Best of our wild blogs: 30 Sep 14

Sat 4 Oct, Sun 5 Oct & Mon 6 Oct’14: Guided Walks
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Dragonfly (46b) – Idionyx yolanda, male
from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

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Wild otters raise family around Marina Bay

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Sep 14;

Wild otters have started breeding in the heart of the city, the first- ever known here to have done so.

Now, experts are worrying about how to best protect them.

Some researchers had considered Singapore's southern coast around Gardens by the Bay too built-up for these threatened native marine mammals that are often found at sea but need a source of fresh water nearby.

But a pair of smooth-coated otters, which first caused a stir in February with their visits to the downtown park, have now raised five pups.

Videos posted on social media over the last month show the family roaming and eating fish along the banks of Marina Reservoir.

They have also been seen inside the Gardens and in its lakes.

The park's deputy director for research Adrian Loo declined to reveal where the otters are suspected to have built their den, in case curious visitors go looking for them.

"If visitors start feeding or playing with them, they might associate humans with food... they might start to harass people," he said, urging visitors to keep their distance when they spot the otters at the Gardens.

There have been signs that humans and otters are getting too close for the staff's comfort.

The animals have been seen scampering after joggers and being chased by children.

"We think they're being fed," said the park's urban ecologist Phira Unadirekkul.

Signs have been put up asking visitors to keep their distance.

National University of Singapore (NUS) otter expert N. Sivasothi was asked to give a talk earlier this year to park staff, who in turn will educate visitors.

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Singaporeans urged to help save Malayan tigers

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Sep 14;

Tigers in Malaysia are in trouble, and conservationists there are hoping for help from Singapore.

The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) is urging Singaporeans to visit the Taman Negara National Park in Pahang, which was home to about 90 wild Malayan tigers in 2001.

The number has declined due to poaching though there is nocurrent information on how many of the tigers are actually left.

But the presence of eco-tourists can ward off poachers hoping to set snares that will trap the gigantic cats, said Mycat general manager and wildlife biologist Kae Kawanishi. Mycat organises "cat walks" - short for Citizen Action for Tigers - at the 4,343 sq km park on weekends.

Today, only 250 to 340 Malayan tigers are left roaming the jungles of Malaysia - the only place in the world where these large cats are found.

These animals are at the top of the food chain in the forest eco-system, but are threatened by poachers that kill them for their meat or body parts used for ornaments or traditional Chinese medicine.

The Malayan tiger has been listed as "endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List since 2008.

But the species can now meet the IUCN criteria for a "critically endangered" listing, said Mycat and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) Peninsular Malaysia in a joint statement on Sept 15.

Said Dr Kawanishi: "A population of about 300 wild tigers should be able to bounce back - they just need our protection to do so."

A fund-raising dinner attended by about 160 guests was held at HortPark last night in support of initiatives to save the Malayan tiger.
- See more at:

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Man starts website to nab serial cat killer

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Sep 14;

A shopkeeper is on a mission to find the culprit, or culprits, behind the serial abuse of cats in Beach Road.

Since 2011, there have been at least 50 cases of abuse in and around the Housing Board estate across from the Golden Mile Complex, according to animal lover Anthony Hong. He launched on Sept 14 to raise awareness and appeal for information.

Just yesterday afternoon, a cat was found in the area with a stab wound to its neck.

"Most of the cat carcasses showed signs of abuse - such as slingshot wounds, knife wounds and punctures in their body," said the 35-year-old, who did not want his picture taken as he was worried about vandalism at his shop.

His site details where and when several of the dead cats were found, along with grisly photos. Mr Hong, whose sundry shop is in the area, found out about the deaths after meeting elderly people who feed and care for Beach Road's strays. One such "auntie" lodged a police report in August 2011 complaining about an elderly man seen shooting stones at cats with a catapult.

In September 2011, Mr Hong paid $2,000 to hire a private detective for a week to check on this suspect but this did not unearth any evidence. A month later, a black cat was flung from "a high level" at Block 5, Beach Road. The police and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) were called. "But the police told us they could not arrest him as there was no concrete photo or video evidence," Mr Hong said.

The abuse is seemingly still going on. Earlier this year, a few cats were found dead with stab wounds. On Aug 1, the carcass of a grey cat, with blood coming from its mouth, was found at Block 9, North Bridge Road. It was taken to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, which is looking into the case. It said it has received feedback about the suspected cruelty cases.

Mr Hong decided to set up the website after years of appealing to the authorities yielded no results. "They kept asking us for evidence, but the elderly feeders are not tech-savvy," he said.

Last month, the SPCA and Cat Welfare Society (CWS) jointly produced posters appealing for more information. These were pasted at the notice boards of blocks in the area. Ms Joanne Ng, chief executive of CWS, urged residents there to keep their eyes open. Ms Corinne Fong, SPCA executive director, said information collected so far has been sketchy at best, and that "real credible evidence" is needed.

Madam S. K. Koh, who has been feeding strays in the area for the past 19 years, admits she has never seen the suspect harm a cat. The 74-year-old retiree said: "But when he walks by while I'm feeding the cats, all of them will run and hide."

Mr Hong, who is single, also runs a separate Facebook page to raise funds for food and veterinary bills for Beach Road's cats. His passion for cats grew in 2010, after he adopted a sickly stray which had the feline version of AIDS. He said: "I cannot understand why anyone would want to kill cats."

Save Beach Road Cats facebook page:
Save Beach Road Cats website:

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An all-aspect approach to transport issues

Giving commuters the information they need to adapt their plans to evolving traffic conditions could improve satisfaction with public transport services.
The key to getting on top of Singapore’s public transport issues could lie in putting the power in commuters’ hands
Scott Marsh Today Online 30 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — The solution to increasing customer satisfaction with public transport lies not only in improving elements of our transport infrastructure, such as boosting the reliability, frequency and availability of buses, taxis and trains. It could also lie in giving commuters the information they need to plan their journey according to evolving traffic conditions and the availability of public transport services.

What if commuters could use an integrated transport app that not only informed them of transport delays but could also suggest alternate routes or even offer to book a taxi for them?

That’s something that Assoc Prof Lim Yun Fong, Associate Professor of Operations Management, Singapore Management University, believes is within reach.

“We could, for example, use apps to meet the individual demands of customers. Every commuter can build his or her own itinerary through the app. This can help the commuter link up with the service provider or get information about arrival times,” said Assoc Prof Lim.

Such a scenario isn’t as far-fetched as it may sound. Apps such as the Land Transport Authority’s MyTransport.SG Mobile app already update users about traffic conditions, bus arrival times and train and taxi services. Taking this one step further, future versions of such apps could let commuters book taxis or let commuters know if they’ll be able to get on the next train.


Such information would be crucial in helping commuters find the fastest way to their destination. It would also boost customer satisfaction with public transport services, which are currently facing declining levels of customer satisfaction.

The second-quarter results of the Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (CSISG), conducted by the Institute of Service Excellence at Singapore Management University (ISES), showed that the year-on-year scores for the MRT System, Public Buses and Taxi Services sub-sectors fell by 6.8 per cent, 3.6 per cent and 6.1 per cent respectively.

One approach to addressing the issue has been to increase the supply of services. Under the Bus Services Enhancement Programme, for instance, the government, working in partnership with bus operators, plans to introduce 1,000 buses from 2012 to 2017.

The Land Transport Authority aims to double the length of Singapore’s rail network from 178km today to 360km by 2030. Steps such as these will help increase the supply and reach of Singapore’s public transport network.

Ms Sylvia Fong acknowledged that rail operators have been taking steps to address the issues, but feels that increasing supply doesn’t address other issues.

Said the 29-year-old assistant manager: “Although the frequency of train services has improved, there are other areas that fall short. For example, the speeds at which the trains travel are inconsistent — during peak periods, trains sometimes still move slowly.

“I feel that train operators have realised the problem of over-crowding a little too late and are trying to play catch-up. But I can see continuous improvements being planned and rolled out so they are trying and communicating to commuters appropriately.”


Another key issue, said Mr Lim Kell Jay, general manager of GrabTaxi Singapore, is being better able to match demand and supply.

Citing GrabTaxi’s experience in attempting to meet the demands and expectations of commuters and taxi drivers, he said: “On the one hand, there is the mismatch of demand and supply. On the other hand, we looked at data to understand what time of the day, what day of the week, what day of the month the biggest mismatch occurred. And we tried to do something about that.”

“I wouldn’t say we have solved the problems, but we’re heading in the right direction.”

Ms Anusha Krishnamoorthy, a 26-year-old copywriter, appreciated that taxis are generally comfortable and convenient, but also spoke about the mismatch of demand and supply. “I find it hard to flag down a taxi unless I am at a central location, so I end up spending extra on booking charges.”


Said Ms Caroline Lim, director, ISES: “Commuters’ expectations here have been shaped by the smooth operations of our public transport network until recently — the spate of MRT breakdowns in 2011.

“Operators and regulators will have to do more to engage commuters so as to give confidence, to bring back the sense of a seamless experience like it was in the past.”

Digital marketing manager Gurmit Singh Kullar, felt that a more integrated approach should also extend to payment methods.

Said the 39-year-old: “Passengers should be allowed to use any payment method — buying tickets with credit cards and going through MRT fare gates with an NFC (near-field communication) device should become the norm.”

Key to improving overall customer satisfaction with public transport would be examining all aspects of the transportation equation to give commuters a smoother journey.

Said Dr Marcus Lee, academic director, ISES: “Our public transport stakeholders should focus on the total journey experience; this should take centre stage. By focusing on seamless transfers between modes of transport, the total journey experience is optimised.

“A common goal like this is one way for all the public transport stakeholders to work together to improve commuter satisfaction,” he said.

This report is a collaborative project between TODAY and the Institute of Service Excellence at Singapore Management University.

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Malaysia: No land acquisition for Forest City project

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 29 Sep 14;

PASIR GUDANG: Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin has allayed fears that land in Kampung Pok and nearby villages will be acquired to give way for the controversial Forest City project.

He said certain parties had confused villagers by spreading rumour about land acquisition, hoping to create unnecessary fear and worries among the villagers.

"The blueprint of the project did not indicate any forms of land acquisition from the villagers. This includes land for the construction of an access road from Forest City which will pass by the villages.

"On concerns about land reclamation, I would like to stress that reclamation occurs everywhere, including Singapore.

"The Environmental Impact Assessment study has compelled the project developer to address several key issues related to pollution and the environment," he said.

Khaled was speaking to reporters after attending the ground-breaking ceremony of the Taman Seri Albion project here today.

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Global wildlife populations down by half since 1970: WWF

Tom Miles Reuters Yahoo News 30 Sep 14;

GENEVA (Reuters) - The world populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles fell overall by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, far faster than previously thought, the World Wildlife Fund said on Tuesday.

The conservation group's Living Planet Report, published every two years, said humankind's demands were now 50 percent more than nature can bear, with trees being felled, groundwater pumped and carbon dioxide emitted faster than Earth can recover.

"This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live," Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London, said in a statement.

However, there was still hope if politicians and businesses took the right action to protect nature, the report said.

"It is essential that we seize the opportunity – while we still can – to develop sustainably and create a future where people can live and prosper in harmony with nature,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini.

Preserving nature was not just about protecting wild places but also about safeguarding the future of humanity, "indeed, our very survival," he said.

The report's finding on the populations of vertebrate wildlife found that the biggest declines were in tropical regions, especially Latin America. The WWF's so-called "Living Planet Index" is based on trends in 10,380 populations of 3,038 mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species.

The average 52 percent decline was much bigger than previously reported, partly because earlier studies had relied more on readily available information from North America and Europe, WWF said. The same report two years ago put the decline at 28 percent between 1970 and 2008.

The worst decline was among populations of freshwater species, which fell by 76 percent over the four decades to 2010, while marine and terrestrial numbers both fell by 39 percent.


The main reasons for declining populations were the loss of natural habitats, exploitation through hunting or fishing, and climate change.

To gauge the variations between different countries' environmental impact, the report measured how big an "ecological footprint" each one had and how much productive land and water area, or "biocapacity", each country accounted for.

Kuwaitis had the biggest ecological footprint, meaning they consume and waste more resources per head than any other nation, the report said, followed by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

"If all people on the planet had the footprint of the average resident of Qatar, we would need 4.8 planets. If we lived the lifestyle of a typical resident of the USA, we would need 3.9 planets," the report said.

Many poorer countries - including India, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo - had an ecological footprint that was well within the planet's ability to absorb their demands.

The report also measured how close the planet is to nine so-called "planetary boundaries", thresholds of "potentially catastrophic changes to life as we know it".

Three such thresholds have already been crossed - biodiversity, carbon dioxide levels and nitrogen pollution from fertilisers. Two more were in danger of being breached - ocean acidification and phosphorus levels in freshwater.

"Given the pace and scale of change, we can no longer exclude the possibility of reaching critical tipping points that could abruptly and irreversibly change living conditions on Earth," the report said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

World wildlife populations halved in 40 years - report
Roger Harrabin BBC 29 Sep 14;

The global loss of species is even worse than previously thought, the London Zoological Society (ZSL) says in its new Living Planet Index.

The report suggests populations have halved in 40 years, as new methodology gives more alarming results than in a report two years ago.

The report says populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%.

Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%.
Severe impact

Compiling a global average of species decline involves tricky statistics, often comparing disparate data sets.

The team at the zoological society say they've improved their methodology since their last report two years ago - but the results are even more alarming.

Then they estimated that wildlife was down "only" around 30%. Whatever the numbers, it seems clear that wildlife is continuing to be driven out by human activity.

The society's report, in conjunction with the pressure group WWF, says humans are cutting down trees more quickly than they can re-grow, harvesting more fish than the oceans can re-stock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more carbon than oceans and forests can absorb.

It catalogues areas of severe impact - in Ghana, the lion population in one reserve is down 90% in 40 years.

In West Africa, forest felling has restricted forest elephants to 6-7% of their historic range.

In Nepal, habitat loss and hunting have reduced tigers from 100,000 a century ago to just 3,000.

In the UK, the government promised to halt wildlife decline - but bird numbers continue to fall.

The index tracks more than 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2010. It reveals a continued decline in these populations. The global trend is not slowing down.
'New method'

The report shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by what WWF calls unsustainable human consumption.

The report notes that the impacts of climate change are becoming of increasing concern - although the effect of climate change on species until now is disputed.

WWF is keen to avoid despair. It points to conservation efforts to save species like:

A Gorilla Conservation Programme in Rwanda, promoting gorilla tourism
A scheme to incentivise small-scale farmers to move away from slash and burn agriculture in Acre, Brazil
A project to cut the amount of water withdrawn from the wildlife-rich River Itchen in the UK.

Previously, the Living Planet Index was calculated using the average decline in all of the species populations measured. The new weighted methodology analyses the data to provide what ZSL says is a much more accurate calculation of the collective status of populations in all species and regions.

A ZSL spokesman explained to BBC News: "For example, if most measurements in a particular region are of bird populations, but the greatest actual number of vertebrates in the region are fish, then it is necessary to give a greater weighting to measurements of fish populations if we are to have an accurate picture of the rate of population decline for species in that region.

"Different weightings are applied between regions, and between marine, terrestrial and freshwater environments. We are simply being more sophisticated with the way we use the data."

"Applying the new method to the 2008 dataset we find that things were considerably worse than what we thought at the time. It is clear that we are seeing a significant long-term trend in declining species populations."

Solutions still in reach as world biodiversity suffers major decline
WWF 29 Sep 2014;

Gland, Switzerland: Global wildlife populations have declined by more than half in just 40 years as measured in WWF's Living Planet Report 2014. Wildlife's continued decline highlights the need for sustainable solutions to heal the planet, according to the report released today.

The Living Planet Report 2014 also shows Ecological Footprint – a measure of humanity's demands on nature – continuing its upward climb. Taken together, biodiversity loss and unsustainable footprint threaten natural systems and human well-being, but can also point us toward actions to reverse current trends.

“Biodiversity is a crucial part of the systems that sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to this planet, our only home. We urgently need bold global action in all sectors of society to build a more sustainable future,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini.

The Living Planet Report 2014 is the tenth edition of WWF's biennial flagship publication. With the theme Species and Spaces, People and Places, the report tracks over 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2010 through the Living Planet Index – a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London. The report's measure of humanity's Ecological Footprint is provided by the Global Footprint Network.

This year's Living Planet Index features updated methodology that more accurately tracks global biodiversity and provides a clearer picture of the health of our natural environment. While the findings reveal that the state of the world's species is worse than in previous reports, the results also put finer focus on available solutions.

“The findings of this year's Living Planet Report make it clearer than ever that there is no room for complacency. It is essential that we seize the opportunity – while we still can – to develop sustainably and create a future where people can live and prosper in harmony with nature,” said Lambertini.

Critical wildlife declines
According to the report, populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have declined by 52 per cent since 1970. Freshwater species have suffered a 76 per cent decline, an average loss almost double that of land and marine species. The majority of these losses are coming from tropical regions with Latin America enduring the most dramatic drop.

The report shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation. Fishing and hunting are also significant threats. Climate change is becoming increasingly worrisome, with research cited in the report finding that climate change is already responsible for the possible extinction of species.

“The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the very ecosystems that are essential to our existence is alarming,” said Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London. “This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live. Although the report shows the situation is critical, there is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from industry.”

While biodiversity loss around the world is at critical levels, the Living Planet Report 2014 highlights how effectively managed protected areas can support wildlife. In one example, Nepal is noted for increasing its tiger population in recent years. Overall, populations in land-based protected areas suffer less than half the rate of decline of those in unprotected areas.

Ecological Footprint increases

According to the report, humanity's demand on the planet is more than 50 per cent larger than what nature can renew. It would take 1.5 Earths to produce the resources necessary to support our current Ecological Footprint. This global overshoot means, for example, that we are cutting timber more quickly than trees regrow, pumping freshwater faster than groundwater restocks, and releasing CO2 faster than nature can sequester it.

“Ecological overshoot is the defining challenge of the 21st century,” said Mathis Wackernagel, President and Co-founder of Global Footprint Network. “Nearly three-quarters of the world's population lives in countries struggling with both ecological deficits and low incomes. Resource restraints demand that we focus on how to improve human welfare by a means other than sheer growth.”

Delinking the relationship between footprint and development is a key global priority indicated in the report. While per capita Ecological Footprint of high-income countries is five times that of low-income countries, research demonstrates that it is possible to increase living standards while restraining resource use.

The 10 countries with the largest per capita Ecological Footprints are: Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Belgium, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, United States of America, Bahrain and Sweden.

The climate connection
The report comes months after a United Nations study warned of the growing impacts of climate change and gives evidence to the finding that climate is already impacting the health of the planet.

According to the Living Planet Report 2014, more than 200 river basins, home to over 2.5 billion people, experience severe water scarcity for at least one month every year. With close to one billion people already suffering from hunger, the report shows how climate, combined with changing land uses, threatens biodiversity and could lead to further food shortages.

Constructive negotiations over an international climate deal are among the opportunities that exist to control these trends. Completion of a global agreement that clears the way to a low carbon economy is essential given that fossil fuel use is currently the dominant factor in Ecological Footprint.

A complementary set of negotiations on a set of development goals creates the opportunity for countries to address how natural systems can be protected as world population surpasses 9.5 billion in coming decades.

Sustainable solutions
The Living Planet Report 2014 serves as a platform for global dialogue, decision-making and action for governments, businesses and civil society at a critical time for the planet.

The report provides WWF's “One Planet Perspective” with strategies to preserve, produce and consume more wisely. It also includes examples of how communities are already making better choices to reduce footprint and biodiversity loss.

“Nature is both a lifeline for survival and a springboard to prosperity. Importantly, we are all in this together. We all need food, fresh water and clean air – wherever in the world we live. At a time when so many people still live in poverty, it is essential to work together to create solutions that work for everyone,” said Lambertini.

In Asia, the report shows how cities are innovating ways to reduce carbon emissions, integrate renewable energy and promote sustainable consumption. In Africa, the report profiles how government can work with industry to protect natural areas. In other examples from around the world, the report highlights initiatives to control pollution, transform markets and improve lives.

WWF's “One Planet Perspective” shows how every corner of the globe can contribute to maintaining a footprint that doesn't outpace Earth's ability to renew. By following WWF’s programme for one planet living, society can begin reversing the trends indicated in the Living Planet Report 2014.

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Best of our wild blogs; 29 Sep 14

Please speak up for Pulau Ubin!
from wild shores of singapore

Registration for Nov public walks at Sisters Island opens tomorrow
from Sisters' Island Marine Park

Special Night Walk At Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (20 Sep 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Get your mudskippers identified!
from wild shores of singapore

Common Asian Toads (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) @ Sungei Tengah
from Monday Morgue

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Development along Johor coastline affecting bird migration: Malaysian Nature society

Mohd Farhaan Shah The Star/Asia News AsiaOne 28 Sep 14;

JOHOR BARU, Malaysia - The massive developments taking place along the Johor coastline may affect the annual migration of thousands of birds that flocked here from East Asia to Australia, says the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS).

MNS Johor branch chairman Vincent Chow said migratory birds usually choose Johor to escape the winter cold of China, South Korea and Japan.

"The birds usually begin their thousand-mile journey when winter is near in East Asia and they travel south by using the East Asia-Australia "flyway".

"Once it is spring, which is between February and March, they will then make their return journey up north as food such as insects would be plenty for them there," he said in an interview here yesterday.

Chow said that the number of migratory birds here have dwindled over the last few years, especially along Danga Bay and Pontian.

He pointed out that migratory birds, such as the storm storks, could usually be found along the riverbeds at Danga Bay or even near Sungai Masai as the birds feed on small crabs, fish and mudskippers.

Chow also said that the massive development along those areas have influenced the ecosystem where food becomes scarce for these birds.

"Efforts must be made not only by the Johor government, but also the developers involved in the projects to ensure that the ecosystem will be maintained.

"The migration of birds is a crown jewel to Malaysia as bird-watching has become a huge tourism magnet," he added.

Chow said about 5,000 bird watching enthusiasts from here and overseas would converge in the state during the migratory period.

"Such activities are a big draw to people from Australia, the United States, Europe and East Asian countries.

"Birds have been migrating from East Asia to Australia for thousands of years, and it is a shame if they dwindle because of human interference," he said.

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Malaysia: Forest City project developers to make DEIA report public

mohd farhaan shah The Star 29 Sep 14;

JOHOR BARU: Following concerns raised by affected residents and environmentalists over the massive Forest City project, the developers will make public the detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) of the 2,000ha man-made island, which is touted to be larger than Pangkor island.

Country Garden Pacific View (CGPV) said the final DEIA report is expected to be ready for submission to the relevant authorities early next month and the public could view it at the Department of Environment (DOE) in Putrajaya.

The China-based developer said it was aware of the concerns raised around the huge project in Gelang Patah, about 25km from here.

CGPV said that it received clearance from the state DOE to start reclamation works for the first phase of about 49.3ha, but ceased operation in June when concerns were raised about the project, which is being developed with state company Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

“We also submitted a preliminary report on our project to the authorities and tabled it to the government for zoning approval, which we received,” CGPV said in a statement here yesterday.

More than 250 villagers attended a public dialogue on the project on Sept 21, providing their feedback and concerns on the Forest City project that would be included in the final DEIA report.

Fishermen living near the project raised concerns that the Forest City would have an impact on their livelihood.

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Thailand: Rising sea 'could ruin east coast in 30 years'

Mitigation plans urgently needed; locals more aware now of dangers, experts say

CLIMATE CHANGE is putting people living in the eastern part of Thailand at risk, as a study shows a significant part of the eastern coast would not exist in 30 years without mitigation plans.

"Perhaps, locals will have to relocate," said Robert Mather, head of Southeast Asia Group and also project manager of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Building Resilience to Climate Change Impacts-Coastal Southeast Asia (BCR).

Living on the coast of Trat's Klong Yai district, Papassorn Sunet said she had to elevate her house twice already in the face of soaring seawater level.

At a recent panel discussion, part of Trat's provincial-level conference on climate-change mitigation, environment experts at a seminar in Trat unveiled their research that showed the sea level in the area has risen above the global average level.

Mather pointed out that the sea level in Trat and Chanthaburi provinces had risen by 4-5 millimetres per year, against the mean global level change of 3mm.

Due to the higher sea level, the provinces would suffer dearly from coastal erosion, he said. In 30 years, he expected the coast in the three provinces to narrow by 15 metres, making the area the most fragile in the country.

The study by Jonathan Shott, project manager and disaster management consultant for Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF), showed that the sea-level rise in Trat, estimated at about 0.20mm per annum during 2030s, could escalate to above 0.25mm in 2040s and above 0.35mm in the 2050s. Likewise, the sea level in Chanthaburi is also expected to rise in the period: by 0.19mm per annum in 2030s, 0.27mm in the 2040s and above 0.35mm in the 2050s respectively

Trat would also suffer from higher temperatures. The number of days when the mercury is 35 degrees Celsius or higher is expected to increase from 53 days per annum during the 1980 to 2009 period, to 92 days in 2030s, 110 days in 2040s and 138 days in 2050s.

"These changes will directly affect fishermen in Trat province where most of them rely on natural resources to earn a living," Shott said. "So, it's important that the locals know how to adjust themselves with the weather impact."

Puchong Saritdeechaikul, director of Natural Resources and Environment Ministry's Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Centre 1, noted that man-made action was mainly to blame for changes around coastal areas. Shrimp farming, for example, generates sediment. Once this sediment reaches the sea, it harms the sea environment and leads to a reduction in marine life.

To mitigate the negative impact, localities will need to help themselves first, before seeking government help. Some may need to change their profession, as marine lives gradually disappear from the area.

Chid Manapruk, a fisherman from Tambon Khong Ta Kien, Trat, said that in the past 4-5 years the beach in front of his home has been narrowed by about 20 metres. "Another 20 metres and the water would engulf my house," he said. "I may have to evacuate to other places, though I don't have any land elsewhere."

Ravadee Prasertcharoensuk, SDF director, noted that though some communities can adjust themselves to climate change, a provincial master plan is necessary as that will involve all in the process.

She said that local participation is also necessary in completing the master plan to ensure the effectiveness of the plan. Locals know their areas the best, she noted.

"The provincial adaptation plan should be more effective with the cooperation between authorities and the locals. Through this, the locals will be more capable of addressing the real challenges," she said.

Setthapan Krajangwongs, head of the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning's UNFCCC coordination section, also believed that local engagement in the master plan drafting will help better address the challenges, as each area has its own different problems.

"People in one area may face coastal erosion, those in other areas may suffer from shortage of marine lives. When these people help brainstorm, the plan can contain some details which specifically address particular problems," he said.

Prasit Yindee, the vice chair of the Trat-based Rak Talay Nom Klao Group, said residents of Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat had now formed a network to share information and improve the monitoring of climate-change impacts."We are now on alert. During the past few years, locals have no longer seen climate change as something irrelevant to their lives," he said.

Trat hosted the seminar to seek opinions from experts, authorities and localities in drafting the provincial master plan. Next month, a follow-up session will be held with the governor.

Setthapan said Thailand was in the final stage of enforcing the Climate Change Master Plan, which will cover plans for the nation from 2014-2050. It will cover five areas, which will be affected the most by climate change - water, food security, tourism, resources and resettlements. He expects the master plan to win the government's approval some time next year.

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Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived

Evidence from around the world supports scientists' assertion that global warming is already happening
Robin McKie The Observer 28 Sep 14;

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.

In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet's warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside.

Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country's president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. "He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating," Tony de Brum, the islands' foreign minister, revealed recently.

"Our airport retaining wall that keeps the saltwater out of the landing strip has also been breached. Even our graveyards are also being undermined – coffins and bodies are being dug out from the seashore."

Across the planet, it is getting harder and harder to find shelter from the storm. And things are only likely to get worse, say researchers.

As Europe continues to heat up, energy demands are expected to drop in northern countries, but equally they are destined to soar around the Mediterranean and in the south where there will be a desperate need for cooling and air-conditioning that will drive up power costs.

By the middle of the century, forest fires and severe heatwaves will be increasingly common while crops will be devastated and vineyards will be scorched.

Similarly, in the Alps, lack of snow and melting ice will make skiing, walking and climbing far less enticing for tourists. So if you are planning to cash in that little nest egg you have been nurturing to buy a retreat on the continent, think very carefully which part of Europe you pick. By this reckoning, Norway looks a good bet, as does Scotland.

Other parts of the world face different problems created by the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that we now pump into the atmosphere from factories, power plants and cars. In Asia the main issue concerns the presence and absence of water. In the south-east of the region, continued sea-level rises threaten to further erode farmlands and coastal towns and cities, while inland it will be water scarcity that will affect most people's lives. In this latter case, higher temperatures will combine with lack of water to trigger major reductions in rice yields.

In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that up to 139 million people could face food shortages at least once a decade by 2070.

Perhaps most alarming of all the forecasts that concern the future warming of our planet is the work of Camilo Mora at the University of Hawaii. His research – which involved using a range of climate models to predict temperatures on a grid that covered the globe – suggests that by 2047 the planet's climate systems will have changed to such an extent that the coldest years then will be warmer than even the hottest years that were experienced at any time in the 20th century.

"Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced," Mora said in an interview with the New York Times recently. "What we are saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm."

In other words, our species – which is already assailed by the impact of mild global warming – is now plunging headlong into an overheated future for which there are no recorded precedents.

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China embraces carbon pricing and UN takes a shine to plan

Valerie Volcovici PlanetArk 29 Sep 14;

At the UN's Climate Summit this week a diverse group of global leaders, from World Bank president Jim Yong Kim to California Governor Jerry Brown, spoke of the need for polluters to pay for each ton of carbon they emit. More than 1,000 companies pledged their support for the effort.

Carbon pricing, largely rejected by the United States and struggling in Europe, is suddenly all the rage, with China leading the charge. The world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter plans to establish a national market for carbon permit trading in 2016 and has already launched seven regional pilot markets.

Boosters of carbon pricing policies say that once China sets a national price on carbon, others will follow.

"Once China goes live, that will establish a major price (signal) that will affect all the other markets and all other (carbon) prices," said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

China's top economic planning agency has said its planned carbon trading scheme will cover 40 percent of its economy and be worth up to $65 billion.

"You will see a shift in the fulcrum toward China and that will attract other countries," Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group special envoy for climate change, told Reuters.

Governments like Chile and Mexico and U.S. states like California will be keen to link their emerging carbon markets to the Chinese model, Kyte said.

South Korean Environment Minister Yoon Seong-kyu said his country, which in 2015 will be the first in Asia to launch a national carbon market, wants to eventually link its scheme to China's.

Kyte said emerging economies have shown a strong interest in using measures like markets and taxes to rein in pollution, and have joined the Bank's Partnership for Market Readiness for help to shape their carbon pricing policies.

The initiative is helping countries like Vietnam design and pilot carbon pricing instruments in its steel, solid waste and power sectors, Colombia explore the launch of a carbon tax and Kazakhstan fix problems with the pilot emissions trading scheme it launched in 2013.

The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) has been lobbying since 1999 for an international framework for carbon trading. It also has supported schemes in emerging economies and in U.S. states like California and the U.S. Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a power sector trading scheme that launched in 2009.

The group suffered a blow when a national cap-and-trade bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009 but died in the Senate a year later.

Since then, "We've spent a lot more of our time talking to businesses in China to build capacity to make emission trading work," said Dirk Forrister, president of IETA.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici, editing by Ros Krasny and David Gregorio)

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Sep 14

Chek Jawa Mangrove Boardwalk closed 29 Sep 2014 to 31 Jan 2015
from wild shores of singapore

18 Oct (Sat): Pulau Ubin Symposium by URA
from wild shores of singapore

Programmes for Corporate Groups
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Butterfly of the Month - September 2014: The Dwarf Crow (Euploea tulliolus ledereri)
from Butterflies of Singapore

A Rare Encounter @ USR
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

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Raffles Marina: A tranquil spot despite the occasional storm

Aw Cheng Wei The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Sep 14;

ITS website lists a few ways to get there - by bus from Boon Lay interchange; by car via exit 26B - the last exit - on Ayer Rajah Expressway; or by sea - via Buffalo Rock, Raffles Lighthouse or Alert Shoal Buoy.

The journey is part of the fun when it comes to visiting Raffles Marina, Singapore's first private dock for small boats and pleasure craft such as yachts.

Despite its name, it is not near Marina Bay or Raffles Place, but at 10 Tuas West Drive at the south-western tip of Singapore instead. While the "by sea" route is part of Raffles Marina's allure, three people who used this route for a "non-leisure" purpose last month ended up being jailed. They had sailed there on a catamaran from Langkawi island in Malaysia, skipping immigration checks before coming ashore. The trio were jailed 10 to 16 weeks for, among other offences, entering Singapore illegally. Their intentions for illegal entry were related to a dramatic child custody tussle.

The case put the spotlight on the lax security at the marina. But chances are Raffles Marina will not keel over from this latest setback. After all, the marina - which occupies 3ha of land and 4ha of sea - has kept itself afloat for more than 20 years despite a tempestuous birth and the occasional storm. The gleaming marbled lobby and well-manicured lawns of its clubhouse belie its tough start.

Long-time marina member Vivian Tan, 58, said: "Before the club was opened, the estimated cost was lower than the actual. Ten years later, there was talk that the bank might shut the club down. But (members) were not worried. We had faith in the management."

In 1991, during the construction of the club, the belated discovery of a poor seabed and soil conditions led to costs doubling to about $100 million as more expensive methods of dredging and piling works became necessary.

Its initial opening phase was delayed by about six months, and Raffles Marina opened officially only in 1994.

The amount was paid off mainly through membership fees and shareholders' capital. But that did not spell the end of the marina's financial problems.

In 2003, news broke that the club, with the Republic's first multideck boathouse, was insolvent. Auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers said the club did not have the means to pay off its debt of nearly $45 million.

It was saved only after its sole creditor then, DBS Bank, threw it a lifeline by restructuring its loan.

Things took another dive in 2005 when it was weighed down by more than $27 million in unsecured loans from 1,701 pioneer members. The club resolved this by offering members part-ownership to reduce its debt.

These days, the club is facing competition from newer marinas such as One 15 Marina on Sentosa and Marina at Keppel Bay. But despite the competition, its marina is still doing well and filled with sailing boats and yachts.

On weekday afternoons, however, the marina is quiet. While on a visit this month, The Straits Times observed only a handful of hobby fishermen on its decks. There is also ample parking space for those looking to spend a peaceful day gazing at the sea or indulging in a meal at the cafe which is open to the public.

"We are busiest during weekends and lunch on weekdays," a waitress told The Straits Times. "Members usually come here on weekends. Members of the public mostly come on weekdays."

Relatively few non-members make the journey there, but the leisure spot in Tuas has drawn those eager for a whiff of the romance of the sea.

Some even see it as a unique place to exchange lifelong vows.

Said 27-year-old purchasing officer Joy Hoo, who held her wedding at the marina earlier this month: "They have a boat march-in and that is different from your usual hotel one." A boat march-in involves guests waiting on the deck for the couple who will arrive by boat.

Mr Collin Lim, president of the sailing club at Singapore Management University, said the marina, which faces the Strait of Johor, has become "a second home" for his school's sailors who train there every weekend during the school term. The 23-year-old finance major said: "There's a very different feeling here. Some doors are not locked, so we would go exploring."

Former and current members said they go to the club about once a month, if at all. Many signed up when the club opened because "it was something new".

For those who have stayed on as members, it is the isolated location that is the main draw.

A current member, who wanted to be known only as Mr Ang, said the place is now full of "familiar faces".

The 53-year-old lawyer said the club has become somewhat like home to him.

And while the tranquil nature of the area is likely to be disturbed when the new Tuas West MRT extension opens in 2016, members are confident that the club will weather this change too.

Mr Ang said: "Whatever the changes may be, I'm sure Raffles Marina will do okay."

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Malaysia: Industrial and farming waste tainting Johor rivers

The Star 28 Sep 14;

PONTIAN: Industrial and agricultural wastes are the main polluters of three main rivers supplying water to thousands of households in the state.

The three rivers are Sungai Sembrong, Sungai Muar and Sungai Kota Tinggi.

With the amendments that had been made to the Water ­ Enactment 1921 (Amendment 2014), the Johor government along with its water regulatory bodies would now be able to help stop the pollution of the state’s rivers, according to Johor Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Commit­tee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad (pic).

“For water coming from either rivers or underground, the state government – through the Johor Water Regulatory Authority – will be able to conduct proper checks to ensure the quality is safe,” he added.

Hasni said this after officiating the Syarikat Air Johor Holdings (SAJ) workers association annual general meeting held here yesterday.

Hasni also said that there had been a 60% increase in SAJ’s operational costs because the company had to use chemicals to treat water coming from polluted sources.

He added that the treated water was safe as SAJ followed the international standard for public usage.

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Malaysia: Progress threatening Kota Kinabalu’s charm?

New Straits Times 28 Sep 14;

KOTA Kinabalu is running out of space as progress is squeezing the city of its few remaining land plots.

Rapid development and a population boom has prompted the search for new areas and fresh ideas on ways to optimise land use.

In 2010, the population stood at 460,000, but every day, the number will increase as those from nearby districts make their way to work or study in the state capital.

In 2000, the population in Kota Kinabalu was 360,000. Tourist arrivals, too, have risen three-fold from 1.1 million in 2002, to nearly 3.4 million last year.

Prime areas, within and at the edge of the central business district, look poised to experience major development but it all hinges on political will and infrastructure planning.

Six locations — the old port, Tanjung Aru, Sembulan, railway station, Tanjung Lipat and Pulau Gaya — are all earmarked for major development.

Then there is the idea of shifting the recently upgraded international airport for land space and to allow for vertical growth of building beyond 30 storeys in the city centre. This is presently hindered by its proximity to the taxiway.

The airport, which houses two terminals, is the second busiest in the country with more than 120 international and 400 domestic flights weekly.

Last year, the airport handled 6.9 million passengers, double the number recorded 10 years earlier.

Sea reclamation, too, is no longer an option as the government has taken a stand not to expand.

Signal Hill at the back of the city centre is standing in the way of expansion eastwards because a big portion of the land is privately owned and there are also environmental concerns of hillside developments affecting structural integrity.

Another option would be to look for innovative ways to expand through redevelopment of brownfield sites — old commercial or residential areas — on the fringes of the city centre and turn them into attractive self-sustaining properties.

All these are key topics considered in development plans proposed in and out of the state capital.

It won’t be long before the central business district turns into a jam-packed hub — a situation that could affect its growth and attraction.

Kota Kinabalu city planner Alijus Sipil

There are no longer any big plots for major development though except for six locations where proposals have been made for housing, tourism, commercial and infrastructure components.

Big plans have been laid out at the old port by state-owned company Suria Capital, Tanjung Aru Eco Development, which is another government initiative, the railway station by public company, SP Setia, and the Sabah International Convention Centre in Tanjung Lipat by Yayasan Sabah.

Plans have been mooted to turn Sembulan into a traditional village that can be turned into an attraction and Pulau Gaya where about a third of the 1,465ha island is available for development (the rest comes under Tunku Abdul Rahman Park).

There is also the Greater Kota Kinabalu Plan in future to make the state capital a metropolitan, including nearby suburban areas like Menggatal, Inanam, Telipok or districts, such as Penampang, Putatan, Tuaran and Papar, within a 50km radius.

All these leave the city with the six locations and possibly, some brownfield sites at nearby extensions, such as Likas, Kolombong, Kepayan, Luyang and Petagas, to absorb expansion plans for at least a decade from now.

To do this, however, there is need for major improvement in the public transport system, infrastructure, such as road networks and drainage, among others.

Civil engineer Shahelmey Yahya

Despite space limitations, the growth of Kota Kinabalu could be supplemented by the northern, southern and eastern corridors outside of the central business district.

Central Kota Kinabalu has always been a unique and attractive coastal city with the Crocker Range in the background. It should remain that way.

Accessibility, however, is a key issue to make it a liveable city by means of sufficient public transport, roads, cleanliness, security and efficiency of its local authorities.

Two areas with space readily available are Sembulan and Pulau Gaya, but the challenges that lie ahead are unique in each location.

The main hindrance to developing Pulau Gaya will be the squatter colonies but it’s not impossible to resolve. It does need stronger will, such as relocation and political negotiation, among others.

On the island, most of the land that faces the city centre comes with individual titles and to develop it, once the squatter issue is resolved, would be just a matter of economical feasibility.

The challenge would be to connect the island with the mainland, sufficient water and power supply and even the environmental impact because of its rich marine life, reefs and beaches.

On the need to shift Kota Kinabalu International Airport, I think a long-term plan needs to be put in place, especially with Sabah projected to grow with more activities in the oil and gas industry.

Senior research fellow of Institute of Development Studies Sabah, Anthony Kiob

Suggestions to relocate Kota Kinabalu International Airport should not be entertained.

If indeed there is a need to expand its operations, a new one should be considered.

The focus should be on maximising land utilisation.

It also means the need for a better transportation system, relocation of certain sites monopolised by immigrants, a review of strategic zoning plans such as locations for hospitals, schools, residential areas or parking areas.

Designated jetties for passenger boats, recreational fishing boats and commercial fishing boats would also help.

The government should consider relocating water villages inland and this might attract investors for redevelopment of the affected sites. The profit generated should cover the relocation cost.

With a better transportation system, the central business district would not lose its charm. Better access, with improved infrastructure and ring roads, would keep the city centre vibrant.

The challenge now is to introduce creative parking bays, a light-rail transportation system, scheduled trams probably or even bus transfers outside the city area.
President of the Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah, Datuk TC Goh

The city has evolved and expanded, but many issues have accumulated at the same time. These need to be addressed by the state or even at federal level before we move on because, otherwise, it would be one chaotic city.

Our sewage and drainage systems need a lot of upgrade. This can be seen from what flows out of Kota Kinabalu at the Sembulan river.

Another pressing issue is public transportation. The bus service needs to be improved as soon as possible.

Because our public transportation service is not up to par, many have resorted to driving or riding their own vehicles to the city centre. This creates another headache — lack of parking space.

It’s about time innovative ideas are introduced to provide motorists with ample parking.

These are areas that need major upgrades because, otherwise, the city will lose its flavour.

It’s high time plans were made for some sort of light railway system, especially in the central business district area. Our fire fighting capabilities, too, need to be enhanced in terms of equipment. One of the reasons why Kota Kinabalu does not have many high-rise buildings is the lack of fire fighting equipment.

We can do away with the present airport, shift it to a new place, but first, we need to improve the basics and resolve the looming issues. Without the basics in place, what’s the use of relocating the airport?

Property developer Datuk Susan Wong

Kota Kinabalu is blessed with a beautiful coastline and scenic background.

It also comes with a killer sunset from the sea horizon and centralised location with it being the administrative hub for Sabah.

All these add value and people, who live or work here, would normally agree it is not a hectic place like other cities.

These are qualities that makes it a popular tourist destination because its attractions like the islands are just minutes away, or the parks and other districts nearby are reachable within an hour or two.

To expand, we definitely have to be more creative but the areas of major development would have to be extended to areas outside of the central business district.

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Malaysia: Eco-viaducts are built to facilitate movements of wildlife, but do they work?

tan cheng li The Star 22 Sep 14;

Eco-viaducts are built to facilitate movements of wildlife, but do they work as such? With that question in mind, biologist Dr Gopalasamy Reuben Clements embarked on a research with the Wildlife and National Parks Department.

Between 2011 and 2013, he monitored animal movements through camera traps at 10 viaducts each at the Aring-Tasik Kenyir road in Terengganu and at the Gerik-Kupang road which traverses the Bintang Hijau Range in Perak and Kedah. (Only three of the viaducts were specifically built for animal crossings; the rest are normal viaducts which can also function as such because of the passageway underneath.)

Gopalasamy found the animal crossings being used by almost half the mammal species recorded in nearby forests.

“However, this does not mean that the viaducts are effective crossing structures because some species were recorded just once under the viaduct during our entire study. Also, the same number of species may be crossing the road without the viaduct,” says the associate professor at Kenyir Research Institute in Universiti Malaysia Terengganu.

For a viaduct to be considered effective in mitigating the impact of a road on a particular species, the number of detections in the forest would be similar to those under the viaduct. Based on camera trap data on six mammal species (three herbivores, a carnivore and two omnivores), Gopalasamy found the viaducts to be effective crossing structures for only two herbivore species.

“There are several reasons for this. The road itself may have had an effect on the frequency of crossing. So inappropriate viaduct design or location is not always to blame. For a viaduct to be considered as ‘working’, the use of trails by animals leading to it would be higher than those leading to a normal road. However, we did not find any differences in trail use in one of the viaduct areas.”

One tiger was photographed in forests on either side of the road, but not at the wildlife crossing – which meant it did not cross under the viaduct. The time it takes certain species to adapt to a crossing structure or natural fluctuations in wildlife populations can also cause low crossing rates.

“We do not know enough about the animals’ movement patterns to conclude if they have used the viaducts, nor were we able to know whether large numbers of animals have used the viaducts because we cannot identify individuals of species that do not have distinguishable markings.

“Ultimately, we have a long way to go to really know whether viaducts in general are working or effective. This sort of research requires much more funds and time,” says Gopalasamy, who is co-founder of research group Rimba.

His study did not monitor road kills at roads with and without wildlife crossings (which is one way to determine if the eco-viaducts work) because that would entail him driving up and down the highway every day.

Gopalasamy further cautions that we cannot just build viaducts and let them be; they must be managed through regular maintenance and monitoring. His cameras under viaducts have photographed hunters and people camping overnight.

“If there is no management plan to regulate this activity, particularly though regular patrols, then the viaducts will never fulfil their potential as wildlife crossing structures.”

As to whether we should continue building eco-viaducts what with their high costs and uncertain effectiveness, he says that would depend on many factors.

“If there is heavy traffic preventing wildlife from crossing, and if forests on either side of the road are still large and contiguous enough to support healthy populations of animals, I’d say, go for it. Most importantly, there needs to be a wildlife assessment first to decide on the cost-effectiveness of building the viaducts.”

In his research, Gopalasamy has found that roads are not ideal in many parts of Malaysia because of landscapes with high environmental values.

“The environmental costs of road expansion are massive. Not only do roads fragment important animal habitats, they contribute to forest conversion, illegal hunting and wildlife trade,” he says. As demand for new roads and connectivity remains incessant, he suggests that road planners and scientists work together to determine where it is best to site new roads and minimise any ecological damage.

Though wildlife crossing structures have proven to lessen the adverse impact of roads, the extent of their effectiveness remains unclear. Therefore, the first choice would always be to not build a road through wildlife habitat. Wildlife crossings are but one tool, and cannot be the ultimate panacea to foil the ill-effects of roads on wildlife. More importantly, eco-viaducts should not be employed just to appease conservationists and justify roads that inch into the wilderness.

Bridging a forest: Animal crossings that reduce the perils of roads
tan cheng li The Star 22 Sep 14;

When wilderness is sliced apart by a road coursing through it, eco-friendly engineering is needed.

For people, roads connect. They create linkages and bring people places, even to remote corners of the world. For wildlife, on the other hand, roads do just the opposite. They create barriers which cut animals off from a larger landscape. They keep animals away from food and potential mates, and are also deadly to cross. Despite all these threats to wildlife, roads that cut into wild habitats continue to be built, in the name of development and to shorten travel time.

One such road is the Simpang Pulai-Gua Musang-Kuala Berang Highway, or what is also known as the Second East-West Link which crosses the breadth of Peninsular Malaysia. When proposed in the early 2000s, it raised concerns as it would slice through species-rich forests and break them into fragments possibly too small to sustain healthy populations of animals, as well as impede wildlife movement.

To resolve this, the Public Works Department changed the design of one section of the road – between Aring in south-east Kelantan and Pasir Pulau in Tasik Kenyir, Terengganu – to include wildlife crossings. So, instead of the usual approach of putting the road on an embankment or retaining walls when it traverses valleys, the road was raised above-ground on columns – what is known as viaducts. These bridges allow a passageway beneath for wildlife to safely cross between forests flanking the road. And so, the country’s first designed wildlife crossing was created.

In Peninsular Malaysia, this wildlife-friendly engineering is also seen at the Kuala Lipis-Merapoh road in Pahang. A third one being planned is along the Gerik-Jeli Highway (East-West Highway) in Perak, at the wildlife corridor between Temenggor Forest Reserve and Royal Belum State Park. Wildlife crossings can also take the shape of underpasses, overpasses or bridges, tunnels and culverts but locally, viaducts appear to be the favoured design.

Safe passage

The Aring-Tasik Kenyir road infringes the Sungai Deka forest corridor in Terengganu, a tract of greenery crucial for connecting two wild areas – Tembat Forest Reserve and the country’s premier park, Taman Negara.

“Without the viaducts, wildlife will not be able to move between both forests. The viaducts also prevent animals from venturing into roads where they risk being run over by vehicles,” says Yusoff Shariff, director of Terengganu Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan).

Although there are several viaducts along the road, three were specifically designed with wildlife crossings in mind. They measure 245m, 140m and 245m in distances and were constructed between 2007 and 2008 at a cost of RM30mil.

Yusoff says the locations of the viaducts were chosen after surveys had determined existing animal movement routes. These crossings generally follow elephant routes as smaller animals follow the path of the pachyderm.

“Elephants break off branches as they feed along their route. This encourages the growth of new shoots which in turn attracts herbivores such as deer. Predators after these preys, such as tigers, will then follow suit.”

Camera traps set up by Perhilitan and wildlife researchers have captured images of wildlife using the crossings – 16 species in total, including the elephant, tapir, sun bear, barking deer, sambar deer, serow, gaur, wild boar, porcupine, leopard cat, civet and panther.

When first completed, not many animals used the crossing as the land had been disturbed and lacked foliage, says Ahmad Kamsul Alias, assistant director of Terengganu Pehilitan.

He says to lure animals to the crossing and away from the road, “habitat enrichment” was done, by planting grasses and plants which the animals feed on. Artificial salt licks were also made under the bridges for the same effect.

Electric fence, installed on either side of the road for 11km, also helps direct animals towards the crossing and deter them from encroaching onto the road.

“This works as once, when the electric fence malfunctioned, we observed more road kills,” says Yusoff. He says while road kills no longer happen in the vicinity of the viaducts, they still occur at other sections of the highway. To counter this, he says signs warning motorists about the presence of wild animals have been put up. All these additional measures to ensure that the eco-viaducts are effective (electric fencing and habitat enrichment) incurred an additional cost of RM3.5mil.

There are always fears that the viaducts will make wildlife easy targets by poachers. To ward off this threat, Yusoff says Perhilitan enforcement team conducts regular patrols.

Road for animals

The country’s second eco-viaduct is in Sungai Yu near Merapoh in Pahang, and was completed earlier this year. Sungai Yu is an important forest corridor that bridges two areas crucial for tiger conservation – the Main Range and Taman Negara.

These forests have long been separated by the Kuala Lipis-Merapoh trunk road (Federal Route 8). Under plans to upgrade this road into a four-lane highway, eco-viaducts were included so that a passageway for animals is maintained between Sungai Yu Forest Reserve (on the Main Range) and Tanum Forest Reserve (adjacent to Taman Negara).

The linkage gives wildllife a wider home range. Without this connection, Taman Negara will be cut off from the rest of the forested landscape in the west, and risk ending up as a “habitat island” (a nature site surrounded by development).

The Sungai Yu wildlife crossing consists of a main viaduct almost 1km in length and two shorter ones of 300m and 80m. It has been reported to cost RM89.4mil (infrastructure plus land costs).

But building wildlife crossings alone cannot lessen the impact of siting roads in forested areas. The adjacent wild lands must be preserved, too, with controls over their usage, says tiger biologist Dr Mark Rayan.

“If the surrounding forest is not maintained, then the viaduct no longer serves its purpose and becomes redundant.” He says forests around viaducts at the Gerik-Kupang road in Perak and Kedah (which give animals a passageway underneath because of their elevated structure), has been converted into oil palm and rubber plantations.

Fortunately at the Sungai Deka eco-viaducts in Terengganu, 15,000ha of forest within the vicinity has been made a wildlife sanctuary. At Belum-Temenggor, land flanking both sides of the East-West Highway, previously earmarked for development and agriculture, has been gazetted as the Amanjaya Forest Reserve.

For the Sungai Yu eco-viaducts in Pahang, the Town and Country Planning Department has proposed that remaining stateland forest there be gazetted as protected forests so as to buffer the wildlife corridor.

As further safeguards, it called for a stop on expansion of human settlements, and for oil palm and rubber plantations there to apply green practices.

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 27 Sep 14

Draft Campaign Strategy on Marine Trash in Singapore
from Green Future Solutions

Nature photography in Singapore – attitude and perspectives
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Call Playback, Mealworm Use, Flash Photography, Mist Netting & the Like: What Lengths to get The Shot?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Tue 07 Oct 2014: 4.00pm @ The Orchard Hotel – The Second Asia Environment Lecture – The Green Economy: Will Asia Embrace It?
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

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Malaysia: Explain clearly, Forest City developer told

BEN TAN New Straits Times 27 Sep 14;

JOHOR BARU: THE developer of the controversial Forest City project must be clear in their explanation about the development and its impact on the affected villagers in the area, said Tan Sri Shahrir Samad.

The Johor Baru member of parliament said this was because he felt that the explanation offered to the Kampung Pok community in Gelang Patah by the developer, Country Garden Pacific View Sdn Bhd, had raised more questions than answers.

“They should have had the dialogue session earlier to address the concerns regarding the environmental impact and the villagers’ concern,” Shahrir, who is also Iskandar Regional Development Authority adviser, said after launching the IM Klik photography competition here yesterday.

Present was Iskandar Investment Berhad president and chief executive officer Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim.

Shahrir said many villagers were not satisfied with the developer’s explanation.

“The developer needs to be more realistic in giving the real picture of their development not only to potential buyers, but to the surrounding community as well.”

Bernama had reported that since reclamation works for the project started in March this year, fishermen’s haul had dwindled.

“In the past, our haul would reach between 20kg and 40kg, but now, it is difficult for us to get even 1kg,” Abu Talib Khamis, 56, said.

The fisherman, who started going to sea at 12, claimed that the massive reclamation works under the Forest City Project at the Johor Straits had impacted negatively on fishermen.

The Forest City project is a joint-venture between a property developer from China and a local agency to create four artificial islands in the area.

The project’s gross development value is expected to reach RM600 billion in 30 years.

State Malaysian Nature Society chairman Vincent Chow had in July described the continental shelves off Tanjung Adang and Merambong in the Johor Straits as a sensitive marine heritage.

Zulkifli Hassan, 49, said he and other fishermen were now forced to go further out to sea.

“We have to make a detour to avoid the reclamation area.”

He said the project had affected the sea currents, endangering the safety of fishermen using small boats.

“We are also using more fuel to reach new fishing spots and using bigger vessels to rough out the stronger currents.”

During the public dialogue held last Sunday at the Kampung Pok community hall in Gelang Patah on the detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) briefing of the Forest City project, villagers had voiced their protests.

Among others, they questioned the credibility of the survey on the social and economic impact conducted by the DEIA consultant.

Of the 100 villagers polled, 60 per cent of them had apparently said “yes” to the controversial project.

The audience questioned the methodology used in the survey and whether the sample was sufficient.

Kampung Pok Village Development and Security Committee deputy chairman Azman Abdul Rahman said he did not
know when the survey was conducted, and if it had ever been conducted.

KPRJ Urged To Allay Residents Fears On Forest City Project
Bernama 26 Sep 14;

JOHOR BAHRU, Sept 26 (Bernama) -- Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) has to enlighten local residents on the Forest City project which entails land reclamation and creation a man-made island, Iskandar Regional Development Authority adviser Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad said.

He said the local community wanted to have a clearer picture of the project and being the government investment arm, KPRJ was seen to have failed to provide actual information on the development.

"They (KPRJ) should not only focus only on benefits to potential buyers or investors.

"Instead, they need to realistically resolve how to answer basic questions raised by residents in the affected area," he told reporters after launching a photography contest organised by Iskandar Investment Bhd here today.

He was commenting on a recent dialogue between Kampung Pok, Gelang Patah residents and KPRJ over the RM600 billion project.

Shahrir, who is also member of Parliament for Johor Baharu, said he learned that many questioned raised by residents could be answered satisfactorily by the company, thus raising concern over the effects of the project on them.

"Local residents, who are mostly fishermen, are worried that the project could affect their livelihood and they regretted that they were not consulted over the project," he said.

He said KPRJ should allay local community fears on various aspects of the project, including its environmental impact.

The 30-year project, located southwest of Johor Baharu and partly in the Straits of Johor, is undertaken by China-based property developer Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd on a joint-venture basis with the state-owned KPRJ.


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Malaysia: Forest City – more clarity please

The Star 20 Sep 14;

A MASSIVE project in Johor that will reclaim more than 2,000ha from the Straits of Johor and see a new island – or several connected islands – rising out of the sea abutting Singapore’s west coast is turning into a seemingly classic story of rampant big business, huge profits and nagging controversy.

Whether this hoary perception is true or not, the lack of transparency surrounding the project has certainly not helped matters.

Conceived as a luxurious settlement for the rich, Forest City is said to be a 30-year project undertaken by Country Garden Pacific View Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between China’s seventh-largest property developer, Country Garden Holdings Ltd, and the investment arm of the Johor state government, Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

Everything about the project is superlative.

It will be the biggest land reclamation project ever in Malaysia. It will reportedly have a gross development value of RM600bil. And the developer, according to one estimate, stands to walk away with a cool RM290bil. That works out to a staggering RM9.6bil a year, compared to S P Setia Bhd, currently the country’s most profitable developer, which only makes a net profit of about RM410mil.

Unfortunately, much about the project is also hazy.

Exactly what kind of development will take place, timeline included, has not been revealed. There were reports that a stadium for Johor’s football team might be built there. And that Forest City might even be developed into a tourism hub and get duty-free status.

If there is a blueprint for the project, then it is still tucked away in somebody’s desk somewhere.

Meanwhile, environmental issues dog the project.

In June, critics charged that Forest City did not have an environment impact assessment (EIA) done. The state government said the project did not require an EIA, as reclamation work was only for 49ha, one ha short of requiring it, and that reclamation work was being done in phases of 49ha.

Later, the state health and environment committee said that, in fact, a preliminary EIA had been submitted.

There are also worries that the project may lead to siltation and a shallower sea, posing a threat to nearby Port of Tanjung Pelepas.

In addition, our neighbour down south is pretty anxious about how this mega-project so close to its maritime boundaries might affect it. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has personally written to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on the matter, asking for clarification.

To begin to get a handle on things, the Johor state government needs to be forthright on all aspects of Forest City’s development. Just lay all the facts on the table. And, they must also candidly address all the issues that have cropped up.

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RWS Dolphin Island, SEA Aquarium accredited by zoo association

Channel NewsAsia 26 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: Resort World Sentosa's (RWS) SEA Aquarium and Dolphin Island have been granted accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the integrated resort announced in a release on Friday (Sep 26).

“By meeting the highest standards, SEA Aquarium and Dolphin Island are ranked among the best zoos and aquariums in the world,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “When people visit these attractions at Resorts World Sentosa, they can be assured that they are supporting a facility that is a leader in the care and conservation of wildlife.”

"Marine education, conservation and research, as well as the well-being of our animals have always been our utmost priority," added Senior Vice President of Attractions at Resorts World Sentosa John Hallenbeck. "We are delighted to be one of the few facilities outside of the United States to receive the accreditation from AZA, and we look forward to inspire more visitors to do their part for our oceans.”

RWS said that both attractions underwent thorough reviews in animal care, veterinary programmes, conservation, education and safety to ensure that the facilities have and continue to meet standards. The AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete the accreditation process every five years in order to be a member of the association.

However, the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) has questioned the accreditation, asking if RWS was also open to being accredited by animal protection non-governmental organisations and "not only by their own industry professionals".

Mr Louis Ng, chief executive of ACRES, also said that "RWS’ acquisition of 27 wild-caught dolphins from the Solomon Islands contributed to the depletion of this species there and pushed this species one step closer towards extinction in the Solomon Islands".

On the conservation front, ACRES said it noted that "4 wild-caught dolphins have died under the care of RWS", adding that it has filmed at least one dolphin swimming in circles at RWS, which it said was a sign of stress.

The animal welfare organisation also pointed out the deaths of four wild-caught dolphins in captivity at the resort.

"Similarly, while RWS has launched a conservation project for manta rays, we note that two of their manta rays died earlier this year," Mr Ng added.

The AZA is a nonprofit organisation that is the accrediting body for zoos and aquariums in the United States and six other countries. SEA Aquarium and Dolphin Island appear to be the first facilities accredited in Singapore.

The SEA Aquarium was also recently ranked at seventh in Asia for Aquariums, according to travel website TripAdvisor.

- CNA/av

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Malaysia: Dept sets up monitor lizard traps

M. HAMZAH JAMALUDIN New Straits Times 27 Sep 14;

ROMPIN: THE Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) has set up traps at several locations on Pulau Tioman to catch monitor lizards that may endanger locals and tourists.

Perhilitan Pahang director Khairiah Mohd Shariff is leading a five-member team to check the situation on the island after an 8-month-old infant was attacked by a monitor lizard on Monday.

“Our aim is to ensure that there is no overpopulation of monitor lizards on the island.

“It is more on managing the numbers of the reptile where some of them may need to be relocated, especially those which could cause harm to people,” she said yesterday, adding that monitor lizards were generally non-vicious and would not attack humans.

“We have also identified several spots to erect notices to warn the public to be cautious of monitor lizards.”

At present, Perhilitan does not have a record on the total number of the reptiles on the island.

“We will conduct a bigger operation to catch the monitor lizards after Hari Raya Aidiladha next month,” Khairiah said.

On Monday, Nurhidayah Abdul Rahman was mauled and dragged by a monitor lizard at a resort workers’ quarters about 10am. Her mother had fought off the monitor lizard in an attempt to save her.

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Indonesia: Thousands suffer from respiratory issues

Rizal Harahap and Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 26 Sep 14;

Thousands of people in a number of provinces in Sumatra have been suffering from respiratory problems for the last two weeks due to the continuing haze.

Riau provincial Health Agency reported that as of Sept. 25, as many as 2,254 people had been affected by the smog and suffered from acute respiratory infection (ISPA).

The haze has also been blamed for causing 96 others to suffer from asthma, 64 from pneumonia, 187 from skin irritation and 191 from eye irritation.

Head of the agency’s disease prevention, control and sanitation division (P4L), Andra S., said the data was obtained from Kuantan Singingi, Pelalawan, Rokan Hulu, Indragiri Hulu, Kampar and Siak regencies and Pekanbaru cities and regencies.

“The number of patients most likely will increase as five other regencies/cities have not yet sent reports on their cases. Besides, the haze is still coming into Riau,” Andra said Thursday.

He hoped the authorities in South Sumatra and Jambi would put an end to the forest and peatland fires in their respective regions as soon as possible.

He said hot spots were also still being found in Riau but the condition was not as severe as previously thanks to measures taken by the local administrations to deal with the fires.

He also called on residents in the province to reduce outdoor activities.

Meanwhile, Riau provincial administration secretary Zaini Ismail said that the province still had Rp 7 billion (US$583,576) in emergency response funds that could be spent if the haze worsened.

“The funds can only be disbursed when the governor declares an emergency response status for the haze,” Zaini said.

Separately, in Jambi, haze has been covering Merangin regency for the last three days and is worsening. Many have been admitted to hospitals and community health centers (Puskesmas) in Bangko, the regency capital, for respiratory infection.

A staffer at Puskesmas Bangko, Ita Irawati, said her center had recorded 223 patients suffering from respiratory problems this September alone. Meanwhile, Puskesmas Pematang Kandis had treated 786 ISPA patients.

In Jambi city, rain over the region on Wednesday could not disperse the haze. Visibility was limited to only 50 meters in the morning and 100 m in the afternoon.

Haze was also reported to have covered the coastal areas and the marine routes through East Tanjung Jabung waters, limiting visibility to between only 300 and 500 m in the morning and afternoon.

Some fishermen in the area decided not to go to sea.

Meanwhile, in South Sumatra, Palembang municipal Environmental Agency (BLH) head Muhammad Tabrani said, as quoted by Antara news agency that air quality in the region had exceeded the allowed standard, thus, called on locals to wear masks if they conducted outdoor activities.

Smog From Forest Fires Cripples Jambi
Suara Pembaruan Jakarta Globe 26 Sep 14;

Jakarta. Thick smog continued to cripple the city of Jambi in Sumatra on Friday as visibility dropped to as little as 500 meters.

The smog, caused by a string of forest fires in the province of the same name, as well as neighboring South Sumatra and Riau, caused flights to and from Jambi’s Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin airport to be canceled.

Several residents also complained about respiratory problems with one health clinic saying that they treated 40 patients on Friday, mostly children and the elderly.

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Australia: Illegal traders of dugong, turtle meat targeted with $5m poaching crackdown

ABC News 27 Sep 14;

The Federal Government is warning anyone involved in the illegal trade of dugong and turtle meat that they will be caught.

The Government has allocated $5 million to a dugong and turtle protection plan that involves the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Customs and Border Protection, and the Australian Crime Commission.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the Crime Commission has been given $2 million to investigate the illegal trade.

Traditional owners have given their backing to the Government's protection plan.

"They know that their good name is being used by poachers," Mr Hunt said.

"We are determined to end the illegal trafficking in dugong and turtle meat and to protect these majestic creatures."

Under the Native Title Act of 1993, Indigenous people with native title rights can hunt marine turtles and dugong for personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs, and "in exercise and enjoyment of their native title rights and interests".

Dugong and turtle poaching has been identified as a problem in the Northern Territory and Queensland, where the animals are hunted and the meat sold illegally.

National Indigenous radio broadcaster Seith Fourmile said non-Indigenous people were also involved in the illegal trade.

"They are involved with the trading, with selling it, passing it down - some of the turtle meat has gone as far south as Sydney and Melbourne," he said.

Mr Hunt warned poachers to "be worried".

"It's time to protect these species. We're putting serious resources and serious people on the task," he said.

"If you are poaching dugong and turtle meat, transporting it illegally, you should be worried because the toughest cops on the beat are coming after you."

An Australian government survey in 2003 into dugong populations in the NT estimated the coastline from Daly River to Milingimbi at supporting over 13,000 animals.

It lists a number of threats to dugongs, including accidental entanglement in gill and mesh nets set by commercial fishers, habitat loss and degradation, boat strikes and harassment by tourists.

Other listed threats include acoustic and chemical pollution, disease, tidal surges and "capture stress", after two animals died while being fitted with radio devices for research purposes.

Plan to tackle dugong, turtle poachers muddle-headed, says Northern Land Council boss Joe Morrison
James Dunlevie ABC News 28 Sep 14;

The Federal Government's $5-million plan to crackdown on the illegal trade of dugong and turtle meat has been called a "muddle-headed" approach to conservation.

The dugong and turtle protection plan involves the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Customs and Border Protection, and the Australian Crime Commission to investigate and prosecute those trading in meat and products.

But the strategy should instead be left to local Indigenous people, said Northern Land Council CEO Joe Morrison.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said traditional owners had given their backing to the Government's plan.

"They know that their good name is being used by poachers," Mr Hunt said.

"We are determined to end the illegal trafficking in dugong and turtle meat and to protect these majestic creatures.

"If you are poaching dugong and turtle meat, transporting it illegally, you should be worried because the toughest cops on the beat are coming after you."

But Mr Morrison said sentiment was clouding the issue and survey numbers showed a healthy population of dugongs.

"[It's] a bit like whale hunting around the world, it becomes emotional," he said.

"Once we understand the facts... there has been recent surveys to look at population. I don't think there is a big problem at all.

"Just suggesting outright from some of the politicians involved [that there is a problem] is a muddled-headed approach to conservation."

Mr Morrison said any such plan would infringe on people's rights to hunt foods as their ancestors had done and said Mr Hunt's statement about traditional owners backing the plan was "nonsense".

"Quoting some traditional owners from a particular area as being representative of all Aboriginal islander people across the country is nonsense," he said.

He said any action to combat the illegal harvest of dugong or turtle meat by Indigenous or non-Indigenous people should come from the communities.

"People who are most concerned about these matters are Indigenous people who have to live with the consequences of animals becoming threatened or extinct, particularly especially when they are so spiritually significant and when they provide protein in the diet," Mr Morrison said.

Under the Native Title Act of 1993, Indigenous people with native title rights can hunt marine turtles and dugong for personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs, and "in exercise and enjoyment of their native title rights and interests".

Dugong and turtle poaching has been identified as a problem in the Northern Territory and Queensland, where the animals are hunted and the meat sold illegally or traded for drugs.

A 2008 study by the Australian Centre for Applied Marine Mammal Science concluded "the dugong population in the Gulf of Carpentaria region is substantial (approximately 12,500 individuals), making it one of the most important regions for dugongs in Australia and the world".

"We believe that there is time to work with local traditional owners and commercial fishers to develop appropriate management arrangements without dugongs becoming locally extinct within this region," the study said.

A 2003 Australian government survey into dugong populations in the NT estimated the coastline from Daly River to Milingimbi at supporting over 13,000 animals.

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