Best of our wild blogs: 16 Apr 14

Fri 18 & Sun 20 April’14 : 3 Guided Walks
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History

Hornbills in Changi feeding nestlings – March 2014
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Jane’s Walk – 3rd & 4th May’14
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History

Malaysia imperils forest reserves and sea turtle nesting ground for industrial site (photos) from news by Jeremy Hance

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Indonesia: Six Arrested in Aceh for Killing Elephants for Tusks

Nurdin Hasan Jakarta Globe 15 Apr 14;

Banda Aceh. Police in Aceh have arrested six people for allegedly killing three Sumatran elephants this year for their tusks, and are still searching for seven other suspects.

The six now in custody were all residents of Teupin Panah village in West Aceh district and were arrested on Saturday for the killing of a male elephant earlier this month, according to Sr. Comr. Gustav Leo, a spokesman for the Aceh Police.

“Upon further questioning of the six suspects, they admitted they had killed three elephants over the past three months for their tusks,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.

The two other elephants were killed in Blangpidie in Southwest Aceh district and in Seumantok village in West Aceh, he added.

Gustav said the suspects claimed to have killed the elephants by setting up booby traps in which a tripwire tied between trees launched a sharpened wooden stake at the animals, impaling them in the head.

“Once the elephants were dead, they cut off the tusks and sold them to a fence in Kuta Fajar in South Aceh district,” he said, adding that police were still hunting down the others involved in the crime.

Police have seized parts of the traps as evidence.

Gustav said the alleged perpetrators sold the tusks from each elephant killed for Rp 1 million ($87).

The villagers arrested in the case face charges under the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law that could see them sentenced to up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

The Sumatran elephant, a critically endangered species, faces mounting threats to its survival from the decimation of Sumatra’s forests to make way for farmland.

Aceh’s forests have largely been left intact as a result of the province’s three-decade isolation during an armed insurgency from which it emerged in 2005, but a new zoning plan being pushed by Governor Zaini Abdullah threatens to clear large swaths of forests that are home to elephants, orangutans, tigers and other endangered species.

In Riau province to the south, elephants are routinely killed, often by farmers and plantation companies after encroaching onto farmland in search of food.

In February, the World Wide Fund for Nature reported that the bodies of seven elephants, likely killed by humans, had been found in Riau’s Tesso Nilo National Park, an ostensibly protected area.

The elephants — a male, a female and five calves — were believed to have died in November of last year, probably after being poisoned, a WWF official said.

The findings brought the total number of elephant deaths in Riau in the 10 months to February to 10, nine of which were believed to have been caused by poisoning.

Aceh Police Arrest More Suspected Elephant Poachers
Nurdin Hasan Jakarta Globe 16 Apr 14;

In this handout photo taken on August 8, 2013 and released by World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia on August 22, 2013, female elephant Ria, right, walks next to her newborn in Tesso Nelo National Park, Riau Province, Sumatra. (AFP Photo/World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia)

Banda Aceh. Police in Aceh have arrested another six people for allegedly killing a Sumatran elephant for its tusks, bringing to 12 the number of suspected poachers nabbed in the case.

Adj. Sr. Comr. Faisal Rivai, the police chief in West Aceh district, said on Wednesday that the latest suspects were arrested on Tuesday in separate locations based on information from the six already in custody since Saturday.

He said the suspects, accused of killing a male elephant earlier this month, claimed they were not after the tusks initially.

“They confessed to killing the elephant because a herd of elephants had been destroying their crops,” Faisal told the Jakarta Globe.

He said it was only after the elephant was killed that they hacked off its tusks and sold it to a fence in Southwest Aceh district. Faisal said police had identified the suspected fence and were now looking for him.

Police on Tuesday announced that they had arrested six residents of Teupin Panah village in West Aceh for their alleged roles in killing the male elephant and two others, in Blangpidie in Southwest Aceh district and in Seumantok village in West Aceh.

They are accused of setting up booby traps to kill the endangered animals, then selling their tusks to the fence in Southwest Aceh.

One of those arrested on Tuesday, Hamdani, told reporters at the West Aceh Police headquarters that the ivory was not their main motivation for killing the elephant.

“Lots of residents have lost their crops to the herd of elephants. We’ve reported it many times to the authorities, but there’s never been any attempt to shoo away the elephants,” he said.

Police have charged all 12 suspects under the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law that could see them sentenced to up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

Genman Suhefti Hasibuan, the head of the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency, or BKSDA, welcomed the arrest of the suspected poachers but warned of the potential for even more human-elephant conflicts in the province as the animals’ habitat was cleared for farmland.

“There needs to be a concerted effort from all sides — from the local authorities, the BKSDA and the residents — to resolve these human-elephant conflicts,” he told the Globe. “If we don’t do that, the conflicts will keep happening.”

Genman said his agency had recorded 20 incidents of elephants encroaching onto farms or villages in Aceh in the past three months, multiple times in some places.

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Malaysia: Action plan to further protect Bornean Pygmy elephants

Roy Goh and Laili Ismail New Straits Times 15 Apr 14;

KOTA KINABALU: A series of action plans have been taken to further protect the Bornean Pygmy elephants in Sabah which are on the brink of extinction.
Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said the elephant population is currently in the Red List of Threatened Species, a guiding system issued by United Nation’s International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

“According to a research carried out in 2010 by Sabah Wildlife Department and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia, there are 2,040 elephants in the State.

“The Red List considers a species is endangered when its adult population is less than 2,500 individuals, when there is a possibility of over 50 per cent decline in population within three upcoming generations as well as when the population is fragmented.

“Based on the list, the elephant population in Sabah is therefore endangered based on the criteria provided,” Pang said.

In replying a question from Datuk Abdul Rahim (BN- Pantai Manis) he said in a conservation effort, the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry through the Wildlife Department has come up with the Elephant Action Plan 2012-2016.

“The management guide outlined three main strategies . First, non-site specific priority actions such as handling Managed Elephant Range (locations that have 125-150 elephants) and establishing the Bornean Elephant Conservation Alliance, among other steps.

“The second strategy is site-specific priority actions are to manage Major Elephant Range which are located at upstream and downstream Kinabatangan, central Sabah. Tabin and Ulu Kalumpang.

“Meanwhile off-site conservation efforts also play an important role in managing small and remote population outside of Managed Elephant Range where translocation is the last solution and where sick an injured elephants are put in the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary.

“These steps have to be taken in an integrated manner to ensure a controlled breeding rate among the elephants,” Pang said adding that elephant-human conflict is expected to be unavoidable unless the related parties take mitigating actions.

Read more: Action plan to further protect Bornean Pygmy elephants - Latest - New Straits Times

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Malaysia: Annual Rate Of Turtle Fatalities Is Worrying

Bernama 15 Apr 14;

DUNGUN, April 15 (Bernama) -- The number of turtle fatalities in Terengganu waters each year is worrying, with six found dead during the nesting season between January to April this year.

According to the Director of the Terengganu Fisheries Department, Abdul Khalil Abdul Karim, four of these were of the Green turtle species, while two were the Hawksbill and Olive Ridley.

He told Bernama on Tuesday that last year, 42 turtles (40 Green, two Hawksbill) were found dead in Terengganu waters, compared to 33 in 2012, 22 in 2011, 20 in 2010 and 29 in 2009.

Abdul Khalil said investigations showed that the cause of the turtles' deaths was entanglement in fishing nets and hooks.

He advised fishermen not to use equipment which could trap turtles and jeopardise their landings in Terengganu.


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Animal welfare group plans largest rescue of Chinese bile bears

Michael Martina PlanetArk 16 Apr 14;

An animal welfare group said on Tuesday it will save 130 bears from a bile extraction farm in China, its largest rescue so far, in a bid to end a business that has sparked outrage over animal cruelty amid growing opposition.

Hong Kong-based Animals Asia says as many as 10,000 bears are held in captivity in China and used for bile extraction, often under poor conditions that cause long-term physical and psychological suffering.

The bile, taken repeatedly from incisions in the bears' gall bladders, is used in some Chinese medicines that claim to cure eye and liver ailments.

Animals Asia reached a deal with state-owned Flower World to take over its bear bile farm in the southern Guangxi region's capital Nanning and convert it into a sanctuary for the Asiatic black bears, known as moon bears for a white crescent marking on their chests.

The deal was agreed to after company executives said they were losing money on the venture and acknowledged it was "time for change".

"Particularly in the last two years, there has been a lot of public discussion about the practice of extracting bear bile from live bears. Most people oppose it, so we consider prospects for the bear bile business will be less and less optimistic," Flower World General Manager Yan Shaohong told reporters.

"Actually, the company has always been investing money but not making any," Yan said.

The company had invested around 8 million yuan ($1.3 million) in the farm that had yet to sell bile. The rescue is set to begin in May and the company stopped extracting bile from the bears two years ago.

Animals Asia said they had put aside $5 million over the next three years to construct and run the sanctuary and retrain staff to care for the bears. Many had been used for their bile, while others had been held for breeding.

Wildlife advocates say that while sales of bear bile are legal in some Asian nations - including mainland China and Japan - any trade across borders is prohibited by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

While the bear trade is robust across Asia, there are indications that attitudes are slowly changing.

In 2011, fury among Chinese Internet users erupted after news that a Chinese company that extracts bear bile hoped to list on the stock market. The firm eventually withdrew its public listing application, though it didn't give a reason.

Jill Robinson, Animals Asia founder and CEO, said many of the rescued bears, which can live as long as 30 years, will likely remain at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives.

"This negotiation is a result of years of growing awareness and increased opposition, with the bear farmer showing the moral integrity to do the right thing," Robinson said.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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China set to elevate environment over development in new law

Sui-Lee Wee PlanetArk 15 Apr 14;

Long-awaited amendments to China's 1989 Environmental Protection Law are expected to be finalised later this year, giving the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) greater authority to take on polluters.

While some details of the fourth draft are still under discussion, it has been agreed that the principle of prioritising the environment above the economy will be enshrined in law, according to scholars who have been involved in the process. The fourth draft is due to be completed within weeks.

"(Upholding) environmental protection as the fundamental principle is a huge change, and emphasizes that the environment is a priority," said Cao Mingde, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, who was involved in the drafting process.

The first change to the legislation in 25 years will give legal backing to Beijing's newly declared war on pollution and formalize a pledge made last year to abandon a decades-old growth-at-all-costs economic model that has spoiled much of China's water, skies and soil.

Cao cautioned that some of the details of the measures could be removed as a result of bureaucratic horsetrading. The MEP has called for the law to spell out how new powers can be implemented in practice, but the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planning agency, prefers broader, more flexible principles.

"There is a usual practice when everyone is unable to come to a complete agreement - we first put an idea into the law and then draw up detailed administrative rules later," Cao said.

Local authorities' dependence on the taxes and employment provided by polluting industries is reflected by the priorities set out in China's growth-focused legal code, said Wang Canfa, an environment law professor who runs the Center for Pollution Victims in China and also took part in the drafting stage.

The environment ministry did not respond to detailed questions on its role in the drafting process and the specific content of the new amendments, but said the legislation was currently in the hands of the Legal Work Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature.

The protracted legal process usually kicks off with a number of drafts from academic institutions, which are then examined by ministries, local governments and industry groups. A new draft then goes to the legal affairs office of the State Council, China's cabinet, before being delivered to the NPC and opened up to members of the public to have their say.


In the absence of legally enshrined powers, the environment ministry has often made do with one-off national inspection campaigns to name and shame offenders, as well as ad hoc arrangements with local courts and police authorities to make sure punishments are imposed and repeat offenders shut down. It has also stretched existing laws to its advantage.

Last year, it began to use its powers of approval over environmental impact assessments, which are mandatory for all new industrial projects, to force powerful industrial firms such as Sinopec and the China National Petroleum Corporation to cut emissions at some of their plants, threatening to veto all new approvals until the firms met their targets.

The new law would give the ministry the legal authority to take stronger punitive action.

"The environment ministry could only impose fines and management deadlines," Cao said. "Now we can close and confiscate them. It's an important right."

It will also set up a more comprehensive range of punishments, putting an end to a maximum fine system that allowed enterprises to continue polluting once they had paid a one-off fee normally much lower than the cost of compliance.

Cao said the final draft was also likely to impose an "ecological red line" that will declare certain protected regions off-limits to polluting industry, though detailed definitions are likely to come later.

The legislation also proposes to formalize a system by which local cadres are assessed according to their record on pollution issues, including meeting emissions targets.

Experts have welcomed commitments to improve transparency and compel polluters to provide comprehensive and real-time emissions data. Criminal penalties will also be imposed on those found guilty of trying to evade pollution monitoring systems.

"The provisions on transparency are probably the most positive step forward. These include the requirement that key polluters disclose real-time pollution data," said Alex Wang, expert in Chinese environmental law at UCLA. Wang said he had not seen the later, non-public drafts of the legislation.


For nearly two years, scholars, ministries, local governments, companies and environment ministry officials have been debating the changes to the environmental protection law.

One of the most fiercely contested parts of the new draft was a clause designed to prevent most environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from filing lawsuits against polluters.

The first draft said lawsuits could only be filed via the government-affiliated All-China Environmental Federation, though subsequent changes allowed other government-registered organizations that have been operating for at least five years to launch legal action.

Polluting industries have lobbied government officials not to relax the restrictions on the rights of NGOs to file suits, said Cao, who has attended numerous meetings with government officials on the new legislation.

UCLA's Wang said the ultimate success of China's war on pollution would be determined not by symbolic new legislation but by specific targets and guidelines that are now being imposed on local governments.

"Many people point to China's laws as a sign of the government's concern about the environment," he said. "But changes in bureaucratic targets are a more direct indication of changing priorities and can tell us whether Beijing means business."

(Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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