Best of our wild blogs: 31 May 13

Big Bryozoan on Day 11 of the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Exploring Base Camp on Day 11 at the Southern Expedition from wild shores of singapore

Jobs in freshwater ecology: Research Assistants and Research Associates from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS and Jobs in freshwater ecology: Laboratory Assistant, Casual Employment, two positions
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Updates from the Zone Captains’ recces: beach closures this year from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Sharks worth more for tourism than in soup: study

Alister Doyle Reuters Yahoo News 31 May 13;

OSLO (Reuters) - Sharks swimming free in the oceans may soon become more valuable as tourist attractions than when caught, sliced up and served in soup, a global study showed on Friday.

It urged better protection for the fish, from Australia to the Caribbean, to reduce catches of an estimated 38 million a year to meet demand for shark fin soup, mainly in China.

"We are hoping that people will recognize that sharks are not only valuable on the plate," lead author Andres Cisneros-Montemayor of the University of British Columbia in Canada said.

Shark-watching tourism generates about $314 million a year and is projected to surge to $780 million in the next 20 years, according to the study in the journal Oryx - The International Journal of Conservation.

By contrast, the landed value of world shark fisheries is now $630 million a year and has been declining, according to the experts in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

In recent years Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, Tokelau, The Bahamas, the Marshall Islands, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and New Caledonia have created sanctuaries by banning commercial shark fishing.

"Many countries have a significant financial incentive to conserve sharks and the places where they live," said Jill Hepp, director of global shark conservation at the Pew Charitable Trusts which took part in the study. Pew urged more sanctuaries.

The study is one of many about how to aid world fisheries, hit by pollution and over-fishing. Tourism draws almost 600,000 people annually to watch sharks from hammerheads to great whites, supporting 10,000 jobs in 29 countries, it said.

One problem is the separate sources of demand - Asian lovers of shark fin soup are unlikely to abandon the dish in favor of tourism, which has so far been mainly for Westerners.

Fishermen need to see a higher value from organizing tourism - such as running boat trips to view sharks or renting scuba gear - than from killing them for fins, said Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which was not involved in the study.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

Sharks Worth More in the Ocean Than On the Menu
ScienceAlert 30 May 13;

Sharks are worth more in the ocean than in a bowl of soup, according to researchers from the University of

A new study, published today in Oryx -- The International Journal of Conservation, shows that shark ecotourism currently generates more than US$314 million annually worldwide and is expected to more than double to US$780 million in the next 20 years.

In comparison, the landed value of global shark fisheries is currently US$630 million and has been in decline for the past decade. An estimated 38 million sharks were killed in 2009 to feed the global fin trade alone.

"The emerging shark tourism industry attracts nearly 600,000 shark watchers annually, directly supporting 10,000 jobs," says Andres Cisneros-Montemayor, a PhD candidate with UBC's Fisheries Economics Research Unit and lead author of the study. "It is abundantly clear that leaving sharks in the ocean is worth much more than putting them on the menu."

"Sharks are slow to mature and produce few offspring," says Rashid Sumaila, senior author and director of UBC's Fisheries Centre. "The protection of live sharks, especially through dedicated protected areas, can benefit a much wider economic spectrum while helping the species recover."

The research team from UBC, the University of Hawaii and Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur in Mexico examined shark fisheries and shark ecotourism data from 70 sites in 45 countries. Almost $124 million in tourism dollars were generated annually in the Caribbean from shark tourism, supporting more than 5,000 jobs. In Australia and New Zealand, 29,000 shark watchers help generate almost $40 million in tourism expenditure a year.

Journal Reference:

Andrés M. Cisneros-Montemayor, Michele Barnes-Mauthe, Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak, Estrella Navarro-Holm, U. Rashid Sumaila. Global economic value of shark ecotourism: implications for conservation. Oryx, 2013; : 1 DOI: 10.1017/S0030605312001718

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Protecting environment key to ending poverty, finds UN High Level Panel

WWF 30 May 13;

Gland: Taxes, incentives, regulations, subsidies, trade and public procurement need to be realigned to favour sustainable consumption and production patterns if the world wants to end poverty, according to the UN High Level Panel charged with setting the new direction for global development.

“Without environmental sustainability we cannot end poverty,” said the UN’s High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda.

The report of the 26-member panel, which included UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Queen Rania of Jordan and Unilever CEO Paul Polman, has the potential to influence over USD 25 trillion of development spending and marks a clear break from the practice of treating development and sustainability as separate topics.

“The Millennium Development Goals were a first global attempt to address poverty and other development challenges but protection of the environment was barely acknowledged and hardly addressed,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.

“Nearly fifteen years on, there is finally recognition that poverty cannot be eradicated and the well-being of people across the globe cannot be secured without addressing the grave pressures on the environment and the natural systems that support human life on this planet,” Leape added.

The report calls for hard-hitting measures to be taken in both developed and developing countries to reduce the impacts of consumption, production, trade, waste and pollution.

The Panel’s findings have the potential to influence over USD 25 trillion of international resource flows to developing countries and redrafting government and corporate behaviours.

“We came to the conclusion that the moment is right to merge the poverty and environmental tracks guiding international development” states the Panel report.

The Panel underlined the inadequacies of GDP measure of progress for mandatory social and environmental reporting by all companies with a market capitalisation above USD 100 million.

Proposed goals to secure food, water and energy for a growing world population should include key targets to safeguarding sustainable agriculture, fisheries, freshwater systems and energy supplies, the report said.

The High Level Panel also affirmed that the new development agenda is a global one.

“The world has changed since the MDGs were agreed,” said Jim Leape.

“The global financial and economic crises have shown that poverty and growing inequality are problems for all countries. Production and consumption choices in one place have environmental impacts across the globe.”

“We now look to all countries to build on the High Level Panel’s report and agree an ambitious set of goals and targets that will spur urgent action,” said Leape.

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 May 13

Five new Fast and Furious Ferrari shrimps at the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Humungous cuttlefish on Day 10 of the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

#8 Labrador Nature Reserve
from My Nature Experiences

Copper-throated Sunbird nest-building
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Random Gallery - Yellow Palm Dart
from Butterflies of Singapore

Painted faces: revisited
from Life's Indulgences

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Cross Island Line: LTA will minimise environmental impact

Today Online 30 May 13;
Helen Lim
Director, Media Relations and Public Education, Land Transport Authority

We refer to Ms Vinita Ramani Mohan’s letter “A transportation plan that crosses the line” (May 20).

The detailed alignment of the Cross Island Line (CRL) has not been decided and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will carry out detailed studies before finalising the alignment. We would also like to assure that the LTA will be commissioning an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to study the environmental impact of the CRL, as part of its overall assessment and design. As part of the EIA, the consultant is required to develop guidelines to guide the Engineering Investigative Works. The Engineering Investigative Works will be carried out in compliance with these guidelines.

In the coming months, the LTA will engage and consult various stakeholders, including nature and environmental groups, to ensure their views and concerns are accommodated as part of the EIA study. We share the environmentalists’ concern on any possible impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and assure that sufficient time will be accorded to address these concerns.

Protecting the nature reserves will be an integral consideration for the project and all efforts would be taken to minimise impact to the environment.

In particular, we would like to assure the public that some of the concerns that have been expressed, such as the need or intention to clear large tracts of forest in the nature reserves, or the possibility of there being major construction works within the nature reserves, are not contemplated. We ask for some patience as we continue to make preparations for the consultation and the EIA.

Protecting nature reserves a key consideration
Straits Times Forum 31 May 13;

WE REFER to Wednesday's letters ("Rethink route of Cross Island MRT line" by Mr Chia Yong Soong; and "Cross Island Line: LTA must be proactive in engaging stakeholders" by Mr Eugene Tay Tse Chuan, Forum Online).

The detailed alignment of the Cross Island Line has not been decided and the Land Transport Authority will carry out detailed studies before finalising the alignment.

We assure readers that we will be commissioning an independent Environmental Impact Assessment to study the environmental impact of the line, as part of its overall assessment and design.

As part of the assessment, the consultant is required to develop guidelines to guide the engineering investigative works, which will be carried out in compliance with these guidelines.

In the coming months, we will engage and consult various stakeholders, including nature and environmental groups, to ensure that their views and concerns are accommodated as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment study.

We share the environmentalists' concerns over any possible impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and assure them that sufficient time will be accorded to address these concerns.

Protecting the nature reserves will be an integral consideration for the project and all efforts will be taken to minimise impact to the environment.

In particular, we assure the public that some of the scenarios that have been raised, such as the need or intention to clear large tracts of forest in the nature reserves, or the possibility of there being major construction works within the nature reserves, are not being contemplated.

We ask for some patience as we continue to make preparations for the consultation and the Environmental Impact Assessment.

Helen Lim (Ms)
Director, Media Relations and Public Education
Land Transport Authority

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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Global warming spells trouble for Singapore

Straits Times Forum 30 May 13;

NATIONS around the world, including Singapore, are showing interest in the melting Arctic ice, more from an economic standpoint than in terms of human safety ("Fuelled by strategic interest in cold North"; May 21). This emphasis is misplaced.

These nations should focus instead on how they can best join forces to prevent the melting rate from accelerating, with a view to ultimately reversing the process.

Melting Arctic ice releases large amounts of methane, which is about 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

In recent weeks, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere breached the 400 parts per million (ppm) mark, the highest level since the Ice Age ("World gone cold on global warming"; May 21). It could reach 1,000 ppm towards the end of this century.

Unfortunately, no amount of hurricanes, cyclones, monsoons or warnings seem compelling enough for world leaders to take action to reverse global warming and climate change.

For a low-lying island like Singapore, global warming can only mean a major catastrophe waiting to happen.

Already, shifts in weather patterns here have resulted in the authorities replacing some tall trees with shorter ones, to prevent them from falling ("Some tall trees being replaced"; May 19).

But this approach is just a quick fix and may not be sustainable in the long term. We need to get to the root of the problem - global warming - and tackle it head-on at the global level.

Singapore has always punched above its weight. It now needs to punch in the right direction and for the right cause.

Srirekam Kesava Purushotham

Singapore committed to tackling climate change
Straits Times Forum 4 Jun 13;

WE THANK Mr Srirekam Kesava Purushotham for his feedback ("Global warming spells trouble for Singapore"; last Thursday).

We agree that climate change is a global challenge that requires all countries to play their part.

Singapore therefore supports and actively participates in the multilateral negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and in other organisations such as the International Maritime Organisation and International Civil Aviation Organisation to develop measures to reduce emissions in these sectors.

Under the UNFCCC, we made a voluntary pledge to reduce our emissions below business-as-usual levels by 2020. We are working with other countries towards a new global agreement on climate change by 2015.

Domestically, we adopt a multi-pronged approach to meet our pledge and do our part in addressing climate change.

Given our limited ability to switch to renewable energy on a large scale, energy efficiency is one of Singapore's key strategies to reduce emissions.

We are the first country in the world to mandate minimum environmental sustainability standards for existing buildings, in addition to new buildings.

Our vehicle ownership and usage control measures are coupled with encouraging a switch to low-emission cars and taxis through the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme.

The Energy Conservation Act requires large energy users to implement energy management practices.

Singapore is also taking action to address the potential impact of climate change on coastal protection, water supply and drainage, public health, biodiversity and infrastructure.

Since the end of 2011, we have raised the minimum reclamation level of new reclamation projects by an additional metre, to 2.25m above the highest recorded tide level.

The Centre for Climate Research Singapore is the first centre in the world for tropical climate research.

Addressing climate change also offers opportunities for green growth. Singapore is well-positioned to develop as a global cleantech hub that will provide high-value-added jobs and growth opportunities for Singaporeans.

Everyone has a part to play in the global effort against climate change. We also work with our partners in the people, public and private (3P) sectors on education and outreach programmes to promote climate change awareness and action.

Yuen Sai Kuan

Director, 3P Network Division

National Climate Change Secretariat, Prime Minister's Office

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Malaysia: Sun bears are 'forest doctors'

Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 30 May 13;

ECOSYSTEM PRESERVERS: They cannot survive in agricultural plantations, says conservation expert

KOTA KINABALU: THE Malayan sun bear plays an important role in the ecosystem as they serve as forest doctors, engineers and planters, contributing to a thriving forest.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founder and chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said the sun bear used its claws to scrape off and destroy termite nests around tree bark.

This, in turn, saves the host tree from dying because of termite infestation.

"Sun bears do this to get termites and larvae, an important food source for them.

"If they do not do this, the termites will eventually kill the host tree by feeding on the wood fibre inside.

"Uncontrolled termite populations can lead to the death of many trees," he said yesterday.

The sun bear is the smallest of the world's bears and is listed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

It is at risk of becoming endangered, unless the circumstances threatening its survival improve.

Wong said sun bears, which lived in the forests of Southeast Asia, were fond of eating honey.

Sun bears create holes in trees when extracting the honey of stingless bees that build nests under tree bark.

The holes are then used by hornbills or squirrels to nest in.

As forest planters, sun bears spread the seeds of large fruits, such as durian and jackfruit, when travelling.

They have a home range of 14 square kilometres.

"Sun bears are among the largest mammals in the tropical rainforest.

"Through their travels, they defecate swallowed seeds away from the mother tree.

"This increases the chances of the seeds' survival.

"Through their role as nutrient mixers, sun bears facilitate soil turnover and regeneration when they forage for termites and other insects."

Despite the many functions that sun bears served, their long-term survival in the wild depended on the continuous existence of natural forests, said Wong.

He said sun bears, as a forest-dependent species, could not survive in oil palm and other agricultural plantations.

"They need large tracts of natural forests for them to sustain viable populations, where they can search for food, shelter and reproduce.

"There is so much that sun bears are doing for the forest and this is something we all need to understand and appreciate.

"Today, their number is going down and more are ending up in captivity."

Wong added that BSBCC housed 28 rescued sun bears.

The centre, which is located adjacent to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan, is hoping to hold a fundraiser on July 20.

This is to meet the ever-increasing cost of caring for sun bears in captivity, as well as raise public awareness of the species.
BSBCC is a non-governmental organisation set up in 2008 through a collaboration between the Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and Land Empowerment Animals People.

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Ice levels, rule changes to boost Arctic northern sea route

Balazs Koranyi Reuters 30 May 13;

Shipping along the Arctic northern sea route is set to grow more than 30-fold over the next eight years and could account for a quarter of the cargo traffic between Europe and Asia by 2030, experts said on Wednesday.

With global warming thawing sea ice, the route, which runs along Russia's northern coast and links Europe with ports in East Asia, is opening for longer and longer each year.

Russia is also easing regulations to accommodate more vessels aiming to spur use of the still fledgling route which can cut travel time between Europe and Asia by up to 40 percent.

"Russia clearly sees the opportunity and is trying to take advantage of it," said Mikhail Belkin, an adviser at Atomflot, the operator of Russia's nuclear icebreaker fleet.

"The northern sea route is not a rival to the Suez Canal, but it's a good seasonal complement... and has the potential to grow very fast."

Around 1.25 million metric tons (1.38 million tons) of cargo traversed the route last year, a tiny figure compared to the Suez Canal's 740 million metric tons.

But Belkin predicted a rise to 1.5 million metric tons this year and 40 million metric tons by 2021.

"Crossings (between Europe and Asia) will account for 15 million metric tons, LNG from the Yamal Peninsula for another 15 million and oil cargo out of that area for another 10 million," said Belkin, whose icebreakers need to accompany most vessels along the route.

The gas is expected to come from Yamal, which is being jointly developed by Novatek and Total, while the oil is expected to come from Gazprom's Novoportovskoye field in Siberia.

A recent deal by ExxonMobil to partner with state-controlled Rosneft to explore for oil on 150 million acres in the Chukchi, Kara and Laptev seas could mean further oil for export.


Last September, Arctic sea ice reached its lowest level on record and scientists say there could be an ice-free summer by 2030-2040.

The northern sea route was open around six months last year with an LNG vessel crossing as late as November and the season could grow to 8 months within a decade.

To lower operating costs, Russia this year will allow vessels without ice classification to cross during the lightest period of ice, which lasts about two months each year, and has also reduced draft restrictions, allowing vessels of up to 100,000 deadweight metric tons to cross.

Jong-Deog Kim, a division director at the South Korean Maritime Institute, predicted that traffic between Europe and Asia along the route will grow by 6.5 percent a year and could potentially account for a quarter of all cargo traffic by 2030.

"It's a function of cost, not just the fees charged by Atomflot, but the total cost, from vessel construction and bureaucracy to the increased insurance cost," Kim said. "For crude, LNG and condensate, it's actually very competitive right now, but for coal or ore, not so much."

Atomflot fees vary depending on the customer but tend to be 10 to 15 percent higher than Suez Canal charges. Yet once the savings from the shorter voyage are factored in, firms can save as much as 20 percent, Belkin said.

Still, the route has its clear limits. Russia is just starting work on up to 10 relief ports along the route, search and rescue capability is patchy, commercial weather forecasting is limited and insurers charge a large premium for operators using the route.

"It's a given that traffic will increase and probably increase dramatically," said Sturla Henriksen, director general of the Norwegian shipowners' association. "But the commercial viability will be limited for quite some time."

(Editing by Jason Neely)

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 May 13

Saturday 01 June 2013, 10:30 AM at Botany Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens. Kevin Tilbrook on Lace Corals and Moss Animals from Raffles Museum News

Fri 31 May 2013: 9.00am @ DBS CR2: Daniel Ng on “Impacts of climate change on tropical amphibians” from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Reefy Day 9 at the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Updates on the Southern Expedition
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Toddycats at the Mega Marine Survey!
from Toddycats!

Places - Of Boar And Men

Random Gallery - Plain Tiger
from Butterflies of Singapore

Plastic recycling is just not economically attractive enough to be a solution from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Rethink route of Cross Island MRT line

Straits Times Forum 29 May 13;

THE proposal to run the Cross Island Line across the gazetted Central Catchment Nature Reserve is a cause for concern ("Route of MRT line a concern: Nature Society"; last Saturday).

At stake is a national treasure trove of biodiversity - a verdant stretch of primary, secondary and young forest that supports many native plants and trees, and is home to insects, animals, birds and fishes.

Water from natural sources there drains into the surrounding reservoirs. The vast catchment forest also acts as a green lung in the central part of our island, providing clean air and counteracting the greenhouse effect.

Even if the rail system runs underground, much construction work will have to be done on the surface, such as providing access to transportation and building site offices.

Large tracts of forest would have to be cleared. This means erosion, pollution, noise and a whole host of other ill effects.

One wonders how an Environmental Impact Assessment can have anything positive to say about such a venture.

That such a proposal came to pass throws into question the claims by the Government of its commitment to protect the environment. It seems that even a gazetted nature reserve is no longer protected.

There should not be soft or easy options, and certainly not explanations such as "this is the most direct and shortest route across".

I urge the Government to seriously rethink the route of the line and avoid the destruction of a major part of our natural heritage.

Chia Yong Soong

Cross Island Line: LTA must be proactive in engaging stakeholders
Straits Times Forum 29 May 13;

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) must be proactive and sincere in engaging stakeholders when planning the Cross Island Line, whose present design has tracks cutting across the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Area ("Route of MRT line a concern: Nature Society"; last Saturday).

Nature reserves are sensitive habitats and gazetted areas, and the LTA should have anticipated the concerns of stakeholders before unveiling its plans in January.

There were apparently no proactive attempts to engage or consult stakeholders before the announcement.

Concerned stakeholders have waited patiently for four months to engage LTA to understand its plans for the Environmental Impact Assessment and feasibility studies. How much longer do they have to wait?

The LTA should come forward with a concrete date for the stakeholder engagement.

Now is the time for it to be proactive and sincere in engaging the Nature Society and interested individuals and groups. The future of our nature reserves is at stake.

Eugene Tay Tse Chuan

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Is monkey trapping the best solution?

Straits Times Forum 29 May 13;

WE READ with alarm two recent reports ("AVA moves to control monkey problem", April 29; and "AVA explains monkey trapping video"; last Wednesday) about the capture and removal of macaques from Bukit Timah.

We would like to ask:

- Why were the macaques being trapped? Was it for ecological reasons and/or because of threats to human safety? If it was the latter, what risk assessment criteria were used?

- What is the strategy for monkey capture? Are troops studied carefully before specific monkeys are targeted? Are there numerical targets for the trapping?

- How closely were wildlife experts, in particular, those who specialise in primate biology, consulted prior to the implementation of the monkey-trapping programme? How frequently do the contractors entrusted with the monkey capture seek the advice of experts?

A macaque-trapping exercise that is not based on solid data, built on a sound knowledge of macaque behaviour and conducted with inputs from experts is difficult to justify.

Based on reports, the monkey-trapping strategy appears ecologically unsound, largely avoidable and futile. At the end of these rounds of trapping, residents have no more understanding of the macaques than they did before the trapping started.

More importantly, the ecosystem would have lost seed dispersers who play an important role in forest regeneration, and macaque troops may be destabilised (which may give rise to other behavioural problems among the remaining macaques).

The monkey incursions are likely to continue and the trapping cycle repeated, with no one except perhaps the monkey-removal contractors profiting from these episodes.

Wildlife live in forests. When housing is built next to forested areas, insects, birds, lizards and macaques come with the territory.

Understanding how to minimise the conflict between residents and wildlife - from building and buffer area design, to reaching out to residents prior to and during occupation, and seeking holistic solutions - would be more consistent with the rational, systematic and tolerant approach for which Singapore is famed.

One needs to look no further than our airport to see an excellent example of how to manage human-wildlife interaction ("Changi keeps fowl-ups to a minimum"; May 20).

Changi Airport works with stakeholders and wildlife experts to minimise the chances of birds compromising aircraft safety. Killing birds is not their first course of action. They employ a scientifically sound and humane strategy that protects people, planes and birds.

Perhaps this approach could be a model for managing and raising our understanding of wildlife in other areas.

Tay Kae Fong
President, Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore)

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NParks signs MOU with Brunei's Forestry Department on joint botanical survey

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewAsia 29 May 13;

SINGAPORE: Researchers from Singapore will now have greater access to study plants and forests in Brunei.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the National Parks Board (NParks) and Brunei's Forestry Department was signed Wednesday in Bandar Seri Begawan.

With the MOU on a joint botanical survey, Singapore becomes the first ASEAN country to conclude a formal agreement with Brunei in the environment sector.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer of NParks Leong Chee Chiew said the MOU will benefit both countries.

Under the agreement, Singapore will contribute its expertise to conduct a planned and systematic study of the rich flora in Brunei.

Researchers will help to identify and document different species of plants in the Bruneian forests.

Brunei last conducted an inventory of its flora database in 1996.

It is estimated that Brunei is home to around 5,000 plant species.

NParks said it has other collaborative efforts in the region.

Its scientists are involved in studying ginger in Vietnam and orchids in Myanmar.

- CNA/xq

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Decline in biodiversity of farmed plants, animals gathering pace

Alister Doyle Reuters 28 May 13;

A decline in the diversity of farmed plants and livestock breeds is gathering pace, threatening future food supplies for the world's growing population, the head of a new United Nations panel on biodiversity said on Monday.

Preserving neglected animal breeds and plants was necessary as they could have genes resistant to future diseases or to shifts in the climate to warmer temperatures, more droughts or downpours, Zakri Abdul Hamid said.

"The loss of biodiversity is happening faster and everywhere, even among farm animals," Zakri told a conference of 450 experts in Trondheim, central Norway, in his first speech as founding chair of the U.N. biodiversity panel.

Many traditional breeds of cows, sheep or goats have fallen out of favor, often because they yield less meat or milk than new breeds. Globalization also means that people's food preferences narrow down to fewer plants.

Zakri said there were 30,000 edible plants but that just 30 crops accounted for 95 percent of the energy in human food that is dominated by rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum.

He said it was "more important than ever to have a large genetic pool to enable organisms to withstand and adapt to new conditions." That would help to ensure food for a global population set to reach 9 billion by 2050 from 7 billion now.

Zakri noted that the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization estimated last year that 22 percent of the world's livestock breeds were at risk of extinction. That means there are fewer than 1,000 animals in each breed.

The extinctions of some domesticated animals and plants was happening in tandem with accelerating losses of wild species caused by factors such as deforestation, expansion of cities, pollution and climate change, he said.

Irene Hoffmann, chief of the FAO's animal genetic resources branch, told Reuters that eight percent of livestock breeds had already become extinct.

Many nations had started breeding programs for rare livestock, from llamas to pigs. Some were freezing embryos or even stem cells that might be used in cloning, she said.

In 2010, governments set goals including halting extinction of known threatened species by 2020 and expanding the area set aside in parks or protected areas for wildlife to 17 percent of the Earth's land surface from about 13 percent now.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Food Security: making the ecosystem connections

IUCN 16 May 13;

Worldwide, 870 million people go hungry every day. With the world population projected to exceed nine billion people by 2050, global agricultural output must expand by an estimated 60% to meet global food needs.

These were the introductory words and the challenge posed to participants meeting at the recent International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition, organised by FAO in Rome from 13-15 May.

Expanding global agricultural outputs by 60% to ensure future food security, can this be done?

To answer this question, it is important to go back to the roots of food production: nature. We find that making the ecosystem connection is the vital link towards sustainable solutions. "Ecosystem goods and services make critical contributions to food security by supporting the availability, access, and use of foods, both farmed and wild, and by strengthening the stability of food systems", said Cyrie Sendashonga, IUCN Global Policy Director during her keynote speech at the conference.

To give some examples, soil processes and wild pollinators are critically important to agricultural productivity – and therefore food availability; forests provide access to food both directly (through the edible wild plants and animals found there) and indirectly (via forest-product income that can be used to buy food); medicinal plants contribute to people’s health, making their utilization of food more efficient and beneficial for their bodies; and healthy wetlands and mangroves help protect coastal areas from flooding, which increases the stability of food production from nearby fields and fish ponds.

Ecosystem degradation and weak ecosystem governance do therefore not only compromise the ability of developing country populations to farm, access and use food effectively, but it also adversely impacts food security policies. "This is the crux of the matter, ecosystem degradation and weak ecosystem governance can undermine the effectiveness and impacts of food security policies, while inappropriate policies can damage ecosystems and their ability to support food systems", said Chris Buss, Coordinator IUCN Forest Conservation Programme.

The rural poor and vulnerable groups, including women and children, are most at risk. For example, bushmeat in the Congo Basin alone feeds nearly 100 million people – both urban and rural dwellers – and is important in many other forested regions of the world. Fish provides more than 1.5billion people with 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein.

"An ecosystem-aware approach to food security policy-making goes beyond the conventional focus, which is generally on productivity, trade and macro-economic issues. Instead it takes a big-picture view to the development of sustainable food systems. Such an approach aims for more than alleviating hunger, it embraces the goal of building long term food resilience", said Mark Smith, Director IUCN Global Water Programme.

Food resilience is the capacity of ecosystems to support food production and the ability of people to produce, harvest or buy food in the face of environmental, economic and social shocks and stresses. This focus on resilience is critical if food security objectives are to be achieved and sustained over the long term. IUCN supports policies which strengthen food resilience by addressing three key issues: diversity, natural infrastructure and social justice.

Food security policy-makers in developing countries therefore have much to gain from integrating ecosystem management and good ecosystem governance into their policy measures, and collaborating with other sectoral policy-making initiatives to ensure they consistently support food security. Effective policies also address the social aspects of the ecosystem connections to food security by strengthening, for example, land tenure, access rights to natural resources, local organizations, and gender equality.

An IUCN paper entitled 'Food Security Policies: making the ecosystem connections', was presented during the conference and is available for downloading in English, French, and Spanish.

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Key organizations team up to stop the extinction crisis

TRAFFIC 28 May 13;

Gland, Switzerland, 28th May 2013—With more than 20,000 of the species assessed on The IUCN Red List threatened with extinction, IUCN and other organizations, including TRAFFIC, have come together to support the achievement of a global biodiversity target to prevent further species loss.

The “Friends of Target 12” partnership will assist countries in their efforts to achieve Target 12—one of 20 “Aichi Biodiversity Targets” adopted under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan in 2010—that aims to prevent further extinctions of threatened species and improve the conservation status of those disappearing most rapidly.

“Today, species are disappearing at unprecedented rates,” said Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. “However, we know that conservation works. We need to do much more of it and at a much larger scale. We hope that this partnership will provide the concerted action that we urgently need to secure the long term survival of species.”

The Friends of Target 12 initiative aims to bring together the knowledge and experience of government institutions, intergovernmental, non-governmental and community-based organizations, academic and professional networks and private sector companies working to conserve species and ensure their sustainable use. It will offer practical advice to countries on how to better protect species, providing a common space for its partners to share and build on their previous conservation successes.

“As a member of the Friends of Target 12 initiative, TRAFFIC’s expertise on the global wildlife trade will strengthen the partnership’s efforts in addressing the critical trade issues affecting many of the world’s threatened wildlife species,” said Roland Melisch, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Director for Africa and Europe.

Out of 65,518 species currently assessed by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, 1,173 are Extinct or Possibly Extinct and 20,219 are threatened. However, as demonstrated by several of the Friends of Target 12 organizations, successful conservation action can bring species back from the brink of extinction. Examples include the Greater One-horned Rhino Rhinoceros unicornis, Lear’s Macaw Anodorhynchus leari, Arabian Oryx Oryx leucoryx, California Condor Gymnogyps californianus and Przewalski’s Horse Equus ferus.

“Many organizations and institutions around the world are contributing to the protection of species and are supporting the implementation of Target 12,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, CBD Executive Secretary. “This partnership brings them together and enhances the support that we can provide to CBD Parties to finally move from words to implementation of the Aichi biodiversity targets.”

The partnership is officially supported by the CBD and currently has 21 partners.


Current Friends of Target 12 partners:
• Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)
• BirdLife International
• Bern Convention
• Conservation International (CI)
• Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
• Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
• Chico Mendes Institute for Conservation of Biodiversity, Ministry of the Environment of Brazil (ICMBio)
• International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
• IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
• IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC)
• IUCN SSC Primates Specialist Group (PSG)
• IUCN SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG)
• Island Conservation
• Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar)
• SOS—Save Our Species (SOS)
• United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)
• Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
• Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
• Zoo Outreach Organization (India)

More information about the commitments of partners to Friends of Target 12

About the Aichi Biodiversity Targets
The Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 with the purpose of inspiring broad-based action in support of biodiversity over the next decade by all countries and stakeholders. The Strategic Plan is comprised of a shared vision, a mission, strategic goals and 20 ambitious yet achievable targets, collectively known as the Aichi Targets. The Strategic Plan serves as a flexible framework for the establishment of national and regional targets and it promotes the coherent and effective implementation of the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Aichi Biodiversity Target 12: By 2020, the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.
Though some extinctions are the result of natural processes, human actions have greatly increased current extinction rates. Reducing the threat of human-induced extinction requires action to address the direct and indirect drivers of change (see the Aichi Targets under Goals A and B of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020) and can belong term processes. However, imminent extinctions of known threatened species can in many cases be prevented by protecting important habitats (such as Alliance for Zero Extinction sites) or by addressing the specific direct causes of the decline of these species (such as overexploitation, invasive alien species, pollution and disease).

This target has two components:
• Preventing extinction – Preventing further extinction entails that those species which are currently threatened do not move into the extinct category. Of the more 19,000 species known to be threatened globally, more than 3,900 are classified as Critically Endangered. Critically Endangered species are considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
• Improving the conservation status of threatened species - An improvement in conservation status would entail a species increasing in population to a point where it moves into a lower threat status. Using the IUCN criteria a species would no longer be considered as threatened once it moved into the Near Threatened category.
More information:

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UN chief takes poaching concerns to Security Council

WWF 29 May 13;

The United Nations Security Council today will be briefed on the severe and escalating threat to peace and security posed by Central Africa’s heavily-armed elephant poaching gangs.

In a report to the world’s highest international security body, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, “Poaching and its potential linkages to other criminal, even terrorist, activities constitute a grave menace to sustainable peace and security in Central Africa.”

The Secretary-General’s report highlights increasing links between elephant poaching, weapons proliferation and regional insecurity. “Illegal ivory trade may currently constitute an important source of funding for armed groups,” the report says. “Also of concern is that poachers are using more and more sophisticated and powerful weapons, some of which, it is believed, might be originating from the fallout in Libya.”

“The spread of cross-border poaching in Central Africa and its links to sophisticated armed groups is alarming. We have seen the devastating impact of this crime in too many countries,” said WWF International Director General Jim Leape. “I echo Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s deep concern for the security of the region.”

Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa and on the Lord’s Resistance Army-affected areas was made available in advance of a dedicated Security Council session to be held at UN headquarters in New York this morning.

The report references a steep decline in Central African elephant populations over the past decade and observes that multiple mass slaughters of the animals have been reported in protected areas in recent months. Poachers seeking ivory are believed to be responsible for elephant massacres in Chad, Cameroon, Gabon and Central African Republic.

“The situation has become so serious,” Ban writes, that national military responses have become necessary “to hunt down poachers”. The Secretary-General urges Central African governments to respond to the major national and regional security concerns posed by poaching through “concerted and coordinated action.”

Leape said: “To ensure peace, security and prosperity in Central Africa, efforts must be taken at the highest level to combat wildlife trafficking. I urge the governments of Central Africa to strengthen enforcement and criminal justice responses to wildlife crime and to address the linkages between it and other international crimes.”

The WWF Director General tomorrow will join Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba and African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka to examine the threat of illicit wildlife trafficking to sustainable economic development in Africa. The discussion will take place as part of the African Development Bank’s annual meetings in Marrakech, Morocco and is expected to be attended by government and institutional officials from across the continent.

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 May 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [20 - 26 May 2013]
from Green Business Times

"You Been to Ubin?" book launch on 1 Jun (Sat)
from wild shores of singapore

Long stretch of Changi shore with lots of life
from wonderful creation

Chek Jawa Boardwalk with the Crabs in May
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Random Gallery - Peacock Royal
from Butterflies of Singapore

Maculate Ladybirds at Admiralty Park!
from Coccinellid Chronicles

A list of birds in my garden – how useful is it?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Oriental Honey-buzzard Mobbed
from Bird Ecology Study Group

The other kings of the sky - swallows & swifts
from Life's Indulgences

From USR Park to Ulu Sembawang Park Connector
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

VIPs visit on Day 8 of the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

2nd Marine Biodiversity Survey
from Minister Tan Chuan-Jin's facebook page

Javan Myna Behaviour
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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New marine species discovered in Singapore

Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 27 May 13;

SINGAPORE: More than 100 new records and discoveries of marine species have been found in Singapore.

Fourteen species have been identified as possibly new to science and 80 new records for Singapore have been found.

The survey is now at its halfway mark, with scientists and volunteers having collected some 30,000 marine specimens from surveying Singapore's mudflats, seabeds and reef habitats.

Ivan Kwan, one of the volunteers, said: "When I, like, for instance manage to find a funny looking crab, it's really the excitement of possibly being a part of the whole scientific process and really discovering what's in Singapore."

About 10 species that have not been seen in Singapore waters for a long time have also been rediscovered.

One of these, the "Feather Star", was last recorded in the 19th century.

Deputy CEO for NParks, Dr Leong Chee Chiew, said the survey will help conservation efforts.

"We are starting to appreciate and understand more clearly how rich the biodiversity in our waters are, and this is in spite of Singapore being so built up. It will help us to target some of our projects better," Dr Leong added.

Researchers are now in the midst of a three-week long expedition at Singapore's southern shore.

They will survey reef habitats and the seabed from the shallow subtidal to deeper waters in the Singapore Strait and the southern islands of Singapore.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin got a firsthand look.

He joined the team for a dive -- which is typically about five to 30 metres deep -- and despite the murky waters, 12 possible new records were found after just a week.

But there are some challenges involved.

Professor Peter Ng, director at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research Tropical Marine Science Institute explained: "When we're dredging in the deep, these are parts of the shipping lanes, so the safety measures have to go up many times.

"At the end of the day, our research vessels are dwarfed by all these giants out there, and we are one of the busiest ports in the world. So that adds several layers of challenges for us."

And the possibilities are endless as the survey continues.

- CNA/fa/al

Species possibly new to science found in seas here
Researchers on S'pore's first marine life census hope to discover more
Grace Chua Straits Times 28 May 13;

A THUMB-SIZE crab that has only six legs, another that shares a burrow with a worm and a sea anemone that looks as if it wears lipstick - these denizens of Singapore's seas could be completely new to science.

The discoveries are part of a five-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey started in 2010, led by the National Parks Board (NParks).
And researchers trawling Singapore for its first marine life census are hoping to find even more as the five-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey is just at its halfway mark.

This week, they plan to dredge Singapore's deepest waters, up to 200m deep.

So far, some 30,000 specimens have been collected in the survey by the National Parks Board (NParks) and National University of Singapore (NUS). Among them are at least 16 species possibly new to science.

"The nicer thing than finding new species is finding old friends," said Professor Peter Ng, director of NUS' Tropical Marine Science Institute.

For instance, a brightly patterned zebra crab not seen since the 1960s turned up last year at the islands south of Singapore.

Yesterday, Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin dropped in on St John's Island, where the survey's southern-islands expedition is currently under way till June 7.

Mr Tan, who is Acting Manpower Minister, also visited a reef off Pulau Tekukor, a former ammunition dump between Sentosa and St John's Island. He went scuba diving with survey staff to see sea fans and sponges.

The southern expedition is more challenging than the previous one to Singapore's northern seas and shores last October, said Prof Ng. The area surveyed this year, which spans from Jurong to Changi, is at least three times bigger than the northern region, and includes busy shipping lanes. Each day, teams venture out as early as 4am to reefs exposed during low tide, collecting octopuses, leatherjacket fish, sea stars, anemones and others.

Will Singapore ever have a gazetted marine reserve? That is a complex issue, Prof Ng said. "I would say we are on the road towards a reserve. It depends a lot on the sentiments of the people." While the survey, which began in December 2010, will identify biodiversity hot spots that merit protection, he added, "once you set a reserve... we cannot backtrack after that".

NParks' National Biodiversity Centre director Lena Chan noted there are other ways to protect biodiversity. For instance, some sea walls here are now designed to try to invite coral to grow.

The survey is running on more than $800,000 donated by companies like Shell, HSBC's Care-for-Nature Trust, Asia Pacific Breweries and Air Liquide, as well as public funding. But another $1.5 million will be needed.

Over 100 new marine species discovered in Singapore
Fabian Koh Straits Times 27 May 13;

Researchers have identified the "Lipstick" sea anemone in the mudflats of Pulau Ubin. Distinguishable by its distinctive red mouth, it is possibly a completely new species to be discovered in the world. Another species that may not have been recorded anywhere else in the world before, is the orange-clawed mangrove crab, found in coastal mangroves.

The two are part of 14 species identified as possibly new to science, in the five-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey (CMBS) conducted by NParks and the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute. Launched in 2010, it has collected some 30,000 specimens through surveys in mudflats, seabeds and reef habitats. Through this, 10 species have also been rediscovered, such as a species of large coastal catfish last seen in Singapore waters over 100 years ago.

Last Tuesday, a second marine biodiversity expedition began. The three-week expedition aims to carry out a biodiversity survey of marine life in the "Singapore Deeps" - waters exceeding 80 to 100 metres in depth - a habitat that is mostly unexplored. Local scientists will be aided by 25 internationally renowned scientists from 10 countries.

Mr Leong Chee Chiew, deputy chief executive of NParks said: "The survey reminds us of the significant progress we have made in conserving our natural heritage. It is very important that we continue working with the community to nurture healthy ecosystems and promote the appreciation of our rich biodiversity to future generations of Singaporeans."

More marine species discovered in second phase of expedition
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 28 May 13;

SINGAPORE — A dozen species that could be new to science have been discovered in the second phase of a marine biodiversity expedition to take stock of the reef habitats and seabeds of the Singapore Strait and the southern islands.

The three-week-long expedition began a week ago, and is jointly conducted by the National Parks Board (NParks) and the National University of Singapore’s Tropical Marine Science Institute.

It will see about 100 local scientists and volunteers, including 25 international biodiversity experts, trawl shallow subtidal habitats of 5m to 100m, to deeper waters of up to 200m.

Said Professor Peter Ng, Director of the NUS Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Tropical Marine Science Institute: “It’s quite exciting because we are surveying places we have never gone to before. For example, we are dredging into the ‘Singapore Deeps’ just offshore (St John’s Island), and these are waters going down about 100m to 200m deep.”

Data on marine fauna are collected through scuba diving, coral brushing and hand-collecting species during low-tide. To reach deeper waters, specialised equipment such as dredges, epibenthic sleds and otter trawls are also utilised.

The species discovered that could be new to science include species of the Peanut Worm Crab, the Six-legged Crab and a type of crinoid known as the Feather star.

Conducting a biodiversity survey along the southern islands is not without challenges, said Prof Ng, noting that the sampling area is large and intersected by busy shipping lanes.

“When you’re diving in these kinds of waters, there are all sorts of guidelines to follow. Even when dredging ... our research vessels are dwarfed by all these giant (ships) as we are one of the biggest ports in the world, so that adds several layers of challenges for us. Foremost is safety. It’s a huge juggling act,” he said.

Senior Minister of State (National Development) Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday visited St John’s Island to view some of the specimens discovered, and took the opportunity to dive in the waters off the island.

The first expedition — held in October last year — surveyed the seabed, mangroves and muddy, sandy and rocky shores along the Johor Strait.

The expeditions are part of Singapore’s first Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey — a five-year initiative started in 2010 and led by NParks to take stock of Singapore’s marine ecosystems.

Currently at its halfway mark, about 30,000 specimens have been collected so far. Of these, 80 species were spotted for the first time locally.

Another 10 species such as the Digger Crab, Zebra Crab and Neptune’s Cup sponge — last seen more than 50 to 100 years ago — have been rediscovered, while 14 other species have been identified as possibly new to science.

NParks Deputy Chief Executive Officer Leong Chee Chiew the survey will aid in Singapore’s marine conservation efforts.

“We will be better able to identify what to do in various areas of our seas. Because we know more, our efforts can be much more targeted and more effective,” he said.

More than 100 new records and discoveries of marine species in Singapore. More possible discoveries from marine biodiversity expedition now underway at Southern Islands.
NParks media release 27 May 13;

Singapore, 27 May 2013 - Launched in 2010, the five-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey (CMBS) has collected some 30,000 specimens through surveys conducted in mudflats, seabeds and reef habitats. Of these, 14 species have been identified as possibly new to science, more than 80 new records for Singapore have been found and about 10 species have been rediscovered.

Dr Leong Chee Chiew, Deputy CEO of NParks and Commissioner of Parks & Recreation said, "Singapore commemorates 50 Years of Greening this year, and the survey reminds us of the significant progress we have made in conserving our natural heritage. It is very important that we continue working with the community to nurture healthy ecosystems and promote the appreciation of our rich biodiversity to future generations of Singaporeans."

Rare discoveries from the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey

One of 14 species identified as possibly new to science is the "Lipstick" sea anemone. Found in the mudflats at Pulau Ubin, this predatory animal has a distinctive red mouth and may not have been recorded anywhere else in the world. Another species identified as possibly new to science is the orange-clawed mangrove crab found in coastal mangroves and a small goby, nicknamed "Zee" found in mudflats off Lim Chu Kang.

New records for Singapore include species of jellyfish, stinging nettles, bristleworms, marine slugs, crabs, sea cucumbers, and fishes. Some crabs were also rediscovered during the survey. The zebra crab, found in the Southern islands, was last seen in the early 1960s. A rarely seen tree-climbing Nipah crab was predicted to be in Singapore 20 years ago but was not confirmed till 2012. Another interesting rediscovery is a species of large coastal catfish last seen in Singapore waters over 100 years ago. Please refer to Annex A for more details on the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey.

Prof Peter Ng, Director of NUS' Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Tropical Marine Science Institute, said, "Many small and interesting species have not been sampled or studied before, and what we now know is only a small proportion of what is actually there. The second marine expedition will survey, study and document the marine biodiversity of the Singapore Strait to help Singapore build up a strong baseline for future environmental studies. This will include, for the first time, surveying for marine life in the "Singapore Deeps" - waters exceeding 80-100 metres in depth - a habitat hitherto unsampled."

Singapore's second marine biodiversity expedition (21 May to 7 June 2013)

NParks and National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute have begun its second marine biodiversity expedition as part of CMBS. The first marine expedition, held in October last year, surveyed the Johor Straits.

The three-week expedition will carry out a biodiversity survey of reef habitats and the seabed from the shallow subtidal (5-100 m) to deeper waters (up to 200 m depth) in the Singapore Strait and the southern islands of Singapore.

Data on marine fauna are collected through scuba diving, coral brushing, hand-collecting during low tide, and using specialised equipment such as dredges, epibenthic sleds and otter trawls. Since the start of the expedition on 21 May, 12 diving, dredging and intertidal surveys have been carried out, including night coral reef surveys conducted at night. Twenty-two more surveys are planned until the end of the expedition on 7 June. Refer to Annex B for more details on the expedition programme.

Aiding our local scientists to collect and identify specimens is a group of 25 internationally renowned scientists from 10 countries. These scientists are experts in their own field of study, with interests ranging from crustaceans, molluscs, sea anemones, seagrasses and sponges.

Many of the scientists have seen the possibilities of new findings during their previous visits, and they are here again in anticipation of making further discoveries. Refer to Annex C for the list of local and international scientists. Apart from the scientists, the expedition also involves conservation officers, nature groups and volunteers from 18 to 60 years old. In particular, the expedition will involve 50 volunteers.

Annex A
About the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey
Singapore is one of the busiest ports in the world. Yet we have very rich marine biodiversity. Singapore’s waters harbour some 250 species of hard corals, or a third of the world’s hard coral species. Half the number of seagrass species in the Indo- Pacific region can be found within Singapore’s waters. More than 100 species of inter-tidal sponges have been recorded and many more are likely to be observed in the survey.

We have achieved this through delicately balancing development and biodiversity conservation, which is something that we will need to continue doing given our limited space and resources.

In order for Singapore to remain a sustainable coastal city as we continue to urbanise, we need to better integrate the management of our coastal and marine environments. The start to this is to know comprehensively and understand our marine biodiversity, what we have, where they are and how best to conserve them.

Singapore’s first Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey is a five-year national initiative to take stock of our marine ecosystems, species diversity and distribution of marine life. The survey, led by the National Parks Board, will bring together the larger community of experts from tertiary institutions, non-governmental organisations and individual enthusiasts.

The CMBS has received widespread support from both local and international communities. More than $800,000 has been raised so far through corporate sponsorships to the NUS and NParks’ Garden City Fund, a registered charity and IPC. Organisations which have contributed to the CMBS so far include Asia Pacific Breweries, Care-for-Nature Trust Fund, Shell Companies in Singapore and The Air Liquide Group. Refer to Annex D.

Some 350 local volunteers have also contributed in various aspects of the CMBS, including photography, outdoor field sampling and collection, specimen processing, database support as well as organising outreach programmes.

In the first phase (from Dec 2010), some 12,000 specimens were collected which included 60 surveys of intertidal mudflat habitats. These habitats included Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Lim Chu Kang and Mandai. Some of the organisms found included ribbon worms, flatworms, peanut worms, bristleworms, horseshoe crabs, painted porcelain crab (porcellanella picta) and even a species of moray eel. One new record for Singapore is the Leonnates cf. crinitus, a worm last discovered in Australia 20 years ago. Mudflat surveys were recently completed.

In the second phase (from May 2012), seabed surveys documented some 4,000 specimens belonging to more than 60 species using naturalist's dredges and trawls. A highlight of the survey was the rediscovery of the primitive fish Amphioxus, which has not been seen in Singapore since the 1950s.

The three-week first marine biodiversity expedition (15 – 29 October 2012) collected about 12,000 specimens from both subtidal and intertidal habitats including the seabed, mangroves, as well as from muddy, sandy and rocky shores. The expedition garnered five new possible species, 40 new records and two rediscoveries for Singapore to-date. The expedition involved 150 local scientists, conservation officers and volunteers from 15 to 60 years of age. A team of 20 renowned scientists from ten countries participated in the expedition together with local counterparts.

CMBS findings are updated on the website:

Links to other Annexes in the NParks media release
Annex B
Annex C
Annex D
Annex E

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125 fined for illegal fishing activities in 2012

Alvina Soh Channel NewsAsia 26 May 13;

SINGAPORE: 125 people were fined last year for illegal fishing activities, such as fishing outside designated areas or using live bait.

National water agency PUB said recreational fishing has become more popular over the years.

In response, it has set aside 10 reservoirs with designated fishing areas, where the public can fish safely without inconveniencing others.

But many have also chosen to fish at non-designated places.

91 people were fined last year for fishing at non-designated areas.

34 others were fined for using live bait.

PUB said fishing in non-designated areas or using live bait is an offence, because of safety and environmental health concerns.

PUB officers carry out daily surveillance of its reservoirs.

- CNA/xq

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Tall trees reduce noise and air pollution

Straits Times Forum 28 May 13;

BEFORE replacing tall trees with shorter ones, the National Parks Board (NParks) should note that tall trees act as a barrier against noise pollution, especially for HDB flats facing expressways ("Some tall trees being replaced"; May 19).

Also, tall trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the day. This is helpful as residents who live near expressways are subjected to air pollution.

Replacing tall trees with shorter ones will only make the existing noise and air pollution worse.

If it is indeed necessary to replace the tall trees, NParks should plant more clusters of shorter plants near the expressways, which help to reduce the noise and air pollution.

Trees such as the leyland cypress, which can grow up to 15m tall, and crape myrtle are good sound barriers and thrive well in hot and humid climates.

Francis Cheng

Clustered planting carried out at appropriate locations: NParks
Straits Times Forum 31 May 13;

WE THANK Mr Francis Cheng for his feedback ("Tall trees reduce noise and air pollution"; Forum Online, Tuesday).

We are heartened that members of the public recognise the many benefits of having trees in our built environment. As Singapore continues to urbanise, trees and greenery will play an increasing role in mitigating the effects of dense urban living.
Earn a world-class Master Business Degree in Singapore now!

We carry out periodic clustered planting at appropriate locations, such as along the Central Expressway and Pan-Island Expressway. This involves planting a mix of tall and small trees densely together, which helps provide a range of benefits for city dwellers, such as a sense of privacy and visual relief against heavy traffic.

Oh Cheow Sheng
Director (Streetscape)
National Parks Board

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The Many Faces of Illegal Logging in Kalimantan

Jakarta Globe 27 May 13;

A man running a business on a main road in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, was recently slapped with a fine after destroying a tree that he considered a nuisance to his business.

“He watered the tree with something that eventually killed it. We at the Sanitation, Park and Cemetery Office [DKPP] subsequently sued him. He was punished and had to pay us back the losses,” Sudirman Djajaleksana, head of public relations for the Balikpapan government, said on Sunday.

The city administration governs unlicensed logging under a 2010 regulation that imposes a punishment of up to three months in prison and a fine of up to Rp 15 million ($1,530) for cutting down or killing trees planted by the DKPP.

Sudirman said the man was not jailed, but “he paid Rp 5 million for the loss and planted a new tree. … We hope that will have enough of a deterrent effect.”

“The tree [he killed] is located pretty far from his business. The DKPP had placed it there for a reason,” Sudirman said.

The case is one of many that demonstrate how the existence of natural resources in Kalimantan is being undermined by human activities.

Illegal logging has long been an issue in Kalimantan, an island that hosts a vast area of forests and has a variety of wildlife, with some nearing extinction.

Last week, about two hectares of mangroves were found to have been cleared near the Graha Indah Kariangau housing compound in North Balikpapan, allegedly for the construction of housing.

Agus Bei, chair of the Graha Kariangau Mangrove Center, said he found six people cutting down trees in the area on Wednesday. An estimated 20,000 tree trunks were found cut within the area, despite being notionally protected by the city administration. “We caught six people using chainsaws. They admitted to working for a housing company. I immediately told them to stop,” Agus said.

A major illegal logging operation was discovered while Agus and other residents patrolled the area by boat.

Agus said one night he noticed some differences in a local area. “We noticed the eastern part of the river looked brighter than usual and the area was quieter than normal, when there are birds or other animals. We approached the location and found a large area of trees cut down,” he said.

The mangrove center is estimated to cover 12 hectares and is connected to the Somber River and Balikpapan Bay.

As well as being used for conservation, the plantation is also a tourism destination for local and foreign visitors.

In a separate case, a report by forest rangers last month revealed that two-fifths of the combined area of two nature reserves in East Kalimantan’s Paser district has been degraded as a result of the increased human presence.

Darmanto, the chief ranger with the Balikpapan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said the 53,800 hectare Teluk Adang and the 46,900 hectare Teluk Apar reserves, both home to ecologically important mangrove swamps, were slowly being taken over by people building villages, and fish and shrimp farms.

“They’ve even built schools and clinics inside the reserves, which is prohibited, and this has left up to 40 percent of the area badly degraded,” Darmanto said.

Kalimantan is home to massive swathes of forest, which are considered by many experts to be crucial to the battle against climate change. But efforts to protect the greenery has been hampered by enforcement difficulties.

While Indonesia has signed an agreement with Norway to protect significant stretches of forest in exchange for cash payments, halting the activities of illegal loggers, many of whom are richly rewarded given global demand for wood and paper products, has proven difficult.

Policies of decentralization have vested power with provincial and local administrations.

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Indonesia: Central Kalimantan Forests Prepare for Ecotourism

Ari Rikin Jakarta Globe 28 May 13;

The Central Kalimantan government is preparing the Tanjung Puting and Sabangau National Park as an ecotourism destination with support from sustainability group Rimbawan Bangun Lestari.

Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang said the province is home to a vast natural resources, specifically forests.

He added that 30 years ago, Central Kalimantan was among the most resourceful provinces in terms of its forestry industry. But government policies in the years that followed led to logging being conducted across its forests.

“Logging was conducted under government policies. In the process, reforestation efforts also occurred but failed to match the logging. Today, natural resources remain abundant. This, to us, is valuable,” he said during the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Central Kalimantan government and Rimbawan Bangun Lestari on Monday.

Agustin said that 82 percent of Central Kalimantan consists of forests, with a total area of 15.4 million hectares. He said he hoped that plans to develop the forests as a tourism destination would include conservation efforts.

“Activities that support the development phase of ecotourism were conducted prior to the signing of this agreement, including the protection of endemic flora and fauna, such as the orangutan,” he said.

Central Kalimantan’s forest area comprise 1.6 million hectares of nature sanctuary areas and nature preservation areas, and 11.1 million hectares of protected forest, limited production forest and convertible production forest.

David Makes, chairman of the Sustainable Management Group, a private-sector conservation organization, said forest resources, especially those outside the nature sanctuary and preservation areas, were prone to disruptions, both natural and man-made.

“Without careful and clever development and utilization, the result may end up damaging and thus threatening the existing natural sanctuary and preservation areas,” he said.

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Mangrove conservation pays off for Kenya's coastal communities

James Karuga Thomson Reuters Foundation 28 May 13;

DABASO, Kenya (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Kahindi Charo gathered 30 of his friends to replant mangroves in the 32 square km (12 square mile) Mida Creek area, people in his village of Dabaso in Kilifi County dismissed them as crazy idlers.

Charo recalls that back then, in 2000, the creek had suffered badly from unregulated harvesting that had left the area bare, with rotting stumps and patches of old mangrove trees.

Today, Mida Creek, about 60 km (38 miles) north of Mombasa, flourishes with dense mangrove plantations that provide a habitat for birds, fish and crabs. There is also a boardwalk leading to a 12-seat eco-restaurant perched beside the Indian Ocean.

“If there were no mangroves, we would be dead, since most of us are fishermen and fish lay their eggs and get their food from mangrove marshes,” Charo said, sitting at the restaurant.

The task of the Dabaso Creek Conservation Group (DCCG) was not an easy one. At first, the group planted mangrove seeds that had washed ashore, not realising that some were from different ecological zones and unsuited to the environment at Mida Creek. Fewer than half the trees first planted by the budding conservationists survived, Charo said.

Some discouraged members left, but others pushed on with the work. Nowadays the 26-member organisation is one of over 50 mangrove conservation community groups with a total of around 1,500 members, spread along Kenya’s 600 km (375 mile) coastline.


Over the last 10 years, conservationists in the region have planted an estimated 10 million mangroves, and the forests have in turn provided for the community. During the peak tourism season, which runs from August to March, the Dabaso Creek Conservation Group earns over 300,000 Kenyan shillings (around $3,600) from the eco-restaurant, birding excursions and selling crabs and fish to hotels in Dabaso.

As the project’s supervisor, Charo himself receives a salary and no longer relies on selling groundnuts to make a living.

Like Charo, 29-year-old Mwatime Hamadi, a nursery school teacher from Gazi, 50 km (31 miles) south of Mombasa, has seen her earnings rise through mangrove conservation.

Hamadi belongs to Gazi Women Mangrove, a group whose 36 members farm fish and crabs and keep bees for honey in the mangroves. There is also a boardwalk for visitors interested in touring the marshes, with a fee ranging from 50 shillings ($0.60) to 300 shillings (around $4) for international tourists. The women also run a curio shop targeted at tourists.

Some of the earnings from these projects fund classes for illiterate adults in the community.

Michael Njoroge, a researcher with Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) Gazi station, explained that the institute also trains communities on planting other trees as well as mangroves – such as the fast-growing casuarina tree, which matures in just three to five years. Researchers hope it could take pressure off mangrove forests.

“We now use casuarina for building and wood fuel,” said Hamadi. “If you cut mangrove it takes 25 years (for a new tree) to mature, and other trees can’t shield us from high tide like (mangrove).”

Last year, the research institute provided almost 3,000 casuarina seedlings for planting around Gazi, a village with some 1,000 residents. Local institutions like Gazi Primary School have provided land for communal woodlots where the trees are planted. Once mature, the trees will be sold to locals, for construction and other uses.

The casuarina woodlots should help reduce the pressure on mangroves from unlicensed harvesting, although some mangroves are still felled by people who are too poor to afford other sources of fuel, according to Njoroge.


A 2010 study by Coastal and Marine Resources Development Africa (COMRED Africa) reported that 70 percent of coastal Kenya’s wood requirement was met using mangroves, including 80 percent of the poles used for building houses. But since a presidential ban on mangrove harvesting was enacted in 2000, there has been an increase in mangrove planting and losses have slowed.

A study released last year by Landsat, Ocean Coast Management and KMFRI showed that from 2000 to 2010 mangrove depletion in Kenya totalled 1,340 hectares (3,310 acres), compared to 4,950 hectares (12,230 acres) lost in the eight years prior to that.

Currently there are 54,000 hectares (133,000 acres) of mangrove spread across 18 forest formations along the Kenya’s coastline, according to the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). In Gazi and Dabaso any mangroves cut must be licensed by the service, which consults with community forest associations that act as grassroots protectors of the mangroves. Communities also provide guards for the mangroves, paid for by the forest service.

Mangrove conservation is important in the fight against climate change, and not just because mangroves can slow storm surges, prevent erosion and lower disaster risk for coastal communities.

An Earth Watch study reported that 1 hectare of mangroves can sequester 1.36 tonnes of carbon in a year, equivalent to the annual emissions of six cars. Mangroves and other coastal vegetation like seagrasses and salt marsh grass, which are collectively known as blue carbon, can sequester carbon up to 100 times more effectively than terrestrial forests, one study shows.

Locals hope the carbon-absorbing properties of the trees will help produce more income for communities around Gazi Bay once a “payment for ecosystem services” scheme dubbed Mikoko Pamoja is assessed and certified by Plan Vivo, a charity working on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

According to project coordinator Noel Mbaru, the project covers about one-fifth of the 615-hectare Gazi Bay Mangrove Forest. The scheme is expected to sell carbon credits equivalent to 3,000 tonnes each year, earning the community about $15,000.

Mikoko Pamoja also oversees the casuarinas woodlots, and aims to replenish degraded land with 4,000 mangroves annually for the next 20 years.

“If mangroves are destroyed we won’t get any more money or educate our children, (so) we need to conserve them carefully,” said Hamadi, of Gazi Women Mangrove.

James Karuga is a Nairobi-based journalist interested in agriculture and climate change issues.

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 May 13

Starry Day 7 at the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Why do we need to kill the animals? and Day 6.5 of the Southern Expedition
from wild shores of singapore

white-bellied sea eagle escapes a murder of crows @ SBWR - May 2013
from sgbeachbum

Male Golden-backed Weaver building a nest
from Bird Ecology Study Group

White-shouldered Whiptail
from Monday Morgue

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Indonesia: 'The Sumatran rainforest will mostly disappear within 20 years'

In only a few years, logging and agribusiness have cut Indonesia's vast rainforest by half. The government has renewed a moratorium on deforestation but it may already be too late for the endangered animals –and for the people whose lives lie in ruin
John Vidal The Observer The Guardian 26 May 13

Our small plane had been flying low over Sumatra for three hours but all we had seen was an industrial landscape of palm and acacia trees stretching 30 miles in every direction. A haze of blue smoke from newly cleared land drifted eastward over giant plantations. Long drainage canals dug through equatorial swamps dissected the land. The only sign of life was excavators loading trees onto barges to take to pulp mills.

The end is in sight for the great forests of Sumatra and Borneo and the animals and people who depend on them. Thirty years ago the world's third- and sixth-largest islands were full of tigers, elephants, rhinos, orangutan and exotic birds and plants but in a frenzy of development they have been trashed in a single generation by global agribusiness and pulp and paper industries.

Their plantations supply Britain and the world with toilet paper, biofuels and vegetable oil to make everyday foods such as margarine, cream cheese and chocolate, but distraught scientists and environmental groups this week warn that one of the 21st century's greatest ecological disasters is rapidly unfolding.

Official figures show more than half of Indonesia's rainforest, the third-largest swath in the world, has been felled in a few years and permission has been granted to convert up to 70% of what remains into palm or acacia plantations. The government last week renewed a moratorium on the felling of rainforest, but nearly a million hectares are still being cut each year and the last pristine areas, in provinces such as Ache and Papua, are now prime targets for giant logging, palm and mining companies.

The toll on wildlife across an area nearly the size of Europe is vast, say scientists who warn that many of Indonesia's species could be extinct in the wild within 20-30 years. Orangutan numbers are in precipitous decline, only 250-400 tigers remain and fewer than 100 rhino are left in the forests, said the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Millions of hectares are nominally protected, but the forest is fragmented, national parks are surrounded by plantations, illegal loggers work with impunity and corruption is rife in government. "This is the fastest, most comprehensive transformation of an entire landscape that has ever taken place anywhere in the world including the Amazon. If it continues at this rate all that will be left in 20 years is a few fragmented areas of natural forest surrounded by huge manmade plantations. There will be increased floods, fires and droughts but no animals," said Yuyun Indradi, political forest campaigner with Greenpeace southeast Asia in Jakarta.

Last night the WWF's chief Asian tiger expert pleaded with the Indonesian government and the world to stop the growth of palm oil plantations. "Forest conversion is massive. We urgently need stronger commitment from the government and massive support from the people. We cannot tolerate any further conversion of natural forests," said Sunarto Sunarto in Jakarta.

Indonesia's deforestation has been accompanied by rising violence, say watchdog groups. Last year, more than 600 major land conflicts were recorded in the palm plantations. Many turned violent as communities that had lost their traditional forest fought multinational companies and security forces. More than 5,000 human rights abuses were recorded, with 22 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

"The legacy of deforestation has been conflict, increased poverty, migration to the cities and the erosion of habitat for animals. As the forests come down, social conflicts are exploding everywhere," said Abetnego Tarigan, director of Walhi, Indonesia's largest environment group.

Scientists fear that the end of the forest could come quickly. Conflict-wracked Aceh, which bore the brunt of the tsunami in 2004, will lose more than half its trees if a new government plan to change the land use is pushed through. A single Canadian mining company is seeking to exploit 1.77m hectares for mining, logging and palm plantations.

Large areas of central Sumatra and Kalimantan are being felled as coal, copper and gold mining companies move in. Millions of hectares of forest in west Papua are expected to be converted to palm plantations.

"Papuans, some of the poorest citizens in Indonesia, are being utterly exploited in legally questionable oil palm land deals that provide huge financial opportunities for international investors at the expense of the people and forests of West Papua," said Jago Wadley, a forest campaigner with the Environment Investigation Agency.

Despite a commitment last week from the government to extend a moratorium on deforestation for two years, Indonesia is still cutting down its forests faster than any other country. Loopholes in the law mean the moratorium only covers new licences and primary forests, and excludes key peatland areas and existing concessions which are tiger and elephant habitats. "No one seems able to stop the destruction," said Greenpeace International's forest spokesman, Phil Aikman.

The conflicts often arise when companies are granted dubious logging or plantation permissions that overlap with community-managed traditional forests and protected areas such as national parks.

Nine villages have been in conflict with the giant paper company April, which has permission to convert, with others, 450,000 hectares of deep peat forests on the Kampar Peninsula in central Sumatra. Because the area contains as much as 1.5bn tonnes of carbon, it has global importance in the fight against climate change.

"We would die for this [forest] if necessary. This is a matter of life and death. The forest is our life. We depend on it when we want to build our houses or boats. We protect it. The permits were handed out illegally, but now we have no option but to work for the companies or hire ourselves out for pitiful wages," said one village leader from Teluk Meranti who feared to give his name.

They accuse corrupt local officials of illegally grabbing their land. April, which strongly denies involvement in corruption, last week announced plans to work with London-based Flora and Fauna international to restore 20,000 hectares of degraded forest land.

Fifty miles away, near the town of Rengit, villagers watched in horror last year when their community forest was burned down – they suspect by people in the pay of a large palm oil company. "Life is terrible now. We are ruined. We used to get resin, wood, timber, fuel from the forest. Now we have no option but to work for the palm oil company. The company beat us. The fire was deliberate. This forest was everything for us. We used it as our supermarket, building store, chemist shop and fuel supplier for generations of people. Now we must put plastic on our roofs," said one man from the village of Bayesjaya who also asked not to be named.

Mursyi Ali from the village of Kuala Cenaku in the province of Riau, has spent 10 years fighting oil plantation companies which were awarded a giant concession. "Maybe 35,000 people have been impacted by their plantations. Everyone is very upset. People have died in protests. I have not accepted defeat yet. These conflicts are going on everywhere. Before the companies came we had a lot of natural resources, like honey, rattan, fish, shrimps and wood," he said.

"We had all we wanted. That all went when the companies came. Everything that we depended on went. Deforestaion has led to pollution and health problems. We are all poorer now. I blame the companies and the government, but most of all the government," he continued. He pleaded with the company: "Please resolve this problem and give us back the 4,100 hectares of land. We would die for this if necessary. This is a life or death," he says.

Greenpeace and other groups accuse the giant pulp and palm companies of trashing tens of thousands of hectares of rainforest a year but the companies respond that they are the forest defenders and without them the ecological devastation would be worse. "There has been a rampant escalation of the denuding of the landscape but it is mostly by migrant labour and palm oil growers. Poverty and illegal logging along with migrant labour have caused the deforestation," said April's spokesman, David Goodwin.

"What April does is not deforestation. In establishing acacia plantations in already-disturbed forest areas, it is contributing strongly to reforestation. Last year April planted more than 100 million trees. Deforestation happens because of highly organised illegal logging, slash-and-burn practices by migrant labour, unregulated timber operations. There has been a explosion of palm oil concessions."

The company would not reveal how much rainforest it and its suppliers fell each year but internal papers seen by the Observer show that it planned to deforest 60,000 hectares of rainforest in 2012 but postponed this pending the moratorium. It admits that it has a concession of 20,000 hectares of forest that it has permission to fell and that it takes up to one third of its timber from "mixed tropical hardwood" for its giant pulp and paper mill near Penabaru in Riau.

There are some signs of hope. The heat is now on other large palm oil and paper companies after Asia Pacific Resources International (APP), one of the world's largest pulp and paper companies, was persuaded this year by international and local Indonesian groups to end all rainforest deforestation and to rely solely on its plantations for its wood.

The company, which admits to having felled hundreds of thousands of acres of Sumatran forest in the last 20 years, had been embarrassed and financially hurt when other global firms including Adidas, Kraft, Mattel, Hasbro, Nestlé, Carrefour, Staples and Unilever dropped products made by APP that had been made with rainforest timber.

"We thought that if we adopted national laws to protect the forest that this would be enough. But it clearly was not. We realised something was not right and that we needed a much higher standard. So now we will stop the deforestation, whatever the cost. We are now convinced that the long term benefits will be greater," said Aida Greenbury, APP's sustainability director. "Yes. We got it wrong. We could not have done worse."

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