Best of our wild blogs: 29 May 13

Saturday 01 June 2013, 10:30 AM at Botany Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens. Kevin Tilbrook on Lace Corals and Moss Animals from Raffles Museum News

Fri 31 May 2013: 9.00am @ DBS CR2: Daniel Ng on “Impacts of climate change on tropical amphibians” from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Reefy Day 9 at the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Updates on the Southern Expedition
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Toddycats at the Mega Marine Survey!
from Toddycats!

Places - Of Boar And Men

Random Gallery - Plain Tiger
from Butterflies of Singapore

Plastic recycling is just not economically attractive enough to be a solution from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Rethink route of Cross Island MRT line

Straits Times Forum 29 May 13;

THE proposal to run the Cross Island Line across the gazetted Central Catchment Nature Reserve is a cause for concern ("Route of MRT line a concern: Nature Society"; last Saturday).

At stake is a national treasure trove of biodiversity - a verdant stretch of primary, secondary and young forest that supports many native plants and trees, and is home to insects, animals, birds and fishes.

Water from natural sources there drains into the surrounding reservoirs. The vast catchment forest also acts as a green lung in the central part of our island, providing clean air and counteracting the greenhouse effect.

Even if the rail system runs underground, much construction work will have to be done on the surface, such as providing access to transportation and building site offices.

Large tracts of forest would have to be cleared. This means erosion, pollution, noise and a whole host of other ill effects.

One wonders how an Environmental Impact Assessment can have anything positive to say about such a venture.

That such a proposal came to pass throws into question the claims by the Government of its commitment to protect the environment. It seems that even a gazetted nature reserve is no longer protected.

There should not be soft or easy options, and certainly not explanations such as "this is the most direct and shortest route across".

I urge the Government to seriously rethink the route of the line and avoid the destruction of a major part of our natural heritage.

Chia Yong Soong

Cross Island Line: LTA must be proactive in engaging stakeholders
Straits Times Forum 29 May 13;

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) must be proactive and sincere in engaging stakeholders when planning the Cross Island Line, whose present design has tracks cutting across the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Area ("Route of MRT line a concern: Nature Society"; last Saturday).

Nature reserves are sensitive habitats and gazetted areas, and the LTA should have anticipated the concerns of stakeholders before unveiling its plans in January.

There were apparently no proactive attempts to engage or consult stakeholders before the announcement.

Concerned stakeholders have waited patiently for four months to engage LTA to understand its plans for the Environmental Impact Assessment and feasibility studies. How much longer do they have to wait?

The LTA should come forward with a concrete date for the stakeholder engagement.

Now is the time for it to be proactive and sincere in engaging the Nature Society and interested individuals and groups. The future of our nature reserves is at stake.

Eugene Tay Tse Chuan

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Is monkey trapping the best solution?

Straits Times Forum 29 May 13;

WE READ with alarm two recent reports ("AVA moves to control monkey problem", April 29; and "AVA explains monkey trapping video"; last Wednesday) about the capture and removal of macaques from Bukit Timah.

We would like to ask:

- Why were the macaques being trapped? Was it for ecological reasons and/or because of threats to human safety? If it was the latter, what risk assessment criteria were used?

- What is the strategy for monkey capture? Are troops studied carefully before specific monkeys are targeted? Are there numerical targets for the trapping?

- How closely were wildlife experts, in particular, those who specialise in primate biology, consulted prior to the implementation of the monkey-trapping programme? How frequently do the contractors entrusted with the monkey capture seek the advice of experts?

A macaque-trapping exercise that is not based on solid data, built on a sound knowledge of macaque behaviour and conducted with inputs from experts is difficult to justify.

Based on reports, the monkey-trapping strategy appears ecologically unsound, largely avoidable and futile. At the end of these rounds of trapping, residents have no more understanding of the macaques than they did before the trapping started.

More importantly, the ecosystem would have lost seed dispersers who play an important role in forest regeneration, and macaque troops may be destabilised (which may give rise to other behavioural problems among the remaining macaques).

The monkey incursions are likely to continue and the trapping cycle repeated, with no one except perhaps the monkey-removal contractors profiting from these episodes.

Wildlife live in forests. When housing is built next to forested areas, insects, birds, lizards and macaques come with the territory.

Understanding how to minimise the conflict between residents and wildlife - from building and buffer area design, to reaching out to residents prior to and during occupation, and seeking holistic solutions - would be more consistent with the rational, systematic and tolerant approach for which Singapore is famed.

One needs to look no further than our airport to see an excellent example of how to manage human-wildlife interaction ("Changi keeps fowl-ups to a minimum"; May 20).

Changi Airport works with stakeholders and wildlife experts to minimise the chances of birds compromising aircraft safety. Killing birds is not their first course of action. They employ a scientifically sound and humane strategy that protects people, planes and birds.

Perhaps this approach could be a model for managing and raising our understanding of wildlife in other areas.

Tay Kae Fong
President, Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore)

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NParks signs MOU with Brunei's Forestry Department on joint botanical survey

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewAsia 29 May 13;

SINGAPORE: Researchers from Singapore will now have greater access to study plants and forests in Brunei.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the National Parks Board (NParks) and Brunei's Forestry Department was signed Wednesday in Bandar Seri Begawan.

With the MOU on a joint botanical survey, Singapore becomes the first ASEAN country to conclude a formal agreement with Brunei in the environment sector.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer of NParks Leong Chee Chiew said the MOU will benefit both countries.

Under the agreement, Singapore will contribute its expertise to conduct a planned and systematic study of the rich flora in Brunei.

Researchers will help to identify and document different species of plants in the Bruneian forests.

Brunei last conducted an inventory of its flora database in 1996.

It is estimated that Brunei is home to around 5,000 plant species.

NParks said it has other collaborative efforts in the region.

Its scientists are involved in studying ginger in Vietnam and orchids in Myanmar.

- CNA/xq

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Decline in biodiversity of farmed plants, animals gathering pace

Alister Doyle Reuters 28 May 13;

A decline in the diversity of farmed plants and livestock breeds is gathering pace, threatening future food supplies for the world's growing population, the head of a new United Nations panel on biodiversity said on Monday.

Preserving neglected animal breeds and plants was necessary as they could have genes resistant to future diseases or to shifts in the climate to warmer temperatures, more droughts or downpours, Zakri Abdul Hamid said.

"The loss of biodiversity is happening faster and everywhere, even among farm animals," Zakri told a conference of 450 experts in Trondheim, central Norway, in his first speech as founding chair of the U.N. biodiversity panel.

Many traditional breeds of cows, sheep or goats have fallen out of favor, often because they yield less meat or milk than new breeds. Globalization also means that people's food preferences narrow down to fewer plants.

Zakri said there were 30,000 edible plants but that just 30 crops accounted for 95 percent of the energy in human food that is dominated by rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum.

He said it was "more important than ever to have a large genetic pool to enable organisms to withstand and adapt to new conditions." That would help to ensure food for a global population set to reach 9 billion by 2050 from 7 billion now.

Zakri noted that the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization estimated last year that 22 percent of the world's livestock breeds were at risk of extinction. That means there are fewer than 1,000 animals in each breed.

The extinctions of some domesticated animals and plants was happening in tandem with accelerating losses of wild species caused by factors such as deforestation, expansion of cities, pollution and climate change, he said.

Irene Hoffmann, chief of the FAO's animal genetic resources branch, told Reuters that eight percent of livestock breeds had already become extinct.

Many nations had started breeding programs for rare livestock, from llamas to pigs. Some were freezing embryos or even stem cells that might be used in cloning, she said.

In 2010, governments set goals including halting extinction of known threatened species by 2020 and expanding the area set aside in parks or protected areas for wildlife to 17 percent of the Earth's land surface from about 13 percent now.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Food Security: making the ecosystem connections

IUCN 16 May 13;

Worldwide, 870 million people go hungry every day. With the world population projected to exceed nine billion people by 2050, global agricultural output must expand by an estimated 60% to meet global food needs.

These were the introductory words and the challenge posed to participants meeting at the recent International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition, organised by FAO in Rome from 13-15 May.

Expanding global agricultural outputs by 60% to ensure future food security, can this be done?

To answer this question, it is important to go back to the roots of food production: nature. We find that making the ecosystem connection is the vital link towards sustainable solutions. "Ecosystem goods and services make critical contributions to food security by supporting the availability, access, and use of foods, both farmed and wild, and by strengthening the stability of food systems", said Cyrie Sendashonga, IUCN Global Policy Director during her keynote speech at the conference.

To give some examples, soil processes and wild pollinators are critically important to agricultural productivity – and therefore food availability; forests provide access to food both directly (through the edible wild plants and animals found there) and indirectly (via forest-product income that can be used to buy food); medicinal plants contribute to people’s health, making their utilization of food more efficient and beneficial for their bodies; and healthy wetlands and mangroves help protect coastal areas from flooding, which increases the stability of food production from nearby fields and fish ponds.

Ecosystem degradation and weak ecosystem governance do therefore not only compromise the ability of developing country populations to farm, access and use food effectively, but it also adversely impacts food security policies. "This is the crux of the matter, ecosystem degradation and weak ecosystem governance can undermine the effectiveness and impacts of food security policies, while inappropriate policies can damage ecosystems and their ability to support food systems", said Chris Buss, Coordinator IUCN Forest Conservation Programme.

The rural poor and vulnerable groups, including women and children, are most at risk. For example, bushmeat in the Congo Basin alone feeds nearly 100 million people – both urban and rural dwellers – and is important in many other forested regions of the world. Fish provides more than 1.5billion people with 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein.

"An ecosystem-aware approach to food security policy-making goes beyond the conventional focus, which is generally on productivity, trade and macro-economic issues. Instead it takes a big-picture view to the development of sustainable food systems. Such an approach aims for more than alleviating hunger, it embraces the goal of building long term food resilience", said Mark Smith, Director IUCN Global Water Programme.

Food resilience is the capacity of ecosystems to support food production and the ability of people to produce, harvest or buy food in the face of environmental, economic and social shocks and stresses. This focus on resilience is critical if food security objectives are to be achieved and sustained over the long term. IUCN supports policies which strengthen food resilience by addressing three key issues: diversity, natural infrastructure and social justice.

Food security policy-makers in developing countries therefore have much to gain from integrating ecosystem management and good ecosystem governance into their policy measures, and collaborating with other sectoral policy-making initiatives to ensure they consistently support food security. Effective policies also address the social aspects of the ecosystem connections to food security by strengthening, for example, land tenure, access rights to natural resources, local organizations, and gender equality.

An IUCN paper entitled 'Food Security Policies: making the ecosystem connections', was presented during the conference and is available for downloading in English, French, and Spanish.

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Key organizations team up to stop the extinction crisis

TRAFFIC 28 May 13;

Gland, Switzerland, 28th May 2013—With more than 20,000 of the species assessed on The IUCN Red List threatened with extinction, IUCN and other organizations, including TRAFFIC, have come together to support the achievement of a global biodiversity target to prevent further species loss.

The “Friends of Target 12” partnership will assist countries in their efforts to achieve Target 12—one of 20 “Aichi Biodiversity Targets” adopted under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan in 2010—that aims to prevent further extinctions of threatened species and improve the conservation status of those disappearing most rapidly.

“Today, species are disappearing at unprecedented rates,” said Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. “However, we know that conservation works. We need to do much more of it and at a much larger scale. We hope that this partnership will provide the concerted action that we urgently need to secure the long term survival of species.”

The Friends of Target 12 initiative aims to bring together the knowledge and experience of government institutions, intergovernmental, non-governmental and community-based organizations, academic and professional networks and private sector companies working to conserve species and ensure their sustainable use. It will offer practical advice to countries on how to better protect species, providing a common space for its partners to share and build on their previous conservation successes.

“As a member of the Friends of Target 12 initiative, TRAFFIC’s expertise on the global wildlife trade will strengthen the partnership’s efforts in addressing the critical trade issues affecting many of the world’s threatened wildlife species,” said Roland Melisch, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Director for Africa and Europe.

Out of 65,518 species currently assessed by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, 1,173 are Extinct or Possibly Extinct and 20,219 are threatened. However, as demonstrated by several of the Friends of Target 12 organizations, successful conservation action can bring species back from the brink of extinction. Examples include the Greater One-horned Rhino Rhinoceros unicornis, Lear’s Macaw Anodorhynchus leari, Arabian Oryx Oryx leucoryx, California Condor Gymnogyps californianus and Przewalski’s Horse Equus ferus.

“Many organizations and institutions around the world are contributing to the protection of species and are supporting the implementation of Target 12,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, CBD Executive Secretary. “This partnership brings them together and enhances the support that we can provide to CBD Parties to finally move from words to implementation of the Aichi biodiversity targets.”

The partnership is officially supported by the CBD and currently has 21 partners.


Current Friends of Target 12 partners:
• Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)
• BirdLife International
• Bern Convention
• Conservation International (CI)
• Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
• Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
• Chico Mendes Institute for Conservation of Biodiversity, Ministry of the Environment of Brazil (ICMBio)
• International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
• IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
• IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC)
• IUCN SSC Primates Specialist Group (PSG)
• IUCN SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG)
• Island Conservation
• Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar)
• SOS—Save Our Species (SOS)
• United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)
• Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
• Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
• Zoo Outreach Organization (India)

More information about the commitments of partners to Friends of Target 12

About the Aichi Biodiversity Targets
The Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 with the purpose of inspiring broad-based action in support of biodiversity over the next decade by all countries and stakeholders. The Strategic Plan is comprised of a shared vision, a mission, strategic goals and 20 ambitious yet achievable targets, collectively known as the Aichi Targets. The Strategic Plan serves as a flexible framework for the establishment of national and regional targets and it promotes the coherent and effective implementation of the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Aichi Biodiversity Target 12: By 2020, the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.
Though some extinctions are the result of natural processes, human actions have greatly increased current extinction rates. Reducing the threat of human-induced extinction requires action to address the direct and indirect drivers of change (see the Aichi Targets under Goals A and B of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020) and can belong term processes. However, imminent extinctions of known threatened species can in many cases be prevented by protecting important habitats (such as Alliance for Zero Extinction sites) or by addressing the specific direct causes of the decline of these species (such as overexploitation, invasive alien species, pollution and disease).

This target has two components:
• Preventing extinction – Preventing further extinction entails that those species which are currently threatened do not move into the extinct category. Of the more 19,000 species known to be threatened globally, more than 3,900 are classified as Critically Endangered. Critically Endangered species are considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
• Improving the conservation status of threatened species - An improvement in conservation status would entail a species increasing in population to a point where it moves into a lower threat status. Using the IUCN criteria a species would no longer be considered as threatened once it moved into the Near Threatened category.
More information:

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UN chief takes poaching concerns to Security Council

WWF 29 May 13;

The United Nations Security Council today will be briefed on the severe and escalating threat to peace and security posed by Central Africa’s heavily-armed elephant poaching gangs.

In a report to the world’s highest international security body, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, “Poaching and its potential linkages to other criminal, even terrorist, activities constitute a grave menace to sustainable peace and security in Central Africa.”

The Secretary-General’s report highlights increasing links between elephant poaching, weapons proliferation and regional insecurity. “Illegal ivory trade may currently constitute an important source of funding for armed groups,” the report says. “Also of concern is that poachers are using more and more sophisticated and powerful weapons, some of which, it is believed, might be originating from the fallout in Libya.”

“The spread of cross-border poaching in Central Africa and its links to sophisticated armed groups is alarming. We have seen the devastating impact of this crime in too many countries,” said WWF International Director General Jim Leape. “I echo Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s deep concern for the security of the region.”

Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa and on the Lord’s Resistance Army-affected areas was made available in advance of a dedicated Security Council session to be held at UN headquarters in New York this morning.

The report references a steep decline in Central African elephant populations over the past decade and observes that multiple mass slaughters of the animals have been reported in protected areas in recent months. Poachers seeking ivory are believed to be responsible for elephant massacres in Chad, Cameroon, Gabon and Central African Republic.

“The situation has become so serious,” Ban writes, that national military responses have become necessary “to hunt down poachers”. The Secretary-General urges Central African governments to respond to the major national and regional security concerns posed by poaching through “concerted and coordinated action.”

Leape said: “To ensure peace, security and prosperity in Central Africa, efforts must be taken at the highest level to combat wildlife trafficking. I urge the governments of Central Africa to strengthen enforcement and criminal justice responses to wildlife crime and to address the linkages between it and other international crimes.”

The WWF Director General tomorrow will join Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba and African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka to examine the threat of illicit wildlife trafficking to sustainable economic development in Africa. The discussion will take place as part of the African Development Bank’s annual meetings in Marrakech, Morocco and is expected to be attended by government and institutional officials from across the continent.

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