Best of our wild blogs: 24 Dec 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [17 - 23 Dec 2012]
from Green Business Times

Cotton pygmy-geese - Preening and stretching
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Asian Koel
from Monday Morgue

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Illegal animal trade active on Singapore local sites

Study finds 23 websites offer banned wildlife, parts
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 24 Dec 12;

A "PET" tiger, a grey tundra wolf and exotic parrots were some of the animals that online wildlife traders tried to sell to Singaporeans last year.

A new research project by the National University of Singapore (NUS) has thrown a spotlight on dark corners of the country's online animal marketplace.

It found that 23 local websites carried more than 1,300 new advertisements selling trade-restricted animals and their parts - many of them exotic and possibly illegal - in the second half of last year.

The price-tags on the animals added up to $680,000, and this excluded those ads which featured no prices.

In all, more than 50 new advertisements were posted each week during the 28-week study, and the traders could have netted almost $1 million, the project estimated.

The research, likely the first of its kind here, involved monitoring popular local pet and classified ad sites such as and eBay between September last year and January.

The project also included search results of ads posted on the sites in July and August last year.

It found that three-quarters of the ads hawked live animals as pets - either legal or illegal ones. Dead animals and parts such as ivory, horns, skin and fur made up the remainder.

Worryingly, one in three of these creatures and parts was banned here by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

Some animals were likely to have been smuggled in. For example, eight advertised species of non-native birds were not imported here between 2002 and last year, according to records.

Species included the vulnerable red-necked Amazon parrot and military macaw.

The report acknowledged that some of the ads were probably scams, such as those hawking pet tigers and wolves.

Also, the ads may not have translated to actual sales.

"But the persistence of the new ads and the views they get suggest there is interest in Singapore in paying for the exotic animals," added the report.

The study also captured only ads in English, so the total number of online animal ads here is likely to be much higher.

Wildlife activists said such ads were "mushrooming" in every part of the world.

Mr Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society here, said regular sting operations to nab online traders would reduce the virtual traffic. The group recreated the NUS project between June and August this year after conducting several stings with the help of the AVA, and found fewer ads.

When asked, the AVA said it monitors retail outlets and online sources of sales of illegal wildlife and their parts and products. Between January and last month, it investigated eight cases related to online sales. Of these, three were prosecuted in court.

"AVA also works with online sites such as forums, classified ad pages and auction sites to share information on the laws prohibiting the possession and sale of illegal wildlife in Singapore," a spokesman said.

It is an offence for people to import, export and re-export protected wildlife, including parts and products, without an AVA permit. It is also an offence to possess, sell or advertise wildlife which has been illegally imported or bought. Offenders can be fined up to $50,000 per animal, up to $500,000 in total, and/or jailed for up to two years.

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Malaysia: East-West Highway easy game for poachers

Nuradilla Noorazam New Straits Times 24 Dec 12;

GRAVE CONCERN: 100 points along East-West Highway for illegal hunters to enter Belum, Temenggor forests

KUALA LUMPUR: EASY access into the Royal Belum state park and Temenggor forest reserve along the East-West Highway has allowed poachers to make a killing on the country's rich wildlife.

Connecting the state of Perak and Kelantan, the highway stretches up to 124km between Grik and Jeli.

According to wildlife conservationists, there are more than 100 access points along the road for poachers to enter the forests.

As a consequence, seizures of wild animal parts in the northern part of the peninsula and its borders had raised concerns about poaching activities in Belum and Temenggor.

Almost four times the size of Singapore, the forests are home to 274 species of birds, 100 species of mammals and 69 species of reptiles. It also contains 3,000 species of flowering plants.

Statistics from the international wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic Southeast Asia (TSEA) showed that 122,880 individuals had been caught nationwide for possessing endangered animals between 2001 and last year.

The largest seizure was in 2010, when National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) officers confiscated over 26,000 pieces of python gall bladders, 35,000 pieces of python skin and three pangolins in Kedah and Perak.

TSEA senior programme officer Kanitha Krishnasamy said lucrative animals in the wildlife trade such as Malayan tigers, honey bears, Asian elephants, pangolins and leopards could also be found in those forests.

"Since 2008, our information revealed that at least 400 wild animals had been poached and traded illegally in these two landscapes, including tigers, serows, gaurs, pangolins, sun bears, birds and deer."

Members of TSEA, together with the World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia), had discovered and removed 150 snares from the vast forests.

In April 2009, a five-year-old male tiger was caught in a snare set by poachers near the highway and released by Perhilitan officers.

The tiger was found with tears in its eyes and suffering severe injuries. The cable wire from the snare had cut into its flesh when the animal struggled to escape.

It was then sent to Malacca Zoo for treatment but died two weeks later, much to the disappointment of its rescuers.

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Tree that weeps dragons blood among new discoveries

A tree with “dragons blood” running beneath its bark, a rare mountain top snowdrop and a critically-endangered orchid are among more than 60 new species discovered by botanists in the past year.

Richard Gray The Telegraph 23 Dec 12;

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew made the discoveries during a series of expeditions to some of the remotest corners of the world.

Yet despite only recently being catalogued, many of the new plants could disappear all together due to threats to their habitats.

One tree, found growing on top of a ridge among knife-like limestone blades of rock in Thailand, oozes a dark red sap - rumoured in local folklore to be “dragons blood” and drunk as a medicinal tonic - is already considered threatened.

Dr Paul Wilkin, a team leader at the herbarium at Kew who identified the tree as a new species, said the limestone outcrops where it grows are quarried for building material while it is also heavily collected by locals who consider it to be lucky.

With tough leathery leaves and a dark red sap that oozes from the bark when damaged, it is known as the Red Dragon Tree, or Chan Daeng in Thai. The botanists have now given it the scientific name Dracaena jayniana.

Dr Wilkin said he found the tree after being led up a trecherous ridge of limestone near Chiang Mai by local scientists and believes he has found a second new species growing in similar locations.

He said: “The tops of these karsts are covered in weird vegetation. The limestone mountains are very steep sided and have knifelike ridges, so you can’t have any farming there, so you get these quite remarkable plants growing there.

“There is a real overlooked diversity of plants in Thailand. The Red Dragon Tree is related to other species that are also used for medicinal purposes. They are used for everything from curing wounds, fractures, piles and stomach ulcers.

“This one seems to be used as a general pick me up tonic, but what the exact medicinal function is will need some more research.”

Scientists at Kew also discovered a new snowdrop, which they named Galanthus panjutinii, or Panjutin’s snowdrop after a famous climber and naturalist in the Caucasus Mountains called Platon Sergeevich Panjutin.

It was found on just one moutain ridge in Russia and joins 30 other species of snowdrop previously known in the world. The scientists, however, fear the new flower could already be under threat due to the small area it is found in.

They are refusing to reveal the exact location for fear that bulb hunters will raid the mountain side in search of the new species to sell to gardeners.

A new orchid, named Ornithocheirus cacharensis, was also discovered in the Cachar region of Assam, in northern India, a region better known for its tea. There are thought to be just ten of these red and purple plants in an area that measures less than three square miles.

Botanists also discovered 15 new species of palm tree. One example Indonesia, called Adonidia maturbongsii, has huge bat-like leaves while another from Papua New Guinea, called Heterospathe barfodii, produces clusters of purple flowers.

They also found 14 new species of Indigofera, a type of plant that was widely used to produce indigo dyes.

One expedition to the South Atlantic Island of St Helena, a UK Overseas Territory, discovered a new species of grass, which they named Eragrostis episocpulus, or wavy hair grass.

David Simpson, acting head keeper of the herbarium at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: “St Helena is a small island, so you might have thought that almost everything should have been found there, but the fact this has only just been discovered makes it more interesting.

“A lot of species on that island are not found anywhere else in the world and that makes them very special.”

Many of the new species discovered by Kew’s scientists, however, are already under threat.

The scientists also discovered some new species had already been collected in the past but had been misidentified before being locked in drawers in Kew’s vast herbarium.

They found 11 new species of Orania, a type of palm tree, hidden in the archives.

Dr Simpson added: “Techniques like DNA sequencing is helping us to work out relationships with other plants and it is a tool we have not had available in the past.

“In general we think there are something like 70,000 news species still out there waiting to be discovered.

"You often find these things more by chance than by anything else – if you happen to be in the right habitat when a particular plant is flowering.”

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