Best of our wild blogs; 13 Feb 12

Civets on the rooftop
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

I didn't know this .....
from Life's Indulgences

Dancing in the Wind @ Pasir Ris Park Part 2
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Coastal Cleanup @ Tanah Merah
from Trek through Paradise and Through The Backyards

Feral Pigeon
from Monday Morgue

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Malaysia: Clueless over dead whale

Fisheries Dept officials in a dilemma over carcass, may decide to bury it on island
Kristy Inus New Straits Times 13 Feb 12;

THE state Fisheries Department has not decided on what to do with the 13m baleen whale that was found dead at Pulau Mengalum, about 56km northwest here.

A local daily reported that nine officers had been sent to inspect the carcass on Friday morning following a tip-off the day before.

Team leader Irman Isnain said they had not been able to identify which of the 12 baleen species the whale belonged to because of the advanced stage of decomposition.

The reason as to why the mammal -- as long as a badminton court -- beached itself on the island also remained a mystery.

"We have no idea what caused it to beach itself. The department also could not pinpoint the actual time of the whale's death, but judging from the information given by the staff of a nearby resort, it is definitely more than a week."

Irman said the tip-off on the dead whale came from visitors to the island, but the resort staff had spotted it early this month.

"When they saw it on the beach, it was already dead."

The department's assistant director, Rooney Biusing, said no decision had been made on disposing the carcass.

"Due to logistics problems, if there is no choice, we may have to bury the carcass on the island."

A local resort operator had said that this was the second time a whale had washed ashore and died on Pulau Mengalum.

The first was in January 2010.

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Malaysia: Conserving forests paying jumbo-sized dividends

The Star 13 Feb 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s move to stop logging operations at the Ulu Segama-Malua forest reserve in the state’s east coast is a crucial step towards conserving the Borneo elephant population, state Widlife Department director Laurentius Ambu said.

He said a six-year study involving the satellite tracking of the state elephant population showed that the animals were sensitive to habitat disturbance.

“For example, in Gunung Rara forest reserve in central Sabah, logging activities were carried out during the tracking period and elephants moved greater distances than in forests that were not being logged,” he said.

Four adult females from Kala­bakan, Taliwas, Ulu Segama-Malua and Gunung Rara Forest Reserves and one from the Lower Kinaba­tangan Wildlife Sanctuary were fitted with satellite collars and the size of their home ranges were determined using the location data gathered from the satellites since 2005.

In Kinabatangan, since 2008, the department together with a wildlife non-governmental organisation, Hutan and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), also collared another nine elephants to identify the best approach to reconnect the elephants with the forest.

Based on the study, wildlife experts are urging the state to retain all remaining lowland forests which support elephants under natural forest management and not convert these areas into plantations.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goosens said forest disturbance needed to be minimised in areas where there were wild elephants.

Borneo Conservation Trust research and conservation head Raymond Alfred said elephants had travelled longer distances in disturbed areas in search of food and water.

Keep some forests for elephants' sake
New Straits Times 14 Feb 12;

KOTA KINABALU: The tug of war for territory and resources is just one manifestation of the growing tension between economic development and biodiversity conservation.

Researchers and conservationists in Sabah and the United Kingdom conducted a study which shows the home range and movement rate of the Bornean elephants are influenced by the degree of habitat fragmentation.

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), Cardiff University and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and WWF-Malaysia carried out the study which was published in the scientific journal Public Library of Science One (PLoS 1).

In 2005, SWD and WWF initiated the first satellite-tracking programme to investigate the movements of wild Bornean elephants in Sabah.

The team placed the satellite collars on four adult females from Kalabakan, Taliwas, Ulu Segama-Malua and Gunung Rara Forest Reserves and one from the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Head of Research and Conservation at Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) and study leader, Raymond Alfred, said the satellite-tracking device was used to gather location data and determine the size of these elephant home ranges.

"Home range size was smaller in non-fragmented forests than in fragmented forests because once a habitat was cleared or converted, the availability of food plants and water sources was reduced, forcing the elephants to travel to adjacent forest areas," said Alfred.

This indicates that wildlife has to adapt to landscape changes and that elephants are very sensitive to habitat disturbance.

For example, in Gunung Rara Forest Reserve (central Sabah), logging was carried out during the tracking period and elephants were found to have moved greater distances than in forests that were not being logged.

The team believed that the decision to stop logging in Ulu Segama-Malua Forest Reserves would have a positive impact on the elephant population in the area.

"Forest disturbance needs to be minimised wherever wild elephants are found in Segaliud Lokan Forest Reserve (SLFR).

"The elephants in Lower Kinabatangan were separated from SLFR for 25 years due to habitat fragmentation and BCT is in the process of getting the key oil palm plantation companies to support the initiative to set aside a corridor to connect the fragmented forests."

DGFC director and a senior research associate at Cardiff University Dr Benoit Goossens highlighted two recommendations to ensure the long-term conservation of the Bornean elephants.

"Firstly, all remaining lowland dipterocarp forests which support elephants should be retained under natural forest management and must not be converted to plantations; and, secondly, forest disturbance needs to be minimised wherever wild elephants roam.

"In timber production forests, this can be achieved by limiting the extent and frequency of logging operations in any given management compartment," he stressed.

Following these recommendations, BCT is now working in partnership with KTS Plantation Sdn Bhd in monitoring the elephant population and developing best management practices.

In the past four years, SWD, DGFC and Hutan had collared nine elephants in Kinabatangan to identify the best approach to reconnect forest fragments in the highly-fragmented areas.

It was supported by Houston Zoo, Columbus Zoo, Elephant Family, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Indonesia: Toilet paper company responds to WWF Report on rainforest destruction

APP and Paseo Respond to WWF Report on Rainforest Destruction
Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 13 Feb 12;

Asia Pulp & Paper and Paseo responded to a World Wildlife Fund report released on Wedesday alleging that Asia Pulp & Paper is responsible for large amounts of destruction in Sumatra.

In its own response to the WWF report, APP said it agreed that the concerns raised by the environmental group were “important” and that it viewed them “seriously.”

“We agree with WWF that consumers should not have to choose between tigers and toilet paper and that companies like APP play a crucial role in ensuring that Americans have a choice of high quality, sustainably sourced paper products,” Aida Greenbury, APP’s managing director of sustainability and stakeholder relations, said in a statement.

She also said the company was in the process of engaging experts to conduct High Conservation Value Forest assessments of its directly controlled pulpwood concessions as a first step and would then roll out these assessments across its entire supply base.

“APP is working with multi-stakeholders, including an international NGO and reputable third parties, to construct its sustainability road map that includes the key components of increased transparency and sustainable fiber sourcing,” Greenbury said.

Last December WWF Indonesia issued a report that accused APP of damaging the environment and contributing to the destruction of tiger, elephant and orangutan habitats, and disputed its claims of preserving a tiger sanctuary in Riau. APP denied the charges.

According to the report released on Wednesday, several US grocery chains that once carried APP products have now stopped and so have other companies including Disney, Tiffany & Co. and Staples.

“We found that two brands sold in the United States, Paseo and Livi, are made with paper from Asia Pulp & Paper, which is responsible for more forest destruction in Sumatra than any other single company,” the WWF report said.

Paseo, a leading brand in Indonesia, has products including toilet paper, paper towels, napkins and facial tissue.

“With only about 400 Sumatran tigers and fewer than 2,800 Sumatran elephants left in the wild, this last remaining habitat is critical to the survival of these species. The pulp and paper and palm oil industries account for the vast majority of deforestation in Sumatra,” the report said.

The US distributor of Paseo products, Oasis brands, issued a statement on its Web site signed by its CEO, Philip Rundle, that said: “No company is perfect, and constructive feedback from NGOs and other stakeholders is necessary for any company to continuously improve its operations. Calls to action against Indonesian products, especially without verified claims, are unconstructive.”

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Malaysia: Cops to root out ‘gaharu’ thieves in Penang rainforest

Josephine Jalleh and Tan Sin Chow The Star 13 Feb 12;

GEORGE TOWN: Police will work closely with the state Forestry Department to identify those responsible for the illegal felling of gaharu (agarwood) trees near the Penang Botanic Gardens.

Penang police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob said the perpetrators, who are members of a syndicate with links to neighbouring countries, are armed.

“We have not received any police report over the illegal felling of such trees so far,” he said yesterday, but added that those with information should contact the Rakan COP hotline at 04-269 1999.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng instructed the relevant authorities to step up their operations against the culprits.

“I have instructed the state Forestry Department to submit weekly reports to the state executive council,” he said during a visit to the Botanic Gardens here yesterday.

Environmental non-governmental organisations have also called for tighter security to curb the illegal felling.

State Forestry Department assistant director Azahar Ahmad said four trees were felled for gaharu recently.

“Two axes, three canes and a parang were found at the site,” he said.

It was reported yesterday that local syndicates with connections to Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam were allegedly felling the trees in the rainforest near the Penang Botanic Gardens and other areas.

The oil extract from agarwood, used as medicine and perfume, fetches a good price in the Middle East.

Gurdial Singh, 52, a veteran with the Penang Hash House Harriers, highlighted the matter to The Star after he encountered chopped gaharu trees while running in the jungle.

Smaller trees carted away whole
The Star 13 Feb 12;

A 10ml tube of agarwood oil, which is used as medicine and perfume, is priced at RM140. It is in high demand in countries such as the Middle East.

Gurdial added that he had noticed remnants of the chopped up gaharu trees in the forest at the Gardens since November last year, with the biggest tree felled measuring more than 1m in diametre.

“The thinner, smaller trees, which are less than 30cm in diametre, are quite light and can be carted away easily,” he said, adding that he has not encountered anyone cutting up the trees.

State Forestry Department director Shah Rani Ahmad Zailan urged those with information to alert the department.

“But if the activities are happening on private land, it is beyond our jurisdiction. We can only advise the land owner to lodge a report with the police,” he said.

State Botanic Gardens department assistant director Salasiah Yusop said security in the garden vicinity had been stepped up.

Penang Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environmental Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the state was aware of the illegal harvesting of agarwood.

“We have to control this abuse with new strategies. We have to get the police involved, and if needed, even the army,” he said in an interview.

Phee added that the syndicates were also believed to be felling trees at Cherok Tokun in Bukit Mertajam, Bukit Panchor in Nibong Tebal as well as at the border between Kedah and Penang.

“Now they are targeting Pulau Jerejak and the Penang National Park in Teluk Bahang.

“We have made headway in our investigations, made an arrest and have submitted the papers to the deputy public prosecutor to charge those responsible in court soon,” he said, declining to elaborate on the arrest.

Agarwood chopped even as CM checks on illegal logging site
Josephine Jalleh The Star 14 Feb 12;

GEORGE TOWN: A gaharu (agar­­-wood) tree was felled in the rain­­-fo­rest behind the Penang Rifle Club just three hours before Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng went on an inspection near the Penang Botanic Gardens.

Lim was in another section of the rainforest with reporters and officials from the state Forestry De­­partment to check on allegations of chopped trees at about 4pm on Sunday.

A runner with the Penang Hash House Harriers, Gurdial Singh, 52, said fellow runners stumbled upon the felled tree at around 1pm the same day.

Sunday Star, in its exclusive on Feb 12, reported that local syndicates with foreign connections were allegedly felling the highly-valued gaharu (agarwood) trees illegally in the rainforest near the Penang Botanic Gardens here and in other places.

The oil extract from the agarwood, used for medicine and perfume, fetches a handsome price in the Middle East.

Gurdial said the latest felled tree was about 30m tall with a diameter of about 0.7m.

Malaysian Nature Society advi­-ser Kanda Kumar suggested that a multi-agency task force be set up to look into wood theft.

Friends of Penang Botanic Gar­­-dens Society president Rashidah Begum Fazal Mohamed said the department should act quickly to beef up security and deter the theft of agarwood.

“In other countries, forest rangers will go around the jungle to monitor and follow up if there were disturbances.

“Something should be done here too,” she added.

Vietnamese punished for chopping down gaharu – a first in Penang
S. Arulldas The Star 14 Feb 12;

BUTTERWORTH: A 23-year-old Vietnamese was sentenced to six years’ jail and fined RM200,000 in default six months’ jail for felling gaharu (agarwood) trees at the Forest Reserve in Nibong Tebal last month – a first in Penang.

Nguyen Van Tien had pleaded guilty to felling the agarwood trees, with two others still at large, at the Bukit Panchor Forest Reserve at 3.30pm on Jan 1.

He was earlier charged under Section 15 (1) of the Forestry Act 1984 together with Section 34 of the Penal Code, which carries a jail term of up to 20 years and a maximum fine of RM500,000, or both.

In mitigation, Nguyen asked for leniency, saying that he regretted committing the offence. The court proceedings were adjourned three times before the sentencing.

Deputy public prosecutor Siti Aishah Ramlan pressed for a deterrent sentence, claiming that the accused had destroyed the forest reserve and such incidents were rampant in the state.

She asked the court to impose a sentence that would serve as a lesson to other would-be offenders.

Session court Judge Ikmal Hishan Mohd Tajuddin then passed the sentence and ordered it to take effect from yesterday.

State Forestry Department assistant director Azhar Ahmad said they had to delay charging the accused because they needed to arrange for a Vietnamese interpreter.

He said besides the locals, foreigners were also involved in the illegal felling and stealing of the agarwood trees.

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