Best of our wild blogs: 18 May 13

23-28 May: Traditional Wayang at Pulau Ubin with free boat ride
from wild shores of singapore

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Promote Ubin as a tourist destination

Straits Times Forum 18 May 13;

PULAU Ubin should receive more recognition as a tourist attraction. The island is rich in greenery and history, but it is not as well promoted as other attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and the Botanic Gardens.

Pulau Ubin's areas of interest could be better marketed to tourists. For example, the Chek Jawa wetlands are a completely natural habitat that boasts coral reefs and rich sea life such as sea hares and sand dollars.

Pulau Ubin is also a "living museum" that can showcase a rustic way of life, as its residents can share stories about island life with visitors.

Although its population has been significantly reduced, the residents have shown their passion for the island by continuing to live there.

To preserve its natural beauty, tourists should not be allowed to visit Pulau Ubin in overwhelming numbers, but the island should still be included in tourism advertising campaigns.

Irma Syafiqah Mahat (Miss)

Pulau Ubin featured on tourism board's website
Straits Times Forum 30 May 13;

WE THANK Miss Irma Syafiqah Mahat for her feedback ("Promote Ubin as a tourist destination"; May 18).

We assure her that in addition to attractions such as the Botanic Gardens, Southern Ridges and Gardens by the Bay, we include Pulau Ubin as one of the nature offerings in Singapore on our website and

Besides its natural and rustic charm, the intertidal flat at Chek Jawa provides an enriching and nature-based experience for visitors and residents. The charms of Pulau Ubin lend breadth to the range of attractions that allow us to market a personalised Singapore experience for different segments of visitors.

Oliver Chong
Director, Communications
Singapore Tourism Board

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NParks reminds public not to release animals at reservoir parks, nature reserves

Channel NewsAsia 17 May 13;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) said there have not been any cases of animals being released at reservoir parks and nature reserves in the past two years.

NParks is reminding the public not to release animals into the wild this Vesak Day, which falls on 24 May.

NParks' director of conservation, Wong Tuan Wah, said: "We will continue to reach out to the community and appeal to the public not to release animals into the wild. Most of these animals are kept as household pets, and many die shortly after their release as they are unable to adapt to the new surroundings."

NParks is running its annual campaign “Operation No Release”, held around Vesak Day to spread awareness of the dangers related to animal release.

It is working with volunteers to keep a lookout for any signs of animal release and conduct nature walks for the public.

Besides introducing the flora and fauna in the nature reserves to the participants, volunteer guides will also explain how animal release will impact the biodiversity and ecology of the nature reserves.

One such walk will be held at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 22 May.

- CNA/xq

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Animal welfare code could be in place next year

Channel NewsAsia 17 May 13;

SINGAPORE: An animal welfare code that spells out the do's and don'ts of pet care could be in place next year.

That means owners who don't provide proper shelter, food or leave their sick pets untreated can be punished.

Activists are asking authorities to go one step further and set up an animal police force to investigate and nab offenders.

For now, a national microchip database is in the works although it may take some time to implement it.

Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of Animal Welfare Legislation Review, said: "It is very straightforward in the sense to say that if any owner or person in charge of the animal or pet does not take good care of the animal, they can be taken to task."

- CNA/fa

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Indonesia: Constitutional Court Annuls Government Ownership of Customary Forests

Camelia Pasandaran Jakarta Post 17 May 13;

In a landmark decision for indigenous rights, the Constitutional Court decided on Thursday to make null and void the government’s ownership of customary forest areas.

The court eliminated the word “state” from Article 1f of the 1999 Law on Forestry, which previously declared that “customary forests are state forests located in the areas of custom-based communities.” Also revised was Article 5 of the law, which said that state forests include customary forests.

“Members of customary societies have the right to clear forests belonging to them and use the land to fulfill their personal and family needs. The rights of indigenous communities will not be eradicated, as long as they’re protected under Article 18b of the Constitution,” justice Muhammad Alim said on Thursday as quoted by the state-run Antara news agency.

Sumarto, a spokesman for the Ministry of Forestry, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday that the court’s decision was in line with the ministry’s policies.

“The Ministry of Forestry considers indigenous peoples living in a certain area as being part of the forest itself. They cannot be separated,” Sumarto said. “Custom-based societies are on the front lines of forest management.”

In its decision, the court affirmed that a clear distinction must be made between customary forests and state-owned forests. While the government still has the right to manage state forests, its authority is now limited in dealing with the forest lands of indigenous peoples.

“If there’s an issue with forest management, indigenous communities will have their own mechanisms to deal with it. We’re sure that these communities are environmentally friendly, concerned with sustainable economic practices and devoted to environmental protection,” Sumarto said.

The Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) filed a judicial review with the Constitutional Court in March 2012. AMAN accused the government of several times violating the rights of indigenous peoples by taking over customary forests and turning them into state-controlled lands. The state repeatedly granted concessions to business people to establish plantations or construct mines while ignoring the rights of customary communities.

The alliance pointed to an instance when the government claimed the lands of the Kasepuhan people in Lebak, Banten in 1992 and converted it into a conservation area.

Sumarto explained that the Kasepuhan community may have not completed the process to be considered a custom-based community at the time. “There are certain requirements that are needed in order to claim [that status],” he said.

“They were probably still in the process when the government converted the forest into a conservation area.”

However, in 2012, the local government asked the central to change the status of the area into a production forest. The Ministry of Forestry is still mulling over whether or not to open up the land to miners and plantation managers.

Zenzi Suhadi, a campaigner with the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and Friends of the Earth, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday that the government should urge regional governments to issue bylaws acknowledging custom-based communities and their lands as soon as possible.

“Regional governments [should draft bylaws] in order to specify which areas belong to indigenous societies,” Zenzi advised. “The House of Representatives should also issue laws to support the ruling.”

Without clear legal acknowledgment, Zenzi believes that local governments and customary communities may disagree on which areas belong to the which group.

He also added that in many cases, customary forests are better managed than protected forests owned by the government.

“In Samosir, North Sumatra, the customary forest is well maintained. The government’s protected forest, however, is cleared.”

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Malaysia: Critical pollution issues plague Cameron Highlands

New Straits Times 18 May 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach), a community based organisation formed by a group of Cameron Highlands residents alarmed by the rapidly deteriorating environment, has called on their newly-elected member of parliament Datuk Seri G. Palanivel to solve the critical pollution issues in the constituency.

Its president, R. Ramakrishnan, said uncontrolled land clearing activities were being carried out in several forest reserve areas, causing river pollution in Cameron Highlands.

"It is learnt that the land is being cleared for illegal vegetable farms. Reach lodged several reports to the authorities, but no action has been taken against," he said.

Ramakrishnan said tests conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) researchers revealed that river waters in Cameron Highland were polluted with toxic pesticides and that could affect the residents' health.

"The toxic water pollution is caused by the opening of farms, particularly upstream of the Terla river water catchment areas and treatment plant.

"This will affect the quality of clean water supplied to residents of one of Malaysia's famous tourist destinations," he said.

Meanwhile, Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) deputy secretary-general Foon Weng Lian said the Natural Resource and Environment Ministry, led by Palanivel, should solve the river pollution issue here as the rivers were the source of water supply for the residents.

"The river pollution issue was raised by various non-governmental organisations, but nothing has been forthcoming and the farmers still carrying out the illegal farming activities," said Foon, who is also Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia secretary-general.

Foon said as Cameron Highlands member of parliament, Palanivel should take action to ensure the area is monitored often so that the pollution problem would not get worse. Bernama

Hill clearing was done illegally
Christina Chin The Star 18 May 13;

GEORGE TOWN: The clearing of a hill in Bukit Gambier, Gelugor, which is visible from the Penang Bridge, is illegal.

The state government has direc­ted the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) to act against those responsible immediately, State Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said.

“I’ve checked with (State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Miti­gation Committee chairman) Chow Kon Yeow and he has confirmed that the ongoing works are illegal.”

“He said no approval was given by the relevant authorities,” said Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer yesterday.

Rayer said he would call for a press conference on the matter today.

Last week, Sahabat Alam Malaysia sent a letter to the MPPP to request details of the clearing activities on the hill.

Its president S.M. Mohd Idris said that to date, there had been no response from the council.

“I believe the hill is called Bukit Rumania.

“We were alerted by the public and immediately went to the site to take some photographs and find out what’s going on.

“We then wrote to the council enquiring about whether planning permission had been given, whether the clearing was being done on state or private land and if an Envi­ronmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was conducted before the land was cleared,” he said.

“We demand an explanation,” he said, adding that a reminder letter was sent to the council yesterday.

He said that there seems to be a violation of the hillslope development guidelines and wants to know why the council has been silent on the matter.

On Tuesday, Rayer, in a press conference, had urged the MPPP, state Forestry Department and Northeast District Office to investigate the hill clearing after he was informed by residents.

He said it “looked like” a development project was taking place and it had caused a lot of damage to the environment.

On Monday, Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch adviser D. Kanda Kumar said two of its members hiked up to the site.

However, they found no signboard indicating who the developer was or whether the authorities had given the necessary approval for the hill to be cleared.

Four photos of the site taken on April 13, 21 and 26, and May 6 have been posted and shared on Facebook.

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Indonesia: Fees needed to help marine conservation, Bali activists say

Desy Nurhayati Bali Daily Jakarta Post 17 May 13;

Marine conservationists have recommended that the provincial administration strongly consider developing a user fee system for people wanting to access the island’s marine protected areas (MPA).

The money collected under the system could contribute significantly to the costs of MPA management and law enforcement in the areas, said Ketut Sarjana Putra, country executive director of Conservation International Indonesia.

“Bali’s government and all related stakeholders should recognize that effective management of MPA will require serious enforcement and will be a relatively expensive undertaking that needs significant governmental funding to succeed,” he said.

He added that the island’s administration could take example from similar systems that had been implemented effectively in other MPAs in Indonesia, like Bunaken in North Sulawesi and Raja Ampat in West Papua. The system is implemented based on a bylaw.

In Bunaken National Park, all visitors (divers and non-divers) are required to pay an entrance fee, in accordance with North Sulawesi bylaw No. 9/2002.

The entrance fee for foreign visitors is Rp 50,000 (US$5.12) for a daily ticket or Rp 150,000 for a waterproof entrance tag valid for the full calendar year, according to the province’s watersport association website.

All proceeds from entrance tag and ticket sales are managed by the Bunaken National Park Management Advisory Board, a multi-stakeholder board established by a governor’s decree and consisting of dive operators, environmental organizations, academics, relevant government officials and residents of surrounding villages.

The board utilizes these funds to finance a number of high priority conservation programs in the park, including patrols and enforcement to abolish destructive fishing practices, such as blast and cyanide fishing, village improvement programs within the park, collection and disposal of plastic and other wastes entering the park’s waters, marine conservation education of village children and adults, and reef and mangrove rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, in Raja Ampat, the money collected under the user fee system is divided into two major components; levies, which go directly to the tourism agency for tourism development projects, and non-levies, which are managed by a multi-stakeholder team.

Some of the funds are used for conservation or MPA management projects, with the rest going to community projects, according to

The Bali Marine Rapid Assessment Program report released last year by Conservation International Indonesia also recommended the implementation of a user fee system.

“Consideration should be given to a user-pay system, whereby visitors pay a nominal fee for MPA access. This can provide significant funds for MPA management and benefits to local communities,” Conservation International’s coral experts Emre Turak and Lyndon DeVantier wrote in the report.

The report also recommended several regions in Bali be prioritized for the development of MPA. These are: the peninsula region (Bukit Uluwatu to Nusa Dua), Nusa Penida, Padangbai-Candidasa, Tulamben-Amed, East Buleleng (Tejakula), Central Buleleng (Lovina), West Buleleng (Pemuteran), West Bali National Park (including Menjangan and Secret Bay) and Perancak, considering that these areas boast a rich biodiversity of reef fish and other marine fauna, as well as coral reefs.

Of the four priority sites, only one has an established management regime, the West Bali National Park. Four other sites (around Buleleng and Nusa Penida) have been declared MPAs and are now undergoing planning and zoning. The four remaining sites (Amed-Tulamben, Padangbai-Candidasa, peninsula and Perancak) are still devoid of formal management regimes.

“These sites need to be managed collaboratively by the government, local communities and private sector, with the help of NGOs and research institutions,” said I Made Jaya Ratha, Conservation International Indonesia’s coastal socioeconomic expert.

Bali, a top global tourism destination, is situated in the southwest corner of the Coral Triangle, the region of highest marine biodiversity on the planet.

Bali’s marine resources have long been an important economic asset to the island as a source of food security and a focus for marine tourism.

Diving and snorkeling attractions, such as Nusa Penida, Candidasa, Menjangan (West Bali National Park), and the Tulamben USS Liberty wreck have been drawing tourists into the island’s waters for decades, and more recently the private marine tourism sector has expanded the menu of options to include sites like Puri Jati, Karang Anyar and Amed.

Other important activities in Bali’s coasts are, among others, seaweed farming and ornamental fish collecting.

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Wildlife Bandits: How Criminology Can Fight Poaching

Douglas Main Yahoo News 17 May 13;

Newark, N.J. — With no shortage of human-on-human misdeeds, criminologists haven't typically concerned themselves with crimes against wildlife and the environment. But with poaching raging out of control in several areas of the world, that may be changing.

"There is a growing sense of urgency about what's going on in the environment," Todd Clear, dean of Rutgers University's School of Criminal Justice, said here at a symposium Tuesday (May 14) on wildlife crime.

A variety of new research projects highlighted during the conference show that poaching and crimes against wildlife do follow patterns seen in other areas of criminology, knowledge that could be used to prevent these misdeeds. Famed Rutgers criminologist Ronald Clarke called on biologists and criminologists to work together to fight poaching and other issues where illegal acts are committed against nature.

As with other crimes, poaching often takes place in certain hotspots where conditions are optimal. Rhinos and elephants, for example, are often shot near watering holes where they predictably return to drink — and the poaching of elephants and rhinos is at an all-time high in many areas. Poaching has already pushed rhinos to extinction in Vietnam, for example. [Black Market Horns: Images from a Rhino Bust]

Andrew Lemieux, a scientist at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement, has outfitted rangers in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park with GPS-enabled cameras that allow them to cheaply document signs of crimes like poaching, setting animal snares or harvesting of firewood. The project, which began earlier this year, will help rangers know where to go to best prevent these illicit activities, he said during his presentation.

'Hot products'

Animals like parrots are also desirable to poachers in the same way certain "hot products" like cellphones and jewels are desirable to thieves. These products can be described by the acronym "CRAVED," which stands for concealable, removable, available, valuable, enjoyable and disposable, Clarke said. Most parrots poached from the Peruvian Amazon, for example, meet these criteria, and are opportunistically plucked from the forest by villagers looking for supplemental income, said Stephen Pires, a Florida International University researcher.

The same goes for fish, which are illegally caught more often when they are CRAVED. Fish found in multiple recipes, a measure of enjoyableness, are nine times more likely to be caught illegally than those less often found in cookbooks, said Gohar Petrossian, a researcher at William Paterson University in New Jersey. There are also 10 ports around the world that account for a large percentage of illegal and unregulated fishing, she said. In the same way the most crimes occur near a perpetrator's home, the illegal fishing tended to take place near these ports, Petrossian said.

Poverty also plays a large role, said Kenyan scientist and conservationist Richard Leakey, in his keynote address at the conference. In many cases poachers are opportunistic, poaching to supplement their incomes, or merely survive. Throwing money at the problem, like hiring rangers, doesn't necessarily help, Leakey said. Some rangers in East Africa make about $500 per month. If you've got 10 elephant tusks, though, you could make a cool $10,000. It's easy to see how rangers could be bought off, especially if poaching seems like the only viable way to feed one's family, said Leaky, who is the son of famed paleontologist and fossil hunters Louis and Mary Leakey, and himself a paleoanthropologist.

"If you haven't got enough money to see your kid through the next semester of school, and if you can be offered several years worth of income by turning a blind eye — who wouldn't?" Leakey said. "Hell, I would — if my family were at stake."

Too often Westerners ignore the underlying poverty and assume the people committing these crimes have completely different values, Leakey said. "I think we need to change the idea that if you went to Cambridge or Rutgers, you have a different value set."

Taking aim at poaching

Besides dealing with poverty, Leakey offered two options to fight poaching. First, he advocated building more fences around large reserves — a suggestion that was met with some resistance by at least one ecologist at the conference, who questioned Leakey after his talk about the fence's ability to stop elephants. Leakey noted that electrified fences were quite capable of stopping the large animals. In places where they've been installed, he added, sheep herders have come to rely on fences to protect their flock from predators inside the parks — meaning they can help both people and animals, he said.

Fenced reserves have helped South Africa prevent more poaching than many of its neighbors, Leakey added (athough even in South Africa rhino poaching is at a record high). While this takes funding, he said, the problem is not lack of money per se, but a lack of political will.

By making it harder to enter and exit reserves, fences increase both the risks and difficulties involved in poaching, both widely accepted tenets of crime prevention, Clarke said.

The second tool to fight poaching is awareness. One of the main reasons that poaching of elephants and rhinos has shot up in the past few years is due to growing demand in China for ivory and medicinal products (although rhino horns are made of the same material in finger nails and have no curative properties, they are desired for their supposed healing powers in traditional Chinese medicine). But Leakey said that most of these consumers — buying ivory trinkets, or visiting traditional pharmacies — have no idea these animals are dying out. [10 Species You Can Kiss Goodbye]

Increasing awareness would likely reduce demand for these products. As with other illegal activities, reduced rewards mean reduced crime, Clarke said.

In 1989, when Leakey headed the Kenya Wildlife Service, he came up with the idea to burn 12 tons of elephant tusks to bring public attention to poaching, which in the late '80s had flared up. The ploy worked, cutting the value of ivory by a factor of 30 and almost single-handedly suppressing elephant poaching for nearly two decades, Clarke said.

Perhaps it's time to do something similar, he said. But as to what exactly that might be, Leakey didn't have any concrete suggestions.

"We need to get youngsters in the conservation world to think outside the box," he said. "Thinking inside the box isn't working... continuing to talk, talk, talk — nothing gets done."

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World's tallest dam approved by Chinese environmental officials

Authorities push forward plans for 314 metre-high dam on Dadu river which would affect rare plants and fish
Jonathan Kaiman 17 May 13;

Chinese environmental authorities have approved construction plans for what could become the world's tallest dam, while acknowledging that the project would affect endangered plants and rare fish species.

The 314 metre-high dam (1,030ft) will serve the Shuangjiangkou hydropower project along the Dadu river in south-western Sichuan province, according to China's state news agency, Xinhua. A subsidiary of Guodian Group, one of China's five major state-owned power companies, will complete the project over a decade at an estimated cost of £2.9bn.

The dam will be far taller than the 185 metre-high Three Gorges dam along the Yangtze river – the world's most powerful hydroelectric project – and slightly edge out the current record holder, the 300 metre-high Nurek dam in Tajikistan. The world's second-tallest dam, the 292 metre-high Xiaowan dam on the Lancang (Mekong) river, is also in China.

China's environment ministry acknowledged that the dam would have an impact on the area's highly biodiverse flora and fauna.

"The project will affect the spawning and movement of rare fish species, as well as the growth of endangered plants, including the Chinese yew, which is under first-class state protection," the ministry said, according to Xinhua.

The ministry proposed counter-measures to mitigate the environmental impact, such as "protecting fish habitats in tributaries, building fish ladders and increasing fish breeding and releasing", Xinhua reported. The project is still awaiting a final go-ahead from China's state council.

The Dadu river is a tributary of the 450 mile-long Min river, which cuts through the centre of Sichuan province before joining the Yangtze further south.

Upon completion, the plant will have a total installed capacity of 2GW and produce nearly 8bn KW-hours of energy a year, about twice as much as the Hoover dam in the US.

China's hydropower development has surged in recent years as the country moves to increase non-fossil energy sources to 15% of its total energy use by 2020. Central authorities approved a controversial cascade of 13 dams on the pristine upper reaches of the Nu (Salween) river in January. The plans had stalled nearly a decade ago under pressure from environmental groups.

Scientists and environmental activists have raised concerns that a profusion of dams in south-west China could increase the area's risk of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and landslides.

Another hydroelectric project on the Dadu river prompted social unrest in 2004, as tens of thousands of farmers along its banks rioted against plans to relocate them. Authorities responded by halting the Pubugou dam's construction for a year.

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