Best of our wild blogs: 31 Jul 13

The Roly Poly Pill Millipede
from Macro Photography in Singapore

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Indonesia: Javan Hawk-Eagle Park Population Declines

Jakarta Globe 31 Jul 13;

The population of the Javan hawk-eagle at a major East Java park has fallen to an alarming level, park management says.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park (TNBTS) said the number of Nisaetus bartelsi birds, one of 14 endangered species in Indonesia, had fallen to just five in two resorts in the area, as their habitat in the forest continues to shrink.

“Our last observation was made around September last year. Two were seen at the Coban Trisula and four at Jabung Resort,” Elham Purnomo, coordinator of TNBTS’s Javan hawk-eagle monitoring team, said in Malang on Tuesday.

“It is certain they were the Javan hawk-eagle because they were perching and their specific characteristics could be seen clearly.”

The hawks had a gold brownish crest and fur covering their body to the ankles.

“The Javan hawk-eagles exist only in Java because the habitat and climate suits them. Supply of their natural food is also sufficient here. The food includes small birds, squirrels, mongoose, bats and forest roosters,” he said.

The population has dropped sharply as humans take over its habitat.

A 2011 national government decree on forest protection and nature conservation listed the bird as one of 14 endangered species in Indonesia.

Other endangered species, such as the Sumatran tiger, have suffered massive depopulation as a result of human encroachment on their habitat.

“We will make another observation to find out the population of the Javan hawk on Aug. 4. The method we’ll use [to observe the hawk’s population] is through direct encounter by using binoculars and other devices,” Elham said.

Aside from perching, the birds were also seen soaring, gliding and singing.

The TNBTS park is home to Mount Bromo, a spectacular volcano popular with tourists visiting East Java that last erupted in early 2011. Dyah Ayu Pitaloka

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Malaysia: NGOs talk to palm oil players

Kristy Inus New Straits Times 31 Jul 13;

SUSTAINABLE POLICY: New body aims to influence land use policy and shape debates

KOTA KINABALU: SEVERAL non-governmental organisations here have joined hands to form a coalition to provide an avenue for dialogues with palm oil industry stakeholders.

The group, named Malaysian Palm Oil NGO Coalition (MPONGOC), aims to influence land use policy, decision-making and towards advocating consumer responsibility.

The current members of the coalition are Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (JOAS), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Sabah branch, Partners of Community Organisations (Pacos) Trust and WWF Malaysia.

The Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) would be acting as an observer, the coalition in a statement said yesterday.

The group said they were driven by the unproductive debate over demand for palm oil and its impact on indigenous people's rights, wildlife habitats and environmental pollution.

"We want to have a say in the palm oil debate. MPONGOC wants to engage in constructive and on-going dialogue with the industry via the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA), Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), and with other stakeholders as part of its advocacy work," it said.

LEAP executive director Cynthia Ong said there was a growing need for local and regional groups to step up, organise and engage constructively with the palm oil industry, noting its emphasis on national and state development plans such as the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and Sabah Development Corridor.

"We also wish to state that MPONGOC is in full support of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) process and we are committed to engaging and contributing to its success," Ong said.

BORA executive director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne said the coalition would not create a whole new process, but rather assist the palm oil sector in playing a more positive role in the environment.

WWF-Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said while recognising that the oil palm industry generates valuable foreign exchange earnings and employment opportunities for producing countries like Malaysia, WWF-Malaysia was concerned at the prospect of the industry continuing to expand and operate in an unsustainable manner.

MPONGOC plans to organise a workshop to gather indigenous leaders to discuss land issues in relation to the palm oil industry.

PACOS Trust executive director Anne Lasimbang said indigenous people often found themselves at the losing end in oil palm development.

"Many have lost native customary rights land to large estates. This is a serious issue and one that is largely swept under the carpet.

"We see MPONGOC as being able to offer solutions by involving all stakeholders."

BCT head of conservation and research Raymond Alfred hoped the coalition would be able to initiate transparent consultation with oil palm companies that were found to have encroached into riparian reserves and come up with win-win solutions.

"MPONGOC could also support effective consultation with the government in order to review existing policies and, if necessary, to enhance implementation of relevant monitoring and enforcement programmes to secure biodiversity, the wildlife corridor and habitat protection."

MPONGOC Wants To Have A Say In Palm Oil Debate
Bernama 30 Jul 13;

KOTA KINABALU, July 30 (Bernama) -- Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs), unhappy over unproductive debate over demand for palm oil and its impact on indigenous peoples' rights, crucial wildlife habitats and environmental pollution, have teamed up to form a coalition.

The Malaysian Palm Oil NGO Coalition (MPONGOC) wants to engage in constructive and on-going dialogues with the industry via the Malaysian Palm Oil Association, Malaysian Palm Oil Board and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council and with other stakeholders as part of its advocacy work.

In a statement today, MPONGOC said it aimed to influence land use policy and decision-making, and was also working towards advocating consumer responsibility.

The other objectives were: strengthening implementation of best environmental management practices, supporting community-based organisations largely made up of indigenous people to engage with the industry on their own terms, and creating awareness on human-wildlife conflict.

The current members are Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (JOAS), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Malaysian Nature Society, Sabah branch, Partners of Community Organisations (PACOS) Trust and WWF Malaysia.

The Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) is acting as an observer.

LEAP Executive Director, Cynthia Ong, said MPONGOC was born out of a growing need for local and regional groups to step up, organise and engage constructively with the palm oil industry.

BORA Executive Director, Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne, said the coalition was not out to create a whole new process, but rather, help the palm oil sector play a more positive role in the natural and human environment.

PACOS Trust Executive Director, Anne Lasimbang, said indigenous people often found themselves at the losing end in oil palm development.

"Many have lost native customary rights land to large estates. This is a serious issue and one that is largely swept under the carpet. We see MPONGOC as being able to offer solutions by involving all stakeholders," she said.

BCT Head of Conservation and Research, Raymond Alfred, said it was hoped that the coalition will be able to initiate transparent consultation with oil palm companies that were found to have encroached into riparian reserves and come up with win-win solutions.

The coalition is also collaborating with international NGO counterparts, which could lead to better understanding of oil palm issues in the region and its importance to the Malaysian economy.


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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jul 13

20% of monkey population exterminated in half a year, is this the way to go? from thelongtails

Sunday 4 Aug: Hill 4
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat Workshop, 31 Aug 2013
from Habitatnews

Hantu on the Rebound?
from Pulau Hantu

Kranji, less trashy?
from wild shores of singapore and More Beccari hunting from Kranji

Moulting - A Natural Wonder
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Butterflies Galore! : Sumatran Sunbeam
from Butterflies of Singapore

Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker preening and territorial call
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Rare sea turtle spotted on beach at East Coast Park

Grace Chua Straits Times 30 Jul 13;

The turtle - believed to be a hawksbill - was spotted near East Coast Lagoon Food Centre on July 21. It heaved itself back into the sea about an hour later, without laying any eggs. Hawksbills and green turtles are the two species most commonly sighted here, and both are critically endangered. -- PHOTO: DAVID TAN

WHEN biology undergraduate David Tan got a call telling him that a sea turtle had been spotted at East Coast Park, he found himself wrestling with two conflicting impulses.

While he wanted a rare glimpse of the endangered creature laying its eggs, he was also wary of disturbing it.

"Excitement got the better of me," said the 24-year-old. After hearing of the sighting from a friend earlier this month, he headed straight to the spot, near East Coast Lagoon Food Centre.

When he arrived after midnight, the keen naturalist saw the creature being watched from a safe distance by several other people, most of whom were National Parks Board (NParks) staff.

The turtle - believed to be a hawksbill - heaved itself back into the sea about an hour later, without laying any eggs. But Mr Tan managed to take a photograph, without using a camera flash to avoid disturbing it. He said it had chosen a "weird spot" to nest, adding: "The sand is compacted and it's quite grassy."

NParks National Biodiversity Centre director Lena Chan said it had been notified of the nesting sea turtle at 11.25pm on July 21. It was the first reported sighting at the beach this year.

Sea turtles sometimes abandon their attempts to lay eggs if the ground is not suitable or if they are disturbed, said Dr Diong Cheong Hoong, 66. The creatures are generally spotted nesting in Singapore once or twice a year, added the retired National Institute of Education biologist.

Marine turtles have long flippers and are adapted to life at sea, returning to shore only to lay eggs. There are several species, with hawksbills and green turtles the two most commonly sighted here. Only the hawksbill has been recorded laying eggs on Singapore shores, perhaps because green turtles are more picky about nesting sites or more sensitive to light.

Both species are critically endangered. They have been losing their habitat to humans, who also harvest their eggs and meat.

Dr Diong said isolated areas such as Semakau should be set aside for hawksbills to nest.

"With fewer natural beaches, and beaches gradually being settled, it's dismal for turtles around the world," he added.

Members of the public who spot a turtle nesting should move away to avoid distracting it and call the police. Officers will then cordon off the area to protect the nest from poachers and animals.

Those who spot turtles or their eggs on Singapore beaches can also call the 24-hour NParks helpline on 1800-471-7300.

Related links
More about sea turtles in Singapore and other sea turtle sightings in our waters on wildsingapore.
David Tan also shared about his encounter on facebook.

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Recycling incentive schemes yet to gain widespread support

Grace Chua Straits Times 29 Jul 13;

EVEN as the Government considers a pay-as-you-throw system, the use of financial incentives to get Singaporeans to cut waste and recycle more has been a mixed bag so far.

Nearly four months after the start of the Save-As-You-Reduce pilot scheme in Punggol, some Housing Board blocks there have not reduced waste significantly, with some even throwing out more than they did last year.

This was despite the scheme letting households pay cheaper waste collection fees if they throw less.

At Pasir Ris, a different points-for-recyclables initiative also has few takers.

A straw poll of 10 households near Pasir Ris Park found that eight of them had not heard of the scheme, which began in 2011. Through the programme, landed households and HDB residents' committees get points - redeemable for vouchers - for every kilogram of waste recycled.

Retired accountant Simon Teo, 65, who lives in Pasir Ris, said he recycles on his own. "We are not taking part in the scheme as there has been no information on how to redeem points so far."

At Jurong East, however, a weekend Cash For Trash programme by waste collector Colex has no shortage of customers, it seems.

A single station at Yuhua Market gets between 2,000kg and 4,000kg of recyclables every week. In just half an hour yesterday, 25 people were seen stopping by with bags and piles of newspapers and plastic for recycling.

While money can be an effective incentive, Singapore Environment Council executive director Jose Raymond believes it may not be sustainable in the long run.

Instead, "the rate of household recycling can increase tremendously if we made it simple for residents to recycle", for example, by putting a recycling chute in every block.

That seemed to be the case at HDB's Treelodge estate in Punggol. The households at what HDB calls its first "eco-precinct" have thrown less than their neighbours at other Punggol flats - 40.4kg to 49.9kg per household each month, compared with 50.7kg to 77.2kg.

According to the Ministry of National Development, three times more recyclables are collected from Treelodge than from similar estates without recycling chutes.

Singapore has set itself a target of recycling 70 per cent of waste by 2030, up from 60 per cent last year.

But it does not make full use of new space- and labour-efficient technologies, and lacks household participation in recycling, industry players at a waste management symposium said earlier this year.

Members of the public have also written in to The Straits Times Forum page pointing out a lack of recycling culture here.

National Environment Agency waste and resource management director Ong Soo San said in response that the agency is "also exploring other waste minimisation and recycling options, including deposit refund schemes", but would have to weigh the costs and benefits.

At an industry fair in March, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu hinted at Singapore potentially charging households for waste disposal based on the amount they throw out.

"Many countries, including the United States and Japan, charge households according to the weight of waste disposed," she had said.

"To encourage households here to reduce their waste and recycle more, we are currently exploring the feasibility of moving towards a usage-based pricing waste disposal system that will allow households to directly reap the benefits of reducing waste."

Since 2011, public waste collectors have also had to provide households incentives to recycle under new public waste collection contracts.

But the key, said Mr Raymond, is education.

He pointed out that many households in European countries recycle despite a lack of incentives.

"Why can't people change their habits when it comes to recycling, just because it is the right thing to do?" he said.

Background story

Going green, with incentives

Grin (Grow Your Recycling Incentives Now)

The scheme is run by environmental services firm Veolia in Housing Board blocks and landed homes in the Pasir Ris-Tampines sector.

Recycling bins are tagged with chips, allowing collectors to track the amount each block or household recycles. For every kilogram of recyclables collected - a minimum 3kg is needed - a household or block gets one point. Points can be redeemed for gifts and vouchers from participating merchants like Nanyang Optical and Pet Lovers Centre. For HDB blocks, the respective residents' committees will distribute the vouchers.

Cash For Trash

This is run by various public waste collectors such as Colex.

Residents take recyclables like cans and newspapers to designated collection points.

In some cases, they get a small amount of cash. For instance, Colex pays between

five and 50 cents per kilogram, depending on the waste.

In other programmes, each kilogram of waste collected helps sponsor food items or energy-saving lightbulbs for needy families in the district.


This initiative by the National Environment Agency and SembWaste is being tested out in selected residences in Punggol and Bartley.

Households get rebates on their waste collection fees of 7.6 cents per kilogram when they throw out less than a baseline figure - which was calculated after averaging out the amount of waste thrown between last October and March. Rebates are given every six months. For instance, each household in Block 306B Punggol Place threw out 41.6kg of trash last month, less than the baseline average of 45.8 kg, so they will get a 32-cent rebate for the month.


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More litterbugs nabbed after NEA increases anti-littering patrols

Ng Lian Cheong Channel NewsAsia 29 Jul 13;

SINGAPORE: Sixty per cent more litterbugs were caught in June compared to May, after the National Environment Agency (NEA) stepped up its anti-littering patrols.

It is an offence to flick cigarette ash onto the floor.

NEA told Channel NewsAsia that its 60 enforcement volunteers have the same enforcement rights as its officers, and they can ask litterbugs to clean up after themselves.

If they refuse, these enforcement volunteers then have the right to take down the offenders' personal particulars on behalf of NEA for further action to be taken against them.

Littering is an offence that carries a fine of up to $500.

NEA said it intensified anti-littering patrols from 24,000 patrol hours in May to 35,000 hours in June.

And the litterbugs it caught went up from 304 in May to 479 in June.

Channel NewsAsia understands that 50 other members of the public have expressed interest to be enforcement volunteers, and they will receive a two-and-half-day training over the next few weeks.

- CNA/de

More volunteers to squash litterbugs
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 31 Jul 13;

SINGAPORE — The number of trained volunteers empowered to book litterbugs will soon be almost doubled, with about 50 more volunteers having indicated their interest in being part of the scheme, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) as it issued authority cards to the first batch of 60 trained volunteers from various non-government organisations (NGOs) this month.

This comes as 479 litterbugs were nabbed this month by NEA enforcement officers, a 58 per cent increase compared to the 304 apprehended in May — a result of stepped-up enforcement hours from 24,000 man-hours to 35,000 hours per month since last month, according to the NEA.

The authorities have been stressing the importance of having more ground-up initiatives to keep Singapore clean, with Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan first mooting the idea of empowering members of the public to help nab litterbugs last year.

As of mid-last month, the NEA had trained the 60 volunteers from five NGOs, namely; the Public Hygiene Council, Waterways Watch Society, Singapore Kindness Movement, Singapore Environmental Council and the Cat Welfare Society.

Said an NEA spokesperson: “These volunteers are in the process of being issued their authority cards via their NGOs, beginning from July 18.”

Under this community volunteer scheme, volunteers are trained in appropriate ways of approaching offenders to pick up their litter. If they encounter any uncooperative offenders, the volunteers have the authority to record down their particulars and hand the details over to the NEA, which will then investigate the cases before prosecuting the offenders.

Training is conducted over two half-day sessions in which the participants are familiarised with the legislation under which they are empowered, while going through role-playing sessions with NEA officers on typical scenarios they may be faced with on the ground. For exposure, the volunteers also accompany NEA officers on their enforcement rounds.

Added the spokesperson: “As this is a new scheme, we will review if there is a need for a refresher training for these volunteers, depending on their needs and feedback.”

The Singapore Kindness Movement is one of the NGOs which have distributed the authority cards to their 10 volunteers.

Its Secretary-General William Wan said: “The fact that we are authorised under the law gives (our volunteers) some sense of security, to be able to handle anyone who asks, why are you doing this?”

Ultimately, volunteers must also carry the right mindset when they approach members of the public, said freelance interior designer Andy Wong, who has been volunteering with the Cat Welfare Society since 2009 and was nominated to undergo the NEA training. “It is inevitable that some people might react negatively, but we have to reassure them that what we are doing is purely educational,” he said.

Added Dr Wan: “The end game is not about us becoming pseudo police officers. The point is, we are trying to get more people to take more ownership of the environment, so that when they see ordinary people asking others not to litter, when we start these conversations, eventually, we can create a culture that is opposite of being indifferent.”

The volunteers also said they have not needed to book any litterbugs so far, adding that most people will usually oblige and pick up their litter when asked to do so politely.

More keen on becoming volunteer litterbug-catchers
50 new volunteers express interest in joining NEA programme, joining current group of 60
Today Online 29 Jul 13

SINGAPORE — With 60 community volunteers from various non-governmental organisations empowered to catch litterbugs, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that another 50 persons have expressed interest in the scheme and will be undergoing training in the upcoming weeks.

Since mid-June, the 60 volunteers from NGOs such as the Public Hygiene Council, Waterways Watch Singapore, and Singapore Environment Council have been trained to follow a set of appropriate protocols to follow when they encounter litterbugs.

If they encounter any uncooperative offenders, the volunteers will record their particulars and hand the details over to the NEA.

These volunteers are in the process of being issued their authority cards via their NGOs, with the first batch receiving their accreditation cards on July 18.

In addition, the authorities have also stepped up enforcement hours from 24,000 man-hours to 35,000 hours per month since May. This has resulted in 478 litterbugs caught in June, a 58 per cent increase compared to the 304 apprehended in May.

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Indonesia, India named as biggest shark catchers

(AFP) Google News 30 Jul 13;

PARIS — Indonesia and India on Tuesday were named as the world's biggest catchers of sharks in an EU-backed probe into implementing a new pact to protect seven threatened species of sharks and rays.

Indonesia and India account for more than a fifth of global shark catches, according to the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

They head the list of 20 countries that together account for nearly 80 percent of total shark catch reported between 2002 and 2011.

The others, in descending order, are Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, the United States, Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil, Japan, France, New Zealand, Thailand, Portugal, Nigeria, Iran, Sri Lanka, South Korea and Yemen.

The report was requested by the EU's executive European Commission following the listing of seven species of sharks and rays by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok last March.

The regulations will take effect in September 2014 to give countries time to determine what is a sustainable level of trade in these sharks and how their industries can adapt to it.

Shark numbers have been decimated by overfishing, caused in great part by a demand for shark fins in China.

The absence of this apex predator has a big knock-on effect on the main biodiversity chain. Some scientists believe that one of the consequences has been an explosion in jellyfish numbers.

TRAFFIC -- an alliance between green group WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) -- said it had identified other countries that were major hubs for the trade in shark meat or shark parts.

They include Bangladesh, Maldives, Oman, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates as exporters of shark fins, and Namibia, South Africa, Panama and Uruguay as exporters of shark meat.

The report also gave a red-flag warning about the need to unravel a trade as complex as it is lucrative.

Some of the species are specifically targeted by fishing operations, but others end up as accidental, but valuable, catch when trawlers are looking for tuna.

"Key to implementing the CITES regulations will be the establishment of chain-of-custody measures, to facilitate enforcement and verification that harvest is legal," said Victoria Mundy-Taylor, who co-wrote the report.

The CITES controls will cover the ocean whitetip shark, porbeagle shark, three species of hammerhead shark and two species of manta rays, which are all classified as endangered on the IUCN's Red List.

These species are all slow-growing, late to mature and produce few young, which make them highly vulnerable to overfishing. The decision in Bangkok moved them to Appendix II of CITES, which covers species that are threatened by trade or may become so without strict controls.

New study gets its teeth into shark trade regulations
WWF 30 Jul 13;

A new TRAFFIC study examines how tighter trade controls can ensure that seven species of sharks and manta rays are only sourced sustainably and legally before entering international trade.

The study, Into the deep: Implementing CITES measures for commercially-valuable sharks and manta rays, was commissioned by the European Commission and written in the wake of these marine animals being listed in by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March this year.

The oceanic whitetip shark, porbeagle shark, three species of hammerhead shark and two manta rays, all of them subject to continued overfishing, were included in Appendix II which will regulate trade.

“There was great elation when these sharks and manta rays were listed by CITES, but although it was a significant moment for the conservation world, now comes the task of making these listings work in practice as time is running out for some of these species,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Marine Programme Leader.

“CITES listings do not take away the need for comprehensive fisheries management, they represent one critical part of that management through aiming to control trade and prevent international trade in products of these species being sourced from unsustainable or illegal fisheries.”

The new study aimed to identify which of the 178 countries signed up to CITES will be affected by the listings; the relevant existing international, regional and domestic regulations; the main challenges facing implementation of the measures; and any additional capacity building needs to ensure those countries catching and trading in these species can validate their sustainability and legality before issuing permits.

The study revealed a lack of basic information on the levels of catch and population status of the newly listed species, with an urgent need to improve the identification of species in trade, reporting of their trade and for further research, assessment and monitoring to determine the impacts of trade on populations. It highlighted the need to ensure domestic regulatory frameworks and administrative structures are adequate to support the implementation of CITES trade controls.

The study also examined the very different dynamics influencing the trade in the species concerned. Manta rays are chiefly traded for gill rakers, used in traditional Asian medicines. Of the sharks porbeagle is mainly caught for meat, hammerheads for local consumption of meat and international trade of fins and the larger oceanic whitetip is highly valued for fins, destined for markets in Asia, particularly Hong Kong.

Some of the species examined are specifically targeted by fishing operations, while others are a secondary, but valuable, catch when targeting other species such as tuna. Given the different markets involved in the trade and uses involved, this creates highly complex trade chains which the new study attempts to unravel.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a strategic alliance of IUCN and WWF.

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Climate study predicts a watery future for New York, Boston and Miami

A significant number of people in 1,700 American cities are at greater risk of living below sea level than previously thought
Suzanne Goldenberg 30 Jul 13;

US sea levels rising : Florida Coast Line At Greatest Risk Of Rising Sea Level
For nearly 80 US cities, the watery future would come much sooner, within the next decade. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 1,700 American cities and towns – including Boston, New York, and Miami – are at greater risk from rising sea levels than previously feared, a new study has found.

The future of these 1,700 locations is "locked in" by greenhouse gas emissions already built up in the atmosphere, the analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday found.

The survey does not specify a date by which these cities would actually fall under water. Instead, it specifies a "locked-in" date, by which time a future under water would be certain. In other words, a point of no return.

Because of the inertia built into the climate system, even if all carbon emissions stopped immediately, it would take some time for the global temperature rises to ease off. That means the fate of some cities is already sealed, the study says.

"Even if we could just stop global emissions tomorrow on a dime, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens, Hoboken, New Jersey will be under sea level," said Benjamin Strauss, a researcher at Climate Central, and author of the paper. Dramatic cuts in emissions – much greater than Barack Obama and other world leaders have so far agreed – could save nearly 1,000 of those towns, by averting the sea-level rise, the study found.

"Hundreds of American cities are already locked into watery futures and we are growing that group very rapidly," Strauss said. "We are locking in hundreds more as we continue to emit carbon into the atmosphere."

A recent study, also published in PNAS by the climate scientist Anders Levermann found each 1C rise in atmospheric warming would lead eventually to 2.3m of sea-level rise. The latest study takes those figures, and factors in the current rate of carbon emissions, as well as the best estimate of global temperature sensitivity to pollution.

This shows that the list of cities at risk of being "locked in" by 2100 spans Sacramento, California – which lies far from the sea but would be vulnerable to flooding in the San Joaquin delta – and Norfolk, Virginia. The latter town is home of America's largest navy base, whose miles of waterfront installations would be at risk of being locked in to future sea level rises by the 2040s. The Pentagon has already begun actively planning for a future under climate change, including relocating bases.

About half the population of Cambridge, Massachusetts, across the Charles River from Boston and home to Harvard and MIT, could be locked in to a future below sea level by the early 2060s, the study found. Several coastal cities in Texas were also vulnerable.

But the region at highest risk was Florida, which has dozens of towns which will be locked by century's end. The date of no-return for much of Miami would be 2041, the study found. Half of Palm Beach with its millionaires' estates along the sea front would be beyond saving by the 2060s. The point of no return for other cities such as Fort Lauderdale would come before that.

"Pretty much everywhere it seems you are going to be under water unless you build a massive system of dykes and levees," Strauss said. The study drew on current research on sea-level rise, now growing at 1ft per decade.

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We've been asking the wrong questions about conservation

Stop worrying about how species will respond to climate change – focus on how our adaptations are going to affect them
James Watson 29 Jul 13;

Climate change adaptation : Floods in Sichuan China: heavy flood waters sweeping through Beichuan
Heavy flood waters sweep through Beichuan in southwest China's Sichuan province. Extreme weather events are now occurring more frequently because of climate change. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

In looking at how best to protect wildlife from the growing climate change crisis, conservation scientists usually ignore the single most significant impact on fauna and flora: the changes warming drives in the behaviour of its dominant species – humans – and resultant effects on the living world and natural processes. Those effects are already driving many of the climate-related ecological shifts we are witnessing across the globe.

For example, the opening up of the Arctic for oil and gas, mining and transport routes as sea-ice retreats directly impacts polar biodiversity. Expansion of agricultural activities due to changing rainfall in the mountains of Africa's Albertine Rift and the valleys of the Congo Basin now threatens gorilla habitat there.

Elsewhere, the construction of ineffective seawalls in Papua New Guinea to slow down the impact of sea-level rise has led to the wholesale destruction of some of the most biodiverse and protein-productive coral reefs in the world. Increasing temperatures across the high-altitude Tibetan plateau likewise contribute to a shift in the formerly stable balance between indigenous herders and wildlife, both of which graze the delicate grasslands.

The list is endless but is it not all negative. For example, in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, efforts by local communities to control a growing number of wildfire incidents, associated with a drying climate, are having a positive impact on vulnerable populations of threatened species like jaguar.

Nevertheless, it would appear that in their work on climate change, conservation scientists have forgotten a basic tenet of our field: that conservation is fundamentally about people.

A survey of the literature shows that in 2013, more than 6,500 climate-change-related papers have been published in peer-reviewed conservation journals. The vast majority of these examine how and where future temperature and rainfall changes will make species more vulnerable.

While direct threats to species are often less challenging to identify, quantify and predict, indirect threats can often be far more significant and lasting. Nowhere is this more true than with climate change. For example, while hard to perceive on the ground, the risk that a national park will likely become the best place to grow food can be the most relevant threat to species found there.

The misdirection of conservation science when it comes to climate change is not due to a lack of data or a lack of time to undertake relevant research. It is more basic than that. We've been asking the wrong questions.

Understanding the ecology of species and their likely responses to climate change is helpful, but understanding how humans are going to be affected by climate and what this impact will be on those species is far more important.

As a conservationist who has spent his career looking at climate change impacts, I have largely stopped worrying about working out how species are going to respond and begun focusing on how human adaptations will affect those species. It is clear to me that this is what our immediate priority should be.

Failure to predict likely human adaptations to climate change commits us to a future of reactive, emergency responses likely to be wholly inadequate to the demands of the coming century. With greater attention to this subject, we can target conservation resources preemptively to meet more effectively and efficiently what many of us believe to be the greatest global challenge of our time.

Dr James Watson directs the Global Climate Change program for the Wildlife Conservation Society and is the chair of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) climate change specialist group. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland and has recently become president-elect of the Society for Conservation Biology.

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jul 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [22 - 28 Jul 2013]
from Green Business Times

Beccari hunting at Mandai mangroves: Success!
from wild shores of singapore

Pulau Semakau (28 July 2013)
from teamseagrass

Shore trips to the Terumbus (patch reefs) in the Southern Islands (June & July 2013)
from Psychedelic Nature

Sunbirds love Saraca flowers
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Hantu’s Bamboo Sharks
from Pulau Hantu

Butterflies Galore! : White Banded Flat
from Butterflies of Singapore

Tampines Eco Green Park with volunteers from Temasek Poly
from The Green Volunteers

七月双溪布洛华语导游 Mandarin guide walk@SBWR, July (XXXXII)
from PurpleMangrove

Brown Sailor Spider
from Monday Morgue

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Malaysia: Two more forests may be cleared

Roshidi Abu Samah New Straits Times 29 Jul 13;

IN DANGER: Rare tree species in Perak may disappear

IPOH : After the Bikam forest reserve near Bidor was cleared recently, talk is rife that several other forest reserves in Perak will also be degazetted for the cultivation of oil palm.

They include the Chikus and Parit forest reserves near here. It is learnt that applications have been made by several parties to the state government to convert the land usage status from forest reserve to oil palm plantations.

When contacted yesterday, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said the state government needed to make a detailed study before approving the applications to avoid repeating the costly mistake that occurred following the degazetting of the Bikam permanent forest reserve.

The "critically endangered" Dipterocarpus coriaceus tree species, known locally as keruing paya, is now believed to be extinct in the peninsula after more than 400ha of the Bikam permanent forest reserve were degazetted to make way for an oil palm plantation.

Meor Razak said any decision to de-gazette the remaining 933.7ha of the Parit forest reserve would affect another "critically endangered" tree species, the Dipterocarpus semivestitus, locally known as keruing padi, found only in Perak.

This species is among several which may face extinction if the Parit forest reserve is converted for agricultural use.

"Wildlife such as panthers, burung kuang raya (argus pheasant) and siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) can be found in Parit, based on studies conducted by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) in the 1990s," Meor Razak said.

Previously, part of the forest reserve was cleared for the development of Universiti Teknologi Petronas and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) campuses.

"At present, about 50 keruing padi trees can be found in the freshwater swamp forest inside the UiTM campus in Seri Iskandar," said Meor Razak.

UiTM and the Forest Research Institute Malaysia had signed a memorandum of understanding to look after these trees.

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Indonesia has a lot to lose by losing its coral reefs

The Jakarta Post 29 Jul 13;

Despite the fact that Indonesia is a part of the Coral Triangle Initiative — an initiative to safeguard the home to more than 75 percent of the world’s coral species and more than 37 percent of coral reef fish, spanning from Malaysia to Solomon Islands — 90 percent of the country’s coral reefs remain under threat by over-fishing and disruptive fishing. Rod Salm, the senior advisor at the marine program of the Indo-Pacific Division at the Nature Conservancy, who has been diving in the country’s most exotic diving destinations since 1973, talked to The Jakarta Post’s Nadya Natahadibrata about the importance of preserving coral reefs. The following are excerpts from the interview.

Question: What do you think is the biggest change in Indonesia’s marine conservation compared to the first time you visited the country?

Answer: In the early days through the 1980s, my counterparts couldn’t snorkel or scuba dive and they had degrees in something else. But now all of the people I work with have degrees and masters degrees in marine science and they’re qualified scuba divers. They are also very good field workers, I think that is the biggest change. In the early days, the sea was an unknown place and there was no excitement about doing marine expeditions.

You have been developing research on reef resilience. Can you explain what reef resilience is?

Over the years, since the beginning of the industrial age, the seas of the world have been slowly getting warmer. The warming sea is stressing corals, corals live in warm waters anyway but they are already very close to the maximum heat they can tolerate. So, if you heat a little bit more, it stresses the coral that can result in the coral dying.

In 1998, there was a really serious heating event all around the world and it caused coral bleaching, so when the corals are stressed they lose their color, they go paler and then they die. There were places in Indonesia in 1998 where the coral had no stress at all. So there are areas with good water mixing, so you have strong currents that are bringing up cooler water from the bottom, so when the surface water heats up, it mixes with cooler water so those areas can survive, and the coral, they produce larvae which go to help the other areas to recover. So that is one example. And I think that Indonesia is very fortunate. In other parts of the world it doesn’t happen that way.

What is lost if Indonesian reefs are lost?

About 90 percent of Indonesian reefs are threatened by over fishing and disruptive fishing. And if you add climate change to that, what it does is it pushes that even higher and it means that about 20 percent of the reefs are at very high risk, and about 50 percent are high to very high risk, and high and medium risk is about 95 percent. That is a big amount of threat to the coral reefs in Indonesia.

In 2010, an evaluation was done on the reefs of Indonesia and they found that the value of coral reefs in Indonesia to tourism is about US$137 million a year. For fisheries it is $1.5 billion a year, that’s coral reefs fisheries alone, and to coastal protection it’s about $387 million per year. If you take that together its 2 billion a year that Indonesia’s get from reefs.

The country has a lot to lose by losing its coral reefs. And what we forget too is that reefs provide more benefits. Coral reefs provide jobs to a lot of people and also provide different medicines. People in Indonesia are becoming more active, it’s a strong recreational value.

Do you think Indonesia has improved its protection for coral reefs over the past few years?

It has improved. There was nothing going on in 1973. It only started in the 1980s. Now there are allot of good things going on. It used to be top down by minister’s decree. Now it’s more about working with the communities and district level government. Everybody’s awareness to protect the environment has increased, But it doesn’t mean that all of the problems are solved. I don’t want to paint it with a white brush. There are still a lot of challenges.

What kind of challenges?

I think that there is a real problem with enforcement of regulation in some places. People are coming to protected areas illegally. And the enforcement is very expensive and is also not very effective in some areas.

Because they [the law enforcers] need to use speedboats and its very expensive to run those boats and these marine protected areas are very large and we could have somebody fishing and we didn’t know it. And fisherman has fast boat too so you have to get faster boats.

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jul 13

An invitation to join us at the 2013 Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat Workshop! from Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat

Big rain on Big Sisters Island
from wild shores of singapore

Sea turtles nesting in Singapore
from Pulau Hantu

Frogfish at Pulau Hantu!
from Pulau Hantu

My first Chek Jawa intertidal survey trip
from Peiyan.Photography

Chek Jawa coral rubble survey after 4 years
from Chek Jawa Mortality and Recruitment Project

Night Walk At Macritchie Reservoir (26 Jul 2013)
from Beetles@SG BLOG and Short Recce Trip To Bukit Brown Cemetery (27 Jul 2013)

Sharing a birthday with the Royal Baby
from thelongtails

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Singapore to share new haze monitoring system with KL and Jakarta

Feng Zengkun Straits Times 28 Jul 13;

Singapore will share its new haze monitoring system with Malaysia and Indonesia for their experts to review and for feedback as part of a trial.

The move is aimed at helping all three countries decide on how best to use the system as part of a joint effort to identify and punish those responsible for the haze. But this only if the governments agree to share digitised land-use and concession maps.

The trial was agreed upon when the three countries met in Jakarta last Friday, ahead of the Asean Summit in Brunei in October.

The session was the first trilateral meeting between senior officials from the three countries on the haze, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) yesterday in a statement.

The Singapore delegation, which includes officials from the MFA, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, National Environment Agency and the Attorney-General's Chambers, was led by Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry, Mr Chee Wee Kiong.

At the meeting, Mr Chee renewed Singapore's offer to help Indonesia put out its fires, including an aircraft for cloud-seeding operations to artificially create rain.

He also provided high-resolution satellite pictures of the hot spots there.

Indonesia, on its part, said it was willing to share meteorological data through the World Meteorological Organisation, as well as data on air quality with the Asean Sub-Committee on Meteorological and Geophysics and the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre.

Senior officials from all three countries also agreed to update their foreign ministers on their discussion at the sidelines of the Asean Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Thailand next month.

Separately, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu said yesterday that the haze was unlikely to return to Singapore in the next few days.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a community event in Jurong, Ms Fu noted that Singapore has been helped by favourable wind directions and recent rain in Indonesia, where raging fires caused record levels of pollution here last month.

The number of hot spots in Sumatra, for example, rose to more than 250 at the start of last week but has fallen to fewer than 25 in the past few days.

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Monkey complaints up, so culling rises too

But high number of kills alarms animal activists who prefer containment strategy
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 28 Jul 13;

Almost 360 macaques were killed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) in the first half of this year, more than the combined total for the past two years and estimated to be one-fifth of the total population of not more than 2,000.

The AVA told The Sunday Times it had euthanised 357 monkeys from January to last month, compared with 204 in 2010, 151 in 2011 and 127 last year.

The animals were culled in response to complaints, which it is getting more of, said the AVA. Last year, it received 920 complaints about the "monkey nuisance", up from 730 in 2011.

External contractors are hired, or traps lent to residents to capture the monkeys, which are then released elsewhere or killed.

But the high number culled this year has shocked a macaque researcher and an animal welfare group, which is calling for a containment strategy that uses other methods.

"Culling one-fifth of the population seems like we're trying to exterminate the monkeys, not manage the conflicts between them and people," said chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) Louis Ng.

He said his group is in the midst of "very positive" discussions with the AVA on other ways to manage the conflicts.

For instance, smooth walls at least 3m high or electric fences would prevent the monkeys from climbing into condominium grounds, said Nanyang Technological University graduate student Amanda Tan, who is studying a troop of Bukit Timah monkeys.

She also recommended more aggressive monkey-proofing of trash bins and common dumpsters.

The monkey problem was highlighted at two separate meetings yesterday. At one, called by the Moulmein Watten Neighbourhood Committee, almost 40 people told representatives from the AVA and National Parks Board (NParks) how monkeys had entered their homes and bedrooms, stolen food, attacked pet dogs, broken lamps and roof-top lightning conductors, ransacked balconies, and pilfered fruit.

"I love animals. I love wildlife on my streets. But I draw the line when my personal or family's safety is threatened and there is danger to our property," said committee chairman Fong Kwok Shiung.

Residents appealed to the authorities to capture the animals more quickly.

An NParks representative said the agency was trying to move the animals' food sources deeper into the nature reserves, away from homes.

Problems with the animals were also among the issues raised at a community meeting between government agencies and about 15 residents of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and their MP Sim Ann. Several there, however, said they did not want the monkeys to be culled.

Acres said it has hired two full-time staff and trained them to shoo the monkeys away when they approach homes in conflict-prone areas. The staff also encourage residents to keep food out of sight.

"Shooing the monkeys away modifies their behaviour so they will learn that they cannot get into homes so easily, and they may stop trying," he said, but added that this process will take months.

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'Keruing paya' now extinct: Last natural habitat cleared for oil palm

Jaspal Singh New Straits Times 28 Jul 13;

PRICE OF DEVELOPMENT: Last natural habitat in Bikam forest reserve in Perak cleared for oil palm cultivation

BIDOR: WITH its last natural habitat totally wiped out, the Dipterocarpus coriaceus tree species, known locally as keruing paya, is now regarded as extinct in the peninsula.

A finding made by the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) on Wednesday found that trees from the species could not be found at their last remaining bastion -- the now de-gazetted Bikam permanent forest reserve near here.

The state government had this year fully de-gazetted what remained of more than 400ha of the forest reserve to make way for the cultivation of oil palm.

A team of FRIM officers, led by forest botany expert Dr Lilian Chua, visited the former forest reserve for a site inspection for the species following a report that was published on July 22 in the New Straits Times.

In that report, Sahabat Alam Malaysia's field officer Meor Razak had expressed his fear that the keruing paya trees were facing threat of extinction following logging and land clearing activities in the area.

The NST reported that 175ha of the forest had been cleared by a timber contractor for an oil palm plantation, while another 175ha was being cleared by a different timber contractor for the same purpose.

The remaining area of the excised forest, believed to be more than 100ha, is expected to be cleared by another timber contractor after October.

Malaysian Nature Society's president Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed said he was informed of the team's finding by FRIM director-general Datuk Dr Abd Latif Mohmod.

"It is indeed a shocking find but this phenomenon did not happen overnight.

"The extinction was caused by the act of the state which de-gazetted forest reserves for oil palm plantations over a long period of time.

"The keruing paya is a species that is exclusive to the southern Perak region.

"It is a highly valued species for timber. The Bikam forest reserve was identified as the last largest natural habitat for the trees.

"But even that habitat is now gone; becoming a victim of exploitation of the forest for oil palm cultivation."

He said internationally, the keruing paya was ranked as a "critically endangered" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

However, with the last keruing paya forest already cleared in Bikam, he pointed out that the same species could be ranked in Peninsular Malaysia as "extinct in the wild" category of IUCN.

When asked if there was a likelihood of obtaining saplings of the species, Dr Maketab said saplings were available at FRIM.

"But these saplings should be planted in their original habitat and not where they don't belong.

"MNS is prepared to undertake planting of the saplings at the same site, that is, the Bikam area.

"We will undertake the exercise provided the state government can provide land to grow the species," he said, adding that MNS would work with FRIM in the replanting exercise.

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Indonesia haze: Activists demand environment minister’s transparency on concession maps

The Jakarta Post 28 Jul 13;

Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya’s remark made on July 17 that he would not publish the concession had sparked criticism from environment activists.

The remark Balthasar made was a response to Singapore Minister of Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, who had asked him to reveal to the public the name of any individuals or companies that had been allowed to exploit Indonesian forests.

Carole Excell of the World Resource Institute said Balthasar’s remark had contradicted Indonesian government’s commitment in practicing Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Within the OGP platform, Indonesia has pledged to provide a map portal which would support efficiency in forestry management and support transparency, accountability and public participation in the environment, natural resources and special data management.

“As we know, the statement is [also] against the spirit of the free information era in Indonesia, as stipulated in Public Information Law,” Carol said.

Echoing Carol, executive director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) Henri Subagiyo said that the government has made a commitment to provide good environmental management and therefore was expected to comply with it wholeheartedly.

“Balthasar and Forestry Ministry Zulkifli Hasan [and also other ministers] should act transparently as part of the commitment,” Henri said.(hrl/dic)

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Convention on Biological Diversity launches the Global Taxonomic Initiative

Taxonomy, a dying profession
Business Mirror 27 Jul 13;

TAXONOMY, the science of describing, naming and classifying living things, is dying.

The profession of taxonomy is on the verge of extinction as it cannot compete with high-paying professions. Thus, all over the world, very few students are taking up taxonomy as a course.

The world needs taxonomists to identify and classify species before they can be protected. Recording, studying and inventory of species provide an essential basis for the conservation, development and management of species. What we don’t know, we can’t protect and conserve.

The Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) discusses the relevance of strengthening taxonomy in “Save the Taxonomists, Conserve the Web of Life,” the first in a series of policy briefs on promoting the role of taxonomy in biodiversity conservation.

ACB Executive Director Roberto V. Oliva said the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) stresses the dwindling number of taxonomists as an impediment to biodiversity conservation.

“The CBD launched the Global Taxonomic Initiative in the hope of increasing the number of taxonomists all over the world. ACB recommends that taxonomy be integrated in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans of countries. Taxonomists should be consulted in planning and decision-making in biodiversity conservation strategies to develop fully informed and strategic decisions in conservation,” Oliva said.

The new Policy Brief on Taxonomy may be downloaded from

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jul 13

Sea fan garden with signs of dugong
from wild shores of singapore

Chek Jawa coral rubble survey after 4 years
from wonderful creation

Life History of the Malay Lacewing v2.0
from Butterflies of Singapore

Little Heron Nest
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Storm-vulnerable Albizia trees to get the chop

Walter Sim Straits Times 27 Jul 13;

THE Albizia, bad boy of trees and scourge of local roads, is getting the axe.

Vulnerable to storms and more prone to falling due to its brittle wood structure and shallow root system, it is being targeted by the authorities in the interest of public safety. The tree is also susceptible to pests and root rot.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Housing Board have been working with the National Parks Board (NParks) to cull the tree and replace it with other species like the sea gutta, tembusu and jelutong, which are more weather-resilient and less likely to break. SLA has already culled some 3,000 storm-vulnerable trees, including the Albizia.

"Priority was given to areas assessed to be more critical," an SLA spokesman said in response to queries from The Straits Times. He added that this was especially so near roads and public places.

"Pruning will not be effective in preventing Albizia trees from falling, especially during adverse weather conditions. Removing them remains the best solution."

On Sunday, an Albizia tree growing on state land toppled onto a Bukit Timah property belonging to 94-year-old Pamela Hickley, the former private secretary to Singapore's last British governor. The tree, which fell despite a lack of wind, flattened a portion of a fence and garden.

The SLA said it receives about 70 reports of trees falling a year, mainly on forested state land. But it could not give the total number of Albizia trees on the 14,000ha of state land it oversees. This is because the species spreads naturally and tracking is "not practicable".

If left unchecked, the Albizia, one of the fastest growing species of trees in the world, can reach more than 40m - about 11 storeys. It was first introduced to Singapore in the 1870s.

NParks, which is also replacing older trees in parks and along roads which are at risk of falling, has advised agencies to "take a more vigilant and proactive approach to replace storm-vulnerable species, in particular, self- sown Albizia trees".

Over the past 10 years, four people have died and 62 injured by falling trees and branches. There were 122 cases of trees being uprooted from January to April this year.

HDB did not provide figures of the number of trees it has cut down in its public estates, but said that its officers regularly conduct inspections to identify those which may pose a danger.

It also explains the danger to residents who may prefer to see the trees stay. In January, a 30m Albizia in a forested area bound by Elias Road and Pasir Ris Drive 3 was cut despite protests from residents, who said that it was home to 900 parakeets.

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First trilateral meeting on transboundary haze in Jakarta

Teo Chia Leen Channel NewsAsia 27 Jul 13;

JAKARTA: The first trilateral meeting on transboundary haze among senior officials of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore has taken place in Jakarta.

Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said its Permanent Secretary Chee Wee Kiong led an inter-agency delegation comprising officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, National Environment Agency and Attorney General's Chambers to the meeting.

During the meeting, Mr Chee noted that the meeting was a follow-up to the agreement by the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore on the sidelines of the 46th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Brunei last month.

The meeting was what Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam had earlier referred to as the Trilateral Cooperative Process. This process is not meant to duplicate existing platforms for environmental cooperation such as the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

It will act as an additional channel for the three countries to complement and enhance their collaboration and work.

At the meeting, the officials received an update on Indonesia's efforts to address the fires that caused the haze, and considered future areas for cooperation.

Singapore and Malaysia acknowledged Indonesia's ongoing efforts to combat the haze, including the mobilisation of national resources to tackle the issue.

The senior officials agreed to provide an update on their discussions to their foreign ministers on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Hua Hin from 13-14 August 2013, before the ministers report to the countries' leaders at the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in October 2013.

- CNA/al

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Indonesia: Another Elephant Found Dead in Aceh

Nurdin Hasan Jakarta Globe 26 Jul 13;

Banda Aceh. Another elephant has been found dead in Aceh, the second this month, with reports from local people indicating that the elephant’s tusks have been removed.

“Conflicts between elephants and humans often happen in Blang Tualang and the neighboring village of Pante Labu,” Rabono Wiranata, the head of non-governmental organization Fakta said on Friday. “Some villagers or hunters may have placed poison on the track often used by elephants.”

The adult male elephant was found on Thursday inside an oil palm plantation run by state-owned PTPN I in Blang Tualang village, East Aceh.

Rabono said the elephant was understood to have died four days ago.

He added that local residents had repeatedly complained about a pack of elephants “trespassing” on their plantations and destroying plants, but there had been no serious response from the local authorities.

The head of Aceh’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Amon Zamora, said he received a report of the death on Thursday night. A team was dispatched to the area on Friday morning.

“But [the team] haven’t returned, so I don’t know yet as to what caused the elephant’s death,” Amon told the Jakarta Globe. “I’ve told the team to report the case to police if the tusks were gone. If they were gone, we would strongly suspect that it’s been murdered.”

The finding came just two weeks after a 30-year-old male elephant was found dead in Ranto Sabon village in the Aceh Jaya district, Its tusks had been severed.

Aceh Jaya Forest Ranger commander Armidi said the elephant died after it was caught in a sharp metal trap placed on a big tree log.

Police and BKSDA Aceh have not been able to find the perpetrators.

The latest finding brought the number of elephant deaths in Aceh to four over the past three months.

On May 9, a 10-year-old male elephant was found dead due to electrocution in Bangkeh village in the Pidie district.

On June 23, a two-year-old elephant died after having been looked after for two months by residents of Blang Pante village in the North Aceh district. The villagers took care of the elephant cub after it was left behind by its pack in a local plantation.

Demand for ivory has soared in recent years, primarily due to increased demand from China, where it is highly valued for its use in crafting ornaments. Elephant tusks sell for several hundred dollars per kilogram.

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 Jul 13

Triple Terumbus for Giant Clams
from wild shores of singapore

Transformation of the Mirror Spider
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Down Memory Lane - Singleton
from Butterflies of Singapore

Kopsia arborea
from The Total Vascular Flora of Singapore Online

How YouTube has put the world's only poisonous primates at risk from news by Jeremy Hance

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Malaysia: Penang chokes under haze

Hafiz Marzukhi and Edmund Goh The Star 26 Jul 13;

GEORGE TOWN: Air quality continued to worsen in Penang due to the haze while neighbouring Kedah, Perlis and Perak saw slight improvement.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) registered at the Department of Environment (DOE) monitoring station in Seberang Jaya showed an unhealthy level of 102 at 1pm before improving to 100 two hours later.

At the stations in Prai and Uni­­versiti Sains Malaysia, the readings were moderate at 94 and 88, respectively, as at 3pm.

This was an increase compared to Wednesday when it was 83 (Prai), 78 (Seberang Jaya) and 79 (USM) at 5pm.

Visibility levels in Bayan Lepas and Prai were at 6km at 3pm while in Butterworth, it was at 5km.

Meanwhile, most stations in Perak recorded only slight improvement in the reading.

According to the DOE, the highest reading of 98 came from the SK Jalan Pegoh station in Ipoh as of 2pm.

The Seri Manjung station recorded a reading of 93, an improvement from its Wednesday reading of 123.

The reading for Kampung Air Putih in Taiping was 78, while the Jalan Tasek station in Ipoh and Tanjung Malim station were 68 and 65, respectively.

In Kedah, the haze situation was relatively better with an API reading of 51 recorded at the Alor Setar station and 73 at the Batu Arang station in Sungai Petani.

In Perlis, the air quality was considered good as the reading was at 44.

Penang air quality near 'unhealthy'
New Straits Times 26 Jul 13;

GEORGE TOWN: Penang was shrouded in haze yesterday morning as the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings in the state hit the highest in the past week.

From 6am to 10am, the readings in Prai, Seberang Jaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) hit above 80, close to the "unhealthy" level of between 100 and 200.

At USM, the API was at 81, 84 and 83 at 8am, 9am and 10am respectively, while in Prai, the readings were at 84, 86, 88, 90 and 92, increasing steadily from 6am to 10am.

The API readings were the highest in Seberang Jaya at 90, 93, 95, 97 and 98.

Visibility was poor, with motorists on the Penang Bridge hardly able to see the island or mainland.

State Department of Environment director Datuk Hassan Mat said the state had one of the worst API readings in the country yesterday morning.

He said it was difficult to predict whether the air quality would worsen, but hoped for rain to clear the air.

"The current situation is not as bad as that in June, when the API readings reached the 'unhealthy' level at one point."

Hassan said the causes of the haze were hot spots in Sumatra, Indonesia, and the wind blowing across the Straits of Malacca and moving northwards.

"We can only hope that rain will come, so that the air quality will improve and return to normal.

"For now, we advise the public to limit outdoor activities, wear face masks and refrain from carrying out burning activities."

The API readings at other stations nationwide recorded "moderate" and "healthy" readings, except for one station in SK Jalan Pegoh in Ipoh, Perak, which recorded an "unhealthy" reading of 104 at 3pm yesterday.

Seri Manjung, Perak, which recorded an "unhealthy" reading on Wednesday, improved to a "moderate" reading of 93 yesterday.

Overall, 14 stations recorded "healthy" readings and 36 recorded "moderate" readings, compared with Wednesday's 12 "healthy" readings and 39 "moderate" readings.

API levels of between 0 and 50 are rated as good, 51 to 100 as moderate, 100 to 200 as unhealthy, 200 to 300 as very unhealthy and more than 300 as hazardous.

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Malaysia: Palm oil bashing a cause for concern

Isabelle Lai The Star 26 Jul 13;

PETALING JAYA: The National Association of Smallholders Malaysia (NASH) has urged French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to put a stop to anti-palm oil campaigns in France.

Its president Datuk Aliasak Ambia said the campaigns were a major cause of concern for hundreds of thousands of small farmers as well as the entire industry.

“False allegations about nutrition and the environment cannot be allowed to stand. The reality is that palm oil is the most efficient vegetable oil in the world, which is 100% free of trans fats,” he said in a joint statement with Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Tan Sri Datuk Dr Yusof Basiron yesterday.

The statement was an open letter to Ayrault ahead of his upcoming visit here.

Aliasak said oil palm cultivation was a major catalyst for poverty reduction and increased prosperity in Malaysia and elsewhere.

He said these were facts known to scientists and academics, including those from French institutions such as the Institute Pasteur.

Malaysia’s commitment to preserve forest cover was much greater than France’s pledge to preserve 29% of its forests, he said.

“The strong and growing trade relationship between France and Malaysia must be a two-way one, built on trust and mutual understanding.

“Palm oil is one of Malaysia’s most important exports and many families in our community depend on it. A stop to the anti-palm oil campaigns will certainly go a long way in supporting the small farmers and their families,” he said.

He urged Ayrault to ensure French companies Casino, Systeme U, Findus, Lesieur, Lays and Jacquet immediately cease their campaigns, including labelling that denigrated palm oil.

He also asked that the government agency responsible for regulating consumption and competition, Direction Generale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et la Repression des Fraudes (DGCCRF), use its authority and powers to investigate the companies.

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Malaysia: ‘Get harsh on pangolin wildlife smugglers’

The Star 26 Jul 13;

PETALING JAYA: Harsher punishments must be imposed to deter pangolin poachers from dabbling in the highly-lucrative illicit trade, said wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic Southeast Asia.

Its senior programme officer Kanitha Krishnasamy said this was still lacking although Malaysia had among the strongest wildlife protection laws in the region.

“Pangolin smugglers are often found guilty when prosecuted, but the severity of the penalties is the problem.

“Based on court observations, prosecutors are not fighting as strongly for our wildlife as they should, resulting in criminals getting away with a mere slap on the wrist,” she said.

Under the Wildlife Conservation Act, the maximum fine for hunting totally protected wildlife including pangolins, is not more than RM100,000, not more than three years’ jail or both.

Kanitha pointed out the case of ex-policeman Muhammad Norazzuan Ahmad Zahari, who was caught trying to smuggle 18 pangolins across the Malaysia-Thailand border at Bukit Kayu Hitam in September 2012.

He was found guilty in January on all four counts, which carried a total maximum jail term of 24 years but was sentenced to a total of 36 months in jail, with no fines imposed.

In addition, he only needs to serve 12 months in jail as the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

“So for all intents and purposes, a law that was designed to impose punishments of up to 24 years’ jail had its worth diminished to one year,” she said, stressing the need for prosecutors to make a strong case against wildlife smugglers.

In contrast, she said a Malaysian, Ng Soo Heong, had been sentenced to life imprisonment in China for smuggling 2,090 frozen pangolins and 1,800kg of scales from Malaysia to Guangdong on June 6, 2010.

“Although China is the largest market for the pangolin trade, its Government has been cracking down strongly on captured traders. Its stiff penalties are sending a strong deterrent message to traders,” she said.

“The authorities must also continue efforts to root out the kingpins of the pangolin trade.

“Based on the seizures, those captured are usually the middleman and it is obvious that some of them are being bankrolled,” she noted.

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Rapid Arctic thawing could be economic timebomb, scientists say

Methane released by a thinning permafrost may trigger catastrophic climate change and cost the world $60tn
John Vidal The Guardian 25 Jul 13;

Rapid thawing of the Arctic could trigger a catastrophic "economic timebomb" which would cost trillions of dollars and undermine the global financial system, say a group of economists and polar scientists.

Governments and industry have expected the widespread warming of the Arctic region in the past 20 years to be an economic boon, allowing the exploitation of new gas and oilfields and enabling shipping to travel faster between Europe and Asia. But the release of a single giant "pulse" of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea "could come with a $60tn [£39tn] global price tag", according to the researchers who have for the first time quantified the effects on the global economy.

Even the slow emission of a much smaller proportion of the vast quantities of methane locked up in the Arctic permafrost and offshore waters could trigger catastrophic climate change and "steep" economic losses, they say.

The Arctic sea ice, which largely melts and reforms each year, is declining at an unprecedented rate. In 2012, it collapsed to under 3.5m sqkm by mid September, just 40% of its usual extent in the 1970s. Because the ice is also losing its thickness, some scientists expect the Arctic ocean to be largely free of summer ice by 2020.

The growing fear is that as the ice retreats, the warming of the sea water will allow offshore permafrost to release ever greater quantities of methane. A giant reservoir of the greenhouse gas, in the form of gas hydrates on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), could be emitted, either slowly over 50 years or catastrophically fast over a shorter time frame, say the researchers.

The ramifications of vanishing ice will also be felt far from the poles, they say because the region is pivotal to the functioning of Earth systems, such as oceans and climate. "The imminent disappearance of the summer sea ice in the Arctic will have enormous implications for both the acceleration of climate change, and the release of methane from off-shore waters which are now able to warm up in the summer," said Prof Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar ocean physics group at Cambridge University and one of the authors of the paper published in the journal Nature.

"This massive methane boost will have major implications for global economies and societies. Much of those costs would be borne by developing countries in the form of extreme weather, flooding and impacts on health and agricultural production," he said.

According to the authors, who using the Stern review, calculated that 80% of the extra impacts by value will occur in the poorer economies of Africa, Asia and South America. "Inundation of low-lying areas, extreme heat stress, droughts and storms are all magnified by the extra methane emissions," they authors write. They argue that global economic bodies have not taken into account the risks of rapid ice melt and that the only economic downside to the warming of the Arctic they have identified so far has been the possible risk of oil spills.

But, they say, economists are missing the big picture. "Neither the World Economic Forum nor the International Monetary Fund currently recognise the economic danger of Arctic change. [They must] pay much more attention to this invisible time-bomb. The impacts of just one [giant "pulse" of methane] approaches the $70-tn value of the world economy in 2012", said Prof Gail Whiteman, at the Rotterdam School of Management and another author.

The Nature report comes as global shipping companies prepare to send a record number of vessels across the north of Russia later in 2013, slashing miles travelled between Asia and Europe by over 35% and cutting costs up to 40%.

According to Russian authorities, 218 ships from Korea, China, Japan, Norway, Germany and elsewhere have so far applied for permission to follow the "Northern sea route" (NSR) this year. This route uses the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska and is only open for a few months each year with an icebreaker.

But following 2012's record collapse of the Arctic sea ice, shipping companies are gaining confidence to use the route. In 2012, only 46 ships sailed its entire length from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans and in 2011 only four. The route can save even medium-sized bulk carrier 10-15 days and hundreds of tonnes of bunker fuel on a journey between northern Norway and China.

Satellite data collated from the US National snow and ice data centre in Boulder, Colorado this week showed ice loss now accelerating and, at 8.2m sqkm (3.2m square miles) approaching the same extent as during last year's record melt. Over 130,000 sqkm of sea ice melted between July 1 and 15. "Compared to the 1981 to 2010 average, ice extent on July 15 was 1.06m sqkm (409,000 square miles) below average," said a spokesman.

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Best of our wild blogs: 25 Jul 13

Would Singapore’s most beautiful damselfly species be extinct by the construction of Cross Island Line? from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

Grandmama Clam and coral bleaching at the Terumbu Pempangs
from wild shores of singapore

Relationship between mistletoe, birds and butterflies
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! Orange Emigrant
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Wildlife bridge ready by year-end

Kash Cheong Straits Times 25 Jul 13;

A $17 MILLION bridge for monkeys and other wildlife is on track to be completed by the end of the year, the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Land Transport Authority confirmed yesterday.

Structural works for the Eco-Link@BKE are almost done, and the site is now being prepared for the planting of trees.

The 62m-long overhead bridge will reconnect Singapore's largest primary and secondary forests, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment Area. Both forests have been separated by the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) since 1986, leaving animals like rare banded leaf monkeys cut off from their fellow monkeys on the other side.

"The bridge is a boon for biodiversity," said conservationist Alan Ow Yong.

When ready, it will allow animals such as flying squirrels, palm civets and pangolins an easy way to cross the BKE.

"Animals will be able to move freely between the two reserves to find other food sources as well as mates. They will also help to propagate plant species as seeds are dispersed by more animals," Mr Ow explained yesterday.

Trees planted on the bridge will also provide food for animals, NParks said. The public will not be allowed onto the bridge in the first few years, to reduce the disturbance to the wildlife.

The eco-link is situated about 600m north of Rifle Range Road, between the Pan-Island Expressway and Dairy Farm exits.

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Indonesia: Riau reopens haze command post

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 25 Jul 13;

The Riau Haze Mitigation command post at Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase in Pekanbaru, Riau, was reopened on Wednesday in response to the recurrence of fires over the past several days.

"The command post was earlier moved to the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency [BPBD], but today it was reopened at the airbase to facilitate trans-sector coordination," Riau BPBD head Said Saqlul Amri told The Jakarta Post.

He acknowledged the main command post was reopened to anticipate the haze, which had sparked protests from neighboring countries like Singapore and Malayasia, from recurring.

"In August, forest fires in Riau are predicted to be more severe. According to the BMKG [Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency], August is the peak of the dry season, that's why efforts should be made to anticipate the problem," said Amri.

Four helicopters have been deployed to conduct water bombing operations in the north of Riau, where the majority of fires have been detected. The local military command has sent an additional 200 troops - assisted by 100 public order officers - to Rokan Hulu, Rokan Hilir, Siak, Bengkalis and Dumai city, which are the worst-hit by forest and peatland fires.

The number of fires in Riau has continued to fluctuate and has tended to increase in the past three days. On Monday, 173 hot spots were detected. They dwindled to 165 the next day, but again rose to 183 on Tuesday.

The majority of fires are in Rokan Hilir, with 48, followed by Pelalawan (22), Siak (19), Bangkalis (18) and Rokan Hulu (17). As of Wednesday, only Pekanbaru was free of the fires.

Roesmin Nujadin Airbase operational head Let. Col. Prasetya H said the four helicopters were focusing on water bombing operations in Pelalawan and Dumai.

"Today, they're focusing operations in Dumai on fires near the city. The air quality has also dropped to 308 PSI [Pollutants Standards Index]," he added.

Nine choppers readied to put out land fires
Antara 24 Jul 13;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The National Disaster Mitigation Body (BNPB) has again readied nine helicopters to put out land and forest fires in Riau province.

"The nine helicopters earlier conducted aerial patrols to monitor hotspots in Riau. However, hotspots have appeared again so water-bombing efforts are needed," BNPB spokesman Agus Wibowo told Antara in Pekanbaru by phone on Wednesday.

The nine helicopters would be involved in water-bombing operations in turns, he said.

"The water bombing efforts are likely to have the same pattern as earlier. Four of the helicopters will lead water-bombing operations while the other three will conduct aerial patrols and be put on standby," he said.

As a coordinator of disaster mitigation efforts, BNPB would also ready three Cassa planes, consisting of one from the Air Force, one from the Navy and one from the Army, he said.

"Each of the forces has readied one plane to conduct cloud seeding, if needed," he said.

An Antara journalist observed smog again shrouded a number of areas in Riau province over the past few days.

The smog forced three planes to divert flights as visibility at Sultan Syarif Kasim (SSK) II Airport in the provincial capital Pekanbaru dropped to less than 500 meters.

The local authorities have again put the province under "smog alert status" and will cooperate with BNPB in putting out the land and forest fires. (*)

Editor: Heru

Forest fire occurs again in Riau as new hotspots found
Antara 24 Jul 13;

Pekanbaru, Riau Province (ANTARA News) - About 185 hotspots, possibly forest fires, have been found in Riau province recently, spokesman to National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Agus Wibowo said here on Wednesday.

"The recent number is an increase compared to our finding last Tuesday (July 23) of 48 hotspots," he said.

Meanwhile analyst from Pekanbaru`s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Warih Budi Lestari predicted hotspots will keep emerging in Riau province as Indonesia is in a drought season now meaning there will be little rain to eradicate them.

"From mid to end of July there is a dynamic graphic of hotspot occurrences in Riau. If it rains, the hotspots will reduce, but if it`s not, the number of hotspots will be increasing," he said.

Warih called on local people not to burn forest in order to open new plantation. Such action, he said, will hinder efforts to reduce hotspots in Riau.

Last June, Riau province suffered the worst due to an increase of hotspots allegedly originated from intentional forest fire by local people. Thousands of people are suffering acute respiratory disease because of the haze resulting from the forest fires. The haze even impacted people in neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.(*)

Editor: Heru

Jakarta minister vows action against forest-fire culprits
Zakir Hussain Indonesia Bureau Chief And Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta
Straits Times 25 Jul 13;

INDONESIA will identify and act against companies found responsible for the latest round of forest fires in Riau, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya has said. Investigations into those complicit in last month's severe haze are continuing, he told reporters yesterday.

His ministry also said in a statement that it was widening the net of culpability by taking a "multi-door" approach: This considers whether companies and individuals involved had violated one or more of 11 relevant laws. Apart from statutes on environmental protection and forestry, these include laws on taxation, Customs, money-laundering, and corruption.

"I have said the law must take its course, and I will encourage and ensure this," Dr Balthasar said. "Those who breach the law must face the consequences."

The comments came as the national disaster management agency (BNPB) reopened a command post in Pekanbaru yesterday, and some 1,300 soldiers were redeployed in Riau to fight fires.

They joined another 1,200 Riau disaster agency officials already battling the fires, aided by water-bombing and cloud-seeding sorties.

Yesterday, the number of hot spots fell sharply to 56 in Riau, down from 185 on Tuesday, BNPB said. The Riau disaster agency's rescue head, Mr Ferialdi, said the main challenge was getting to severe hot spots in peatlands far from access roads.

Residents in parts of Riau got some respite yesterday. In Dumai, the PSI fell to 77, well below a peak of 900 last month.

Dumai mayor Khairul Anwar told The Straits Times that the situation had improved compared to the past three days.

In Malaysia, conditions also improved yesterday with just one spot in Seri Manjung, Perak, reporting "unhealthy" air quality at 122 on the Department of Environment's air pollution index at midday.

Air quality in Port Klang improved from 120 in the past two days to 81 yesterday, and other areas saw marked improvement.

Still, Indonesian officials are on guard for fires in other provinces until the dry season ends in October.

Deputy Minister Arief Yuwono told reporters that two command posts to coordinate response efforts elsewhere will start operating tomorrow in Palembang, South Sumatra, and Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan.

Dr Balthasar also said the documents for ratifying the Asean Transboundary Haze Agreement are ready, and refuted concerns by reporters that MPs might raise other issues to stall it.

"We are in this together. And as a big country in Asia, we should lead, not trail behind. Signing it should be a matter of national pride," he added.

Additional reporting by Lester Kong in Malaysia

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