Best of our wild blogs: 31 Jul 15

Moonlight survey of East Coast Park
wild shores of singapore

Macro Photography Outings – June 2015
Bugs & Insects of Singapore

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Malaysia: Sabah halts land clearing at habitat of proboscis monkey

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 31 Jul 15;

The latest drone image taken this month showing that a substantial amount of land has been cleared compared to 2012. The yellow dots represent the daily movements of the collared proboscis monkey in 2012.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has ordered an immediate stop to land clearing at sensitive riparian reserves along the Kinabatangan river.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun’s announcement came after the phenomenon was highlighted in newspapers yesterday.

“We are also investigating those involved in the land clearing,” he said, adding that the issue was being probed by the Forestry Department as well as the Land and Survey Department.

On Wednesday, conservationist and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) director Dr Benoit Goossens said they had noticed wildlife habitats on the eastern side of the Kinabatangan river degrading despite numerous attempts at restoring the integrity of buffer zones.

He said the latest incident was where riparian forests along the Kinabatangan river and one of its tributaries, Sungai Sukau, were being cleared for rubber planting.

“I understand that the land that has been cleared is native land, but what about the riparian reserve that was cleared at the corner of the Kinabatangan river and along Sungai Sukau?” he asked.

“With continuous degradation and loss of habitat in the Kinabatangan river, I now wonder whether the proboscis monkey and other wildlife species have a chance to sustain viable populations in this iconic eco-tourism jewel,” Dr Goossens said.

He said the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary was one of the best places in Borneo to encounter Bornean elephants, orang utan, proboscis monkeys, estuarine ­crocodiles, storm storks, rhinoceros hornbills and hundreds of other species, and tourists would desert the region if nothing was left to see there.

“I am questioning the meaning behind the ‘Kinabatangan Corridor of Life’ concept, when every year, bit by bit, the forest along the Kinabatangan river is cleared.

“It is ironic when organisations spend millions of ringgit and many man hours to restore riparian reserves and deforested land when, at the same time, the forests are still being cleared,” Dr Goossens said.

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Indonesia: Haze thickens in Pekanbaru as hot spots drastically increase

Rizal Harahap, 30 Jul 15;

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru, Riau, has warned the country that air pollution will get worse as of Thursday morning. Terra and Aqua satellites detected 186 hot spots spread across eight regencies and municipalities throughout the province. On the previous day, Riau had only 40 hot spots spread throughout seven regencies and municipalities.

The agency reported that Pelalawan had 60 hot spots, making it the regency with the highest number of hot spots. Indragiri Hulu ranked second with 54 hot spots, followed by Indragiri Hilir (45), Siak (11), Dumai (six), Bengkalis (five), Kampar (thee) and Kuantan Singingi (two).

On Wednesday, BMKG Pekanbaru spotted one hot spot in Rokan Hilir regency.

“The hot spot disappeared on Thursday morning. However, five new hot spots have suddenly turned up in Kampar and Kuantan Singingi,” the agency said.

“As many as 140 of the total hot spots detected are fire spots with a trust level of above 70 percent. This indicates that there have been land fires in those areas,” BMKG Pekanbaru head Sugarin said.

He said 47 of the total hot spots were found in Indragiri Hulu, followed by Pelalawan (40), Indragiri Hilir (33), Siak (nine), Dumai (four), Bengkalis (three), and Kampar and Kuantan, which had two fire spots each.

“As of Thursday morning, the total number of hot spots in Sumatra has reached 326, with Riau as the province with the highest number of hot spots. Jambi ranks second with 51 hot spots, followed by South Sumatra (42), Lampung (eight), Bengkulu (six), North Sumatra (three) and West Sumatra (two),” said Sugarin.

While it had neither hot spots nor land or forest fires, Sugarin said that the air quality in Pekanbaru had continued to deteriorate, blanketed by smoke from land and forest fires from its neighboring regencies. Its air quality was still considered to be unhealthy.

“The visibility in Pekanbaru has also deteriorated, reaching only around 800 meters on Thursday morning. Dumai City is also blanketed with smoke, although its visibility still reaches five kilometers,” said Sugarin. (ebf)(++++)

Most land, forest fires in Riau extinguished: Agency 30 Jul 15;

The Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) has said that the Riau firefighting team had extinguished fires on 1,125 out of 1,264 hectares of land and forest in the province.

“As of Sunday, both air and land firefighter task forces have put out fires on 1,125.25 hectares of area by using, among others, weather modification technologies,” BPBD Riau head Edwar Sanger said as quoted by Antara in Pekanbaru on Thursday.

He said that as of July 26, the Riau air firefighting team, together with other teams including those from two big companies in the province, had carried out 25 fire-extinguishing processes by using weather modification technologies that involved several helicopters. The operations were part of efforts to reduce the bad effects of smoke exposure due to land and forest fires in 12 regencies and municipalities throughout Riau. The disaster might get worse as the dry season is predicted to last until December.

The Riau Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned of the possible impact of El Niño in several provinces, including Riau, in Indonesia. The weather phenomenon, which is associated with ocean warming that develops in equatorial Pacific areas, has led to an extreme dry season, making some areas prone to land and forest fires.

“For three days, from July 24 to 26, we spread 55.28 tons of salt as a kind of artificial rain. It means we brought around 2.4 tons of salt on each flight,” said Edwar.

Plantation company Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) said that it had helped the Riau firefighting task force to extinguish fires both inside and outside its concession areas in Pelalawan by using a helicopter.

“We found fire spots during a patrol in areas around RAPP concession areas that border with the Tesso Nilo National Park (TNTN). We reported our findings to TNTN officers and the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA),” said the head of RAPP’s firefighting team for the Ukui area, Almei Hendra. (ebf)(+++)

Forest Fire Alert Issued as Hundreds of Hotspots Detected in Riau
Jakarta Globe 30 Jul 15;

Jakarta. Indonesia’s meteorological agency has detected more than a hundred fire hotspots in eight areas across Riau province on Thursday, warning residents and officials of exacerbating haze from forest and land fires.

Pekanbaru’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has so far identified 140 hotspots, with three particular districts expected to be the biggest contributors of haze, said BMKG chief Sugarin.

“Out of the eight districts, Pelalawan, Indragiri Hulu and Indragiri Hilir will likely be the source of the greatest amount of haze,” Sugarin said on Thursday.

Pelalawan currently has 40 fire hotspots, Indragiri Hilir has 33 and Indragiri Hulu 47, while the remaining are spread throughout Siak, Bengkalis, Dumai, Kampar and Kuantan Singingi.

Sugarin said the agency earlier detected 326 fire hotspots across seven provinces on Sumatra island, with the majority concentrated in Riau, where as of last Sunday 1,246 hectares of land have gone ablaze.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has dispatched two helicopters to waterbomb these areas in an attempt to prevent the fires from spreading.
“Each helicopter can operate for three hours before returning to headquarters to refuel,” said Riau BPBD chief Edwar Sanger.

The increasing number of fire hotspots emerging across the province has deteriorated its air quality, Sugarin said.
“According to our monitors, the air here has become unhealthy,” he said, adding that the number of residents suffering from respiratory ailments (ISPA) as a result of the haze has increased by 10 percent.
“More than 1,400 people are presently struggling with ISPA. Yet, this number is still categorized as normal,” said Helsa S. Munir, head of Pekanbaru’s health agency.

Riau has for years been plagued by debilitating haze caused by bush and forest fires, especially in the dry season.

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Indonesia: El Niño threatens clean water supplies in Batam

Fadli, 30 Jul 15;

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has said a long dry spell affecting Batam over the last several months has caused a sharp decline in the volume of water in dams in the area. If the situation continues, it says, it is probable that Batam will suffer a clean water shortage.

BMKG Batam predicts that El Niño, a weather phenomenon associated with the warming of ocean water that develops in equatorial Pacific areas, will cause a long dry season, leaving Batam without wet season rain until November.

BMKG Batam head Philip Mustamu said that El Niño was not, as many tended to think, a heat wave. “It’s a phenomenon during which rainfall in an area is lower than in normal conditions in previous years. This is what is happening now in Batam,” said Philip. He added that El Niño was also affecting other areas in Indonesia.

He said rain intensity in Batam was predicted to return to normal in November. “Now, rain has already fallen in certain parts, however, it cannot yet reduce the impacts of El Niño,” said Philip.

The BMKG head said El Niño could have an extreme impact if it happened for a much longer period. “If it continues to happen until after November, we will call it an extreme situation,” he said.

The current long dry season has caused a decline in water flow rates from five dams managed by tap water company Adhya Tirta Batam (ATB). The water level in Duriangkang, the biggest dam in Batam, has fallen by 1.84 meters. Nongsa Dam’s water level fell by 3.98 m, Sei Harapan Dam by 3.65 m, Mukakuning Dam by 2.95 m and Sei Ladi Dam by 2.71 m.

ATB says it has warned Batam residents to be thrifty with their water use. The company has also urged people to reserve clean water in tanks in their homes to anticipate more severe water shortages if the situation worsens. (ebf)(+++)

Regions begin to suffer as dry spell continues
Fadli and Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post 31 Jul 15;

Prolonged drought has begun to take its toll on the populations of Batam, the capital of Riau Islands province, as well as a number of regions in Central Java, as water sources dwindle.

In Batam, the scarcity of clean water is hurting residents, with water sources experiencing drastic decreases in water debit.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Batam office predicted rain would not fall in the region until November, a result of the El Niño phenomenon hitting the area.

BMKG Batam head Philip Mustamu said that El Niño caused less rain to fall in certain areas.

“This is what has been going on in Batam,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The prolonged drought has greatly reduced water reserves in all five reservoirs under the management of Batam administration-owned tap water company PT Adhya Tirta Batam.

Nongsa dam has seen the sharpest decrease in water levels, falling 3.98 meters, followed by Sei Harapan dam, where the water level has fallen 3.65 m, Mukakuning dam with a decrease of 2.95 m, Sei Ladi dam with a decrease of 2.71 m and Duriangkang dam with a decrease of 1.84 meters.

Batam city administration spokesperson Ardiwinata said that the region was wholly dependent on dams for clean water.

“The public must understand that the only available water sources are the dams, which collect rain water,” said Ardiwinata, calling on the city’s people to conserve water use.

Data at the tap water company show that the worst impact of El Niño occurred in 1997-1998, when no rain fell on Batam for eight months.

Prolonged drought has also caused harvest failures in 6,578 hectares of rice fields in a number of regions in Central Java, including Grobogan, Blora, Pati, Demak, Pemalang and Brebes.

“The impacts of drought are being felt in 29 out of 35 regencies and cities across Central Java,” said Prasetyo, the head of the provincial Water Resources Agency.

As well as the harvest failure, Prasetyo said, nearly 27,000 ha of rice fields in the province were also suffering lesser impacts of the drought, over 7,000 ha moderate impacts and some 2,800 ha heavy impacts.

Meanwhile, data from the Central Java Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) showed that 17 regions in the province were already in need of clean water aid: Rembang, Blora, Grobogan, Pati, Wonogiri, Sukoharjo, Klaten, Boyolali, Banyumas, Cilacap, Purbalingga, Tegal, Pemalang, Demak, Purworejo, Kebumen and Jepara.

Clean water was distributed in Kebon Taman subdistrict in Semarang city, on the border of Semarang and Demak, earlier this week.

Central Java BPBD head Sarwa Pramana said that clean water had also been distributed by the BPBD in Purbalingga, Cilacap, Purworejo, Jepara, Demak, Wonogiri, Kebumen and Blora.

“Other efforts to deal with the drought include engineering artificial rain and the distribution of clean water in affected regions,” Sarwa said.

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Indonesia: Mangroves can play big role in tackling climate change

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 31 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — Indonesia’s mangroves store large amounts of carbon, and saving them could help the country reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a new research paper has found.

Indonesia has lost an estimated 40 per cent of mangrove cover in the last three decades, but still has 2.9 million hectares of mangroves, more than any other country in the world. The mangroves store about 3.14 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to about one-third of the carbon stored in the world’s coastal ecosystems, according to the paper co-authored by scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Indonesian mangrove loss contributed 42 per cent of global annual emissions from the destruction of coastal ecosystems, including marshes, mangroves and sea grasses, the scientists estimated. Emissions from the global destruction of coastal ecosystems were equivalent to 3 to 19 per cent of emissions from global deforestation.

Halting the deforestation of Indonesia’s mangroves could cut emissions that are equivalent to 10 to 31 per cent of its emissions from land-use, including agriculture and forestry, said the scientists.

Mangrove conservation should thus be among the strategies to mitigate climate change, they said in the paper, published this week in the Nature Climate Change journal.

Mangroves have been found to store three to five times as much carbon as the same area of rainforest. They are significant carbon sinks because of high rates of tree and plant growth, as well as slow decomposition due to anaerobic, waterlogged soil. Besides storing carbon, they also help in soil formation, nutrient cycling and wood production, and serve as fish spawning grounds. Aquaculture development is the main cause of mangrove loss in Indonesia.

The scientists measured carbon stocks of 39 mangroves at eight sites, and found the lowest values for plots in Cilacap in Java, and the highest for plots in Bintuni, West Papua.

“We hope that these numbers help policymakers see mangroves as a huge opportunity for climate change mitigation,” says Mr Daniel Murdiyarso, principal scientist at CIFOR and lead author of the paper.

“But to make progress, it is crucial that mangroves are protected and managed sustainably.”

The study comes as another Asian country recently became the first in the world to comprehensively protect its mangrove forests.

In a Sri Lankan scheme announced in May, hundreds of coastal communities will help protect existing mangroves and plant new ones in nurseries in coastal lagoons.

Backed by the Sri Lankan government, and with funding from US non-governmental organisation Seacology, the communities will get small loans and training to help them set up small businesses in return.

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World unites to fight wildlife crime as UN adopts historic resolution

WWF 30 Jul 15;

Faced with an unprecedented surge in wildlife crime, the UN today adopted a historic resolution committing all countries to ramp up their collective efforts to end the global poaching crisis and tackle the vast illegal wildlife trade.

Initiated by Gabon and Germany and co-sponsored by 84 other nations, the UN General Assembly resolution, Tackling the Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife, is the result of three years of diplomatic efforts and is the first time that every nation has acknowledged the seriousness of wildlife crime and the urgent need to join forces to combat it.

“The UN resolution marks a new phase in the fight against wildlife crime, which is threatening countless species with extinction while jeopardizing national security and sustainable development,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “This landmark resolution proves that ending wildlife crime is no longer just an ‘environmental’ issue and not just limited to a few countries: it has become a priority for every nation.”

With elephant populations collapsing in Mozambique and Tanzania and record numbers of rhinos being killed in South Africa, the poaching crisis is clearly undermining global conservation efforts. But the UN resolution also spells out the broader effects of wildlife crime, which undermines good governance, the rule of law and the well-being of local communities as well as financing criminal networks and funding armed conflict.

“Just weeks before the UN meets to finalize the Sustainable Development Goals, it is significant that every country has signed up to tackle the growing threat organized wildlife crime poses to sustainable development,” said Lambertini.

Recognizing that only a comprehensive approach can curb the current crisis, all 193 UN member states agreed to enhance regional and international cooperation along the entire illegal wildlife trade chain, including measures to stop the poaching, trafficking and buying.

Along with strengthening judicial processes and law enforcement, the resolution encourages countries to actively involve local communities in the fight against the illicit trade by enhancing their rights and capacity to manage and benefit from wildlife resources.

“Nepal has already proved that this comprehensive approach works, having achieved three years of zero poaching of rhinos since 2011 thanks to a combination of high-level political will, dedicated rangers, and genuine community participation – now it is up to other countries to follow Nepal’s lead and the measures outlined in this historic resolution,” said Elisabeth McLellan, Head of the Wildlife Crime Initiative, WWF International.

Attracted by the relatively low risks and high returns, organized crime networks have muscled their way into the illegal wildlife trade, bringing with them more sophisticated poaching and trafficking methods – and greater violence and corruption.

In response, the resolution highlights the transnational and organized nature of crimes that impact the environment and stresses the need for countries to counter corruption and address money laundering linked to wildlife crime.

“If countries fully implement the resolution, wildlife crime will become far riskier and far less rewarding,” said McLellan. ”The resolution’s strong reporting mechanism should ensure that real progress is made and that any critical gaps are effectively addressed.”

Starting in 2016, the UN secretary general is tasked with presenting an annual report on global wildlife crime and countries’ implementation of the resolution, together with recommendations for further action. Already lined up for debate next year is the possible appointment of a special envoy – a move that WWF believes would promote greater awareness and help hold countries to account.

“WWF has played a key role in shifting global attitudes towards wildlife crime over recent years, highlighting its impact on communities and on dwindling populations of elephants, rhinos, tigers and other species,” said Lambertini. “WWF will now focus on assisting countries in their crucial efforts to implement the resolution and help end the terrible global scourge that is wildlife crime, once and for all.”

U.N. tackles illicit wildlife poaching amid Cecil the lion uproar
Michelle Nichols PlanetArk 31 Jul 15;

U.N. tackles illicit wildlife poaching amid Cecil the lion uproar Photo: Eric Miller
Protesters hold signs during a rally outside the River Bluff Dental clinic against the killing of a famous lion in Zimbabwe, in Bloomington, Minnesota July 29, 2015.
Photo: Eric Miller

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday called on all countries to step up their efforts to tackle illicit poaching and trafficking in wildlife amid global uproar over the unlawful killing of "Cecil" the lion in Zimbabwe.

The 193-member General Assembly adopted its first resolution on the issue following a two-year campaign by Germany and Gabon.

"Like most people in the world we are outraged at what happened to this poor lion," Germany's U.N. Ambassador Harald Braun told reporters after the resolution was adopted. "Hunting activities are partly legal, partly illegal and it is this resolution which fights all the illegal aspects of it."

A Zimbabwean court on Wednesday charged a professional hunter with failing to prevent an American from unlawfully killing "Cecil," in a case that has triggered widespread revulsion at trophy hunting.

Braun said the animals most threatened by wildlife poaching are elephants and rhinos and that the money from the trade is one of the key sources of finance for terrorism. He said every day in Africa some 100 elephants are killed by poachers.

"There is a black market for rhino horn, and a pound of rhino horn today yields more than a pound of gold in this market," he said, adding that the value of ivory from poached elephant tusks was only a fraction of the value that a living elephant could provide to a country's economy through tourism.

A global ivory trade ban went into effect in 1989 after Africa's elephant population plunged from 1.2 million to 600,000. But illegal trade continues, with demand strong in China, other Asian states and places like the United States.

The U.N. resolution urges states to "take decisive steps at the national level to prevent, combat and eradicate the illegal trade in wildlife, on both the supply and demand sides, including by strengthening the legislation necessary for the prevention, investigation and prosecution."

It asks U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the General Assembly on the global status of illicit trafficking in wildlife and to consider appointing a special envoy "to promote awareness and galvanize international action."

Resolutions passed by the General Assembly are non-binding but can carry political weight.

Gabon's Foreign Minister Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet told the General Assembly that illicit wildlife trafficking threatens the stability and economic development of many countries.

"Terrorist and armed groups operating in Africa, notably, are using poaching and illicit trafficking of wildlife to increase their incomes. ... This contributes to the proliferation of weapons in Africa," he said.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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