Best of our wild blogs: 10 May 14

360 exhibition by EcoYouth – 14 & 15 May
from biodiversityconnections

The Cycad Blue and its nectarine plant, the Sweet Basil
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Obama: palm oil destroying Malaysia's rainforests
from news by Rhett Butler

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Malaysia: Govt eyes Unesco heritage listing for Belum-Temengor rainforest reserve

ivan loh The Star 9 May 14;

GERIK: The Government wants to see the Royal Belum-Temengor rainforest reserve listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said studies would need to be conducted before the Malaysia could push for the rainforest to be considered by Unesco.

"Related agencies need to study its heritage value and its economic value.

"Tourists visiting here will need to be controlled in a managed environment," he said during the launching of the completion of Emkay Group’s Belum Rainforest Resort Phase Two development project at Banding here Friday.

The rainforest is said to be about 130 million years old and older than the Amazon jungle. It is also four times the size of Singapore and boasts various species of flora and fauna.

Najib said he was impressed with the settings at the Belum Rainforest Resort, noting its suitability as a meeting point for leaders.

"The resort can be our own Camp David.

"We can have head of states' meetings here," he said.

Emkay Group CEO Ahmad Khalif Mustapha Kamal said getting Unesco world heritage status would bring in more tourists to the area.

However, Ahmad Khalif said Malaysia was currently a Unesco board member and could not submit any dossier on any place for heritage site status for two years.

"We could start the ball rolling again the following year to submit the necessary documents," he said.

He noted that Emkay's research centre had ample facilities to accommodate scientists and researchers who wanted to conduct studies on the rainforest.

During the launching ceremony, Najib, Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir and their spouses also visited a nearby orang asli village and the research centre.

'Belum can draw quality tourists'
ROZIANA HAMSAWI New Straits Times 10 May 14;

TOURIST ATTRACTION: With the recognition, Belum rain forest can attract quality tourists from all over the world.

THE 130 million years old Belum-Temengor rainforest has all the uniqueness and potential to be recognised as a Unesco world heritage site, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday.

The prime minister, in commending the efforts undertaken by state government agencies, non-governmental organ isations and the private sector in their commitment to develop the area in a sustainable manner, said this would ensure the 300,000-hectare rainforest its place on the world eco-tourism map.

He said if the Unesco recognition is attained, not only will it become a premier heritage destination, but also bring a positive economic impact to the country.

“With the recognition, we can expect more tourists coming here, but we will ensure that they are quality tourists and not mass tourists,” Najib said in his speech when launching the second Phase 2 of the Belum Rainforest Resort at Banding island here.

Also present were his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof, Defence Forces chief Tan Sri Zulkifeli Md Zain and Emkay Group chairman Tan Sri Dr Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar.

Emkay Group, the developer of the resort, has spent over RM100 million since 2004 on the development of Banding island, including the Belum Rainforest Resort, a research centre, and preservation and conservation activities at the rainforest.

The federal government's allocation of RM2.5 million has been fully utilised to build dormitories at the island's re search centre and Najib yesterday promised that more allocation will be given to Emkay Foundation.

Najib said the rainforest also evoked nostalgia in him because his late father Tun Abdul Razak, who was the country’s second prime minister, opened the Temenggor Dam in 1974.

“It is interesting that the area has been transformed into a catalyst for the culture of appreciating the environment and national heritage,” he said.

Najib also paid tribute to the Emkay Group and Mustapha Kamal for their vision to develop some parts of Banding island for eco-tourism purposes without damaging the is land's environment while ensuring the interests of the Orang Asli community are not taken for granted.

He said the corporate social responsibility programmes carried out for the Orang Asli were well managed and had helped in elevating their socio-economic status.

He also urged universities to utilise the research centre at Banding island, which has been used by Japan's Kyoto University and Singapore's Royal Botanic Gardens.

Najib noted that Belum-Temengor rainforest, which is older than the Amazon forest, is blessed with a number of plant species which have medicinal benefits and home to a vast and unique number of flora and fauna, adding that 14 of the world's most threatened mammals roam in the area, "and if we don't love our natural heritage, the uniqueness of these 14 species will soon extinct."

He also envisioned the prospect of using the island as a retreat destination for government leaders, similar to Camp David in the United States.

Later, Emkay Group CEO Ahmad Khalif Mustapha Kamal said the submission for the area to be listed as a world heritage site to Unesco would take place three years from now after Malaysia ceases to be a committee member of the Unesco approval board.

“The state government will write to the federal gov ernment which will do the submission,” he told reporters.

Currently, the Melaka city and George Town in Penang are Malaysia's Unesco world heritage sites.

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Malaysia: Dam water level slowly rising

calvin tan The Star 10 May 14;

PETALING JAYA: The water level at the Sungai Selangor dam is continuing to rise slowly as more rain from seeded clouds hit catchment areas.

According to the Selangor Water Management Authority website, the water level at the dam stood at 41.14% as of 8am yesterday.

The water level was 36.53% on March 31, 38.97% on April 23, before hitting the 40% mark on April 28, prompting the lifting of water rationing exercise in the state.

The dam supplies water to over 60% of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Selangor.

Meteorological Department central forecasting office director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said there had been significantly more rain hitting the water catchment areas “the past few days”.

“We are currently in the inter-monsoonal season which is one of the largest contributors of rain to the country.

“But the Sungai Selangor dam only received 100mm of rain whereas many other parts of the state received a copious amount of rain, about 200mm to 300mm,” he said, adding that it would take 20mm to increase the water level by 1% but the water was continuously being consumed.

“Fortunately, I have been witnessing increased rainfall around the water catchment compared to last month.”

Helmi said that the recent downpours over urban areas were not likely to be from seeded clouds.

“We target towering cumulus clouds around the water catchment areas and factor in wind directions to accelerate the rain there.

“Some seeded clouds may migrate to urban areas. However, there are vastly more unseeded clouds than seeded ones as our planes can only cover a limited area,” he said.

He said the southwest monsoon season, which would begin at the end of this month and last until September, would spell 20% to 40% less rain for the peninsular in June but would see a return to a “more or less normal” amount in July, August and September.

“So long as there is rain we can carry on with cloud seeding. We will continue until the water level in the dam reaches a satisfactory amount at around 55%,” he said.

Other dams which showed an improved water level yesterday included Sungai Tinggi at 66.68% and Klang Gates at 62.08% – up from 62.6% and 58.49%, respectively, on April 28.

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Malaysia: Orang utan ‘hero’ honoured

patrick lee The Star 10 May 14;

PETALING JAYA: A conservationist known for his efforts to help save the orang utan has won the Whitley Award, the first Malaysian to do so.

Dr Melvin Gumal was honoured with the Whitley Award for Con­servation in Ape Habitats at a special ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in Britain on Thursday night.

The awards are handed out for the world’s best conservation efforts.

“I am overwhelmed and excited,” Dr Gumal told The Star over Whats­App before the ceremony.

He also expressed his gratitude to his family, the Sarawak Forest De­­partment, Forestry Corp, Borneo Ad­­venture and various donors such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and others for their support.

When asked what he would do next Dr Gumal said: “(I’ll) go (back) to the field and chill.”

The award comes with a cash prize of £35,000 (RM192,168), which Dr Gumal said would be used for field work.

A field biologist and long-term conservationist, Dr Gumal was picked from more than 170 experts worldwide for the award.

The Star reported that he was one of eight finalists in the running to win the award, which is popularly known as the Green Oscars.

The organisation behind it – the Whitley Fund for Nature – has natural history expert Sir David Atten­borough as a trustee.

Attenborough was quoted by the organisation as saying: “Whitley Award winners are successful because they don’t just watch and measure – they act! They are the conservation experts – not us – they know what to do and, more importantly, how to get it done.”

A director of the Wildlife Conser­vation Society’s (WCS) Malaysian chapter since 2003, Dr Gumal has been working to understand and save the orang utan since 1988.

He has been involved in the conservation of the primates in the Batang Ai National Park and the Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, home to more than 2,000 animals.

Before joining the WCS, Dr Gumal headed the Conservation Education and Interpretation Unit within the Sarawak Forestry Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Office for 15 years.

He also helped to co-author the Wildlife Master Plan for Sarawak and has been working with rural com­munities living in and around protected areas in the state.

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