Best of our wild blogs: 11 Sep 12

Have you seen this animal at Portsdown?
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

Small and silent things
from The annotated budak

Job Position Available: 2-year Research Assistant on a freshwater crab conservation project in Singapore from Raffles Museum News

Sharing about our shores
from wild shores of singapore

How to Jumpstart a Green Career
from Green Business Times

In the News: IUCN World Conservation Congress News Round-up – Part Two from ARKive blog

Photos: camera traps capture wildlife bonanza in Borneo forest corridor from news by Jeremy Hance

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Keeping endangered fish off the dinner table

Watchdog wants more seafood certified to prevent overfishing
Grace Chua Straits Times 11 Sep 12;

IN SINGAPORE, seafood is everywhere, from live groupers in restaurant tanks to tinned tuna in supermarkets.

But just a tiny fraction is certified sustainable, meaning it is not overfished or at risk of extinction.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an international certification body for wild-caught seafood, is opening its regional headquarters here to change that.

"Singapore is ready for a programme like MSC," said its new Asia director, Singaporean Kelvin Ng, 40, in an exclusive interview with The Straits Times last week.

The market is mature and consumers here are discerning, he added. For example, some avoid shark's fin, which is already off the menus of many hotel restaurants. Consumer awareness and demand here and in Hong Kong are "five or six" on a scale of one to 10, he said. Elsewhere in South-east Asia they might be lower. He was speaking on the sidelines of the Seafood Summit in Hong Kong, a conference on sustainable seafood for industry, governments and NGOs.

Elsewhere, the council has certified Alaskan pollock, for example. Tonnes of the white fish are used in McDonald's fish burgers in Europe, as well as supermarket fish fingers. The council is looking to Asia as the Western market is saturated, Mr Ng said.

For example, nine in 10 seafood products in German markets are certified, while Canadian supermarket chain Loblaw sells only certified seafood.

Here, only 32 products are certified, but most are items such as smoked herring, caviar and salmon, not everyday fare. In the next few years, the council wants 200 certified products here. And it wants to give the seal of approval to more fisheries. Certification involves an intensive series of independent audits that takes up to three years to show that fish stocks are not overfished and environmental impact is minimised.

"Right now, 11 per cent of the world's fisheries are on MSC or in the process of certification," Mr Ng said. "We want to hit 15 per cent by 2017 and 20 per cent by 2020."

Much of that is likely to come from Asia. Chinese demand for wild-caught seafood is projected to be 18 million tonnes by 2020, up from 7 million tonnes in 2002.

Singapore's own seafood imports have been dropping, but their value has gone up. Last year, it imported 145,678 tonnes worth more than $800 million, compared to 163,549 tonnes worth $694 million in 2007. But certifying a fishery can cost $18,500 to $148,000, too much for small fishermen to bear.

"A lot of products coming in through wet markets are not ready for certification," Mr Ng said. Restaurants and international food chains, however, might be. In Singapore, the MSC has its sights on "at least one or two international chains" or providers such as army camps.

A World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) campaign here has persuaded hotels, including the Shangri-La and Fairmont, to take shark's fin off their menus and retailers such as Cold Storage and NTUC FairPrice to stop carrying it, but Mr Ng thinks more can be done, including cutting back on endangered reef fish.

Last week, the WWF released a report that showed high-value, live food fish such as humphead wrasse (su mei) and leopard coral trout were overfished, often illegally, from coral reefs by up to six times.

But Mr Lee Boon Cheow, 73, the president of the Singapore Fish Merchants' General Association, said much of the seafood sold at wholesale markets is farmed as price-conscious consumers look for bargains. "The price of farmed seafood is more stable," he said in Mandarin.

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Jurong oil spill update: no further leaks, Indonesian navy to monitor spill

No further leakage from LPG carrier
Lim Yan Liang Straits Times 11 Sep 12;

THERE has been no further leakage of oil from the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carrier DL Salvia, according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

But as a precautionary measure, the authorities have deployed an oil boom around the vessel, which has been at West Jurong anchorage since Sunday.

The clean-up of Sunday's nearly 60 tonne oil spill off Jurong Island is continuing, said MPA.

Yesterday, patches of treated oil were seen at reclamation sites on the western part of Jurong Island and Tuas View Extension, and at a rock bund in Sultan Shoal, which is about 700m east of Temasek Fairway, where the oil spill is concentrated.

The spill occurred when Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier Sunny Horizon collided with the Korean-registered LPG carrier, breaching the DL Salvia's bunker tank.

MPA said that it has used biodegradable oil dispersants over the past two days to break up the oil slick, and has deployed nine craft and more than 46 personnel as part of containment and clean-up efforts.

It is also working with JTC Corp and the National Environment Agency on land-based clean-up efforts.

MPA did not give a timeline for when it expects the clean-up to end.

A spokesman for the DL Salvia's local shipping agent, SJJ Marine, said the ship's crew remains on board the vessel, which is currently under MPA command.

He declined to reveal the exact volume of LPG still on the vessel, citing ongoing investigations by the authorities.

The Straits Times understands that both vessels will remain anchored until these investigations are completed.

Efforts to contain oil spill off Western Singapore continues
AsiaOne 11 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE - The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) today continued its efforts to contain and clean up the oil spill following Sunday's collision between Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier "Sunny Horizon" and Korean-registered Liquefied Petroleum Gas carrier "DL Salvia".

In a statement to the media, the authority said that some patches of treated oil were sighted today at the reclamation sites at the western part of Jurong Island and Tuas View Extension, and at a rock bund at Sultan Shoal.

Bio-degradable oil dispersants were used to break up the oil slick in the waters while a total of nine craft and more than 46 personnel were deployed as part of clean up efforts.

MPA added that there was no further spillage of bunker from "DL Salvia" and that an oil boom was deployed as a precautionary measure.

Vessel traffic in the Port of Singapore and port operations remain unaffected.

Members of the public can contact MPA's 24-hours Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325 2489 to report any sighting of oil slick in our waters or coastlines.

Indonesian navy readies ships to monitor oil spill in Singapore waters
Fadli The Jakarta Post 10 Sep 12;

The Indonesian Navy has readied several of its vessels to monitor an oil spill following a collision between two vessels in the waters off Singapore on Sunday afternoon.

The commandant of the Tanjung Pinang Naval Station (Lantamal IV), commodore Agus Heryana, said on Monday that the oil spill could pollute some parts of Indonesian waters in Batam, Bintan and Karimun.

He said that the Navy had dispatched nine warships and scores of patrol ships to the Indonesia-Singapore border to monitor the spill’s movement.

“The Navy officers will determine what next steps need to be taken after monitoring the spill,” he said.

Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier, Sunny Horizon, collided with Korean-registered liquified petroleum gas carrier, DL Salvia, about 700 meters east of Beting Sultan, next to Jurong Island, southwest of Singapore on Sunday at around 2 p.m.

Agus said that the collision had led to the spillage of some 60 metrics tons of oil, which was now heading to Indonesian waters.

“No casualties were reported during the collision. The two ships are now harbored at West Jurong Port in Singapore. The Singapore Maritime and Port Authority is running investigations into the cause of the collision,” he said.

Separately, a member of the Indonesian Fishermen Association in Riau Islands, A Nasution, said that the oil spill would definitely spell trouble for local fishermen because they must go further out to sea for fishing. He said that the oil spill would keep fish from approaching the seashore.

“It will take more than a week to clean up the oil spill. Therefore, the fishermen are now facing the threat of having fewer fish in the sea. The government must pay close attention to this problem,” Nasution said. (riz/lfr)

Oil Spill Following Collision Between "Sunny Horizon" and "DL Salvia" at Temasek Fairway - Update: 1
MPA News Release 10 Sep 12;

Efforts to contain and clean up the oil spill following the collision between Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier "Sunny Horizon" and Korean-registered Liquefied Petroleum Gas carrier "DL Salvia" continued today.

There has been no further spillage of bunker from "DL Salvia". As a precautionary measure, an oil boom has been deployed around the vessel. Bio-degradable oil dispersants were used yesterday and today to break up the oil slick in the waters. In total, 9 craft and more than 46 personnel have been deployed as part of the containment and clean up efforts.

Some patches of treated oil were sighted today at the reclamation sites at the western part of Jurong Island and Tuas View Extension, and at a rock bund at Sultan Shoal. MPA is working with JTC Corporation and the National Environment Agency on the land-based clean up efforts.

Vessel traffic in the Port of Singapore and port operations remain unaffected.

Members of the public can contact MPA's 24-hours Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325 2489 to report any sighting of oil slick in our waters or coastlines.

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LNG terminal may turn Singapore into hub

Alvin Foo Straits Times 11 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE is poised for a new chapter in energy security, when the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on Jurong Island opens in the second quarter of next year.

To begin with, the $1.7 billion terminal will allow Singapore to import LNG from all over the world for domestic use. This is expected to bring down electricity prices.

Right now, 80 per cent of Singapore's electricity is generated with piped gas imported from Malaysia and Indonesia. Piped gas is transported in gaseous state, requiring specially built pipelines.

In contrast, LNG is gas cooled at -160 deg C into liquid form. It is thus much easier to store and transport. But importers need to build a special terminal to handle LNG.

Opening its own LNG terminal means Singapore has access to plentiful gas supplies from around the world, and can generate power from another energy source.

As Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said in February: "Our aim is to make sure that every Singapore home and all our businesses have access to reliable and competitively priced energy... our key strategy is diversification."

The terminal's first phase, already more than 90 per cent built, will feature one jetty and two storage tanks, and can process 3.5 million tonnes yearly.

A third tank and up to two more jetties will be ready by the end of next year.

Singapore's terminal is the first of its kind in the world to be specifically designed for the import and export of LNG. Terminals now handle either imports or exports.

With a terminal that can handle imports, and re-exports, Singapore thus stands a good chance of becoming an LNG trans-shipment and trading hub, in the same way it is already an oil hub.

Ships carrying LNG from supplier countries can dock at the new Jurong terminal. The LNG can then be reprocessed and re-exported to Asian countries where demand is raging.

One game-changing factor is the availability of LNG imports from the United States, where record production from newly developed shale deposits has pushed prices to 10-year lows. Industry players have tipped that the US LNG imports that land here could cost at least one-third less than current Asian prices.

Reuters reported last month that the Government of Singapore Investment Corp and China Investment Corp pumped in a combined US$1 billion (S$1.24 billion) into a huge new LNG export plant in the US. This was into Cheniere Energy's US$5.6 billion plant in Sabine Pass, Louisiana, which is due to be completed by 2015. That is a significant milestone, as it will be America's first LNG export plant since 1969.

In May, Singapore's Temasek Holdings also invested $300 million in Cheniere, which has already lined up customers in India and South Korea.

In fact, industry players have been positioning themselves here in the last three years in anticipation of the growth of LNG activities.

But the path ahead is not easy.

Singapore has relatively less experience in the industry and faces competition from other more established Asian markets such as South Korea and Japan.

"These markets would have established the necessary infrastructure and ecosystem for LNG trading," said Mr Sanjeev Gupta, Ernst & Young's Asia-Pacific oil and gas leader.

For example, they would have infrastructure such as storage tanks and related facilities needed to trade the fuel, and the skilled manpower and support services such as spot trading and bunkering.

Closer to home, Malaysia and Indonesia - two of the world's top LNG exporters - also have similar aspirations to become an LNG trading hub and could pose keen competition.

CIMB regional economist Song Seng Wun said: "They have the raw materials situated there, infrastructure and space. They'll probably want to explore similar opportunities."

Still, there are strong factors backing Singapore's bid.

Asian demand is set to boom, as Japan seeks to fill its energy gap following last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster and China looks at reducing its dependence on coal by tapping cleaner energy sources.

The region consumed nearly two-thirds of total global LNG output last year. Demand is tipped to double in the next 15 years, given Asia's rapid economic growth and the opening of new import terminals. "Asia is currently paying the highest prices for LNG in the world," said Singapore LNG Corporation chief executive Neil McGregor.

The Republic is strategically positioned between key LNG importers like China, India, Japan and South Korea, and LNG supply sources such as Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.

Moreover, Singapore's background and heritage as an oil trading hub makes it an ideal place to market LNG, as many of the major energy trading houses are already based here, and infrastructure exists in banking and legal facilities.

Then there is the 5 per cent concessionary corporate tax rate for LNG trading income, which was introduced here in 2007 to spur this sector's growth.

Already, the industry has been abuzz with activity in recent years.

Five years ago, there were no significant LNG players here. Now, there are 14 companies with significant LNG trading or marketing desks here, said trade promotion agency IE Singapore's chief executive Teo Eng Cheong.

Many have expanded their LNG desks, as well as the breadth of activities done out of Singapore, which now range from trading and marketing to operations and risk management.

Recent entrants include PetroChina, while Trafigura will be establishing an LNG desk here in the near term.

International legal firms with LNG expertise, such as King & Spalding, are beefing up their LNG teams here. Such expertise includes project structuring, risk analysis, sale and purchase arrangements and transport arrangements.

Key price reporting agencies - Platts, ICIS and Argus - now have LNG representatives here covering the regional market.

Having the LNG terminal could turn Singapore into a trans-shipment hub for the product, similar to the roles that PSA and Changi Airport now play for container shipments and aviation, respectively, Mr McGregor noted.

The Government envisages that the terminal will be a key component of the LNG ecosystem which will create economic spin-offs such as LNG trading, bunkering, storage and reloading for re-export.

It could provide the spark which ignites a multibillion-dollar industry.

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Malaysia: Hot spots in areas in neighbouring Sumatra causing API to peak

Desiree Tresa Gasper The Star 11 Sep 12

JOHOR BARU: Hot spots in 152 areas in Sumatra are causing the Air Pollutant Index (API) especially in Pasir Gudang to peak to high levels especially over the last few days.

Department of Environment director-general Halimah Hassan said the recent hazy conditions experienced in Pasir Gudang were related to trans-boundary factors.

“The regional haze map showed slight hazy conditions in the Southern part of Sumatra on Sept 4.

“We also noticed that 152 hot spots were detected in various parts of Sumatra which could have contributed to the deteriorating air quality,” she said when speaking to StarMetro.

Halimah added that due to the prevailing South West monsoon, it takes a couple of days before the haze reaches Malaysia.

“The air quality will slowly deteriorate in certain parts of the country depending on the wind direction,” she said adding that the highest API readings in the past few days was recorded in Pasir Gudang.

The department’s Air Pollutant Index Management System showed that the readings in Pasir Gudang had been gradually increasing since last Wednesday.

The API in Pasir Gudang was recorded at 92 at around 7am on Friday.

Halimah added that scattered rains however, have helped reduce the API readings in Pasir Gudang to 83 at 5pm on Friday.

Checks by StarMetro revealed that the API readings were not peaking in any other areas in the country.

Those who want to keep tabs on the air quality can log on to the department’s website at or can contact the department’s hotline at 1 800 88 2727.

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Caged tigers found on Thai apartment block roof

(AFP) Google News 10 Sep 12;

BANGKOK — Thai police said they had discovered six underfed tigers in specially-built cages on the roof of an apartment building on Monday, arresting a man who claimed he had been planning to open a zoo.

Four adult cats and two cubs were found at the property on an industrial estate in Pathumthani province, north of Bangkok, in the raid by police from Thailand's Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division.

A 28-year-old man, who lives in the building, was arrested at the scene and claimed to own the animals.

"The man said that he was preparing to open a zoo in the province", said police Captain Montri Neepasee, who said the animals had not been given enough food and did not look "completely healthy".

The tigers were fed with around 10,000 baht's worth ($322) of chicken bones a month.

"They did not get enough nutrients for their growth," Montri said, adding that the cubs were "stressed" in the small cages.

He said the owner of the building, a cousin of the arrested man, denied all knowledge of the caged tigers.

Montri added that the other occupants of the flats had apparently ignored the presence of the big cats on the roof.

"The renters are mostly factory workers and they do not seem to care about environmental issues," he said.

Police said that the tigers will be sent to an animal sanctuary in a nearby province on Tuesday.

A second officer involved in the case, Colonel Panpong Panklump, said the arrested man had been charged with illegal possession of wildlife, which carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.

He added he believed the tigers would have been sent to Vietnam, where there is demand for "their meat and skins".

Thailand, a hub of international smuggling, is one of just 13 countries hosting fragile tiger populations. Worldwide, numbers are estimated to have fallen to only 3,200 tigers from approximately 100,000 a century ago.

In February police busted a grisly exotic wildlife slaughterhouse in Bangkok when officers caught four men in the act of chopping up a tiger in a residential home.

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The 100 species at risk of extinction - because Man has no use for them

48 countries, including Britain, urged to help prevent loss of our 'weird and wonderful' creatures
Sam Masters The Independent 11 Sep 12;

The spoon-billed sandpiper, three-toed sloth and a long-beaked echidna named after Sir David Attenborough are among the 100 most endangered species in the world, according to a new study.

The list of at-risk species has been published as conservationists warn that rare mammals, plants and fungi are being sacrificed as their habitats are appropriated for human use.

More than 8,000 scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) helped compile the list of species closest to extinction, which was published by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Conservationists fear the species in 48 countries, including Britain, may die out because they don't offer obvious benefits to humans.

The list is headed by the "weird and wonderful" spoon-billed sandpiper which breeds in Russia and migrates to Bangladesh and Myanmar. There are just 100 breeding pairs of the birds left in the wild with that number declining by a quarter annually.

There are also just 500 pygmy three-toed sloths left on the uninhabited Isla Escudo de Veraguas, 10 miles off the coast of Panama. They are half the size of sloths found on the mainland and are the smallest and slowest sloths in the world. But their numbers are declining with fishermen and lobster divers "opportunistically" hunting the small animals, the report said.

Within Britain, the brightly-coloured Willow Blister fungus which grows only on trees in Pembrokeshire is listed as being critically at risk of extinction due to "limited availability of habitat". The report warns that a single "catastrophic event" could cause its total destruction.

Zaglossus attenboroughi, or Attenborough's echidna, named after the eminent naturalist and BBC wildlife expert, is one of just five surviving species of monotreme, ancient egg-laying mammals found in Australia and New Guinea 160 million years ago. Today the mammal's home is the Cyclops Mountains of the Papua Province of Indonesia but it has been listed as in danger due to the destruction of its habitat by loggers, agricultural encroachment and hunting.

Professor Jonathan Baillie, the ZSL's director of conservation, said: "The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a 'what can nature do for us' approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritised according to the services they provide for people.

"This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the plant. While the utilitarian value of nature is important, conservation goes beyond this. Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?"

The ZSL's Ellen Butcher, who co-wrote the report, said: "All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist."

Most endangered: facts and figures

Araripe manakin, Antilophia bokermanni
Where found: Brazil
Numbers left: 779

Sumatran rhinoceros, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
Where found: Malaysia and Indonesia
Numbers left: 250 individuals

Pygmy three-toed sloth, Bradypus pygmaeus
Where found: Panama
Numbers left: 500

Spoon-billed sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus
Where found: Russia, Bangladesh and Burma
Numbers left: 100 breeding pairs

Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus avunculus
Where found: Vietnam
Numbers left: 200

Plea to save world's 100 most threatened species
(AFP) Google News 11 Sep 12;

SEOUL — Conservation experts released a list Tuesday of the world's 100 most threatened species and warned that only a changed public and government mindset could save them from imminent extinction.

The list compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in a report titled "Priceless or Worthless?" comprised 100 animals, plants and fungi deemed first in line for extinction.

"All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back," said the report's co-author, Ellen Butcher.

"If we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist," Butcher said.

The ZSL report was released in Jeju Island in South Korea where some 8,000 government officials, NGOs, scientists and business chiefs from 170 nations are gathered for the World Conservation Congress.

Conservationists fear those species included in the list, like the Tarzan's Chameleon from Madagascar and the Pigmy Three-toed Sloth from Panama, will be allowed to die out because they provide humans with no obvious benefits.

While monetising nature remains a worthwhile necessity for conservationists, the wider value of species on the brink of extinction should not be disregarded, the ZSL report said.

"The whole world has become more utilitarian and looking for what nature can do for us," ZSL's director of conservation, Jonathan Baillie, told AFP by telephone.

"Governments have to step up to the plate and declare whether these species are priceless or worthless; whether we have a right to drive them to extinction," Baillie said.

"If we can't save the 100 most threatened, what hope is there for the rest of life on the planet?" he added.

The Jeju congress, held by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is taking place against a drumbeat of scientific warnings that a mass extinction looms.

In a report issued at the Rio+20 world summit in June, the IUCN said that out of 63,837 species it had assessed, 19,817 run the risk of extinction due to depleted habitat, hunting and climate change.

At threat are 41 percent of amphibian species, 33 percent of reef-building corals, 25 percent of mammals, 20 percent of plants and 13 percent of birds, the update of the prestigious "Red List" said.

Many are essential for humans, providing food and work and a gene pool for better crops and new medicines, it said.

Experts say that only a fraction of Earth's millions of species, many of them microscopic, have been formally identified.

In recent years, biologists have found new species of frogs and birds in tropical forests -- proof that the planet's full biodiversity is only partly known.

UN members pledged under the Millennium Development Goals to brake the rate of loss in species by 2010, but fell badly short of the mark.

After this failure, they set a "strategic plan for biodiversity" under which they vowed to prevent the extinction of "most known species".

The 100 most threatened species. Are they priceless or worthless?
IUCN 11 Sep 12;

Tarzan’s Chameleon, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Pygmy Three-toed Sloth have all topped a new list of the species closest to extinction released today by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

For the first time ever, more than 8,000 scientists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) have come together to identify 100 of the most threatened animals, plants and fungi on the planet. But conservationists fear they’ll be allowed to die out because none of these species provide humans with obvious benefits.

"The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a ‘what can nature do for us’ approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritised according to the services they provide for people,” says Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Director of Conservation.“This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet. We have an important moral and ethical decision to make: Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?”

The report, called Priceless or Worthless?, was presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea today. The publication hopes to push the conservation of 'worthless' creatures up the agenda that is set by NGOs from around the globe.

“All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back,” says Ellen Butcher, ZSL, co-author of the report. “However, if we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist.”

Their declines have mainly been caused by humans, but in almost all cases scientists believe their extinction can still be avoided if conservation efforts are specifically focused. Conservation actions deliver results with many species such as Przewalski's Horse (Equus ferus) and Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) have being saved from extinction.

The 100 species, from 48 different countries are first in line to disappear completely if nothing is done to protect them. The pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus) is one of the animals facing a bleak future. Escudo Island, 17km off the coast of Panama, is the only place in the world where these tiny sloths are found. At half the size of their mainland cousins, and weighing roughly the same as a newborn baby, pygmy sloths are the smallest and slowest sloths in the world and remain Critically Endangered.

Similarly, the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) is one of the most threatened mammals in Southeast Asia. Known as the Asian unicorn because of its rarity, the population of these antelope may be down to few tens of individuals today. In the UK, a small area in Wales is the only place in the world where the brightly coloured willow blister (Cryptomyces maximus) is found. Populations of the spore-shooting fungi are currently in decline, and a single catastrophic event could cause their total destruction.

“If we believe these species are priceless it is time for the conservation community, government and industry to step up to the plate and show future generations that we value all life,’’ adds Professor Baillie

Whilst monetising nature remains a worthwhile necessity for conservationists, the wider value of species on the brink of extinction should not be disregarded, the report states.

“All species have a value to nature and thus in turn to humans,” says Dr Simon Stuart, Chair IUCN Species Survival Commission. “Although the value of some species may not appear obvious at first, all species in fact contribute in their way to the healthy functioning of the planet.”

SOS – Save Our Species, is a global partnership initiated by leading conservation organizations aimed at mobilizing new sources of funding for threatened species, their habitats and the people depending on them. By joining SOS, governments, foundations, companies, wealthy individuals can join forces and ensure that species featured in this book prosper again.

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Caribbean coral reefs face collapse

Caribbean coral reefs are in danger of disappearing, depriving the world of one of its most beautiful and productive ecosystems
Fiona Harvey 10 Sep 12;

Caribbean coral reefs – which make up one of the world's most colourful, vivid and productive ecosystems – are on the verge of collapse, with less than 10% of the reef area showing live coral cover.

With so little growth left, the reefs are in danger of utter devastation unless urgent action is taken, conservationists warned. They said the drastic loss was the result of severe environmental problems, including over-exploitation, pollution from agricultural run-off and other sources, and climate change.

The decline of the reefs has been rapid: in the 1970s, more than 50% showed live coral cover, compared with 8% in the newly completed survey. The scientists who carried it out warned there was no sign of the rate of coral death slowing.

Coral reefs are a particularly valuable part of the marine ecosystem because they act as nurseries for younger fish, providing food sources and protection from predators until the fish have grown large enough to fend better for themselves. They are also a source of revenue from tourism and leisure.

Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine and polar programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which published the research, said: "The major causes of coral decline are well known and include overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching caused by rising temperatures resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Looking forward, there is an urgent need to immediately and drastically reduce all human impacts [in the area] if coral reefs and the vitally important fisheries that depend on them are to survive in the decades to come."

Warnings over the poor state of the world's coral reefs have become more frequent in the past decades as pollution, increasing pressure on fish stocks, and the effects of global warming on the marine environment – in the form of higher sea temperatures and slightly elevated levels of acidity in the ocean – have taken their toll.

Last year, scientists estimated that 75% of the Caribbean's coral reefs were in danger, along with 95% of those in south-east Asia. That research, from the World Resources Institute, predicted that by 2050 virtually all of the world's coral reefs would be in danger.

This decline is likely to have severe impacts on coastal villages, particularly in developing countries, where many people depend on the reefs for fishing and tourism. Globally, about 275 million people live within 19 miles of a reef.

IUCN, which is holding its quadrennial World Conservation Congress on Jeju island in South Korea this week, said swift action was vital. The organisation called for catch quotas to limit fishing, more marine-protected areas where fishing would be banned, and measures that would halt the run-off of fertilisers from farmland around the coast. To save reefs around the world, moves to stave off global warming would also be needed, the group said.

On a few of the more remote Caribbean reefs, the situation is less dire. In the Netherlands Antilles, Cayman Islands and a few other places, the die-off has been slower, with up to 30% coverage of live coral still remaining. The scientists noted that these reefs were in areas less exposed to human impact from fishing and pollution, as well as to natural disasters such as hurricanes.

The report – compiled by 36 scientists from 18 countries – was the work of the IUCN-coordinated Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.

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Australia: 'Managed retreat' to result in sandbag city?

Ben Cubby The Age 11 Sep 12;

NEW state government sea level rise guidelines will make it easier for people to fortify their homes against the effects of climate change, but local councils said the policy would lead to 'ad hoc' walls of sandbags that will not hold back the sea.

The policy, unveiled last weekend by the Special Minister of State, Chris Hartcher, overturns the previous strategy of 'managed retreat' that sought to limit new developments in low-lying coastal areas.

Large areas of Sydney are expected to face more frequent inundation as sea levels creep up. They include Collaroy, Caringbah, Kurnell and Manly Vale, as well as low-lying parts of inland suburbs such as Marrickville, federal government maps show.

But Mr Hartcher said the rate of sea level rise predicted by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - an average of up to 90 centimetres along the NSW coast by the end of the century - contained too much uncertainty for the government to give general advice to local governments.

"The new policy recognises that there are a range of IPCC sea level rise projections," he said. "Because of this uncertainty, the government does not consider it appropriate to recommend specific statewide sea level rise projections or benchmarks for use by councils."

Instead, there will be recommendations on a case-by-case basis, and more relaxed rules on fortifying the coastline with sea walls. The change "will allow landowners to more readily place large sandbags as temporary coastal protection works to reduce erosion impacts from minor storm events", he said.

The Sydney Coastal Councils Group, representing 15 councils, said the new policy added to confusion about how to adapt to climate change. "The last thing we need is individual councils having different management policies up and down the coast," the group's chief executive, Geoff Withycombe, said.

"If you build a sea wall somewhere, then all you're doing is redirecting the sea's energy somewhere else." Mr Withycombe said councils wanted "clear direction" from the government in order to make planning and public works decisions.

"The press release is rather confusing, and we are unsure what it's supposed to mean. There's been no consultation that I'm aware of in relation to this," he said.

A coastal management consultant and a former chairman of Engineers Australia, Doug Lord, said building local sea walls of the type preferred by the state government would be ineffective.

"What they are doing is allowing people to think they are doing something useful to protect their property, but it won't have any impact at all," he said. "That type of sandbag protection doesn't work."

The policy will ease restrictions on local sea wall construction with one-tonne bags of sand.

"These works are currently permitted under the Coastal Protection Act and the reforms will relax some of the requirements relating to placing these works," Mr Hartcher said.

"Councils are encouraged to only consider planned or managed retreat as a last-resort option." He cited a review of sea level rise science, conducted by the NSW chief scientist and engineer, Mary O'Kane, to support the argument that there was too much uncertainty around the IPCC's predictions.

Professor O'Kane's report found that existing forecasts on sea level rises were appropriate, given present levels of knowledge, and that more specific predictions could be made in future as more research was published.

"I probably shouldn't comment on whether the policy change is appropriate, but I will say that the science is evolving and the models have become more sophisticated," Professor O'Kane said.

"It's harder than ever to set a single benchmark across the whole of the NSW coastline," she said.

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