Best of our wild blogs: 18 Sep 13

Save MacRitchie Forest: 19. Would Singapore’s most beautiful damselfly species be extinct by the construction of Cross Island Line? from Bird Ecology Study Group

THREE DAYS to the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

from The annotated budak

Butterflies Galore! : Branded Imperial
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Sky lantern restrictions spark creativity: helium balloons and LED lights released instead

Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 17 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: Restrictions on the release of sky lanterns in Singapore put in place last December have encouraged some people to think out of the box.

The restrictions follow a review of regulations on the conduct of aerial activities last year.

Sky lanterns are usually released during the Mid-Autumn festival but they are a fire hazard and also pose a hazard to aircraft in the vicinity.

With enhanced restrictions on the release of sky lanterns, some vendors said they have seen a drop in business.

In previous years, they could sell about ten a week while now it's fewer than two.

However, at the Ang Mo Kio-Hougang Mid-Autumn celebration last week, some opted to get creative by putting helium balloons inside the sky lantern and replacing the flame with LED lights.

MP of Ang Mo Kio GRC Yeo Guat Kwang, said: “We overcome the restrictions by looking at some of the safety aspects as well as choosing a location that we assure the authorities that we will not cause any problems."

- CNA/ec

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Malaysia: Kelantan implants chips in snakes to keep track of snake smugglers

New Straits Times 17 Sep 13;

KOTA BARU: The Kelantan Wildlife and Natural Parks Department (Perhilitan) is implanting microchips in captured snakes to keep track of the reptile population in the state.

Its director, Rahmat Topani, said the move was also aimed at helping the department keep track of snake smugglers.

He said microchips would be implanted in captured snakes before they were released back into the wild.

The microchips, which cost about RM20 each, would be implanted only in the bigger and more dangerous types of snakes, such as cobras and pythons.

Rahmat said the latest exercise to implant the microchips was held on Sunday, which saw five wildlife officers, led by the department assistant director Shaary Awang Besar, involved in the exercise. He added that 20 snakes were implanted with the microchips.

"The snakes will be released into jungles near Pasir Putih, Machang and Tanah Merah."

He said if the project proved to be a success, the department would extend it to other endangered species.

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Malaysia: A refuge for displaced and injured elephants

Kristy Inus New Straits Times 18 Sep 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Displaced and injured elephants will have a new place to call home in the Bornean Elephant Sanctuary (BES) which will be officially launched tomorrow.

The first phase of the project, which started in October last year, was completed on June 28, and a juvenile female elephant has become the first "guest".

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said it would not have been possible without the assistance of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), the project's main sponsor, and Japanese partners led by Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) Japan.

Besides funding from the state government, MPOC has pledged RM5.2 million for the project, of which RM500,000 was used in phase one. BCT Japan and its 12 corporate partners, including Asahiyama Zoo and Saraya Corporation, have provided RM1.6 million in funds for the first phase.

BES, located at Lot 8 of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, covers 1,214ha with a built-up area of 25 ha. The development is expected to be completed in the next two to three years.

"The total infrastructure cost is about RM30 million, while the overall master plan, which includes the setting up of the ecological corridor between Segaliud Lokan Forest Reserve and Batu Putih, costs between RM50 million to RM60 million," he told a press conference here yesterday.

He said staff for the first phase comprised six keepers with two each from BCT, Wildlife Rescue Unit, which is funded by MPOC and SWD. They are led by a senior ranger.

"In the long run, BES will also house other wildlife affected by human conflict."

MPOC deputy chief executive officer Dr Kalyana Sundram said they had started collaborating with SWD on several projects under the council's Wildlife Conservation Fund formed six years ago. These included the orang utan and rescue unit.

He said the BES project fitted with their conservation programme as elephants tend to wander into plantations and they wanted the animals to be safely translocated.

Saraya Corp president Yusuke Saraya, who represented BCT Japan, said the company, which produces eco-friendly solvents and detergents using palm kernel, was proud to be involved in the project to show a balance in taking care of conservation while benefiting from the oil palm industry.

Laurentius estimated that there were 60 to 200 elephants currently displaced in different pockets of areas in Tawau, Sandakan and other remote areas in Sabah, while 30 or more could be injured due to trapping devices like snares and pest control activities by plantations.

"Once BES starts moving, we expect a lot of calls for us to help with displaced and injured animals," he said, adding that the public could call any Wildlife Department office.

On the 10 Borneo pygmy elephants found dead near Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, Tawau, between last December and January, he said they were still working with the police to identify the culprits.

Sanctuary to help protect Borneo pygmy elephants
The Star 18 Sep 13;

KOTA KINABALU: The Borneo Elephant Sanctuary, which is set to open tomorrow, will have a key role in protecting and conserving endangered Borneo pygmy elephants in Sabah.

While helping to rehabilitate displaced and orphaned elephants and releasing them back into the wild, the first and only sanctuary in Sabah will be the hub for the conservation of the species and will create public awareness.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Laurentius Ambu said the sanctuary in the Kinabatangan district in Sabah’s east coast was in a natural habitat and specifically designed to rescue elephants that were injured by humans or in an elephant fight.

“It will also be home to orphaned elephants,” he added.

Ambu said the sanctuary had become a reality because of major funding from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

The council, through its conservation fund, had pledged RM5.2mil for the sanctuary and the department is looking forward to more funding once it starts operating.

Ambu also thanked the Borneo Conservation Trust Japan which provided some RM1.6mil for the construction of the first phase of the sanctuary.

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Indonesia: April Accused of ‘Greenwashing’ With Riau Conservation Project

Erwida Maulia & Jonathan Vit Jakarta Globe 17 Sep 13;

Environmental groups accused Indonesia’s second-largest pulp and paper company Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd. (April) of using a $17 million peatland restoration project in Riau’s heavily degraded Kampar Peninsula to “greenwash” the continued cutting of old-growth forests on Tuesday.

The pulp company, a subsidiary of the Singapore-listed agribusiness RGE, partnered with Fauna & Flora International (FFI) to restore more than 20,000 hectares of damaged peatland in the Kampar Peninsula. The peninsula, once home to rich tropical forests, has been heavily depleted of natural tree cover by pulp and palm oil companies.

The project, dubbed Riau Ecosystem Restoration (RER), will create a conservation area where work can be done to restore the region’s peatland while cataloging and preserving the existing flora and fauna, the company said.

“We are pleased that the project is coming into clear focus,” said Bey Soo Khiang, head of April and founder of RER. “From this point forward, we anticipate steady progress toward our goal of reviving the land and protecting it for future generations.”

This recent push for peatland restoration caught the attention of the Pekanbaru-based Forest Rescue Network Riau (Jikalahari), a watchdog group focused on deforestation and land issues in the once-forest rich province. Jikalahari accused April of greenwashing efforts to continue the clearing of old-growth forest in Riau by subsidiary Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), including the cutting of forests in a disputed concession on the peat-heavy Padang Island.

“What we see is that this is no more than greenwashing as they are still cutting trees elsewhere, such as Pulau Padang,” Jikalahari coordinator Muslim Rasyid said. “We know RAPP’s track record of wood exploitation. Suddenly they’re [now] changing the direction of their business to restoration?”

More than half the wood processed by RAPP’s massive pulp mill in Riau has historically come from existing tropical forests, according to estimates by numerous environmental and forestry groups. According to Greenpeace, the company announced plans to convert an additional 60,000 hectares of existing forest into pulp and paper last year.

Jikalahari questioned the Ministry of Forestry’s quick response to April’s application to restore the peatlands. Several similar projects proposed by other organizations were declined or remained in limbo, Muslim said.

“[We] question the ministry’s fast response to RAPP’s application for the restoration project when applications from many other companies have been abandoned,” he said. “I’m sure [RAPP] will have two or three other [restoration] projects after this.”

Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry, the body tasked with both protecting and developing the nation’s shrinking rainforests, awarded the project a 60-year license in May.

“This ecosystem license granted by the ministry is significant as it is the first to be granted to an organization with a collaborative structure involving the private sector and civil society groups,” Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said in the company’s press release. “I see this collaborative model working for a common purpose as an innovative boost to the government’s efforts to ensure a balance in responsible forest industry development with conservation of important forest areas.”

The project’s website championed April as a “pioneer in implementing sustainability practices in the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia.” The description is a stark departure from environmental groups’ assessments, which once called the company one of “Indonesia’s, and perhaps the world’s, most destructive corporations.”

While pulp and paper giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) recently made a commitment to sustainable pulping practices, April has gone the other way, opting for less external oversight in its operations. The company pulled out of the Forest Stewardship Council in June, ending a period of oversight by the coalition of environmental organizations. April said it ended the relationship over concerns with the council’s certification program, but environmental groups suspected other motives.

“Before an NGO-initiated FSC complaint process even had an opportunity to begin to investigate April’s deforestation practices, the company had effectively walked out on the FSC’s certification scheme,” Bustar Maitar, head of Indonesia Forest Campaign for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, wrote in a scathing blog post shortly after the announcement. “Seemingly, April did not want to risk the scrutiny of FSC’s Policy for Association complaints process.”

The latest allegations of greenwashing came on the heels of a highly publicized dispute between the forest minister and celebrity activist Harrison Ford. The Hollywood star came under fire after Zulkifli accused Ford of “attacking” with questions about the ministry’s patchy track record with curbing illegal logging.

Ford, who was in Indonesia making a Showtime documentary on climate change called “Years of Living Dangerously,” was then threatened in the press with deportation despite pre-existing plans to leave the country.

“There’s no privilege for him although he is a great a actor,” presidential adviser Andi Arief told Agence France-Presse. “His crew and those who were helping him in Indonesia must be questioned to find out their motives for harassing a state institution.

“If necessary, we will deport him.”

Indonesia’s rain forests have disappeared at an alarming rate as agribusiness companies ramped up operations to meet the demands of China’s commodity boom. More than 4 million hectares of forested land have vanished in Riau since 1982 as the province booked the fastest rate of deforestation in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The cutting of the nation’s rain forests will likely continue despite international condemnation. The Forestry Ministry announced plans last year to significantly expand the nation’s pulp capacity in the next decade. The expansion would include the construction of seven new pulp mills and the awarding of concessions in previously untouched forests in eastern Indonesia, according to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

April Prepares New Forest Restoration Project in Riau
Anushka Shahjahan Jakarta Globe 17 Sep 13;

An aerial picture made available on 10 May 2013 shows deforested land in Indragiri Hulu, Riau province on May 4, 2013. According to Greenpeace, Indonesia is implementing a forest moratorium, but in fact the deforestation is still happening, with customary forests, community forests, protected forests and national parks also being slated. This not only impacts the emission of Green House Gases, and natural disasters, but also social conflict and poverty as the community lost their access to the forest resources and livelihood. (EPA Photo/Bagus Indahono)

An aerial picture made available on 10 May 2013 shows deforested land in Indragiri Hulu, Riau province on May 4, 2013. According to Greenpeace, Indonesia is implementing a forest moratorium, but in fact the deforestation is still happening, with customary forests, community forests, protected forests and national parks also being slated. This not only impacts the emission of Green House Gases, and natural disasters, but also social conflict and poverty as the community lost their access to the forest resources and livelihood. (EPA Photo/Bagus Indahono)

Indonesia’s second largest pulp and paper company is preparing to start work on a project to restore a degraded peat forest in Sumatra, marking a new direction for the company that has left some skeptical.

Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER), a non-profit organization started by Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (April), will carry out the project, which aims to rehabilitate 20,265 hectares of land in the southeastern part of Riau’s Kampar Peninsula. RER secured the ecosystem restoration license from the Ministry of Forestry last May, one of just a handful of such licenses the ministry has granted since launching the program in 2004.

RER announced on Saturday that the work plan for the project had been approved and the organization would begin working in the forest within two months.

The announcement comes at a time when deforestation in Sumatra is in the international spotlight. After a highly-publicized meeting last week, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan accused actor Harrison Ford, who was in Indonesia filming a documentary, of “attacking” him with questions about Indonesia’s forest policy. The brutal killing of a 22-year-old Sumatran elephant in Aceh also grabbed national and international attention, highlighting the consequences of Indonesia’s rapid industrialization and its toll on the environment.

April has been widely criticized by environmental groups such as Greenpeace, who accuse the paper giant of cutting down natural forests in Sumatra to feed its paper mills. When the company announced its Kampar Peninsula project, local environmental groups such as the Forest Rescue Network Riau (Jikalahari) called the project “greenwashing” and said the company was continuing to destroy forests in other parts of the province.

RER said the project aims to restore the ecosystem, conserve biodiversity, prevent greenhouse gas emissions and improve the well-being of local communities.

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