Best of our wild blogs: 13 Nov 14

How do we save the pangolin?
from sundapangolin

Great-billed heron courtship dance
from Life's Indulgences

Yellow-barred Flutterer mating
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Fishing for a fine at reservoir

Lee Joon Lei The New Paper AsiaOne 13 Nov 14;

The signs are prominent - no fishing allowed.

Yet, dozens were seen doing so in the no-fishing areas along Lower Peirce Reservoir when The New Paper was there on Sunday.
The New Paper saw three men receiving summonses for illegal fishing in just 30 minutes.

Fishing enthusiasts say the areas are popular because of their relatively convenient location compared to other fishing spots.

And most fish there, despite knowing it is illegal and that there are designated fishing spots nearby, as they claim that the designated spots do not have enough fish.

Operations executive Darren Drew Baker, 25, a fishing enthusiast who practises catch and release, said: "People tend to hit illegal spots because the legal ones are generally overfished and very barren.

"They are also too crowded with anglers and the general crowd.

"Foreign workers also tend to net up a whole school of fish at a time, leaving us with nothing."

National water agency PUB said an average of about 250 people are booked each year for fishing offences, which include fishing at non-designated areas and fishing with anything but artificial baits or lures.

A PUB spokesman said enthusiasts are not allowed to fish in certain areas of the reservoir because it may undermine their safety.

"For safety reasons, PUB encourages anglers to fish only in designated areas at the reservoirs. These locations are selected based on considerations such as public safety, availability of amenities and demarcation of zoning for different water activities."

Those caught fishing outside designated areas or using live bait will be fined $50 for their first offence and $200 for their second offence. Offenders will be prosecuted for subsequent offences and can also be fined up to $3,000.

For more information on the designated fishing areas, visit

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Malaysia: Camerons on brink of collapse


CAMERON HIGHLANDS: CAMERON Highlands is headed for a catastrophe “of an unimaginable scale” in five to 10 years if illegal land clearing continues unabated.

Experts have warned of massive mudslides and flash floods that could wipe out townships and villages in Tapah, Kampung Raja, Blue Valley, Kuala Terla and Tanah Rata, and the more than 150,000 people in the highlands.

The worst case scenario is the complete collapse of the entire hill system.

Geologists have cautioned of an already shaky hill structure, teetering on the brink of collapse, as a result of illegal land clearing, removal of top soil, heavy siltation and excess ground water.

They pointed to an unusually high number of mudslides since the beginning of the year, a new phenomenon that have seen no less than 150 incidents. What is most perplexing is why sound recommendations made by experts on the heels of recurring disasters are being systematically ignored.

This includes the application of the “Rose index” used as an early warning indicator of landslides.

The New Straits Times learned that the Rose index would be read in tandem with a “calendar” of the periods with the heaviest rainfall and analyses of risky locations, soil samples and composition.

The use of the “ROM” scale in the index system is to predict the probability of a landslide happening at a particular area.

Under the scale’s Rainfall Erosivity Assessment, the Highland Towers (the block of condominium in Hulu Kelang that collapsed on Dec 11, 1993) was rated at 15. The same scale rated Cameron Highlands at a worrying 55 on Dec 7, 1994.

The rate of rainfall before the Highland Towers’ incident was measured at 868mm as opposed to 1169mm in Kampung Raja during the same period.

“All it takes is just five days of the kind of rain we saw on Nov 5 (where landslides following heavy rain claimed five lives),” said authorities tasked to mitigate the problem.

They concede that the problem is beyond their control.

They took the New Straits Times team to several newly developed projects, not only agricultural, but also commercial and housing projects sitting on hills with steep gradients, some at 90-degrees in Ulu Merah, Kuala Kerla and Ringlet, among others.

New hillside residential areas that do not adhere to the feet buffer rule are also mushrooming. One such development near Tanah Rata has less than 10 feet from the end of the houses to the edge of the sheer drop. The back alley of this multi-million ringgit housing project is propped up by several concrete pillars.

Further down the same hillside are homes that were constructed by settlers there.

These sit above this particular housing project and will not stand a chance if the pillars give way due to soil movement.

“Cameron’s structure has never been in this critical a stage. It’s just a matter of time before something happens.

“If you look at this particular area, any major soil movement could result in the entire hillside to collapse.

“Tonnes of mud, earth, rocks, boulders and dirt will smash down to the Tapah road, and continue down the valley,” said a resident, who has been living in the area for the last nine years. At the base of the valley is another township, mostly with low- and middle-income residents. The Fire and Rescue Department and police quarters are also located there.

The team was taken along routes in and out of the highlands, sandwiched by steep gradients, reaching almost 90 degrees, with massive “scarrings”.

“This shows that there has been serious soil movement. The danger is on hot days, there will be cracks on these slopes, and when it rains, water will seep into them and the risk gets greater every time it happens,” said sources.

Authorities are not optimistic
that this worsening environmental problem besieging the highlands is going away anytime soon, even with the focus given by the authorities following the latest disaster.

These, they said, were especially so with the kind of siltation and waste going into water sources throughout the highlands and channelled into the more than 50-year old Sultan Abu Bakar dam in Ringlet.

“The dam’s capacity has been drastically reduced over the years. The sedimentation is unbelievable.

“You are looking at 40 football fields full of sediment despite daily clearings by the concessionaire
appointed by Tenaga Nasional Bhd.”

Authorities dealing with the aftermath said they would never be able to win the battle to stop illegal land clearing.

Many were frustrated at being forced to sit back as “these illegal land clearing seem to be protected by hidden hands”.

They spoke of operations mounted where documents with valid endorsements by “these hidden hands” were shoved in their faces. They had no choice but to comply or risk being transferred out.

Meanwhile, district Fire and Rescue Department chief Yusry Ahmad said this year alone, his men had to put out 37 fires in the highlands.

Most of these reports were from the public, he said, adding that many more could have happened without anyone’s knowledge, especially as illegal land clearing took place deep in the forest.

“Every time we go in to put out the fires, they (farm workers) will come back and start burning again. This is the most cost-effective way for them to clear the land.”

Sources said the guidelines enshrined in the 2003-2015 Cameron Highlands Local District Plan, with an emphasis on a balanced and low-density development, were not at all adhered to.

Small scale, selected development with no negative impact on the environment, one of the seven thrusts in the plan, have been ignored.

The population of Cameron Highlands is estimated at 32,000. The conservative estimate of the number of illegal foreign workers is at 60,000.

Six new illegal sites identified in Camerons

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: A T least six new sites that are illegally cleared for farming, covering more than 1,000ha— equivalent to about 1,400 football fields — have been identified in the highlands for the past three months.

The sites are in Gunung Siku Permanent Forest Reserve at the border of Blue Valley and Kampung Raja, Sungai Ikan in Kampung Raja, Sungai Jarik in Kuala Terla, Sungai Mensun in Brinchang, Sungai Lemoi in Bertam Valley and Ulu Merah in Ringlet.

At some of the sites, it was observed that clearing works had just started, while at other sites, they had been turned into vegetable farms.

The New Straits Times visited the site in Sungai Jarik, about 20km from the Jalan Brinchang-Kampung Raja trunk road, and found that it was planted with brinjal and maize, spreading over 4ha.

There is also a kongsi house for the farm’s foreign workers.

It was also observed that several excavators had been brought in to carry out more land clearing works in the area for more illegal farming activities.

It was learnt that area was raided and demolished by authorities last May.

A Nepalese worker, identified as Tika Ram Kami, who was handling one of the excavators, said he had been working on the farm for several months now, but declined to elaborate.

Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach) president R. Ramakrishnan, who accompanied the reporter to the site, said some of the illegally cleared sites had affected and threatened the highlands’ water catchment areas.

“It is bad enough that the highlands are facing sporadic water problems. Now, these illegal land clearing activities are moving into water catchment areas.

“What is becoming of the highlands? What will it take for the authorities to act? I don’t understand why they are closing one eye to all of these things happening here.”

Ramakrishnan said he found it disturbing that the authorities had no proper data on land clearing activities in the highlands.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the wide-scale integrated operation involving various government agencies, as announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, would be carried out in Cameron Highlands in a week or two.

“The operation will target illegal foreign workers and those responsible for illegal land clearing in the highlands.

“We have identified more than 4,500 illegal foreign workers there,” said Shahidan, who is also the National Security Council chairman, after chairing a special meeting on issues plaguing the highlands at the parliament yesterday.

The meeting was attended by representatives from relevant government agencies, including the police, Immigration Department and Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Last Sunday, the Immigration Department launched Op Gempak Mesra and detained 181 foreigners working in the service sector here for not having valid travel documents.

On Monday, its deputy director-general, Datuk Sakib Kusmi, said following the success of the operation, the department would next target errant employers and illegal foreign workers in the farming sector.

He was quoted as saying that the department would use Section 55A and Section 55B of the Immigration Act to prosecute errant employers in courts in spite of Section 56(1)(d) of the act, which merely warranted a compound.

The Pahang government had on Monday conceded that it had not done enough to stop the influx of illegal immigrants and catch the culprits responsible for illegal land clearing in the highlands.

“When the state government failed to take action against those involved in the illegal activities, aggressive illegal land clearing continued unabated by irresponsible parties who want to make big profits,” said state secretary Datuk Seri Muhammad Safian Ismail in an exclusive report by the New Straits Times yesterday.

The admission came a day after Muhyiddin’s announcement on Sunday that the government would wage an all-out war to end corrupt practices, and the influx of illegal immigrants and illegal land clearing by farmers who had encroached on more than 6,000ha of land in Cameron Highlands.

Muhyiddin said the government had to take drastic action to protect the environment and safeguard the people, adding that any individual, including politicians, who offered protection to the illegal activities would not be spared.

Last Wednesday, a downpour caused mud floods and landslides in Kampung Raja, Pekan Ringlet and the Bertam Valley in Cameron Highlands, claiming five lives and forcing more than 90 people from 28 families to be evacuated.

Last year, Bertam Valley was hit by a mud flood that claimed four lives and damaged more than 100 houses.

Flood in Cameron Highlands has no affect on fresh supplies

KUALA LUMPUR: The recent flood in Cameron Highlands has not effected the supply of vegetables, fruits and flowers to the market traders and consumers although there has been fluctuations in prices.

Sharvintran Ganesan 21, a market trader who sells vegetables at the Bangsar wet market, said the price of leafy vegetables has increased due to high demand.

"The price of tomatoes and spinach is increasing but the other vegetables that I sell are not affected because I sell them at a controlled rate," said Sharvintran who has been selling vegetables for three years.

Sharvintran also assured that the prices of vegetables will not be affected in the upcoming Christmas season.

Jack Lim 22, another vegetable trader said although the Cameron Highlands flood has not affected his business, the overall rainy weather has affected the price of his vegetables.

Lim also related the effect it would have on his customers.

" It is difficult to convince certain customers who don't understand the cause of price fluctuations. Some understand and some don't," said Lim who has been running this business for more than 30 years.

Alagupandi, 27, a florist in the wet market said he has a good relationship with flower suppliers from Cameron Highlands and he buys flowers at a fixed price from them.

"Even if the prices rise, that wouldn't be much difference. The differences will only be about 20 to 40 sen." he said.

Costlier vegetables likely after flash floods and crackdown

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: The crackdown on illegal workers in Cameron Highlands soon after flash floods damaged farms there will mean costlier vegetables and flowers in coming months.

Several farmers said the higher prices will impact local consumers as well as exports to Singapore and other countries, particularly during the Christmas season next month and Chinese New Year in February.

The Immigration Department has hauled in scores of foreign workers, who allegedly do not have proper work permits, after a Home Ministry investigation revealed that a syndicate was bringing in thousands of illegals here.

Many other foreign workers have also reportedly gone into hiding as the crackdown continues, giving the farmers a headache over how to tend their crops in the wake of the sudden shortage in their workforce.

This happened soon after flash floods and landslides caused much damage and killed five people on Nov 5.

The flooding was triggered by a long drawn out downpour that evening, which state authorities have blamed on illegal land clearing activities.

Yesterday, a team from The Star saw only skeleton crews tending to vast hectares of farmland in Ringlet town and other areas. Normally, there would be two or three workers for each hectare of farmland.

A farmer who asked to be identified only as Tan, 62, said he now has only two workers at his onion and vegetable farm where he had six previously.

“Taikor (boss) also has to work now!” he said as he tended to his plots with his wife.

The couple has four grown up children, but they have since moved away after getting married.

Another farmer who only gave his name as Chua, 55, only has three workers now for his 0.809ha mint leaf farm.

He said prices of vegetables and flowers would increase because many farmers may have to hire more help at short notice or suffer a limited harvest.

“Prices are going to go up. I sell a kilo (of mint leaves) for RM2 now. This will go up by two to three ringgit by year end.

“It will definitely go higher around the Chinese New Year period due to the flood damage and crackdown on illegals,” he said.

One 25-year-old woman, whose father farms flowers and vegetables, agreed with Chua.

“We can’t say by how much just yet. But a bunch of flowers is about RM8 and will probably cost much more by the holiday season,” she said, declining to give her name.

“Supply is also limited. Our harvest for specifically that period was partially destroyed by the floods. More farms were damaged this time, compared to the flash flood last year.”

S. Vanitha, who runs a flower nursery, said many workers have been hauled up.

“There is much fear among worker communities. Not just farm hands are affected, also those working in restaurants, souvenir shops and other businesses.”

Indian national Muniandy, 28, a farm worker, said his boss keeps his documents close at hand in case of any spot checks.

“Many of us have also been told not to speak to any people unfamiliar to us,” he said.

Camerons vege prices go up
The Star 13 Nov 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Now it’s really time to eat up your greens as it is getting costlier to waste them.

Vegetable seller Tan Kai Hiong, 41, said that prices of greens especially spring onions, coriander and even chillies had risen by more than 20% since last Wednesday’s floods in Cameron Highlands.

“Spring onions used to cost RM10 per kg but now they are selling for between RM13 and RM15 per kg. Chilli prices have also increased from RM13 per kg to RM15,” he said, adding that the rainy weather could be another contributing factor.

He said the price of other vegetables like cabbage, long cabbage, capsicum, tomatoes and even Japanese cucumber had risen as well.

“We do not know how much further the price will increase as many of the vegetable farms are now in a fix due to a lack of manpower,” said Tan, who operates at Taman Tun Dr Ismail market.

Another trader, Judy Yap, 50, said there was a slight increase in prices but the full effect would only be felt in the weeks to come.

“The last time the dam overflowed, we thought that there would be a major impact, but there was hardly any.

“This time, however, we noticed a slight increase in prices and I believe that it may become worse, especially with many farms not having enough workers due to the crackdown on illegals,” she said.

Florist Jenny Loo, 60, said the floods had no impact yet on the price of flowers.

“The floods and landslides did not affect the whole of Cameron Highlands. We are still getting our supply at the usual price,” she said.

In George Town, Penang florists are concerned about the possibility of rising prices.

GR Florist manager P. Gunathan said the prices had been the same so far but he was expecting an increase next month.

“Most of my supply is from Cameron Highlands. I continue to receive my flowers every day. So far, the price and quality are good,” he said yesterday.

At Viviana Gifts Centre in Bishop Street, a worker said flowers from Cameron Highlands were still of the same price and quality.

“Our suppliers have not informed us of any price hike,” she said.

However, Venus Florist Sdn Bhd director M. Yogeshparee said the quality of roses had dropped a little although the prices were the same.

Whenever the weather was bad, she said the flowers would turn brown at the edges.

In BUTTERWORTH, R. Muniamah, 63, who has been selling flowers at the Seberang Jaya public market for the last 22 years, said her supply of flowers such as carnations and daisies came from Cameron Highlands but her supplier was not affected by the floods and landslides.

Zambry Zulkifly, 39, who sells vegetables at the Seberang Jaya public market, said the supply of tomatoes and broccoli had gone down.

T. Selloraji, 65, who operates at a market in Jalan Jetty Lama, said prices were slightly affected.

He said he was now selling sawi at RM3 per kg compared to RM2 previously.

“Now I sell Grade C tomatoes at RM2.20 per kg compared to RM1.50 previously.”

Illegal extensions at farms in Cameron Highlands flattened

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Two illegal farm extensions were flattened by the Centralised Enforcement Team (CET) in Blue Valley and Bertam Valley during simultaneous random operations here.

The operations yesterday targeted encroachment into state and reserve land by farm owners, said CET coordinator Abdul Wahid Salim.

“This is our sixth operation since CET was formed last year. As of September, the CET conducted five monitoring and enforcement activities here. These included the seizure of equipment and machines, detention of illegal immigrants and destruction of illegal farms,” he said in an interview.

Hydroponic farms, alleged to be illegal, and tents set up by foreign workers were also torn down.

Abdul Wahid said the operation involved 140 personnel from the Pahang Land and Mines Department, the state Forestry Department, the state Environmental Department, state Drainage and Irrigation Department, the police and the state Wildlife and National Parks Department.

He said immigration officers were present but no arrests were made.

“Most of the temporary tents set up by the foreign workers were empty. We believe they have already fled,” he added.

A forlorn-looking man, believed to be the owner of one of the farms, was seen holding his head during the operation in Blue Valley.

He declined to comment when approached.

Other farmers interviewed said the crackdown on illegal foreign workers could cause the collapse of the vegetable and flower industries here.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said they were left high and dry when their foreign workers, both legal and illegal, abandoned work to avoid the crackdown.

“Once the announcement on the crackdown was made known, all the foreign workers ran away,” said a 46-year-old vegetable farmer.

“Locals are not keen to work as farmhands. So, we do not have anyone else.”

She added that she used to have 15 foreign workers.

“All the farm owners here are having sleepless nights. We are really worried,” she said.

On Sunday, a huge crackdown on illegals led to the detention of 181 foreign workers.

Many others have gone into hiding or fled.

Another farmer said the foreigners merely wanted to earn a living.

“People always complain that they are criminals. If they have jobs, they will not turn to crime,” he said.

Another farmer lamented over the slow approval process for land grants by the district office, thus causing much uncertainty.

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