Best of our wild blogs: 19 Apr 12

RMBR Children’s Season Open House 2012 (19th May, Saturday, 9am-5pm)
from Raffles Museum News

Mangroves next to the AYE!
from wild shores of singapore

Getting muddy at Changi Creek!
from Nature rambles

Random Gallery - The Pale Mottle
from Butterflies of Singapore

Chinese Pond-heron In Bishan Park
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Grass cutters instructed not to trim grass too aggressively

Letter from Tan Nguan Sen Director, Catchment & Waterways, PUB
Today Online 19 Apr 12;

PUB, the national water agency, thanks Mr Tang Hung Kei for his letter "Tall grass, ferns cut all the way to stream" (April 11).

The stream at Venus Drive channels water from the upstream forested area towards Kallang River and eventually to Marina Reservoir.

As part of our maintenance regime, PUB contractors regularly clear litter or debris from the stream to prevent them from flowing further down the waterways.

The contractors also trim the overgrown grass and ferns along the sides of the stream to help keep the water free flowing.

We agree with Mr Tang on the need to maintain the natural habitat for damselflies and dragonflies. We have instructed our contractors not to trim the grass too aggressively.

As he pointed out, littering is detrimental to the environment. Hence, we urge the community to keep our environment and waterways clean, so we can continue to enjoy beautiful waterways and reservoirs.

The public can contact PUB's 24-hour call centre, PUB-One, at 1800-284 6600 to provide further feedback.

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Malaysia: Bid to prevent bombed fish from being sold

The Star 18 Apr 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Fisheries and marine police officers have stepped up checks to ensure the catch collected through fish bombing does not end up in Sabah’s northern Kudat district’s markets.

This follows complaints of marine life being caught by such a method and sold to the public, Kudat Marine Operations Force commanding officer Asst Supt Mohammad Aris Jambul said.

He said enforcement officers inspected wet markets and fish landing sites in the district, known for its abundant and cheap seafood, but did not find such fish.

“But this does not mean we will be lax in our enforcement. Such checks will be done from time to time,” he said.

Fish bombing, also known as blast or dynamite fishing, is an outlawed practice of using explosives to stun or kill schools of fish for easy collection.

This method endangers the surrounding ecosystem, as the explosion also destroys the underlying habitat such as coral reefs. The explosives also pose a danger to the fishermen, who risk accidents or injuries.

ASP Mohammad Aris said three men were detained in Kudat last year for fish bombing.

“We seized about 60kg of bombed fish from them,” he said.

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Kalimantan Palm Plantations Threaten Last Pygmy Elephants

Jakarta Globe 18 Apr 12;

With no more than 80 Borneo pygmy elephants left in Indonesia, the massive clearing of forests to make way for palm oil plantations poses a major threat to the survival of the species, environmentalists warn.

In a statement released on Wednesday, WWF Indonesia said a four-year- survey that concluded last year showed there were only 20 to 80 of the elephants left, all in northern East Kalimantan on the border with Malaysia’s Sabah state.

The group warned that the expanding plantations were driving the elephants out of their natural habitat and forcing them into more frequent conflict with villagers in Nunukan district.

Agus Suyitno, WWF’s human-elephant conflict mitigation official in Nunukan, said the group was addressing the problem by setting up a task force involving local residents and wildlife officials.

“WWF Indonesia calls on the government and the private sector to provide operational support for these task force members so that the conflicts won’t escalate,” he said.

Anwar Purwoto, WWF’s forestry, species and freshwater program director, said forestry and conservation did not have to be mutually exclusive. He cited the case of logger Adimitra Lestari, whose concession covers the pygmy elephant’s last major stronghold.

He said WWF had worked with the company over the past two years to practice sound forestry management by only logging in areas the elephants did not visit and leaving the trees that they fed on untouched.

“This,” he said, “showcases the real implementation of the green economy, in which business operates without harming endangered species populations.” 

Investor Daily

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REDD Alert in Kalimantan As AusAid Initiative Stumbles

Andrew D. Kaspar Jakarta Globe 18 Apr 12;

The Australian government is learning firsthand just how fraught environmental conservation in Indonesia can be.

Introduced as an effort that would provide “immediate and tangible results” in Indonesia’s ongoing struggle to protect its forests, a leading initiative by Australia’s Agency for International Development (AusAID) has been “quietly but drastically scaled back” and is well behind schedule, according to recent research.

The project in Central Kalimantan’s Kapuas district was announced jointly in 2007 by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australia’s then-foreign minister, Alexander Downer, with the aim of reflooding drained peatland, replanting deforested areas and protecting 70,000 hectares of peatland from further deforestation.

The effort, known as the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership, would ultimately reduce climate change-inducing carbon dioxide emissions by 700 million tons over 30 years.

More than four years after the project’s unveiling, the reflooding target has shrunk from 200,000 hectares to 25,000 hectares, just 50,000 of an originally announced 100 million trees have been planted, and the entire undertaking is “moving forward too slowly when considered against the rapid rate of deforestation,” researchers from the Australian National University have found.

‘Still valid’

“We really feel that the work we are doing on the ground, forging a path to show how REDD might work in Indonesia, is still a very valid approach and it is one of the most advanced,” Sara Moriarty, a counselor for climate change at AusAID, said last week in response to the report.

The KFCP is a “demonstration project” for REDD — reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation — with an emphasis on carbon-rich peat forests.

A scheme that envisions one day paying nations to conserve their forests, REDD is seen by some as an effective way for Indonesia to cut its carbon emissions, the vast majority of which come from deforestation or land use changes.

But the paper highlights serious concerns about the 47 million Australian dollar ($49 million) project’s feasibility and transparency, with a particular focus on the under-the-radar nature of the scaling back of the KFCP objectives.

“[We] could have and should have been more open and transparent with the release of information when we were revising what we were actually going to achieve through the program,” Moriarty said.

The report cites multiple factors, including insufficient funding, questions of land tenure rights and administrative hurdles, in assessing reasons for KFCP’s delays and lesser ambitions.

Having already extended the project’s implementation phase by a year to run through June 2013, Moriarty conceded that “it’s unlikely that we would meet all of the objectives in the time frame that was initially outlined,” although no official decision has yet been made.


Tim Jessup, a forests and climate specialist with AusAID, said another factor slowing progress was the emphasis placed on gaining support from local governments and indigenous Dayak populations in the project area.

“An important part of REDD is delivering and sharing benefits with local communities … but that’s not something you can do quickly,” Jessup said.

“We would be criticized much more strongly than they’ve criticized us if we’d rushed in there.”

The ANU report is not the first one critical of the KFCP. Journalists, environmentalists and indigenous rights groups have all voiced concerns in the years since the project’s inception.

Stibniati Atmadja, a researcher with the Center for International Forestry Research (Cifor) in Bogor, has conducted research at the site intermittently since 2009 as part of a global comparative study on REDD. Describing the dilemma between following REDD permitting procedures and consulting local communities as a “catch-22,” Stibniati said the project had to get the necessary permits prior to consultation.

“[In 2010] REDD was a new concept; it’s hard to explain it to the people, and I had the same problem when I was there,” she said. Conveying the meaning of REDD and KFCP is an ongoing activity, and some progress is now being seen, she added.

Jessup said KFCP finally inked cooperative agreements with all seven villages located within the site in February. The blocking of major canals, a critical component of the peatland rehydration, is expected to begin this year.

Lessons for Jambi

But against a backdrop of continued deforestation, palm oil plantations’ expansion and Indonesia’s penchant for lax law enforcement and corruption, the report asks whether it’s all too little, too late.

The ANU researchers advise AusAID to reconsider plans for a similar project in Sumatra’s Jambi province, saying it “already has its hands full with KFCP,” and should “not disperse its efforts through a second demonstration project.”

That input, along with Aus- AID’s own review of KFCP, will be considered as it weighs its ambitions in Sumatra, where the proposal is still in its infancy.

“So much has happened internationally in terms of REDD that we do feel it’s important with the second demonstration activity to be mindful of those changes,” Moriarty said. “We’re currently discussing with the government of Indonesia what that means for the Jambi project.”

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BP Oil Spill, Two Years Later: Natural Recovery Far Greater Than Expected

ScienceDaily 17 Apr 12;

This Friday, April 20, will mark two years since the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused vast quantities of crude oil to flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

But despite the size of the spill, "the natural recovery is far greater than what anybody hoped when it happened," said James Morris, a professor of biology at the University of South Carolina. "The fears of most people -- that there would be a catastrophic collapse of the ecosystem in the Gulf -- never materialized."

Morris is the director of USC's Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences, which has a field laboratory on the South Carolina coast in what is widely recognized as the most pristine estuary in the United States -- North Inlet. A wetland essentially untouched by development, it serves as an invaluable resource for understanding the effects of climate change. More than 40 years of daily data -- temperature, sea level, salinity changes, and the like -- augment the hundreds of research papers based on studies in the area that have been published since the institute was created in 1969.

For the past year and a half, Morris has served on a National Research Council committee tasked by Congress to assess the effects of the spill on the Gulf's ecosystem. He's been impressed with the recovery of the area's ecology.

"The fisheries have come back like gangbusters," he said. "One of the interesting findings was that after the oil spill, bait fish populations collapsed, and predator populations boomed. The reason was that there was no fishing pressure on the top predators because people stopped fishing after the spill. So the predator fish populations rebounded, and they grazed down their prey."

"The marshes that I saw actually looked very good," he added. "And I was taken to the worst by officials who wanted to impress us that the damage was really significant, and that you could still find oil in the marshes. And you can still find oil in the marshes, but the greatest damage to the place where they took us was from the trampling by the reporters, scientists, and agency people tromping around out there looking for damage."

"There's some evidence that perhaps there are some lingering problems, but it's not entirely clear," Morris said. "For example, there's ambiguity about whether there's been an effect on species like dolphins. Some people will remain forever convinced that dolphins are washing up because of this spill, but in a recent report that NOAA just released, the dolphin mortality was unexplainably high leading up to the spill. So before the spill, the dolphin mortality was higher than normal, and it's been higher than normal since the spill."

In the face of dire predictions since the early days after the oil spill, Morris has been measured in his response. "There was a time when a simulation model of the currents was released, showing how a loop current in the Gulf got caught up in the Gulfstream, and how the Gulfstream carried whatever was in the loop current all the way up the East Coast," Morris said. "And people here just started to panic. It was crazy."

Interviewed by TV reporters at the time, Morris said "they showed me this model, and asked me why I wasn't concerned about it. And I told them that the stuff was going to degrade long before it got here."

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