Best of our wild blogs: 14 Feb 14

Recent mass fish deaths: cause and implications
from wild shores of singapore

Yellow-vented Bulbul caught in a spider’s web
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Common Tiger
from Butterflies of Singapore

Microplastics in Singapore’s mangroves
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Read more!

Malaysia: Mass death of fish hits Johor fishermen

Yee Xiang Yun The Star 13 Feb 14;

NUSAJAYA: Fish farms and fishermen who get their source of income from the Tanjung Kupang waters in the Johor Straits near here have been affected by the mass death of fish in the area.

At least 10 fish farms and 250 traditional fishermen were affected by the death of the fishes in the past four days, believed to be due to off-shore land reclamation works in the vicinity.

One of the fish farmers Lee Boon Hock, 30, said that he suffered losses of more than RM150,000 in three days as more than 90% of his fish and fish fry were dead.

"We can only salvage what is left but those fish still have to be tested to see if they are safe for consumption," he said when met at his fish farm near Kampung Pendas Laut below the Second Link bridge here Thursday.

He noticed that the sea water have been polluted and turned brownish in colour after the land reclamation project began about a month ago and it was the first time that his farm suffered such losses.

Read more!

Farmers affected by mass fish deaths will be helped: Dr Maliki

Lip Kwok Wai and Shahidah Adriana Channel NewsAsia 13 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: The authorities will help fish farmers affected by mass fish deaths recently, said Minister of State for National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman when he visited two of the affected coastal fish farms on Thursday.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has collected samples from fish farms that were affected by sudden fish deaths, and no marine biotoxins were detected in the samples.

AVA added that the fish deaths at some 39 fish farms along the East Johor Straits and West Johor Straits could be due to low levels of oxygen in the water and the hot weather.

It said that live fish that are in the local markets, however, are safe for consumption.

Dr Maliki assured the farmers that assistance would be provided, which include setting up aeration systems to improve water quality.

"We will look at each farm, we'll explore the amount of losses. We'll explore how best we can help them individually.

“I think it's how we can show the support -- whether it is financial support or otherwise, it really depends on what they need at this point in time, after we've done the assessment,” he said.

Loh Tee Wee, a fish farm operator, said: "The water conditions are much better today. In fact, in the last two days, the water conditions have gotten better.

“So we are very happy that the situation has improved. We have our recovery plan in place -- how we are going to move forward, continue our production and ramp up our production this year, once the coast is clear that the water quality has improved."

- CNA/nd

AVA to ‘mitigate’ farmers’ targets in light of fish deaths
Kenneth Tan Today Online 14 Feb 14;

Singapore — It has been a tale of woe for 39 fish farms along the Johor Straits, but Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) stands ready to help farmers affected by one of the biggest mass fish deaths in recent years, as well as to prevent future incidents.

Farmers had in the wake of last weekend’s incident raised concerns over whether they could meet the minimum production target of 17 tonnes of fish per half-hectare space, which is part of AVA’s licensing conditions for coastal fish farms.

Speaking to reporters yesterday after visiting two farms off Changi, Dr Maliki said this year’s assessment may be mitigated. “If this year’s assessment ... is affected by such a situation, then it is only fair we will tell the farmers, ‘It’s okay, we will mitigate, we will look at how much losses you have incurred ... your productivity, the performance we measured in line with the losses you suffered’,” he added.

In all, about 160 tonnes of fish were reported to have died. Two of the farmers whom Dr Maliki visited reported suffering massive losses. Mr Teh Aik Hua of Kelong FC 117 estimated that his total losses amounted to more than S$1 million. “60 tonnes of my 70 tonnes of fish have died,” he said. Mr Teh said he hopes the AVA will be able to help his farm back on to its feet, by offering subsidies for business expenses.

Dr Maliki noted that the dead fish included species such as groupers, threadfin and golden trevally, which are the most susceptible to low levels of dissolved oxygen in the waters or a plankton bloom or both, as well as the hot weather. While this “is a very adverse situation”, the incident could help to improve farming methods and technology to prevent future recurrence, he added.

Dr Maliki also assured Singaporeans that fish on sale at markets here is safe for consumption as all the dead fish have been disposed appropriately. The AVA had collected samples from the affected farms for laboratory analysis, but no marine biotoxins were detected.

The impact to food supply will be minimal, the AVA added. In 2012, local farms produced about 5,100 tonnes of fish consumed here, but Singapore imported about 104,000 tonnes of fish from 75 sources.

Mass deaths continue at coastal fish farms
Dead fish were found at Pasir Ris Park, after more than a week of mass fish die-offs at fish farms across Singapore.
Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE - Mass die-offs at coastal fish farms across Singapore continued on Tuesday, with more dead fish washing up at Pasir Ris Park.

The mass deaths started about two weeks ago. The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it had received word of fish deaths at 34 fish farms along the East Johor Strait, and at five farms along the West Johor Strait near Lim Chu Kang.

In all, some 160 tonnes of fish, or 3 per cent of the amount Singapore food-fish farms produced in 2012, were reported to have died, said the AVA. They include groupers, golden trevally and threadfin.

The AVA said it had collected samples from the affected farms for laboratory analysis and found no marine biotoxins.

The deaths, said a spokesman, could be due to low levels of dissolved oxygen or plankton bloom caused by hot weather and a neap tide, where the high tide is at its lowest.

Fish farmers said they had been working around the clock to stem their losses by doing things like setting up more aeration systems to get oxygen into the water, lowering their cage nets or reducing feeding to improve water quality.

Mr Malcolm Ong, 50, whose Metropolitan Fishery Group farms red snapper, grey mullet and tilapia under The Fish Farmer brand, said he had added extra pumps and aerators, and sent boats out to churn the water for better circulation.

"We've been very fortunate," he said, having lost only about 200kg of fish out of 10,000kg. And of his company's two fish farm sites, only the one off Pulau Ubin was affected; ano- ther off Lim Chu Kang was not.

He chalked that up to the types of fish he keeps, which could be "better able to tahan (tolerate)" poor water quality, while high-value groupers might be more delicate.

The AVA has sent a waste disposal vessel round to fish farms to collect fish carcasses, and placed a tank at Changi Point Ferry Terminal for farmers to dispose of dead fish.

"The AVA will continue to monitor the situation closely," said a spokesman.

Meanwhile, staff from the Tropical Marine Science Institute's St John's Island marine laboratory reported seeing thousands of dead wild fish off Raffles Marina at Tuas.

They had been collecting marine animals from the seabed as part of the national Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey exercise, said researcher Chim Chee Kong, 36.

There have been other mass fish deaths in recent years. Last year, thousands of fish from Lim Chu Kang coastal farms died when hot dry weather cut oxygen levels in the water.

AVA support for farmers hit by mass fish deaths
Grace Chua The Straits Times So Shiok 16 Feb 14;

Fish farmers affected by the recent mass fish deaths do not have to worry about missing mandated productivity targets, said Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman, during a visit to coastal fish farms on Thursday.

Their losses will be considered when their production is counted, and they can turn the setback into a chance to improve their farms, said Dr Maliki, who met several farmers during his visit to two farms off Changi affected by mass die-offs.

In all, 34 farms in the eastern Johor Strait and five in the west Johor Strait have lost some 160 tonnes of fish so far. The die-offs were attributed to low levels of dissolved oxygen and a plankton bloom due to hot weather and neap tides, when high tides are at their lowest, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

While fish farms must produce 17 tonnes of fish per half hectare of farm space to keep their licences, Dr Maliki said "it's only fair that we tell the farmers it's okay, we look at how much losses you have suffered this time round, your productivity performance will be measured in line with the losses you have suffered".

The affected farms were also rearing fish more vulnerable to poor conditions, such as grouper, golden trevally and threadfin, he added. Singapore's farms produce about 6 per cent of the fish consumed here, the AVA said.

But fish in the market are safe to eat: the dead fish have all been disposed of properly, he said.

Dr Maliki, who is also South East District mayor, said the South East CDC would offer support to the families of affected Singaporean farmers and workers.

He said the authorities would also help fish farmers tap a $30 million AVA fund meant for boosting food production here, to improve aeration systems for example. But farmers must pay for equipment up front first, then submit receipts to get reimbursements.

Farmer Goh Joo Hiang, 60, who had lost up to $200,000 worth of fish, said the losses should also factor in next year's productivity targets. "Even if we bought two-inch fry now, it would take a year to raise them."

Meanwhile, the dry spell since mid-January has meant that more water has to be pumped into reservoirs.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday that water agency PUB has been running Singapore's desalination and Newater plants "at close to full capacity". The two desalination plants here can meet up to a quarter of Singapore's water needs, with a combined output of 100 million gallons per day (mgd).

Read more!

Wildlife group urges stronger sentence against man who illegally kept wildlife

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 13 Feb 14;

This critically endangered Bengal slow loris was found abandoned in Bedok reservoir. Despite the critical care provided by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), the slow loris passed away. Photo: ACRES

AVA says it will look into appeal request; will investigate separate case of critically endangered slow loris that died

SINGAPORE — The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will look into the call by a wildlife advocacy group to appeal against the sentence handed out last week to a man who illegally kept 32 wild animals, some of which are endangered.

Urging the AVA to appeal against the S$41,000 fine imposed on Ong Ming Shiang, 33, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) today (Feb 13) said the sentence was low given the circumstances, and inadequate as a general deterrent.

Global trends and public policy also demand the imposition of stricter penalties, said ACRES, noting that the fine was less than 10 per cent of the maximum Ong was facing. He was also facing up to two years’ jail but was not given a custodial sentence, ACRES added.

“We hope that AVA will file an appeal,” said ACRES chief executive Louis Ng.

Singapore is often labelled an illegal wildlife trading hub, and “we must send out a strong message that Singapore is committed and serious in combating this illegal trade and ensure individuals involved in this trade are not only caught but given effective deterrent sentences,” he added.

ACRES sent a letter dated today to the AVA containing detailed information that it said could be used to file an appeal against Ong’s sentence.

A copy was also provided to the Attorney-General. Among other points, ACRES noted that there was evidence to suggest Ong kept the animals not just as pets, but for sale as well. It also cited a previous case in which illegal animals had been kept as pets but a jail term was imposed.

Responding to media queries, the AVA said it has received ACRES’ letter and will be looking into the request.

Ong’s fine is the highest penalty imposed on a private individual for possessing illegal wildlife. He had kept 32 animals including three ball pythons, a Sunda slow loris, two Indian star tortoises and three leopard tortoises in a Toa Payoh North flat. Nineteen of the animals were endangered. The animals had been brought in without permits, and the AVA had inspected the flat after a tip-off and seized the animals in June last year.

He was sentenced last Thursday under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act and the Wild Animals and Birds Act.

ACRES’ call came a day after it was alerted to a Bengal slow loris abandoned in Bedok reservoir by a member of the public. The creature, a critically endangered species not native to Singapore, was found severely dehydrated, and later died at ACRES’ wildlife rescue centre despite critical care and efforts to re-hydrate it.

The AVA said it will be investigating the case.

Read more!

Guide underway for mariners navigating in straits of Malacca and Singapore

Channel NewsAsia 13 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is in the final stages of developing a safe passage guide for all mariners navigating in the Strait of Malacca and the Singapore Strait.

MPA said it is cooperating with the littoral states of Malaysia and Indonesia and BIMCO on coming up with the guide, which will be made available as soon as it is ready.

The authority gave the update after it conducted the first of a series of navigational safety dialogue sessions with the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) to the shipping community on Thursday, following three marine collisions recently over a span of 13 days in Singapore waters.

More than 100 representatives from the shipping community, who have direct channels to convey the safety messages to the ship masters and officers, attended the dialogue.

MPA said the session covered the interim measures that will be adopted to minimise future marine incidents.

Ships' crews were also reminded about their responsibilities and practices on the safe navigation of their ships.

MPA said it would also take appropriate action against any parties that are found to be guilty of navigational safety lapses in the Singapore Strait and within Singapore's port waters.

- CNA/nd

First of series of navigational safety dialogue sessions conducted by MPA and SSA
MPA 13 Feb 14;

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) collaborated with the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) to organise the first in a series of dialogue sessions to the shipping community to reinforce the importance of the safety of navigation in the Singapore Strait and Singapore's port waters. Following the recent collisions, MPA announced several measures on Monday to minimise future marine incidents.

The dialogue session was attended by more than 100 representatives from the shipping community, including shipowners, ship managers, ship charterers and shipping agents, who have direct channels to convey the safety messages to the ship masters and officers. The session covered the interim measures to be adopted, as well as reminders to the ships' crew on their responsibilities and practices on the safe navigation of their ships. The industry welcomed the session and took the opportunity to voice suggestions that could further enhance safe navigation within these waters, which would be considered through further dialogues between MPA and the shipping community.

MPA is also in the final stages of developing a safe passage guide for all mariners navigating in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, in cooperation with the littoral states of Malaysia and Indonesia and BIMCO, which will be made available as soon as it is ready.

MPA will continue to engage the shipping community to raise their vigilance. MPA will also take appropriate action against any parties that are found to be guilty of navigational safety lapses in the Singapore Strait and within our port waters.

Read more!

Singapore can meet water needs despite dry spell: Dr Balakrishnan

Channel NewAsia 13 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore will be able to meet its water needs despite the current dry spell, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan on a Facebook post on Thursday.

He said that he had been asked by many people recently about the current dry spell and its implications on the country's water security.

Dr Balakrishnan said that Singapore has been experiencing an unusually dry phase of the Northeast Monsoon since mid-January.

And he said that similar dry periods have occurred before -- most recently in early 2010.

But global climate change has brought greater weather volatility, with increased chances of both more intense storms and unpredictable periods of drought.

Dr Balakrishnan said in his Facebook post that the PUB has been running Singapore's desalination and NEWater plants at close to full capacity.

"Our two desalination plants have a combined output of 100 million gallons per day (mgd) and can meet 25 per cent of our water needs.

“Over the last two weeks, PUB has also injected an additional 20 to 25 mgd of NEWater into the reservoirs for indirect potable use, and this amount will be increased to about 30mgd next week," he added.

Dr Balakrishnan explained that the objective is to keep water reserves in the reservoirs at healthy levels.

"Fortunately, our major investments in NEWater and desalination over the years have diversified our sources of water supply and strengthened our water security," he added.

He said that the Northeast Monsoon typically lasts until early March, and while Singapore can be confident of meeting its water needs, he urged Singaporeans to remember that every drop of water is precious.

He encouraged people to continue to practise good water-saving habits and avoid unnecessary consumption, and to make every drop count.

- CNA/nd

Read more!

Number of hotspots in Sumatra drops further: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 13 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: The number of hotspots detected in Sumatra on Thursday dropped to 107 from 283 on Wednesday. There were 458 hotspots on Tuesday.

In an update, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the drop in the number was due to increased cloud cover.

NEA said localised smoke plumes and haze were still visible in Riau province where most of the hotspots were detected.

For the rest of this week, NEA said the likelihood of transboundary haze affecting Singapore remains low, as the prevailing northeasterly winds will keep the haze away from Singapore.

But Singapore may experience occasional slight haze due to accumulation of particulate matter under stable atmospheric conditions.

As at 8pm, the 3-hr PSI is 38 and the 24-hr PSI is in the range of 33 to 40.

A reading of 50 and below means the air quality is in the "good" range.

NEA added that some localised afternoon showers can also be expected in the next few days.

It said it would continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as necessary.

Updates are available at the NEA website, the haze microsite, or at NEA’s Facebook page and NEA’s Twitter.

Read more!

Indonesia: Riau police names five as suspects in forest fires

Antara 13 Feb 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Riau Police have charged five people as suspects in the land and forest fires cases after cross examinations and inquiries with several witnesses.

"Out of the five, three are from the Bengkalis Regency and one each from Pekanbaru and Indragiri Hilir Regency," stated the Riau Police Chief Inspector General Condro Kirono in Pekanbaru on Thursday.

Condro pointed out that the case is currently being handled by the local police officers. As for the case in the Bengkalis Regency, all three suspects are involved in the same crime.

He noted that the forest area which was burnt down in each region will soon be marked by the police line, so that the citizens become aware that the case is being handled by police officers.

"The suspects were charged under Law No. 18 of 2004 on plantation with the punishment of maximum 10 years imprisonment with the highest fine of Rp10 billion. They are also charged under Law No. 26 of 2007 on Spatial Planning," he explained.

Condro pointed out that the implementation of the quilted article will be a deterrent effect. He added that in 2013, the Riau Police had held as many as 33 suspects in burning of forests.

Director General of Plantation of Agricultural Ministry, Gamal Nasir, pointed out that Singapores protest against the smokes from land and forest fires in Riau should be taken seriously with the mitigation and prevention efforts act.

"We have to pay attention to the land and plantation fires. Singapores protests have been strong," stated Gamal Nasir in Pekanbaru, Riau on Thursday.

Gamal noted that in future, it should be ensured that there are no protests from other countries regarding the fires and smokes and in this regard, it should be addressed properly.

(Reporting by Adityawarman/D018/INE/KR-BSR/H-YH)
Editor: Priyambodo RH

Dumai to declare forest fire alert to highest level
Antara 13 Feb 14;

Dumai, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Dumai city administration is soon set to declare the highest level of alert status after haze originating from the forest and plantation fires lately blanketed the city.

The alert status will be applicable as the haze condition has worsened and the citys air quality has degraded, Deputy Mayor of Dumai Agus Widayat noted here on Thursday.

The air quality of Dumai has reached a precarious level that can pose a threat to the residents health, he stated during a meeting to coordinate efforts to tackle the haze problem.

The latest Pollutant Standard Index reading in the coastal city of Dumai hit 200 PSI, which is categorized as unhealthy.

Hotspots have been detected in 11 locations across Dumai and the visibility has dropped to less than 100 meters.

The meeting concluded that all the stakeholders must assist in tackling the forest fires and the health service office must monitor the health condition of the local residents.

"We urge the people to stay indoors and use face masks if they have to venture outdoors to prevent them from developing any respiratory problems," he advised.

The number of patients suffering from respiratory and mouth problems has reached 510 in the Dumai City, Riau Province, over the past six weeks.

However, there was no significant increase in the number of patients, even though the city has been hit by haze arising from the forest and plantation fires, Marjoko Santoso, the head of the Dumai health service, remarked here on Thursday.

The data was collected from patients visiting hospitals and community health centers in Dumai, since early January 2014.

He urged the local residents to use face masks to prevent developing any respiratory problems due to the haze lately enveloping the city.

The local health service office has distributed tens of thousands of face masks to the pedestrians.

Meanwhile, visibility in Dumai, Riau Province, dropped drastically to only five meters, on Tuesday (Feb. 11) at 7 a.m. local time, due to a thick haze produced by forest and plantation fires.
Editor: Priyambodo RH

S’pore haze fears mount as Riau fires rage on
Nurfika Osman and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 13 Feb 14;

Hazy day: Thick fog blankets Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Wednesday. Heavier smog from forest fires has reportedly reached neighboring Singapore, igniting worries over flight safety and possible respiratory illnesses. (Antara/FB Anggoro)

Fears that haze triggered by forest fires in Riau, Indonesia, will reach Singapore are mounting, as the number of hot spots across Sumatra increases.

Singapore Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on his Facebook account on Tuesday night that 458 hot spots were visible and haze might worsen when winds weakened next week.

“We will try to encourage them to take action, but we all know the welfare of close neighbors is not their priority. [These are the] hard truths of regional politics,” Balakrishnan said.

As of Wednesday, Antara news agency reported 243 hot spots in Riau, 74 in North Sumatra, 40 in West Sumatra and 75 in Aceh.

Earlier, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite reported hot spots in Riau had increased sharply from 30 in early January to 248 in early February.

The government is aware that an early start to the dry season may result in prolonged periods of haze in the archipelago, and is thus strengthening cooperation with localities to help tackle fires.

Forestry Ministry secretary-general Hadi Daryanto said the ministry had urged local leaders to closely monitor the number of hot spots on a daily basis and douse fires immediately.

“We have also deployed Manggala Agni firefighting teams to fire-prone areas to handle forest fires. They have been working with communities as well so we are quite well prepared [to face fires],” Hadi told The Jakarta Post.

The ministry has allocated Rp 1.5 trillion (US$124.5 million) to forest-fire management this year and has called on other departments and companies to follow.

Hadi, however, could not guarantee that the haze would not reach Singapore given that an incoming tropical cyclone could blow the haze toward the city state.

National Disaster Management Board (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the BNPB was collaborating with the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police, Manggala Agni, the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) and local disaster mitigation agencies (BPBDs) to handle forest fires.

Sutopo also said the board planned to conduct water bombing if fires reached a dangerous level.

The plan is to charter an amphibious BE-200 and a Kamov helicopter from Russia for the water bombing.

Worsening air quality in a number of regions in Riau has seen thousands suffer from acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs).

In Dumai, Riau, air pollution has reached an alarming level, with the Ambient Air Quality Monitoring program showing the level of pollution to have reached 449 on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI).

“Particles including fine dust carried by wind and haze are very hazardous to human health and people are extremely susceptible to ARTIs,” said Dumai health office head Marjoko Santoso.

Ever since haze from forest and peatland fires appeared, 670 people have been recorded as suffering from ARTIs in Dumai.

The number of patients is predicted to rise further as the haze has not shown signs of receding.

“Dumai health office has distributed 40,000 masks through puskesmas [community health centers] in every district to motorcyclists and pedestrians,” said Marjoko.

He also advised members of the public to minimize outdoor activities. But for those who had to work outdoors, he suggested always wearing masks and drinking plenty of water to minimize the direct affects of the hot weather and haze, such as dehydration.

“Those with a history of lung infections, heart problems, as well as the elderly and toddlers, should remain indoors and tightly shut doors and windows to minimize air pollution,” he said.

Read more!

Malaysia: 4 years jail for causing death of an orang utan

Kristy Inus New Straits Times 14 Feb 14;

GUILTY: Duo say hunting and hurting of animal is to 'exact revenge'

KOTA KINABALU: TWO foreigners were jailed four years for hunting and hurting an orang utan, a totally protected species, which later died.

Armil Gundil and Arcamsar Amil, both Filipino construction workers at a plantation here, pleaded guilty to slashing the 15-year-old male orang utan with a parang and tying it up with a nylon string at Sahabat 3, Felda Sahabat in Tungku, Lahad Datu, on Jan 29.

Both were jailed 30 months for hunting the animal and 18 months for hurting it.

The charges were under the Sabah Wildlife Enactment 1997.

Judge M. Rajalinggam meted out the landmark decision at the Lahad Datu Sessions Court on Wednesday and ordered the jail term to run consecutively.

Sabah Wildlife Department prosecuting officer Karim Dakog said the two men had claimed that they wanted to "exact revenge" by killing the orang utan but witnesses said the two men were planning to eat the protected animal.

Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said members of the Civil Defence Department informed the department about the orang utan being kept by the two men.

"I immediately directed our enforcement team to investigate," he said, adding that the two men were arrested and the badly injured orang utan was rescued.

The department's veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said post-mortem findings showed the cause of death was malicious in nature.

"There were a lot of bruises on the body which indicated that the animal was badly beaten. There was also severe haemorrhage in the brain," said Sen, who is also the department's assistant director.

The court's decision was a testament that the state government supports the full force of the law to protect the wildlife, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

"We will show no mercy to anyone causing harm to our totally protected and endangered species.
"Sabah is blessed with some of God's wonderful creatures and it is our moral duty to protect them," Masidi said.

Jailing of orang utan killers hailed
The Star 15 Feb 14;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department has described the case of two plantation workers who were jailed two years for killing an orang utan as a “landmark decision”.

It was a boost to the department’s conservation efforts, its assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said, adding that it was part of efforts to combat the illegal poaching menace.

“We are focusing on poachers in forest reserves in an effort to fight the problem,” he said.

It was reported yesterday that the two workers, who pleaded guilty in the Sessions Court, had used a parang to slash the orang utan at Felda Sahabat on Jan 29.

They had been upset that the animal had damaged oil palm trees.

However, Dr Sen said wildlife rangers suspected that the culprits had wanted to consume the bushmeat.

He said 10 poachers had been caught in forest reserves and wildlife sanctuaries in the state so far this year.

The rangers had also seized various types of bushmeat at markets.

“There is local demand for bushmeat,” Dr Sen said, adding that certain people would go for any bushmeat they could get their hands on.

Read more!

Governments commit to decisive and urgent action to tackle global wildlife poaching crisis

WWF 13 Feb 14;

London, 13 February 2014 — Heads of state, ministers and high level representatives of 46 countries, including those most heavily impacted by poaching and illegal trade of wildlife, today committed to taking “decisive and urgent action” to tackle the global illegal wildlife trade.

The strongly worded declaration was issued following two days of closed-door negotiations hosted in London by the UK government. Their Royal Highnesses, Princes Charles, William and Harry also participated in the event.

Measures agreed by countries signing the declaration include action to eradicate the market from illegal wildlife products; agreement to strengthen law enforcement efforts and ensure that effective legal frameworks and deterrents are in place; and moves to promote sustainable livelihoods through positive engagement with local communities.

WWF and TRAFFIC welcome the post-conference “London Declaration” for recognising the significant scale and detrimental economic, social and environmental consequences of illegal wildlife trade, including how poaching and trafficking are increasingly controlled by organized criminal networks that undermine the rule of law and good governance and encourage corruption.

Heather Sohl, Chief Species Advisor at WWF-UK, said:

“Governments signing the London Declaration today sent a strong message: Wildlife crime is a serious crime and it must be stopped. This trafficking devastates species populations, but also takes the lives of rangers, impedes countries’ economic development and destabilises society by driving corruption.

"This is a crisis, not just at a national or regional scale, but one that demands urgent global attention, and so warrants high-level political support through the appointment of a dedicated United Nations Special Representative. It is down to governments to stand by their commitments now and put in place procedures and resources to tackle the crime back in their homelands.”

Countries present at today’s meeting include several whose elephant populations are under severe poaching pressure, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya and Tanzania. Other countries that represent major transit points for ivory shipped from Africa to Asia were also in attendance, including Togo, the Philippines and Malaysia, and significantly, China, the major market for illegal ivory.

Similarly, countries at the centre of the rhino horn trade chain were represented, including South Africa, Mozambique and Viet Nam, as well as some of those impacted by the illegal trade in tiger parts: Indonesia, Myanmar, Russia and China.

Also joining the meeting were representatives from a number of intergovernmental organizations with a significant role to play in addressing the crisis, including CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, various United Nations agencies, the African Development Bank, the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank. Several of these organizations have the potential to make resources available to implement the declaration’s commitments.

“Today’s London Declaration was a clear call to arms for countries to play their part in bringing down the organized criminal networks that are destroying the world’s iconic wildlife and destabilizing national and international security,” said Steven Broad, executive director of TRAFFIC.

“Key to supporting those efforts are the agreed actions targeting the consumer end of the supply chain, where reducing the demand for wildlife products is an essential part of the process,” Broad added.

“This degree of high level attention to illegal wildlife trade and unanimous call for action is unprecedented. Our challenge now is to keep up the pressure and help translate this attention into concerted action to put the Declaration’s bold commitments into action.”

Global accord on combatting illegal wildlife trade agreed by 46 nations
William Hague hails London event as 'turning point' in fight against yearly slaughter of thousands of rhinos and elephants
Adam Vaughan The Guardian 13 Feb 14;

Forty-six countries on Thursday agreed a declaration to tackle the illegal wildlife trade that is killing thousands of elephants, rhinos and other endangered species each year.

The foreign secretary, William Hague, said he believed that the unprecedented high-level event in London would turn out to be a historic conference and a turning point in the fight against the illegal trade, which is worth up to £12bn a year and is rated as the fourth most valuable to crime after human trafficking, the arms trade and drugs.

The London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, was held at Lancaster House, and attended by the Prince of Wales, and his sons, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, four African heads of state, and a flurry of celebrities speaking out against poaching, including the action film star Jackie Chan, the footballer David Beckham, and the former NBA basketballer Yao Ming.

People in China, the world's biggest market for ivory, had turned against ivory products in the past five years, Chan suggested. He compared the generational change in Chinese views on ivory consumption to the shift that had taken place in younger Chinese people against smoking.

The 13-page London declaration, which was agreed at the meeting, describes the trade as having "significant scale and detrimental economic, social and environmental consequences".

The countries at the meeting agreed to a series of actions, including addressing corruption, adopting legislation for tougher penalties against poachers, and recruiting more law enforcement officers.

Hague singled out as significant the promise in the declaration that governments would not procure wildlife products officially. "I believe today we have begun to turn the tide."

Demand from an increasingly affluent Asian middle class, in particular in China and Vietnam, has driven the price of rhino horn to more than $60,000 (£36,000) a kilo – an amount that is more than the value put on gold and cocaine. Ivory has been selling at $2,000 a kilo.

A study this week showed that five countries in central Africa lost 65% of their forest elephant population between 2002 and 2011 despite an ivory sales ban in 1989. Gabon had the biggest losses.

South Africa alone lost more than 1,000 rhinos to poachers in 2013, a 50% increase on the year before, and up from just 13 of the animals in 2007.

Conservation groups welcomed the declaration, which WWF described as strong-worded, and the Environmental Investigation Agency said contained "meaningful actions".

Prince Charles told the summit: "Today you are breaking new ground by coming together and committing – at high levels never before seen at a conference on this topic – to take urgent action to put a stop to this trade, which has become a grave threat not only to the wildlife and the people who protect them, but also to the security of so many nations."

Prince William, who thanked Chan personally for his support of the initiative, said: "We are, as a family, so honoured to be part of this movement. We will stay the course with you until you succeed. We are here with a single shared purpose, to use our collective influence to put a stop to the illegal killing and trafficking of some our world's most iconic and endangered species."

Hague said the wildlife trade was not just an environmental crisis. He said: "This is now a global criminal industry, ranked alongside drugs, arms and people trafficking. It drives corruption and insecurity, and undermines efforts to cut poverty and promote sustainable development, particularly in African countries."

Ali Bongo Ondima, the president of Gabon, one of the four African leaders attending the summit, alongside the presidents of Chad, Botswana and Tanzania, said the trade had been a national security issue that "creates safety issues and makes money for rebel organisations".

Ethiopia, Botswana, Chad, Rwanda, and Uganda launched an elephant protection initiative at the summit. Botswana will host a follow-up high-level meeting in 2015 to discuss progress on tackling the wildlife trade.

Read more!