Best of our wild blogs: 15 Jan 13

Stephanotis maingayi rediscovered
from Flying Fish Friends

Quiet at East Coast Park
from wild shores of singapore

The Fleming collection is back in South East Asia again!
from Raffles Museum News and Press coverage from our groundbreaking ceremony last friday

Saving manta rays from the fin trade
from news by Rhett Butler

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Malaysia: Civet coffee - Tasty but tainted

Tan Cheng Li The Star 15 Jan 13;

The delectable civet coffee has an unsavoury side.

IF YOU love kopi luwak, you might be contributing to the decimation of populations of the common palm civet, which are increasingly being netted from the wild in Indonesia to stock farms that produce the prized coffee beans.

Surveys by Traffic, a body which monitors the trade in wildlife, found the wild cat to be openly sold in Indonesian markets for the production of kopi luwak or civet coffee. Kopi luwak is made from coffee beans that have passed through the gut of a civet and are later picked from the faeces, and is considered to be the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world.

“This coffee has become increasingly trendy and as a result, civets are being increasingly captured from the wild and fed coffee beans to mass produce this blend,” wrote Chris Shepherd, Traffic’s deputy director in South-East Asia, in a recently released report, Observations of small carnivores in Jakarta wildlife markets.

He had made three visits to each of the four largest wildlife markets in Jakarta – Pramuka, Barito, Kartini and Jatinegara – between July 2010 and June 2012 and found the civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) to form the bulk (25 individuals) of the 47 small carnivores of six species being offered for sale.

Quota ignored

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed hunting and trade as a threat to the common palm civet. The species is killed as a pest and for consumption, or captured for trade as pets throughout its range. Indonesia has a quota of 270 civets for trade annually, specifically as pets. But the quota is largely ignored by hunters and traders and is not enforced by authorities, according to Shepherd.

At the same time that Shepherd surveyed the markets in Jakarta, other researchers visited the wildlife market in Denpasar, Bali, and observed 25 common palm civets for sale. The dealer said that the animals were used to make kopi luwak.

“The impact of the demand for this fashionable coffee on wild civet populations is yet unknown but may constitute a significant threat, and appears to be in violation of the quota set for pets,” wrote Shepherd.

He also found other carnivores on sale in the markets: leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis (seven individuals), Javan ferret badger Melogale orientalis (five), small Asian mongoose Herpestes javanicus (five), small Indian civet Viverricula indica (four) and small-toothed palm civet Arctogalidia trivirgata (one).

Of the six species being traded, only the leopard cat is protected under Indonesian law.

Shepherd pointed out that little is known about the Javan ferret badger, which is endemic to the islands of Java and Bali.

Given the restricted range of this species, and the potential threats of both habitat loss and trade, he suggested that Indonesia consider protecting this species.

“Generally, wildlife markets in Jakarta are unregulated. Despite laws in Indonesia protecting many species, and controlling trade of others, these laws are largely ignored and traders in the wildlife markets openly sell a wide variety of species, regardless of their legal status,” wrote Shepherd.

He urged for scrutiny of the trade in small carnivores, with the information used to detect and analyse trends, and to identify conservation concerns.

“Information should be regularly provided to the authorities who should be urged to enforce Indonesia’s laws and take action to shut the illegal trade down, and to prosecute people found violating the laws. Legal issues and conservation impacts of the growing civet coffee industry should be carefully examined and monitored.”

Lastly, he said efforts should be made to raise public support for conservation in Indonesia, and ultimately to reduce significantly the demand for these species.

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Malaysia: New manual to make oil palm plantations wildlife friendly

Keeping the wild
Allan Koay The Star 15 Jan 13;

A new manual guides plantation managers on making estates friendly to wildlife.

THE basin of the Kinabatangan river, the longest river in Sabah and rich in biodiversity, has been transformed by logging and agricultural activities in the last 60 or so years.

In 2002, the Corridor of Life project was initiated by the World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia and the conservation group has since been working with Sabah Wildlife Department, local communities and oil palm companies to rehabilitate and re-establish forests along the riverbank. The effort has shown some positive results.

“We’ve looked at some oil palm plantations that are close to the Kinabatangan river, and it’s quite exciting,” said Dr Reza Azmi, founder and executive director of Wild Asia, a group which works with businesses to improve their environmental practices. “You have some amazing birds popping in, there are orang utans visiting on a regular basis, and elephants dropping by.”

The Corridor of Life project is one of the case studies cited in Biodiversity In Plantation Landscapes, a manual published by Wild Asia and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC). Wild Asia wanted a way to get managers with very little environmental and biodiversity knowledge to become more aware. So the manual was created as a kind of one-stop shop. It provides a primer on biodiversity and offers ways in which plantation managers can protect and enhance biodiversity in estates.

Handy guide

The manual does this by identifying landscape-level impacts, such as loss of natural habitats, and provides suggestions on how to manage such impacts. It also gives solutions for the use of fertilisers (which run the risk of runoffs contaminating aquatic environments) and pesticides (risk of poisoning wildlife), waste management and soil erosion, and managing water resources.

“For an existing plantation, sedimentation would be the big environmental issue,” said Reza. “You get this from replanting areas, or roads may have runoffs of sediment. And when you channel all this into your streams, it silts up the streams. The biodiversity of the streams are reduced.”

As they are planted with a single crop, plantations have been criticised for upsetting nature’s ecological balance. Reza said sometimes not everything in an area is cultivated, and that could be a good thing.

“Sometimes they leave pockets of forests here and there,” he said. “What we realise is that if those areas are left semi-natural, that’s also a way of attracting biodiversity within your plantation. We’ve also seen that just simply having ponds will make it attractive for migratory birds or other animals that might want to use them. We’ve seen some very rare birds in some oil palm plantations.”

Wild Asia, which started out as a simple online information-sharing hub in 1998, has been doing biodiversity assessments in and out of plantations since 2005.

“This really gives us a perspective of what the opportunities are, in terms of biodiversity conservation,” said Reza. “But also, the important thing was the time spent with the managers and staff on the ground, looking at and understanding the issues that are impacting biodiversity.”

The partnership with the oil palm industry gave Wild Asia the platform and access to the industry, and resources to do workshops with plantation managers. Prior to coming up with the manual, the organisation carried out a series of three workshops.

“The idea was get a chance to enlighten the managers on biodiversity issues,” Reza explained. “It was also to get feedback and problem-solve, and give them useful exercises. So all that became the precursor to the manual.”

Apart from the Kinabatangan example, the manual provides other success stories of biodiversity management. The River of Life Project in the Tanah Merah Estate in Negri Sembilan, for instance, involved rehabilitating a river that connected a forested hill to a mangrove reserve, and tree-planting as part of a forest enrichment exercise. The project ended in 2008, and the trees planted remained healthy.

Another is the Riparian Management Project in Sabah, undertaken in the Sabahmas Plantation outside of Lahad Datu. A biodiversity assessment found a large population of proboscis monkeys at the Segama river and a highly viable but degraded riparian area. The project was then undertaken by PPB Oil Palms and Sabah Forestry Department to enlarge and enrich the riparian area. After tree-plantings were carried out, there was an increase in sightings of wildlife in the area.

The manual is part of the Biodiversity for Busy Managers project, an initiative by Wild Asia and supported by the MPOC, to inspire and educate plantation managers to start incorporating biodiversity principles into their plantation management in order to protect their natural areas from depletion.

Wild Asia also conducted workshops for plantation workers to give them a clearer understanding of the concept of biodiversity, especially in relation to the issues connected to the oil palm industry, such as the development of riparian reserves and natural corridors in plantations. A series of Insight Guides are also being created, focusing on aspects of biodiversity which are of interest and importance to managers. The idea is to inform them about key biodiversity issues that apply to oil palm plantation development, and provide practical know-how to mitigate negative impacts on biodiversity in plantations.

The first guide, Migratory Birds In Plantations, comprises a four-page brochure and two posters which give an overview on bird migration, what birds to look out for at different times of the year, the benefits of birds in plantations, and ways in which planters can encourage the breeding and hosting of migratory birds.

A two-month study of avian diversity conducted in a plantation in Bintulu, Sarawak, in 2010 showed a positive correlation between the number of birds and proximity to secondary forest. The study also suggested that the presence of buffer zones in the plantation (in the form of riparian reserves, unplanted areas, road reserves or other areas where natural habitats can exist) benefits birds, as they constitute foraging and breeding habitats for birds.

Understand the problems

How effective would the solutions offered in the manual be in ensuring or regaining biodiversity in plantations? Reza pointed out that there is no hard and fast answer, but offered the Kinabatangan plantations as a good example of what can be done.

“You got the continuum of your starting point, and you also have a continuum of what your landscape and your neighbouring landscape actually look like,” he said. “Say, if my plantation is in Damansara (in Selangor), I’m surrounded by housing development, factories, so the overall state of my natural environment is pretty low. If you were to implement some of these ideas (in the manual), what you’re actually doing is creating little natural refuges for biodiversity, and you may be encouraging natural biodiversity. You’re also reducing your environmental foorprint. But should you expect to see tigers popping up? Or hornbills? No, because your palette, your neighbourhood, is pretty developed.”

He said the idea is to understand the problems occurring, and to plan for a different form of development for the future, while modifying practices at the same time.

“I wouldn’t say that this (manual) is going to stop the problems. But if you’re armed with this knowledge and you think about where you want to open a plantation next, and it stops you from doing it in a highly biodiverse area, then I think this book has done its job.”

The manual can be downloaded at

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Malaysia: 'Pedu land clearing will affect 400 species'

New Straits Times 14 Jan 13;

ALOR STAR: The habitats of some 400 species of animals, including the rare plain-pouched hornbills, are being threatened by the Pas-led state government's agro-tourism project near Pedu Dam.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) research officer S. Mageswari feared that the animals' habitat would be affected by land clearing taking place on a 358ha site near the area.

"During a research conducted on the Pedu forest with the World Wide Fund for Nature two years ago, we spotted a plain-pouched hornbill.

"We feared that the habitat of the hornbill, which is an endangered species, would be destroyed by the development works," she told the New Straits Times.

The land clearing was done to make way for a mango plantation to promote agro-tourism in the state. Mageswari said the absence of the animals would affect the ecosystem in the area.

"SAM is not choosing sides as we will not gain anything by doing so. However, we strongly believe that the state government should consider relocating the project."

State Wildlife and National Parks Department director Rozidan Md Yasin said the animal habitats would be affected by the land clearing.

It was reported that around 12,000 people who were taken for a tour at the site were shocked by the deforestation. The land clearing also irked 60,000 padi farmers, who urged the state government to scrap the project, which they claimed would affect their yield.

A Forestry Department spokesman said the project developer had been instructed to ensure that the land clearing did not trigger soil erosions and landslides.

On claims that rivers in the area had become murky and polluted, he said the department had taken water samples for testing.

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Indonesia: Javanese panther enters residential area in Banten

Antara 14 Jan 13;

Lebak (ANTARA News) - A female Javanese panther (Panthera pardus melas) that entered the residence area of Baduy in Kanekes village, Lebak Regency, Banten, was recently caught in a trap.

Photo of Javanese panther (Panthera pardus melas). (ANTARA/Musyawir)

"I predict that the panther caught in the trap was foraging," said Usep Suparno, an officer from the Forestry and Plantation Sub-official of Lebak, here on Monday.

He added that the weight of the animal was some 80 kilograms, and its body length was 1.5 meters.

The coat colour of the endemic panther, including endangered and protected species, is dark yellow, stated Usep.

"Their habitat in Mount Halimun-Salak National Park has been disturbed because of illegal logging activities, which have led to a decrease in the number of prey, such as warthogs and small deer," remarked Usep.

He admitted that panthers usually only enter villages or plantations in Lebak as a result of a damaged habitat.

He has urged residents to preserve the forest and this endangered animal since the forest area in Lebak is a habitat for the endemic panther.

"We urged the people not to kill the endangered species," said Usep.

According to him, the institution has cooperated with other agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Agency, the Forestry Police, and people around the national park to avoid the extinction of the species.

The institution has also provided counselling for the local residents and has encouraged discourse to protect the animal.

"This creature`s population could be a source of scientific information about our ancestors," he noted.

The Head Villager of Kanekes, Daenah, remarked that he had reported the finding to the relevant sub-official and agency.

According to him, the panther had been trapped for two days since Friday night (Jan 11) and was released on Sunday (Jan 13) after it broke out of the net in which it was trapped.

Daenah affirmed that the nocturnal species had suffered no injuries.

"I believe the panther had no injuries since we did not find any fallen fur," pointed out the Head Villager.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Thailand: Nets, poachers threaten sea cow extinction

The Nation 15 Jan 13;

Trang's 150 sea cow population faced extinction in a few years from now, as trawlnets were still being used and gang hunting of the dugongs had been revived, a local activist warned yesterday.

He said dugong heads were selling for medicine-making at Bt15,000 a piece on the overseas black market.

Koh Libong Community's Tourism for Conservation Club head, Isma-an Bensa-ard, said 17 dugongs died last year and 11 carcasses had been found buried to harvest the bones. Most dugong deaths came from illegal fishing tool usage as seen in Kang Tang and Had Samran districts, while state agencies were not acting effectively due to work redundancies and negligence. At the same time orders from overseas for dugongs were prompting gangsters to hunt them, he said.

Andaman Marine and Coastal Resource Research and Development Centre official Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong agreed the dugong situation was in crisis and last year saw confirmed dugong deaths in Trang and one in Phuket.

They resulted mostly from dugongs being trapped in trawlnets, he said.

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China pollution anger spills into state media

Neil Connor (AFP) Google News 15 Jan 13;

BEIJING — Public anger in China at dangerous levels of air pollution, which blanketed Beijing in acrid smog, spread Monday as state media queried official transparency and the nation's breakneck development.

The media joined Internet users in calling for a re-evaluation of China's modernisation process, which has seen rapid urbanisation and dramatic economic development at the expense of the environment.

Dense smog shrouded large swathes of northern China at the weekend, cutting visibility to 100 metres (yards) in some areas and forcing flight cancellations. Reports said dozens of building sites and a car factory in the capital halted work as an anti-pollution measure.

Doctors at two of the city's major hospitals said the number of patients with respiratory problems had increased sharply in the past few days, state media reported.

"Now it has been dark with pollution for three days, at least people are starting to realise how important the environment is," said one posting on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

At the height of the smog Beijing authorities said readings for PM2.5 -- particles small enough deeply to penetrate the lungs -- hit 993 micrograms per cubic metre, almost 40 times the World Health Organisation's safe limit.

Experts quoted by state media blamed low winds, saying fog had mixed with pollutants from vehicles and factories and had been trapped by mountains north and west of Beijing. Coal burning in winter was also a factor, they added.

In an editorial Monday the state-run Global Times called for more transparent figures on pollution and urged the government to change its "previous method of covering up the problems and instead publish the facts".

Officials in China have a long history of covering up environmental and other problems.

Earlier this month a chemical spill into a river was only publicly disclosed five days after it happened, and authorities were widely criticised for initially denying the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.

Official PM2.5 statistics have only been released for China's biggest conurbations since the beginning of last year, and expanded to cover 74 cities earlier this month.

The tightly-controlled media has previously raised concerns over health problems linked to industrialisation. Observers say the statistics' increasing availability has forced them to confront the issue more directly.

The Xinhua state news agency criticised the "pollutant belt" that had spread across the country and warned that the authorities' stated goal of building a "beautiful China" was in jeopardy.

"A country with a brown sky and hazardous air is obviously not beautiful," it said.

"The environmental situation facing the country will be increasingly challenging," it said. "There is no reason to be too optimistic."

On Monday the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced measures to tackle the problem.

It pledged to limit vehicle exhaust emissions and promote the use of clean energy as well as step up the development of public transport systems in urban areas, state news agency Xinhua said.

The environmental watchdog also asked local authorities to increase their analysis of air pollution and publicise the results quickly as part of an early warning system for air quality, Xinhua reported.

Smog levels eased in the capital Monday, with the national monitoring centre putting the PM2.5 AQI figure at 183, or "light pollution", in the evening -- although the US embassy gave it a "hazardous" 335.

Levels remained high in many parts of China, with PM 2.5 AQI standing at 405 in Zhengzhou south of Beijing and 342 in Xian to the southwest.

Share prices of environment-related companies surged, with face mask producer Shanghai Dragon soaring by its 10 percent daily limit.

The smog dominated discussion on Sina Weibo. "This pollution is making me so angry," said one user, posting a picture of herself wearing a face mask.

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