Best of our wild blogs: 24 Nov 13

Marine Life & Me: An Event at East Coast Park
from Pulau Hantu

Your opportunity to volunteer at Tampines Eco Green! from The Green Volunteers

Night Walk At BTNR - Durian Loop Trail (22 Nov 2013)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

van Hasselt’s Sunbird feeding on Saraca flowers
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Life History of the Copper Flash
Butterflies of Singapore

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Jurong Bird Park raises awareness on shrinking native bird population

Melissa Chong Channel NewsAsia 23 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: The population of rare native birds in Singapore is shrinking due to urbanisation and diminishing habitats.

To raise awareness on how the public can help to protect them, the Jurong Bird Park has organised its very first Native Birds' Day on November 23 and 24.

The Bali Mynah and Oriental Pied Hornbill are among the rarest birds in Singapore, with fewer than 100 left in the wild.

A host of public education programmes has been lined up for this weekend, including a photography trail, a bird mimicry contest and a discussion led by experts on the importance of these beautiful birds in Singapore’s ecosystem.

Jurong Bird Park’s assistant director (Avian) Dr Luis Carlos Neves said: "Singapore, although being very small and very urbanised, still has an amazing diversity of native birds.

“Singapore has over 300 species of birds registered, and many people living in Singapore actually haven't seen most of them, so this is a very good opportunity to show many Singaporeans and people… the amazing diversity we have in Singapore, and to raise awareness on the threats that these birds might be facing."

- CNA/gn

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Sabah to be first Malaysian state to deal in carbon trading

Ruben Sario The Star 24 Nov 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is a step closer to becoming the first state in Malaysia to get into the business of carbon trading amidst growing global concerns on climate change.

Last week, the state legislative assembly approved an amendment to its Forestry Enactment, paving the way for the Sabah Government to collect revenue for carbon sequestration – which is a process of storing carbon from the atmosphere – by maintaining its forests.

Scientists have blamed the high levels of CO2 for the rise in global warming, which leads to climate change.

“We are now in a position to deal in carbon trading,” said state Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan here yesterday.

Sabah, he said, would offer its existing Class 1 forest reserves or forests undergoing rehabilitation such as those in Ulu Segama on the east coast for carbon sequestration.

“It has been shown that forests in equatorial zones such as ours are the most efficient in sequestering carbon and this is required in tackling global warming,” added Mannan.

He said the state had recently signed a Memorandum of Under­standing with a British-based firm on carbon trading as part of an ongoing international interest in reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, industries in developed countries are allowed to pay for the reduction of CO2 in developing countries as a way to offset their own emissions.

Mannan said the firm had six months to come up with a business plan on carbon trading, which the state would adopt should it find this satisfactory.

During the tabling of the Forest Enactment Amendment, Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister Datuk Ellron Alfred Angin had said that the Bill would allow the definition of forest produce to include “carbon commodity embedded in the forests”.

He said the amendment would allow the state government to collect revenue from carbon sequestration, noting that there was a huge untapped potential in carbon trading in Sabah.

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On the trail of wildlife smugglers

Balqis Lim New Straits Times 24 Nov 13;

NOTORIOUS: Al Jazeera journalist goes undercover in year-long probe into international network

KUALA LUMPUR: GOING undercover to report on wildlife trafficking is an eye-opener for Al Jazeera journalist Steve Chao.

The biggest challenge for the presenter of the news network's 101 East programme, who went on a year-long undercover assignment stretching from Madagascar, Thailand, Indonesia to Malaysia, on the trail of infamous wildlife smuggler Anson Wong, was to make traffickers believe that he was one of them.

"We were dealing with traffickers who were part of a huge network. Thankfully, we managed to keep our cover and no one caught on that we were reporters," said Chao.

"In Madagascar, for example, we were presented with endangered tortoises. We drove around for hours to make sure we weren't followed."

For more than two decades, Wong, who is known as the "Lizard King", has been internationally recognised as the "face" of wildlife trafficking.

The Malaysian's notoriety stems from an incident in 1998, when he was arrested by United States agents after they lured him to Mexico following a five-year investigation.

He was convicted for smuggling endangered animals and sentenced to 71 months in prison.

In 2010, Wong was again caught trying to transit to Jakarta with 95 boa constrictors.

Initially sentenced to five years in prison, his term was cut to 17 months on appeal and Wong was released in February last year.

Chao, 40, said many questions were raised from the investigation into Wong's syndicate, such as why the Lizard King and his family were allowed to continue to run his wildlife export company after his arrest in Malaysia in 2010.

He said there had been allegations and accusations against authorities for many years that some officials and departments were assisting wildlife traffickers.

Chao urged the Malaysian government to consider wildlife crime as serious crime, as the United Nations had announced early this year that international wildlife and timber trafficking would be classified under serious organised crimes.

He said wildlife traffickers were just as notorious as drug smugglers and that the government should come down hard on them.

"Until the public realises that wildlife crime is just as bad as other crimes and that it is unacceptable for people to have exotic pets or use animals for medicinal purposes, animal trafficking is only going to get worse.

"It will never be taken seriously unless people speak up and pressure their governments to take action against wildlife crime."

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Last-minute deal saves fractious UN climate talks

Matt McGrath BBC News 23 Nov 13;

UN climate talks in Poland have ended with delegates reaching a compromise on how to fight global warming.

After 30 hours of deadlock, they approved a pathway to a new global climate treaty in Paris in 2015.

The agreement was achieved after a series of last minute compromises often involving single words in draft texts.

Negotiators also made progress on the contentious issue of loss and damage that developing countries are expected to suffer in a warming world.

Green groups were angry about the lack of specific commitments on finance.

The Conference of the Parties (Cop) started two weeks ago in the shadow of Typhoon Haiyan.

Speaking at the time, the lead delegate from the Philippines, Yeb Sano, drew tears in the auditorium with a heartfelt plea to "stop this climate madness".

But the good intentions foundered on the political and economic realities of a complex process where agreement has to be by consensus.

The mood was not helped by the Japanese government announcing it would not be able to meet its 2020 emissions cuts target.

'Little of substance'
The Poles, tasked with chairing the talks, were criticised for being seen to be too close to the coal industry.

The head of the meeting was then sacked as environment minister in a Polish government reshuffle.

All the while there were reports from many participants that little of substance was being achieved.

There were problems with finance, compensation for loss and damage and developing a framework by which the parties would get to in Paris in 2015, the deadline for a new global deal.

The critical element was the outline framework. This proved the most difficult aspect of the negotiations as meetings continued through Friday night and late into Saturday evening.

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the richer countries want it to apply to everyone, especially emerging giants like India and China.

However, many of the emerging countries, including Venezuela, are keen on inserting a "firewall" into the prospective agreement to preserve the past differences.

2b or not 2b?
The battle centred on a single word in the pathway document.

Paragraph 2b of the text originally spoke of "commitments" by all parties. But in a plenary session, delegates from China and India ripped into this and said they could not accept the language.

"Only developed countries should have commitments," said China's lead negotiator Su Wei.

Emerging economies could merely be expected to "enhance action", he said.

With time running out, desperate ministers and their advisers huddled in the corner of the hall to work out a compromise.

After an hour, they agreed to change "commitments" to "contributions".

The more flexible word allows the US and EU to insist that everyone is on the same page, while also allowing China and India to insist that they are doing something different from the richer countries.

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard was relieved that this key element had been agreed.

"It is extremely challenging, but we got the process on track," she told BBC News.

"There are more beautiful and faster ways to Paris but what is important here is that we get there and get a good outcome, I think that is doable after what I have seen here.

Another key battle was over the issue of loss and damage. This was crucial for developing countries which say that money to help them adapt to climate change is all well and good, but they need something extra to cope with extreme events such as Typhoon Haiyan.

They had argued for a new institution called a loss-and-damage mechanism that would have the financial clout to deal with the impacts of events that had been clearly affected by climate change.

But in the text the new mechanism would have to sit "under" an existing part of the UN body that dealt with adaptation.

This one word stuck in the throats of delegates from developing countries, including Filipino Yeb Sano who again made a moving intervention.

"It has boiled down to one word and I would say this is a defining moment for this process. Let us take that bold step and get that word out of the way."

After another huddle the word was changed and the text accepted.

Not everyone was happy.

Harjeet Singh from Action Aid said the new mechanism was merely fulfilling a pledge made last year.

"It is the barest minimum that was supposed to be achieved at Warsaw on loss and damage anyway. A few rich countries including the US held it hostage till the very end," he said.

By themselves, these compromises are not major breakthroughs and delegates know that far bigger battles lie ahead.

"As the Rolling Stones said, 'you don't always get what you want'," said Alden Meyer, from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"But sometimes you get what you need if you try hard enough."

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