Best of our wild blogs: 22 Feb 12

galloping blue-winged pitta @ pasir ris - Feb2012
from sgbeachbum

Oriental Scops Owl at Pulau Ubin
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Signs of risk
from The annotated budak

Anemones on mangrove roots at Pasir Ris Park!
from wild shores of singapore and Mega Marine Survey

Semakau with Team Seagrass
from Psychedelic Nature

New species come out of their shells
from Raffles Museum News

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Experts Swim Against Current in Shark Fin Debate

Shibani Mahtani Asian Wall Street Journal 21 Feb 12;

Just as the tides seem to be turning against the consumption of shark fin soup – even in Asia, where the delicacy has long been a staple on banquet menus – some marine life experts are arguing that banning the sale of shark fins is pointless.

Speaking at a seminar organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, Dr. Giam Choo Hoo, a member of a United Nations body on endangered species, said that media hype is responsible for “misconceptions” about the shark-fishing industry. Arguing against widely-circulated images showing bloodied sharks struggling as their fins are hacked off – popularized by the likes of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay – Dr. Giam said a vast majority of sharks are not killed to feed the tastes of increasingly-affluent Chinese consumers who consider the dish a status symbol.

He cited research showing 80% of the 73 million sharks killed each year are in fact caught accidentally, and overwhelmingly in developing countries. According to Dr. Giam’s research, 25% of the shark catch comes from India and Indonesia – countries, he says, that are home to “mostly poor” fishermen who will eat every part of the shark, and then sell off the fin to eager buyers.

“Most fins are humanely taken from landed, dead sharks,” said Dr. Giam, who is a committee member on the U.N. Conventional on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and once Singapore’s chief veterinary officer.

The consumption of shark fin, usually in a soup, is most common in East Asia, with 95% of all shark fin consumed within China, according to marine conservation group WildAid. Recent campaigns have netted support from high-profile figures like Richard Branson and Yao Ming, as well as hotels like Shangri-La and some of Singapore’s biggest supermarket chains, which have all discouraged consumption of the dish, in some cases removing it from their shelves and menus.

Many critics of the dish have argued that the fins do not really taste of anything in particular, and are consumed primarily as a status symbol, with many consumers believing it improves sexual potency and skin quality.

Still, some consumers have argued that stopping the sale of the dish is at root a form of Sinophobia, with activists unfairly targeting Chinese consumers rather than European or North American consumers who consume large quantities of bluefin tuna, caviar and other potentially “unsustainable” foods. Under-regulated fishing practices have depleted tuna stocks in many parts of the world, for example.

Dr. Giam raised this point, too, arguing that many countries such as Germany, France, Australia and Iceland have long killed sharks for their meat. Sharks, he says, are not endangered – of the 400 species of the animal, only six have been considered endangered by the U.N.’s CITES.

“Shark’s fin soup is culturally discriminatory,” said Dr. Giam, noting that there have not been similar high-profile movements against caviar, which is highly endangered according to CITES, or Atlantic blue fin tuna, which is also considered to be endangered.

Other speakers on the panel – notably Steve Oakley, chairman of Shark Savers Malaysia, and Hank Jenkins, the president of conservation group Species Management Specialists – broadly agreed with Dr. Giam’s premise. While each adopted slightly different arguments, they were of the increasingly-rare opinion that banning shark fin itself will not lead to a vast drop in the number of sharks fished and killed.

While admitting the need for stepped-up regulation of the industry, the three agreed that “live finning” – the process of cutting off the sharks’ fins, then throwing the animals back into the sea, which has become a rallying point for many animal rights groups – is not a prevalent practice, and is widely-condemned by the industry.

Still, one voice on the ISEAS panel disagreed. Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), which has also led a campaign to free 25 bottle-nosed dolphins held by Resorts World Sentosa, maintained that it is unnecessary, cruel and harmful to continue killing sharks for their fins or otherwise.

Arguing against the view that fishing for sharks actually helps poorer communities, Mr. Ng quoted representatives from places like the Maldives and the Bahamas, who say that shark diving operations for tourists bring millions of dollars to their local economy every year.

Though he avoided blaming Asian consumers or their Western counterparts, Mr. Ng maintained the need for “humane” and “responsible” choices, encouraging at least a temporary ban on the fins until the trade is more sustainable and properly regulated before consumption is allowed again.

In a comment to this article:

Michael Skoletsky, Shark Savers wrote:

We object to the interpretation in this article (Experts Swim Against Shark Fin Debate) that Professor Oakley of Shark Savers Malaysia agrees with Dr. Giam’s and Mr. Jenkins that sharks are not in urgent need of greater protection or that the shark fin trade is a key part of the problem. Prof. Oakley argued in favor of significantly improved measures to assure sustainability and for rejecting the consumption of shark.

Stopping the shark fin trade would greatly reduce shark mortality. Worldwide, there is low demand for shark meat and high demand for shark fin. Fishery management and scientific reports confirm that demand for shark fins is the primary driver of unsustainable shark fishing. Shark fins are among the most expensive seafood items in the world, bringing 20 to 250 times the value of meat by weight.

A 2006 report from the CITES Animals Group on “Trade Related Threats to Sharks” states: “Extensive, global-scale exploitation of sharks for the fin trade with its ramifications for population sustainability and impacts of apex predator removal on marine ecosystems are issues of international concern and discussion (FAO 2000; NMFS 2001; Baum et al. 2003; Clarke 2004).”

As a result, 100% of the 14 species most prevalent in the shark fin trade (Clarke et al. 2006) are classified by the IUCN as Threatened or Near Threatened, with 71% at “High Risk” or “Very High Risk” of extinction. 17% of all shark species, and 30% of pelagic shark species are threatened with extinction. Yet there are no restrictions governing the trade of these very vulnerable species.

Shark species reproduce too slowly to overcome current levels of overfishing. The result, in many cases, has been severe population depletion or collapse. Regional losses of highly targeted species are as high as 99% in some cases.

Sharks are very important to ocean health. Current levels of shark fishing, trade, and consumption are not sustainable. Let’s all do our part now by not eating shark fins or shark meat. More information:

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Sengkang river creature is "monitor lizard"

Channel NewsAsia 21 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: A creature -- feared to be a crocodile -- spotted by residents in the north eastern part of Singapore has been confirmed to be a monitor lizard, said an animal welfare group.

Channel NewsAsia received a hotline call on Tuesday morning that a "crocodile" was seen in the Sengkang river, near a condominium.

The creature, gliding upstream with its head above water, was captured on Channel NewsAsia's camera.

Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES), which saw the video, confirmed the reptile was a monitor lizard.

Earlier, national water agency PUB and ACRES sent teams to Sengkang river to investigate but the reptile had fled by the time they arrived.

However, the episode led to the question of who should be contacted if a crocodile were spotted in a neighbourhood.

Channel NewsAsia ran a check with various authorities and understands if the reptile was found in a river, a canal or any waterway, PUB should be contacted.

The police said if the reptile was found around the HDB estate, the town council should be alerted.

But whether it's in water or on land, ACRES said it stands ready to respond to any calls of animals in distress.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) told Channel NewsAsia if it receives feedback from the public on wildlife, AVA will coordinate and liaise with the relevant agencies for follow-up action.

Experts said if members of the public see such wildlife, they are advised not to go near or provoke the animal.

ACRES executive director Louis Ng said: "If they are unprovoked, they won't attack. The key thing is to stay a distance from the animal. Don't approach them, don't make a lot of noise.

"Don't stamp on the ground, no sudden movements, then there will be very little public safety concerns."

Crocodiles have been spotted in public in the past, in places such as parks and reservoirs.

- CNA/wk

"Crocodile" seen in Sengkang river
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 21 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: Sightings of a creature that looked like a crocodile wading in a river got some residents living in the northeastern part of Singapore worried.

Channel NewsAsia received a hotline call on Tuesday morning that a "crocodile" was seen in the Sengkang river, near the H2O condominium.

The creature -- which looked like a monitor lizard -- was captured on Channel NewsAsia's camera. It was gliding upstream with its head above water.

Both the national water agency PUB and animal welfare group ACRES sent teams to the scene to investigate.

When they got there, the creature had fled the scene and no one could ascertain if it was indeed a crocodile.

The episode led to the question of who should be contacted if a crocodile were spotted in a neighbourhood.

Channel NewsAsia ran a check with various authorities and understands if the reptile was found in a river, a canal or any waterway, PUB should be contacted.

The police said if the reptile was found around the HDB estate, the town council should be alerted.

But whether it's in water or on land, ACRES said it stands ready to respond to any calls of animals in distress.

Crocodiles have been seen in public in the past.

Experts said if the creature spotted in Sengkang river was indeed a crocodile, it is likely to be a species of saltwater crocodile commonly found in Southeast Asia.

If members of public see such wildlife, they are advised not to go near or provoke the creature.

- CNA/wk

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Indonesia: camera traps to find Javanese tigers, thought to be extinct

Existence of Javanese tigers at Meru Betiri to be proven
Antara 21 Feb 12;

Jember, E Java (ANTARA News) - Officers at the Meru Betiri National Park (TNMB) have installed five trap cameras to establish the existence of Javanese tigers (panthera tigris sondaica), now believed to be extinct.

Over the past two months, efforts to find Javanese tigers have been stepped up at the national park, chairman of the TNMB Bambang Darmadja said here on Monday.

"Many people believe that Javanese tigers are extinct. So we are trying to prove that the endangered animal still exist at Meru Betiri, by installing trap cameras," he said.

The national park covering a total area of 58,000 hectares is located in Jamber and Banyuwangi District, East Java Province.

According to a research conducted in 1997, officers found footprints and dung strongly believed to be that of Javanese tigers.

"I am optimistic that Javanese tigers still exist at Meru Betiri, although no TNMP officer has seen the animal personally and the trap cameras that we installed several years ago didn't produce any pictures of the nearly extinct wild animal," he said.

Coordinator of the Big Carnivore Expedition Team at TNMB Alif Olia Ananda said the team would also collect secondary data on the existence of Javanese tigers at Meru Betiri, in the forms of footprints, dung and scratches to support the the primary data expected to be captured by the trap cameras.

Editor: Ella Syafputri

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Australia: New sea snake discovered in Queensland

Scientists charmed by sea snake discovery off Weipa
The Cairns Post 22 Feb 12;

WEIPA has been described as one of the last sea snake "Serengetis". And it has delivered a new sea snake that could provide fresh clues to evolution and life-saving medications.

Scientists have named the snake, which has unique raised scales, Hydrophis donaldii,
with a common-name of "rough-scaled sea snake"

"Weipa really is one of the last sea snake serengetis," Associate Prof Bryan Fry from the University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences said.

"We can see over 200 sea snakes in a single night’s hunting, whereas sea snake populations have really crashed elsewhere through over-fishing, removing their prey and also drowning in trawling nets."

His comments and findings were published yesterday in Zootaxa, a scientific journal for animal taxonomists.

Associate Prof Fry said Hydrophis donaldii had evaded earlier discovery as it preferred estuarine habitats which were poorly surveyed and not targeted by commercial fisheries. The findings extended beyond simply discovering a rare animal.

"All venomous animals are bio-resources and have provided sources of many life-saving medications, such as treatments for high blood pressure and diabetes," he said.

"This reinforces why we need to conserve all of nature as the next billion dollar wonder drug may come from as unlikely a source as sea snake venom."

The snake’s scientific name Hydrophis donaldii honours Associate Prof Fry’s long-time boat captain David Donald.

"Quite simply we would not have found this snake without Dave’s unique knowledge of the area," Associate Prof Fry said.

New sea snake discovered in Queensland
Kim Lyell ABC News 22 Feb 12;

Scientists have discovered a new species of venomous snake in the Gulf of Carpentaria off far north Queensland.

The species has been dubbed the rough-scaled sea snake because of its unique raised scales.

University of Queensland Associate Professor Bryan Fry says it was discovered in waters off Weipa, where fishing trawlers do not operate.

He says it is one of three new sea snakes discovered in waters which are closed to trawlers.

He says the discovery could result in important medical breakthroughs.

"It's a good illustration of the fact that there are so many more of these animals out there than we realise," he said.

"These things are not just to be conserved, because all nature is precious, but the venomous animals in particular are a bio-resource and you might find the next wonder drug from something as unlikely as a sea snake."

He says venom from the creatures could potentially provide sources of life-saving medications.

"For example pain killers from cone snails, you have a diabetes treatment from the endangered gila monster," he said.

"There are a lot of different compounds that have been shown to be medically useful from these animals.

"It just illustrates why we need to preserve all of nature, because you just can't predict where the next little piece of beautiful magic like that is going to come from."

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New family of legless amphibians found in India

Katy Daigle Associated Press Yahoo News 22 Feb 12;

NEW DELHI (AP) — Since before the age of dinosaurs it has burrowed unbothered beneath the monsoon-soaked soils of remote northeast India — unknown to science and mistaken by villagers as a deadly, miniature snake.

But this legless amphibian's time in obscurity has ended, thanks to an intrepid team of biologists led by University of Delhi professor Sathyabhama Das Biju. Over five years of digging through forest beds in the rain, the team has identified an entirely new family of amphibians — called chikilidae — endemic to the region but with ancient links to Africa.

In this photo released by, an adult chikilidae sits on its eggs in the soils of northeast India. Since the age of dinosaurs the chikilidae has burrowed unbothered beneath the monsoon-soaked soils of remote northeast India, unknown to science and mistaken by many villagers as a deadly, miniature snake. Their discovery, published Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in a journal of the Royal Society of London, gives yet more evidence that India is a hotbed of amphibian life with habitats worth protecting against the country's industry-heavy development agenda. (AP Photo/, Sathyabhama Das Biju)

Their discovery, published Wednesday in a journal of the Royal Society of London, gives yet more evidence that India is a hotbed of amphibian life with habitats worth protecting against the country's industry-heavy development agenda.

It also gives exciting new evidence in the study of prehistoric species migration, as well as evolutionary paths influenced by continental shift.

"This is a major hotspot of biological diversity, but one of the least explored," Biju said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We hope this new family will show the importance of funding research in the area. We need to know what we have, so we can know what to save."

His first effort in conserving the chikilidae was to give it a scientific name mirroring what the locals use in their Garo language. The chikilidae is a caecilian, the most primitive of three amphibian groups that also include frogs and salamanders.

"We hope when the locals see the name, and their language, being used across the world, they will understand this animal's importance and join in trying to save it," Biju said. "India's biodiversity is fast depleting. We are destroying these habitats without mercy."

The chikilidae's home in long-ignored tropical forests now faces drastic change under programs to cut trees, plant rice paddy, build roads and generate industry as India's economic growth fuels a breakneck drive in development. More industrial pollutants, more pesticides and more people occupying more land may mean a world of trouble for a creature that can be traced to the earliest vertebrates to creep across land.

Biju — a botanist-turned-herpetologist now celebrated as India's "Frogman" — has made it his life work to find and catalog new species. There are too many cases of "nameless extinction," with animals disappearing before they are ever known, he said. "We don't even know what we're losing."

Amphibians are particularly vulnerable, and have drastically declined in recent decades. The same sensitivity to climate and water quality that makes them perfect environmental barometers also puts them at the greatest risk when ecological systems go awry.

Biju, however, is working the reverse trend. Since 2001, he has discovered 76 new species of plants, caecilians and frogs — vastly more than any other scientist in India — and estimates 30-40 percent of the country's amphibians are yet to be found.

Within the chikilidae family, the team has already identified three species, and is on its way to classing three more, he said.

The chikilidae's discovery, made along with co-researchers from London's Natural History Museum and Vrije University in Brussels, brings the number of known caecilian families in the world to 10. Three are in India and others are spread across the tropics in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America. There is debate about the classifications, however, and some scientists count even fewer caecilian families.

Because they live hidden underground, and race off at the slightest vibration, much less is known about them than their more famous — and vocal — amphibious cousins, the frogs. Only 186 of the world's known amphibious species are caecilians, compared with more than 6,000 frog species — a third of which are considered endangered or threatened.

Even people living in northeast Indians misunderstand the caecilians, and rare sightings can inspire terror and revulsion, with farmers and villagers chopping them in half out of the mistaken belief that they are poisonous snakes.

In fact, the chikilidae is harmless, and may even be the farmer's best friend — feasting on worms and insects that might harm crops, and churning the soil as it moves underground.

Much remains to be discovered in further study, Biju said, as many questions remain about how the creatures live.

So far, Biju's team has determined that an adult chikilidae will remain with its eggs until they hatch, forgoing food for some 50 days. When the eggs hatch, the young emerge as tiny adults and squirm away.

They grow to about 4 inches (10 centimeters), and can ram their hard skulls through some of the region's tougher soils, shooting off quickly at the slightest vibration. "It's like a rocket," Biju said. "If you miss it the first try, you'll never catch it again."

A possibly superfluous set of eyes is shielded under a layer of skin, and may help the chikilidae gauge light from dark as in other caecilian species.

DNA testing suggests the chikilidae's closest relative is in Africa — with the two evolutionary paths splitting some 140 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed what was then a southern supercontinent called Gondwana, since separated into today's continents of Africa, Antarctica, Australia, South America and the Indian subcontinent.

Biju's team worked best during monsoon season, when the digging is easier and chikilidae lay eggs in waterlogged soils. Gripping garden spades with blistered hands, the researchers along with locals they hired spent about 2,600 man hours digging for the elusive squigglers, usually found about 16 inches (40 centimeters) deep.

"It was backbreaking work," said research fellow Rachunliu Kamei, who even passed out in the forest once, and some days found not even one specimen.

"But there is motivation in knowing this is an uncharted frontier," said Kamei, lead researcher and main author of the study paper.

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Outcry in China over bear bile farming

Animal lovers up in arms over firm's public listing plans
Ho Ai Li Straits Times 22 Feb 12;

BEIJING: A Fujian firm that extracts bile from caged bears to make medicine is facing fierce protests over its plans for a public listing, in a spat that is pitting Chinese animal rights groups against trade bodies for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

The firm, Gui Zhen Tang, plans to use funds raised from its market listing to expand its production of bile products, which are used to treat liver ailments.

But animal rights activists said the farming of bears for their bile is cruel and are trying to stop the firm's listing.

'If it lists, the scale of its operations will go up and more bears will be tortured,' said Professor Jiang Jingsong, a well-known advocate of animal protection from Tsinghua University.

At Gui Zhen Tang, bile is drawn by making a permanent hole in a bear's abdomen and gall bladder. The liquid is collected using a syringe in a process said to be over in seconds. This is an improvement from previous methods, such as inserting metal tubes into bears permanently, said the firm.

Bears have to be more than three years old and at least 100kg before they can be 'milked'.

But critics said this method still harms the bears. Not only are they kept in small cages, but having a permanent hole in their abdomens also leaves them vulnerable to infections, said Animals Asia Foundation, a Hong Kong-based group active in calling for an end to bear farming.

This is not the first time that the firm has met resistance in its bid to list. Last year, it was bombarded with protests and could not go public.

In recent years, there has been growing criticism of bear farms in China, with celebrities such as retired basketball star Yao Ming lending their names to campaigns against cruelty to bears.

The Chinese forestry authorities said there were 68 licensed farms with more than 10,000 bears in 2006, the latest figures available.

In its defence, Gui Zhen Tang said what the farms are doing is legal and not cruel.

The China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine has accused critics of being part of a conspiracy funded by Western pharmaceutical firms hoping to push Chinese rivals aside.

At stake is an industry worth over 10 billion yuan (S$2 billion) that employs tens of thousands of workers, it added.

The association is targeting Animals Asia in particular, which it accuses of having close links with the West.

The group's aim is to 'force our country to clamp down on the bear farms so as to limit the amount of bear bile in medicine and blunt the competitiveness of TCM against Western medicine', said the association in a statement.

But while it is true that TCM offers stiff competition for Western medicine, consumers do care about how their medicine is produced.

'Besides their efficacy and quality, whether the processing of these Chinese medicine is in line with people's morals and ethics also affects whether these will find acceptance worldwide,' Nanyang Technological University lecturer Zhao Yan told The Straits Times.

The association's chairman, Mr Fang Shuting, insists that the bile extraction methods have not crossed the line.

'Getting the bile is as simple and painless as turning on a tap. When it's done, the bears can happily go out to play. I don't think it's anything strange, it's even comfortable,' he said last Thursday.

His comments were galling to many. 'You are not a bear, how do you know how it feels?' was a common sentiment on microblogs.

The trade body's assertion that bear bile is irreplaceable is also in doubt.

The bile is used to reduce 'heatiness' and eliminate toxins or clear the liver, among other things, but many other types of Chinese medicine have the same effects and more doctors are choosing to prescribe those instead, said Dr Zhao.

Bear bile is not commonly prescribed, said doctors. 'I have never prescribed it even though I have been a doctor for 50 years,' Beijing-based TCM physician Lu Zhaolin told The Straits Times.

In fact, scientists in China have come up with a man-made substance to replace bear bile but this has not been approved by the health authorities.

Ultimately, objections to the business are not about pitting TCM against Western medicine, said Prof Jiang, noting that animal testing is criticised in the West.

'Animal protection is a challenge for both Western and Chinese medicine.'

China company opens bear bile farm to media
Sebastien Blanc AFP Yahoo News 23 Feb 12;

A traditional Chinese medicine company at the heart of an angry Internet campaign accusing it of cruelty to animals opened one of its controversial bear bile farms to journalists on Wednesday.

Bear bile has long been used in China to treat various health problems, despite scepticism over its effectiveness and outrage over the bile extraction process, which animal rights group say is excruciatingly painful for bears.

The Guizhentang pharmaceutical company in the southeastern province of Fujian last year announced plans to raise millions of dollars through a stock exchange listing in order to increase production of the bile.

But the announcement sparked a noisy Internet campaign against the listing that brought into question the medical effectiveness of the bile and the cruel manner in which it is extracted from living bears.

According to a Guizhentang spokeswoman surnamed Wang, Chinese journalists began visiting one of the company's bear farms on Wednesday as part of attempts to address the controversy.

She said they were promised full "transparency" to inspect the premise, but the state-run Beijing News reported that journalists would not be allowed to ask questions during the visit.

"Guizhentang made public a list of journalists without prior consultations. They could be putting on a show," the paper quoted Zhang Xingsheng of the Nature Conservancy's North Asia office as saying.

The company refused to allow AFP journalists to take part in the tour, saying the event was not open to foreign reporters.

The anti-bile campaign got a boost this week after China's retired basketball superstar Yao Ming visited a sanctuary for Asiatic black bears, or moon bears, rescued from bile farms by the Animal Asia group.

"The moon bears are beautiful animals that nature has given us," the Sichuan Daily quoted Yao as saying as he toured the sanctuary. "We should all be concerned for the moon bears."

Yao has also campaigned to end the killing of sharks, harvested for their fins -- a traditional Chinese delicacy.

"It just gave me immense satisfaction that people in China are taking up this challenge of wanting bear farming to end," Jill Robinson, CEO and founder of Animals Asia told AFP.

"We have seen an unprecedented outcry from the Chinese public and media over the last few days."

Photos posted on popular web portal by reporters allowed into the farm showed a large enclosure where dozens of bears roamed around, some climbing on metallic structures, in what was called a "breeding centre".

Other photos show the black bears in small, narrow cages, and employees wearing surgical masks, hats and gloves, sticking draining tubes in the animals' gall bladders and a yellow liquid flowing into a glass.

Animals Asia, which since 1988 has been campaigning against the practice, on Tuesday published a report and video exposing what it said was the "brutal truth" behind bile extractions, in anticipation of the visit.

It said that around 7,000 bears still languish in bile farms across China, but many more could be used in illegal establishments.

Bear bile is used in China and other Asian countries to treat fevers, liver disease, eye problems and other health problems, but activists have for years tried to stop the practice, citing it as a form of torture for the bears.

Guizhentang farmed 470 bears last year, and had decided to list to increase the number to 1,200 in order to step up annual production of bile to 4,000 tonnes.

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Rare Bangladesh Olive Ridley turtles 'need protection'

Anbarasan Ethirajan BBC News 21 Feb 12;

Conservationists in Bangladesh have urged the government to take immediate steps to protect endangered Olive Ridley turtles.

Their call comes after at least 25 Olive Ridleys were washed up dead over the last week near the beaches of Cox's Bazaar and on Saint Martin Island.

Many of the turtles had been entangled in fishing lines.

From October to March, thousands of Olive Ridleys come ashore from the deep sea to lay their eggs.

"The Olive Ridley turtles play a crucial role in the marine eco-system. Only the female turtles come to the shores so if they are killed in large numbers then it will have an impact on their population," Prof Mohammad Shah Alam of Chittagong University told the BBC.

While many turtles die after getting entangled in fishing nets, some are killed by fishermen who say the turtles damage their equipment.

"From our conversation with local fishermen we understand that more than a 100 turtles were killed in the last two months," Mohammed Sharifuddin, a government official in the southern Teknaf area, told the BBC.

"We are trying to raise awareness among the locals not to kill these turtles."

Conservationists say that there are five main species of turtle - Green Turtles, Olive Ridleys, Logger Heads, Hawksbills and Leatherbacks - and all are currently found within Bangladesh's maritime boundaries.

According to campaign groups, the Olive Ridleys are endangered because of their relatively high mortality rates - they are particularly susceptible to industrial pollution in coastal areas and sometimes stray dogs attack them or eat their eggs.

Senior wildlife department officials say that plans are now afoot to declare beaches frequented by turtles as marine protected areas. They say that more guards will be deployed on these beaches.

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Texas Drought of 2011 Killed Millions of Urban Trees

Environment News Service 20 Feb 12;

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, February 20, 2012 (ENS) - At least 5.6 million trees that once shaded homes, streets and parks in communities across Texas now are dead as a result of last year's drought. These dead trees represent as much as 10 percent of the total number of trees that make up the state's urban forest.

Texas Forest Service urban foresters calculated their loss over the past month as they surveyed tree mortality in cities and towns across the state.

"This estimate is preliminary because trees are continuing to die from the drought," said Pete Smith, Texas Forest Service staff forester and lead researcher.

"This means we may be significantly undercounting the number of trees that ultimately will succumb to the drought," said Smith. "That number may not be known until the end of 2012, if ever."

After one of the driest years on record, many shade trees went into dormancy as early as August 2011, dropping their leaves and branches in a "desperate act of self-preservation," the Texas Forest Service says. Pine trees with normally thick, green crowns turned red with dead needles while foliage on cedar trees turned brown.

Much like the drought, tree mortality is not uniform across Texas and can vary from one yard to another.

The study conducted by Texas Forest Service, a member of The Texas A&M University System, focuses on tree mortality in the urban forest. The trees that line streets, shade homes and grow in local parks are all considered to be part of the urban forest.

To determine how many urban trees have been lost to the drought, foresters studied satellite imagery taken before and during the drought, counting both live and dead trees in randomly selected plots on both public and private land.

All cities and towns in Texas were included in the study with the exception of the Trans Pecos region, where tree mortality was determined to be a result of a February 2011 cold snap; not the drought.

The Texas Forest Service says that because the drought-killed trees are in populated areas, many threaten public safety and will need to be removed at an estimated total cost of $560 million.

The estimated loss of economic and environmental benefits once provided by these dead trees is roughly $280 million per year. When alive, they cut heating and cooling bills, cleaned the air and water and increased property values.

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