Best of our wild blogs: 18 Jan 14

Toddycats recce the Petai trail
from Otterman speaks

Butterflies of Pulau Ubin Part 1
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Night Walk on the Wilder Side of Yio Chu Kang Road (17 Jan 2014) from Beetles@SG BLOG

Chek Jawa featured in The Epoch Times
from wild shores of singapore

Difficulties of a release program and what can be learnt
from sundapangolin

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ASEAN slow in adopting haze monitoring system: Shanmugam

May Wong Today Online 18 Jan 14;

BAGAN — Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been slow in adopting the haze monitoring system, said Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam after attending the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Bagan, Myanmar, yesterday.

While ASEAN leaders had agreed to adopt a transboundary haze monitoring system at the last ASEAN Summit in Brunei, there has been limited progress since. “There has been some degree of, I won’t say resistance, but a lack of movement. And we expressed our hope that it can change, and a degree of disappointment that it hasn’t happened a bit faster,” said Mr Shanmugam.

Without giving details, Mr Shanmugam pointed out that if ASEAN continues to do nothing, individual countries would be forced to take unilateral steps to handle the matter within the confines of international law.

The haze monitoring system was developed by Singapore and aims to identify responsible parties and the causes of regional haze. It was developed after Singapore and other countries in the region were hit by a severe haze last year, which caused Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) levels to peak at a record of 400 here in June.

On ASEAN’s aim to achieve an economic community by the end of next year, Mr Shanmugam said the group has accomplished 80 per cent of its targets, but that achieving the remaining 20 per cent will not be easy.

He also commended Myanmar for hosting a successful Foreign Ministers’ Meeting as part of its first stint as ASEAN chair. “The fact that the country, which has been subject to so many sanctions, is now the chair of ASEAN shows how fully the integration has taken place,” he said.

The Foreign Ministers’ Meeting marks the official start to a series of ASEAN meetings this year, leading up to the Regional Leaders’ Summit later in the year.

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Malaysia: Invasion of alien predator fish

Sim Bak Heng New Straits Times 18 Jan 14;

RIVER THREAT: Unscrupulous importers to blame

JOHOR BARU: ALIEN predator fish are multiplying at such a rapid rate in Malaysian waterways that many indigenous river species have ended up as their meal.

The presence of the predator species, such as the Peacock Bass, Alligator Pike, Arapaima, Amazon Catfish, Armoured Catfish and Tiger Fish, as well as crustacean species, such as the Red Claw Crayfish and Blue Claw Crayfish, are wiping out many river species.

Environmentalists are blaming unscrupulous ornamental fish importers for illegally bringing in the predator species in the form of fish fry. The predator fish, especially the Arapaima and Alligator Pike, are attractive to enthusiasts and sold before they have matured.

Malaysia Nature Society (Johor chapter) chairman Vincent Chow said the problem would start when the predator fish matured and developed a big appetite, which many enthusiasts could not afford to meet.

"When aquarium operators and enthusiasts find it hard to maintain the fish, which can grow up to 2m long, they release the fish into rivers or ponds, where they breed rapidly. This is when the buffet-style feasting begins."

Chow said most rivers in the state that flowed through urban areas, including Sungai Skudai, Sungai Mengkibol and Sungai Kahang, were contaminated with predator fish and crustaceans.

"The Armoured Catfish, Tilapia, Red Claw Crayfish and Blue Claw Crayfish are the major predator species found in the rivers. These species are becoming the dominant ones, upsetting the food chain and ecosystem."

He cited the example of the Snakehead species, which was introduced in Florida, the United States, years ago. The fish multiplied so rapidly that the species became unmanageable, with reports of even humans having been attacked by them.

Some species also dig tunnels in riverbanks to lay eggs, causing some stretches to collapse.
Chow said the Armoured Catfish and the two crustacean species were the main culprits in destabilising riverbanks.

He called on the Fisheries Department to enforce the law in dealing with those found to be importing, selling and keeping alien predator fish.

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Malaysia: 5 hours to move male elephant

New Straits Times 17 Jan 14;

TO THE RESCUE: Officers use female elephants to tame wild animal caught in Kampung Keruak forest

HULU BESUT: THE Terengganu Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan), aided by the National Elephant Conservation Centres (UKGK) in Kuala Gandah, Pahang, and Sungai Ketiar, Hulu Terengganu, took five hours to tame and transfer a wild male elephant caught in the Kampung Keruak forest here last Thursday.

Two female elephants from UKGK Kuala Gandah were used to help the team, comprising 10 Perhilitan officers and nine UKGK members.

The three-tonne elephant, caught last Thursday, was believed to have rampaged oil palms belonging to local residents. Four or five other elephants escaped into the jungle.

Terengganu Perhilitan director Yusoff Sharif said the operation took a long time because the wild elephant had to be tied up and pulled for about 1km before being transported out in a lorry.

"A passage had to be made in the jungle to facilitate the transfer of the elephant."
He said it was the second such operation this year. However, he said, it was the first involving an elephant in Hulu Terengganu.

Yusoff said the elephants that escaped had been spotted in Manik Urai forest, Kelantan. Bernama

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Malaysia: Malacca forest reserve encroached upon

Allison Lai The Star 18 Jan 14;

MALACCA: A state forest reserve in Bukit Senggeh, Selandar near here, has been encroached upon for organised rubber cultivation.

The 10ha forest reserve, about 30km from the city centre, has been planted with rows of rubber trees, believed to be aged between four and six years old.

Naturally, some of the existing trees from the reserve had been cut to make way for the plantation, with tree stumps still visible on the ground.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron, who was rather bemused by the finding, said the activities were believed to have been going on for five to six years.

“How could it have happened throughout the years? I am eager to know who is behind all this,” he said on Wednesday evening after chairing the weekly state executive councillor meeting at Seri Negeri in Ayer Keroh.

Idris said the issue came to his attention when villagers at the area were curious about the plantation that just appeared in the middle of the forest, and alerted authorities.

Initially, the villagers thought it was on private land, he said, adding that the state Forestry Department was also not aware of the matter.

“However, only when the trees had grown tall and people started asking questions was it learnt that the land belongs to state forest reserve,” said Idris, adding that some village folks claimed it was the orang asli who had cultivated the illegal plantation, with even some orang asli claiming the trees as theirs.

“Anyway, I see that it was not the work of the orang asli after some checks. The plantation is also very well organised, much better than my old folks’ farm.

“I suspect that some organised quarter is behind this,’’ he said.

Asked what the state government’s next course of action will be, Idris replied that it would be a waste to bring down the trees.

“We have suggested at the exco meeting that the state government lease the area to those interested to tap the rubber trees. We are considering an open tender for this,” he said.

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Malaysia: Warning of strong winds, rough sea until Monday

New Straits Times 17 Jan 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Strong winds and rough sea warning of category three in waters off Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, east Johor, interiors in the west coast and Kudat in Sabah, Labuan and Sarawak are expected continue until Monday.

The Meteorological Department, in a statement here today, said the strong northeasterly winds with speed of 60kph and waves exceeding 5.5 metres high are dangerous top all beach and shipping activities, including workers at oil platforms.

"Apart from that, the coastal areas in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and east Johor are also exposed to rising sea level," it said.

The strong northeasterly winds of category two in waters off Sandakan, Sabah, is expected to continue until Monday with a speed of between 50 and 60kph and waves as high as 4.5 metres.

The condition is dangerous to all shipping and beach activities, including fishing and ferry service.

The statement also stated that the northeasterly winds in waters off Tawau, Semporna and Lahad Datu, Sabah, will also continue until Monday with a speed of 40 to 50kph and waves as high as 3.5 metres. Bernama

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1,000+ rhinos poached in South Africa in 2013, worst year on record

Carol J. Williams Los Angeles Times 17 Jan 14;

The world's largest surviving population of white rhinos suffered its heaviest toll on record last year when poachers killed more than 1,000 of the threatened animals to feed an international market for trinkets and potions made from their horns.

The South African Department of Environmental Affairs reported Friday that it had counted 1,004 rhinos killed by poachers in 2013, mostly in Kruger National Park, along the porous border with Mozambique.

It was the worst year for rhinoceros poaching since the government began tracking the illegal hunting in the early 1900s, National Geographic reported.

South Africa is home to more than 20,000 white rhinos, about 80% of the world's population of the iconic beasts that numbered 500,000 a century ago, conservation organizations report.

Soaring demand for rhino horn from Asian countries, particularly China and Vietnam, is driving up prices for the slain animals' signature feature, nurturing an illegal poaching network operating out of Mozambique, explained Tom Milliken, rhinoceros expert with the global wildlife trade monitoring organization TRAFFIC.

"South Africa and Mozambique must decisively up their game if they hope to stop this blatant robbery of southern Africa’s natural heritage," Milliken said, calling on authorities to make 2014 "the turning point where the world, collectively, says ‘enough is enough’ and brings these criminal networks down."

In its quest to protect rhinos from poachers, the South African government has signed agreements with China and Vietnam to better coordinate their tracking and enforcement efforts. Similar agreements are in the works with Mozambique, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Hong Kong, TRAFFIC said on its website.

"The world’s rhinos are facing a genuine crisis, and high-level agreements and statements have to translate into meaningful conservation action, both in rhino range states and in key consumer countries such as Vietnam and China," said Naomi Doak, a coordinator for the wildlife group in Vietnam. "We are still waiting to see the rhetoric result in significant arrests and prosecutions of those orchestrating the rhino horn trafficking."

Last year's white rhino toll was nearly 50% higher than in 2012, when 668 of the animals were slaughtered for their horns. Interception and detention of poachers was up commensurately, with 343 alleged poachers and traffickers arrested in 2013, an increase from 267 the previous year, according to the report from Pretoria.

But the numbers of rhinos killed nonetheless remained on track to overtake births within the next two to three years, Save the Rhino reports in its statistical analysis of the threatened species.

Popular Science magazine calculated that at the current rate of poaching, white rhinos would be extinct in about 20 years. It also disputed Asian rhino horn consumers' belief that the ground extremity has medicinal value, describing its composition as similar to human fingernails.

The London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, which next month brings together senior officials from 50 countries, will seek to strengthen commitments to fight trade in endangered species and curb demand in the most voracious markets, the organization said of the gathering to be convened by Britain's Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron.

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