Best of our wild blogs: 10 Nov 14

Starry on Beting Bemban Besar
from wild shores of singapore

Bats in my porch: 20. When the female rejects the male
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Birdwatching in Bidadari ( November 9, 2014)
from Rojak Librarian

Button Snails (Umbonium vestiarium) @ Tanah Merah
from Monday Morgue

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Keeping coastline secure

Aw Cheng Wei The Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Nov 14;

THEY have to be guards, teachers and racers. These are the different hats worn by Police Coast Guard officers, who help keep Singapore's coastline safe.

Last year, 15 vessels were caught intruding into Singapore, down from 18 the year before. In 2011, 13 were seized. The marine police also keep a lookout for people entering Singapore waters illegally or trying to do so. Last year, 49 were caught, while in 2012 there were 41. In 2011, 54 were apprehended.

But the island-state's geographical location and busy ports make it difficult to secure sea borders.

Superintendent Tan Tian Yeow, head of operations and security for the coast guard, said: "Unlike in the air or on land where traffic can be funnelled to checkpoints for checks, the coastline is porous, presenting numerous vulnerable points."

Currently, 63km of Singapore coastline is guarded by floating sea barriers, land fences and sea fences.

The longest stretch of floating sea barriers is a 5km one in Pasir Ris. These are used near recreational areas as they can also act as safety barriers for swimmers. For land fences, which are about 2.5m tall, the longest stretch of 6.8km is in Tuas South.

An extra 30km in barriers will be added by 2019, with another 50km more in the works. This means that 143km, or 74 per cent, of the 193km coastline will be barricaded.

Just like neighbourhood crime watch groups, there is a fish farmers watch group in the northern Singapore Strait roped in to look out for suspicious activity. Coast guard officers visit the group regularly to update and teach the members about what to look out for. Despite the efforts, smugglers still try different ways to get through.

Sergeant Edward Cheng, 31, once discovered a large amount of contraband cigarettes of many brands hidden in bushes during a 12-hour patrol shift last year.

There were so many cartons that Sgt Cheng, who joined the force nine years ago, had to call a few colleagues to help him remove the illegal items.

In a border breach on Aug 19 this year, a 30-year-old woman hired child abduction recovery specialist Adam Christopher Whittington, 38, to snatch her two-year-old son from the parents of her divorced Singaporean husband and take him back to London. The two, along with Australian skipper Todd Allan Wilson, 39, sneaked into Singapore in a catamaran via Raffles Marina. All were arrested and jailed for 10 to 16 weeks.

Another challenge for the coast guard is to check for the illegal sales of marine gas oil. Since last year, 55 foreign crew members and three Singaporeans have been arrested for such sales. More than $22,000 in marine gas oil was seized.

Marine gas oil can be found in vessels with extra tanks, portable pumps and hoses, as well as complicated piping in the engine room. As part of their job, coast guard officers sometimes have to chase illegal immigrants or smugglers in boats or "play hide-and-seek" with them - made trickier by the darkness and crowded sea space due to Singapore's busy ports.

Sgt Cheng said: "Patrolling might seem the same every day but it's not. You don't know what to expect and you have to be ready for anything."

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Tree over 125 years old gets dedicated to SPH

Kash Cheong The Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Nov 14;

A TREE that is more than 125 years old has been dedicated to media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) by the National Parks Board (NParks) in appreciation of SPH's contributions to Singapore's greening efforts.

The 35m-tall Purple Millettia tree, which was planted as a sapling in 1889, has a dense, dome-like crown with dark glossy leaves. Reddish purple flowers bloom every four to six months.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will present the Heritage Tree Dedication Awards to SPH and two other companies today, at the launch of the Clean and Green Singapore 2015 campaign.

These trees have plaques in front of them to explain their significance and acknowledge the companies they are dedicated to. SPH chief executive officer Alan Chan said: "SPH is pleased to accept the dedication of the heritage tree, which signifies our close and continuous partnership with NParks in conserving flora and preserving nature."

Purple Millettia trees can be found along Minden Road, but the one dedicated to SPH is the oldest of its kind here. "This tree is a survivor," said Singapore Botanic Gardens director Nigel Taylor, yesterday. "It is known to survive poor soil conditions." This is the third time that heritage trees, which are given conservation status for their historical and ecological significance, have been dedicated to organisations or individuals to recognise their donations of at least $500,000 each to the Garden City Fund.

The fund supports Singapore's greening, nature conservation and education efforts.

SPH's heritage tree is sited behind the Botanic Gardens' Swan Lake. It is close to the SPH Walk of Giants, an upcoming elevated boardwalk in a forest that will showcase a collection of "giant" trees. The company donated $1.2 million to this cause. Since 2006, the SPH Foundation has also been sponsoring the NParks' Special Projects to Understand Nature Club, a series of nature appreciation tours for special needs children.

SPH aside, property group City Developments will have a Mengkulang tree, which is at least 200 years old, dedicated to it, while utilities and marine firm Sembcorp will have a Kedawong tree that is over 100 years old dedicated to it.

NParks also conferred the Heritage Tree status to 15 more trees, including a teak tree which is at least 130 years old. This brings the total number of such trees to 224.

A Heritage Tree has to be aesthetically, botanically, culturally or historically significant.

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Malaysia: Johor fishermen irked over reclamation

New Straits Times 10 Nov 14;

JOHOR BARU: Reclamation works which are being carried out extensively at the mouth of six rivers at the Plentong basin here have narrowed the navigational path of some 3,000 fishermen and prevented them from going out to sea.

Reclamation works at Sungai Permas Besar, Sungai Permas Kecil, Sungai Batang, Sungai Pak Kolob, Sungai Plentong and Sungai Agas started since April this year.

Faced with the problem of dwindling catch over the years, the narrowed navigational path had put the fishermen at risk and severely affected their livelihood, forcing them to stage a peaceful protest at Kampung Senibong here yesterday.

The fishermen from 15 villages claimed their catch had plunged by 50 per cent. State Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Committee chairman Ismail Mohamad said they would investigate, including claims that the parties involved had reclaimed more than what was
stated in the agreement.

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Malaysia: Cameron Highlands - Unauthorised land clearing caused deadly disasters, says Muhyiddin

The Star 10 nov 14;

PUTRAJAYA: The flash floods and landslides in Cameron Highlands, which have claimed five lives, are the direct result of environmental degradation caused by illegal land clearing, says Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Deputy Prime Minister said plantations that did not comply with standards of highland agriculture were also one of the causes.

“These activities have resulted in excess water trapped by plastic sheets used to cover crops,” he said. “The overflowing water runs into the river, flooding the affected areas.”

On the worsening soil erosion in the area, Muhyiddin said he had directed the Geology Department – which is under the purview of the Department of Environment – to focus more on Cameron Highlands.

The department is undertaking a nationwide investigation on soil erosion.

“We need to identify the unstable areas facing the risk of collapse and work on an action and mitigation plan,” he said.

The mitigation plan would also include measures to be taken if an area included houses so as to avoid the loss of lives and damage to property.

“The department has to look at the whole of Cameron Highlands, especially the areas under agriculture or illegal occupation,” said Muhyiddin.

“I am not sure how long it would take for it to prepare the plan but it must be done as soon as possible,” he said. “We would not know unless we do a comprehensive study.”

On Nov 5, flash floods and landslides struck Kampung Raja, Pekan Ringlet and Bertam Valley, killing five people including a 13-year-old boy who was swept away along Sungai Terlom in Kuala Terla.

MACC: Illegal land clearing in all sub-districts
The Star 10 Nov 14;

PETALING JAYA: Illegal land clearing in Cameron Highlands is not limited to just one area but include all its sub-districts.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy chief commissioner Datuk Mustafar Ali said it had become more rampant due to the lack of action.

Holders of Temporary Occupancy Licences (TOLs) have also been found to have cleared areas larger than that stipulated in their permits.

“The offences committed by permit holders have been allowed to go on for too long without any action being taken, resulting in difficulties to handle the problem now.

“There needs to be firm and coordinated action by all related parties to prevent the further destruction of the environment,” Mustafar said in a statement.

He said among the problems that the commission had identified was the existence of “lightning contractors” comprising Malaysians and foreigners who only carried out illegal land clearing during weekends and public holidays to avoid detection.

Mustafar said the MACC had submitted 12 recommendations to overcome the illegal and excessive land clearing in Cameron Highlands during Pahang’s state-level National Security Council meeting on July 22.

The recommendations call for a joint effort by all authorities to prevent any space for corruption, abuse of power and overcome administrative weaknesses in the enforcement and management of land in the area.

“A major measure that is very much needed to be included is the amendment to related laws,” Mustafar said.

He said Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, who chaired the state-level meeting, had welcomed the recommendations and told the commission that the matter would be brought to the state executive council for follow-up action.

The recommendations are to:

> Re-examine the policy of giving TOLs;

> Draw up a clearer policy on land development in Cameron High­lands;

> Set up controls on foreign workers in the area;

> Separate the jurisdiction of the Cameron Highlands district council and its land office to prevent overlapping powers and grey areas;

> Clearly gazette the area’s permanent forest reserve;

> Clearly gazette the area’s orang asli re-settlement areas;

> Create a taskforce to help ensure more effective enforcement;

> Make it mandatory to put up signages to demarcate forest reserve boundaries;

> Re-evaluate the system and procedures involved in enforcement in the area;

> Implement appropriate administrative actions to smoothen management and enforcement of illegal land clearing activities;

> Set up a certification system to allow the authorities to check who is involved in projects in the area; and

> Set up an effective system to gather complaints and reports on any illegal activities.

Meanwhile, Mustafar said the MACC had also presented its recommendations to its Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel chaired by Tan Sri Johan Jaafar.

“The MACC will also forward these recommendations to the National Integrity Management Committee on Nov 25 as we feel that these issues are also occurring in other places,” he said.

He said the recommendations were vital to prevent it from happening in other areas, resulting in environmental, social and economic problems.

“Illegal loggers and those involved in illegal land clearing must be made to face stiff penalties under the law to prevent the problem in from recurring,” he said.

Govt wages war against illegal operators in Cameron Highlands
A. AZIM IDRIS New Straits Times 9 Nov 14;

PUTRAJAYA: The government has waged an all-out war against those operating illegally in Cameron Highlands, pledging to flush out the root causes of the recent floods and mudslides that has so far claimed five lives.

Apart from developing an improved flood mitigation plan, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the action involved a wide-scale joint-operation to weed out and punish illegal operators and immigrants responsible for the disaster.

Muhyiddin said stern action was needed to prevent a recurrence of the fatal flooding as illegal operations with foreign illegals had encroached on some 6,000 hectares of land, which did not comply with standards.

He said poor enforcement was also a problem in the district and several operators had previously "challenged" the local authorities to prevent them from carrying out their duties.

"We must show our authority and enforce the matter fully,"

"We will take stern action against on the foreign illegals and operators who have no right over the land send a clear message that there will be no forgiveness," he said after chairing a special emergency meeting with the National Security Council (NSC).

Muhyiddin said the operations, which involved the Immigration Department and Royal Malaysian Police Force, among others would begin immediately.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), he said, will also be roped in to investigate graft elements.

Muhyiddin: No forgiveness for Camerons culprits, masterminds
The Star 10 Nov 14;

PUTRAJAYA: "No forgiveness for you!" That was the stern warning given by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to the culprits responsible for the recent mud flood and landslides in Cameron Highlands.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the Government would launch an integrated operation involving several enforcement agencies to ensure that illegal immigrants who are behind illegal land clearing activities be brought to justice.

"One of the causes of the problems (floods and landslides) is the lack of enforcement against the culprits.

"The Government will take stern action and I have instructed for a massive operation be carried out," Muhyiddin said.

He was speaking to reporters after chairing a special meeting on flash floods and landslides in Cameron Highlands at the National Security Council's operation room here, Sunday.

Muhyiddin said the operation would be carried out immediately as some of the culprits had challenged the Government and law enforcement agencies to take action against them.

On the allegations that encroachment activities of illegal immigrants were protected by politicians, he said it should not be an excuse for them to be spared from legal action.

"For me, politicians or non-politicians, what's important is that the environment should not be destroyed in an irresponsible manner by irresponsible quarters.

"We are not worried, we don't care, we need to act against them. If they (politicians) are found to be the masterminds, they will not escape legal action," he said.

He said what was important was to protect the environment and the safety of the people.

Muhyiddin added that discussions should be carried out with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) because apart from Bangladeshis and Nepalese, there were over 4,000 Rohingya refugees with a UNHCR ID card in Cameron Highlands.

He said even though the refugees were protected by the UNHCR, they would not be spared from legal action if they were found to have violated the country's laws.

The mud flood and landslides which occurred in Kampung Raja, Ringlet and Bertam Valley in Cameron Highlands last Wednesday had claimed five lives and caused more than 90 victims from 28 families to be evacuated. – Bernama

Government launches blitz on illegal land clearing
NURBAITI HAMDAN The Star 10 Nov 14;

PUTRAJAYA: The Government has launched a massive crackdown on those responsible for the illegal land clearing activities that led to the recent flash floods and landslides in Cameron Highlands.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said there would be no let up in the action against those who violated the laws, even if they were Malaysian citizens or illegal immigrants.

“Saya kata tiada maaf bagimu (There will be no forgiveness for you),” he said after chairing an emergency meeting on the Cameron Highlands disaster at the National Security Council meeting yesterday.

The Deputy Prime Minister admitted there had been weak enforcement against illegal land encroachment involving thousands of hectares with some parties challenging the Government and local authorities to take action against them.

“One of the reasons the disasters happened is because there is no firmness in enforcement. As such, those who flout the laws are not afraid and the activities become rampant,” he said.

“We will now go all out and will use all our legal resources to enforce the laws. We mean business.”

Muhyiddin said that although land clearing activities fell under the jurisdiction of the Pahang state government, the Federal Government had ordered the state to enforce the law wholly and strictly.

He said the Government had also launched a massive exercise to arrest illegal immigrants. This involved the police, Immigration Department, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Com­mission, the police’s General Operations Force and the military.

Muhyiddin said in addition to illegal immigrants, there were also more than 4,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar with refugee status from the United Nations High Commis­sioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cameron Highlands.

“We will speak to UNHCR on how to manage the Rohingyas,” he said.

“However, their protected status does not mean that they are exempted,” he said. “If they violate our laws, we will take action.”

On claims that illegal land clearing activities were “protected” by certain politicians, Muhyiddin said the Government would not close an eye or give excuses.

“Whether it is political or non-political, the environment must not be destroyed,” he said.

“We are not concerned about the people we have to take action against. If they are indeed proven to be the masterminds behind the destruction, we shall take action.”

It is said that corruption and political influences allegedly fuel the rampant land clearing in Cameron Highlands with sources claiming civil servants took a RM10,000 bribe for every 0.4ha of illegal farms.

Immigration officers nab 181 illegal workers
The Star 10 Nov 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Clad in plainclothes, immigration officers went around six towns here and detained 181 illegal immigrants trading illegally by the roadside in the area.

During the noon operation yesterday, the enforcement officers caught several people, including tourists by surprise, as they rounded up the foreign workers in the towns.

Ringlet, which was inundated by floods last Wednesday, was one of the towns. The others are Tanah Rata, Brinchang, Kuala Terla, Kampung Raja and Tringkap.

Immigration deputy director-general Datuk Sakib Kusmi said the operation focused on foreign workers who were without work permits or documents.

“Our officers checked 581 foreigners,” he said. “Most of their employers were not around during the operation.”

“This is an ongoing operation being carried out nationwide,” he told reporters.

Sakib said 369 officers from Pahang and other states took part in Ops Gempak dan Mesra.

“Those nabbed in Ringlet will be taken to the immigration departments in Malacca and Negri Sembilan.

“Those operating illegally in Tanah Rata will be taken to Putrajaya while those from Tringkap will be sent to Penang, Kedah and Perlis,” he said.

Sakib added that the department would launch another crackdown soon which would involve other agencies.

Call for Immediate Moratorium on Forest Clearing in Cameron Highlands
WWF-Malaysia 9 Nov 14;

Petaling Jaya - WWF-Malaysia is deeply saddened by the mudslide incident in Cameron Highlands which led to loss of lives and we offer our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and those affected by the incident.

Rampant land clearing in Cameron Highlands has been highlighted countless times by residents and media over the years. Incidences such as floods and land or mudslides are followed by blame games, flurry of statements, allocation of funds and activities by the authorities, only to quieten down until another such incident occurs. There have been many calls to control development in Cameron Highlands, strictly enforce laws, adhere to policies and guidelines and view solutions in a holistic manner. However, the issues deluging Cameron Highlands still remain, if not worsens as time passes.

Holistic solutions for sustainable development of highlands have been proposed and formulated in the past and these solutions are still applicable. In 2002, during the 8th Malaysia Plan period the Federal government with funding from UNDP formulated strategies and action plans for sustainable highlands development through the Study for the Sustainable Development of the Highlands of Peninsular Malaysia. The mid-term review of the 8th Malaysia Plan specifically mentioned that the implementation of the strategies and recommendations in the study were being coordinated and monitored by the then Cabinet Committee on the Coordination and Development on Highlands and Islands.

In recent years, the National Physical Plan-2 has spelt out measures for sustainable development of highlands. A measure specific to the Cameron Highlands-Lojing-Kinta area in the NPP-2 states that agriculture development shall only be allowed outside of forest reserves and water catchment areas. We are now preparing for the 11th Malaysia Plan, however on-the-ground implementation of the measures and recommendations proposed in the Sustainable Development of Highlands Study and the NPP-2 is extremely lacking or near non-existent. Currently, there is no one body to monitor the implementation of the measures and recommendations for sustainable highlands development at the state and local levels.

The state government plays the main role in coordinating and controlling development in Cameron Highlands. Unchecked development over the years has led to haphazard development and forest land stripped bare despite numerous calls by various parties to conserve forests to prevent calamities.

We strongly call on the state government to immediately issue a moratorium on forest clearing in Cameron Highlands. This should be followed by strict implementation of this moratorium, related policies and guidelines and enforcement of existing laws. The state government should re-evaluate Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL) which has been given in environmental sensitive areas in the highlands and restore these lands to the original form. Those who have cleared forests illegally have to be fined and made to pay for restoration of the forest. This could also serve as a deterrent. Community involvement in planning and monitoring activities is also necessary.

Deepening rivers to mitigate flood will only serve as a short term measure, if forest clearing upstream of rivers continue. Forests play a major role in preventing landslides and controlling floods. Changing climate, extreme rainfall patters and forest clearing can lead to more frequent flooding. Let us not wait for another incident and more loss of lives before acting to save the remaining forests in Cameron Highlands.

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Indonesia: Greenpeace Repeats Calls for Peatland Protection

Jakarta Globe 10 Nov 14;

Commuters cross a bridge as thick haze blankets Pekanbaru on Sept. 16, 2014. ProtectionObservers say policy makers should ponder why people are lighting forests on fire, while some stepped-up law enforcement wouldn’t hurt, either. (AFP Photo/Forza Alfachrozie)

Jakarta. Greenpeace Southeast Asia has called once again on Singapore and Indonesia to work together and find solutions to what has become a recurrent regional scourge: the annual choking haze from fires burning in forest and peatland areas on Sumatra.

“Clearing the haze is not simply a matter of enacting strong laws against burning, then prosecuting people who light fires. You need to look at where the fires are burning, and why,” said Teguh Surya, a political analyst with Greenpeace’s Indonesia Forests Campaign, on Saturday.

“Many of the worst fires are in Riau’s peatlands, which have been cleared and drained for oil palm and pulp plantations. Once fires start in drained peatlands, they burn and burn, smouldering underground, and no one can effectively deal with them until the monsoon comes,” Teguh said.

Teguh’s comments came during a four-day event involving a roundtable of academics, corporations and NGOs organized by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

After Singapore experienced its worst smoke haze on record in 2013, the Singapore government in September 2014 enacted a law designed to ensure accountability for transboundary air pollution.

The law has yet to make inroads into the problem, with hundreds of fires still burning in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The question of blame for the fires was posed during Thursday’s roundtable, and according to Teguh: “Companies are quick to point the finger at small-scale farmers, who they say don’t have the technology to properly manage the land, and resort to burning before planting crops.

“But blaming local communities is disingenuous at best. The peatland landscapes which burn each year have been drained by massive networks of deep canals dug into peatlands with excavators — heavy equipment that small-scale farmers simply don’t have.”

Indonesia, Singapore and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations should cooperate in the spirit of that body’s Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which Indonesia ratified after a decade-long delay last September, Greenpeace said.

Implementing the pact requires concrete legal steps in Indonesia, including regulations to ensure full legal protection for peatlands, and strengthening and extending the current moratorium on new forest clearing permits due to expire in May 2015.

The private sector also has a key role to play in fighting and preventing the ongoing haze crisis, Teguh said: “Four of the most prominent traders in palm oil — Wilmar, GAR, Cargill and APICAL — committed to a No Deforestation Pledge last month in New York. Now the question is what steps these traders will take to prevent fires in their supply chains.”

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East Asia: A region worth conserving for its terrestrial biodiversity

LIM CHIA YING The Star 10 Nov 14;

Ecologist Dr Richard Corlett offers an insight into the biodiversity of Tropical East Asia.

Tropical East Asia teems with some 15% to 25% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and as such offers a fascinating insight into a rich ecosystem inherited from 5,000 years before.

Though a few dozen animal species have been lost in this region over time, an ecologist contends that the percentage of decline is not significant and should not make us lose sight over conserving what remains.

Prof Richard T. Corlett of the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Yunnan, China, cautions that thousands more species are becoming so rare in the region that they will likely become extinct within the next few decades if no effective conservation actions are taken.

“The most species were present in mainland South-East Asia, from Peninsular Malaysia stretching up north to Indochina. Sumatra, Borneo and Java, on the other hand, had fewer species. Any area of Tropical East Asia now supports fewer species than it did 5,000 years ago, though in the bigger context, there isn’t a major drop.

"A clear understanding is needed on the ecological patterns and processes in the region but there’s no magic bullet to solving all conservation problems. They will have to be tackled one by one, site by site, species by species, person by person, and success will depend on our ability to build broad public support for biological conservation among all sectors of society,” says Corlett in his talk The Ecology Of Tropical East Asia: Past, Present And Future, organised by Mindset, a research centre for tropical environmental studies and sustainability in University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.

At the talk, Corlett launched the second edition of his book, The Ecology Of Tropical East Asia. The first edition was published in 2009.

High diversity

Tropical East Asia is a term coined by Corlett for the region that is essentially South-East Asia but includes sub-tropical China up until Shanghai as well as North-eastern India. But it excludes Indonesian New Guinea and other islands in eastern Indonesia as these are very different geographically.

“This region shares a lot of species, genera and families of plants and animals that make for a coherent unit of study. For instance, all gibbons are found in this region and most of this region has or had gibbons,” he explains.

He uses a baseline period of 5,000 years in his work as that was when humankind started to change natural landscapes. Agriculture, he found, developed 10,000 years back and started spreading south from Yangtze Valley in China about 8,000 years ago.

“While Tropical East Asia used to be covered almost entirely in forests, today it’s just 40% with most of that logged. South China, Philippines and Thailand have lost the most. However, certain forest types have been lost even more, particularly the lowland rainforests and peat swamp forests. Much of the region’s remaining forests today are in montane areas.”

Timber logging by big commercial companies have been cited as the culprit behind forest destruction but Corlett says firewood collection and coal mining are also to blame. What is needed, he adds, is proper control over illegal logging.

He says in this region, Lambir Hills National Park in Sarawak stands out as the most species-rich rainforest, where 52ha of the forest floor supports some 1,175 tree species, compared with 1,166 species in the temperate forests of North America, Europe and northern Asia. He says protecting an important site such as Lambir Hills will require resources so as to ensure better patrolling by well-paid and highly-motivated staff.

“It’s vital to improve protection for existing protected areas. There is no undisturbed lowland forest left in Peninsular Malaysia to establish new national parks but there are still large areas in Sabah and some in Sarawak where it may be possible to designate new national parks in logged forests, which are capable of recovering if protected from further disturbance,” says Corlett, who has a PhD in plant ecology from the Australian National University and had previously taught at the University of Chiang Mai, National University of Singapore and the University of Hong Kong.

Weathering extremities

He cautions that humankind might have to brace for the proliferation of invasive species, increased fragmentation of natural habitats and decline in native species.

“Climate models predict a 1°C to 2°C warming in the tropics by 2050 and between 2°C and 5°C by 2100, depending on assumptions being made about future greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, in 50 years, Malaysia will experience warmer weather than at any time in the last five million years,” he says. He adds that it gets warmer relatively slower and a lot more irregular in the tropics than the northern hemisphere; he believes the irregularity is mostly caused by the El Nino cycle which produces hot weather in the tropics.

He hopes his 240-page book will prove useful in training a new generation of ecologists and conservation biologists in the region. This version covers the topic of climate change and includes new research on north-east India, Bhutan and south-west China, where he now resides. Terrestrial species are mostly touched on in the book, which includes biases towards Corlett’s research interests like pollination, seed dispersal and practical conservation.

He says the 2013 International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species shows these Malaysian wildlife are threatened: mammals (71 species), birds (45), reptiles (28), amphibians (47), invertebrates (227) and plants (705). Four years ago, the figures were: mammals (70), birds (42), reptiles (21), amphibians (47), invertebrates (211) and plants (685).

“All these species require urgent protection but evidently, they reflect the state of knowledge. The figures are probably good for birds and for the plant species that the Forest Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) has looked at, but less reliable for other groups. In fact, the number of invertebrates is certainly too low, but for many groups of invertebrates, we don’t have good enough information,” says Corlett.

He proposes that ex-situ conservation of endangered species (ex-situ means off-site conservation outside natural habitats) be improved while species are reintroduced where possible and appropriate.

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