Best of our wild blogs: 1 Nov 13

Sex and the Birds: 3. Fidelity and Promiscuity
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Tay Kheng Soon shares his thoughts with SIF’s Singapore magazine
from Otterman speaks

Scientists: to save the Malayan tiger, save its prey
from news by Tiffany Roufs

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Malaysia: Johor state prepared for flood season

New Straits Times 31 Oct 13;

COME HIGH WATER: Johor Civil Defence Department has the manpower and gear to weather expected storms

JOHOR BARU: THE Johor Civil Defence Department (JPAM) is geared up to meet possible year-end floods with a staff strength of 1,000, including volunteers.

JPAM deputy director Mohd Zulkhairi Bin Shamsudin said JPAM personnel had undergone training to rescue flood victims and render first aid to the injured on the ground.

"Our personnel have been taught to give priority to pregnant women, the elderly and children in a rescue operation.

"The department has always worked closely with the Johor State Welfare Department (JKM), state drainage and irrigation department as well as non-governmental organisations and related government agencies during emergency operations," he said.

"We do not have to worry much about manpower as the staff of the respective district offices and local residents are ever ready to assist us in any way during an emergency."

JPAM has 27 boats comprising aluminium and rigid boats.

"Each aluminium boat can ferry six or seven passengers while the rigid boat can accommodate more.

"We have nine lorries and nine four-wheel vehicle to ferry victims to the evacuation centres," he said.

Zulkhairi said the flood-prone areas were Batu Pahat, Muar and Kota Tinggi while the rivers are Sungai Skudai and Sungai Tebrau, both in Johor Baru, Sungai Muar (Muar) Sungai Sedili (Kota Tinggi), Sungai Benut (Pontian) and Sungai Endau (Endau), among others.

JKM has established 649 evacuation centres in 10 districts in preparation of the expected floods.

Meanwhile, it was reported the Johor Fire and Rescue Services Department was also fully prepared for the flood season, which is any time from now until March next year.

Its director Datuk Ab Ghani Daud had said that although the state had low rainfall, there was a risk of floods because of prevalent weather changes.

Ghani said rainfall was expected to be evenly scattered throughout the state during the rainy season but a prolonged downpour could result in floods.

From Dec 18, 2006, to Jan 13, 2007, a series of floods wreaked havoc in parts of Johor.
In the tail-end of 2006, the state was hit by one of the worst floods in history, with the water level reaching 29cm on Dec 19.

Kota Tinggi and Segamat were the worst-hit with both towns becoming completely inaccessible by land.

Flood waters inundated and damaged homes and property. Many victims were evacuated.

A second wave of floods hit unexpectedly on the third week of January 2007. Eight districts were flooded. This time around, the worst-hit towns were Kluang and Batu Pahat.

The two calamities caused the government some RM1.5 billion and are considered the costliest floods in Malaysian history.

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Japan's hunts threaten some dolphins and whales with extinction, says EIA

Japan relying on out-of-date data for hunts of small cetaceans, putting some species of whales, dolphins and porpoises at risk, warns Environmental Investigation Agency
Associated Press 31 Nov 13;

Japan's hunts of smaller whales, dolphins and porpoises threaten some species with extinction, an environmental group said on Thursday.

Catch quotas are based on data collected as much as 20 years ago and some species have been overhunted beyond the point of recovery, the Environmental Investigation Agency said in its report.

The lucrative market in live catches for aquariums, especially in China, poses another risk, the report said. Live animals can sell for between $8,400 and $98,000, sometimes more than the roughly $50,000 from sales of meat for a single bottlenose dolphin.

Japan set its catch limit for small cetaceans at 16,655 in 2013, far below the 30,000 caught annually before limits were set in 1993 but still the largest hunt in the world.

Japan's Fisheries Agency would not comment on the EIA report because it has not seen it. Japan defends its coastal whaling as a longstanding tradition, source of livelihood and as necessary for scientific research.

The London-based independent conservation group said Japan is failing to observe its stated goal of sustainability and urged the country to phase out the hunts over the next decade.

"The government has a responsibility to restore and maintain cetacean species at their former levels," said Jennifer Lonsdale, a founding director of the EIA.

The small cetaceans are among a number of species facing severe declines in Japan. They include Japanese eels, a delicacy usually served roasted with a savoury sauce over rice, and torafugu, or puffer fish.

The status of each species varies, depending on its range and hunting practices. Catch limits for Dall's porpoises are 4.7-4.8 times higher than the safe threshold, the report said.

For the striped dolphin, once the mainstay of the industry but now endangered and disappearing from some areas, catches have dropped from over 1,800 in the 1980s to about 100.

That is still four times the sustainable limit, the report said. It urged that the government update its data on the abundance of it and other species and stop transferring quotas from already overfished areas to areas that exceed their quotas.

Under a 1946 treaty regulating whaling, nations can grant permits to kill whales for scientific research.

In July, Japan defended its annual harpooning of hundreds of whales in the icy seas around Antarctica, insisting the hunt is legal because it gathers valuable scientific data that could pave the way to a resumption of sustainable whaling in the future.

Australia has appealed to the international court of justice to have the whaling outlawed.

Japan's coastal hunts for small cetaceans not sustainable, says report
Pursuit of whale, dolphin and porpoise species should be phased out, says Environmental Investigation Agency
Justin McCurry in Osaka 31 Oct 13;

Some species of whale, dolphin and porpoise could be hunted into extinction unless Japan stops pursuing them in its coastal waters, a new report has warned.

Japan catches almost 17,000 smaller cetaceans off its coast every year – a tradition that its whalers say stretches back centuries.

The coastal hunts, which include the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, are no longer sustainable and should be phased out over the next 10 years, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency said in a report launched in Tokyo on Thursday.

"The hunts in Japan's coastal waters specifically target nine small cetacean species, eight of them with government-set catch limits which are clearly unsustainable," said EIA campaigner and report co-author Sarah Baulch.

"For 2013, the catch limits allow the slaughter of 16,655 small cetaceans, but our analysis of available scientific data raises very serious concerns about the sustainability of these hunts."

The EIA estimates that more than 1 million whales, dolphins and porpoises have been killed in Japanese waters in the past 70 years.

The coastal hunt is the biggest of its kind in the world, yet "there is little transparency regarding the methods used to set catch limits and widespread concern that consumers are not informed that the resulting products are toxic with mercury and other contaminants," the conservation group said.

In most cases, Japan's catch limits are based on data collected more than 20 years ago and some species have already been hunted beyond the point where their numbers can recover, the report said.

The current quota is well below the 30,000 killed in Japan every year until limits were introduced in 1993. The coastal hunt is separate from Japan's annual slaughter of bigger whale species in the Antarctic.

The report blames growing demand for dolphins and other small cetaceans from aquariums and sea parks around the world, particularly in China: live dolphins, for example, can fetch between $8,400 and $98,000.

Catch limits for the Dall's porpoise species are 4.7-4.8 times higher than the safe threshold, the report said; catches of the striped dolphin, meanwhile, have dropped from over 1,800 in the 1980s to about 100.

"Despite strong indications of population declines, there appears to be little formal monitoring by the government of Japan," Baulch said.

The EIA also cited the risk to Japanese consumers of eating meat and blubber with methyl mercury levels many times higher than the safe limit.

"Japan's stubborn reluctance to relinquish this archaic industry is not only driving threatened marine species towards extinction, but is endangering the health of its people," said Sakae Hemmi of the Japan-based group Elsa Nature Conservancy.

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