Best of our wild blogs: 19 Dec 12

Wild abalones at Big Sisters Island!
from wonderful creation

Bidadari (17 December)
from Rojak Librarian

Piriqueta racemosa - a new weed in Ubin
from Flying Fish Friends

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Dolphins benefit from life parks: RWS

From Krist Boo Senior Vice-President, Communications, Resorts World Sentosa
Today Online 19 Dec 12;

We refer to the letter, "Endangered or not, RWS dolphins' welfare a concern" (Dec 12).

Mr Louis Ng, from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), again presents a blinkered view of dolphins in human care, while presenting himself as an expert surpassing the scientific authorities of international bodies and countries.

Let us restate that the acquisition and care of our dolphins have met, will continue to meet and, wherever possible, surpass international guidelines, a commitment not generated from legal obligations but because we want to do right by our animals.

Our Marine Life Park team comprises animal lovers whose career paths have been influenced by an innate or cultivated love for animals. The latter often comes from visits to zoos and marine parks.

Recently, ACRES alleged inaccurately that Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is facing indirect contempt of court charges in the Philippines.

Particular activist groups have filed an application to initiate such charges against RWS, but the Philippine courts have only set a date to hear the application and have not decided whether to issue the charges.

While not all animal lovers share the same views about the benefits of zoological parks, our view is that marine life parks are needed more than ever before, given escalating threats to the oceans.

Having animals in zoological environments promotes the sustainability of their species by influencing people's knowledge and capacity to care for them and by contributing to research and science, in which Marine Life Park is already an active participant.

Current research shows that bottlenose dolphins thrive in zoological parks and live longer than their counterparts in the wild. Our dolphins are benefitting from 60 years of worldwide marine mammal zoological learning.

Our team of caretakers collectively represent over 700 years of hands-on experience, including rescuing and rehabilitating animals, assessing the health of wild animals, pioneering behavioural programmes and contributing to marine mammal medicine and care.

We will not compromise our animals' well-being. Now in their required quarantine period, our dolphins are acclimatising well to their new home.

Marine Life Park has welcomed over 125,000 visitors since its Nov 22 opening. Guest feedback has been very positive. Our priorities are to our animals and putting Singapore on the world map as a heavyweight in marine conservation and research.

Ultimately, Singaporeans and our visitors will make their own decisions as to the benefits of marine parks and the care provided to our dolphins.

Marine Life Park has worked on numerous collaborations with universities, schools and global partners over the last two years. Now that we have opened, we are expanding our conservation and research initiatives and embarking on new, exciting programmes.

ACRES should contribute constructively to marine conservation while appreciating that it requires many strategies, experts and resources to turn the tide for the future of marine life.

Interested readers can visit for updates on Marine Life Park.

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126 new species discovered in Greater Mekong: WWF

(AFP) Google News 18 Dec 12;

HANOI — From a devilish-looking bat to a frog that sings like a bird, scientists have identified 126 new species in the Greater Mekong area, the WWF said in a new report detailing discoveries in 2011.

But from forest loss to the construction of major hydropower projects on the Mekong River, existing threats to the region's biodiversity mean many of the new species are already struggling to survive, the conservation group warned.

"The good news is new discoveries. The bad news is that it is getting harder and harder in the world of conservation and environmental sustainability," Nick Cox, manager of WWF-Greater Mekong's Species Programme, told AFP.

Some 126 species were newly recorded last year in the Greater Mekong region, which consists of Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.

Some, such as the Beelzebub tube-nosed bat discovered in Vietnam, depend on tropical forests for survival and so are especially vulnerable to deforestation.

In just four decades, 30 percent of the Greater Mekong's forests have disappeared, the report says.

Others, such as a short-tailed python species found in Myanmar are more at risk from illegal hunting for meat, skins, and the exotic pet trade, the report said.

"Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade poses one of the greatest threats to the existence of many species across Southeast Asia," Cox said in a statement accompanying the report.

The list, dominated by plants, included 21 reptiles and five amphibians, such as a frog that sings and another that has black and white eye patterns that look like yin and yang symbols.

The WWF said that while the number of new species discovered was testament to the region's astounding biodiversity, there had been some "worrying developments" that posed a threat to their future.

WWF singled out Laos' determination to construct the Xayaburi dam on the main stream of the Mekong River as a significant threat to the river's "extraordinary biodiversity" and the livelihoods of more than 60 million people.

"The Mekong River supports levels of aquatic biodiversity second only to the Amazon River," according to Cox.

"The Xayaburi dam would prove an impassable barrier for many fish species, signalling the demise for wildlife already known and as yet undiscovered," he added.

The Mekong River supports around 850 fish species and the world's most intensive inland fishery, the report said.

Last month, Laos said it had begun work on the controversial multi-billion dollar Xayaburi dam, defying objections from environmentalists in its bid to become a regional energy hub.

Extraordinary new species discoveries in the Greater Mekong
WWF 18 Dec 12;

A new bat named after its devilish appearance, a subterranean blind fish, a ruby-eyed pit viper, and a frog that sings like a bird are among the 126 species newly identified by scientists in the Greater Mekong region in 2011, and described in a new WWF report, Extra Terrestrial.

Among the ten species highlighted in the report is the aptly named Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat, a diminutive but demonic-looking creature known only from Vietnam. Beelzebub’s bat, like two other tube-nosed bats discovered in 2011, depends on tropical forest for its survival and is especially vulnerable to deforestation. In just four decades, 30 per cent of the Greater Mekong’s forests have disappeared.

“While the 2011 discoveries affirms the Mekong as a region of astonishing biodiversity, many new species are already struggling to survive in shrinking habitats,” said Nick Cox, Manager of WWF-Greater Mekong’s Species Programme. “Only by investing in nature conservation, especially protected areas, and developing greener economies, will we see these new species protected and keep alive the hope of finding other intriguing species in years to come.”

A new ‘walking’ catfish species (Clarias gracilentus), discovered in freshwater streams on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, can move across land using its pectoral fins to stay upright while it wiggles forward with snake-like movements. And a dazzling miniature fish (Boraras naevus), just 2cm in length, was found in southern Thailand and named after the large dark blotch on its golden body (naevus is Latin for blemish).

A pearly, rose-tinted fish from the carp family was found in the Xe Bangfai catchment, a Mekong River tributary in Central Laos that runs 7km underground through limestone karst. The cave-dwelling Bangana musaei is totally blind and was immediately assessed as vulnerable due to its restricted range.
Mekong River supports around 850 fish species
The Mekong River supports around 850 fish species and the world’s most intensive inland fishery. Laos’ determination to construct the Xayaburi dam on the mainstream of the Mekong River is a significant threat to the Mekong’s extraordinary biodiversity and the productivity of this lifeline through Southeast Asia that supports the livelihoods of over 60 million people.

“The Mekong River supports levels of aquatic biodiversity second only to the Amazon River,” added Cox. “The Xayaburi dam would prove an impassable barrier for many fish species, signalling the demise for wildlife already known and as yet undiscovered.”

A new species of tree frog discovered in the high-altitude forests of northern Vietnam has a complex call that makes it sound more like a bird than a typical frog. While most male frogs attract females with repetitive croaks, Quang’s tree frog spins a new tune each time. No two calls are the same, and each individual mixes clicks, whistles and chirps in a unique order.

When it comes to frogs in the genus Leptobrachium, the eyes have it. Among its more than 20 species, there is a remarkable variety of eye colouration. Leptobrachium leucops, discovered in 2011 in the wet evergreen and cloud forest in Southern Vietnam, is distinguished by its striking black and white eyes.
Staggering array of 21 reptiles
A staggering array of 21 reptiles was also newly discovered in 2011, including the ruby-eyed green pit viper (Trimeresurus rubeus) in forests near Ho Chi Minh City. This new jewel of the jungle also winds its way along the low hills of southern Vietnam and through eastern Cambodia’s Langbian Plateau.

A short-tailed python species was found in a streambed in the Kyaiktiyo Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar. The elusive pygmy python (Python kyaiktiyo) has not been found again despite repeated surveys, so little is known of its ecology, distribution or threats. However, the 1.5 metre-long python is likely at risk from threats faced by other pythons, including habitat loss, and illegal hunting for meat, skins, and the exotic pet trade.

“Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade poses one of the greatest threats to the existence of many species across Southeast Asia,” added Cox. “To tackle this threat, WWF and TRAFFIC launched a global campaign this year to increase law enforcement, impose strict deterrents and reduce demand for endangered species products.”

Extra Terrestrial spotlights 10 species newly identified by science, among the 82 plants, 13 fish, 21 reptiles, 5 amphibians and 5 mammals all discovered in 2011 within the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia that spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan. Since 1997, an incredible 1,710 new species were newly described by science in the Greater Mekong.

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Malaysia: Hard for all states to ban shark hunting

The Star 19 Dec 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s ban against shark hunting is laudable but may not be feasible for the rest of the country for now, said Deputy Agri-culture and Agro-based Ind­ustry Minister Datuk Chua Tee Yong.

He said this was because such a ban would involve various authorities, unlike that in Sabah, where the State Tourism, Culture and Envi­ron­ment Ministry had announced the move.

“We cannot make such a decision on our own. We need to discuss with the other agencies, including the Natu­ral Resources and Envi­ronment Ministry,” he said after opening an international symposium on the development of integrated pest management for sustainable agriculture in Asia and Africa yesterday.

“It will also involve presenting papers in the Cabinet before any decision is taken,” added Chua.

Sabah’s ban against the hunting of sharks for their fins showed the state’s commitment in environmental protection and conservation efforts, he said.

However, Chua said it was still a personal choice of consumers in the peninsula when it came to eating shark’s fin.

Earlier, Chua said sustainable pest management and control systems were necessary for the longevity of the agricultural industry.

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