Best of our wild blogs: 1 Aug 13

A New Look at Hantu’s Reefs
from Pulau Hantu

The "Marine Life and the Impact of Plastics" lecture (Sat 03 Aug 2013) and the Post-National Day Mangrove Cleanup (Sat 10 Aug 2013) from Habitatnews

Save MacRitchie Forest: 15. Stinkhorn fungus and butterflies
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Gruesome Tactics of an Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Butterflies Galore! : Banded Swallowtail
from Butterflies of Singapore and Butterflies Galore! : Lime Butterfly

These Are the Most Exquisitely Weird Spiders You Will Ever See
from Wired: Wired Science by Nadia Drake

Guest Blog: Wildlife Photography Tips For Children
ARKive blog by Jemma.Pealing

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Malaysia: Petronas delays petrochemical project at Pengerang, Johor

Malaysian oil services firms tumble after Petronas project delay
Yantoultra Ngui and Niluksi Koswanage Reuters 31 Jul 13;

(Reuters) - Investors sold off shares in Malaysian oil and gas services firms after Reuters reported state-owned Petronas will start a planned $19 billion petrochemicals complex in 2018, signalling a delay in awarding work contracts for the massive project.

Malaysia's top ten oil and gas services firms by market capitalisation have been popular with investors this year, soaring an average 55 percent so far, well ahead of the local bourse's 5.2 percent gain.

News of a further delay to the refinery and special chemicals project took some wind out of the sector, which has been expanding rapidly to capture regional deepwater exploration and production jobs and benefit from Petronas' $93 billion capital spending in 2011-2015.

By 0733 GMT, Perisai Petroleum was trading down 3.9 percent, while Alam Maritim was off 3.2 percent, outstripping a 1.1 percent fall in the local bourse.

SapuraKencana Petroleum and Wah Seong, both widely tipped to win fabrication jobs from the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project in southern Johor, fell 3.5 percent and 2.1 percent respectively.

"The delay is not totally unexpected given the complications of this massive project," said local investment bank Hwang-DBS in a note to clients, citing the Reuters report.

"However, it is likely to have a negative impact on the local O&G players as the project was expected to create massive spill-over effects with the various jobs to be awarded."

RAPID aims to build a 300,000 barrel per day refinery, which would supply naptha and liquid petroluem gas to specialty chemical plants and produce gasoline and diesel.

Sources with knowledge of Petronas's plans said the oil firm is expected to award about 20 construction job packages valued at about 2-3 billion ringgit ($620 million-$930 million) each.


Shares in Dialog Group, currently the only firm with exposure to RAPID as it is building a nearby deepwater independent storage terminal, fell as much as 6.7 percent.

Hwang-DBS said it believed the second stage of Dialog's terminal could be delayed as the tank capacity was dedicated for RAPID. Maybank Investment downgraded Dialog to a "hold".

Contracts for the refinery in the RAPID complex are expected to be awarded in November or December this year. An industry source told Reuters many of the Malaysian oil and gas services companies had tendered and pre-qualified for the jobs

"Some of the packages could be tendered out to pre-qualified bidders in forth quarter of 2013 or first quarter of 2014," said the source who declined to be named.

"It is believed the whole project will take four to five years to be completed and commissioned in 2018."

Among other firms, Wah Seong told Reuters it was not "greatly affected" by the delay as there were no immediate signifcant projects in its pipeline, while Pantech executive director Adrian Tan said the slowdown would have only a "minimal" impact on on the company's trading division.

Wah Seong shares fell 2.1 pecent and Pantech 2.9 percent.

Shares in Petronas Chemicals, which will operate RAPID, eased 0.6 percent. The project aims to grab a chunk of the $400 billion global market for speciality chemicals used in products from LCD TVs to high-performance tires.

($1 = 3.2255 Malaysian ringgit) (Reporting by Yantoultra Ngui and Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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More outdoor activities under new PE syllabus

Amanda Lee Today Online 1 Aug 13

SINGAPORE — Formal curriculum time will be set aside in all primary and secondary schools for outdoor education — such as outdoor cooking, camping and kayaking — to spark students’ spirit of adventure, as part of the revised Physical Education (PE) syllabus that will be rolled out next year.

All secondary school students will also have to take part in at least three intra-school recreational sports competitions, where the value “lies not in winning the game”, as Education Minister Heng Swee Keat put it.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) had announced last year that, under the new syllabus, students will have an additional one hour of PE lessons each week.

Speaking at the Physical and Sports Education Conference yesterday, Mr Heng announced the details of the new syllabus. He noted that studies have shown that “students who are taught skills, knowledge and attitudes to be comfortable in the outdoors would engage in higher levels of physical activity as adults”.

“With over 300 parks, four nature reserves and more than 200km of park connectors constructed across Singapore, schools should tap these green spaces to educate our students and help them appreciate the outdoors at the doorsteps of our schools,” Mr Heng said.

“This will then lay the foundation for more adventurous and rugged outdoor pursuits in years to come.”

Under the new syllabus, 10 to 20 per cent of curriculum time for primary and secondary schools will be set aside for outdoor education.

The MOE said the inclusion of outdoor education in PE will allow students to “understand more about the environment as they learn to navigate, assess risks and make decisions about their own safety, while enjoying the outdoors”.

Some schools already incorporate outdoor education in their curriculum and their educators have attested to the benefits for students. Since 2007, students at Si Ling Secondary School have gone through activities such as kayaking, rock climbing and abseiling.

Its Level Head (Physical Education, Co-Curricular Activities and Aesthetics) Muhammad Suhadi Hassan said: “Through outdoor education, students are more independent. They are also able to bond with their peers and teachers.”

At River Valley Primary School, Primary 1 and 2 students undergo outdoor education for 10 weeks, where they are taught various lessons from first aid to outdoor cooking. Its principal, Mr Danny Poh, said: “(Outdoor education) helps them to appreciate the things around them and learn how to work (with) one another.”

On the intra-school recreational sports competitions, Mr Heng said these are meant to “enrich the student’s experience in playing sports”.

Schools may organise activities such as badminton, football and softball inter-class competitions. The value of such competitions is about, for example, “the friendships that are forged when a team is formed and challenged to work towards a common goal”, Mr Heng said.

He added: “It is about the discipline and courage that competition requires ... and working hard to overcome them. It is also about the resilience and strength of character.”

Parents whom TODAY spoke to welcomed the move to allow all secondary students to participate in recreational sports competitions.

Mr Jimmy Ng, a 56-year-old technician, said his son, who is in Secondary 1, shuns sports because he is not good at it. “This will also help (to) create interest in sports,” he added.

Mr Heng cited a Students’ Health Survey conducted by the Health Promotion Board last year which found that many students spend more time on television, computers and video games than the recommended two hours a day.

“Compared to students in England and the United States, our students are significantly less active. What is of greater concern is that fewer students stay physically active as they got older,” Mr Heng said.

The new primary school PE syllabus will be centred on building a strong foundation in fundamental movement skills and broad-based development. These skills will be taught across activities such as dance, swimming and gymnastics.

At the secondary and pre-university levels, the students will be provided opportunities to apply the skills through a variety of physical activities.

For sports and games, the different game concepts, tactics and strategies will also be taught. Health education and elements of sports science will be taught at all levels.

To help prepare schools for the new syllabus, workshops and training tools will be provided for teachers.

The MOE said that by 2017, all schools would have implemented the one-hour increase in PE curriculum time to two hours per week.

All secondary schools have increased PE lessons partially and 23 secondary schools have implemented the full increase in PE time.

For primary schools, 42 schools have implemented the full increase while 55 primary schools have implemented it partially.

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Malaysia: Locals Have Role In Sun Bear Conservation

Bernama 31 Jul 13;

SANDAKAN, July 31 (Bernama) -- Protecting habitats that are home to some of the most iconic wildlife on the planet, and supporting the running of centres for rescued threatened animals are not tasks that are limited to the government, non-governmental organisations and researchers.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founder and chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said both humans and wildlife are part of the ecosystem, and there must be willingness on the part of locals to chip in whenever they can in supporting the cause of threatened species.

Citing the recent "Big Dreams, Little Bears" event held in this east coast town of Sabah, Wong said BSBCC worked with a group of local volunteers and raised RM443,000, covering almost a quarter of the RM2 million budget for this year to complete a second bear house, creation of an additional forest enclosure and meeting some day-to-day costs.

"I hope the people of Sandakan feel ownership of the Centre because it is through their involvement, one way or another, that has helped the facility come this far and which will drive it further.

"Once it is opened to the public by early next year, it will become another important eco and nature attraction, allowing Sandakan to do its part for the world in promoting conservation. It will also lead to greater awareness on the plight of wildlife, and will also boost the local economy through tourism related ventures and other spin-offs.

"We hope to continue encouraging locals, especially the business community to support Sun Bear conservation. They can be the driving force behind public opinion on how the species and conservation are perceived," he said in a statement here, today.

He said locals must feel proud that the Centre is located here, adding that the recent fundraiser had generated quite a lot of awareness, with the run up to the event widely covered through the media, including at a talk show on NTV7 and radio interviews.

Wong thanked volunteers and committee members of the fundraiser who had spent many hours to organise the event out of love for Sun Bears.

"We saw the people of Sandakan and other parts of Sabah supporting the event when they agreed to buy tickets for the fundraiser. Some outbid one another to buy three photographs of Sun Bears that were auctioned that evening. Others raised money through a Zumba event held earlier," Wong said.

The Centre promotes Sun Bear conservation through a holistic approach that involves animal welfare, rehabilitation, research and education, making it the first facility of its kind in the world for the species.

The Centre was set up in 2008 under a partnership between the Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and NGO Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), and currently is home to 28 bears rescued from the wild and from the pet trade.

Located next to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, the facility is creating capacity to release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears into the wild, while those that cannot be freed will have an improved long term environment to live in.

Habitat loss, poaching for parts used in traditional medicine and the pet trade are among key threats that have led to a decline by at least 30 per cent of the Sun Bear population in the last three decades.

Chairman of the fund raising event, Anton Ngui, said Sun Bears are a natural heritage, along with diverse wildlife Sabah is known for globally.

"We should be proud of our Sun Bears, the way the Chinese are proud of their pandas and the Australians of their Koala Bears.

"Our children can learn about nature when they are eventually able to visit the Centre. Sandakan is known for Sepilok and its Orang Utans, and now it will be known for Sun Bears too," he said.


Be more proactive in conservation tasks, public told
Muguntan Vanar The Star 1 Aug 13;

SANDAKAN: The man on the street should be more proactive in protecting wildlife habitats and also help centres established for rescued threatened animals, said Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) chief executive officer Wong Siew Te.

These conservation tasks should not be just left to the Government, non-governmental organisations and researchers, he said.

He added that both humans and wildlife were part of the ecosystem and there must be willingness on the part of locals to chip in whenever they can to support the cause of threatened species.

Citing the recent “Big Dreams, Little Bears” event held in this east coast town of Sabah, Wong said BSBCC worked with a group of local volunteers and raised RM443,000, covering almost a quarter of the RM2mil budget for this year to complete a second bear house, create an additional forest enclosure and also to pay for daily costs.

“I hope the people of Sandakan feel ownership to the centre because it is through their involvement, one way or another, that has helped the facility come this far and which will drive it further.

“Once it is opened to the public by early next year, it will become another important eco and nature attraction, allowing Sandakan to do its part for the world in promoting conservation,” he said.

The centre will also lead to greater awareness on the plight of wildlife and also boost the local economy through tourism-related ventures and other spin-off activities.

“We hope to continue encouraging locals, especially the business community, to support sun bear conservation. They can be the driving force behind public opinion on how the species and conservation are perceived,” he added.

The centre promotes sun bear conservation through a holistic approach that involves animal welfare, rehabilitation, research and education.

Big help for 'little bears'
New Straits Times 1 Aug 13;

SANDAKAN: Volunteers here raise more than RM400,000 recently to build a home for bears and meet its operational costs.

In the effort themed "Big Dreams, Little Bears", the sum raised was about a quarter of the RM2 million budget for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre this year.

Founder of the centre and chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said the funds would be used to build a second bear house and an additional forest enclosure, and meet some day-to-day costs.

"I hope the people here feel like they are a part of the centre because it was their involvement that helped the facility come this far and which will drive it further.

"Once it is opened to the public early next year, it will become another important attraction, allowing Sandakan to promote conservation."

Wong said the task of protecting endangered species should not be limited to the government, non-governmental organisations and researchers.

He said the centre would lead to greater awareness about endangered wildlife and boost the economy through tourism ventures and spin-offs.

"We hope to continue encouraging locals, especially businesses, to support sun bear conservation. They can be the driving force behind public opinion on how the species is perceived."

Volunteers and donors had auctioned photographs and held a Zumba event to raise money.

Chairman of the fundraising event, Anton Ngui, said sun bears were a natural heritage, along with all diverse wildlife Sabah

"We should be proud of our sun bears the way the Chinese are proud of their pandas and the Australians of their koala bears.

"Our children can learn about nature when they visit the centre. Sandakan is known for Sepilok and its orang utans, and, now, it will be known for sun bears, too."

A documentary screening on sun bears a day after the event drew 500 students, teachers and representatives of local associations.

The centre promotes sun bear conservation through animal welfare, rehabilitation, research and education, making it the first facility of its kind in the world for the species.

It was set up in 2008 under a partnership between the Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and NGO Land Empowerment Animals People.

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Malaysia: Guardians of the forest

Sonja Mustaffa The Star 1 Aug 13;

There is important work being done behind the scenes in Sabah to guarantee the survival of animals and mankind.

IT WAS an act we were proud of. Our tiny group of town mice braved leeches to plant trees in Kinabatangan, Sabah. Our deed for posterity could bring an end to the conflict between man and nature, especially animals. Our saplings will grow to create habitats and passageways for animals like the pygmy elephant and orang utan to dwell in and get to food safely.

It is a rare opportunity to receive an assignment that jives with your philosophy of life. Visiting Lower Kinabatangan in eastern Sabah with other journalists at the invitation of food and beverage manufacturer Nestle – whose tree-planting project here is called RiLeaf – was a truly pleasurable experience.

Considered one of South-East Asia’s biodiversity hotspots, the site is paradise for nature lovers who are attracted by the plenteous flora and fauna like the 624 bird species and 998 orchid species found here.

The World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia started carrying out projects along Sungai Kinabatangan, Sabah’s longest river at 560km, in the late 1970s.

The Kinabatangan Corridor of Life (KCoL) project, launched in 2007, determined that teamwork between government agencies, oil palm companies (plantations occupy 85% of the area), tourism operators, non-governmental agencies and the local community is vital in protecting the biodiversity of Lower Kinabatangan, where human activity is rife.

The stakeholders needed to switch to sustainable palm oil production and tourism, rehabilitate the forest and river, set up a management committee to oversee the area and ensure ongoing funding for conservation.

Return to green

Kertijah Abdul Kadir, ex-WWF senior programme officer and now Nestle agricultural officer, has been working on forest restoration in Kinabatangan since 2004. She plans, administers and implements activities with the help of five staffers.

The Kinabatangan Restoration Road Map drawn up in 2009 by the Sabah Forestry Department determined that 32,000ha of Lower Kinabatangan needs to be reforested. This includes reconnecting fragmented forest (in both state and private land) to form wildlife corridors, reinvigorating degraded forest and enhancing the riparian forest to help control soil sedimentation and filter industrial runoff (fertiliser, pesticide and oil palm mill effluent).

“RiLeaf is aiming to plant 2,400ha,” says Kertijah. “So far, we have covered 1,560ha in 106 demarcated blocks out of 137 within forest gaps in wildlife sanctuaries. More than 100,000 trees have been planted to date.”

One of RiLeaf’s partners is Komuniti Anak Pokok Kinabatangan (Kapok). The cooperative of locals helps safeguard the environment by growing saplings for the tree-planting.

“I plant eight types of trees. My children and I gather seeds from the forest in our spare time to help grow more than 1,000 trees at a time,” says Isnidah Jangai who runs the Seratu Balai Gapi homestay business where she has her nursery.

Isnidah was handed the business to look after by her sister in 2006. She says she is glad to contribute in this way because it also brings her an income. Each six-month old sapling propagated in a polybag is sold for RM1.50 to RiLeaf. Tourists buy young trees from her too.

A WWF study has recommended that a KL-lite visiting Kinabatangan plant one tree to offset his carbon dioxide emission while somebody flying from Mexico or the United States should plant seven.

Kertijah doesn’t believe in vilifying oil palm smallholders, instead favouring to instil good agricultural practices which have proven in the past to produce a bigger and better harvest.

She is working with a handful of oil palm planters like Haji Awang Azis, 70 and Noorazizah Pibu, 42, in a project called UpLeaf to showcase how they can vary their source of income and improve the quality of palm yield through the use of microbes.

With the former, she has helped set up a poultry coop of 50 chickens that are free-ranging and given organic fodder, as well as fish ponds full of tilapia. The palm canopy provides essential shade. There is a ready supplier (of chicks and fry) and buyer who is hoping to see similar farms get off the ground. The sprayed microbes make the soil fertile and palm trees lush.

“It’s still at a trial and error stage. We only started in November. The big idea is to minimise or stop the use of hazardous chemicals and use a back-to-nature approach,” says Kertijah, whose research ally for the use of microbes is Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

“I can see the benefits of using microbes,” says Noorazizah who tends a seven-hectare plantation with her husband. “It has helped me reap more and sweeter fruit. The fronds are also more splayed to receive more sunlight.”

Kertijah’s team visits the planters every month to check on their progress and ensure that they have not fallen back on old ways. “Chemicals are expensive. Why should they spend more if with less money, they can gain a better quality (organic) product? The commitment comes after some time. Most are willing to give it a try. What they don’t like is being forced to give up their land (for reforestration). However, I think they would be motivated if they knew why and what they were doing it for.”

Smallholders should take a leaf from plantation companies which are taking measures to mend the forest. Some companies have built bridges over boundary drains to help the animals get to their food source.

Gaining admission to the Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) through conservation activities makes good business sense for these enterprises as more and more consumers demand sustainable palm oil. Some resort operators are also doing their part. Myne Resort in Kampung Bilit, for instance, has dedicated 40.5ha of forest to the observation and research of pachyderms and primates.

Scare them away

How do smallholders deal with elephants using their land as a highway? “We don’t give them advice on dealing with intrusions,” says Kertijah. “Usually, a Elephant Control Unit under the Wildlife Department will come to the rescue. At the moment, many planters erect electric fences or use burnt tyres (elephants hate the smell of burnt rubber) to keep them away.” Village folk are more emphatic. “Of course they are scared because of the size of the elephants, but they are not angry. They have traditional knowledge for handling such situations. The animals don’t cause much damage, but this is subjective. I think if there are no obstacles in their way, the damage is less, says Kertijah.”

Have decades of conservation work paid off? Kertijah opines that things are looking up for Kinabatangan. “People are becoming more aware of how special this place is. Many enabling factors such as corporate support, an open-minded local community, scientific research, policies and standard operating procedures are in place. It is just a matter of political will for the vision to be realised,” she says.

Kertijah’s great hope is for the heritage of Kinabatangan to be better protected for future generations through its gazettement as a Special Area, where only prescribed activities are carried out.

To get involved in the tree-planting, contact Kertijah Abdul Kadir at

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Indonesia needs to increase number of its forest rangers

Antara 30 Jul 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia needs to increase the number of its forest rangers and forest technicians in the field to prevent rare species and forest damage, an activist of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia said.

"We need many more forest rangers and forest technicians in the field to prevent damage to tigers` habitat and tiger hunting," Sunarto, WWF Indonesia coordinator for elephant and tiger conservation, said here on Tuesday.

He said that WWF Indonesia had so far encouraged and assisted the Ministry of Forestry to carry out better protected forest management through the public`s active participation.

"Sumatra`s forest is important not only for the survival of Sumatra`s typical animal species such as tiger but also for serving as a buffer of human life. Therefore, all sides should take active part in efforts to restore forest," he said.

He said that one of the efforts to conserve Sumatran tigers was to expand the coverage of natural forest, not adversely letting its acreage continue to decrease.

The restoration of tigers` habitat should become a joint commitment of all components of the nation, he said.

"The public at large need to contribute to the environment and rare species conservation. Our activities or what have consumed every day have directly or indirectly posed a threat to the survival of Sumatran tigers and Indonesian forest," he said.

Therefore, the conservation of species is not the responsibility of the forestry ministry alone but also of all Indonesian people.

Based on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in 2008, a total of 51 Sumatran tigers were killed every year, about 76 percent of which were a result of illegal trading.

In the meantime, the Special Tiger Police (PHS) Unit of Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) has been conducting a special operation during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan as part of efforts to prevent extinction of Sumatran tigers.

The annual "traps sweep" operation in the Islamic holy month is actually only one of the efforts to slow the process of extinction of the Panthera Tigris Sumatrae species," field manager of the patrol unit (PFS) of the park, Dian Risdianto, said last week.

He said the population of the animal species had continued to decline to currently between 100 and 200 heads in the TNKS or is on the brink of extinction.

He said "tigers live individually or not in a group like lions and so they need a vast forest to survive while the TNKS is already shrinking."

He said tigers were also very selective when mating, adding "the animal would only mate with a female tiger who is really healthy and not of his family line.

To get a good mate a tiger has a zone of 50 square kilometers while a female tiger only around 20 square kilometers, Dian said.

In view of the remaining number it could be concluded that incest had happened and the remaining tigers could probably be unhealthy or infertile due to incest, he said.

"So efforts taken so far are merely slowing the process of extinction," he added.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Gulf of Thailand oil spill: Alarm bells sound over oil spill dispersant use

PTTGC admits chemicals risk environmental harm
Bangkok Post 31 Jul 13;

Experts are worried the chemical dispersants being used in the oil spill clean-up operation in Rayong province could cause environmental damage.

They have urged PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC) to reveal what type of dispersants are being used.

Their call came after Pollution Control Department chief Wichian Jungrungreon admitted yesterday that using dispersants could harm the environment.

PTTGC has remained silent about what chemicals it is using but also said they could pose a hazard to the environment and people's health.

"There is no option," Mr Wichian said. "The massive oil spill and windy conditions prevent us from using booms to contain the spill.

"Dispersants are the last resort in this situation."

Lack of information about the chemicals has prompted experts to pressure authorities and PTTGC to provide more details.

"It's important to know what chemicals they are and how much is being used so we can decide on measures to prevent possible negative impacts," Arpa Wangkiat, a professor at Rangsit University's environmental engineering department, said.

"Don't leave questions to society. Disaster management should not be left in the hands of one participant."

Ms Arpa said her studies have found the use of dispersants can result in environmental damage and health problems.

Environmental activists suspect PTTGC might be using Corexit to tackle the Rayong oil slick because it is commonly used worldwide.

In 2012, a study found that Corexit increases the toxicity of oil by 52 times. It can remain in the ecological food chain for many years and cause widespread and long-lasting health impacts.

"The use of dispersants is a solution that creates new and worse problems," Ms Arpa said.

The main ingredients of Corexit include 2-Butoxyethanol which can comprise up to 60% of the dispersant and is known to harm the blood, kidneys, liver and central nervous system.

Experts say the substance can also cause cancer, birth defects and has been found to cause genetic mutations.

It is also a delayed chronic health hazard as well as an environmentally hazardous material.

Pornsri Mingkwan, director of the Pollution Control Department's marine environment division, said PTTGC has sought permission to use 32,000 litres of a dispersant called Slickgone NS since the spill occurred on Saturday.

However, the dispersant is ineffective in tackling oil slicks more than 48 hours after a spill occurs, she said.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a leading marine biologist at Kasetsart University, wrote on his Facebook page that the use of dispersants should be avoided in seas where the water is about 20m deep or less.

This was because dispersed oil could come into contact with the sea bed and caused negative effects on benthic organisms that live there, he wrote.

He called on the authorities to check the depth of the sea off Rayong.

He also urged authorities to clarify which agency had allowed the use of dispersants on Sunday.

Pisut Painmanakul, also of Chulalongkorn University's environmental engineering department, said the Rayong oil spill could lead to a similar problem which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 when Corexit was primarily used to deal with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Officials took three months to deal with the oil slick there but scientists have said the toxic chemical remains in the ecological system.

Samai Kungsaworn, director of the Office of Diseases Prevention Control 3 which oversees Rayong, said local health units have reported four patients complaining of dizziness since the oil spill on Saturday.

The cases could possibly be linked to the oil's pungent smell in the area, he said.

He has advised locals to stay away from the shore because the smell could cause respiratory problems.

PCD says PTTGC used excessive amounts of dispersant
Bangkok Post 1 Aug 13;

The Pollution Control Department says PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC) used excessive amounts of dispersant in its attempt to clean-up the Samet oil slick.

Pollution Control Department chief Wichian Jungrungreon told the Bangkok Post yesterday that his agency gave permission for the firm to use only 5,000 litres of the dispersants _ Slickgone NS Type II/III.

Mr Wichian said PTTGC had asked for permission to use 25,000 litres of the dispersant on Sunday but the amount was restricted to only 5,000 litres.

He said the approved amount was linked to the firm's claim that about 50,000 litres of crude oil had leaked from the broken pipeline. The appropriate dispersant to oil ratio is 1:10.

The department chief also admitted the dispersant may have contaminated the sea bed and affected benthic organisms that live there as the sea is only 20 metres deep in that location.

"The situation was critical at the time," Mr Wichian said. "The dispersant was permitted because of the crisis."

Nattachat Charuchinda, chief operating officer of the downstream petroleum business at the parent firm PTT Plc, later admitted the company used 35,000 litres of the Slickgone dispersant in the clean-up process.

Sirichai Thammanit, an expert at Chulalongkorn University's Marine Science department said the lack of information about the dispersant is disturbing.

"With contradicting information about the dispersant volume, does it mean that there was more oil or that the dispersant was not effective?"

He said the dispersant must be used in an appropriate ratio to be effective.

Underuse of the dispersant would fail to break down the oil into droplets.

Overuse would decrease efficiency in managing the oil spill, he said.

Somporn Chuai-aree, from Prince Songkla University's Computer Science department, Pattani campus, said the spill volume could exceed 50,000 litres.

Based on a Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency map and calculations, the volume of oil that leaked into the sea could be 108,600 to 191,500 litres. "We need facts," said Pahol Kosiyachinda, a biologist at Mahidol University. "Dispersants will not eliminate the oil. They just convert the oil to a different form which is still harmful to the environment."

Mr Pahol urged PTTCG to provide facts about the volume of oil and type of dispersant used.

The information will help officials to establish the extent of damage and compensation for affected parties, he said.

Arpa Wangkiat, a professor at Rangsit University's Environmental Engineering department, said inaccuracy of the oil spill volume would lead to mistakes in evaluating its impact.

Thai oil spill having "extreme" impact on tourism - minister
Related Video: Thailand hit by fourth largest oil spill in its history
Amy Sawitta Lefevre Reuters 30 Jul 13;

BANGKOK | Tue Jul 30, 2013 11:07am EDT

(Reuters) - An oil spill that has blackened beaches at a Thai holiday island was having an extreme impact on tourism and could spread to the coast of the mainland and affect the fishing industry, officials and an environmental group said on Tuesday.

Tourists were pouring off the island of Koh Samet, 230 km (142 miles) southeast of Bangkok, while soldiers and volunteers in white bio-hazard suits struggled to clear black oily sludge off the white sand.

"We're working to move visitors to other locations if they want to move," Tourism Minister Somsak Phurisisak told reporters.

"I'm very concerned, I didn't think this spill would impact tourism in such an extreme way."

About 50,000 liters of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Thailand from a pipeline on Saturday, about 20 km (12 miles) off the coast, the fourth major oil spill in Thai history.

The pipeline operator, PTT Global Chemical, apologized and said the leak had been plugged. The clean-up operation would take another two to three days, it said.

Worst hit was the beach at Ao Prao, or Coconut Bay, but tourists elsewhere on the island were getting out.

"We're staying on another beach but we're not taking any chances. We are checking out," Daria Volkov, a tourist from Moscow, told Reuters.

Koh Samet, known for its beaches and clear, warm sea, is thronged by domestic and foreign tourists, thanks to its proximity to Bangkok.

"Tourists are leaving, some have cancelled their bookings," said Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, chairman of the provincial tourist association.

"Samet is popular with Russian and Chinese tourists but they won't stay long if this mess isn't cleaned up."

Pakdihan Himathongkam, a government spokesman, said aircraft were releasing chemical dispersants over the 1 km (half a mile) long oil slick, while Ao Prao beach was closed to the public.

"Our worry is that it could reach the mainland," Pakdihan said.

Environmental groups raised questions about the true extent of the disaster.

"What has happened is far more serious than what PTT said on the first day. We can expect an impact on fisheries and from chemical contamination in the food chain," Ply Pirom, programme manager at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told Reuters.

PTT Global Chemical Pcl is part of state-controlled PTT Pcl, Thailand's biggest energy firm.

Another subsidiary, PTT Exploration and Production Pcl, was involved in Australia's worst offshore drilling accident in 2009, when thousands of gallons of crude oil spewed into the sea after a damaged oil well blew up.

The slick from the Montara oil field off Australia's northwest coast spread as far as Indonesian waters. An Australian government inquiry blamed the spill on systemic shortcomings at the Thai oil giant.

(Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak and Athit Perawongmetha; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Thai firm understating oil slick fallout: Greenpeace
Apilaporn Vechaku (AFP) Google News 31 Jul 13;

KO SAMET, Thailand — Environmentalists accused a Thai energy firm on Tuesday of understating the extent of a major pipeline leak as the navy warned the oil slick might reach the mainland.

Tourists were leaving the resort island of Ko Samet in the Gulf of Thailand as workers in protective suits used hoses, buckets and shovels to clean up blackened sand and oil which washed ashore on a once-idyllic beach.

PTT Global Chemical said it was close to removing the oil from Ao Phrao beach on the island, which lies in the protected Khao Laem Ya National Park off the eastern province of Rayong.

"The clean-up operation is 80 percent complete," said PTT Global Chemical executive vice president Porntep Butniphant, who was overseeing the operation.

"We expect by tomorrow (Wednesday) everything at Ao Phrao will be back to normal," he told AFP.

Conservationist group Greenpeace, however, said much more work needed to be done.

"It's not true to claim that 80 percent of the work is done. There is a lot of oil still in the bay," Greenpeace campaigner Ply Pirom said.

"It's very disappointing that this global company has no emergency plan to deal with the crisis."

A naval commander said there was a risk the oil would wash ashore on the mainland.

"A thin film of oil may reach the mainland. It has started to go towards there," Vice Admiral Roongsak Sereeswad told AFP, adding: "It might take a week to control it."

The government said 600 workers, including military personnel and PTT staff, were engaged in the clean-up.

Some visitors have cut short their holidays on Ko Samet, a popular destination for weekend breaks for Bangkok residents.

"About 30 percent of the tourists have left the island", Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Rayong Tourist Association, told AFP.

"There are no tourists coming in any more, only people leaving. Some groups already cancelled bookings. Some are scared and started to leave," Chairat added.

According to the pipeline operator -- which is part of state-owned giant PTT -- 50,000 litres of oil gushed into the sea on Saturday about 20 kilometres (12 miles) off the coast. Some environmentalists fear the leak might have been even bigger.

PTT said the spillage came as crude oil from an Omani tanker moored offshore was being transferred to the pipeline for delivery to its refinery.

Greenpeace on Monday urged Thailand to end oil drilling and exploration in the Gulf of Thailand in light of the leak.

Conservationists have voiced concern about the impact on marine life of the oil as well as the chemicals used to disperse the spill in an area frequented by fishermen.

"The effects on the coastal area ecology will be quite big," Ratana Munprasit, director of the Eastern Marine Fisheries Research and Development Center, told AFP.

"It's like a feeding ground for fish where they lay eggs and there are baby fish, shellfish and plankton," Ratana said, adding that the food chain and corals would be affected in the long term.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is on an official trip to Africa, ordered the navy and various ministries quickly to solve the problem.

She also said PTT must bear responsibility for the spill.

One Bangkok tour operator launched an appeal for people to donate hair to make a boom to absorb the oil.

"An oil expert said hair can absorb spilled oil so we will collect hair to make a hair sausage," Thammtorn Junprasert said.

"I'm now contacting hotels for donation of old pillows stuffed with duck feathers," he added.

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Conservationists excited by tiger population rise in Nepal

Gopal Sharma PlanetArk 31 Jul 13;

Conservationists excited by tiger population rise in Nepal Photo: Navesh Chitrakar
A wild tiger is seen inside the enclosure at Chitwan National Park after it was wounded in a fight with another tiger in Chitwan, about 170 km (106 miles) south of Kathmandu December 27, 2011.
Photo: Navesh Chitrakar

The number of wild Royal Bengal tigers in Nepal has increased to 198, a 63.6 percent rise in five years, a government survey of the big cats showed.

The findings are crucial for the protection of endangered tigers facing the threat of extinction from poachers for the lucrative trade in their parts, encroachment of habitat by villagers due to the rise in human settlements and loss of prey.

Conflicts between people and wild animals are frequent in Nepal, which has pledged to double the population of tigers by the year 2022 from an estimated 2010 level of 125.

"This is very encouraging," said Maheshwar Dhakal, an ecologist with Nepal's National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Department, adding that the Himalayan nation was on target to achieve its goal ahead of the deadline.

"But the increased numbers have also added to our responsibilities and challenges for the conservation of tigers," Dhakal told Reuters after releasing the findings of the four-month survey late on Monday.

The study was supported by the conservation group WWF and the United States.

Conservation experts credit the increase to effective policing of national parks, stronger anti-poaching drives and better management of tiger habitats in Nepal, where forests cover 29 percent of the land.

Nepal needs to carefully protect the habitat and animals on which tigers prey so the big cats have enough space to roam and food to eat, experts said.

As the number of tigers have increased over the years, so have incidents of conflict with villagers.

Seven people were killed in attacks by tigers around national parks last year compared to four in 2011, park officials said.

Villagers are also seeking better protection.

"Government is making conservation plans for tigers. But it should also come up with plans to protect people from tigers," Krishna Bhurtel, a local village headman in Chitwan, told Nepali newspaper Nagarik. Chitwan is home to more than 100 tigers.

Wildlife authorities captured a tiger in Chitwan after it killed two people, including a villager who was pulled from his bed in May.

Thousands of tigers once roamed the forests in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. But their numbers have plummeted to just about 3,000 now, wildlife experts say.

Diwakar Chapagain, who heads a WWF Nepal unit which monitors wildlife trade, said tiger skins were in high demand in Tibet where well-heeled people use them as festival costumes.

In Nepal, kings used to stand on tiger skins in front of stuffed tigers for special occasions. The monarchy was abolished in 2008.

Some affluent Nepalis have mounted tiger heads on the walls of their living rooms.

Tiger bones are in high demand for use in traditional Chinese medicines such as "Tiger balm", a pleasantly smelling cream used to relieve pain or heal wounds.

"The trade in tiger parts is lucrative and fetches thousands of dollars in illegal markets," WWF official Chapagain said highlighting the threat tigers face.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma, editing by Paul Casciato)

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Conservation 3.0: Protecting Life on a Changing Planet

Jon Hoekstra, World Wildlife Fund Yahoo News 31 Jul 13;

Rising demands for food, water, energy and other natural resources are straining natural ecosystems' ability to produce what people need, as well as putting the plants and animals with which we share the planet at risk.

So, how can nature be saved at a time when people need it most?

It's time to start developing Conservation 3.0. Like software, Conservation 1.0 and Conservation 2.0 are serving society well, but the challenges of the 21st century require some critical updates. In the future, nature will look different than it did in the past. So, too, must conservation.

Consider the profound changes we are witnessing. Agriculture, fishing, forestry, water diversions, mining, energy production, transportation and urban development are literally transforming the face of the planet. Human enterprise is even changing the atmosphere , climate, ocean chemistry and fundamental nutrient cycles. Species are going extinct at rates not seen since the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Humans are degrading natural ecosystems to a point in which the sustainability of clean water supplies, productive soils and abundant natural resources that have supported so much human development may be compromised.

Conservation 1.0 — setting aside parks and preserves — provides a place for nature. Think national parks and other nature preserves that have been the mainstay of conservation, ensuring that species have the essential habitat they need to survive. But Conservation 1.0 also sets nature apart from people. Some have called it "fortress conservation" because it forces a mutually exclusive trade-off between conserving biodiversity and meeting human needs. By mid-century, human demands for food, water, energy and other natural resources are projected to double. If conservation relied solely on walling off nature, it would be doomed to failure.

Conservation 2.0 recognizes that nature provides many essential benefits to people — clean drinking water, wood, fish and productive soils to grow crops, etc. It motivates broader investment in protecting nature by connecting the dots between nature and human well-being through food security, water security, health effects and cultural values. In these ways, Conservation 2.0 can demonstrably meet vital human needs. But passive provisioning based on nature's current productivity may not be enough to meet projected human demands.

To save as much nature as possible, society must develop Conservation 3.0. Those next steps will deliberately manage nature —maybe even engineer it in some ways —in order to maximize nature's ability to supply food, water, energy and other natural resources for the growing human population. At the same time, Conservation 3.0 still supports biodiversity. There are already several good examples of what Conservation 3.0 might look like:

– In Mozambique, conservation scientists are helping coastal communities create marine-protected areas that serve as "fish banks," improving food security by protecting the most productive nursery habitats for fish. These areas also protect marine biodiversity but aren't necessarily selected for that reason.

– Across Latin America, many cities are establishing water funds that pay for watershed protection and improved management of stream-side habitats in order to maintain clean, reliable and affordable water supplies for their citizens. The watersheds are selected for their water yield, but also include vital habitat for montanebiodiversity.

– Along the Gulf Coast of the United States, oyster reefs are being engineered to protect sensitive coastlines from wave erosion and storm damage. The reefs are designed much in the way a concrete breakwater might be designed, but they are constructed with living oysters that improve water quality as they filter feed and provide nursery habitat for economically valuable species.

The more nature can provide for people, the more it will be valued and protected as a societal priority. Conservation 3.0 will build on many of the tools and tactics developed for Conservation 1.0 and 2.0. But instead of tracking how little is lost, Conservation 3.0 will measure success by how much nature can deliver.

Jon Hoekstra is chief scientist for World Wildlife Fund. This article first appeared as "What is Conservation 3.0 and Why Does it Matter?" on his WWF blog, Science Driven. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This article was originally published on

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Oil exploration threatens Africa’s billion dollar World Heritage Site

WWF 1 Aug 13;

Africa’s oldest national park could be worth US$1.1 billion per year if developed sustainably, rather than being given over to potentially-damaging oil extraction, a report released by WWF today has found.

Virunga National Park has the potential to generate 45,000 permanent jobs through investments in hydropower, the fishery industry and ecotourism, according to analysis conducted by Dalberg Global Development Advisors, an independent consulting firm.

The Economic Value of Virunga National Park says exploitation of oil concessions, which have been allocated across 85 per cent of the World Heritage property, could bring pollution, cause instability and cost people their jobs.

“Virunga represents a valuable asset to Democratic Republic of the Congo and contributes to Africa’s heritage as the oldest and most biodiverse park on the continent,” the report says. “Plans to explore for oil and exploit oil reserves put Virunga’s value at risk.”

In June, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee called for the cancelation of all Virunga oil permits and appealed to concession holders Total SA and Soco International PLC not to undertake exploration in World Heritage Sites. Total has committed to respecting Virunga’s current boundary, leaving UK-based Soco as the only oil company with plans to explore inside the park.

“Virunga’s rich natural resources are for the benefit of the Congolese people, not for foreign oil prospectors to drain away,” said Raymond Lumbuenamo, Country Director for WWF-Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Our country’s future depends on sustainable economic development, and the livelihoods of over 50,000 people depend on this park. Oil extraction here could have devastating consequences for local communities that rely on Virunga for fish, drinking water and their other needs.”

Oil spills, pipeline leaks and gas flaring could contaminate the air, water and soil in the area with toxins, according to the report. It says studies of other oil producing regions have found that oil can cause health problems and fuel conflict.

Environmental impacts from oil extraction could threaten Virunga’s freshwater ecosystems, rich forests and rare wildlife, the study found. The park is home to over 3,000 different kinds of animals, including critically endangered mountain gorillas.

“This is where we draw the line. Oil companies are standing on the doorstep of one of the world’s most precious and fragile places, but we will not rest until Virunga is safe from this potential environmental disaster,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of WWF International. “Virunga has snow fields and lava fields, but it should not have oil fields.”

Today WWF is launching a campaign aimed at protecting Virunga National Park from oil extraction. The organization is calling on Soco to abandon its plans to explore for oil in Virunga and all other World Heritage Sites.

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