Best of our wild blogs: 17 Nov 14

Biodiversity for kids during the December school holidays
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Green Drinks 2014 Year-end Event: What’s the latest with climate change, and how is it affecting you?
from Green Drinks Singapore

Changing People’s Mindset and Shifting Culture
from Green Future Solutions

Singapore Bird Report – October 2014
from Singapore Bird Group

Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda venatoria) @ Sungei Buloh
from Monday Morgue

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Dolphins frolicking in Singapore's backyard

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 17 Nov 14;

Arguably the most beloved wildlife species in the world, dolphins can be found not just in Sentosa's theme parks but also off urban Singapore.

Wild dolphins are common in the country's congested southern waters, and have been since ancient times, said marine scientists. The trouble is, hardly anybody else knows they are there.

Their presence has gone almost completely unnoticed by the public, baffling scientists at the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI), who are trying to raise people's interest and more funds for their work.

In sightings reported to TMSI, at least 169 dolphins were spotted between 2008 and 2011 in the waters between Singapore and Batam, near St John's Island and Pulau Semakau, and as close to shore as Marina Barrage.

At least another 50 were sighted in 2012 - the most recent year that records were kept before TMSI's work was cut short when the conservation fund of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which runs attractions such as the Singapore Zoo, stopped funding a three-year study by TMSI.

The number of sightings last year and this year has largely remained the same, according to anecdotal reports from scientists.

Dolphins are most regularly spotted in the north-facing bay between St John's and Lazarus islands. The waters there are calm, even during monsoon rains, and there are fishes at the nearby coral reefs, said TMSI's Marine Mammal Research Laboratory head Elizabeth Taylor. She said this could be why the dolphins are attracted to the area, for rest and food, as they swim through the waters around Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

TMSI's Marine Biology and Ecology Lab head Tan Koh Siang said scientists at the institute's laboratory on St John's Island have regularly seen dolphins since 2002, when the lab was established.

Last week, a pod of five Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins, also known as pink dolphins, was seen in the waters there by scientists, who posted videos of them on Facebook.

"Even though they are common, for us seeing them in the wild is always exciting... It brings out your inner child and curiosity," said Dr Tan.

Pink dolphins are kept at Underwater World Singapore (UWS). They are the most commonly seen dolphin species in Singapore waters, followed by the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin. There are 23 of the latter species at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).

In May, a dolphin at RWS died - the fourth death in four years. A dolphin in UWS' collection was reported last month to have skin cancer.

Singapore's wild dolphin population and range is unknown. But Dr Taylor said she is optimistic that their numbers are healthy as sightings of them are "greatly" under-reported. Also, sightings of groups of adult dolphins with calves are common. Dolphins are an apex predator, and this is an indication of the health of the marine environment, she said, as it means they have enough fish to eat.

Dr Lena Chan, director of National Parks Board's National Biodiversity Centre, said: "Indeed, the presence of an animal usually associated with pristine environments is an indication that even in our highly urbanised waters, biodiversity can exist."

Dr Taylor said she plans to use social media to spread the word about Singapore's dolphins.

TMSI also has plans to use drones and underwater listening devices from early next year to survey and track the dolphins round the clock, and is seeking funding for this. Those eager to see wild dolphins can camp overnight on St John's Island, said Dr Taylor, and look out for them at dawn and dusk.

Don't be surprised if you see a dolphin swimming in Singapore's waters
Straits Times 15 Nov 14;

Dolphins are regularly spotted in the north-facing bay between St John's and Lazarus islands. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF CON FOLEY

SINGAPORE - Did you know that wild dolphins can be found in Singapore's very own backyard?

In sightings reported to the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI), at least 169 dolphins were spotted between 2008 and 2011 in the waters between Singapore and Batam. The mammals are most regularly spotted in the north-facing bay between St John's and Lazarus islands.

Here are some of the different species of dolphins and other marine mammals found in Singapore's waters:

Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin, or pink dolphin

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin sighted in the Straits of Singapore. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF CON FOLEY

Species most commonly seen in Singapore's waters. They are born black, before turning pink as they grow up. Adults are white.

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins sighted in the Straits of Singapore. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF CON FOLEY

Second most commonly seen species in Singapore's waters. They have a dark grey back with a lighter grey belly.

Irrawaddy dolphin

Rare Irrawaddy dolphins spotted in the Mekong River in Cambodia. -- ST PHOTO: NIRMAL GHOSH

Finless porpoise

A photo of a finless porpoise taken in an unknown location. -- PHOTO: NUS


A photo of a Dugong taken in an unknown location. -- PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

To report sightings of dolphins and other marine mammals, visit this website.

Promote eco-tourism in S'pore
Straits Times 19 Nov 14;

I READ with interest that dolphin sightings are common in our southern waters ("Dolphins frolicking in S'pore's backyard"; last Saturday).

Perhaps the Singapore Tourism Board can think of ways to promote our country as an eco-tourism hub, where visitors can learn more about our marine environment's biodiversity.

How about promoting dolphin-watching boat rides, or sunset tours to take in the sight of sea turtles, dugongs and otters in our waters?

To be sure, we have done an incredible job in creating world-class theme parks, gardens and aquariums, and this has transformed Singapore into a fun and entertaining destination.

But let us show a different facet of our island to tourists and Singaporeans.

Eco-tourism is a growing industry in neighbouring countries. Langkawi and Bali have mangrove forest tours, Australia has whale watching, and Vietnam has kayaking trips at its spectacular Halong Bay.

Let us think beyond man-made constructs and see how Singapore can be transformed into a place where nature is better appreciated.

Gabriel Chen Weijin

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More than 150 students from Asia examine issues of biodiversity, sustainability

Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 17 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Technologies (ST) Endowment Programme (STEP) on Monday (Nov 17) kicked off the second STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme, involving more than 150 students from here and eight countries across Asia.

The five-day programmes will see the student participants - from Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand - challenged to examine the conflicting demands of biodiversity conservation and urban development. They will also take part in workshops and environmental study visits, including nature walks conducted by NUS staff at Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve, MacRitchie Forest Adventure and St John's Island.

Chairman of STEP and Director of Special Projects at the NUS Faculty of Science Professor Leo Tan said: "Rapid urbanisation, population growth and economic progress have given rise to challenges in conserving our natural environment.

"Through this programme, I hope that students can develop a thorough understanding of the issues affecting the future of our planet. In time to come, I hope that they can, in one way or another, play a role in improving the environment of their own school, community and society," he added.

The STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme was first launched in 2013, with the aim of nurturing environmental leaders among youths.

- CNA/kk

Urbanisation done right may be positive: Dr Balakrishnan
SIAU MING EN Today Online 17 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — Urbanisation is an unstoppable trend but it is not necessarily bad for the environment if cities are planned with the right principles, values and perspectives, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan today (Nov 17).

The unit cost of providing water, electricity, education and culture opportunities is also lower in cities, noted Dr Balakrishnan, who was speaking at the opening ceremony of the second Singapore Technologies Endowment Programme — National University of Singapore (STEP-NUS) Sunburst Environment Programme.

For example, he cited an example of how compact, dense and well-planned cities spend less on building infrastructure to provide piped water and electricity to everyone.

“If you are an environmentalist, if you want to conserve resources — urbanisation is a good thing, it’s not a bad thing because it allows us consume less resources...,” he said.

Other major threats to our environment raised by Dr Balakrishnan include climate change, haze and the depletion of natural resources. Haze is a “special case of pollution”, said Dr Balakrishnan, adding that that real problem with pollution lies with people’s values.

For instance, those who burn forests benefit from the profits of producing palm oil. However, the subsequent haze and damage to the environment will be felt by others.

The solution lies in getting the politics and economics right, he added.

The STEP-NUS programme allows students from Singapore and across Asia — aged between 13 and 15 — the opportunity to take part in a five-day programme where they are able to attend lectures delivered by leading scientists in biodiversity, conservation and sustainability. Over 150 students in the programme will also make study visits at Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve and St John’s Island, among other places.

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Dearer fish after Malaysia cuts supply

Ng Lian Cheong Channel NewsAsia 16 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: Prices of fish in Singapore have seen an increase after a cut in supply from Malaysia. The price of yellowtail scad or ikan selar, for example, has gone up by about 14 per cent from S$7 per kilogramme to S$8 per kilogramme.

Some fishmongers at the wet market in Chinatown said the price rise came after Malaysia issued a directive to stop fish exports to Singapore and Thailand from this month. Malaysia has said this is due to an anticipated shortage during the monsoon season.

The Singapore Fish Merchant's General Association said the impact is mitigated by the diversity of sources in Singapore. Singapore also imports fish from countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

However some fish sellers said they have started to see supply from Malaysia trickling back. "One week ago, there were fewer fish - about 3 per cent less. But now there's a bit more. The customers understand. If I raise the price, they will ask me for a discount, and I do try to give them."

"It is a necessity...we do eat quite a bit of fish...of course we might scale back a little but not too much," said a customer. "Depends on your family; if you can afford to buy, you buy, if you can't afford, you take the small fish," said another.

- CNA/ir

Prices of some fish set to rise after KL export ban
Malaysia won't be supplying five types of fish for two months
JESSICA LIM, Straits Times 17 Nov 14;

Singapore fish importers are paying at least 20 per cent more for five types of fish banned for export for two months by Malaysia.

The increase will, in turn, likely force fishmongers at wet markets to raise their prices by between 10 per cent and 30 per cent, they told The Straits Times yesterday.

But the situation varies at Singapore's three main supermarket chains.

Prices at Sheng Siong have risen by an average of 10 per cent while NTUC FairPrice expects prices to increase soon.

Cold Storage, however, is keeping its prices unchanged for now, said a spokesman.

The fish that Malaysia has banned for export since last Wednesday are: Indian mackerel (kembung), short bodied mackerel (pelaling), hardtail scad (cencaru), round scad (selayang) and one finlet scad (selar).

The importers said Malaysia's Fisheries Development Authority notified them of the ban three days before it took effect.

It did not give any reason but the president of the Singapore Fish Merchants' General Association, Mr Lee Boon Cheow, suspects that it could be due to a shortage of the fish in Malaysia.

"Typically, during this time, there is a shortage because it is the fasting (Ramadan) period and the fishermen don't go out to sea. So supply falls," he said.

The association will meet today to discuss the issue, Mr Lee added.

Singapore gets 28 per cent of its fish supply from Malaysia, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). The banned species form the bulk of the imports.

The AVA also said it is monitoring the situation and that importers are looking at alternative sources to meet local demand.

Fish merchants like Mr Kenneth Lim have already turned to suppliers from Indonesia and Thailand.

"We've very good links with suppliers all over the world. We just call them and, the next day, the fish is here," said Mr Lim, who is the owner of Elite Fisheries and Trading. He imports about 10 tonnes of fish from Malaysia each month, half of which are of the banned variety.

But smaller merchants like Mr Eric Teo are in a bind.

He said prices of the kembung and selar fish he sells have risen from $4.50 per kg last week to about $7.50 per kg - an almost 70 per cent increase.

Size matters in the business, according to Mr Lee.

"Larger wholesalers and retailers have greater bargaining power. Their suppliers won't dare to increase prices by much.

"But smaller players, like the wet market fishmongers, buy today and sell today at market prices," Mr Lee added.

Sheng Siong's spokesman said supply from Thailand and Indonesia is helping to meet demand, "so our prices did not go up significantly".

FairPrice, Singapore's largest grocery store chain with 116 outlets, expects prices of the banned fish "to increase slightly by the end of the week".

It is working closely with suppliers and has various sources to tap, added its director of purchasing and merchandising, Mrs Mui-Kok Kah Wei.

Meanwhile, Singaporeans like cleaner Joriah Awang are making the switch to other types of fish.

The 56-year-old used to stir-fry the kembung and selar fish with sambal for her daily lunch or breakfast.

Now, she uses other small fish like the kekek.

Similarly, teacher Peggy Lim, 46, who regularly cooks the banned fish, said: "When prices increase, I'll look at the fish's freshness. If it's so-so, I won't buy it."

Additional reporting by Linette Lai

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Singapore's green champions foster the love of gardening

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 16 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The Clean and Green Singapore 2015 campaign is well underway. But even before the campaign began, some eco-warriors have been doing their bit to foster the love of gardening in their communities.

One such green champion is James Lam Mong Wai, the man behind innovations such as lights that stimulate plant growth, edible plants that are ready for harvesting in just weeks and vertical growing systems.

The 54-year-old aims to help busy urbanites grow vegetables in their living spaces. "We all live in a very land-shortage area or country. So the need really is to try to find a way to grow vertically just to save space," said Mr Lam, consultant and irrigation designer at UGrowGardens.

"Also, the important thing is to be able to grow things close to where you live, not way out in a farm somewhere in Lim Chu Kang or something, because this way, you can actually have your vegetables exactly where you want them. It also reduces the carbon footprint.”

He also started a rooftop garden at Bugis Cube, so that people can come together to grow vegetables. The garden now has six volunteers.

Mr Lam was one of seven people who recently received the Community in Bloom Ambassador award for promoting gardening in their communities. The award is part of the National Parks Board's Community In Bloom programme, which is into its 10th year.

Another recipient is 57-year-old Jennifer Tan. The vice-principal of Bedok View Secondary School had turned part of her school's rooftop into a garden. "I have a huge rooftop which is unused,” she said. “Students keep destroying stuff on the ground floor so I thought maybe I'll have something up sky-high, where they can come and learn. It's a life lab of some sort, at the same time, to cool the entire building down.

"We had a lot of joy. At the beginning, we were too excited with the farm so we had kangkong throughout the whole farm. When we harvested it was over 600 kilogrammes. 600 kilogrammes equates to four months of sales, which is very difficult. And then we had some problems with bayam. We then converted to peanuts, but then we harvested over 600 kilogrammes of peanuts and we didn’t know what to do with them!"

She believes the farm has helped the students, too. "Our students from the Service Learning Club have won quite a lot of awards in their projects - all relating to the farm,” she said. “Then, our Chinese department used the farm and they submitted articles to the newspapers as well. We have had our info-comm club come up here and take photographs. They've won quite a few competitions too.

“But more importantly, students could apply what they learn in class in the farm here, whether it's maths, geography or science, and they have hands-on (activities). They're also allowed to think for themselves, experiment with the different strengths of enzymes, experiment how to create their own insecticides, using chilli powder, belachan, lemongrass, cooking oil. So it's like a playground for them."

Apart from promoting a love for gardening, the Community in Bloom programme also provides opportunities for people from different backgrounds to come together. There are now more than 700 gardens under the Community in Bloom programme, and since 2008, 36 Community in Bloom ambassadors have been appointed."

- CNA/ec

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NEA, South East CDC to groom student 'Eco Kepalas'

Channel NewsAsia 16 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency and South East Community Development Council have inked a three-year partnership with 10 schools in the South East district to groom students as "Eco Kepalas" or environmental champions.

This was announced by Member of Parliament for East Coast GRC Jessica Tan, who was the Guest-of-Honour at the South East Clean & Green Singapore (CGS) Carnival held at Changi City Point on Sunday (Nov 16).

These environmental champions will attend workshops and be immersed in community settings to aid them in identifying gaps and challenges on the environmental front. They will be provided with seed funding of up to S$500 per project to test and implement their solutions to the issues.

The NEA and South East CDC hope that the exposure would nurture students to be forward-looking individuals who are committed to driving clean and green initiatives.

- CNA/ec

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Malaysia: Dino fossils found on Terengganu mountain

JOSEPH KAOS JR New Straits Times 17 Nov 14;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Scientists and geologists who trekked a moun­tain in upper Terengganu have discovered what they believe to be fossils of three different types of dinosaurs that may have lived in the area 66 million years ago or earlier.

The fossils are said to be unrelated to those found earlier in Pa­­hang by a Universiti Malaya re­­search team, including an an­­nounce­­ment last Thursday that they had discovered a fossil tooth of what is believed to be a herbivorous dinosaur in a sedimentary rock formation.

The specimen was found not far from the location of where the first dinosaur fossil was discovered and announced in February as that of the carnivorous Spinosauridae di­­no­­­­saur.

The exact location of the Pahang discoveries was not disclosed to prevent raiders from entering the site.

The discoveries in Terengganu came during a 10-day expedition at Gunung Gagau carried out by the Mineral and Geoscience Depart­­ment and the Malaysian Geological Heritage Group on Oct 13.

“They are significant findings that will lead to even more dinosaur fossil discoveries,” said department director-general Datuk Yunus Abdul Razak at the unveiling of the fossils at Wisma Darul Iman here yesterday.

He said the fossils found at the mountain in Hulu Terengganu were unrelated to the ones discovered in Pahang and were also from different dinosaur species.

“Also, the fossils that we found were more intact, " he said.

The fossils, which consisted of several footprints, bones and teeth, were possibly of three different dinosaur species.

A tooth, measuring about 1.5cm in length, and two footprints which were found at some rock boulders are believed to be of the Iguanodon dinosaur species.

Two other different footprints were also found, believed to be that of dinosaurs of the theropod and sauropod families.

The dinosaur bones that were unearthed from a rock outcrop have yet to be identified.

The Iguanodon dinosaurs were large, bulky herbivores, known for their spiked thumbs and iguana-like teeth.

They lived in the late Jurassic period to the late Cretaceous period, which is about 163 million to 66 million years ago.

Fossils of the Iguanodon were previously found in Korat, Thailand.

Sauropods were enormous plant-eating dinosaurs with long necks, similar to the giraffe, while theropods were primarily carnivorous dinosaurs.

Yunus said the next step was to find the best way to preserve the discovery site.

This he said was in order to prevent it from being damaged by unscrupulous parties.

“We will have a discussion with the Forestry Department as well as the Wildlife and National Parks Department on how to protect this area,” he said.

As early as the 1970s, Gunung Gagau, at the Kenyir Lake national park, was identified to have fossilised remains in its hills.

Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman said the discovery was “a proud moment for the people of Terengganu.”

“This will also provide added value for gazetting the Kenyir lake area into a geopark,” he said.

Fossil find in the nick of time
JOSEPH KAOS JR The Star 17 Nov 14;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Any paleontologist would say that discovering dinosaur fossils is one of the best moments in his career.

For Prof Dr Mohd Shafea Leman, arriving at that point was a long, tortuous affair.

The Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) paleontologist said that the discovery of the dinosaur fossil at Mount Gagau, Hulu Terengganu was a result of many years of perseverance and personal belief.

“My first expedition to Mount Gagau was in 1997, and after studying the rocks of that mountain, I knew it was very possible for dinosaur fossils to be found there.

“I came back in 2008 and I hoped to find dinosaur fossils, but failed again.

“This is my third expedition and finally, I found dinosaur fossils, proving all along that what I said in 1997 was true,” said Mohd Shafea, describing the moment as a mix of euphoria and relief.

“It was an exciting and proud moment but at the same time, I was relieved as I only have a few years left before retiring.

“I guess you could say I was third time lucky!” he chuckled.

Mohd Shafea said the discovery showed that dinosaurs once roam­­ed Malaysia, and he is optimistic that more remains will be found in the country.

“Hopefully, this would also stir more interest in palaeontology amongst Malaysians.”

Fossil find in the nick of time
JOSEPH KAOS JR The Star 17 Nov 14;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Any paleontologist would say that discovering dinosaur fossils is one of the best moments in his career.

For Prof Dr Mohd Shafea Leman, arriving at that point was a long, tortuous affair.

The Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) paleontologist said that the discovery of the dinosaur fossil at Mount Gagau, Hulu Terengganu was a result of many years of perseverance and personal belief.

“My first expedition to Mount Gagau was in 1997, and after studying the rocks of that mountain, I knew it was very possible for dinosaur fossils to be found there.

“I came back in 2008 and I hoped to find dinosaur fossils, but failed again.

“This is my third expedition and finally, I found dinosaur fossils, proving all along that what I said in 1997 was true,” said Mohd Shafea, describing the moment as a mix of euphoria and relief.

“It was an exciting and proud moment but at the same time, I was relieved as I only have a few years left before retiring.

“I guess you could say I was third time lucky!” he chuckled.

Mohd Shafea said the discovery showed that dinosaurs once roam­­ed Malaysia, and he is optimistic that more remains will be found in the country.

“Hopefully, this would also stir more interest in palaeontology amongst Malaysians.”

Fossils of dinosaurs found in Tasik Kenyir area
ROSLI ZAKARIA New Straits Times 17 Nov 14;

KUALA TERENGGANU: THE fossilised remains of a carnivorous and two herbivorous dinosaurs, said to have roamed the country some 250 million years ago, have been found at Sungai Cicir within the Tasik Kenyir national park.

The surprise discovery during an expedition last month, which was led by geologists from the Department of Minerals and Geoscience, has opened the possibility of turning part of Tasik Kenyir and a sizeable area near the lake, where the fossils were discovered, into a geopark recognised by the Unesco Global Geoparks Networks.

The team of geologists, led by Professor Dr Mohd Shafee Leman of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, made the breakthrough when they found a fossilised tooth of an Iguanodon, which was embedded in a boulder at Sungai Cicir.

The Iguanodons were large, partly bipedal herbivorous dinosaurs of the early to mid-Cretaceous period. The species had thumbs that developed into spikes and had broad stiff tails.

Other than the fossilised tooth, the team also discovered fossilised footprints belonging to a few species of dinosaurs — believed to be that of the Iguanodon, Theropod and Sauropod.

Also unearthed near the Sungai Cicir site were the bones of a
Sauropod and fossilised plants,
including petrified wood.

The Theropods were carnivorous dinosaurs and were typically bipedal, while the Sauropods were huge quadrupedal herbivorous dinosaurs with long necks and tails, small heads, and massive limbs.

“We are trying to identify the exact species of the dinosaurs and to conduct more geological research in the area.

“We are confident of discovering more fossils,” Shafee said after Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman made the announcement about the discovery at Wisma Darul Iman here yesterday.

Academically, he said the discovery had opened a new dimension in the geological research fraternity in the country, as well as expanding the scope of geotourism and ecotourism in the state.

More importantly, he said the fossils, which had remained
untouched for millions of years, needed to be protected from poachers.

Meanwhile, Razif said the discovery would add value towards the realisation of a geopark in Tasik Kenyir.

“The fossilised dinosaurs and plants, along with limestone caves like Gua Bewah and Gua Taat can be made into an attractive tourist package and help boost the tourism industry in Terengganu,” he said.

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Malaysia: One million trees to be planted in Cameron Highlands

New Straits Times 17 Nov 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: No more high rise buildings like hotels or condominiums in Cameron Highlands says Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel.

“A programme to plant one million trees will be activated. We are discussing with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro Based Industry and Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water. We do not want high rise buildings in Cameron Highlands,” he told reporters after meeting non governmental organisations to discuss environmental issues involving Cameron Highlands, here today.

He said one million trees will be planted in Cameron Highlands, especially hill slopes to reduce soil erosion and avoid landslides.

Palanivel said the programme to plant trees would start in stages for over a three-year period with the cooperation of Persatuan Pencinta Alam Malaysia (MNS), Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach) and Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka).

He said the ministry would also acquire 11 plots of land along the river banks of Sungai Bertam, Ringlet here, currently owned by individuals, under the Land Acquisition Act 1960, he said.

Palanivel said the land acquisition was to enable works to be carried out in the area, especially to deepen the river, since the government had already allocated RM40 million for the purpose.

Asked about the proposed relocation of residents occupying the river banks and river reserves especially in Lembah Bertam, Ringlet where landslides and mud flood hit the area recently, and the refusal of residents to move to a new area, Palanivel said it was the responsibility of the state government to take the necessary steps.

Meanwhile, the President of Reach, R. Ramakrishnan said land on the highland was not designated for tourism but Cameron Highlands has become a tourist attraction because of the cool weather conditions.

“Development carried in the area is illegal because the issuance of temporary occupation licence (TOL) was freezed in 2007. We need the commitment of the state government and the federal government to save Cameron Highlands,” he said.

Ramakrishnan said Reach, MNS and Peka would like to take Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to Cameron Highlands so that he (Muhyiddin) can witness what has happened to the area.

Peka President Sharifah Sabrina Syed Akil said enforcement was either lacking or not being carried out effectively in Cameron Highlands.

“If they have money and machinery, they just do it. There is no proper enforcement action,” said Sharifah.

Ramakrishnan and Sharifah Sabrina were also not satisfied with the discussion with Palanivel and a number of government agencies with regard to follow up action after the Ringlet town was hit by landslides and a mud flood when water from a nearby river overflowed after a heavy downpour.

In the incident, five people died and five others were injured while 203 residents from 47 families in Kampung Baru and Bertam Valley were evacuated to the Ringlet community hall. - Bernama

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Malaysia: Lojing hill cutting may lead to floods


KOTA BARU: JUNGLE clearing and hill cutting to make way for farming and mixed agriculture projects in Lojing Highlands, Gua Musang, might lead to a disaster similar to what is happening in neighbouring Cameron Highlands.

Lojing land and sub-district officer Nik Abdul Rahman Nik Yusoff said the situation in Lojing could worsen if authorities did not keep a close watch on the activities.

However, he said, the land clearing was under control as only a small portion, which covers 181,700ha, was being developed.

He said the office had not received any report on erosions or landslides despite the deforestation for conversion of land into vegetable farms.

“We found that many of the companies rent the land from local owners and have cleared the jungle to plant vegetables.

“But, the problem is that many have breached the law by not following the tree-planting specifications, and we cannot take action against them as it is out of our jurisdiction... Their farms are not on state land,” he said yesterday.

Nik Rahman said he needed to discuss with other authorities, such as the district council and the Department of Environment, on the kind of action that could be taken against the offenders.

“I admit there are areas that have been damaged due to the land-opening activities, but the number is small and not alarming.”

He said no Orang Asli settlements near the farms had been affected.

“Although it is still safe in Lojing, we will not take this lightly. With the help of other agencies, departments and the Federal Government, we will continue with our enforcement to ensure no untoward incidents happen in Lojing,” he said.

Kelantan Umno chief Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, when asked to comment on the issue, said the authorities in Kelantan must have a database of areas damaged by erosion or landslide so that the public would be aware of the situation.

“The database is important so that action can be taken once the problem arises.

“Secondly, enforcement must be carried out from time to time to check on those who may have breached the law, which can lead to the destruction of the land,” said Mustapa, who is also the international trade and industry minister.

The New Straits Times highlighted last year that the rampant jungle clearing, hill cutting and river pollution covering massive areas of Lojing Highlands had continued.

In was reported that huge swathes of highlands had been stripped bare of trees, and there were signs that the clearings occurred despite the state government’s contention that Lojing had been cleared of timber before 1990.

Deputy Menteri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah had then said the land in Lojing was being cleared to make way for farms and mixed-development projects, but denied that any logging was going on.

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Indonesia: Preserving Yogyakarta’s Sea Turtle Nest Sites

Aside from beach erosion, poaching and garbage are said to be contributing to dwindling turtle populations
Ari Susanto Jakarta Globe 16 Nov 14;

Sea-turtle preservation has led to an ecotourism boom in the Yogyakarta area as volunteers, keen to prevent extinction, flock to the area. (JG Photo/Ari Susanto)

Yogyakarta. Relentless erosion, tourist’s litter, and poaching continue to reduce the sea turtle population on Yogyakarta’s sandy beaches. Only the Oliver Ridley species still shows up in small numbers to lay eggs, while three others previously found nesting on the coastline — Green turtles, Leatherbacks and Hawksbills — have not appeared there in the past few years.

The Bantul Turtle Conservation Forum (FKPB), a community-based organization founded under supervision of the Natural Resource Conservation Agency to increase turtle populations, has noticed a significant decrease in the number of turtles emerging to lay eggs on Samas beach during nesting season between April and September each year. Wave erosion of beaches is the biggest cause as it limits the turtle’s nesting zones.

“Samas was once a favorite place for the turtles to lay eggs, but continuous waves eroding coastal land is reducing the sandy area every year. It is a serious problem to solve in turtle conservation,” FKPB coordinator Rujito told the Jakarta Globe.

Rampant tides have also ruined turtle conservation sites in Samas that were built to protect hatchlings from poachers and animal predators before they are released into the ocean. The forum has moved the site into a more protected sandy area covered by coastal-oak woodland and built new pools and hatching pots.

In addition to beach erosion, Rujito said poaching and garbage are contributing to dwindling turtle populations.

Some fishermen continue to hunt the turtles illegally and sell them on the black market for their carapaces and organs.

Garbage left by tourists also worsens the coastal environment for the reptiles as many turtles are found dead after swallowing plastic.

In Gunungkidul, Yogyakarta’s district with some of the most attractive beaches, the turtle population has also declined due to increased tourism. Gunungkidul’s Sea and Fishery Office conducts research on each beach with turtle nesting spots so that the government can limit access by large groups of tourists to those areas.

“We’re doing field research at around 35 beaches and also hearing from fishermen and local residents to collect data. Seven of the areas are confirmed as turtle nesting grounds,” the office’s head Agus Priyanto said.

Some beaches, such as Drini beach, are also identified as abandoned nesting spots, because turtles no longer visit due to tourist overcrowding. Agus recommends that the beaches with existing nesting grounds are open only for ecotourism aimed at turtle conservation, and that it should not be open to the general public.

In Bantul area, the Turtle Conservation Volunteers Network promotes ecotourism by asking people to participate in the release of baby turtles on some beaches, usually during July and August.

Through the Save Our Turtles program, the volunteers lead campaigns to attract people to join in protecting turtles from extinction.

“We want to help turtle conservation by preserving the population and also support ecotourism in Bantul,” volunteer coordinator Ferry Munandar said.

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Global appetite for resources pushing new species to the brink – IUCN Red List

IUCN 17 Nov 14;

Pacific Bluefin Tuna, Chinese Pufferfish, American Eel, Chinese Cobra and an Australian butterfly are threatened with extinction

Fishing, logging, mining, agriculture and other activities to satisfy our growing appetite for resources are threatening the survival of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna, Chinese Pufferfish, American Eel and Chinese Cobra, while the destruction of habitat has caused the extinction of a Malaysian mollusc and the world’s largest known earwig, and threatens the survival of many other species – according to the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ released today at the IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in Sydney, Australia.

The IUCN Red List, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, now includes 76,199 assessed species, of which 22,413 are threatened with extinction. As nearly half of the newly assessed species occur within protected areas, IUCN calls for better management of these places to stop further biodiversity decline.

“Each update of the IUCN Red List makes us realize that our planet is constantly losing its incredible diversity of life, largely due to our destructive actions to satisfy our growing appetite for resources,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “But we have scientific evidence that protected areas can play a central role in reversing this trend. Experts warn that threatened species poorly represented in protected areas are declining twice as fast as those which are well represented. Our responsibility is to increase the number of protected areas and ensure that they are effectively managed so that they can contribute to saving our planet’s biodiversity.”

With today’s update, the Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus orientalis) has moved from the Least Concern category to Vulnerable, which means that it is now threatened with extinction. The species is extensively targeted by the fishing industry for the sushi and sashimi markets predominantly in Asia. Most of the fish caught are juveniles which have not yet had a chance to reproduce and the population is estimated to have declined by 19 to 33% over the past 22 years.

Existing marine protected areas do not provide sufficient protection for the species. The expansion of marine protected areas, within 200 miles of the coast and incorporating breeding areas, could help conserve the species, according to IUCN experts.

“The Pacific Bluefin Tuna market value continues to rise,” says Bruce Collette, Chair, IUCN Species Survival CommissionTuna and Billfish Specialist Group. “Unless fisheries implement the conservation and management measures developed for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including a reduction in the catches of juvenile fish, we cannot expect its status to improve in the short term.”

The Chinese Pufferfish (Takifugu chinensis) has entered the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. Its global population is estimated to have declined by 99.99% over the past 40 years due to overexploitation. A popular food fish in Japan, it is among the top four fugu species consumed as sashimi. One of the world’s most poisonous fish, fugu need to be expertly prepared before consumption. The Chinese Pufferfish occurs in several marine protected areas throughout the coastal waters of China. Conservation measures, such as the creation of marine protected areas which are annually closed to trawling, have been implemented. However, harvest still needs to be urgently controlled to prevent the species’ extinction, say IUCN experts.

The American Eel (Anguilla rostrata), listed as Endangered is threatened by barriers to migration; climate change; parasites; pollution; habitat loss and commercial harvest. Due to the decline of the Japanese Eel (Anguilla japonica), also listed as Endangered, the intensive eel farming industry in East Asia is seeking to replenish seed stock with other species, such as the American Eel. This has led to increased reports of poaching of the American Eel in the United States.

Whilst the combination of these threats is placing pressure on the species, positive conservation action could result in an improvement in its status.

The Chinese Cobra (Naja atra) has been newly assessed as Vulnerable. Its population has declined by 30 to 50% over the past 20 years. Chinese Cobras are found in south-eastern China, Taiwan, northern Viet Nam and Lao PDR, and are among the top animal species exported from mainland China to Hong Kong for the food market. Chinese Cobras are found in protected areas such as Ailaoshan Nature Reserve, Daweishan Nature Reserve (Yunnan) and Kenting National Park (Taiwan). Although international trade in the species is regulated, there is an urgent need to strengthen national conservation initiatives to ensure its survival.

“The growing food market is putting unsustainable pressure on these and other species,” says Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Group. “We urgently need to impose strict limits on harvesting and take appropriate measures to protect habitats.”

This Red List update also highlights several species that have been impacted by habitat destruction, including all 66 threatened chameleon species, despite some of these species occurring within protected areas. The Giant East Usambara Blade-horned Chameleon, (Kinyongia matschiei), endemic to the East Usambara mountains of Tanzania, has been listed as Endangered. Like many other chameleons, this species uses colour for communication. It also darkens when stressed and wraps its tail around branches to remain secure. Found in the Amani Nature Reserve, a protected area, this reptile is threatened by the clearance of forests for agriculture, charcoal production and extraction of timber.

The Black Grass-dart Butterfly (Ocybadistes knightorum) has entered the IUCN Red List as Endangered. Found only in the northern New South Wales coastal region of Australia, the species is threatened primarily due to the invasion of introduced weeds and coastal development destroying its habitat. A significant proportion of its habitat exists in protected areas such as Bongil Bongil National Park and Gaagal Wonggan (South Beach) National Park, and the effective management of these areas could play an important role in securing the species’ future. The threat from weed invasion is being managed in some reserves where key habitat patches have responded well to weeding, resulting in successful habitat rehabilitation.

Two species have been declared Extinct due to habitat destruction. Plectostoma sciaphilum, a snail known from a single limestone hill in Peninsular Malaysia is now listed as Extinct as a result of the hill being entirely destroyed by limestone quarrying by a large company. The future of several other species in the region is uncertain for similar reasons. Whilst some mining companies are starting to take the necessary steps to reduce impact, IUCN is urging stronger commitment to prevent further extinctions.

The St Helena Giant Earwig (Labidura herculeana) – the world’s largest known earwig attaining a length of up to 80 mm – has also gone extinct. Previously found in Horse Point Plain, a protected area on St Helena Island, the last confirmed live adult of this insect was seen in May 1967. Since the early 1960s, its habitat has been degraded by the removal of nearly all shelter-providing surface stones for construction purposes. Increased predator pressures from mice, rats and invasive predatory invertebrates also contributed to the earwig’s extinction.

“These recent extinctions could have been avoided through better habitat protection,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “Today’s update also highlights two amphibian species which have improved in status thanks to successful management of Colombia’s Ranita Dorada Reserve, where they occur. We need to take more responsibility for our actions to see many more successes like this one, and to have a positive impact on the health of our planet.”

Sashimi trend helps edge Pacific bluefin tuna towards extinction
Channel NewsAsia 17 Nov 14;

SYDNEY: The Pacific bluefin tuna, a fish used in sushi and sashimi dishes, is at risk of extinction as the global food market places "unsustainable pressure" on the species and others, a conservation body warned on Monday (Nov 17).

The bluefin tuna joined the Chinese pufferfish, American eel, Chinese cobra and Australian black grass-dart butterfly on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) "red list" of threatened species. The updated list was released by the IUCN at its once-a-decade World Parks Congress in Sydney as it called for better management of protected areas, where some of the decline in species levels has taken place.

"Each update of the IUCN 'red list' makes us realise that our planet is constantly losing its incredible diversity of life, largely due to our destructive actions to satisfy our growing appetite for resources," IUCN's director-general Julia Marton-Lefevre said. "But we have scientific evidence that protected areas can play a central role in reversing this trend," she added.

For this year's list, the IUCN assessed 76,199 species, with 22,413 judged to be under threat. The Pacific bluefin tuna moved from the "least concern" threat category to "vulnerable" as the species is threatened with extinction due to its use in Asia's sushi and sashimi markets, the Swiss-based group said.

As most of the fish caught are juveniles that have not yet reproduced, the population has dropped by 19-33 per cent over the past 22 years. The group called for fisheries to implement conservation and management measures for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.


The Chinese pufferfish, a Japanese delicacy and one of the world's most poisonous vertebrates, was listed as "critically endangered" and its population was estimated to have plunged by 99 per cent over the past four decades from over-exploitation.

The American eel is reeling from the impact of climate change, parasites, pollution, habitat loss and commercial harvesting, as well as having been hit by the high levels of consumption of its counterpart, the Japanese eel.

The IUCN categorised the Chinese cobra as "vulnerable" with the population falling 30-50 per cent over the past two decades - another species hurt by its popularity as a food source.

"The growing food market is putting unsustainable pressure on these and other species," the IUCN's biodiversity head Jane Smart said. "We urgently need to impose strict limits on harvesting and take appropriate measures to protect habitats."

Another species added to the list was the Malaysian snail Charopa Lafargei - named after the French construction giant Lafarge, which has agreed to try and limit its quarrying activities in the snails' habitat - the report said. Two species, the Malaysian mollusc plectostoma sciaphilum and the St Helena Giant Earwig, were declared extinct due to habitat destruction.

But there was good news for two amphibians in Colombia's Ranita Dorada Reserve - both members of the poison dart frogs family - which improved in status and are now categorised as "vulnerable" due to conservation efforts.

The World Parks Congress, which will outline a global agenda for protected areas for the next decade before closing on Nov 19, comes a month after the member nations of the UN's Convention of Biological Diversity met in South Korea to lay out a roadmap to halt species extinction by 2020. The World Wildlife Fund said in its Living Planet Report published in September that there has been a 52 per cent decline in mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish overall from 1970 to 2010.

- AFP/al

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IUCN report says jury still out on biofuels, calls for more research on biodiversity impacts

IUCN 15 Nov 14;

Sydney, Australia, 15 November 2014 (IUCN) – Food security, land grabs and human rights abuses are just some of the harmful impacts identified with the production of biofuels at a global scale, according to a new IUCN report released today at the IUCN World Parks Congress.

The report, A Global Assessment of the Environmental and Social Impacts Caused by the Production and Use of Biofuel, synthesises the biodiversity and social impacts of bioenergy production, mainly drawing on the latest literature related to liquid biofuels. It concludes that, although the volume and quality of research evidence has grown significantly in the past years, gaps remain. Some of these gaps are geographical, while others relate to certain feedstocks.

Further, the report finds that current biofuels policies and practices run the risk of undermining food security, while degrading ecosystems through deforestation, agrochemical pollution and the introduction of invasive species and genetically modified feedstock.

“The jury is still out on biofuels and more evidence is needed to show how well-managed biofuels production can contribute to sustainable energy, landscapes and livelihoods,” said Doris Cellarius, Co-Chair of the IUCN Cross-Theme Biofuels Task Force.

“The impact of biofuels on protected areas is especially under-researched,” she added. “This is vital for understanding the effects on biodiversity.”

The report recognises that sustainable biofuels are a key component for climate mitigation strategies, particularly in the transport sector. However, it finds that there is limited information about the effectiveness and potential for such strategies.

“Given that the use of bioenergy is expected to increase in the coming years, more research and metrics are needed to better understand the impacts of biofuel production on biodiversity and society,” said Giulia Carbone, Deputy Director of IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme. “Emerging models suggest that sustainable biofuel production could improve rural livelihoods, while safeguarding the environment, so it is important to investigate these efforts further.”

The available literature has provided little documentation of the positive impacts of biofuels production. More studies are needed as emerging models indicate how smallholders can benefit. The Global Assessment provides suggestions for additional action and research. It is hoped that activists and scientists will see them as opportunities to be more engaged in this issue.

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