Best of our wild blogs: 31 Jan 13

A guide to plants in Singapore's Urban Forest
from wild shores of singapore

Rings a bell
from The annotated budak and Daylight robbery

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Singapore intercepts illegal shipment of raw ivory tusks

Channel NewsAsia 30 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has stopped a large illegal shipment of raw ivory tusks on the way from Africa.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority and Singapore Customs intercepted the shipment of about 1.8 tonnes of tusks in the second largest ivory seizure since 2002.

Acting on a tip-off, the AVA and Singapore Customs inspected the shipment that was declared as waste paper on January 23 and found 1,099 pieces of raw ivory tusks packed in 65 gunny sacks.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, of which Singapore is a signatory to, all African and Asian elephants are endangered species.

International trade in ivory has been banned since 1989.


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WWF-Malaysia: Long-Term Solutions Needed for Conservation of Borneo Pygmy Elephants

WWF 30 Jan 13;

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia – WWF-Malaysia is concerned about the recent pygmy elephant deaths in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve.

“WWF-Malaysia is providing support to the Sabah Wildlife Department and is part of the special taskforce that has been set up by the Department to further investigate the matter. Our patrolling teams worked closely with the Department in unearthing the incident,” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius S K Sharma.

According to reports, all the deaths have happened in areas where forests are being converted for plantations within the permanent forest reserves.

“The central forest landscape in Sabah needs to be protected totally from conversions. All conversion approvals need to be reviewed by the Sabah Forestry Department and assessed not purely from commercial but the endangered species and landscape ecology perspectives”, Dr Dionysius said.

“Conversions result in fragmentation of the forests, which in turn results in loss of natural habitat for elephant herds, thus forcing them to find alternative food and space, putting humans and wildlife in direct conflict”, he added.

Holistic long-term solutions need to be put in place to address and mitigate the problem, Dr Dionysius said.

He said that elephants need to be elevated to a ‘totally protected’ status under Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment of Sabah, which has been recommended in the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Elephant Action Plan 2012-2016, but yet to be implemented.

“Frequent and large scale patrolling is critical to avoid such conflict from happening again. However, given the vast area that requires patrolling, it is a massive task for the Sabah Wildlife Department. More resources, including manpower, hardware and finances, should be allocated for the Department. The existing honorary wildlife warden programme of the Department is doing well and should be expanded,” Dr Dionysius said.

The Borneo pygmy elephants are an endangered species. There are approximately 1,200 of these evolutionarily unique elephants in Sabah and all of Borneo. Ten carcasses of the endangered elephants were found dead within the central forests of Sabah which is also a part of the Heart of Borneo.

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Dolphin slaughter affecting Solomon Islands tourism

Campbell Cooney and Sam Bolitho Radio Australia 30 Jan 13;

A Solomon Islands tourism operator has called on the government to take urgent steps to resolve a dispute that has led to the killing of dolphins.

A Solomon Islands tourism operator has called on the government to take urgent steps to resolve a dispute that has led to the slaughter of dolphins.

Earlier this month, Fanalei village on Malaita Island captured and killed 700 dolphins after falling out with US conservation group, the Earth Island Institute.

The dispute was over money the villagers say they were owed, in return for foregoing their annual hunt.

Another 300 animals have since been killed, with the villagers saying the slaughter will continue until they get their money.

Dive operator, Danny Kennedy, says the dispute is affecting tourism to the country and it is up to the government to end it.

"They should be looking to do something within the next few days, fly in somebody from the Ministry of Conservation, maybe the general manager of the tourism authority to go out there and talk to them and try to quell the slaughter."

The chairman of the village's representative association in Honiara, Atkin Fakaia, says they are not talking yet.

"They have the negative attitude towards us for the slaughters over a week ago," he said.

The institute says it has provided all the money it promised but the Honiara-based villagers are not passing it on.

The kill has led to a stand-off in Fanalei, with the chief there criticising it, and then being removed from his position for his words.

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Let's build green defences against rising sea

Waterfront cities such as Auckland need buffers to combat likely flooding, writes Matthew Bradbury.
New Zealand Herald 30 Jan 13;

When Hurricane Sandy hit New York, the city was buffeted by immense tidal surges and inundated by flood waters. It was both a reminder of the might of nature and a warning to all waterfront cities.

It illustrated that the construction of dense, heavily built up cities exacerbates the effects of storms. Roads and pavements increase the chances of flooding by preventing rain from soaking into the soil.

Heavy seawall defences can actually aggravate flooding.

An answer could be found in the building of a soft green infrastructure that imitates natural systems.

This is one of the conclusions of a draft report by the NYC2100 commission. The report makes a number of recommendations. Green roofs, pavement swales and urban wetlands that will reduce stormwater build-up. The restoration of a natural littoral by rebuilding native marshes and wetlands to help mitigate storm surges.

If this sounds far-fetched we should look at the new waterfronts being constructed in China.

With so many Chinese cities either on the coast or along rivers, the environmental issues of flooding, stormwater control and pollution have concerned the Chinese authorities for a number of years.

However, Chinese designers have also seen these environmental problems as an opportunity to create sorely needed public space.

Houtan Park, designed by Turenscape and built for the Shanghai Expo in 2010, is a great example. The 17ha park is located along the heavily polluted Huangpu River.

The park features a 1.7km-long wetland (roughly the distance from the Wynyard Quarter to the Bledisloe container terminal in Auckland). The wetland acts as a soft waterfront flood barrier replacing the stark concrete levee and is also a green retreat from the hectic city life of Shanghai. In addition it treats the heavily contaminated water from the Huangpu River through a series of ponds and reed beds, improving the quality of the water before returning it to the river. The Auckland CBD is a highly urbanised district with large areas of impervious surfaces. During storms there are large discharges of stormwater into the harbour. A rise in sea level through climate change with increased storm events can be expected to lead to widespread urban flooding.

To prevent this we should consider a waterfront that is radically different to the promenade of bars and restaurants of the Viaduct.

It will be more like a park, a watery littoral with native wetlands and coastal planting. Paths and boardwalks would weave in and out of an ever-changing landscape as the tide rises and falls, the growth of native flora would encourage the return of native fauna, the waterfront could become a valuable ecological link between the Waitakeres and the archipelago.

A good example of how this new waterfront might look is a proposed park for the Wynyard Quarter designed by Bryce Hinton. He suggests turning the end of the Wynyard quarter into a park with reserves, public spaces and fields. The edge would be protected with buffer zones of mangroves. The green infrastructure would also treat the millions of litres of contaminated stormwater from the Freemans Bay catchment. The result would be a new kind of public park for Auckland.

The implications of Hurricane Sandy are profound. This is an opportunity for Auckland to develop the techniques needed to ameliorate the effects of climate change.

The green waterfront could become New Zealand's calling card to the world.

Matthew Bradbury is senior lecturer in the department of landscape architecture at Unitec, Auckland.

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jan 13

2 Feb (Sat): World Wetlands Day - Wetlands take care of water
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Asian Openbill migrating south
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Checking out marine life of Chek Jawa with TeamSeagrass
from Peiyan.Photography

Giant octopus on a busy Changi shore
from Peiyan.Photography

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Population projected at 6.9 million by 2030 with strong Singaporean core

Imelda Saad, Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 29 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's population could hit 6.9 million in 2030 - up from the current 5.3 million - if strategies outlined in the White Paper on Population to mitigate the country's ageing and shrinking population are met.

The population projection also takes into account a lower GDP growth rate beyond 2020.

The White Paper on Population, released on Tuesday, is the first comprehensive report to outline the country's strategy to ensure a sustainable population.

The numbers are grim -- by 2025, Singapore's citizen population size will start to decline.

Between now and 2030, over 900,000 baby boomers will retire from the workforce -- that is more than a quarter of Singapore citizens.

At the same time, Singapore's fertility rate has been falling. For the past 30 years, the total fertility rate (TFR) has been below the replacement level of 2.1.

Last year, the TFR was about 1.3, according to preliminary figures.

By 2030, more people will exit than enter the workforce. By 2050, there will be more people above the age of 50 than younger Singaporeans.

It is an outlook that has prompted the government to say it needs to act now, before it is too late.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said: "This White Paper is the first time the government has set out a comprehensive population roadmap to strike the best balance in our population policies."

At the heart of the White Paper's strategy lies 3 principles -- maintain a strong Singaporean core, create good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans, and have a high quality living environment.

Strategies to maintain the Singaporean core by encouraging marriage and procreation were released a week ago. But it will be a challenge for Singaporeans to replace themselves.

The proposal is to take in 30,000 new permanent residents (PRs) every year, which will keep the PR population stable at 0.5 to 0.6 million. From this pool, take in 15,000 to 25,000 new citizens each year to stop the citizen population from shrinking.

At this rate, by 2030, Singapore's resident population, made up of citizens and PRs will hit about 4.4 million.

Non-residents, making up mostly of transient workers, will hit 2.5 million -- up by about a million from the number today.

This will bring the total population numbers to between 6.5 and 6.9 million, by 2030.

Mr Teo said: "Going forward, we want to make sure that the roadmap that we have is an appropriate one, and if we focus on those key issues, making sure that we have enough young Singaporeans, a population structure that can provide for our seniors.

"Second, that we have an economic structure that will provide for good jobs that an increasingly better educated Singaporean population wants. And we can provide a high quality living environment.

"I think if we can do these three, then we look at the population number and the population we need to achieve these three objectives and that's the way we looked at it.

"So the growth rate of both the workforce and the population will be half to a third of what it has been in the last three decades, and we have to strike a fine balance because if we don't grow at all, or shrink, then we'll face all the problems of an ageing population, the lack of dynamism in the economy which some of you are concerned about.

"But if we grow too quickly, then we may go beyond the constraints we have. So we've been trying to find the appropriate balance."

The population projections are based on certain assumptions -- that the stretched productivity target of between 2 and 3 per cent for this decade is further moderated to between 1 and 2 per cent between 2020 and 2030; and a workforce growth rate that dips from the 3.3 per cent growth over the last three decades, to just 1 per cent between 2020 and 2030.

At those numbers, the country's GDP growth beyond 2020 will likely fall to between 2 and 3 per cent a year, from the current 3 to 5 per cent projection for this decade.

But the country's leaders stress that lower growth does not necessarily mean lower quality growth.

Mr Teo said the aim is for high quality productivity-driven growth that will create an economy that will provide better jobs for Singaporeans.

While the government is playing catch up now to ramp up infrastructure to support the current population, moving forward, the government said it will build ahead.

It also addressed concerns that Singapore may one day become congested like Hong Kong.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said: "Hong Kong in terms of density is much higher, and we must never try to reach that area -- whether in terms of household size, or in terms of crowdedness, or in terms of lacking in greenery and of course the other aspects of population, etc.

"I think we are far away from that and I think we have to keep it that way. I think whatever we do we are quite clear, keep quality of living high.

"In fact, good urban planning to achieve high quality of living is a top priority for the government because this is a key to our survival." Mr Khaw added that Singapore is unlike other cities which have hinterlands.

Long-term planning beyond 2020 includes setting aside land to build 700,000 more homes and doubling the rail network.

The White Paper on Population is the result of almost a year-long public consultation where the government received close to 2,500 responses.

The issues will be debated in Parliament in February.

- CNA/ck/sf/al

Infrastructure development to keep pace with population growth
Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 29 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE: The government is planning to build 700,000 new homes by 2030.

That is one of the long-term plans to support the projected increase in population which is expected to hit 6.9 million in about 20 years.

Some Singaporeans have observed that population growth in Singapore has outpaced infrastructure development in the last five years.

The government is now planning and investing in advance to accommodate a larger population.

Beyond just relieving strains on public transport and housing today are long-term plans to ramp up infrastructure developments to support a population of up to six million in 2020 and then a population of up to 6.9 million in 2030.

There are already plans to add 800 buses over five years, and by 2030, to double of the rail network to 360 kilometres.

This means the addition of three new MRT lines and an extension of two existing lines over the next nine years.

Come 2030, there will be another two new lines and three extensions, allowing eight in 10 homes to be within a 10-minute walk from a train station.

To further alleviate the strain on public transport, more jobs will be located near residential areas, reducing the need to commute.

The White Paper has named Woodlands, Serangoon and Punggol as possible growth areas to create more space for businesses. It also said the Jurong Lake District, Paya Lebar Central and One-North will be expected to mature by then.

More healthcare facilities are also in the pipeline with three general hospitals, five community hospitals and two medical centres set to open between 2014 and 2020.

On the way too are 200,000 new homes which will be ready by 2016.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said even more land has been set aside to build another 500,000 homes until 2030.

Mr Khaw is confident his ministry will be able to resolve the housing shortage and assured Singaporeans that there will be enough homes.

For first timers who had difficulty applying for a new flat, Mr Khaw said this problem has been largely resolved.

Mr Khaw explained: "There is some mismatch because of our balloting system. If you look at the figure, (there are about 15,000) new family formations every year but I'm building 25,000 new units a year and we have been doing so. This is into the third year now."

Possible sites for these new homes include new towns in Bidadari, Tampines North and Tengah but some will also be built in mature estates, allowing children to stay close to their parents.

"Wherever there are possible sites for development, we have to do so. And that's why sometimes it is a bit painful for us to have to remove some trees which I know many people are upset about. We are equally upset because I love trees… but sometimes it can't be helped because of larger objectives, larger benefits," he said.

Mr Khaw added that good urban planning to achieve a high quality of living is a top priority for the government.

There will be more green spaces and parks, and by 2030, at least 85 per cent of Singapore's households will live within 400 metres of a park.

The National Development Ministry is expected to release more details on land use plans this week.

- CNA/fa

Steps needed to convince S’poreans about population increase

Ashley Chia and Neo Chai Chin Today Online 30 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE — Judging from the immediate reaction to the Population White Paper soon after its release, the Government looks to have its work cut out to convince some Singaporeans that the nation can cope with 6.5 to 6.9 million people on the island.

Members of Parliament (MPs) TODAY spoke to acknowledged that steps have to be taken— including making sure the policies set in motion bear fruit — before Singaporeans can accept the increase in population.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said: “It is not easy to convince (Singaporeans) because people will think that ‘every day I go to work, (it) is already so crowded’.”

She added: “No point talking to them about all these theories ... If you don’t help them to see, resolve the current problem, they won’t be convinced. My suggestion is that you have to resolve the current problem first.”

Some netizens felt the numbers were “frightening”, others noted that infrastructure today has yet to catch up with demand. An overseas Singaporean even wrote that he would stay away and not return to the Republic. Amid the chorus of doubters were some netizens who viewed the White Paper more positively, with one pointing out the need for a sufficient base of working-age people to support the growing ageing population.

Social and policy researchers suggested specifying the types of skills needed from foreigners and beefing up Singaporeans’ sense of security to get the public behind the new population projections.

Policymakers could spell out the areas or sectors where immigrants were needed, as is the practice in some other countries, said Institute of Policy Studies Senior Research Fellow Leong Chan-Hoong. “They may say, if you are an expert in biomedical science or if you are an expert in IT, the chances of getting a long-term residential visa or permanent residency will be much higher than someone else (without such skill sets).

“That kind of transparency and information will be more reassuring and helpful,” said Dr Leong, who added that resentment is generally of the policy towards foreigners, and not the foreigners themselves.

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser said the social and psychological barriers would be harder to overcome than physical barriers when it comes to a higher population density. The “fundamental solution” lies in strengthening Singaporeans’ sense of security, which can lead to more generosity of spirit towards new immigrants and foreigners in our midst, he said.

On some Singaporeans’ resistance to more new immigrants, Ms Lee noted: “If Singaporeans can give birth to more children then, of course, we don’t have to bring in foreigners — that will be the most ideal.”

But she noted that with the dismal birth rates, it would be ambitious to think that they could be raised to such a level that Singapore will need fewer new immigrants in the future.

Now that the White Paper — nearly a year in the making — is out, Chua Chu Kang MP Zaqy Mohamad reckons it is time for more engagement: For Singaporeans to seek reassurance and ask questions, and for the Government to communicate its planning considerations. This way, a consensus can be forged and citizens can be assured that they would not be disadvantaged.

He said: “It has to be a process which the Government has to undertake in terms of helping (Singaporeans) understand the considerations ... Perhaps through the various dialogue platforms … we try to get some consensus.”

Singapore population to be half-foreign by 2030: govt
(AFP) Google News 30 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE — Foreigners could make up nearly half of Singapore's population by 2030, the government said Tuesday as it unveiled its politically sensitive projection for a city of up to seven million boosted by young immigrants.

In a white (policy) paper on population, the government said Singaporeans' flagging birth rates -- which have been below replacement levels for more than three decades -- necessitated immigration into the prosperous Southeast Asian nation.

The paper, released by the National Population and Talent Division, said the total population could range between 6.5 and 6.9 million by 2030.

Foreigners would make up nearly half the population by then, with the proportion of Singaporean citizens projected to fall to 55 percent, from 62 percent as of June 2012 when the population was 5.31 million.

The projection sparked furious online reactions from citizens, with some saying it was time to emigrate.

"This white paper from the government is a betrayal to local born Singaporean(s)," posted Mc Lee on the website of the Straits Times.

"It's hard to call a place home when you got no space & getting out & about is a constant death match," stated keenlen on Twitter.

"I guess migration plans for Singaporeans should begin soon. Singapore is slowly losing its nationality," Shane Goh tweeted.

Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.20 children per woman last year is far below the 2.1 needed to sustain the native population, and has been so for more than three decades.

"We do not expect our TFR to improve to the replacement rate of 2.1 in the short term," the paper said.

"Taking in younger immigrants will help us top up the smaller cohorts of younger Singaporeans, and balance the ageing of our citizen population," it added.

"To stop our citizen population from shrinking, we will take in between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year," it stated, adding that the immigration rate would be reviewed "from time to time".

Immigration has been a politically sensitive issue for the government, which has in recent years widened the door for foreigners to sustain the economy.

But their numbers were reduced following a social backlash, with foreigners blamed for problems including overcrowding, straining public services and driving up housing costs.

The study said the government would take steps such as expanding transport networks and building more public housing to support the increase in population.

Singapore this month also announced increased cash bonuses for parents of newborn babies and introduced paternity leave as part of a package of measures to boost the local population.

Related links
The Population White Paper can be read online at

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Dengue infections at five-year high

Experts fear major outbreak as signs show change of dominant virus type
Salma Khalik Straits Times 30 Jan 13;

THERE is still no sign of an end to the dengue epidemic, with last week's figure of 267 people down with the disease the highest weekly tally in more than five years.

And 85 people have already been infected in the first three days of this week, in a continuation of a steadily growing trend since mid-December.

Dr Mukund Doshi, a private specialist in internal medicine, said he has warded more than 30 patients in Parkway East Hospital this month alone.

He has between seven and 10 patients in the hospital at any one time, compared to a norm of three to four. The hospital is near the biggest cluster of cases today - in the Telok Kurau area - where 81 residents have fallen ill.

The internist, who has been practising for more than three decades, said the illness also appears to be more severe.

"Patients' blood platelet counts drop faster than usual, there is more vomiting and diarrhoea and many have high fever," he noted.

Platelets help blood to clot. A normal person has 145,000 to 450,000 platelets per microlitre of blood. Dr Doshi said he has seen patients this month with counts of as low as 10,000.

But he has not seen any serious haemorrhaging cases this month, only some bleeding in the gums or nose, he added.

According to the Ministry of Health, six cases of the more serious dengue haemorrhagic fever had occurred this year.

The disease in the Telok Kurau cluster is caused primarily by the Den-1 virus.

One fear experts have is a change in the dominant virus type causing infections.

There are four dengue viruses, with Den-2 dominant in the past six years. A change in the dominant strain usually heralds a major outbreak.

Den-1 caused 10 per cent of the infections in 2011. The figure went up to 19 per cent last year, and 27 per cent in the first three weeks of this year.

A spokesman for the National Environment Agency (NEA) said about two-thirds of the mosquito-breeding sites found in the Telok Kurau area were in homes.

Mosquito breeding was also detected at several construction sites. She said the contractors at seven sites had been handed fines of between $2,000 and $5,000 while the contractors at two other sites will be taken to court for repeated offences.

The NEA no longer fogs to kill mosquitoes "as it is neither sustainable nor effective", the spokesman said. Instead, it finds and destroys mosquito-breeding areas.

NEA steps up efforts against mosquito breeding during festive period
Channel NewsAsia 30 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) is stepping up efforts against mosquito breeding during the Lunar New Year period.

It is concerned that there will be a surge in the number of breeding places for the Aedes mosquitoes, which carries the dengue virus.

Based on the pattern between 2007 and 2012, the breeding of the Aedes mosquitoes found in ornamental containers per week in January and February is 2.5 times higher than that of other months.

On average, there are 37 breedings out of 10,000 inspections. For the remaining months, the average is about 10 in 10,000 inspections.

With many families using floral decorations such as Lucky Bamboo, Cherry Blossoms and Pussy Willow, NEA has urged residents to ensure that their vases and plant bowls do not become mosquito breeding grounds.

NEA is also stepping up efforts against littering during the festive period, when residents spring clean their homes. Residents should not clutter the neighbourhood with junk.

Those who want to throw away bulky items should get the town councils to dispose of them.

NEA officers will also be out to nab litterbugs, especially in areas where there are large crowds. These include events such as River Hongbao, CNY Tradefair @ Chinatown and Chingay Parade.


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Masidi: Death of 10 elephants is saddest day for conservation efforts in Sabah

The Star 30 Jan 13;

The only elephant to have been found alive, a 3-month-old named Kejora, seen here next to its at the side of its dead mother’s carcass. New Straits Times

KOTA KINABALU: The discovery of the deaths of 10 Borneo pygmy elephants in Gunung Rara Forest Reserve was the saddest day for Sabah's conservation efforts.

“This is a very sad day for conservation and Sabah. The death of these majestic and severely endangered Bornean elephants is a great loss to the state,” Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said.

“Though it might be too early to pinpoint a conclusive cause of death, poisoning seems to be the likely cause,” he said.

Masidi said he had directed Sabah Wildlife Department to set up a joint task force with relevant stakeholders such as the Forestry Department, Yayasan Sabah, WWF and police to further investigate these deaths and to get to the bottom of it.

“If indeed these poor elephants were maliciously poisoned I will make sure that the culprits are brought to justice and pay for their crime ” Masidi added.

Elephants are known to roam into plantations and villages where they cause severe losses to the owners.

Sabah Wildlife Department is usually called in to help in steering the elephants away from such places and in some cases they are moved to other forest reserves.

However, some people affected have resorted to poisoning the elephants to stop their menace and among the methods used are pesticides including rat poisons over the years.

State Wildlife director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said that they were scouring the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve area as well as places adjacent to it to see if any pesticides were used to kill the elephants.

Vet witnesses elephant calf tugging at its dead mother
Muguntan Vanar The Star 30 Jan 13;

KOTA KINABALU: It was a heart wrenching sight for veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan when he saw a Borneo pygmy elephant calf tugging at its mother which lay dead at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in Sabah's east coast Tawau district.

The Sabah Wildlife Department veterinarian witnessed this while investigating the “mysterious” deaths of 10 elephants seven females and three males at Forest Management Unit (FMU) 23, a Yayasan Sabah concession area in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve about 130km from Tawau.

“I felt sad, I don't have the words to describe my feelings,” he said, adding that the three-month-old male calf named Kejora was sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo yesterday where staff are taking care of it including bottle feeding it.

The dead elephants aged between four-years-old to around 20 were discovered between Dec 29 and Jan 24 at a logging area between the famed Danum Valley and Maliau Basin in the south-eastern side of the central region of Sabah.

He said the area the elephants were found dead had about 1,000 of Sabah's estimated 2,000 pygmy elephant population.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said poisoning may be the main cause for the deaths of the elephants which they believed belonged to a single herd.

“Post mortem was done on all of them and it looks like their gastro-intestinal tract had severe haemorrhages and ulceration with some bleeding from the mouth and anus,” said Dr Ambu.

“We suspect that it might be some form of acute poisoning from something that they had eaten (natural toxins or pesticides) but we are still waiting for the laboratory results of the chemical analysis from samples taken from the dead elephants to confirm the diagnosis,” he added.

Ambu said that the first report of the dead was made on Tuesday after WWF field officers carrying wildlife survey came to know of the death from workers about 5km from the gates of Syarikat Empayar Kejora Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary company of Yayasan Sabah.

He said that they could have consumed the poison elsewhere and walked several kilometres before collapsing in various areas close to the Empayar Kejora area.

“We believe that all the deaths of these elephants are related.

“We have stationed our team there to check the area and to further investigate if there are any more elephants involved,” he added.

Jumbos believed poisoned
Roy Goh New Straits Times 30 Jan 13;

10 DEAD: All were found to have badly damaged internal organs

KOTA KINABALU: A TRAIL of 10 dead elephants in one of the last bastions for the species in Sabah has raised concerns on how far people will go to protect their interest.

Carcasses of the Bornean pygmy elephants from a single herd were found near a logging camp and an oil palm plantation not far from the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, about 130km from Tawau, between Dec 29 and Jan 25.

The elephants were believed to have been poisoned with a rat poison-like chemical, large amounts of which may have been used in areas where they feed on.

Only a 3-month-old male baby elephant was found alive next to its mother and promptly sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park near here.

The odds of the elephant surviving, however, remained slim as it was still nursing from its mother.

Sabah Wildlife department director Datuk Laurentius Ambu yesterday said the discovery was disturbing because of the large number that were found dead.

"We are on the lookout if there could be more in the area, which is part of the Forest Management Unit concession held by Yayasan Sabah."

The 100,000ha concession area, between the Danum Valley and Maliau Basin Conservation Areas, accounts for nearly 1,000 or half the elephant population in the state.

Laurentius said the family of elephants live within a 400km square area.

"The dead elephants, three males and seven females, were found within an area of about 10 sq km radius but it may have consumed the poison elsewhere before dying near the logging camp."

A post-mortem have been conducted on most of the carcasses and senior veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said all were found with badly damaged internal organs.

"There were no signs of external injuries such as gunshots or cuts.

"We have sent samples to the Chemistry Department as well as to the Veterinary Services Department to check on the possibility of bacterial infection.

"The livers were enlarge or inflamed, the lungs congested and there was internal bleeding in the intestines."

A task force made up of the Wildlife Department, Forestry Department, police, Yayasan Sabah and World Wildlife Fund has been formed to probe the findings.

Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Masidi Manjun expressed shock on the death of the elephants.

"This is a very sad day for conservation and Sabah."

Borneo pygmy elephants feared poisoned in Malaysia: officials
Angie Teo PlanetArk 30 Jan 13;

Ten endangered Borneo pygmy elephants found dead in a Malaysian rainforest in recent weeks may have been poisoned by something they ate, wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

Four elephants were first reported dead on January 23 and another four were found dead two days later in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, located in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo Island.

The eight dead elephants were suspected to be linked with "two highly decomposed elephant carcasses" found earlier this year, said Laurentius Ambu, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

A department veterinarian said no obvious external injuries were found on the animals, but they suffered from severe hemorrhages and ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract.

"We highly suspect that it might be some form of acute poisoning from something that they had eaten, but we are still waiting for the laboratory results of the chemical analysis from samples taken from the dead elephants to confirm the diagnosis," senior veterinarian Sen Nathan said in a statement.

Seven of the dead elephants were females and three were males, ranging from 4 years old to around 20, the statement said.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates there are fewer than 1,500 Borneo pygmy elephants found in the wild, with most of them residing in Sabah state. The elephant is smaller than other Asian elephants and their African relatives with larger ears and a gentle nature.

Officials declined to make further comment while the incidents were still under investigation by a special force set up to determine the cause of the deaths.

(Reporting by Angie Teo in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Alden Bentley)

Three more elephants found dead
The Star 31 Jan 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Three more endangered Borneo pygmy elephant bodies were found in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, raising the death toll to 13.

State Tourism, Culture and Envi­ronment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun confirmed the latest discovery of a male and two female decomposing bodies in the area where 10 others were found since Dec 29.

There is a possibility that more may be found as wildlife officials believe that all the 13 elephants and a rescued calf were part of a single herd.

They are believed to have consumed some form of natural or pesticide poison while roaming in the Yayasan Sabah forest management unit 23 (FM23) that is locked between Sabah’s Maliau Basin and Danum Valley forest reserves.

Masidi said that there was growing suspicion of foul play in their deaths.

“No amount of laws and enforcement can be effective if people do not have the sense of responsibility that these animals belong to the people,” he said yesterday.

He has ordered his ministry’s permanent secretary Datuk Michael Emban to take over as chairman of the special task force set up to investigate the deaths, which have been dubbed a “conservationist nightmare”.

Meanwhile, the Sabah Wildlife Department is waiting for a chemist report on the possible causes of the elephant deaths.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said the deaths of the elephants were “unacceptable”.

“I want no stone left unturned in this matter. The culprits must be brought to justice,” he said in a statement.

Musa said the state government viewed the matter seriously as Borneo pygmy elephants were an endangered species and were part of Sabah’s rich and exotic wildlife.

“People come from all over the world just to catch a glimpse of these animals. It is unfortunate that there are people who would resort to such a horrific act,” he added.

Calf not out of woods yet
Muguntan Vanar The Star 31 Jan 13;

KOTA KINABALU: The three month-old Borneo pygmy elephant calf, the sole survivor of a herd that was killed from suspected poisoning, is in good health although it is not out of the woods yet.

Named “Joe” by Wildlife Rescue Unit personnel, the calf, which was photographed trying to wake his dead mother up at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve on Jan 25, has been kept in quarantine and under watch by veterinarians and Lok Kawi Zoo personnel.

WRU veterinarian Dr Diana Raminez described the calf as bright, alert and active.

“These are good signs but he has to be watched for two weeks before he is out of any immediate danger,” she said.

One problem is that the 106kg calf has not been consuming enough milk possibly due to the stress of losing its mother and the 800km road journey to the Lok Kawi Zoo here.

Dr Raminez said a normal calf would consume 20 to 30 litres of milk daily.

But Joe is only taking half of that, she said, adding that it was bottle-fed every two hours.

“We don’t know if he might also have been affected by the poisoning,” she added.

She said the calf had also consumed its mother’s faeces, which is said to be normal behaviour, and there were signs that Joe’s weight had dropped by 10kg.

Dr Raminez, a Mexican working with the WRU, said Joe had become close to his carers, rangers Augustine David and Jibius Dausip, who were feeding him, and was behaving normally as he was curious about his new environment.

Initially called Kejora (which sounds feminine), he has been renamed Joe by the rangers.

He is the sole survivor from a herd of elephants found dead at Gunung Rara Forest Reserve about 130km from Tawau, Sabah.

The deaths are believed to have been caused by some form of poisoning, with post-mortem reports showing the intestinal tracts and other internal organs badly damaged.

While waiting for the chemist report to identify the type of poisoning, the Sabah Wildlife Department has set up a task force to investigate the deaths.

Dr Raminez said the chemist report would help determine the way Joe was treated.

Experts believe sprayed pesticides could not have caused the deaths, speculating that the elephants’ food source or known watering holes might have been poisoned.

Three more found dead
Joniston Bangkuai and Roy Goh New Straits Times 31 Jan 13;

ELEPHANT DEATHS: Task force discovers them while retracing route of dead herd

KOTA KINABALU: THREE more carcasses of the Bornean pygmy elephants were found yesterday near a forest reserve in Tawau where 10 were found dead earlier.

Members of a special task force assigned by the state Wildlife Department to probe the deaths were led to the latest finding after they caught a whiff of the foul smell while retracing the route the herd was known to follow.

The 10 dead elephants found earlier were discovered within the family's habitat measuring about 400 sq km in the area near the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, which sits between the Danum Valley and Maliau Basin Conservation areas, from Dec 29 to Jan 25.

However, a 3-month-old male baby elephant was found alive next to its mother and has been sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park near here.

State Wildlife director Datuk Laurentius Ambu said the latest discovery was made less than 2km from where some of the carcasses were found by the combined team of wildlife rangers, staff from Yayasan Sabah, police, World Wildlife Fund and Forestry department.

"The team has begun combing the route frequented by the family and it confirms our earlier fears that more may have died," he said on the deaths which they believe could have been caused by poisoning.

The unit will continue following the route and this includes checking on a nearby plantation, a logging camp and part of the forest reserve which is also within the Yayasan Sabah Forest Management Unit concession area of about 100,000 hectares.

Laurentius had said the area where the dead elephants were found has one of the highest concentrations of the unique Bornean pygmy elephants.

The carcasses found within a 10km radius earlier were of three males and seven females.

"We are not able to tell much about the three latest findings because they were highly decomposed, but they probably died about the same time as the others and were likely from the same herd."

Post-mortem on the carcasses found earlier showed badly damaged internal organs.

Samples has been sent to the Chemistry Department for further analysis and the Veterinary Services Department to check on the possibility of bacterial infection.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has described the deaths of the elephants as unacceptable and has directed the state Wildlife and Forestry departments to conduct an investigation.

"I want no stone left unturned in the investigation. The culprits must be brought to justice."

Members of the tourism industry in Sabah have also come forward to offer a RM10,000 reward for information.

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Tigers under threat from disappearing mangrove forest

Report shows vast forest, shared by India and Bangladesh, is being rapidly destroyed by environmental change
John Vidal 29 Jan 13;

Tiger in Sunderban mangrove forest
A tiger roams within the Sunderban, some 140 km south of Calcutta. Photograph: EPA/Piyal Adhikary Photograph: Piyal Adhikary/EPA

A vast mangrove forest shared by India and Bangladesh that is home to possibly 500 Bengal tigers is being rapidly destroyed by erosion, rising sea levels and storm surges, according to a major study by researchers at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and others.

The Sundarbans forest took the brunt of super cyclone Sidr in 2007, but new satellite studies show that 71% of the forested coastline is retreating by as much as 200 metres a year. If erosion continues at this pace, already threatened tiger populations living in the forests will be put further at risk.

Natalie Pettorelli, one of the report's authors, said: "Coastline retreat is evident everywhere. A continuing rate of retreat would see these parts of the mangrove disappear within 50 years. On the Indian side of the Sundarbans, the island which extends most into the Bay of Bengal has receded by an average of 150 metres a year, with a maximum of just over 200 metres; this would see the disappearance of the island in about 20 years."

The Sundarbans are known for vanishing islands but the scientists said the current retreat of the mangrove forests on the southern coastline is not normal. "The causes for increasing coastline retreat, other than direct anthropogenic ones, include increased frequency of storm surges and other extreme natural events, rises in sea-level and increased salinity, which increases the vulnerability of mangroves," said Pettorelli.

"Our results indicate a rapidly retreating coastline that cannot be accounted for by the regular dynamics of the Sundarbans. Degradation is happening fast, weakening this natural shield for India and Bangladesh.

"As human development thrives, and global temperature continues to rise, natural protection from tidal waves and cyclones is being degraded at alarming rates. This will inevitably lead to species loss in this richly biodiverse part of the world, if nothing is done to stop it.

"The Sundarbans is a critical tiger habitat; one of only a handful of remaining forests big enough to hold several hundred tigers. To lose the Sundarbans would be to move a step closer to the extinction of these majestic animals," said ZSL tiger expert Sarah Christie.

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China: Hydro dams could jeopardise 'Grand Canyon of the east', say green groups

Dams on China's last free-flowing river could harm ecosystems, displace people, and cause catastrophic seismic events
Jonathan Kaiman 29 Jan 13;

Chinese environmental groups warn that government plans for a slew of hydroelectric dams on the pristine Salween (Nu) river – often called the Grand Canyon of the east for its deep valleys and sweeping views – could jeopardise biodiverse ecosystems and indigenous cultures, and lead to potentially catastrophic seismic events.

China's state council released a notice last week revealing plans to proceed with over 60 new hydroelectric projects on three major rivers under the government's 12th five-year plan, from 2011 to 2015. Four of the projects lie on the upper reaches of the Salween.

Plans to build a cascade of 13 dams on the Salween – China's last free-flowing river – stalled nearly a decade ago under opposition from environmental groups and outgoing premier Wen Jiabao, an ostensible populist and trained geologist.

Five projects are being developed by the state-owned Huadian Group, according to the California-based NGO International Rivers. The company produces about 10% of China's power and is directly administered by a state council commission. Chinese environmental authorities have long considered hydropower an antidote to the country's overwhelming reliance on coal.

The river, also known as the Thanlwin, begins on the Tibetan plateau and winds through Thailand before ending in a Burmese estuary. Its headwaters support 5 million people from 13 ethnic groups, many of whom are subsistence farmers. Entire groups may have to be resettled, dealing a significant blow to their traditional way of life.

The government notice approves similar projects on the Jinsha river, a major headstream of the Yangtze, and the Mekong river, which is already heavily dammed. Two proposed projects border protected areas which contain 7,000 types of plants and up to 25% of the world's animal species, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Ma Jun, head of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said that because local governments and state-owned enterprises profit enormously from building large-scale infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric stations, they often cut corners on legally required environmental impact assessments.

"We had a chance to review some of the summaries of the large dam projects on the Jinsha river – there are major gaps identified in those reports, and some of them are very basic ones," he said.

Scientists warn that building new dams in seismically active south-west China could expose residents to increased risks of landslides, mudslides and earthquakes. A recent analysis of up to 60 Chinese and American scientific papers suggested that the weight of water in the massive Zipingpu Dam reservoir may have caused the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which killed about 80,000 people.

The state council notice also mentions the Xiaonanhai hydropower station on the Yangtze river, a $4.75bn, seven-and-a-half-year project designed to have a capacity of 1.76 gigawatts to provide electricity to the sprawling south-western metropolis Chongqing.

Critics say that the project will displace about 40,000 people, submerge about 20 miles of arable land and destroy endangered fish species including the Dabry's sturgeon, a 140m-year-old "living fossil" which has appeared on a Chinese postage stamp.

Wang Yongchen, president of the Beijing-based environmental NGO Green Earth Volunteers, said that the new leadership's environmental record is uncertain, and that environmental NGOs will lose a key supporter when Wen steps down in March. "We wrote reports to the new leaders, but they haven't answered," she said. "We're still waiting."

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Beijing shuts factories, removes cars, but pollution stays high

Sui-Lee Wee PlanetArk 30 Jan 13;

Beijing temporarily shut down 103 heavily polluting factories and took 30 percent of government vehicles off roads to combat dangerously high air pollution, state media reported on Tuesday, but the capital's air remained hazardous despite the measures.

Air quality in Beijing has mostly stayed above "very unhealthy" and "hazardous" levels for about two weeks. On Tuesday, it hit 517 on an index maintained by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, which described the pollution as "Beyond Index".

Pollution in Beijing regularly exceeds 500 on an index that measures particulate matter in the air with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers. Above 300 is considered hazardous, while the World Health Organisation recommends a daily level of no more than 20.

Earlier this month pollution hit a record, 30-45 times above recommended safety levels, blanketing the city in a thick, noxious cloud that grounded flights and forced people indoors.

Beijing's pollution problem has caused widespread public outrage, alarming the ruling Communist Party, which has failed to rein in pollution despite repeated pledges to get tough.

Premier Wen Jiabao told top leaders at a forum that the "recent fog and haze have affected the people's normal life and health".

"We should take effective measures to speed up the enhancement of our industrial structure, push for energy conservation and build an ecological civilization," Wen was quoted as saying on state television. "Use actions so that the people can see hope."

State news agency Xinhua said the Beijing municipal government held an urgent meeting on Tuesday "for the emergency work of controlling the heavy air pollution".

"All counties, departments, businesses and institutions should take the lead in suspending the service of 30 percent of official vehicles," Xinhua said. Beijing would also shut down 103 heavily polluting businesses.

But the emergency measures only last until Thursday.

The government has already announced that it would take 180,000 old vehicles off the roads in Beijing this year and control the "excessive" growth of new car sales in the city.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Floods hit two Australian states, thousands evacuated

James Grubel PlanetArk 30 Jan 13;

Massive summer floods have killed four people and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes across two Australian states on Tuesday, disrupting air and rail travel and coal production.

A deluge fed by the ex-tropical cyclone Oswald dumped more than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain in some areas of the Queensland and New South Wales states over the past three days, swelling rivers and swamping towns.

The worst-hit areas were around Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Ipswich in the Queensland state, and around the northern New South Wales towns of Grafton and Lismore.

A fleet of 14 helicopters rescued more than 1,000 people across Queensland overnight and rescue efforts continued on Tuesday.

"Across Queensland the wild weather has broken a lot of hearts," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

Among the four people killed was a three-year old boy, who died in hospital after being hit by a falling tree as he and his mother watched floodwaters in parts of Brisbane, Australia's third largest city.

In Bundaberg, one of the worst hit towns, more than 2,000 homes were swamped and 7,500 people evacuated. People clung to rooftops calling on passing boats to rescue them and television footage showed people being winched from floodwaters.

Brisbane residents have been warned to boil all drinking water as the city's main water treatment plant had been shut, unable to cope with the torrent of muddy water flowing down stream and swelling the Brisbane River.

But the floodwaters have peaked much lower than similar floods in 2011, which inundated Brisbane, and cost more than A$6.6 billion ($6.87 billion) to repair. The 2011 floods cut Australia's gross domestic product by 0.5 of a percentage point, cutting coal production in Queensland by A$6 billion and cutting agricultural production by round A$1.9 billion.

"It is far too early to be talking about the full financial impact," Treasurer Wayne Swan told reporters in Queensland.


The heavy rains inundated areas of Australia's eastern coalfields, dumping up to 400 millimeters of rain on Queensland's Bowen Basin, home to giant open pit mines owned by BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Peabody Energy and others.

A levee bank surrounding the Middlemount open cut mine in the Bowen Basin was breached and water flowed into the mine, according to part owner Yancoal, with production likely to be affected for three weeks.

Transport group Aurizon Holdings Ltd was forced to shut parts of its rail operations that haul coal to the port of Gladstone, a key export terminal on the eastern seaboard.

Aurizon said its Moura and Blackwater networks, which links coal mines in the Bowen basin to two export terminals at Gladstone, remain closed due to the rain and floods.

"Aurizon cannot fully assess some locations because the rail line is still under water. However the current expectation is that the Moura and Blackwater systems will be re-opened within seven to 10 days," the company said in a statement.

The floods were not expected to have a major impact on Australia's sugar crop, which has avoided major damage.

Insurer Suncorp said it had already received 4,500 claims related to Queensland's flooding and storm-related damage in Queensland, adding it was prepared for the financial impact.

The number of claims drove Suncorp's stock down 2.0 percent, although the company said it had made provisions for natural hazard claims of A$520 million for the 2013 fiscal year.

The Insurance Council of Australia said insurers had received 6,100 claims by early Tuesday, estimated to be wroth A$72 million, although more claims were expected.

Airline Virgin Australia cancelled 20 flights along the east coast, while Qantas Airways said its schedule was returning to normal on Tuesday after all flights to Queensland's Gold Coast were cancelled on Monday.

($1 = 0.9608 Australian dollars)

(Additional reporting by Jim Regan and Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jan 13

from The annotated budak

kingfishers & herons @ seletar - Jan2013
from sgbeachbum

Lessons From Butterfly Mimicry 1 Feb 2013, Friday: 4pm @ LT20: Dr Krushnamegh Kunte on Natural Selection and Evolution
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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Helping crabs survive could pave way for farming

David Ee Straits Times 29 Jan 13;

FIRST, Singapore had SG Fish - locally farmed fish that Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan championed last month.

Now it could have SG Crab.

Researchers at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) have embarked on a two-year project to improve the survival rate of young mud crabs, whose adults go into what many consider to be Singapore's national dish - chilli crab.

They aim to make them sustainable enough so that they could be farmed here to supply local seafood restaurants - which currently rely on imports.

Singapore imported over 6,000 tonnes of crabs last year, according to figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. They did not have figures specific to mud crabs.

Resorts World Sentosa is committing $20,000 to the project through its Marine Life Fund, which supports marine conservation and research efforts.

The polytechnic's researchers will focus on optimising conditions for mud crab larvae survival, by removing nitrates - a product of their waste that accumulates in the water.

They intend to do this by introducing single-celled plants - called phytoplankton - into the water to absorb the nitrates as nutrients. TP aims to have this water recirculation system developed by early 2015.

This might then pave the way for interested farmers to farm mud crabs successfully in our waters, said the manager for aquaculture research at TP's School of Applied Science Wee Kok Leong.

At least four fish farmers have told him that they are keen to take on crab farming to diversify their businesses, he added.

"There are also a lot of people interested in continuing to consume mud crabs. It's a species that is very topical, very desirable, so it would have maximum impact if we do it well."

Seafood importers could also benefit from a cheaper local supply of crabs, he said.

Mr Alvin Tay, 56, who owns CJ Life Seafood Company, imports mud crabs from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines.

A kilo that cost $15 five years ago now costs close to $20, he said, adding that the lack of a local supply meant foreign exporters charge a premium.

He backed the idea of local crab farms to lower his costs, but was sceptical that farmed crabs would match the quality of imported wild-caught crabs.

"Quality is still the most important thing," he said.

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Indonesia: Killer Landslides Blamed on Rain, Logging

Jakarta Globe 28 Jan 13;

Torrential rains across Indonesia triggered a pair of fatal landslides in Sumatra and another one in Bogor on the weekend and prompted flood evacuations in parts of Kalimantan, reigniting debate over the causes for wet-season fatalities.

In the latest incident, seven people were killed and three injured in a landslide in Agam, West Sumatra, early on Sunday.

“Seven people were found dead and three others were injured ... and 18 were missing,” National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a text message, adding that 15 houses were buried by the landslide.

A day earlier, a landslide killed four workers at a drilling site belonging to state-controlled Pertamina Geothermal Energy in Kerinci, Jambi, the company said in a statement.

“The landslide killed four people, injured five people, and left one person missing. All victims were workers who were drilling,” the statement said.

In Bogor over the weekend, six people died in a landslide. The incident was triggered by torrential downpours, burying seven houses on a ravine in Cipayung, officials said.

“Some of the victims were found buried under ruins of buildings, and others were under the landslide,” said Budi Aksomo, an officer with the local BNPB office.

The identities of the victims in the three landslides had not been released as of late on Sunday.

Illegal logging blamed

The fatalities reveal the human cost of some of the problems that bedevil Indonesia’s development. Inadequate and poorly maintained infrastructure leaves city-dwellers vulnerable to floods, while failure to police rampant illegal logging leaves some rural communities exposed.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) on Sunday blamed the severity of recent landslides following flooding on illegal logging, which allowed the topsoil in the hilly areas to easily wash away with the rain.

T.M. Zulfikar, director of the Aceh unit of Walhi, said that if illegal logging is allowed to continue, “don’t be surprised to see even worse disasters unfold in the future.”

“The government must reforest the areas that are in critical condition, especially in upstream areas,” he added.

The heavy downpours have prompted havoc in parts of Kalimantan.

In Central Kalimantan’s North Barito district, floodwaters from the rain-swollen Barito River inundated more than 12,000 homes and 60 schools over the weekend.

Rising water levels, which reached as high as two meters, forced 1,300 families to flee their homes and seek refuge at government shelters or with relatives. But many others chose to stay put for fear that their homes will be looted if they leave.

In East Kalimantan, the government of Balikpapan on Sunday warned residents to prepare for extreme weather, including torrential rains and strong winds, over the next two months.

Balikpapan city spokesman Sudirman Djayaleksana said that while the administration had been preparing for the worst, people should also be alert to avoid casualties.

“We call on people to stay home, and avoid dangerous places such as rivers, hills and forests. Those who live in such areas should always be on alert to be evacuated,” he said.

Sudirman said that the administration had coordinated with police and the military so that they could quickly deploy their officers in case of emergency.

“We have identified 20 areas most prone to landslide. We hope there will be no more casualties,” he said.

Poor sewage

Experts say that many cities across the country lacked effective sewage systems, a problem that meant they were particularly vulnerable to high water levels during the rainy season.

Trisakti University urban planning expert Yayat Supriyatna said on Sunday that cities need to gradually overhaul their sewage systems to cope with the growing population and burgeoning economy. This would involve increasing the size of catchment areas converted into housing areas.

The growing debate over preparations for the wet season follow a spate of fatalities linked to the inundation.

Heavy rains in Jakarta this month has resulted in 32 deaths and, at their peak, forced nearly 46,000 people to flee their inundated homes. The floods also exposed problems in the city’s transportation system, with several key roads under water and the TransJakarta bus network unable to operate for most of a day.

In West Sumatra last month, a 61-year-old woman an her two granddaughters were killed when a landslide buried a house in South Solok, several hours after heavy rain hit the area.

On the same day, heavy rain also triggered a landslide and floods in the West Sumatra districts of Pasaman, Agam and Tanah Datar.

Aceh has also been hit by flooding and landslides that have killed several people in the past year.

In March 2012, a flash flood in the Sumatran province’s Tangse district killed 11 people. The flood-prone area sits within a river basin.

Seismic threat

In West Java last month, two miners were killed when landslide swept away a village along the bank of Cipanengah River in Cisolok, an area near Mount Buleud, an active volcano.

The Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center said at the time that the area had medium to high levels of seismic activity, making it prone to earthquakes that loosened the soil, amplifying the impact of landslides.

In Balikpapan last May, a woman and three children died and three others were injured after a landslide brought down a hillside home.

The massive floods that triggered the landslide had paralyzed the city, leaving many roads in the city inundated after more than seven hours of heavy rain.

Flights from the city’s Sepinggan Airport were also disrupted.


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Industry key to conserving forests as demand for wood projected to triple by 2050

WWF 28 Jan 13;

Frankfurt, Germany — By 2050, rising population and demand, as well as an increase in use of wood for bioenergy, could triple the amount of wood society takes from forests and plantations per year, according to the latest instalment of WWF’s Living Forests Report. The report, presented today at the international paper conference Paperworld in Frankfurt, projects paper production and consumption may double in the next three decades, and overall wood consumption may triple.

“A scenario of tripling the amount of wood society takes from forests and plantations needs to motivate good stewardship that safeguards forests – otherwise we could destroy the very places where wood grows,” says Rod Taylor, Director of WWF’s Global Forest Programme. “Wood, if sourced from well managed forests or plantations, is a renewable material with many advantages over non-renewable alternatives. The key challenge for forest-based industries is how to supply more wood products with less impact on nature. This challenge spans the whole supply chain, from where and how wood is grown and harvested to how wisely and efficiently it is processed, used and reused.”

WWF’s forest conservation target is zero net deforestation and forest degradation by 2020, which means no overall loss of forest area or forest quality. The target requires the loss of natural forests to be reduced to near zero, down from the current 13 million hectares a year, and held at that level indefinitely.

“WWF’s research suggests that it is possible to achieve zero net deforestation and forest degradation while sustaining a vibrant wood products industry that meets people’s needs,” says Emmanuelle Neyroumande, Manager of WWF International´s global pulp and paper work. “But the longer we delay our actions the more difficult and costly the solutions will be. We need wiser consumption, more efficiency, responsible forestry practices, good governance and more transparency.”

For paper in particular, the Living Forests Report outlines a variety of solutions:

More recycling in countries with low recovery rates: Even with higher global paper consumption in the future, society would need less virgin material than today if recycling rates increased. A 2020 scenario shows that an increase of paper production by 25 per cent could still require less virgin fibre input if the current global level of 53 per cent recycled fibre use is increased to 70 per cent. Paper recovery rates vary greatly between countries. Therefore, efforts to increase recycling in countries with low recovery rates and high consumption growth have particular potential to reduce pressure on natural forests.

Resource efficiency and fairer consumption patterns: More efficient processing and manufacturing can help produce more products with a given amount of wood. Also, the current consumption patterns of rich nations (10 per cent of the world’s population consuming 50 per cent of the world’s paper) cannot sustainably be followed by developing countries. Richer nations can reduce wasteful paper use, while poorer nations need more paper for education, hygiene and food safety.

Plantations to reduce pressure on natural forests: Even with more frugal use and greater recycling and efficiency, net demand for wood is likely to grow. Maintaining near zero loss of natural forests after 2020, without significant reductions in consumption, would require up to 250 million hectares of new tree plantations by 2050, which is nearly double the amount of plantations today. Therefore, well-managed plantations, particularly on currently degraded land, contributing to restore ecosystems, will play an increasingly important role.

Well-managed forests: Growing demand will also certainly push production further into natural forests. The report indicates that by 2050 up to 25 per cent more forests might be commercially harvested than today. Forest certification will continue to be an important tool to improve forest management practices via a market driven mechanism.

The energy challenge: By 2050, annual wood demand for energy could reach 6-8 billion m3, which would require more than twice the wood removed for all uses today. This clearly poses a challenge for sustainable land-use planning. WWF sees an important role for bioenergy to provide diverse alternatives to fossil fuels, plus new incomes and increased energy security for rural communities. However, for these benefits to be realized, its use must be carefully planned, implemented and monitored for environmental and social sustainability. Badly managed bioenergy production can destroy valuable ecosystems, undermine food and water security, harm rural communities and prolong wasteful energy consumption.

Humanity will likely use more wood in more ways in the coming decades. Given the massive projected increase in wood and paper demand, forest-based industries are key to conserving forests. For wood to play a positive role in a “green” economy based on renewable resources, production forests need to be managed to the highest ecological and social standards, and the use and recovery of wood products must become more efficient.

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Big cities' heat can change temperatures a continent away: study

Deborah Zabarenko PlanetArk 29 Jan 13;

The energy big cities burn - mostly coal and oil to power buildings, cars and other devices - produces excess heat that can get into atmospheric currents and influence temperatures thousands of miles (km) away, a new study found.

The so-called waste heat that leaks out of buildings, vehicles and other sources in major Northern Hemisphere cities makes winters warmer across huge swaths of northern Asia and northern North America, according to a report published on Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

That is different from what has long been known as the urban-heat island effect, where city buildings, roads and sidewalks hold on to the day's warmth and make the urban area hotter than the surrounding countryside.

Instead, the researchers wrote, the excess heat given off by burning fossil fuels appears to change air circulation patterns and then hitch a ride on air and ocean currents, including the jet stream.

The burning of fossil fuels also sends climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

But study author Aixue Hu of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado said in a statement that the excess heat generated by this burning in cities could change atmospheric patterns to raise or lower temperatures far afield.

Some remote locations heat up by as much as 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C) as a result, the study said. But some parts of Europe cool off a bit, especially in autumn, because of the way urban waste heat changes atmospheric circulation.

The impact on global mean temperature is negligible, because the total amount of waste heat from human activities is only about one-third of one percent of the total amount of heat carried across high latitudes by air currents and oceans.

But this waste heat from cities and the way it moves around could help explain why some places are warmer in winter than climate computer models predict, the researchers said, and suggested that these models be adjusted to take this effect into account.

"We have seen this global warming of the high-latitude regions over the last 50 years," the study's lead author, Guang Zhang of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said by telephone. "But the computer models to date have not been able to account for all the warming observed."

By adding the influence of big cities' waste heat to their computer simulations, the researchers were able to find a likely cause for all that extra warmth, Zhang said.

(Reporting By Deborah Zabarenko)

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jan 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [21 - 27 Jan 2013]
from Green Business Times

Sun Feb 3 Bukit Brown Tour
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Did Chek Jawa survive the rainy weather?
from wild shores of singapore and TeamSeagrass

Abandoned net at Chek Jawa (27 Jan 2013)
from Project Driftnet Singapore

egret v egret @ seletar - Jan 2013
from sgbeachbum

My First Outing in Year 2013
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Common Tailorbird’s Nest
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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About 6,000 take part in Green Corridor Run

Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 27 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE: What used to be a rail line became a running track on Sunday morning, as about 6,000 runners raced down a green pathway, known as the Rail Corridor.

The race, which was flagged off by Acting Minister for Manpower and Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin, started at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

The route was 10.5 kilometres long and ended at Bukit Timah Railway Station.

The fastest runner took about 34 minutes, while the first woman to finish took about 41 minutes.

32-year-old Samson Tenai from Kenya was the overall winner in the male category. He completed the race in 34 minutes and 11 seconds.

As for the winner of the female category, 26-year-old Rosie Clarke from the United Kingdom, completed the race in 41 minutes and 42 seconds.

The event, which is supported by smartphone company, BlackBerry, aims to raise awareness of the value of the area.

Gail Brennan, director of marketing at BlackBerry Singapore said: "It's special because it's part of an old conservation trail, which has sort of been abandoned for many years. People haven't really been allowed to enjoy it or be a part of it. It's a relic that many Singaporeans remember very fondly. I think that it's great that it's opened up again and people can enjoy it."

- CNA/xq

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Climate change limits turtle's nests

James Cook University Science Alert 28 Jan 13;

A global map predicting where sea turtle nesting sites occur throughout the world has been developed by a James Cook University researcher, to help define where they lay their eggs and to help better protect their habitats.

Dr David Pike, from JCU’s School of Marine and Tropical Biology, said the project was an attempt to map sea turtle nesting habitat in coastal areas across the world.

The three-year study, "Climate influences the global distribution of sea turtle nesting", was the first step in predicting how sea turtles would fare under climate change, he said.

Dr Pike said sea turtles lived throughout the world, but only nested in tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

“Protecting nesting beaches is crucial towards conserving these species, but many areas of the world are difficult to access, and thus our understanding of where sea turtles nest is quite limited,” he said.

“My study used mathematical models to create maps of where sea turtles could nest under today’s climate.”

Dr Pike said he studied all seven of the world’s sea turtle species.

“The most important species here in Australia include green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and flatback turtles (Natator depressus).

“Flatback turtles nest only in northern Australia, so they are very important for Australian conservation even though relatively little is known about them. Green turtles are much different in that they nest in most tropical areas worldwide.”

The work involved computer modelling using global data on where sea turtles were known to nest and climate data such as temperature and rainfall, he said.

“All sea turtle eggs are vulnerable to temperature – nests that are too hot or too cold will not produce baby turtles.

“My study found that current climates, including temperature and rainfall, limit where sea turtles can nest, in terms of whether eggs will hatch, and some species can tolerate a wider range of nesting beach conditions than can other species.”

Dr Pike said that Australasia, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico are important regions for sea turtle conservation because between three and six sea turtle species nest in these areas, and some individual beaches have several species nesting there.

“As the climate warms over the next several decades, we may begin to see signs of some nesting beaches becoming too warm for successful egg incubation, and other areas will become warm enough to produce baby turtles.”

Dr Pike said his main conclusion was that turtle nesting was highly dependent on climate, and that changing temperatures brought on through climate change could have a major impact.

“Turtles nest in areas with very distinctive climates that allow eggs to hatch, and whether these areas will remain suitable under climate change is the next big research question,” he said.

“The tight link between current geographic patterns of nesting and climate, along with the dependence of developing embryos on temperature inside the nest, imply that regional or global changes in environmental conditions could differentially influence the distribution of sea turtle species under climate change.

“Because sea turtles must nest on land, they must be able to continue nesting in areas that will produce hatchling turtles.

“If sea turtles are unable to find suitable nesting beaches, they may be unable to adapt to changing environmental conditions and decline as climate change takes hold.”

To view the maps online

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jan 13;

asian open-billed stork I @ seletar - Jan2013
from sgbeachbum

Pasir Ris mangroves featured in the Weekender
from wild shores of singapore

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Malaysia: Floating rubbish putting off visitors at Marine Park

New Straits Times 26 Jan 13;

KOTA KINABALU: An Australian family was not happy when they were greeted by floating rubbish while on their way to Manukan Island, near here, last week.

The family was on holiday and one of the items in their travel itinerary was to visit the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP).

They, along with other visitors, had boarded a boat at the Jesselton Point jetty and the first few minutes of the ride was already an eyesore.

Andy Bennedict, 27, shared their sentiment and as a local and a friend who guided the family, he felt embarrassed.

"They asked where the rubbish came from and whether the government was doing anything about it. They were not happy because cleanliness is very much emphasised in Australia.

"A great journey should start with a clean view.

"The jetty is the starting point for tourists to go to TARP, so if the surrounding is already dirty from the beginning, tourists will not be excited," he said yesterday.

He said there were a lot of debris at the jetty and many were floating on the water surface close to the mainland while the cleanliness level at the TARP islands was satisfactory.

Recently, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said rubbish pollution had reached an alarming level in Sabah and there were cases where tourists did not want to come here.

He said the sight of wastes at tourist spots could drive potential tourists away, adding that locals should play their role and participate in cleaning activity to maintain a clean environment.

Last year, City Hall had stepped up efforts to make Kota Kinabalu a clean city. These included the introduction of proper waste management programme to the people living on the islands and coastal areas within the city's jurisdiction.

Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir said City Hall had been carrying out various intensive cleanliness programmes on the mainland as well as nearby villages on Gaya Island.

He also gave an assurance that enforcement efforts would be intensified to curb the indiscriminate dumping of rubbish like plastic bags into the sea.

Dive operators in the state have also contributed to underwater conservation by implementing Project Aware.

The move by scuba divers have helped to keep the ocean clean from debris and it has been conducted here, on Mantanani Island, Mabul Island and in Semporna.

University Malaysia Sabah students had also taken the initiative to clean up beaches.

They spent three hours picking up rubbish along the bay in Likas here, last month.

More than 30 volunteers, comprising locals and foreigners, had joined in the effort to create a clean city environment.

In April, Astro would be attempting a Guiness World Record for the longest underwater clean-up project at 14 dive sites at TARP.

The Astro Kasih Beautiful Malaysia project hopes to create an awareness of marine conservation and, at the same time, engage with local community.

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A new capital for Indonesia?

Jakarta is increasingly under strain from intense activities and the effects of climate change
Zakir Hussain and Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 27 Jan 13;

Beijing has Shanghai, New Delhi has Mumbai, and Washington DC has New York.

Jakarta, though, has just Jakarta, and it hits home harder when a disaster - like the recent severe flooding - strikes, paralysing businesses and ordinary life for several days.

But the floods, which may recur in coming weeks, have reignited debate on whether Indonesia ought to relocate its capital.

The world's fourth most populous country after China, India and the United States is also the only one its size to have an administrative centre and crucial financial hub rolled into one location.

Brazil, Pakistan and Nigeria, which trail in the population rankings, all relocated their seats of government decades ago.

Senior Indonesian officials and commentators now say the city of 10 million packed into 661 sq km - twice the density of Singapore - is no longer able to sustain the intense activity and lack of planning associated with it.

This has also rekindled interest in alternative sites for the capital. It is not a new discussion.

Founding president Sukarno, in fact, designed and built Palangkaraya in central Kalimantan for this purpose 55 years ago. The city on the island of Borneo has wide boulevards and is one of the country's best planned areas - but the move was shelved amid an economic crisis in the early 1960s.

Former president Suharto proposed Jonggol in West Java as an alternative, but this too never materialised.

As Jakarta comes increasingly under strain and attack from climate change and the elements, a change seems inevitable.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's special staff member for regional development and autonomy, Dr Velix Wanggai, told reporters last week that Dr Yudhoyono had, at a meeting with media editors two years earlier, already discussed various scenarios for moving the capital.

"According to the President, Jakarta can no longer accommodate the interaction between man and the environment," he said.

At risk of being erased

Last year, Jakarta celebrated its 485th anniversary.

A trading port had existed on its northern parts since the 4th century, and changed hands several times. In 1527, after troops from the kingdoms of Demak and Cirebon defeated the Portuguese there, the city was renamed Jayakarta or "city of victory". The city of Jakarta has grown from that area.

Planners now wonder whether Jakarta will triumph against rising sea waters or cease to exist as it is by the time it turns 500 in 2027.

A study by the World Bank and Dutch consultancy Delft Hydraulics several years ago projected that without better defences, the sea will reach the presidential palace, some 5km inland, in 2025, inundating the land between the centre of town and Kota Tua, Jakarta's historic old Dutch city.

For the first time since 2007, floodwaters reached the palace two weeks ago, and Dr Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa gamely rolled up their trouser legs and stood in the calf-deep flood.

Last year, former governor Fauzi Bowo elaborated on plans for a dyke to avert such a calamity and revitalise the northern coastline, a project that successor Joko Widodo says should now be hastened.

The wall is estimated to cost some 50 trillion rupiah (S$6.5 billion), and the figure could soar to 200 trillion rupiah if land is reclaimed to create developments around a dam, according to media reports.

By comparison, a group of academics estimates it would cost 100 trillion rupiah to move the capital.

But as Republika columnist Nasihin Masha noted recently, the cost of traffic congestion in Jakarta already adds up to some 46 trillion rupiah a year in wasted fuel and time.

And even if a move happens, Jakarta would still need the wall to stave off erosion.

University of Indonesia urban ecologist Rudy Tambunan hopes discussions about moving the capital do not divert public attention from decades-old problems - Jakarta, after all, must be liveable to those who stay on.

"There have been good plans in the past, but implementation has not been consistent. We tried to spread business activity out from Jakarta - for example, the steel industry to Cilegon, the automotive industry to Karawang and Cikampek, textiles to Bandung. But this did not continue," he said.

Some, like Parliament Speaker Marzuki Alie, say if the city is to have any hope of resolving its most pressing woes, a new capital has to come about.

"Otherwise, its condition will remain like this until the end of time. The capital must first be shifted; only then can Jakarta's problems be resolved in stages," he said.

The mechanics of moving

So if the capital relocates, what exactly would be moved and where to?

Dr Wanggai says there are three options which should be debated openly and thoroughly.

One, the status quo remains, but a total overhaul of flood-prevention, transport and urban planning is needed.

Two, a new capital is built from scratch.

Three, the capital remains in Jakarta, but the seat of government moves.

Option No.3 is likely to be the most feasible. Malaysia made such a move when ministries moved from Kuala Lumpur to the new administrative centre Putrajaya in 1999 to ease the impact of congestion and overcrowding on government.

Regional Representative Council head Irman Gusman feels it would be most effective to move Indonesia's administrative capital and keep Jakarta as a business city.

He is open to moving the government to a suitable site in Banten or West Java, or even Palangkaraya, now the capital of central Kalimantan province with just 220,000 residents and 2,400 sq km of space.

People's Consultative Assembly chief Taufik Kiemas, meanwhile, has suggested Yogyakarta, which was Indonesia's capital from 1946 to 1948 after the Dutch attacked Jakarta.

Dr Marzuki prefers a more greenfield location, telling reporters: "All government offices could be housed in one location, with supporting housing, public and social facilities... It need not be far from Jakarta."

However, public policy academic Andrinof Chaniago argues that a new capital should be sited in Kalimantan, which has 30 per cent of Indonesia's land mass but only 7 per cent of its population.

Conversely, crowded Java has 60 per cent of the country's population on just 7 per cent of its land area.

Prof Chaniago and three other researchers prepared a paper on moving the capital to Kalimantan several years ago.

They have seized on the momentum from the current debate to argue that such a move will help re-orientate development and investments away from Java - a step Indonesia needs to make to ensure growth and wealth are more evenly spread and sustainable. As it is, some 60 per cent of the country's money circulates in the Jakarta area.

"Shifting the seat of administration to Kalimantan will better re-orientate Indonesia, make it easier to bring order to Jakarta and save the future of Java," he said over Twitter on Wednesday.

Dr Wanggai said distributing growth more equitably ought to be a consideration in selecting a capital. He added that President Yudhoyono hopes a strategy for moving will be finalised by the end of his term in October next year.

"This is not just a decision for the President, but a national one," he said.

But nobody expects anything to happen any time soon. With plans still in the preliminary stages, officials expect an actual move could take anything from six to 12 years after the go-ahead is given.

Rising sea waters, inland flooding

A study by the World Bank and Dutch consultancy Delft Hydraulics several years ago projected that without better defences, the sea will reach the presidential palace, some 5km inland, in 2025, inundating the land between the centre of town and Kota Tua, Jakarta's historic old Dutch city.

Five possibilities

Where should Indonesia's new capital be? These five places keep turning up in the debate.

Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan

Former strongman Sukarno proposed this 2,400 sq km city on the island of Borneo for a future capital, and its wide roads were designed with this in mind. Situated smack in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago, in an area relatively free from natural disasters, it now has only 220,000 residents.

Jonggol, West Java

Former president Suharto mooted a move to Jonggol, in Bogor Regency, West Java. Hundreds of hectares were cleared by developers, including one linked to a son of the former strongman. Its close location, just 50km east of Jakarta, was expected to make for a smooth relocation, but the land is now largely disused.

Purwokerto, Central Java

This town in the middle of Java with 300,000 residents has good infrastructure and road connections and was mooted by officials several years ago.


Indonesia's capital from 1946 to 1948 after the Dutch attacked Jakarta. With 400,000 residents, it is fairly accessible and widely regarded as an emerging cultural centre.

Palembang, South Sumatra

One of the oldest cities in Indonesia, Palembang, with 1.6 million residents, is in an area relatively free from natural disasters, has developed infrastructure and played host to the 2011 SEA Games.

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