Best of our wild blogs: 27 Feb 14

First Love MacRitchie Walk of 2014: Macaques, drongos and bird waves from Toddycats!

Toddycats HOWL 9: the museum, our logo, crabs, flowering otters and a song from Toddycats!

The first and last cleanup at Pulau Semakau in 2014!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Yellow Glassy Tiger Spotted at GB
from Butterflies of Singapore

Lesser Sand-plover foraging
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Malaysia: Kota Kinabalu mangrove forest set to become Ramsar site

The Star 27 Feb 14;

KOTA KINABALU: A remaining patch of mangrove forest located close to the city’s downtown area is set to become Sabah’s second Ramsar site.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin said the Ramsar designation for the 24ha Kota Kinabalu Wetlands Centre (KKWC) would help draw international recognition of the mangrove forest’s ecological importance.

“This is certainly good news for Sabah,” he said after launching the International Weltands Day Celebration at the KKWC on Wednes-day.

Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance, designated under the Ramsar Convention.

Sabah’s first Ramsar site is the 79,000ha bio-diversity rich Lower Kinabatangan-Segama wetlands in the east coast.

Yahya said the designation of KKWC as the state’s second Ramsar site would help the conservation or careful use of remaining wetlands.

He said some padi cultivated areas in Japan and China were classified as Ramsar sites as the ecological traits of these areas were preserved and were sustainably developed.

“We can learn from this, particularly in our padi cultivation areas,” said Yahya, the state Agriculture and Food Industries Minister.

“Wise use of wetlands will be beneficial for local communities.”

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Malaysia: 28 water treatment plants in Pahang drying up

The Star 27 Feb 14;

KUANTAN: Twenty-eight of the 80 water treatment plants throughout Pahang recorded low levels due to the drought on Thursday.

The Public Relations Officer of Pengurusan Air Pahang Berhad (PAIP) Datuk Jafar Abdullah said the affected plants were located in eight districts, which obtained their water sources from Sungai Pahang and the Sungai Pahang tributaries.

He said seven of the plants were in the district of Lipis, Jerantut (5), Temerloh (4), Maran (4), Pekan (3), Bentong (3) and one each in Rompin and Bera.

"If the drought prolonged further, it will lead to the plants that record low water levels to be closed down," he said.

Jafar said the low level reading was also because of sand blocking the flow of river water at the water intake point. This causes the water to overflow elsewhere.

As a result, he said, cleaning works were being carried out at the water intake plant besides constructing a sand wall on the river to enable smooth flow of river water into the plant.

"However, the volume of water at the 28 treatment plants could still cater to the needs of the consumers in the area," he said.

Pahang supplies water to almost two million consumers at the rate of more than 34 million cubic metres per month.

Syabas: Brace for low water pressure
The Star 27 Feb 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Some 300,000 households or 1.2 million consumers in seven areas in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya will have low water pressure or no water, according to Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas).

This follows a reduction in the volume of treated water released by five treatment plants on the orders of the Selangor State Economic Planning Unit, said Syabas assistant general manager (corporate communications and public affairs) Priscilla Alfred.

She said the affected areas were Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, Petaling, Klang/Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor, Kuala Langat and Hulu Selangor.

“The existing reserve in water supply is too small and, in normal circumstances, is unable to meet the demand of the consumers because the five treatment plants supply 60% of the treated water needs of these areas,” she said in a statement yesterday, as reported by Bernama.

She added that the Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS), which is responsible for raw water resources in the state, issued a written order on Feb 24 to Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (SPLASH), which manages three of the plants, to reduce the intake of raw water from Sungai Selangor by 200 million litres daily.

Alfred said if the Syabas water supply distribution plan was approved by SPAN, it would be announced to consumers tomorrow for implementation from Sunday.

The Meteorological Depart­ment said cloud-seeding operations, which were supposed to begin yesterday, had been postponed to early next week because of a lack of suitable clouds.

“The operations will commence once cumulus clouds which are suitable for seeding appear, with forecasts indicating early next week,” the department’s senior meteoro­logist Azhar Ishak said yesterday.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the hot weather might even help to attract visitors from countries currently experiencing colder weather such as in Europe and the United States.

Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said the Armed Forces would do its best to help all consumers affected by water rationing.

He added that the military would consider all requests to expand its current assistance beyond Balakong – one of the worst-hit areas. It is currently helping out by assigning water tankers and personnel.

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Malaysia: Nursed tapir released into forest

Norbaiti Phaharoradzi New Straits Times 27 Feb 14;

FULLY RECOVERED: Protected species treated by Perhilitan team

MERSING: A WOUNDED tapir which was caught after straying into Kampung Gajah Mati, Mersing, last week, was released back into the wild yesterday.

The 250kg female tapir was treated by Johor Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) staff and released back to its natural habitat at the Endau-Rompin National Park after it had fully recovered.

Villagers who spotted the animal wandering around the village, had alerted the department.
Perhilitan personnel, who trapped the tapir, found it to be in a weak state with bite marks on its body.

State Perhilitan director Hasnan Yusop said the tapir was treated for its wounds by personnel from Perhilitan's Bio-diversity Conservation Department and veterinary officers from the department's headquarters.

He said the animal, which was believed to be about 15 years old, might have been bitten by a male tapir during mating.

"The tapir was tagged and its vital datas like size, weight and morphology were recorded.
"We installed a satellite collar on the animal so we can monitor its movement."

He described the successful capture and release of the animal as a big achievement for Perhilitan.

The tapir, or tapirus indicus is fully protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

Those caught hunting or keeping them without a legal permit, face a RM100,000 fine or three year's jail term.

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Indonesia: Ujung Kulon National Park Says It Gained Seven Javan Rhinos

Jakarta Globe 27 Feb 14;

Ujung Kulon. The Javan rhino population in the Ujung Kulon National Park has increased by seven rhinos last year, according to the park’s conservation chairman Mohammad Haryono.

“Based on monitoring [activities] conducted throughout 2013, we know that the number of Javan rhinos living in the TNUK [Ujung Kulon National Park] area is 58, which is comprised of eight young rhinos and 50 teenage and adults,” Haryono said in Pandeglang, Banten, on Wednesday.

He said of the eight young rhinos, three were female, while of the 50 older animals, 20 were female.

Haryono said the park has installed surveillance cameras along areas that are frequented by the endangered animals.

“We have installed 120 video cameras in trees located in areas that are often visited by the rhinos, such as fields and wallows,” Haryono said.

He said the surveillance cameras were especially designed to function at night and that they are able detect movement.

Continuous monitoring was conducted from March to December last year.

A team is tasked with collecting the cameras’ memory cards and replacing their batteries every month.

“During the 10-month surveillance, we collected 16,000 clips but only 1,660 of them contained footage of the Javan rhinos and only 1,388 of the clips were able to properly identify the animals. The remaining showed only their feet or tails, which made it impossible for us to make a proper identification,” the park’s conservation chairman said.

Haryono explained that his team had adopted eight key parameters on the Javan rhino’s morphology to identify each individual animal, such as the size or shape of the horns, skin wrinkles around the eyes, the folds around the neck and the position and shape of the ears, defects or injuries and the color of the skin.

“The morphology of each individual rhino is unique, especially with regard to the wrinkles around their eyes; they are similar to a human hand print and, therefore, will never be the identical,” he said.

Haryono said that based on extensive research and observation, the park was able to accurately confirm the increase in the Javan rhino population with seven animals in the Ujung Kulon National Park.

The Javan rhino is the most endangered of the five species, with those currently living in Ujung Kulon the only 58 remaining in the world.

Indonesia prioritizes saving of Javan, Sumatran rhinos
Antara 27 Feb 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The population of one-horned Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and two-horned Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is believed to have increased quite encouragingly over the past few years.

Last years video camera monitoring in the Ujung Kulon national park (TNUK) identified 58 individual Javan rhinos, an increase of seven from 51 in 2012, while a Sumatran rhino calf was recently born in the Way Kambas national park through a semi-captive breeding.

The Javan and Sumatran rhinos are two out of only five species of rhinos that have survived globally.

The remaining three species are the Indian rhino, which can be found in Nepal, India and Bhutan; the White rhino, commonly found in Botswana, the Ivory Coast, Congo, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and the Black rhino in Cameron, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana.

The Javan rhino had once occurred from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and probably southern China through peninsular Malaya to the Indonesian island of Java. But, beginning in the middle of the 19th century, the species was extirpated from most of its historical range.

Since 2010, two rhino subspecies, the Western Black Rhinoceros

(Diceros bicornis longipes) in Cameroon and the Indochinese Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticu) in Vietnam have also gone extinct.

The Javan rhino now is only found in isolated area in the Ujung Kulon National Park (Pandeglang, Banten Province), at the western-most tip of Java Island.

"Based on the monitoring we did during 2013, we found out that the Javan rhino population is 58, consisting of eight calves and 50 young and adult rhinos," the head of the TNUK office, Muhamad Haryono, said on Feb. 27, 2014.

Of the eight calves, three are female and five male. Of the 50 young and adults, 20 are female and 30 male, he explained.

The monitoring was carried from March to December 2013 by installing 120 video cameras along the strait of the park area, he said.

"During the 10 months of the camera monitoring, we got 16 thousands clips, but only 1,660 clips captured the images of rhinos. Of the number, 1,388 clips had the images of rhinos that could be identified, and 272 others could not be identified," he added.

Last years monitoring showed an increase of seven rhinos, as the monitoring in 2012 managed to identify only 51 individual rhinos, he stated.

The TNUK plans to set up a Rhino Health Unit (RHU) to maintain the health of the Javan rhinos, especially their calves. During 2012-2013, two rhinos were found dead in the park area.

The government of Indonesia is targeting a three percent annual growth rate of the Javan rhino population.

According to WWF, the Javan rhino is probably the rarest among large mammals on the planet, with no more than 50 left in the wild and none in captivity. The Javan rhino is a smaller and lighter relative of the greater one-horned rhino. It stands at 1.4 to 1.7 meter height at the shoulder.

The Sumatran rhino is also critically endangered because of its rapid rate of decline. Being called as the "hairy rhino" because of its hairy body and tufted ears, the Sumatran rhino is the smallest and last form of the two-horned rhino in Asia that has lived on the planet for 20 million years.

It is believed that approximately 100 Sumatran rhinos survive in very small and highly fragmented populations across Indonesia and Sabah, Malaysia.

Because of poaching, the numbers have decreased by more than 50 percent over the last 20 years, according to the International Rhino Foundation.

The forestry ministrys biological diversity conservation director, Bambang W Novianto, however, announced good news that the population of the Sumatran rhino has increased lately thanks to semi-captive breeding in the Way Kambas national park, Lampung, Sumatran Island.

"Recently, a Sumatran rhino calf was born in Way Kambas through a semi-captive breeding," he stated when visiting the TNUK in Pandeglang, on Feb. 27, 2014.

Given the success of the semi-captive breeding of Sumatran rhinos, the Malaysian government has asked for Sumatran rhinos whose numbers are as low as just five in Malaysia, he sad.

"We are not able to meet the request because we cannot be careless in giving up the endangered animal to others," he explained.

In fact, the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia last year agreed to collaborate on saving the Sumatran rhino during the Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit held by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) in Singapore in 2013.

"This could be our last opportunity to save this species and, by working together as a collaborative unit, internationally and regionally, with an agreed vision and goals, a glimmer of hope has been clearly demonstrated," Widodo Ramano, the executive director of the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, said in the meeting.

Meanwhile, Datuk Dr. Laurentius Ambu, the director of the Sabah Wildlife Department was quoted by the press as saying, "We would like to reiterate Sabahs commitment and our willingness to further discuss with Indonesia opportunities to exchange reproductive cells of the species, move individual rhinos between our countries and to employ advanced reproductive technology as a parallel initiative in the Sumatran rhino captive breeding program."

The rhino conservation is a priority program in various countries including in Indonesia. Rhinos have been categorized as critically endangered and are listed in CITES (Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix I.

Indonesian Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan last year stated that Indonesia has prioritized the conservation of rhinos. The ministry has allocated Rp6 trillion (over US$6 billion) for the conservation program of endangered wildlife.

The ministry has also been implementing an Action Plan of Javanese Rhino Conservation until 2017, hoping that it will help increase the Javan rhino population to 70 by 2015.

"The government has named 13 animal species, including Javan rhinos and Sumatran rhinos, that are protected. Saving the rhinos is a priority," Bambang W Novianto stated.

The private sector has been encouraged to participate in the rhino conservation program by establishing a partnership with the Indonesian Rhino Foundation (YABI).

The Indonesian government has designated July 5 as Rhino Day to promote the conservation of the endangered animal. (*)

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Indonesia: Riau Province Declares State of Emergency as 1,200 Hectares of Biosphere Gutted by Fires

BeritaSatu World Jakarta Globe 27 Feb 14;

The Riau government has declared a state of emergency for the Sumatran province after forest fires burned through 1,200 hectares of peatlands in the Giam Siak Kecil park, which was made a protected zone by Unesco in 2009, BeritaSatu World reports.

Riau Firefighters Say Resources Too Thin to Fight Forest Fires
BeritaSatu World Jakarta Globe 26 Feb 14;

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Geoengineering Ineffective Against Climate Change, Could Make Worse

Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Yahoo News 25 Feb 14;

Current schemes to minimize the havoc caused by global warming by purposefully manipulating Earth's climate are likely to either be relatively useless or actually make things worse, researchers say in a new study.

The dramatic increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution is expected to cause rising global sea levels, more-extreme weather and other disruptions to regional and local climates. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat, so as levels of the gas rise, the planet overall warms.

In addition to efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, some have suggested artificially manipulating the world's climate in a last-ditch effort to prevent catastrophic climate change. These strategies, considered radical in some circles, are known as geoengineering or climate engineering.

Many scientists have investigated and questioned how effective individual geoengineering methods could be. However, there have been few attempts to compare and contrast the various methods, which range from fertilizing the ocean so that marine organisms suck up excess carbon dioxide to shooting aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect some of the sun's incoming rays back into space. [8 Ways Global Warming is Already Changing the World]

Now, researchers using a 3D computer model of the Earth have tested the potential benefits and drawbacks of five different geoengineering technologies.

Will it work?

The scientists found that even when several technologies were combined, geoengineering would be unable to prevent average surface temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above current temperatures by the year 2100. This is, the current limit that international negotiations are focused on. They were unable to do so even when each technology was deployed continuously and at scales as large as currently deemed possible.

"The potential of most climate engineering methods, even when optimistic deployment scenarios were assumed, were much lower than I had expected," said study author Andreas Oschlies, an earth system modeler at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.

One strategy, known as afforestation, would irrigate deserts, such as those in Australia and North Africa, to promote the growth of vegetation that can absorb carbon dioxide. However, this vegetation would also absorb sunlight the deserts currently reflect back into space, thus actually contributing to global warming. That finding supports the results of previous studies.

Another tactic, known as artificial ocean upwelling, would use long pipes to pump deep, cold, nutrient-rich water upward in order to cool ocean-surface waters and promote the growth of photosynthetic organisms that can absorb carbon dioxide. However, the scientists noted that if this strategy were ever stopped, the oceans would rebalance their heat levels, potentially causing disastrously rapid climate change.

One approach, known as ocean alkalinization, would dump lime into the water to chemically increase oceanic absorption of carbon dioxide. Another technique, known as ocean iron fertilization, would dump iron into the oceans to boost the growth of photosynthetic organisms that can absorb carbon dioxide. However, like other geoengineering strategies, the models suggest that both are of little use in reducing global temperatures.

The last method, known as solar radiation management, would reduce the amount of sunlight Earth receives, most likely by pumping reflective sulfate-based aerosols into the atmosphere. The subsequent dimming of sunlight on Earth would cool the planet, but the researchers note that carbon dioxide would continue to accumulate in the atmosphere. This suggests that if this strategy were ever halted, the globe would rapidly warm after the aerosols dispersed.

Possible side effects

All in all, these strategies are relatively ineffective; individually, they reduce global warming by less than 8 percent each, assuming carbon dioxide emission levels continue to remain as high as they are now. In all simulations, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will still reach more than twice current levels by the end of the century, the researchers found.

Moreover, each geoengineering technique can have potentially severe side effects. For example, solar radiation management would alter patterns of precipitation such as rainfall and reduce total precipitation across the globe.

Altogether, the climate engineering technologies analyzed here are ineffective in reducing carbon dioxide concentrations and in most cases temperature. And this lack of effect "is really striking," said climate scientist Kelly McCusker at the University of Victoria in Canada, who did not take part in this research. McCusker and her colleagues also recently found that a sudden stop in solar radiation management strategies would exacerbate global warming.

"This study nails home the continued importance of reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases," McCusker told Live Science.

The researchers noted they used a moderately complex earth system model, and that more complex models involving a more intricate look at how winds might respond to geoengineering "may give different answers, particularly for precipitation changes," Oschlies said.

Oschlies and his colleagues David Keller and Ellias Feng detailed their findings online Feb. 25 in the journal Nature Communications.

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Secret World of Ocean Garbage Patch Microbes Revealed

Tia Ghose, LiveScience Yahoo News 25 Feb 14;

There's a secret world of microbes hidden on the plastic littering the oceans, and scientists are untangling how these mysterious microbial communities, dubbed the "plastisphere," are impacting the ocean ecosystem.

The ocean is teeming with trash, which collects in places in the ocean where currents can trap the debris, such as the great Pacific garbage patch, which is about the size of Texas. Researchers have found that seabirds often ingest this debris, but little was known about how sea debris affected the entire ocean ecosystem.

Last year, scientists discovered that about 1,000 microbes thrived on the plastic debris drifting in the oceans. Many of the bacteria belong to the genus Vibrio (the same genus as the cholera bacteria), which is known to cause diseases in humans and animals. Other microbial members of the plastisphere seemed to hasten the breakdown of the plastic. The microbes also look markedly different from ordinary marine microbes, the scientists said.

But the researchers didn't understand exactly how those microbes got on the plastic, or whether they were affecting the ocean ecology.

In follow-up research, scientists have found evidence that these microbes can form colonies on plastic in just a few minutes. In addition, some types of harmful bacteria tend to prefer living on plastic more than others do. [In Photos: Trash Litters Deep Seafloor]

As a follow-up, the researchers are trying to see whether fish ingesting the plastic could help these bizarre microbes thrive, by providing additional nutrients for the bacteria in their guts.

Unlocking the mysterious world of these microbes could help scientists understand the role of plastic in the ocean as a whole.

"One of the benefits of understanding the plastisphere right now and how it interacts with biota in general, is that we are better able to inform materials scientists on how to make better materials and, if they do get out to sea, have the lowest impact possible,” Tracy Mincer, an associate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass., said in a statement, referring to how the plastisphere interacts with other life in the oceans.

The findings were presented yesterday (Feb. 24) at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

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