Best of our wild blogs: 5 Nov 13

Nature and the Big City
from The Leafmonkey Workshop

'Sulphur-eating' clams, shrimps and sea cucumbers: Mini-talks at the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Curious Critters from the Deep on Day 16 of the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

#9 Fort Canning Park
from My Nature Experiences

Asian Koel – Aggression or Duetting?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Loris champion: conserving the world's most surprising primate family
from news by Jeremy Hance

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Malaysia: Motorist films jumbos eating rubbish

Isabelle Lai The Star 5 May 13;

PETALING JAYA: Seeing a herd of elephants eating rubbish discarded at an illegal dump along the Gerik-Jeli Highway shocked motorist Andrew Hew.

He immediately pulled his car to the side of the road and got out to take a video of the sight.

The YouTube video of the May 22 incident, lasting two minutes and eight seconds, showed four adults and a calf rummaging through the rubbish bags with their trunks.

“The elephants were just about 100m away from the road and the amount of rubbish was unbelievable,” Hew told The Star here yesterday.

The 44-year-old expressed concern that the elephants would have health issues or even die as they could have eaten some of the plastic bags.

He said he had also saved the GPS coordinates of the location and emailed these to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) for action.

When contacted, Perak Perhilitan director Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim confirmed that elephant dung had been found at the illegal dump.

His officers, he added, had also chased the elephants away from the area and would ensure that the animals did not return.

Perhilitan headquarters added that its state office would be holding discussions with the Gerik district council over the issue as soon as possible.

Malaysian Nature Society president Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed urged local authorities to take permanent measures to halt the illegal dumping of rubbish at the site.

He said community engagement as well as ensuring a proper waste disposal and collection system were crucial in tackling the problem.

“We don’t want to create behavioural change in the animals by allowing them to be dependent on human food,” he said.

“They could also end up using the busy highway to move around if they find food so near, causing traffic accidents which could then injure both humans and elephants,” he warned, adding that the large mammals moved around more at night.

This is the second incident involving wild elephants in Malaysia this year.

In January, both Malaysians and the international community were shocked and outraged when 14 Bornean pygmy elephants died from what was believed to be poisoning at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in Sabah.

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Timber Certification Pays Off for Indonesia With 114% Increase in Sales to EU

Jakarta Globe 4 Jun 13;

Indonesia booked a 114 percent increase in sales of timber product exports to the European Union during the first quarter of the year, following the introduction of a self-made certification system to help the country comply with international regulations.

The country’s exports of timber products, especially furniture, to the European Union reached $416 million from January through March, up from $193.9 million in the same period of last year, according to Bachrul Chairi, the director general for foreign trade at Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade.

Bachrul said the jump was attributed to the implementation of the Wood Legality Verification System (SVLK), which had been drafted by Indonesian forestry stakeholders and took effect in March.

SVLK is meant to help Indonesia comply with the EU Timber Regulation, which also came into force in March and prohibits illegally-harvested timber and derivative products from entering the EU market.

“China remains the biggest exporter [of timber and timber products] to the EU, while Indonesia ranks sixth. We’re trying to race with the SVLK,” Bachrul said on the sidelines of his visit to a furniture industry hub in the Central Java town of Jepara, according to Indonesian news portal

Indonesia’s furniture exports to the United States, meanwhile, reached $177 million in the first quarter, a 7.8 percent increase from the same period of 2012. Exports to Japan, on the other hand, dropped 18 percent to $69.2 million.

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Monitor Lizards Threatened by Pet Trade, Fashion Industry

Megan Gannon Live Science 4 Jun 13;

Coveted by exotic pet dealers and handbag-makers, colorful monitor lizards in Southeast Asia may be facing more serious conservation threats than thought, researchers say.

Monitor lizards are a group of strong-bodied, intelligent mostly carnivorous reptiles, including the fearsome Komodo dragon, the world's largest living lizard, which can grow to a length of 10 feet (3 meters).

They are most diverse in Southeast Asia and New Guinea, and despite their size, several monitor lizard species have eluded scientists until only recently in the region. In 2010, for example, scientists discovered three new species in the Philippines, including the gold-flecked, roughly 6-foot-long (1.8-meter) Varanus bitatawa.

Some laws are in place to protect the dragon-like creatures from unsustainable hunting and harvesting for the exotic pet trade. But a new study warns that dealers may be overexploiting the reptiles, taking advantage of the scant information conservations have on many of these species in the wild.

In a report in the journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology, researchers assessed the distribution, threats and conservation status of species of monitor lizards that live in Southeast Asia and New Guinea.

Only a few of the species included in the report are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. That's not to say they aren't endangered — most of them just haven't been assessed. The authors say the list is in need of a critical update, and they are advocating for an IUCN specialist group that tracks the population trends and threats faced by monitor lizards native to Southeast Asia and the Indo-Australian realm. They also say local and international laws need to be revised to adjust current export quotas of some species.

Study researcher Mark Auliya, of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Conservation (UFZ) in Leipzig, explained in a statement that the lizards draw high profits because of their looks and rarity.

"Quite often four-digit amounts are paid, for pairs occasionally even five-digit sums," Auliya said. "Even the large Komodo dragons are illegally traded, although international trade regulations under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) do not permit commercial trade of wild specimens of this species."

The Indonesian government currently allows the export of 450,000 skins of the water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator), which are turned into handbags and watchstraps. But the researchers worry that the demand for the skins may be putting pressure on the species and others.

More of the species are targeted as potential pets. The blue-colored tree monitor lizard (Varanus macraei), for instance, has become a massively appealing pet for its striking hues. But it was only described by scientists in 2001 and there are no laws yet in place to limit the trade of the species. This particular reptile is only found on Batanta Island, off the coast of northwestern New Guinea and covers just 175 square miles (450 square kilometers). With such a small range, the lizard could quickly go extinct if exportation continues unrestricted and field studies are not undertaken to understand its population.

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