Best of our wild blogs: 7 Feb 12

New baby civets coming soon?
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

The sound of your moves
from The annotated budak

racket-tailed drongo @ Bukit Brown - Jan2012
from sgbeachbum

Dancing in the Wind @ Pasir Ris Park Part 1
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Ecological Mangrove Rehabilitation Seminar by Dr. Ben Brown
from Mangrove Action Squad

Planning a Campaign to Reduce, Redistribute and Recycle Food Waste in Singapore from Green Future Solutions

Vampire and bird frogs: discovering new amphibians in Southeast Asia's threatened forests from news by Jeremy Hance

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Use Rio+20 to overhaul idea of growth, urges EU climate chief

Connie Hedegaard says GDP model of growth causes overconsumption, drives up commodity prices and ignores the environment
Fiona Harvey 6 Feb 12;

The world must use a landmark environmental summit this year to change forever the current damaging model of economic growth, Europe's climate chief has warned, or face future crises as severe as the one currently enveloping the eurozone.

Overconsumption of critical resources, and the rising prices of key commodities such as food, energy and natural materials as a result, risk derailing the world economy – but these problems will not be tackled unless today's economic models are overhauled, according to Connie Hedegaard, EU commissioner for climate action. That is because judging economic growth purely on the basis of production and consumption, as happens now, encourages rampant overconsumption and fails to value the natural environment.

"The 21st century must have a more intelligent growth model, or else it's really difficult to see how we feed 7 billion people now and 9 billion people [by 2050]," she said. "Resources were cheap before, but it seems we are in for a period where resources become more and more expensive. Oil is coming up in price, so many other commodities are coming up in price. Food prices are rising. We need to deal with this."

Heads of state and government from around the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro this June, two decades on from the 1992 Earth Summit that kickstarted the process of a global treaty on climate change. But there is a risk the Rio+20 gathering will fail to come to any solid conclusions, according to Hedegaard. If this year's summit is to have the far-reaching consequences of its predecessor, countries must seize the chance to sign a firm resolution to change the way growth is measured, she said.

That could involve moving away from GDP to broader measures of wellbeing, and putting a value on natural resources rather than regarding important assets such as clean water, clean air and biodiversity as free, as current economic models do.

"This is an opportunity to rethink [how we measure growth]," Hedegaard told the Guardian. "The knowledge is out there, the analysis has been done. We can take this decision in Rio."

Current models of growth prize only consumption and production, rating countries' performance according to their GDP.

However, there is a growing belief among some economists that this long-standing model has outlived its usefulness, and provides no protection for the natural world. The Nobel prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz has been one of the leading voices calling for a change, and world leaders including David Cameron, the UK prime minister, have heeded the call, promising moves towards a broader definition of economic value.

"This has a lot of relevance to the euro crisis," said Hedegaard. "We're trying to make it clear that the climate change crisis is an economic crisis, a social and a job crisis – it should be seen as a whole. If we do not tackle these, we will be in crisis mode for many, many years."

Recent fears over many key commodities have heightened as prices have failed to drop despite the financial crisis gripping most of the developed and some of the developing world. For instance, the tightening supply of rare earth minerals may threaten the future of renewable energy technology, business leaders were told at the World Economic Forum in Davos recently.

Hedegaard was one of the signatories to a report last week from the UN secretary-general's high level panel on global sustainability, which will feed into the Rio+20 summit in June. In the report, the panel urged the UN to put in place sustainable development indicators that would help to ensure growth does not come at the expense of the environment.

The report, called Resilient People, Resilient Planet, was given a mixed welcome by development charities. Sarah Best of Oxfam said: "The panel's report is a welcome rallying cry for the vision of a sustainable, fair, and resilient future that Oxfam fully shares, but... it's weak medicine for such a life-threatening diagnosis. World leaders will need to do better when they meet at the UN summit in Rio in June."

She said the panel had failed to make concrete recommendations on reforming food supply, and had little to say on finance.

Alison Doig of Christian Aid said: "The report describes the enormous and unsustainable exploitation of planetary resources underpinning the last decades of economic growth, and also shows that this is only half the story. The other half is the astonishing inequality in the distribution of the benefits of this irresponsible natural asset-stripping. The wealthy 20% of the world currently consumes 80% of natural resources while the poorest 20% do not have enough for a decent standard of living. It is critically important to deal with these twin crises – unsustainability and inequality – together."

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Malaysia: Endangered wildlife can have easier migration

Muguntan Vanar The Star 7 Feb 12;

KOTA KINABALU: A move is under way to connect the country's largest wildlife forest reserve, Tabin, with adjacent fragmented forests through wildlife corridors in Sabah's east coast Lahad Datu.

The move will facilitate the migration of critically-endangered wildlife through the newly established Segama Corridor Conservation Area.

Conservationists hope it would eventually lead to a narrow but continuous corridor from Tabin to Kulamba Wildlife Reserve, another important refuge for endangered species on the northern side of the Dent peninsular in Lahad Datu.

The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the German-based conservation non-governmental organisation Rhino and Forest Fund (RFF) signed an agreement to improve a wildlife corridor between the isolated Tabin reserve with adjacent conservation areas recently.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve is one of the last areas on the Borneo island where large wildlife still coexist, including the Bornean Rhino, Bornean Elephant, Orang Utan, Banteng and Sun Bear.

“Connecting forest fragments is an integral part of our strategy to secure wildlife habitat in the long term,” Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said.

He said it was necessary for the department to be active in promoting the reforestation work throughout areas with wildlife as corridors and forest patches are much needed for wildlife connectivity.

“At present, there is an increase of reforestation work within wildlife landscapes in Sabah and we want them to be successful not only for the benefit of wildlife but also local communities who live close to these areas,” said Laurentius.

“To save endangered wildlife suffering from habitat fragmentation, we need to establish a network of protected areas of a sufficient size and quality.

“This will prevent inbreeding of currently separated sub-populations and help to maintain healthy population.”

RFF director Robert Risch said the outcome of their efforts would be a connected conservation area of more than 200,000ha, nearly twice as big as Tabin is today.

Leipzig Zoo from Germany and private donors financially support this reforestation project.

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Malaysia: Eye in the sky on crocodiles

Satellite tagging of crocs to help reduce number of attacks
Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 7 Feb 12;

OVER the past 10 years, there have been 25 fatal crocodile attacks in the east coast of Sabah, including three last year in the Kinabatangan river.

This has led Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) to initiate a satellite tagging project aimed at tackling human-crocodile conflict.

DGFC director and leader of the Kinabatangan Crocodile Programme Dr Benoit Goosens said it was believed that a lack of food could have forced these reptiles to attack humans.

The project, funded by DGFC and Chester Zoo, now focuses on 10 main rivers in Sabah -- Klias, Padas, Paitan, Sugud, Labuk, Kinabatangan, Segama, Kalumpang, Kalabakan and Serudong.

"These are the rivers that have been identified as rivers inhabited by crocodiles.

"We emphasise on Kinabatangan and Paitan because of different degrees of human pressure," said Goosens.

Last week, a DGFC team with the help of Sabah Wildlife Department, successfully installed a satellite tag on a 3.6m saltwater crocodile in Kinabatangan.

It was the second successful satellite tagging of a male crocodile in the area to monitor the reptile's movements.

The male reptile was nicknamed Lais, which means small fish in Bahasa Sungai and is the name of the tributary near where it was caught.

The project was important to establish the crocodiles' long-term seasonal movements to study their biology and ecology.

Goosens said there were many oil palm plantations near the river in the east coast and less forest, as well as prey, such as wild boars and proboscis monkeys.

"We have more people from plantations fishing on the river and this is more likely to attract crocodiles that lack food.

"We also have places where there are lots of vegetation and we think that it is unlikely that there will be a lot of attacks there.

"This is something we want to study. It is a hypothesis and we think it could be the factor. We would also like to find out whether these crocodiles are spending more time near the plantations," he said, adding that most human-crocodile conflicts involved large males.

With satellite tagging, it is possible to track the crocodile's position and determine how a lack of food may be forcing the reptiles to encroach habitable areas and attack humans.

In view of this, the DGFC team planned to tag 20 male crocodiles within the next three years in Sabah.

The team will conduct surveys and collect genetic samples to identify patterns of gene flow between Sabah rivers.

Semen from the captured males would also be studied to get an overall picture of fertility in the population.

"The satellite will send about six positions a day. So we are able to look at the movement and know where they go, and at the same time, have a better idea of its dispersal.

"It is going to be interesting to see if it is dispersing from the larger crocodiles in their area as we are also planning to tag some females to learn about their nesting sites," added Goosens.

The project was also aimed at studying the health and genetic differentiation of the crocodile population in Sabah.

It was also aimed at raising awareness among plantation workers and villagers about crocodile attacks.

Goosens said the first tagging was carried out in June last year but they only managed to track the crocodile for eight weeks.

"There was a technical problem with the tag and we hope this second tagging exercise will go well," he said, adding that the satellite tag would normally last for a year.

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Indonesia: Rafflesia habitats spread evenly in Bengkulu

Antara 6 Feb 12;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - The habitats of Rafflesia Arnoldii are spread evenly in forest areas of Bengkulu province, a Rafflesia researcher from the University of Bengkulu, Agus Susatya, said here Monday.

"Based on records we have collected, the Raflesia is not found just in one orest area but also in nine districts and not in cities that have no forest area," he added.

Agus said the unique flowers were found in the Bukit Barisan mountains in northern Bengkulu, namely Mukomuko district, the eastern area of Lebong district up the southern part of Kaur district.

He said there were 21 locations where the rare flower was blooming in nine districts, namely Mukomuko, North Bengkulu, Central Bengkulu , Kepahiang, Lebong, Rejang Lebong, South Bengkulu, Seluma and Kaur.

However, the majority of the forest areas which are the habitat of the protected flower has been changed into gardens that threaten its sustainability.

"During 2011 , there the flower bloomed 14 times in various locations, namely in Central Bengkulu, Kepahiang, Mukomuko and Kaur," Agus added.

He noted the location of protected forest along the highway of Kepahiang and Taba Penanjung were the common locations for the blooming Rafflesia.

These locations were located in nature reserves of Taba Penanjung I and II to the protected forests which border with Tebat Monok village, Kepahiang district.

Unfortunately the blooming flowers are often not followed by good management. Whereas the frequency of blooming flowers and the convenient accessibility, these flowers are potentially as one of the strong appeal for the community economic development through eco-tourism.

Indonesia has the most various Rafflesia species in the world. Of the 25 species recorded at this time, 12 of which derive from Indonesia and four of them found in Bengkulu.

In Malaysia and Sabah, which only has 6 species, the ecological research and conservation for Rafflesia relatively more active and advanced. Similarly in the Philippines which in the past 5 years has discovered five new species of rafflesia.

Meanwhile in Indonesia it was only found two to three new species in the last 20 years. It shows the attention and research are still left behind from Malaysia and the Philippines although these species were firstly appeared in Indonesia, Agus explained.

The lack of attention was to be a very worrying because most of the Rafflesia species are classified into the threatened category, he said.(*)

Editor: Heru

Rafflesia arnoldii blooms up in 21 locations
Antara 7 Feb 12;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - The flower arnoldii of rafflesia has been found blooming in 21 locations throughout Bengkulu Province, reports Agus Susatya, a researcher at Bengkulu University.

"According to the report, most `Rafflesia arnoldii` bloom up in Bengkulu Province, although the species also grows along the Bukit Barisan Mountains," Susatya said here on Tuesday.

He further noted that until 2011, there were 21 documented locations of "Rafflesia arnoldii", though several of these locations no longer have the flowers due to natural or man-made reasons.

The locations of the flower were spread from N. Bengkulu to S. Bengkulu and also in Rajang Lebong Region and Seluma Region.

Based on the report, `Rafflesia arnoldii`, the flower was found blooming in 14 locations during 2011, mostly at eight sites in the Bukit Daun Conservation Forest and three sites in the Taba Penanjung Reserve.

Unfortunately, Susatya said the blooming of "Rafflesia arnoldii" was not receiving serious attention to develop its tourism potential, though the Bukit Daun Conservation is the most accessible location among the group.

"Based on the frequency of the flowers blooming and the accessibility of the location, it will have a great potential to develop the economy through ecological tourism," he said.

He further added that the protection of "Rafflesia arnoldii" needs to be more of a concern of conservation experts, the community and those involved in ecological tourism.

Bengkulu also has other species of rafflesia, the "gadutensis", "hasselty" and "bengkuluensis", which are relatively rare.

Susatya added that Indonesia has the world`s largest number of rafflesia among the 25 recorded species, as twelve of them grow in Indonesia and four species are endemic plants of Bengkulu.


Editor: Ella Syafputri

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Indonesia: Two rhinos born in Ujung Kulon National Park in 2011

Antara 6 Feb 12;

Labuan, Banten (ANTARA News) - Two Javanese rhinoceroses were born last year at Ujung Kulon National Park (TNUK), Pandeglang District, Banten Province.

"The rhino population has grown, because in 2010 three rhinos were born," said Hendra Purnama, an evaluation and data officer at TNUK, on Monday.

Based on the recordings of 30 video traps, which were installed at several points at the national park in 2011, the rhino population is estimated to be at around 35 heads.

"We will increase the number of video traps to 60 units, and the probable population of rhino to 100 heads," Purnama said.

The reproduction of Javanese rhinos at the park is not facing any serious problem due to safe the habitat and ample vegetation.

"I think there is no problem concerning the rhino`s food because there are 114 kinds of leaves that they could eat," Purnama said.(*)

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Thai police arrest rare wildlife 'butchers'

AFP Yahoo News 6 Feb 12;

Thai police busted a grisly exotic wildlife slaughterhouse in Bangkok when officers caught four men in the act of chopping up a tiger in a residential home, officials said Monday.

Elephant, zebra, wildebeest and lion remains were also found at the suburban property as well as meat kept in a refrigerator that police and wildlife activists said was likely to be destined for human consumption.

"We assume that the meat is from tigers because we found tiger skin and heads. From what I've seen, I think it's two tigers," Thai Nature Crime Police Commander, Police Colonel Norasak Hemnithi, told AFP.

He said police arrested seven men and are hunting another, believed to be the owner of an exotic animal restaurant in Bangkok, which has operated in the capital for a decade.

"We believe that this butchers house is mainly to provide orders for the restaurant, but those arrested said they sometimes shipped meat and stuffed animals to China," he added.

Wildlife anti-trafficking group Freeland, which often works with the Thai police on operations, said local police chanced on the gruesome scene after encountering a man whose hands were covered in blood in Bangkok's Yannawa district.

"Police escorted the man back to a residential building and discovered four others in the midst of chopping up a 400 kilogramme (880 pound) male tiger," the group said.

Freeland director Steven Galster said the group believes some of the animals were "bred in, or laundered through, private zoos in Thailand".

Norasak said he thought the tigers might have been from the wild, but other animals could have been from private zoos.

The arrested men could face four years in jail for the illegal processing of wild and protected animals, he added.

Thailand, a hub of international smuggling, is one of just 13 countries hosting fragile tiger populations. Worldwide, numbers are estimated to have fallen to only 3,200 tigers from approximately 100,000 a century ago.

Tiger carcasses found in Bangkok taxidermist’s premises
TRAFFIC 7 Feb 12;

Bangkok, Thailand, 6th February 2012—When Thai police spotted a man with blood-spattered hands walking to a store in a Bangkok suburb they knew something was amiss, but little did they guess that it would lead them to house filled with animal carcasses including two dead Tigers.

Police stopped and questioned the man on Saturday night (4th February), who told them the bloodstains were from animals he had been stuffing.

At the house where he worked, police went on to discover a whole Tiger carcass, another chopped up and placed in three plastic bags and many other animal parts.

Tigers are fully protected in Thailand, and any trade in their parts is prohibited.

Two employers and five workers at the house in Bang Chan were arrested and are being questioned in connection with the Tiger carcasses.

The owner of the house claimed he had permits to carry out taxidermy work for several zoos and shopping outlets, but has yet to produce these documents or explain where the Tigers were acquired.

The discovery was made by the local police and the Natural Resource and Environment Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police.

In a second search of the house today, police found more animals in various stages of processing. These included Gaur, crocodiles, snakes, parrots, egrets, elephant parts and the remains of many other yet-to-be identified species.

All the animals have been confiscated and investigations are underway into where and how the wildlife, especially the Tigers, were obtained and who commissioned the taxidermy.

The find comes less than a month after Thai Customs officials discovered four boxes of Tiger skin, bones and skulls in the post, destined for China.

“The Bang Chan find provides authorities with a unique opportunity to shut down an illegal trade chain. Those arrested should know both the suppliers and the buyers: we hope to see authorities make full use of this situation,” said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s Deputy Regional Director Chris R. Shepherd.

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Sunderbans gets the green light for new sanctuary

The Times of India 7 Feb 12;

KOLKATA: It seems the chief minister's dreams of making Sunderbans a tourism hotspot is fast taking shape.

Barely five days after Mamata Banerjee paid a two-day visit to the mangroves, the state bureaucrats - losing no further time - on Monday approved the formation of a new wildlife sanctuary in Sunderbans, the largest among all the sanctuaries it has now.

With tourism topping the agenda for the state foresters, it seems the proposal - doing the rounds since the last six months - was granted the go-ahead keeping in mind more tourist footfalls in the delta. It may be noted that the Sunderbans gets around 30,000 to 40,000 tourists a year and the numbers are expected to will only go up once the new sanctuary - West Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary - becomes operational.

However, the foresters cited are citing a 'better management' as their prime focus for creation of the forest park. "Not only tourism, the 462 square kilometers which will be demarcated as the new sanctuary, will come under better management," said Pradeep Vyas, director, Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve.

Though the state wildlife advisory board has cleared the proposal, some administrative paperwork needs to be completed. are now in the line.

According to an official, the proposal will now be notified under section 18 of the Wildlife Protection Act for the time being. The rights and concession issues will then be taken into account before the final notification is given under section 26A of the same act.

The new wildlife sanctuary in the mangroves will cover Dhulibhashani 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and Chulkathi 1 to 8 compartments.

"The proposed sanctuary will have Dhulibhashani 1 to its north, Bay of Bengal to its south and rivers Matla and Thakuran to its east and west respectively," said the official, adding that while 224.26 square kilometres will fall under Dhulibhashani, 238.13 square kilometres will come under Chulkathi.

The existing sanctuaries in the mangroves are Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary, covering an area of over 362 square kilometres, Lothian Wildlife Sanctuary, spread over 38 square kilometres area and Haliday covering six square kilometers.

A state wildlife board member said the new sanctuary will restrict illegal entry into the forests. "We will issue fresh boat licence certificates (BLCs) to the fishermen who will venture out for fishing in the area," said Vyas. At present, 3,500 licences are given to boat owners in South 24-Parganas forest division and 960 BLCs are issued under Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR).

A section of wildlife experts is worried about the infrastructure for proper maintenance of the sanctuary. "Right now, the forest department is functioning with only 50% of sanctioned staff strength," said a forest department official. According to Vyas, the department now has 300 staffers, of which 175 are frontline staffers associated with the protection of the forests. "We are planning to set up a protection camp near Chulkathi soon. Additional staff at the level of forest guard will also be recruited," he said adding that recently installed camera traps have captured four different adult tigers in Chulkathi in the last four days. "This shows the area has tigers and needs a detailed management plan so that the wildlife can be protected."

Meanwhile, Gorumara sanctuary in north Bengal will soon have pygmy hogg - an endangered species of small pigs that inhabit the north-eastern forests. Successfully bred in captivity at Assam's Manas sanctuary, the hoggs will be relocated at Gorumara and three other locations in the state.

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WWF captures first known tiger images in northern India forest

WWF 6 Feb 12;

New Delhi, India - As it nears the end of its journey inside the northern Indian State of Uttarakhand, the Kosi River flows down the Himalayan foothills that separate the Corbett Tiger Reserve from the Ramnagar Forest Division to its east. The rustic forests that blanket this area are an important tiger habitat and form part of a crucial natural link – known as a corridor – that allows the endangered big cats and other important species to thrive.

A WWF team working in Kaladhungi, which forms part of the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), has documented a Bengal tiger traversing the Kosi River, the first time the endangered species is known to have been captured on camera in the area.

Debmalya Roy Chowdhury, a Project Officer working in the area, shares an eyewitness account of this rare sighting:

“It was almost 11 in the mroning on 31 October, 2011. I was with two colleagues, Chandar Singh Neg and Tara Thaplial, [and we were] all very tired after a six kilometre walk on the bed of River Kosi under a scorching sun. We were about to reach one of the camera trap points along River, where WWF-India has been conducting the Kosi Corridor Monitoring Study for past two months. Just after crossing the river bed, Tara screamed out “Sir, tiger-tiger!” I looked up. How I felt at the moment is very hard to describe in words. There was a huge, mature male tiger walking along the river bed in that broad daylight attempting to move into the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The big cat was few hundred metres away from us. After a few seconds of being perplexed, I started clicking off photographs. The tiger spotted us and tried to take cover, but realising there being none it turned back towards our camera point and disappeared into the jungle. This sighting made us get over our tiredness and we followed its tracks up to our camera point. This was the most memorable on-foot sighting of a tiger I have ever had in my life - and it is probably the best direct evidence we have to document how well the River Kosi corridor is working.”

Amazing findings in the Kosi River corridor

Adding substance to the above documentation are findings from a WWF-India study conducted in 2011. As part of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Wildlife Institute of India’s all India tiger estimation exercise, WWF was involved in camera trapping and the subsequent estimation of tigers in the Ramnagar Forest Division, which includes the Kosi River corridor. The results were astonishing – both the positive findings as well as the challenges faced by the tigers.

“Our study lead by tiger biologist Meraj Anwar revealed that Ramanagar Forest Division has the highest density of tigers outside a Protected Area anywhere in India and perhaps the world. We obtained a high tiger density of over 15 tigers per 100 sq. km. In fact, this density is higher than that of many well known Tiger Reserves in India,” said Joseph Vattakaven, a Tiger Coordinator with WWF India. The detailed findings were published in Status of tigers, co-predators and prey in India, 2010.*

Adds Joseph, “We have initiated a detailed study on the pressures the River Kosi corridor is currently facing. Our intensive camera trapping study that is ongoing shows that tigers are dispersing via the River Kosi corridor but the unchecked mushrooming of resorts in the corridor is the single biggest cause for concern. Also, the fact that these tigers are in a non-protected area increases the urgency for measures to protect them. The protection they currently get is far less than the adjoining Corbett Tiger Reserve.”

The urgency of protecting this tiger population comes as WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative launches a Zero Poaching action to stop tiger poaching in its tracks in tiger heartlands – the core areas where the big cat lives and breeds. WWF and its partners increasing their engagement in the Kosi River Corridor will be a key aspect to building a future for the tiger there. The Tigers Alive Initiative is calling on tiger country governments to secure the heartlands through renewed dedication and support for the well trained and managed field staff working every day on the tiger conservation frontlines.

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Australian Floods Force Thousands From Their Homes

Rebekah Kebede PlanetArk 7 Feb 12;

Thousands of Australians were forced from their homes on Monday because of floods that have risen to record levels in some areas and killed one person, and authorities issued warnings for more than a dozen rivers in Queensland and New South Wales states.

Australia's coal industry, which is concentrated in Queensland and New South Wales, was largely unaffected, easing concern about a repeat of last year's disastrous floods that sent global coal prices soaring.

But heavy rain is expected to take a toll on the region's agriculture, particularly on cotton, sugarcane, soybean and corn.

About 2,500 people were evacuated from the Queensland town of St. George, where flooding is expected to reach a record level of 14 metres (45 feet) or higher, state police said.

"We're hearing from people whose families have lived on the property for 100 or more years who've never seen water in their homes who have now got water up to the roof," Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told Sky news.

"So we know that something that's never been seen before is on its way."

St. George was also hit in 2011, when flash floods across Queensland and New South Wales killed about 35 people, swamped 30,000 houses, and wiped out roads, bridges and rail lines.

The flooding across the two states this year has resulted in tens of thousands of people being cut off in the last few days, with some having to battle with deadly snakes as they scrambled for dry ground.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has forecast that flooding will continue for weeks in some areas.

The town of Moree, the centre of the New South Wales' cotton industry was cut in half by record floodwaters, and some estimated that each farm in the area could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of crops.

Australia is the world's largest coal exporter and accounts for roughly two-thirds of global trade of coking coal, used for steel production. The 2011 floods pushed up global coal prices as production was brought to a near standstill.

"The coal mines themselves are not experiencing any difficulties," Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said.

"So far, the Queensland coal industry, as far as we are aware, has missed the flooding."

On Friday, Whitehaven Coal said it had shut four mines because of heavy rain, but the mines were not flooded and no equipment had been damaged.

Global miner Xstrata said there was no impact on its operations.

"It's business as usual," spokeswoman Kathryn Lamond said.

But the industry was still concerned about disruption if there was no let-up in the rain and more flooding, Roche said.

Many mines are still carrying significant volumes of water from last year's floods, so more heavy rain is a danger.

Storm damage was estimated to have cut Australia's commodity-weighted economy's gross domestic product growth (GDP) by A$20 billion, or 1.5 percent, in the 2010-2011 financial year.

(Editing by Lincoln Feast and Robert Birsel)

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