Best of our wild blogs: 23 Oct 13

Asian Koel Swallows Ceram Palm Fruits
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Beautiful blue fruits of the Lasianthus shrub
from lekowala!

98% of marine fish headed for the aquarium trade die within a year from news by Tiffany Roufs

Read more!

Do more to curb monkey population

Straits Times Forum 23 Oct 13;

MY FAMILY has been living in a small landed property on the fringe of one of the reservoirs for about 35 years, enjoying the tranquil and refreshing environment.

However, for the last seven years, we have become virtual prisoners in our own home because of the invasion of wild monkeys in our neighbourhood.

We are forced to shut all windows and doors to keep them out; window grilles are no good as the smaller monkeys can still squeeze in.

We have no choice but to leave our house in the morning and return only at night, when these animals go back to their forest abodes.

Monkeys have also made a mess of our neighbours' homes - they rummage through wardrobes, scatter clean clothes, scamper over beds and raid the fridge.

The animals are even bold enough to snatch plastic bags from the hands of passers-by and physically attack people.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society has suggested keeping our food out of sight. But this does not work as the monkeys are able to open the doors of fridges and cabinets.

Chasing them out of our homes is dangerous as they bare their teeth threateningly when confronted. Also, government agencies like the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority have advised us not to confront or make eye contact with them, much less chase them.

Wild monkeys are now used to living among humans and find it easier to forage for food in human communities than in the jungles where they belong. Animal lovers also feed them.

Perhaps, like in Hong Kong, more fruit trees can be planted in the jungles to encourage the animals to remain there. But this is not a good solution as the monkeys do not have natural predators to keep their numbers under control.

They should not be allowed to invade human living space. We are not blood-thirsty and do not approve of culling wild animals for no reason. But when there is a clash between humans and wild animals, culling seems to be the only answer, and this is an accepted practice internationally.

Although the Government did cull quite a number of wild monkeys recently, we still see a good number of them roaming around our estate.

Do we need someone to get badly mauled by wild monkeys before doing something?

Han Cheng Fong

Read more!

Unmanned boat charts water quality at Kallang Basin

David Ee Straits Times 23 Oct 13;

NO NEED for alarm if you spot a boat in Kallang Basin missing its pilot. For the first time, an unmanned, solar-powered boat is being used by the Waterways Watch Society (WWS) to chart water quality in the Marina catchment and teach students about keeping Singapore's waters clean.

Designed by students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Engineering, it is equipped with sensors to measure pH levels as well as the amount of dissolved oxygen. These values help indicate how polluted the waters are.

The 2.3m-long vessel, which takes just one person to operate remotely through a wireless Internet connection, was launched at Kallang Basin yesterday. Onboard cameras relay live video back to the boat operator's laptop, while a laser rangefinder highlights obstacles in its path.

The weekly data it collects will be shared with national water agency PUB, which already collects water samples daily for testing. More importantly, said WWS chairman Eugene Heng, seeing the high-tech boat in action will hopefully excite youngsters as they learn about the non-governmental organisation's work clearing litter from waterways here.

"If you don't make it exciting and fun, they won't come," he said. "Kids need to know that the water they use and play in could be dirty, so they then learn to keep it clean."

Each day, 10 tonnes of litter flow into the Marina catchment, which is fed by the Kallang, Geylang and Singapore rivers, he said.

As a result, the waters in Kallang Basin, for instance, are alkaline, exceeding 9 on the pH scale, when the optimum level should be close to 7. Levels of dissolved oxygen are also low, which could prevent aquatic life from thriving, he added.

Sonar technology and other sensors could be added to the boat in future to map out how much litter clutters the catchment bed, said Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Mechanical Engineering senior lecturer Regina Ng.

The $50,000 craft, which was funded by the Tote Board and the polytechnic, will be on display at the annual Singapore International Energy Week at Marina Bay Sands from Oct 28.

Read more!

NParks offers free guided tours to green corridors

Kenneth Cheng Today Online 23 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE — Nature lovers can register for complimentary guided tours to two nature ways next month.

Organised by the National Parks Board (NParks) as part of the Clean and Green Singapore 2014 campaign, the tours let participants get close to birds and butterflies, and learn about various plants as they are taken around the Yishun Nature Way on Nov 2 and Tampines Nature Way on Nov 3.

Lined with trees and shrubs, nature ways are routes that facilitate the movement of birds and butterflies, among other wildlife, from one green space to another.

Ms Kay Pungkothai, NParks Deputy Director of Horticulture and Community Gardening, said the tours are a chance for the public to “enjoy rich biodiversity right at their doorstep”.

To sign up, email NParks at The tours will each accommodate 35 participants and run from 8.30am for two-and-a-half hours.

NParks also unveiled a children’s book by Mr Neil Humphreys today (Oct 22). Titled Secrets of the Swamp, it is an adventure story that aims to nurture in the young a deeper appreciation of Singapore’s biodiversity.

The campaign, a year-long initiative with the theme Every Action Counts, will be launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday.

Read more!

Suspected abandoned pedigree cats found on St John's Island

Leong Wai Kit Channel NewsAsia 22 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was at St John's Island to conduct a neutering exercise to help contain a growing stray cat population there. It came across 15 pedigree cats.

The group said the fact they are purebreds suggests they were probably abandoned.

SPCA had carried out a "trap, neuter and release" programme over the weekend. 31 cats were neutered.

Corinne Fong, SPCA executive director, said: "A lot of them were still unsterilised. We knew that we would have to do it again sooner or later.

"So it was fortuitous that a passing pleasure craft - they dock their boats along those islands quite a fair bit - reported back to us that there were many stray cats and kittens on the island."

The team came across 80 stray cats in addition to 15 pedigrees.

SPCA said this could be a result of owners leaving purebreds there.

One pedigree can cost more than S$1500.

Ms Fong said: “If you're talking about Ragdolls and Russian Blues and Persians, they are not there like local cats. I can understand if there are local cats there. But these are purebreds. What are they doing on the island to begin with?

"We don't know when they were abandoned, no one can tell because it's a fairly big island. There're a lot of forested areas and many unmanned beach fronts. Nobody can say.”

Some animal experts said they are not surprised if people were dumping animals on the islands.

Louis Ng, executive director of Animal Concerns Research & Education Society, said: “You see on Kusu Island, a lot of people are abandoning their tortoises, turtles and terrapins on the island as well, so people are doing this.

“We're going offshore and we're looking at abandonment not just of dogs and cats, but of a lot of exotic species - the green iguanas, the star tortoises. People buy them illegally and they release them back in the wild.”

Mr Ng added: "Obviously it is cruel to abandon pets. With the cats in particular - they have formed an emotional bond with (the owner) and abandoning them is cruel, unethical as well.

"And I think if they're abandoned on St John's Island, we must bear in mind that cats are territorial so it's on an island with limited space where, you know, unlike mainland where they can run to somewhere else. When they're all trapped on an island there are welfare issues.”

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore told Channel NewsAsia it will investigate all feedback on animal cruelty - including pet abandonment.

Those found guilty face up to a S$10,000 fine and a year's jail.

SPCA sent a team of 23 people, including full-time staff and volunteers, as well as lecturers and students from Temasek Polytechnic's vet technology course. The SPCA also brought along surgical equipment and some 15 cages for the three-day project.

The project involved trapping the stray cats to be neutered. They also had to sterilise the cages before and after neutering the cats. The neutered cats would have to go without food and water for about 10 hours, as part of the procedure. They were released on Monday.

SPCA conducted four trips to the island in 2011. During that time, SPCA neutered about 70 cats.

- CNA/xq

Read more!

Malaysia: Coral reef restoration in 8 states

Rahmat Khairulrijal New Straits Times 23 Oct 13;

WIDE-SCALE INITIATIVE: One of the aims is to increase fish population, says biodiversity council

KUALA LUMPUR: THE National Biodiversity Council, at its first meeting yesterday, agreed to launch a massive project to restore coral reefs in eight states.
The projects will be carried out in Kedah, Perak, Malacca, Pahang, Johor, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak.

"This project aims to preserve marine diversity and it will be implemented via smart partnerships between the respective state governments and Marine Parks Department, universities, non-governmental organisations and corporate sector," the council said in a statement after the meeting, which was held at Parliament.

The meeting was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Present were Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel and menteris besar and chief ministers of the states involved.

The council said the project would contribute towards enhancing national biodiversity, as well as increasing the fish population, which had recorded a decline.

The move would boost the aesthetic value of the marine ecosystem, the council said.

The council also agreed to the introduction of a national biodiversity centre that would serve as a think-tank to increase the interphase between biodiversity science and policy.
"It will be a research centre for data collection and biodiversity development.

"We have also decided to use the centre as a National Competent Authority, which is a focal point to implement Access to Biological Resources and Benefit Sharing," said the council.
The council urged Sabah and Sarawak to establish biodiversity centres in both states.

Other issues discussed in the meeting include the proposed national action plan regarding Invasive Alien Species to prevent the entry of such species to protect the country's biodiversity, as well as steps taken to protect endangered plant species.

Read more!

Indonesia Needs to Review Legal Land Classification: WRI
Jakarta Globe 22 Oct 13;

Indonesia, the world’s leading producer and exporter of palm oil, can further expand palm oil production while avoiding forest loss and social conflicts, but will need to review its legal land classifications, the World Resources Institute said on Tuesday.

In an executive summary of its latest issue brief, “How to Change Legal Land Use Classifications to Support More Sustainable Palm Oil in Indonesia,” the Washington-based WRI said that many forest estate lands that are settled or degraded, and that could be used for palm-oil plantation, are legally unavailable.

The WRI said that its study found 5.3 million hectares of suitable land were classified as forest estates — legally unavailable for agricultural development — but that the official rating of the land may not reflect its actual status.

It said that as of 2011, approximately 70 percent of Indonesia’s total land area was classified as kawasan hutan by the Ministry of Forestry, but this may no longer conform to the physical reality of the land cover.

“Many forest estate lands are settled or degraded, and many nonforest estate lands host rich primary forests and extensive peatlands,” the report said. “And, unfortunately, much of the already-degraded, low-carbon land that would be suitable for sustainable palm oil is legally off-limits to development.”

WRI said that based on a desktop legal review, it found multiple methods for changing legal land classifications in Indonesian law, so that companies could expand certified sustainable palm-oil production in areas that were previously legally unavailable.

“Our key recommendation is that the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Public Works should clarify and simplify land swap policies,” it said.

The two ministries should collaborate on producing authoritative and consistent maps, documenting and reducing the steps needed to approve spatial plans, as well as cooperating with other ministries and local agencies to make data on land cover and use widely available.

The Ministry of Forestry should issue a clear regulation for conducting land swaps, it said.

Land swaps are already conducted informally as part of Indonesia’s country-wide spatial planning process every five years. But there is no clear legal guidance for these swaps, and efforts to conduct a land swap for environmental or social goals are often held back.

The Ministry of Forestry, in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Works and local governments, should issue a specific regulation to legally enable these land swaps, including a precise definition for the term “land swap”, lay out clear guidance for parties attempting a swap, and reduce unnecessary steps to add and subtract areas under Ministry of Forestry-controlled Forest Estate.

“The Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Public works should ensure that the legal classification of land fits reality on the ground,” WRI also recommended.

It said that the ministries should work with Indonesian district heads and governors to match spatial plans to actual conditions.

Also important according to the institute, is that decision-making should be based on a single, authoritative and consistent set of maps.

Local and national ministries should support initiatives such as the Indonesian President’s OneMap to ensure that both national and local level plans are incorporated into a single, publicly-accessible map and database, the institute said.

At present, it said that each ministry produced its own maps, but they have not been harmonized with each other or with maps at various jurisdictional levels.

“Addressing these challenges will help Indonesian companies, governments,and communities use land more efficiently, preserve valuable forests, and expand business prospects,” WRI said.

Indonesia has rapidly expanded its palm oil production over the past several decades to become the top producer of palm oil worldwide, with crude palm oil exports valued at US$ 21.6 billion in 2012.

However, the growth of the palm oil industry has not been without consequences. Conversion of forests to oil palm plantations is a major driver of forest loss, affecting biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, and local livelihoods.

Read more!

Indonesia-EU Forestry Agreement Breakthrough In Fight Against Illegal Timber Trade

Antara 22 Oct 13;

Jakarta (Antara News) - The long-waited Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade - Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA) was finally signed recently by Indonesia and the European Union (EU) following six years of negotiations involving government officials, civil society, and the private sector.

Indonesia is the first Asian country and the largest timber exporter to enter into such an agreement, which aims to ensure that all Indonesian timber entering the EU market is produced legally and has passed all legal verification channels with the EU.

Four African countries---Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Ghana---have already signed similar agreements with the EU.

The pact is expected to help fight the trade in illegal timber, a driver of environmentally damaging deforestation in the Asian country, which has the world`s third-largest forest coverage after Brazil and the Congo.

The Indonesia-EU FLEGT-VPA was signed by Indonesia`s Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan; European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik; and Environmental Affairs Minister Valentinas Mazuronis, representing the Lithuanian presidency of the EU Council of Ministers, in Brussels, Belgium, on Sept. 30, 2013.

The deal, which covers a licensing system related to timber exported by Indonesia to the 28 EU member nations based on the Timber Legality Verification System, was hailed by parties engaged in environmental preservation as well as the forestry industry.

Director of the Multi-stakeholder Forestry Program (MFP) at the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI) Diah Raharjo said the agreement reflected the EU`s trust in Indonesia`s forestry management and forestry industry through its application of the Timber Legality Verification System (TLVS).

Diah recalled that the TLVS, which is inspired by the 2001 Bali Declaration on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG), was drafted by various stakeholders, including the government, academicians, and NGOs, between 2003 and 2009.

The long process toward the signing of the FLEGT-VPA was facilitated by KEHATI through the MFP, a bilateral cooperation agreement between the government of Indonesia and the British government, represented by UK AID.

"We are pleased that the FLEGT-VPA has been signed because it will help enhance the growth of forestry management in Indonesia," said Diah Raharjo.

From the industry`s perspective, the agreement reflects Indonesia`s progress in entering the European market, according to Sinarmas` Director Sandrawati Wibowo.

"We are pleased that Indonesia`s timber is being recognized by the European economic community," she noted.

Potocnik also expressed happiness that Indonesia and the EU have finally agreed to fight illegal logging and its trade.

"This agreement is good for the environment and good for responsible business," said the EU`s Environment Commissioner.

Hoping that the agreement will be implemented smoothly and successfully, EU President Mazuronis said the signing of the agreement had marked a new and significant chapter in the relationship between Indonesia and the EU.

For Minister Zulkifli Hasan, the agreement is a breakthrough and has signaled strategic cooperation between producing and consuming countries, particularly between Indonesia and the EU.

"This agreement demonstrates that both parties do not tolerate illegal logging or an illegal timber trade. It also reflects our mutual commitment to timber trade that is guaranteed by legal certification," the minister added.

Following the signing of the agreement, Indonesia and the EU will begin the ratification process for its implementation.

Indonesian Ambassador to Belgium and the EU Arif Havaz Oegroseno hailed the signing of the agreement, which has taken seven years. He hopes the agreement will be ratified by April 2014.

Indonesia`s timber must comply with EU Timber Regulation No. 995/2010, which bans illegal timber products from entering the EU`s markets, once the agreement is fully implemented.

Indonesia is Asia`s leading exporter of timber to Europe, with Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, and Italy as its main destinations.

The EU imported $1.2 billion worth of timber and paper from Indonesia in 2010, about 15 percent of the country`s total exports in the forestry sector.

Minister Hasan, before leaving for Brussels last month, said the agreement was expected to contribute to the government program to eradicate illegal logging in the country.

Timber-importing countries, however, should fully accept Indonesian timber products that bear a legal certificate without restriction, he remarked.

Consumer countries are expected to refuse the import of illegal timber products, he added.

"It would be unfair if consumer countries continued to import illegal timber products when we have worked so hard to eradicate illegal logging," he explained.

Indonesia has already signed the TLVS agreement with several other countries such as the United States and Australia.

Earlier, the minister had claimed that Indonesia was ready to enter the global market with the application of the TLVS.

The TLVS certificate, which has been translated into 22 languages in the EU, indicates that the timber products were made from legally harvested logs.

The minister said last year that Indonesia had shipped timber with a V-Legal certificate to eight EU member countries to test the credibility of the system.

"Therefore, I think it is right to say that Indonesia is absolutely ready to enter the global market with its legal timber products," he stated.

KEHATI`s Executive Director MS Sembiring pointed out that most of Indonesia`s timber and furniture, which are exported, come from small and medium-scale enterprises. Therefore, the MFP-KEHATI is focused on assisting small-scale businesses, added Sembiring.

Sembiring hopes that the VPA will be implemented smoothly and that the civil society will help monitor the implementation for optimal results.

The biggest challenge for Indonesia now is to help small-scale businesses to integrate with the system, he noted.
(f001/INE )

Editor: Fardah

Read more!

29 charged in Riau forest fires

The Jakarta Post 22 Oct 13;

The Riau Police have charged 29 people in connection with starting forest fires to clear land for plantations in the province last June.

"Among the suspects are field workers and plantation owners," Riau Police chief Brig Gen, Condro Kirono said in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Monday, as quoted by the Antara news agency.

According to the police, some of the suspects were already on trial for their alleged misconduct, while others were undergoing further investigation.

All the suspects are accused of violating Article 46, 48, and 49 of the plantation regulation and Articles 117,118 and 119 of the environmental regulation and face sentences of between three and 10 years in prison.

Last June, much of Riau province was blanketed by a thick haze caused by the fires, displacing thousands of people. Neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia filed complaints with Indonesia as haze from the burning forests entered their territories.

Previously, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) had asked the government to take the strictest possible action against those who set the fires.

"Police and related ministries should be firm against perpetrators of environmental crimes," said the forum's national manager of policy and legal defense executive, Muhnur Satyahaprabu.

Read more!

Thai floods force closure of 17 factories in industrial zone

Amy Sawitta Lefevre PlanetArk 22 Oct 13;

Seventeen factories were temporarily shut on Monday in a major Thai industrial zone dominated by foreign companies, after flood waters blocked nearby roads, a senior official said.

But the official did not identify the stricken plants at the Amata Nakorn Industrial Estate, a sprawling manufacturing zone home to more than 500 factories, located 114 km (71 miles) east of the capital, Bangkok.

The 17 factories were shut after the workers proved to be unable to reach them and the navy has been asked to help pump out the water, Wibun Krommadit, Amata's chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

"There is flood water outside the premises and on some surrounding roads, blocking entry for workers who are unable to easily get to work," Wibun said.

Nearly half the factories in the industrial estate are operated by Japanese companies.

Floods have spread across more than half of Thailand's provinces this year, but the government has ruled out any repeat of the devastating floods of late 2011.

Those floods were the worst in half a century and caused massive disruption to industry and global supply chains, slashing economic growth to just 0.1 percent in 2011.

Some facilities at Amata Nakorn, spread over 3,020 hectares (7,450 acres), produce parts for major Japanese automakers. Besides auto parts, Thailand is the world's largest producer of hard-disk drives and a key maker of electronic components.

The estate was using more than 100 water pumps to speed drainage and the situation had improved from the weekend, with levels in many areas dropping 15 to 20 cm (6 inches), Wibun added.

Flood waters have receded in much of Thailand over the past week but some remain trapped in parts of the eastern industrial belt. Authorities were confident the situation was under control.

"If there's no more heavy rain, we expect the flooding situation to ease considerably within the next two days," said Khomsan Ekachai, governor of Chonburi province, where the Amata Nakorn estate is located.

Floods this year have hit 47 of Thailand's 77 provinces, killing 76 people, disaster prevention officials say.

More than 3 million people have been affected by flooding since July.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez)

Read more!

Indonesia: Greenpeace slams palm oil giant supplying Oreo and Gillette

Google News (AFP) 22 Oct 13;

Jakarta — Oreo cookies and Gillette shaving cream are among products driving the destruction of Indonesia's forests, Greenpeace said Tuesday, accusing agri giant Wilmar International for supplying "dirty palm oil" to make the grocery items.

In its report "Licence to Kill", Greenpeace said that Singapore-based Wilmar, the world's biggest palm oil processor, was sourcing its oil from illegally cleared land and destroying the habitat of critically endangered Sumatran tigers.

"Until Wilmar commits to a no-deforestation policy, their trade of palm oil to big household brands... makes consumers unwitting accomplices in the extinction of Indonesia's 400 remaining Sumatran tigers," head of Greenpeace's Forest Campaign in Indonesia, Bustar Maitar, said.

Wilmar supplies more than a third of the world's palm oil, according to the company's website, and its oil can be found in Oreo cookies, Gillette shaving cream and Clearasil face wash, among an array of grocery items in more than 50 countries.

Greenpeace said Wilmar was continuing to source palm fruit from plantations on illegally cleared land within Sumatra island's protected Tesso Nilo National Park, prime tiger habitat.

The report also said that fire had hit the permit area of another of Wilmar's suppliers in June, when blazes swept through Sumatra's forests for weeks, covering Singapore and Malaysia in a blanket of hazardous smog.

Indonesian officials said most were deliberately lit to clear forested land and grow palm oil.
Wilmar denied suggestions its supplier had deliberately lit land-clearing fires, saying in a statement the blaze was on a plantation that was likely ignited by surrounding flames.

"We are currently reviewing our business practices, including our sourcing policy, working with certain international supply chain experts," Wilmar spokesperson Lim Li Chuen told AFP.

The company said it had issued "a stern reminder to all staff" of its policy to only source palm fruit grown legally and that any supplier trying to sell illegally grown fruit would be "dropped altogether".

Wilmar is the latest company to be targeted by Greenpeace, which has taken aim at several high-profile firms and campaigned for responsible consumer spending.

Nestle and paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper have pledged zero-deforestation policies after Greenpeace exposed their unsustainable practices.

Indonesia is home to around 10 percent of the world's tropical forest and has struggled to curb rampant illegal logging.

The government has suspended the issuance of new land-clearing permits for certain types of forest for more than two years in a carbon-cutting scheme, which began with the backing of $1 billion from Norway under a UN scheme.

Indonesian government figures show that land-use change and forest degradation account for 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

Read more!