Best of our wild blogs: 30 Oct 12

Tongue-eating isopod and otters (again) at the Northern Expedition Day 15 from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Introducing the Common Palm Civet Facebook Page!
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

Return of the Eight-Spotted Crab Spider
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Random Gallery - Cruiser
from Butterflies of Singapore

Chek Jawa (28 Oct 12)
from teamseagrass

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Dolphin export issue still hangs as Quezon City court postpones hearing anew

Rima Jessamine M. Granali Philippine Daily Inquirer 30 Oct 12;

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society said any delay in the transport of the dolphins to Singapore would be good.

MANILA, Philippines—A Quezon City court postponed on Monday the hearing on the motion for reconsideration to ban the export of 25 show dolphins to Singapore.

Judge Fernando Sagun, Jr. of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 78 rescheduled the hearing for November 12 at 1:30 p.m. because representatives of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Agriculture (DA) and Resorts World Sentosa said they have not yet received a copy of the motion.

The court gave them until November 5 to file a written comment or objection to the motion.

Anna Cabrera, head of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), said any delay in the transport of the dolphins to Singapore would be good. “The whole point of this trial is to protect the interests of the wild,” she added.

Theresa Concepcion, Asia head of the animal rights group Earth Island Institute (EII) said she had mixed emotions on the postponement.

“It’s emotionally stressful and this is not even a human case,” Concepcion said. “It is not acceptable to me that the dolphins would be sacrificed for shallow entertainment and huge income.”

PAWS, EII, Compassion and Responsibility to Animals Welfare Philippines and other activist groups and individuals filed a motion for reconsideration on October 19 after Judge Evangeline Castillo-Marigomen of the Quezon City RTC 101 lifted the Temporary Environmental Protection Order barring the export of the 25 dolphins.

The dolphins from the Solomon Islands were supposed to be transported to Resorts World Sentosa, a giant casino resort in Singapore.

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Shell fined $80,000 for safety lapses that caused Pulau Bukom fire

Alvina Soh Channel NewsAsia 29 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Shell Eastern Petroleum was fined $80,000 on Monday for safety lapses that caused a fire at Shell's Pulau Bukom oil refinery in September last year.

The oil giant was found guilty of one count under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

On 28 September 2011, a fire broke out at a pump house at Shell's oil refinery, and spread rapidly with multiple explosions.

The Ministry of Manpower's investigations revealed that the fire was caused by lapses such as an accumulation of flammable vapours and static charges.

Shell used an open draining method during a process called de-oiling, which is used in pipeline maintenance.

This caused flammable vapours to be released into the air, which posed the risk of ignition.

The Ministry added that Shell did not deploy portable gas monitors, which would have alerted staff to dangerous levels of flammable gases.

The fire was fully extinguished the next day after 32 hours of fire-fighting.

Although there were no serious injuries, the pump house was badly damaged and the Bukom refinery had to be temporarily shut down.

In mitigation, Shell, which is represented by WongPartnership, said that it has since "worked closely with the authorities to implement enhanced safety systems", to prevent future incidences.

For failing to ensure the safety of its processes and the premises itself, Shell could be fined up to $500,000 if convicted under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

- CNA/de

Shell fined $80k for work safety lapses
Straits Times 30 Oct 12;

OIL giant Shell was fined $80,000 yesterday for lapses in workplace safety that led to a 32-hour fire at the company's Pulau Bukom oil refinery in September last year.

Court papers stated that while draining a pipeline, its contractors had used a method that allowed flammable gases to accumulate in the air.

The pipeline was connected to a tank of naphtha, a volatile liquid, and passed through a pump house where petroleum products were mixed. The contractors had used metal trays to collect the naphtha flowing out of the tank.

Prosecutors from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that the release of naphtha in this manner not only allowed volatile vapours to escape but also led to an accumulation of static charges, which might have produced a spark to ignite the naphtha vapours.

MOM said Shell had also failed to deploy sufficient portable gas monitors that would have detected the dangerous levels of flammable vapours.

However, prosecutors noted that Shell did conduct a total of five tests with portable gas monitors before the fire broke out at about 1pm on Sept 28. It was put out around 9pm the next day.

Shell had pleaded guilty earlier this month. Its lawyer Christopher de Souza had then argued that before the incident, there was no industry-wide MOM directive which indicated that the methods used by the contractors were unsafe in certain instances.

MOM said the fine of $80,000 is the highest meted out to a company involved in an accident without fatalities or injuries.

MOM is also reviewing the involvement of the two Shell contractors - Mun Siong Engineering and Weishen Industrial Services.

Shell, whose Bukom refinery is its largest worldwide, could have been fined up to $500,000.


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Marine Stewardship Council sets up office in Singapore to promote sustainable seafood

June Yang Today Online 29 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE - The sustainable seafood industry in the region is set to get a boost with the launch of Asia's first branch of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) here.

The MSC is a international, non-profit organisation that runs the world's only certification and ecolabeling program for wild-capture fisheries.

In addition to the Singapore office, it already has branches in London, Seattle, Tokyo, Sydney, The Hague. Glasgow, Cape Town, Paris, Madrid and Stockholm.

Seafood that has earned the MSC ecolabel has been tracked through the supply chain to come from fisheries that are certified to fish responsibly and sustainably.

One of the MSC's goals is to increase the number of MSC-certified products sold in Asia by more than five-fold in the next five years.

Currently, there are 588 products being sold here, an acrease of 5.5 per cent since 2011.

In addition, the MSC will be working towards getting more fisheries in the region certified, said MSC's Asia Regional Director, Mr Kelvin Ng.

Although the certification programs have been a great success elewhere in the globe, particularly in Europe, it has yet to take root in Asia. 60 per cent of certified seafood suppliers come from Euope, 23 per cent from the Americas, but only 16 per cent from the Asia-Pacific region, with the bulk coming from China and Japan where the MSC already has an established presence.

Mr Ng said that the MSC's aims to help Asian consumers become more aware of the MSC ecolabel. "By purchasing and asking seafood suppliers to provide more MSC-labelled products, consumers can be the driving force behind more companies becoming certified," he said.

He added: "We plan to use Singapore as a hub to engage with the rest of Asia. We are confident that, with the help of fisheries, processors, retailers, restaurants and environmental NGOs, before long this region will have many more fisheries engaged and a high penetration of MSC eco-labelled products in the market."

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Clean and Green Singapore 2013 focus on community engagement

Seet Sok Hwee, Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 30 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Community engagement is the focus of Clean and Green Singapore (CGS) 2013, which kicks off November 3.

The public can participate in numerous activities, ranging from recycling craft workshops to environmental fashion shows.

New programmes include a hackathon, where programmers and developers brainstorm ideas to build and launch applications that will help the public adopt eco-friendly practices; and OpenIDEO Challenge, which is an online platform to bring the community together to discuss environmental issues.

There are also more opportunities for individuals to volunteer through various programmes with partners such as the Public Hygiene Council, Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement and Singapore Kindness Movement.

In one of the main campaign activities - a two-day carnival - some 600 volunteers from schools, grassroots organisations and non-governmental organisations are contributing to the preparation and running of the event.

About 90 per cent of the activities will be carried out by volunteers.

The carnival on November 3 at Gardens by the Bay will boast live music performances, exhibitions and workshops to promote green practices.

It also brings together residents from the five districts of Singapore (Central, South West, North West, North East and South East) to showcase their ground-up programmes and community projects from agencies and key non-governmental organisations.

The event is co-organised by NEA, Central Singapore Community Development Council, PUB and National Parks.

NEA is also giving out more awards from November 3 onwards to recognise and commend the efforts of individuals and community groups in areas such as cleanliness and energy-efficiency.

The agency hopes this will encourage more members of the public to go green.

- CNA/fa

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Malaysia - Wanted: Guardians of the forest

New Straits Times 28 Oct 12;

MONITORS: A volunteer corps similar to Askar Wataniah and the police volunteer corps should be introduced to curb illegal logging and poaching in the peninsula, write Arman Ahmad and Tan Choe Choe

THE introduction of a voluntary force of forest rangers will help battle illegal logging and reduce poaching in forests.

As such, the Forestry Department is seriously considering the idea as the lack of manpower for enforcement activities is one of its biggest problems in conservation efforts.

Director-general of Forestry Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Abdul Rahim told the New Sunday Times that out of a 6,000 strong workforce in his department, only a small percentage of staff were foresters and rangers.

It is learnt that only 218 officers throughout the peninsula are tasked with enforcement. There are almost six million hectares of forests in the peninsula. While not all of it is forest reserve, there is still a huge area to be covered by these officers.

Rahman welcomed suggestions to recruit volunteers among the public to help save our forests.

"It is good to get the people involved," he said, adding that the Forestry Department could train these volunteers to become forest rangers.

"There is no money to pay them, but we are willing to send them to school," he said.

Rahman was responding to a suggestion by a New Sunday Times reader that agencies entrusted to take care of our forests and wildlife should join forces and set up a volunteer corps of forest rangers (similar to the volunteers in the army and police force) to better protect the forest and wildlife reserves in the country.

He added that those willing to serve could undergo two years of training for the "pengawas hutan" certificate or undergo a one-year forest ranger programme.

The training is conducted at the Forestry Training Institute in Kepong.

"They can become the eyes and ears of the department in 32 forest districts in the country," he said.

Rahman added that with a starting salary of RM800 a month, not many chose forestry as a career as they could get more lucrative salaries elsewhere.

The idea to have volunteer forest rangers was welcomed by several non-governmental organisations.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) field researcher Meor Razak Meor Rahman said it was a good way to handle issues of illegal logging and encroachment into forest reserves.

"Right now, the role of voluntary observer is being fulfilled by certain NGOs and even individuals. Recently, Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-Malaysia) created a group called Voluntary Forest Monitors (TIM-VFM).

"This group consists of the staff and volunteers of NGOs, communities and individuals interested in forestry issues as well as people with a background in forestry," he said.

However, Meor Razak said if the proposed voluntary corps is to be well received by the public, the implementers must identify legal issues which need to be overcome.

Citing an example, he said forest reserves are restricted areas under current laws (Akta Perhutanan Negara 1984), therefore, civilians are not allowed to enter the areas unless they obtain a permit.

Usually, illegal logging and encroachment into forested areas occur deep in forest reserves and this makes it difficult for the public to know or even be aware of such activities.

If this voluntary corps is created, registered volunteers should be given powers just like forestry officers because permits to forest reserves are specific to particular forests.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, the senior programme officer at TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, revealed that her organisation had actually broached the subject of volunteers several times to the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) over the years.

"There is an example of how this works too. You can see it in the Honorary Wildlife Wardens in Sabah, who are empowered to patrol the forests.

"In Sarawak, there are the Honorary Wildlife Rangers. They (Perhilitan) don't seem too keen, maybe because they are worried about the potential for abuse such as who would come on board to participate in such activities."

But in all fairness, Kanitha felt that the issue hasn't been brought out in the open and exhaustively discussed to see how it can or cannot work in the peninsula.

A senior Wildlife Department official agreed that there should be more public participation to be the eyes and ears of the authorities.

In Taman Negara -- a place that is about three times the size of Singapore -- Perhilitan can only afford to send 30 rangers to patrol the area. Manpower and resources are severely lacking.

"If the public want to know more on how they can help us, we can even provide them with crash training on what to look out for. They can contact us on our hotline or even email us. Sometimes, the public can give us really good information," he added.

Reader P. Kesavan from Taiping who mooted the idea for a voluntary corps wrote that the lack of resources made it impossible for Perhilitan to effectively safeguard these areas from poaching and other unlawful activities due to the relatively low priority given to proper management of natural resources compared with other developed countries.

He said these volunteers could be funded by the private sector (especially the plantation and timber industries) as part of their corporate social responsibility.

"Apart from preventing illegal activities, these volunteers can also help detect the sale of bush meat," he wrote.

1,165 wardens, rangers show it works in Sabah, Sarawak
New Straits Times 28 Oct 12;

THERE are 565 appointed wildlife wardens in Sabah.

Completely voluntary, with no salaries drawn from the government whatsoever, these volunteers choose to spend their time working to help protect wildlife in the state.

The Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 empowers the Sabah Wildlife Director to appoint suitable candidates to be Honorary Wildlife Wardens (HWW).

The Enactment also allows the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) to train these wardens, who have the power to enforce local wildlife laws.

Their background is diverse. Some are staff of wildlife-related NGOs, staff of the Forest Management Unit, staff of oil palm plantations or nature tour guides, who are already on the payroll of their respective employers.

Once potential HWW candidates have been vetted, they are given wildlife law and basic investigation training -- in class and on the field. The training lasts for three days and candidates have to sit for a written test at the end of it. Only those who pass the test will be appointed as HWW.

But the success of the programme is apparent.

"In areas where there are HWWs, wildlife poaching is under control or has been minimised. These areas are mostly in or near protected areas," said Augustine Tuuga, Sabah Wildlife Department deputy director.

He gave some examples of how the HWWs have helped his department increase its enforcement capacity:

In one case, Sabah Foundation staff who were appointed as HWWs apprehended poachers who were hunting the endangered Sambar Deer near the Danum Valley Conservation Area, and handed them over to the Sabah Wildlife Department for further action.

In another area, HWWs in the Sabamas Plantation, which borders the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, constantly patrol their area to prevent poachers from entering their plantation or gaining entry into the neighbouring wildlife reserve through their plantation.

They have handed over several poaching cases to the Wildlife Department for further action, one of which (for hunting wild boar) had been brought to court. This also reduced incidence of poaching in their area.

Meanwhile, WWF-Malaysia's HWWs in Kinabatangan are working with Wildlife Department staff in enforcement patrolling in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. This has increased the capacity of the department to protect the sanctuary.

The presence of HWWs has really helped ease the department's severe staffing problem, said Augustine.

For instance, he said, HWWs employed by the Langkayan Island Dive Resort are now helping to protect the Sugut Island Marine Conservation Area and although no enforcement staff from the Wildlife Department are present, the protected area is fully secured from encroachment.

Asked about the possibility of poachers infiltrating the ranks of the HWWs, he said there has been no such issue so far.

Instead, the biggest challenge the department faces with the HWW programme is perhaps in coping with the many training requests they get from various parties.

"It may appear as if we are not interested to have the programme, but the fact is we are fully occupied as we have other tasks to carry out as well. Again, it's a staffing problem. In this case, we do not have enough trainers."

In Sarawak, there are more than 600 appointed Honorary Wildlife Rangers (HWR). They have existed since the 1990s, and most of them are community leaders.

"However, their task is not enforcement, but more towards creating awareness," said Sarawak Forestry Department's head of protected area biodiversity conservation division, Oswald Braken Tisen.

"They work as individuals, or in groups to promote conservation of wildlife, forests as well as the environment. They also function as our eyes and ears. If they find any irregularity, they will report it. We find this as an effective way to work with the community and to get them involved," he said.

The Sarawak HWR's functions and duties are specified in rule 31 of the Wild Life Protection Rules, 1998.

It states that "... an Honorary Wild Life Ranger shall exercise such functions and duties as may be assigned to him by a Chief Wild Life Warden including to report any contravention of the provisions of the Ordinance and its Rules to any Wild Life Officer or the police, to educate the local community on the relevant laws and issues relating to wild life protection and conservation, to inform any Wild Life Officer on local wild life issues and problems as well as to assist Wild Life officers in the discharge of their duties".

Wildlife volunteers from NGOs
New Straits Times 28 Oct 12;

THERE are programmes in Sabah and Sarawak where the public can become forest reserve or wildlife protection volunteers, but none have been organised in the peninsula.

Some NGOs have set up their own voluntary programmes such as the initiative of the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT).

It's Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) programme was introduced in September 2010 to enable Malaysians to help the authorities curb crimes involving wildlife - although the emphasis appears to be on tigers, but it is not exclusive to them - in the Sungai Yu Tiger Corridor, some 15km south of the entrance to Taman Negara in Sungai Relau, Pahang.

The group recognises that the forests around Sungai Yu provide easy access to the interior and are vulnerable to poachers as anyone can go into the area without a permit.

CAT enables concerned members of the public to do their part for wildlife, in that volunteer naturalists take part in CAT Walks to appreciate nature, picnic or swim in the forested areas and when they're there, "deter poaching by their mere presence" and provide "additional watchful eyes at poaching hot spots on weekends", MYCAT explained on its website.

If suspicious activities are found, they could contact the 24-hour MYCAT Wildlife Crime Hotline which channels them to the relevant authorities.

Managed by the MYCAT Secretariat's Office, it also goes one step further to follow up on the outcome of the reports and updates its database with information on the action taken.

From 21 reports received in 2008, the hotline recorded about 106 reports in 2011 and most of the cases were acted on by the authorities.

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Malaysia: Move to set up agency to protect orang utans

New Straits Times 29 Oct 12;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department will present to the state cabinet a paper to propose the setting up of Sabah Orang Utan Conservation Alliance (SOCA).

This was a conclusion derived from an orang utan conservation dialogue held here recently, said the department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu.

The dialogue drew more than 80 stakeholders who discussed implementation of strategies and objectives highlighted in the Orang Utan Action Plan 2012-2016 launched early this year.

"SOCA will coordinate orang utan conservation and research efforts in Sabah, implement and monitor the Orang Utan Action Plan and advise the government on conservation issues.

"The alliance's functions include sharing information on orang utans and promoting the orang utan conservation works in Sabah by raising awareness nationally and globally.

"We will prepare a cabinet paper on it and bring it to the attention of the state cabinet.

"We hope that SOCA can be rapidly established," said Laurentius in a statement.

During the dialogue, he said they also identified approaches to maintain viable wildlife populations in Kinabatangan area.

These include urging the government to impose a moratorium on forest conversion in Kinabatangan and to create forest corridors in areas where riparian forests have been converted.

"It is high time that the oil palm industry acknowledged that there are problems and take the necessary measures to address the issues of forest fragmentation and clearings of riparian forests in Sabah as well as orang utan killings happening in oil palm estates in Kalimantan.

"We also addressed the problems in Kinabatangan, where orang utans are also found outside protected forests in the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain.

"Our recent analysis of satellite images have shown that 25,000 hectares of such forests still remain and if we want to secure the orang utan population in Kinabatangan, we cannot afford to lose another hectare of forest."

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, when closing the two-day dialogue, said some plantation owners might not realise riparian rivers were reserved and are strictly not to be used for any plantation development.

"These reserves must be rehabilitated and if they had been encroached on, action will be taken.

"I would also like to urge plantation owners to sign an agreement adopting a zero tolerance of wildlife (especially orang utans) killings in their respective estates.

"Orang utan are totally protected in Sabah and anyone killing one must be prosecuted," he said, adding that such a move would paint a good image of the plantation industry.

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