Best of our wild blogs: 14 Apr 12

Seagrassy at Chek Jawa with new wild piglets
from wild shores of singapore

After a Morning Rain @ Upper Peirce Reservoir
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

A family of Little Grebes
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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"No Shark Fins Singapore" campaign launched

Channel NewsAsia 13 Apr 12;

SINGAPORE: A "No Shark Fins Singapore" campaign has been launched at the Asia Dive Expo (ADEX) 2012.

It hopes to make Singapore shark fin-free by 2013 and is looking to convince all Chinese restaurants and companies to remove shark fins from their menus and corporate events respectively, and conduct active outreach programmes to primary and secondary schools.

Non-profit organisations that have shown their support for this ground-up shark conservation campaign so far include WWF Singapore, Project FIN, Fauna and Flora International, IUCN, Shark Research Institute, and Humane Society International.

- CNA/cc

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Iconic Conservationists Appeal to Indonesia to Save Orangutans from ‘Extreme Threat’

Jakarta Globe 14 Apr 12;

Nairobi. Characterizing Indonesia’s biodiversity as under “extreme threat,” the patrons of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) – Jane Goodall, Richard Leakey, Richard Wrangham and Russell Mittermeier – have sent a letter to the president of Indonesia asking him to halt the destruction currently underway in Sumatra and enforce laws that protect orangutans and their habitat.

The letter was sent to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday in response to man-made fires in the Leuser Ecosystem that were set to clear rainforest for oil palm plantations through allegedly illegal permits.

New GRASP LogoExperts fear that as many as 300 orangutans could perish in the fires. The Sumatran orangutan is classified as critically endangered, and no more than 6,300 are believed to exist in the wild.

The fires have also damaged the region’s ecosystem. A 2011 report issued by GRASP and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called the Leuser Ecosystem as an “incredibly important area for conservation.”

The GRASP patrons, widely recognized as leaders in great ape conservation and research, have asked that President Yudhoyono suspend all agricultural activity in the region, enforce laws protecting orangutans and their habitat, and uphold commitments made through the Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes.

GRASP, a unique alliance comprised of member nations, conservation organizations, United Nations agencies, and private supporters, was created in 2001 to protect great apes and their habitat in Africa and Asia.

Open Letter to Indonesia President Yudhoyono to Save Orangutans
Jakarta Globe 14 Apr 12;

His Excellency
Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Republic of Indonesia
Istana Merdeka
Jakarta Pusat 10110 Indonesia

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned, have devoted much of the past half-century to the study of great apes and the advocacy for their protection. That is why we are gravely concerned about the ecological damage caused by man-made fires in Sumatra, and why we write to you today as Patrons of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) to ask you to halt this destruction.

The fires set to clear forest land in the Province of Aceh for oil palm plantations currently threaten the Leuser Ecosystem, which includes some of the most important great ape habitat in the world. Experts believe that as many as 300 critically endangered Sumatran orangutans may perish in the fires, pushing the species even closer to extinction.

In 2005, the Government of Indonesia signed the Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes, which articulated the need to “ensure the effective enforcement of legislation protecting great apes.”

The Leuser Ecosystem is classified as National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection under Indonesia’s National Spatial Plan, and is an important part of the country’s REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) programme. The Leuser Ecosystem constitutes the buffer zone for the Leuser Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, as designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Leuser Ecosystem is protected under Indonesian law, and was declared off-limits to agricultural development through a Presidential moratorium on new plantations in primary forests and peatlands that was announced in 2011 as part of Indonesia’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions, with support from the Government of Norway.

In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and GRASP published Orangutans and the Economics of Sustainable Forest Management in Sumatra, a report that called the region an “incredibly important area for conservation.” That same report indicated that the Leuser Ecosystem rose in value by 71 percent if economic benefits derived through conservation were adopted in favor of agricultural conversion.

As such, we respectfully ask that the Government of Indonesia:

Enforce the laws that protect the orangutans and habitat of the Leuser Ecosystem
Suspend all activities by oil palm companies on recently cleared and burned lands in the Leuser Ecosystem
Ban further land drainage and forest clearing in the Tripa peat swamps
Honor commitments made through the 2005 Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes
Honor commitments made through the 1972 World Heritage Convention

Indonesia contains some of the world’s most spectacular biodiversity, but that same biodiversity is under extreme threat, affecting issues such as the continued supply of clean water, clean air, local and regional climate stability, and other threats to life on earth.

Given the intense popular interest in the great apes and their precarious future, we believe that positive action by you and your government will be widely appreciated and warmly welcomed throughout the world. With that in mind, we therefore call on the Government of Indonesia to protect the country’s ecological heritage and halt the current destructive activities in Sumatra.


Jane Goodall, PhD., DBE Dr. Richard Leakey
Founder, Jane Goodall Institute Professor of Anthropology
U.N. Messenger of Peace Stonybrook University

Richard Wrangham, PhD. Russell Mittermeier, PhD.
Professor of Anthropology President, Conservation International
Harvard University Chair, IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group

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Malaysia: Licences for sugar glider imports soon

Yiswaree Palansamy New Straits Times 13 Apr 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: SUGAR gliders, which have been enjoying popularity among pet enthusiasts, may soon require special licences to be kept as domestic species here.

Currently, the nocturnal creature is not covered under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 [Act 716] and the International Act 2008 [Act 686].

However, the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) records show that the number of sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) being imported is on the rise as more people are keen to keep the species as pets.

Department director-general Dr Zaaba Zainol Abidin said they were taking steps to protect the animal by including it in the First Schedule of the act.

"This is because sugar glider is an exotic species, to control the importation of the species into the country and lastly, to control the ownership through licensing,

"We also want to protect the species from the illegal wildlife trade, which is quite rampant," said Dr Zaaba.

The New Straits Times learnt that the proposed First Schedule had been forwarded to the Attorney-General's Chambers for review. Once the revised schedule is gazetted, keeping sugar gliders or breeding the species will require a licence from Perhilitan.

The species is not protected under existing laws.

There are 8,936 sugar gliders registered with the department.

Although sugar gliders are not yet listed as an endangered animal, the species had been identified as one of the most commonly traded wild animals in the illegal pet trade.

Its relatives, such as the Leadbeater's Possum and the Mahogany Glider, are in need of great conservation efforts as they are two family species facing extinction.

The sugar glider is protected by law in South Australia, where it is illegal to keep them without a permit.

Dr Zaaba said that the department reviewed periodically the types of animals that are permitted to be kept as 'domestic friends' every year.

"We do an in-depth study on the species and check to see if they are listed as endangered or is on the brink of extinction before making a decision to allow such animals to be kept at homes."

He added that prior to taking home an animal which is listed as exotic, a person would be subjected to various requirements.

"We do not allow certain types of animals to be kept in condominiums, taking into account the animals' safety as well as the wellbeing of others," he said, adding that the review was extremely important.

Some of the animals which had been banned as domestic pets are the American bullfrog and the red deer.

Dr Zaaba said while the red-eared slider, a common kind of tortoise species seen at homes, is large in number here, it had already been banned from being imported into the country.

"The species, to begin with, is not a locally available breed and the ban took effect last December.

"However, we will only monitor and not take action against those already here."

Dr Zaaba added that the species could create chaos to the ecosystem and thus, its import had been halted.

Dr Zaaba said those who wanted to know more about the kinds of animals banned from being kept as pets could refer to the Fifth Schedule under the Wildlife Conservation Act. It can be downloaded from Perhilitan's website.

Malaysians sweet on sugar gliders
Yuen Mei Keng and Isabelle Lai The Star 29 May 12;

PETALING JAYA: There is a high demand for sugar gliders as pets even though these squirrel-like animals will soon be a protected species in Malaysia.

While the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) has confirmed that these small possums will be protected, it is business as usual for pet shops and breeders who sell them.

Breeder Goh Yong Chow said he sold about 20 to 48 sugar gliders a month compared to one or two monthly in 2008.

Goh, who owns a pet shop in Malacca, said it was a trend nowadays for people to keep unique and expensive pets.

“In 2007, there was a huge demand for hamsters but now, the focus is on ‘high-end’ pets like sugar gliders.

Sugar gliders are imported from Indonesia, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Goh said they were now cheaper compared to previously when one baby sugar glider could be sold for between RM300 and RM350.

“Now, we sell them for RM250 each,” he said.

Pets More Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Sean Saw said sugar gliders were currently popular as the pets were “friendly, tame and easy to care for”.

Perhilitan said steps had been taken to include sugar gliders in the First Schedule of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

This will allow the department to control trade pertaining to the species, including importation and ownership through licensing.

Perhilitan said the proposed amendments to the First Schedule had been forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

“Once the revised schedule is gazetted, keeping sugar gliders will require a licence from the Department.”

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50-plus Corals in U.S. Waters Face Extinction by Century's End

Endangered Species Act Protection Needed to Save Corals in Florida, Hawaii, Caribbean
Center for Biological Diversity 13 Apr 12;

SAN FRANCISCO— Without help, more than 50 coral species in U.S. waters are likely to go extinct by the end the century, primarily because of ocean warming, disease and ocean acidification, a government report said today. The National Marine Fisheries Service released a status review of 82 corals that are being considered for protections under the Endangered Species Act following a 2009 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Coral reefs are at real risk of vanishing in our lifetimes if we don’t act fast,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Endangered Species Act has saved hundreds of species from extinction, but these corals will only benefit if they’re actually protected.”

Of the 82 corals, 56 are likely to be extinct before 2100, the report said. The corals are in U.S. waters, ranging from Florida and Hawaii to U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific. The report notes that the seven Florida and Caribbean corals are extremely likely to go extinct, and five of those corals ranked in the top seven of most imperiled overall. Today’s report makes no recommendation about whether the corals may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

According to the status review, “The combined direct and indirect effects of rising temperature, including increased incidence of disease and ocean acidification, both resulting primarily from anthropogenic increases in atmospheric CO2, are likely to represent the greatest risks of extinction to all or most of the candidate coral species over the next century.”

Coral reefs are home to 25 percent of marine life and play a vital function in ocean ecosystems. Already one-third of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed, and scientists warn that by mid-century most corals will be in inhospitable waters that are too warm or acidic. Since the 1990s, coral growth has grown sluggish in some areas due to ocean acidification, and mass bleaching events are increasingly frequent.

“I’m eager to show my kids the wonder of a coral reef. I worry that if we wait too long, they’ll never get to experience a healthy reef teeming with colorful life,” said Sakashita. “These delicate corals need help, first with federal protections, and then with dramatic reductions in carbon dioxide pollution.”

The Fisheries Service is accepting comments on the coral status review and management reports until July 31, 2012. Pursuant to a settlement agreement with the Center, the Fisheries Service will make a determination on whether listing is warranted for the corals by Dec. 1, 2012. In 2006, the Center secured protection for staghorn and elkhorn corals, making them the first — and so far, only — corals listed under the Endangered Species Act.

For more information about these corals and how to submit comments, visit:

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Indonesia quake a record, risks for Aceh grow

David Fogarty Reuters 12 Apr 12;

SINGAPORE | Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:10pm EDT

(Reuters) - The powerful undersea earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra this week was a once in 2,000 years event, and although it resulted in only a few deaths, it increases the risks of a killer quake in the region, a leading seismologist said.

Wednesday's 8.6 magnitude quake and a powerful aftershock were "strike-slip" quakes and the largest of that type recorded, Kerry Sieh, director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, told Reuters.

"It's a really an exceptionally large and rare event," he said.

"Besides it being the biggest strike-slip earthquake ever recorded, the aftershock is the second biggest as far as we can tell," said Sieh, who has studied the seismically active, and deadly, fault zones around Sumatra for years.

Strike-slip quakes involve the horizontal movement of colliding earth plates, and are typically less powerful than those where there is vertical movement. They are also less likely to trigger big tsunamis, or tidal waves.

A magnitude 9.1 quake in roughly the same region on Boxing Day in 2004 decimated Aceh province on Sumatra and killed over 230,000 people in 13 countries around the Indian Ocean.

Sumatra, the westernmost island in the sprawling Indonesian archipelago, has a history of powerful quakes and tsunamis, most triggered by an offshore zone along its entire length, where the Indian-Australian tectonic plate is forced under the Eurasian plate.

This creates a deep ocean trench as one plate slides under the other at a rate of several centimeters a year. In this zone, called the Sunda megathrust, stress builds up when the subducting Indian-Australian plate bends the Eurasian plate like a spring board as it moves down into the Earth's crust.

Eventually enough stress builds up that the edge of Eurasian plate suddenly jolts upward, triggering an earthquake. The sudden uplift of the seafloor and huge pulse of seawater triggers a tsunami.

Over the centuries, repeated magnitude 8 and 9 quakes have struck along portions of the megathrust zone off the coast of Sumatra, flattening towns and killing thousands of people.


Wednesday's event was different, Sieh said, because it occurred further west from the megathrust zone in a fault that runs north-south. This strike-slip fault involved a sudden horizontal movement of the Indian and Australian plates along hundreds of kilometers, preliminary data suggest.

Sieh said the Indian plate and Australian plate are moving relative to each other horizontally at about 1 cm a year.

"If all of that ... is taken up on this one fault and if you make some crude calculations about how much slip occurred during this earthquake, say 20 meters. It means that this earthquake shouldn't happen more than once every 2,000 years."

Wednesday's quake caused few casualties and triggered very small waves, despite its magnitude. But the sting in the tale is that it likely to have increased stress on the plate boundaries near Aceh, increasing the risks of another major earthquake in the same area as the 2004 disaster.

In addition, research by Sieh and colleagues published in 2010 showed that the 2004 Aceh quake only relieved about half the stress that has built up over the centuries along a 400 km portion of the megathrust faultline.

That makes another major quake in the area a matter of time.

Adding to concerns, further south along another 700 km portion of the megathrust fault under the Mentawai islands, Sieh and colleagues in a separate 2008 research said so much stress was building up on this section that one or more major quakes were likely within years.

The Mentawai islands, a popular surfing destination, are a chain of about 70 islands off the western coast of Sumatra. They face the city of Padang on Sumatra, home to about one million people and likely to be in the path of any tsunami that is triggered.

"I am very confident that we are very likely to have within the next few decades to have this great Mentawai earthquake that will have a magnitude at least as big as yesterday's," said Sieh.

And when it does, history shows there will be more than one quake within a few years.

He said a magnitude 8.4 quake in 2007 that struck this part of the megathrust relieved only a small portion of the pent-up pressure. The last time it ruptured was a magnitude 9 quake in 1833 and an 8.4 quake in 1797.

"We've had so many big earthquakes around in Sumatra in the past few years that it seems like an awful lot of the faults around there seem ready to go."

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Saving species could keep humans healthy

Sara Reardon New Scientist 13 Apr 12;

Are animals good for us? Several studies suggest that our chances of picking up an animal disease are reduced if we are surrounded by a variety of species – the thinking goes that abundant animal life acts a pool that prevents the disease from jumping to people. Others strongly disagree, arguing that more creatures means a greater variety of diseases and a higher chance that one of them will evolve to infect us.

The results of a new mathematical model presented at the Planet Under Pressure meeting in London last month suggest both sides may be right – depending on the type of biodiversity in an area. This means it may be as important for public health workers to watch for new diseases in, say, New York City where few animals live, as it is to monitor pathogens in biodiversity hotspots.

Benjamin Roche of the International Center for Mathematical and Computational Modeling of Complex Systems in Bondy Cedex, France, who generated the model, says that it shows – perhaps unsurprisingly – that a diversity of disease carriers is bad news. This is certainly true for West Nile virus, Roche says, which is found in several US states and is successful partly because it can be transmitted by many mosquito species.

The model also shows, however, that humans may benefit if surrounded by a variety of animals – provided only some of them are susceptible to a disease, therefore lowering our chance of encountering an infected animal. West Nile has been less likely to cross into human populations in areas with high biodiversity among birds, which may act as reservoirs, says Felicia Keesing of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. She sees this as evidence that such biodiversity keeps the virus away from people and is good for health.

Whether these effects hold true on a global scale is still hotly debated. "It's a lovely story and I wish it were true," says Peter Daszak of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine in New York City. In 2008, he and colleagues published a paper in Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature06536, which found that the areas of the world where diseases jump from animals to humans tend to contain many different species.

There is a "disappointingly simple" reason why biodiversity is bad for health, Daszak says. "There is a huge diversity of viruses and microbes in the wild that we don't know about yet." Using human health as an argument for keeping developers and ecotourists out of pristine habitats, he argues, is an even better way to confine animal diseases to animals.

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