Best of our wild blogs: 1 Aug 14

The mangroves at Khatib Bongsu
from Points of Departure

Sashimi, wasabi and otter
from Francis' Random Yaks, Articles & Photos

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher “vomited” wasp it swallowed earlier
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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MPA launches campaign to ensure safety at sea

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 31 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: Despite the falling number of major sea accidents over the years, seafarers should not be complacent in the waters of Singapore.

That was the message sent by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in launching the Safety@Sea Singapore campaign on Thursday (July 31). There were six sea accidents last year, down from 13 in 2011.

Together with local shipping operators, the campaign is an industry-wide effort to increase awareness of safety practices, and inculcate a safety-first culture at sea.

MPA Chief Executive Andrew Tan said the focus of the campaign was on the human element in marine incidents. "We want to safeguard against complacency, raise safety standards and get everyone in the community to do their part," he said. "We have to make sure that from time to time, we remind them of their responsibilities, and make sure that the bridge team, the vessel masters, as well as the pilots, are ever vigilant when they operate in our waters."

Information kits promoting a safety-first mindset were distributed to members of the shipping community, with workshops and dialogue sessions to discuss safety best practices planned for the near future.

MPA is exploring the idea of setting up a National Maritime Safety Council to drive safety efforts at sea. Companies, vessels and seafarers who display exemplary safety practices out at sea will also be recognised in the inaugural Safety Awareness Week, slated to be held in November this year, the agency added.

- CNA/kk/xk

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Malaysia: Dry weather expected to resume next week

The Star 1 Aug 14;

PETALING JAYA: The recent spell of rain in some parts of Selangor will soon come to an end, said the Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment (MMD).

According to its senior officer Ambun Dindang, rain is expected to last only until the end of the week.

“The recent rains have really helped in reducing the haze, resulting in the air pollutant index registering at good and moderate levels.

“However, the situation will last only until this weekend. By next week, we expect dry weather from the southwestern monsoon.”

Ambun said peninsular Malaysia and the western parts of Sarawak would experience warmer temperatures, but Sabah would remain unaffected.

“The dry spell will probably last until September but within that period, there will be rain. It won’t be totally dry but compared to other seasons, it will be relatively drier.”

On possible water shortage in the Klang Valley, Ambun assured residents that cloud seeding would continue.

“It’s an ongoing programme, but to be successful, we need suitable clouds. In this case, cloud monitoring is done on a daily basis.”

The number of open burning cases in the country continues to rise from 4,007 on July 5 to 4,408 on Tuesday and 4,413 yesterday.

This time, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said the breakdown was agricultural areas (1,436 cases), undergrowth (1,013 cases), forested areas (898 cases), construction sites (137 cases), garbage dump (77 cases) and industrial areas (34 cases).

Satellite imagery by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admini­stration had also detected 132 hotspots in Sumatra and 87 in Kalimantan on Wednesday.

“There were also eight hotspots in the country – seven in Sarawak and one in Perak,” he said, adding that the forest fire in Gunung Jambusan, Sarawak, had yet to be completely doused.

Rain provides brief respite
The Star 31 Jul 14;

PETALING JAYA: Just when it was going to get worse, it got better. Malaysians in the central and southern peninsula can expect a short respite from the dry, hazy conditions.

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD), it has also been raining over central Sumatra, where the haze hotspots are concentrated, thus reducing the number of fires in the area.

“Hazy conditions are slowly beginning to improve, thanks to the rain pouring over both peninsular Malaysia and central Sumatra since Monday.

“At the moment, southwesterly winds are weak with a speed of about 10kph, allowing for rain in some parts of the peninsula,” he said.

However, the rain was not expected to last beyond the end of next week, as the southwesterly winds may become stronger after that, blowing at speeds of about 30kph.

“It is possible that the rains will slow towards the end of next week, leaving the country with the dry season that is expected to last until September. The winds may become stronger after next week, especially if the tropical storm east of Philippines intensifies, as the storm will absorb the moisture around it.”

A check with the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) revealed there were no hotspots in Malaysia, a marked improvement from the seven hotspots found on Monday.

However, Sumatra still had 98 hot­spot counts, while Kalimantan had 59.

For the haze to clear within the end of next week, the official said it was dependent on whether there would be enough rain at the hotspots.

“If it rains at the hotspots, this will help reduce the number of open burning incidents that contribute to the haze. If not, the southwesterly winds will pick up the smoke from the hotspots and blow it towards the peninsula, causing the haze to thicken.”

Indonesia’s disaster agency had warned last month that Malaysia and Singapore could be badly hit by haze again after a large number of forest fires in the Riau province, which was at the centre of an air pollution crisis last year.

The rain was also welcomed by people over social media.

Joylynn @tjoylynn tweeted: “i can see clearly now that the haze is gone. was beginning to wonder if i need glasses haha Praise God Maker of all, even the rain and wind.”

Lynn Zulkarim @LynnZulkarim said: “Super heavy rain in JB Alhamdulillah. Hoping for one in KL too to clear the haze and heat!”

HAZE: Air quality nationwide sees improvement
New Straits Times 31 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Air quality in the country saw an improvement today, with no area having the Air Pollutant Index (API) at the unhealthy level as at 8 am compared to two yesterday.

The API in Sibu and Sri Aman in Sarawak, which had API at the unhealthy level yesterday, was the moderate API level of 95 and 82, respectively, at 8 am today, according to the portal of the Department of Environment (DoE).

Seventeen other areas had API at the moderate level as well, they being Bakar Arang, Sungai Petani (61) in Kedah; Jalan Tasek, Ipoh (51), Kg Air Putih, Taiping (61), SK Jalan Pegoh, Ipoh (55) and Seri Manjung (54) in Perak.

Prai (52), Seberang Jaya 2, Prai (59) and USM (53) in Penang; Bintulu (57), ILP Miri (55), Kuching (61), Miri (63), Samarahan (75) and Sarikei (55) in Sarawak; Port Klang (52) in Selangor; Cheras (56) in Kuala Lumpur and Labuan (54).

According to the portal, good air quality was recorded in 30 areas.

An API reading of between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; between 51 and 100, moderate; between 101 and 200, unhealthy; between 201 and 300, very unhealthy and over 301, hazardous.

Members of the public can refer to the DOE portal at to find out the API reading for their areas. - BERNAMA

Level at 2 major dams below 55pc
New Straits Times 1 Aug 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: According to statistics from the Selangor Water Management Authority (Luas), water at two of the eight dams in Selangor is below the minimum level of 55 per cent.

Statistics from Luas website,, show the water level of the Sungai Selangor dam is at 33.46 per cent and Sungai Tinggi dam at 47.39 per cent.

Water was at the highest level at the Batu Dam at 82.99 per cent, followed by the Semenyih dam (77.87 per cent), Klang Gates dam (70.66 per cent), Subang Lake dam (67.14 per cent), Langat dam (63.26 per cent) and Sungai Labu Water Retention Pond (59.57 per cent). Bernama

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Malaysia: Measures needed to protect dumpsite that is home to herons and egrets

elan perumal The Star 31 Jul 14;

A DUMPSITE that is home to herons and egrets in Jinjang North has to be preserved, said the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS).

It has called on all concerned parties to take necessary measures to ensure the area in Taman Beringin is protected for the sake of the migratory birds.

Describing the area as unique, society communications head Andrew Sebastian said MNS would work with the landowner, the Kuala Lumpur Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID), to prevent any form of destruction to nature at the site.

As the birds were protected, he added that no one should be allowed to cause any damage to their natural habitat.

“The trees in the area should be retained as a place for the birds to breed.

“We will ask DID to collaborate by cleaning up the clogged drain and prevent the birds’ droppings from flowing out of the area,” he said, adding that the droppings on the drain left a bad odour.

“Residents, on the other hand should help by preventing poachers from entering the area to kill the birds,” he said.

Sebastian said they could play whistle-blower by keeping their eyes and ears open, and alert the authorities whenever they saw suspicious people around.

“They should be proud that the area has become an instant attraction due to the presence of the migratory birds,” he said.

Sebastian said the residents should educate their children on the birds, adding that it could also serve as an educational spot for schools in the area.

The society would also work closely with the Selangor Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) to help preserve the area.

Sebastian said there were nests of four types of birds, and that 50% of the birds were herons.

“There are at least two Black Crowned Night Herons and Purple Herons.

“About 30% of the bird population in the area is made up of Cattle Egrets and the rest comprise Great and Little Egrets,” he said.

The presence of a pond and wild trees at the site was conducive for the birds to breed.

“These birds feed on frogs and lizards and nestle in areas that are closer to water,” he said.

StarMetro reported on July 24 that the presence of migratory birds in two residential areas in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor has residents worried that poachers would be targeting the birds.

This was following complaints from other residents that the birds were a nuisance because of the loud noise they made, as well as the droppings in the neighbourhood.

A state Perhilitan officer had said that those who hunt the protected species without a special permit could face a maximum fine of RM100,000 or jailed three years, or both.

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Malaysia: ‘Provoked elephants will charge at you’

T.N. ALAGESH New Straits Times 1 Aug 14;

KUANTAN: VILLAGERS and logging workers were reminded not to confront wild elephants as it will increase their aggression, prompting them to charge and attack.

Instead, they should escape and lodge a report to the Pahang Wildlife and National Park Department (Perhilitan) to allow rangers to drive the elephants out of human settlements or capture them for relocation.

State Perhilitan director Khairiah Mohd Sharif said farmers had attempted in previous cases to scare elephants from destroying their crops by throwing stones, firing crackers or shooting into the air, but such moves could prove costly.

“The animals might feel threatened or provoked, prompting them to charge at humans in self defence. These could lead to serious injuries or deaths.

“One must realise that elephants have long memories and those that are wounded by humans can become more aggressive towards humans in the future.

“Sometimes, adult elephants attack people, fearing their offspring was under threat.”

Khairiah was commenting on the incident on Monday where two timber company workers in Kampung Bukit Harimau, Jerantut, were nearly trampled by a herd of wild elephants after one of them had used a chainsaw to frighten the mammals.

The 4am incident happened when one of the workers spotted the elephants destroying tapioca and banana trees planted near the kitchen section of the workers quarters.

A 56-year-old worker, Lee Kam Foo, alerted security guard Simak Lambak, 43, who fetched a chainsaw and attempted to frighten them off with the roaring sound.

However, his action caused the elephants to react more violently by flinging drums of diesel and tyres, which almost flattened the quarters.

In February, a wild elephant attacked a family on a motorcycle, killing a boy, 4, in Jeli, Kelantan.

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Vietnam: Mangrove forest conservation measures proposed

VietNamNet Bridge 31 Jul 14;

Urgent measures are needed to conserve mangrove forests, which have been rapidly disappearing in the past few decades, experts said at a forum organised in Ca Mau Province last Friday.

Youth volunteers tend to young trees in the Can Gio mangrove forests in HCM City. Urgent measures are needed to conserve mangrove forests, which have been rapidly disappearing, experts warn.

Mangrove forests develop in shallow water, such as in gulfs and estuaries sheltered by capes, narrow straits or along coasts protected by archipelagos.

Although they account for a small part of Viet Nam's forests, they provide an important role in the preservation and protection of coastal and estuarine regions, habitat provision, storm protection, erosion control and carbon sequestration, said Phan Huy Thong, director of the National Agriculture Extension Centre.

Mangrove forests are present in 20 provinces and cities in the country, mostly in the south, and have diverse species, Thong told participants at a forum organised by the centre and the Ca Mau Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Mangroves in 1943 covered 408,500ha but due to aquaculture and urban development, the country has lost nearly 60 per cent of its mangrove forest over the last 70 years, to only 166,000ha now, he said.

"Coastal erosion and higher levels of sea water caused by climate change have contributed to mangrove forest reduction," said Nhu Van Ky, an expert of the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry's Department of Forest Development.

In addition, poor management as well as a lack of co-ordination among relevant agencies are to blame.

Also, localities have no policies to encourage residents as well as local communities to take part in mangrove protection, he said.

Tran Thanh Cao, vice director of the Forest Science Institute of South Viet Nam, said: "Besides technical measures, such as applying GIS (Geography Information System) to collect, store and monitor forest, local authorities should have measures to replant mangroves, with afforestation techniques suited to different areas."

Forest sanitation, including moving out fallen trees, was also needed to improve forest quality, he said.

In its forestry development strategy to cope with climate change, the country plans to have 330,000ha of mangrove and coastal protective forests by 2015 and 500,000ha by 2020, Thong said.

"To realise the targets, comprehensive measures must be applied, from re-zoning plans for mangrove forests to new policies related to plantation, protection, and development of mangrove forests," he said.

Local governments and agencies must work to raise awareness among residents about the importance of protection of mangrove forests, he said.

They should also be taught correct exploitation techniques that contribute to the sustainability of the forest.

Close linkages between enterprises and communities in the forest should be developed so that businesses ensure outlets for forest products, he added.

Currently, many farmers earn a good income from breeding shrimp and crab and bees under the forest shadow, Thong said, adding that localities should conduct research studies to expand these successful models to raise residents' incomes, thus limiting deforestation.

Tran Van Thuc, deputy director of Ca Mau Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which has the largest forest area in the country with 72,909ha, said the province would complete allocation of forest land as well as the granting of forest land-use rights to organisations and households so they can invest long-term in forestry production.

The province is also calling on all economic sectors to invest in mangrove protection and development, as well as processing and consumption of forest products, he said.

With wise management, the rich resources that the mangrove ecosystem offers could be of great assistance to the development of livelihoods for local communities, participants at the forum said.


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IMF urges higher energy taxes to fight climate change

Anna Yukhananov PlanetArk 1 Aug 14;

Energy taxes in much of the world are far below what they should be to reflect the harmful environmental and health impact of fossil fuels use, the International Monetary Fund said in a new book on Thursday.

For the first time, the IMF laid out exactly what it views as appropriate taxes on coal, natural gas, gasoline and diesel in 156 countries to factor in the fuels' overall costs, which include carbon dioxide emissions, air pollution, congestion and traffic accidents.

Under its chief, Christine Lagarde, the IMF has delved into the impact of climate change, arguing that tackling the fund's core mission of economic instability is impossible without also addressing environmental damage.

At the book's launch in Washington, Lagarde said countries should not have to wait for global agreement on climate policies, and instead should move ahead in adjusting energy prices on their own.

Nations are now working on a United Nations deal for late 2015 to rein in greenhouse gas emissions that have hit repeated highs this century, but progress has been slow as nations fret about the impact any measures could have on economic growth.

The IMF's book argues higher energy taxes should not hurt growth if done right.

"On this point, let me be crystal clear: we are generally talking about smarter taxes rather than higher taxes," Lagarde said, according to prepared remarks for the launch of the book.

She said higher energy taxes are the most efficient and simple way of dealing with environmental harm and would allow governments to stop relying on a "patchwork" of other uncoordinated policies to deal with climate change, such as subsidies for renewable energy.

Higher energy prices would prompt people to shift to cleaner fuels or more fuel-efficient vehicles on their own, Lagarde said, adding that they could also allow governments to lower other taxes on consumption or income to reduce the burden on people, or pay down more public debt.

The IMF estimates implementing efficient energy taxes would reduce deaths from fossil fuels by 63 percent, cut carbon emissions by 23 percent, and raise revenues by 2.6 percent of GDP for the world as a whole.

The IMF has made a big push in recent years for countries to rein in energy subsidies, which it says hurt the environment while rarely helping the most vulnerable and eating up valuable government funds that could be put to better use elsewhere.

"But we need to go well beyond the elimination of direct cash subsidies, and make sure that energy tax systems around the world properly reflect environmental side effects," Lagarde said in prepared remarks for the event on Thursday.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Paul Simao)

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