedestrians, including some in wheelchairs, children and parents with babies in prams, had to make room for them. Also, anglers had their rods out, occupying two or three feet of the boardwalk. Is this permitted?

One highly misused boardwalk now is Changi Boardwalk, with cigarette butts - smoking should be banned in parks, where people go for fresh air and exercise - leftover food and other rubbish. So I beseech all park users to please be more considerate.

Punggol's dangerous anglers
Straits Times 17 Jan 12;

ANGLERS are a cause for concern along the Punggol Park Connector Network (PCN), especially between Marina Country Club and Punggol Jetty.

As a frequent user of the PCN, I often see leftover rotten bait, litter, fishing lines and hooks on the grass patch and also on the PCN.

The anglers' irresponsible behaviour does not only make an unsightly public mess, but it also poses a danger to joggers and cyclists, and even park cleaners.

The other day, I was almost hit by an angler casting his fishing line when I was running past. Recently, anglers even rode their motorcycles into the PCN.

I have written to the National Parks Board but nothing has been done.

I am not against people fishing legally but I expect them to be considerate.

Wang Eng Hin

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Man fined S$18,000 for smuggling over 300 singing birds

Alvina Soh Channel NewsAsia 16 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: A site engineer was fined S$18,000 on Monday after smuggling in more than 300 singing birds from Malaysia, three-quarters of which died as a result of their confinement.

Winston Boo Kiang Cheng, 38, was found guilty of three counts of contravening the Animals and Birds Act, after he brought in the birds without a licence by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and causing them unnecessary suffering.

Boo committed the offences on 1 November last year, a day after he purchased the birds for RM558 (S$229) from a pet shop in Malaysia.

The court heard that he wanted to bring the birds into Singapore for "religious purposes."

The birds were found hidden in the boot and beneath the rear passenger seat of his car during a check at Woodlands Checkpoint at 10.40pm on that day.

Boo used a piece of black cloth to conceal the birds which included 253 Spotted Munia birds, 48 Oriental White Eye birds, and 1 Shama bird.

All 302 birds were packed into eleven cages, toilet roll cardboards, a pipe and two plastic trays.

AVA officers said the birds were confined in cramped and restrictive conditions.

The authorities also noted that a few of the birds were "clinging onto the top of the cages" and appeared to be weak and dying slowly.

The birds had also not been given food and water during their seven-hour journey from Johor to Singapore.

227 birds died within two days of their arrival in Singapore.

AVA Prosecutor Officer Mr Yap Teck Chuan said that Boo had "total disregard for the welfare of the birds" after transporting them "in a very unpleasant manner."

Mr Yap added that Boo was aware that importing the birds was prohibited, but still went on to purchase them as they were "cheaper."

AVA's conditions for the importation of pet birds require that ornamental birds only be imported from bird flu-free countries and have negative test results for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

The birds also have to be quarantined at a government approved quarantine premises for 21 days prior to their export to Singapore.

If these rules are not complied with, the AVA will detain the birds for further tests, return the birds to the country of origin or destroy them if necessary.

- CNA/ck

Engineer who smuggled birds from JB fined $18,000
Khushwant Singh Straits Times 17 Jan 12;

A MAN smuggled 302 birds into the country in such dismal conditions that more than two-thirds of them died. He was fined a total of $18,000 yesterday.

Site engineer Winston Boo Kiang Cheng smuggled the ornamental birds - which are prized by collectors - into Singapore in his car, after buying them from a pet shop in Johor Baru.

He was fined $8,000 for bringing them in without a licence issued by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), $5,000 for causing the birds unnecessary suffering by confining them in tiny containers, and a further $5,000 for not providing them with food and water.

A district court heard that Boo, 38, drove into Johor Baru on Oct 31 last year with his friend Koh Kwang Hu. After dinner, he left his companion at the restaurant, saying he was going to get his car washed. He then visited a nearby pet shop to order 300 birds. Delivery was planned for the following night.

Boo asked Mr Koh, 40, to go to Johor with him again the next day, saying he wanted to fill his car with petrol there.

While the pair were having dinner at the same restaurant, the pet shop owner approached Boo.

The engineer paid RM558 (S$230) for the birds - 253 spotted munia, 48 oriental white-eye songbirds and one rumped sharma.

They had been stuffed into small trays and cages, a narrow plastic pipe and two cardboard toilet-paper rolls.

The cages were discovered covered with black cloth in the boot of Boo's car during a routine search at the Woodlands Checkpoint. More birds were found hidden under the rear passenger seat.

The case was then referred to the AVA, and its officers observed that there was no food or water for the birds.

Several of the oriental white-eye songbirds were dying, while many of the munia birds were in very bad shape. By Nov 4, 227 of the birds had died.

Boo admitted to AVA officers that he had smuggled the birds from Malaysia because they were cheaper there.

Songbird hatchlings go for about $10 to $20 each at pet shops here.

AVA prosecutor Yap Teck Chuan told the court that ornamental birds can be imported only from countries that are free of bird flu. Even then, the birds must be tested for the disease and quarantined for three weeks.

Malaysia has been designated free of bird flu, but Mr Yap said that wild birds are often caught and traded as ornamental or pet birds. These could originate from anywhere, and importing them without any testing or health certification poses a significant health risk, he explained.

He also said that Singapore was one of the few countries in the region to have kept bird flu at bay, and that strict import and quarantine regulations and enforcement are required to maintain this status quo.

For smuggling in the birds and causing them unnecessary pain and suffering, Boo could have been fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to a year, or both, for each offence.

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Two arrested for human smuggling near Punggol Jetty

Nurul Syuhaida Channel NewsAsia 16 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: The Police Coast Guard (PCG) said from 2009 to 2011, the number of suspicious boats entering Singapore waters declined by half, to 170.

The latest incident, involving two Singaporean human smugglers and a female illegal immigrant from China, took place on 14 January.

A vessel was used by 56-year-old boatman Chua Kim Hai and his assistant, 40-year-old Andrew Cheng in human smuggling.

Their client was 37-year-old Chinese National Lu Yun Lan, but she was unsuccessful in her attempt to enter Singapore.

On Saturday at about 9pm, officers spotted two suspicious boats near Tanjong Tajam Beacon off the western tip of Pulau Ubin.

As the officers neared, the boat carrying Lu beached near Punggol Jetty, while the other headed into Malaysian waters.

Lu jumped off the boat and was later found hiding in a bush.

She did not have any valid travel documents and had about 1,000 RMB (S$200) with her.

The boatmen were arrested off Punggol Marina, after a short chase at sea.

DSP Julian Chen, commanding officer, Loyang Regional Base, Police Coast Guard, said: "This latest arrest has again demonstrated PCG's determination to keep our waters safe by dealing with perpetrators decisively. We will continue to be vigilant and persist in our efforts to enforce our sea borders' security."

All three offenders were charged in court on Monday. Lu was charged with unlawful entry and the boatmen were charged with smuggling an illegal immigrant.

Lu could be sentenced to six months' jail and fined up to S$6,000 while the boatmen face a maximum jail term of between two and five years, plus three strokes of the cane.

- CNA/cc/ck

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The future we want - preparing for Rio+20

IUCN 16 Jan 12;

Preparations are gearing up for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development that takes place in June, with the release of the so-called ‘zero draft’ of the conference’s outcome document.

From 20 to 22 June, governments and civil society organizations will descend on the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro to review progress since the landmark UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 and try to generate new momentum towards global sustainability.

“In the draft of The Future we Want document the UN secretariat has done an impressive job structuring and summarizing the hundreds of submissions by governments and other stakeholders with their views on what governments should decide on when meeting in Rio,” says Cyriaque N. Sendashonga, Head of IUCN’s Global Policy Unit.

“The good news is that there are many points on which there is broad consensus and convergence of positions,” says Cyriaque. “These include recognition that a more sustainable economy must be built on a strong and healthy natural resource base, and that broad participation of civil society in decision-making at all levels is essential for sustainable development and good governance. There is also a call to strengthen ways of improving access to information and public participation.”

But there is much work to be done says Cyriaque. “It is also obvious from the document some of the tensions between major countries or groups of countries, especially in regard to the international institutional framework for sustainable development including the future form of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and of the UN Environment Pogramme (UNEP).”

Some of the concrete proposals related to specific issues include: a commitment to provide universal access to minimum energy needs, to double the rate of energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy by 2030 and the agreement to negotiate an implementing instrument for marine biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Governments would also agree to start a process to decide on a set of Sustainable Development Goals that would closely relate to the UN Millennium Development Goals.

“It is difficult to predict what the document will look like after having gone through the series of informal and further formal discussions planned for the coming months, but the document is certainly a good start for those discussions,” says Cyriaque.

IUCN will issue a brief analysis of the document shortly, which will be posted at

Download The future we want 101KB

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Malaysia: Treasuring Perhentian

Tan Cheng Li The Star 17 Jan 12;

DRIVEN by a common vision to inspire people to do good, The Star has teamed up with Ecoteer to encourage villagers, readers and tourists to help protect the marine environment of Pulau Perhentian in Terengganu.

Under the year-long “Treasured Island” collaboration, financial contribution from The Star Foundation will support Ecoteer projects on the island, which are aimed at improving the livelihood of villagers and raising awareness on environmental protection of turtles and coral reefs.

A non-profit group set up in 2005, Ecoteer relies on paying volunteers, or what is termed “voluntourism”, to achieve its objective of promoting “Conservation Through Education”.

At Pulau Perhentian, Ecoteer volunteers have taught English to schoolchildren, helped run the school nature club and conducted environmental awareness activities.

With funding from The Star Foundation – the charity arm of The Star Media Group that raises, receives and administers funds for charity, social and research purposes – these activities will continue this year, together with other programmes on recycling, composting waste and organic farming.

The Ecoteer effort at Perhentian drew support from the Foundation as protecting the environment is one of the causes championed by the group, according to Star Publications (M) Bhd group managing director/CEO Ho Kay Tat.

“Voluntourism is something new and we thought it was an interesting idea. People pay to participate in the conservation project. Instead of just lying on the beach or snorkelling at Perhentian, they spend time teaching villagers about the environment, and help to protect turtles and coral reefs.

“Ecoteer volunteers are also working with the school on education, and helping the locals find other sources of income. If you can help them have a new skill, they don’t have to do things which might not be good for the environment. It’s a pioneering project, that’s why we see it as a project worth supporting,” says Ho.

Employees and readers of The Star will also get a chance to volunteer their time at Perhentian as there will be sponsored trips to the island.

“This collaboration goes beyond just giving out money and providing editorial coverage. It gives an opportunity for our staff and readers to participate actively in the conservation and community efforts on the island. They will spend three to four days there and experience first-hand what is taking place there,” says Ho.

He adds that if more people were interested in voluntourism and gave it time, the Ecoteer project can be sustained and this will benefit the villagers.

“The Ecoteer effort is not going to solve the world’s environmental problems but at least an effort is being made. And it’s clearly a hands-on, on-the-ground effort. Even if the impact is in a small area, at least it’s real impact,” he adds.

Ecoteer founder Daniel Quilter says the partnership with The Star has enabled the non-profit set-up to continue with its effort to promote responsible tourism, environmental awareness and community service.

“Without this collaboration, Ecoteer will not be able to fund and sustain the project beyond 2011 as voluntourism is not a popular practice in Malaysia. The activities so far have been solely funded on profits brought in by voluntourism and to date, a huge number of volunteers are from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, where voluntourism is embraced with great enthusiasm and support.”

He says the trips to the island will enable readers and employees of The Star to learn more about the marine environment and efforts to protect it and hopefully, inspire them to reduce their impact on not only the Perhentian islands but wherever they might travel to.

Vacation with a difference
Michael Cheang The Star 17 Jan 12; links vacationers with volunteer projects.

IT all started with a gibbon. Daniel Quilter had spent almost six months doing volunteer work at an eco-lodge in the village of Sukau in Kinabatangan, Sabah, and even after months of listening to the sound of gibbons gibbering around the jungle, he had not seen one. When he finally did, it changed his life.

“This gibbon was literally just lying there on the boardwalk, and jumped off into the trees as I approached. It was such an amazing sight, and at that moment, I decided that I had to do something so that more people can get the same experience that I just had,” Quilter recalled.

That “experience” Quilter is referring to is his “voluntourism” stint in 2005 in Sukau, where he did volunteer work in exchange for nothing more than free food and lodging. “I couldn’t afford really expensive holidays, and I just wanted to do something where I could also get some work experience, so I basically just e-mailed the eco-lodge offering my services in exchange for food and lodging,” he said.

After his gibbon-inspired epiphany, Quilter returned to his native England and started, a voluntourism website that serves as a platform to connect volunteer projects worldwide with individuals who want a holiday where they can make a difference. These projects range from eco-tourism, humanitarian, conservation and teaching projects all over the world.

While the concept of voluntourism – combining your holiday with volunteer work – might seem alien to most Malaysians (“What? You want me to pay money to go and do volunteer work instead of lying on a beach or going shopping?”), it is a fast growing segment of tourism in Europe, according to Quilter, who has a background in environmental science and a master’s degree in ocean policy and law.

“Voluntourism is growing into a more mainstream form of tourism now. More and more people are going for ethical holidays instead of the usual ‘sun, sangria and sex’ type of holidays. They want an experience that actually benefits them,” he said, adding that many “voluntourists” do not want to just sight-see – they also want to interact with the locals and learn about their culture.

The whole idea behind Ecoteer is to form a network where people could go to search for holidays where they could do volunteer work. Quilter, who has based his operations in Malaysia, likens it to a dating service that matches travellers with smaller, lesser-known projects. These projects will then be able to get the manpower they need.

“Many of these small projects don’t have the resources or know-how to get good coverage on the Internet. Ecoteer acts as a platform for these lesser-known projects to get volunteers,” he explained. “Many agents (that provide a similar service) take huge commissions, so a lot of smaller projects can’t afford it. However, is not an agent, so we don’t earn any commission from the projects. The travellers will contact the project operators directly, and any money they pay goes 100% to the project.”

Now, most of the projects on tend to be long-term volunteer projects that typically last for a month or more. In 2010, Quilter started Ecoteer Responsible Travel (ERT), which runs several community and conservation projects in Malaysia and Sri Lanka where travellers can come in for shorter periods, even for a night, and still get a good experience.

One of the first projects under ERT is the Perhentian Islands Community and Conservation Volunteer Project which aims to increase environmental and cultural awareness amongst the villagers and tourists of Kampong Pasir Hantu at Pulau Perhentian in Terengganu, and is the main reason Quilter set up ERT in the first place.

“In 2008, I got a job working for a big voluntourism company that did turtle conservation in Perhentian as well as orang utan conservation in Sarawak. I was the manager for the turtle project (known as the Bubbles Dive, Turtle and Coral project), working with Bubbles Dive Resort. Our job was to provide some sort of deterrent for the poachers. We got volunteers to stay up all night with lots of coffee to guard the beach,” he explained.

Unfortunately, in 2009, the recession hit Britain, and the company stopped the turtle conservation project and concentrated on the orang utan one instead. Quilter, however, decided to run the turtle project independently and find volunteers through instead.

“However, I realised after a while that while could provide volunteers, they just weren’t in the right niche. So I decided to start ERT in 2010, beginning with Perhentian and expanding to other projects later.”

According to Quilter, the Perhentian village community project was a natural progression from the turtle project. “We still support the turtle project by providing volunteers, but our work in the village is our main project now,” he explained.

“Under ERT, volunteers can come for one or two days up to a few weeks, and help out in the various projects we have going on there.”

So far, a total of 312 volunteers have participated in the Perhentian project.

One of the main objectives of the project is to help improve the villagers’ quality of life and increase their income generating opportunities.

“At the moment, most of the villagers work as boatmen or maids. The boatmen in particular make an alright living, but only during the tourist season. During the monsoon season at the end of the year, they have nothing to do. So what they have now is six to seven months of work, and then nothing for the rest of the year,” said Quilter.

“When we first went into the village and spoke to the village head, we only planned to go into the schools to teach the kids. Then in 2011, the village head asked us to expand on what we were doing to the entire village, and set up the Ecoteer House.”

Project epicentre

The Ecoteer House not only serve as the project headquarters and a place to house the volunteers (it can accommodate up to four people at one time), but also as a community youth centre, hosting weekly environmental clubs for school children on the island. It is also where Ecoteer conducts its “experiments” – various pilot projects that can be expanded in the future to help the village as a whole.

“Ecoteer House serves as a centre to kick-start many of our little projects. We do many of the projects first to prove to the villagers that they can make money out of it. If it is successful, it will convince them to try it out as well,” said Quilter.

One initiative encourages composting and recycling on the island. For this, ReefCheck Malaysia will donate a BioMate compost machine which can process organic waste collected from the villagers’ homes into compost. Each household will get two bins to collect the food waste.

Quilter said now, it is difficult to farm on the island because the soil is salty and sandy. So the compost will come in handy. The plan is to get the villagers to grow vegetables, herbs and fruits which they can use themselves or sell to the resorts.

“We have a space in the village to build a community herb garden and nursery, where we’ll be building spiral gardens to grow herbs, particularly Western herbs such as oregano and so on, and also fruits, vegetables and other plants that can help sustain the village or boost its income.”

Ecoteer is also helping to make the village more appealing to tourists by improving on the tourism services offered by the villagers and making it more attractive in general.

“We had a volunteer last year whose job was to come up with a Western food menu using local ingredients which the villagers could cook for tourists,” said Quilter. “Many tourists still want to have their pasta or chicken chops, so by teaching the villagers how to cook these meals, we hope to create a reason for tourists to go into the village.”

Tourists who choose to only stay with the project for one or two days will usually be put up in one of the villagers’ home, where they can experience first-hand how the locals live by eating the same food and interacting with the families.

“If you’re only here for one or two nights, you may not be giving back much, but at least you will still get a proper cultural experience, and the money goes into the village,” said Quilter.

Perhentian is not the only project that ERT is currently involved in. It is also working with the Borneo Child Aid Society in Sukau, Sabah, helping to provide basic education for children in the oil palm estates there. There are also two other projects involving elephants and turtles conservation in Sri Lanka, while another environment-related project will start in Ipoh later this year.

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Captive breeding offers hope for Sumatran rhino

Programme in Sabah could save endangered species from extinction
Nirmal Ghosh Straits Times 17 Jan 12;

LAHAD DATU (Sabah): The instant it left its enclosure through the open gate, Tam's demeanour changed. No longer a bumbling beast, it instantly became alert as it headed up a well-worn trail, its ears swivelling to catch the sounds of the jungle in Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Treading sure-footedly through inches of mud as Bornean gibbons whooped unseen above in the jungle canopy, Tam melted into the dense undergrowth of its 2.5ha jungle patch protected by an electric fence. It would spend the hot afternoon covered in mud, cooling off in a wallow deep in the forest.

Tam, a male Sumatran rhino in its prime that was captured in 2008 after it wandered into an oil palm plantation, is one of the last of a species that faces imminent total extinction - and is also one of the few hopes of a breeding project aimed at preventing this from happening.

Sumatran rhinos once roamed across the tropical jungles of South-east Asia, but were decimated by the destruction of their habitat and relentless hunting for their horns. These are prized in China for their alleged medical properties, even though they are just keratin, the substance that makes up hair and nails.

It is not just the twilight of Tam's species; it's more like a quarter to midnight. There are fewer than 275 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in Malaysia and Indonesia, and a mere handful in zoos. They have been classified as critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The fate of a species on the brink of extinction is a lonely one. Most of the rhinos are old and past breeding age. The few that are of breeding age are mostly so widely dispersed that they may not ever meet another rhino. And even if they do, breeding is not assured.

Captive breeding efforts may be the last hope for Tam's species. One such effort is being taken at this 1,200 sq km reserve in Sabah, where a few rhinos still survive in the wild. Much of the hope rests on Tam, about 20 years old, and on Puntung, a young female of about 12 years that was captured last month and placed in the centre.

With the sole of its left forefoot torn off, probably by a snare, Puntung stands on three legs, and when it has to move forward, it lurches and hobbles.

Its distinctive hoof prints had made it easier to monitor Puntung in the jungle. When it was clear that it had not met up with any other rhino for three years, the decision was made to capture Puntung for the breeding project. The young rhino took the change well, and has gained 7kg since its arrival on Christmas Day; it now weighs close to 500kg.

The Sabah government started its captive breeding programme in 1983 - a controversial move for rare species because of the fear that captured animals will die.

Partly because of the controversy, the project has not had any success so far.

A single female rhino called Gelogob, captured in 1994, was never introduced to a male and its fertile years were wasted. Today, old and blind, Gelogob lives out its life in relative comfort at the project's site in Tabin.

But rhino conservationist John Payne defends the use of captive breeding for the rhino. 'There is a sufficient body of opinion now that the only way to save the species is to bring them into captivity.'

Dr Payne has spent over 30 years in Sabah, and is executive director of the Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora), a non-governmental organisation that is running the current breeding project at Tabin.

The programme was lucky enough to find Tam and Puntung; the next step is to get them to mate. Bora is waiting for Puntung to settle down and relax, and its eventual meeting with Tam must be carefully timed and managed. Breeding is not easy; Tam is fertile, but a sample shows its sperm is not of good quality.

Researchers are also exploring 'assisted' reproduction. IZW, a zoo and wildlife institute in Berlin, Germany, that is involved in cutting-edge research in the artificial breeding of wild species, is providing technical help. Artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilisation are on the cards.

The rhino project at Tabin was boosted in 2009 by a foundation set up by the Sime Darby group, Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD), which gave it RM5 million (S$2 million) from 2009 to 2012, and may pledge more. Despite controversy over its vast oil palm interests here and abroad, the Malaysian conglomerate's aid is seen by some as an example of how corporations can effectively support wildlife.

'This programme would have shut down without funding from YSD,' said Dr Abdul Hamid Ahmad, chairman of the board of Bora.

There have been suggestions that the Sumatran rhino has reached the end of its evolutionary road. But, conservationists like Dr Payne point out that if it had not been for humans, it would not be in such a dire situation in the first place - so it is up to humans to try and save it.

'The basic argument is ethical: we can choose to do nothing, or we can do something,' he said.

Other endangered species in Asia

Asian elephant

There are between 34,000 and 54,000 Asian elephants left in the wild. Since the Asian elephant requires large forested areas for its habitat, deforestation has become the main threat to its survival.

With more than 20 per cent of the world's human population living in, or near, Asian elephant habitat, reduction and fragmentation of the animal's forest habitat has caused its population to decline.

Bengal tiger

The Eastern Himalayas is home to the world's largest Bengal tiger population. However, a growing human population is pushing the tiger out of its natural habitat and causing increasing human-tiger conflicts.

The tiger also faces a serious threat from poachers. Although accurate figures are not available throughout its range, current estimates show there are only 3,000 to 4,500 Bengal tigers surviving in the wild.

Snow leopard

This roving, high-altitude cat was once heavily hunted for its pelt, which sold for high prices on the fur market. Also, its bones and other body parts are valued in traditional Asian medicine. Loss of habitat, poaching and competition with humans for prey also threaten the species. Because it is so elusive, accurate population numbers are hard to come by, although estimates range from 100 to 200.

Proboscis monkey

Found in the coastal mangrove, swamps, and riverine forests of Borneo in South-east Asia, which contain trees, dry land, shallow water (for wading) and deep water (for swimming). The main threat to this species is habitat loss, due to land clearing for plantations and logging. It is also hunted, even though it is legally protected. There are an estimated 7,000 left in Borneo.


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Malaysia: Leopard cat found dead near its natural habitat

New Straits Times 17 Jan 12;

KUALA PILAH: A dead leopard cat was found lying on the Bukit Putus stretch of the Seremban-Kuala Pilah road yesterday.

Wildlife and National Parks Department officers who arrived at the scene said the animal was a 3kg female leopard cat measuring about 0.5m long.

"I spotted the carcass at 11.45am and stopped my car to move it to the side. I then contacted the Wildlife and National Parks Department and told them that a leopard cat had been run over," said trader Zulkifli Jantan, 48, of Taman Panchor Jaya, Seremban.

Department director Mohd Zaide Mohamed Zin said the area was a natural habitat for leopard cats.

"I urge motorists to be careful when travelling along this route as these cats often cross the road.

"This cat is a protected species in Malaysia and we are not allowed to keep it as a pet."

The animal is the size of a domestic cat, but with longer legs.

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Malaysia: GM mozzies in populated areas

Ng Cheng Yee The Star 17 Jan 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Genetically-modified (GM) mosquitoes may be released in populated areas as part of the Health Ministry's study to counter the breeding of the dengue-causing Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the release of GM mosquitoes in unpopulated areas had proven successful in reducing the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

“We have received some objections from the people to the idea of releasing GM mosquitoes in populated areas but that is not the reason we are delaying the release of these mosquitoes.

“More studies are needed before we can decide whether to release these mosquitoes in populated areas,” he told a press conference after attending the Chang Ming Thien Foundation cheque presentation ceremony here yesterday.

Liow said the number of dengue cases had increased by 26% from 350 cases in the last week of last year to 440 cases with one death in the first week of this year.

“One of the reasons for the rise is the change in climate and the spread of dengue still needs to be controlled,” he said.

He said the research on dengue vaccine, which was in its third phase now, was still ongoing as researchers still needed to monitor its effectiveness over the next few years.

On the Chang Ming Thien Foundation, Liow, who is MCA deputy president, said it had approved the applications of 1,567 students, amounting to more than RM24mil in the past seven years.

Yesterday, the foundation presented RM3.17mil to 157 students, with 135 of them pursuing degree courses, 21 doing Masters and one PhD student.

Liow said 131 or 83.44% of them were Chinese, 20 or 12.74% were Indians, three Malays (1.91%) and another three from other races (1.91%).

“Even though the highest number of successful applicants were Chinese, we want to reiterate that this foundation is for students from all races and religions,” he said.

He said students who were interested in pursuing technical and vocational studies were also encouraged to apply for the loan.

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Solomons dolphin exporter wins compensation case against government

Radio New Zealand International 16 Jan 12;

The Solomon Islands High Court has ordered the government to pay more than a million US dollars in damages to a company for stopping its export of live dolphins.

The case had been brought by Marine Exports Limited and targetted moves in 2005 by the Ministry of Fisheries to stop the trade.

The Solomon Star reports the company was first granted a permit to export dolphins to Mexico in 2003.

But in 2005, the cabinet decided to effectively ban such exports, with the company successfully arguing in court that an arbitrary and oppressive act had been committed by the state.

The cost of the hearing has also been ordered to be paid by the government.

Solomons government slapped with $10m fine
Solomon Star 17 Jan 12;

THE High Court has ordered the Solomon Islands Government and the Ministry of Fisheries to pay Marine Exports Limited more than $10 million for damages.

This was in relation to the government’s banning of dolphin export in 2005.

The court granted the order for loss from dolphin feeds in the sum of $2,073,600, order for loss of property (38 dolphins) in the sum of $7,527,733.75 and the order for exemplary damages in the sum of $500,000.

The order for loss of profit (loss from contract) in the sum of $4,785,600 and the order for interest to be included were refused.

The cost of the hearing was also ordered to be paid by the government.

The decision on assessment of damages was delivered on November 25, last year before Judge, Justice Rex Foukona five years after the default judgment orders were made in 2006.

The Claimant, Marine Exports Limited has filed a claim at the High Court against the Minister of Fisheries and the Solomon Islands Government (defendant) for the damages.

Marine Exports Limited (Claimant) which is a limited company incorporated in the Solomon Islands in 2002 specialized in capturing wild dolphins, keeping them in captivity in a purpose built facility, breed and train them, and from time to time export them overseas.

The Claimant was first granted export permit and had exported dolphins to Mexico in 2003.

However, on January 13, 2005 the cabinet decided to effectively ban export of any live dolphins from Solomon Islands.

On June 8, 2005, the Claimant executed a contract with Wildlife International Network Inc of Orlando, Florida, USA to purchase twenty-five (25) bottlenose dolphins.

On or about September 2005, the Claimant lodged an application for export permit for the 25 dolphins with the Ministry of Fisheries and the sum of $100 paid as the required fee.

The application was never granted.

There was ought to be two licences possessed by an entrepreneur dealing with export of life dolphins.

The first licence is to capture life collection and holding of marine mammals in sea pen, Section 34 of Fisheries Act while the second is an export permit normally issued under the discretionary power of the Director of Fisheries for the purpose of export under section 32(1) of the Fisheries Act.

In October 24, 2005, the Claimant in a Civil Case No.511 of 2005, commenced proceedings for mandamus to compel the Director of Fisheries to issue the export permit.

The Minister of Fisheries then (November 24, 2005) made an order entitled Fisheries (Prohibition of Export of Dolphins) Regulation 2005, per Legal Notice No.123, gazetted on November 25, 2005.

Attached to the legal notice was a specific mention of species of dolphin which the Claimant was breeding and intended to export.

Counsel for the Claimant argued that his client was precluded from performing the contract dated June 28th 2005 to export 25 live dolphins as a result of unexpected promulgation of a law prohibiting the export of the dolphin.

The Claimant has shown that a wrong had been committed as judgment had been given in its favour.

And that an arbitrary and oppressive act had been committed by the state which deprives its business by making an unconstitutional law to prohibit it from exporting dolphins.

Counsel for the defendant however submits and denies any unlawful interference by the state and said that the Claimant has never had a permit to export live dolphins from Solomon Islands in 2005 but only possessed fish processing licence to capture wild dolphins and breed and kept in a pen.

Justice Foukona said he had the liberty of running through the Fisheries Act and “unfortunately there is nothing in the Act to assist”.

He said the orders of the Court on December 13, 2006, nullifying the Regulation for being made an improper purpose, is correct and proper.

Solomon Star contacted the Attorney General Billy Titiulu yesterday who admitted that the government is going to pay the fine.

“We are waiting for tax dues so that we can pay up.”

He said although it was not the making of the current government, tax payers will shoulder the cost of the previous government’s actions.


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Warnings of ecological timebomb after Italy ship wreck

Dario Thuburn AFP Yahoo News 16 Jan 12;

Fears rose of an environmental disaster from a wrecked cruise ship in an area of outstanding natural beauty in Italy on Monday as hopes faded of finding any more survivors on board.

"This is an ecological timebomb," Sergio Ortelli, mayor of the picturesque Tuscan island where the luxury Costa Concordia liner hit underwater rocks and keeled over on Friday with more than 4,200 passengers and crew aboard.

Ortelli said there were 2,380 tons of fuel on the ship, which had just started its cruise when it ran aground. "This is the second worry, after human lives," he said, as crews began putting down anti-spill booms.

"I hope that the fuel can be taken off the ship soon and maybe the ship can be removed too because it is hampering navigation," he said.

"We are monitoring constantly but there has been no spill so far," he added.

At least 15 people were still feared trapped in the wreckage after the disaster which left at least six dead, including two French passengers and one Peruvian crewman who drowned jumping off the ship in a chaotic evacuation.

Famous for its sandy beaches and rustic charm, Giglio is a major holiday destination in the summer when the population swells from around 800 permanent residents to some 5,000 people and is dotted with exclusive villas.

The island is also a major marine sanctuary and popular for whale-spotting.

Local officials are calling for new rules imposing strict limits on navigation in the area and in particular an end to the practice of "showboating" when cruise ships file past close to the island.

The owners of the ship, Costa Crociere, have been instructed by coastguards "to remove the wreck of the ship and avoid any spill of oil into the sea," said Filippo Marini, head of the local coastguard press office.

"We are putting in place booms right now but so far there hasn't been any leak. There is maximum attention on the environmental problem. We are all working together to resolve this as soon as possible," he said.

Dutch firm Smit, one of the largest marine salvage companies in the world, told AFP it had been hired to pump out the fuel from the 114,500-ton wreck.

"The owner of the vessel has asked us to ensure that the oil is brought out of the vessel safely," said Martijn Schuttevaer, spokesman for Boskalis, Smit's holding company.

He said the operation was expected to start within days and that 20 workers from Smit would travel to Giglio on Monday to coordinate the operation.

A representative from US-based Titan Salvage, who was also on Giglio, said the contract could run into the millions of euros (dollars).

"They've been phenomenally lucky there's been no spill. If the hole in the hull had been four or five metres further along it would have punctured the tanks," he said.

"It's very close to the edge of much deeper water," said the man, explaining that the waves could push it off its resting place and it could sink entirely.

The fuel pumped out of the ship will be replaced by water in the tanks to ensure that the ship remained stable in a practice known as "hot tapping."

Environment Minister Corrado Clini meanwhile said that the environmental risk has been "our nightmare."

"The vessel has reservoirs full of fuel, it is a heavy diesel which could sink down to the seabed, that would be a disaster," he said.

In a worst-case scenario, the fuel could "leak into the sea, contaminating an exceptional coastline and affecting marine and bird life," he warned.

"We are ready to intervene if there is a spill," Clini said. "As soon as possible, the fuel will be removed from the vessel. But we have to take into account the precarious state of the ship."

Costa Crociere head Pier Luigi Foschi said Monday the company had commissioned several firms to look at the best way to salvage the vessel.

He said the first priorities were pumping out the fuel and plugging the gash in the hull.

Foschi said he understood fears of an environmental disaster from leaking fuel oil, but stressed that there had been no signs of this.

'Ocean giants' ban needed on Italy coasts: environmentalists
Francoise Kadri AFP Yahoo News 16 Jan 12;

The 17-deck cruise ship that capsized smack in the middle of a marine nature reserve off Tuscany shows these ocean giants threaten the coastline and should be banned, Italian environmentalists said Monday.

The Costa Concordia remains on its side less than 50 metres (55 yards) from the island of Giglio with more than 2,000 tonnes of diesel oil and slowly releasing objects ranging from refrigerators to cabin furniture and carpeting.

Worried about the impact on the environment, some are calling for banning these colossal ships -- as big as a 10-storey buildings -- from sailing into these sensitive zones.

"That's enough, we have to stop treating these ships like they were simple vaporetti," said Italy's Environment Minister Corrado Clini, referring to the boats that ply the canals of Venice.

He promised to act "to prevent these giant ships from getting close to sensitive zones" to protect the environment in an interview published Monday in La Stampa newspaper.

Three senators from the leftist Democrat Party also demanded that the government issue an emergency decree to ban cruise ships and oil tankers from passing near sensitive areas, including the lagoon of Venice, protected marine zones and the waters around small islands.

Italian environmental group Marevivo slammed the "proven and widespread" practice of allowing cruise liners close to shore "to create a picturesque setting both on board and on land."

It joined the chorus calling for a ban on sailing near fragile zones, like the Tuscan archipelago.

The Tuscan islands of Elba, Giglio, Capraia, Montecristo, Pianosa, Giannutri and Gorgona have formed since 1996 one of the biggest marine parks in Europe.

Protests against cruise ships were planned for this month in Venice even before last weekend's accident on the other side of the peninsula that left at least six people dead.

Activists have been working to ban the huge vessels from mooring off Saint Mark's basin in Venice, a regular stop on cruises that bring 1.6 million passengers to the region each year.

Mario Tozzi, a geologist and ex-president of the protected reserve, said the Costa Concordia strayed from its route of about five kilometres (3.1 miles) offshore "to perhaps see the lights of Giglio close up as well as the landscape and see how it ended.

"Tourism should not involve recklessness," he added.

The cause of the accident late Friday has so far been alleged as human error with Italian media reporting that the captain wanted to sail near Giglio to please the head waiter who hails from there.

The head of the company which owns the monster vessel said it ran aground as a result of an "inexplicable" error by the captain, Francesco Schettino, who was arrested Saturday along with first officer Ciro Ambrosio.

"He carried out a manoeuvre which had not been approved by us and we disassociate ourselves from such behaviour," said Pier Luigi Foschi, the boss of Costa Crociere, Europe's largest cruise operator.

For Tozzi there is no question that super-tankers and cruise ships should be banned from this Mediterranean sanctuary for marine mammals, an area that forms a triangle from the French Riviera to Corsica to the Tuscan coastline.

Last year, about 5.4 million Europeans took cruise holidays, more than double the 2.6 million recorded in 2006, according to the European Cruise Council.

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