Best of our wild blogs: 4 Oct 14

Sharing about our shores with Pacific Radiance
from wild shores of singapore

Asian Glossy Starlings: Pre-roost gatherings
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Malaysia: Flood chaos in Penang after downpour

priscilla dielenberg AND chong kah yuan The Star 4 Oct 14;

GEORGE TOWN: Traffic came to a standstill when flash floods hit various parts of Penang following hours of continuous rain.

Water level rose to knee-high in certain roads after the downpour which started on Friday evening.

Road Transport Department (JPJ) director-general Datuk Seri Ismail Ahmad, who was late for a function, said that he landed at the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas at 7.20pm on Friday, but took more than two hours to arrive at the venue in Burmah Road.

Motorists were caught in traffic snarls for two to three hours.

Among the places that were flooded were Jalan Masjid Negri, Jalan Mount Erskine, Jalan Transfer, Jalan Gurdwara, Jalan Scotland, Jalan Air Itam, Jalan Datuk Keramat, Jalan Anson, Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Terengganu, Jalan Makloom, Jalan Hospital and Jalan Macallum, and the Pulau Tikus, Taman Hye Keat, Taman Lumba Kuda and Batu Uban areas.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said cumulative rainfall at three stations in Bukit Bendera, Batu Lanchang and Sungai Pinang was between 51.5mm and 72.5mm.

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Malaysia: More hotspots detected in Kalimantan

The Star 4 Oct 14;

PETALING JAYA: The number of hotspots in Kalimantan has increased, according to data from the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC).

It rose to 549 on Thursday from 367 while 17 hotspots were detected in Sumatra, Indonesia, on Wednes­day.

In Malaysia, hotspots were recorded in three states – one hotspot each in Terengganu and Sabah. Five hotspots were detected in Sarawak, said Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri G Palanivel in a statement yesterday.

Haze was also detected in the south of Sumatra, as well as in the middle, west, and south parts of Kalimantan.


Palanivel said the increasing number of hotspots in Indonesia had also contributed to the worsening haze in both peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia.

“Malaysia urges the Indonesian authority to implement preventive measures and to start putting out the fires on Indonesian soil and forests that have caused the haze to cross the country’s borders (into Malaysia),” he said.

While haze was seen in many parts of Malaysia, as of 5pm yesterday, only Miri saw an unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 120.

A total of 37 areas in Malaysia saw moderate API readings, including Cheras and Batu Muda in Kuala Lumpur at 70 and 73 respectively, Port Klang (63) and Petaling Jaya (72).

An API reading of between 0 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).

Palanivel also reminded Malay­sians to avoid conducting open burning and report such cases to the Department of Environment or to the Fire and Rescue Department.

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Malaysia: ‘More dengue cases expected next month’

New Straits Times 4 oct 14;

KUALA TERENGGANU: As of Sept 30, the number of reported deaths from dengue stood at 149 nationwide, compared with 48 deaths in the same period last year.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the number of dengue cases nationwide had also increased, with 77,527 cases recorded in the same period compared with 23,099 cases last year.

Selangor topped the list with 38,029 cases, followed by Kelantan (13,096 cases) and Johor (4,348 cases). In the same period last year, Selangor had also led the charts with 11,058 cases, followed by Johor (2,995 cases), Putrajaya (1,640 cases) and Terengganu (1,045 cases).

Dr Subramaniam said the number of dengue cases nationwide wereexpected to increase, based on changes in weather conditions.

“Based on past experience, we know that the alternating dry and wet spells lead to the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes,” he said after inspecting the recently-completed Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital (HSNZ) maternity centre yesterday.

Present were state Health Director Datuk Dr Anwa Sulaiman and state Health Department senior officers.

On the progress of the Institute for Medical Research’s (IMR) study into papaya leaf extract, touted as a potential cure for dengue as it could help increase the blood-platelet count, Dr Subramaniam said the study was in the preliminary stages.

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WWF welcomes improved MSC fisheries standard

WWF 3 Oct 14;

Catch, bycatch and habitat - improved MSC standard assures retailers and consumers they can remain confident in the sustainability of the leading certified seafood. © WWFGland, Switzerland. WWF has welcomed a revised and improved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainable fisheries standard. The new standard, published this week, lifts conservation requirements on fisheries, excludes shark finning on certified fishing vessels and bars companies with convictions for employing forced labour from certification.

The new standard is mandatory for fisheries entering assessment from 1 April 2015 and will apply to fisheries reassessments from 2017, but WWF is encouraging all fisheries to apply it voluntarily from now on.

"About 90 per cent of our fisheries are already overfished or fished to their limits. Only through joint efforts to make fisheries and the whole global seafood industry sustainable can we stop the over-exploitation of the seas. We are delighted that the new MSC standard meets WWF's sustainability criteria and we stand strongly behind it," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.

WWF considers the MSC to be currently the only credible standard for sustainably wild-caught seafood, and participated in the two years of negotiations involving fishermen, processors, retailers, scientists and governments that produced the new standard

"The review of the MSC Standard was a huge opportunity to bring the certification criteria up to date with recent science and international best practice, We believe that this standard will become a great incentive for best fisheries practice and considerably reduce the negative impact of fisheries on the marine environment and species," said Alfred Schumm, WWF's Smart Fishing Initiative Leader.

Strengthened provisions, new safeguards

The MSC label guarantees consumers that the fish comes from a sustainably managed fishery, and is harvested with minimal impacts on marine habitats and other marine species including endangered, threatened and protected species.

The new standard strengthens provisions requiring that the fish stock is maintained in healthy condition and introduces new safeguards for sensitive and vulnerable marine and coastal habitats, such as coral gardens, sponge grounds, seagrass beds, biogenic-reefs or sea mounts. Assessments will require more and better quality information on the impacts of fishing on habitats which will feed into fishery management conditions.

WWF has been campaigning for more than a decade to improve the sustainability of fisheries and encouraging fisheries to apply for MSC certification is a significant component of that effort. To date, fisheries certified or in full assessment record annual catches of around 10 million metric tonnes of seafood. This represents over 10 per cent of the annual global harvest of wild capture fisheries. Another 5 per cent of the annual global harvest has been identified as potentially certifiable in a short term while 85 per cent of the global harvest or their management are still in need of large-scale improvement. WWF believes that about 50 per cent of the global harvest could be sustainably sourced by 2020.

"However, commitments and actions by industry and consumer pressure for sustainable fish supplies won't deliver healthy oceans on their own," said Schumm. "The onus is now on governments and fisheries management organisations to lift their game."

For more detailed information:

•Alfred Schumm, WWF-Smart Fishing Initiative, Germany,, tel. +49.151 18854926
•Dr Annika Mackensen, WWF-Smart Fishing Initiative, Germany, tel. +49 151 18854856
•Daniel Suddaby, WWF-Smart Fishing Initiative, UK, tel. +44. (0)207.221.5395

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent, non-profit organisation set up to address the problem of overfishing. It has set an environmental standard for sustainable fisheries, and seafood that meets this standard carries a distinctive blue MSC label. This label can help consumers to identify sustainable seafood products sourced from wild fisheries.

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. More information:

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Intensive collection threatens peculiar Pig-nosed Turtle in Papua, Indonesia

TRAFFIC 4 Oct 14;

Pig-nosed Turtle: heavily traded for food, pets and as medicine © Ron Lilley Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 4th October 2014—Intensive illegal collection of the Critically Endangered Pig-nosed Turtle for the pet, food and traditional medicine trades has reached alarming levels, a new TRAFFIC report has found.

The sole existing member of the once widespread Carettochelyidae family, the Pig-nosed Turtle Carettochelys insculpta is suffering the combined impacts of high international demand, organized global wildlife trade and poor enforcement in Papua province, Indonesia, where TRAFFIC’s study was centred. A 2011 study of Pig-nosed Turtles in Papua found that populations there were suffering severe declines due to overharvesting.

The latest study found that Pig-nosed Turtle eggs are collected from river banks by villagers, who incubate them in hatcheries before selling the juvenile turtles into the global traditional medicine and pet trades. Such operations are not legitimate “captive-breeding” enterprises as the eggs are illegally collected from the wild.

An estimated 1.5 to 2 million eggs are collected each year, although the authors believe current figures may be considerably higher and are continuing to rise, according to their report Assessing The Trade In Pig-Nosed Turtles Carettochelys insculpta in Papua, Indonesia (PDF, 2 MB), released on World Animal Day.

The Pig-nosed Turtle is protected under national legislation and is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which restricts international trade in wild-caught individuals.

Villagers previously collected the turtles for subsistence food but now do so to generate income—a shift encouraged by traders who offer financial rewards or barter exchanges for the turtles, and who often co-ordinate egg-collecting trips along remote rivers using motorboats.

Minimal enforcement at the source has allowed such practices to continue unhindered and led to exploitation of turtle populations even along remote waterways.

International demand for the turtles is also reportedly increasing. Survey respondents spoke of companies drying and grinding the turtles into powder to supply traditional medicine markets in China and Hong Kong and of the growing online marketplace for live Pig-nosed Turtles.

Over 30 seizures amounting to more than 80,000 individual Pig-nosed Turtles took place between 2003 and 2013. They included a massive single seizure in 2009 of 12,247 Pig-nosed Turtles in Timika, Papua. More recently, 8,368 animals were discovered in several suitcases in connected seizures in Papua and Jakarta in January 2014.

“Urgent enforcement action in Papua province targeting middlemen operating in rural communities is needed,” said Dr Chris Shepherd, Regional Director of TRAFFIC in South-East Asia.

“We also recommend monitoring ports such as Agats, Merauke, Timika, Jayapura and Jakarta, and increasing enforcement at international points of the trade chain in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, mainland China and Hong Kong.”

In addition, the report recommends community-led awareness programmes and efforts to address socio-economic issues that drive the illegal trade in this distinctive but imperiled species.

1. The Pig-nosed Turtle Carettochelys insculpta, also known as the Fly River Turtle, is found only in northern Australia and southern New Guinea, which is divided politically between Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Papua province, Indonesia.

2. Assessing The Trade In Pig-Nosed Turtles Carettochelys insculpta in Papua, Indonesia (PDF, 2 MB)

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Lack of ice forces some 35,000 walruses to chill on Alaska shore

Steven Quinn PlanetArk 2 Oct 14;

Lack of ice forces some 35,000 walruses to chill on Alaska shore Photo: Corey Accardo/NOAA/NMFS/AFSC/NMML
An estimated 35,000 walruses are pictured are pictured hauled out on a beach near the village of Point Lay, Alaska, 700 miles northwest of Anchorage, in this September 2014 handout photo.
Photo: Corey Accardo/NOAA/NMFS/AFSC/NMML

Walruses are accomplished divers and frequently plunge hundreds of feet to the bottom of the continental shelf to feed. But they use sea ice as platforms to give birth, nurse their young and elude predators, and when it is scarce or non-existent they haul themselves up on land.

"One of the differences between this haul out and other ones is the sheer size and number of animals coming to shore," said U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Chadwick Jay.

Such haul outs in areas of the Chukchi Sea, which polar bears also use as platforms for hunting, were first observed along Russia's coasts until Pacific walrus masses began appearing on Alaska's coastline in 2007, U.S. scientists said.

Researchers monitoring these patterns estimate as many as 35,000 walruses came to shore near the coastal village of Point Lay, about 700 miles (1130 km) north of Anchorage at the weekend. The tusked beasts can be more than 10 feet (3 meters) long and weigh 2,700 pounds (1,225 kilograms).

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Joel Garlich-Miller said the most pressing conservation concern with such a massive gathering is the possible mortality rate, caused largely by stampedes.

The ice dissipation was likely attributed to changes stemming from global climate change, Jay said.

The mass movement can be treacherous for younger walruses who can be trampled by a stampede triggered by aircraft or predators, such as grizzly bears and polar bears, Garlich-Miller said.

Fish and Wildlife estimates the Pacific walrus population as between 200,000 and 250,000 animals, though the exact number is unknown.

(Reporting by Steve Quinn in Juneau, Alaska; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Eric Walsh)

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Scientists speed up analysis of human link to wild weather

Megan Rowling PlanetArk 3 Oct 14;

Scientists speed up analysis of human link to wild weather Photo: Barry Huang
The sun sets above residential buildings on a hazy day in Beijing, September 20, 2014.
Photo: Barry Huang

In recent years, scientists have become more adept at working out whether climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions is exacerbating wild weather and its impacts around the world, but the task usually takes months.

"In the media, we are seeing this notion that you cannot attribute any individual events to climate change, but in fact the science has really evolved over the past decade," said Heidi Cullen, chief scientist with Climate Central.

The U.S.-based non-profit science journalism organization is leading the initiative to speed up that analysis alongside the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, scientists at Oxford University, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and others.

A review of 16 major weather events in 2013, released on Monday, found that human-caused climate change clearly increased the severity and likelihood of five heatwaves studied - including in Australia, Japan and China.

For other events like droughts, heavy rain and storms, pinning down the influence of human activity was more challenging, the researchers said. Human-caused climate change sometimes played a role, but its effect was often less clear, suggesting natural factors were far more dominant.

Back in 2004, a team of British scientists made a splash with a paper estimating that human influence had at least doubled the risk of a heatwave like the one that caused tens of thousands of deaths in continental Europe in the summer of 2003.

Since then, the demand to know whether emissions from burning fossil fuels are exacerbating climate and weather extremes has risen, and climate scientists are responding.

This week's review from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society was the third such annual study. And in 2011, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report saying it was "likely" - a two-thirds chance or more - that maximum and minimum daily temperatures around the globe had already increased because of human influences, as had sea levels and coastal high waters.


Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, said that 10 years ago the Red Cross would not have mentioned climate change in its statements to the media about weather-related disasters. But that is different today "because people recognize that the science is so much stronger".

"There's a bigger perception that it's important to know about changing risks - also in the context of recovery and reconstruction (after disasters)," van Aalst said.

The scientists involved in the new attribution initiative are developing a faster system using sophisticated climate models, combined with evidence from historical observations and previous research, that should enable them to say publicly within a couple of days of an extreme weather event happening whether it was made more likely by climate change.

In some cases, there may be no link, and in others, the connection may be weak or uncertain - and that will be clearly stated, van Aalst said.

So far, scientists have found it easier to establish climate change links with natural hazards directly driven by temperature and rising seas, like heatwaves or the storm surge responsible for most of the deaths and destruction when super typhoon Haiyan smashed into the Philippines last November.

But with floods and droughts, which are driven by rainfall, skills are still "emerging", Climate Central's Cullen said.

The goal of the new initiative will be to come up with a "first, best answer to the question when (it) is really on the top of people's minds" - whether they are journalists, emergency responders, policy makers or affected people. "We really want to make sure we get the answer right," she emphasized.


To that end, transparency will be key, and tools will be available so users of the information can understand how it was produced. The events analyzed will be selected according to clear criteria to rule out "cherry picking", Cullen added.

The aim is to cover developing countries, as well as industrialized nations where climate science is better resourced.

Both scientists stressed that the new system must be accepted as scientifically sound and politically neutral. That will be especially important in countries like the United States and Australia, where the issue of climate change is divisive and large political and business lobbies oppose curbs on emissions.

"What we propose is not an activist campaign to convince people that climate change is the worst problem in the world," said van Aalst. "It's about providing honest information that some risks are changing significantly and we need to do something about that."

(Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Tim Pearce)

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