Best of our wild blogs: 23 May 12


There are still seagrasses at Labrador
from wild shores of singapore

Take part in the Biodiversity Challenge!
from Festival of Biodiversity 2012

A Sneak Peek: Caterpillars of Singapore's Butterflies
from Butterflies of Singapore

Seashore CSI at the Marine Exhibition, Festival of Biodiversity
from wild shores of singapore

Too much happening this week!
from Nature rambles

International Day of Biodiversity @ Katong Convent with Siva
from Peiyan.Photography

International Day of Biological Diversity – Marine biodiversity!
from Festival of Biodiversity 2012

Chek Jawa: Just One Day in May 2012
from Flying Fish Friends

The Threat of a Singapore Tarantula
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Asian Koel takes Murraya koenigii fruits
from Bird Ecology Study Group


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Maintenance challenge at Punggol waterway

Letter from Phang Long Yew Today Online 23 May 12;

PUNGGOL, as Singapore's newest township, has seen tremendous yet sustainable development over the last 15 years.

The new My Waterway @ Punggol recently won the American Academy of Environmental Engineers' Grand Prize for Excellence in Environmental Engineering in the environmental sustainability category.

With more housing and infrastructure such as roads, bridges and utilities being built, though, the path along the waterway could possibly be damaged by parties such as contractors, developers, site staff and workers as well as heavy equipment.

The construction site barricades are too close to the waterway's jogging and cycling track, posing a safety issue and affecting the plants. Another potential issue is site run-off towards the waterway during heavy rain.

Finally, I would ask the National Parks Board if it has a dedicated team or designated contractor for flora maintenance along the 4.2-km waterway. I have seen a few slanted trees, which might pose a hazard.

The frequency of visits by NParks contractors should be increased and adjusted depending on the condition of the trees, as well as the litterbug situation, for while it is heartening that the waterway is popular, with the crowds come litter and vandalism.

Public awareness of the importance of keeping the waterway clean, green and sustainable could be enhanced.

Graffiti near Punggol waterfront
Letter from Giridhari Ramamoorthy
Today Online 23 May 23;

The Government takes a strong stance against vandalism, which is why many walls in Singapore are graffiti-free. But on a recent evening stroll, I found three cases of graffiti along the bridge connecting Punggol town to Punggol Point.

The enforcement agencies cannot be everywhere all the time, so perhaps they should clean up the graffiti as soon as possible, so that we do not get more works of graffiti, and put up warning notices to stop these acts.

Graffiti painted over: HDB
by From Chua Kok Eng Director (Infrastructure & Reclamation), HDB
Today Online 29 May 12;

We thank Mr Giridhari Ramamoorthy for the letter "Graffiti near Punggol waterfront" (May 23). HDB came to know of the graffiti on May 14 and immediately carried out repainting work, which was completed on May 16.

We take this opportunity to seek the cooperation of residents and visitors in taking care of our common property, for the benefit of everyone.

Any act of vandalism should be reported to the police.

Measures in place at Punggol Waterway
From Gan Kim Hong Acting Director (Development & Construction Productivity), Housing & Development Board and Kartini Omar General Manager, Parks, National Parks Board
Today Online 6 Jun 12;

We refer to Mr Phang Long Yew's letter "Maintenance challenge at Punggol waterway" (May 23).

The Housing and Development Board has several building projects along Punggol Waterway. The safety of park users is a primary concern.

Our contractors have installed hoardings to barricade the construction sites, with warning lights and signs placed at critical locations.

The hoardings were designed and installed by professional engineers to ensure that they are stable and safe, and are maintained regularly by our contractors.

All HDB construction sites are required to have earth control measures, which prevent muddy water from flowing from the sites into the waterway. These measures are implemented prior to construction work.

Daily maintenance ensures that only clean, treated water is discharged from the sites.

The National Parks Board is working closely with the HDB to maintain the flora along Punggol Waterway. The "slanted trees" have been inspected and do not pose a danger to visitors.

We urge park users to dispose of litter properly so that our park connectors can be kept clean for all to enjoy.


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New cruise centre ready for ships

Marina Bay terminal off to a slow start because of lull season
Jessica Lim Straits Times 23 May 12;

SINGAPORE'S new cruise terminal has only eight visits by ships lined up between now and August, but the man at the helm remains unfazed.

'We are not worried at all, far from it,' said Mr Melvin Vu yesterday.

The 34-year-old - who is chief executive of the firm that operates the new development - pointed out that it is lull season for the industry. He added: 'We expect many more ships to dock at the terminal come October, when peak season starts.'

The $500 million Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore is designed to cater for bigger ships than the existing terminal at HarbourFront.

But although it is finished and raring to go, business has been slow so far. Only three ships have signed up to berth there between now and August, making eight calls between them.

By comparison, the International Passenger Terminal at HarbourFront, which is 21 years old and fully operational, had 394 visits by cruise vessels last year.

Yesterday, a preview of the new development was held by its operator Sats-Creuers Cruise Services, which was awarded the contract in December.

It is more than twice the size of the other terminal, and will double the number of berths in Singapore to four. The aim is to attract ships that are too large to dock at HarbourFront, which cannot take liners over 52m tall because of the cable cars running between Mount Faber and Sentosa. The new terminal will also ease overcrowding, which has meant passengers having to dock at Jurong Port and Pasir Panjang Container Terminal.

Second Minister for Home Affairs and for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran inspected the new 28,000 sq m facility yesterday, and called it 'a key infrastructure piece' in Singapore's tourism jigsaw. He said Asia currently accounts for less than 10 per cent of the global cruise market, which suggests significant scope for growth here. The new terminal will help Singapore to position itself as a gateway for cruise tourism in the region, he added.

Over the past decade, the number of cruise passengers visiting the Republic grew by 3.6 per cent annually - hitting close to one million last year.

Operators in Singapore have been clamouring for a new berth for years. 'With the new terminal, we can now heave a sigh of relief, that our guests will not be thrown to Jurong or Pasir Panjang,' said Mr Melvyn Yap, regional director of Silversea Cruises.

One concern has been the new terminal's location, in a remote area amid construction sites. To counter this, its operator has been working with taxi companies to send more cabs there and will have free shuttle buses on cruise ship days from now until August.

The new terminal is expected to create 3,000 jobs and provide a boost for local businesses.

Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore to create some 3,000 jobs
Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 22 May 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's second cruise terminal, the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore, is expected to generate some 3,000 jobs in the tourism sector when it's fully operational.

The terminal is operated by SATS-Creuers Cruise Services. This addition and the Singapore Cruise Centre at HarbourFront are expected to grow the leisure cruise sector in Singapore.

Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran said that cruise passenger numbers are expected to hit 1.5 million in three to five years.

Passenger numbers reached close to one million last year.

Costing about S$500 million, the 28,000 square metres Marina Bay Cruise Centre can handle about 6,800 passengers at any one time.

The arrival and departure halls will comprise 80 check-in counters and up to 40 immigration counters. Also about six shops are expected to be set up which include food and beverage and convenience stores.

Other facilities include 25 coach bays, 327 carpark lots and convenient road access with provisions made for future walkway linkages to MRT stations, the waterfront promenade and the park.

The cruise centre at Marina South will double Singapore's berthing capacity and will cater to the world's largest cruise ships.

Despite the drop in cruise passenger numbers in the last two years, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is confident of a more buoyant outlook.

Ms Aw Kah Peng, chief executive of the STB, said: "Our numbers in terms of throughput has fallen and it's partly because the industry here is restructuring. After the two IRs opened, many of the gaming ships didn't make sense anymore. So for them, it made sense for them not to continue.

"But I think the structural adjustment is almost at the tail end. Now we are seeing more interest from cruise ships that are not gaming ships."

She also added that more cruise liners are showing interest in Asia mainly because the market is doing well here. For example, Asia accounts for close to 20 per cent of the global outbound travel.

The terminal is also expected to have spillover benefits in the economy.

Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Home Affairs and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, S Iswaran, said: "All the supporting services for the cruise ships and also the onshore tourism services will be big factors. The hotels also stand to benefit to the extent that we become a turnaround cruise spot. People come to Singapore in order to board their cruise ship or to disembark in Singapore before going home which means the fly cruise component is quite important and for that we're also quite well positioned because of our air connectivity."

The cruise-fly packages is aimed at making it more seamless for passengers to connect to the airport and will be made available from May 26, facilitated by the terminal's access to the airport. Currently it will only service Silkair, Singapore Airlines and Qantas passengers.

The Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas will be the largest ship to make its way here on 26 May, paving the way for larger cruise liners to dock in Singapore and Asia.

The ship has a capacity of 3,840 passengers and 1,176 crew.

Currently, the terminal is only open to cruise liners, passengers and authorised personnel and will only open its doors to the public in the second half of this year.

SATS-Creuers Cruise Services which operates the terminal said that one of the challenges when constructing the facility was to tackle the low tides. As such, cages were built to aid the crew to load or unload baggage more effectively.

- CNA/ck


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On biodiversity day, UN chief calls for greater protection of world’s oceans

UN Press Release 22 May 12;

Marking the International Day for Biological Diversity, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted the fragile state of the world’s oceans, urging greater protection for marine biodiversity.

“Oceans cover almost three-quarters of the surface area of the globe. They are home to the largest animal known to have lived on the planet – the blue whale – as well as billions upon billions of the tiniest of microorganisms. From sandy shores to the darkest depths of the sea, oceans and coasts support a rich tapestry of life on which human communities rely,” Mr. Ban said in a message to mark the Day.

“Yet, despite its importance, marine biodiversity… has not fared well at human hands,” he added.

The General Assembly proclaimed 22 May as the International Day for Biological Diversity, to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The theme for this year’s observance is marine diversity.

In his message, Mr. Ban noted the impact of commercial over-exploitation of the world’s fish stocks, with more than half of global fisheries exhausted and a further third depleted, and between 30 and 35 per cent of critical marine environments – such as seagrasses, mangroves and coral reefs – estimated to have been destroyed. As well, plastic debris continues to kill marine life, and pollution from land is creating areas of coastal waters that are almost devoid of oxygen.

“Added to all of this, increased burning of fossil fuels is affecting the global climate, making the sea surface warmer, causing sea level to rise and increasing ocean acidity, with consequences we are only beginning to comprehend,” he noted.

According to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the survival of marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity is essential to the nutritional, spiritual, societal and religious well-being of many communities, and not just those in coastal areas. Amongst its findings, it notes that fisheries provide more than 15 per cent of the global dietary intake of animal protein; oceans and coastal areas provide invaluable ecosystem services, from tourism to protection from storms; and, minuscule photosynthesizing plants called phytoplankton provide 50 per cent of all the oxygen on Earth.

Amidst the concerns over the future of marine biodiversity, Mr. Ban said, “there is hope.” He pointed to a 2011 scientific review which showed that, despite all the damage inflicted on marine wildlife and habitats over the past centuries, between ten and 50 per cent of populations and ecosystems have shown some recovery when human threats were reduced or removed.

“However, compared to the land – where nearly 15 per cent of surface area is under some kind of protection – little more than one per cent of marine environments are protected,” the UN chief said. “Lately, some progress is being made, particularly with the establishment of large-scale marine reserves and documenting areas of ecological or biological significance in open-ocean and deep-sea habitats.”

Mr. Ban said the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, next month, will provide an opportunity to recommit to building on advances made so far.

“Rio+20 must galvanize action to improve the management and conservation of oceans through initiatives by the United Nations, governments and other partners to curb overfishing, expand marine protected areas and reduce ocean pollution and the impact of climate change,” Mr. Ban said. “By taking action at the national, regional and global levels, including enhancing international cooperation, we can achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Target of conserving 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas by 2020, a crucial step in protecting marine biodiversity for the future we want.”

The CBD entered into force in December 1993, with three main objectives: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.


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Malaysian expedition to discover medical uses of sea life

Elvina Fernandez New Straits Times 23 May 12;

CONSERVATION BID: Project will also study ecosystem and effects of climate change

KUALA LUMPUR: A SCIENTIFIC Expedition on marine bio-diversity has been launched by the the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to discover components in marine life that may lead to the development of pharmaceutical products.

Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah said the expedition was mainly aimed at collecting scientific data on marine resources, its chemical and physical environments.

"The information gathered would also provide us information on the changes in our marine ecosystem and effects of climate change."

Uggah said this in his speech, which was read by his deputy, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, at the opening of the International Bio-diversity Day at Aquaria KLCC yesterday.

The six-month expedition until October was divided into six zones which includes 21 marine parks.

Uggah said the expedition involved experts from seven universities -- Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

The expedition, he said, would be conducted in the islands off Malacca, Kedah, Pahang, Terengganu, Johor and Sabah.

"We hope to gain new findings, especially for medical or pharmaceutical purposes."

Uggah said the expedition was the ministry's effort through the Marine Parks Department in collaboration with the National Oceanography directorate of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.

The ministry also aimed to establish 50 marine parks in the country by 2020 in a bid to conserve marine life. There were currently 42 marine parks in the country.

"The Kedah state government has agreed in principle to gazette three islands -- Pulau Songsong, Pulau Bidan and Pulau Telur -- as marine parks," said Uggah.

He added that Sabah would gazette an island as a marine park while the Perak government agreed to gazette four islands in the Kepulauan Sembilan archipelago.

"Malaysian waters house 612 species of corals and is the home to more than 700 species of fish, besides being a migratory 'highway' for various marine life,"

Uggah said the ministry would continue to conserve the coastal and marine environments.

"We are also targeting to have at least 10 per cent of these marine areas protected by 2020."

He said it was a huge target to achieve since the country was surrounded by seas.

"The current global figure for protected marine areas are only slightly over one per cent which is similar to the figures here."


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Malaysia: Racing to save wild tigers

The Star 23 May 12;

A NEWLY released assessment of Malaysia’s efforts to save its wild tigers paints a picture of mounting pressure on the iconic animal and the need for drastic action now, to reverse its decline.

The analysis, published in MYCAT Tracks: Malaysia’s progress towards 1,000 wild tigers is part of a comprehensive look at efforts, progress and problems in the implementation of the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan (NTCAP) in 2010 and 2011.

The NTCAP is one of the most diligently monitored plans concerning wildlife in Malaysia involving close government-NGO collaboration.

Established in 2008, it is the national roadmap for the doubling of wild Malayan tigers by the year 2020 through better legal and on the ground protection for tigers and their prey, as well as reduction of human-tiger conflicts.

This report provides an honest and critical assessment of where conservation groups and government stand in the race to save the Malayan tiger, particularly on efforts and challenges faced in three priority areas identified in the NTCAP — the Belum-Temenggor Forest Complex in northern Perak; Taman Negara National Park and Sungai Yu Tiger Corridor in Pahang; and the Endau-Rompin Landscape in southern Pahang and Johor.

Despite the ban on deer hunting instituted by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) since 2009 and the state-wide hunting ban in Johor since 2010, indiscriminate use of snares in all three areas shows that tigers and prey are still under grave threat from poachers.

This is evidenced by the discovery of many poaching signs and close to 1,000 snares in these areas between 2010 and 2011 as well as the arrest of several poachers.

The assessment underlines the fact that four years into the NTCAP, illegal hunting and trade, driven by demand for wildlife from within and outside Malaysia remains the most devastating threat to the tiger and other endangered species. While highlighting the numerous shortcomings and problems, the assessment also lists a few gains.

The most significant of these is the passing of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 which closed loopholes created by the previous legislation, while substantially increasing penalties for wildlife offences and the protection for tigers, and tiger prey.

The assessment also discusses the Federal Cabinet’s adoption of the Central Forest Spine Master Plan that will help link fragmented forest complexes and secure tiger habitats, and the tremendous contributions of ordinary Malaysians who reported wildlife poaching and trafficking to MYCAT’s Wildlife Crime Hotline — 019-356 4194 / report@malayantiger.net


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Malaysia: Orang asli concerned over death of elephant

The Star 23 May 12;

KLUANG: The death of a female elephant in Labis has raised concerns among the orang asli villagers as to whether the animal was hunted down by poachers or killed for encroaching a plantation.

The villagers said the elephant was an endangered species and its capture should have been properly handled by the authorities.

The elephant was found dead with a stomach wound by a Kampung Punan resident on Monday.

Village committee member Rafie Yukin said a teenager was on his way to Kampung Peta when he stumbled upon the elephant which was still alive.

“He returned to inform us about the injured elephant. But when we got there, the elephant had already died,” he said yesterday, adding that there were bloodstains on the animal.

Rafie said the state Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) came to study the elephant before burying it.

“The villagers are saddened by the elephant’s death as they have a lot of reverence for it.

“It could have been shot or poisoned by poachers. It might have also been killed by workers from a plantation, which is very near the forest reserve,” he added.

Kluang OCPD Asst Comm Abdul Majid Ali said a police report was lodged on the matter.

He added that Perhilitan had also taken blood and hair samples from the elephant for investigation.

State Perhilitan director Siti Hawa Yatim refused to comment on the matter.

However, a department source said Perhili­tan was investigating the cause of the elephant’s death, adding that it had to be buried to prevent the spread of diseases.

State International Trade and Industry, Energy, Water, Communications and Environ­ment Committee chairman Tan Kok Hong said the authorities were concerned over the death of a protected species.


Charge those who killed elephant, Johor govt told
The Star 24 May 12;

JOHOR BARU: The state government wants the perpetrators who killed a wild elephant to be charged.

Johor International Trade and Industry, Energy, Water, Communi­cations and Environ­ment Committee chairman Tan Kok Hong said it was inhumane and illegal for anyone to kill elephants, which were protected under the law.

He said the authorities should prosecute those responsible for shooting dead the female elephant near a forest reserve in Labis.

“If anyone feels that the elephants are being a nuisance to their crops, they should alert the Wildlife Department to help relocate them. We have successfully relocated elephants from Bekok, Labis and Jemaluang to sanctuaries in other places,” said Tan.

“We have also erected electrical fencing in certain parts of Johor to prevent elephants from entering plantations and destroying crops.”

He said he was awaiting a full report from the state wildlife department on the incident, in which the elephant was found dead with a stomach wound by a Kampung Punan resident on Monday.

State Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Siti Hawa Yatim said the death was being investigated under the Wildlife Conservation Act. “A gunshot wound was found and samples have been taken for tests,” she said.


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Malaysia: Sungai Menyala park in Port Dickson to open to the public next month

Sarban Singh The Star 23 May 12;

TOURISTS will have another reason to visit Port Dickson when the 1,300ha Sungai Menyala lowland forest park opens its doors to the public next month.

The park, believed to be one-of-its-kind in this part of the country, is also an “eco-edutourism” centre — apart from promoting eco-tourism activities — it also doubles up as a research centre for those who wish to know more about tropical forests.

Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the new attraction would be promoted as a “forest in the city” product and would be a boon for tourism in the state.

“Since this is still a virgin forest and a repository for flora and fauna, we will also have a research centre for tropical forest within the area when it is fully functional,” he said.

Lowland tropical rainforest grows on flat lands at elevations generally less than 1,000m.

This forest is taller and more diverse than forest on higher ground and far more threatened because of its accessibility, more suitable soils for agriculture, and more hardwoods valuable as timber.

“We will also have a 500m-long Skyway built 30m from the ground. There will be an observation tower built 50m from the ground from where visitors can enjoy a view of flora and fauna in the park,” he said.

Mohamad said the park would have lodging facilities for visitors who wish to put up for the night.

“There will be meeting rooms, a hall and a library for forest researchers,” he said.

Mohamad said the opening of the park would complement efforts to turn Port Dickson into a more complete tourism destination.

“We have serene beaches and soon we will have a cable car project linking the resort town to Pulau Arang. We want tourists to experience the beaches as well as the tropical forests when in Port Dickson,” he said.

Mohamad said a section of the park would be turned into a centre to educate tourists on the orang asli community.

He said there were many orang asli tribes who lived in different parts of the country.

“Orang asli have their unique way of living, taboos as well as beliefs. We have set up a section to educate the people on their way of living, their culture and traditions,” he said.

Mohamad also urged hoteliers and those involved in the tourism sector to take advantage from the opening of the new park to attract tourists to Port Dickson.

State Forestry Department head Ahmad Fadzil Abdul Majid said to date, only personnel from government departments and agencies had used the facilities at the park for their course work.

“We will increase the number of employees when the place is open to the public,” he said, adding that the department would also provide guides to assist those who wish to know more about the interesting characteristics in the forest.

Ahmad Fadzil said the department had spent some RM5mil to build the facilities in the park which were largely built out of timber.

“We will need more funds to complete the works planned for the park including the construction of the Skyway project,” he said.

He said some 15% of the forest was made up of a mangrove swamp and this further enriched its biodiversity.

“In fact, we have a 50m tall Jelutong tree which is more than 100 years old which will definitely be an attraction to visitors. The diameter of the tree has increased to 190cm from 188cm a year ago,” he said.

The park is located some 30km from Seremban and visitors can get there via the Seremban-Port Dickson highway.

To get there, turn left at the Port Dickson/Linggi/Siliau junction along the highway and drive less than 2km towards Sua Betong.


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Malaysia: Mt Singai's Valuable Ecological And Social Attributes

Bernama 22 May 12;

KUCHING, May 22 (Bernama) -- Mount Singai is visible from Kuching and the hill was once the home to seven Bidayuh villages whose inhabitants were known as "Bisingai" or literally the people of Singai.

Located about 30 kilometres south of Kuching, the base of the 333.3 metre (1,000-ft) high hill can be reached by tarred road through Batu Kawa here while its flat top can be accessed via the jungle trail once used by the villagers.

One of the former Bisingai community leaders, Orang Kaya Pemanca Durin was even part of the Sarawak team that went to London in 1963 to negotiate the formation of Malaysia together with Malaya, North Borneo and Singapore. However, in the 1970s the community moved to the foothill where their farms were located and established 12 new villages.

The only reminder of the early settlements on the hill are broken bottles, jars, kitchen utensils and some belian stumps and pillars, and where the houses once stood are now overgrown with secondary vegetation.

Today, the hill is occupied by Catholic Memorial Pilgrimage Centre (CMPC) and the Association of Research and Development of Singai Sarawak (Redeems) Centre at Kampung Apar. CMPC over the last 20 years have been drawing pilgrims and visitors to the hill while Redeems is a popular venue for the Gawai Dayak carnival.

According to Universiti Malaysia Sarawak's (Unimas) Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation Director Professor Andrew Alek Tuen, the Binsingai people there probably originated from Central Kalimantan several hundred years ago.

Nevertheless Andrew, a local boy from Kampung Tanjong Bowang near here, said the hill remained close to the hearts of the locals who continue with planting, harvesting, collecting and hunting activities till today.

HIGH ECOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE

Ever since the first mini expedition to Mount Singai in 2010 to study the natural resources, the academician from Unimas' Resource Science and Technology Faculty has been returning to the hill most weekends for research, recreational, social and personal reasons.

He truly believes that the community forest of Singai is worth conserving due to its valuable social and ecological attributes.

At a recent talk entitled "Conservation Value of Mount Singai - People, Culture and Natural Resources," he suggested that in preserving the social attributes Redeems and Unimas could potentially play a significant role in educating and raising awareness on the waning traditional way of life of the people, their customs, language and stories, arts and crafts.

The traditional way of life is increasingly threatened and eroded by Western influence brought especially by the television and Internet.

And from the ecological perspective, efforts must be taken to document and preserve the hill's flora and fauna.

THE RICH FAUNA

In terms of flora and fauna, Andrew said studies conducted by Unimas in 2010 recorded at least 30 species of amphibians and 19 species of reptiles. Walking up the trail to CMPC at night one might encounter the Borneo Leafnose Pit Viper and several frog species.

Mount Singai is also the home of more than 100 bird species.

"Some of the interesting birds include the Rufous-backed Kingfisher, whose shrill cry feared by the locals as it is an indication of something bad is to happen in the village, and they also believe the call of Gold-whiskered barbet ("sogu") a sign of a death," he said.

"The Rufous-tailed tailorbird is perhaps the most famous of the augury bird - its call literally dictates whether the villager will go to his farm, go hunting or not," he said.

The emerald dove and its pigeon cousins were not only tasty to eat but were also good pets. Thus, the Bisingai children learned how to set up snares and construct cages to keep these birds that in turn developed a healthy respect for the forest and its wildlife.

Twenty-two species of mammals were also recorded at Mount Singai, including 10 species of bats, seven rodents, four tree shrews and a tarsier.

Up to early 1980s, especially during the durian flowering season large numbers of flying foxes could be seen during dusk coming from the coastal areas to feed on the nectar of durian flowers unlike nowadays where just a handful could be seen as the durian trees had dwindled in numbers.

According to the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 the tarsier, bats, kingfishers, woodpeckers, owls and hill myna are categorised as protected animals.

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

At least about 200 species of plants were recorded along the trail to the top of Mount Singai with 83 plants being identified having medicinal properties based on its use by the Bisingai and other communities in Borneo.

Nineteen types of fruit trees were also recorded along the CMPC trail, the most common was the langsat, followed by durian, tampoi and engkabang, which were planted by the people as they traveled up and down the trail from their longhouse to their farm below.

"Based on their size and from anecdotal information from the elders, some of these trees are probably more than 100 years old," he said, noting that the tapang trees or "do-oh" in Bisingai language are the giants of the forest of Mount Singai, towering about 50 meters above ground.

Easily recognized from a distance due to its light coloured small leaves and a rounded canopy, the tapang was once favoured by honey bees for nesting. However, sadly, the trees have been "barren" for the last 20 years and even if there were plenty of bees the skill to construct the bamboo ladder or "tatok" to reach the hives has now been lost among the younger generation, he said.

Other useful plants include the rattan which the people used to weave baskets and mats, and bamboo that is used for constructing bridges, platforms, and making 'tatok', water containers, water channels, bird cages, and spine for atap roof. The young bamboo shoots are also eaten.

The sap palm is a source of toddy while its fibre is weaved into twine, which can last longer than rattan.

Studies by Unimas conducted in 2010 also showed the water quality of several streams in Singai to be good, conforming to Class IIA of the National Water Quality Standards for Malaysia and regarded suitable for potable use upon conventional treatment.

"I can remember collecting water from three of these water channels or "oyak" connected to the streams, using bamboo containers when I was small and the "oyak" never seem to dry up during those times," he recalled.

The many streams that originated half-way up Mount Singai, slightly above the old villages have become the source of water that sustained the people before piped water was available.

The right attitude, good behavior and respect for elders and environment, however, need to be inculcated from a tender age and the primary schools in the villages, teachers, parents and community leaders all play an important role in conserving the ecological and social attributes of Mount Singai.

-- BERNAMA


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Environmental Portal Launches in Indonesia

Dessy Sagita Jakarta Globe 22 May 12;

The Indonesian version of the prominent environmental news portal Mongabay.com made its domestic debut during the weekend in Jakarta.

Rhett Butler, the founder of Mongabay, said on Saturday that the decision to launch an Indonesian site, Mongabay.co.id, was because the country was experiencing a critical period of rapid deforestation that was among the highest rates in the world.

“I believe that people wouldn’t destroy their environment if they only knew how much they were losing,” he said at the launch event at @america, the US cultural center.

Butler said that although Indonesia was losing its forests at a high rate, it still had a chance to turn things around by adopting a greener economy.

Ridzki R. Sigit, the coordinator of Mongabay Indonesia, said the portal would post daily environmental stories focusing on issues such as deforestation and logging.

“We’re choosing to do this online because 33 percent of city-dwellers [in Indonesia] get their news from the Internet,” he said.

He added that the Indonesian site had only four staff but would build up a system of contributors across the country.

Butler said he set up the original Mongabay after his own experience with forest degradation in Malaysia.

“In the 1990s, I was visiting a forest in Malaysian Borneo and I saw many kinds of wild animals and natural beauty,” he said. “When I got home to the States, I heard that the forest had been destroyed.”

He added that because his parents were travel agents, he was able to travel widely throughout his youth but had found that on his return to many of those places that the former nature spots he once knew had disappeared.

Butler said that he had taken about 20,000 photographs of forest ecosystems and wildlife.

Mongabay.com, which was set up 12 years ago, shows the rate of global deforestation during the past three months, including in Indonesia, thanks to satellite imaging from NASA.

“Our plan is to update this map every month so that we can see which areas are experiencing deforestation,” Butler said.

He added that the cost of deforestation in Indonesia would be much greater because of the sheer value of biodiversity that the country’s forests hold.


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Indonesia forest moratorium won't meet climate pledge - Norway

Reuters AlertNet 22 May 12;

JAKARTA, May 22 (Reuters) - Indonesia's progress in reforming its forestry sector will not be sufficient to meet its pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020, Norway's environment minister said on Tuesday.

Indonesia imposed a two-year moratorium on clearing forest last May under a $1 billion climate deal with Norway aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation, despite resistance from some government departments and from resource firms looking to expand in the archipelago.

Norway has been impressed by what Indonesia has achieved in terms of transparency in the forest sector and by a change towards being more pro-environment in policy debates around land use, said its environment minister, B?rd Vegar Solhjell.

However, deforestation continues in areas not covered by the moratorium as well as illegally in the country's carbon-rich tropical forests and peatlands. Permits to clear land are often given out by local governors and there is a lack of central government enforcement.

"We know that the moratorium itself is not sufficient to reach the climate mitigation pledged, or to stop deforestation in the speed that is necessary," Solhjell told Reuters in an interview.

It was the first time Norway indicated the moratorium may not be working.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed up to the Norway deal and moratorium as part of his pledge to slash emissions this decade, but there have been few other policy steps to curb emissions in the fast-growing G20 economy.

"It's a very progressive pledge but it's also very challenging to actually put it into place," said Solhjell.

The country is attracting increasing foreign investment in manufacturing industries such as steel, cement and power that are all heavy emitters of greenhouse gases, while sales of energy-guzzling SUV cars, mobile phones and flights are surging.

Higher energy demand from power use, mainly produced from coal, will boost carbon emissions. Indonesia does not provide annual emissions data, though the World Bank rated it as the world's third largest emitter in 2005 because of deforestation.

SELLING PERMITS

The $1 billion Norway has promised under the deal is contingent on policy change and proven emissions reductions from the forestry sector. The forestry ministry makes billions of dollars from selling permits to use forests each year.

Only months after Yudhoyono signed the forest moratorium, the former governor of the country's westernmost Aceh province breached the ban by issuing a permit to a palm oil firm to develop carbon-rich peatland.

The permit prompted legal action from environmental groups and investigations by the police and several government bodies, making the case a test of the country's commitment to halt deforestation in the world's largest exporter of palm oil.

After the investigation, the government said on Monday that the permit was issued to palm oil firm Kallista Alam without following proper procedures, and that it would protect the strip of peatland in Aceh.

The forest, home to endangered orangutans, was partly cleared by burning even before the permit was issued, said Mas Achmad Santosa, a government official.

"The case of Kallista Alam in Aceh is the typical problem we are facing ... some parts have been turned to palm oil plantations, some have been burned, and it turned out the permit does not exist," said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who is in charge of overseeing forestry sector reform. (Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Robert Birsel)


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Indonesia: Latest Asia Pulp and Paper promise more greenwash than protection

WWF 22 May 12;

An Asia Pulp and Paper promise for a moratorium on natural forest logging in directly owned concessions needs to cover what goes into its mills rather than what comes off already mostly cleared areas, according to WWF.

“APP once again has chosen to invest in greenwashing instead of meaningful change in the face of increasing and widespread condemnation of its forestry practices,” said Nazir Foead of WWF-Indonesia. “Our analysis suggests that this limited moratorium will have little impact, since APP has already cleared 713,383 hectares or almost all of the natural forest in its own and affiliated concessions in Riau.”

In a statement released last Tuesday APP announced that from June 1st it would suspend the clearance of natural forest on APP owned concessions in Indonesia to allow High Conservation Value Forest HCVF assessments to be conducted.

The latest promise doesn't even come close to the levels APP committed to in 2004, 2007 and 2009; all three times APP missed self-imposed deadlines of supplying its pulp mills exclusively from renewable plantation wood.

WWF has calculated that if APP abides by the promises made in its recent announcement it may save 22,000 ha compared to the more than two million hectares of natural forest and endangered tiger habitat pulped since 1984.

Just over 103,000 hectares of the remaining natural forests are forests that are already designated or by regulation must be protected.

“To be a meaningful commitment APP must immediately commit to stop clearing natural forests and accepting all natural forest fibre into its mills until areas of high conservation value have been independently and transparently identified and protected. We are conducting further analysis into this statement and its implications, in the meantime,” WWF said in a statement.

WWF ceased engagement with APP in 2004 after the company failed to honour commitments to improve sustainability.

In March of this year it was discovered that APP had decimated tropical forests it promised to conserve under “legally binding” debt restructuring in 2004.

Using satellite imagery the report by Sumatra based NGO coalition; Eyes on the Forest found that within three years of making the agreement, APP’s wood suppliers began clearing areas of high conservation value forest in central Sumatra’s Pulau Muda, a rain forest in the Kerumutan tiger landscape.

A footprint of a Sumatra tiger was found in one of the cleared areas.

APP is one of the world’s largest pulp & paper companies and markets products in more than 65 countries.

APP's pulp production in Indonesia is based in the Riau and Jamb provinces in central Sumatra, one of the most biologically diverse landscapes on Earth and one of the last refuges for the critically endangered Sumatran elephant, tiger and orang-utan. All face local extinction in the area because of massive habitat loss.


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Indonesian forestry ministry denies Asia Pulp & Paper cut ramin trees

Antara 22 May 12;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The director general of forest and nature conservation, Darori, denied there had been ramin tree felling by Asia Pulp & Paper in Riau and Kalimantan as Greenpeace has accused of.

"Indeed ramin tree fellings have happened but they are not done by APP. It was the mistake of suppliers who sold the wood to APP," he said to newsmen here on Monday.

He said based on initial evaluation by a team from the ministry of forestry it was found that APP pulp wood suppliers had cut ramin trees in Riau and Kalimantan but he affirmed that APP did not process ramin wood as paper materials but had put it aside as it has no economical values.

"Ramin wood is good for furnture because of its quality and strength. It does not mean that the paper would smell good when it is made of ramin wood. Meanwhile cutting ramin trees is not a criminal act," he said.

Darori said after reports about ramin tree felling by APP were publicized widely and sent to the police and the forestry ministry Greenpeace then seemed to be hands-off.

The foreign non-governmental organization headquartered in the Netherlands refused to participate in the team of investigation and become a witness, he said.

"I regret Greenpeace would not sit as a member of the team and become a witness in the case while it was them that had reported it. As the one that has reported the case Greenpeace should be ready to also become a witness. A witness could become a suspect if he gives a wrong testimony," he said.

In view of that Darori suspected that all the accusations made without strong evidence so far were about competition and APP has ever had an experience like that namely when its products were embargoed by Australia.

"APP tissue paper was once embargoed by Australia following the assucation that APP has cut trees in the natural forests. AfterI checked no trees had been cut in Jambi but the campaign had reached Australia that trees had been cut," he said.

To settle the ramin case he said the forestry ministry is still conducting a laboratory test to see if APP paper products really contain ramin wood.

"The Greenpeace had ordered someone to take a sample but it was no sure whether it came from APP concessionaires or other sources," he said.

A laboratory test has also been done by the Gajahmada University one or two years ago and the results showed that no ramin wood was found in the products.

He said the forestry ministry had also asked APP to apply for a permit when it wants to cut ramin trees. He said ramin is categorized as trees that could be cut with permit from the ministry of forestry.

"The permit policy is made to prevent ramin from being mixed. APP will also be required to develop ramin plantations," he said.(*)

Editor: Aditia Maruli


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Vietnam wetland gets international status

Thanhnien News 22 May 12;

The endangered sarus crane at the Tram Chim National Park in southern Vietnam, which was just become a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.

A southern Vietnamese national park, which is home to the endangered Sarus crane, has entered the Ramsar list as a wetland of international importance.

The official recognition for the Tram Chim National Park in Dong Thap Province will be conferred May 22 at a ceremony held there, Saigon Tiep Thi reported Monday.

It will become the country's fourth Ramsar site, a status bestowed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The 7,300-hectare park is one of the country's major bird reserves. It comprises nearly 3,000 hectares of melaleuca and is home to 231 bird species. “TrĂ m” is Vietnamese for melaleuca and “chim” means bird.

Experts from the Mekong Wetlands Biodiversity Program said 32 of the bird species need protecting, with 12 of them already finding a place in Vietnam's Red Book of threatened species.

The park also has more than 190 plant species, some of which provide a habitat for the food sources of the beautiful sarus crane (Grus antigone), which is facing global extinction.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971) is an intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to the sustainable use of wetlands in their territories. It was named after Ramsar, a city in Iran where the convention was established.

Vietnam signed up to it in 1989 as the 50th member and the first in Southeast Asia.

Its other Ramsar sites are the alluvial estuary at the Xuan Thuy National Park in the northern province of Nam Dinh, Ba Be Lake in Bac Kan Province also in the north, and the flooded Bau Sau area at the Cat Tien National Park in Dong Nai Province near Ho Chi Minh City.


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Malaysia: Dry season till September brings fear of forest fires

The Star 22 May 12;

KUCHING: Drought is expected to hit Sarawak from this month until September with an average of 20% to 40% rainfall expected.

Second Minister Resource Management and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the average monthly rainfall deemed normal for the state was between 200mm to 300mm.

“For Bintulu and Mukah, the hot and dry weather is forecast to be even more severe with average rainfall expected to be 40% to 60% below the normal amount.

“This kind of weather could cause more forest fires especially in peat areas,” he told the State Legislative Assembly yesterday.

To control smoke haze, he said the Government through the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB), the Department of Environment (DOE), and Meteorological Department would monitor the weather and the air quality.

Furthermore, he said, enforcement would be tightened to catch people who carried out open burning.

Tengah said NREB had taken the initiative to review its envi-ronmental regulations and had introduced the Natural Resources and Environment (Audit) Rules, 2008.

He said the audit was to check compliance with the rules and laws set by the board.

“Soon, NREB would be enforcing the law given that it had already prepared the guidelines for the Environment Audit.

“It would also carry out a roadshow to make stakeholders aware of the new rules.

Earlier, he said one of the main causes of haze was open burning which normally occurred during the dry season when paddy farms are being prepared.

Since last January till this month, there were 352 hotspots in the state compared to 2,504 in Sumatra and 934 in Kalimantan.


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Climate Models Indicate Likely El Nino Return: Australia

Colin Packham and Ratnajyoti Dutta PlanetArk 23 May 12;

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said the climate models it monitors indicate a possible return of the El Nino weather pattern, often linked to heavy rainfall and droughts, in the second half of 2012.

The last severe El Nino in 1998 killed more than 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and other parts of Asia.

The bureau tracks seven climate models from compatriot meteorology centers around the world, of which five indicate above El Nino conditions, while the remaining two sit on the neutral - neither El Nino or La Nina - and warm border.

"Nobody is going to say that the models are 100 percent accurate, but if you look at the climate models, the risk of El Nino has gone up in recent weeks," said Andrew Watkins, manager of climate prediction at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

While the seven models hint at a return to El Nino, the World Meteorological Organization said last week it still maintains its neutral outlook for the second half of the year.

Echoing the views of Australia's weather bureau, the chief of India's state-run weather office said El Nino conditions were likely to emerge over the Pacific Ocean by mid-August.

"This (El Nino) may have some bearing on monsoon rains in some pockets of the country in the latter half of the season," L.S. Rathore, director general of the India Meteorological Department, told reporters in New Delhi.

Despite the possibility of El Nino conditions, India's weather office is sticking to its forecast of average monsoon rains this year, Rathore said.

The weather office last month forecast average rains in 2012, the third consecutive year. Rains are likely to hit India's southern coast on time.

India's monsoon rains are crucial for farm output and economic growth as about 55 percent of the south Asian nation's arable land is rain-fed, and agriculture accounts for about 15 percent of a nearly $2-trillion economy, Asia's third-biggest.

The last El Nino was recorded in 2009/10, though it was classified as weak to moderate.

El Nino is linked to extreme weather that can curtail production of crops and other commodities on a global scale.

Analysts have highlighted soybeans, palm oil and sugar as crops that could be drastically hit by a return of El Nino, affecting many Asian-Pacific economies.

Malaysia, the world's second-largest palm oil producer, could see lower output in 2013 if the El Nino results in poor rainfall. China, a key buyer of overseas corn in recent years, could be forced to step up imports.

Australian wheat production could also be hit if the country experiences lower-than-average rainfall.

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


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