Best of our wild blogs: 26 Feb 12


First time Naked at Pasir Ris with Pitta!
from wild shores of singapore

Butterfly of the Month - February 2012
from Butterflies of Singapore

Oriental Pied Hornbills sighted
from Bird Ecology Study Group

It Has Been Months Since ...
from colourful clouds

Cyrene in a brief...
from Psychedelic Nature

120224 Dairy Farm
from Singapore Nature and Mandai Track 15 and Rifle Range Road and Lower Peirce

Launch of North Eastern Riverine Loop
from Coolest Insights

On echinoderms, orthopterans and work in NBC
from Nature rambles

S'pore getting more polluted? Discharge turns Mountbatten drain bright blue
from Lazy Lizard's Tales


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NParks to develop 150-km recreational route

Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans will be able to stroll, jog and cycle around the entire island in the near future, with the development of a 150-kilometre Round Island Route.

Deputy Prime Minister and MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Teo Chee Hean shared plans for the new island route on Saturday.

The Round Island Route (RIR) will be a seamless green corridor that goes all round Singapore, linking up many major natural, cultural and historical attractions to our parks, park connectors, and intra-town cycling networks.

The Round Island Route will not only add a new recreation option for our citizens but also enhance the experience of our park users and tourists.

The route was proposed in 2008 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Last August, NParks sought public feedback on the idea.

Mr Kong Yit San, assistant chief executive officer of Parks Management and Lifestyle at NParks, said: "We have about more than 3,000 feedback to date.

"Some of them are related to how convenient it is to get from place to place, how much shade there can be, and how comfortable the route can be.

"So in general, we can actually group them into certain aspect of how people think RIR will provide a certain experience. For example, they asked for nature trails, more biodiversity, more convenience, or more exciting routes.

The public engagement exercise will end in June and NParks will hold focus groups to develop the suggestions further.

NParks on Saturday officially opened the 26-kilometre North Eastern Riverine Loop, which connects Buangkok, Hougang, Punggol and Sengkang towns.

It's the fourth loop of seven park connectors in Singapore to be ready and has been touted as the most scenic one - with 80 per cent of it running along the Punggol waterways, Sungei Pinang, Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon.

The loop connects six existing park connectors - Punggol Park Connector, Punggol Promenade, Serangoon Park Connector, Sungei Serangoon Park Connector, Buangkok Park Connector and Punggol Waterway, and links four parks together Punggol Park, Punggol Waterway Park, Punggol Point Park and Sengkang Riverside Park.

One-third of the loop was developed by NParks, while portions of the loop were developed by the Housing Development Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Developed at a cost of S$57 million, the loop along the northeast coastline is part of the City in a Garden vision announced by the government last year.

So far, NParks has already completed 200 kilometres of park connectors islandwide.

Over the next five years, it intends to build 100 kilometres of park connectors.

They will be part of the Park Connector Network that links up open spaces around major residential areas to bring nature closer to the people.

Kartini Omar-hor, general manager (Parks), National Parks Board, said: "Optimising urban spaces as well as urban infrastructure for greenery and recreation forms an important part of our City in a Garden vision.

"So we are always exploring and seeking ways to provide residents with new leisure dimension, therefore creating new experiences, sights for residents to enjoy, all over the island."

- CNA/ck

New 26km loop connects parks in Sengkang and Punggol
AsiaOne 25 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE - A new 26km nature loop which links up four parks in Sengkang and Punggol was officially opened today.

The North Eastern Riverine Loop will encompass the towns of Buangkok, Punggol, Hougang and Sengkang and offer residents new commuting and recreational possibilities.

Its park connectors will link up Sengkang Riverside Park, Punggol Park, Punggol Waterway Park and Punggol Point Park.

The loop promises breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline of northeast Singapore, with 80 per cent of it running along the waterways of Sungei Pinang, Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon.

Nature lovers can also look forward to the rich biodiversity found at the park connectors, such as water birds like the Grey Heron or the White-throated Kingfisher.

During the launch on Saturday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean also announced plans to develop a Round Island Route (RIR) in Singapore.

"With a length of about 150 km, or more than three times the length of Singapore, the Round Island Route will connect more than 3.5 million residents along the route to become a recreational destination on a national scale," Mr Teo said.

In the next few months, NParks will be organising exhibitions around Singapore for the
public to give their views on RIR.

The public is also welcomed to give their ideas and suggestions online at www.nparks.gov.sg/ciag

Island-wide green link in the works
Route will connect parks, existing cycling paths and heritage spots around S'pore
Kezia Toh Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

A seamless green corridor spanning 150km that links up heritage areas in the city, coastal spots in the east and rustic greenery in the north and west will be Singapore's next big green project.

The Round Island Route, which is more than three times the length of Singapore, will connect more than 3.5 million residents.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced this yesterday at the launch of the North Eastern Riverine Loop at the Sungei Serangoon park connector.

'The Round Island Route will allow us to embark on journeys to look at Singapore in new and wonderful ways, as it passes through popular recreation nodes and also the less seen and explored corners of our island,' said DPM Teo, who is also Member of Parliament (MP) for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, which oversees the Riverine Loop area.

NParks is seeking the public's views on areas where the route would pass through. The route will also link some parts of the existing network of park connectors, which now spans 200km.

The route could also host larger community and sporting events, such as marathons, said DPM Teo.

He added: 'Perhaps one could enjoy a two-day cycling tour round the island using this route, and include an overnight camp at one of our parks.'

The project, one of the National Parks Board's (NParks) biggest infrastructural undertakings to date, is still on the drawing board. NParks could not say when it will embark on construction works or when the project could be completed.

It is now seeking public feedback through its online portal (www.nparks.gov.sg/ciag), as part of its City in a Garden (CIAG) engagement exercise.

The feedback is for ideas to optimise urban spaces for greenery and recreation, and rejuvenating urban parks, for example.

The online exercise has received more than 3,000 ideas to date.

NParks will also seek views from the public during roving exhibitions to key parks, housing estates and shopping centres.

It will then set up focus groups to evaluate these ideas.

The idea to build the route was first mooted in the Urban Redevelopment Authority's island-wide Leisure Plan in 2008.

One of the plans was to build a 150km round-island route for people to stroll, jog or cycle around Singapore.

During its ongoing CIAG consultation exercise, NParks also received suggestions in favour of a continuous green corridor.

Cycling club Love Cycling SG's co-founder, Mr Woon Taiwoon, 37, is excited about the round-island route, as it offers a more complete biking experience.

But a key factor to its success would be how it links to park connectors.

He told The Sunday Times: 'Park connectors need to be linked in a relevant way such that you connect paths where people will use them, like in areas with high traffic, for example.'

Waterfront loop a biodiversity haven
It hugs waterways for much of its route and is home to water birds and a family of otters
Kezia Toh Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

Water birds such as the grey heron and the white-throated kingfisher caught the eye of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean when he took a stroll along the Sungei Serangoon park connector yesterday.

'NParks also told me there is a family of otters which makes guest appearances at some points along the loop,' he said.

DPM Teo, who is an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, was in the area to launch the 26km North Eastern Riverine Loop.

He was impressed by the biodiversity found along the loop, saying that it is important to enhance this amid Singapore's dense urban landscape.

'Such biodiversity is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of city life, and provides opportunities for recreational activities like bird-watching,' he said.

Built at a cost of $57 million, the project was undertaken by three agencies - the National Parks Board, or NParks, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Housing Board.

This latest loop links park connectors and parks within the Sengkang and Punggol areas for greater accessibility.

It is the fourth of seven loops completed, and also the most scenic to date.

For example, 80 per cent of the route hugs waterways, linking up waterside developments such as the Lorong Halus Wetland and the Sengkang Floating Wetland.

The array of flora - large clumps of lemon grass, Spanish reed and firecracker plants - scattered along the loop also performs double duty. Besides making the area more attractive, it is well-placed to treat storm water, help prevent soil erosion and to act as a flood-prevention measure.

The new loop also links up with the Punggol Waterway and the Punggol Promenade - a 4.9km stretch that links Punggol Point and Punggol East - opening up previously inaccessible stretches along the coast.

A new feature is the 2.4km Nature Walk, which has been left as rustic as possible, with existing trees and vegetation retained.

The promenade was also the site of a charity bike ride yesterday, which raised more than $55,000 for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF).

More than 100 cyclists took part in the event, organised for the fourth time by Mr Han Jok Kwang, 57, an avid cyclist who last year became a SPMF Trustee.


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Coney Island: Nature park amid various projects

Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

Last Sunday's article, 'Coney Island set to become nature park', may have given the impression that the whole island is to be developed as a nature park.

Coney Island will not just be a park but we plan to also have a nature park in the island amid various developments.

In the immediate term, we have decided to leave the park on Coney Island as rustic as possible and to let it be enjoyed as a nature park with a minimum of built structures.

For example, we will install basic park furniture, non-concrete footpaths and minimum lights to avoid disturbing wildlife at night.

The tender exercise for the project will take place in the middle of this year and the project will be completed in the next two years. Details will be shared when ready.

Yeo Meng Tong
Director, Parks Development
National Parks Board


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Government sets up workgroup to review animal welfare policies

Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: The Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for National Development is setting up a work-group to review animal welfare policies in Singapore.

GPC member Yeo Guat Kwang said this on the sidelines of an animal welfare forum on Saturday.

One forum in Chong Pang estate is becoming an annual affair for animal lovers.

It started in 2011 when the constituency announced a sterilisation programme for stray cats.

It's part of the growing feedback on animal issues that's moved the parliamentary committee into action.

Mr Yeo said: "Even as MPs, (we can see that for example) in HDB housing estates, we also receive feedback from residents where they have dispute with neighbours because of some noise nuisance created by the pet owners. Some actually have issues with stray cats. It's good that now we get relevant agencies together with animal welfare groups to come together and see what we can do to address these concerns residents have.

"In the community, it's important that we look at the whole thing in full perspective so it's important that we involve all stakeholders, not just only the animal welfare groups."

Mr Yeo said town councils and pet traders should be included in the discussion to effectively address pet abandonment and strays, for example.

He said: "It's also important that we now review some of the regulations and legislation to see how we can update it and make it more relevant. At GPC level, we're able to do better coordination, bring in all the relevant agencies and stakeholders together for a more constructive discussion moving forward."

Local groups said the animal protection movement has come a long way in the past two years.

They see progress in ongoing discussions with the National Development Ministry and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

One of the proposals under discussion right now is to build a national adoption centre for stray dogs and cats and to make it easier for Singaporeans to adopt them.

Animal welfare group ACRES Executive Director Louis Ng, said: "We've looked into it and we realise there is a bottleneck at the current shelters in Singapore. We've all heard about the Punggol strays and there were a lot of efforts to re-home them but we realised that the shelters were full."

Apart from relieving the space crunch, animal groups said a dedicated centre will also push adoption rates up for Singapore's stray dogs and cats.

- CNA/fa

A national adoption centre for stray cats & dogs?
Qiuyi Tan Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: Animal welfare group - ACRES - said discussions are underway for a national adoption centre in Singapore that will shelter and re-home stray cats and dogs.

Making the announcement at an animal welfare forum, ACRES Executive Director Louis Ng said details of the proposals from animal welfare groups are currently being reviewed by the National Development Ministry.

Channel NewsAsia understands the centre is expected to be run by Action for Singapore Dogs and the Animal Lovers League if it gets the go ahead.

A national adoption centre is expected to relieve the space crunch that animal rescue and welfare groups are facing, and push adoption rates up.

Mr Ng said all animal shelters in Singapore are currently full.

- CNA/ck

A national pet adoption centre?
Also in the works, a workgroup to review animal welfare policies here
Lin Yanqin Today Online 26 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE - As animal lovers and Government agencies gathered yesterday at a public forum to discuss animal welfare, several proposals were revealed to be under consideration by the Government to better safeguard animal welfare.

Among them is the setting up a National Adoption Centre for animals, a recommendation the Government is "supportive" of, to be managed by the Animal Lovers League (ALL) and Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD).

Speaking at the Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium held yesterday - which drew some 600 participants and guest-of-honour Law Minister K Shanmugam - Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) executive director Louis Ng said such a dedicated community facility would "support and encourage adoption in a way that benefits the animals and the community".

"Many animal shelters at the moment are full," Mr Ng said. "We hope this shelter can expand capacity, and also allow various groups to come together and share resources more efficiently."

Parliamentarians too are getting into the act, with Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for National Development member Yeo Guat Kwang announcing on the sidelines of the forum that the GPC will be setting up a work-group to review and update animal welfare policies in Singapore.

This has been prompted by the growing wave of feedback on animal issues."As MPs ... we receive feedback from (HDB) residents where they have disputes with neighbours because of some noise nuisance created by pet owners," Mr Yeo told Channel NewsAsia.

"It's good that now we get relevant agencies and animal welfare groups to come together and see what we can do to address these concerns residents have." He added that it was important to include all other stakeholders, such as town councils and pet traders, to effectively address the issues of pet abandonment and strays.

MEASURES TO TRACK ERRANT OWNERS

Other proposals cited yesterday include the AVA looking into mandating all pet shops and farms to license dogs at the point of sale. "This will make it easier to track down errant owners when we find abandoned dogs," said Action for Singapore Dogs president Ricky Yeo, speaking to Today.

A national microchip database will be established to enable better tracking of information and owners of abandoned pets.

Also being considered by the AVA is a licensing requirement for individual commercial breeders instead of the current blanket license to the main farm owner, to address the issue of "puppy mills". And in response to recommendations from animal welfare groups, the AVA is looking into arrangements for such groups to accompany AVA officers during inspections of dog farms.

ACRES is also calling for more feedback on possible amendments for AVA's review of the Animals and Birds Act to further strengthen animal protection legislation.

ASD's Mr Yeo said the idea of a National Adoption Centre was mooted in hopes of easing the cost burden of non-profits. "Operating costs are high because we pay commercial rentals," he said. "The centre allows some of us to pool resources and facilities, while also providing a platform for public education on responsible pet ownership."

Ms Lee Siew Ying, who shelters some 100 cats and a few dogs at her refuge MettaCats, said such a centre might be useful for some, but felt it was unnecessary for all shelters to move towards consolidation. "I get to be very hands-on with my shelter ... I can be very strict with every person who comes in wanting to adopt a cat. I require a home visit for every adoption.

"With my own facilities, I'm not in a hurry to find the cats a home." ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY QIUYI TAN

Other issues addressed

FATE OF ARMY, POLICE DOGS

On concerns over the fate of Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Police Force service dogs, ACRES' Louis Ng said military dogs not adopted after retirement will be cared for at the SAF kennels for the rest of their lives, and not be put to sleep as thought by many. The SPF too holds adoption drives and works closely with groups like Gentle Paws to ensure that all dogs suitable for adoption are rehomed.

MANAGING MACAQUES

The National Parks Board is working with the AVA to consider alternative population management control measures for macaques in parks besides culling, such as sterilisation, said Mr Ng. Concerns arose after media reports of attacks by macaques on park visitors quoted some members of the public calling for culling.

HUMANE CAPTURE OF STRAYS

The AVA is not using the services of dog catcher Francis Lee, who was last year fined for the death of a dog that was strangled after being caught in a noose trap, Mr Ng clarified. Mr Lee's had dog-catching methods come under fire from animal lovers. Mr Ng noted that the AVA, with the SPCA, has set out guidelines on the humane capture of strays, which the animal control firms it engages must comply with. The guidelines will be published on its website.

Government to tackle pet welfare
Task force to be set up to push for more responsible ownership of dogs and cats
Judith Tan Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

A task force will be set up to look into the matter of responsible pet ownership, and how the well-being of cats and dogs can be further improved.

The team will come under the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for National Development.

Speaking to The Sunday Times yesterday, GPC member Yeo Guat Kwang said the task force will study the situation and come up with 'concrete recommendations, hopefully to change policies and regulations on the issues by the end of this year'.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium and Public Forum on Animal Welfare Policies, held at Chong Pang Community Club.

The event, attended by more than 400 people, is the second such public forum on animal welfare. The first was held in June last year.

Giving a report card on what the outcomes of the inaugural meeting were, Mr Louis Ng, founder and executive director of Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres), announced the setting up of a national adoption centre, where people can adopt strays and rescued animals.

The Ministry for National Development is currently reviewing the setting up of this centre, to be managed by ASD (Action for Singapore Dogs) and ALL (Animal Lovers' League), he said.

Suggestions made at the first conference also threw up long-term solutions such as the licensing of individual dog breeders instead of the current blanket licence to the main pet farm owners.

'This will guarantee responsibility and more humane treatment of breeding dogs,' Mr Ng said.

He said the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will be making it mandatory for pet shops to license dogs at the point of sale.

'That is, at the puppy's second vaccination and microchipping... the licence is transferred to the owner when the dog is sold,' he said.

A national microchip database will be established, where pets are registered in an integrated database to enable tracking and easy identification of owners of abandoned pets, he said, adding that the details will need to be worked out.

Mr Yeo said one key concern to be looked at by the GPC task force will be the HDB ruling on allowing only small breeds of dogs in its flats.

But Mr Yeo, who is also an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, pointed out that small breeds like the Jack Russell terrier are unsuitable for small homes.

He said it is important that some of the regulations and legislation are reviewed from time to time to see how they can be updated and made more relevant.

Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who was at the forum in his capacity as the MP for the area, said: 'Any responsible society, any civilised society, should be judged by how it treats its animals.'

But he also felt a balance had to be struck between pet lovers and those who may not be keen on animals.

He said the number of people who asked him why he spent time and energy on animal issues 'is not insignificant'. Citing the example of the cat welfare programme in Chong Pang, he said he had to overcome much resistance.

'Even today, I would not say that the majority of the people openly support the programme. They may not be opposed to it but it does not mean they fully support it. As an elected representative, I have to balance these competing interests,' he said.

National microchip database for dogs to be set up
Angelina Dass AsiaOne 25 Feb 12;

In a bid to curb the abandonment of pet dogs in Singapore, a national microchip database will soon be set up.

Announced at the Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium and Public Forum on Animal Welfare Polices today, the database will allow the tracking of pet dogs, and facilitate the identification of owners who abandon their animals.

Commending the move as absolutely essential, Nee Soon GRC MP Mr K. Shanmugam, who delivered the keynote speech at the event, said it is testimony that Singapore is progressing in the animal protection movement.

Held at Chong Pang Community Club, the one-day forum saw 500 members of the public and 100 members of animal welfare groups turn up.

The forum served as an opportunity to enhance animal welfare in Singapore. Issues like animal protection legislation, humane domestic animal management, wildlife crime and zoo animal welfare concerns were discussed.

Mr Louis Ng, executive director of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), said the move for a national database comes after receiving feedback from local animal welfare groups from the first forum which was held in June last year.

Many abandoned dogs which were rescued were micro-chipped but the information was not uploaded into any registry. As a result, the owners were not tracked down.

Mr Ricky Yeo, President of Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) said there are currently at least four existing registries including those owned by ASD, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals', Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and Pet-call.

Together with the national microchip database, the AVA will also implement licensing all dogs at the point of sale and during the second vaccination procedure and micro-chipping.

This means that once the pet is sold the license will be transferred from AVA to the owners.

"What we are going to do is nationalise it and make one integrated database, from now on, all of them will be registered in one database rather than different databases," said Mr Ng. "If you abandon, with one database we will track you down", he added. Singapore's current penalty for pet abandonment is up to $10,000, 12 months jail or both.


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Road accidents: But what about cats ...and other mammals?

Under the Road Traffic Act, only eight animals with farm value are protected - a ruling from a bygone era
Kezia Toh Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

Cast a wider net of protection for animals under the Road Traffic Act, animal welfare groups are urging.

The law states that any motorist involved in an accident where a person or an animal is injured must stop to help the victim.

However, as now defined, an animal is any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog.

This leaves out many others, such as cats.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has approached the Law Ministry about reworking the legislation, said its executive director Corinne Fong.

Other groups, such as animal advocacy group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) and the Cat Welfare Society, are also calling for the Act to cast a wider net to extend to all mammals.

They hope to see it in line with the wider Wild Animals and Birds Act, which states that it is an offence to trap, keep or kill wild animals and birds (except those in the Schedule such as crows, mynahs and pigeons) without a licence from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

Ms Veron Lau, vice-president of the Cat Welfare Society, said: 'The Act, as it stands, is a relic from a bygone era as it covers only animals with farm value.'

'Society has progressed since, to the point when we do not care about animals just for their economic value, and letting any animal suffer without rendering help is considered by many to be callous and anti-social,' she added.

The furore emerged after national bowler Remy Ong was involved in an alleged hit-and-run on Sunday. He was driving along Changi Coast Road when his car allegedly hit a stray dog which later died.

A backlash from netizens ensued. They blasted the athlete after news of the incident went viral online.

Eight puppies were later found in the area by different people, who called the SPCA for help. Five of the puppies have been fostered out, while the remaining three are being treated for a mild skin condition.

They will then be fostered out.

The incident has also prompted netizens to call for Mr Ong to adopt these puppies to 'take responsibility'.

But fosterers should have the right intentions and know how to care for them, said Ms Fong.

The groups were at a public forum yesterday to lobby for enhancements to the existing animal-cruelty laws. Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam was there.

The forum comes as hit-and-run cases are getting more common. SPCA, for example, sees nearly 30 animals in road accident cases each month.

The society runs an emergency hotline, where a rescue officer will be dispatched to an accident scene as soon as possible.

Another group, the Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), sees one to two hit-and-run cases involving dogs every other month.

Out of every 10 dogs rescued, about three are hit-and-run victims.

Some dogs may also be dead on the scene or die enroute to the vet, said its president, Mr Ricky Yeo.

Meanwhile, Acres gets an average of 150 calls to its 24-hour Wildlife Rescue Hotline a month, of which one or two cases are hit-and-run involving wild animals, said executive director Louis Ng.

The callers are usually people reporting wild animals such as monitor lizards, turtles, civets and pythons.

But it is not all the fault of the driver - letters to this newspaper's Forum Page have argued that a stray dashing across the road can also result in a serious traffic accident when drivers swerve to avoid the animal.

There were also calls to nip the problem by reducing the number of strays.

Meanwhile, lawyers say there is no hard- and-fast rule when a driver hits an animal. Drivers who fail to stop and help after an accident can be fined up to $3,000 or jailed for up to a year. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for up to two years.

Criminal lawyer Chia Boon Teck asked: 'Should you stop the car, move the dog to the side of the road and drive off, or drive the dog to the nearest vet?'

It is good enough to stop the vehicle and call for help, said criminal lawyer Josephus Tan. 'But to play safe, carry the injured animal to the side of the road,' he said.

But the rules of engagement are still fuzzy.

Mr Chia said: 'There is no end to it - but the more you do, the less likely you will be accused of infringing the law.'

HELPING INJURED ANIMALS

WILD ANIMALS

Call the Acres Wildlife Rescue Hotline for advice on 9783-7782. It operates 24 hours.

Do not pick animals up with your hands, even if you are wearing gloves.

If the animal is severely injured or immobile, place a container over it, slide the lid or a thin board underneath, gently turn the container so the animal ends up at the bottom, then cap it.

Make sure that there are breathing holes.

To treat for mild shock, keep the animal warm, quiet, and in a dark container.

OTHER ANIMALS

Call the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on 6287-5355. It operates 24 hours.

Place a distress cone or triangle to cordon off the space.

Check if the animal is moving or breathing. If it is still conscious or breathing, prepare to move it to the side of the road.

Use a strip of cloth to wrap the muzzle tightly and tie it behind its neck, to prevent the animal from snapping defensively.

Use a piece of cardboard and slide it under the animal.

Avoid carrying the animal as the spine or bones may be fractured, but use the cardboard to slide the animal safely to the side of the road.


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Level of shark trade not sustainable

Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

The article, 'No sense in shark's fin ban: Experts' (Feb 17), interpreted statements by Professor Steve Oakley of Shark Savers Malaysia as agreeing with Dr Giam Choo Hoo and Mr Hank Jenkins' opposition to a shark's fin ban.

That interpretation misses the sentiment of the broader discussion, in which Prof Oakley argued in favour of sustainability and for rejecting the consumption of sharks.

Shark populations worldwide are in decline because of unsustainable overfishing, largely driven by the demand for shark's fin.

The result, in many cases, has been severe population depletion or collapse. Regional losses of highly targeted species are as high as 99per cent in some cases.

Most sharks are not caught by poor fishermen but by pelagic, commercial fishing boats. The shark's fin trade has turned previously artisanal fishermen, who rarely targeted sharks and had a negligible impact on local shark populations, into more aggressive fishermen specifically targeting sharks to supply the international fin trade.

Alternatively, sustainable fishing, of non-shark species, helps poor fishermen by ensuring fish for the future. The greatest success in helping poor fishing communities has been where shark eco-tourism replaces shark killing, providing a long-term, sustainable source of income.

Sharks are critically important to healthy oceans and we must improve the viability of sharks for the future. Current levels of consumption and trade are not sustainable.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) has recommended a ban on shark products in Singapore until vulnerable shark populations have recovered and trade can be scientifically proven to be sustainable. Shark Savers supports Acres' recommendation.

Let's all do our part now by not eating shark's fin or meat.

Jonn Benedict Lu

Regional Director

Shark Savers


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Mixing nature with business

The life detour that Heinrich Jessen took - into a rainforest wilderness - led him back to the family business where, as chairman, he is ensuring Jebsen & Jessen (South-east Asia) minimises its footprint on the earth. Neo Chai Chin reports
by Neo Chai Chin Today Online 26 Feb 12;

He resisted going into the family business as a young man, preferring instead to pursue his passion for biology and the environment.

But it was during a stint as a field assistant in the pristine rainforests of Papua New Guinea that Mr Heinrich Jessen saw a way for business and nature to come together.

He eventually entered the family business spearheading environment, health and safety initiatives, and is today chairman of Jebsen & Jessen (South-east Asia), a S$1billion-turnover engineering, manufacturing and distribution company headquartered in Singapore with an uncompromisingly eco-conscious core.

It's not always the most profitable path to take, admits Mr Jessen, 44, a Danish Singapore permanent resident who has lived here for the last 17 years. But he wouldn't have it any other way.

Jebsen & Jessen (SEA) is one of three companies belonging to a family enterprise that began in 1895 as a shipping agency facilitating trade along China's coast. Mr Jessen's father established Jebsen & Jessen (SEA) in Singapore and Malaysia in 1963, and Jessen junior lived in Singapore between the ages of 10 and 15.

He has always enjoyed greenery and hiking, but the green trigger occurred at the age of 20 when, after a year in business school, he went to work for the World Wildlife Fund in Italy. "I had a very lowly job there, mainly translating documents, but it exposed me to the issues and we did lots of nature conservation programmes. That's when I decided to study it," he says.

His decision to pursue environmental studies went against the expectation that he would enter the family business. His father was "very disappointed when I took that decision because I had no intention of going into the business and, at that time, I think neither he nor I saw that these two things could be brought together - I wanted to be in nature and he wanted to run a successful business."

INTO THE WILD

After graduating from George Washington University in the United States, Mr Jessen applied for a number of field assistant positions, and picked one in the "most ulu (far flung)" location "furthest from any point of civilisation": A project run on behalf of Conservation International in the middle of Papua New Guinea.

The four-year project took place in the Crater Mountain region of Papua New Guinea, and Mr Jessen signed on for two three-month rotations as a field assistant to an ornithologist and plant ecologist. He researched on the fruit dispersal system of a particular tree species, and did behavioural experiments on a flightless bird called a dwarf cassowary (no cruelty involved, he assures).

The researchers lived largely on tinned food in a tin-roofed wood house lit by kerosene lamps and with limited electricity generated by solar panels. They received mail delivered by porters fortnightly, and tuned in to the Christian Science Monitor's radio station to stay in touch with the outside world - the team once wrote the folks at the radio station a letter, and got a tremendous high hearing it read over the airwaves a few months later.

Mr Jessen speaks fondly of his time there: "Would I do it again? Yes! Would I recommend it to anybody else? Yes. It's like National Service, something you'll never forget."

ONE OF THE FIRST, IN THE 1990S

It was also amidst the stunning scenery and crystal-clear waters that Mr Jessen read a book on his family's history, and realised a possible way to combine his interest in nature and what his family wanted of him.

He went for his Master's in tropical ecology but eventually opted for industrial environmental management, and joined the company thereafter.

At the time, Jebsen & Jessen (SEA) was engaged in several activities with environment, health and safety risks that "we probably weren't very aware of", he says. "We were compliant with the law where we needed to be, but weren't going the extra step to be proactive."

Mr Jessen got the company ISO-certified in the areas of environment and health and safety, becoming one of the first in the region to do so in the late 1990s.

With the new direction forged, the firm pulled the plug on several of its businesses that were "not in line anymore with our environmental ethic". For instance, it used to export Indonesian wood furniture mainly to Europe, but got out of the business in 1996 when its supplier declined to seek Forest Stewardship Council certification.

It also exited the marine paint business in the late 1990s because of the harm to the marine organisms that an ingredient called tributyltin oxide caused.

PATH TO CARBON NEUTRALITY

Over the past 15 years, the company has chosen to remain largely in businesses in which it is among the top three in the market - it is No 1 or 2 in the overhead travelling cranes business in most of ASEAN, for instance. Jebsen & Jessen (SEA) is also actively looking at suitable acquisition targets, and to grow in markets like Cambodia and Myanmar.

In Singapore, its presence has contributed to some key landmarks - its various business units provided the irrigation and window-cleaning systems of the Gardens by the Bay, and produced and supplied strong, lightweight polystyrene blocks to raise some areas of the park. The same polystyrene blocks, called Jeofoam, were used to fill part of the world's longest public cantilever atop the Marina Bay Sands.

These days, Jebsen & Jessen (SEA) are on the path towards carbon neutrality - not the easiest goal for an entity engaged in diverse activities ranging from the distribution, manufacturing and servicing of cranes, to the supply of turf and irrigation equipment and moulded packaging.

It is installing solar panels at its crane factory in Tuas - which will supply 149,380 KWh of electricity annually, or one-fifth of energy consumption - and looking at projects to offset its carbon emissions.

A way to create a "level playing field" for companies to reduce their carbon footprint is for a carbon tax imposed in all countries, says Mr Jessen. "Nobody wants to be the only one taking the big step. Very few governments want to impose a carbon tax if nobody else is doing it. No company wants to self-impose a carbon tax if no one else is doing it.

"I think carbon tax doesn't have to come on top of income tax. It can be, instead, a portion of your income tax, so I don't think it has to mean you're paying more taxes."

RESISTANCE AND THE BOTTOMLINE

Asked if his green initiatives caused resistance from his colleagues, Mr Jessen says: "Absolutely. We have very flat decision-making, so if you're a manager and incentivised on your profits and you're managing your own business and accustomed to making your own decisions, and someone from the head office comes and he's also son of the chairman and owner, it can become quite irritating."

Some initiatives have been good for the bottomline - insurance premiums went down significantly after environment, health and safety systems were in place, for instance.

But others cost money, and that's when Mr Jessen tries to get his colleagues to think longer-term. "Carbon neutrality is one of them. And there, quite frankly, my case is quite simple," he says. "I have two kids (aged 7 and 4) and they are still too young to know much about global climate change. But … I can see there will come a day when they will ask, 'Global climate change is having some disastrous consequences. So, Dad, what did you do about it? You knew this was coming, you have some influence as a whole company.'

"So I'd like to be able to look them in the eye and say, 'Well, at least I got us to carbon neutrality'."


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Malaysia: Wildlife protection groups upset over Anson decision

The Star 25 Feb 12;

PETALING JAYA: Wildlife protection groups are upset with the court decision to allow the appeal of convicted wildlife trader Anson Wong, who has since been released from jail.

WWF-Malaysia likened the decision as “flying in the face of efforts by various stakeholders to curb the rising threat of illegal wildlife trade”.

Wong, who walked free on Wednesday after the Court of Appeal reduced his jail sentence from five years to 17 months and 15 days, was described by WWF-Malaysia as an “internationally known notorious wildlife trafficker”.

The movement hoped the Court of Appeal would hand down a written judgement so the public could better understand the decision.

It also called on Malaysia to urgently establish a specialised Environmental Court to preside over wildlife cases.

Wong, who was convicted on Sept 6, last year of illegally exporting boa constrictors by the Sepang Sessions Court, was initially sentenced to six months' jail and fined RM190,000.

The High Court increased his jail term to five years upon appeal.

Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic said Wong, 54, was not a first-time offender as he was previously sentenced to 71 months' jail and fined US$60,000 (RM180,629) for money laundering linked to wildlife trade in the United States.

Its South-East Asia regional director Dr William Schaedla also urged the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to ensure Wong's licences remain revoked.

This would render Wong unable to trade in any wildlife. He warned that the case would have a long-term impact on the fight against wildlife crime.

“Traffickers will simply work small fines and short jail stays into their calculations as business costs,” he said.

Anson Wong Goes Free
David Braun National Geographic 28 Feb 12;

Last week, Anson Wong, the world’s most notorious international wildlife dealer, walked out of a Malaysian prison a free man after a Malaysian Appeals Court reduced his sentence for trafficking wildlife from five years to time served—17 months. Wong, who featured prominently in the National Geographic story “The Kingpin” (January 2010), was also the target of a major U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service investigation in the 1990s. He has made a career of offering for sale many of the world’s most iconic and endangered species and their parts—snow leopards, pandas, rhinoceroses, tigers, rare birds, and endangered reptiles.

But the mistake that got him arrested by Malaysian authorities in 2010 was relatively minor: He was passing through Kuala Lumpur International Airport on his way to Jakarta, Indonesia, when a lock on his suitcase broke, revealing 95 boa constrictors, a couple of African vipers, and a South American turtle.

Wong’s 2010 arrest came on the heels of an amazing list of reforms undertaken in Malaysia. After publication of “The Kingpin,” the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) announced a restructuring of Malaysia’s wildlife department, Perhilitan. It declared that “special permits” to possess endangered species would likewise be better scrutinized. Malaysia’s parliament passed the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2010, a major reform. A few weeks later, Wong was caught by airline personnel with his illicit suitcase. MNRE announced it was taking away his business licenses and seizing his animals. Wong was sentenced to five years.

Now, he is out.

Steve Galster, director of FREELAND Foundation and a primary architect of the ASEAN region’s wildlife enforcement network, ASEAN-WEN, said this about Wong’s release: “Asia’s illegal wildlife trade is run by wealthy people with powerful connections. Anson Wong’s conviction and imprisonment gave us hope that the winds were changing. Last week’s very early release of this notorious crook reminds us that the traffickers still run the show in Asia.”

Dr. William Schaedla, Regional Director, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, believes a major opportunity was lost in not investigating Wong’s cell phones and laptop, which were seized upon his arrest. “At the very least these should have provided insight into his business dealings. Yet despite repeated assurances that further investigations were part of the prosecution’s strategy, nearly a year and a half passed with no new charges or evidence logged.” More use should have been made of INTERPOL, which has a dedicated Wildlife Crime Officer based in Bangkok, Schaedla says. “Mr. Wong and his ilk are not just trading common house pets or livestock. They are dealing largely in species at imminent risk of extinction.”

That global wildlife law enforcement could be better coordinated is underscored by the fact that Malaysia’s Court considered Wong a “first offender,” even though he had previously been imprisoned in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Efforts are currently underway in Malaysia to establish a “green court” dedicated to hearing environmental cases. In the U.S., the creation of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division at the Justice Department was one of the most significant advances in the evolution of environmental law enforcement.

February has been a rough month for law enforcement. Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Rand Paul introduced S.2062—Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act of 2012, a bill that would gut the Lacey Act, arguably the most important wildlife law in the world. The Lacey Act is the law that put Anson Wong in jail the first time.

“I can get you anything here from anywhere,” Wong once told a U.S. undercover agent. “Nothing can be done to me. I could sell a panda—and, nothing. As long as I’m in Malaysia,” Wong said, “I’m safe.”

We will see if times have changed in Malaysia.


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Malaysia: Royal Belum rainforest still untouched

Edmund Ngo The Star 26 Feb 12;

IPOH: No illegal logging activities have been detected in the 130 million-year-old Royal Belum rainforest in Hulu Perak, said Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir.

He said based on aerial surveillance conducted by the state authorities recently, illegal logging was only detected in the Temenggor forest, which borders the Royal Belum rainforest area.

“Even so, we will not take things for granted and continue the surveillance to ensure that there is no intrusion, illegal logging or poaching in the rainforest,” he said yesterday.

Dr Zambry, however, added that the state would do its best to ensure that the precious green lung was preserved.

He clarified that some parts of the Temenggor forest had been allocated as logging areas.

“For these specific areas, logging is permitted with strict standards, such as the size of trees felled and proper reforestation programmes,” he added.


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Malaysia: Mangroves make wetland conservation important

Borneo Post 26 Feb 12;

KUCHING: The conservation of wetlands in the state will be a continuous effort as the state upped its ante on sustainable forest management, said Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan.

Awang Tengah who is also Minister of Public Utilities and Minister of Industrial Development said yesterday sustainable forest management of wetlands was important due to the presence of mangroves which help filter polluted air, prevent land erosion and become a defence against tsunamis.

“Therefore it’s important to preserve the over 6,000 hectares of wetlands here,” he told reporters when met after he officiated at the World’s Wetland Day 2012 state level celebration at Kuching Wetlands National Park (KWNP) in Sg Lemidin.

Also present were Assistant Environment Minister Datu Len Talif Salleh, Assistant Resource Planning Minister Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais and State Forest director Ali Yusop.

In his speech earlier, Awang Tengah highlighted plans to turn the wetland park into an ecotourism destination.

“The setback for now is lack of promotion. The wetland park has potential to become a sustainable tourism product.

“However, it is important to have an ecosystem management plan which is not only for preservation but benefit the local economy.

“Both the Forestry Department and the community are stakeholders who must preserve this area as a heritage for future generations,” Awang Tengah said on how to balance the management of the wetlands between conservation and ecotourism.

He revealed that in 2010, a total of 940 million people visited wetlands around the world.

The United Nation (UN) World Tourism Organisation predicted the figure would increase to 1.6 billion by year 2020,

Awang Tengah said numerous animal species like the proboscis monkeys, dolphins, fireflies and mangrove trees were the main attraction. He suggested visitors explore the park by boat.

Meanwhile Ali, in his speech, said KWNP was dominated by mangrove species: Avecennia, Rhizophora, Sonneratia and Bruguiera.

The wetland national park was gazetted the first Ramsar site in the state on Nov 8, 2005.

In August 2008, the state government commissioned Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) to conduct a multi-disciplinary assessment of KWNP for a description of the physical, biological and human environment of the area.

Following the study, a book on ‘Managent Planning of the KWNP — Ramsar Site’ was launched yesterday.


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Malaysia: Area near Sibu Laut new Ramsar site?

Borneo Post 26 Feb 12;

KUCHING: An area at Sibu Laut near here will be gazetted as the new Ramsar site replacing the 3,000 acres of mangrove wetland at Sungai Lemidin, which has been cleared as a soil dumping site for the flood mitigation project.

Assistant Environment Minister Datu Len Talif Salleh told reporters yesterday that the new area was deemed most suitable due to its natural state.

Even though the new area at Sibu Laut will be turned into a national park, Len who is also Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office assured that the local community would not be deprived of its natural resources.

“The most important factor is that we must continue to preserve this natural heritage to prevent natural disaster from happening. In the meantime, we must be sensitive to the needs of the people in this area.

“Being the stakeholder, the life of local communities in this national park should continue as usual in benefiting from the natural resources.

“As long as everybody plays their role in our sustainable forest management policy,” he continued after the launching of the World’s Wetland Day 2012 state level celebration held at Kuching Wetlands National Park at Sg Lemidin here.

Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan officiated at the event.

Meanwhile, state forest director Ali Yusop when met earlier, clarified that the 3,000 acres clearing of mangrove wetlands at an area at Sg Lemidin used as a soil dumping site will be rehabilitated once the Kuching flood mitigation project is completed.

“This area was cleared for soil dumping considering that it is situated near a two-kilometre canal and eventually become part of the eight km flood mitigation diversion channel,” he stated.

When asked whether the state would lose its Ramsar status due to the mangrove clearance, Ali said that it will not be the case because Ramsar was not purely conservation but also about sustainable development.

It can be turned into an eco-tourism area and continue to provide natural resources to the local community.

In addition, he explained that the state will carry out re-planting of mangrove trees along the coastal areas throughout the state covering 300 hectares.

Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, the state has been allocated some RM4.5 million for the purpose, he continued.

“We will not only focus on mangrove but other suitable trees such as main species of Avecennia, Rhizophora, Sonneratia and Bruguiera.

“Site matching is very important,” Ali said.

The wetland area of Sg Lemidin was part of the Kuching Wetland National Park, the first Ramsar site in the state.

The country has five other Ramsar sites – lake Bera in Pahang, Piai peninsular, Kukup island and Kulai river in Johor and the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetland in Sabah.

Ramsar is a town in Iran where the first wetland convention took place on Feb 2, 1971.


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Thailand: Are zoos cashing in on tiger trade?

Privately owned wildlife parks have long been implicated in the illegal sale of endangered animals and animal parts, but the lack of a DNA database and difficulty in collecting information means there is little clear evidence to confirm the suspicions
Bangkok Post 26 Feb 12;

Trade and trafficking in tigers and tiger parts in Thailand drew international attention following the seizure of 400kg of tiger meat and carcasses in Bangkok's Khlong Sam Wa district earlier this month. It's remained a thorny issue in Thailand despite global efforts to save the animals from extinction.

All five remaining tiger subspecies are considered seriously endangered and three subspecies have vanished in the last 60 years. In addition to human encroachment into their habitats, this is also driven by a demand for tiger parts which are believed by some to bring health and vitality.

In Thailand, despite protective measures the poaching of wild tigers in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries continues, and more seizures of tigers and tiger parts _ believed to be mostly from tigers bred in captivity _ indicate that consumer demand is growing.

There has been no substantial evidence proving the involvement of private zoos and wildlife parks in Thailand in supplying tigers and tiger parts to the black market, but suspicions remain because of the large sums of money to be made in the trade and the high costs of running these operations. Private zoos are legal in Thailand under the 1992 Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act and are allowed to possess wildlife species listed as preserved and protected under the act. There are currently 15 preserved species and 1,302 protected species recognised under Thai law.

Operators of private zoos must first obtain a zoo licence (Sor Por 21) and also a temporary permit to possess wildlife species (Sor Por 2) from the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department. Of the 40 licensed private zoos in the country, 21 raise and breed tigers.

The 1992 act strictly outlaws trade in tigers or tiger parts, and moreover, tigers are protected by the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prohibits international trade in protected animals, animal parts and derivatives for commercial purposes.

This means that the private zoos cannot buy or sell tigers or other restricted animals to each other or to anyone else. Private zoo owners usually say their animals were in their possession before the restrictions were in place or are the offspring of such animals. Transfers of animals between licensed private zoos are also allowed with approval from the National Parks Department, but this is a complicated process.

As the number of private zoos has grown, the National Parks Department has tightened the regulations for issuing new licences for the zoos, and concerned government agencies have also stepped up suppression efforts against smugglers.

Last year, government officials rescued two leopard cubs (which are also protected) at a place that had been designated for a new private zoo in Chaiyaphum province. The owner had not yet obtained a licence from the National Parks Department. Earlier, two adult leopards were seized at the same location. The owner could not provide any documents to show where he obtained the animals. According to a National Parks Department official, the leopards were taken from the Huay Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Uthai Thani province. The department withdrew the owner's application for a licence to set up a zoo.

National Parks Department deputy director-general Theerapat Prayoonsit said that his department cannot prohibit anyone from applying for a licence to set up a private zoo. However, he added, the department closely monitors the population of tigers in each zoo to ensure that they are not sold to traders.

At present, 888 tigers from 21 private zoos are registered with the department, which is also responsible for recording the identity of each tiger. Si Racha Tiger Zoo in Chon Buri is the largest operation of this type in the country, holding about 400 tigers.

Noting that the law does not limit the number of animals a zoo may keep, Mr Theerapat said, ''What we can do is ask for cooperation from the zoos to limit their tiger populations and give them good care.''

However, he added, the zoo owners may ''fiddle with'' the number of tigers. ''For example, if four cubs are born, they report only two. So they can sell the other two cubs or raise them in another place,'' he said. ''If anything happens to these tigers we cannot trace them back to the zoo.''

Pol Col Kiatipong Khaosam-ang, deputy commander the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division (NED), agreed that this is a big problem. ''This is the easiest method used in promoting the illegal tiger trade,'' he said.

''When a tiger dies, the [private] zoo will not report to the authorities as required. It is sold in the black market, and a new tiger is brought to the zoo.''

DNA DATABASE NEEDED

Following the large seizure of tiger meat and carcasses in early February, National Parks Department officials and police inspected private zoos in Chon Buri, including the Million Years Stone Park, Pattaya Crocodile Farm and Si Racha Tiger Zoo. The latter had been accused before of involvement in the illegal trade in tigers and tiger parts. However, said Mr Theerapat, his department was able to account for all tigers there.

Chuwit Pitakpornpallop, owner of the Trakarn Tiger Zoo in Ubon Ratchathani province, said that domestic licensed and regulated tiger zoos are always the first place authorities look to make arrests or seize live tigers whenever this type of case surfaces. But he said that licensed private zoos are always open for inspection from authorities, and added that National Parks Department regional officials regularly inspect his zoo every two or three months, along with police from the NED.

The inspection covers all kinds of preserved and protected wild animals in the zoo, he said. ''They will check the animals' microchips, take photos of each animal and check its documents, and look at records of births and deaths. They also take DNA samples,'' said Mr Chuwit.

However Kanita Ouitavon, a senior scientist at the department's Wildlife Forensic Science Unit, said the National Parks Department does not have DNA samples from private zoos.

There is a plan to start a DNA database in the near future, an initiative Ms Kanita fully supports. Such a database would make it much easier for the department to fulfil its mandate to keep track of all protected animals in the possession of private zoos. This issue was at the forefront of Interpol's ''Third Meeting of the Wildlife Crime Working Group'' in Bangkok from Feb 13-17. The group endorsed DNA testing as a way to stamp out trade in wild meat by tracing the origins of seized meat. At the meeting, assistant national police chief Chalermkiat Sirworakan said, ''We need the help of forensic medicine in the suppression of wildlife crimes,'' and added that DNA testing and establishing a relevant database was not a complicated procedure. He suggested that the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry fund the programme.

Meanwhile, Mr Chuwit said authorities should be looking elsewhere than at private zoos, and challenged them to inspect big livestock farms, especially those along the borders, where he says tigers are illegally bred and traded in the black market.

''For instance, a big cattle farm in Kanchanaburi province and an unlicensed tiger farm in Saraburi province breed and slaughter tigers for sale,'' he said.

Another significant source of trafficked tigers is farms in neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Myanmar, said Mr Chuwit.

''Tigers are transported through Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to China. The tigers and tiger parts which are often seized in Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces are from farms along the borders inside neighbouring countries,'' he said.

Mr Theerapat agreed that many tigers seized in recent years have been smuggled from neighbouring countries.

During the past few years smuggled tigers and other wildlife have been found in trucks carrying fruits and other goods from the South. The drivers have told authorities that they were to deliver them at Talad Thai market in Rangsit, on the outskirts of Bangkok. Mr Theerapat said the market has huge cold storage warehouses.

Pol Colonel Kiatipong Khaosam-ang, NED deputy commander, said Thai authorities can and do seek cooperation from government agencies in neighbouring countries, but added that it is also necessary to strictly control the domestic facilities because some of them supply tigers for illegal breeding and slaughter.

Mr Chuwit admitted that in spite of regulations requiring private zoo operators to inform authorities of births and deaths, some domestic tiger zoos do not report the actual figures. He blamed it on the ''time-consuming process'' of obtaining legal transfer permits which allow private zoos to exchange animals. These are granted only in rare cases.

''In some cases, a private zoo urgently wants tiger cubs for show to attract customers. Under such circumstances, unregistered tiger cubs can be easily transferred to licensed zoos,'' he said. However, this doesn't happen very often because most zoos can easily breed their own cubs.

Mr Chuwit said that another situation that encourages illegal trading among private zoos is the exchange of adult tigers to avoid problems from captive inbreeding and keep the animals genetically healthy. Tigers grow very fast and can mate when they reach three years old, he said, and because getting legal approval is usually a long process, some zoo owners buy unregistered cubs and register them as newborns at their zoos.

But he said that selling or trading unregistered cubs is ''not worth the risk''. If caught, the zoo must pay a heavy fine and may be closed down.

''And forget about an exchange of tigers with zoos in foreign countries. After problems occurred in the transfer of 100 tigers from Si Racha Tiger Zoo to China many years ago, the National Parks Department won't allow any private zoos to import or export tigers,'' said Mr Chuwit.

At present his operation has possession of 48 tigers at Trakarn Tiger Zoo and 54 at Tiger Kingdom, an offshoot zoo in Chiang Mai's Mae Rim district. Each year an average of 10-15 tiger cubs are born in captivity at the two zoos. With the increasing number of tigers he plans to supply two more private zoos in the near future, one in Phuket and one near Suvarnabhumi airport on Bang Na-Trat Road. He looks on this as a good business move that also solves the expensive problem of caring for too many tigers. Mr Chuwit said that private zoos facing financial problems often separate males and females, but each has its own way of dealing with the matter.


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The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition: Unraveling the Philippines’s natural wonders

Pamela Reblora Business Mirror 25 Feb 12;

THOUGH a lot of species have already been discovered through scientific explorations and studies, it is believed that 90 percent of life on the planet is yet to be known.

Though the Earth is just a pinprick of a planet in the universe, it is the only known planet that supports life. Humans, the most intelligent form of life, have been struggling to identify other life forms through scientific explorations. And the Philippines, being considered as one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, has been a treasure trove of new species discoveries.

The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition

AIMING to conduct the first “comprehensive survey of both terrestrial and marine diversity” in the Philippines, scientists, biologists, taxonomists, science educators and students from the University of the Philippines (UP) and the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) conducted the “2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition” which explored the forests of Mount Makiling, Mount Banahaw, Mount Isarog, the freshwater of Taal Lake, the shallow waters of marine ecosystems of the Verde Island Passage in Mabini and Anilao, Batangas, and the deep sea around Lubang Island, Mindoro.

The expedition was funded by a generous $500,000 gift from Margaret and Will Hearst III of the US as well as resources from the University of the Philippines.

From April 26 to June 8, 2011, the 94-member expedition team, including a group of American and Filipino journalists, documented the sites’ biodiversity and discovered new species. Dr. Terrence Gosliner, dean of the CAS, led the American team while Dr. Perry Ong, director of the UP Diliman Institute of Biology and Dr. Edwino Fernando of the UP Los BaƱos College of Forestry and Natural Resources, led the Filipino contingent.

The expedition was a baptism of fire for the then-newly installed administration of UP President Alfredo Pascual, who was able to mobilize the university’s resources to be actively involved in undertaking this international research collaboration on an extremely urgent environmental issue, that of biodiversity conservation. The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition is a reflection of the priorities of what the university intends to pursue in the coming years.

On February 9, 2012, Dr. Gosliner presented a follow up report on the results of the expedition at a forum held in UP Diliman.

“We were inspired to conduct the study here in the Philippines not just because of its biological richness but also because of the enthusiasm and receptivity to conservation recommendations expressed by our Filipino partners,” said Dr. Gosliner.

Discoveries

COMPRISED of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is home to a wide variety of species. This was reaffirmed by the expedition with the discovery of approximately 500 new species found in rainforests, coral reefs and the ocean floor.

According to Dr. Gosliner, among the interesting species discovered include a deep-sea, shrimp-eating shark that inflates its stomach with water to bulk up and scare off other predators; a cicada that makes a “laughing” call; three new lobster relatives that squeeze into crevices instead of carrying shells on their backs; a worm-like pipefish that hides among colonies of soft coral; a starfish that only eats sunken driftwood; and a crab with needle-like teeth on its pincers.

To confirm that these species are indeed new to science, scientists will now proceed to the next stage of exploration, using microscopes and DNA sequencing to complete the species’ identification and ultimately to publish these results.

Realizations

THE expedition did not just unveil new species but also validated the existence of environmental problems such as the continuous dumping of human waste in different bodies of water and the destruction of coral reefs caused by human activities.

According to Dr. Gosliner, the expedition made them realize the importance of biodiversity and research, science and environmental education, especially for children; connecting people to nature; individual actions; making education locally relevant; long-term sustainability versus short-term profit; partnerships; and integration of education, research, public policy and economics.

“We’re doing all these not just for the sake of knowledge but more important, for future generations. We are trying our very best to come up with best environmental-conservation efforts so as to ensure that our children will also experience the benefits from nature that we are enjoying now,” said Dr. Gosliner.

According to Dr. Perry Ong, “The discoveries made during this expedition reinforced the stature of the Philippines as a megadiverse country and as the hottest of the biodiversity hot spots. The importance of taking action now cannot be overemphasized. UP as the national university is taking on this challenge head on. Lest it be forgotten that most of Philippine biodiversity are endemic, that is found nowhere else except in the Philippines, and, thus, represents part of global patrimony, hence the responsibility of keeping them from becoming extinct lies not only with the Filipino people, though we should take the lead, but the global community as well. Thus, we appreciate all the help that we can get from the international research and conservation community such as the CAS, in partnerships and in the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation.”

Dr. Fernando expressed his willingness to be part of future scientific explorations to be held in the country, more especially in Mount Makiling.

“I believe that there’s still a lot to discover in the country, even in Mount Makiling alone. We are more than willing to participate in expeditions like this in the future. This is also a great opportunity for academic institutions to engage their students in this kind of work for them to appreciate the beauty of nature and eventually help conserve biodiversity,” said Dr. Fernando.

Rodrigo Fuentes, executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity hailed the efforts and the results of the expedition.

“The discovery of new species in the Philippines once again proves the richness of the Philippines’s and Southeast Asia’s biodiversity. We have more natural treasures just around us waiting to be discovered. I hope that our young generation will have an interest in researching and learning the values of biodiversity—the variety of life on Earth—which sustains human life.”

Recommendations

AFTER the discoveries, the expedition team came up with the following recommendations for marine conservation: reduce marine debris and sedimentation; place more moorings at popular dive sites; enforce marine protected areas (MPAs) and increase their sizes; and establish new MPAs in unique habitats.

“It is unfortunate that Philippine forests and marine ecosystems have been continuously destroyed by human activities. Protected areas should be expanded and deforestations should be stopped,” said Dr. Gosliner.

The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition was able to demonstrate that environmental concern can be reinforced, not just by imagining life without all these natural wonders but also by appreciating what we still have.

The marine research team of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity expedition did not just find new species of octocorals, barnacles, annelids and other marine life forms, but also a lot of waste polluting bodies of water and the terrestrial research team of the Philippine Biodiversity Expedition identifies and documents samples of flora and fauna found during the expedition. The team explored the peaks of Mount Makiling, Mount Isarog and Mount Banahaw.


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