Best of our wild blogs: 10 Jul 12

Mentorship Programme – The 7 Habits of Green Conscious Singaporeans from Green Future Solutions

Secretive squirrel, orchids rediscovered, corals studied and more
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity! and Launch of Private Lives: Rainforest and the DNA website

bats @ the merlion - July 2012
from sgbeachbum

Nature's Niche clearance sale: 30% off
from wild shores of singapore

Major upgrades in NOAA’s global coral bleaching prediction and monitoring
from Bleach Watch Singapore

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Pro-wild boar group seeks answers

Straits Times Forum 10 Jul 12;

AT A meeting a month ago, the National Parks Board (NParks) informed three non-governmental organisations that the carrying capacity for wild boars in our forests was 500 ('Wild boars: Public safety a prime concern for NParks'; June 30).

It now states that based on numerous studies done elsewhere, the upper limit of the natural population in a balanced ecosystem is 100 in the nature reserves.

Dr Kalan Ickes' research was quoted by NParks as proof of the negative impact of wild boars. However, Dr Ickes has had at least five publications from 2001 to 2005 based on only one particular forest in Malaysia that endured heavy logging.

Which particular study was selected and are such studies completely relevant and applicable to Singapore's context? Careful analysis of Dr Ickes' research will reveal the selectivity of wild boars on vegetation damage, and this can be instead used for more humane management practices.

The negative impact of wild boars on our forests has been highlighted by NParks; is it currently able to clarify the scientific studies that have been carried out to document this?

Wild animals are indeed unpredictable in their behaviour, but this applies to numerous native species in our forests; this cannot be used as a justification for culling.

We sincerely hope that NParks will carry out further studies and consider more humane options before making a decision to cull the wild boars.

Louis Ng
Executive Director
Animal Concerns Research and Education Society

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Coral Triangle reefs 'face wipe-out'

Report says over 85% at risk; Singapore's entire reef zone under severe threat
Jonathan Pearlman, For The Straits Times 10 Jul 12;

SYDNEY - The marine life and reefs across Asia's 'Coral Triangle' are facing almost total wipe-out from coastal development, overfishing and pollution, a new report warns.

More than 85 per cent of reefs are threatened across the triangle region, which includes Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Singapore's entire reef zone - a relatively small area of 13 sq km but with relatively high diversity - faces 'severe threat', mainly from high levels of shipping and industrial activity.

The report, released yesterday by the World Resources Institute, a non-governmental environmental think-tank based in the United States, presents a grim picture for the future of the triangle region.

While the triangle typically covers Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste, the report has broadened it to include Singapore, Brunei and the entire economic zones of all the countries affected - an area of 86,500 sq km.

It has the world's greatest concentration of marine life, including 35 per cent of the world's reefs and more than 3,000 species of fish. It provides food and employment to more than 130 million people.

The report says the most damaging threat to the region is 'destructive fishing' - the use of explosives and poisons to kill or capture fish. It is a common practice in the region, particularly in East Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The threats from coastal development and pollution - especially from shipping - have also been increasing. 'When these threats are combined with recent coral bleaching, prompted by rising ocean temperatures, the (percentage) of reefs rated as threatened increases to more than 90 per cent,' the report says.

It calls on nations in the area to agree quickly on measures to curb pollution and excessive fishing.

It lists a range of recommendations to 'avoid irreversible damage and loss', including tighter coastal zoning laws and removing subsidies that encourage excessive fishing.

It also says pollution could be reduced by preventing waste disposal by ships at sea, designating safe shipping lanes and preventing run-off from farming and mining.

'People's high dependence on reefs, in terms of providing food and livelihoods, means the degradation of the region's reefs will be felt acutely by local populations, with implications for regional food security and globally important fish stocks,' it says.

The report, Reefs At Risk Revisited In The Coral Triangle, was launched at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, a four-yearly meeting of the world's top marine scientists, which is being held this year in Cairns, Australia.

The report's lead author, Ms Lauretta Burke, said the threat to the region's reefs was 'incredibly high' and would affect millions of people who depend on them for their livelihoods and protection from waves during storms. 'The benefits reefs provide are at risk, which is why concerted action to mitigate threats to reefs across the Coral Triangle region is so important,' she said.

At the conference yesterday, more than 2,600 scientists released a landmark statement calling for immediate action to address the threat to reefs around the world. The statement says the main threats are pollution, sedimentation, overfishing and climate change, and 'all of them are expected to increase in severity'.

A senior scientist from the Smithsonian Institution in the US, Dr Jeremy Jackson, said the future of coral reefs was 'a central problem for humanity'.

'What's good for reefs is also critically important for people and we should wake up to that fact,' he said.

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Private lives in public

Flora and fauna including rare finds in Singapore's rainforests are the subject of a new book
Chang Ai-Lien Straits Times 10 Jul 12;

Singapore's rainforests are home to a rich array of plants and animals, including the prized Tongkat Ali aphrodisiac.

A new book by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore highlights these treasures, many of which even the most avid visitor to nature parks may not have set eyes on.

The new book, Private Lives: An Expose Of Singapore's Rainforests, follows on the heels of three other popular nature books by the museum at the university's Faculty of Science on seashores, mangroves and freshwater.

The latest book, which took a year to put together, is a treasure trove of stunning photographs and interesting nuggets of information. It was the combined effort of 19 writers - naturalists and scientists, four of whom were editors.

One of the editors, head of the museum's education unit Wang Luan Keng, says: 'Our aim is to showcase the country's rich biodiversity which Singaporeans may not know of. It's so rich, in fact, that we're still finding out how much we don't know.'

Singapore's biodiversity as a whole remains so abundant that more than 100 species completely new to science have been found here in recent years. These range from new species of moss to fishes, spiders, shrimps and barnacles.

The Republic is home to more than 40,000 native species of flora and fauna which have survived despite extensive habitat destruction.

Museum director Professor Peter Ng says: 'While it is somewhat sad to think about what we have lost, the fact remains that we still have much to study, conserve and be proud of. This book offers interesting insights into the wonderful plants and animals still surviving, thriving and surprising us in our rainforests.'

Ambassador-At-Large of Singapore Professor Tommy Koh, writing in the foreword, noted how the Singapore Index on Cities' Biodiversity - a tool to monitor, assess and manage the status of biodiversity in urban areas - had been adopted by the conference of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya in 2010.

'The rapid loss of the world's biodiversity and the degradation of our ecosystems will ultimately pose a threat to life on earth,' he wrote. 'Singapore has pioneered the idea that cities can play a role in the conservation of the world's biodiversity.'

Apart from the comprehensive look at animal and plant life, the book also touches on issues relevant here, such as the conflicts of conserving biodiversity on a small and highly urbanised island.

One chapter looks at the natural products from the forest and how it is a vital store of medicine and food, while another highlights some rarely seen forest denizens which come to life at night.

It also pays tribute to one of Singapore's long-standing 'eco-warriors', botanist Wee Yeow Chin. The former Nature Society (Singapore) president 'has been a tireless and feisty fighter for what he believes in, always ready to roll up his shirt- sleeves and engage in full-on fisticuffs if need be'.

Among his many achievements, the book noted how he was one of the first local botanists to sound the alarm when Bukit Timah Nature Reserve began drying out in the 1970s and 1980s.

Quarrying, road and housing developments had begun to encroach, and lightning strikes started puncturing the forest canopy. He campaigned for the halt of quarrying, the reforested buffer zones and extensions to the reserve that became a reality in the 1990s, it said.

The book project was completed with a $40,000 grant by ExxonMobil. It is on sale at bookshops at a recommended retail price of $22 for the paperback copy and $35 for the hardcover version.

Proceeds from the sale of the books go towards more nature publications and biodiversity projects, and next in line is a book exploring Singapore's marine life.

Wonder plants: Strange and interesting plants found in Singapore's primary forests include the Tongkat Ali (right), which is traditionally used to reduce fever. It has become well-known for its alleged aphrodisiac properties, proven to work on laboratory rats.

The rainforest provides a rich array of food such as flowers to its animals, such as the Pink-necked Green Pigeon (right), seen here feasting on fruit. A common forest species that can be found in gardens, it flies in flocks in search of fruits.

The spotted wood owl (right), which enjoys meatier prey, is known for its loud barking call. This forest species is also doing well in mature parks and has bred successfully in places such as the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Eye see you: Butterflies and moths are good indicators of plant biodiversity in Singapore's forests, as many are highly dependent on the plants found mainly in nature reserves here during their early stages.

Of the more than 300 species of butterflies found here, including the Common Tree Nymph butterfly (above,right), over 60 per cent are known only from the forested areas.

The striking caterpillar (right) of the Oleander Hawk Moth has a trick to prevent itself from ending up as someone's dinner. It has large fake eyes on its body to trick would-be predators into believing that it is larger and more ferocious than it actually is.

Jewel of the jungle: Singapore is home to a rich array of flora and fauna, many of which have yet to be named or discovered. Among them is this jewel-toned tiger beetle (right) in the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

New heights: The Sunda Colugo (right), known as the flying lemur, is a shy, nocturnal animal that is often unseen high in the treetops.

Once thought to be destined for extinction, studies estimate that there are now more than 3,000 of them in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Area.

Another animal once thought to be extinct here is the Leopard Cat (right). It has been spotted recently in the Western and Central catchment areas, Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong.

Tuft luck: Nymph or young of a plant-hopper, which has yet to be identified. The iridescent tuft on the back end of the animal (right) found in Lower Pierce Reservoir is composed of wax filaments and used as a form of camouflage.

New book launched to capture S'pore's rainforests & rich biodiversity
Valerie Chang Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 12;

SINGAPORE: A new book has been launched to offer a glimpse into Singapore's unique life-forms and rich greenery.

Entitled "Private Lives: An Exposé of Singapore's Rainforests", it promises to awe nature lovers with the natural heritage thriving in Singapore.

The fourth in the "Private Lives" series, sponsored by ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, it showcases Singapore's rainforests and its rich biodiversity.

The other three books published were on seashores, mangroves and freshwater respectively.

Written in 'paparazzi style' and accompanied by vividly coloured photographs, it aims to pique the interests of readers, and get them to play an active role in conservation efforts.

The book was launched early in July by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The musuem also introduced a free online database - the "Digital Nature Archive of Singapore" (DNA).

It puts together all historical and current records on Singapore's flora, fauna and natural habitats.

More than 100 years of research by NUS faculty members and naturalists can also be found in the website.

It complements national efforts by the National Parks Board and the National Library Board to build up national inventories on biodiversity related publications.

Professor Peter Ng, who is the director of RMBR, said: "(We're small, yes,) we have lost a lot because we have to grow. But whatever we have is still very valuable. And I need the people living here, citizens or non-citizens, to be actually proud of what is here.

"And actually to be very honest, we still have quite a lot of stuff. It's important therefore, not only to know. We need people to do their part to try to conserve, because it cannot be assumed that everything we have now will stay that way forever."

A fifth, and perhaps the last, book in the series is currently in the works.

Professor Chou Loke Ming from the department of Biological Sciences at NUS will be helming the publication that will be on coral reefs.

It is expected to be ready within the next 12 to 18 months.

"Private Lives: An Exposé of Singapore's Rainforests" will be available at NUS libraries.

It will also be on sale at RMBR, NUS Co-op, Nature's Niches, Select Bookstore and the Library Shop at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, at a recommended retail price of S$22 for the paperback version and S$35 for the hardcover version.

All proceeds from the sale of the books go towards more nature publications and biodiversity projects.

- CNA/ck

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Malaysia: Latex timber clone plantations threaten tiger habitats in Johor

Shrinking refuge
Natalie Heng The Star 10 Jul 12;

Latex timber clone plantations are threatening important tiger habitats in Johor.

MALAYSIA’S Central Forest Spine (CFS) Master Plan has been lauded as an example of how conservation can go mainstream. It is a federal policy which plans to link up Peninsular Malaysia’s four major forest complexes through a network of forested corridors, to create one contiguous green sanctuary for wildlife.

There is just one problem: support from the Federal Government alone is not enough to make the plan work. State co-operation is needed because constitutionally speaking, land tenure falls under the jurisdiction of the state. For now, all eyes are on Johor – home to a tiger stronghold and one of the CFS Master Plan’s most important forest corridors.

In 2009, a fuss was kicked up about a slew of rubber monocultures destined to eat into an already narrow strip of greenery deemed crucial within the CFS Master Plan. That strip is listed as Primary Linkage 1 under the master plan. Falling within the Sembrong Forest Reserve in Johor, it had previously been logged. Currently, it spans about 10km in width, and represents a bottle neck squeezed from either side by encroaching urban and agricultural developments.

The area was declared an Environmentally Sensitive Area Rank 1 in 2005 – a title which comes with a recommendation against any development, agriculture and logging, and where only low-impact nature tourism, research and education are allowed. It is crucial for wildlife moving along the Central Forest Spine through the Endau-Kluang Wildlife Reserve (which encompasses Endau Rompin National Park) down to the Endau-Kota Tinggi Wildlife Reserve.

The reserves are managed by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and were set aside in colonial times for the purpose of safeguarding Malaysia’s natural heritage. However, they now overlap Permanent Reserved Forests gazetted by the Forestry Department, which manages those areas for timber production. The Labis and Sembrong forest reserves overlap the Endau-Kluang Wildlife Reserve, whilst the Mersing, Lenggor, and Ulu Sedili forest reserves overlap the Endau-Kota Tinggi Wildlife Reserve.

These objectives, seemingly at odds, gave rise to confusion when the issue came to light, prompting the state to issue a stop order for two plantations already operating in the area. Any company wanting to open up rubberwood monocultures in the area would now first have to submit Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), followed by Environmental Management Plans, before any chance of approval. In the mean time, local and international demand for rubberwood continues to overshadow any future decisions on the matter.

Estate expansions

Demand for fast-growing latex timber clones (LTC) have increased due to shortages in rubber wood, which is widely used within the Malaysian furniture industry, and because high oil prices have given latex a competitive edge over its petroleum-based rubber alternatives. Land shortages for new crops have spurred the expansion of these monocultures at the expense of sustainably managed timber production forests, thanks to a loophole in the National Forestry Act 1984 which fails to specify that Permanent Reserved Forests should consist of only “natural forest”.

Last year, four rubberwood plantation projects were given EIA approvals within the forests surrounding Primary Linkage 1, in the district of Mersing. Each must now submit an Environmental Management Plan to the Department of Environment, detailing how environmental mitigation measures will be incorporated into the project.

Once those are approved, 9,038ha of forest will be cleared and replaced with rubber trees. Two of the four companies had already began planting about 600ha before the stop order came, and sources say that at the time, elephants were a major pest and were destroying most of the newly planted seedlings.

Recently, a dead elephant was found on the grounds of one of these companies, Jasa Wibawa, which was acquired last year by the Evergreen Group, an international supplier of wood-based products which tout the use of “sustainable plantation rubber wood”.

Sources say another company, Hamid Sawmill, has started work at the site despite not getting approval yet for its Environmental Management Plan. The other two plantation companies which have submitted plans for the area are Setindan and a state-linked joint venture company, PPL Plantations.

Flood worries

Flooding has become a major concern for Johor. It was the worst-hit state during the 2006-2007 floods, which racked up a cost of some RM1.5bil – making it the costliest flood event in Malaysian history. Floods also happened twice last year, forcing over 40,000 residents to evacuate from areas in Segamat, Muar, Kota Tinggi, Kluang and Kahang.

In 2009, a member of parliament had raised his concern during a state assembly sitting about the state’s approval for tens of thousands of hectares of natural forest to be converted into rubberwood monocultures, and the potential consequences this might have on state water supply and flood mitigation. Wetlands International (an expert NGO on wetland conservation) senior technical officer Lee Shin Shin underlines the importance of freshwater and peat swamps, which according to topographical maps, are widely dispersed throughout the plantation area in Primary Linkage 1 of the CFS.

She says swamps perform important ecosystem functions that cannot be mimicked by man-made systems, and are highly important in flood mitigation, because they act like a sponge, absorbing rain water. Without them, heavy rains would cause rivers to overflow, leading to flash floods.

“Swamps also serve as natural water filters by trapping sediment, taking the strain off water treatment facilities and greatly decreasing maintenance costs.”

There are currently no plans to build water intake points along any of the rivers within the Sembrong Forest Reserve. However, Lee thinks it is better to preserve the freshwater and peat swamps now rather than wait for potential water security issues to catch up with us in the future because once the swamps are drained for agriculture, it is virtually impossible to restore the landscape to its original function.

Perhilitan says a special technical committee was set up to address concerns such as this, and it has requested that development should occur in phases not exceeding 500ha.

It also says all companies will be required to submit a Wildlife Management Plan as part of its overall Environmental Management Plan, subject to its input and approval.

It has also stipulated that there must be buffer and riparian zones for riverine and water catchment areas, and protection of freshwater and peat swamps.

PPL Plantations was the first to state that it will refrain from planting on 1,214ha identified as wetlands out of the 3,473ha which it has been allocated. Surveys by Perhilitan are currently under way to identify important swamp areas within each of the project sites. So far, only Jasa Wibawa’s has been completed, and it shows that wetlands cover 40% of the area.

Despite Perhilitan’s stipulations, however, the prerogative to establish compulsory wetland protection lies not with the wildlife agency but with the state authorities and Forestry Department.

Man-animal conflict

Human-wildlife conflict will perhaps be the trickiest challenge to tackle.

Although Perhilitan has requested an inclusion of ecological corridors within the project areas to maintain habitat for wildlife, conservationists are concerned that strategies such as electric fences and deep ditches around the plantation perimeter will impede important wildlife migration routes, and fragment important habitat.

The subject is a major issue, as important populations of elephants and tigers – both of which require large territories – inhabit the area. Perhilitan has recommended that such strategies be avoided, and are looking into alternatives such as sensor-fencing and wildlife relocation.

However, Rafi Yukin, whose village, Kampung Punan, falls within the area deemed as Primary Linkage 1, points out that if the larger plantations are cut off, wildlife will be funnelled through the narrow width of corridor left around the village, where 90% of the villagers rely on rubber smallholdings for survival.

Despite the fact that Perhilitan has stated that the plantation companies will be made responsible for mitigating damage to the livelihoods of local residents, the villagers are sceptical whether such plans will work. Previous relocation efforts, they say, have failed.

“The elephants eventually just came back to their old migration routes,” says Rafie.

Despite Primary Linkage 1 looking like the weakest link in an otherwise positive series of efforts to establish connectivity along the Central Forest Spine Master Plan, it might be one of the most crucial. Johor has Malaysia’s smallest and most fragmented tiger habitats but it also has good anti-poaching efforts – thanks to close co-operation between local NGOs and a variety of state government enforcement units.

Should poaching threats not be eliminated in Taman Negara, the tiger population there may not be viable in the long term. So protecting Johor’s tiger population is more important than ever.

The state is at a crossroads; on one hand, there is pressure to honour federal policies such as the CFS Master Plan and on the other, pressure to address economic issues. Only time will tell if it manages to balance the needs of the economy with a sustainable development strategy, to ensure Malaysia does not lose its unique and rich natural heritage in the process of economic gain.

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Malaysia: More Green Turtle Landings In Pahang This Year

Bernama 9 Jul 12;

CHERATING, July 9 (Bernama) -- More Green Turtle landings have been reported along the Cherating coast in Pahang so far this year.

Pahang Turtle Sanctuary and Information Centre chief Abdul Karim Mohd Shah said today 158 landings were recorded up to June.

"The figure for the whole of this year is expected to surpass the 176 landings in 2011 when the landing season ends in September," he told Bernama.

Abdul Karim said he was optimistic that if the landings continued to rise, the Green Turtle would no longer face the threat of extinction.

He said people should support the efforts of the centre and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to save the turtles from extinction.


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Malaysia: State urged to ban sale of turtle eggs for conservation

Farik Zolpekpli The Star 28 Jun 12;

KUALA TERENGGANU: In the spirit of saving sea turtles from extinction, more than 1,000 people converged to Bazaar Warisan here to mark the first ever World Sea Turtle Day celebration in Terengganu.

Jointly organised by WWF-Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), the gala event, saw Terengganu people from all ages and background participating in various activities with the theme Telur Penyu, Beli Jangan, Makan Pun Tidak (Don’t buy or eat Turtle eggs).

Even the state football team nicknamed the Turtles got into the action of actively promoting more awareness on the plight of the sea turtles.

The activities held, included turtle-face paintings, turtle dances as well as an exhibition on the turtles but the highlight was spreading the message against selling and eating turtle eggs at Pasar Payang, famous for the sales of turtle eggs.

WWF Terengganu Turtle Conservation Programme head Rahayu Zulkifli said the fight to save the turtles must begin with banning the sale of the eggs as well as create more awareness for people not to buy or eat them.

“Only Sabah and Sarawak imposed outright ban on the eggs while in Terengganu, only the sale of leatherback turtle eggs are banned.

“We have been urging the state government to imposed the ban for a long time as the sea turtles are an endangered species...banning the egg sales will definitely improve their survival,” she told a press conference after the launch of the celebrations recently.

She said in Terengganu, an average of 15 turtle deaths occurred each year thus every concerted effort must be made towards turtle conservation.

“The response from the public for the event is tremendous. I am confident it marks a new phase in our struggle to save the turtles.

“The mainland beaches of Terengganu are currently home to one of the largest green turtle population in the Peninsular Malaysia, averaging between 2,000 and 2,500 nests per year,” she said.

She also hoped the state government would consider introducing the law to ban the sale of turtle eggs soon.

Meanwhile, UMT researcher and conservationist Dr Juanita Joseph said the demands for turtle eggs were mostly from tourists and visitors to Terengganu.

“This culture must stop. We must do everything we can to save the turtles.

“Two-prong approach of introducing laws and educating the public are essential to the survival of the turtles,” she said.

Terengganu football team captain Mohd Sharbinee Alawee said the team was proud to lend its support towards a honourable cause.

“Besides on the field, we also want to inspire people to do good in helping to save the turtles.

“The fight to save them begins with each and everyone of us,” he said.

The World Sea Turtle Day is celebrated simultaneously in Terengganu, Malacca and Sabah in a bid to raise awareness on the need to protect the endangered species and their nesting beaches.

The three states were chosen for their importance in turtle conservation.

Public must not sell, buy and eat turtle eggs, urges WWF-Malaysia
Farik Zolkepli The Star 28 Jun 12;

KUALA TERENGGANU: If only tourists did not eat turtle eggs, they would be able to see more of the animals in Terengganu.
WWF-Malaysia executive director and CEO Dr Dionysius Sharma said the public should stop buying and eating turtle eggs as “the practice creates demand for something that in fact needs to be protected”.

A check by The Star revealed that tourists flocked to Pasar Payang, which is one of the famous markets here where turtle eggs were sold, to get a taste of the eggs. Some tourists even bought them as souvenirs. A pack of turtle eggs can be sold for as high as RM30.

Eggs from several species of turtles including the endangered leatherback turtle are sold in markets in Terengganu as there is no law in the state that comprehensively bans their sale and consumption.

Several non-governmental organisations such as the Turtle Conservation Society (TCS) and WWF-Malaysia have stepped up the fight to save the turtles by discouraging the public, especially the locals, from eating the eggs and even selling them.

Turtle Conservation Society (TCS) co-founder Chen Pelf Nyok said the organisation had conducted many programmes over the years to teach the locals, especially villagers living along the seashores, about the negative impact on the turtles by eating their eggs.

“The villagers have been eating turtle eggs for many years. We have gone to such villages and asked them to stop selling and eating the eggs as it contributes to the decline in the number of turtles,” she said yesterday.

Chen revealed that some villages had heeded their calls.

“Villagers did not even know the turtles are an endangered species (prior to the campaigns),” she said.

Chen said TCS had actively conducted research and conservation efforts in Setiu and Kemaman.

By limiting the consumption and sale of turtle eggs, Chen said it increased the chance for eggs to hatch.

WWF-Malaysia's Dr Sharma called upon the government to legislate a law against the sale of turtle eggs irrespective of species nationwide.

WWF-Malaysia maintains continued sale of turtle eggs defeats conservation efforts
WWF 9 Jul 12;

PETALING JAYA, July 9 – WWF-Malaysia continues its call for the ban on the sale of turtle eggs which would be a major step for the conservation of this endangered species. The national conservation trust responds to the statements made by Y.B. Dato’ Toh Chin Yaw, Terengganu Environment Committee chairman as reported by The Star in ‘T’ganu has no plan to ban sale of turtle eggs’, July 2 2012. The article quoted Y.B. Dato’ Toh as saying that the state does not encourage the sale or consumption of the eggs, but has no plans to ban these practices.

WWF-Malaysia firmly believes that for turtle conservation efforts to be effective and to achieve the desired conservation outcome, they must be carried out simultaneously on several fronts. These include the protection of nesting beaches, creating public awareness, strict enforcement of relevant laws and regulations, as well as the ban on the sale of turtle egg. Removal of turtle eggs from nesting beaches for consumption is known to be a major contributor to the declining turtle population.

WWF-Malaysia applauds the Terengganu State Government in gazetting Rantau Abang beach as a turtle sanctuary. However, the gazettement of a nesting beach whilst at the same time allowing the sale of turtle eggs is inconsistent, and runs contrary to the objectives of safeguarding the state’s icon.

YB Datuk Toh’s remark that it is not fair to force the people to stop eating turtle eggs altogether as it has been a culture of the locals is untenable especially when all the marine turtle species found in the country are either endangered or critically endangered. If no action is taken to ban the sale of turtle eggs, the declining turtle population will not recover, and their population decline may eventually be irreversible.

Based on the outreach activities carried out by WWF-Malaysia and other turtle conservation NGOs in the state, more and more individuals, especially the younger generation are saying no to turtle egg consumption. Support from the public is not short on this as WWF-Malaysia garnered more than 100,000 signatures for the “Egg=Life” campaign in 2010. In line with it’s reputation as a “Turtle State”, the Terengganu government can only be highly commended if it chooses to take the lead in banning the sale of turtle eggs. Banning the sale of turtle eggs in Terengganu will be in line with the National Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sea Turtles, which sets a national ban on the sale of turtle eggs as its Priority No 1.

Ban on sale of turtle eggs vital
The Star 10 Jul 12;

WWF-Malaysia continues its call for the ban on the sale of turtle eggs which would be a major step for the conservation of this endangered species.

The national conservation trust responds to the statements made by Datuk Toh Chin Yaw, Terengganu Environment Committee chairman in “T’ganu has no plan to ban sale of turtle eggs” (The Star, July 2).

The report quoted Toh as saying that the state does not encourage the sale or consumption of the eggs, but has no plans to ban the practice.

WWF-Malaysia firmly believes that for turtle conservation efforts to be effective and to achieve the desired conservation outcome, they must be carried out simultaneously on several fronts.

These include the protection of nesting beaches, creating public awareness, strict enforcement of relevant laws and regulations, as well as the ban on the sale of turtle eggs.

Removal of turtle eggs from nesting beaches for consumption is known to be a major con- tributor to the declining turtle population.

WWF-Malaysia applauds the Terengganu State Government for gazetting Rantau Abang beach as a turtle sanctuary.

However, the gazette of a nesting beach whilst at the same time allowing the sale of turtle eggs is inconsistent, and runs contrary to the objectives of safeguarding the state’s icon.

Toh’s remark that it is not fair to force the people to stop eating turtle eggs altogether as it has been a culture of the locals is untenable especially when all the marine turtle species found in the country are either endangered or critically endangered.

If no action is taken to ban the sale of turtle eggs, the declining turtle population will not recover, and their decline may eventually be irreversible.

Based on the outreach activities carried out by WWF-Malaysia and other turtle conservation NGOs in the state, more and more individuals, especially the younger generation are saying “no” to turtle egg consumption.

Support from the public is not short on this as WWF-Malaysia garnered more than 100,000 signatures for the “Egg=Life” campaign in 2010.

In line with its reputation as a “Turtle State”, the Terengganu Government can only be highly commended if it chooses to take the lead in banning the sale of turtle eggs.

Banning the sale of turtle eggs in Terengganu will be in line with the National Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sea Turtles, which sets a national ban on the sale of turtle eggs as its Priority No 1.


Petaling Jaya

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Indonesia: Population of Sumatra elephants in critical condition

Antara 9 Jul 12;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The population of Sumatra elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) living in Riau, Indonesia, is in critical condition following increasing cases of death," a spokesman of WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Syamsidar said.

"The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is raising the threatened status of Sumatra elephant from precarious to critical meaning only a step to be extinct," he added.

This is the worst condition compared to the other elephant sub species which inhibit in Asia and Africa.

In the last nine months there are seven elephant which died in Riau, and of the seven died in Tesso Nilo forest inside and outside the protected forest.

According to Syamsidar the number is increasingly rising compared to the previous years which were only two elephants which died due to hunting.

From 2004 to June 2012, WWF recorded at least 90 Sumatra elephants died.

Currently the number of Sumatran elephants in the wild is estimated at no more than 2,400 to 2,800, decreasing by 50 percent from the previous population of 3,000 to 5,000 in 2007.

The extinction of natural habitat as a result of the change in the functions of forests is the main cause of the declining of elephant population.

The death of seven Sumatra elephants in Tesso Nilo forest are investigated by the Tesso Nilo National Park Center, Riau Natural Resources Conservation Center, and the Police.

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Indonesia: Fires in Protected Peat Forest Have Companies Feeling the Heat

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 9 Jul 12;

The Environment Ministry has found indications of arson in recent fires at the protected Tripa peat forest in Aceh, a senior ministry official said on Sunday.

“It baffles me. We are still investigating, but these fires keep occurring,” said Sudariyono, the ministry’s deputy for legal compliance.

“We have a strong suspicion that the fires are not accidental, judging by how they are shaped. When viewed from above it is very irregular. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a mitigation system, in the sense that no one’s trying to put them out.”

The Tripa swamp is a key habitat of the Sumatran orangutan, a critically endangered species, with 200 individuals believed to be living in the area.

Sudariyono said the ministry’s investigators had not found any indications that orangutans were killed in the fires.

A moratorium map published by the ministry identified Tripa as protected area. There is also a law in place that is meant to prohibit the issuance of new concessions on land with peat layers more than three meters deep.

Despite this, two companies, Kallista Alam and Surya Panen Subur 2, received concessions in Tripa.

Kallista’s permit, issued by former Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, is currently the subject of a legal challenge by activists.

Sudariyono said Surya Panen “was suspected of burning some 1,183 hectares” of land inside the Tripa peat swamp from March 19 to 24 this year.

Kallista, he said, was believed to have burned some 30 hectares of its 1,605-hectare concession in the peat swamp.

The ministry has not concluded its investigation but Sudariyono said his office was already mulling legal action against Kallista and Surya Panen. The companies “could be charged in criminal court over the fires and they could face lawsuits for damaging the forest,” he said.

The Environment Ministry has questioned witnesses from the two companies, nongovernmental organizations, residents and local government offices.

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Indonesia: Kalimantan River Polluted by Contaminants from Mining

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 9 Jul 12;

Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan. Authorities in Kutai Kertanegara have issued a ban on the consumption of water from the Tenggarong River after they found a huge concentration of contaminants.

“There is a big possibility that mining companies at the upstream and downstream of the [Tenggarong] river are contributing to the pollution,” Kutai Kertanegara environment agency chief Akhmad Taufik Hidayat said. “We can examine it from its color which is brownish-white. This is unlikely to be due to mudslides from the rain, because the color is different.”

Akhmad said a team from his agency was surveying the waterway all the way upstream to monitor mining activities and see if measures to manage toxic waste are being taken by the mining companies in the area.

Several major coal-mining companies operate in the upstream areas of the Tenggarong River, including Multi Harapan Utama and Tanito Harum.

Akhmad said his team was covering a vast area since several smaller streams constitute the river’s water source.

“Therefore, determining the exact origins [of the contaminants] is quite difficult,” he said.

“We are forming a team to conduct the examination, but we have to wait until it rains because it will then become easier to see where the brownish water is coming from. In the meantime we are examining the mining companies’ [waste treatment] facilities.”

The local branch of state water company PDAM has recorded a sharp increase in cloudy appearances in its water supply. The acidity level of the water has also increased.

The PDAM had to reduce its water supply as a consequence, as well as import clean water from other water installations in neighboring areas.

Akhmad said samples had been taken from the water for further research as they try to determine what type of contaminants have been polluting the river.

The outcome of the research may be released as early as next week.

“The contaminated water is not only dangerous to humans but also to fish and animals feeding along the Tenggarong River,” Akhmad said.

The district’s maritime and fisheries agency said that pollutions there has also affected local fish farms.

“The fish have lost their appetites and die within two days because their gills are clogged,” maritime agency chief Armeinadi said.

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Laos denies pushing ahead with controversial dam

Amy Sawitta Lefevre PlanetArk 8 Jul 12;

Laos is not pushing ahead with the construction of a controversial $3.5 billion hydropower dam on the Mekong River in defiance of an agreement with neighboring countries, official media reported on Friday.

In recent weeks, environmental activists have said Ch Karnchang Pcl, the main developer of the 1,260 megawatt Xayaburi dam on the river Mekong, was carrying on with work on the project, which Laos agreed to suspend last December.

Campaigners say the dam would harm migratory fish and the livelihood of fishermen, and last week Cambodian villagers demonstrated against it.

Viraphonh Viravong, Laos' deputy energy minister, said the government had kept its promise, though geological sub-surface surveying was being carried out in the Mekong valley.

"We plan to invite development partners and Mekong River Commission member countries to visit the project site so they can see the actual development for themselves," he told the Vientiane Times daily.

"The Xayaburi project will develop one of the most transparent and modern dams in the world," he added.

The dam has come under fire from activists, people living along the river and some neighboring countries because of what they saw as an inadequate environmental impact assessment.

Viraphonh said the government had subsequently hired two independent consultants who had advised it to modify the construction plans for the dam.

The changes would ensure that 85 percent of fish would be able to pass through the dam, in line with Mekong River Commission guidelines, he said.

Vietnam, normally Laos's biggest ally, and Cambodia, have both called for the project to be suspended pending further studies.

Cambodia's National Mekong River Commission said last week that Laos had violated a 1995 agreement requiring prior consultation before starting any project on the Mekong.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre in Bangkok; Editing by Alan Raybould and Daniel Magnowski)

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30% of fish stocks overexploited: UN agency

AFP Yahoo News 10 Jul 12;

Almost 30 percent of fish stocks monitored by the UN's food agency are overexploited, undermining the crucial role sustainable fisheries play in providing food and jobs for millions, a report said Monday.

"Many of the marine fish stocks monitored by FAO remain under great pressure," the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement accompanying its 2012 report on world fisheries.

"Almost 30 percent of these fish stocks are overexploited," said the agency, which is urging governments to make every effort to support sustainable fisheries around the world and rebuild overexploited stocks.

"Overexploitation not only causes negative ecological consequences, but it also reduces fish production, which leads to negative social and economic consequences," the report said.

The sector produced a record 128 million tonnes of fish for human food in 2012 through fisheries which provide a source of income for 55 million people.

"Fisheries and aquaculture play a vital role in the global, national and rural economy," said FAO head Jose Graziano da Silva. "The livelihoods of 12 percent of the world's population depend directly or indirectly on them."

But the sector faces an array of problems, including poor governance, weak fisheries management regimes, conflicts over the use of natural resources and the persistent use of poor fishery and aquaculture practices, the report said.

"It is further undermined by a failure to incorporate priorities and rights of small-scale fishing communities and the injustices relating to gender discrimination and child labour," said Arni Mathiesen, FAO's Fisheries head.

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India floods kill threatened rhinos

(AFP) Google News 9 Jul 12;

GUWAHATI, India — Devastating floods in northeast India have killed around 600 animals in the region's largest wildlife park, including more than a dozen threatened one-horned rhinos, officials said Monday.

"Most of the animals either drowned or were mown down by speeding vehicles when they tried to flee the heavy flooding," said S.K. Bora, director of 430-square-kilometre (165-square-mile) Kaziranga National Park in Assam state.

"The water level is now receding, but the vast majority of animals that fled the park are yet to return," he told AFP by telephone.

According to Bora, various species of deer accounted for more than 500 of the animal victims, which also included 14 rhinos and two elephant calves.

Assam has been the focus of severe regional flooding in recent weeks, triggered by heavy monsoon rains that caused the Brahmaputra river to burst its banks, inundating large areas of the state.

Nearly 130 people have been killed and six million displaced by the floodwaters, according to official figures.

Kaziranga is home to the world's single largest population of one-horned rhinos. A 2012 census in the park counted 2,290 of the rhinos, out of a global population of 3,300.

The species declined to near extinction in the early 1900s, and is currently listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Kaziranga has fought a sustained battle against rhino poachers, who kill the animals for their horns, which fetch huge prices in some Asian countries where they are deemed to have aphrodisiac qualities.

Assam Forests Minister Rockybul Hussain voiced concerns that poachers would prey on those rhinos that had been forced out of the protective ring of the park by the flooding.

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El Nino May Widen Indian Rain Deficit as U.S. Flood Risk Gains

Luzi Ann Javier Bloomberg 9 Jul 12;

A moderate El Nino may widen a monsoon deficit in India, while bringing excessive rains to the driest parts of the U.S., threatening floods in a region that’s been hit by a heat wave, according to a United Nations adviser.

“Within a month or so, we’ll probably see a major turnaround,” Roger Stone, a program manager at the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, said in an interview in Singapore. Grains in India are at risk as the deficit will persist from August through to February, said Stone, who’s advised the UN agency since 1996 and has been tracking weather since 1972.

El Ninos, caused by a warming of the Pacific Ocean, can parch parts of Asia while bringing cooler weather to the U.S. A heat wave in the U.S. Midwest is threatening the corn crop in the world’s largest exporter and producer, driving prices in Chicago to the highest level since September. Excessive rains may also affect parts of Russia, Stone said on July 6.

“The El Nino is developing for 2012, but I think it may still take some time to exert significant positive effects on the U.S. corn crop,” said Michael Ferrari, director of climate informatics at Falls Church, Virgina-based CSC, which tracks weather patterns using satellite data. “The crop really needs a good moisture pattern.”

Corn advanced to $7.1625 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade today, extending last week’s 9.2 percent rally. Wheat, trading at $8.23 a bushel, touched the highest level since April 2011 on July 5. Soybeans have gained 27 percent this year.
Flood Risk

While wet weather in the driest areas of the U.S., China, Europe and former Soviet Union may improve soil moisture, “too much rain, too soon, could just run off,” Stone said. In Krasnodar, Russia’s biggest wheat-exporting region, heavy rains caused floods over the weekend, state television Rossiya 24 said.

Signs of a shift to El Nino are already showing. The monthly Southern Oscillation Index was at minus 10.4 in June, and the moving 30-day reading declined to minus 11.8 as of July 1, “within the values indicative of an El Nino,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said July 3. Sustained readings of minus 8 may indicate an El Nino event, it said.

Sea-surface temperatures, another indicator, showed increasing anomalies evident in the eastern Pacific in the past 30 days, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said July 2. The above-average sea-surface temperatures expanded westward into the eastern half of the equatorial Pacific, it said.

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