Best of our wild blogs: 12 Jun 12

Two young civets’ little adventure down the roof pillar!
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

16 Jun (Sat): "The Secret Life of Chek Jawa" by Joseph Lai
from wild shores of singapore

Desires of the flesh
from The annotated budak

Pasir Ris mangrove guided walk @9th June 2012
from Mangrove Action Squad

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Shark Savers rope in two NMPs

NMPs say they have no intention of using Parliament as a platform to push for ban
Amir Hussain Today Online 12 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE - About two weeks ago, a non-profit marine conservation group presented an open letter - signed by 41 leading scientists around the world, declaring the shark's fin trade to be unsustainable - to Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Nicholas Fang.

Apart from Mr Fang, his fellow NMP Eugene Tan has also publicly endorsed Shark Savers Singapore's anti-shark's fin "I'm FINished" campaign - along with several celebrities. Companies, including supermarket chains, have also pledged their support.

But for a country where lobbying is seen as a dirty word in politics, the public involvement of the two NMPs has raised some eyebrows - even as they told TODAY that they have no intention of using Parliament as a platform to push for a trade ban on shark's fin.

Mr Fang stressed: "It is still too early to say for sure what the right course of action necessarily is."

Assistant Professor Tan said a ban will create a black market demand for shark's fin. Instead, an educational approach would be far more effective, he said.

"So long as there's reduced demand, then we're likely to see reduced supply," said Asst Prof Tan, adding that he does not consider his appearance on Shark Savers' posters as lobbying.

Asst Prof Tan noted that not advocating a legislative approach, however, does not preclude MPs from raising relevant questions on the issue in Parliament, such as whether shark's fins are served at state banquets, and how much is being consumed here.

Yesterday, Shark Savers announced that it had passed the letter to Mr Fang.

While its director John Lu said he believes "legislation is the way" ahead, he stressed that he had presented the letter to Mr Fang, a former journalist, to raise awareness, in response to "misinformation" perpetuated in some sections of the media that the shark's fin trade is sustainable.

The anti-shark's fin campaign has gained traction here in recent years, albeit with its fair share of controversy.

Most recently in March, Marine conservation group Sea Shepherd called for the removal of Singaporean wildlife consultant Dr Giam Choo-Hoo from a United Nations (UN) convention that regulates endangered-species trade.

The group accused Dr Giam of being a representative of the shark's fin industry.

Mr Lu told TODAY that so far he has not approached any elected MPs to be part of Shark Savers' campaign. He explained that it was simply a matter of opportunity and through personal connections that he had managed to get the two NMPs on board.

Experienced elected Members of Parliament (MPs) TODAY spoke to noted that lobbying by politicians - elected or otherwise - has not been a common feature of the political landscape here, for various reasons.

Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency MP Inderjit Singh noted that people are free to give their feedback and "it's up to the MP whether the issue should be raised, and which channel it should be raised through".

Joo Chiat MP Charles Chong concurred, noting that "part of a politician's job is to lobby for worthy causes".

However, from his experience, "the more public lobbying you do, the less likely it is to succeed" compared to behind-the-scenes lobbying, he said.

The sixth term MP said: "All MPs should look at issues that affect the people ... for the better good of society and the better good of the country."

He added: "How they push for it I suppose depends on each individual."

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Scientists protest against trade in shark fin

Siau Ming En Straits Times 12 Jun 12;

THE shark's fin trade is unsustainable, say 41 leading international marine scientists.

They argue that only three threatened species are covered by regulation, leaving inadequate protection for the rest.

And they point out that there is no accurate estimate of the number of sharks killed for their fins. This means it is 'impossible for the industry to state that the trade is sustainable'.

The scientists, who included academics and researchers from the United States, Canada, France and Australia, expressed their views in an open letter presented to Nominated MP Nicholas Fang.

It was a response to arguments made by Singaporean Dr Giam Choo Hoo, who represents Asia on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Animal Committee, a United Nations group that regulates endangered-species trade.

In February, he told a forum that banning the trade in sharks' fins would not dramatically reduce the number of the creatures killed worldwide.

This is because fishermen in Europe have long killed sharks for their meat, not just their fins, so a ban would not stop them.

Mr John Lu, the director of local advocacy group Shark Savers Singapore, said he hoped the scientists' letter would eventually lead to the topic being discussed in Parliament. 'I think that's the end game,' he said.

'We hope that through the empirical data in this letter, more discussions about the shark's fin trade can be brought up.'

He added that he had approached both Mr Fang and Nominated MP Eugene Tan because they had expressed an interest in seeing more scientific backing for the shark conservation movement.

But when asked if he would raise it in Parliament, Mr Fang said the emphasis should be on increasing the level of education on the topic.

He said the letter was 'a great starting point in putting the entire issue into perspective and shows people that more information is available'.

He added that it put forward the views of scientists who were credible and understood the current situation.

The anti-shark's fin movement has grown in recent years, resulting in supermarket chains like NTUC FairPrice, Carrefour and Cold Storage pulling shark's fin products from their shelves.

Some restaurants and hotels have also taken it off their menus.

'The shark fin trade is not sustainable'
CITES does not adequately protect endangered shark species, 41 marine scientists argue
by 41 marine scientists (names enclosed)
Today Online 11 Jun 12;

As professional marine scientists who have personally witnessed and documented the dramatic declines of shark populations around the world, we would like to express our concern about the recent misinformation perpetuated in the media, both Asian and international, asserting that the shark fin trade is sustainable.

The reality is that this vast trade is largely unmanaged and unmonitored, and that the shark fin industry in Asia plays little to no role in fisheries management in the countries that are fishing sharks. The slow growth and reproductive rates of sharks makes them extremely susceptible to overexploitation.

Since only a small fraction of shark-fishing nations have any type of shark management plan in place, the assertion that the fin trade is sustainable is not based in fact.

Despite recent claims to the contrary by the Hong Kong-based Sustainable Marine Resources Committee of the Marine Products Association (MPA), there is a wealth of scientific evidence that populations of many shark species are in decline, with the shark fin trade being an important driver. There is a solid scientific consensus that many sharks and indeed other cartilaginous fishes, such as skates and rays, are in severe trouble, and there is emerging evidence that this could be causing wider disruptions in ocean ecosystems.

We the undersigned believe, in the interests of both the global marine environment and the public that depends on healthy ocean ecosystems, that decision makers should be apprised of the full facts of the shark fin issue, most specifically that:

- The shark fin trade, as it currently stands, is NOT sustainable. Peer-reviewed scientific research has shown that the fins of tens of millions of sharks passed through the shark fin trade in 2000. Since then there has been no accurate estimation of the trade volume and corresponding number of sharks killed, making it impossible for the industry to state that the trade is sustainable.

Declines in shark populations have been reported from many locations worldwide, and many areas like the Caribbean, for example, are heavily impacted. Individual populations, such as oceanic whitetip sharks in the Gulf of Mexico and hammerheads in the Mediterranean, have experienced severe declines. These statistics are not mere speculation but are backed up by published analyses in academic journals.

- Shark fins are by far the most valuable part of the shark, which encourages many fisheries to target them or retain them even when they are caught incidentally, rather than releasing them alive. The shark fin trade should therefore be viewed as a major driver of global shark fishing activities, which are often unmanaged and conducted in an unsustainable manner.

- The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) does not adequately protect endangered shark species. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists 82 species of sharks on its Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. Yet, CITES regulates trade of just three of these threatened shark species.

Despite meeting the scientific criteria for listing, numerous shark species have been denied CITES protection because politics prevented them from receiving the two-thirds of the votes necessary for a CITES listing. A larger number of species are considered threatened and are therefore prohibited in particular countries or by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

CITES tends to lag behind domestic and regional management bodies because of the two-thirds majority requirement and should not therefore be used as the benchmark for whether a species is under threat.

In short, the overwhelming body of scientific data supports the urgent need to focus on adequate conservation and management strategies rather than maintaining unsustainable levels of fishing.

Given that sharks play an important role in maintaining the delicate balance of the world's marine ecosystems, and that many species of sharks are now threatened or near threatened with extinction, there is a rare opportunity to make a significant impact on an issue of global importance by helping to regulate the burgeoning international trade in shark fins.

The letter was undersigned by the following:

Dr Gregor Cailllet; Director Emeritus, Pacific Shark Research Centre; Professor Emeritus, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, US

Dr Jeffrey C Carrier, PhD; Professor Emeritus of Biology - Albion College; American Elasmobranch Society - Past-President; Adjunct Research Scientist - Mote Marine Laboratory, US

Dr Demian D F Chapman; Assistant Professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Stony Brook University, US

Dr William Cheung; Assistant Professor, Fisheries Centre, The University of British Columbia, Canada

Dr Philippe Cury; IRD Senior Scientist; Director Centre de Recherche Halieutique Mediterraneenne et Tropicale Sete, France

Dr Toby S Daly-Engel; Assistant Professor of Marine Biology; University of West Florida, US

Dr Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, PhD; President, Tethys Research Institute, Milano, Italy

Dr Michael L Domeier; President Marine Conservation Science Institute, US

Dr E Esat Atikkan, PhD; Adj Prof, Biology, Adj Prof, Physical Education, Montgomery College, US

Dr Kevin Feldheim, PhD; A Watson Armour III Manager of the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution; Field Museum of Natural History, USA

Dr Francesco Ferretti, PhD; Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, US

Dr Andrew B Gill; Senior Lecturer, Environmental Science and Technology Department, Cranfield University, UK

Dr Eileen D Grogan, PhD; Professor of Biology; Research Associate: Carnegie Museum The Academy of Natural Sciences, US

Dr Samuel H Gruber; Director, Bimini Biological Field Station, South Bimini, Bahamas; Founder IUCN Shark Specialist Group; Founder American Elasmobranch Society; Professor Emeritus University of Miami, US

Dr George J Guillen, PhD; Executive Director and Associate Professor Environmental Science and Biology, Environmental Institute of Houston, University of Houston, US

Dr Richard L Haedrich; Professor emeritus, Memorial University, St John's, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

Dr Neil Hammerschlag; Research Assistant Professor, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy; Director, R J Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, University of Miami, US

Dr Michael Heithaus; Director, School of Environment, Arts and Society, Florida International University, US

Dr Mauricio Hoyos Padilla; Pelagios-Kakunja A C La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Dr Robert Hueter; Director, Center for Shark Research; Associate Vice President for Research, Directorate of Marine Biology and Conservation, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, Florida, US

Dr Charlie Huveneers; Lecturer and Research Scientist, Flinders University/SARDI - Aquatic Sciences Adelaide, Australia

Dr Salvador Jorgensen; Research scientist; Chief Scientist, White Shark Research Initiative, Monterey Bay Aquarium, US

Dr Stephen M Kajiura; Biological Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, US

Dr Steven Kessel; Post-Doctoral Fellow, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Vivian Lam; IUCN Shark Specialist Group, US

Dr Agnes Le Port; Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences The University of Auckland, New Zealand

Dr Richard Lund; Research Associate, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

Dr John W Mandelman; Research Scientist, John H Prescott Marine Laboratory, New England Aquarium, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Dr Mikki McComb-Kobza; Postdoctoral Researcher, Ocean Exploration and Deep-Sea Research, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, US

Dr John E McCosker; Chair of Aquatic Biology, California Academy of Sciences, US

Dr Henry F Mollet; Research Affiliate MLML, R&D Volunteer Husbandry Division, Monterey Bay Aquarium, US

Dr Elliott A Norse; President, Marine Conservation Institute, 2122 112th Avenue NE, US

Dr Jill A Olin; Post-Doctoral Fellow, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Dr Daniel Pauly, Professor of Fisheries, Fisheries Centre, The University of British Columbia, Canada

Prof Ellen K Pikitch, PhD; Executive Director, Institute for Ocean Conservation, Science School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, US

Dr Yvonne Sadovy; Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Dr Carl Safina; Blue Ocean Institute, US

Dr Bernard Seret; Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement (IRD), Museum national d'Histoire naturelle, Departement Systematique et Evolution, France

Dr John Stevens; Research Fellow, CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Dr Tracey Sutton; Department of Fisheries Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William & Mary, US

Dr Boris Worm; Associate Professor, Biology Department, Dalhousie University, Canada

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Pulau Semakau: Home to rich array of flora and fauna

Grace Chua Straits Times 12 Jun 12;

PULAU Semakau serves as Singapore's landfill, but is also home to an array of rare plants and unusual animals.

The second edition of a book featuring the island's flora and fauna was launched by the National Environment Agency on Saturday. Called Habitats In Harmony: The Story Of Semakau Landfill, it features more creatures discovered on the island since the first edition in 2009.

Author Marcus Ng said it was no surprise that so many new species had been found, given the number of surveys carried out by volunteers on the island since 2009.

'What's of interest personally is that the more we learn about the diversity of creatures found at Semakau landfill, the more we realise how little we know about them: their exact identity, ecological roles and habitat needs.'

The second edition of Habitats In Harmony is available at the agency's customer service centre on level two of the Environment Building in Scotts Road. It is priced at $24.90.

SMALL BUT LOUD: The mangrove whistler is a small, rare coastal bird found mainly in offshore habitats. Its calls sound like explosive whistles and sharp whip cracks.

SHY ANIMALS: Mud lobsters are reclusive creatures rarely seen in the open, but easily recognised by the tall, volcano-like mounds they build in the mangrove mud.

UNDER THREAT: The bonduc or grey nicker is a prickly vine that is critically endangered here, and found only at Pulau Semakau, Lazarus Island, Pulau Senang and Punggol.

HUGE SLUG: The Forskal's sidegill slug is enormous for a sea slug - growing up to 0.3m long. It is common in reef and seagrass areas.

COLOURFUL CORAL: Sea fans are large, soft corals that do not need sunlight for energy. They harbour animals like gobies that move among the branches with impunity.

RARE SIGHT: The brilliant red Euretaster insignis is endangered here. This starfish that prefers rocky shores was once common on Labrador Beach, but is now rarely seen.

BIGGEST OTTER: Pulau Semakau is one place where the smooth otter can be seen in the wild here. South-east Asia's largest otter grows up to 1.3m, including its tail.

WINGED BEAUTY: This owlfly lives in the grasslands of Pulau Semakau. It looks like a dragonfly with long antennae, but is more closely related to lacewings.

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Thousands of dead insects found in Sengkang

Liu Bei, Karen Ng Channel NewsAsia 11 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE: Tens of thousands of dead flying insects were found at Block 265-A in Sengkang on Monday morning.

The Singapore Nature Society said they could either be termites or flying ants.

It added these insects would usually find a place to start a new colony, after the rain.

They may have died because they couldn't find a suitable place.

Residents Channel NewsAsia spoke with said this isn't the first time something like this has happened.

Sengkang resident Rickee Ng said, "A more thorough investigation (is needed) to find the source of these termites or ants. It might actually be in somebody's home or (near) a water tank."

- CNA/cc

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Indonesia: Rising Popularity of North Sulawesi's Bunaken Wrecking its Coral Reefs

Jakarta Globe 11 Jun 12;

A flood of tourists at North Sulawesi's Bunaken marine park are taking a toll on the park's main attraction: the coral reefs.

Unregulated snorkeling and an overwhelming amount of waste have damaged much of the park's coral reefs, Boyke Toloh, of the Bunakan National Park Management Council, said on Monday. Boyke, who didn't have any figures, explained that the park's coral reefs had deteriorated significantly in the past decade.

"Bunaken National Park ten years ago was like Raja Ampat in Papua today," Boyke said. "It was clean and its charm drew much attention. But now, the more tourists come to Bunaken, the more they impact the environment."

Boyke blamed both tourists and unscrupulous tour operators on the damage.

"Visitors and operators of boats carrying tourists have abandoned the principal of sustainability," Boyke said.

The boat operators transporting tourists from South Sulawesi's Manado to Bunaken Island should have reminded passengers not to dump their garbage overboard and not to step on the coral reef when they snorkel, Boyke said.

“They no longer remember to do so," he said. "This is despite the fact that Bunaken Island’s main commodity is its coral reefs."

The island received an average 13,000 visitors a year, including 10,000 foreign visitors, with the high season running from May to June.


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Indonesia: WWF Presses for Probe Into Sumatran Elephant Deaths

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 11 Jun 12;

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is pushing for an investigation into the death of a dozen rare Sumatran elephants in the past three months.

"We really regret the death of those elephants," Dede Suhendra, WWF Aceh program manager, said in a press statement on Monday. "This would not have happened if there were efforts to prevent this in areas prone to conflicts with elephants."

The recent spate of human-elephant conflicts highlights the need for the implementation of the Protocol on Conflict Mitigation between Elephants and Humans in Aceh, Dede said.

In Aceh alone, five elephants were found dead between March and June — two in Aceh Jaya in March and May and three in East Aceh on June 2. In Riau, seven elephants were found dead in the Tesso Nilo forests between March and June.

Officials found the most recent dead elephant in Lubuk Kembang Bunga, in Ukui, Pelalawan on June 7. The elephant, a young male, was already a skeleton and was missing its tusks.

The local Tesso Nilo National Park Nature Conservation Office is investigating the death of seven of the rare pachyderms.

"The recent cases of elephant deaths are really worrying, considering it is a drastic increase compared to previous periods. In 2011, there were no reported death of elephants in Tesso Nilo and only two elephant deaths were reported from the entire Riau province that year," Dede said.

The illegal encroachment of people into protected forest is likely behind the rising numbers, Dede said. Close-quarters living with Sumatran elephants often results in elephant-human conflicts that later lead to elephant deaths.

The missing tusks were also a red flag, Dede said.

"There needs to be an investigation into the possibility that some people are making use of the conflict to obtain elephant tusks," he said.

The number of Sumatran elephants in the wild has dropped dramatically in the past four years. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has said the species is now in "critical" condition, or one step away from extinction.

There are an estimated 2,400 to 2,800 elephants remaining in the wild, down from the 3,000 to 5,000 reported in 2007.


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Vietnam: Stilt houses in southern Ca Mau help cope with climate change

Vietnam News 11 Jun 12;

CA MAU — Residents are building stilt houses to adapt to rising sea levels in southernmost Ca Mau Province's Ngoc Hien District.

Chairman of the district People's Committee Nguyen Truong Giang said the province was below sea level and its 254-km coastline and 800km of river and canal lengths were the most threatened by climate change in the country.

"In the last five years, the sea level has risen higher and higher in this district, and only the old style houses with stilts were unaffected by the problem," Giang said.

Stilt houses suited the conditions and also the tight economics in Ngoc Hien District where the rate of poor households ranked as one of the highest in the country, Giang said.

A stilt house cost VND20-50 million (US$950-1,900) and stands on 1-1.5m piles made from mangrove timber. It helps people avoid the moisture of coastal salt water, especially at high tide.

Tran Van Phung, in Dat Mui Village, said such houses cost less because timber from mangrove trees was cheap and the homes did not have much furniture, such as beds, chairs and tables.

The houses lasted about 10 years and could withstand 1-m sea levels, said Phung adding in the past, traditional houses went under 20cm of water.

In the last five years, Ngoc Hien authorities had helped 1,200 poor households build the houses. Most offices, companies and residential houses were also built on stilts.

However, Giang warned that stilt houses could only adapt to rises in sea level, not strong storms. The district banned people from building their houses near the sea and encouraged those who had houses there to move to safer areas.

Along coastal rivers there were thousands of vulnerable households facing high tides regularly.

Apart from stilt houses, Ngoc Hien District was asking for money to build sea dykes to mitigate further climate change impacts. — VNS

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Weather Center: 50 Percent Chance Of El Nino Later This Year

Josephine Mason PlanetArk 12 Jun 12;

There is a 50 percent chance the feared El Nino weather pattern which can trigger droughts in Southeast Asia and Australia and floods in South America may strike later this year, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center warned on Thursday.

In its strongest prediction so far that El Nino could emerge, the CPC said conditions are still expected to be neutral between June and August, but there is a 50 percent likelihood that El Nino will develop in the remainder of the year.

The CPC issues an El Nino watch when conditions are favorable for the coming six months. In its last update in May, it said it was still uncertain if it would develop.

El Nino is a warming of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years and has far-ranging effects around the globe, particularly on food output.

The CPC forecast will be closely watched by the U.S. crude oil industry as El Nino reduces the chances of storms in the Gulf of Mexico that could topple platforms and rigs there.

Forecasters have already said they expect the Atlantic hurricane season, which started on Friday and runs to November 30, to be less active than last year.

The phenomenon creates wind shear that makes it harder for nascent storms to develop into hurricanes in the Atlantic-Caribbean basin, but it also can produce drought and crop failure in parts of South Asia and unseasonably wet conditions in western coastal areas of South America.

While drier conditions could benefit crops such as coffee and cocoa, which were hit by heavy rains last year, analysts have warned that prolonged heat can also hurt yields.

Malaysia and Indonesia account for 90 percent of the world's palm oil supplies, while most of the world's rice is exported from Asia. Asia also produces nearly 40 percent of global wheat supplies and the bulk of natural rubber output.

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.

(Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

El Nino Possible But Normal Conditions More Likely: Japanese Agency
Risa Maeda PlanetArk 12 Jun 12;

Japan's weather bureau said on Monday its climate models indicate the possible emergence of the El Nino weather pattern, often linked to heavy rainfall and droughts, in the second half of this year but normal conditions are more likely.

The Japan Meteorological Agency used the same language in its monthly assessment of the outlook to December for El Nino that it used in May, when it said it was highly likely that normal weather patterns would prevail in Asia through to November this year.

The last severe El Nino was in 1998, when it caused more than 2,000 deaths and wrought billions of dollars in damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and other parts of Asia.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center said on June 7 that there is a 50 percent chance the El Nino weather pattern may strike later this year.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said last month that models it tracks indicate a possible return of El Nino in the second half of the year.

The chief of India's state-run weather office has said El Nino conditions are likely to emerge over the Pacific Ocean by mid-August.

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 Aaron Sheldrick and Michael Watson)

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