Best of our wild blogs: 11 Mar 12

Some hopeful news for coral reefs: evidence of adaptation to thermal stress provided by James Guest et al in PLoS ONE today! from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Sexy stars but sad seagrasses on Cyrene
from wild shores of singapore and teamseagrass

The Predator Strikes Back!
from Butterflies of Singapore

Lornie Trail On A Friday Morning
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Noordin Beach
from Ubin.sgkopi

Save Bukit Brown
from EcoWalkthetalk

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Malaysia: 50m-wide corridor a boon to pygmy jumbos

The Star 11 Mar 12;

KOTA KINABALU: A 50m-forest corridor strip known as the Melapi Elephant Corridor in Sukau is making a difference in the survival of the Bornean pygmy elephants.

The corridor project to connect fragmented forests in Sabah is helping in the survival of the elephants, said Borneo Conservation Trust and Research head and project leader Raymond Alfred.

“Even a strip of land 50m wide makes a difference in allowing the migration of the Bornean elephant herds in Lower Kinabatangan,” he said.

Alfred said the Melapi corridor was established in August through a joint collaboration between the Sabah Wildlife Department and Borneo Conservation Trust together with their partners Syarikat Yu Kwang Development Sdn Bhd and Proboscis Lodge Bukit Melapi.

“We are very happy to know that the elephants are now able to pass through the land using this corridor to migrate from one key habitat to another, when previously it was a very narrow bottleneck,” he said.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the collaborative effort was a great example where the private sector worked with the Government and non-governmental organisations.

“We welcome the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with companies and organisations, which are keen to play an active role in supporting and contributing to Sabah’s wildlife conservation initiatives,” he added.

He said with the corridor, potential human-and-elephant conflict in the villages and plantation was also reduced.

Earlier this week, students from Nihon University Japan, coordinated by Borneo Conservation Trust Japan, planted more than 100 trees within the corridor to facilitate the movement of the orang utan within the fragmented habitat in the future.

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Malaysia: Trawling threat to marine life

Farik Zolkepli The Star 11 Mar 12;

KUALA TERENGGANU: WWF Malaysia has urged the Govern-ment to take steps to reduce the overcapacity in the existing trawling fleets or ban trawling altogether in an effort to minimise the negative impact of the activity on marine life.

Its executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said bottom-trawling was a destructive fishing practice, mainly responsible for overfishing.

“Bottom-trawling must be conducted in an ecologically sustainable manner within effective ecosystem-based management systems.

“In addition, measures to protect vulnerable and representative habitats and species as well as efforts to limit the area and frequency of trawling must be put into place,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He said the practice of bottom-trawling should not be permitted unless responsible states and the relevant fisheries departments had established effective systems that could accomplish certain steps.

“Among the steps that should be taken are carrying out Strategic Environmental Assessments of the likely impact of bottom-trawling on marine environment,” he added.

Dr Dionysius said an adequate step to prepare and implement ecosystem-based fisheries management strategies, laws and regulations must also be made.

“Such laws and regulations must collect adequate baseline information on the marine environment where bottom-trawling occurs, including locations of sensitive seabed habitats.

“The regulations must also establish a comprehensive network of well-managed protected areas to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems along with ecologically or biologically significant areas,” he said.

He added that WWF Malaysia was working with the Government and fishing industries to establish ecosystem-based management of fisheries.

“This effort is mandated by the Coral Triangle Initiative's Regional and national plans of action.

“We are also advocating the implementation of fisheries management and restoration plans as well as greater use of fishing-prohibited areas to allow ecosystems to recover,” he said.

A total of 28,705 fishermen on trawling vessels are located in the country, of which 18,218 are in peninsular Malaysia.

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Malaysia: New paradise for birdwatchers

Leo Arrokiasammy The Star 11 Mar 12;

MALACCA: While Tanjung Tuan continues playing host to thousands of migratory raptors and other birds, the Malacca government is seeking to promote Kampung Pengkalan in Machap here as a similar tourist destination.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam urged the state Tourism Department and other state government departments to work towards promoting Machap for this purpose.

“I am sure birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts are willing to make the trip just to catch a glimpse of these birds in both areas,” he said yesterday after launching the Raptor Watch (RW) event organised by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS).

The new site, he said, could be an impetus for the state tourism industry, adding that he wanted Machap to be placed in the calendar as another site for the RW.

Yesterday's event saw thousands of nature lovers gathering to get a glimpse of the raptors, which are birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures and owls.

MNS organised the RW 2012 for the 13th consecutive year. Such events benefit both Port Dickson and Malacca in terms of tourism.

Also present yesterday was RW ambassador and actress Maya Karin.

MNS president Dr Maketab Mohammed said that since the 1960s and1970s, the number of raptors sighted was reported to exceed 300,000.

This year's event was also witnessed by the members of the society's Asian partners the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Nature Society of Singapore, Chinese Wild Bird Federation of Taiwan, Kenting National Park Taiwan and WildBird Life Club of Philippines.

Dr Maketab said RW's main objective was to conserve birds and their habitat and to educate the public on the spectacular migratory phenomenon.

“We want these birds to keep returning to peninsular Malaysia, which is the stopover for thousands of raptor species on their journey back home to Siberia, China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan and Indochina as winter draws to an end,” he added.

Malacca woos bird lovers
Hani Maketab New Straits Times 14 Mar 12;

BIRD lovers in Malacca now have a new place to visit their feathered friends after the state government declared eight hectares of open land in Kampung Pengkalan near here as the Pengkalan Bird Sanctuary.

The area has been home to more than 2,000 birds of various species since early 2010.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the area would be developed as a new eco-tourism product in the state.

He said that according to initial studies, as many as six species of birds were spotted, such as the black-crowned night heron, pink-necked green pigeon, baya weaver, lesser coucal, purple heron and yellow-vented bulbul.

"These birds have been in the area since January 2010, but only in small numbers.

"We did not expect the birds to stick around but it appears that they like it here and have decided to settle down," he said after a visit to the area yesterday.

Ali was accompanied by Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Malacca/Negri Sembilan chairman Lim Ming Hui.

Ali said he had directed the Tourism Promotion Division to begin efforts to promote the bird sanctuary to the public.

He said the area would also be included in the Malacca Tourism Calendar starting next year to spread awareness about the bird sanctuary.

"The state government will also organise a photography and video competition to further promote it. I hope that BPP, MNS, the Alor Gajah Municipal Council and the Wildlife and National Parks Department will work together to organise a week-long contest starting today (yesterday).

"The first prize winner will receive RM1,500, the second, RM1,000 and the third, RM500."

Lim said state MNS volunteers would monitor bird activities in the area to learn more about them and gather data.

"So far, I can confirm the migratory birds that breed here are local species found around the country.

"Typically, these birds will fly around Peninsular Malaysia all year round."

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Saboteurs blamed as Japan whale catch falls short

Harumi Ozawa (AFP) Google News 10 Mar 12;

TOKYO — Japan's Antarctic whaling fleet has killed less than a third of the animals it planned to because of sabotage by activists, Tokyo said Friday as it announced the end of the season's hunt.

Japan's Fisheries Agency said the fleet was on its way home from the Antarctic "on schedule", but admitted that at 267 the catch was way down on expectations.

Whalers killed 266 minke whales and one fin whale, the agency said, well below the approximately 900 they had been aiming for when they left Japan in December.

"The catch was smaller than planned due to factors including weather conditions and sabotage acts by activists," an agency official said. "There were definitely sabotage campaigns behind the figure."

Militant environmentalist group Sea Shepherd had pursued the Japanese fleet for much of the season.

The group hurled stink bombs at the boats and used ropes to try to tangle their propellers in a series of exchanges which saw the whalers retaliate with water cannon.

In the 2010-2011 season, Japan ended the hunt early after killing only 172 whales because of harassment by environmentalists.

Commercial whaling is banned under an international treaty but Japan has since 1987 used a loophole to carry out "lethal research" on the creatures in the name of science.

Japan claims the annual hunt is necessary to substantiate its view that there is a robust whale population in the world. But it makes no secret of the fact that whale meat from the research ends up on dinner tables and in restaurants.

Anti-whaling nations and environmentalist groups routinely label the activity a cover for commercial whaling.

The Australian government welcomed Japan's decision to recall its fleet from the Southern Ocean, saying it condemned all commercial whaling, "including Japan's so called 'scientific' whaling programme".

"Japan's whaling activities are contrary to international law," Canberra said.

"That is why Australia commenced and will continue legal action in the International Court of Justice. Our efforts are aimed at ending Southern Ocean whaling for good."

Sea Shepherd claimed the drastic cut in the harpooners' haul was a victory for them.

"It's been a very successful campaign for us," captain Paul Watson told AFP on Friday. "We chased them for three months, 17,000 miles (27,000 kilometres). They really didn't have much time to catch whales in all that time."

The group vowed to chase the Japanese fleet if it returns to southern waters next season.

"The Japanese were definitely much more aggressive," Watson said from Melbourne, where his ship is now docked. "We had 12 confrontations with the Steve Irwin but no-one was injured on either side.

"They used water cannons, and they threw concussion grenades at us, and bamboo spears and grappling hooks and we hit them back with stink bombs and smoke bombs."

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