Best of our wild blogs: 16 Jun 12

Kandelia on the mainland
from wild shores of singapore

Gleam and clean
from The annotated budak

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NParks defends wild boar decision

Evidence of environment being damaged, says parks body
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 16 Jun 12;

THE National Parks Board has come out to defend its decision to manage the wild boar population in the Lower Peirce area.

In a letter to The Straits Times Forum page yesterday, NParks said the decision 'was not taken lightly'.

There is 'conclusive evidence' of the negative impact of wild boars on the environment, it added.

Mr Wong Tuan Wah, its director of conservation, wrote that the agency's researchers had found rare native gingers being devoured by the boar.

'We have also been receiving regular feedback from the public, up to five each month, reporting encounters with wild boars.

'Recently, we were notified that a pair of wild boars attacked a pet dog, which subsequently died due to severe injuries,' he said.

Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society, and two university professors also wrote to The Straits Times Forum page to support NParks' decision.

Dr Lum said the boars posed a danger to Singapore's forests because of their tendency to eat the seeds of primary forests.

'If our wild boar numbers continue to increase, and they are already above their natural levels, a century of gradual forest regeneration will be quickly reversed,' he said.

Wild boar densities in the Lower Peirce area are at least 10 times above natural levels, said Dr Lum, who cited available data and ongoing studies.

In a joint letter, two professors from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) also said it was time to cull the wild boar population.

'Vehicular collisions with wild boars are accidents waiting to happen... The chances of boars injuring members of the public are also increasing,' wrote Professor Peter Ng of NUS and Associate Professor Diong Cheong Hoong of NTU.

NParks also clarified that it had never considered the use of crossbows in culling the animal. It added that use of the bow is illegal in the country.

The Straits Times understands that the wild boar issue was discussed at a biodiversity roundtable last night. The event was attended by representatives from various groups including NParks, the Nature Society, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, and the NUS biological sciences department.

Why wild boars have to be culled: They destroy forests
Straits Times Forum 16 Jun 12;

WE TAKE a holistic approach in managing the growing population of wild boars ('Culling wild boar not the answer' by Ms Irene Low, Wednesday; 'Explore more humane ways to reduce wild boar population' by Ms Vilma D'Rozario, and 'More research needed on wild boar' by Dr Chong Shin Min; Forum Online, Wednesday).

We agree with Ms Low and Ms D'Rozario, who mentioned the need for public education.

Over the years, we have conducted public education and outreach activities on the presence of wild boars in our urban spaces. There are also 'animal crossing' signs along roads where wild boars have been seen, to warn motorists.

We will continue these efforts.

The decision to manage the wild boar population at Lower Peirce was not taken lightly.

All three writers asked about studies on the negative impact of wild boars on the environment.

There is conclusive evidence of this.

Wild boars trample and destroy the forest undergrowth, adversely affecting its biodiversity and rate of natural regrowth.

For example, our researchers have found that rare native gingers are being devoured by wild boars.

The natural behaviour of wild boars to dig up soil also compromises our reforestation and habitat enhancement efforts.

In addition, we have been receiving regular feedback from the public, up to five each month, reporting encounters with wild boars.

This is not surprising as an increasing number of wild boars have been observed at the fringes of our nature reserves and near residential areas.

Recently, we were notified that a pair of wild boars attacked a pet dog, which subsequently died due to severe injuries.

Ms Low and Ms D'Rozario raised other suggestions to manage wild boars, such as erecting barriers and sterilisation.

The feasibility of these ideas can be considered as part of the holistic management plan, but they cannot replace the need to manage the wild boar population.

We should not wait for a more serious incident to happen before taking action.

We have been consultative with our concerns by initiating meetings with nature and animal welfare groups to explore the most appropriate method.

Finally, we would like to highlight that the use of crossbows is illegal in Singapore, and it is not one of the methods under consideration.

Wong Tuan Wah
Director, Conservation
National Parks Board

Population is surging
Straits Times Forum 16 Jun 12;

THE management of nature areas should be guided by ecological principles and scientific data. The National Parks Board's (NParks) proposal to limit the wild boar population is ecologically sound and well justified.

The reasons include:

Wild boar population estimates made from already-available data and ongoing studies suggest that in the Lower Peirce area, wild boar densities are at least 10 times above natural levels (densities in the presence of natural predators such as tigers and leopards).

Wild boars are principally seed predators, not dispersers. They are especially known to seek out large seeds to eat, and disperse only seeds that are too small to avoid destruction during gut passage. Primary forest trees, especially our most critically endangered ones, have large seeds.

Our forests are, through careful management and restoration, slowly recovering. But they are still vulnerable to disturbance. Increased seed predation by unnaturally high populations of wild boar will have disastrous consequences on the long-term viability of primary forests.

Studies by leading ecologists have demonstrated the devastating impacts that abnormally high wild boar densities have on forest regeneration. We should not wait until this situation is repeated in Singapore. If our wild boar numbers continue to increase, a century of gradual forest regeneration will be quickly reversed.

When any component of an ecosystem becomes too abundant in the absence of natural checks and balances, something that is 'natural' can also become harmful.

NParks hopes to restore the wild boar population to more manageable, ecologically appropriate levels for the overall good of the nature reserves.

Population reduction through culling is only part of a more holistic plan, and other suggestions offered - sterilisation and contraception - could be employed as part of a longer-term follow-up.

Once a decision to reduce the wild boar population has been made based on ecological criteria, the difficult issue arises as to how best to implement it.

This part of the debate is something that is for experts in wildlife management to explore, be they from NParks, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the veterinary community, or wildlife groups, among others.

The culling of wild animals is not a decision that should be or is being made lightly, and NParks has shown a willingness to adopt the most humane options to manage wild boar numbers.

Shawn Lum
Nature Society (Singapore)

Threat to public safety
Straits Times Forum 16 Jun 12;

WHILE the concerns over wild boar culling are real, the long-term challenges posed by the animals here are not simple.

Based on the available data, the wild boar population in Singapore has reached a level where active management must be proactively implemented for public safety and the conservation of our nature reserves.

We therefore support the National Parks Board's (NParks) decision to explore wild boar population control methods.

Unfortunately, Singapore's forests in our nature reserves cannot sustain a wild boar population without human intervention, because there are no longer predators like tigers and leopards.

Wild boars multiply rapidly, producing four to eight piglets a year; so their population will quickly reach unsustainable levels.

Without active population management, the wild boar will cause continued damage to the forest ecosystem from their natural behaviour. They are voracious feeders, eating seeds, young plants and even small animals. They also trample the undergrowth and prevent natural regeneration of the forest. Left uncontrolled, the nature reserve forest can only deteriorate.

In many countries, wild boars have caused major problems in otherwise healthy ecosystems. Hence, in conservation management, culling is a regrettable but necessary practice.

Recent observations along the Lower Peirce area indicate that the wild boar population is increasing and they are spreading to other locations like public roads, parks and residential areas. The size of the packs is also getting larger.

Vehicular collisions with wild boars are accidents waiting to happen, with potentially severe consequences. The chances of boars injuring members of the public are also increasing. All these signal the need to act with urgency.

We note that NParks has taken action to speak with various parties about the problem and identify a culling method for the estimated herd of 100 boars at Lower Peirce, which could double in number by the year end.

This targeted and consultative approach is sound and should be encouraged. After a humane method for culling has been identified, we recommend that the culling start at the earliest possible date.

Professor Peter Ng
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Associate Professor Diong Cheong Hoong
Natural Sciences & Science Education
National Institute of Education
Nanyang Technological University

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Green thoughts inspired by Stockholm and Rio: Ambassador Tommy Koh

How far has the world come in creating awareness of the environment?
Tommy Koh, For The Straits Times 16 Jun 12;

IN 1972, the United Nations convened the historic Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. Twenty years later, the UN Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Next week, from June 20 to June 22, the UN will hold its third conference on the environment, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, again in Rio de Janeiro.

In March 1990, the UN elected me to chair the preparatory committee for the Earth Summit. At the Summit, the conference elected me to chair the main committee, its principal negotiating forum.

The following were the summit's achievements:

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development;

Agenda 21, containing an ambitious 470-pages-long programmes of action for sustainable development in the 21st century;

Non-legally-binding authoritative statement of Principles on Forests;

Agreement to negotiate a new treaty to combat desertification;

The opening for signature of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which had been negotiated on a separate track;

The opening for signature of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which had also been negotiated on a separate track.

Twenty years have passed since the Earth Summit. Has the world made progress or regressed during this period? On the positive side, we can point to the fact that all 193 member states of the UN have either a ministry for the environment or an environmental protection agency.

The environment movement has grown stronger. It has influenced, in positive ways, the behaviour of individuals, business and governments.

However, the positives are outweighed by the negatives. The following are the principal problem areas:

The emission of greenhouse gases has continued to increase and we are no longer sure whether the goal to cap the rise of global temperature to 2 deg C is doable.

The Kyoto Protocol will expire at the end of this year and it is uncertain whether the developed countries would be willing to agree to a second commitment period (Australia and Japan have said that they would not, Canada has withdrawn from the Protocol and the US is not a party to it).

It is also not clear whether the agreement in Durban to negotiate a post-2020 agreement, applicable to all countries, will succeed.

The world's rainforests, including those in Indonesia and East Malaysia, are rapidly disappearing, due to illegal logging and unsustainable forestry management.

The world is losing its biological diversity at a rate which is 1,000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction.

In the past 50 years, we have lost 20 per cent of the land suitable for agriculture, 90 per cent of our large commercial fisheries, and 33 per cent of our forests, leading to the loss of ecosystems.

The oceans, which absorb 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide the largest source of protein to human beings, are threatened by acidification, rising temperature and over-exploitation.

Singapore's achievements

UNLIKE the dismal global picture, the last 20 years have been a period of progress for Singapore. I count the following as some of Singapore's most important achievements:

47 per cent of Singapore's total land area is covered by greenery;

The gazetting of two new nature reserves at Sungei Buloh and Labrador;

Saving the tidal flat at Chek Jawa from reclamation;

Saving the trees of the Lower Peirce Reservoir from being cut down to make way for a golf course;

The building of new parks and an islandwide park connector;

The building of the Marina Barrage and turning Marina Bay and the Kallang Basin into a reservoir;

Opening our reservoirs for recreational use and bringing nature back to our rivers, streams and canals;

Highlighting the role of cities in the conservation of biodiversity, culminating in the adoption of the Singapore Cities Biodiversity Index by the Nagoya Conference last year;

Fostering the growth of a water industry and being a global thought leader of water policy and governance;

Championing the movement of liveable cities and being a global thought leader on good urban planning, policies and solutions;

Encouraging the trend to build green buildings and to retrofit old buildings to become green buildings;

Launching multi-disciplinary environmental education, both at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels and at the Asia Pacific Centre for Environmental Law of the National University of Singapore;

Saving endangered species of animals such as the banded-leaf monkey, welcoming the return of the hornbill and rediscovering other species that were thought to have disappeared from Singapore;

Fostering a cooperative partnership between government, business and civil society;

Building a new museum of natural history.

My wish list

SINGAPORE has done well, but we should not rest on our laurels. We should continue to forge ahead. The following is my wish list.

First, I think the time has come for Singapore to enact a law on environmental impact assessment (EIA). Having been intimately involved in a legal dispute involving our land reclamation activities in the Strait of Johor, I know that we do, in fact, carry out such an assessment. The result is, however, not made public and there is no consultation with interested stakeholders. Our neighbour, Malaysia, has shown that having an EIA law need not result in inordinate delay.

At its best, the EIA will lead to a better decision, and the people will feel that their views have been taken into consideration in arriving at that decision.

Second, I would urge the authorities to consider designating our first marine nature reserve. We need such a reserve, with adequate protection measures for marine life, in order to ensure the conservation of genetic diversity. Although Singapore has one of the world's biggest and busiest ports, we have 270 species of hard corals and 111 species of reef fishes in our waters.

A marine nature reserve will ensure the survival of this natural heritage. It will also be a great selling point and indicate our serious commitment to protect the marine environment to the world. The two potential areas are Pulau Hantu and Pulau Semakau.

Third, I would request our authorities consider raising the bar on the recycling of waste. We should, where feasible, encourage the recycling of waste, such as paper, plastic, aluminium cans and glass bottles. The situation at present is not satisfactory.

We should also consider the feasibility of emulating Japan, South Korea and Taiwan by enacting a law, and to start by requiring industrial and commercial establishments, as well as hotels and foodcourts, to separate food waste from other kinds of waste at source. The food waste, when treated by anaerobic digestion, will produce biogas which can, in turn, be used to generate renewable electricity.

We had such a plant in Singapore which, unfortunately, failed because, in the absence of a law requiring the segregation of waste, it could not get enough uncontaminated food waste for treatment. This is a pity because if it had succeeded, it was scaleable and had tremendous potential in Asia as food waste is a major source of leachate contamination of ground water and a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Fourth, in our quest to reduce our carbon footprint, energy efficiency is a low-hanging fruit. The efficient use and the conservation of energy are, however, achievable only with the cooperation and help of business and the people.

Let me cite one example. Singapore has become notorious for its abuse of air-conditioning. I remember the former dean of Insead Antonio Borges telling me, during his first visit to Singapore, that he had discovered Singapore actually had two seasons: summer outdoors and winter indoors.

The gentle and humorous advertisements on television by the National Environment Agency (NEA), exhorting Singaporeans to use air-conditioning more responsibly, have not worked. I would urge the NEA and Singapore Environment Council to wage a more energetic campaign targeting our educational institutions, hospitals, movie theatres, hotels, restaurants and clubs.

The writer is Ambassador-at-Large of Singapore.

By Invitation features leading thinkers and writers from Singapore and the region.

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Builders facing long wait to dump earth

Too few sites to cope with spike in construction projects, they say
Rachel Chang Straits Times 16 Jun 12;

The earth from all four points is then loaded onto barges and moved to various offshore dumping sites, like one near St John's Island.

WITH the surge in construction projects around the island, builders have literally come up against a wall of excavated earth.

Lorries now line up for as long as five hours to discharge their loads of earth when just six months ago, there was no wait.

It is so upsetting that the Singapore Contractors' Association (Scal) has submitted a paper on the situation, with solutions, to the Ministry of National Development.

The Straits Times understands that the ministry has promised Scal, which represents some 2,000 construction companies, to ease the bottleneck at the Changi offloading point in Tanah Merah Coast Road.

Construction company bosses said the problem stems from the spike in the number of developments in the past year.

Last year, the HDB rolled out 25,000 new flats, with another 25,000 promised by the end of this year. The Government has also sold a large number of sites to private developers to build new homes: There are 86,000 units in the pipeline.

At the same time, major transport routes, such as the Downtown MRT line and the Marina Coastal Expressway, are under construction.

Also, work on the Thomson MRT line and the North-South highway is set to start soon.

The construction boom has given rise to several issues for builders, of which the dumping of earth is among the most urgent, they said.

Scal president Ho Nyok Yong said one of the solutions members have proposed is to have more offloading points around the island.

Currently, most lorries go to the one in Changi, which is managed by the Housing Board, and takes in earth from all construction projects.

There are three others. Two, in Marina Coastal Drive and Fort Road, are run by the Land Transport Authority, and open only to lorries from transport-related developments, owing to the extensive excavation from projects like the new MRT lines.

The third, at Tuas, accepts only a certain high-quality grade of earth that can be used immediately for land reclamation.

It is costly and difficult for sites to identify and sort the types of earth beforehand, so few lorries go to Tuas, said construction bosses.

The earth from all four points is then loaded onto barges and moved to various offshore dumping sites, like one near St John's Island.

Builders would like to see new points in the west and the north.

'The journey for the lorry from a site in Jurong to Changi is already one hour. Then they have to wait in line for many hours,' said Chip Eng Seng managing director of construction Yeo Siang Thong. 'This is a serious problem, and there must be a coordinated government effort to solve it.'

At its construction sites, which include three HDB Build-to-Order projects, foremen are so loath to sending lorries to the offloading points that they move earth around to projects where blocks have not been built yet, 'playing musical chairs', until there is no space left, he said.

Until there are new offloading points, the builders hope more space can be found temporarily near the Changi site to cope with the current loads.

'The Government wants us to improve our productivity. With the lorry drivers all sitting there queuing, their productivity is very low,' noted Lian Beng Group chairman and managing director Ong Pang Aik.

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Expect brief spells of haze in Singapore

Straits Times 16 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE could experience brief periods of slight haze in the next two weeks, the National Environment Agency said this week.

In an update on its haze website on Thursday, it said that weather conditions in the region had become drier early in the week, and more 'hot spot activities' had been observed in Sumatra, Indonesia.

The Pollutant Standards Index, which measures air quality here, was 50 at 4pm yesterday, in the 'good' range.

Air is unhealthy when the index passes 100.

Doctors have said that patients with respiratory problems such as asthma should carry inhalers and avoid outdoor exercise during hazy periods.

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Haze covers parts of KL and surrounding areas

Air quality 'unhealthy' in four sites; smoke from Sumatra fires to blame
Carolyn Hong Straits Times 16 Jun 12;

KUALA LUMPUR - Haze blanketed Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas yesterday as smoke from several large fires blew in from Sumatra to Peninsular Malaysia.

Four areas recorded air quality that was deemed 'unhealthy' as at 5pm. Three of them are in central Selangor - Kuala Selangor, Port Klang and Shah Alam. The pollutant level in Petaling Jaya was almost as high.

The fourth 'unhealthy' area was Cheras in Kuala Lumpur.

The worst reading yesterday was recorded in Port Klang, with an air pollutant score of 147 at 5pm.

A reading in the range of 100 to 200 is considered 'unhealthy', with 201 to 300 deemed 'very unhealthy'. Anything higher than 300 is 'hazardous'.

Visibility was low in the Klang Valley, at around 2km, throughout the day. In good weather, the visibility is usually over 10km.

The haze has also covered parts of Kalimantan and Java.

Many Malaysians took to the social media networks, especially Twitter, to complain about the haze that compounded the discomfort of the dry and hot weather.

A Department of Environment (DOE) statement said the haze was due to smoke blowing in from Sumatra in Indonesia in the last two days. It said the hazy conditions would last for a few days because of the dry weather in the northern and western coastal states of Peninsular Malaysia.

Satellite images showed an increasing number of hot spots in Sumatra from Tuesday. But by yesterday, the number was reduced significantly.

A spokesman for the National Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency's office in Pekanbaru, capital of Riau in Sumatra, told The Straits Times that seven hot spots were detected in the province yesterday, down from 27 on Thursday.

They were spread out in the stretch across the Strait of Malacca from Selangor down to Singapore and Batam.

He said the authorities will carry out cloud seeding operations to induce rain if the fires continue.

In the town of Dumai, the urban area closest to the fires, the air was thick with haze from sunrise till about 1pm, local government spokesman Darmawan said.

'It was not too dangerous, and visibility was enough for traffic to move about safely,' he said.

But he said officials had yet to determine the cause of the haze.

Every year, farmers and plantation companies in Riau and its neighbouring provinces clear their land for planting.

Many often use the cheaper but illegal slash-and-burn method, which is the chief cause of haze.

Additional reporting by Zakir Hussain in Jakarta

Haze worsens, rainfall unlikely in next few days
The Star 16 Jun 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Air Pollutant Index (API) in several areas in the Klang Valley worsened further with an additional area recording an unhealthy API Friday evening, compared to three previously.

A blanket of haze seen over Klang town, at 11.30am on Friday.

A Department of Environment (DOE) index release as at 5pm showed that the API in Cheras had deteriorated to 105, compared to a reading of 91 earlier.

The API in Port Klang and Shah Alam went up to 147 and 120 respectively, compared to 130 and 106 this morning whereas Kuala Selangor showed a slight improvement at 129 in contrast to 131.

The three areas with unhealthy API are Kuala Selangor (129), Port Klang (147) and Shah Alam (120).

Meanwhile, 34 areas recorded a moderate API reading between 51 and 100, while the number of areas with 'Good' API dropped to 12 from 14 earlier today.

Among the areas with 'moderate' API were Petaling Jaya and Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur at 99, Banting (95), Sri Manjung (92), Tanah Merah (88), Putrajaya (78) and Perai (74).

A statement from the DOE said that the bad air quality in the Klang Valley and Perak since Friday morning was due to haze drifting in from Sumatra, Indonesia.

The haze is expected to last for several days due to the forecast of a continued dry spell for several northern and west coast states at the moment.

It added that the satellite image by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre showed an increasing number of hotspots in Sumatera, Indonesia since Tuesday.

The image also showed the haze drifting from Riau, Central Sumatera heading towards the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

Meanwhile, a weather forecaster at the Meteorological Department said that rainfall is unlikely to occur soon.

"We forecast slight rain in the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia towards middle or end of next week," he said.

The country is currently experiencing the Southwest Monsoon, which generally brings dry and hot weather. These conditions are expected to last until September, he added. - Bernama

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Singaporeans eye wildlife park development in Philippines protected area

Kristine L. Alave Philippine Daily Inquirer 14 Jun 12;

The Quezon City government and a group of Singaporean businessmen have offered to develop a portion of the 20-hectare Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center into a zoo or nature sanctuary.

The prospective investors along with city officials met Thursday with the chief of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), an attached agency of the environment department which manages the park.

The parties, however, declined to give full details of the proposal. Regina Samson, communications chief of the Office of the Mayor, also withheld the name of the Singaporean group which she said made an “unsolicited proposal” to transform 3.5 hectares of the park into a nature sanctuary.

Samson denied speculations that the investors were planning to build an amusement park on prime government land. “This is a protected area. This is protected by a national law,” she said.

“It depends on how much they want to develop,” Samson said when asked on the projected cost.

“We’re just going to listen to their proposal,” PAWB chief Mundita Lim told reporters before her meeting with the investors.

Any plan to develop the park “should be consistent with its natural beauty,” she said.

Lim explained that physical improvements in the park—especially those which would require cutting trees—were restricted by law because of its designation as a protected area right in the heart of the city.

The park administration also limits human activity in the park to protect the indigenous flora and the animals kept there. Though not considered a zoo, the park serves as a temporary shelter for confiscated, donated, or injured wild animals.

The NAPWC was declared a protected area in 2004 under Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Area System (Nipas) Act.

Aside from its animal rescue center, the park also has a lagoon that doubles as a fishing grove.

A popular and inexpensive recreation area for visitors from within or outside Metro Manila, the park receives an estimated 500 to 800 guests on weekdays, with the number reaching up to 2,000 on weekends.

Entrance fees are at a minimal P5 for students and P8 for nonstudents. Senior citizens and persons with disabilities enjoy free admission.

QC wants bigger role in Ninoy Aquino wildlife park
Julie M. Aurelio Philippine Daily Inquirer 15 Jun 12;

Other private developers have expressed interest in turning the 20-hectare Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center into a more attractive green haven, as the Quezon City government said it wished to comanage the park with the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB).

The city government had only seen the preliminary proposal of a Singapore investor, but acting Mayor Joy Belmonte said she had heard of other groups keen on improving the site, including a Swiss firm.

“It’s all preliminary, nothing is definite yet. We are looking at the possibilities and best terms for the park to be a green haven in the middle of the city,” Belmote said in a phone interview.

Belmonte is serving as the city’s officer in charge while Mayor Herbert Bautista is on an official trip overseas.

The vice mayor issued the statement in reaction to an Inquirer story on Wednesday on the meeting between the PAWB and a group of Singaporean businessmen regarding their “unsolicited proposal” to turn 3.5 hectares of the park into a zoo or nature sanctuary.

The Singapore developer had previous experience in developing a night safari and bird park, Belmonte said, withholding the name of the company.

The park, which was declared a protected area in 2004, is managed by the PAWB, with the Quezon City government serving as a supporting body.

The park also serves as a temporary shelter for confiscated, rescued or injured wild animals. Development and human activity in the area are being limited by PAWB to protect its collection of indigenous flora as well as shield the animals from stress.

Belmonte said the city government wishes to comanage the park with the PAWB in a bid to develop an integrated system of green parks in Quezon City, which boasts of other nature spots like the La Mesa Dam park, the Arboretum inside the University of the Philippines campus and the Balara filtration plant compound.

“I am very proud that Quezon City has the most number of green areas and we want to integrate the management of these green areas,” she said.

The NAPWC is also covered in the master plan for Quezon City’s proposed Central Business District.

“We are one with the PAWB in the common goal of conserving and protecting nature,” she said, adding that she wished to promote growth in Quezon City by making its green parks a nature and wildlife attraction.

Belmonte particularly envisions the NAPWC to be a green habitat where animals are not caged and can breed freely.

She also dispelled rumors that part of the protected area will be turned into an amusement park, saying: “That will never happen in my lifetime.”

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Malaysia: Durian-loving elephant caught

New Straits Times 16 Jun 12;

KUALA KANGSAR: The State Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) has captured a five-tonne elephant in Kampung Sauk, near here, yesterday.

State department director Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said the bull, estimated to be between 50 and 60 years old, would be relocated to a more suitable habitat soon.

"We were notified of the elephant's presence near the village two weeks ago by some villagers.

"A team of eight men monitored the area for two days before conducting an operation which ended at 5am yesterday," he said.

Kadir said the elephant was healthy.

"We will decide its relocation site after discussing it with a team from the Elephant Unit under the National Elephant Conservation Centre," he said.

Farmer Rosli Abd Rahman, 49, said this was the first time an elephant had been caught straying into his village.

"All of us are quite curious to see it now that it has been caught.

"Initially, we were afraid due to its size but it did not cause much damage except for eating some durians from some orchards and also bringing down two coconut trees," he said.

Rosli said the pachyderm was not seen in the day and could only be heard moving and roaming about the area.

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Saving the Mangroves Front in Southeast Asia

Marwaan Macan-Markar IPS News 15 Jun 12;

ANG PULO, Philippines, Jun 15 2012 (IPS) - On a humid islet covered with mangroves, Lucena Duman and her neighbours have found a route out of poverty. They work as conservationists and tour guides in this isolated corner of the Philippines.

After feeding her goats, which were once her only source of income, the 46-year-old Duman dons a wide-brimmed sun hat, slips into a yellow guides T-shirt and heads out on her bamboo raft. She is going from her village of small-scale fishers and farmers to Ang Pulo island in the South China Sea.

Her work on the 7.5 hectare islet has brought a new appreciation of mangroves. “All I knew of mangroves before was that they were a source of firewood and food – snails,” she admitted during a break from guiding visitors to plant mangrove seedlings. “But after being trained, we realise it is a richer place for us if we protect mangroves.”

The sea change since late 2009 is not limited to the Philippines. Similar accounts are heard across Southeast Asia as regional and international organisations promoting biodiversity encourage local communities to become foot soldiers to defend what is left of some 63,000 sq km of mangrove forests.

“This is a phenomenon spreading across the forestry eco-system in Southeast Asia and the rest of the continent,” says Simmathiri Appanah, forestry officer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Asia and Pacific office in Bangkok. “Communities living close to forests are being drawn to manage and preserve them, and what is happening with mangroves reflects this.”

The new formula offers communities an economic incentive to protect mangroves and, at times, the special rights as co-owners of mangroves. “It is better than policies that prevailed before, where government agencies played a dominant role in managing mangroves, ignoring the people who lived nearby,” Appanah tells IPS.

All ten countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional bloc, have programmes to protect these salt-tolerant trees and shrubs with their thick roots. Local communities, school children and even the private sector have been drawn to this effort.

In Indonesia, the largest country in the region and home to 62 percent of mangrove cover in ASEAN, college students rallying under the banner Green Community are involved in managing the coastal ecosystems near their schools, according to the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), an intergovernmental body promoting conservation in the regional bloc. “They plant mangroves with a number of partners.”

In Malaysia, a mangrove conservation project supported by a private bank has “resulted in an alternative source of income for the communities through the establishment of mangrove nurseries,” adds the ACB. In neighbouring Singapore “children (are being taught) how to appreciate its mangrove ecosystem.”

“The territory occupied by the Philippines and the rest of the ASEAN member states houses a third of the world’s mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass areas,” says Rodrigo Fuentes, executive director of ACB, based in the Philippines city Los Banos. “These ecosystems support the highest concentration of coastal and marine fauna and flora in the planet.”

Consequently, the economic value of mangroves needs to be seen in a different light as offering a “stream of ecosystem services” that matter to the fishing and tourism sectors, he explains in an interview. “This paradigm shift is happening now, putting a full value to mangroves to benefit an estimated 600 million people in the ASEAN region who depend on these resources for food and income.”

But there are other benefits, too. Mangroves serve as an important buffer for coastal communities hit by storms that churn up tidal surges, and as a frontline defence of expected sea level rises due to global warming.

Research in Malaysia offers another feature about mangroves helping the planet combat climate change – a high capacity for sequestering carbon. “They represent a potentially vast carbon sink, absorbing and storing excess carbon from the atmosphere,” states Dicky Simorangkir, international advisor to a biodiversity project run by the German international development agency (GIZ). “They are able to sequester some 1.5 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year.”

Yet, such growing appreciation for mangroves is not universal, Simorangkir admits. He points to the steady loss of mangroves for firewood, to produce charcoal, and wood chips and timber for sale. Mangroves are also felled in large swathes to make way for shrimp farms. “About 150,000 hectares of mangroves are lost a year around the globe.”

And so the Ang Pulo mangrove conservation park matters in Southeast Asia, which has seen its coastlines lose some 600 sq km of mangroves annually for the last 20 years. “Only one percent of mangroves are protected globally, like the Ang Pulo reserve,” says Simorangkir.

For Duman, it means guiding those who visit the islet, from university students to Filipinos driving from Manila for a weekend holiday, to discover the signs of a mangrove on the mend after trunks were slashed years ago. “There are more crabs and shrimp and over 20 different types of birds now,” she says. “These mangroves are our future.”

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New frog species found in central Vietnam

thanhniennews 14 Jun 12;

Australian and Vietnamese scientists have discovered another species of frog in central Vietnam, the Sai Gon Tiep Thi newspaper reports.

The Firth's Asian Leaf Litter Toad (Leptolalax firthi) was discovered and described by Australian Museum biologist Dr Jodi Rowley and her colleagues from the University of Science-Ho Chi Minh City, Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources and Vinh University.

The finding was published last month in Zootaxa, the world’s leading magazine for taxonomy, based in New Zealand.

The strange-looking toads were found in the forests of Quang Nam and Kon Tum provinces, according to the scientists.

Southeast Asia has been described as one of the world's biodiversity hotspots for amphibians. The website says it is a region "where a remarkable evolutionary explosion has resulted in incredible diversity of form, color and lifestyle." Over 700 species of amphibians can be found in the region.

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Mozambique: Full force of the law needed to save stricken dugongs

IUCN 23 May 12;

Law enforcement is key to saving one of the world’s most threatened marine mammals - the Dugong (Dugong dugon) - and a project funded by SOS - Save Our Species is on the case in Mozambique.

The Dugong is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - its population has declined by 30% in the last six decades. Applying the correct penalties for illegal fishing is crucial for reducing the entanglement of dugongs in gill nets - one of the major threats to this shy species.

East Africa’s last viable dugong population is represented by an estimated 200 individuals found in Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. This population is geographically isolated and remains under threat from entanglement in gill nets and habitat destruction.

Recently, during several patrols, law enforcement officers in the National Park were able to remove two unattended gill nets and confiscate reef fishing gear from a crew operating in a specially protected zone.

“Bazaruto’s Dugongs could vanish in as little as 40 years unless the most significant threats to this population are mitigated,” says Karen Allen, Dugong project leader. “Through effective partnerships, and applying both a top-down and bottom-up conservation approach, Bazaruto’s Dugongs have a chance of survival.”

Throughout Mozambique, dugong numbers have been reduced by incidental takes (bycatch) in small-scale gill net fisheries, as well as by deliberate hunting. Local extinctions have occurred where populations were previously robust.

With the support of SOS, South Africa’s Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), an IUCN Member, is able to develop a revised law enforcement strategy and establish systems that will enhance conservation of the National Park.

SOS support has enabled the purchase of critical law enforcement equipment which will help the project raise further funds for aerial surveillance and monitoring. This will allow regular observation of the National Park and areas of special protection. The surveillance flights will double as additional law enforcement support and also collect current dugong sightings and distribution data.

It is hoped the long term success of the project will be ensured by transferring conservation management skills to the National Park’s law enforcement officers.

For more information please check out the SOS-funded Dugong project.

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Bureaucratic Bungling Finished Rhino Species: Book

Ed Stoddard PlanetArk 15 Jun 12;

There was a narrow window of opportunity to save Africa's northern white rhinos from extinction but bureaucratic ineptitude slammed it shut and the species has now almost certainly vanished from the wild.

The last-ditch effort to save the animal in its final Congolese refuge is detailed in a new book, "The Last Rhinos," by South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony, who died of a heart attack in early March just weeks before it was published.

Anthony, who famously rescued the animals of the Baghdad zoo in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, even travelled into the bush to meet leaders of the infamous Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to get their promise to protect the rhinos.

With elephant and rhino poaching surging across Africa, Anthony's failed bid to save the northern whites - a sub-species of the horned pachyderm - is a poignant reminder how high the stakes are in the region's brutal wildlife wars.

The last known population of the animals was holed up in Garamba National Park in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - a remote, wild region teeming with armed groups.

The late Douglas Adams, better known for "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" science fiction comedies, visited the reserve two decades ago for a book on vanishing wildlife he wrote entitled "Last Chance to See."

The country was then called Zaire and Adams wrote that the park was "scantily visited" because of the "insane bureaucratic nightmares that assail any visitor."

Anthony could certainly relate. If any man could save the last of the northern white rhinos, it was him. But Congolese government inanities smothered his plans.

Anthony managed to secure the experts needed, the funding and the equipment which would have included helicopters to dart the critters and marksmen to do the job.

The DRC's ambassador to South Africa was behind the project and time was running out as the end of the wet season would make the animals accessible to determined poachers.

The year was 2006 and surveys suggested there were fewer than 15 of the animals left in the wild, with a few in captivity in a Czech zoo - too small a gene pool to do much good.

The Environment Minister in DRC also backed the project but bizarrely, Anthony wrote that he met resistance from ICCN, the Congolese government agency responsible for conservation.

Garamba was effectively run by a non-profit foundation called African Parks and it also finally came on board.

"We immediately contacted the ICCN and informed them of African Parks' decision. A few days later we received a response saying that they agreed to the rescue provided African Parks agreed," Anthony wrote.

"But they have agreed, we replied. And with that the ridiculous merry-go-round started again and we were unable to make any more progress."


Anthony tried other routes, audaciously making contact with the feared Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), as its gunmen and troops were based in and around the park.

From what is today South Sudan, he travelled to a jungle lair in DRC to meet the LRA's Vincent Otti, who was the number two to the group's leader, Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, wanted by the International Criminal Court for atrocities including the kidnapping of children for use as soldiers and sex slaves.

Anthony claims he got, among other things, the LRA pledge to protect the rhinos, a sacred totem animal for some of the Acholi people of northern Uganda.

But things subsequently came apart. Otti was executed in the bush and subsequent surveys could not find any more of the northern whites. The chance to save the species evaporated.

Elsewhere the rhino situation is brighter, if precarious. The black rhino has gone extinct in west Africa but there are a few thousand left elsewhere, mostly in South Africa and Namibia.

Confusingly, both African species are in fact greyish.

There are around 20,000 southern white rhinos, the vast majority of them in South Africa, where 448 black and white rhinos were poached last year for their horns to meet surging demand from newly affluent Asia, where it is coveted for use in traditional medicines.

Over 600 will be killed this year in South Africa if current trends continue.

Still, there may be one last ray of hope for the northern white rhinos.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature - the authority on issues of extinction - still classifies the species as critically endangered though it admits the last confirmed wild population in Garamba has "probably gone extinct."

But it says there are unsubstantiated reports of a small population hanging on in a remote area of South Sudan.

If that proves true and Anthony was still alive, he would have viewed it "as the best news he ever had in his life," his co-author and brother-in-law Graham Spence told Reuters.

Perhaps the last chance to see them has not vanished.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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