Best of our wild blogs: 13 Jun 12

Conservation is Not Enough
from Flying Fish Friends

How to respond to oil spills in Singapore?
from wild shores of singapore

Random Gallery - Semanga superba deliciosa
from Butterflies of Singapore

Monsters in our midst
from The annotated budak and Prima vēna

Distraction, disruption and dazzle in animal camouflage (talk by Dr Martin Stevens)
from Raffles Museum News

World Oceans Day @ Tanah Merah
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Are Atlas moths popular with birds?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Culling wild boar not the answer

Straits Times Forum 13 Jun 12;

IT IS a shame that the National Parks Board (NParks) is looking into culling wild boar ('Crossbows to cull wild boar'; Monday).

The proposal seems arbitrary and unnecessary.

In the absence of quantitative studies on the impact of wild boar on our nature reserves,

and current data on the growth of its population, the herd of 100 boars in the Lower Peirce forested area cannot be regarded as large or threatening.

This is bearing in mind that the animals were once thought to be extinct in mainland Singapore and have been sighted again only recently.

Our respect for wildlife must extend to their survival in their natural habitats. While such habitats are being conserved, we must also ensure that animal species are protected from human predation.

Although an encounter with a wild animal is potentially dangerous, harm is often caused through human provocation and ignorance.

The public needs to have a greater awareness and appreciation of natural animal behaviour, and be more tolerant of the few wild animals that stray into our urban territory.

Culling is just a short-term and ineffective measure to contain the number of wild boar.

As long as there remain breeding pairs, surely the population will continue to grow.

I urge NParks to work with the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society or other animal welfare organisations to implement a more viable, sustainable and humane solution, such as sterilisation or the installation of barriers, to manage the population and movement of wild boar.

Irene Low (Ms)
(This letter carries 57 other names)

More research needed on wild boar
Straits Times Forum 13 Jun 12;

I WAS disheartened to read that the National Parks Board (NParks) is considering using crossbows to cull wild boars ('Crossbows to cull wild boar'; Monday).

Prior to embarking on any population control method, there is a need to first identify and address the underlying causes of any perceived increase in wild boar population.

More research is needed to determine the baseline population figure and the roles wild boars play in our reserve ecosystems.

Increased sightings may not necessarily indicate an increase in population; extensive land clearance and habitat destruction for urban development have displaced much wildlife to the fringes of urbanised areas, and it should come as no surprise that there is increased contact with humans.

Wild boars are important to biodiversity. They are unique fauna in our region, and play an integral role in the ecosystem, principally as seed dispersal agents.

Before we truly understand their function and impact on our reserves and parks, any population control measures targeted at them should be carefully considered.

We need to remember that humans are merely cohabitants of a larger ecosystem and share some of our living spaces with wildlife.

I implore NParks to review its wildlife population control policies.

Dr Chong Shin Min

Explore more humane ways to reduce wild boar population
Straits Times Forum 13 Jun 12;

DO WE have sufficient scientific data to convince us that our native flora and forest ecology are being compromised because of wild boars ('Crossbows to cull wild boar'; Monday)?

Likewise, do we have sufficient data to show how wild boars contribute to our ecosystems, such as by dispersing seeds?

Has a census of wild boars been conducted?

It seems to me that more study needs to be done before culling of wild boar may even be considered.

My discussions with fellow wildlife activists point to the fact that using crossbows as a culling method is inhumane. Numerous reports state that rarely is there a chance of an instantaneous kill, even with experienced archers. Instead, an animal hit with an arrow endures prolonged suffering before it dies.

Alternative methods, like contraception, could be explored.

Also, public education about wildlife needs to be stepped up. Signs such as 'wild animals crossing' should be placed along roads where wild boars have been observed.

And if culling needs to be done as a last resort, surely there are more humane methods. What about sedating the wild boar first?

I am heartened that the National Parks Board is open to considering this.

Vilma D'Rozario (Ms)

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Indonesia: Twenty beaches affected by extreme coastal erosion in Malang

Antara 11 Jun 12;

Malang (ANTARA News) - Lack of mangrove plantations at the southern coast of Malang district, East Java, has caused severe abrasion of shorelines along at least 20 beaches in the region, according to an official.

Marine and Fishery office head for Malang district Endang Retnowati said here on Monday that Sendangbiru beach was the worst affected by abrasion among the 20 beaches.

"Abrasion at the Sendangbiru beach has reached up to 100 metres wide and 30 metres long, and is considered to be in an alarming state as the shoreline continues to be eroded by seawater, thanks to limited mangrove plants in the area," he noted.

According to Endang, the abrasion at Sendangbiru beach not only threatens the sea of sand on the shoreline of a tourist area, but also thousands of fishermen who depend on the beach.

He said the abrasion was getting even worse due to the development of the national fishing port, as the wave-breaker rocks at Sendangbiru Beach were being removed.

"Removal of the wave-breaker rocks makes the coast more vulnerable to erosion by big waves," Endang pointed out.

He said the marine and fishery office had raised the matter with the East Java provincial government, which was developing the national fishing port project.

"The construction has been temporarily halted for the reconstruction of wave-breakers, which is scheduled to be done next year," Endang added.

To control the current abrasion, the local marine and fishery office is working hard to procure mangrove seedlings in bulk, because it cannot depend solely on the state budget.

In 2011, Malang`s marine and fishery office has planted around 27,000 mangrove plants on a beach in the Tirtoyudo district.

"This year we are trying to get additional budget from the revised state budget," Endang said.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Rising sea level threatens India's coastal areas

Zee News 3 Jun 12;

Rising sea level threatens India`s coastal areas New Delhi: The tranquil stretches of emerald green backwaters in Mumbai and Kerala are among several locales in the western and eastern coasts facing threat from the rising sea level due to climate change.

Deltas of the Ganga, Krishna, Godavari, Cauvery and Mahanadi on the east coast may also be threatened along with irrigated land and adjoining settlements, according to a Government report.

"It is estimated that sea level rise by 3.5 to 34.6 inches between 1990 and 2100 would result in saline coastal groundwater, endangering wetlands and inundating valuable land and coastal communities. The most vulnerable stretches along the western Indian coast are Khambat and Kutch in Gujarat, Mumbai and parts of the Konkan coast and south Kerala," says the report submitted to the UN.

The report -- India's Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change-- was prepared by multi-disciplinary teams and other stakeholders comprising more than 220 scientists belonging to over 120 institutions.

"The loss of these important economic and cultural regions could have a considerable impact in some states," it says.

The experts who prepared the report visited some vulnerable areas, including the 2004 tsunami-hit Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, backwaters surrounding Kochi in Kerala and Paradip in Odisha, in order to make a detailed impact study of the rise in sea level.

The study, using digital elevation model data (90m resolution), digital image processing and GIS software, showed that estimated inundation areas are 4.2 sq km and 42.5 sq km in case where the sea level rise is 1.0 m and 2.0 m respectively in the region surrounding Nagapattinam.

"But for the same sea level conditions, 169 sq km and 599 sq km will be inundated in the coastal region surrounding Kochi," says the report.

Kochi region is directly connected to the backwaters; a lot of inland areas are far from the coast, but adjacent to the tidal creeks, backwaters and lakes.

"This causes considerable increase in the total area of inundation," the report says.

In Paradip, the variations in topography are not smooth and low-lying areas are large and connected to tidal creeks and river inlets. According to the report, this area seems to be the most vulnerable as about 1128 sq km falls under inundation zones for a 2 m rise in sea level.

Also, 478 sq km may be inundated in Paradip coastal region for a 1 m sea level rise.

All the creeks, estuaries and low lands adjacent to the shoreline increase the risk of inundation and the extent of probable inundation zone goes up to approximately 40 km landward. Thus, Kochi region is vulnerable even in the interior land areas. The study also showed that all the three regions considered for impact studies are highly vulnerable to sea level rise.

The impact assessment will provide useful information for different sectors such as ports and infrastructure development near the coast and for planners and policy-makers to develop long-term adaptation measures.


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Coral Triangle hosts dazzling web of life: mangroves and fireflies

WWF 12 Jun 12;

WWF’s Coral Triangle Director Catherine Plume recounts her incredible evening during a firefly river cruise in Donsol, Philippines:

"I arrived at the riverside just at dusk. The world was already casting its magical evening spell. As we pulled away from the pier, we fell captive to the tranquility of the night. Heading upriver we nestled into our life jackets and left the city lights behind.

The night itself was spectacular – no moon, a million stars, the hush of the river with only the sound of the sputtering motor as we glided along. Soon we cut power and our boatman poled us toward shore.

As we neared the riverbank, I began to discern a faint twinkling in the trees. The flashing became more intense until it became a swirl of tiny rotating lights – fireflies! But, these were like no fireflies I’d ever seen: flashing both on their own and also together. The sight was mesmerizing – like watching a string of tiny white Christmas lights dance dizzyingly. As you looked up into the trees, it was hard to tell stars from fireflies. As if anticipating our desire to see them closer up, more than one firefly broke away from its dance and flew toward us.

As we marveled at the firefly dance, our boatman softly said, “Now put your hand in the water”…and we did, expecting just to feel the river’s warmth compared to the now chilly night air. But instead, we were met with yet another treat – a bioluminescence created by our fingers as they moved through the water.

The impact was immediate. We spoke in hushed tones – but not much at all – not wanting to scare away the exceptionality of this moment. Our boat moved slowly upriver to an even larger swarm of fireflies. We marveled again at the sheer beauty and let our eyes go from the stars to the fireflies to the glowing water trailing our hands.

After a while, the boat turned around and we headed back toward the light of the far off bridge and pier. It was an oddly melancholy trip back down the river, and I had a sense that I was leaving behind something very special that I really wasn’t sure I would ever encounter again. A trifecta of nature’s sparkledom left twinkling on the river.”

The fireflies Cathy witnessed congregate in huge colonies to feed in mangrove trees along the riverbanks. Mangroves keep the rivers healthy and release important nutrients into the water. These nutrient-rich waters feed microscopic plankton, which create the bioluminescence Cathy observed. Out where the river meets the bay of Donsol, large masses of plankton can be found. These attract hungry whale sharks, which gather in schools to feed on the plankton.

Donsol attracts huge numbers of whale sharks compared to other places in the world, and locals benefit from the booming tourism industry. WWF has helped with whale shark tourism since 1998, which has created jobs and provided a seasonal but steady source of income.

In 2011, WWF spearheaded an effort to plant 10,000 mangrove seedlings to enhance and protect habitat shared by fireflies and whale sharks. By restoring mangrove forests, WWF keeps rivers healthy, ensures habitat for fireflies and food for whale sharks. In turn, fireflies and whale sharks attract tourists – just one way WWF is working to create harmony between people and nature.

Fireflies light up the forest as whale sharks dazzle in adjacent waters. How fitting that the markings of the whale shark almost perfectly mirror the twinkling of fireflies against the black night sky.

as told to Molly Edmonds, WWF-US

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Australia: Dingoes in danger of extinction, expert

9 News 12 Jun 12;

Dingoes are currently listed as a threatened species but if more isn't done they could disappear from parts of Australia, wildlife experts say.

Healesville sanctuary senior dingo keeper Sue Jaensch said Tuesday's coronial ruling that a dingo was responsible for the death of Azaria Chamberlain in 1980 provided an opportunity to highlight the difficulties dingoes face in the wild.

"Most of our visitors aren't aware dingoes are classified as a threatened species here in Victoria," Ms Jaensch told AAP.

It was only in 2008 that the Victorian government recognised the dingo as a threatened species.

Before that they were recognised as a pest, Ms Jaensch said.

"Historically dingoes have been managed as pests."

Ms Jaensch's concerns echo an article published in Australian Wildlife Secrets in May that warned if immediate action wasn't taken to protect the dingo it may go the way of the Tasmanian Tiger and become extinct.

"In recent times (dingo) numbers have declined over large areas of its former range," the report said.

When asked if the threat of extinction was real, Ms Jaensch said: "Definitely in parts of Australia."

"The biggest threat to them in the wild is the interbreeding with feral dogs," Ms Jaensch said.

"Sadly we have a growing population of wild dogs in Australia."

Dingoes are notoriously secretive and therefore difficult to study but myths surrounding the shy canid have put its future in jeopardy.

Ms Jaensch also said their reputation as an introduced species and predator contributed to their treatment in the past.

However, as a top order predator, she likened their role to that of a lion in Africa or a tiger in Asia.

"Dingoes are a very important part to the native environment," Ms Jaensch said.

"Recent studies have shown in areas where dingoes are found they help to control numbers of foxes and feral cats and rabbits which is great for famers because that means they've got more grass."

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Dozens of dolphins stranded in Texas since fall

Ramit Plushnick-Masti Associated Press Yahoo News 13 Jun 12;

HOUSTON (AP) — The deaths of more than 120 dolphins off the Texas coast has prompted a federal agency to declare the event "unusual" and launch an investigation into whether they were related to a drought-related algae bloom or a more widespread mortality event that has plagued the northern Gulf of Mexico for two years.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has called the stranding of 123 dolphins on Texas shores from November through March an "unusual mortality event," an official federal listing that allows the agency to access additional funds and set up a team of researchers.

All but four of the dolphins that washed up in Texas were dead, and the few that turned up alive died a short time later, said Blair Mase, the southeast marine mammal stranding network coordinator for NOAA Fisheries. What alarmed scientists though, was the age of the bottle-nosed dolphins that washed up — juveniles rather than the very young or elderly that normally would be found — and the fact that Texas had a years-worth of dead dolphins turn up in a five-month period.

The cause, however, may not be known for months, if at all, Mase said.

"That's what's a little frustrating about this. It's not like you see on TV, on CSI, you don't get the answers quickly," she said. "It can take months and sometimes years."

Further complicating matters are an array of things occurring in the Gulf simultaneously, all of which could cause dolphin mortality, Mase said.

To begin with, the Texas coast was plagued during the fall and early winter by a toxic algae bloom called "red tide" that is caused by drought. This past year, the red tide was more severe and lasted longer than usual because of the historic drought that parched Texas and made the estuaries that flow into the Gulf salty and conducive to the algae bloom. Scientists previously have connected "red tide" to dolphin mortality, Mase said, and the strandings in Texas stopped shortly after the bloom ended.

But some of the dolphins washed up underweight, said Heidi Whitehead, state coordinator for the Galveston-based Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a nonprofit organization that is the only authorized stranding network in Texas. Mase said that has not been the pattern for past red tide-related deaths.

Some of the dolphins also were found with discolored teeth and lung infections, prompting researchers to investigate whether they were affected by the same disease found in more than 700 strandings in the northern Gulf, an area stretching from the Texas-Louisiana line east to the Florida Panhandle. Researchers suspect the lung disease may be connected to the millions of gallons of oil that fouled the Gulf in April 2010 after a well blowout on a BP-operated rig, but have yet to make a final determination, Mase said.

Four of the dolphins found in Texas had a grayish, muddy substance in their stomach. It didn't look or smell like oil, but tests are being run to rule out whether it could be hydrocarbons. A similar substance was found in some dolphins elsewhere in the Gulf.

"Just like any investigation you don't want to rule anything out," Mase said. "We do know that there is disease out there ... we know that there have been stresses, some due to the BP oil spill, and that could be a reason ... and there is this harmful algae bloom. It could be that it's all of these."

Researchers have conducted more than 30 necropsies so far on the dead dolphins and collected tissue samples, but Whitehead noted one of the difficulties with these investigations is that many of the mammals wash up in late stages of decomposition, leaving little for the researchers to use in their probe.

To date, NOAA has declared five "unusual mortality events" in Texas, all involving bottle-nosed dolphins, and has only determined a cause — morbillivirus infection — for an event in 1994. There have been 19 marine mammal events in the entire Gulf of Mexico and 56 in all US waters since 1991.

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245 rhinos poached in South Africa since January

AFP Yahoo News 13 Jun 12;

The slaughter of rhinos driven by the soaring illegal trade in their horns continues at a record pace with 245 killed in South Africa since January, authorities said on Tuesday.

The country's northeast and largest of game reserves, the Kruger National Park has been the hardest hit, losing 60 percent of the national toll, or 147 rhinos, to poachers, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement.

With roughly 20,000 animals South Africa is home to between 70 and 80 percent of the world's rhino population, increasingly being targeted by poachers despite heightened security.

Last year poachers killed 448 animals compared to 333 in 2010. In 2007 only 13 animals fell prey to illegal hunters.

The animals' distinctive horns are hacked off to be smuggled to the lucrative Asian black market, where the fingernail-like substance is falsely believed to have powerful healing properties.

On the black market, the horns fetch almost 50,000 euros ($62,700), or the same price as an ounce of gold, according to several experts.

Efforts to curb the killings include the deployment of soldiers in the Kruger Park and specialist investigators.

Police have arrested 161 suspects, including 138 poachers, since the start of the year, the ministry said.

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River basins 'vital for growth'

Mark Kinver BBC News 12 Jun 12;

The world's top river basin regions have a vital role in the future in terms of sustaining economic growth in the future, a report has suggested.

However, current projections show that seven of the top 10 areas are currently using unsustainable volumes of water.

A UN report said the global target of halving the number of people in the world without access to safe drinking water was achieved in March 2012.

The report was commissioned by HSBC, WWF, Earthwatch and WaterAid.

The document, Exploring the Links between Water and Economic Growth, produced by Frontier Economics, recorded that almost 800 million remained without access to safe drinking water, while 2.5bn were without basic access to sanitation.

The report's authors estimate that nations would see their GDP improve by up to 15% if the global Millennium Development Targets were achieved.

A report published by the UN in March said the international community had acheived the goal of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water.

In the past 20 years, two billion people have gained access to improved drinking water.

However, it acknowledged that global targets to improve sanitation were unlikely to be met by the 2015 deadline.

The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) lists 75% of the world's population benefiting from improved sanitation, yet figures suggest that only 63% of the world's population currently have improved sanitation access, a figure projected to increase only to 67% by 2015.

This means that 2.5bn people are still without the level of sanitation outlined in the MDGs.

The report by Frontier Economics listed a number of avenues that need to be addressed in order for the "water challenge" to be addressed.

As well as improving the access to drinking water and sanitation, it also listed the need for great efficiency in the way water is consumed within agriculture, industry and domestic sectors.

Other findings included:

By 2050, the top 10 river basins (by population) are forecast to produce 25% of global GDP - greater than the combined economic output of the US, Japan and Germany
But without effective management, seven out of the 10 regions will be consuming an unsustainable volume of water by 2050.

"We argue that the social and economic gains show that the investment in water and sanitation is critical," explained Barbara Frost, chief executive of WaterAid.

"This report really picks up that up and shows that the return on each dollar invested is about, on average, five dollars."

Ms Frost added that recent estimates showed that about 40% of the world's population did not have adequate sanitation.
Common agenda

"Over the past 30 years, there have been so many initiatives - sometimes these have not been particularly joined-up," Ms Frost explained.

"There does need to be a clear and common agenda on water security, one that puts people that the heart of this as well."

She said that she hoped the forthcoming Rio Summit would place greater "emphasis on investment where the need is greatest".

"In other words, this is where the MDGs are furthest off track," Ms Frost told BBC News.

"The UN needs to play a strong role as a convener or co-ordinator of global acitivities, both in terms of promoting human development as well as sustainable and environmental development."

She said that progress was made in China and Asia, but extra effort was still required in sub-Saharan Africa.

Global banking giant HSBC is using the report as a platform to launch a five-year $100m programme that hopes to address a number of issues, including improving sanitation for more than a million people.

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Why Rio failed in the past and how it can succeed this time

Cicero Lucena and John Gummer set out their plans for success at the Rio+20 sustainable development talks 12 Jun 12;

As world leaders prepare for the Rio+20 meeting in just over a week, now is a fitting moment to assess the true legacy of the original Earth Summit in 1992.

In many respects, the summit was a watershed moment for the environment. It brought together a remarkable 172 countries, more than 100 of which were represented by their leaders, to start to address at the global level the unsustainable use of natural resources and man's impact on the environment.

Yet, two decades on, all the major scientific indicators continue to flash red. And, sadly, it is now clear that a large part of the summit's original potential has been squandered.

Since 2000 alone, forests equivalent in size to the landmass of Germany have been lost; 80% of the world's fish stocks have collapsed or are on the brink of collapse; and the Gobi desert is growing by roughly 10,000 square kilometres every year. The list of environmental pressures grows by the day, and there can be little doubt that the unsustainable use of natural resources will be the biggest challenge facing mankind in the 21st century.

So why haven't we done better since 1992, and what needs to be done to achieve a course correction now?

Crucially, it is not that leaders committed to the wrong objectives at Rio 20 years ago and in Johannesburg 10 years later. These summits led to the creation of the UN conventions on biological diversity, climate change and desertification, the principles on sustainable forestry and Agenda 21.

By any standards, these are remarkable achievements that have set in train some key advances. Examples include the significant decrease in deforestation seen in Brazil, and the qualified success of the recent climate summits in Durban and Cancun.

Instead, the major problem in the past 20 years has been the failure of Governments to implement properly their commitments from Rio and Johannesburg. Three particular parts of the jigsaw puzzle have been missing since 1992.

First, there has been a lack of domestic legislation to underpin the Rio principles and conventions. Second, there was a lack of credible and independent international scrutiny to monitor delivery. And finally, the international community failed to convert the original Rio agenda into a language that would hold sway in the most powerful departments in each government: the treasuries and finance ministries.

These are three critical omissions and, if Rio+20 is to be a success, they must be addressed by the current generation of world leaders.

We are delighted that the Brazilian government, the Mayor of Rio and the UN Secretary-General have recognised this. And that is why The Global Legislators' Organisation (GLOBE), supported by the UN, will convene the first World Summit of Legislators of more than 300 key legistlators immediately before the Rio+20 meeting of world leaders.

It has three objectives. First, it will provide a platform to advance laws and share good legislative practice to underpin the Rio commitments. Second, it will establish a mechanism at the international level to monitor the implementation by governments of commitments made at the original Rio Earth Summit, Johannesburg and Rio+20.

The third objective is about incorporating the valuation of natural capital into government accounting. Perversely, we still focus on GDP as the indicator of national wealth, when clearly it is only a partial measure of income that does not take into account the stock of natural capital on which we all depend and our economies rely.

A country can expand its GDP, creating the illusion of increased wealth, while becoming "poorer" as it destroys the natural capital on which its long-term prosperity depends. Recognising the role of many national parliaments in approving budgets and national accounts, the World Summit of Legislators will examine how the value of natural capital can be integrated into our national economic frameworks.

The summit participants will agree a Rio+20 legislators' protocol. Legislators will be asked to commit to take the protocol back to their legislatures to seek support, or formal ratification. Legislators will then be asked to reconvene every two years to monitor progress in implementing the Rio outcomes, as well as to share good legislative and scrutiny practices.

If parliamentarians are properly engaged, we are confident we can help create the foundation for genuine sustainable development, and secure the prosperity of future generations, not just our own.

• Senator Cicero Lucena is first Secretary of the Brazilian senate and President of GLOBE Brazil. Lord Gummer is a former UK environment minister and president of GLOBE International.

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