Best of our wild blogs: 8 May 13

Sat May 11 Tour
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Common palm civet mum to the rescue!
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

Random Gallery - Blue Jay
from Butterflies of Singapore and Random Gallery - Commander

Bidadari: Maintaining the area as an open aviary?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Munching on marine plastic kills sperm whale
from news by Jeremy Hance

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Wild growth alone won't make Singapore a global eco-city

Straits Times Forum 8 May 13;

DR HO Hua Chew ("Wild greenery makes S'pore a global eco-city"; last Wednesday) says the unprotected natural greenery in Singapore is mostly secondary forest.

His definition is flawed. Scrubland, even those with scattered tall trees, are not forests. Similarly, clumps of old trees at Bukit Brown and Bidadari cannot be termed forests.

Of the unprotected greenery, young secondary forests would have a higher biodiversity than scrubland, but much lower than that of the primary forest in Bukit Timah or even the older secondary forest of the Central Catchment reserve.

When natural greenery is removed and replaced with trees and parks, biodiversity will be compromised. But as the plants, especially the trees, mature over time, biodiversity will improve. And if parts of the parks can be left to regenerate naturally, the situation will improve greatly. However, to declare that the removal of such natural greenery will lead to pollution, environmental degradation or increased release of carbon dioxide into the environment is without basis.

I am also puzzled as to how we can have massive loss of forested areas with future development, leading to "a city in a sterile green facade".

First, we do not have massive unprotected forests to lose.

Second, the urban jungle of wayside trees and parks is rich in wildlife. Again, the biodiversity may not be as rich as that of forests, but we do have biodiversity all the same.

Bukit Timah, due to its small size, is a "fortress under siege", but not so the larger Central Catchment forest. There have been reforestation programmes there that will ensure its proper regeneration to its ultimate primary forest status in the very long term.

Our park connectors have proven successful. Flying lemurs, tree shrews, squirrels, civet cats and even pangolins have dispersed out of the reserves to nearby forested areas, even to the Bukit Batok Nature Park. The hornbills mentioned by Dr Ho have similarly been spreading from Pulau Ubin to the mainland, no doubt assisted by the provision of nesting boxes. Otters have spread from Johor to many locations via the sea and rivers. Obviously, a comprehensive series of wildlife corridors is unnecessary.

Finally, will incorporating new parks to patches of unprotected wild growth, including Bukit Brown and Bidadari, make Singapore a global eco-city? Surely it takes more than wild growth for this to be achieved.

Wee Yeow Chin (Dr)
Bird Ecology Study Group

Economic growth and environmental conservation can co-exist
Straits Times Forum 8 May 13;

CONSERVATION activist Ho Hua Chew is right in pointing out the benefits of wild greenery and the potential problems that its loss will cause ("Wild greenery makes S'pore a global eco-city"; last Wednesday). I agree that we should retain large patches of forest for purposes such as recreation and pollution reduction.

But while Dr Ho's vision is noble, it may have to be compromised in the face of economic development.

Countries across the globe are facing rising competition, and the situation that confronts Singapore is even more challenging. As a small city-state, Singapore has to compete against mega-cities such as New York City, London, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

To stay relevant, Singapore has to constantly upgrade and enrich its knowledge-based economy.

Given our limited land resources, wild greenery may have to make way for higher-value-added projects. After all, a choice has to be made between economic development and environmental conservation.

However, I am not suggesting that the two are mutually exclusive. Singapore can still do its fair share of environmental conservation by expanding roof-top greenery and neighbourhood parks.

As for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, getting people to make lifestyle changes may be more viable and effective than retaining huge patches of secondary forest.

Zeng Jin

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Lack of understanding on residents' monkey problem

Straits Times Forum 8 May 13;

MANY people do not understand the real problems posed by monkeys that roam around residential estates ("Learn to co-exist with wildlife" by Mr Daniel Koh Kah Soon; Forum Online, last Saturday). Calling for humans to co-exist peacefully with monkeys is unrealistic.

Monkeys usually move around in packs when searching for food.

A pack of monkeys recently damaged my neighbours' television antenna, which was mounted on the rooftop. They seemed uncontrollable.

Even among their own kind, monkeys tend to exhibit aggressive behaviour, fighting among themselves.

Experts warn that once young monkeys reach sexual maturity, they can become aggressive.

What if monkeys turn aggressive and attack and bite humans?

Studies show that some primates harbour deadly diseases that they can transmit to humans through bites and scratches.

But instead of culling wild monkeys, I appeal for a more humane approach.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority could put up requests for wildlife agencies from our neighbouring countries to help with rehoming the monkeys.

Wild creatures like boars and monkeys were always meant to be free.

Ada Chan Siew Foen (Ms)

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Regulators looking to tomorrow's LNG needs

Plans for extra demand under way even as S'pore's first terminal opens
Rachael Boon Straits Times 8 May 13;

THE country's first LNG terminal opened for business yesterday and regulators are already looking at how to meet the expected surge in demand for the energy source.

The assessment is necessary "in order to secure the additional gas that we need in the next five years or so", said Mr S. Iswaran, the Second Minister for Trade and Industry during a visit to the terminal yesterday.

Commercial operations at the $1.7 billion facility on Jurong Island were able to start after the first commercial cargo arrived on Monday.

It was delivered by energy firm BG Group, which has a licence to import and sell up to three million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of LNG (liquified natural gas).

Six companies, including Senoko Energy and Tuas Power Generation, will buy 2.7 million tonnes of that supply.

But regulators expect demand to surge far beyond that level and have begun looking at how the plant imports LNG.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) launched the first round of a consultation process last year that involved getting feedback from importers like the BG Group.

It came up with two suggested models: having a sole importer or one that comprises BG Group and three other suppliers.

The second round of consultation will be launched later this month.

The EMA estimates that there will be an incremental demand of 1 to 1.5 mtpa by 2018.

Mr Iswaran said various criteria must be met when devising an import system.

"First, we must be able to meet our needs for competitively priced gas and stable supply. Second, we have a projected need for gas and the framework we have must be able to meet that future demand in a competitive manner.

He added that "it is important to create diversity, choice, flexibility and competition in the market so our end users have a choice in terms of how they go about procuring gas for their needs".

The Jurong Island facility has been built with expansion in mind.

It has two completed tanks - each 53m high and 90m wide - large enough for three stacked Boeing 747 aircraft.

The terminal, which warms the liquid natural gas into a gaseous state, will operate at its initial capacity of a 3.5 mtpa.

A third tank, additional jetties and regasification facilities will be completed by the end of this year, raising the terminal's capacity to 6 mtpa.

There are plans for a fourth tank to boost the capacity to 9 mtpa.

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Indonesia: Minister confirms extension of forest moratorium

Antara 7 May 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan has confirmed that the forest moratorium based on Presidential Instruction No 10/2011 which will expire this May, to be extended but he still does not know when the new regulation to be issued.

"The forest moratorium has to be extended. I still don`t know when, and whether it should be expanded or not as its draft is still on the round-table discussion," Minister Hasan said here on Tuesday.

One of the reasons why the moratorium about the postponement of issuance of new licenses and improving governance of primary natural forest and peatland has to be extended, is because it is part of the Indonesian Government`s commitment to reduction of 26 percent of the carbon emission by 2020, he noted.

"We are committed to achieving this goal. However the Presidential Instruction was issued in May 2011, we had prepared its draft since early 2010," he said.

Therefore, to continue its commitment, the moratorium on deforestation would be extended, at least for the primary forests and the peatlands, he stressed.

However, Hasan added there would be risk that the forestry companies will sue the ministry related to the forest conversion right for industry.

"We would take that risk," he said.

But, the minister declined to give a deadline of the new moratorium .

"That is the authority of the president," Hasan said.

Previously, on Monday (May 6), the Indonesian Forestry Ministry and the United Nations of Development Programme (UNDP) launched first forest governance index to address the current state of forest protection and management of central and provincial government.

"Good forest governance is about public system and laws to protect the forests and peatlands. We hope the assessment results will translate into concrete actions to improve forest, land and REDD+ governance," said Country Director of the UNDP Indonesia Beate Trankmann.

Besides the UNDP Indonesia and Ministry of Forestry, National REDD+ Task Force and National Development Planning Board (BAPPENAS) jointly conducted the participatory government assessment (PGA) to provide adequate monitoring instrument for forest and peatlands protection in Indonesia.

"The Government of Indonesia places governance reform in forest and peatland management, including improving people`s welfare at the very core of REDD+ in Indonesia," said Head of the National REDD+ Task Force Kuntoro Mangkusubroto.(*)

Editor: Heru

Indonesia Launches Forest Governance Index To Strengthen REDD+
Seulki Lee Antara 7 May 13;

Jakarta (Antara News) - As the two-year moratorium on deforestation faces expire, Indonesia has launched its first forest governance index to address the current state of forest protection and management of central and provincial government.

"Good forest governance is about public system and laws to protect the forest and peat lands. We hope the assessment results will translate into concrete actions to improve forest, land and REDD+ governance," said Beate Trankmann, country director of the UNDP Indonesia at the official launching event held in Le Merdien Hotel here on Monday.

UNDP Indonesia, Ministry of Forestry, National REDD+ Task Force and National Development Planning Board (BAPPENAS) jointly conducted the participatory government assessment (PGA) to provide adequate monitoring instrument for forest and peat lands protection in Indonesia.

According to UN-REDD Indonesia program, the country`s forest land comprises 60 percent of its land area, which makes it the third largest area of tropical forest coverage in the world.

However Indonesia has shown one of the worlds` highest deforestation rates since 1990 due largely to logging, pulp and paper production, agricultural expansion, fires and oil palm plantations.

"More than half of the forest in Aceh National Park is disappearing. The implementation of good forest governance through REDD+ is expected to reverse deforestation rates in Indonesia. It could be a good model," said Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan in his keynote speech.

In fact, Indonesia is the first of four PGA pilots amongst Ecuador, Nigeria and Viet Nam. The PGA research covered 10 largest forested areas of Aceh, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, West Papua and Papua as well as two districts for each province since March 2011.

"85 percent of forest managements are in the hand of local government. This participatory approach assessment could bring all stakeholders to claim their ownership to forest. The law engagement to deal with corruption, illegal logging and clear cut of the forest should be addressed," said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of the national REDD+ task force.

Indonesia`s first forest governance index (2012) recorded at the national level of 2.32 out of a maximum score of 5, while at the central government level of 2.78 and at average index value of 10 provinces of 2.39, at 20 districts of 1.8.

The PGA report pointed the main issue of central level as open access of implementation and rights conflict when in province level has main issue of limited law enforcement and transaction cost in organization.

Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia Stig Traavik attended the forest governance index launching event.

Under the REDD+ scheme, Norway allocated up to US$1 billion over seven or eight years to finance Indonesia`s emission reduction programs. ***4***

(editing by Fardah)

Indonesia's Forest Moratorium Needs To Be Extended, Expanded: Expert
Fardah and A. Fitriyanti Antara 7 May 13;

Jakarta (Antara News) - Indonesia`s forest moratorium should be extended and expanded in order to be effective in further reducing gas emissions and deforestation rate, according to an expert.

"The greenhouse gas emission reduction Indonesia reached 8.3 percent. It`s a lot, but it could be expanded by among other things reviewing the existing concessions," Jonah Busch of the World Resources Institute (WRI), said here on Monday.

Speaking in a discussion on "Indonesia Forest Moratorium 2011-2013: What Next?", jointly hosted by WRI, Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) and Puter Foundation, Busch suggested that the moratorium should also include secondary forests, mangroves, and new logging concessions, as well as review the existing forest concessions in order to achieve the government`s gas emission cut target of 26 percent by 2020.

The Indonesian government on May 20, 2011 issued Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on "The postponement of issuance of new licenses and improving governance of primary natural forest and peatland".

The presidential instruction, which imposes a 2-year moratorium on new forest concession licenses, will expire this May 2013.

Some speakers in the discussions basically said a two-year moratorium was not enough, and therefore it should be extended.

Jonah Busch said the moratorium should be extended until eight to ten years.

Daniel Murdiyarso, senior scientist of Bogor-based CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research) believed that a two-year moratorium is effective only to identify challenges and problems, and therefore it should be extended.

Murdiyarso also reminded that the most important achievement should not be seen from the quantity but the quality by assuring that the moratorium covers more primary forests having high carbon density.

Yani Saloh of the Indonesian President`s Office on Climate Change, in the discussion said in principle a presidential instruction could not be extended.

But the moratorium policy could be extended by issuing a new presidential instruction.

In this case, the forestry ministry should report to the president about the past two-year implementation of the moratorium and give recommendations regarding the extension, she said.

The WRI discussion also emphasized the importance of improving forest governance and transparency as well as strengthening the law enforcement in the moratorium implementation.

Taryono Darusman of the Puter Foundation told the audience about the foundation`s findings on the moratorium implementation at the district levels.

Based on the foundation`s field studies in eight districts in Riau and Central Kalimantan Provinces, quite many local officers were not aware of the moratorium monitoring mechanism. ***4***

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Asia: Governments, NGOs Kick Start Sumatran Rhinos on the Edge

WWF Malaysia 7 May 13;

The Sumatran rhinoceros may be on its last lap. This hefty 600 kilogramme, two-horned mammal has a 20 million year ancestry, surviving volatile periods in Earth’s history and yet within this decade or the next, the Sumatran rhino could be wiped off the planet if the sharp drop in numbers is not plugged and reversed today.

At the recent Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit (SRCS) in Singapore, minds clashed, emotions were on a high and at certain points it felt like there would be no breakthrough. Held together perhaps only by the common faith that giving up on the species was not an option, a lifeline was extended to the Sumatran rhino now numbering at probably less than a hundred.

In the wild, the mammal now survives in a handful of locations in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, East Kalimantan and Sumatra in Indonesia, and its continued presence in Peninsular Malaysia is in doubt. At one time, the Sumatran rhino was also found in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and China.

Against the harsh reality of dwindling numbers, poaching of Sumatran rhino horn for traditional and bogus medicine on the black market, poor reproductive health in more than half the remaining rhinos, habitat loss, unwillingness to make bold decisions and insufficient funds are tough issues that scientific, conservation and government bodies deal with.

Arguably, the most significant outcome of the Summit, and which could positively influence the “tough issues” in a good way is the nod by representatives of the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to work hand in hand to ensure no further loss of the species in the wild, and to increase numbers through captive breeding and use of advanced reproductive technologies.

Through strong political will and a common vision, both governments are expected to carry out a functioning bilateral cooperation and will work with scientific bodies and non-governmental organisations to come up with a two-year emergency strategy.

Dr Novianto Bambang Wawandono, Director for Biodiversity Conservation in the Directorate-General for Forest Protection and Nature Conservation of Indonesia said that the key challenge for Indonesia and the world is to find ways to increase the population of the Sumatran rhino.

“Indonesia will collaborate with Malaysia to achieve this goal,” he said, adding that there is a need to establish a Sumatran Rhino Crisis Centre and to conduct an intensive survey for Sumatran Rhino in East Kalimantan following the recent WWF-Indonesia report of rhino foot prints there.

Citing his own experience in rhino field surveys in the 1980s and 1990s, Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said he would do his best in contributing towards the emerging global effort to prevent extinction of the species.

"I will bring to my government for approval whatever I and other Sumatran rhino experts feel are the best recommendations for specific actions. If that involves a recommendation to loan rhinos between nations, so be it. This is our very last chance to save the species, and we must get it right this time.

“While doing that, we are at the same time maximising our efforts via parallel initiatives by collaborating with overseas reproductive experts on different options available to us since time is not with us,” he said.

Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) executive director Datuk Dr John Payne described the Summit as a landmark in preventing the extinction of the Sumatran rhino.

“With a species so close to the edge, extinction is guaranteed without two essential elements of human effort. One is to have full and open collaboration between the relevant governments, so that decisions are made on the basis of best scientific advice rather than on nationalism or pride. I think such an intent was achieved at the Summit.

“The other is that all possible advanced reproductive technologies are used to boost rhino births, and that we do not just rely on natural breeding, which will be too slow to halt the trajectory towards zero rhinos,” he said.

Payne said while there was some scepticism at the Summit on such technologies, there was strong interest from the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research and from some participants who work at zoos.

“If we can get to the stage of, say, Sumatran rhino embryos implanted into surrogate mother rhinos of other species in zoos, these establishments will then have an important new role in wildlife conservation,” he said, optimistic about what technology could achieve.

WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma stressed that it is now critically important for the international community concerned with the status of the Sumatran rhino to rapidly concentrate resources and expertise towards implementing identified decisions and actions.

“The scientific expertise for advanced reproductive technologies, financial resources and Sumatran rhinos do not necessarily all occur in the same place unfortunately, and global coordination is vital in ensuring that we focus our efforts towards one common goal,” he said.

Another positive of the Summit was the strong commitment in encouraging cross-border movement of captive rhinos, encouraged by the birth of four calves in captivity in recent years that proves assisted breeding works.

BORA Chairman Dr Abdul Hamid Ahmad said in the past, material transfer was hampered by red tape and there were too many assumptions that prevented this as an option that could work for the Sumatran rhino.

“Here we have a species creeping into extinction before our eyes. Commitments were made this time that we cannot leave this magnificent animal to exhaust its struggle for existence at the behest of time. We need speedy action, and we want to see this happening now,” Abdul Hamid said.

Encouraged by the use of Open Space Technology (OST) and facilitators, the 110 participants in the Crisis Summit were free to air their thoughts and make their case at the five day Summit that culminated on April 4.

Some 72 issues were brought up leading to the creation of 23 discussion groups, and subsequently five themes covering a common vision, adaptive or co-management and integrated funding, management of wild populations, convergence for collaboration and coordination, captive breeding and material transfer.

Groups that spearheaded, conceptualised and organised the Summit include Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA, Malaysia), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), WWF-Indonesia, WWF-Malaysia and WWF-International, Rhino Foundation of Indonesia (YABI), International Rhino Foundation (IRF), Fauna and Flora International (FFI Indonesia), Leuser International Foundation (LIF, Indonesia), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Indonesia), Taman Safari Indonesia (TSI), and SOS Rhino USA. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SCC) convened the Summit.

The event was hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore at Jurong Bird Park and Singapore Zoo, while Sime Darby Foundation, WWF, BORA, LEAP, IUCN, IRF and TSI provided funds and resources.


Note to Editor:

The Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit (SRCS) was held from 31 March to 4 April, 2013 in Singapore to review the Sumatran rhino situation and existing conservation strategies; identify key issues that require action; and rally all stakeholders behind a new global conservation plan to prevent the species from becoming extinct. In addition to governmental and NGO representatives from Indonesia and Malaysia and individuals with experience in rhino protection, reproduction and veterinary care, representatives from zoos and other institutions with expertise in Sumatran rhinos as well as people from the Americas, Africa, Europe and Australia with experience in saving previously critically endangered species attended the summit.

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Philippines: Tuna movements in Coral Triangle show need for conservation

Gregg Yan Malaya Business 8 May 13;

MINDORO OCCIDENTAL – Satellite tags attached to adult yellowfin tuna show its movements cover a vast expanse of the Coral Triangle and the need to preserve this valuable patch of Earth.

The commercially-valuable yellow fin tuna move around Coral Triangle waters, a known tuna nursery and migratory path, producing about 30 percent of the total global tuna catch.

The movements of four mighty swimmers named Amihan, Badjao, Hagibis and Buhawi are being followed via a species tracking map deployed by the World Wildlife Fund Philippines and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The map shows in color-coded coordinates how far the fish have swam since being tagged off the western seaboard of Mindoro Occidental. (Follow the movements of Amihan, Badjao, Hagibisc and Buhawi at:

“The data we have gathered so far reveal that tuna movements cover an impressive amount of nautical miles a day, travelling back and forth in a general north-south direction from where they were caught and released,” says Dr. Jose Ingles, Tuna Strategy Leader of the WWF Coral Triangle Program.

“While still preliminary, the results signify that to properly manage this yellowfin tuna stock, we need to consider similar or complimentary conservation measures along the geographic area of its movements.”

The tuna tagging project in Philippine waters aims to gather more data on the movements of yellowfin tuna.

“Through this activity, we hope to identify key spawning, feeding and nursery grounds of this much sought-after species and make a case for governments to protect these sites,” adds Ingles.

The tuna industry is an economic driver in the Coral Triangle – which covers the seas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste – and feeds millions of people and provides jobs and livelihood to thousands of fishers and their families who directly depend on ocean resources.

The Coral Triangle – the nursery of the seas – is the world’s center of marine life, encompassing around 6 million square kilometers of ocean. It is home to 76 percent of the world’s known coral species; and 37 percent of the world’s coral reef fish species and commercially-valuable species such as tuna, whales, dolphins, rays and sharks as well as six of the world’s seven known species of marine turtles.

The Coral Triangle directly sustains the lives of more than 120 million people and contains key spawning and nursery grounds for tuna. Its reef and coastal systems also underpin growing tourism.

Increasing global demand for tuna, however, has driven the over extraction and illegal fishing of the species, causing an alarming decline in tuna stocks. Yellowfin tuna are now classified as fully overexploited.

“By tagging tuna, we hope to gather critical information that can help protect the species in specific sites during its most vulnerable life stages,” Ingles explains. “Data collected will help inform management plans for a more sustainable tuna industry in this part of the world.”

A total of 16 pop-up satellite tags will be deployed on large adult yellowfin tunas (weighing more than 70 kilograms) throughout the duration of the tagging activity.

Pop-up satellite tags, which are attached at the back of the tunas, collect vital data such as temperature, depth and light intensity, and are programed to automatically detach from the fish after three to six months when it floats to the surface and sends out information via satellite transmission and into a server. WWF

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Poaching Pushes Two Madagascar Tortoises to Brink

Douglas Main Yahoo News 8 May 13;

Things just got much worse for two critically endangered tortoise species in Madagascar. Illegal poaching is "raging out of control" and pushing radiated and ploughshare tortoises to the brink of extinction, according to a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

More than 1,000 of the animals have been confiscated from smugglers in the first three months of 2013 alone, the environmental group reported. A total of 54 ploughshare tortoises were intercepted in Thailand, and the species is "now the most common tortoise for sale in Bangkok's infamous Chatuchak wildlife market," according to the statement.

The ploughshare tortoise was once common in northern Madagascar but as of 2008 it was estimated that there were only 400 individuals left in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. These reptiles can grow up to 19 inches (47 centimeters) long and weigh up to 42 pounds (19 kilograms).

The radiated tortoise lives in the country's south. Its dark brown or black domed shell is covered with bright yellow or orange starlike patterns and can grow up to 16 inches (40 cm) long. They can live for an estimated 100 years, according to the IUCN.

"These tortoises are truly one of Madagascar's most iconic species," James Deutsch, executive director of the Africa Program at WCS, said in the statement. "This level of exploitation is unsustainable. Unless immediate action is taken to better protect the wild populations, their extinction is imminent."

Due to their unique beauty, many of the animals are taken for the illegal pet trade. Illegal poaching and smuggling has increased about tenfold since Madagascar's political crisis began in 2009, accompanied by eroded law and order, the WCS said. In the past, it was considered taboo to harm the tortoises, although this tradition has faded with years of drought and increasing poverty, according to the statement.

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Africa Alert: Poachers enter unique elephant habitat

WWF 7 May 13;

Poachers have entered one of Africa’s most unique elephant habitats on Monday, threatening to cause one of the biggest elephant massacres in the region since poachers killed at least 300 elephants for their ivory in Cameroon’s Bouba N’Djida National Park in February 2012.

According to WWF sources, a group of 17 armed individuals on Monday entered the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park and headed for the Dzanga Bai, locally known as the “village of elephants”, a large clearing where between 50 and 200 elephants congregate every day to drink mineral salts present in the sands.

Two WWF-supported local researchers said that three members of this group armed with Kalashnikov rifles approached them in the forest on Monday, asking for food and directions to the viewing tower at the Dzanga Bai, which is used by scientists and tourists to observe elephants. After giving a false lead, these sources immediately ran away and heard gunshots coming from the Bai on their way into hiding.

Also on Monday, two ecoguards said they saw they saw armed individuals on the Dzanga Bai observation platform shooting in the direction of elephants. While going into hiding, these sources said they saw the vehicle which had transported the 17 gunmen parked at the entrance of the park.

WWF calls on the international community to help restore peace and order in the Central African Republic, which has been rocked by violence and chaos since the beginning of the year, and to help preserve this unique World Heritage Site.

Jim Leape, WWF International Director General, said:

“Unless swift and decisive action is taken, it appears highly likely that poachers will take advantage of the chaos and instability of the country to slaughter the elephants living in this unique World Heritage Site.

“Wildlife crime is not only a consequence of instability, but a cause. It fuels violence in the region, in a vicious circle that undermines the stability of these countries and their economic development..

“Central African Republic has to immediately follow through on its promise of two weeks ago to mobilise troops to end poaching in the region. WWF also calls on the international community to immediately provide assistance to Central African Republic in restoring peace and order in the country, and to preserve its unique natural heritage.

“We also urge Cameroon and Republic of Congo to provide support to the Central African Republic in preserving this World Heritage Site, which not only encompasses the Bai, but also includes large neighbouring areas of these two countries.

“Finally, ivory consumer country governments, and notably China and Thailand, must redouble their efforts to end demand – the root cause of the extermination of elephants across Africa.”

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Encroaching sea already a threat in Caribbean

David McFadden Associated Press Yahoo News 8 May 13;

TELESCOPE, Grenada (AP) — The old coastal road in this fishing village at the eastern edge of Grenada sits under a couple of feet of murky saltwater, which regularly surges past a hastily-erected breakwater of truck tires and bundles of driftwood intended to hold back the Atlantic Ocean.

For Desmond Augustin and other fishermen living along the shorelines of the southern Caribbean island, there's nothing theoretical about the threat of rising sea levels.

"The sea will take this whole place down," Augustin said as he stood on the stump of one of the uprooted palm trees that line the shallows off his village of tin-roofed shacks built on stilts. "There's not a lot we can do about it except move higher up."

The people along this vulnerable stretch of eastern Grenada have been watching the sea eat away at their shoreline in recent decades, a result of destructive practices such as the extraction of sand for construction and ferocious storm surges made worse by climate change, according to researchers with the U.S.-based Nature Conservancy, who have helped locals map the extent of coastal erosion.

Dozens of families are now thinking about relocating to new apartments built on a hillside about a 10-minute walk from their source of livelihood, a tough sell for hardy Caribbean fishing families who see beachfront living as a virtual birthright.

If climate change impact predictions come true, scientists and a growing number of government officials worry that this stressed swath of Grenada could preview what's to come for many other areas in the Caribbean, where 70 percent of the population live in coastal settlements.

In fact, a 2007 report by the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the devastation wreaked on Grenada by 2004's Hurricane Ivan "is a powerful illustration of the reality of small-island vulnerability." The hurricane killed 28 people, caused damage twice the nation's gross domestic product, damaged 90 percent of the housing stock and hotel rooms and shrank an economy that had been growing nearly 6 percent a year, according to the climate scientists' report.

Storms and beach erosion have long shaped the geography of coastal environments, but rising sea levels and surge from more intense storms are expected to dramatically transform shorelines in coming decades, bringing enormous economic and social costs, experts say. The tourism-dependent Caribbean is thought to be one of the globe's most vulnerable regions.

"It's a massive threat to the economies of these islands," said Owen Day, a marine biologist with the Caribsave Partnership, a nonprofit group based in Barbados that is spearheading adaptation efforts. "I would say the region's coastal areas will be very severely impacted in the next 50 to 100 years."

Scientists and computer models estimate that global sea levels could rise by at least 1 meter (nearly 3.3 feet) by 2100, as warmer water expands and ice sheets melt in Greenland and Antarctica. Global sea levels have risen an average of 3 centimeters (1.18 inches) a decade since 1993, according to many climate scientists, although the effect can be amplified in different areas by topography and other factors.

In the 15 nations that make up the Caribbean Community bloc, that could mean the displacement of 110,000 people and the loss of some 150 multimillion- dollar tourist resorts, according to a modeling analysis prepared by Caribsave for the United Nations Development Program and other organizations. Twenty-one of 64 regional airports could be inundated. About 5 percent of land area in the Bahamas and 2 percent of Antigua & Barbuda could be lost. Factoring in surge from more intense storms means a greater percentage of the regional population and infrastructure will be at risk.

In eastern Grenada, people living in degraded coastal areas once protected by mangrove thickets say greater tidal fluctuations have produced unusually high tides that send seawater rushing up rivers. Farmers complain that crops are getting damaged by the intrusion of the salty water.

Adrian George is one of the coastal residents preparing to move into an inland apartment complex built by the Chinese government following the devastation left by Hurricane Ivan.

"I'm now ready to move up to the hills," George said in the trash-strewn eastern Grenadian village of Soubise, which is regularly swamped with seawater and debris at high tide. "Here, the waves will just keep getting closer and closer until we get swept away."

One response in the wealthier island of Barbados has been building a kilometer-long breakwater and waterfront promenade to help protect fragile coastlines. In most cases, international money is pouring in to kick-start "soft engineering" efforts restoring natural buffers such as mangroves, grasses and deep-rooted trees such as sea grape. Some call that the most effective and cheapest way to minimize the impact of rising seas.

But in the long run, "we need to move our centers of population, infrastructure, et cetera, out of the areas likely to become vulnerable to rising seas," said Anthony Clayton, a climate change expert and the director of a sustainability institute at Jamaica's campus of the University of the West Indies.

Where to rebuild will be yet another challenge, with the region's islands mostly rugged and mountainous with small areas of flat land in coastal areas.

Even with the Caribbean so threatened, many islands have been slow to adapt, and awareness of the problem has only recently grown. Last year, the European Investment Bank announced it would give $65 million in concessionary loans to help 18 Caribbean nations adapt, while conservation groups try, among other projects, to restore buffering mangroves and set up fishing sanctuaries to help fringing reefs recover. The Caribbean Community Climate Change Center in Belize is managing the regional response.

Yet not everyone is convinced that climate change is as dire as forecast.

Peter De Savary, a British entrepreneur and major property developer on Grenada's famed Grande Anse Beach, said the availability of capital, energy costs and the health of the global economy are far more imminent concerns than rising sea levels. He notes that most existing beach resorts will have to be rebuilt anyway in coming decades due to normal wear and tear so projected climate change impacts won't require much attention.

"If the sea level rises a foot or two it really doesn't make any difference here in Grenada because we have beaches that have a reasonably aggressive falloff," De Savary said. "If the water gets a few degrees warmer, well, that's what people come to the Caribbean for, warm water, so that's not an issue."

Shyn Nokta, who heads Guyana's office of climate change, said there's ample evidence the impacts will be less benign. Warming ocean waters have helped to significantly degrade the region's protective reefs, and threats to Caribbean coral are only expected to intensify as a result of ocean acidification due to greenhouse gases. Rainfall also has become increasingly erratic.

Many are also girding for climate change's impacts on an already fragile agriculture sector and drinking water quality and availability.

"The weather and climate system in the region is changing," Nokta said from Guyana's capital of Georgetown, which sits below sea level behind a complicated system of dikes and is extremely vulnerable to flooding.

Inequalities in income will play a big role in determining how the suffering is meted out island to island, said Ramon Bueno, a Massachusetts-based analyst who has researched and modeled climate change economic impacts for years.

"A low-income family living by the shoreline, with limited access to clean fresh water and earning a living from tourism, fishing or agriculture is vulnerable in a way that a middle- or high-income professional living in good air-conditioned housing at higher elevation inland is not," Bueno said.

That portends a dire future for people such as Allison Charles, a subsistence farmer in Grenada's coastal village of Telescope, a fact she said she's well aware of.

"It's hard now. Already our plants are getting burned by the salt water coming up the river," Charles said in her village, framed by Grenada's rugged hills. "I can't really imagine what the future will hold."


AP science writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this report from Washington.

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