Best of our wild blogs: 24 Jul 13

Uncloaking the Haze
from Green Drinks Singapore

Save MacRitchie Forest: 14. A Pangolin's Plea
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Chek Jawa Boardwalk - sign up for walk on 3 August (Sat)
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Slow death on Beting Bronok
from wild shores of singapore

Ultraviolet Fluorescence in Spiders
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Butterflies Galore! Spotted Black Crow
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Singapore: Spike in hot spots raises haze alarm

Today Online 23 Jul 13;

SINGAPORE — After a month of clear skies and a flurry of activities to tackle the problem, the threat of haze returned yesterday, with several parts of Malaysia blanketed in thick smog as air pollution reached unhealthy levels.

The situation prompted the National Environment Agency (NEA) to contact Indonesia to register its concerns over the “sudden spike” in the number of hot spots in Indonesia’s Sumatra region — which came after the number had fallen steadily thanks to firefighting efforts — and to extend the Republic’s support and assistance to prevent the haze situation from recurring.

Since Singapore enjoyed a respite from the haze exactly a month ago, several government leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, had warned that the haze would return and urged Singaporeans to be prepared. The latest warning was issued on Sunday by both Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu.

In a statement, the NEA said that there has been a “marked increase” in the number of hot spots in Sumatra in the last two days, with 261 and 252 hot spots detected on Sunday and yesterday, respectively.

With 250 hot spots or more detected on two consecutive days — and with dry weather conditions persisting and prevailing winds blowing towards other countries in the region — the NEA said it has also advised the interim ASEAN Coordinating Centre For Transboundary Haze Pollution that Alert Level 3 for Sumatra has been activated.

When Alert Level 3 is triggered, a panel comprising experts from ASEAN countries may be activated and deployed to the affected country, with the latter’s consent, to assist in assessing the fire and haze situation and provide their recommendations on resources that need to be mobilised to mitigate the fires and transboundary haze pollution.

The NEA said its Chief Executive Officer Ronnie Tay contacted Indonesian Deputy Minister for Environmental Degradation Control and Climate Change Arief Yuwono and Indonesian Deputy Minister for Environment and Social Vulnerability, Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare, Mr Willem Rampangilei.

Mr Tay “expressed Singapore’s concerns that the region will once again be shrouded by smoke haze if the hot spots in Sumatra continue to remain high”, the NEA said. It added that Mr Tay also sought an urgent update of Indonesia’s efforts to tackle the fires there and urged Indonesia to take immediate action.

In response, Mr Rampangilei said there has been “new sporadic burning”, the NEA said. He also assured Mr Tay that the Indonesian government is monitoring the situation and taking various actions on the ground to suppress the fires, such as cloud-seeding and water-bombing efforts.

Mr Rampangilei also said that “law enforcement and socialisation efforts on the ground” have been strengthened and the deployment of additional police and troops to the Riau area will be considered urgently in a high-level inter-agency meeting.

Yesterday afternoon, five areas in Malaysia registered unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings: Bukit Rambai, Malacca City in Malacca, Muar in Johor, Banting in Selangor and Cheras in Kuala Lumpur.

The haze in Malaysia could continue for two to three days before rain was expected to bring relief, the authorities said.

The Indonesian media reported that flights in Dumai and Pekanbaru were affected by the poor visibility caused by smoke from the forest fires. Two Dumai-bound flights had to return to Pekanbaru, while three other flights from Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru city were delayed.

Officials from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia met last week in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the haze issue. At the meeting, Indonesia committed to ratify the regional pact on transboundary haze pollution by early next year, at the latest, and agreed to share digitised concession maps with other governments. WITH AGENCIES

Haze had ‘no clear impact’ on Changi passenger traffic, retail
Sumita d/o Sreedharan Today Online 24 Jul 13;

SINGAPORE — Fears that the haze crisis last month would hit the tourism and retail sectors turned out to be unfounded, going by numbers released yesterday by Changi Airport Group (CAG) and credit card company MasterCard.

In a press release, the CAG said the haze had “no discernible impact” on passenger and aircraft movements.

In fact, passenger traffic at Changi Airport increased by 6.1 per cent last month compared to the same period last year, with 4.67 million passengers passing through the airport — the highest monthly figure so far this year.

Flight movements also grew at the same rate, with 28,300 aircraft landings and take-offs recorded.

The CAG said air traffic to and from regions such as South-east Asia, North-east Asia, South Asia and the Middle East grew.

For the first six months of the year, Changi Airport managed 26.2 million passengers, an increase of 5 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year. Aircraft movements grew by 4.6 per cent to 166,800.

Separately, MasterCard said its cardholders spent US$797.4 million (S$1 billion) in Singapore between May 31 to June 30 — the first month of the Great Singapore Sale (GSS) — an increase of 12.4 per cent over the same period last year. Singapore-based MasterCard holders accounted for almost 70 per cent of the spend.

Overall, the number of transactions also rose 17.1 per cent to about 6.4 million last month, compared to the same period last year.

MasterCard Singapore General Manager Julienne Loh said: “The haze that hit Singapore in mid-June certainly did not dampen the GSS shopping spirit.”

The recent bout of haze — during which the Pollutant Standards Index reading hit a record high of 401 — lasted for about week. There were initial concerns about the impact on the economy, especially on tourism, if the haze lasted for a prolonged period, given the record PSI levels.

CIMB Research regional economist Song Seng Wun noted that the haze last month had “marginal impact” on tourism-related industries because it was short-lived and the record-high PSI readings were registered on weekdays.

“If it had been persistently bad into the weekend, we could have seen a more adverse impact,” he said.

Mr Song noted that although there were some tourists who cut short their holidays, no major conventions were cancelled because of the haze.

To date, the worst economic impact suffered by Singapore because of the haze was in 1997, when the Republic was blanketed in smog for three months.

Professor Euston Quah, head of Nanyang Technological University’s Department of Economics, had estimated that the haze cost the country about US$300 million, including an estimated loss of US$210 million in tourism.

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Indonesia: Troops, firefighters to be redeployed in Riau

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta
Straits Times 24 Jul 13;

JAKARTA will begin redeploying troops and firefighters in Riau province in Sumatra to help put out forest fires, following a sharp jump in the number of hot spots over the weekend that has seen the return of hazy days.

Unhealthy air quality levels were reported in some parts of Malaysia yesterday, while Singapore has been spared so far because of the wind direction.

Troops and relief officials sent to Riau last month, when the worst haze in years shrouded the region, but they were pulled out after relief operations were scaled down on July 10. The Riau authorities then took over operations from Jakarta.

"The number of hot spots spiked even as the provincial government did its utmost. The national government is stepping in," Mr Willem Rampangilei, a deputy minister at the Coordinating Ministry for People's Welfare, told The Straits Times yesterday.

He was speaking after an inter-agency meeting to discuss the haze situation.

Yesterday, disaster officials conducted more than 22 water-bombing operations, mostly over provincial capital Pekanbaru, and just one cloud-seeding sortie, as there were not enough clouds.

National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said there were 183 hot spots in Riau yesterday - higher than the 167 recorded on Monday and Sunday's 172.

Coordinating People's Welfare Minister Agung Laksono chided local officials on the ground for not doing enough to prevent and stop open burning, which was blamed for last month's haze that hit Singapore and Malaysia hard.

"Local governments need to be proactive," he said. "They need to tell their people that clearing land by burning is against the law."

The spike in hot spots came after an Asean meeting on transboundary haze in Kuala Lumpur last week. Indonesia had declined to make its concession maps public, agreeing to share them only with governments.

On Monday, Singapore registered its concerns with Indonesian officials over the latest situation and also extended its support and assistance to Indonesia.

Malaysia also wrote to Indonesia to register its concerns, according to a Bloomberg report, as air quality remained at unhealthy levels in some parts, including Malacca and Johor. The haze also affected states further north yesterday.

In Bukit Rambai, Malacca, the Air Pollutant Index reading hit the unhealthy level of 118 at 7am, said the Malaysian Meteorological Department. In Tanjung Malim, Perak, it reached a high of 110 - also unhealthy - at 2pm.

Additional reporting by Lester Kong in Kuala Lumpur

Encroachments cause forest fire in Tesso Nilo National Park
Jakarta Globe 23 Jul 13;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Encroachments on forest land have caused forest fires in Tesso Nilo National Park (TNTN) in Riau Province, according to an official.

Encroachers set fire to clear land for plantations, Kupin Simbolon, the head of Tesso Nilo National Park, said here on Tuesday.

Last June, when Riau Province were hit by massive forest fires, 18 hotspots were detected in the national park, he said.

The areas which are prone to encroachments and thus man-made forest fires, are Bukit Kusuma, Toro dan Dolit.

"If there are no rains within three days, many hotspots are detected," he said.

The TNTN officers have intensified patrol to prevent further encroachments, he said, adding that so far no one was arrested for encroachment on forest land.

The 83,068-ha Tesso Nilo National Park is located in Pelalawan and Indragiri Hulu Districts, Riau Province.

Based on an investigation by WWF and TNTN in 2011, a total of 52,266.50 ha land in the national park has been encroached and around 36,353.50 ha forest land has been converted into oil palm plantations.

There were 1,613 families who encroached the national park until 2009. They claimed that they have lived in the forest area far before the government designated the area as a national park.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Indonesia Comes Under Fire for Forest Fires
Baradan Kuppusamy Jakarta Globe 23 Jul 13;

Kuala Lumpur. With a propensity to devour everything in their path and spiral quickly out of control, leaving behind swathes of scorched earth, forest fires are considered a hazard in most parts of the world.

In Indonesia, however, fires are the preferred method for clearing large areas of land for massive plantations of commercial crops.In the first half of 2013, research studies have already recorded 8,343 forest fires, a higher number than in preceding years.

While some blazes occurred naturally, igniting in the country’s vast rainforests that are transformed in the dry summer months into an expanse of kindling, experts say that many fires were created by plantation companies and, to a lesser extent, by local communities, to clear millions of hectares of jungle land needed for oil palm plantations.

According to the Center for International Forestry Research (Cifor), oil palm plantations covered 7.8 million hectares in Indonesia in 2011, and produced roughly 23.5 million tonnes of crude palm oil that year.

The cheapest and easiest way to clear enough land to yield these huge quantities of oil is to set fire to acre upon acre of rainforest and let the wind and the flames do the work. This method is also efficient in reducing the acidity of peat soil.

Peat soil is a soggy organic matter that acts as anathema to palm trees. This explains why about two-thirds of forest fires in Indonesia occur on peat lands.

Unfortunately, peat soil becomes extremely toxic at high temperatures, emitting greenhouse gases and creating haze and smog. Peat fires can burn on for weeks, even months, endangering wildlife and human communities far from the site of the actual fire.

For years, palm oil-producing companies in Indonesia and Malaysia, which together account for 85 percent of the world’s palm oil production every year, have come under fire from activists and scientists who say the “forest fire method” poses serious environmental and health risks for the entire region.

While most of these fires originate in Sumatra, changes in wind direction mean that smoke travels to nearby countries.

Last month, for instance, the international community pilloried Indonesia for fires that choked parts of neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.

The haze that enveloped the latter was so bad that the government in Kuala Lumpur declared a state of emergency in parts of the country where air pollution index readings reached a critical 750 on June 23, well above the “hazardous” level of 300.

Malaysian citizens were advised to stay indoors, while Singaporean authorities cancelled outdoor summer activities as panicked residents emptied stores of their supply of protective masks.

The average air pollution index rating in both Malaysia and Singapore now hovers at over 100, a dramatic increase from the preceding decade, which “could contribute to climate change and is seriously detrimental to the health of people in the region,” Gurmit Singh, a renowned Malaysian environmentalist, told Inter Press Service (IPS).

Blame has been bandied about, with governments, corporations and even local communities named as culprits, but public censure has failed to prompt concrete action.

Environment ministers representing five members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) flew to Malaysia’s capital last week in search of a lasting solution to what has become a predictable annual crisis, but the talks concluded on July 17 with no firm agreement on the table.

All that officials from Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand approved was a plan for Indonesia to refer Asean’s 2002 Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution to its parliament by 2014 — hardly a promising solution, since the accord appeared before Indonesia’s legislature in 2009 but was not mentioned once during the entire session.

The outcome of the high-level meeting comes as no surprise to T. Jayabalan, a public health consultant and adviser to Friends of the Earth-Malaysia.

“For almost 20 years these governments have adopted a lackadaisical attitude towards resolving the problem [of forest fires]” he told IPS.

“No concrete measures have been taken because any measure imposed will impact the profits of palm oil companies,” he added.

A quick look at the stakes involved in palm oil production supports Jayabalan’s claim: according to Cifor, crude palm oil brought in $12.4 billion in foreign exchange in 2008, while the government bagged another billion dollars in export taxes alone that same year.

The sector employs around 3.2 million people every year —not something insignificant in a country where 30 million people live below the poverty line.

Earlier this year, the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association unveiled an ambitious plan to grow the sector by 5.4 percent by the year 2020, adding another four million hectares to existing plantations around the country.

With such zealous plans in the pipeline, a solution is urgently needed, “rather than more talk and postponement of key decisions,” Jayabalan stressed.

He and other experts believe the first step must entail recognizing the role palm oil companies play in creating fires.

Data published last month by the Washington-based World Research Institute (WRI) shows that the number of fires per hectare, is “three to four times higher within oil palm concession boundaries than outside of them.”

The research also suggests that there are significant discrepancies between maps issued by the ministry of forestry and those being used by oil palm companies.

According to WRI, Company Business Land Use Rights license boundaries are generally nested within, and are smaller than, the concession boundaries the government is using. This creates confusion about responsibility for fires found on land thought to be within concessions but outside areas the companies fully control and are directly developing.

With more fires expected in the months between August and October, environmentalists are urging governments to “come to terms with the haze and its root causes because people in the region suffer from the pollutants,” Singh said.”Various studies have shown that haze pollution leads to an increase in the number of people suffering from upper respiratory tract infections, asthma and rhinitis.”

Countries in the region are also being called upon to cooperate in the development and implementation of prevention mechanisms, monitoring and early warning systems, information-sharing networks and other channels for providing mutual assistance.

Unfortunately, these steps have currently been stalled by Indonesia’s refusal to ratify the AseanHaze Pollution Agreement.

Inter Press Service

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Malaysia: Haze continues slow spread northwards

Isabelle Lai The Star 24 Jul 13;

PETALING JAYA: Transboundary haze from Indonesia has reached parts of Terengganu, Kelantan and Penang, causing visibility levels to dip.

Meteorological Department central forecasting office director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said visibility was poor at Kuala Terengganu Sultan Mahmud Airport, reaching up to 3km as of yesterday evening.

“It was up to 6km at Kerteh Airport (in Terengganu) and Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas,” he told The Star.

However, visibility was up to 10km at Sultan Ismail Petra Airport in Kota Baru, Kelantan, which he said was considered good.

Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya and Subang experienced poor visibility levels around noon, but later improved to 6km and 9km, respectively.

Muhammad Helmi said the haze outlook would remain the same till tomorrow when rain was expected over Johor, Pahang and the Klang Valley.

“The haze should still continue its slow spread northwards and inland as the number of hotspots in Sumatra has decreased only slightly,” he said.

Despite the spread, the 5pm Air Pollutant Index (API) readings provided by the Department of Environment showed only two areas with unhealthy air quality – Bukit Rambai (103) and Tanjung Malim (106).

Nine areas hovered just below unhealthy levels – Muar (94), Port Klang (97), Seri Manjung (94), Kuala Selangor (92), Petaling Jaya (90), Kemaman (96), Kuala Terengganu (93) and Batu Muda (90) and Cheras (93) in Kuala Lumpur.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s reading on Monday, Sumatra had 252 hotspots compared to 261 on Sunday.

The haze has made a comeback in the past few days after the number of hotspots increased from three on Thursday to 159 on Saturday.

However, it is not as severe as the choking smog enveloping Singapore and parts of the peninsula last month when API readings reached hazardous levels in some areas.

Indonesia’s The Jakarta Post reported that Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau province, had very limited visibility after it was once again choked by haze, believed to be from resumed land and forest burning.

It said visibility at the Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport there had hit an all-year low of 700m at 7.30am yesterday, while a number of flights had been postponed or delayed for hours.

DOE asks Indonesia to douse forest fires
New Straits Times 24 Jul 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesia has been urged to take immediate action to prevent and put out the forest fires in central Sumatra which have brought the haze back to Malaysia.

Department of Environment (DOE) director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan sent a letter to her Indonesian counterpart on Monday to express Malaysia's concern over the sudden spike in hot spots in central Sumatra.

"The marked increase in hot spots has occurred since Sunday.

"We are now experiencing the westerly monsoon season during which winds blowing from the hot spots in central Sumatra cause a haze in the central and southern parts of the west coast of the peninsula," she said in a statement yesterday.

The westerly monsoon, which causes the hot and dry spell, is expected to end in early October.

The fresh bout of haze comes after Indonesia expressed its hope to ratify the 2002 Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution early next year. This came at the 15th meeting of the sub-regional ministerial steering committee on transboundary haze pollution here last Wednesday.

Nine Asean nations had signed the agreement in 2002 except Indonesia.

The agreement is the first regional one in the world that requires participating countries to tackle transboundary haze pollution resulting from land and forest fires.

A satellite image by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre showed 252 hot spots in Sumatra on Monday, compared with 261 hot spots on Sunday.

In Malaysia, 26 hot spots were identified on Monday, of which six were in Johor, five in Kelantan, seven in Pahang, four in Perak, two in Negri Sembilan and one each in Selangor and Sarawak.

Halimah said DoE would conduct continuous research and take enforcement measures at every hot spot detected.

"We will also watch the air quality index throughout the country closely as outlined by the National Haze Action Plan."

She said DOE would keep tabs to ensure no open burning was done in all states, take steps to prevent peat fires and have a 24-hour operations room to receive complaints on open burning.

Meanwhile, the Air Pollutant Index (API) in several areas in the central and southern part of the peninsula went up as at 5pm yesterday.

Two areas were deemed to be unhealthy compared with Monday's four.

The two were Bukit Rambai in Malacca and Tanjung Malim in Perak, which recorded readings of 103 and 106 respectively.

However, Bukit Rambai's reading improved from that on Monday when it was 119. But in the case of Tanjung Malim, it went up significantly from the previous day's healthy reading of 50.

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Malaysia: Pangolins top in illicit trade

Isabelle Lai The Star 24 Jul 13;

PETALING JAYA: Pangolins are the most common mammals seized during raids on illicit wildlife trafficking, with demand for the animal fuelled predominantly by China and Vietnam.

Two of the eight pangolin species are now listed as endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

Pangolins are desired for their meat while their scales are prized by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

The Department of Wild­life and National Parks (Perhilitan) has foiled 50 cases of attempted smuggling since 2010 and seized nearly 1,500 pangolins.

Its enforcement director Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said he expected demand for pangolins, also known as anteaters or tenggiling in Bahasa Malaysia, to increase with the coming of the winter season in China.

“According to our records, most pangolins are destined for neighbouring countries, including Thai­land and Vietnam.

“The bulk of them end up in China.

“Malaysia is a transit point as we have found some pangolins here that were brought in from Indonesia,” he told The Star.

In July alone, Perhilitan officers have already stumbled across three cases of trafficking, with one in Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah, where 30 pangolins were found in a car boot.

“Most of the attempts to smuggle the pangolins out are through motor vehicles.

“Malaysia’s network of roads is comprehensive, in addition to the long coastline,” Abdul Kadir said, adding that it was impossible to pinpoint where the smugglers would land.

Seized pangolins will be tagged with a microchip before being released back into the wild once they are confirmed to be healthy.

Abdul Kadir stressed that Perhilitan’s enforcement activities were carried out with the cooperation of agencies such as the police and the Malaysia Maritime Enforce­ment Agency.

While the department has an intelligence gathering unit as well as a wildlife crime unit, he said tip-offs from the public were also of immense help.

In a recent landmark conference in Singapore, global experts noted that pangolins were under threat more than ever, with more than 200,000 of them seized between 2000 and 2012, but this is estimated to be just a fraction of those illegally traded.

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Wildlife NGO locks horns with criminals

Bruce Gale, Senior Writer Straits Times 24 Jul 13;

ANYONE looking for the office location of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (Jaan) will have a hard time finding it. Jaan is one of Indonesia's most active non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in conservation issues.

But it does not make its location available. Instead, visitors to its website are told for "security and safety reasons" to use e-mail.

All this may seem excessively cautious, but its field director, Ms Femke den Haas, who often provides information to the police about the activities of criminal gangs involved in the illegal wildlife trade, begs to differ.

"We regularly receive threats," Ms den Haas, 35, told me in Jakarta earlier this month.

Last November, Jaan's office was trashed by thugs. And in the following month, neighbours warned Ms den Haas about strangers loitering near her residence in south Jakarta. She was not at home at the time, and has not been back since. Cars were nevertheless seen parked nearby for several days, their occupants apparently waiting for her to return.

Founded in 2008 by Ms den Haas with a core team that started working together in 2003, Jaan has 14 full-time staff, 25 active volunteers and a network of 150 supporters and informers across the archipelago. A Dutch native, Ms den Haas has been working with animals since she was 15.

While reliable statistics on the true extent of the illegal trade in protected species in Indonesia are hard to get, it is almost certainly lucrative and very well organised.

In April, officials at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport confiscated 687 endangered baby pig-nosed turtles reportedly bound for Hong Kong. The smuggled turtles were found in packages registered as hold baggage on a Sriwijaya Air flight from Papua via Makassar (South Sulawesi) on March 15.

The identity of the sender and receiver could not be traced since the shipment lacked proper documents. Still, without such papers, the fact that the package ended up in the aircraft's hold suggested collusion by key airline personnel. But no arrests were reported.

Thanks to the exotic pet trade, the pig-nosed turtle, which is native to Papua and northern Australia, is almost extinct. Reports say that juveniles and adults can fetch prices from US$550 to US$2,000 (S$690 to S$2,500).

Ms den Haas said the most commonly traded endangered animal is the slow loris. The illegal trade in them is among the most cruel.

Traders looking for buyers in local or foreign markets keep these small nocturnal primates exposed to daylight, play with them as puppets, and cut their teeth with wire cutters or pliers - to prevent a potentially lethal bite from the frightened animals. But it frequently leads to serious infection. "Death usually comes within two or three weeks," Ms den Haas said.

Within Indonesia, slow lorises are popular as temporary pets for children. They are also smuggled into Japan, where women find them cute. Other markets include China, Europe and the Middle East.

In Indonesia, it is also illegal to capture wild macaque monkeys. But because these monkeys are not on the list of protected species, traders who use harsh training methods to get the monkeys to dance for prospective local buyers face few restrictions.

Ms den Haas said that investigations by her organisation show macaque monkeys illegally captured in Indonesian forests are exported to China. Falsified documents declaring them as bred in captivity allow the monkeys to be re-exported to the US as well.

Indonesia has tough laws protecting many endangered plants and animals. Violators of the 1992 law on animal, fish and plant quarantines, or the 1990 law on biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, face up to three years' imprisonment and fines of up to 150 million rupiah (S$19,500). Sadly, these laws do little to deter either buyers or sellers.

One reason is public apathy.

"In the West," explained Ms den Haas, "animals are seen as creatures that can feel pain and have emotions." In Indonesia, "people treat animals as things".

But such attitudes are changing. Last year, Jaan joined local celebrities to urge the authorities to take action against the world's last travelling dolphin show in Java. A public petition gathered 100,000 signatures within three months.

Jaan's strength, however, lies in its hands-on approach. "We don't avoid conflict," Ms den Haas said. Jaan representatives are often present when the authorities confiscate illegal shipments of endangered animals.

And unlike many other NGOs with similar objectives that focus on political advocacy, Jaan has both the facilities and expertise to handle many of the recovered animals.

Confronting criminal gangs directly, however, has its price. With the exception of taxi company Bluebird and transport company Sante Fe, corporate sponsorship has been difficult to get. But Ms den Haas is undeterred.

"The source of the problem needs to be tackled head-on," she said.

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Reserves help to save sharks

The University of Western Australia Science Alert 24 Jul 13;

Researchers have used non-destructive stereo video technology to obtain proof that marine reserves can have positive effects on reef shark populations.

In a study of shark populations in Namena Reserve, Fiji's largest marine reserve (located on the southern coast of Vanua Levu Island), the researchers found the number of sharks in the no-take reserve is two to four times greater than in adjacent areas where fishing is permitted.

A paper on the study, led by researchers from UWA's Oceans Institute, the UWA School of Plant Biology, and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), appears in a recent edition of the journal Coral Reefs. The authors include PhD student Jordan Goetze and research assistant Laura Fullwood.

The researchers conducted their study over three weeks in July, 2009, in Namena - a 60sqm reserve established in 1997 and managed by local communities.

Lead author Mr Goetze and the WCS Fiji team used stereo-baited remote underwater video systems to record reef shark data at eight sites within the reserve and eight sites outside the reserve. They examined both shallow and deeper depths (between 5-8 metres, and 25-30 metres respectively).

"The study not only provides evidence that Fiji's largest marine reserve benefits reef sharks, but achieves this in a non-destructive manner using novel stereo video technology," said Mr Goetze.

"A lot of previous studies have used long-lines to estimate shark abundance and biomass which often results in the animals being killed or harmed. By using the stereo video technology we can make estimates of abundance and biomass without harming the sharks."

The 60-minute video segments taken captured images of five different species of reef shark, providing the researchers with data on shark abundance. They also were able to estimate the length and size of the sharks whenever the animals were within eight metres of the camera, allowing them to gauge biomass inside and outside Namena Reserve.

Outside the reserve, in areas where fishing is permitted, the researchers found fewer sharks. They noted that because local Fiji communities traditionally consider sharks to be sacred, eating them was typically taboo. However, as demand for shark products grows, higher prices were driving some locals to catch sharks.

"Worldwide, increasing rates of harvesting are leading to the depletion of many of the world's shark species," Mr Goetze said.

He said the most likely driver of higher shark densities within the reserve was the significantly greater availability of prey fish found within the reserve boundaries compared with adjacent areas.

Dr Caleb McClennen, Director of WCS's Marine Program, said the study provided solid proof that marine reserves could have positive effects on reef shark populations.

"Shark populations are declining worldwide due to the demand for shark products, particularly fins for the Asian markets," Dr McClennen said. "We need to establish management strategies that will protect these ancient predators and the ecosystems they inhabit."

The study was made possible by support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the UWA Marine Science Honours program.

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