Best of our wild blogs: 16 Feb 14

Love Our MacRitchie Forest – Official Music Video launched! from Love our MacRitchie Forest

Short Afternoon Walk At Venus Drive (15 Feb 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Butterfly of the Month - February 2014
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Four golf clubs to find out fate of their courses on Sunday

Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 15 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: Four golf clubs will find out on Sunday whether their courses will have to make way for redevelopment when their leases expire.

Government agencies will meet with members of Keppel Club, Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Tanah Merah Country Club, and the National Service Resort & Country Club at separate briefing sessions.

Singapore has 17 golf courses that sit on some 1,500 hectares of land, making up some two percent of the country's total land area.

The number may seem small but not for land-scarce Singapore.

Asst Prof Harvey Neo from the National University of Singapore's Department of Geography, said: "Compared to other countries, my sense is that we do have too many golf courses, golf clubs, and that the land area that they take up is, compared to other places, really high.

"Studies have shown in Japan, for example, which is another country that has many, many golf courses, it's about 1.2 percent or low 1 percent. And that's Japan. So I would say yes, a lot of land has been devoted to golf courses in Singapore."

In the Land Use Plan released last year, the government said some golf courses will make way for redevelopment.

It is part of plans to increase Singapore's land supply to accommodate a projected population of 6.9 million by 2030.

Most golf courses operate on 30-year leases, with many expiring between 2021 and 2030.

Experts say that with an increasing population, there is an urgency to maximise the use of land in Singapore. Golf courses become immediate targets because they occupy large plots of land and are used by a smaller number of people.

Speculation is rife that Keppel Club and the Singapore Island Country Club could be hardest hit when their leases expire in 2021, with SICC potentially losing at least one of its four golf courses.

Depending on the location of these golf courses, experts say the land could potentially be used to build more homes, parks, and even infrastructure like highways.

Singaporeans say freeing up the land could also benefit more people, by bringing property prices down, or having more places for leisure activities.

And the search for more space will not just stop with the golf courses.

Asst Prof Neo said: "Once we (have) dealt with these golf courses, think of alternative uses, yes we'll still be faced with the same problem. We still need to think about where can we find extra space (for) whatever purposes.

"It boils down to increasing the kind of ideas and creativity that we have in terms of maximising use of space and diversifying, multi-tasking use of space.

"And I think the issue we are having with golf courses now is just the beginning. It will get increasingly challenging."

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) say letting the clubs know in advance what will happen when their leases expire will enable them to better make investment and membership plans, and allow the public to make informed decisions when it comes to selling or buying memberships in these clubs.

In response to media queries, SLA and URA said: "When the lease ends, the land has to be returned, if there are other needs. It is the same for all other state leases, whether for residential, commercial, industrial or other uses.

"As golf courses occupy large amounts of land, tenures are limited to 30 years or less to preserve flexibility."

- CNA/al

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Malaysia: Johor State Government investigating cause of fish deaths

kathleen ann kili The Star 16 Feb 14;

GELANG PATAH: The state government is conducting a full investigation into the dead fish issue that has badly affected the livelihood of fishermen here.

Johor Mentri Besar political secretary Mohd Khairi Malik said that the government is currently investigating the root causes of the incident.

“We will be receiving a full report from the Environmental Investigation Agency within this week,” he said during a press conference at Kampung Pendas here on Sunday

Mohd Khairi also said that the state government would halt nearby land reclamation work if it was the cause of the water pollution.

“Whatever it is, we have to wait for the report before pointing fingers,” he said.

It was reported on Friday that breeders had claimed that land reclamation around the Tanjung Kupang area had been causing mass deaths of fish in farms.

At least 10 fish farms and 250 traditional fishermen were reported to have been affected.

KPRJ denies mass fish deaths is due to land reclamation project
yee xiang yun The Star 16 Feb 14;

JOHOR BARU: The Johor government-owned Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor Bhd has denied that the mass fish deaths in the Tanjung Kupang area along the Johor Straits was caused by land reclamation work nearby.

Speaking at the KPRJ office in Danga Bay Sunday, its executive vice chairman Datuk Md Othman Yusof said that the project, which began on Jan 22, was a joint-venture partnership between KPRJ and a China-based property company to develop a mixed development area.

He said that the project had complied with all regulations set by the Department of Environment (DOE), adding that the department had conducted checks to determine proper compliance.

He also clarified that KPRJ had followed proper procedure in informing villagers and fishermen’s associations in Gelang Patah to get their consent before work on the project began.

It was reported on Friday that breeders in the area had claimed that land reclamation around the Tanjung Kupang area had been causing mass deaths of fish in farms.

At least 10 fish farms and 250 traditional fishermen were reported to have been affected.
Earlier today, Johor Mentri Besar political secretary Mohd Khairi Malik had said that the government was currently investigating the root causes of the fish deaths and would wait for the investigation report before deciding on the next course of action.

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Malaysia: Farmers skip padi season

M. Hamzah Jamaluddin and Jaspal Singh New Straits Times 15 Feb 14;

DRY SPELL: Kelantan farmers risk losses of RM90m due to drought

KUALA LUMPUR: THE dry spell has taken a heavy toll on padi farmers in Kelantan, with losses expected to reach RM90 million.

The farmers were forced to skip the planting season as the blistering heat wave had resulted in a shortage of water irrigating their padi fields.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said apart from the drought having caused irrigation breakdowns, it also left water in the state's rivers and dams at critical levels.

"The ministry will take prompt action to solve this problem to prevent bigger losses," he said after officiating the National Entrepreneurial Group Economic Fund's (Tekun Nasional) new office in Bukit Mertajam here yesterday.

He said the Kemubu Agricultural Development Authority (Kada) had also been tasked with helping the farmers.

He said he would go to Kelantan tomorrow to assess the situation, adding that the ministry's officers would also be deployed to other states.

It was believed that the problem was due to Sungai Kelantan's water level dipping to a low point, exacerbated by sand-dredging activities and uncontrolled logging upstream.

Meanwhile, just four days after a forest in Perak's northern region was destroyed by fire, another thick jungle, this time in Gunung Tempurung, is ablaze.

The blaze, located near the Sungai Siput Selatan village in Kampar, has engulfed about 8ha of the forest. The affected area is located near Gunung Tempurung.

The Perak Fire and Rescue Department said they faced difficulty combating the blaze because of the mountain's steep slopes.

Its Zone 1 operations chief, Ruhisha Haris, said a helicopter had been mobilised to the mountain area to monitor the forest fire while firemen attempted to stem its spread.

In Arau, Perlis, the operator of the Padang Siding landfill yesterday began transporting in soil to blanket the smoldering site to curb the smoke which had shrouded the town since Tuesday.

The move was meant to prevent oxygen from feeding the fire, which had taken root 6m down the pile of 5ha of garbage at the landfill.

It was learnt that more than 100,000 cubic metres of earth would be used to cover the affected site at the 12ha landfill.

Approximately 45 firefighters, Malaysian Civil Defence Department personnel and volunteers from Kangar, Kuala Perlis and Arau were working round the clock at the site to put out the fire.

The state Department of Environment had confirmed the smoke from the landfill burning was hazardous, based on the reading recorded by the E-Sample equipment installed at SK Pauh on Friday.

In Rompin, Pahang, intermittent showers and drizzle since Friday night brought relief to 30 firefighters from Rompin and Kuantan battling peat fires here and in Pekan in the past few days.

The rain not only helped them douse smaller fires but also made it easier for the firemen to control the peat fires at Sungai Endau, Ladang Kerpal and Ladang Tebu Hitam.

So far this year, 12 forest fires involving a total area of 514.8ha were reported nationwide.

State Fire and Rescue Department operations management centre Senior Superintendent Yusri Basir said Pahang recorded the most number of such fires, involving 23.8ha at the Sungai Endau Plantation and the forest in Kampung Raja, Cameron Highlands.

"However, Terengganu was affected over an area of 384.5ha, including peat fires at Kampung Bahagia, Tok Kah in Dungun on Jan 25." Additional reporting by Rahmat Khairulrijal and Sharanpal Singh Randhawa

Read more: Farmers skip padi season - General - New Straits Times

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Malaysia: Dungun firemen fighting peat fires spray water on forest

The Star 15 Feb 14;

DUNGUN: The Terengganu Fire and Rescue Department has resorted to spraying water on forests bordering the peat fires in Kampung Tok Kah here to prevent the blaze from spreading to a populated area about 200 metres away.

"Prior to this we were spraying water directly at the area on fire but the dry weather and frequent change in wind directions caused the blaze to spread to larger areas.

"So far we feel this is the best method to prevent the fires from spreading," operations commander Nor Azizi Che Noh said at the scene of the fire, adding that on the 21st day of the operation Saturday they had put out 371 hectares of forest fires.

He said their efforts were hampered by the easily combustible nature of peat land, lack of water source and access.

"We're still working round the clock to put out another 40 hectares ablaze which has spread to several abandoned oil palm plantations," he said.

He added that 58 firefighters were mobilised from around the state, assisted by 10 members of the Civil Defence Department. - Bernama

Lightning strike sets Gunung Tempurung on fire
The Star 15 Feb 14;

KAMPAR: The foot of Gunung Tempurung at Kampung Sungai Siput Selatan here caught fire due to lightning Friday evening and its racing up to the summit as firemen battle to control it.

Perak Fire and Rescue Department Zone 1 chief Ruhisha Haris said they were alerted at 7.49pm by people who saw the fire from a distance.

"We managed to control the fire today and are preventing it from spreading. We'll create a fire-break if needed to protect the mountain next to it," he said at the scene.

He added that they were hampered by the steep 80 to 90 degrees slope on the mountain.

He said the fire was expected to reach the mountain peak in three to four hours time and aerial surveys by helicopter would be carried out to keep a close eye on the situation. - Bernama

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Indonesia: Law enforcement strengthened to tackle Sumatran forest fires

Antara 16 Feb 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News)- Hotspots in forests, plantations and peatland fires, which came early on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands this year, have caused the Indonesian government to intensify law enforcement to deal with the problem.

"Usually haze occurs in May or June. But, this year, the haze has happened in January and February in Riau and West Kalimantan," the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo stated in Jakarta, recently.

On Saturday morning (Feb 15), the Terra and Aqua Satellite detected 704 hotspots in Sumatra, an increase of almost 100 percent from 357 on the previous day. The largest number was found in Riau Province with 611, drastically up from 53 one day earlier.

The 704 hotspots were spread over six provinces on Sumatra island, including 64 in North Sumatra, 18 in Aceh, four each in Jambi and Bangka Belitung, and three in Riau Islands province, Sanya Gautami, analyst of the Pekanbaru meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG) said on Feb. 15.

In Riau province, the 611 hotspots were detected in ten districts and a municipality, including 228 in Bengkalis, 120 in Siak, 77 in Pelalawan, 64 in Meranti, 50 in Indragiri Hilir, 37 in Rokan Hilir, 27 in Dumai, six in Indragiri Hulu, and one each in Rokan Hulu and Kampar district.

On February 11, some 244 hotspots were detected in Riau. The haze produced by fires reduced visibility in parts of the province to 500 meters, while the pollutant standard index reached 400 PSI, which is defined as "hazardous".

In Dumai city, the latest Pollutant Standard Index reading in the coastal city hit 200 PSI, which is categorized as unhealthy. The Dumai city administration was set to declare the highest level of alert after haze blanketed the city.

The BMKG predicted that over the next one week, the amount of rain will remain low in Riau province and the number of hotspots could potentially increase, Gautami said.

A worsening scenario is anticipated as the BNBP has predicted that the drought this year would be more intense than in 2013, as a possible weak El Nino might develop later this year. In 1982-83 and 1994, the El Nino-induced forest fires destroyed some 6.4 million hectares of forest, especially in East Kalimantan. El Nino usually triggers drought in Indonesia.

On February 11, the BNPB held coordination work with several government agencies and law enforcement agencies to tackle the problem of haze from forest fires and drought this year.

The government will address the forest fire problems through land and aerial operations. The land operation will involve, among others, military officers, police, forest fire brigade units, and civilian security personnel.

The aerial operation will include water bombing from air and weather modification or cloud seeding technologies. The BNBP will rent the Be-200 amphibian plane and the Kamov helicopter from Russia for use in water bombing.

The meeting, chaired by the BNBP chief, Syamsul Maarif, was attended by representatives from the coordinating ministry for peoples welfare, the forestry ministry, the agriculture ministry, the environmental affairs ministry, the home affairs ministry, the Indonesian defense forces (TNI), the national police, and regional disaster mitigation offices from Jambi, South Sumatra, North Sumatra, Riau, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and East Kalimantan.

Maarif reminded all involved to implement presidential instruction no. 16/2011 on the Forest and Plantation Fires Control Intensification.

He also ordered all law enforcement authorities to enforce the existing laws regarding the environment. "We have produced numerous regulations regarding land forest fires. But they are not enforced. The main key to overcoming forest and land fires is the enforcement of the law," he said.

The agencys chief emphasized that incident, such as the one in 2013 when Sumatras haze affected Singapore and Malaysia, should not happen this year.

Last year, the Indonesian government declared a state of emergency in the Riau province on June 21 after heavy smog blanketed parts of the Sumatra Island, Singapore, and Malaysia. Singapore urged its citizens to remain indoors amid unprecedented levels of air pollution, while Malaysia closed 200 schools.

The Sumatra fires earlier this year had worried Singapore officials. In a Facebook post recently, referring to the Sumatra fires, Singapores Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan wrote: "We will try to encourage them to take action - but we all know the welfare of close neighbours is not their priority."

As Maarif said, enforcement of existing laws is a key to deal with the annual fires, as some of them are deliberately set to clear land for plantation and farming areas, despite the fact that such activity is banned by the Indonesian government.

Therefore, Acting Riau Governor Djohermansyah Djohan ordered a thorough investigation into the fires to act as a deterrence for those involved.

"Yesterday, we signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the plantation companies. The MoU is binding on the plantation companies, which must be committed to keep their plantations protected from fires," he said on Feb. 15.

The governor hailed the Riau police for arresting six people suspected of setting fires to forested land in a number of districts, on Feb 13.

He asked the police to thoroughly investigate the case and not let the scope of the investigation remain limited to just these six suspects.

"The provincial police are investigating the case. We hope that the law enforcement agencies would be able to investigate the case thoroughly," he said.

Riau Police Chief Inspector General Condro Kirono in Pekanbaru on Feb. 13 said the suspects were charged under Law No. 18 of 2004 on plantations, with a punishment calling for a maximum 10 years imprisonment, and a maximum fine of Rp10 billion.

Those arrested were also charged under Law No. 26 of 2007 on Spatial Planning. In 2013, the Riau Police had apprehended as many as 33 people suspected in the burning of forests.

(f001/ INE/H-YH)

Editor: Aditia Maruli

704 hotspots detected in Sumatra Island: meteorology agency
Antara 15 Feb 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency of Pekanbaru stated that the Terra and Aqua Satellite have detected a significant rise in plantation and forest fire hotspots in Sumatra, from 108 to 704.

"Most of the hotspots, 611 of them, are located in Riau. The number has risen significantly from 53 hotspots detected on Friday (Feb 14)," an analyst at the Pekanbaru BMKG, Sanya Gautami, said here on Saturday.

The 704 hotspots were spread over six provinces in the Sumatra Island.

Sixty-four hotspots were detected in North Sumatra and 18 in Aceh.

Jambi and Bangka Belitung each had four hotspots, while Riau Islands had only three.

The 611 hotspots in Riau were found spread over ten districts and a municipality.

The satellites detected 228 hotspots in Bengkalis, 120 in Siak, 77 in Pelalawan, 64 in Meranti, 50 in Indragiri Hilir, 37 in Rokan Hilir and 27 in Dumai, six in Indragiri Hulu, one in Rokan Hulu and one in the Kampar district of Riau.

The BMKG predicted that over the next one week, the rain intensity will remain low over the Riau province and the number of hotspots could potentially increase, Gautami said.

reporting by Fazar Muhardi

INE/Edited by INE


Editor: Suryanto

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Malaysia, Sabah: Croc experts tag Sabah's 3.6m predator Zalim

New Straits Times 15 Feb 14;

KINABATANGAN: A female crocodile, among the largest in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary here, was captured and tagged by wildlife authorities so that its behaviour could be studied.

The move, which was carried out last Thursday, was a collaborative effort undertaken by the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and its Wildlife Rescue Unit, and Cardiff University (CU).

The 3.6m predator is named "Zalim", which means tyrannical or cruel.

DGFC director Dr Benoirt Goossens said the project involved studying the breeding and nesting behaviour of the reptile.

"The information (from the study) is of great importance in a region where substantial portions of historic nesting grounds have already been converted to oil palm.

"We are seeking to understand the role of this apex predator within a degraded habitat."

Scientists believe data obtained from Zalim would provide important insights into the interaction between humans and crocodiles in the ecosystem.

To date, the project had seen the tagging of seven crocodiles, five males and two females.

It is funded by DGFC and Chester Zoo.

The professional tagging team has also taken tissue samples to examine the genetic health of the crocodile population in the region.

"The whole team, who have extensive crocodile-catching experience, worked as a unit to ensure the tagging was as safe and low stress as possible for the animal," said Goosens.

Four-metre long 'Zalim' may provide key to understanding Sabah’s croc population
ruben sario The Star 15 Feb 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife researchers are hoping to learn how Sabah’s crocodile population is coping with an ever-changing habitat with the help of a 4m long reptile, one of the largest to be captured.

By studying the female creature named Zalim, meaning “tyranny”, wildlife researchers aim to better understand the breeding and nesting behaviour of crocs.

“This information is of great importance in a region where substantial portions of historic nesting grounds have already been converted for agricultural use,” said Dr Benoit Goossens, the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) director.

He said Zalim was captured and tagged with a satellite tracking unit in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS) on Feb 6 as part of joint effort between the DGFC and the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD).

“We are seeking to understand the role of this apex predator within a degraded habitat,” said Goossens, adding that seven seven crocodiles, five males and two females, had been tagged as part of the project.

“In addition to the satellite unit, a small tissue sample was also taken to examine the genetic health of the crocodile population in the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, SWD rangers have set traps along Sungai Petagas near the city to capture several crocodiles spotted by villagers over the past several days.

Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said the villagers had reported spotting three estuarine crocodiles.
He said a fourth crocodile is believed to have been killed by a boat’s propeller.

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Malaysia: Stray elephant kills boy

Sharifah Mahsinah Abdulla New Straits Times 15 Feb 14;

JUMBO MAYHEM: Boy trampled, mother suffers broken leg, father escapes

JELI: A 3-YEAR-OLD boy was killed and his mother wounded when they were attacked by a wild elephant in front of their house in Kampung Wakaf Zin, Ayer Lanas here yesterday.

Aidit Nasrullah Wan Mahmud, who was believed to have been trampled, was pronounced dead at the district hospital.

His mother Rezamawati Che Mat Bidin, 37, suffered a fractured leg and injuries to the stomach.

Rezamawati said she, her husband Wan Mahmud Wan Noh, 33, and their son were about to leave their house on a motorcycle when the elephant appeared behind them at 10am.

"My husband shouted at us to run away, but my son and I were too startled to do anything.

"My husband managed to escape into the nearby bushes as the elephant charged towards my son and me," she said at the hospital.

Rezamawati said the elephant kicked her but she was unsure what happened to her son.

"What I remember is seeing my husband carrying our son after the elephant fled."

Her husband escaped unhurt in the incident.

According to a witness, who declined to be named, the elephant crushed the motorcycle with its legs, wrapped its trunk around it and flung it 30m away.

"The boy was trampled by the animal and died upon arrival at the hospital."

Meanwhile, 20 rangers from the state Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) led by district assistant chief Cosmas Ngau mounted an operation to track down the elephant.

Present was state Perhilitan assistant director Shaary Awang Besar, who said the depart-ment was investigating how the elephant had strayed into the village.

Wild elephant kills boy, injures mother
The Star 15 Feb 14;

JELI: A three-year-old boy was killed and his mother was injured after a wild elephant attacked them in a rubber plantation at Bukit Perawas, Ayer Lanas here Saturday.

Jeli district police chief DSP Sheik Azhar Sheik Omar said the attack occurred about 10am while the boy's parents were tapping rubber.

Their son, Wan Aidid Nasrullah Wan Mahmud, was left in a motorcycle basket.

He said Wan Aidid's mother, Rezamawati Che Mat, 37, was injured on the body and legs, while her husband, Wan Mahmud Wan Omar, 33, who was some distance away, was not harmed.

Residents helped to take the mother and son to the Jeli Hospital, but the boy died on the way, he told reporters here.

Following the incident, Sheik Azhar said the Wildlife and National Parks Department managed to track down the elephant and efforts were being made to catch the pachyderm and relocate it.

Meanwhile, Rezamawati, when met at her house in Kampung Bukit Perawas, said she had left Wan Aidid Nasrullah, the youngest of five siblings, in the motorcycle basket while she and her husband went to tap the rubber trees.

"Suddenly the elephant came and attacked me and then rushed towards the motorcycle, forcing my son to be thrown out of the basket," she added.

She said her husband, who was nearby, shouted "Allahuakbar" several time before the elephant fled. - Bernama

Boy dies in wild elephant attack
syed azhar The Star 16 Feb 14;

JELI: Fellow villagers had warned rubber tapper Wan Mahmood Wan Noh to be careful when he ferried his wife and child on a motorcycle because a wild elephant was roaming the Kampung Bukit Perawas area.

A sudden encounter with the beast yesterday proved tragic when he lost his four-year-old son.

Little Wan Aidit Nasrullah was killed after the elephant rammed the motorcycle he was riding with his parents while on their way to tap rubber.

Recalling the morning tragedy, Wan Aidit’s mother, Rezamawati Che Mat Bidin, 37, said her husband had braked and the motorcycle screeched to a stop when an elephant suddenly appeared in front of them.

“He then did a quick U-turn. The elephant charged and rammed the motorcycle.

“We were lucky that after we fell, the elephant rumbled away from us.

“My son was motionless. We quickly picked ourselves up and rode back to our house to take the car. We rushed Wan Aidit to the hospital,” said Rezamawati, who suffered a broken rib, to reporters at the district Hospital here.

She added that Wan Aidit was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

“We should not have gone out to tap rubber after we were warned by neighbours about the presence of an elephant that had attacked another rubber tapper in our area,” said the sobbing mother.

Wan Mahmood was unhurt in the incident.

The same elephant was believed to have attacked a fellow rubber tapper Hashim Yaacub, 67, at his rubber plantation earlier.

He was tapping rubber at 8.45am yesterday when he heard rustling among the bushes.

“All of a sudden, an elephant burst out of the bushes and pushed me to the ground with its head.

“I remained motionless as it started stepping on me. I felt pain on my ribs and was prepared to die. Suddenly, the elephant turned around and went off towards a nearby river, “ said the grandfather of 13.

Hashim sustained broken ribs and was admitted to the hospital.

District police chief Deputy Supt Che Azhar Che Omar confirmed the incident, adding that the Wildlife and National Park rangers were hunting for the elephant.

Jeli MP Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad visited the homes of Wan Mahmood and Hashim. He pledged a sum of RM20,000 from the National Disaster Fund for both families.

Hunt on for killer jumbo
Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 17 Feb 14;

TRACKING: Perhilitan says elephant that killed boy came from Thailand

KOTA BARU: THE wild elephant that attacked three members of a family, killing one of them in Jeli on Saturday, is believed to have come from a jungle in Thailand.

Kelantan Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Mohammad Khairi Ahmad said the animal was believed to have lost its way when it strayed into Kampung Wakaf Zin where the incident occurred.

"Checks show that the elephant had come from the Halabala forest in Thailand.

"It had moved from one smallholding to another and was about to head into another area when it attacked the family.

"This is based on the trail of its footprints, and also because there is no jungle in the village's surrounding areas."

Rangers started an operation to track down the elephant on Saturday but have yet to locate its whereabouts.

"The operation will continue today (yesterday).

"Hopefully, we will capture the animal as we believe it is still roaming in the area."

In the 10am incident, 3-year-old Wan Aidit Nasrullah Wan Mahmud was killed, while his mother Rezamawati Che Mat Bidin was wounded after they were attacked in front of their house.

Wan Aidit's father, Wan Mahmud Wan Noh, escaped unhurt.

Jeli member of parliament Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who visited the victim's family at their home on Saturday, said he was shocked.

"There have been no incidents of animals attacking villagers since 2006.

"Before that, cases of people being attacked by tigers in Jeli happened regularly.

"Then such attacks stopped. Since then, there have not been any reports.

"This incident, however, proves otherwise.

"Villagers should take precaution."

He said he believed the electrical fence constructed to keep out elephants had failed to function properly or it could be damaged.

"The government spent about RM2 million for the project.

"Before 2006, the fence had reduced the number of elephants straying into villages," said Mustapa, who is also the international trade and industry minister.

He said he would discuss the matter with the relevant authorities, including Perhilitan.

Later, Mustapa announced a RM20,000 compensation for the victim's family under the National Disaster Fund, while Rezamawati would receive financial aid based on the injuries she sustained.

Read more: Hunt on for killer jumbo - General - New Straits Times

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Biodiversity and ecosystem services: Defense against nature’s wrath

Sahlee B. Barrer Businessmirror 15 Feb 14;

THE world continues to face an increasing number of natural catastrophes. In 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck the low-lying Ayeyarwady Delta in Myanmar, with winds of 215 kilometers per hours (kph) and accompanied by 12-foot-high waves that surged inland. The flooding left 84,500 people dead and 53,800 missing.

On September 24, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy (international code name Ketsana) struck Metro Manila and Central Luzon in the Philippines with winds of 105 kph and rainfall that exceeded that of Hurricane Katrina in the US. At least 500 people died, around 1 million families were affected, and damages to infrastructure and agriculture amounted to P11 billion ($242 million).

Less than a week later, Typhoon Pepeng (international code name Parma) hit Northern Luzon, leaving a death toll of 500 with damages estimated at P27 billion ($ 594 million).

Thailand was devastated by severe flooding when Tropical Storm Nock-ten hit the country in July 2011. The flood, which affected 64 of Thailand’s 77 provinces, killed 800 people, damaged more than 3 million homes, and inundated about 2 million hectares of crops. The World Bank estimated the economic damages resulting from the flood at $45.7 billion.

In December 2011 Typhoon Sendong (international code name Washi) struck the Philippines’s Northern Mindanao, a region that hardly experiences typhoons. The storm caused more than a thousand fatalities and around P2 billion ($44 million) in damages.

On November 7, 2013, the world’s strongest typhoon, Yolanda (international name Haiyan), hit the Eastern Visayas in the Philippines creating a storm surge with waves almost 20 feet high. More than 11 million people were affected, with casualties at more than 6,000 and rising, as work is still ongoing in the affected regions. With damages estimated at $13 billion, rehabilitation work will take years and will require substantial international support.

Dealing with the new normal

THE increasing frequency and severity of storms, rainfall and drought highlight the growing vulnerability of Southeast Asian countries to extreme weather events. Thus, the region should brace for a climate-defined future, where climate change already has devastating effects on biodiversity and wildlife, agriculture, fisheries and other industries, and most especially, people’s health and well-being.

A report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on the impacts of extreme weather events stated that environmental hazards resulting from sea-level rise and associated storm surges would be a great concern for low-lying areas in Southeast Asia.

Highly vulnerable areas include the Mekong, Red and Irrawaddy deltas, as well as major cities situated at or lie close to sea level, such as Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Manila.

Nature’s defense against nature’s wrath

A VITAL lesson learned from Nargis and Haiyan is the significant role of mangrove ecosystems in reducing damage to people and communities. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Ayeyarwady Delta had 100,000 hectares of mangroves only, half of its original mangrove cover, when Nargis hit in 2008. Many experts agreed that the high death toll was due to the loss of mangrove forests, the area’s natural defensive wall.

On Haiyan’s warpath, the town of MacArthur in Eastern Samar, Philippines, had zero human casualties, which residents attributed to a band of mangrove forests that protected the area. Thousands died in nearby Tacloban City; perhaps more lives could have been saved if more protective mangroves had been in place.

Mangroves also helped reduce some of the impacts from the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. On December 26, 2004, a 9-magnitude quake released the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs, according to the US Geological Survey. Killer waves emanating from the earthquake travelled to 11 Indian Ocean countries and Africa (5,000 km away) with waves as high as 50 feet in some places.

The tsunami surged hundreds of feet inland, and the enormous force and weight of the water destroyed millions in property and killed up to 230,000.

Studies showed that areas hit by the tsunami that were protected by mangrove forests suffered far less devastation than denuded regions. In one region in Sri Lanka, only two people living near dense mangrove swamps died while up to 6,000 people in a nearby village without any similar vegetation were swept to their deaths.

Healthy mangrove forests are effective in reducing the force of waves because of the resistance provided by stilt roots, as well as their trunks and branches. Mangroves also trap and stabilize sediments and reduce the risk of shoreline erosion by dissipating surface wave energy.

Aside from mangroves, coral reefs also help reduce energy from waves, providing buffers against cyclones and wave surges.

Rehabilitating terrestrial forest ecosystems is another vital defense as dense vegetation helps collect rainfall and prevents flooding. Healthy forests help prevent soil erosion and landslides.

Preparing for a climate-resilient future

ACCORDING to the Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), the impacts of catastrophic events highlight the urgency of preparing for a future wrought with extreme weather events. This is particularly important for areas that are highly vulnerable, such as low-lying coastal communities, areas prone to landslide and flooding, as well as urban-poor communities.

There is also a need to conserve, expand and improve the management of biodiversity-rich areas, which are the planet’s natural defenses against disasters and the impacts of climate change.

In the aftermath of Nargis and Haiyan, the immediate reaction from the environment sector has been to restore coastal mangrove areas. In Myanmar, mangroves are being restored in the Ayeyarwady Delta. In the Philippines, the government has pledged P347 million ($7.6 million) for coastal-forest rehabilitation in Eastern Visayas.

Call for action

WITH extreme weather events on the rise, defenses have to be built to prepare people and communities and reduce loss of life, properties and livelihood. Thus, ACB is proposing to governments and relevant stakeholders to:

• Strengthen collaboration among government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), communities and the private sector to consolidate efforts on biodiversity conservation, environmental education and management, and disaster management and risk reduction;

• Strengthen natural defenses against extreme weather events through mangrove and forest rehabilitation and biodiversity conservation;

• Update disaster-management plans to incorporate preventive measures, including biodiversity conservation and forest rehabilitation, environmental education, establishment of early warning systems, and coordination and information sharing among government agencies and the private sector;

• Increase awareness of disaster preparedness and risk reduction in schools and communities;

• Update coastal and urban planning, incorporating deterrents to environmental vulnerabilities and strengthening construction codes;

• Improve rehabilitation plans to hasten delivery of relief, immediate restoration of basic services, and improvement of capacity to rebuild stricken areas; and

• Improve the capacity of government agencies and communities to manage environmental disasters.

The loss of life and infrastructure caused by natural calamities can reach unprecedented levels, affecting the rich and the poor but with more devastating impacts on already impoverished communities. Climate change and extreme weather are the new realities, and governments must act immediately to develop climate resiliency, particularly in vulnerable communities.

(National government ministries/agencies, local governments, NGOs and the private sector may wish to contact the ACB for technical assistance and advice in crafting policies and laws that will promote biodiversity conservation as a tool for protection against natural calamities. Contact: Atty. Roberto V. Oliva, executive director; E-mail:

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Wavier jet stream 'may drive weather shift'

Pallab Ghosh BBC News 15 Feb 14;

New research suggests that the main system that helps determine the weather over Northern Europe and North America may be changing.

The study shows that the so-called jet stream has increasingly taken a longer, meandering path.

This has resulted in weather remaining the same for more prolonged periods.

The work was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.

The observation could be as a result of the recent warming of the Arctic. Temperatures there have been rising two to three times faster than the rest of the globe.

According to Prof Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey: "This does seem to suggest that weather patterns are changing and people are noticing that the weather in their area is not what it used to be."

The meandering jet stream has accounted for the recent stormy weather over the UK and the bitter winter weather in the US Mid-West remaining longer than it otherwise would have.

"We can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently," says Prof Francis

The jet stream, as its name suggests, is a high-speed air current in the atmosphere that brings with it the weather.

It is fuelled partly by the temperature differential between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes.

If the differential is large then the jet stream speeds up, and like a river flowing down a steep hill, it ploughs through any obstacles - such as areas of high pressure that might be in its way.

If the temperature differential reduces because of a warming Arctic then the jet stream weakens and, again, like a river on a flat bed, it will meander every time it comes across an obstacle.

This results in weather patterns tending to becoming stuck over areas for weeks on end. It also drives cold weather further south and warm weather further north. Examples of the latter are Alaska and parts of Scandinavia, which have had exceptionally warm conditions this winter.

With the UK, the US and Australia experiencing prolonged, extreme weather, the question has been raised as to whether recent patterns are due to simple natural variations or the result of manmade climate change? According to Prof Francis, it is too soon to tell.

"The Arctic has been warming rapidly only for the past 15 years," she says.

"Our data to look at this effect is very short and so it is hard to get a very clear signal.

"But as we have more data I do think we will start to see the influence of climate change."

Prof Francis was taking part in a session on Arctic change involving Mark Serreze, the director of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado.

He said the idea that changes in the polar north could influence the weather in middle latitudes - so-called "Santa's revenge" - was a new and lively area of research and somewhat controversial, with arguments for and against.

"Fundamentally, the strong warming that might drive this is tied in with the loss of sea-ice cover that we're seeing, because the sea-ice cover acts as this lid that separates the ocean from a colder atmosphere," Dr Serreze explained.

"If we remove that lid, we pump all this heat up into the atmosphere. That is a good part of the signal of warming that we're now seeing, and that could be driving some of these changes."

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Think you can't live without plastic bags? Consider this: Rwanda did it

As a post-genocide nation with a developing economy, Rwanda could have dismissed the bag ban as unnecessary. But it didn't
Émilie Clavel 15 Feb 14;

On a recent trip to Rwanda, my luggage was searched at the border, and the authorities confiscated some of my belongings. No, I wasn't trying to smuggle drugs or weapons. The offenders? Three plastic bags I'd use to carry my shampoo and dirty laundry.

You see, non-biodegradable polythene bags are illegal in Rwanda. In 2008, while the rest of the world was barely starting to consider a tax on single-use plastic bags, the small East African nation decided to ban them completely.

At Kigali International Airport, a sign warns visitors that plastic bags will be confiscated. Agents from the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) cut the plastic wrapping off negligent travellers' suitcases. Throughout the country, businesses have been forced to replace plastic carrier bags with paper ones.

The ban was a bold move. It paid off. As soon as I set foot in Rwanda from neighboring Uganda, it struck me. It's clean. Looking out the window of the bus that was taking me to Kigali, the capital, I could see none of the mountains of rubbish I'd grown accustomed to in other African countries. No plastic carrier bags floating in the wind or stranded on a tree branch.

Upon arrival in Kigali the contrast is even more evident. With its lovely green squares and wide boulevards, the Rwandan capital is one of the most beautiful cities in Africa. And it's immaculate. Enough to teach a lesson to scruffy – albeit beloved – Western metropolises like New York or London. And the ban on plastic bags is just the start for Rwanda. It's all part of the Vision 2020 plan to transform the country into a sustainable middle-income nation.

Eventually, the country is looking to ban other types of plastic and is even hinting at the possibility of becoming the world's first plastic-free nation. Its constitution recognizes (pdf) that "every citizen is entitled to a healthy and satisfying environment." It also underlines each citizen's responsibility to "protect, safeguard and promote the environment".

Throughout the world, many initiatives to reduce or ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags have been halted because of economic concerns. In England, for example, there is ongoing concern that a 5p levy on single-use carrier bags could harm small businesses.

Still reeling from a horrific genocide which resulted in the deaths of over 800,000 people in 1994, Rwanda could have dismissed the plastic ban as an unnecessary hindrance for its developing economy. It could have opted for a simple levy on plastic carrier bags, as have many other American cities. But the authorities' main concern was the way in which plastic bags were being disposed of after use. Most were being burned, releasing toxic pollutants into the air, or left to clog drainage systems.

Knowing it lacked the basic facilities to sustainably manage plastic waste, Rwanda devised a clever strategy to turn the ban into a boost to its economy. The authorities encouraged companies that used to manufacture plastic bags to start recycling them instead by providing tax incentives. The policy also created a market for environmentally friendly bags, which were virtually non-existent in the country before the ban.

Now in its sixth year, the policy has proved efficient, if not perfect. Rwanda is starting to struggle with a lucrative black market for the shunned plastic bags. The excessive use of paper bags is also starting to raise concerns. But the mere fact that a developing country facing tremendous challenges has managed to enforce such groundbreaking legislation should make us wonder what the western world could achieve if the political will really existed.

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