Best of our wild blogs: 4 Mar 13

Common palm civet seen at UTown NUS
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Final call for area affected by 8 lane highway in Bukit Brown
from Rojak Librarian

PUB drinking water quality report 2011
from Water Quality in Singapore

Why we do it
from Gamefish And Aquatic Rehabiliation Society

Last chance to see the Raffles Museum Public Gallery!
from wild shores of singapore

Blacktip Reef Shark
from Monday Morgue

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Singapore: Home or hotel?

By Geh Min For The Straits Times 4 Mar 13;

THE heated debate over the Population White Paper arose partly from unease over a future projected population of 6.9 million.

But a more important underlying issue needs to be aired too: What is Singapore to its citizens, including its leaders? Is it home, hotel or a corporation like an economic entity?

Without a shared sense of home, we will not achieve social cohesion in our compact city-state.

It will then not matter whether we have five, six or seven million people. Life will be stressful and even intolerable.

Our founding fathers had a vision to link people and place - Home Ownership for Everyone.

But have we expanded this sense of ownership beyond our own doorsteps? We have some way still to go, given the recurrent apathy and anti-social behaviour such as littering.

Increasing signs of the Not In My Backyard (Nimby) syndrome and road rage imply the expanded sense of ownership is selfishly rather than socially motivated.

Still, more educated and articulate Singaporeans with a strong sense of national identity are speaking up. They want to make a difference and can be frustrated by the lack of avenues for doing so.

The debates over Chek Jawa, the Railway Corridor and Bukit Brown exemplify this trend, and should be viewed positively, as a sign of growing nationhood.

Social and spatial justice

IN A country as land-scarce as ours, spatial justice is as important as social justice in creating a level playing field in jobs and educational opportunities.

The Government's public housing policy, for example, strives for spatial justice. The People's Action Party's early policy of acquiring land at low rates to be redeveloped for low-cost housing put vast tracts of land - and housing units - within reach of the masses, serving spatial justice.

Beyond housing is a need to equitably allocate land for transport and other essential amenities for industry and investment, and for nature and recreation. Maintaining a good balance is challenging.

In Singapore, the state is by far the biggest land owner, thanks to the Land Acquisition Act, which gives the state wide powers of acquisition. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is both the arbiter and implementer of land use: the trustee that acts for the people.

How should the URA determine use of land?

Property and environmental lawyer Joseph Chun argues that the concept of the Public Trust Doctrine might be useful here. He said: "When applied to the state, it draws a distinction between ordinary land generally owned by the state as a corporate entity as though it were a private landowner; and public trust land held by the state as the sovereign as though it were a trustee for specific purposes in the common interest of the public."

This distinction - the state as corporate landowner and as trustee landowner - is crucial. To be fair to the Government, it has indeed been a wise steward in maintaining this difficult balance. Environmentalists such as myself will argue that one failure is the disproportionate number of private golf courses allowed here - they consume huge land tracts when only a small minority benefit.

But can a future government continue to be a wise steward for our increasingly scarce land? There is no systematic use of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) to measure the impact of any development plan. Nor is there requisite information about what most Singaporeans want when it comes to land use.

Particularly worrying is the proposal in the White Paper to build infrastructure and amenities well in advance of a 6.9 million population. The notion of building "ahead of demand" might sound appealing to those jostling for space on crowded trains today.

But do we really need to set aside valuable land and taxpayers' money to provide for this hypothetical increase?

When land becomes scarcer and population density increases further, how will the state maintain the precarious balance between land use for the public good and private developments and amenities affordable only for the affluent? Even expanding our roads and highways could be a form of spatial injustice as cars are one of the least efficient and most inequitable forms of transport in a land-challenged country.

Consider, for example, the lack of proper housing amenities for foreign workers. These construction workers, cleaners and domestic workers contribute enormously to making Singapore "clean and green" and creating a "quality living environment". Yet, until recently, little thought seems to have been given to providing them with decent housing or recreational amenities.

A sense of continuity

WHEN physical landscapes change, something is lost irrevocably. A sense of continuity is essential to general well-being.

A rapidly changing society like Singapore needs to conserve as much of its natural and man-made heritage as possible, to preserve shared memories and to keep familiar landmarks.

For instance, the strong reactions over landmarks such as the Railway Line and Bukit Brown suggest that Singaporeans have a growing need for visible and palpable connections to a shared past.

A rapidly changing landscape might be a developer's dream and provide entertainment for transients and tourists, but it is a stressful nightmare for those who choose to make Singapore home.

Mr Chan Chun Sing, the Acting Minister for Social and Family Development, said recently that while "it is important to preserve Singapore's heritage, this has to be balanced against the need for redevelopment" as this "adds new buildings and new areas, which in turn allows future generations to create new memories".

He noted that since previous generations gave up some of their memories for us to be where we are today, "it is also incumbent on us to pay it forward".

But memories are not a commodity to be bartered or traded. The value of heritage is that subsequent generations can add fresh layers to treasured memories to enrich the narrative further - not trade old memories for new ones.

Heritage and national values cannot be transmitted by textbooks and political rhetoric alone. A society is defined as much by what we choose to preserve or destroy as by what we create.

A society that places no visible value on continuity will create future generations who are adrift on market forces rather than one anchored by a shared nationhood to country and fellow countrymen.

How will such a place produce people who are prepared to invest emotionally, to stay long term, to start a family and to make sacrifices to defend their country? It would be much easier to trade one country for another.

Singapore has evolved from a nation by chance to nationhood by choice. Let us not deteriorate into a city-state of convenience: a hotel rather than a home.

The writer is a consultant ophthalmologist and immediate past president of the Nature Society.

Related links
Reclaiming the Public Trust in Singapore by Joseph Chun
Associate Member, Exco, Asia Pacific Centre for Environmental Law

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Community farm for Clementi residents launched

Alvina Soh Channel NewsAsia 3 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: Residents who have been illegally using state land at Clementi Avenue 4 for farming now have an official community farm.

The farm was launched on Sunday by Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, and Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency, Sim Ann.

The farm comes after the Bukit Timah Citizens' Consultative Committee successfully applied for a three-year temporary occupation licence for the plot of state land.

It cost about S$60,000 to set up the farm.

For five years, laboratory manager Lester Yeong and his retiree father indulged their passion for gardening in their Clementi neighbourhood.

But their efforts were given the thumbs down as they were farming on state land.

Mr Yeong and other illegal farmers were asked by the authorities to clear out within two weeks in March last year, after some residents complained of smoke from the burning of leaves.

He said: "Looking at all the folks, it spurred me on to do something for everyone. I made the initiative to gather everyone, approach the RC for this community project to go on so that at least the folks from this area will be able to continue this hobby at their convenience."

The Bukit Timah Citizens' Consultative Committee then obtained an extension from the authorities on their behalf.

Ms Sim said: "The objective is to ensure that this is for wider community benefit. What's very important is that I think including the farmers, the opportunity to regularise what used to be unauthorised activities. We saw the opportunity for more people to come in and I think the farmers were very receptive of that."

Users of the community farm will pay an annual maintenance fee of S$60 for their individual plots.

Residents originally involved in unauthorised planting were invited to take up a plot each, while remaining plots were allocated through ballot to other interested residents.

Mr Yeong gets a 32-square metre plot to grow his produce.

He said: "The kids love it. There was one point of time, we were here every evening, from about 5pm to 7pm. They will just go around running, playing with water, catching insects, helping to weed. They enjoy this experience that they can't get in the classroom."

The land will be divided into 30 plots and fitted with amenities for gardening.

Farmers will also get water supply and a lighted footpath, leading from Blocks 301 and 305 Clementi Ave 4 to the community farm and the park connector parallel to the Ulu Pandan Canal.

Bukit Timah Citizens' Consultative Committee is also advising farmers against the burning of leaves and breeding of mosquito habitats.

- CNA/xq

Clementi state land now a community farm
Grassroots effort key in helping residents keep their once-illegal plots
Grace Chua Straits Times 4 Mar 13;

A PATCH of land in Clementi that was once used illegally by residents is now a community farm in which radishes, chillies, sweet potatoes and corn grow.

The farm, behind Block 305 Clementi Avenue 4 in the Bukit Timah division of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, was officially opened by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and grassroots adviser Sim Ann yesterday.

Fruit and vegetables once thrived on the state land between Clementi Avenue 4 and Sungei Ulu Pandan, where labourers and retirees also gathered to chit-chat near a small shrine they had built. Other farmers had installed ponds and an outhouse.

But last March, other residents complained of burning leaves and mosquito breeding, which prompted the Singapore Land Authority to ask the farmers to go.

The Bukit Timah grassroots network stepped in to work with residents, farmers and government agencies.

They came up with a plan for the Bukit Timah citizens' consultative committee (CCC) to rent the land from the state on a yearly basis for community farming.

Today, users pay $5 a month to use the site's 30 plots, each 8m by 4m and allocated by ballot to existing and new farmers.

While some structures like the shrine and outhouse had to go, footpaths, lights, water points and a tool shed were added and work was done in late January.

The bill of about $60,000 was funded partly by the North West Community Development Council and partly by private donors.

Mr Michael Chia, vice-chairman of the CCC, said wet weather pushed back the completion date from late last year, and construction had to skirt an active gas pipe running underground.

The CCC also advises farm users on how to prevent mosquito breeding, and not to burn leaves.

Ms Sim, who is Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education as well as Communications and Information, said: "I would say it's a win-win outcome, and it was possible with a lot of legwork and persuasion on the part of the grassroots (organisations) and a lot of support from agencies."

Mr Lester Yeong, 35, whose family tended a plot at the old farm and has the use of a plot now, welcomes the cleaner environment. "With water available, we don't need to wait for rain," he said.

IT professional Toh Boon Chew, 42, who is a newcomer to the community farm, said: "I've gained some knowledge from the existing farmers."

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Work to start on extension to Botanic Gardens

Grace Chua Straits Times 4 Mar 13;

ALONG Tyersall Avenue, just off Holland Road, stands a set of spiked, forbidding-looking gates.

Inside, the paved path is buried under moss and just visible under a thick carpet of fallen leaves and fruit. The area is overgrown with trees such as tembusu, banana and albizia.

But in a few years' time, visitors to the Botanic Gardens will get to wander through this forest and a new marshland on an elevated walkway, perhaps even at night when the area comes alive with a chorus of creatures.

This 9.8ha patch, about as big as some 12 football fields and once part of the estate of the late Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor, will be the latest extension to the Botanic Gardens.

The forested area will bring the total size of the 154-year-old Botanic Gardens to nearly 74ha.

This year, work will begin on the long-delayed project, called the Tyersall extension. It was first announced in 2009, but in 2011, the completion date was extended from last year to this year. Now, work is slated to be done in 2015.

Singapore Botanic Gardens director Nigel Taylor said plans and specifications for a stormwater detention pond under a parking area for buses and cars at the Tyersall extension had to be finalised with PUB, the national water agency.

The century-old, regenerated forest of the Tyersall extension provides a rare chance to study forest regrowth, Dr Taylor added. "That's an interesting message: If you leave nature to get on with itself, in some cases, it can recover," said the botanist and former head curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London.

Within the forest patch are towering tembusu trees planted along the entry path to the Istana Tyersall, the Sultan's residence here which burned down in 1905.

It is likely that these, along with other plants and fungi, enabled the forest to regenerate, Dr Taylor said. A 6ha rainforest pocket at the main Botanic Gardens was also a likely source of fruit and seeds that were transported by birds.

Most of the biodiversity will be left undisturbed, he said. While invasive species like oil palm and some types of yam will have to be cleared, others like passion fruit, pili nuts and other medicinal herbs will stay.

Botanic Gardens staff even found a species of the rare Nipis Kulit tree, which was thought to have vanished from Singapore, in the forest.

The Tyersall extension will also feature a new freshwater swamp forest habitat. Elevated walkways will serve to protect both visitors and biodiversity.

Tyersall Avenue will also be realigned to skirt the edge of the extension. Dr Taylor did not disclose how much the project will cost since that will depend on tender results. Singapore Press Holdings is giving $1.2 million to develop outreach programmes.

"Man has so altered the environment that if you want a natural or semi-natural environment to prosper, you have to manage it," Dr Taylor said.

Botanic Gardens' Tyersall site dates back to 1854
Grace Chua Straits Times 4 Mar 13;

THE Singapore Botanic Gardens' Tyersall extension, which will feature tropical forest and marsh habitats, towering tembusu trees and an aerial walkway when it is completed, has a long history.

The 9.8ha is part of a larger 24.4ha swathe which was first occupied by lawyer and newspaper editor William Napier who, in 1854, built a house on it named Tyersall.

Later, the area became the estate of the Sultanate of Johor.

Sultan Abu Bakar built the Istana Tyersall, his Singapore residence, on it, as well as Woodneuk, a house which he gave to his wife Khadijah.

The Istana Tyersall was lost in a fire in 1905 and the land fell into disuse.

In 1990, the Government first announced plans to acquire a slice of the site. Today, the 9.8ha strip is under the Singapore Botanic Gardens' purview, while a larger plot to the west, bordering Holland Road, is private land.

The extension was first announced by then National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan in 2009, but its completion date was pushed back from 2012 to this year and now to 2015, as plans for a stormwater detention pond had to be worked out. Work will begin on the project later this year.

The new Botanic Gardens extension will do double duty as a visitor attraction and flood protection facility: Under its carpark for coaches and cars will sit a detention pond to protect the Stamford Canal catchment area from flooding during heavy storms.

The pond, with the capacity of some 15 Olympic-size pools, will hold excess stormwater temporarily to protect flood-prone areas.

When it rains, water from the catchment area will be channelled into the pond before it is released later into Marina Reservoir via Holland Road drains, a diversion canal and the Singapore River.

Finally, when the Tyersall extension takes shape, it will be part of a green network that extends north to the Central Catchment reserve and includes residents' gardens and community planting in Kheam Hock Road, and that will allow birds and butterflies to move in an ecological corridor.

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Tiger Hurts Jambi Man in Latest Attack Linked to Deforestation

Jakarta Globe 2 Mar 13;

A man in Jambi was attacked by a Sumatran tiger on Thursday, adding to a long list of human encounters with the endangered animal that has lost much of its habitat to encroachment and deforestation.

Sutrisno, 45, a resident of Muaro Sebo village, sustained serious wounds to his left thigh after being attacked at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

A witness, Dodi, said that Sutrisno was tapping for rubber in his field and noted that there were tiger footprints on the ground. Sutrisno later took a photograph of the footprints to alert his neighbors.

On his way back, he came face to face with the tiger.

Sutrisno went to reach for a wooden stick nearby but was attacked before he had could scare the tiger off.

The man tried to wrestle with the tiger before managing to climb a tree.

The tiger tried to chase after him but Sutrisno prevented it from climbing by hitting the animal repeatedly with the stick he was holding.
Several villagers immediately chased the tiger away after Sutrisno cried for help.

“The villagers in Muaro Sebo have now been told not to leave their houses,” Dodi said adding that there was another villager who claimed to have spotted at least three tigers not long before the incident.

The Jambi Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) immediately deployed several officers to hunt down the tigers in a bid to relocate them away from human settlement.

The BKSDA has recorded several human encounters with the endangered species over the past three weeks, saying that a recent flood might have pushed the tiger population even closer to human habitation.

Last week, two farmers in West Tanjung Jabung district were attacked by tigers and had to be hospitalized. Just days later, a domesticated cow in Batanghari district was killed and eaten by tigers.

BKSDA Jambi chief Tri Siswo said the majority of the tiger population live inside the Kerinci Seblat National Park, which borders three provinces — Jambi, West Sumatra, and Bengkulu — and was heavily affected by recent floods.

Tri said that massive deforestation was also to blame for the increasing number of encounters with the endangered species, which is estimated to number only 30 to 40 in the entire province.

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Thailand to end domestic ivory trade, PM says

Reuters 3 Mar 13;

Thailand will end its domestic ivory trade, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced on Sunday, promising legislation that could help the country avoid international trade sanctions after criticism by environmental groups.

The announcement of legislation to end the ivory trade came at the opening ceremony of a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) conference in Bangkok.

"This will help protect all forms of elephants including Thailand's wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa," Yingluck said in a statement.

The CITES conference runs until March 14.

Environmental groups such as World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and TRAFFIC, which monitors the wildlife trade, have been calling for CITES to sanction Thailand, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo for their part in the illegal ivory trade.

Thailand is accused by conservation groups of fuelling the already rampant slaughter of African elephants and trade in their ivory through lax enforcement and regulation of its legal domestic market, which the country has never publicly committed to curbing before.

The largely unregulated market is ideal for laundering illegal African ivory into its system before being sold on, environmental groups say.

Groups said it was not clear how Thailand would go about ending its domestic trade, nor how long it would take.

"Prime Minister Shinawatra now needs to provide a timeline for this ban and ensure that it takes place as a matter of urgency, because the slaughter of elephants continues," said Carlos Drews, head of WWF's delegation to CITES.

Thailand is the largest illegal ivory market in the world behind China with much of the ivory being bought by foreign tourists, the WWF says.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Robert Birsel)

Thailand's promise to end ivory trade cautiously welcomed
Matt McGrath BBC News 3 Mar 13;

Thailand's prime minister says she will amend her country's laws to ban the legal trade in ivory.

Yingluck Shinawatra was speaking at the opening of the Cites conservation meeting taking place in Bangkok,

The legal market in Thailand is said to be fuelling high levels of poaching across Africa.

Critics say that there is a lack of clarity and detail regarding the proposed changes to the law.

There are about 6,500 elephants in Thailand, of which 2,500 live in the wild. Ivory taken from domesticated elephants can be legally sold in the country but campaign groups and scientific experts say that this law is being used to "launder" ivory taken illegally from Africa.

Thailand is believed to be second only to China as a market for tusks, often brutally removed from elephants across the continent. It is estimated that between 50 and 100 African elephants a day are being killed to meet the demand.

Speaking at the opening of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in Bangkok, the Thai PM said that no one cares more about elephants than the people of Thailand.

But she acknowledged that the current system was being abused.

"Unfortunately, many have used Thailand as a transit country for the illegal international ivory trade," she told the meeting.

"As a next step we will forward amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end on ivory trade and to be in line with international norms."

No further details were given as to the timing and scope of any ban. Some campaigners were delighted with the announcement, saying they understood the proposed changes would protect all forms of elephants including Thailand's wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa.

Stuart Chapman from WWF told BBC News it was a "big occasion."

"We need to see detail in terms of the timeframe but it all starts with a commitment and we've never had that before, today the prime minister made that commitment," he said.

"This is a very important first step."

Others though were more cautious believing that Ms Yingluck was talking about curbing the international flow of ivory into Thailand by beefing up a DNA testing programme to validate the origins or tusks.

And with up to 5,000 stores, boutiques and kiosks selling ivory to tourists across Thailand, many believe it will be impossible to stem the trade, whatever the law says.

Philip Mansbridge is the chief executive of the wildlife charity, Care for the Wild. He told BBC news that the PM's intentions were unclear.

"While it is positive that the host country has recognised the size of the ivory issue and the importance of it, we were disappointed by the lack of a clear commitment to banning the domestic trade," he said.

"We don't feel it has gone far enough."

The Cites meeting runs until the 14th of March and will consider 70 proposals from governments to regulate the trade in species including polar bears, rhinos and several different varieties of sharks.

Thai prime minister announces end to ivory trade
WWF 3 Mar 13;

Bangkok, Thailand – Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra today pledged to end ivory trade in Thailand, seizing a key opportunity to stem global wildlife trafficking. Her statement came after the call of nearly 1.5 million WWF and Avaaz supporters.

Prime Minister Shinawatra said at the opening of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok that Thailand would take steps to end ivory trade – the first time the Thai government has said this publicly.

"As a next step we will forward amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end on ivory trade and to be in line with international norms," Prime Minster Shinawatra said. "This will help protect all forms of elephants including Thailand's wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa."

Ending ivory trade in Thailand – currently the world's largest unregulated ivory market – will go a long way in stemming a global poaching crisis that is leading to the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants each year and fuelling a global criminal trade in animal parts.

"We're thrilled to hear that Prime Minister Shinawatra took this opportunity to seize the global spotlight and pledge to end ivory trade in her country. But the fight to stop wildlife crime and shut down Thailand's ivory markets is not over. Prime Minister Shinawatra now needs to provide a timeline for this ban and ensure that it takes place as a matter of urgency, because the slaughter of elephants continues," said Carlos Drews head of WWF's delegation to CITES.

Thailand is currently the largest illegal ivory market behind China. Officials have certified 67 authorized ivory vendors. However, market surveys have found ivory in more than 250 shops. Much of this ivory is purchased by foreign tourists.

The prime minister's decision comes as WWF and TRAFFIC continue asking CITES governments to sanction countries fuelling the global illegal wildlife trade. Poaching has escalated to crisis levels in recent years, and is a major threat to iconic species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.

Thailand, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo have failed repeatedly to address their rampant domestic ivory markets despite CITES rules that outlaw the unregulated sale of ivory. Under treaty rules, CITES member states can recommend that parties stop trading with non-compliant countries in the 35,000 species covered under the convention, from timbers to crocodile skins.

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EU introduces illegal timber import controls

Mark Kinver BBC News 3 Mar 13;

Measures to prevent illegally harvested timber from entering the European Union come into force on Sunday.

The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) requires importers or sellers of timber and wood products to keep records of the sources of their supplies.

Interpol estimates that illegal logging contributes up to 30% of timber in the global market, costing in excess of 15bn euros ($20bn/£13bn) each year.

The EU accounts for 35% of the world's primary timber consumption.

The law, which was adopted by the European Parliament and Council back in October 2010, is only just coming into force because of the measures member states and private companies had to put in place.

'Due diligence'

Operators, which refers to "those who first place a timber product on the EU market" - through a "due diligence" system - are required to "make every effort to ensure that the wood they trade in is legal".

The due diligence system (DDS) comprises three elements, including access to information relating to shipments' country of origin, quantity and suppliers' details; evaluation that the timber was produced in compliance with the laws of the country of origin; taking additional steps to ensure the legality of the timber if there is any doubt over its provenance.

In addition, the EUTR requires traders ("those who sell or buy the timber already on the EU market") to keep "adequate information so that the wood they deal in can be easily traced".

Officials say the new law covers a wide range of products, from paper and pulp to solid wood and flooring, and forms a part of ongoing efforts to help tackle the global problem of illegal logging.

Illegal logging is defined as the harvesting of wood that breaches the laws or regulations of the country of origin.

The European Union says it has "severe economic, environmental and social impacts for some of the world's most valuable remaining forests and the billions of people that rely on them."

In 2012, Interpol and the UN launched Project Leaf, an initiative to combat illegal logging and organised forest crime.

In February, Interpol said almost 200 people had been arrested in a wide-ranging international anti-illegal logging operation.

The global anti-crime agency added that the three-month effort spanned 12 Central and South American countries, and $8m (£5.2m) worth of timber had been seized.

'Landmark legislation'

Environmental group WWF says much of the illegally traded timber comes from central Africa and South-East Asia, with a "significant proportion" being processed in China and Hong Hong before being shipped to EU nations, particularly the UK.

"This is a landmark piece of legislation, which for the first time gives us a real chance to tackle the negative impact that our indiscriminate trade in timber and wood products has had on forests globally," said Beatrix Richards, WWF-UK's forest campaigner.

But WWF added that the legislation did not cover forest management systems.

"Even though a wood product may be legal, it does not mean that it has been produced without destroying valuable forest ecosystems," it noted.

"Implementing green public procurement policy to ensure the purchase of sustainable timber and products in public supply contracts across the member states will remain essential."

Senior campaigner at Global Witness Alexandra Pardal said the new measures meant that timber importers would "have to up their game".

"For decades, consumer countries have been driving the demand for cheap, illegal timber that breeds corruption and criminality in forested countries while taking a devastating toll on the environment," she told BBC News.

"Almost all timber from tropical rainforests carries a high risk of such illegality and should be checked out thoroughly - if there's any suspicion at all, don't touch it."

'Collective muscle'

On Monday, Global Witness is set to publish a report that highlights the extent of the challenges of halting the arrival of illegal timber in the EU.

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), described as one of the world's leading pulp and paper companies, announced in February that it was ending the clearing of natural forests across its supply chain in Indonesia, where the company is based.

In recent years, the company had been the focus of numerous environmental campaigns that questioned its environmental credentials.

Jacek Siwek, APP director of sustainability and stakeholder engagement in Europe, said the EU was "demonstrating its collective muscle by closing one of the world's largest markets to illegal timber".

Writing in a guest blog on the website, he added: "Regulations, such as the EUTR, are having a big impact on timber-producing nations as they strive to protect their legal industries while eliminating or at least reducing illegal logging.

"Indonesia is playing its part by matching the demand-side measures from the EU with coherent supply-side measures such as the new SVLK legality system.

"SVLK is designed to ensure that all timber products legally exported from Indonesia can be traced from origin through transport, trade and processing."

The measures introduced by the EUTR form part of the Bloc's Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan, which was published in 2003.

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