Best of our wild blogs: 6 Feb 13

29 Apr - 04 May 2013: NUS TMSI "Introduction to Bryozoans and Hydroids" workshop (deadline 01 Mar 2013)
from ecotax at Yahoo! Groups

Chained reactions
from The annotated budak

Mating display and call of the Crimson Sunbird
from Bird Ecology Study Group

It is World Wetlands Day!
from Resonant Connections

from The Concrete Canopy and Pulau Ubin

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Leave Bedok midges alone

Straits Times Forum 6 Feb 13;

AS A resident living near Bedok Reservoir Park, I watch in astonishment as the authorities wage an all-out war against midges during their mating season.

Twice a day, all-round fogging of the reservoir is carried out, making it difficult for joggers and park users to breathe.

Now, unsightly blue nets have been erected all around the perimeter of the reservoir, blocking our views of the park.

Like plankton in the ocean, midges form the base food source of many land creatures such as bats and swallows. It is no wonder that the annual migration of swallows from temperate countries in the north coincides with the mating season of the midges here.

All over the world, where there are water bodies and greenery, there will be midges. There is no effective way to rid of them, and there is also no need to.

The midges found here are non-biting and do not spread diseases.

Home owners who wish to live near nature should learn to be tolerant of the occasional wildlife visitor, instead of trying to destroy them for the sake of "cleanliness".

Most land areas in Singapore are catchment areas, which means most chemicals, such as fogging agents, released into the environment will inevitably end up in our reservoirs.

We should leave the midges well alone.

Milton Yap Yang Ming

Midges are a menace
Straits Times Forum 12 Feb 13;

I LIVE at West Coast Drive and have been suffering from the midge epidemic silently and patiently for over two years, so I disagree with Mr Milton Yap Yang Ming's call to do nothing about midge infestations ("Leave Bedok midges alone"; last Wednesday).

In late 2006, when I first moved to West Coast, and for many years after, there were never any midges. I suspect the deterioration of our public health regime gave rise to the menace.

Unlike in Bedok, the West Coast midges are aggressive. They feast on faeces and rubbish, and then pay uninvited visits to raw and cooked food. Worse, they love flying into damp places such as nostrils, ear chambers, and eyelids.

In short, they are not quite the harmless creatures as suggested by Mr Yap.

It is well and good to have researchers identify the midge species ("Scientists identify pesky midges"; Dec 15). But it is so much more important for the National Environment Agency to tell the people when they can expect to have the midge problem resolved, or at least under effective control.

Cheang Peng Wah

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Asia Pulp and Paper pledges to halt Indonesian deforestation

Asia Pulp and Paper will end the clearing of forest across its supply chain by preserving high-carbon stock rainforests
Fiona Harvey 5 Feb 13;

The world's third biggest paper company has pledged to halt deforestation in Indonesia, and help to restore the habitats of the rare Sumatran tiger and orangutan, following a long-running campaign by environmentalists.

Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) said on Tuesday that it would end the "clearing of natural forest" across its entire supply chain, with immediate effect. From now on, it has pledged to work to preserve "high conservation value" and "high-carbon stock" forests.

The move marks a major victory for green campaigners, as paper made from the pulped remains of some of the last virgin rainforests of south-east Asia has been found in products across the world, and its manufacture has contributed to the endangerment of threatened wildlife.

Aida Greenbury, managing director for sustainability at APP, told the Guardian the company was keen to show an example to the rest of the industry. "It is time to stop talking and fighting – it is time for us to show real action on the ground. It is time to stop talking about climate change but address it."

After a long investigation by Greenpeace, APP was found last year to have used trees that are endangered and cannot legally be logged in Indonesia in packaging for major clients. The green group traced DNA from ramin trees – native to the same habitat as the rare Sumatran tiger – to packaging in consumer products.

That investigation, and similar findings, resulted in an exodus of key clients, including Xerox, Danone, KFC UK, Disney and Mattel, and a long series of complaints. At the time, the company said it would look into its supply chain more closely, but progress was slow. APP's change of heart on Tuesday was hailed by Greenpeace as a breakthrough.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, who was in 2011 refused entry to Indonesia owing to his campaigning on the subject, said the move was "highly significant". APP is part of Sinar Mas, one of the biggest companies in south-east Asia, with interests including palm oil as well as pulp and paper. The company has long been resistant to calls from campaigners to be more transparent about its business practices, and has been accused of contributing to the massive deforestation taking place in Indonesia. But Sauven said the company was now willing to co-operate with campaigners.

Scott Poynton, head of the Tropical Forest Trust, the non-governmental organisation that helped broker the deal with APP, said: "If the third-largest paper company in the world can commit to forest preservation – despite the complex social, political, economic and environmental challenges they have to navigate to do so—then any company can do it. Now, there is no excuse for companies – whether operating in Indonesia, Africa, or other forest-rich regions – to destroy forests as a consequence of feeding global demand for the goods they produce."

He said that private sector companies would be key in any attempts to tackle climate change. "Deforestation has always been a primary target of efforts to slow climate change. What we've shown here is that the answer can lie in the private sector – after all, it is the private sector that cuts down trees. We've been looking in the wrong place for our solutions – the United Nations has little understanding of the forces driving deforestation – or how to influence the private sector to stop behaving in ways that harm the environment."

However, APP only said it would focus on "high-carbon stock" and "high-conservation value" forest and peatlands. That could leave out swaths of forest that have already been degraded in some way, for instance by partial deforestation.

Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace's forest campaign in Indonesia, said the company must now prove it would follow through on its pledges: "We commend APP for making this commitment to end deforestation, but it's what happens in the forest that counts and we will be monitoring progress closely. If APP fully implements its new policies it will mark a dramatic change in direction, after years of deforestation in Indonesia."

Further political moves in Indonesia will be watched closely. In May this year, a two-year moratorium on deforesatation announced by president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2011 will expire.

Maitar said: "We urge Indonesia's government to use the momentum of APP's move to strengthen and extend the moratorium, starting with a review of all existing forest concessions. As a matter of urgency, the government should improve the enforcement of forestry laws to help companies like APP implement their conservation policies. Only concerted action from government, industry and Indonesian civil society can finally turn the tide of extinction facing Sumatra's tigers."

The spotlight will also now fall on Asia Pacific Resources International, the second biggest pulp and paper producer in Indonesia, which has not yet made such a pledge against deforestation. Greenpeace has written to the company to ask for its plans.

WWF Welcomes APP Announcement to Halt Clearing, Urges Paper Buyers to Wait for Proof
WWF 5 Feb 13;

JAKARTA – WWF welcomed the announcement by the Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) stopped clearing Indonesia’s tropical forests and peatlands to allow an assessment of their conservation and carbon values. But the conservation organization urged paper buyers to wait for confirmation of the claims through independent monitoring by civil society before doing business with APP.

“APP today committed to most of WWF’s calls. If the company follows through on this, it could be great news for Indonesia’s forests, biodiversity and citizens,” said Nazir Foead, Conservation Director of WWF-Indonesia.

“Unfortunately, APP has a long history of making commitments to WWF, customers and other stakeholders that it has failed to live up to. We hope this time the company does what it promised. WWF plans to independently monitor APP’s wood sourcing and forestry activities for compliance with its commitments and regularly update stakeholders on the findings,” Foead added.

APP runs two of the world’s largest pulp mills on Sumatra, where it produces the pulp for the toilet paper, tissue, copy paper and packaging that it sells worldwide. The company and its wood suppliers are responsible for clearing more than 2 million hectares of rain forest on the island since beginning operations in 1984, an analysis by the NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest found.

“WWF hopes that APP’s new commitments will do more than just stop its own bulldozers, including protecting the natural forests in its concessions from all illegal activities and mitigating the long-term negative impacts its practices have had on all the peat lands, forests, biodiversity and local people in Sumatra and Borneo for which these commitments have come too late,” Foead added.

“WWF has long called on responsible businesses to avoid sourcing from APP and until there is truly independent confirmation that APP has stopped draining peat soils and pulping tropical forests with high conservation value, we continue to urge paper buyers to adopt a wait for proof stance,” said Aditya Bayunanda, GFTN and pulp & paper manager of WWF Indonesia.

Mr Teguh Widjaya, the patriarch of the family’s pulp and paper business, oversaw the announcement today that no member of his APP group operating in Indonesia or China will accept any tropical timber felled in Indonesia after 31 January 2013 until company consultants have completed a full “high conservation value” and a “high carbon stock” assessment of their forest concessions.

However, the company inserted a loophole in the commitment saying that for an indefinite period of time APP mills would accept trees felled before 31 January.

As a sign of good faith and the first demonstrable milestone, WWF calls on APP to have moved the supply of already-cut tropical timber its suppliers cleared before the self-imposed 31 January 2013 moratorium by 5 May 2013, the due date of its next quarterly forest policy report.

A fully implemented moratorium on pulping forests with high conservation and high carbon value would have a profound impact on Indonesia’s biodiversity, as well as on Indonesia’s carbon emissions. WWF urges all of the country’s pulp producers to stop using tropical forests.

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Rhino poaching crisis spreads to India

WWF 5 Feb 13;

India Monday lost its ninth rhino to poaching so far this year within the northern state of Assam.

The greater-one horned, or Indian rhino, was found shot dead with its horn removed in Kaziranga National Park. Seven other rhinos have already been killed in the park during 2013, and an additional rhino was poached last month in Manas National Park.

Officials are concerned about the increasing use of sophisticated weapons by poachers. Many of the Assam’s rhinos have been gunned down by Kalashnikov rifles. The state has approximately 2,500 rhinos remaining after losing 21 to poachers last year.

The use of high-powered weapons enables poachers to kill the rhinos quickly, cut off their horns and flee before the forest guards can get to the scene.

The proximity of Assam to India’s porous international borders with neighbours such as Bangladesh and Myanmar is believed to contribute to availability of arms and also enables poaching gangs access international criminal syndicates engaging in wildlife smuggling.

The primary destination for rhino horns is Viet Nam, where new medical and social uses have emerged in recent years. According to a recent TRAFFIC report, consumers in Viet Nam are willing to pay extremely high prices for medicines made with rhino horn in the mistaken belief that it can cure a number of diseases.

Rising illicit demand for rhino horn has pushed poaching of African rhinos to crisis levels. Poaching statistics released recently by the South African government reveal that a record 668 rhinos were killed across the country in 2012, an increase of nearly 50 per cent from the 448 rhinos lost to poachers in 2011.

After decades of conservation success, which resulted in the population of rhinos in Assam rising to around 2,500 currently, the spike in poaching indicates that criminal networks are strengthening in the state.

To avoid loss of these hard-fought gains it is imperative that urgent steps are taken by the government of Assam to reduce these threats.

As wildlife crime increasingly involves organized networks, better co-ordination among the different enforcement agencies is needed to tackle them. WWF-India believes that intelligence networks need to be strengthened and a dedicated law enforcement agency established.

WWF is currently running an international campaign against illegal wildlife trade to put pressure on governments to protect animals from poaching and to prevent illegal trade across borders.

The campaign’s other objective is to educate consumers about how they can take steps to stop fuelling the illegal demand for wildlife products worldwide.

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