Best of our wild blogs: 29 Aug 13

Chek Jawa Boardwalk Anniversary trip on 7th Sep (Sat)
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Flower fly power
from The annotated budak

Butterflies Galore! : Lesser Harlequin
from Butterflies of Singapore

Tiny but mighty: Halophila beccarii on Singapore's northern shores from wild shores of singapore and Beccari the explorer and Singapore

12 new solitary ascidians records for Singapore
from wild shores of singapore

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Number of hotspots in Sumatra drops sharply

Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 28 Aug 13;

SINGAPORE: There has been a sharp drop in the number of hotspots detected in Sumatra.

According to the latest numbers from the National Environment Agency (NEA), 99 hotspots were recorded on Wednesday, a sharp drop from the 308 hotspots detected on August 27.

On August 26, the number of hotspots in Sumatra jumped to 488 to hit its highest in 30 days.

However, NEA noted that the actual number is uncertain due to cloud-cover over Sumatra.

It added that the occurrence of showers may have helped to subdue some of the hotspot activity.

The NEA said showers are forecast over central and southern Sumatra for the next few days.

It also added that Indonesia has said that water bombing and cloud seeding are underway to put out the fires.

- CNA/fa

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Important for students to learn about climate change from young: Heng Swee Keat

S Ramesh Channel NewsAsia 28 Aug 13;

SINGAPORE: Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said it is important for the nation to start with the young in nurturing responsible citizens.

He said schools prepare students to be conscientious stewards of the planet in many ways.

Presenting prizes to winners of the Senoko Sustainability Challenge organised for schools on Wednesday, Mr Heng noted that the school curriculum covers climate change and sustainability from various angles.

Students learn about biodiversity, global warming and climate change.

Competitions like the Senoko Sustainability Challenge are another avenue for them to learn about environmental sustainability.

More than 100 entries were received for the competition.

- CNA/nd

Energy-saving ideas: Mirror trick and hotel perks
David Ee Straits Times 29 Aug 13;

FOR bright students, a dim classroom is simply not good enough.

So a group of secondary school children has come up with a novel way to let more light in during lessons - using the sun and a system of mirrors and prisms.

These were placed strategically around the classroom, meaning there was less need for ceiling lights during the day.

The idea from students at NUS High School of Mathematics and Science was one of the "practical and doable solutions" that emerged as winners in this year's Senoko Sustainability Challenge.

More than 400 students spent several months putting themselves in the shoes of policymakers. Their goal was to come up with ways for Singapore to stay resilient against the impact of global climate change. Their ideas were judged by a panel that included biologist and former National Parks Board chairman Leo Tan. Yesterday, he praised the level-headed way in which they approached the challenge, saying: "They were not dreaming (about) science fiction... they were saying, 'we can do this today.'"

Other winners included a team from Raffles Girls' School which realised hotel guests would be more inclined to save energy if they were offered perks in return.

Their proposal, pitched to the Intercontinental Hotel Group, offered customers incentives such as spa treatments, dining vouchers and discounted stays if they kept their energy use down.

This could help to both prevent waste and "maximise" guests' enjoyment, said team member Poh Yong Han, 16.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat told the students they would "grow up to be the leaders and decision makers of tomorrow". This means they must be aware that their small "green" efforts will have a large impact over time, he said at yesterday's ceremony at the Mandarin Orchard hotel.

The Senoko Sustainability Challenge was first launched in 2005. This year, it attracted more than 100 entries from 52 schools.

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Indonesia: Haze Threatens to Return as Riau Burns Again

Camelia Pasandaran and Dessy Sagita Jakarta Globe 27 Aug 13;

A map from the Indonesian meteorological service shows the increased number of hotspots in Sumatra on Tuesday. (Image courtesy of BPNB)

Singapore and Indonesian officials traded barbs on Tuesday as the haze crisis that cast a shadow on the two countries’ relations in June threatened to reemerge.

“An exercise in frustration — big increase in hot spots (488) in Sumatra today,” Singapore’s Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said on Facebook. “We have been spared so far because of wind direction.”

Air quality in Singapore remained at “good” levels on Tuesday afternoon, within a range of 26-35. Singapore’s air degraded to “very hazardous” levels on June 21, breaking 400 on the Pollutant Standards Index, the city state’s National Environment Agency reported.

“We remain at risk,” Balakrishnan said. “Have to keep up the pressure on Indonesian authorities and companies to do the right thing for the sake of their own citizens and ours.”

The head of Singapore’s National Environment Agency, Ronnie Tay, said he had spoken with his counterparts in Indonesia about the acute increase in hotspots.

Tay wrote in a public release that meteorological forecasts for the next few days predicted southerly and southeasterly winds flowing over the Strait of Malacca. A shift to a more southwesterly wind direction could, however, bring haze back to Singapore.

Forestry Ministry spokesman Sumarto confirmed to the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday that the number of hotspots was increasing, but denied the total was as high as the 488 reported by Lion City authorities.

“According to [Indonesia’s] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], there are 265 hotspots as of this morning,” he said. “Yesterday, 101 hotspots were recorded — a major jump from last week’s 19-25 hotspots.”

The difference between Singapore and Indonesia’s hotspot figures are more instructive of the two countries’ differing methodology, not of an attempt to overdo or underplay the situation on the ground in Sumatra.

Smoke signals?

Yopita Gustini, a resident of Pekanbaru, Riau, said visibility had worsened to less than 500 meters.

“I had to turn on the car lamps even in the morning when I was driving in,” Yopita told the Jakarta Globe. “I drove really slowly out of fear for my safety.”

Air quality on Tuesday was not as debilitating as Riau residents saw in June, she said.

“It’s not as bad as the last time, but what makes me afraid is that it has not been raining the past few days,” Yopita said. “If the weather and the temperature persist, I’m afraid the fire will be just as big as the last time.”

The 30-year-old added that she had begun wearing a face mask three days ago because she had started to experience a degree of respiratory difficulty.

Yopita called on the government to instigate greater weather-modification efforts in the province.

“Don’t wait until weeks later,” she said.

The Indonesian government was criticized during the peak of the haze crisis for the lack of speed with which it took action against hotspots in Sumatra.

As firefighters struggled to stay ahead of the curve in June, the government ordered the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to seed the clouds above Riau province — a method used to create artificial rain — and drop water from agency helicopters’ Bambi buckets.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho confirmed that the government was acting in Riau.

“Today there was water-bombing in Pelalawan with one Boco and one Sikorsky helicopter,” he said. “They can carry 4,500 liters per flight.”

Thick smoke over Pekanbaru disrupted flights at the Riau capital’s international airport — only one flight was able to land yesterday at Sultan Syarif Kasim airport. Planes were instead diverted to nearby airports in Medan and Batam.

Under fire

The Indonesian government confirmed that the Sumatra hotspots were once again caused by slash-and-burn clearance of land — the easiest way to make way for, primarily, palm oil plantations.

“99 percent of the hotspots were caused by individuals or groups,” Sutopo said.

Despite international outcry over the extent of slash-and-burn only weeks ago, Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry said the practice continued to thrive.

“More places are burning because of a rise in temperature and the lack of rain over the past few weeks,” Sumarto said. “Some underground fires that were already burning flared up again, and local people are also burning forest to clear land.”

Sumarto called the hotspots a disaster, and asked that the government be given more time by the people of Sumatra and Singapore to address the intractability of the problem.

“It’s difficult to prevent people from using traditional methods of land clearing,” he said. “It takes a long time for them stop.”

At least one Riau resident believes this a tradition that needs to be nixed.

“What’s even more important is the law enforcement,” Yopita said. “I hope the government will take serious action against those who started the fire, because spending money on artificial rain will not do anything as long as these people keep burning the forest.”

Three flights diverted due to haze in Pekanbaru
The Jakarta Post 27 Aug 13;

Poor visibility, caused by thick haze, at Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau, forced the rerouting of three flights.

A Garuda Indonesia aircraft that was scheduled to land at Sultan Syarif Kasim II on Tuesday morning was diverted to Kualanamu International Airport in Medan, North Sumatra.

Meanwhile, a Lion Air plane from Jakarta, which was scheduled to arrive at 8 a.m., was rerouted to Batam, Riau Islands, as visibility dropped to less than 500 meters due to the haze.

The airport’s duty manager Baiquni said the Garuda plane departed from Jakarta at around 4:30 a.m. and should have arrived in Pekanbaru, this morning.

“But due to the low visibility the pilot diverted the aircraft and landed in Kualanamu, Medan,” he said in Pekanbaru on Tuesday, as quoted by Antara news agency.

Meanwhile, an Air Asia plane from Kualanamu Airport, Deli Serdang, was forced to return after it received information about the thick haze that was blanketing Pekanbaru Airport.

“Almost all flights were delayed,” Baiquni said.

Despite the haze at Sultan Syarif Kasim II, several pilots were determined to land there and an Air Asia plane, flying from Bandung, West Java, arrived at 7:30 a.m.

“We, as the airport operator, are only required to inform of the conditions. We leave take off and landing decisions to the pilot and airline company,” said Baiquni.

He said that the haze, from the ongoing forest and peatland fires in Riau, was the worst it had been over the last few months. (hrl/ebf)

Ash rain in Pekanbaru after forest fires
Antara 28 Aug 13;

Pekanbaru, Riau Province (ANTARA News) - Several areas in Pekanbaru have been hit by ash rain, following forest fires for the past two days, said an official.

"There is rainfall in the form of ash particles. We believe this phenomenon occurs when there are forest fires," said Chief of Environmental Health Affairs from the province`s Health Office Dewani on Wednesday.

Earlier, spokesperson for the Riau Administration Office announced that the air quality in the area has deteriorated and is unsuitable for locals. The announcement was made when the Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU) in Pekanbaru reached 300 (normal pollution index in an area is around 0-50).

Dewani said ash rain causes respiratory disorders and irritation in eyes and skin. Therefore, she urged locals to avoid outdoor activities.

(Reported by FB Anggoro/translated and edited by Amie Fenia Arimbi/KR-BSR/O001)

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Around 200 hotspots detected in C. Kalimantan
Antara 28 Aug 13;

Sampit, Central Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - Around 200 hotspots have been detected in Central Kalimantan, according to Andreas Dodi, a researcher at the Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA).

"The province is on high alert of possible forest fires, following the presence of hotspots," he said, adding that the high temperature in the province increases the possibility of forest fires.

Based on the information provided by the province`s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), the rainy season in Central Kalimantan has just begun. However, people are being warned about the possibility of forest fires. They have been told not to burn large areas of land to create plantations.

"As of now, air quality in the province is at a normal level," he added.

(Reported by Unting Setiawan/translated and edited by Amie Fenia Arimbi/KR-BSR/O001)

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Malaysia: Haze comes back with a vengeance as air quality worsens

Christopher Tan, Embun Majid and Winnie Yeoh The Star 29 Aug 13;

GEORGE TOWN: Malaysians feared haze will return with a vengeance as the air quality in several states worsened, especially in Kedah with the Air Pollutant Index (API) in Bakar Arang, Sungai Petani reaching an unhealthy level of 104 – the highest reading in the country.

The API measurement registered at the Department of Environment (DOE) monitoring station recorded the index at 4pm.

It was initially 94 at 6am before it went up to 99 by 10am.

In the tourism haven of Langkawi, it showed 77 at 6am before increasing to 86 by 10am and shot up to 96 at 4pm.

An increase in API was also noted in Alor Setar where the reading showed 71 (6am) and 77 (10am). The API increased to 87 by 4pm.

In Penang, the API in Seberang Jaya saw an increase from 89 at 6am to 94 by 10am before going up further to an unhealthy level of 103 at 4pm.

Moving south, several areas in Ipoh also recorded moderate air quality.

The API in Sri Manjung was 87 at 4pm while other areas such as SK Jalan Pegoh (82), Kampung Air Putih (75), Jalan Tasek (67) and Tanjung Malim (56) recorded such readings at the same time.

In Port Klang, it neared the unhealthy level when it increased from 77 (6am) to 82 (4pm).

In Malacca, the API in Bukit Rambai recorded 91 at 6am and 95 at 4pm while Bandaraya Melaka recorded 73 (6am) followed by 75 (4pm).

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good, 51 and 100 (moderate), 101 and 200 (unhealthy), 201 and 300 (very unhealthy), and 301 and above (hazardous).

This latest haze situation is once again blamed on an increase of hotspots in Sumatra, where the smog shifts direction depending on where the wind blows.

Penang Education Department director Datuk Ahmad Tarmizi Kamaruddin said all schools in areas where the API had hit above the 200 mark would be closed immediately.

“If the API hit more than 150, all outdoor activities such as Physical Education must stop,” he said.

Penang Agriculture, Agro-based Industry, Rural Development and Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin advised the public to wear three-ply face masks as it offered better protection.

The state government also plans to distribute masks to the public.

Kedah Health Department director Dr Ismail Abu Taat advised residents there to avoid outdoor activities if the API reading in­­creases.

Haze: Penang, Kedah air quality back at unhealthy levels
Christopher Tan and Winnie Yeoh The Star 28 Aug 13;

GEORGE TOWN: Air quality in northern states in Malaysia - especially in Kedah - has worsened with the Air Pollutant Index (API) reaching unhealthy levels.

In Bakar Arang, Kedah, the Department of Environment (DOE) monitoring station recorded an unhealthy API reading of 104 at 4pm, which had been escalating since early morning.

Likewise, the API in Seberang Jaya 2 had an unhealthy reading of 103 at 4pm.

The API in Langkawi was 77 at 6am before increasing to 86 by 10am, but shot up drastically to 96 at 4pm.

An API of 87 was noted in Alor Setar at 4pm, up from 71 (6am) and 77 (10am).

In Penang, the API in Seberang Jaya 2 increased from 89 (6am) to 94 (10am) before reaching unhealthy levels of 103 (4pm).

In Prai, the API reached 88 at 4pm, while Universiti Sains Malaysia a reading of 96 at 4pm.

In Kangar, Perlis, API reading of 85 was recorded at 4pm, up from 71 (6am) and 79 (10am).
An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good, 51 to 100 (moderate), 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy), and 301 and above (hazardous).

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Malaysia: Close watch on poaching at Belum park

Audrey Dermawan and Slyvia Looi New Straits Times 29 Aug 13;

ONGOING CRACKDOWN: Multi-agency enforcement carried out on regular basis

CHECKS on poaching at the Royal Belum State Park is being undertaken through a multi-agency enforcement approach.

State Health, Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Nolee Ashilin Mohamed Radzi (BN-Tualang Sekah) said among the authorities involved are the Perak State Park Corporation (PTNP), Wildlife and National Parks Department, Forestry Department, Anti-Smuggling Unit and police with the support of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

"Enforcement is being carried out, especially during weekends and public holidays, along the East-West Highway based on tip-offs from NGOs.

"Since October 2011, PTNP had created check points at the entrance to the Royal Belum State Park to check and monitor boats that enter the park," she said, adding that the check points are operational 24 hours.

She was replying to Salbiah Mohamed (BN-Temengor), who asked on the steps taken to curb poaching in the park.

Nolee also said that the Wildlife and National Parks Department had patrolled the area 135 times between last year and July of this year.

"During the patrols, the department had successfully destroyed 38 traps and demolished two camps used by poachers in Belum forest," she said, adding that 65 closed-circuit televisions had been installed along the East-West Highway to track poaching activities.

She said that the state government had allocated RM300,000 the Forestry Department to reduce encroachment into the park.

"From September last year, the Hulu Perak district forestry office had taken the initiative to set up a special action unit to have joint operations with other enforcement agencies at the corridor of the Grik - Jeli Highway," she said.

Police had also arrested 34 foreigners and nine locals for encroaching, she added.

"Marine police also check on boats and vehicles that stop at the Pulau Banding public jetty," she said, adding that a total of 1,730 checks had been conducted from last year until July this year.

Earlier, state Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Saarani Mohamad told Datuk Abdul Manaf Hashim (BN-Pengkalan Baru) told the state assembly that the Kampar District Council had implemented recycling of disposed food to be turned into compost.

"Until the end of last year, 260 homes from four villages in Kampar had participated in the programme."

On another matter, the state recorded a 0.12 per cent or 283 pupils dropping out of primary school as of June 30 this year, while another 233,970 were in attendance.

State Education Committee chairman Dr Muhammad Amin Zakaria (BN-Batu Kurau) said several measures been taken to encourage these dropouts to "return" to school.

"Among them is the Jom Ke Sekolah programme. Besides that, there will also be house-to-house visits by teachers to the affected students to find out the reasons for dropping out," he said when replying to a question by Mohd Zawawi Abu Hassan (Pas-Gunung Semanggol).

Amin said another reason for them dropping out could be due to poverty.

Meanwhile, an opposition assemblyman urged the state government to look into the root cause as to why Indians formed the bulk of those involved in criminal activities.

Nga Kor Ming (DAP-Kepayang) said according to statistics from Bukit Aman, 71 per cent of arrested gangsters were Indians. He also expressed his worry over the recent spate of crimes in the country.

Nga, who is also Taiping MP, claimed that the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and Emergency Ordinance (EO) had nothing to do with the increase in crime cases.

"There is no proof to substantiate that. That excuse is being given to justify a new law to withhold suspects without trial."

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Malaysia: Totally protect the sambar deer, or lose it forever

WWF 27 Aug 13;

27 August 2013, Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) is calling for urgent and decisive action to save the sambar deer, a critical food source for wild tigers and a species that is already missing from several protected forests in the country.

The sambar deer, locally known as rusa, is facing extinction in Peninsular Malaysia due to poaching for its meat and for sport. Despite a six-year moratorium on hunting sambar deer that was put into place in 2009, scientists have found no evidence of population recovery to date.

The sambar deer has not been captured in camera trap studies in selected forests in Kelantan and Pahang, and are seen less frequently in areas studied in Johor by MYCAT partner organisations.

Rather than waiting until the moratorium runs out in 2014, MYCAT calls for an immediate change of the sambar deer’s legal status - from hunted species to totally protected species - under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

Total protection means absolutely no hunting or trade. Under the Act, penalties for hunting or keeping totally protected wildlife can reach RM300,000 (approx. USD91,075) and/or 10 years jail.

“The sambar deer needs both on-the-ground and legal protection now. The former has proved difficult given the meagre resources at hand, but the latter can be done today by the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment. It a serious situation and we hope he will give the sambar deer full legal protection,” says MYCAT General Manager, Dr. Kae Kawanishi.

This call is prompted by research in northern Taman Negara National Park, Pahang where MYCAT found that beyond the western border of the Park, the sambar deer is nearly extinct due to poaching. Even inside the Park, it has remained a rarity since the 1990s. Meanwhile, tiger population in the same area has plummeted over the past decade. In southern Pahang, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-Malaysia Programme has also not recorded any sambar deer on camera traps.

In Kelantan, WWF-Malaysia did not record any evidence of the sambar deer in scientific studies conducted in 2004, 2005 and 2012. PERHILITAN’s records show that the sambar deer was legally hunted in the same area in the early 80s, but it is now likely locally extinct in the Gunung Basor and Gunung Stong Utara Forest Reserves in Kelantan.
However, in Johor, where there has been a strictly-enforced hunting ban since 2008, the sambar deer have often been camera-trapped but less frequently than wild boar and bearded pigs.

“The data is clear. Strict field enforcement linked with a sympathetic policy of protection is crucial if the sambar deer is to survive,” says WCS-Malaysia Programme’s feline biologist, Liang Song Horng.

The survival of the sambar deer is also pivotal to realising the country’s goal of saving the Malayan tiger, our experts warn. A recent WWF-Malaysia study in Belum-Temengor found that where there are more sambar deer, there are more tigers.

“The sambar deer is the largest preferred tiger prey species. It provides the tiger with the greatest energy for the effort spent hunting it,” says WWF-Malaysia’s tiger biologist Dr. Mark Rayan.

“So, the two species are inextricably linked. If sambar deer numbers go down, tiger numbers will too and the evidence is already pointing in that direction,” he adds.

MYCAT urges this action in the hopes of making enforcement simpler for authorities and ensuring continued protection for the sambar deer, which has seen its wild population decimated by persistent illegal hunting for the wild meat market.

“Poaching has already driven the wild banteng and Javan rhino to extinction in Peninsular Malaysia, with the Malayan tiger and many other species not far behind. The time to avert this crisis is now,” says TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s Acting Regional Director, Dr. Chris Shepherd.

Rusa needed to save the tiger
Isabelle Lai The Star 8 Sep 13;

PETALING JAYA: A scientific study has discovered a direct link between sambar deer and tiger populations, leading to calls to declare the sambar deer a totally protected species or risk its extinction in peninsular Malaysia.

“Where there are more sambar deer, there are more tigers. It is very clear that the number of tigers was threefold higher in Royal Belum State Park where there is a significantly higher sambar population,” said WWF-Malaysia tiger biologist Dr Mark Rayan Darmaraj.

He added this link between the two species was one of the significant findings of his four-year-long PhD study done at the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex.

The sambar deer was the tiger’s largest preferred prey, he said.

Darmaraj explained that sambar deer, locally known as rusa, were more likely to populate areas which were far away from human populations and settlements, pointing out that there was restricted access to Royal Belum compared to the Temengor Forest Reserve.

He believed that Malaysia could double its tiger population by 2020 in some areas but stressed that tiger prey populations, such as the sambar deer, had to be increased as well.

Experts estimate there are around 500 tigers left in the peninsula, but Darmaraj’s study indicates that there could be just 300 to 400.

The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) warned the sambar deer’s survival was “pivotal” to realising the goal of saving the Malayan tiger.

It urged that the species be totally protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

“Total protection means absolutely no hunting or trade. Under the Act, penalties for hunting or keeping totally protected wildlife can be 10 years in jail, a RM300,000 fine, or both,” said MYCAT general manager Dr Kae Kawanishi.

Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic South-East Asia acting regional director Dr Chris Shepherd said the authorities must stop the poaching before the sambar deer and other species become extinct.

The sambar deer is facing extinction in the peninsula due to poaching for its meat and sport, and is already missing from several protected forests in the country.

There has been a six-year moratorium on hunting the sambar deer since 2009 but scientists have found no evidence of population recovery.

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Eighty sea turtles wash up dead on the coast of Guatemala

Eighty dead sea turtles have been recorded since the first week of July on the country's southeastern beaches
Lacey Avery for Mongabay 28 Aug 13;

An assortment of marine animals and birds reside along the black volcanic sand beaches of Guatemala's Pacific coast, but lately both residents and visitors on the southeast beaches of the country have observed a tragic event – the stranding of dead sea turtles.

Eighty dead sea turtles have been recorded since the first week of July on the beaches of La Barrona, Las Lisas, Chapeton and Hawaii according to a statement released by the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association (ARCAS), a Guatemalan non-profit organization formed by citizens in 1989.

"The entire coast has historically been a significant nesting area for olive ridley and leatherback sea turtles," Colum Muccio, ARCAS administrative director, told While not known to nest in Guatemala, east pacific green turtles forage in estuaries and mangrove waterways along the Pacific coast.

Tucked between Mexico and El Salvador, the 250 kilometers of coast is divided by 14 river mouths and peppered with beautiful mangrove wetlands and lagoons. In 1993, ARCAS initiated conservation activities in the Hawaii area with hopes of counteracting threats to leatherback and olive ridley sea turtle populations. The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, while the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) is listed as Vulnerable.

"We manage two of the 24 hatcheries on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, and carry out research and advocacy for sea turtle conservation," Muccio said.

According to the statement, nearby residents are worried because sea turtles are a valuable resource. Not only do the sea turtles draw tourists to the coast, but, despite their endangered status, the eggs are also a source of income.

"Sea turtle conservation efforts in Guatemala rely on the use of hatcheries, which are managed as part of a quasi-legal egg harvest," Muccio said. "Villagers are permitted to collect eggs that are deposited on Guatemalan beaches on the condition that 20 percent of each clutch is donated to a nearby hatchery."

The system was initiated in the mid 1980s to promote the sustainable use of sea turtle eggs, Muccio continued. The operating hatcheries along the Pacific coastline function at various levels based on financial resources of the administering organization.

Muccio states many hatcheries are underfunded, short-staffed and operating with limited scientific knowledge. Several hatcheries do not carry out beach monitoring or research activities, contributing to the deficit in accurate nesting and stranding data.

"Many projects are lacking in the key elements necessary for the present community-based conservation system to function successfully," Muccio said.

In addition to egg harvesting, one of the main threats to sea turtles on the Pacific coast of Guatemala is fisheries by-catch. The statement notes that the appearance of dead turtles on the beach coincides with the presence of shrimp trawlers in waters off these beaches.

"I don't think it's a coincidence that when shrimp trawlers appear in the ocean that we begin having stranded turtles," Muccio said.

Although Guatemalan trawlers are required to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs), Muccio said that enforcement is difficult and fines are very light.

"We are currently working on instituting a ban on bottom trawling," said Muccio. "This has recently been done in Belize, Costa Rica and Ecuador and El Salvador doesn't allow them closer than 3 miles from shore."

Leading marine turtle conservationists and researchers presented a petition to the government of Guatemala expressing their concern. According to the statement, the petition requests that the government take action to counter the mortality of sea turtles, including the monitoring of shrimp trawlers to establish the impact on marine turtle populations.

"Sea turtles are also very much part of the identity of the local culture and local communities often take pride in their hatcheries and their contributions to save the sea turtle," Muccio said.

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FAO: Save food campaign Asia-Pacific kicked off

Initiative aims to reduce post-harvest and consumer food waste
FAO 27 Aug 13;

Bangkok, Thailand, 27 Aug 2013 - Denouncing the huge amount of food that goes to waste, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, Hiroyuki Konuma, announced a new initiative aimed at stopping post-harvest food losses and market-to-consumer food waste.

"The Save Food Asia-Pacific Campaign seeks to raise awareness about the high levels of food losses - particularly post-harvest losses - and the growing problem of food waste in the region," Konuma said.

"FAO estimates that if the food wasted or lost globally could be reduced by just one quarter, this would be sufficient to feed the 870 million people suffering from chronic hunger in the world," said Konuma.

The announcement came as Konuma opened the two-day High-Level Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Food Losses and Food Waste in Asia and the Pacific Region in collaboration with the Asian Institute of Technology and other partners.

More than 130 participants from 20 countries attended the Consultation, including four Agriculture Ministers. The Consultation will study ways to reduce food loss and waste and is expected to issue a communiqué outlining actions that can save food from farm to table.

According to Konuma, "The world produces more or less sufficient food to meet the demand of its current population of 7 billion. However, 12.5 percent of the global population, or 868 million people, equivalent to one in eight people, go hungry every day. In 2012, the Asia-Pacific region was home to 536 million hungry people, or 62 percent of the world's undernourished."

The Asia-Pacific region benefitted from rapid economic growth in the first decade of the 21st century. But, successful economic growth did not alleviate hunger and poverty, because the benefits of economic growth were unevenly distributed, resulting in a widening income gap in many countries in the region.

According to statistics from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, an estimated 653 million people across the region, lived below the national poverty line in 2010.

Inefficient food systems

Yukol Limlamthong, Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, speaking at the Consultation's opening session, said: "Within the context of Asia and the Pacific Region, more effort is needed to raise global awareness of the critical issue of food losses and particularly post-harvest losses as well as food waste, which is a is increasing nowadays."

Limlamthoung added: "The Government of Thailand is deeply committed to working with FAO and with other partners and stakeholders in the region to promote the security of the region and also of the world."

Indian geneticist M. S. Swaminathan, who played a leading role in India's Green Revolution, said in his keynote address on reducing post-harvest losses for food security: "Food waste is also a waste of natural resources like land and water. To a great extent, food losses and waste are symbolic of the inefficiencies of food systems" and this explains "why food losses and waste are becoming so central to discussions on both food security and sustainable development."

Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai, Interim President and Professor at the Asian Institute of Technology, said in his remarks: "The issue of food loss and waste is important to our agenda at AIT." It is cross-cutting and multi-disciplinary and is being scientifically targeted by several fields of study at AIT including the recently opened Asian Center of Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (ACISAI).

The Save Food Campaign Asia-Pacific will be an on-going advocacy initiative that will appeal to consumers to have more respect for food and to stop wasting this precious commodity.

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Global warming slowdown linked to cooler Pacific waters

Matt McGrath BBC News 28 Aug 13;

Scientists say the slow down in global warming since 1998 can be explained by a natural cooling in part of the Pacific ocean.

Although they cover just 8% of the Earth, these colder waters counteracted some of the effect of increased carbon dioxide say the researchers.

But temperatures will rise again when the Pacific swings back to a warmer state, they argue.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

Climate sceptics and some scientists have argued that since 1998, there has been no significant global warming despite ever increasing amounts of carbon dioxide being emitted.

For supporters of the idea that man made emissions are driving up temperatures, the pause has become increasingly difficult to ignore.

Scientists have tried to explain it using a number of different theories but so far there is no general agreement on the cause.

"For people on the street it is very confusing as to which story is closer to the truth," lead author, Prof Shang-Ping Xie from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography told BBC News.

"We felt a similar contradiction and that's why we started doing these modelling studies."
Cooling the carbon

Prof Xie said there were two possible reasons why the continuing flow of CO2 has not driven the mercury higher.

The first is that water vapour, soot and other aerosols in the atmosphere have reflected sunlight back into space and thereby had a cooling effect on the Earth.

The second is natural variability in the climate, especially the impact of cooling waters in the tropical Pacific ocean.

Although it only covers 8.2% of the planet, the region is sometimes called the engine room of the world's climate system and atmospheric circulation.

Researchers already know that a naturally occurring cycle in this area, called the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, has a major impact on global climate.

But Prof Xie and colleagues were interested in a different cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that lasts for a much longer period of time.

To test his theory, Prof Xie and his colleagues developed a dynamic climate model that measured the greenhouse effect on temperatures but also included records of sea surface temperatures in this region of the eastern Pacific.

"Previous efforts using climate models take radiative forcing as the only input, externally, and they produce a temperature record close to observations except for the past 15 years," said Prof Xie.

"Only when we input equatorial Pacific ocean temperatures into our model, were we able to reproduce the flattening of the temperature record."
Swing continues

This model also explains some of the other contradictions seen since temperatures flat lined.

There have been major heat waves in Europe in 2003, Russia in 2010 and in the US in 2012.

Arctic sea ice also dropped to its lowest recorded level in 2012. All these are indications that the climate is continuing to warm, but the global average temperature has remained below the figure for 1998.

"The solution to this contradiction is that temperature has behaved differently between winter and summer seasons," said Prof Xie.

"The influence of the equatorial Pacific ocean is strongest in winter but weakest during the summer, so CO2 can keep working on the temperature and sea ice in the Arctic over the summer."

The last time the Pacific was in a relatively cold state was in the 30 year period from the 1940s to 1970s said Prof Xie and that coincides with the last hiatus in climate warming.

But the researchers warn that the impact of this multi-decadal cool trend will come to an end and will be replaced by a warming one. Global temperatures will rise once again.

"We're pretty confident that the swing up will come some time in the future, but the current science can't predict when that will be," said Prof Xie.

Other scientists have welcomed the study saying it offers a coherent explanation of the slowdown.

"The new simulation accurately reproduces the timing and pattern of changes that have occurred over the last four decades with remarkable skill, " said Dr Alex Sen Gupta from the University of New South Wales.

"This clearly shows that the recent slowdown is a consequence of a natural oscillation."

Other researchers believe the new work supports the idea that the heat in the atmosphere has gone into the oceans.

"This new study adds further evidence that the recent slowdown in the rate of global warming at the Earth's surface is explained by natural fluctuations in the ocean and is therefore likely to be a temporary respite from warming in response to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases," said Dr Richard Allan from the University of Reading.

Dr Will Hobbs from Australia's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies agrees.

He said: "Over the period that the authors analysed, observations showed a continued trapping of heat in the Earth's climate system, despite the temporary slowdown in surface warming, and an important question that the paper does not address is where this energy has gone.

"Almost certainly it is in the deep ocean."

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