Best of our wild blogs: 22 Mar 13

Beautiful Damselflies in the Nature Reserve
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Faces of the collection – photos from the Raffles Museum Last Hurrah! tours from Toddycats!

Random Gallery - Yamfly
from Butterflies of Singapore

The Mango Tree (2012)
from Otterman speaks

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Culling of wild boars starts in Lower Peirce

At least 3 killed so far; NParks says more cages installed to trap animals
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 21 Mar 13;

When The Straits Times visited the area on Sunday, several monkeys were trapped in one of the cages but there were no signs of the boars or rope snares. NParks conservation director Wong Tuan Wah declined to say how many wild boars will be killed in total. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

THE wild boar culling exercise in Lower Peirce has begun, with at least three of the animals killed so far.

They were sedated and euthanised with drug injections, said the National Parks Board (NParks). Their bodies were then incinerated.

The agency also installed more cages in the area last month to trap the creatures.

NParks conservation director Wong Tuan Wah declined to say how many will be killed in total, adding that this would depend on their threat to people's safety and their impact on the forest.

"The wild boars trample and destroy the forest undergrowth, which adversely affects its biodiversity and rate of natural re-growth," he said.

NParks has said there should be no more than seven wild boars in the 1.5 sq km Lower Peirce area in a balanced eco-system, based on numerous studies done in other countries.

But its officers have observed two herds in the area with 80 to 100 animals in total.

Mr Wong added that NParks installed additional cages in the area last month to trap the wild boars. It also built a large enclosure in the forest late last year for the same purpose.

Lower Peirce residents noticed the cages and rope traps in the forest earlier this month, but Mr Wong said the rope traps had been illegally set up by its contractor. They have been removed.

Rope traps are not permitted as they can cause injury to animals, he said. He added that the contractor was given a warning after the incident but is still employed by NParks.

When The Straits Times visited the area on Sunday, several monkeys were trapped in one of the cages but there were no signs of the boar or rope snares.

Animal welfare groups such as the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society called on NParks to allow them to observe the culling and to conduct more local scientific research on the boar's impact to justify the cull.

Said Mr Marcus Chua, 29, a graduate research student at the National University of Singapore who has studied the issue: "The last NParks-published study with local field research relevant to boars in nature reserves here was in 1997."

That was a three-year survey for flora and fauna in the reserves carried out with Singapore's Nature Society.

NParks said last October that it would monitor the population of animals including wild boars, sambar deer and banded leaf monkeys in the nature reserves. This will involve identifying where various animals are found, estimating their numbers and monitoring their movements and other behaviour.

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Thailand: Experts battle to increase dugongs

Bangkok Post 21 Mar 13;

Marine experts and veterinarians met in Trang on Thursday to draw up a master plan to increase the number of dugongs in the sea off this southern province as they have dropped alarmingly in recent years.

The meeting was attended by officials from state agencies concerned with marine and coastal resources conservation, environmental advocates and members of fishing communities from Trang and Phuket.

The number of rare marine animals being found dead -- especially dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles – in the Andaman Sea off Trang and Phuket provinces continued to drop, Patcharaporn Kaewmong, of Phuket Marine Biological Centre, said.

Last year, 11 dugongs were found dead in the sea off Trang, the highest number for the province in 20 years (1992-2011), Ms Patcharaporn said. An aerial inspection conducted last year showed there were 110-135 dugongs around Koh Libong -- Thailand’s largest habitat for the rare species located only 2km away from the Trang mainland -- after 134-150 were estimated in a 2011 survey.

She said about 90 percent of the dugongs found dead on beaches were entangled in fishing nets and drowned, while others died from for parasite-related sicknesses which signalled increased levels of sea pollution and environmental degradation.

They were also hunted for their teeth and certain parts to be used as ornaments.

The dugong is listed as a protected animal under the 1992 Preservation and Protection of Animals Act in Thailand, but every year, 12 to 15 deaths are reported.

Ms Patcharaporn said the meeting agreed to set up a working panel to ensure strict implementation of the master plan once it is completed and the long-term monitoring of the situation would be set in place.

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FAO calls for ‘Zero Illegal Deforestation’ target

Mediterranean forests risk being hit hard by climate change – new FAO report
FAO 21 Mar 13;

21 March, 2013, Rome - On the first International Day of Forests, celebrated by the United Nations today, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva proposed that countries support a Zero Illegal Deforestation target in the context of the post-2015 debate.

"In many countries, illegal deforestation is degrading ecosystems, diminishing water availability and limiting the supply of fuelwood - all of which reduce food security, especially for the poor," Graziano da Silva said at a ceremony marking the International Day of Forests. "Stopping illegal deforestation and forest degradation would do much to end hunger, extreme poverty and bring about sustainability."

"This is why, I would like to encourage countries to promote tree planting and to consider a Zero Illegal Deforestation target in the context of the post-2015 debate. These two goals should be closely linked. We can achieve positive results if countries, the international financial institutions, the UN, civil society and the private sector join forces to tackle these issues."

Mediterranean countries respond to forest threats

In parallel, the countries of the Mediterranean are meeting today at the Third Mediterranean Forest Week, taking place in Tlemcen, Algeria (17-21 March), to discuss the state of Mediterranean forests and adopt a Strategic Framework on Mediterranean Forests.

The Mediterranean forests are expected to be hard hit by climate change and are under severe pressure from population growth, according to the first FAO report on The State of Mediterranean Forests, also published today. This results in ever-increasing competition for already scarce food and water resources in the region.

Climate change and population growth

Temperatures in the Mediterranean increased by one degree during the twentieth century while rainfall decreased by 20 percent in certain Mediterranean areas. By the end of this century, it is expected that temperatures will have risen by a further two degrees, which is likely to put some forest species at risk of extinction and result in loss of biodiversity.

Population growth is expected to rise from around 500 million people currently living in the Mediterranean to 625 million by 2050. This will put additional pressure on forests as sources of food and water.

The situation differs across the region. In the northern Mediterranean countries an abandonment of forested lands has led to a dramatic increase in the incidence of forest fires. In the southern Mediterranean, population growth has led to forests being overgrazed or lost to agriculture and urban expansion. In both cases, the result is deforestation and forest degradation, exacerbated by the impact of climate change and economic crises. New collaborative strategies are urgently required to sustainably manage these fragile and vital ecosystems, the report said. In countries like Turkey or Tunisia, where the political will has been strong, forest area has recovered significantly in the past decades.

"The Mediterranean region is undergoing many changes in their societies, lifestyles and climate", said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forests Eduardo Rojas-Briales. "If unmanaged, such changes could lead to negative impacts on livelihoods, biodiversity, wildfire risks, watersheds or desertification. There is an urgent need to regularly assess the state of Mediterranean forests using objective and reliable data and to manage endangered forest resources more sustainably."

New strategies to ensure environmental services

Mediterranean forests are a significant carbon sink. In 2010 they stocked almost 5 billion tons of carbon, which represent 1.6 percent of the global forest carbon stock. They also provide valuable ecosystem services such as water and climate regulation, the provision of wood and non-wood products, and biodiversity conservation. The Mediterranean region is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. There are more than 25,000 plant species in the Mediterranean region, compared with about 6,000 in central and northern Europe.

The report stresses that the value of Mediterranean forests and their vital role in climate change adaptation and mitigation should be recognized at local, regional and national levels. It calls upon governments and foresters to promote the use of wood and non-wood forest products such as cork for long-term carbon storage, and to reinforce the investment potential of smallholders working in wood and non-wood, forest-based industries (pine nuts, esparto grass, mushrooms, honey, etc.).

The report urges foresters to use the variety of forest genetic resources in their silvicultural practices and promote forest species best able to adapt to changing climate conditions.

On a local scale, foresters should also improve forest planning to manage forest ecosystems with the optimal density of trees and to deal with water scarcity, whereas the large scale activities should include systematic forest fire prevention.

Forest fire prevention

Climate change could lead to more frequent and more severe fires, the report warned. Between 2006 and 2010, around two million hectares of forests were affected by fires in the Mediterranean region. Without adequate fire prevention measures, including fire hazard reduction and prescribed fires to burn biomass during the winter season to reduce fuel levels, extreme weather conditions could cause catastrophic forest fire events.

The report was developed by more than 20 scientific and technical institutions and non-governmental organizations and nearly 50 authors and other contributors coordinated by FAO and Plan Bleu, the main support centre of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development. FAO intends to publish The State of Mediterranean Forests every five years, providing further opportunities to unify and mobilize partners in the management of Mediterranean forests and other wooded lands.

Based on the key recommendations adopted in the Tlemcen Declaration during its high-level segment, the future implementation of the Strategic Framework on Mediterranean Forests could be a useful regional tool to adapt national forest policies in the face of ongoing global changes which are affecting the Mediterranean region.

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Climate needs less U.N. talking, more market action: EU draft

Barbara Lewis PlanetArk 22 Mar 13;

Fewer United Nations climate summits and more incentives through carbon pricing could speed up international efforts to slow the pace of global warming, a draft European Commission paper seen by Reuters says.

U.N. climate talks have yet to recover from a disastrous Copenhagen summit in 2009 when talks ended in failure and subsequent annual meetings have been heavily criticized for dragging on for weeks yet achieving little.

The most recent summit in Doha in December was unable to agree anything that would have an immediate impact on rising greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, it laid out steps towards a new global deal, scheduled to be agreed in 2015 and to enter into force from 2020.

The European Union has sought to lead with a set of green energy targets, including a goal to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 versus 1990 levels and an EU-wide Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

A draft paper from the Commission, the EU executive, on shaping the next years of international climate change policy raises the idea of less frequent summits.

"Their open-ended participation and decision-making by consensus often results in only agreeing on the lowest common denominator. Moreover, the costs of this negotiating process are considerable," the Commission paper said.

Measures to make U.N. negotiations more effective could include getting rid of the rule that requires all decisions to be agreed by a consensus of nearly 200 nations and "revisiting the frequency" of the annual summits, while continuing smaller, technical meetings.

The Commission does not comment on unpublished drafts. However, EU officials have said the document will be debated by environment ministers next month.

Apart from tackling the U.N. process, the Commission also says increased focus on market-based instruments would help by providing "cost-effective" incentives to a lower-carbon society.

The European Union's ETS, the world's biggest carbon market, has collapsed to a series of record lows under a surplus of emissions allowances generated by recession.

Against the backdrop of financial crisis and worries about energy costs, the Commission has been struggling to push through reforms to strengthen the market, but still says the ETS is central to EU environment policy.


Looking ahead to a 2015 UN deal, the Commission says it must include all countries and be binding.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol on tackling climate change excluded emerging economies, some of which are now richer than the poorest parts of the European Union. The United States never ratified the deal, which expired at the end of 2012.

"The 2015 Agreement will need to address the challenge of attracting the participation of all major economies, including the U.S., China, India and Brazil that have so far resisted legally-binding commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions," the document said.

To prevent the worst effects of climate change, scientists say warming must be limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). To achieve that, they say, greenhouse gas growth must be reversed before 2020 and decline every year afterwards.

Apart from the difficulty of persuading nations to agree ambitious emissions-cutting goals, another obstacle has been finance to help the poorest deal with climate change.

The 2015 agreement will need to mobilize private and innovative financing. One source could be an international price on aviation and shipping emissions, the document says.

EU law to make all aircraft landing in EU airports pay for carbon emissions provoked international outcry, including from the United States, which said it breached sovereignty.

As a result, the European Union agreed a temporary suspension of the requirement intercontinental flights have to pay into the EU ETS. Talks at U.N. body the International Civil Aviation Organization continue this month to try to agree an alternative global plan for aviation emissions.

(Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Ending poverty hinges on tougher environmental goals: study

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 21 Mar 13;

Governments must impose radical limits on everything from water use to greenhouse gases if they want to have any chance of ending global poverty, a group of scientists said.

States needed to tighten clean air laws, at least halve the amount of water drawn from river basins and start cutting some environmentally damaging pollution, all by 2030, they suggested.

"The stable functioning of Earth systems - including the atmosphere, oceans, forests, waterways, biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles - is a pre-requisite for a thriving global society," the Australian-led team wrote in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature.

The report was meant to feed into discussions at the United Nations this week on drawing up new targets to take over from the global body's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are due to expire in 2015.

It suggested setting a new aim of ending global poverty by 2030 - but said that would only be possible if states put more effort into preserving the planet while they drove for economic growth.

Global warming brought an increased risk of floods, droughts and heatwaves which in turn threatened food production and economic development.

The scientists said the existing U.N. guidelines for sustainable development, or economic growth that does not harm the environment, needed more stress on environmental protection because of damage from a rising global population.

"The protection of Earth's life support system and poverty reduction must be the twin priorities," the authors wrote.

They called for total greenhouse gas emissions to peak by 2020, followed by cuts of 3 to 5 percent a year by 2030. That would mark a radical break with current trends since world emissions are rising by about 3 percent a year with no sign of a slowdown.

"If you look back 100 years you could bring down poverty in Europe by exploiting natural resources like coal. The world seemed infinite," David Griggs, a professor at Monash University in Australia and lead author of the study, told Reuters.

"Now we've started to see natural resources running out and yet we still have a 'the Earth is infinite' mindset," he said.

Griggs conceded the suggested goals, on issues from climate change to limiting extinctions of animal and plants, were tough compared to those under consideration by governments but said they were needed to safeguard economic and social development.

Simply extending the growth targets set out in the MDGs, as favored by some governments, was inadequate, said the authors.

"The current model is obsolete," Owen Gaffney, a co-author of the study at the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program in Sweden, told Reuters.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Additional reporting by Nina Chestney in London; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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