Best of our wild blogs: 2 Jan 13

changeable hawk eagle (pale morph) @ bukit brown - 01Jan2013
from sgbeachbum

Random Gallery - Black Veined Tiger
from Butterflies of Singapore

New fish record, rediscovered treasures and more!
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

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Big parties... and big army of cleaners too

Staff work through the night to clear countdown party venues of rubbish
Lim Yi Han Straits Times 2 Jan 13;

AS PARTYGOERS geared up to celebrate the new year, an army of cleaners were painstakingly picking up litter.

At the Marina Bay Singapore Countdown 2013, preparations, such as placing of bins, began as early as 3pm on Monday. The big cleanup continued through the night to 11am yesterday, said Mr Edy Tan, 38, operations manager of cleaning firm Chye Thiam Maintenance.

About 350 cleaners were deployed at the event, which was the island's biggest party with some 260,000 people turning up.

But there was less litter than the year before because the rain meant fewer people came, said Mr Tan. At the previous event, some 300,000 partygoers turned up.

"The emcees were also telling the crowd to take care of their own rubbish, so that helped," he added. More bins were put out this year - 257, up from 247 the last time around.

Still, clearing the mess was no easy job.

One 24-year-old cleaner, who wanted to be known only as Mr Wu, said in Mandarin: "There's a lot of rubbish, especially after the fireworks when many people start to leave."

Countdown parties tend to leave a bigger mess than other events, such as the National Day Parade and Formula One race, as they attract larger crowds.

At Marina Bay, more than 40 National Environment Agency officers were on the lookout for litterbugs and illegal hawkers.

They were among the 157 officers at 10 major countdown events across the island - 20 per cent more than last year. In total, 59 litterbugs were booked, mostly for throwing cigarette butts, down from 70 the year before.

Meanwhile, the Siloso Beach Party, with its 19,000 revellers, needed 50 cleaners to help keep the sand as spotless as possible. "Green ambassadors" also walked around collecting plastic cups from partygoers for recycling.

They were part of an initiative by four students from Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. Called "Project Bin&Go", it aims to promote stronger recycling habits among Singaporeans.

Team leader Nurkhairah Sumarto, 23, said they wanted to raise awareness of recycling among partygoers because "we have frequently heard of and witnessed for ourselves the large amount of trash generated from mega outdoor events and concerts".

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Malaysia: Corridor allows study of jumbos' migratory path

New Straits Times 2 Jan 13;

KOTA KINABALU: A wildlife corridor is being established between Segaliud Lokan-Deramakot and the Malua Forest Reserve to allow easier access and movement of elephants in the area.

A study had found that the Segaliud Forest Reserve, which is home to more than 300 pygmy elephants, had sufficient food sources for the pachyderms.

Experts, who discovered the unique movement patterns of these elephants, had called for the setting up of an ecological corridor between these forest reserves.

Borneo Conservation Trust's conservation and research programme head Raymond Alfred said a 10-month study concluded that the riverine forest was the key habitat for elephants in Sabah.

The study was conducted by a research team from KTS Plantation Sdn Bhd and Borneo Conservation Trust, which saw the two organisations looking into the movement patterns of elephants in Malua via satellite tracking.

"The study had found that the elephants move from northern Malua to the east of the Danum Valley at central Ulu Segama Malua.

"We had installed a radio-satellite collar on a female elephant named Segaliud. She represents between 290 and 310 elephants in the Segaliud Lokan Forest.

"The movement patterns of the elephants are unique, emphasising the importance of the riverine forest and a logging road as their main migratory path, from one forest compartment to another."

He said the corridor was developed by Kwantas Plantation Sdn Bhd and located at the northern part of the Malua Forest Reserve.

Alfred also said the Segaliud Lokan Forest Reserve had the highest orang utan density in Sabah.

Most of the primates were concentrated at the southeast of the forest reserve.

"The research team had found that the main tree species used by the orang utans (either for food sources or shelter) are pioneer species, or hardy species which are the first to colonise previously disrupted or damaged ecosystems.

"Thus, the restoration programme that is being carried out in this area will also improve the density and diversity of the tree species."

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Poachers make 2012 a deadly year for Africa's rhinos, elephants

Jon Herskovitz and Ed Stoddard PlanetArk 2 Jan 13;

Africa's biggest animals were poached in near record numbers in 2012, with surging demand for horn and ivory from Asia driving the slaughter of rhinos and elephants.

By mid-December, poachers had killed 633 rhinos in South Africa, according to environment ministry figures.

That marks a new annual peak in the country that is home to most of the continent's rhinos, and a sharp rise from the record 448 poached last year and the mere handful of deaths recorded a decade ago.

Elsewhere in Africa, the slaughter of elephants continued unabated, with mass killings reported in Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to conservation group TRAFFIC, which monitors global trade in animals and plants, the amount of ivory seized will likely drop from 2011, when a record number of big hauls were made globally. But the trend remains grim.

"It looks like 2012 is another bumper year for trade in illegal ivory though it is unlikely to top 2011," said Tom Milliken, who manages TRAFFIC's Elephant Trade Information System.

In 2011, an estimated 40 metric tons of illegal ivory was seized worldwide, representing thousands of dead elephants. So far this year about 28 metric tons has reportedly been seized but the number is expected to climb as more data comes in.

"The last four years since 2009 are four of our five highest volume years in illegal ivory trade," said Milliken.

Demand for ivory as ornamental items is rising fast in Asia, in tandem with growing Chinese influence and investment in Africa, which has opened the door wider for illicit trade in elephants and other animals.

Rhino horn has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine, where it was ground into powder to treat a range of maladies including rheumatism, gout and even possession by devils.


Ivory smuggling has also been linked to conflict, and last week the United Nations Security Council called for an investigation into the alleged involvement in the trade of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda.

Led by warlord Joseph Kony, who is being hunted by an African Union and U.S.-backed military force, the LRA is accused of terrorizing the country's north for over 20 years through the abduction of children to use as fighters and sex slaves.

"The illegal killings of large number of elephants for their ivory are increasingly involving organized crime and in some cases well armed rebel militias," the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) said in a statement this week.

"In Bouba N'Djida National Park, in northern Cameroon, up to 450 elephants were allegedly killed by groups from Chad and the Sudan early this year," said CITES, which is an international agreement that oversees trade in wildlife.

In the case of rhino horn, demand has also been growing in Vietnam, where a newly affluent class has been buying it to treat ailments ranging from hangovers to cancer.

The claims have no basis in science but demand has pushed the price of the horn up to $65,000 a kilogram on the streets of Hanoi, making it more expensive than gold.

Most of the rhino killings take place in South Africa's Kruger National Park.

Gangs armed with firearms and night-vision goggles enter from neighboring Mozambique, from where observers say the horn is often smuggled out through the same routes used to bring illegal drugs from Southeast Asia into Africa.

"Kruger is a national park the size of Israel and it is incredibly difficult to police," said Julian Rademeyer, author of 'Killing for Profit', a book published this year that examines the international rhino horn trade.

"You have very advanced international syndicates run like business operations that are very good at getting horn out of here," he told Reuters. Rademeyer expects the number of rhino killings to rise even higher next year, pushing the population closer to a tipping point that leads to its decline.

South Africa has deployed its military to patrol Kruger while its tax agency SARS and police have stepped up the fight.

But it also lost ground in 2012 due to a two-month strike by National Park workers and corruption within the ranks of the park service that undermined its anti-poaching efforts.

South Africa hosts virtually the entire population of white rhino - 18,800 head or 93 percent - and about 40 percent of Africa's much rarer black rhino.

Africa's elephant population varies. Estimates for the numbers in Botswana are as high as 150,000 but in parts of central and west Africa the animal is highly endangered.

"Central Africa has been bleeding ivory but for the last few years there has also been an upsurge in poaching in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique," said Milliken.

Trade in rhino horn is strictly prohibited under CITES while that for ivory is mostly illegal.

(Editing by John Stonestreet)

Rhino Poaching at Record High in South Africa Yahoo News 11 Jan 13;

Rhinoceros poaching soared to a record high level in South Africa last year. The country's government said 668 rhinos were killed within its borders in 2012, up from 448 in 2011, according to the World Wildlife Fund, an international conservation group.

A whopping 425 of those deaths last year occurred in Kruger National Park, a top safari destination and home to South Africa's largest population of both black and white rhinos. That figure marks a sharp increase from the 252 rhinos killed in the park in 2011.

The poaching boom is largely due to heightened demand for rhino horns in Asia, where the grim prizes are believed to have medicinal properties and are seen as highly desirable status symbols, especially in Vietnam. TRAFFIC, a nongovernmental global network that monitors wildlife trade, recently issued a report describing how some affluent Vietnamese individuals often use the horn as a hangover cure and general health tonic, grinding it up and mixing it with water or alcohol.

"Viet Nam must curtail the nation’s rhino horn habit, which is fuelling a poaching crisis in South Africa," Sabri Zain, TRAFFIC's director of advocacy, said in a statement. "Rhinos are being illegally killed, their horns hacked off and the animals left to bleed to death, all for the frivolous use of their horns as a hangover cure."

Last year also saw some crackdowns. Arrests of suspected poachers and smugglers increased in 2012, with 267 people now facing rhino-related charges and one Thai man sentenced to a record 40 years in prison for conspiring to smuggle horns to Asia, WWF officials said. Last month, Vietnam and South Africa also signed an agreement aimed at strengthening law-enforcement efforts and sharing intelligence to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

According to WWF, an additional five rhinos have been killed since the beginning of 2013, and two men were arrested in separate incidents in Vietnam and Thailand this month for smuggling rhino horns.

Rhinos in crisis – poaching and illegal trade reach highest levels in over 20 years
TRAFFIC 15 Jan 13;

Gland, Switzerland, 15th January 2013—Escalating levels of poaching and illegal trade in rhino horns are seriously undermining rhino conservation efforts, putting the survival of these species at risk—according to a report by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and TRAFFIC.

The report examines the conservation status and trade in African and Asian rhino species.

“The findings of the report are alarming,” says Tom Milliken, a rhino expert from TRAFFIC. “Today, rhino poaching and illegal horn trade are at their highest levels in over 20 years, threatening to reverse years of conservation effort, particularly in Africa. There is no doubt that rhino species are facing a serious crisis.”

According to the report, by the beginning of 2011 there were 20,165 White Rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum and 4,880 Black Rhinoceros Diceros bicornis in Africa. However, at least 1,997 rhinos were poached between 2006 and September 2012 and over 4,000 rhino horns have been illegally exported from Africa since 2009, with an estimated 92% of these coming from rhinos specifically killed to obtain their horn.

South Africa, home to 83% of Africa’s rhinos and 73% of all wild rhinos worldwide, is the principal source of rhino horns in illegal trade. A record 668 rhinos were poached there in 2012, according to official government figures released in January 2013.

Illegal trade in rhino horns involves highly organised, mobile and well-financed criminal groups, mainly composed of Asian nationals based in Africa. These networks have recruited pseudo-hunters including Vietnamese citizens, Thai prostitutes and proxy hunters from the Czech Republic and Poland to obtain rhino horns in South Africa on the pretence of trophy hunts for illegal commercial trade purposes.

Pseudo-hunting has significantly reduced as a result of a decision to prevent nationals of Viet Nam from obtaining hunting licenses and changes to South African law in April 2012. However, there remains a continued need to ensure that only bona fide hunters are granted permits, according to the report.

“Rhinos are killed for their horns, which are seen as highly desirable status symbols in parts of Asia, notably Viet Nam, but also increasingly in China,” says Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Chair of IUCN Species Survival Commission’s (SSC) Asian Rhino Specialist Group. “Horns are also increasingly used for non-traditional purposes such as hangover cure and body detoxifyer, especially in Viet Nam.”

In Asia, although conservation action in Nepal and India has resulted in increased numbers of the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis, the situation in Indonesia and Malaysia remains serious for the world’s two rarest rhino species—the Sumatran Rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis and the Javan Rhinoceros Rhinoceros sondaicus. The Javan Rhinoceros, with only around 35 to 45 surviving individuals, is confined to a single park in Indonesia after the last animal of its Indochinese subspecies, Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus, was found dead, its horn removed, in Viet Nam in 2010. The report calls for enhanced protection and biological management of the remaining Sumatran and Javan Rhinoceros to prevent their extinction.

Thefts of rhino horns from museums and zoos have increased worldwide, creating the need for improved law enforcement, monitoring and enhanced information management with regards to rhino numbers, sales and translocations, the report finds.

“Trade in rhino horns is a global problem that needs to be addressed by the international community by putting pressure on those countries that are driving illegal trade in rhino horn and those with inadequate wildlife legislation, such as Mozambique,” says Richard Emslie, from IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group. “At the same time, increased poaching is negatively affecting rhino conservation incentives and budgets, threatening future rhino population growth.”

The report was compiled by the IUCN SSC African and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. It was mandated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and aims to inform the rhino horn debate at the 16th meeting of the Confererence of the Parties to CITES, taking place in March 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Read the full report

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