Best of our wild blogs: 21 Jun 12

2 Jul (Mon): FREE Seagrass Workshop by Siti
from wild shores of singapore

Cyrene in the dark
from wild shores of singapore

Rare Skippers @ Dairy Farm Park After Rain
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Places - Having Left Ubin

Jambu Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus jambu)
from Flying Fish Friends

Female Indian Peafowl Prejudiced Against Albino Offspring
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Upcoming film screening and discussion on Bukit Brown: Moving House from Green Drinks Singapore

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Haze in Malaysia and Indonesia

Indonesia: Pontianak’s Haze Worsens
Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 20 Jun 12;

The annual haze that blankets parts of Kalimantan and Sumatra worsened over Pontianak on Monday, decreasing visibility for motorists and affecting the health of local residents.

Raihan, head of the city’s environment office, called on residents to stay alert while driving or walking. “People should always be careful in times like this,” he said.

Pontianak’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has so far recorded 45 hot spots spread over nine districts in West Kalimantan. In Sumatra, a total of 163 hot spots were detected on Sunday.

“The haze has not disrupted flights to and from the city yet because it doesn’t blanket the whole sky above the airport,” said Sutikno, a BMKG official at Pontianak’s Supadio International Airport.

Raihan said his office had yet to determine the source of the haze, adding that several teams have been deployed to various locations to investigate.

“We want to find out whether the haze is due to peat or forest burning by companies or residents as it is almost planting season. The hot spots can also come from fires set off by the long dry season,” he said.

Rain has not fallen in the province for several weeks now, causing fire to easily ignite, he added.

“However, we have called on residents and companies not to burn forests and advised people to use masks when they conduct outdoor activities,” Raihan said.

Eko, a 30-year-old Pontianak resident, said visibility in the city was only about 200 meters in the morning, and worsened toward the evening as the haze grew thicker.

With the haze becoming thicker over the past few weeks, he said, more and more residents have begun to suffer from upper respiratory tract infections.

“We’ve been dealing with this situation for two weeks now, and it’s getting worse every day with the lack of rain. Most of us now use masks whenever we’re outdoors,” Eko said.

Haze is an annual problem during the monsoon season from May to September in Kalimantan and Sumatra. Neighboring Singapore and Malaysia also suffer when winds blow the fumes over the Malacca Strait.

The Air Pollutant Index reached the unhealthy level of 127 in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday and visibility was described as poor by the Meteorological Department, Agence France-Presse reported.

With dry weather forecast for the next week, air quality is expected to deteriorate further.

Malaysia: Air quality improves despite hazy skies
The Star 20 Jun 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Despite hazy skies, moderate air quality was recorded in most places nationwide, said the Department of Environment (DOE).

It said the Air Pollution Index (API) at 46 of 50 stations nationwide recorded moderate air quality while the remaining four registered good air quality as at 5pm yesterday.

The haze is still present in northern and central Sumatra coastline, the Malacca Straits and the west coast of northern states of peninsula Malaysia.

DOE said the major cause of the drop in air quality was the drifting haze from Sumatra.

Satellite images released by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre showed hot spots in Sumatra had risen to 310 from 163 the previous day.

DOE has activated the National Haze Action Plan and the Open Burning Prevention Action Plan in all states as well as implementing its Standard Operating Procedures in monitoring the air quality nationwide.

Open burning has been banned in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putra­jaya.

Members of the public are urged to report bush fire and open burning to the Fire and Rescue Department at 999 or DOE at 1-800-88-2727. — Bernama

Haze worsens in Penang
The Star 21 Jun 12;

GEORGE TOWN: The haze has worsened in Penang, with Seberang Jaya the only place in the country recording unhealthy air quality.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) reading in Seberang Jaya reached 105 as at 5pm yesterday from 101 earlier in the day. Tuesday’s reading was 86.

The API readings for the rest of the country yesterday were below 100.

In George Town, the API increased to 80 at 5pm yesterday from 78 at 7am. The level was 75 on Tuesday.

Readings in Prai increased to 90 at 5pm from 87 at 7am yesterday and less than 80 on Tuesday.

A Department of Environment (DOE) officer said the worsening haze in Penang was due to the change of wind direction which blew the haze northwards from the south.

There was also poor visibility in Penang yesterday. A check with the Malaysian Meteorological Department showed that visibility on the Penang mainland was only 2km from 8am to 4pm before it improved to 3km at 5pm.

Visibility at Bayan Lepas remained between 3km and 4km from 8am to 5pm.

The total number of hotspots in Sumatra increased to 341 places as recorded by the NOAA-18 satellite as at 3.43pm yesterday, compared to 267 hotspots on Tuesday.

The people are urged to report bush fires and open burning to the Fire and Rescue Department at 999 or DOE at 1-800-88- 2727.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said that the state government would cancel all its outdoor events for the next few days.

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Malaysian lawmakers green light Lynas rare earths plant

Anuradha Raghu and Niluksi Koswanage PlanetArk 20 Jun 12;

Australia's Lynas Corp is set to clear the final hurdle for its delayed $800 million rare earths plant after Malaysian lawmakers asked the government to issue the miner a temporary operating license despite community safety concerns.

The recommendations of the six-member lawmaker committee are expected to be rubber stamped by parliament later on Tuesday, clearing the way for Lynas to start operating the plant that is key to breaking China's grip on rare earths used in products ranging from Apple Inc's smartphones to Honda Motors' hybrid cars.

"It's another in a long line of affirmations for the safety of the Lynas plant," said a Lynas spokesman in Australia.

Lynas shares added nearly 9 percent, while analysts said the plant, set to be the biggest in the world outside China, could start operating within four months of the issuance of a temporary operating license.

The Lynas plant on Malaysia's east coast has been standing ready to fire up since early May, but the company has been embroiled since construction began two years ago in lengthy environmental and safety disputes with local residents.

Widespread protests over concerns at possible radioactive residue have drawn thousands of people at a time, and the project has become a hot topic ahead of an election likely to be held this year.

The decision by the committee, which was dominated by MPs from the ruling Barisan National coalition, came after Malaysia dismissed an appeal by residents to scrap the plant on radiation concerns.


Prized for their magnetism, luminescence and strength, world consumption of rare earths is estimated to rise to around 185,000 metric tonnes (204,000 tons) a year by 2015, from 136,000 tonnes in 2010.

China imposed export quotas in 2009 to fight pollution caused by illegal mining and processing, turning up the pressure to find alternative sources.

The Lynas plant would supply about 11,000 metric tonnes in its first year, eventually rising to 22,000 metric tonnes. The company says demand is so strong that it has locked in customers for all the rare-earths it can process in the first 10 years of operations.

Malaysia's opposition lawmakers boycotted the committee set up three months earlier, accusing the government of planning a whitewash over the plant in Prime Minister Najib Razak's home state of Pahang. Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday called the latest report "propaganda from Lynas".

Najib is seeking a strong mandate based on a track record of drawing in investments and boosting growth at a time when the euro zone debt crisis hobbles the global economy.

"The parliamentary committee's findings will blow up the Lynas issue for many voters who were against the plant," said James Chin, political science professor at Malaysia's Monash campus. "There will be some form of a backlash."

Lynas, which last year said refined rare earth exports from Malaysia could hit 8 billion ringgit ($2.5 billion) from 2013 -- equivalent to 1 percent of the country's gross domestic product, is expected to figure prominently in Najib's plans.


The committee on Tuesday said awarding the license would help the factory start processing rare earths in stages and recommended a committee of NGOs and experts keep track of the plant.

"Among all the rare earths factories in operation, they (Lynas) are the most advanced, we were told by international experts," select committee chairmanet Mohamed Khaled Nordin told reporters outside the parliament hall.

Deutsche Bank said it expected Lynas to submit its plan to meet earlier government conditions on neutralizing radioactive elements in plant waste and an emergency response plan on dust control this week, looking for a sign-off by end-July.

Once the license was issued, it would take another four months for Lynas to generate cash from the plant - one month for shipping the concentrate from its Australian mine to Malaysia and three months to commission the plant.

The 100-page report said while Lynas had met safety, health and environmental standards, an additional 31 recommendations would be tabled in what appeared to be concessions to public concerns over the plant's safety aspects.

Key among them was a recommendation Lynas has to ship out factory waste from Malaysia if it is unable to find an approved storage and recycling site -- a condition the panel says Lynas is already committed to although opposition lawmakers said the report was scant on the terms of such a deal.

(Additional reporting by Sonali Paul in MELBOURNE; Writing by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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Indonesian Forestry Ministry Probes Series of Elephant Deaths in Sumatra

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 20 Jun 12;

The Forestry Ministry is investigating the series of 12 elephant deaths in Sumatra since March, according to Novianto Bambang, the ministry’s director for conservation and biodiversity.

“Our strong suspicion is that those elephants that died in East Aceh and the Tesso Nilo National Park [in Riau] were poisoned, but we do not yet know what the motive could be,” Novianto said on Wednesday.

He said that a team had been deployed to Aceh and Riau to investigate the deaths.

“So far, we still have to await the results of a forensic laboratory examination in Medan in relation to the type of toxin, study the feces and what other things they carried,” he said.

The statement came as a report of another elephant found dead in Riau came from Petani village in Mandau, Bengkalis. Local villagers said the carcass, without its tusks, was found already in an advanced stage of decomposition on Wednesday.

Novianto cautioned that even though the tusks of the dead elephants were missing, it did not necessarily mean that the killings were for the ivory.

“It can also be that the tusk are cut intentionally to create the image that they were done by elephant tusk hunters, or they were poisoned because they are considered pests. It is not certain that they were killed for their tusks only,” he said.

Regarding the dead elephants in Riau’s Tesso Nilo National Park, Novianto said not all elephants were inside the conservation area and that it was very difficult with the limited human resources available to supervise about 30,000 hectares to make sure that no elephants were killed.

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.

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 “critically endangered,” 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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Rio+20: Maldives to create world's biggest marine reserve

AFP Yahoo News 20 Jun 12;

The Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives announced at the Rio+20 summit here Wednesday it would create the world's biggest marine reserve to protect its fisheries and biodiversity.

"I would like to announce today Maldives will become the first country to become a marine reserve," President Mohamed Waheed said in a speech.

"It will become the single largest marine reserve in the world. This policy will allow only sustainable and eco-friendly fishing. It will exclude deep-sea, purse-seining and other destructive (trawling) techniques," he said.

He was referring to a fishing technique in which a seine in the shape of a bag is used to ensnare fish and other catch.

Waheed added: "Already, Maldives is a sanctuary for sharks, turtles and many species of fish in the Indian Ocean. Trade in these products is now illegal in the Maldives."

He did not spell out how big the reserve would be, but said, "We can do it in a short time. I hope we can do it in five years."

Sue Lieberman, deputy director of the Pew Environment Group, a US non-governmental organization, said the announcement was "highly significant... and a great commitment," given that a marine reserve carried a much tougher status than a marine-protected area.

"Technically, a marine reserve is like where there is no extractive use, there is no industrial fishing, no mining. It doesn't mean no recreational fishing or boating," she told AFP.

"It's like, on land, having a national park."

"What he said implies their whole EEZ, although we'll wait to hear more," she said.

The EEZ -- exclusive economic zone -- is the area of sea that can be claimed by a country to exploit its marine resources, to a limit of 200 nautical miles around its coasts.

"Maldives may be a small (set of) island(s) but it's a large country when you count their ocean," she said.

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