Best of our wild blogs: 9 Mar 13

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve - New knowledge!
from Psychedelic Nature

Are there seagrasses at Bedok Jetty?
from wild shores of singapore

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Jurong Bird Park successfully incubates wild hornbills found on Pulau Ubin

Channel NewsAsia 8 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: For the first time, three Oriental Pied Hornbills (OPH) eggs rescued from Pulau Ubin have been artificially incubated at the Jurong Bird Park.

"This is the first time Oriental Pied Hornbills have been successfully artificially incubated, and it represents a big step in the conservation of these magnificent creatures native to Singapore and South East Asia," said Dr Luis Carlos Neves, DVM, Assistant Director, Avian, Jurong Bird Park.

"Oriental Pied Hornbills have very unique breeding behaviour wherein the female seals herself into a tree cavity to lay eggs and raise the chicks. It is extremely challenging to artificially incubate these eggs, and it is rarely attempted. The fact that we have succeeded is good news for the global avian community as there is currently very limited data on these fascinating birds," he said.

The three rescued eggs had been abandoned by their mother.

On 7 January, rangers from National Parks Board (NParks) on Pulau Ubin found a nest with a broken seal, and after it was ascertained that the female hornbill had abandoned the nest, the eggs were sent to Jurong Bird Park where they were artificially incubated.

After the chicks hatched, they were fed on a diet consisting of a mixture of fruit and dried insects. At a month old, they are fed with an increase in fruit and commercial avian pellets.

Oriental Pied Hornbills were not seen in Singapore for 140 years prior to 1994. The last sighting formally recorded was in 1855 by Alfred Russell Wallace. There were various inconclusive sightings over the following years. In 1994, a pair of wild hornbills was sighted on Pulau Ubin. Three years later, the first breeding record of hornbills was observed on Pulau Ubin. By 2005, there were about 10 individuals in the wild.

With the knowledge gained from observing these birds in the Bird Park, artificial nest boxes were introduced to Pulau Ubin, which greatly increased the breeding of the Oriental Pied Hornbills. During the length of the five year project, Oriental Pied Hornbill numbers in the wild increased from around 10 individuals to 50 individuals. Today, there are between 75 and 100 wild Oriental Pied Hornbills in Singapore.

"In addition to being able to marvel at these beautiful birds which are part of the Singaporean heritage, the significant increase in Oriental Pied Hornbill numbers in the wild means that Singapore has more natural fruit dispersers. These mid-sized birds regurgitate some fruit whole, while other fruit are dropped along the way before they are eaten. In this manner, the birds reach areas in Singapore which are untouched and even unknown, helping to re-populate the island with fruit trees," noted Dr Luis Carlos Neves.

- CNA/de

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Greenpeace Indonesia to focus on campaigns against over fishing

Antara 8 Mar 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Greenpeace Indonesia will focus on launching campaigns against over fishing to protect the country`s marine environment starting this year.

"Our focus will be on over fishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities because the two issues need to be monitored," Greenpeace Indonesia campaigner Arifsyah M Nasution said here on Friday.

Greenpeace is usually concerned about environmental problems such as deforestation and wildlife poaching activities. But starting 2013, the NGO will also campaign on marine issues.

"As a maritime nation, Indonesia is rich in marine natural resources, so we should participate in its protection. Last year, we carried out an internal research and in 2013 the result will be made public," he said.

"We are rich in natural resources but it`s vulnerable. There are almost 50,000 traditional fishermen that need protection in Indonesia. If we don`t take repressive actions, our food sovereignty is threatened," he stated.

Indonesia is expected to play a leading role in the marine resources protection because the country has abundance of fish.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Tougher trade rules to protect turtles win support of nearly 200 nations

Cites vote sees the US and China joining forces to safeguard turtles from collectors, diners and medics
Damian Carrington 8 Mar 13;

Nearly 200 countries on Friday voted for tougher trade rules to protect dozens of species of turtles, in a day that saw the US and China joining forces for the first time ever, at an international wildlife summit in Thailand.

Millions of turtles are targeted by obsessive western collectors, seekers of tonics for long life and as food for diners across Asia.

Turtles have already been all but wiped out in the wild in east Asia, driven by the food and traditional medicine markets. Demand has grown at the same fast pace as economies have grown, especially in China, bringing millions more consumers into the market.

The new rules discussed at the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species in Bangkok have come just in time for many species, said Dr Sandra Altherr, a biologist at German wildlife group, Pro Wildlife. "Many of the turtles discussed today will be on sale tomorrow, at the world's biggest reptile fair in Germany, and fetching prices up to €10,000," she said. "Their life strategy is to live for a long time, so their reproduction is slow and they just can't stand this exploitation."

Turtles' famed longevity has been double-edged, with the animals reputed to extend life and therefore sought after for traditional medicine and prized dishes. The variety and beauty of their shells also makes them highly attractive to collectors, which drives some turtles into a death spiral as the last remaining specimens become ever more valuable.

Much of the trade is illegal, and many turtles die in transit to their market, but it continues on a massive scale due to lack of enforcement. The US told the Cites summit that the "boom-and-bust" pattern of the trade – in which traders hunt one species to near extinction before moving on to another – was spreading out from south-east Asia to the rest of the world. Turtles, also suffering the rapid loss of their habitats in rivers, lakes and coasts, are now the most endangered vertebrates in the world.

China and the US, joining forces for the first time ever at Cites, led the way in boosting protection for 30 species of freshwater box turtles, small animals used for traditional medicine and food in Asia.

The same duo also backed new restrictions on the trade of eight species of soft-shelled turtles, some of which are over a metre in length. Soft-shell turtles are considered to be the tastiest by Asian consumers, but many species are headed towards extinction in the wild. Biologists from 45 nations had backed the ban. Hundreds of millions of soft-shelled turtles are now farmed in China, but wild turtles have remained under heavy pressure.

Among the turtles benefiting from new restrictions on trade is Indonesia's Roti Island snake-necked turtle, whose population has been decimated by the pet trade. At the German reptile fair, this species is listed for sale at €2,000 per animal. But Indonesia resisted US attempts at even tougher rules, saying highlighting its rarity would only encourage collectors. "It would lead to increased hunting and more hunting in the wild," said Indonesia's delegate, adding it was attempting to reintroduce the turtle into the wild.

All international trade in this turtle has now effectively been banned, as has trade in Vietnam's very colourful Indochinese box turtle, Annam leaf turtle and big-headed turtles, the latter being found only in high mountain streams. The Burmese star tortoise, whose unfortunate beauty has driven prices to $1,500 per animal in the pet trade, is now one of the rarest in the world. It was also banned from exports.

The international trade in other turtles was not banned but regulated for the first time, ending a damaging free-for-all. The spotted turtle and Blanding's turtle gained this protection, as did the diamond back terrapin, all of which live in the US and Canada. The export of these turtles from the US has tripled in the last decade, with thousands being shipped out each year.

Japan, often seen as a block on increased protection of wildlife, made a little Cites history. For the first time for any species, it asked the world's governments to help protect the rare Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle, which has suffered from the loss of its forest habitat and the poaching for the pet trade.

"For the pet trade, this new protection is a really big help," said Altherr, noting that western pet markets were quite closely monitored. "But for food trade it may not have so much of an effect. It is very hard to control and additionally some of the turtles are very hard to tell apart."

Turtle 'victory' at wildlife meeting
Matt McGrath BBC News 8 Mar 13;

Some of the world’s most endangered turtles have been given additional protection at the Cites conservation meeting in Bangkok.

Proposals on a large number of Asian freshwater turtles and tortoises and other species popular with pet owners were accepted by the government negotiators meeting in the Thai capital.

Some of the amendments were proposed jointly by the United States and China, marking the first time these two countries have co-operated to protect reptiles.

Welfare campaigners have welcomed the move as a critical step to save these species.

Over half the world’s freshwater turtles are critically endangered . Along with tortoises, these species are much in demand by collectors and for food.

In Asia, turtles play a big part in traditional medicine as well.

The US was concerned about native turtle species, including diamondback terrapins that are increasingly under threat.

In all, 44 species of Asian freshwater turtles and tortoises and three species of North American pond turtles were upgraded in the eyes of the convention, meaning that their trade will be more carefully regulated.

“This is a huge conservation win,” the head of the US delegation, Brian Arroyo, told BBC News.

“A lot of meaningful conservation will come out of this,” he added.

The turtle vote was remarkable for the degree of co-operation exhibited by the US and China. The countries jointly submitted two proposals to increase protection for a number of Asian softshell and hardshell turtle species.

These proposals were accepted by consensus. Brian Arroyo believes the move augurs well for the future.

“This signals are that the Chinese government is committed to being serious about conservation. It’s a leap forward for both countries in terms of conservation,” he said.

Campaign groups were also pleased with the increased protection for these species.

The charity Care for the Wild said that pet owners should remember that these animals do not just come from a shop.

In a statement they said: “The trend for ‘exotic’ pets has a price, and hopefully people will start to realise that these creatures belong in the wild, not in a living room."

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New study reveals scale of persistent illegal tiger trade

WWF 7 Mar 13;

Bangkok, Thailand, 7th March 2013—Parts of more than 1400 Tigers have been seized across Asia in the past 13 years, according to TRAFFIC’s latest analysis of confiscations, which includes new data for 2010-2012.

Reduced to Skin and Bones Revisited finds that parts of at least 1425 Tigers had been seized across all but one of the 13 Tiger range countries between 2000 and 2012. For Cambodia alone, no seizures were recorded at all during the period.

Although it is not yet possible to show a definite trend, the analysis provides clear evidence that illegal trade in Tigers, their parts and products, persists as a major conservation concern, says TRAFFIC.

A total of 654 seizures of Tiger parts ranging from skin to bones, to teeth, claws and skulls took place during this period, an average of 110 Tigers killed for trade per year or just over two per week.

89% of seizures occur outside protected areas, emphasizing the importance of anti-trafficking actions to disrupt trade chains and prevent incursions into Tiger habitat. The benefits of such analysis to enhance law enforcement efforts to protect Tigers are obvious.

“If more robust information was routinely collected, analysed and shared between countries, real inroads could be made into targeting the smuggling syndicates behind Tiger trafficking,” said Natalia Pervushina, Tiger Trade Programme Leader for TRAFFIC and WWF.

The report, a joint effort by TRAFFIC and the WWF Tigers Alive Initiative, was launched today at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting currently underway in Bangkok, Thailand. Later this week governments will debate efforts underway to protect Tigers and other Asian big cats.

A significant finding in the updated analysis was increased recording of seizures involving live Tigers – 61 individuals were seized in the three-year period since the last full CITES meeting took place in 2010, representing 50% of overall numbers (123) recorded since 2000. Thailand was the most significant location for interdiction of live Tiger trade (30 Tigers), followed by Lao PDR (11) and Indonesia (9) and Viet Nam (4).

“Given the low population estimates for wild tigers in Thailand, Lao PDR and Viet Nam, combined with the presence of captive Tiger facilities within these three countries, there are serious questions as to the source of these live Tigers in trade,” said Nick Cox, Species Programme Manager for WWF-Greater Mekong.

Of the 13 Tiger range countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, Viet Nam), only India had kept sufficiently detailed seizure records to allow meaningful analysis to identify the ‘hotspots’ where Tiger trade was taking place.

Based on the information from India, five ‘hotspot’ locations were identified, including Delhi, while the other four were close to protected areas in different parts of the country (Uttar Pradesh, central India, West Bengal (Sundarbans) and the southern India landscape of the Western Ghats).

“The quality of the information from India allowed us to perform a spatial analysis and pinpoint the key locations where Tiger trade is taking place,” said Sarah Stoner, TRAFFIC’s Tiger Trade Data Specialist and author of the report. “Countries should be made to keep to their commitments under CITES to protect wild Tigers by providing robust reporting on the current situation.”

Under agreements made at earlier CITES meetings, Tiger range countries have to state what action they have taken to protect Asian big cats. As of the start of the CITES meeting currently underway in Bangkok, only China, India and Thailand1 had submitted appropriate reports in compliance with a CITES requirement to do so.2

WWF and TRAFFIC are urging countries engaged in the Global Tiger Recovery Program to develop a harmonized process for reporting to the GTRP that will also fulfil the requirements of CITES with respect to Tigers.

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Recent heat spike unlike anything in 11,000 years

Seth Borenstein Associated Press Yahoo News 9 Mar 13;

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study looking at 11,000 years of climate temperatures shows the world in the middle of a dramatic U-turn, lurching from near-record cooling to a heat spike.

Research released Thursday in the journal Science uses fossils of tiny marine organisms to reconstruct global temperatures back to the end of the last ice age. It shows how the globe for several thousands of years was cooling until an unprecedented reversal in the 20th century.

Scientists say it is further evidence that modern-day global warming isn't natural, but the result of rising carbon dioxide emissions that have rapidly grown since the Industrial Revolution began roughly 250 years ago.

The decade of 1900 to 1910 was one of the coolest in the past 11,300 years — cooler than 95 percent of the other years, the marine fossil data suggest. Yet 100 years later, the decade of 2000 to 2010 was one of the warmest, said study lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University. Global thermometer records only go back to 1880, and those show the last decade was the hottest for this more recent time period.

"In 100 years, we've gone from the cold end of the spectrum to the warm end of the spectrum," Marcott said. "We've never seen something this rapid. Even in the ice age the global temperature never changed this quickly."

Using fossils from all over the world, Marcott presents the longest continuous record of Earth's average temperature. One of his co-authors last year used the same method to look even farther back. This study fills in the crucial post-ice age time during early human civilization.

Marcott's data indicates that it took 4,000 years for the world to warm about 1.25 degrees from the end of the ice age to about 7,000 years ago. The same fossil-based data suggest a similar level of warming occurring in just one generation: from the 1920s to the 1940s. Actual thermometer records don't show the rise from the 1920s to the 1940s was quite that big and Marcott said for such recent time periods it is better to use actual thermometer readings than his proxies.

Before this study, continuous temperature record reconstruction only went back about 2,000 years. The temperature trend produces a line shaped like a "hockey stick" with a sudden spike after what had been a fairly steady line. That data came from tree rings, ice cores and lake sediments.

Marcott wanted to go farther back, to the end of the last ice age in more detail by using the same marine fossil method his colleague used. That period also coincides with a "really important time for the history of our planet," said Smithsonian Institution research anthropologist Torben Rick. That's the time when people started to first domesticate animals and start agriculture, which is connected to the end of the ice age.

Marcott's research finds the climate had been gently warming out of the ice age with a slow cooling that started about 6,000 years ago.

Then the cooling reversed with a vengeance.

The study shows the recent heat spike "has no precedent as far back as we can go with any confidence, 11,000 years arguably," said Pennsylvania State University professor Michael Mann, who wrote the original hockey stick study but wasn't part of this research. He said scientists may have to go back 125,000 years to find warmer temperatures potentially rivaling today's.

However, another outside scientist, Jeff Severinghaus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography thinks temperatures may have changed even more dramatically 12,000 years ago, at least in Greenland, based on research by some of his colleagues.

Several outside scientists praised the methods Marcott used, but said it might be a bit too oriented toward the Northern Hemisphere.

Marcott said the general downward trend of temperatures that reversed 100 years ago seemed to indicate the Earth was heading either toward another ice age or little ice age from about 1550 to 1850. Or it was continuing to cool naturally until greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels changed everything.

The reason the globe warmed after the ice age and then started cooling about 6,000 years ago has to do with the tilt of the Earth and its distance from the sun, said Marcott and Severinghaus. Distance and angle in the summer matter because of heat absorption and reflection and ground cover.

"We have, through human emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, indefinitely delayed the onset of the next ice age and are now heading into an unknown future where humans control the thermostat of the planet," said Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, responding in an email.


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