Best of our wild blogs: 14 Oct 12

Pelagic Outing October 2012
from Con Foley Photography

Enhancing the butterfly habitat @ Tampines Eco Green (Part II)
from The Green Volunteers

Girl Guides Fun at Chek Jawa Guided Walk
from Peiyan.Photography and wild shores of singapore

disappearing croc @ sg buloh wetland reserve - Oct2012
from sgbeachbum

A Rare Young Talent
from Butterflies of Singapore

Common Sandpipers’ Tail-Fanning & Raised-Wings Displays
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Acquisition of 25 dolphins in line with global requirements: Marine Life Park

Alvina Soh Channel NewsAsia 13 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Marine Life Park said its acquisition of 25 Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins caught in the wild, followed international requirements.

A spokesman of Marine Life Park said Saturday that they are in line with the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the trade of animals to protect wildlife species from extinction.

The spokesman had said so in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia on a report that a court in the Philippines has moved to stop the 25 dolphins from being re-exported to Singapore.

This followed calls from environmentalists and activists to prevent the transfer of the mammals, which are housed temporarily in Manila before being sent to Marine Life Park.

A report on the website of The Philippine Star said a Quezon City court decided on Friday to stop the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources from issuing a permit to re-export the 25 dolphins in Ocean Adventure Park in Subic.

The report added that the court granted a petition by animal welfare groups and issued a 72-hour "temporary environment protection order" preventing the re-export of the dolphins.

The dolphins were imported from the Solomon Islands in 2008, 2009, and 2011 and brought to Subic for training while Marine Life Park was under construction.

The Philippine report said the court decided to stop the 're-exportation' on the grounds that doing so would cause irreparable damage to the dolphins.

Responding to the report, the spokesman of Marine Life Park said on Saturday that the movement of marine animals, including dolphins, is governed by the United Nations Environment Programme which upholds the policies of CITES.

Marine Life Park's spokesman said the dolphins are currently doing well in the Philippines.

He added that the Marine Life Park has an experienced team of animal experts who collectively represent over 300 years of experience working in more than 60 reputable zoological facilities around the world.

"With a mission to promote marine education, conservation and research, Marine Life Park strives to offer an educational and memorable experience that inspires a generation of stewards for the environment," said the statement from Marine Life Park.

But Singapore animal welfare group ACRES said on Saturday that it welcomes the latest news.

ACRES' chief executive Louis Ng said, "It has sent a very strong message out. A judge has reviewed the case, they've reviewed the literature and have agreed that this re-export shouldn't take place.

"We hope that they will make this ban permanent, and we are hopeful that the Philippines government will uphold the law and return these dolphins back to the Solomon Islands."

ACRES added that it would be a violation of Philippine law to allow the dolphins to be re-exported to Singapore and highlighted that the capture of the dolphins was unsustainable as the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were a "very localised and small population."

Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa, billed as the world's largest oceanarium, is scheduled to open by December, and will involve more than 100,000 marine animals.

- CNA/lp

Philippine court stops export of RWS dolphins
Derrick Ho Straits Times 14 Oct 12;

A Philippine court yesterday temporarily blocked the export of 25 captive dolphins meant to be the main attraction at the Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).

A Quezon City court issued a 72-hour "temporary environment protection order" preventing the mammals from being exported to Singapore, after animal rights groups there filed a civil suit, according to the Philippine Star newspaper.

The groups included the Earth Island Institute, Philippine Animal Welfare Society and the Compassion and Responsibility Philippines. They alleged that exporting the bottlenose dolphins for sport or entertainment was illegal, cruel and would cause the extinction of the species.

The suit was filed against the Philippine agricultural secretary, Department of Agriculture and the the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, as well as Resorts World Sentosa, the Star reported.

When asked if the resort was reconsidering bringing the dolphins to Singapore, a Marine Life spokesman said last night that the dolphins were acquired in accordance with regulations stipulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

"The dolphins are currently doing well in the Philippines," it said in a statement.

It declined to say how it would respond to the action by the groups in the Philippines.

Nor would it say when it had been planning to bring the dolphins to Singapore, or if it was now doing anything to secure their transfer here.

The park has received flak from animal activist groups for its purchase and plan to have 27 wild- caught dolphins as a key attraction.

Two of the dolphins died of a bacterial infection while being kept at Subic Bay in the Philippines.

Last month, RWS said the dolphins, which animal activists want released back to their natural habitat, would be on display only next year as they would need enough time to settle into their new enclosure.

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Hawk no match for pesky mynahs

Straits Times 14 Oct 12;

Orchard Road's hawk patrols have failed. It turns out that the bird of prey is no match for the pesky, noisy mynahs plaguing the shopping strip.

It is the latest attempt to fix the bird nuisance that has failed, and for business owners there it is back to the drawing board.

Mynahs have been bothering retailers and shoppers since 2008, after the Somerset carpark was redeveloped and the trees felled.

The birds moved from that roosting spot to the area near Cathay Cineleisure Orchard and The Heeren, and an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 descend at dusk, especially between 6.45pm and 7pm.

People have complained about noise and droppings that strike pedestrians, cars and walkways. So far this year, the authorities have received 13 reports about the bird nuisance.

When earlier efforts flopped, the Orchard Road Business Association hit on the idea to bring in the hawks last year, hoping that regular hawk flights would shoo the mynahs away.

Jurong Bird Park was happy to help, and provided a hawk and handler for three test runs from September last year.

Alas, the big bird was found to be intimidated by the large flock of mynahs, said park general manager Raja Segran.

He thinks there are other reasons why the idea could not take off, though some might suspect these are just a hawk's excuses:

The mynahs' new surroundings meant the hawk needed a long time to adjust;

The thick-canopied trees made it difficult for the bird handler to keep contact with the hawk;

Vehicles could knock down the hawk.

"The movement of the crowd and noise from vehicles along that stretch made the hawk very distracted," he said. "The flow of traffic on Orchard Road made it too risky to fly our birds there."

Just in case anyone thinks it might all be a case of a cowardly hawk, he also had this to say: "Birds of prey are persistent hunters, and if they decide to go after a prey the pursuit can sometimes lead to accidents."

The main thing, though, is that the mynah numbers proved overwhelming.

In the trials, which included releasing the hawk onto a tree, it was found that at first the hawk frightened the mynahs off.

"But after a while, the mynahs were seen coming back to the tree where the hawk was, as if very curious to see what bird it was," he said.

It proved too much for the intimidated hawk.

In 2009, several Orchard Road malls installed sonic devices to scare the birds away. That did not work. The use of chemicals to get rid of the birds was deemed inhumane.

Using birds of prey to solve bird nuisance problems has worked elsewhere. In Britain, two hawks, accompanied by their handlers, successfully drove seagulls away from a mall in Exeter. They did four flights a week for 20 weeks.

For now, mynahs rule in Orchard Road. And the search is on for the next best idea.

Jessica Lim

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Costa Rica passes ban on taking of shark fins

Isabella Cota PlanetArk 11 Oct 12;

Costa Rica on Wednesday passed a blanket ban on shark finning, in which the fins are sliced off sharks, often while they are alive, before the fish are thrown back into the ocean to die.

President Laura Chinchilla signed an executive order banning shark finning in the Central American nation's coastal waters, closing loopholes in an existing law passed in 2001.

"Costa Rica may set an example to the world when it comes to environmental protection, but it must be noted that we had a significant lag when it comes to protecting the oceans," Chinchilla told reporters at a signing ceremony in Manuel Antonio National Park on the country's Pacific coast.

The new order amends previous legislation that outlawed shark finning but continued to allow the transportation and importation of fins from other countries.

Penalties under the ban include fines and the cancellation of fishing licenses for those who are caught finning sharks. Catching sharks for food, as a means of subsistence, however, will continue to be allowed.

Chinchilla also announced an investment of up to $15 million in a new radar system that will allow authorities to better identify boats breaking the ban.

Environmental activists have campaigned against shark finning for years. They say it is cruel, and a threat to sea life and the preservation of the oceans.

Shark fins are in high demand in Asian countries including China and Japan, where shark fin soup is considered a delicacy.

(Reporting by Isabella Cota; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Eric Beech)

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Marine Protected Areas increase 10-fold in a decade

Roger Harrabin BBC News 13 Oct 12;

A 10-fold rise in Marine Protected Areas has been recorded over a decade.

A report to a UN meeting on biodiversity in Hyderabad reports that more than 8.3 million sq km - 2.3% of the global ocean area - is now protected.

The percentage is small but the rapid growth in recent times leads to hope that the world will hit its target of 10% protected by 2020.

This would have looked most unlikely prospect just a few years ago.

The aspiration was agreed by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2004 with a target date of 2012. Progress was so slow at first that the target was slipped to 2020 - with some researchers forecasting it would not be reached until mid-century.

But recently there have been huge additions - like Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the UK-controlled Chagos archipelago and US-controlled uninhabited territories in the mid-Pacific.

The Cook Islands recently announced a 1.1 million sq km MPA - that is four times the area of the UK land mass. New Caledonia's is even bigger - 1.4 million sq km.

Australia has added a further 2.7 million sq km to its listing of the Great Barrier Reef. Now 28 countries have designated MPAs of more than 10%.

But these statistics may not be quite so impressive as they appear as most of them are far distant from people who would be likely to over-exploit them.

And a recent paper on the demise of the Barrier Reef demonstrates that declaring an area protected does not necessarily shield it from distant influences like over-nutrification.

Mark Spalding from the Nature Conservancy, lead author of the report, told BBC News: "This is great news in the sense that the prospect looked so hopeless until recently. We really should manage to meet the 10% target now.

"But we have to ask whether the targets in themselves are enough - or whether governments need to be smarter to ensure that they're protecting the very most important areas.

"I don't want to knock any of the MPAs but some appear to be easy wins, where you could stick a pin on a map and maybe send a patrol vessel. We need more than that."

Dr Spalding said it was vital now for nations to concentrate efforts on MPAs near heavily-populated coastlines where marine resources were most at risk.

The UK government has been accused of dragging its feet after postponing by a year the introduction of MPAs around the coast of England.

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