Best of our wild blogs: 2 Sep 14

6 Sep (Sat) evening: Free guided walk at the Pasir Ris mangroves
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Sun 28 Sept’14: Battlefield Tour by Jon Cooper
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Lotus Flowers @ Pulau Ubin
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Bats in my porch: 11. Figs
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Painted Jezebel
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Advocacy awards for 10 groups, individuals

Priscilla Goy The Straits Times AsiaOne 2 Sep 14;

One went public about her personal struggle with schizophrenia in a book. Another worked to place Bukit Brown on a global list of heritage sites at risk of being lost.

Freelance writer Chan Lishan and All Things Bukit Brown were among the 10 individuals and groups recognised at the first Singapore Advocacy Awards yesterday.

The awards honour those who made major contributions to the growth of civil society here in the last three years.

They were organised by The Working Committee 3 (TWC3), an informal group of civil activists chaired by Mrs Constance Singam, former president of the Association of Women for Action and Research, or Aware.

Said arts educator T. Sasitharan, head of the eight-member judging panel: "If civil society in Singapore is to grow and mature, then it is crucial that good advocacy work that makes an impact on society, that is engaged with the community and that empowers people, be properly recognised."

The winners, selected out of 18 nominations from the public, each received a certificate and $1,000 towards their cause at the ceremony at The Arts House.

Five of them received special trophies for their outstanding achievements. The trophies - shaped in the form of the awards logo which is an inverted "A" - were made by members of civil society, including people from the Down Syndrome Association Singapore and Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics.

One of those who won the trophy was Ms Braema Mathi, president of human rights group Maruah. She was named Advocate of the Year.

She told The Sunday Times that she "struggled" with winning the award.

"There are many people who have done plenty of work before the past three years, just that there was no award for them then... I'm building on the work of others and this work will continue through others."

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) had a double win - the animal welfare group was one of the winners in the honours list, and its founder Louis Ng was named Advocate of the Year.

Asked what keeps him going, he told The Sunday Times: "I'm glad to see more people joining the animal welfare movement, and we see more student volunteers too."

He was also lauded in the citation for confronting "iconic tourism industry institutions, shaming them over unethical practices".

While the citation did not go into specifics, his group has been campaigning since 2011 to secure freedom for dolphins kept at Resorts World Sentosa.

Ms Chan won the Most Promising Advocate award. Diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 24 in 2008, she gave a first-hand account of her struggle with the illness in a book published in 2012.

"It's very rewarding to know that somehow I've helped people. I've had people come up to me to say that the book really opened their eyes to mental health issues."

Mr Ng and Ms Chan said they hope their wins will help raise even more awareness of their causes.
- See more at:

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Singapore’s third Green Building Masterplan launched

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 1 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Monday (Sep 1) launched the third Green Building Masterplan to guide Singapore’s green building journey over the next five to 10 years.

The masterplan, developed by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), was launched at the opening ceremony of the International Green Building Conference and the BEX Asia Expo. Both events are being held as part of the Singapore Green Building Week.


The masterplan will focus on tenants and occupiers which, together with building owners, will be able to tap on the S$50 million Green Mark Incentive Scheme to adopt more energy-efficient measures in their premises, Mr Khaw said.

The scheme will help to fund up to half of the retrofitting costs of energy-efficient improvements to buildings and premises – subject to a maximum of S$3 million for building owners and S$20,000 for occupants and tenants. This will help the stakeholders, since they have fewer resources to implement such improvements, the BCA said.

One developer said the masterplan's focus on tenants is a timely one. Mr Rod Leaver, CEO of Lend Lease, said: "There was a gap in creating green buildings. Unless you actually got tenants on board and got them to understand, and educated them on the importance of energy efficiency, you could take a very green building and take it into a grey building over the long term."

Mr Khaw noted that the first and second masterplans had previously focused on greening new buildings and existing buildings, but the third masterplan will take Singapore's greening efforts "beyond the building structures and hardware" and focus more on end-users, aiming to change behaviours and practices.


New awards have also been introduced - the Green Mark Pearl and Pearl Prestige Awards - to recognise building owners and developers which have worked with their tenants to reduce energy consumption.

This could be through implementing a green clause in lease agreements and achieving Green Mark certification for at least half of the tenant spaces. The Green Mark is a rating system that assesses a building's environmental impact. The awards will be given out at the BCA Awards next year.

Lend Lease, which currently operates three malls, said all its tenants have signed leases which focus on saving energy and reducing electricity costs.

Dr John Keung, CEO of the Building and Construction Authority, said: "That is where the building owner and tenants have to work together. They have to look at those areas where they can do a lot more to achieve the kind of energy efficiency required. If you get the design right from day one, the payback period is quite short."

A S$52 million fund has also been set up for research in developing, testing and showcasing new solutions for green buildings in the tropics.

Mr Khaw said: "We need more opportunities to bring solutions from the lab to the real world - in actual buildings. We must make it easier and faster for these solutions to be adopted when we build or retrofit existing buildings."

Separately, new initiatives for the public sector will also be rolled out under the new masterplan. These include requiring existing public sector buildings with more than 5,000 square metres of gross floor area to be Green Mark certified.

BCA said about 400 public sector buildings, including community centres, schools, police stations and museums will, be affected by these requirements. Government events and functions would also need to be held at Green Mark-certified venues.

- CNA/cy/by

BCA to incentivise green practices
S$50 million incentive scheme to target SMEs
Siau Ming En Today Online 1 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — Besides green buildings, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will also place greater emphasis on encouraging tenants and occupants to adopt green practices under the third Green Building Masterplan unveiled today (Sept 1).

S$50 million has also been set aside for a new Green Mark incentive scheme to encourage building owners and tenants with fewer resources to adopt energy efficiency improvements to their buildings and premises. In particular, this scheme will target building owners and tenants from small and medium enterprises.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the International Green Building Conference today, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan noted that the first and second masterplans had previously focused on greening new buildings and existing buildings respectively.

He added that the third masterplan will then take Singapore’s greening efforts “beyond the building structures and hardware” and focus more on end-users, aiming to change behaviors and practices.

BCA noted that besides improving the energy efficiency of buildings, it is also important to address how building occupants carry out their daily activities and operations within the buildings’ premises.

New awards — Green Mark Pearl and Pearl Prestige Awards — will recognise those that have performed well overall, which includes adopting green leases, achieving Green Mark certification for at least 50 per cent of tenant spaces, among other things.

Green leases are environmentally friendly leasing arrangements between landlords and tenants that can specify their commitments to, for instance, cut energy use.

Separately, new initiatives for the public sectors will also be rolled out under the new masterplan, which includes requiring office spaces to be leased from a high Green Mark-certified building upon lease renewal, among other things.

S$50m fund launched to make buildings ‘greener’
Siau Ming En Today Online 2 Sep 14;

To this end, the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) new incentive scheme will fund up to half of the retrofitting cost, totalling about S$3 million for owners of buildings and not more than S$20,000 for occupants and tenants.

In addition, new awards — the Green Mark Pearl and Pearl Prestige Awards — were also introduced to recognise buildings that have adopted green leases and where at least 50 per cent of tenant spaces have obtained a Green Mark certification.

Green leases are contracts that contain clauses on environmentally-friendly targets which building owners and tenants commit to achieve, for example, a specified reduction in energy consumption.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Singapore Green Building Week yesterday, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan noted that the new master plan will take Singapore’s greening efforts “beyond the building structures and hardware”.

He hopes the new incentive scheme will result in greater collaboration and engagement between government agencies, developers and building owners and tenants, who are the end-users. The BCA hopes at least 80 per cent of all buildings here will achieve a Green Mark certification by 2030.

The existing Green Mark rating system will also be reviewed to increase the focus on users, design considerations for the tropical climate and the indoor environmental quality, among others. More details on the new rating system will be revealed at the end of next year.

The need for building users to play their part in greening efforts was reflected in the findings of the inaugural BCA Building Energy Benchmarking Report released yesterday, which showed that tenant and occupant activities within a building account for up to 50 per cent of the total electricity consumption.

The report assesses green building efforts based on data gathered from the mandatory submission of energy consumption for commercial buildings.

CKE Manufacturing, an SME which manufactures oil and gas components, hopes to tap into the scheme as it plans to install integrated monitoring systems to monitor its energy consumption patterns.

Other financing schemes in the market require a minimum electricity bill. This makes it difficult for SMEs to qualify, said its enterprise development manager Kwan Li Feng. “With this BCA scheme, it should be able to cover a wider group of business owners of different sizes,” he added.

Developer Lend Lease, which operates 313@Somerset and several other malls, is one firm that has implemented green leases with regard to several of its tenants.

However, Mr Rod Leaver, its chief executive officer for Asia, noted that it could be a challenge for tenants if their leases were shorter than the payback period for retrofitting energy-efficient features.

Yesterday, Mr Khaw also announced that S$52 million will be set aside for the Green Buildings Innovation Cluster to develop and test new green building solutions that are applicable to the tropics.

Initiatives under the latest masterplan
Siau Ming En Today Online 2 Sep 14;

Office spaces are to be leased from a building of high Green Mark rating upon lease renewal.

Public sector offices need to be certified under the Green Mark for Office Interior scheme at the next lease or retrofit.

Government events and functions are to be held at Green Mark-certified venues.

The public sector should also promote the adoption of green leases.

More details of the new initiatives will be announced with the review of the Singapore Sustainable Blueprint at the end of this year.

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Malaysia: Unbearable slaughter

tan cheng li The Star 25 Aug 14;

Cute and cuddly they may be, but bears have not escaped the claws of poachers.

The illegal trade in bears and their body parts is rife across Asia, with as many as 2,801 bears either trapped or slaughtered over a 12-year period to feed demand.

Researchers at Traffic, the body which monitors trade in wildlife, arrived at that figure after analysing 694 bear-related seizures reported in 17 countries and territories between 2000 and 2011.

The seizures were mostly from Cambodia (190 cases), China (145), Vietnam (102), Russia (59), Malaysia (38), Thailand (29), Laos (29) and India (23).

The trade involved not only live bears – trapped to stock bear bile extraction farms and the pet or dancing bear trade – but also bear body parts and derivatives such as meat, skins, skulls, paws, bones, claws, teeth, gall bladders and bear bile, according to the report Bring To Bear: An Analysis Of Seizures Across Asia (2000–2011).

The authors Elizabeth A. Burgess, Sarah S. Stoner and Kaitlyn-Elizabeth Foley found all four species of bears in Asia being traded: Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), and brown bear (Ursus arctos).

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), all international commerce in bear parts and products is illegal.

Russia and China accounted for 69% of the trade volume – equating to the slaughter of an estimated 1,934 bears. High seizure volumes were also recorded in Vietnam (an estimated 279 bears), Cambodia (253), Malaysia (98), India (53) and Thailand (50).

“We’re shocked to see the trade is as widespread as it is. It is persisting and ‘healthy’ and poses a major threat to the existence of wild bears. The illicit nature of the trade also means that the volumes of trade reported in this study are likely to represent only a fraction of the actual number of bears and bear parts being trafficked around the world,” says Dr Chris R. Shepherd, regional director of Traffic in South-East Asia.

All chopped up

Bear paws were the most sought-after product. A staggering 6,624 paws were seized during the 12-year period. An estimated 1,657 bears, mostly from Russia, were believed to be killed for them. The bears were likely wild-caught since Russia has no bear breeding facilities. The paws were mostly seized at border towns between Russia and China, suggesting a prolific trade in bears between the two countries.

Live bears were the second-most commonly seized item after paws, with 434 bears confiscated during the period.

The bears were mostly caught in Cambodia (156 bears) and Vietnam (152), and said to be headed for bear farms where bile is extracted from caged bears.

Sale of bear bile has been banned in Vietnam and since 2005, it is illegal for bear farms there to acquire new bears. The reports says over 12,000 bears are held in bear farms in China, South Korea, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Shepherd says the existence of bear farms increases the availability of bear bile and thus, raises consumer demand. The farms will then be pressured to stock more bears, which further drives the poaching of wild bears.

“There is no evidence supporting the claim that bear farming alleviates the pressure on wild bear populations since these farms are not breeding bears. Most rely on wild bears to maintain their stock since captive breeding of bears in bile extraction facilities is challenging.”

Live bears were also traded in India (35 bears were seized) and Nepal (14) for the dancing bear trade. But with efforts being made to stop this exploitation of bears, the number of dancing bears in India has dropped from 400 to 150 since 2005.

Also driving the illegal trade is the high demand in Asia for medicines containing bear bile. Over 19,100 products containing derivatives of bear bile were seized, mostly in China, Russia, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea. Significant numbers of gall bladders (373) were also confiscated, mostly in China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Russia and India.

The researchers, however, often could not obtain information on the outcome of enforcement action, such as the fines or jail sentences imposed on offenders.

Of the 694 reported bear seizures, only 43 cases in four countries (China, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam) had details on fines (ranging from US$316 to US$6,320). This lack of information prevented a thorough assessment of the range of penalties meted out on offenders.

“The number of seizures are a credit to the enforcement agencies, but they undoubtedly only stop a fraction of the overall trafficking because bear products are still widely and easily available across Asia,” says Shepherd.

To curb the illegal trade, the researchers recommend that countries which are party to Cites implement the measures adopted by the treaty in 1997 which states that “the continued illegal trade in parts and derivatives of bear species undermines the effectiveness of the Convention.”

Under the treaty, parties are required to monitor illegal bear trade and submit information on administrative measures (fines, bans, suspensions) imposed for violations, seizures, prosecutions or other court actions and disposal of confiscated specimens.

Because of the cross-border nature of the illegal bear trade, Traffic recommends that a centralised database be developed to collate all related information. It says better understanding of the trade will enable parties to better deal with the illegal trade.

Vietnam, China, Myanmar, Laos and South Korea are also urged to close their bear bile farming facilities to conform to a International Union for Conservation of Nature recommendation calling for their closure. Public awareness campaigns are also needed to highlight the impact of consuming bears and their derivatives on wild bears.

Research should be conducted to identify substitutes for bear bile and to promote alternatives to consumers. Equally important are advocacy campaigns targeted at traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners to ensure that bears are included in their list of prohibited species that they are not permitted to work with.

In Malaysia, processed bear bile is openly sold. A 2010/2011 Traffic survey of 212 TCM shops revealed 163 (77%) to stock such products. Shepherd says from recent checks, some of these shops are still selling the banned products. “We need the TCM practitioners to not prescribe bear bile to their patients.”

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Malaysia: Wild about palms

tan cheng li The Star 25 Aug 14;

Delve into the world of palms and it is difficult not to be fascinated.

THERE is a garden of palms growing deep within the confines of the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (Frim) in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur. In this sanctuary for plants, palm trees of varied forms and sizes can be seen. There are palms which soar high above, some with leaves big enough to shield one from the sun and rain, some which climb and coil themselves around other trees, and some which are just a mass of longish leaves emerging from the ground.

The lush reserve known as the Kepong Botanic Gardens, housed within Frim, is a little-known place that was recently shared when wild palms expert Dr Saw Leng Guan led a walk there for a group of interested public. Some 100 species of palms have been cultivated in the botanical garden alongside other plants, to serve as a living collection of rare and endangered species. During the walk and the talk prior to it, Saw shed light on this group of plants which most of us know little of, though we’re surrounded by them.

Long before oil palms (Elaeis guineensis, which is not native to Malaysia but originates from West Africa) took over the Malaysian landscape, there were wild palms. They are a common feature of the tropical forest. In fact, Malaysia is a palm-rich country; it has one of the highest diversity of palm species in the world. Of the known 2,600 palm species, 443 (17%) are found here. The fact that we have named many of our states and towns after palms – Penang, Kedah, Salak South, Nibong Tebal, Bertam and Serdang are examples – is an indicator of our rich palm heritage.

Palm sanctuary

In the Frim botanical garden, palm seeds and wildings collected over the years by botanists such as Saw are cultivated as part of an ex-situ conservation measure. He points out that most people will know a palm when they see one because of its simple construction.

“They have well-defined architecture and leaf morphology. They are solitary or clustered and hardly branch, and have only a single living trunk. That’s why you should never prune your palm, you’ll kill it,” says the director of the forest biodiversity division at Frim.

His passion for palms is obvious as he shares insightful details about the plant. Many of us had no inkling that so many palm species exist here. And we certainly had no idea that they could all look so different. The most beautiful part of palms – which is what makes them so popular in horticulture – is their leaves. And boy, do the leaves come in unusual shapes. Aside from the familiar feathered leaves (like oil palm’s), some leaves are fan-like, fish-tail-like, and even slightly diamond-shaped.

Some leaves divide into two to resemble the wings of butterflies, like those of the Pinanga disticha. Drawing our attention to the mottled patterns on the leaves, Saw exclaimed, “Isn’t that beautiful?” That line was oft-repeated throughout the hour-long walk. Saw, 58, is clearly a man enamoured with palms.

In his 24 years of studying palms, he has described 49 new palm species, of which 18 were personally collected by him. His foray into the world of palms stemmed from a meeting with palm specialist Dr John Dransfield (former head of palm research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew). He opted to research on palms (focusing on the genus Licuala) for his Masters and PhD degrees, and the interest kept growing from there.

“The greatest attraction came when I started collecting these plants in the wild for my research and when I analyse my research findings. They just added on. As I learn more, I discovered that I knew less. So there is an ever-increasing pull to study more of this interesting group of plants.”

As we trail closely behind Saw down a path in the botanical garden, and listen closely to his explanations, it is difficult not to be fascinated by palms, too. Wild palms are not just pretty to look at; they are of socio-economic importance, too. They are a source of rattan and rural communities depend on them for thatch, fibres and fruits. Their pretty leaves make them valuable as ornamental plants. Palms are most diverse in lowland and hill forests. There are fewer varieties in other habitats though some species are confined to certain areas such as peat swamps, limestone hills and highlands.

Rare and endangered

Their high endemism (peculiar to a specific place) makes palms an important flora in the world of plants. Of the 231 species found in Peninsular Malaysia, 118 (51%) are found nowhere else. In Sabah and Sarawak, 191 (70%) of the 272 species are confined there.

“Seven out of 10 palm species in Malaysia are only found here. In terms of conservation, this is important. If we lose any of these endemic species, that means that species goes extinct,” explains Saw.

Examples of such rarities are Maxburettia graciles (found only in Pulau Langkawi) and Maxburettia rupicola (restricted to two limestone hills in Selangor, Bukit Takun and Batu Caves).

Of the 41 species of Licuala (palas palms) in Peninsular Malaysia, 33 are endemics. Of these, 19 are hyper-endemics – they are known only from a very restricted range. One hyper-endemic is Licuala cameronensis which Saw described in 1997. It has been found only in the lower montane forest of Cameron Highlands, Pahang.

“Based on its population size and range (confined to one population), the species is assessed as critically endangered. The population is safe only as long as the forest reserve remains and is not converted to other land use,” says Saw, who has 32 years’ experience in the taxonomy and ecology of plants and has contributed significantly towards documentation and conservation of Malaysian plants. Aside from palms, he has also described several other plants and has even had four plant species named after him – a begonia, a bamboo, an orchid and a monocot related to bananas.

We come by a towering palm. The leaves are big enough to shade Saw. The signboard underneath indicates its name – daun payung, Johannesteijsmannia magnifica. One of the world’s largest palms, its leaves can reach 3m long and 2m wide and are favoured by the orang asli for thatch. The Johannesteijsmannia genus has only four species worldwide, three of which are confined to Peninsular Malaysia, and even then, limited to small pockets of primary forest in several states.

If you are in Kedah, Saw advises that you look out for Corypha utan palms standing tall from paddy fields. If the timing is right, you might see long stems full of yellow blooms emanating from the tree-tops. These imposing palms flower only once in their lifetime, and die soon after their fruits mature. Saw explains that this happens because they have exhausted their carbohydrate store in that single flowering and fruiting event.

He also tells us about the Borassodendron machodonis, an endemic palm with huge fruits usually found in limestone areas. “You look at it and you wonder if nature has made a mistake. Who is going to disperse these big seeds? But nature is never wrong. A study has found that megafauna such as elephants, are a major disperser of these fruits,” says Saw.

Some species of the climbing palm Korthalsia (which produces rattan) live in mutualistic association with colonies of ants. The ants make their nests in little pockets that grow where the leaf bases join the stems. In return for the shelter, the ants protect the rattan from leaf-eating insets. When disturbed, the ants tap their bodies against the dry walls of the pockets and produce an eerie, rustling sound. When Saw first heard the sound, his first thought was of a ghostly encounter. “I had goose pimples the first time I heard it,” he says.

Stemming the loss

As forests disappear, so does our wild flora. Frim is currently conducting conservation assessment for the nation’s plants. Of the 1,132 species reviewed so far, 257 are under threat of extinction. “All these plants deserve attention. Palms, on the other hand, needs special attention because of their high endemism and because they are predominantly lowland forest plants. The lowland forest is the most threatened habitat in Malaysia due to conversion. If we don’t take steps now, we are likely to see some of these species go extinct. Even now some species are already critically endangered,” says Saw.

Frim has so far listed 34 palm species as critically endangered and 30, endangered – and that’s just a preliminary assessment, with many species yet to be reviewed. “In most cases, the reasons for their listing are due to their very restricted distribution and imminent threat by the loss of habitat,” explains Saw. So far, one palm species has been listed as extinct – Salacca lophospatha from Sabah. The species was described in 1942 and was never seen again.

Over the years of botany work, Saw has seen forests which harbour rare flora being destroyed by farms, plantations and development. “I am cautious about listing species as extinct until we have taken searches for the species and truly cannot locate populations anymore but I have seen changes that will indeed cause extinction. Licuala whitmorei and Pinanga johorensis in Johor, Licuala palas and Licuala sallehana in Terengganu (all critically endangered) are examples where the original areas where I collected these species from have been converted to oil palm plantations.”

Another threatened species is Livistona saribus – it grows in freshwater swamps which are often drained for development. “There used to be populations of this in Klang and Kuala Selangor but they are all gone.”

Take action

The findings of Frim on endangered plants have been passed on to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and the Forestry Department; what is needed now is follow-up action to deal with the threatened plants.

“We need to identify important plant areas and conserve them. Land must be managed based on these plants. For species that are going extinct, there must be recovery plans. We haven’t done much on this.”

Looking at the pattern of distribution of palms and where they are mostly found (in lowland areas), Saw says we need to do conservation at a more dispersed level.

“We cannot just save Taman Negara and Endau-Rompin and think that’s good enough. A high percentage of palms are in small areas in states, so we need each state to initiate palm conservation to capture these distributions. Some palm species are found in a single locality, so these sites should be totally protected. The priority states are Terengganu, Johor and Sarawak. These states contain some of the highest diversity of palms in the country. In Sarawak, the Kuching-Bau-Lundu area has the highest number of palm species in the world (within one site).”

The area around Kuching has 19 species of Licuala palms with 13 endemics, and is also the most developed part of the state. Fortunately, there are protected parks there which Saw hopes will help conserve the rare palms.

Many rare palms are found in production forests (where timber is harvested). As such, Saw cautions that logging practices must be sustainable and must include protection of threatened species. Continuing research work is crucial, he adds.

“Taxonomy is important as we need to know what we have. Conservation assessments will tell us what is threatened and what is not. It must be systematically done if we are to ensure that plant species do not go extinct. Assessment of threat must be accurate so that proper action plan can be put in place.”

In the meantime, ex-situ conservation is helping to conserve the rare flora. Aside from the Kepong Botanic Gardens, two other places currently grow palm species – Rimba Ilmu in Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, and Semengoh Botanical Garden, Sarawak. But of course, nothing can beat the presence of palms in the wild.

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Bad weather for 2050 as TV forecasters imagine climate change

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 2 Sep 14;

Imaginary television weather forecasts predicted floods, storms and searing heat from Arizona to Zambia within four decades, as part of a United Nations campaign on Monday to draw attention to a U.N. summit this month on fighting global warming.

"Miami South Beach is under water," one forecaster says in a first edition of "weather reports from the future", a series set in 2050 and produced by companies including Japan's NHK, the U.S. Weather Channel and ARD in Germany.

The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which invited well-known television presenters to make videos to be issued before a U.N. summit on Sept. 23, said the scenarios were "imaginary but realistic" for a warming world.

A Zambian forecaster, for instance, describes a severe heatwave and an American presenter says: "the mega-drought in Arizona has claimed another casualty".

Some, however, show extreme change. One Bulgarian presenter shows a red map with temperatures of 50 degrees C (122 Fahrenheit) - far above the temperature record for the country of 45.2C (113F) recorded in 1916.

"Climate change is affecting the weather everywhere. It makes it more extreme and disturbs established patterns. That means more disasters; more uncertainty," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

Ban has asked world leaders to make "bold pledges" to fight climate change at the meeting in New York. The summit is meant as a step towards a deal by almost 200 nations, due by the end of 2015, to slow global warming.

A U.N. report last year concluded that it is at least 95 percent probable that human activities, rather than natural variations in the climate, are the main cause of global warming since 1950.

A 2011 survey by George Mason University, however, found that TV meteorologists were less likely than most climate scientists to reckon that human activity is the main cause of warming.

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California passes plastic bag ban, would be first such law in U.S

Aaron Mendelson PlanetArk 1 Sep 14;

A number of cities and counties in California and other U.S. states, including Hawaii's Maui County, have made it illegal for grocery stores to pack purchases in plastic. But at the state level, opposition from plastic bag makers has usually prevailed.

The California Senate voted 22-15 for the bill, which must be signed into law by Sept. 30 by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who has not signaled a position on the measure.

"Single-use plastic bags not only litter our beaches, but also our mountains, our deserts, and our rivers, streams and lakes," said state Senator Alex Padilla, who sponsored the bill.

Padilla backed a similar measure last year but it failed by three votes. The fate of this bill was uncertain until the waning hours of the session after falling three votes short in the state's Assembly on Monday.

But after picking up the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the bill passed a second vote in the Assembly.

The measure would ban grocery stores from handing out single-use grocery bags with customers' purchases, and provide money to local plastic bag companies to retool to make heavier, multiple-use bags that customers could buy.

Environmentalists have pushed for banning plastic bags, which are cheaper for supermarkets to use than paper bags, but create mountains of trash that is difficult to recycle. In California, there is particular concern that the bags, when swept out to sea, could harm ocean life.

After the defeat of his earlier bill, Padilla won the support of some California-based bag makers by including the funding for retooling. But in recent months, out-of-state manufacturers campaigned against the bill, even producing television advertisements targeting Padilla, who is running for secretary of state.

Cathy Browne, general manager at Crown Poly, a plastic bag manufacturer in Huntington Park, California, said the bill would lead to layoffs at companies like hers.

More than 10 billion plastic bags are used in California each year, according to an estimate by Californians Against Waste, an advocacy group supporting the bill.

(Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Mark Heinrich)

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