Best of our wild blogs: 18 Oct 12

Otters and special crabs and snail at the Northern Expedition Day 3 from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Mega Marine Survey Day 2: Pulau Ubin
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Flat out
from The annotated budak and Pail array

Plant-Bird Relationship: 7. Loranthaceae
from Bird Ecology Study Group

八月双溪布洛华语导游 Mandarin guide walk@SBWR,August(XXXII)
from PurpleMangrove

Damselfly (9) – Onychargia atrocyana (藍彩細蟌)
from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

“The Elephant Ivory Trade: To ban or not to ban?” Roadshow and Seminar by Project Wild-NUS PEACE, 31 Oct 2012 @ NUS from Otterman speaks

Read more!

Philippine court lifts order preventing export of dolphins to Singapore

Today Online 17 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE - A Philippine court today lifted the temporary environment protection order preventing its 25 captive dolphins from being exported to Singapore.

A Quezon City court last Friday issued a 72-hour temporary environment protection order to block the export of the dolphins, which were headed to the Resorts World Sentosa's (RWS) Marine Life Park, after animal rights groups there filed a civil suit.

A RWS spokesperson said the Integrated Resort is "pleased that the court has decided to lift the temporary environment protection order".

"Our dolphins are doing well under the care of our team of experienced experts, and we look forward to welcoming them to Singapore," said the spokesperson.

"We regret that the group which initiated this court action had gone on various public platforms with inaccurate statements pertaining to our dolphins, perpetuating the same falsehoods that we had repeatedly made numerous clarifications and corrections to in the past," she added.

The spokesperson reiterated that the resort's acquisition of the 25 Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins adhere to regulations governed by the United Nations Environment Programme under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

She added that the Marine Life Park is also set up for, and is preparing for accreditation with international accreditation bodies on its standards of animal husbandry, veterinary care and facility.

In a statement, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) said it "regrets" that the court lifted the temporary environment protection order, "despite the strong evidence presented and a strong ruling previously".

"This fight is far from over, we will file a motion for reconsideration," said Acres.

It added that it will be launching the next phase of its campaign in Singapore shortly to increase the pressure on RWS to "respond positively to public concerns about the plight of the dolphins".

Dolphins cleared for export
Philippine court rejects application by rights groups to bar their move to Singapore
Ng Jing Yng Today Online 18 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE - A Philippine court yesterday denied an application by environmental and animal rights groups to extend a temporary court order, which it had granted last week to prevent the export of 25 dolphins to the Marine Life Park at Singapore's Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).

The court's decision clears the way for RWS to bring the dolphins here, amid protests by animal rights groups. An RWS spokesperson welcomed the decision and criticised the parties which initiated the court action for "perpetuating the same falsehoods that we had repeatedly made numerous clarifications and corrections to in the past". The groups intend to file an appeal later this week.

The mammals, which were caught in waters off the Solomon Islands, are being kept and trained at Subic Bay, Philippines. Last Friday, the court had issued a 72-hour "temporary environmental protection order" on the grounds that the exportation will "result in grave and irreparable damage to the population of the dolphins from the Solomon Islands".

Slated to lapse yesterday, the order was granted after 13 Philippines-based groups - including Earth Island Institute Philippines (EII-Phils) and the Philippine Animal Welfare Society - had banded together to file a civil suit against the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Department of Agriculture, and RWS.

Yesterday, Quezon City court judge Evangeline Castillo-Marigomen rejected the application for an extension of the order, "as the petitioners have not proved any violation of law committed by the concerned government agencies", according to a media release that EII-Phils put up on its website.

EII-Phils Regional Director for Asia-Pacific Trixie Concepcion said that scientific studies were produced in court during the hearing yesterday, arguing that the survival rates of the dolphins would be threatened after their capture. "(But) the judge did not consider this as evidence," she said.

Ms Concepcion said the petitioners also took umbrage at comments by the judge when she likened the dolphins to "pets". Ms Concepcion said: "This is a very, very sad day for conservation, for all animals in general, because this may set a precedent where animals from unsustainable sources can be traded by the Philippines."

In response to media queries, the RWS spokesperson said: "We are pleased that the court has decided to lift the temporary environment protection order. Our dolphins are doing well under the care of our team of experienced experts, and we look forward to welcoming them to Singapore".

She added: "We regret that the group which initiated this court action had gone on various public platforms with inaccurate statements pertaining to our dolphins, perpetuating the same falsehoods that we had repeatedly made numerous clarifications and corrections to in the past."

The spokesperson reiterated that the acquisition of the dolphins adheres to regulations governed by the United Nations Environment Programme under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The Marine Life Park is also preparing for accreditation with international accreditation bodies on its standards of animal husbandry, veterinary care and facility, she added.

In Singapore, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) has been campaigning against RWS' move to keep the dolphins in captivity. ACRES Chief Executive Louis Ng was disappointed at the Philippine court's latest decision. He said that the "fight is far from over" and that ACRES will soon launch the next phase of its campaign to "increase the pressure on RWS to respond positively to public concerns about the plight of the dolphins".

Marine Life Park, scheduled to open by December, will house more than 100,000 marine animals. Dates to bring over the 25 dolphins have not been confirmed but according to the RWS spokesperson, the "dolphin interaction programmes" would begin next year.

Bid to stop export of RWS dolphins fails in Philippines
Alastair Mcindoe Straits Times 18 Oct 12;

MANILA - A Philippine court has denied a petition by animal welfare groups for a new temporary restraining order to stop 25 bottlenose dolphins from going to the Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), which is scheduled to open later this year.
Reach your goals with Manulife

A "temporary environmental protection order" granted last Friday by a court in Quezon City expired yesterday.

The request to renew the order was heard by a different judge, who ruled that there were no irregularities in how the dolphins were brought from the Solomon Islands to the Philippines, nor in their re-export to Singapore.

The Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources still needs to grant an export licence for the dolphins - brought here between 2008 and last year. The bureau was not available for comment on RWS' application for one.

Once that is granted, animal welfare groups admit that legally, nothing prevents the dolphins from going to Singapore.

"But our main case to have the dolphins sent back to the Solomon Islands still stands," said Ms Trixie Concepcion, regional director of the San Francisco-based animal rights and conservation group Earth Island Institute, one of three petitioners in the case. "These particular dolphins come from the coastal waters of the Solomon Islands. Their population is small and they don't migrate," she added, describing them as a "small tribe".

Noting that Philippine law bans trading in animals if it is detrimental to their survival as a species, she said the group would appeal against the court decision.

The dolphins are being held in a pen at the Ocean Adventure open-water marine park in Subic Bay. They are being acclimatised to a life in captivity while Marine Life Park is being completed.

"By all appearances, these marine mammals are in great shape, and the staff training and caring for them are experienced," said Ocean Adventure chief executive Tim Desmond, trainer of the orca Keiko in the 1993 film Free Willy.

Marine Life Park claims on its website to be the world's largest oceanarium. "Globally, the success of dolphin-breeding programmes within these complexes is an important measure of the successful husbandry of dolphins in human care," it says.

RWS said it was pleased with the decision. "Caring for living animals comes with great responsibility, one that we do not take lightly," said a company spokesman.

Philippines allows export of dolphins to Singapore
(AFP) Google News 18 Oct 12;

MANILA — The Philippine government said Thursday it has approved the export of 25 show dolphins to Singapore after a ban on their transport to a giant casino chain was lifted.

Animal rights activists filed a civil suit against the government last week, preventing the export of the animals to Resorts World Sentosa.

They alleged the capture of the bottlenose dolphins from the Solomon Islands, as well as their transport to Singapore after being trained, violated an international treaty on the trade of endangered animals and plants.

The case was later transferred to another court, which lifted the travel ban on Wednesday.

Theresa Concepcion, Asia head of the animal rights group Earth Island Institute, said it planned to appeal the latest ruling on Friday.

"This is a sad day for dolphins. The lifting of the (court injunction) means we can now trade in any species even if this would affect the survival of these species in the wild," she told AFP.

The dolphins had been captured in the waters of the Solomons, according to Concepcion, and were shipped away to be trained at a marine entertainment park in the Philippines between December 2008 and January 2011.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources chief Asis Perez said the government agency granted an export permit for the dolphins last week, but the first court action temporarily suspended it.

"The restraining order has been lifted, so they are free to export them," Perez told AFP.

The latest ruling by regional trial court judge Evangeline Marigomen said: "The... petitioners have not proved any violation of law committed by the concerned government agencies."

Perez said the owners had not told the Philippine government when it planned to transfer the animals to Singapore.

The company's Manila lawyer was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

Resorts World Sentosa put out a statement in Singapore on Wednesday saying it looked forward to the dolphins' arrival.

"Our dolphins are doing well under the care of our team of experienced experts, and we look forward to welcoming them to Singapore," it said.

It disputed the animal rights groups' allegations, insisting it had contravened no international treaties in acquiring the dolphins.

Swiss-based conservation group International Union for the Conservation of Nature said on its website that bottlenose dolphins were "widespread and abundant".

However Earth Island argued in court that the Solomon Islands' ban on dolphin hunting in its waters imposed this year showed that the local population was under threat.

Read more!

Keep Bukit Brown graves: Descendants

Straits Times Forum 18 Oct 12;

THE consequence of the decision by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to clear Bukit Brown Cemetery to make way for a highway and future housing developments is an irreplaceable loss to generations of Singaporeans ("Redevelopment plans for Bukit Brown site", Sept 13; and Forum letter "Rethink road widening affecting cemetery" by Mr Liew Kai Khiun, Sept 16).

Indeed much of the historical and social value of Bukit Brown Cemetery is still being uncovered by volunteers today, yet preparations for clearing works are slated to start next month. The latest tender suggests that 24ha (10,000 graves) will be affected in the heart of the cemetery. This, we understand, is just the beginning.

Despite URA and LTA's assertions that they will work with the Singapore Heritage Society and other stakeholders to identify and document key heritage elements, it appears that this refers to mere "data recording", and not a heritage study.

It is not widely known that the Bukit Brown, Ong clan and Hokkien Huay Kuan cluster form the biggest Chinese burial grounds outside China, with a quarter of a million graves.

The erasure of these grounds will deal a substantial blow to the cultural history of Singapore.

The graves contain our immigrant forebears, from paupers to almost all our local pioneers who remain largely unrecognised beyond the roads that bear their names, such as Ong Boon Tat, Cheong Koon Seng, Cheang Hong Lim, Chew Joo Chiat, Lim Chong Pang and Chew Boon Lay; and the wife of philanthropist Lim Nee Soon.

Each tomb tells of a journey from a village in China, their families, their achievements and their culture.

Stories discerned from the graves will no longer be accessible to future generations.

As descendants of Singapore's early pioneers, we appeal to the authorities to explore alternatives like widening existing roads or using flyovers to preserve this national heritage.

It is not too late to recognise that Bukit Brown is rich with "living" possibility and multi-uses - not just for those who pay respects to ancestors but also as a place for learning and recreation.

Here is where creative lessons in biology, bird-watching, history, genealogy, art and poetry could take place as well as serious research. To take a quiet walk with family or tour with the passionate guides is to be moved by our history and feel truly connected with this place we call our home.

Let us not squander our heritage and dishonour our past for a few more condos and cars. Once we bulldoze through this history, it will be too late to resurrect the foundation of our national sense of identity.

Chew I-Jin (Ms)

Read more!

Singapore on sharing farming expertise

Straits Times 18 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE will continue to share its technical know-how in farming with neighbours because it will strengthen regional ties and expand the country's food import sources.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan listed these payoffs yesterday in his blog.

"While we are not an agricultural nation, we have nevertheless used our expertise and R&D (research and development) knowledge to help our neighbours boost their agriculture produce," he wrote.

"Besides strengthening regional ties, we also get to diversify our food sources to meet our consumption needs."

The blog entry detailed the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's experience in sharing expertise with Laos, in particular setting up a fish hatchery in Vientiane.

This project, the Napho Lao-Singapore Fish Hatchery, began in 2002. Singapore provided technical assistance and funding.

The hatchery, which breeds tilapia fish, has come a long way with an annual production of fish fry of over four million, exceeding the initial target of one million, wrote Mr Khaw.

He noted that the project had boosted the income of Laotian farmers and provided a new source of food for the local population.

The AVA will train the farmers in more advanced topics such as good aquaculture practices, fish health management and proper post-harvest handling "in the coming months", he wrote.

Mr Khaw also revealed that discussions had taken place last week with another neighbour keen to benefit from the Republic's expertise - Myanmar.

"This suits us fine as we are always on the lookout for more opportunities to further increasing food import from Myanmar," he wrote. "This is win-win."

Singapore is heavily reliant on food imports from abroad even as it has rolled out initiatives to boost the output of local farms. Last year, for example, it imported 145,678 tonnes of fish worth $800 million.


Read more!

Heavy rain lashes parts of Singapore

Straits Times 18 Oct 12;

HEAVY rain in central Singapore yesterday afternoon peaked at over 106mm, almost equal to the total rainfall for the whole of last month.

The downpour, which lashed many parts of Singapore, prompted the National Environment Agency to issue a heavy rain warning.

At Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, water levels at the new man-made river rose significantly. The river, which was designed with a flood plain to help store excess stormwater, can hold 40 per cent more water than the section of canal it replaced. In heavy rain, the parkland surrounding it doubles as a channel to hold the deluge. National water agency PUB said the parkland had carried the stormwater as intended during yesterday's storm.

The river's rising water levels yesterday automatically triggered light, siren and audio announcements to warn park-goers.

But the PUB said it did not receive any calls from the public.

Red markers along the river, which serve as visual safety cues for the public, were not breached, said the PUB.

Elsewhere, flash floods were reported at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, and at the junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and Ang Mo Kio Street23.


Read more!

Malaysia: 24 pangolins saved from cooking pot

New Straits Times 18 Oct 12;

BUKIT KAYU HITAM: Members of the General Operations Force scored a triple victory when they stopped a motorist on his way to Thailand near here yesterday.

Not only did they save 24 pangolins destined for the cooking pot, they also nabbed the local for trying to smuggle out the protected animals and detained his friend who tried to bribe officers.

The force's northern brigade deputy commander Assistant Commissioner Khaw Kok Chin said the first suspect was detained during a routine check at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex near here at 10am where they found 24 pangolins in a compartment under the back seat.

The man, in his 30s, called his friend, also in his 30s, who arrived shortly thereafter.

The second man offered him RM1,000 as an inducement not to take action against his friend.

Read more!

Malaysia: Elephant conservation centre suffering after new wildlife Act enforced

The Star 18 Oct 12;

TEMERLOH: The Kuala Gandah Elephants Conservation Centre, which used to allow rides and bathing with the pachyderms in the river, is no longer an attractive tourist draw, said a state executive councillor.

Datuk Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin said he had received complaints from people in the tourism sector that such activities had to stop after the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 was enforced.

The Lanchang assemblyman said tour bus operators, souvenir shops, taxi drivers, tourist guides and other related tourism sectors were affected by the new ruling of the Wildlife and National Parks Department to stop the activities with elephants.

“The Act has driven operators to cancel bookings made by tourists to visit the centre and to other tourist stops in their tour package, such as the nearby Deerland and Biodiversity Centre in Bukit Rengit.

“Some clauses in the Act have also affected other tour-related operators throughout the country, including the crocodile farm in Malacca and the butterfly centres in Perak,” added Mohd Sharkar, who chairs the Pahang state information, science, technology and innovation committee.

He was speaking to reporters after meeting a delegation from the Zoo Operators, Breeders, Wildlife Entrepreneurs and Animal Hobbyists Association here yesterday.

Present were state Tourism director Idros Yahya and Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Pahang chapter chairman Adi Din Hussain.

Mohd Sharkar said the Pahang Government was concerned about the situation as the elephant conservation centre had generated a lot of spill-over income to the locals.

“Locals as well as foreign tourists look forward to the experience of riding on an elephant's back and bathing with the wildlife in the river,” he said, adding that the matter was discussed last week at the state executive council meeting.

“It will be discussed again to save the livelihood of the locals and the tourism sector in the state.”

Mohd Sharkar said he and a delegation from P4HNM would bring the matter to the attention of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak next week.

Read more!

Corals and Food Security: Study Shows Nations at Risk

ScienceDaily 17 Oct 12;

A new study co-authored by the Wildlife Conservation Society identifies countries most vulnerable to declining coral reef fisheries from a food-security perspective while providing a framework to plan for alternative protein sources needed to replace declining fisheries.

The study looked at 27 countries around the world and found two common characteristics: nations with low incomes that lack the ability to adapt to alternative protein sources; and middle-income nations with higher adaptive capacity but higher sensitivity to climate change. According to the analysis, Indonesia and Liberia were the most vulnerable countries to fisheries declines from a food security perspective, while Malaysia and Sri Lanka were the least vulnerable.

The study, which appears in the November issue of the journal Environmental Science and Policy, is authored by Sara Hughes, Annie Yau, Lisa Max, Nada Petrovic, Frank Davenport, and Michael Marshall of the University of California; Tim McClanahan of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Edward Allison of WorldFish Center; and Josh Cinner of James Cook University.

The authors say the results of the study should be a wake-up call for nations to begin enacting policies to promote alternative protein sources, either through land-based means such as growing beans and poultry farming, or increased aquaculture. Coral reef fisheries are expected to decline with climate change and other human caused disturbances.

"The study identifies countries where climate change is likely to be felt first by threatening people that depend on fisheries," said the study's co-author Tim McClanahan of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "These countries are priorities for developing adaptation actions before the effects of climate change undermine their ability to feed themselves. Some countries will be stressed by climate yet have enough capacity to make the adaptation, while others will not. Making them realize this early will save considerable human suffering in the future."

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

Journal Reference:

Sara Hughes, Annie Yau, Lisa Max, Nada Petrovic, Frank Davenport, Michael Marshall, Timothy R. McClanahan, Edward H. Allison, Joshua E. Cinner. A framework to assess national level vulnerability from the perspective of food security: The case of coral reef fisheries. Environmental Science & Policy, 2012; 23: 95 DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2012.07.012

Read more!

African rhino poaching hits record on cancer claim

PlanetArk 18 Oct 12;

A record number of African rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa this year, driven by the use of their horns in Chinese medicine and a spreading belief in Southeast Asia, unfounded in science, that they may cure cancer.

The street value of rhinoceros horns has soared to about $65,000 a kilogramme, making it more expensive than gold.

South Africa, home to more than 20,000 rhinos, or about 90 percent of all the rhinos in Africa, lost 455 rhinos to poachers, as of Tuesday, to eclipse the 448 killed in all of 2011, the environment ministry said in a statement.

Around 15 animals a year were lost a decade ago, showing the impact of rising demand from Asia.

The number of rhinoceroses dying unnatural deaths in South Africa, either through illegal poaching or legal hunts, has now reached a level likely to lead to population decline, according to a study by Richard Emslie, an expert in the field.

Poaching increased dramatically from about 2007 as a growing affluent class in China, Vietnam and Thailand began spending more on rhino horn for traditional medicine, where it was once used for ailments such as devil possession.

About half of poaching takes place in Kruger National Park, the country's flagship park covering an area about the size of Israel, where soldiers and surveillance aircraft have been deployed in recent months to slow the carnage.

The park has been the focal point of an arms race as gangs of poachers sponsored by international crime syndicates have used high-powered weaponry, night vision goggles and helicopters to hunt the animals, investigators said.

(Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

Read more!

Hundreds of plants and animals added to 'threatened' list

Mariette le Roux (AFP) Google News 17 Oct 12;

HYDERABAD, India — An island-dwelling cockroach and a tiny snail were declared extinct Wednesday while 400 plants and animals were added to a threatened "Red List" as global environment ministers met in India.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) updated its authoritative study on the state of biodiversity on Earth, saying 20,219 species were at risk of dying out.

It added 402 species such as the Egyptian dab lizard and the Sichuan Taimen, a fresh water fish from China, to the "Red List", which puts them in the threatened category.

Two invertebrates, a cockroach from the Seychelles last seen in 1905 and a freshwater snail called Little Flat-Top from the US state of Alabama, have moved into the extinct category since the last update of the bi-annual survey in June.

"These are species that do not occur anywhere else in the world," the IUCN's director of biodiversity conservation Jane Smart said at a UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) conference in Hyderabad, southern India.

The report also showed that 83 percent of Madagascar's 192 palm species, which the poor rely on heavily for food and housing, are at risk of extinction.

They include the "Suicide Palm", which grows up to 18 metres (60 feet) in height and dies a few months after flowering and producing seeds. Only 30 mature specimens are known to exist in the wild today.

A quarter of the world's mammals, 13 percent of birds, 41 percent of amphibians and 33 percent of reef-building corals are at risk of extinction, according to the IUCN.

There was also some happy news, however, with the IUCN saying eight species had moved out of the extinct category due to new sightings.

They include a Tanzanian tree, Erythrina schliebenii, five types of mollusc, a dwarf toad from Sri Lanka, and Holdridge's Toad, a species from Costa Rica.

The gathering comes two years after UN countries approved a 20-point plan at a conference in Japan for reversing the worrying decline in plant and animal species that humans depend on for food, shelter and livelihoods.

Execution of the plan has been hamstrung by a lack of funding and the Hyderabad talks are being closely watched for new financial commitments.

Environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev said Wednesday that an expert panel had concluded that between $150-440 billion (115 to 330 billion euros) would be needed annually to meet the Japan goals, dubbed the Aichi biodiversity targets.

Current conservation spending is estimated at about $10 billion per year.

With a 2020 deadline, the targets include halving the rate of habitat loss, expanding conservation areas, preventing the extinction of species on the threatened list, and restoring at least 15 percent of degraded ecosystems.

"The cost of inaction is something that people have only just begun to appreciate," UN Environment Programme executive director Achim Steiner warned.

"When you run out of water, when you run out of arable land... and your rivers run dry, when your lakes silt up, when your fisheries collapse, then it is often too late to start talking about the value of biodiversity ecosystems."

The three-day ministers' meeting comes at the end of two weeks of talks by senior officials from 184 parties to the conference -- negotiations that delegates say have become stuck on the question of financing in a time of economic austerity.

The convention, to which 193 countries are signatories, marks its 20th anniversary this year.

It has already missed one key deadline when it failed to meet the target set to halt biodiversity loss by 2010.

The updated Red list, assessing 65,518 known species of animals and plants, lists 795 as extinct and 63 as surviving only in captivity.

Read more!