Best of our wild blogs: 2 Jan 14

lone injured otter ? @ off Pulau Buloh - 01Jan2014
from sgbeachbum

New Year Morning Walk At Bukit Batok Nature Park (01 Jan 2014) from Beetles@SG BLOG and Short Afternoon Walk At Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (31 Dec 2013)

Caged civets in Vietnam
from Project LUWAK SG

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Changi Village area on track to be developed into sports & recreational centre

Lip Kwok Wai and Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 1 Jan 14;

SINGAPORE: The Changi Village area is on track to be developed into a sports and recreational centre.

And analysts said the recently completed Changi Cove hotel near Hendon Road could be part of the government's plan to develop the entire area into a resort and corporate retreat site.

Some of the colonial buildings around Changi Village are currently undergoing upgrading.

There are plans to redevelop them into a spa resort, restaurants and even a corporate training centre.

Five of the buildings along Hendon Road, which are expected to house the spa and restaurants, belong to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

The SLA has since tendered out the operations of those five buildings.

Nearby, the Changi Civil Service Club, located near the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, is also undergoing upgrading.

The upgrading is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2014.

The Civil Service Club said once the upgrading is completed, the gross floor area of the facility will be tripled. Twenty per cent of that space will be designated for food and beverage and leisure space outlets.

Observers feel that the location in the east of the country can provide an alternative to the city centre.

Chris Koh, director of Chris International, said: "It is away from the city so if one wants to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city, the large populated areas, lots of commercial and industrial… then Changi will be a nice place."

- CNA/nd

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Malaysia: Alert for strong winds, rough seas

New Straits Times 2 Jan 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Third category strong winds and rough seas in the coasts of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and east Johor are expected until this Friday.

A statement from the Meteorological Department said the situation might cause winds of 60kph and waves over 5.5 metres high, exposing these areas to high water levels.

The strong winds and rough seas will present danger to beach and shipping activities, including on oil platforms.

Strong winds and choppy seas (second category) are also expected in Sabah (Interior, West Coast and Kudat), Federal Territory of Labuan and Sarawak with winds of 50 and 60kph as well as waves of up to 4.5m.

The situation is dangerous for beach and shipping activities, including fishing and ferry services. Bernama

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Malaysia: Rare turtle landing makes waves in Bachok

New Straits Times 2 Jan 14;

BACHOK: A hawksbill turtle that landed on Pantai Chenang Laut in Tawang here on Tuesday surprised villagers as it was the first of such sighting in decades.

Kampung Padang Nibong residents went in droves to the beach after news spread about the discovery of the hawksbill by a teenager about 4.30pm.

Mohd Farid Ismail, 17, said he and a friend were riding horses when they spotted the turtle on the shore.

"It looked weak and its right front fin was injured.

"My friend and I led the turtle back into the sea several times.

"But it kept swimming back ashore.

"After a few times, we decided to keep it for its own safety."

He said he would hand over the 15kg turtle to the relevant authorities to be released back into the sea as he had no knowledge how to care for the reptile in captivity.

"When the turtle refused to go back into the sea, my friend helped to carry it on his motorcycle and we kept it at his horse stable."

Villager Idris Senit, 65, said the appearance of the hawksbill was extraordinary as this was the first time he saw a turtle landing since he was young boy.

He said the hawksbill's fin could have been caught in a fishing net which might have damaged it.

"It is a bit worrisome to us because the rare landing could be a bad omen."

State fisheries director Datuk Mohamad Mat Saman said it was nothing out of the ordinary for turtles to land on beaches in Kelantan.

He said there had been reports every now and then about turtle landings but it was quite rare in the state.

"Hawksbill and green turtles are the most common species that land in Kelantan," he said, adding that the leatherback species had long stopped coming to shores in the state.

Under the Fisheries Act 1985, he said it was an offence for people to abuse or catch turtles and offenders were liable to be fined up to RM500 upon conviction.

Mohamad said the department officials picked up the hawksbill from the village at 11pm on Tuesday after they were informed about its discovery.

"We will send the hawksbill to the Rantau Abang turtle sanctuary in Terengganu to rehabilitate and treat its injury as soon as possible."

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Indonesia struggles to clean up corrupt forestry sector

Angela Dewan (AFP) Google News 1 Jan 14;

Berau — Deep in the forests of Borneo island, workmen from an Indonesian timber company fell a tree with a chainsaw, stick a red tag with a serial number onto it and attach a corresponding stub to the stump.

This is all part of an arduous auditing process, one of many government attempts to clamp down on illegal logging and clean up one of the country's most corrupt and mismanaged sectors as Western countries demand proof their timber imports are legal.

Following an agreement signed with the European Union in September, Jakarta is rolling out a system under which companies holding government-issued permits are given a certificate to prove their wood is harvested within the law.

Indonesia, Asia's leading exporter of timber to the EU, is hoping the pact will help it double timber exports to Europe to the tune of $2 billion a year.

But critics say logging permits considered legal are often obtained through illegal means, and laws passed in Europe, the US and Australia to give consumers a clear conscience do little to tackle under-the-table transactions that compromise the sector.

?This system is basically asking, do you have a permit, and if you do, that box is ticked. It?s saying anything that the government does is considered legal,? said Emily Harwell, lead author of "The Dark Side of Green Growth", a recent report by Human Rights Watch.

"It is silent on corruption."

Indonesia is rapidly losing its forests, mostly to make way for plantations for timber products such as paper and palm oil.

According to a map released by Google Earth in November, two million hectares (20,000 km2) are lost annually, the equivalent of 10,000 football fields every day.

Bribery for permits

The forestry ministry is considered the country's most corrupt institution, according to a 2012 survey by the country's respected Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which found permits being bought from officials with bribe money was the most common act of corruption.

Timber companies in Indonesia, which has the world's third-largest expanse of rainforests, are legally obliged to comply with strict guidelines before being granted permits, such as carrying out environmental impact assessments and consulting communities affected by their operations.
But permits are handed out even when such requirements are not fulfilled, critics say, while even government data shows only 16 percent of such permits have been through the process of consulting affected communities.

Law enforcement is not only lax, it is often part of the problem. In May, mid-ranking police officer Labora Sitorus was arrested for allegedly running a $150 million illegal logging ring in the remote, eastern Papua region -- seen as Indonesia's last bastion of vast untouched rainforest.

Sitorus was caught after state financial auditors linked him to 115 containers of illegally-logged timber in Surabaya on Java island, a hub for hand-made furniture exports.

Critics like Harwell say this all means that even with Indonesia's new Timber Legality Assurance System, the mountains of cardboard packaging, dining tables and timber flooring being sent abroad with a stamp of approval are not necessarily legal at all.

Nevertheless there are some companies striving to ensure their timber is genuinely legal.

Sumalindo Lestari Jaya -- the timber company on Indonesian Borneo tagging its logs and tree stumps -- has spent years engaging with the local indigenous Dayak communities affected by its 60,000-hectare (150,000-acre) concession near the city of Berau.

Sharing the wealth

The company shares the benefits of its harvests in cash handouts, school tuition for children and basic infrastructure with four of five communities affected by its operation, and involves them in operational decision-making.

"Sumalindo didn't at first engage with the communities. But they realised that by communicating better with them, they could come up with something fair that respects everyone's rights," said Joko Sarjito from WWF, which facilitated the agreements.

The company exports construction timber, wood panelling and timber flooring to Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Australia and Japan, and it is hoping to qualify for a superior certificate from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which also ensures sustainability and fair trade.

"To be honest, it doesn't really make financial sense to go for the FSC certificate. It's about 30 percent more expensive to produce, and the returns are only around five percent higher," Sumalindo board director Rudi Gunawan said.

"But we do it for our name, for pride."

While some big companies have the funds to venture into the brave new world of clean timber, artisan furniture makers have trouble even registering as a business, a basic requirement for a certificate of legality.

"In many cases, the artisan doesn't want to register formally. They are often asked for costly fees and they might not feel comfortable in that formalised environment," said Agus Djalaili, technical adviser for the Multistakeholder Forestry Programme funded by Britain's Department for International Development.

Sources in the industry said there have been several cases where artisans have simply bought certificates of legality and that the auditing process could be compromised.

The forestry ministry admits there is room for improvement in the new initiative, which is not set in stone until the agreement with the EU is ratified.

?We are still developing it and we are completing the text, so we are open to views from NGOs and we want to ensure our timber is truly legal,? said Dwi Sudharto, the ministry's director general of processing and marketing of forest products.

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Planet likely to warm by 4C by 2100, scientists warn

New climate model taking greater account of cloud changes indicates heating will be at higher end of expectations
Damian Carrington The Guardian 31 Dec 13;

Temperature rises resulting from unchecked climate change will be at the severe end of those projected, according to a new scientific study.

The scientist leading the research said that unless emissions of greenhouse gases were cut, the planet would heat up by a minimum of 4C by 2100, twice the level the world's governments deem dangerous.

The research indicates that fewer clouds form as the planet warms, meaning less sunlight is reflected back into space, driving temperatures up further still. The way clouds affect global warming has been the biggest mystery surrounding future climate change.

Professor Steven Sherwood, at the University of New South Wales, in Australia, who led the new work, said: "This study breaks new ground twice: first by identifying what is controlling the cloud changes and second by strongly discounting the lowest estimates of future global warming in favour of the higher and more damaging estimates."

"4C would likely be catastrophic rather than simply dangerous," Sherwood told the Guardian. "For example, it would make life difficult, if not impossible, in much of the tropics, and would guarantee the eventual melting of the Greenland ice sheet and some of the Antarctic ice sheet", with sea levels rising by many metres as a result.

The research is a "big advance" that halves the uncertainty about how much warming is caused by rises in carbon emissions, according to scientists commenting on the study, published in the journal Nature. Hideo Shiogama and Tomoo Ogura, at Japan's National Institute for Environmental Studies, said the explanation of how fewer clouds form as the world warms was "convincing", and agreed this indicated future climate would be greater than expected. But they said more challenges lay ahead to narrow down further the projections of future temperatures.

Scientists measure the sensitivity of the Earth's climate to greenhouse gases by estimating the temperature rise that would be caused by a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere compared with pre-industrial levels – as is likely to happen within 50 years, on current trends. For two decades, those estimates have run from 1.5C to 5C, a wide range; the new research narrowed that range to between 3C and 5C, by closely examining the biggest cause of uncertainty: clouds.

The key was to ensure that the way clouds form in the real world was accurately represented in computer climate models, which are the only tool researchers have to predict future temperatures. When water evaporates from the oceans, the vapour can rise over nine miles to form rain clouds that reflect sunlight; or it may rise just a few miles and drift back down without forming clouds. In reality, both processes occur, and climate models encompassing this complexity predicted significantly higher future temperatures than those only including the nine-mile-high clouds.

"Climate sceptics like to criticise climate models for getting things wrong, and we are the first to admit they are not perfect," said Sherwood. "But what we are finding is that the mistakes are being made by the models which predict less warming, not those that predict more."

He added: "Sceptics may also point to the 'hiatus' of temperatures since the end of the 20th century, but there is increasing evidence that this inaptly named hiatus is not seen in other measures of the climate system, and is almost certainly temporary."

Global average air temperatures have increased relatively slowly since a high point in 1998 caused by the ocean phenomenon El NiƱo, but observations show that heat is continuing to be trapped in increasing amounts by greenhouse gases, with over 90% disappearing into the oceans. Furthermore, a study in November suggested the "pause" may be largely an illusion resulting from the lack of temperature readings from polar regions, where warming is greatest.

Sherwood accepts his team's work on the role of clouds cannot definitively rule out that future temperature rises will lie at the lower end of projections. "But," he said, for that to be the case, "one would need to invoke some new dimension to the problem involving a major missing ingredient for which we currently have no evidence. Such a thing is not out of the question but requires a lot of faith."

He added: "Rises in global average temperatures of [at least 4C by 2100] will have profound impacts on the world and the economies of many countries if we don't urgently start to curb our emissions."

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