Best of our wild blogs: 25 Nov 15

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Fighting the Haze: Insights from Indonesia’s worst-hit provinces

Riau emergency status to end as S. Sumatra pledges peat clampdown
Mongabay Environmental News

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DPM Teo discusses haze prevention, counter-terrorism and aviation with Jokowi

Today Online 24 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister Teo Chee Hean today (Nov 24) called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Jakarta, as part of a three-day working visit by DPM Teo to the Indonesian capital.

Among the issues the two leaders discussed included how Singapore and Indonesia could cooperate better in haze prevention, a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said. DPM Teo and President Widodo further discussed how the two countries could enhance existing cooperation in counter-terrorism and also spoke on ways to strengthen the long-standing, mutually-beneficial relationship between the two nations’ militaries.

Another topic that was discussed was regarding the Flight Information Region (FIR). In September this year, it was reported that the Indonesia’s government was looking to take over control of the airspace above the Riau Islands from Singapore, which has been part of the Singapore FIR since 1946.

During a meeting yesterday between DPM Teo and Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, DPM Teo reiterated that the FIR issue was a technical issue based on aviation safety, and was not an issue of sovereignty. Today, both DPM Teo and President Widodo agreed that the most important priorities should be the safety, efficiency and smooth operation of the FIR.

During the meeting today, DPM Teo and President Widodo also reaffirmed the excellent and long-standing ties between Singapore and Indonesia. DPM Teo further informed President Widodo that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was looking forward to visiting Indonesia next year, as a follow-up to President Widodo’s visit to Singapore in July this year. Both PM Lee and President Widodo are expected to continue discussions on further strengthening the bilateral relationship, including through the six Working Groups on economic cooperation.

DPM Teo’s visit to Jakarta concludes tomorrow.

Singapore, Indonesia reaffirm bilateral ties
Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Jakarta, with both discussing how to further strengthen the long-standing and mutually-beneficial military ties.
Channel NewsAsia 24 Nov 15;

JAKARTA: Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Jakarta on Tuesday (Nov 24), the second day of his working visit there.

Both of them reaffirmed the excellent and long-standing ties between the two countries.

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, and Mr Widodo discussed how to further strengthen the long-standing and mutually-beneficial military ties, and how Singapore and Indonesia can enhance existing cooperation in counter-terrorism.

The issue of transboundary haze was also discussed and how both countries can cooperate better in haze prevention.

Another subject raised was the Flight Information Region (FIR). Singapore has been in control of the airspace over some areas in Riau - such as Batam, Tanjung Pinang, Bintan and the Natuna islands - since 1946. Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Monday that the Republic's main concern is to ensure the safety and security of aircraft passing through the very busy airspace covered by the FIR.

Mr Teo and Mr Widodo agreed that the priority should be the safety, efficiency and smooth operation of the FIR. Mr Teo also told Mr Widodo that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is looking forward to visiting Indonesia next year, after Mr Widodo's visit to Singapore in July this year.

The leaders are expected to continue discussions on further strengthening the bilateral relationship. Mr Teo returns to Singapore on Wednesday.

- CNA/ek

Jokowi discusses Batam-Bintan-Karimun economic zone with Singapore
Antara 24 Nov 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) received Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean here on Tuesday to discuss a wide range of issues including Singaporean investment in the Batam-Bintan-Karimun special economic zone.

The meeting between President Jokowi and Teo Chee Hean who is also the Singaporean coordinating minister for national security took place at the Merdeka Palace.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi told the press after accompanying President Jokowi at the meeting that the two neighboring countries reiterated the importance of partnership.

"Singapore is the largest investor in Indonesia, while our trade with Singapore is also very large. Therefore, the two countries have committed themselves to continue the very strong economic relations," the minister said.

The meeting also discussed a follow up to President Jokowis visit to Singapore some time ago to discuss the Batam-Bintan-Karimun special economic zone, she said.

"The President also reiterated our commitment to continue to encourage Singapore to invest in Batam-Bintan-Karimun," she said.

The other issue discussed at the meeting was the recent haze from land and forest fires in Sumatra. Singapore has agreed to cooperate with Indonesia to prevent a recurrence of such haze in the future.(*)

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NEA calls for tender to do waste audit for households

The data obtained will help the National Environment Agency to establish the potential for further reduction of food and packing waste.
Channel NewsAsia 24 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (Nov 24) called a tender to conduct a waste audit for households.

Data obtained from the audit will help NEA to establish the potential for further reduction of food and packaging waste, as well as develop programmes to reduce waste in Singapore, NEA said, adding that a high level of avoidable food waste could mean households have the potential to reduce food wastage.

The winning bidder will be required to collect waste disposed of by selected households for segregation and audit, NEA said, adding that up to 300 households from different housing types will be selected for the audit.

"Households that agree to participate in the waste audit will have their waste collected on pre-arranged dates. The waste collected will be sent to a designated site, sorted into different waste streams such as food and packaging waste, and weighed to determine the quantities of these waste streams," NEA said.

It added that food waste would be further sorted into avoidable and unavoidable food waste.

"Avoidable food waste is defined as food intended for human consumption that consumers can potentially reduce or avoid generating, such as expired food products and leftover food that is not consumed. Unavoidable food waste comprises kitchen waste, such as egg shells, bones and coffee grounds," NEA said.

It also said packaging waste would be further sorted into plastic, paper, metal, glass and composites.

"The audit will support Singapore’s plans to achieve our vision of being a Zero Waste Nation under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint," NEA said.

The tender will close at 4pm on Dec 14, 2015. The audit is expected to commence early next year, and be completed by mid-2016, according to NEA.

- CNA/dl

NEA launches initiative to find ways to cut food, packaging waste
Exercise involving 300 selected households makes strides towards Singapore’s Zero Waste Nation goal
SIAU MING EN Today Online 24 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — To obtain more data for crafting programmes to reduce domestic waste here, the National Environment Agency (NEA) today (Nov 24) called for a tender to conduct, for the first time, a waste audit of about 300 selected households.

The data will help the NEA to establish the potential for the further reduction of food and packaging waste in Singapore, the agency said in a press release.

“The audit will support Singapore’s plans to achieve our vision of being a Zero Waste Nation under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint,” said an NEA spokesperson.

The waste audit is expected to start sometime early next year and be completed by the middle of the year.

Households that agree to participate in the waste audit will have their waste collected on pre-arranged dates.

Before that, the winning contractor will have to design a questionnaire for the households to complete to help with data analysis.

At least one dedicated plastic bag will be provided for households to bag their waste for the day.

The collected waste will then be sent to a designated site, sorted into different waste streams — such as food and packaging waste — and weighed to determine the quantities of the waste in the various streams.

Food waste will also be further sorted into avoidable and unavoidable food waste.

Data from the avoidable food waste, such as expired food products and leftover food, can indicate the potential for households to reduce food wastage, noted the NEA.

The 300 households will be randomly selected from a pool of households that had previously participated in a consumer survey related to food wastage.

Interested bidders will have to submit a Waste Audit Plan that shows its proposed approach to identify the households to be selected, their proposed methodology to collect, transport, segregate and analyse the waste samples.

In the final report of the audit, the NEA will look out for the median and average amount of food waste disposed by the household sector, the proportion of avoidable and unavoidable food waste by household type and the overall household sector, among other things.

Food waste accounts for about 10 per cent of the total waste generated in Singapore, but less than 15 per cent of it is recycled.

Last year, 788,600 tonnes of food waste was generated, of which only 13 per cent was recycled.

Paper, plastic and glass waste accounted for 16.5 per cent, 11.6 per cent and 1.1 per cent, respectively, of the total waste generated in Singapore last year.

Mr Eugene Tay, director of Green Future Solutions, an environmental consultancy firm, said the waste audit will be able to gather more details and data about domestic waste compared with the annual waste audit that the NEA already conducts.

While more data is helpful in developing waste regulations, he noted that the more important issue is what the NEA does with the data.

“The audit does not result in reduction of waste — that comes from policies and regulations,” Mr Tay added.

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Malaysia: Camera traps 'capture' wildlife

M. HAMZAH JAMALUDIN New Straits Times 25 Nov 15;

GERIK: Photos of wildlife in their natural habitat will always amaze us and a big-scale camera trapping project initiated by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) has captured thousands of them.

Besides the photos, there are also hundreds of video clips of wild animals in action in the forest reserves here.

The camera traps have also helped the authorities nab poachers looking for prized wildlife and forest resource, such as gaharu (agarwood).

“While it is easier to film the animals in an open savannah, capturing animal images or videos in a tropical forest is challenging as they avoid human encounter,” said Perhilitan Perak director Rozidan Mohd Yasin.

The camera trapping project is being implemented in the Gerik Ecological Corridor (GEC) here. The GEC is a forest complex of more than 320,000ha, comprising the Royal Belum State Park, and the Amanjaya and Temenggor forest reserves.

Remotely activated, a camera trap is equipped with a motion sensor as a trigger. Worth RM2,500 each, a camera can take pictures at night while the video camera can record animals and its surroundings in colour.

Perhilitan research officer Tan Cheng Cheng, who is in charge of the project, said the camera traps were installed at strategic locations to ensure that they would not be damaged by animals or poachers.

From the photos and videos collected since the project kicked off in 2012, Perhilitan has made important discoveries that helped them understand the unique ecosystem in one of the oldest forests in the world.

Tan said 120 camera traps were installed in 60 grids within the forest complex. Each grid has a still photo camera and a video camera.

To their surprise, the photos and videos showed that 12 of the 14 large mammals in Peninsular Malaysia could be found in GEC.

“All 12 species have been captured on our cameras. The only animals not found there are the almost-extinct Sumateran rhino and bearded pig, which only roam in the southern part of the peninsula,” said Tan.

The species that were recorded are the Asian elephant, barking deer, clouded leopard, gaur, sun bear, tapir, tiger, sambar deer, wild boar, serow, leopard and dhole.

The discovery of the dhole is interesting as it is difficult to locate. In the videos, it could be seen marking its territory with its urine in a peculiar way, where both hind legs were raised.

Tan said they had recorded 51 species of wildlife in the area, which proved that the GEC had among the highest biodiversity in the world. She said another interesting find was the biggest herd of elephants, comprising 50 heads, adding that the group was recorded near a wildlife crossing viaduct at the Gerik-Jeli highway.

Rozidan said the camera traps helped Perhilitan nab poachers since the photos would be sent to its officers’ smartphones every few minutes.

Under the National Blue Ocean Strategy, he said, the department would share the information with other enforcement agencies, including the Armed Forces, Forestry Department and State Park Corporation.
He said the biggest arrest was made in 2013, when encroachers were nabbed with RM2 million worth of stolen agarwood.

Although efforts were taken to protect the camera traps, he said 30 per cent of them were damaged and had to be replaced.

While the installation of the camera traps may curb poaching activities, Rozidan said the most effective way to conserve wildlife was support from various parties, especially the public.

He said the public should play its part by alerting the authorities of suspicious activities in the forest while at the same time, protect the animals by not catching, killing or keeping them.

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Malaysia: Johor urged to do more for agriculture sector

MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 25 Nov 15;

NUSAJAYA: The Johor government should focus more on the agriculture sector that would ensure national food security and its value chain remains under control from time to time.

State Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BNBBC) chairman Datuk Samsol Bari Jamali said among the methods include conducting a study on whether Johor government has followed the National Agro Food Policy 2011-2020.

“Food is a very important sector to a nation’s growth where it can be used as a diplomatic tool, just like the United States where they are rice exporters, but their own people do not eat it.

“At the moment, Johor is the largest food producer for poultry, eggs, and vegetables in the country, but it is not enough and the government should give priority to the sector and revive it,” he said.

Samsol said this at a press conference held at Bangunan Sultan Ismail here on the sidelines of the state assembly sitting on Monday.

Samsol, who is the Semarang assemblyman, said at the moment there is a lot of attention being given to commodities such as rubber trees and palm oil in the state.

“We are hopeful that the government will ensure the sector’s growth, especially within the Agriculture Department where the usage of technology is much needed,” he said.

He also called upon the government to take action against landowners who misuse their land meant for agriculture for other commodities without informing the authorities.

“They are paying less taxes as these farmers claim to use their land for agriculture but are in fact planting oil palm tress instead,” he said.

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Indonesia: Govt set to form peat ecosystem restoration body

Antara 24 Nov 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government is gearing up for the creation of peat ecosystem restoration body to restore peat land damaged in recent fires.

"We have just had a meeting led by the vice president to discuss preparations for the formation of peat ecosystem restoration body whose main task is to maintain (peat ecosystem) by receiving support from several ministries," Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said after a limited meeting at the Vice Presidential Office here on Tuesday.

She said good management and maintenance system is needed to restore the damaged peat land in the country by involving relevant government agencies and experts.

Therefore, the government is considering to set up a body to speed up the restoration of peat ecosystem.

"This body will restore the peat ecosystem on a self-reliant basis, meaning that no ministers can intervene in it. The body will employ professional workers. And the (environment and forestry) minister must work closely with the body," she said.

She said the body will be tasked with supervising and controlling activities in the field to restore the peat ecosystem.

The body will be made up of representatives from the Public Works and Housing Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry, the National Development Planning Agency and the Geospatial Information Body.

"Preparations have been made. As I am responsible for the Environment and Forestry Ministry , I have helped the initial preparations," she said.

The body will only focus on restoring the peat ecosystem, without having to make a plan for the prevention of land and forest fires.(*)

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Indonesia: Haze, a test of palm oil dominance

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta Post 24 Nov 15;

How to save Indonesia’s life-supporting forests
The forest fire predicament has receded as rain started to fall in many regions in recent weeks. Will the government’s sense of urgency in tackling the annual problem also recede? One may fear so.

Despite months of serious efforts to address the fires, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration hasn’t established concrete measures to stop the expansion of oil palm plantations through slash-and-burn practices, the main cause of the problem.

It is not rocket science to understand why that is.

Indonesia is home to the world’s greatest extent of oil palm plantations, covering 11 million hectares of land and producing more than 33 million tons of palm oil last year, and generating jobs for millions of people.

But as the industry grows, it has become too large to allow arbitrary expansion; damaging business practices, such as the burning method, contribute heavily to the haze that has brought suffering to entire provinces and neighboring countries.

Consumer countries are stepping up action to encourage palm oil producers, including Indonesia, to address the environmental concerns of expansion, and the European Union has pledged to stop buying palm oil resulting from deforestation by 2020.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a global body of plantation companies, refiners, consumers and environmental groups, has also set higher sustainability standards, including requirements of no deforestation, no peatland development and guarantees of indigenous people’s rights.

There have been attempts to resist this pressure. The newly established Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries, which the Indonesian government initiated along with its Malaysian counterpart, aims to regulate production and prices and create standards that take into account the economic goals of producers. As its first move, the council has demanded that palm oil companies cancel their no-deforestation pledge, also known as the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge.

But for how long can Indonesia and Malaysia exclude themselves from the global trade? In the case of Indonesia, despite plans to boost domestic consumption through biofuel production, it will take some time before the domestic market is developed enough to fully absorb the export volume should the EU and other consumer countries cease imports immediately.

Amid other uncertainties, such as domestic dynamics, the price of alternatives and the global economy, making the products competitive is the only way to survive.

The Indonesian government should also consider that it has committed to emission cuts of 29 percent for a foreseen global pledge on climate change in Paris next week. This commitment will be dismissed as a formality if, in fact, the country still turns a blind eye to reckless expansion; this may lead to reluctance to award funding to the country for its fight against climate change.

Regulating plantation expansion is actually not a major trade-off for the industry; in fact, it is quite timely, given the overcapacity that has driven down the price of palm oil since last year.

As many plants mature in Indonesia and Malaysia, supply has reached record highs in recent years. Palm oil inventories reached a near 15-year high of 2.83 million tons in October, while export demand remains slow, according to reports last week.

To anticipate annual forest fires, the government should boldly announce that it will stop opening forests and peatland for expansion for a period of time.

This does not mean canceling concessions, but postponing further opening of forests for every company, including those who have attained permits. While doing so, the government can also review whether concession permits have been issued in accordance with the procedures. It should also set up a blue print on how to plan expansion and develop downstream activities for palm oil.

The new palm oil board will help the country, along with other producing regions, to coordinate future stocks and plan better for production and exports.

Completely stopping expansion will be more effective that the current ban on the issuance of new permits to open primary forests and peatland, which is easily dodged in backroom deals between companies and local administrations.

The government and palm oil companies should stop perceiving sustainability efforts as barriers to growth. On the contrary, prioritizing people’s welfare in economic activities will preserve economic activities in the long term.

To take an example from history, early on in the industrialization of Germany, first chancellor Otto von Bismarck initiated social programs, including health insurance and old-age pensions, to improve productivity and deter workers from uprisings in favor of socialism.

The social programs were replicated in other countries in Europe for similar reasons, improving welfare amid poor living conditions during industrialization.

In the 1930s in the US, meanwhile, then Democratic presidential candidate Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised social protection programs — later known as the New Deal — for farmers and factory workers to ease the impact of the Great Depression. He made the pledge after the Ford March, in which 4,000 unemployed workers led a hunger march that turned fatal in front of Ford auto factories.

In the case of our forest fires, it will take more than social programs to ensure the welfare of local people; it takes better planning, a revolution in expansion practices to assure that the industry can support welfare in the short and long terms.

Haze is a test for Indonesia as a palm oil producer, a test to see whether it can take a leading position and boost the welfare of its citizens, who currently bear the brunt of environmental degradation and poor living conditions.

With all the controls that the country has as a producing giant, the question is whether it wants to pass that test.

The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post.

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Indonesia: Young elephant dies at Tesso Nilo National Park

Rizal Harahap, 24 Nov 15;

The Flying Squad, a team of tame elephants and their mahouts, managed jointly by the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Tesso Nilo National Park (TNTN) Agency and the WWF-Indonesia’s Riau program, has lost another of its members after Tino, a 2-year-old female elephant, was found dead in the national park on Friday morning.

Erwin Daulay, the elephant’s caregiver, was scheduled to take Tino and her mother Ria to a bathing site when he found the young elephant’s body.

“Erwin found Tino with her head in the dirt, around 10 meters from where Ria was tied up. She had continued to look at her baby elephant,” WWF-Indonesia’s Riau program spokesperson Samsidar said on Tuesday.

Samsidar said that one day before Tino died, the elephant was observed participating actively in all of the Flying Squad’s normal routines. “She was very active, swimming and diving with all the elephants in the Flying Squad team when they took a bath together in the Perbekalan River in the Tesso Nilo National Park area.”

Tino was the fourth baby elephant born to a Flying Squad member. Mahouts at the WWF’s Riau program camp in Lubuk Kembang Bunga village, Pelalawan regency, Riau, named her Tino, taken from betino, which means “woman with a calm demeanor” in the area’s local language.

After Erwin reported the discovery, the Pelalawan administration’s animal husbandry agency’s veterinarian, Muchlisin, conducted an autopsy at the location.

“The autopsy took place until midnight on Friday and it ran a bit slowly due to rain,” said Samsidar.

She denied accusations that WWF-Indonesia had stalled the publication of information on the incident for four days as it occurred in a conservation area.

“Initially, we wanted to publish this case on Sunday morning but we had to first wait for the TNTN head’s approval for the publication as it is under the [TNTN] agency’s authority,” said Samsidar.

She said some of the elephant’s internal organs had been sent to a laboratory at the Veterinary Agency in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, to ascertain the cause of death. “Usually, the results of laboratory tests are available in around two weeks,” she added.

Meanwhile, Muchlisin said he did not find any indications of violence on Tino’s body. “But there was a red rash, which could have been caused by accumulating gas or bloating in her intestines. There are many factors that could cause such a condition, one of which is the consumption of too much young grass,” he said.

TNTN head Tandya Tjahjana said he had assigned civil servant investigators to the case. “They have traced areas around the location where she was found dead to see whether there is a particular situation that could danger elephants in the area,” said Tandya.

The BKSDA Riau’s technical affairs division head, Lukita Awang Nistyantara, said it was the second time the Flying Squad had lost a young elephant this year. “In May, a baby elephant named Nela was found dead in the national park area,” said Lukita.

“This should be a valuable lesson for us that the challenges of conservation efforts, including in protecting the lives of elephants in Sumatra, remain very high.” (ebf)

Flying Squad elephant dies mysteriously
Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 25 Nov 15;

The Flying Squad domesticated elephant team has again lost one of its youngest pachyderm members: 2-year-old Tino was found dead on Friday in Tesso Nilo National Park (TNTN), in Pelalawan regency Riau.

The carcass of the elephant, which was managed by the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) working together with the WWF-Indonesia’s Riau program and the TNTN, was initially found by her mahout Erwin Daulay not far from her mother, Ria, on Friday.

“Erwin discovered Tino’s corpse around 10 meters from her mother, who was tethered and standing up. The mother kept looking at her calf’s body,” said WWF-Indonesia spokesperson Samsidar on Tuesday.

She denied her office had intentionally postponed publicizing the incident for four days in order to not expose the incident.

“Actually, we intended to publicize it on Sunday, but we had to wait for approval from the TNTN Center head, as it was within their authority. They argued it should initially be reported to the Forestry and Environment Ministry, but the incident took place on the weekend, so it could only be reported on Monday,” said Samsidar.

Tino, born on Aug. 7, 2013, was the fourth calf born to a member of the Flying Squad. Mahouts at the WWF-Indonesia’s Riau program in Lubuk Kembang Bunga village, Pelalawan regency, Riau, named the calf Tino, which was taken from the local dialect: betino meaning a female who behaves calmly.

The finding was reported to the BKSDA Riau, TNTN Center and the Pelalawan Husbandry Office. The husbandry office’s veterinarian, Muchlisin, immediately went to the scene and led a necropsy on Tino’s carcass.

Some internal organs of the elephant have been sent to the lab at the Veterinary Center in Bukit Tinggi, West Sumatra, to confirm of the cause of death. “Usually, results would only be issued in two weeks,” said Muchlisin.

He claimed he had not found signs of violence or physical damage on the elephant. “But the rashes on and bloating of Tino’s intestines are believed to have been caused by a gas build-up, which might have been caused by consuming too much young grass,” said Muchlisin.

Meanwhile, TNTN Center head Tandya Tjahjana said he had deployed investigators to probe the case. “They have scoured the incident scene to look for whatever could have endangered the elephant, but they did not find any suspicious signs,” said Tandya.

BKSDA Riau technical affairs head Lukita Awang Nistyantara said Tino was the second elephant to die this year. “In May, an elephant calf named Nela was also found dead inside the TNTN area,” said Lukita.

“The incident serves as a valuable lesson for us. Conservation efforts and maintaining the survival of elephants in Sumatra remains a very daunting task,” he added.

Separately, WWF-Indonesia Central Sumatra program manager Wishnu Sukmantoro said the drought that swept across Riau over the past three months had made serious impacts on elephant habitat in the TNTN, especially as several parts of the conservation area had also been razed by fire.

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Sumatran orang utans on most endangered primates list

Carolyn Khew, Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Nov 15;

The burning of large tracts of forests has not only caused the haze, but is also pushing the Sumatran orang utans close to extinction.

A species familiar to Singaporeans because of Ah Meng - the Singapore Zoo's best-known and most endearing ambassador - it is among the world's 25 most endangered primates, said a report launched at the Singapore Zoo yesterday.

Recent published data said there are only about 6,600 orang utans remaining in fragmented habitats in the central regions of Aceh, home to a majority of Sumatran orang utans. Overall, population numbers and habitats remain on a downward trend, noted the report.

Entitled Primates In Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates 2014-2016, the list was compiled by international primatologists from the Primate Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) Species Survival Commission (SSC) and other international conservation and research organisations.

The list includes primate species from Madagascar, Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Asia alone contains 10 out of the 25 species including the Hainan Gibbon, of which there are just 25 individuals left in the world, all on Hainan.

While it is not the first time the orang utans have been on the biennial list, the species was brought back again after a lapse of a few years because it is now considered to be in a "crisis situation".

Calling deforestation for palm oil a "terrible crisis", the chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and one of the editors of the report, Russell Mittermeier, said it continued to remain a major issue, adding that this year's forest fires were exacerbated by the El Nino.

"One of the most important habitats for them is the peat swamp forest… There's always pressure to convert these peat swamps to oil-palm plantations and that's a disaster," he said at the launch.

These orang utans are also extremely vulnerable to extinction because of factors such as their slow reproductive rate.

The females give birth to one infant every eight or nine years - so over their lifetimes, one female may not have more than three - and previous studies have shown that the loss of 1 per cent of females a year can place a population on an "irreversible trajectory to extinction", the report said.

The only other orang utan species is the Bornean orang utan, which differs slightly in appearance and behaviour.

A world-leading primatologist- Christoph Schwitzer, another editor behind the report - said he hoped the list would help draw attention to some of the lesser known primate species such as the Roloway monkey from Ghana and Ivory Coast, believed to be on the verge of extinction.

Apart from the need for national governments to do more, experts say zoos can play an important role in raising awareness of these endangered species, especially in today's urbanised world.

Over half of world's primates on brink of extinction: experts
AFP Yahoo News 24 Nov 15;

Singapore (AFP) - More than half the world's primates, including apes, lemurs and monkeys, are facing extinction, international experts warned Tuesday, as they called for urgent action to protect mankind's closest living relatives.

The population crunch is the result of large-scale habitat destruction -- particularly the burning and clearing of tropical forests -- as well as the hunting of primates for food and the illegal wildlife trade.

Species long-known to be at risk, including the Sumatran orangutan, have been joined on the most endangered list for the first time by the Philippine tarsier and the Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur from Madagascar, scientists meeting in Singapore said.

"This research highlights the extent of the danger facing many of the world's primates," leading primatologist Christoph Schwitzer, director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society in Britain, said in a statement.

"We hope it will focus people's attention on these lesser known primate species, some of which most people will probably have never heard of."

This includes the Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur -- a species only discovered two years ago -- and the Roloway monkey from Ghana and Ivory Coast, which experts say "are on the very verge of extinction".

There are 703 species and sub-species of primates in the world.

Madagascar and Vietnam are home to large numbers of highly threatened primate species, the statement said.

In Africa, the red colobus monkeys was under "particular threat", as were some of South America's howler monkeys and spider monkeys, it added.

"All of these species are relatively large and conspicuous, making them prime targets for bushmeat hunting," the statement said.

Russell Mittermeier, chair of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said he hoped the report would encourage governments to commit to "desperately needed biodiversity conservation measures".

Mittermeier said ahead of next month's global climate conference in Paris, there was growing evidence some primate species might play key roles in dispersing tropical forest tree seeds, which in turn "have a critically important role in mitigating climate change".

Here is the list of the world's top 25 most endangered primates for 2014-2016 and their estimated numbers remaining in the wild.

The list is compiled by the IUCN, Bristol Zoological Society, International Primatological Society and Conservation International and is updated every two years:

Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur -- unknown
Lake Alaotra bamboo lemur -- about 2,500-5,000
Red ruffed lemur -- unknown
Northern sportive lemur -- around 50
Perrier's sifaka -- 1,700-2,600
Rondo dwarf galago -- unknown but remaining habitat is just 100 square kilometres (40 square miles)
Roloway monkey -- unknown but thought to be on the very verge of extinction
Preuss' red colobus monkey -- unknown
Tana River red colobus monkey -- 1,000 and declining
Grauer's gorilla -- 2,000-10,000
Philippine tarsier -- unknown
Javan slow loris -- unknown
Pig-tailed langur -- 3,300
Cat Ba langur (golden headed langur) -- 60
Delacour's langur -- 234-275
Tonkin snub-nosed monkey -- less than 250
Kashmir grey langur -- unknown
Western purple-faced langur -- unknown
Hainan gibbon -- 25
Sumatran orangutan -- 6,600
Ka'apor capuchin -- unknown
San Martin titi monkey -- unknown
Northern brown howler monkey -- less than 250 mature animals
Colombian brown spider monkey -- unknown
Ecuadorian brown-headed spider monkey -- unknown

World’s 25 most endangered primates revealed
IUCN 24 Nov 15;

The latest edition of ‘Primates in Peril: The world’s 25 most endangered primates’ has been revealed today. Compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC), Bristol Zoological Society, the International Primatological Society (IPS), and Conservation International (CI), new additions to the list include Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) and Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus lavasoensis), both of which are threatened by habitat loss.

The report, which is updated every two years, highlights the plight of 25 species including the Hainan gibbon (Nomascus hainanus), of which there are thought to be just 25 individuals left in the wild, and the Northern sportive lemurs (Lepilemur septentrionalis) of which just around 50 remain in their native Madagascar.

The main threats to primates are habitat destruction, particularly from the burning and clearing of tropical forests – which results in the release of greenhouse gases causing climate change – the hunting of primates for food, and the illegal wildlife trade.

“The world’s primate species are at great risk with more than half of the species threatened with extinction on The IUCN Red List,” says Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “We are currently re-assessing all primates and there is great concern that the situation may be getting even worse for many of these iconic and important species. Locally implemented projects to protect the Northern sportive lemur and Alaotra gentle lemur were announced in October by SOS – Save Our Species – an initiative managed by IUCN, yet much remains to be done for other species.”

The list, which has been drawn up by primatologists working in the field who have first-hand knowledge of the causes of threats to primates, includes five primate species from Madagascar, five from Africa, 10 from Asia, and five from Central and South America, all of which are in need of most urgent conservation action.

“This research highlights the extent of the danger facing many of the world’s primates,” says Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Director of Conservation at Bristol Zoological Society and a world-leading primatologist. “We hope it will focus people’s attention on these lesser known primate species, some of which most people will probably have never heard of, such as the Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur from Madagascar - a species only discovered two years ago - or the Roloway monkey from Ghana and Ivory Coast, which we believe is on the very verge of extinction.

“Some of these animals have tiny populations remaining in the wild and support and action to help save them is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful animals forever.”

Madagascar and Vietnam both have large numbers of highly threatened primate species. In Africa, the genus of the red colobus monkeys is under particular threat, as are some of the howler monkeys and spider monkeys of South America. All of these species are relatively large and conspicuous, making them prime targets for bushmeat hunting.

“The purpose of our Top 25 list is to highlight those primates most at risk, to attract the attention of the public, to stimulate national governments to do more, and especially to find the resources to implement desperately needed conservation measures,” says Dr Russell Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and Executive Vice Chair of Conservation International. “In particular, we want to encourage governments to commit to desperately needed biodiversity conservation measures.

“What is more, beyond the great scientific interest of primates, there is increasing evidence that certain species may play a key role in dispersing the seeds of tropical forest tree species that have a critically important role in mitigating climate change - a particularly noteworthy consideration given the upcoming conference of the parties of the climate convention in Paris."

“This report makes scary reading for primatologists and the public alike, and highlights where we as conservationists must focus our attention over the coming years,” says Dr Schwitzer. “However, it also demonstrates the growing importance of collaboration between the international conservation, research and zoo communities in the protection of species and habitats."

“At Bristol Zoological Society we will continue our conservation and research with the aim of increasing the effectiveness of the conservation activities, as well as increasing our understanding of these and other Critically Endangered species.”

Compiled by 63 experts from across the world, the report of the world’s 25 most endangered primates was launched at Singapore Zoo today, November 24, with guests from national and international conservation and research organisations.

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