Best of our wild blogs: 4 Dec 13

Free Public Talk: Forget Not Our Living Forest
from Flying Fish Friends

20 Toddycats at Sungei Buloh 20th Anniversary Celebrations on Sat 7th Dec 2013! from Otterman speaks

Little Egrets in combat
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Where have all the dugongs gone? news by Tiffany Roufs

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Four men fined for dealing illegally with wild animals & birds

Channel NewsAsia 3 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: Four men have been charged in court and fined for dealing illegally in wild animals and birds in two separate cases.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said it was tipped off about the online sales of illegal wildlife in June 2013.

Following investigations, it seized two sugar gliders and two hedgehogs from the man who was hawking them online.

He was charged in court on 26 November and fined S$4,000.

The animals were sent to Wildlife Reserves Singapore for care and custody.

In the second case, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority caught three men smuggling six mata puteh birds in toothpaste boxes in September.

The birds were seized and sent to Jurong Bird Park for care and custody.

The three men were charged in court last Tuesday, and fined S$6,000 each for illegally importing the birds and subjecting them to unnecessary suffering.

AVA reminded the public that it is an offence to import and export or re-export any animal without a permit.

It is also an offence to possess, sell or advertise any wildlife or their parts or products that have been imported illegally.

It said strict measures on the import of live animals and birds are needed to safeguard Singapore from the introduction of animal diseases.

It also reminded the public that importing or keeping wild animals as pets would fuel illegal wildlife trade.

- CNA/xq

60 animals seized from those possessing them illegally
Tiara Hamarian Today Online 4 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE — As of October, some 60 animals, such as hedgehogs, snakes and birds, have been seized from people possessing them illegally, according to numbers released by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) yesterday.

In total, there were 17 cases of those caught for the illegal possession of wildlife. Between 2008 and this year, three such cases were brought to court and the offenders were fined between S$4,000 and S$8,000, said the AVA.

In one case, a man who was illegally hawking wild animals online was charged in court last week under the Wild Animals and Birds Act and fined S$4,000.

The AVA had seized two sugar gliders and two hedgehogs from him in June. The animals have since been under the care and custody of the Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

The AVA has taken enforcement action against those who were not charged in court, such as through the issue of warning letters and fines.

From 2008 to this year, offenders have been fined between S$100 and S$5,000.

There were also 13 cases of illegal wildlife trade as of October.

A case was brought to court in September, after the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority caught three men smuggling six mata puteh (Oriental White-eye birds) in toothpaste boxes.

They were fined S$6,000 each for the illegal import of the birds and subjecting them to unnecessary suffering.

Members of the public with information on the illegal wildlife trade and possession can contact the AVA at 6325 7625 or submit feedback through the authority’s website.

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More maritime companies pledge to keep shipping green

Channel NewsAsia 3 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: Twenty more maritime companies have pledged to keep shipping in Singapore clean and green.

They signed the Maritime Singapore Green Pledge on Tuesday to signal that intent.

The companies include Maersk Tankers Singapore Pte Ltd, Oil Spill Response Ltd, PSA Marine Pte Ltd and Singapore Cruise Centre Pte Ltd.

They join 40 other companies which have already signed the green pledge.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore said the pledge signing was witnessed by its Chief Executive Lam Yi Young.

It added that the Maritime Singapore Green Pledge was launched in 2011 as part of the Maritime Singapore Green Initiative.

The Maritime Singapore Green Initiative comprises three programmes - Green Ship Programme, Green Port Programme and Green Technology Programme.

MPA said as at end-November 2013, 96 Singapore-flagged ships have been recognised as Green Ships under the Green Ship Programme.

More than 1,900 vessel calls have been given port dues concessions under the Green Port Programme.

Co-funding of S$12 million has been approved under the Green Technology Programme, added the statement.

- CNA/xq

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Malaysia floods: Level 2 warning in parts of Pahang and Terengganu will be lifted if situation improves

Loh Foon Fong The Star 4 Dec 13;

PETALING JAYA: An orange alert warning has been issued by the Meteorological Department to parts of Pahang and Terengganu.

Its National Weather Forecast Centre director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said the Level 2 orange warning, issued for Kuantan, Pekan and Rompin (in Pahang) and for Dungun and Kemaman (Terengganu) on Monday, could be lifted if the situation improved.

The yellow warning status indicates weather alert and to make people aware of the situation to take preventive action.

The orange status implies that those in affected areas should prepare themselves to take action in the event of worsening condition.

The red status alert means severe weather warning and people need to take action to protect themselves – this could mean moving families out of the danger zone temporarily.

The department issued its heavy rain advisory orange warning on Monday, saying that intermittent and moderate rain would persist until yesterday and this would cause floods in low-lying areas.

Helmi said floods were the result of heavy rains made worse by high tide.

He said the northeastern monsoon started in November and would end in the third week of March next year but the wettest season would be from November to February.

The monsoon started to hit Kelantan and Terengganu last month and would hit the western and middle parts of Sarawak, from Kuching to Bintulu, later this month, he said.

The monsoon would then hit the eastern parts of Sabah – Sandakan and Kudat – in January, he said.

He said the public could call the department’s central number 03-7967 8116 or the numbers listed for each state on its website.

One dead, one missing as floods hit three states
The Star 4 Dec 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: The wet times are here again with heavy rain and floods sweeping through several parts of the country, leaving parts of Pahang, Terengganu and Johor badly hit.

A 17-year-old boy is feared to have drowned while a child has been reported missing due to the floods that have hit Kemaman district in Terengganu.

Kemaman MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the boy was believed to have drowned in Kampung Padang Kubu, Kijal, yesterday.

Another child is also feared missing following a rip tide in Kijal.

More than 1,000 victims from 483 families are now staying at 27 flood evacuation centres in the district.

Five districts in Pahang are floode­d, affecting more than 7,000 people.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said 51 relief centres had been opened up statewide with 3,303 evacuees in Rompin, followed by Kuantan (2,791), Maran (1,111), Pekan (435) and Jerantut (62).

“The rainfall volume in the past few days has reached 400mm daily, which is equivalent to half a month’s rain,” he said after chairing a special meeting with the National Security Council here yesterday.

Kuantan OCPD Asst Comm Mohd Jasmani Yusoff advised the public to call the Pahang disaster operations centre at 09-514 3799.

In Johor Baru, a bridge connecting Kampung Sekijang to Felda Pemanis and Kampung Tungku Tiga in Sekijang collapsed on Monday night following continuous rainfall.

Sekijang MP Anuar Abd Manap said the bridge was mainly used by small-time farmers to transport their goods.

As of 3pm yesterday, 5,555 people have been evacuated.

The worst-hit areas are Mersing and Segamat, while the other areas are Kluang, Kota Tinggi, Muar and Batu Pahat.

Many people, however, are refusing to move to evacuation centres although the flood situation is worsen­ing in Johor.

Retiree Damerah Chaiman, 65, said the last major flood at her house in Kampung Gembut in Sedili here was in January.

“I do get worried when it rains for long periods, but people here just place our belongings on higher shelves and just go about our daily lives,” she added.

Lorry driver Ahmad Ramli, 45, whose wooden house was flooded, also said his family preferred to wait.

“Floods are common for us and hopefully the waters will recede,” he said.

Slight improvement in Johor flood situation
Yee Xiang Yun The Star 4 Dec 13;

JOHOR BARU: Some 1,512 families in Mersing are still unable to go home, with 5,441 flood victims still at 21 relief centres there.

However, the flood situation in other parts of Johor improved slightly with seven relief centre closed and 46 still operating statewide as at 8am Wednesday.

Other than Mersing, 1,703 victims from 431 families were still at 18 centres in Segamat (306 families), three in Kota Tinggi (40), two in Kluang (30), one in Muar (52) and one as well in Batu Pahat (3).

Rain has stopped in the Johor Baru area but districts like Kota Tinggi and Kluang are still experiencing drizzles.

Floods worsen, claim 1st victim
M Hamzah Jamaluddin and Fazrol Nasir New Straits Times 4 Dec 13;

GRIM: 18,000 evacuated, relief centres filling up fast

KUALA LUMPUR: SOME 18,000 people have been evacuated in Pahang, Johor and Terengganu as floodwaters claimed its first victim.

Water levels in several areas in the three states continued to rise as the number of victims continued to increase since Monday.

Relief centres in affected areas began filling up in tandem with the number of flood victims evacuated.

In Kuantan, flooding in the state worsened yesterday with more than 9,000 people evacuated to 69 relief centres here, Rompin, Maran, Pekan and Jerantut.

State police flood operations centre spokesman said as at 8pm, Kuantan was the worst-hit district with 3,672 evacuees followed by Rompin (3,249), Maran (1,124), Pekan (932) and Jerantut (62).

Several stretches were closed, including Jalan Kuantan-Sungai Lembing at Sungai Charu bridge, Km36 of Jalan Gambang Lama, Km16 of Jalan Nenasi-Pekan.

Due to a landslide, the stretch at Km72 of Jalan Kuantan-Segamat was closed to all vehicles.
The situation in the state capital turned chaotic as water rose to 1.5m in several areas, causing traffic jams that left hundreds of motorists stranded for hours.

"We left our relative's home in Kempadang at noon, but had to take shelter at a petrol station when part of Jalan Gambang was flooded," said Norhayati Hassan,40, whose family of four were on their way back to Kuala Kangsar.

When the water subsided slightly at 5pm, the family decided to return to their relative's home as they were afraid that the floods may worsen later.

Several colleges ceased operations when the water rose fast, resulting in some of their students stranded in the buildings for several hours.

Tengku Mahkota of Pahang Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad advised people to be patient and take steps in case the floods worsened.

"People must follow the advice given by the authorities. The intensity of rain is more than usual, resulting in the water rising in just a few hours," he said after visiting the flood victims at Sekolah Menengah Abdul Rahman Talib here.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said the 400mm of rainfall within 24 hours since Sunday was equivalent to 15 days of rain.

He also advised people to maintain hygiene levels to ensure they did not contract water-borne and soil-related diseases such as leptospirosis and Burkholderia cepacia.

In Johor, more flood relief centres opened in several districts in the state to house the increasing number of victims.

As of 8pm yesterday, the National Security Council portal recorded 5,659 victims evacuated to 42 relief centres state-wide.

Muar and Kota Tinggi are the two additional districts to be flooded.

The districts to first evacuate flash flood victims were Mersing, Segamat and Kahang, after non-stop rain since Sunday.

In Kampung Sekijang, Segamat, a bridge used by the villagers to cross over Sungai Segamat was swept away by raging waters.

However, there were no injuries reported and the 30 families from the village are using an alternative route.

Segamat evacuated 1,116 victims to its eight relief centres, Kluang has 187 victims in three centres and Kota Tinggi has 74 victims in two centres.

Muar has 35 people evacuated from their homes and Mersing has 4,247 in 18 relief centres.

In Kemaman, a teenager was the first flood victim after he fell into Sungai Plantoh near Air Putih here on Monday.

District police chief Superintendent Che Suza Che Hitam said the victim, Mohd Ashraff Mohd Noor, 17, a Form Five student, went fishing with his father and an elder brother in a boat.
Kemaman is the hardest-hit district with 1,842 people from 454 families evacuated to 29 relief centres.

The floods in Terengganu worsened with 2,811 people evacuated in Kemaman, Dungun and Hulu Terengganu as of 8.30pm yesterday.

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Indonesia: Aceh Reports Sixth Elephant Death This Year

Nurdin Hasan Jakarta Globe 3 Dec 13;

Banda Aceh. A female Sumatran elephant, estimated to be seven years old, died last week in the district of Aceh Jaya, the sixth elephant death this year in Aceh.

The carcass was found on a river bank in Masen village in the subdistrict of Sampoiniet, Aceh Jaya, on Monday. The animal was estimated to have died a week ago and investigators could not confirm the cause of death on Dec. 3.

“Local residents said the elephant died because it was caught in a trap — there’s a rope on its leg,” Amon Zamora, the head of Aceh’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday. “The BKSDA team sent to the location is still conducting an investigation.”

Amon said the team was performing an autopsy to investigate the cause of the death, including whether or not the animal had been poisoned — am increasingly common cause of elephant deaths in Aceh.

The recent finding brings the number of elephants found dead in Aceh in 2013 to six.

In May, a 10-year-old male elephant died due to electrocution in Bangkeh village in the Pidie district.

In June, a two-year-old elephant calf died in Blang Plante village in North Aceh, two months after villagers took the animal in after it was left behind by its herd in a nearby plantation.

On July 13, a 30-year-old male elephant was found dead in Ranto Sabon village in Aceh Jaya after being caught in a metal trap.

On July 27, two elephant carcasses were found decaying in an oil palm plantation run by state-owned plantation firm PTPN I in Blang Tualang village in East Aceh district.

Amon said elephant-human conflicts had become widespread across 19 out of 23 districts and municipalities in Aceh, with Aceh Jaya, East Aceh, Pidie, South Aceh, Singkil and North Aceh reporting the most problems.

“The conflicts keep happening because the routes used by elephants have been converted into plantations,” he said. “We’ve called on people several times against disturbing the elephants’ pathway, but it keeps happening.”

Amon said only around 200 Sumatrans elephants remained in the wild in Aceh forests.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified Sumatran elephants as critically endangered. The population in the wild — spread over Sumatra and Borneo — is estimated at between 2,400 and 2,800 individuals.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature says around 70 percent of the Sumatran elephant’s habitat has been destroyed by deforestation in the last 25 years.

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Pakistan's mangrove restoration efforts called into question

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio Thomson Reuters Foundation 3 Dec 13;

KHARO CHAN, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Pakistan has drawn national and global attention for planting a record-breaking number of mangrove trees to conserve its coastal environment, but experts are raising doubts about the country’s ability to keep the saplings alive.

On June 22, the country set a Guinness World Record by planting 847,257 mangroves saplings in a single day, breaking an earlier record of 611,000 mangrove saplings planted by India in 2010.

The Sindh Forest Department carried out the planting between dawn and dusk with the help of 300 community volunteers at Kharo Chan, a coastal town in Thatta district in the Indus Delta, some 230 km (140 miles) east of Karachi. The effort took place as part of the Asian Development Bank’s five-year multi-million dollar Sindh Coastal Community Development project.

Mangroves help prevent coastal erosion and sea intrusion and protect against the effects of cyclones, which have become more frequent and intense in recent years.

But experts fear many of the newly planted seedlings may not survive, as they were planted at a time of year with particularly rough seas, and similar planting efforts elsewhere at that time of year have seen losses of 70 percent.

The mangrove cover in the coastal provinces of Sindh and Balochistan faces damage from timber harvesting, unchecked animal grazing and rising sea levels, as well as declining flows from the Indus river because of the Kotri Barrage in southern Sindh province.

For Yousuf Katiar, a resident of Kharo Chan, June’s record mangrove planting is a reason for rejoicing.

The 81-year-old fisherman pointed to an area now under the sea, which he said had been land dense with mangrove trees as recently as 20 years ago.

“It was not possible to take a view of the sea through them,” he recalled. Because of deforestation, he said, the town is increasingly exposed to harsh weather, tidal waves and sea intrusion which has worn away the coast.

“We are really helpless against the powerful timber mafia, for it enjoys strong support of local (politicians),” he said. “Any plantation of mangroves amounts to restoration of the life and livelihoods for thousands of the people in the area, including my village.”


The rate of erosion in Karo Chan is around 61 metres (200 feet) a year, according to a 2012 report by WWF-Pakistan. Another report by the programme estimates that Karo Chan, which comprises 41 villages, has lost more than 117,823 fertile hectares of land (290,000 acres) to erosion over the last 10-15 years.

Pakistan has lost as much as three-quarters of its mangrove forest cover during the last 30 years, increasingly exposing the country to risks from tropical cyclones like the devastating Yemyin (2007) and Phet (2010).

In the early 1980s mangrove coverage was between 250,000 and 283,000 hectares (about 620,000-700,000 acres). WWF–Pakistan estimates the present area under mangrove forest at a little over 80,000 hectares.

Mohammad Ali Shah, chair of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), a non-governmental organisation working for fishermen’s rights, said that the construction of reservoirs in northern Pakistan as well as in India had reduced the flow of sediment in the Indus delta that mangroves need in order to thrive.

“With the passage of time, the delta has suffered severe degradation because of the upstream diversions of the river,” Shah said, quoting research by WWF-Pakistan that shows that sediment flow has dropped by nearly three-quarters as water flowing into the Indus Delta has fallen from 30 million acre-feet (MAF) to 5 MAF over the last 25 years.

Tahir Qureshi, senior advisor for mangrove restoration initiatives at the Pakistan programme of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, warned that efforts to restore mangrove forests are unlikely to bear fruit if existing threats to them remain unaddressed.

“No effort for mangrove rebuilding will bear fruit (unless) the release of a minimum 10 MAF water as environmental flows into the Indus Delta from the Indus River is ensured,” Qureshi said.

Ali Nawaz, one of the volunteers who helped plant the saplings in June, said villagers were looking forward to the benefits the mangroves could bring.

“If looked after properly by the government, the mangroves would help check land erosion, sea intrusion and protect us from the cyclones that have become more frequent and intense in recent years,” he said.


But Sami Memon, an environmentalist and PFF spokesperson, questioned the timing of the tree-planting.

“June and July are months of rough sea and high tide in Pakistani coastal areas,” he said. “Choosing the month of June for mangrove plantation is inappropriate and unfavourable, for most of the seedlings get washed away or wiped out by the high tide.”

According to Memon, when the Sindh Forest Department broke records in June 2009 by planting more than 540,000 mangroves in the coastal town of Keti Bunder, some saplings were washed away by high tides within two days, and more than 70 percent of the remaining seedlings did not survive for want of proper care and monitoring in the following months.

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development science reporters based in Islamabad.

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Human interference real threat to Pacific atolls

Chris de Freitas New Zealand Herald 4 Dec 13;

The facts around rising sea levels are widely misunderstood or misinterpreted. This has added heat to a New Zealand news story that went global: "NZ casts off first Pacific island climate change refugee".

Global warming would lead to thermal expansion of the oceans. Sea level globally has been rising at about 1.7mm a year since the Little Ice Age ended in the 19th century, but has slowed down since the high rate of rise that occurred following the last major ice age 18,000 years ago.

To the surprise of many scientists, sea level rise is barely perceptible in the Pacific. This is possibly because, at least in part, there has been no global warming over the past 17 years.

Atolls are formed as sea level rises around volcanic islands. The atolls grow as they are replenished by coral that breaks off surrounding reefs and is thrown ashore by storms. In that way atolls are self-maintaining. They have survived several periods of rapid sea level rise in the geologic past.

All remains well, provided humans don't intervene.

The digging up of an island's coral for use in construction work and the building of flush toilets that discharge the effluent into the sea where it affects coral alter nature's balance.

The environmental challenges of the Pacific atolls are diverse and sundry. They include depletion of near-shore fisheries, pollution of freshwater, soil degradation, population growth, reduction of biodiversity, damage of reef-water nursery habitats, waste management problems, and stressed natural resources related to tourism. The problems are often exacerbated by traditional approaches to land management, limited resources, small and fragile ecosystems and geographic isolation. Their relative poverty means there is a lack of adequate capacity for response.

There is some inundation evident on many atolls, which can be confused with sea level rise. It is the result of erosion, sand mining and construction projects causing an inflow of sea water. Other factors are also involved.

Excessive use of freshwater for irrigation causes destruction of natural underground freshwater reservoirs. A consequence is seawater encroachment into vegetable growing pits, but is not the result of sea level rise.

Part of the problem is related also to the paving of the roads and land development. The effect has been to reduce infiltration of rainwater into the subsurface freshwater lens, which is the water supply source for the islanders. When this increased runoff is combined with a high tide, flooding along the coast makes it look like the sea level is rising.

Perception of trends can also be affected, as increasing population on the islands means people are now living on flood-prone land previously avoided.

Several years ago the prime minister of Tuvalu said his government was ready to sue the United States and Australia because they refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. He claimed most of his country's atoll islands will have disappeared into the ocean within 50 years. The facts show this is not the gravest of the environmental threats the islanders face.

Chris de Freitas is an associate professor in the School of Environment at Auckland University.

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African, Asian states agree measures to curb illegal ivory trade

Author: Stella Mapenzauswa PlanetArk 4 Dec 13;

African and Asian countries agreed measures on Tuesday to curb the illegal trade in ivory which threatens to decimate Africa's elephant population, organizers of a conservation conference said.

The "African Elephant Summit" issued a list of measures that governments had agreed to, including setting tough sentences for poaching and trafficking, better monitoring of elephant numbers and illegal trade in ivory, and more cross-border cooperation.

"Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act," said Ian Khama, president of Botswana, which hosted the conference convened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Poaching has risen in recent years across sub-Saharan Africa, where armed criminal gangs kill elephants for tusks that are often shipped to Asia for use in ornaments.

Ivory from Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia is often trafficked to China and Thailand via Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Eighteen large scale seizures involving more than 40 metric tons (44.092 tons) of ivory have been recorded so far this year, representing the greatest quantity of ivory seized in the last 25 years.

The African elephant, the world's largest terrestrial mammal, is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN "red list" of threatened species, with a population estimated at around 500,000 animals.

(Writing by Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

New figures reveal poaching for the illegal ivory trade could wipe out a fifth of Africa’s Elephants over next decade
IUCN 2 Dec 13;

As delegates gather to discuss the plight of the African Elephant at a summit convened by the Government of Botswana and IUCN, new analyses released today find that if poaching rates are sustained at current levels, Africa is likely to lose a fifth of its elephants in the next 10 years.

The latest analysis of poaching data estimates that in 2012 some 15,000 elephants were illegally killed at 42 sites across 27 African countries participating in Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), a programme of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), with funding from the European Union.

According to MIKE analysis, this amounts to an estimated 22,000 elephants illegally killed continent-wide in 2012, a slight reduction on the estimated 25,000 elephants poached in 2011.
“With an estimated 22,000 African Elephants illegally killed in 2012, we continue to face a critical situation. Current elephant poaching in Africa remains far too high, and could soon lead to local extinctions if the present killing rates continue. The situation is particularly acute in Central Africa—where the estimated poaching rate is twice the continental average,” said John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General.

The IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group estimates the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) population is around 500,000. Elephants in Central Africa are bearing the brunt of the poaching, although high-poaching levels in all sub-regions mean that even the large elephant populations in Southern and Eastern Africa are at risk unless the trend is reversed. Poverty and weak governance in elephant range States, together with rising demand for illegal ivory in consuming nations, are believed to be the key factors behind the increase in elephant poaching in recent years.

The high poaching levels are mirrored by the ivory trafficking figures compiled through the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) database, which TRAFFIC manages on behalf of the CITES Conference of the Parties. According to bias adjusted ETIS data, illicit trade in ivory rose in 2011 to the highest levels in at least 16 years and persists at unacceptably elevated levels through 2012.

Preliminary indicators suggest that even higher levels of illicit trade may be reached in 2013. Although incomplete, the raw data for large-scale ivory seizures in 2013 (involving at least 500 kg of ivory in a single transaction) already represent the greatest quantity of ivory confiscated over the last 25 years for this type of seizure. Large-scale ivory seizures typically indicate the participation of organized crime and so far 18 such seizures have yielded over 41.6 tonnes of ivory this year, but whether this reflects better law enforcement or a further escalation in trade will only be known when a full analysis of the 2013 data is possible sometime next year.

“From 2000 through 2013, the number of large-scale ivory movements has steadily grown in terms of the number of such shipments and the quantity of ivory illegally traded. 2013 already represents a 20% increase over the previous peak year in 2011; we’re hugely concerned,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s Ivory Trade expert, who manages the ETIS database.

Since 2009, trade routes shifted from West and Central Africa seaports to East Africa, with Tanzania and Kenya as the primary exit points for illicit ivory leaving the continent.

Malaysia, Viet Nam and Hong Kong are key transit points en route, with the ivory mostly destined for China, although Thailand is also a destination. But over the last two years, trade routes used by traffickers appear to be shifting as new countries such as Togo and Côte d’Ivoire emerge as exit points in Africa, with Indonesia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey and United Arab Emirates as new transit countries.

The latest poaching and trafficking figures were released as representatives of African Elephant range countries, as well as key transit and destination countries in the illegal ivory trade chain meet in Botswana. The meeting is expected to bring a strong commitment from the delegates to take concrete actions to halt the illegal trade and secure viable elephant populations across Africa, including strengthening national laws to tackle wildlife crime and enhancing cooperation within and between countries.

IUCN, through its Species Survival Commission (SSC) African Elephant Specialist Group, provides scientific data that underpins the Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants programme and the Elephant Trade Information System.

“These monitoring systems continue to provide vital reliable data for decision-makers, and we are very pleased to be able to present updated information to the African Elephant Summit,” said Dr Holly Dublin, Chair of the IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group. “The picture painted by this new information should provide motivation for all delegates at the Summit to come together to agree on much-needed urgent action on behalf of Africa’s elephants.”

“In the face of the overall bleak picture we must remain diligent, but we are seeing for the first time in years some encouraging signs the poaching situation may be stabilizing. This gives us hope that if we continue to seriously step up enforcement and public awareness efforts across the entire illegal trade chain, support sustainable livelihoods for rural communities affected and remain ever vigilant, we can put the disturbing trends of recent years into reverse,” said Scanlon.

The African Elephant is currently listed in CITES Appendices I and II and as Vulnerable on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™

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Temperature limit too high to avoid climate change: study

Nina Chestney PlanetArk 4 Dec 13;

An internationally agreed target to limit rises in global average temperatures to within 2 degrees Celsius is around double the threshold that would avoid catastrophic climate change, a study by 18 eminent scientists said.

Governments decided in 2009 that such temperature increases needed to be no more than 2 degrees C (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels to avoid effects such as more extreme weather, higher sea levels and ocean acidification.

They aim to agree by 2015 on a global deal to cut the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change, but the reductions will not come into force until after 2020.

Last month, a United Nations conference in Warsaw kept alive hopes for the 2015 deal but nations made little progress on committing to ambitious emission cuts to keep the world on track towards the 2 degree target.

A study published in U.S.-based scientific journal PLOS One on Tuesday said the 2 degree limit was too high and a more appropriate target was around 1 degree C.

"Some climate extremes are already increasing in response to warming of several tenths of a degree in recent decades; these extremes would likely be much enhanced with warming of 2 degrees C or more," the report's authors said in a statement.


The scientists involved in the study are James Hansen and Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Pushker Kharecha of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and 15 other climate experts from universities and institutes across the world.

"An appropriate target is to keep global temperature within or close to the temperature range in the Holocene - the interglacial period in which civilization developed," they said.

The Holocene is the current geological epoch that started around 11,700 years ago and has experienced relatively stable temperatures.

The world cooled slowly in the last half of the Holocene but warming of 0.8 degree C over the past 100 years has brought the global temperature back to near the epoch's maximum, the study said.

Warming could be held to around 1 degree C if emissions from burning fossil fuels were cut by 6 percent a year from 2013 and by reforestation, which would result in 500 billion metric tons (551.16 billion tons) of cumulative carbon in the atmosphere near the end of the century, the study said.

However, if emissions continued to grow until 2020, they would then have to be reduced by 15 percent a year to reach 500 billion metric tons.

"The huge fossil fuel energy infrastructure now in place makes it practically certain that the 500 (billion metric tons) limit will be exceeded," the study said.

The United Nations' panel of climate experts has said the world needs to stay within a 1 trillion metric tons "carbon budget" to meet the 2 degree target.

However, this level would spur slower climate effects such as ice melt and ocean acidification and result in warming of 3-4 degrees C, the PLOS One study said.

The full study is available at:

(Editing by Dale Hudson)

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