Best of our wild blogs: 11 Nov 14

Secret lagoon on Seringat-Kias
from wild shores of singapore

Sat 15 / Sun 16 Nov’14 public guided walks
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Read more!

Raising an animal activist son: Acres founder Louis Ng and his family

Venessa Lee The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Nov 14;

Raising an animal activist son: Acres founder Louis Ng and his family

Mr Robert Ng, 66, says he has no affinity for animals, unlike his son Louis Ng, founder and executive director of animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres).

As if to illustrate this, the elder Mr Ng, a division manager in an equipment firm, mistakenly recalls in this interview how Louis once kept a "gorilla or chimpanzee" in a cage in their garden.

Louis, 35, clarifies that it was a vervet monkey, a far smaller primate, and it was kept at their Yio Chu Kang house for only a couple of days in 2004 before being sent to a wildlife sanctuary in Zambia. It had been rescued by Acres after it was illegally imported into Singapore to be a "pet".

In fact, Louis, who has an elder sister, has been giving his parents surprises even before that incident. When he was 21, he announced that he was vegetarian and, about a year later, in 2001, he founded Acres while majoring in biology at the National University of Singapore.

His mother, retired civil servant Angela Quek, says: "I had sleepless nights worrying about his future. To me, it's not a normal path for a graduate. But we let him try it out. At least he has university qualification. If he fails in Acres, he can still get another job."

Louis, who also has a master's degree in primate conservation from Oxford Brookes University in Britain, drew a monthly salary of just $500 during Acres' early days. His father says: "I couldn't see a career in Acres. It was a major shock to me."

Louis, who has a nine-month-old daughter with his Britain-born wife Amy, had another surprise in store for Mr Ng recently when he entered politics by joining the People's Action Party.

Mr Ng says: "I never knew he was interested in politics. But by then, I was confident in him. He's very strong in his conviction. The first 10 years at Acres, it was really tough for him. There were a lot of problems, no funds...

"Maybe he has my genes - he's very determined. My wife and I trust both our children. We let them make independent decisions." How did Louis' love of animals start?

Louis: Something just clicked when I was young. I used to go to the Ang Mo Kio library after school and borrow books with animal themes, especially the James Herriot books. I volunteered with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, at a veterinary clinic and at the zoo. I wanted to be a vet.

Ms Quek: I bought him two hamsters when he was about 10. One day, he called me at the office, crying so hard that he couldn't speak properly. I thought he was injured. It turned out one of his hamsters had died. When I came back, I found he had buried it in a field near our flat.

Because my husband and I were both working, we couldn't have bigger pets though he wanted a dog and he brought a stray cat home for a few days.

Louis, why did you become vegetarian?

Louis: When I was 14 years old, I gave up eating my favourite food then - turtle soup - as well as shark's fin and stingray. I watched TV shows about protecting these animals. The stingrays, for example, would come up to interact with human divers. From my perspective as a child then, it looked as if stingrays were my friends. I became fully vegetarian at age 21.

My wife, Amy, is also vegetarian and we're raising our daughter Ella vegetarian. When she's old enough, it's up to her to decide if she wants to continue with it.

Mr Ng: It took me a few months to accept he was vegetarian. We had to look for special food for him - it was a bit troublesome.

Ms Quek: He eats very simply. When he became vegetarian, I would sometimes cook him tau kwa (fried beancurd) or potato with rice. Louis is a very simple man. He doesn't go for branded clothes. He has always lived within his means.

What was Louis like as a child?

Ms Quek: He was a good boy. He didn't give us any trouble or mix with bad company when he was young.

Mr Ng: He was very reserved. We were a bit worried about how quiet he was. We wanted him to mix more with other kids. He used to be too shy to speak. Now, I am proud to hear him speak in public.

Louis, you won an Advocate of the Year award in August. How did you become comfortable with public speaking?

Louis: Most of my university mates didn't even know I was an activist. By necessity, I had to speak up, for example, for our first campaign against chimp photography, where young chimpanzees are permanently taken from their parents for this purpose.

I realised if nobody wanted to speak up about such issues, I would.

Who are you closest to in your family?

Louis: My sister because we spent our childhood together. I spent most of my time with her and two female cousins. I was the youngest. I would lie across a newspaper she was reading to get her to play games such as Monopoly or Cluedo with me. Otherwise, I would be stuck playing Ken, while she and my cousins played with Barbie dolls.

In this way, my sister taught me to be persistent and creative, which helped in my advocacy work. I am also close to both my parents. What is your parenting style like?

Ms Quek: It's more consultative. The door is always open - if you have problems, come and talk to us, we'll support you.

Mr Ng: For example, when Louis started Acres, he didn't have a van to transport rescued animals. I bought him one. When my children were in university, I bought them a second-hand car that they shared.

Louis: They were supportive of any decision I made, whether or not they were against it.

How did you discipline your children when they were younger?

Mr Ng: I would cane them once in a blue moon, on the hand or leg. When I was young, I was quite hot- tempered. Ms Quek: Sometimes it would be because their test results were not good and he wanted them to work harder. I didn't cane my children. I left it to the father. I sometimes tried to protect them by blocking the cane. What are your family values? Ms Quek: I believe in honesty, integrity and compassion. Louis demonstrates these qualities - he's running a charity.

Louis: My dad says in life - you always have to try. It's an important lesson - that failing is an option. In setting up Acres, there were failures. We got a rescue centre only after four years of negotiating. You have to fail to succeed. As a society, we're being held back by a fear of failure. If the parent-child roles were reversed, what would you have done differently?

Louis: Nothing. They have always been supportive.

Mr Ng: I wouldn't have done Acres. Fifteen years ago, society didn't want to support animal rights. When asked for donations, people would say they would rather give funds to help humans. It was a hard road he took. I was never an animal lover. I would have taken a corporate job to support my family.

Ms Quek: I wouldn't have taken risks like Louis did, in setting up Acres.

Read more!

SG50: New trees, ECP light-up to celebrate Singapore’s greenery

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 10 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s green spaces will be part of its 50th birthday celebrations next year, with roadside greenery to be spruced up, more trees to be planted and public events to be hosted at parks.

From the third quarter of next year, the iconic rain trees along a 3.4km stretch of East Coast Parkway (ECP) that greet travellers from Changi Airport will be specially lit up to showcase their beauty at night.

Additional planting and landscaping will also be done along the ECP and four other expressways, as well as major roads in the civic and Central Business District, said Minister of State (National Development) Desmond Lee yesterday as he announced the National Parks Board’s (NParks) SG50 plans.

Free concerts will be held at six parks and gardens here — starting with Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park next March — with local talents performing jazz, classical and contemporary music as well as xinyao. The other parks hosting concerts include Admiralty Park in May and the Singapore Botanic Gardens in August.

And 50 Community In Bloom groups will come together to create five garden displays at the HortPark from March. A mass tree-planting exercise will take place next September and October, with 5,000 more trees to be planted at the park connectors, parks and nature ways.

Mr Lee was speaking at the launch of the Jurong Spring Nature Way, a 5.3km route from Jurong Lake Park to the Western Catchment area that aims to attract more birds and butterflies through specific trees and shrubs planted. The endangered native Yellow Cow Wood tree, for instance, is a host plant for several butterfly species such as the Archduke and Short Banded Sailor, while the Small-leafed Oil-fruit tree bears fruit eaten by birds such as the Yellow-vented Bulbul and Pink-necked Pigeon. The nature way, which winds through largely residential areas, is one of eight here with a combined length of 43.3km.

NParks deputy chief executive Leong Chee Chiew said the nature ways would allow everyday encounters with birds and butterflies, such as on walks home from the MRT station.

Jurong resident Thilagar Ragavan, 13, welcomed the possibility of seeing more wildlife but hoped existing species of beetles and other insects would not be affected. His friend, Gangababu Giry Thara Prasath, 15, said the sightings could spur an interest among the youth to know more about various animal species.

Asked how roadside greenery would be enhanced for SG50, Dr Leong said more varieties of trees would be planted — similar to what has been done along newer roads — to create a more natural look. And where roads have been widened, NParks tries to replant big specimens to get back the mature greenery as quickly as possible. “When you remove mature trees, there’s going to be a gap between the removal of the tree and eventual growth of a new plant,” he explained.

The special lighting of the stretch of the ECP would showcase the sculptural beauty of the rain trees, said Dr Leong, who is also Commissioner of Parks and Recreation. “We’ll be quite careful about how bright (the lights) should be and where (they) should point and so on … we will try our best to make it pretty without being overwhelming,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu said she hoped to see more corporations step forward to participate in the SG50 celebrations. Speaking at the Great Eastern Women’s Run organised by the insurer yesterday, Ms Fu commended the firm’s move to offer free insurance for Jubilee-year babies next year.

“I’m happy to see that many corporates are stepping up. SG50 shouldn’t be the Government’s way of celebrating the Jubilee year. It should be everyone in Singapore, all corporates stepping in and doing their part. We hope more companies will also join in,” she said.

NParks to mark SG50 by beautifying expressways
Aw Cheng Wei The Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Nov 14;

Singapore's expressways will be dressed up for SG50 celebrations next year.

Roadside greenery along the five major expressways, including the East Coast Parkway and Pan-Island Expressway, will have additional landscaping as part of the National Parks Board's (NParks) plans to celebrate the nation's golden jubilee.

This is being done to make the expressways "even more distinctive and beautiful", said Mr Desmond Lee, Minister of State for National Development.

He revealed NParks' celebratory plans yesterday at the launch of the new Jurong Spring Nature Way, which spans 5.3km, connecting the Western Catchment Area to the upcoming Jurong Lake Gardens.

As part of the festivities, a 3.4km stretch of road from Changi Airport will also be installed with special lighting among its overlapping canopy of raintrees.

A tender is being called for the new lights, and they are expected to be installed by September next year.

NParks' deputy chief executive, Dr Leong Chee Chiew, said: "Our lush roadside greenery must continue to differentiate us from other cities."

As part of NParks' SG50 celebrations, there will be a series of six free concerts at locations such as Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Botanic Gardens and Admiralty Park.

Over at HortPark, some 50 community groups will create garden showcases at five gardens.

Meanwhile, a photography competition to encourage people to share their favourite photographs of parks and gardens is under way. The closing date for the first of four themes is on Jan 7.

Mr Lee, who is an MP for Jurong GRC, noted that there will be something "different and interesting" for everyone.

Coinciding with SG50 is the 25th anniversary of Singapore's park connectors. To celebrate this, a mass tree planting initiative with some 5,000 trees will be carried out at 50 places.

NParks nursery to be opened to public for the first time
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 10 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: This Saturday (Nov 15), the National Parks Board's (NParks) nursery in Pasir Panjang will throw open its doors to the public for the first time.

The series of guided tours arranged by NParks was fully subscribed within two days. About 200 people have signed up for the tours, organised in conjunction with the Clean and Green Singapore 2015 campaign.

Set up in the 1970s, the 12-hectare Pasir Panjang Nursery supplies close to 200,000 plants a year to green Singapore's roads and parks. At any one time, the nursery is stocked with over 3,000 species of plants. Around 80 per cent of them are native plants. The rest come from countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

With about 100 rare species, one of the highlights that tour participants will get to see is the Singapore Kopsia, a tree with distinctive white flowers.

The tree can only be found in fresh water swamp forests and is critically endangered, with fewer than 50 mature trees in Singapore.

Even the nursery's canal has been turned into a flowering oasis, with over 50 types of aquatic plants.

"The spread of plants in Pasir Panjang Nursery is important to us because of the nature areas that we have in Singapore, for our parks and streetscapes,” said Mr Ng Cheow Kheng, director of horticulture and community gardening at the National Parks Board.

“It is so important to bring back the species that were here originally and to propagate them so that we have enough of these seedlings and saplings to be grown all over Singapore.

“Why is it important for biodiversity? Because we want to bring back some of the native birds, butterflies, dragonflies - all the desirable animal life in Singapore. We need them to have a healthy living environment."

During the tour, NParks officers will also share what they do in their daily operations. "We work with our colleagues from parks, streetscapes and conservation, so that they will go and look for the plants during mass flowering and fruit season in the forests,” said Mr Ng. “Then we collect all the seeds, bring back to propagate them and germinate so that they can be re-introduced into the environment."

Seeds and saplings are typically grown at the nursery for around three to six months, before they are planted island-wide.

NParks said it will gauge the response from the public and decide whether to open up more tours in future.

- CNA/ek

NParks nursery opens for rare tour
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Nov 14;

All 60 places for a rare chance to see where some of Singapore's park and roadside trees and plants come from were snapped up within hours yesterday.

The National Parks Board (NParks) had announced yesterday morning that it will open the Pasir Panjang Nursery, its only nursery, to the public for a rare guided tour this Saturday.

By evening, all places have been taken, but NParks said it will consider having more tours in future.

The nursery tour is organised in conjunction with the year-long Clean and Green Singapore 2015 campaign, which aims to inspire Singaporeans to protect the environment.

The Pasir Panjang Nursery is about 12ha, or the size of 30 football fields, and supplies close to 200,000 plants each year to green the island's roads and parks.

Most of the plants provided by the nursery are native to Singapore and are not easily available in commercial nurseries.

It also sources for plants from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to increase the variety of plants used in NParks' planting programmes.

The nursery's inventory includes trees, shrubs, herbs, fruit trees, aquatic plants and more.

To support the conservation of Singapore's native species, NParks officers also collect seeds and saplings of native plants from forests and parks across Singapore every week, so they can be grown in the nursery until they are ready to be planted islandwide.

NParks chief executive Kenneth Er said the nursery is a key part in Singapore's greening efforts.

"Decades of our pioneers' hard work... have enabled us to reap the benefits of the verdant landscape.

"(The tour) is one way of inspiring the community to continue in the shared responsibility of carrying on Singapore's greening journey," he said.

Read more!

Pick up after yourself, create more bright spots

Lim Yan Liang The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Nov 14;

It will take some time to persuade "spoilt" Singaporeans to clean up after themselves, according to the man helming a movement to do just that.

"We can't change Singapore as a society overnight," said Mr Liak Teng Lit, chairman of the Public Hygiene Council, which leads the Keep Singapore Clean Movement.

Citing countries like Japan, where citizens take the initiative to keep common areas clean, Mr Liak lamented that Singaporeans are "so spoilt", being used to town council and hawker centre cleaners picking up after them.

"But hopefully we can change things bit by bit," he said yesterday at the opening ceremony of the year-long Clean and Green Singapore 2015 campaign.

Mr Liak is hoping two community initiatives that were launched alongside the campaign will teach Singaporeans to be more responsible for their own waste.

The first is an expanded Bright Spots Challenge, which aims to increase the number of litter-free "bright spots" in Singapore from 300 now to 500 by the end of next year.

First launched in 2012, the initiative invites people and organisations to adopt communal spaces and keep them clean, turning them into "bright spots" to be emulated.

"I'm hoping that with all these bright spots, good behaviour will grow and spread outwards, and also convince the sceptics," he said.

One such bright spot is Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where Mr Liak was chief executive officer before becoming group chief executive of Alexandra Health in 2012.

Nine in 10 people who eat at the hospital's food court return their trays, whether they are staff, patients or residents, Mr Liak noted.

"Where there is some peer pressure and social norms for you to do things in a certain way, it works."

The other initiative is the No Waste Days Challenge, which encourages Singaporeans to make a pledge not to waste food and to use fewer disposable items.

Members of the public can make pledges at Clean and Green Singapore carnivals that will be held islandwide this month. They can also upload photos of themselves being eco-friendly on social media.

The National Environment Agency said it aims to collect 50,000 photo submissions and pledges by June next year, and is urging companies to make donations to charitable causes when certain milestones are met.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday called on individual Singaporeans to do their part in helping to make Singapore cleaner and greener, noting that each Singaporean now generates nearly 1.5 tonnes of waste a year.

While the Government can build better public transport and more chutes for convenient recycling at home, it is up to each person to adjust their commuting and recycling habits, he said.

"We will have the infrastructure, but please, don't generate so much waste," he added.

Read more!

800,000 tonnes of food wasted: What can we do?

Maureen Koh The New Paper AsiaOne 11 Nov 14;

"If you don't finish your food, your spouse's face will have pimples and pockmarks," goes an old Chinese saying.

It used to scare kids enough that we'd actually polish off the food on our plates.

But I suspect it may not be working so well these days, going by the numbers released by the Singapore Environment Council last week.

In case you missed it: 800,000 tonnes of food wasted. In one year. That will need 1,420 Airbus A380s to carry the load.

And this amount can feed every person in Singapore a meal a day for an entire year.

The Government is concerned enough that in September, the Food Wastage Reduction Working Group commissioned a food waste survey involving 1,000 Singaporeans aged 18 and above to try to figure out the source of the food wastage problem.

The group was set up in 2012 to come up with recommendations and initiatives to address the problem.

The results of that survey should be made known soon.

Previous reports have pointed fingers at the manufacturing and retail sectors for food waste.

Essentially, retailers dump bruised or ugly fruit and vegetables because they say people simply won't buy them.

People are also ordering too much food and leaving them uneaten.

I headed to the heartlands this week to get a ground-up perspective of how much this issue affects heartlanders.

The buzzwords "food wastage" and the survey mean little to them, but in their own way, they already have been finding ways to minimise the throwing out of products.

And it's simply down to economics for these folks: The less they throw, the less they lose.

For instance: vegetable sellers and fruit sellers say that for the last three years, they have been setting aside and repackaging damaged produce.

Mr Remy Chua, 42, who owns a fruit stall in Pasir Ris is one of them. He says: "It is better to sell them cheaper than to throw the fruits, which at most times, are still edible."

Mr Low Kok Tiong, 59, a fruit seller in Bukit Merah, says regulars who buy his dented produce are foreign workers and families who shop on tight budgets.

Madam Ann Ng, 60, a vegetable seller in Bedok, says she used to discard "around five to six big baskets" of ugly vegetables each week, but that has changed since her son started to help out at the stall.

Her son, Mr Johnny Cheng, 40, credits his girlfriend for mooting the idea of repackaging his mother's usual discards.

"Customers demand that the vegetables they buy must not have pest marks and the colours must be in acceptable shades," he says.

"Some of them even reject those that look too ripe because that means they would have to cook right away.

"Instead of throwing them away, we identified a few cai png (Hokkien for economical rice) and zhi char stalls and sell to them at cost price."

Most hawkers I speak to also say they rarely have a day where they throw out lots of food.

Through experience, they know how much to prepare and which are their busy and slow days.

Again, it's economics. They have learnt to make sure they don't lose too much.

Unlike the wet market stalls, cooked food hawkers say they don't have the luxury of such repackaging.

At Bukit Merah, economical rice hawker Lim Chwee Gek, 58, says: "We learn to 'agak agak' (Malay for estimate) how much we should cook, or end up extending the operation hours."

Or selling the unsold food at a discount, she adds.

On this jaunt, my eyes were opened to well, expectations and perspectives.

I know that many consumers, myself included, have a certain idea of what an apple or melon should look like. And when the fruit does not conform to that, I don't pick it.

When I meet housewife Norhafizah Rathia, 43, she is picking some greens from a stall in the wet market at Clementi Avenue 3. But the greens don't really look that fresh.

As she stuffs the vegetables in a recycled bag, she says in Malay: "Sayang (dear), you see this bag? It'd probably cost twice as much if they were fresh and leafy."

She walks over to the fruits stall to collect a bag of mostly squashed oranges and apples.

"All you need to do is to cut out the 'bad' or 'ugly' portions and the rest of the fruits are edible," she says.

As "ugly" as the food may seem to most of us, it helps Madam Norhafizah to feed her family of 10, which includes her parents-in-law and five children, aged between seven and 13.

While they get financial assistance under various schemes, she reckons it is her responsibility to be thrifty.

Technician Yeo Kwee Seng, 37, has a list of stalls in two food centres - one near his workplace and another just across his home in Ang Mo Kio - where he will swing by for lunch or dinner, but "after the peak hours".

By this, he says: "I usually get a bigger serving as the hawkers will prefer not to throw away the unsold dishes."

He adds with a smile: "It works best for dinner because I can just buy one packet and share it with the wife."

Mr Yeo says that it is not as if he can't really afford it, but "a meal is just a meal", so he does not see why he shouldn't save whatever he can.

It's really about attitudes, right?

I suspect we have gone from a society of frugal savers to one that lives it up a little.

Mr Low Kok Tiong, the fruit seller in Bukit Merah, says in Mandarin that customers sometimes damage the produce by pressing and prodding, and refuse to buy it after.

But if we change our attitudes a bit, maybe that bruised fruit would be not so problematic?

Waste not, want not, my mother used to say.

That adage has, I confess, become quite remote in my household.

Vegetables that are not so green? Apples that are not rosy enough? Oranges that are out of shape?


And when I go do the monthly stock-up-the-larder supermarket shopping, my purchases are often "wholesale-habit" - this means buying about half a dozen at one go.

But without proper stock-taking before the next trip, it also means buying in excess and we end up with products past their expiry dates.

We can leave the Government to work on its initiative to cut food wastage on a national level, but let's take the first step on our own, shall we?

"I usually get a bigger serving as the hawkers will prefer not to throw away the unsold dishes. It works best for dinner because I can just buy one packet and share it with the wife."

- Mr Yeo Kwee Seng on why he buys food 'after the peak hours'

Read more!

Burma: Government, Environmentalists Discuss Marine Protection Area for Mergui Archipelago

The Irrawaddy 10 Nov 14;

RANGOON — Flora and Fauna International (FFI) said it held a meeting recently with representatives of several government ministries and the Tenasserim Division government to discuss plans for the creation of a Marine Protected Area in Mergui Archipelago, located off the coast of southern Burma.

The two-day workshop, “discussed the biodiversity values of the Myeik [Mergui] Archipelago for Myanmar and the Andaman Sea, new research data from ongoing scientific assessments, key sites for marine conservation, and threats facing the ecosystems and fishing industry,” FFI said in a press release.

Discussions also focused on how a Marine Protected Area can be a management tool for sustaining coastal fisheries resources.

The Mergui Archipelago comprises over 800 islands of white sandy beaches, coral reefs and sea grass areas with a diverse array of marine life. FFI has studied the region in recent years and its scuba diving marine research team has identified 287 species of coral and 365 reef fish species, as well as reefs rich in echinoderms, crustaceans, molluscs and sponges.

The corals reefs, sea grass areas and mangrove forests are under serious threat from overfishing, destructive fishing methods, sediment run off and global warming, FFI said.

FFI program director for Burma Frank Momberg said, “[F]isheries resources have declined dramatically over the last decade. However, by establishing a Marine Protected Area network Myanmar will protect important nursery grounds for fish, such as coral reef and mangrove areas, critical to maintaining the livelihood of coastal fishing communities and the fishing industry.”

Khin Maung Aye, deputy minister of livestock, fisheries and rural development, the minister of the Tenasserim Division’s Ministry of Forest and Mining, representatives of the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, the Myanmar Fisheries Federation and local civil society organizations attended the meeting in Tenasserim Division, according to FFI.

Workshop participants agreed to work on a number of initial measures towards establishing a Marine Protection Area, including mapping the use of the archipelago’s resources, engaging commercial fishing firms in the area, developing pilot marine protection areas, and identifying technological solutions for collecting data on fisheries, FFI said.

Apart from the reported government interest in conserving the unique marine ecosystem, Tenasserim Division authorities have also indicated that they are keen to develop the pristine islands for tourism.

In January, a Tenasserim official said four tourism projects could begin this year. An investment company formed by Tenasserim businessmen has announced it has US$50 million to invest in building hotels, houses, golf courses and shops on the deserted Khuntee (or Gabuza) Island, Eastern Sula Island, Langan Island and Tanintharyi Island by 2018.

Read more!

Migratory birds, fish and mammals get new UN protection

AFP Yahoo News 10 Nov 14;

Quito (AFP) - Polar bears, whales, sharks and gazelles were among 31 new species granted new protection status by the UN conservation body, following six days of "intense" talks by leading conservationists.

The UN Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) said on Sunday that negotiations lasting almost a week led to new protection for scores of bird, fish and mammal migratory species.

A record 21 species of shark, ray and sawfish were added to the list.

The polar bear, which is found in the Arctic, and the widely-distributed Cuvier's beaked whale made the list too.

Also newly protected are the red-fronted gazelle, common in Africa, and the great bustard, found in Europe and Asia.

Protecting these animals is key for overall environmental conservation.

"Migratory animals have become the global flagships for many of the pressing issues of our time," said CMS executive secretary Bradnee Chambers.

"From plastic pollution in our oceans, to the effects of climate change, to poaching and over-exploitation, the threats migratory animals face will eventually affect us all."

More than 900 experts from 120 countries met for the six-day meeting, approving all but one proposed species to be included on the protected wildlife list.

The African lion did not make the final cut because there was not enough information from the countries where it lives.

The conference was the best-attended in the body's 35-year history, and CMS hailed the "unprecedented" level of attention to the topic.

The director of the UN Environment Program, which administers CMS, said global interest in animal protection was crucial.

"The responsibility for protecting wildlife is a shared one, and that the threats to wildlife can be tackled most effectively through global cooperation," said UN Undersecretary-General Achim Steiner, who heads the UNEP.

The next CMS meeting will be held in the Philippines in 2017.

Read more!

World governments failing Earth's ecosystems, says top conservationist

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the IUCN, says political leaders have not properly embraced conservation
Oliver Milman 9 Nov 14;

Governments are lagging behind on international commitments to safeguard the planet’s ecosystems, with politicians failing to grasp that economic growth depends upon environmental protection, the head of the world’s leading conservation organisation has warned.

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the IUCN, the body that advises the United Nations on environmental matters, told Guardian Australia that conservation needed to be properly embraced by political leaders.

“I think world leaders have many other issues to deal with and sometimes they don’t see how protecting nature is essential for our wellbeing,” she said.

“On a planet with 7bn people, moving to 9bn, this isn’t just about protecting our beautiful places, it’s protecting the places that provide us with water and food and protect us from extreme weather.”

Marton-Lefèvre is in Sydney for the World Parks Congress, a once-in-a-decade international conservation gathering that starts this week.

The week-long congress will feature an update on global progress in meeting the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Signed in 1992 by 193 nations, a key target is to protect at least 17% of the world’s terrestrial areas and 10% of marine areas by 2020.

Ahead of the official release of the target’s update, Marton-Lefèvre admitted that progress on this goal is “not that optimistic”.

“I’d say the analysis will remind us how much more we have to do,” she said. “We are doing pretty well on the terrestrial protection, up to 15% protected, but the marine areas are more difficult. We’re only on around 3% protected. We are doing pretty well in national jurisdictions but not so well on the high seas.

“It’s easy to make these commitments but it’s really important to keep on top of them. We’re not only talking about the size of protected areas but also how they are protected – we can’t have so-called ‘paper parks’ where they are just drawn on a map and not managed.”

Marton-Lefèvre, who is stepping down as director general at the end of the year, said the world was moving “slowly” on environmental protection and must do much better in protecting critical habitat.

“I hope this congress will show leaders that we must move from understanding the importance of nature to action,” she said.

“We’ve had notable achievements but also setbacks – poaching is an issue we’ll need to talk about, for example. Progress hasn’t been fast enough but we now understand the value of nature. It isn’t just about the love of birds and butterflies; it’s about our survival.

“We need to behave better towards our planet and behave better towards each other.”

Marton-Lefèvre said that political leaders needed to realise that the environment can’t be sidelined in any discussion on economic growth. The World Parks Congress will take place at the same time as the G20, where the Australian government, as host, has prioritised economic growth ahead of any consideration of climate change.

“That kind of economic argument doesn’t really understand what nature brings us,” she said. “These things can’t be treated as if they are in silos. Nature provides us with our life support system. Leaving forests standing is worth far more than cutting them down.”

In its last update in 2012, the IUCN said the world’s protected areas have increased in number by 58% and in extent by 48%. However, only one in four of these protected areas are managed properly and half the world’s most important sites for biodiversity still have no protection.

An IUCN report released this month says it would cost between US$45bn and US$76bn each year to adequately manage these protected areas. This figure equates to about 2.5% of global annual military expenditure.

A separate report released by WWF in September showed that the world has lost half its wildlife in the past 40 years. The number of animals living on land has slumped by 40%, and those dwelling in rivers have suffered a 75% loss. The total for all marine creatures has dropped by 40%.

WWF analysis shows humans are cutting down trees faster than they regrow, catching fish faster than the oceans can restock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them and emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than oceans and forests can absorb.

Specific areas of concern for the IUCN conference are likely to include the rampant poaching of elephants and rhinos, the enormous loss of critical rainforest in Indonesia and the precarious health of several world heritage sites including the Great Barrier Reef.

On Monday, the congress will see the unveiling of the latest IUCN Red List, the world’s most comprehensive analysis of the conservation status of the planet’s species. At the last count, the Red List contained 73,686 assessed species, of which 22,103 are threatened with extinction.

Read more!