Best of our wild blogs: 11 May 13

Crowded out
from Life's Indulgences

Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker foraging
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Fledging Moments – Update on the Red Junglefowl Chicks
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Kampong Lorong Buangkok should be preserved

Today Online 11 May 13;

Can we call a place home if the old keeps vanishing and the young keeps forgetting?

How well do those from the younger generation know Singapore’s rural history and the kind of living conditions their grandparents had, beyond what is in the museum or in textbooks?

Students learn that their grandparents used to stay in kampungs, but they do not have a first-hand experience of how different it is from the comfortable homes they live in now.

We should preserve the last standing kampung in Singapore, Kampong Lorong Buangkok, to educate future generations about the past.

The National Heritage Board could turn one of the vacant homes into a museum for tourists, while the other vacant homes could be used for educational programmes, such as a homestay for students. Why spend extra to take students overseas if they can get the same experience here?

Students may also feel more connected to the place, and keeping the kampung helps retain the kampung spirit.

We should cherish our last standing kampung and not let it be consigned to history.

We should let it be a bridge to bring future generations closer to the past.

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Botanic Gardens plans gallery and museum

They will showcase its heritage as part of bid for World Heritage status
Grace Chua Straits Times 11 May 13;

THE Singapore Botanic Gardens has unveiled plans for a heritage museum and separate gallery on its grounds, as part of its bid to become a Unesco World Heritage site.

Director Nigel Taylor called the installations "the single most important thing" the 154- year-old gardens is likely to do over the next few years as it applies to the global body - known in full as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

"It's a very obvious commitment to educating visitors about the heritage of the site," he said.

The museum, to be housed at Holttum Hall near the Tanglin entrance, will have a permanent exhibition of artifacts such as centuries-old specimens and botanical artworks, or their digital versions if they are especially fragile or rare.

For instance, the oldest book in the gardens' library - about medicinal plants - dates back to the 16th century and is in Latin.

The museum will also show off the site's history of breeding rubber, coffee, oil palm and other crops, its place in colonial and post-colonial culture, and scientific research carried out there.

Built in 1921, the 240 sq m hall was the office and laboratory of gardens director Eric Holttum, who pioneered test-tube techniques for breeding orchids in the 1930s.

A 314 sq m solar-powered gallery - the size of three to four HDB flats - will also be sited on the lawn of Holttum Hall, next to the Botany Centre.

It will be built by City Developments Limited (CDL), using concrete made from the hemp plant.

The gallery will begin by showcasing half a century of "greening" Singapore, with exhibits changed once or twice a year.

Both buildings will have controlled low-temperature, low-humidity environments to help preserve delicate items such as botanical watercolour paintings.

Together, the new additions will cost about $2 million in cash and kind from CDL, and are expected to be open to the public by the end of November.

Last December, Singapore put the Botanic Gardens on its tentative list, a precursor to submitting a formal application for the coveted World Heritage status.

Earlier this year, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said in Parliament that the historic site was picked for its economic and cultural significance from a shortlist of several spots including the Civic District, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Haw Par Villa.

Singapore will submit a formal nomination to Unesco next February.

If successful, the gardens may receive World Heritage status as early as June 2015.

Botanic Gardens to have heritage museum, "green" gallery
Alvina Soh Channel NewsAsia 10 May 13;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Botanic Gardens announced plans on Friday for a heritage museum and a gallery for green exhibits. The new attractions, which cost about S$2 million in cash and kind from City Developments Limited, will open their doors from end-November 2013.

The 240 square metre (sqm) heritage museum will house interactive and multimedia exhibits showcasing the Gardens' rich heritage. These will include rare historical finds, such as books and paintings that date back to as early as the 19th century.

Dr Nigel Taylor, director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, said: "The museum is needed to tell the visitors of the Gardens about the rich history the Gardens has developed over 150 years.

"We would (especially) like to engage school groups so they understand more about history... the Gardens' history rather mirrors the history of Singapore as an island."

The museum will be located at Holttum Hall, near the Gardens' Tanglin entrance. Visitors will also be able to join in guided tours of the heritage museum when it opens.

Members of the public can also look forward to a Green Gallery featuring more botanical exhibits. The 314 sqm gallery, which is an extension of the museum, will also be Singapore's first zero energy gallery.

The gallery will run on solar power and be built with eco-friendly materials.

It will showcase Singapore's "greening" journey as its first exhibition when it opens.

Dr Taylor said that the additions will be a "great help" in supporting the Gardens' nomination bid as Singapore's first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

He said: "It is very important that we demonstrate that we are serious about understanding our heritage, and that is the kind of thing that UNESCO wants to see."

The Gardens also aims to foster a greater sense of pride and ownership among visitors.

- CNA/ac/ms

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Indonesia: Sumatran Tigers in Jambi May Face Extinction Within 10 Years

Jakarta Globe 11 May 13;

The critically endangered Sumatran tiger could soon be extinct in the province of Jambi because of the rapid loss of its forest habitat, conservationists warn.

Rakhmad Hidayat, director of the Jambi chapter of the environmental group Warsi, said the remaining wild population of the big cat was estimated at between 250 and 300.

“Of that number, around 125 are found inside Kerinci Seblat National Park, which covers parts of Jambi, South Sumatra and Bengkulu provinces,” he said as quoted by

The remaining tigers are scattered in other national parks throughout Sumatra, but the population in Jambi is estimated at only about 30 or 40 individuals.

Rakhmad said that even inside the national parks, their safety was not guaranteed. He said there has been an increase in the number of incidents in recent years in which villagers living in unprotected forest areas came into conflict with wildlife, including tigers. Many of those cases could be attributed to tigers being driven out of Jambi’s Berbak National Park because of illegal forest clearing activities there.

He said the cases of human-tiger conflict, including two attacks on villagers this year, one of them fatal, and the deaths of two tigers caught in electric fences, should compel provincial authorities and the central government to do more to protect the animals’ habitat.

“The current arbitrary management of the region’s natural resources has not only sparked conflict among communities, but also poses a serious threat to the local wildlife,” Rakhmad said.

“If the situation continues as it is with no concrete measures to address the problems, then we predict that in 10 years’ time, the Sumatran tiger population in Jambi will be extinct.”

A zoologist warned earlier this year that increased human-tiger interaction was having an effect on the animals’ behavior.

Wisnu Whardana of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture said in March that tigers normally avoid human settlements and plantations, but recent cases in Jambi showed tigers were becoming more accustomed to human habitats.

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Indonesia: Palm Oil Planters Bid to End Deforestation Moratorium

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 10 May 13;

Balikpapan. Palm oil planters have denounced a two-year forest-clearing moratorium that ends this month, saying it has throttled palm oil production and are urging the government against its extension.

Topan, a spokesman for the Association of Indonesian Palm Oil Producers (Gapsi), said in Balikpapan that the freeze on permits to clear primary and peat forests had impacted the producers’ operations and resulted in Indonesia being overtaken by Malaysia as the world’s biggest producer of crude palm oil.

“We firmly reject any proposal to extend this moratorium because we stand to lose more than we gain from it,” he said.

The moratorium, which went into force in May 2011, was imposed as part of a deal with the Norwegian government in which the latter would provide $1 billion to Indonesia for programs to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, or REDD.

But Topan said Indonesia had nothing to show in this regard after two years, while the lost economic potential from restricting the expansion of oil palm plantations continued to mount.

“The moratorium ends this May, but already environmental groups such as Greenpeace are running an anti-palm oil campaign near Cikeas,” he said, referring to the area in Bogor where President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono lives.

“They’ve put up banners saying that extending the moratorium will guarantee the future of the young generation.”

Topan said in response, Gapsi had made clear its objection to extending the moratorium, including a submission of its grievances to the House of Representatives. He added that the association was also considering possible legal steps if the moratorium was extended.

“Our hope is that there’s no extension and that the moratorium is allowed to end on May 20,” he said.

Mansuetus Darto, coordinator of the Palm Oil Farmers Union (SPKS), an association of smallholders, said separately that his organization was lobbying the government to extend the moratorium and also to expand its scope to include land that was disputed by both local communities and plantation companies.

“Over the past two years, permits for some 700,000 hectares of new oil palm plantations have been put on hold. So we support the moratorium and we urge the government to continue it and to broaden its reach that it may also cover lands with conflicting claims,” Mansuetus said.

He acknowledged that Indonesia’s total crude palm oil production had declined from 28 million metric tons a year to 26 million during the moratorium period, but said this should prompt growers to improve their efficiency and productivity.

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Indonesia: Wild Elephant Found Dead in Aceh

Nurdin Hasan Jakarta Globe 10 May 13;

Banda Aceh. A 10-year-old elephant was found dead in a jungle near Bangkeh village, Pidie district, Aceh, on Thursday.

Syarkawi, the head of Pidie’s Forestry and Plantation Agency, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday that the elephant’s body was discovered by the Mane Conservation Response Unit (CRU) Team while they were trying to shoo away dozens of wild elephants disrupting the local community living near the jungle.

CRU is a program set up by non-government organization Indonesian Flora and Fauna (FFI) to manage the conflict between elephants and the local people.

“When the CRU team took five tame elephants to direct the wild elephants back into the jungle, they did not want to move, the tame elephants were screaming and headed to the location where the dead elephant was found,” he said.

Syarkawi said he estimated the elephant died on Thursday morning. The body was discovered only 500 meters away from the nearest neighborhood.

When it was found, both tusks were still in place.

“We are still waiting for Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency [BKSDA] to finish the autopsy to find out the real cause of the death,” he said.

Rosa Rika Wahyuni, a veterinarian at Aceh’s BKSDA, said local residents believe the elephant was electrocuted because of the wires found entangled on its feet.

“Some locals said the elephant died after it bit an electronic wire, there were some wires scattered in the area,” she said.

BKSDA is still conducting an examination of the elephant’s organs to determine the real cause of death.

Estimates put the number of Sumatran elephants left in the wild at fewer than 3,000, and the species is considered “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Conservationists say the remaining population is severely threatened due to habitat loss from illegal logging and palm oil plantations’ expansion.

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At least 26 elephants massacred in World Heritage site

WWF 10 May 13;

Yaoundé, Cameroon - At least 26 elephants were massacred in the Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in the Central African Republic, after 17 individuals armed with Kalashnikov rifles on Monday entered this unique elephant habitat, known locally as the “village of elephants”.

WWF sources on Thursday said they had counted at least 26 elephant carcasses in and around the Bai, a large clearing where between 50 and 200 elephants congregate every day to drink nutrients present in the sands.

Four of the elephants were calves, the sources said, adding that local villagers had started taking meat from the carcasses.

Since the poachers arrived no elephants have been seen at the Bai, which was described as an “elephant mortuary” the sources added.

Although the 17 armed individuals, who presented themselves as part of the country’s transitional government forces, have left the area, WWF and other conservation partners fear the killing could continue unless the area is properly secured.

The Central African Republic has been rocked by violence and chaos since the beginning of the year, and WWF and other conservation organizations left the field office next to the Bai in April for security reasons.

Jim Leape, WWF International Director General, said: “The killing has started. The Central African Republic must act immediately to secure this unique World Heritage site.

“The brutal violence we are witnessing in Dzanga Bai threatens to destroy one of the world’s great natural treasures, and to jeopardise the future of the people who live there.

“The international community must also act to assist the Central African Republic to restore peace and order in this country to safeguard its population and its natural heritage.

“WWF also asks Cameroon and the Republic of Congo to assist 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.

“The events in Dzanga Bai are a vivid reminder of the existential threat faced by forest elephants in Central Africa. Populations of this species have plummeted 62 per cent over the past ten years.

“The unfolding tragedy in Dzanga Bai must also spur the governments of China and Thailand to act on their commitments to shut down the ivory markets in their countries that are fueling this illicit trade.”

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