Best of our wild blogs: 16 Dec 15

Raining Crabs & Crocs At Sungei Buloh
Winging It

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Fires cost Indonesia $22b, twice the tsunami bill: World Bank

AFP AsiaOne 15 Dec 15;

JAKARTA - Indonesia's economy took a US$16-billion (S$22.5 billion) hit this year from forest fires that cloaked Southeast Asia in haze, more than double the sum spent on rebuilding Aceh after the 2004 tsunami, the World Bank said Tuesday.

The fires and resulting haze are an annual occurrence caused by slash-and-burn land clearance. But the blazes in 2015 were the worst for some years, causing air quality to worsen dramatically and many to fall ill across the region.

In a quarterly update on the Indonesian economy, the World Bank said the fires had devastated 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of forest and farmland across the archipelago from June to October.

The cost to Southeast Asia's biggest economy is estimated at 221 trillion rupiah (S$22.1 billion), equivalent to 1.9 per cent of predicted GDP this year, it said.

In contrast, it cost US$7 billion to rebuild Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh after it was engulfed 11 years ago by a quake-triggered tsunami, with the loss of tens of thousands of lives, the bank said.

"The economic impact of the fires has been immense," said World Bank Indonesia country director Rodrigo Chaves.

Fire has long been a popular way of quickly and cheaply clearing land on Indonesia's Sumatra island and the Indonesian part of Borneo, to make way for lucrative palm oil plantations.

But the fires burn out of control and produce noxious haze during the months-long dry season, particularly when started on carbon-rich peatland.

The World Bank said that if every hectare burned in 2015 were converted to palm oil, the value would be about US$8 billion. Indonesia is the world's biggest producer of the oil, used in numerous everyday goods from biscuits to shampoo.

"So on the one hand 16 billion dollars cost to the public, on the other hand, eight billion dollars - lots of money - to a handful of individuals," said World Bank environmental specialist Ann Jeannette Glauber.

The estimated costs are based on an analysis of the types of land burned and take into account the impact on agriculture, forestry, trade, tourism and transportation, as well as short-term effects of the haze such as school closures and on health.

More than half a million people suffered acute respiratory infections in Indonesia, while many in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia also fell ill.

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Indonesia to name firms linked to forest fires

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja AsiaOne 15 Dec 15;

Indonesia is set to name the companies responsible for illegal fires that led to this year's transboundary haze crisis. The firms, which mainly run plantations on concession land in Sumatra and Kalimantan, will also have their business licences suspended while a decision is made on whether to initiate legal proceedings against them for breaching environmental laws.

This was revealed yesterday by Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, while he was testifying at the ethics committee hearing on the Setya Novanto-Freeport-McMoRan saga.

The case involving the country's House Speaker Setya Novanto, who is accused of trying to get kickbacks from the United States mining firm, is not related to the haze crisis.

Although Mr Luhut did not name the firms during the public hearing, he told The Straits Times last week that at least two are connected to "a giant pulpwood plantation company" in Indonesia. An aide of the minister later confirmed that an official announcement will be made on Thursday by the national police and Ministry of Environment and Forestry during a joint media briefing.

This year's haze will go down as the worst on record, surpassing even the 1997 and 2013 crises.

The Indonesian government has pledged to get tough on firms many believed were using illegal slash- and-burn techniques to clear land, including highly flammable and carbon-rich peatland.

Indonesia had said it was investigating more than 100 companies over forest fires that occurred on land under their care.

In September, the Environment and Forestry Ministry revoked the permits of three plantation companies proven guilty of setting fires to land and forest areas. The three are PT Tempirai Palm Resources, PT Waringin Agro Jaya and PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo, reported Antara news. The ministry also revoked the permit of forest concession holder PT Hutani Sola Lestari.

Indonesian police also identified executives from seven companies in connection with illegal forest fires across Sumatra and Kalimantan.

They included a senior executive from Bumi Mekar Hijau, a unit of Singapore-based Asia Pulp and Paper, which is Indonesia's largest pulp and paper producer.

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Malaysia: Water rationing in Johor extended until January 2016

Water schedule extended
The Star 16 Dec 15;

JOHOR BARU: The scheduled water supply in several areas in the state, including Kota Tinggi, will be extended until next month with several improvements being made by Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ).

Its corporate communications chief Jamaluddin Jamal said the decision was made as the current situation at the Sungai Lebam and Sungai Layang dams was still critical.

He said the current level at Sungai Layang dam was 20.75m while Sungai Lebam dam was 8.57m, way below critical level of 23.50m and 12.27m.

“Both SAJ and the National Water Services Commission have decided to extend the scheduled water supply period after considering the dry weather, which is predicted to occur between January and March.

“Despite the frequent rainfalls recently, the raw water levels at both dams have yet to reach stable levels,” he said in a press statement here yesterday.

He said in Pasir Gudang, Masai and some parts of Johor Baru, consumers would receive a longer water supply from today until Dec 31.

“We have also managed to provide a normal water supply to se­veral areas including Taman Desa Harmoni, Kampung Plentong Ten­gah, Rumah 10, Taman Saujana, Jalan Masai Lama, Taman Molek, Ponderosa and Taman Redang since Dec 9.

“We will closely monitor both dams from time to time and if the water level reaches the stable level, we will start to provide the normal water supply to the affected areas immediately,” he said.

Jamaluddin said although the water transfer project from Sungai Papan to Sungai Lebam dam recently was a success, there was no improvement in the water level.

“Consumers in Tanjung Surat, Mukim Pantai Timur and Mukim Pengerang in Kota Tinggi will still receive the previous scheduled water supply of 24-hour water supply between Dec 16 and Jan 15.

“These scheduled water supply will be called off when the situation permits and notices on the new scheduled water supply will be distributed to consumers soon,” he said.

For details, call 1 800 88 7474 (SAJ Info Centre), SMS 019-772 7474 or email

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Grassroots fast response team set up to tackle Yishun cat deaths

Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times AsiaOne 16 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE - A new grassroots fast response team has been set up to gather evidence and conduct patrols in Nee Soon, after a spate of cat deaths around the estate in the last three months.

Member of Parliament Louis Ng said on Tuesday (Dec 15) that additional high resolution cameras have also been installed around the neighbourhood.

He said this will complement efforts by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and Singapore Police Force in nabbing the serial cat killers, who have struck 17 times since September. Only one of the 17 cats survived the attacks.

Mr Ng also said on Facebook that a cat named Annie has gone missing. Annie "made friends" with Mr Ng when he was introduced as a People's Action Party candidate in August this year.

"I sincerely hope Annie has not been killed," Mr Ng wrote.

The latest case on Dec 12 involved a cat found dead at a multi-storey carpark along Yishun Ring Road. It is believed that the cat, which had suffered extensive bleeding, was thrown from height.

The fast response team currently consists of 20 to 30 grassroots volunteers, cat feeders and concerned residents.

Once they have been alerted to a case, a small team of volunteers will arrive at the location promptly and go from door-to -door to speak to residents.

They will also leave notices on vehicles in the vicinity to appeal for the owners of private in-car cameras to review their CCTV footage for evidence.

Mr Ng stressed that to prosecute any offender, AVA would need direct verifiable evidence such as videos and photographs.

The AVA, which is leading the investigation, has reviewed the existing CCTV footage from cameras at HDB lift lobbies and in the lifts but found no leads so far.

Ms Janet Sum, a volunteer and founder of Facebook group Yishun 326 Tabby Cat, has called for more volunteers to join the fast response team.

She noted that the current group of volunteers have been "overwhelmed and overstretched".

About six volunteers patrol the neighbourhood between 1am to 4am almost every night, but they are unable to cover all the key areas, she said.

She added that recent cat deaths have become "more cruel" and "more bold", a sign that the suspects remain undeterred.

Members of the public with any information about the deaths of the cats may call the AVA at 1800-476-1600 or e-mail

Yishun cat deaths: More volunteers needed to patrol neighbourhood
Concerned residents say the cases of suspected animal abuse are escalating, with only one out of 17 cats surviving the abuse, which ranges from strangulation to poisoning.
Melissa Zhu Channel NewsAsia 15 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: Following a recent spate of cat deaths in the neighbourhood, animal welfare activist Louis Ng, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC, said a grassroots fast response team will be beefed up to gather evidence and conduct patrols in Yishun.

The team currently consists of about 20 to 30 cat feeders and concerned residents. More volunteers are being added to conduct more patrols, gather evidence on abuse, and alert residents when suspected abuse is taking place, he said.

"What they are doing is very essential," Mr Ng said on Tuesday (Dec 15). "We need people on the ground that can witness and see (what is happening)."

Apart from trying to catch the suspects, the purpose of publicly announcing the measures was to deter other potential abusers, said Mr Ng.

"We’re deeply concerned and very appalled by the killings of the cats in Yishun, and let me assure everyone that the authorities are doing everything they can. They are investigating every lead possible,” he said. “But at the same time we also want the community to also play a very important role in this."

The MP, who is the founder and Executive Director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), was speaking at a media briefing held at Nee Soon East Community Club on measures taken following the reports of cat deaths in Yishun.

Mr Ng has been vocal about the issue, calling the acts "barbaric" in an Oct 23 Facebook post.

Since September, there have been reports of 17 stray cats showing signs of abuse in the neighbourhood. Not all are strays - one was a pet, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said. Of the 17, only one of the cats survived.


Volunteer Janet Sum said they would like to add "as many people as possible" to the fast response team, including expanding the team of those doing overnight patrols from four to six, to at least seven members. Many of the cases of suspected abuse take place between 2am and 4am, said the private tutor, and the current volunteers are "overwhelmed and overstretched".

Residents will be alerted to suspected cases of abuse in the hope they will be able to provide witness accounts, or footage from their in-car cameras and CCTVs, to help identify the suspects.

There have been cases when the police were alerted, but the suspects ran away as soon as they spotted the police cars, Ms Sum said.

On their modus operandi, she said that the suspects would act friendly to cats, trying to lure the cats out by calling out to them. "I am sure it is more than one person," she said, adding that the recent cases suggest that the suspects have become "more cruel and more bold".

Ms Veron Lau, a committee member in the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) also said there could be more than one culprit. For instance, there was a cluster of 4 to 5 cases that appeared to have the same modus operandi, with the cats being thrown down from a height at the same area.

These appear to be linked to a specific individual, who owned two of the cats and feeds other stray cats. CWS therefore suspects that this could be the result of a personal vendetta, and separate from some of the other cases, Ms Lau said.

In the latest case on Dec 12, a cat was found dead at the basement of the carpark of Blk 115B at Yishun Ring Road. It had also been thrown down from a height.

In previous cases, a cat had its eye gouged out and tongue slit, while others were found poisoned, said Ms Sum.


Ms Lau said CWS had observed a pattern of cat abuse, with use of blunt force on the animals, happening "sporadically" since September 2014. However, there has been an uptick in such cases in the past three months, she said.

She added that CWS has been pushing for use of more advanced technology for ongoing post-mortem investigations into the cat deaths. "Our forensics technology has improved in leaps and bounds, but this does not apply to cases involving animals," she said.

She added that in several cases, CWS had pushed AVA for more details on cat deaths, but was told AVA did not have access to the same forensics resources as the police, and could not provide analyses of fingerprints and blood, for example.


AVA said it is "actively investigating" the cases of cat cruelty in Yishun. "Based on the results so far, the cats had died from external trauma. However, the cause of injuries could not be determined. Results of some post mortem analyses are still pending," a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that they have taken statements from informants and witnesses, including animal welfare groups such as CWS, and have investigated all leads, including suspects identified by them.

"However, as there were no direct witnesses to the actual acts committed and videographic footage (including 143 hours of CCTV footage) did not capture anything of use to the investigation, no case could be established against any of the suspects," AVA said.

AVA added that it needs direct verifiable evidence, such photographs and video, as well as direct witnesses willing to testify in court, to prosecute any offender.

Members of the public with any information about the deaths of the cats can call the AVA at 1800-476-1600 or email Anyone found to be guilty of animal abuse faces a fine of up to $15,000 and/or a jail term of up to 18 months.

- CNA/es

Cat killings in Yishun prompt appeal for sharing of footage
In-vehicle camera recordings sought to help with investigations
VALERIE KOH Today Online 15 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — With no leads surfacing after scanning through months of TV surveillance footage, investigators are turning to new measures such as putting up more high-definition cameras and getting residents to review their in-vehicle camera footages — to put an end to a brutal killing spree that has claimed the lives of 16 cats in Yishun.

Since Sept 24 this year, there have been 17 reported cases of cat abuse there. Only one — the first victim — survived an attack after it was found in Northland Primary School at Yishun Avenue 4.

Many of the cats suffered horrific injuries: Strangulation, poisoning, and head and back trauma. One carcass had its eyeball gorged and tongue slit, while another had a severed limb.

The latest victim was found bleeding extensively in a multi-storey carpark at block 115B Yishun Ring Road last Saturday (Dec 12). Post-mortem results are pending.

In the ongoing efforts to tackle these cases, Member of Parliament (Nee Soon GRC) Louis Ng appealed to members of the public to share footage recorded in their in-vehicle cameras with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) investigators.

“In Nee Soon, we don’t have that many multi-storey carparks, but we have many open-air carparks, and a lot of the cars are (facing) void decks. These cars might have in-vehicle cameras left on at night. They might have captured something,” Mr Ng said.

To facilitate this public appeal, a list of the times and places of the cat abuse cases will be put up on notice boards.

Mr Ng also announced a new grassroots fast-response team comprising volunteers, cat feeders and concerned residents. The idea was mooted during a meeting last Saturday with 22 volunteers, some of whom have been patrolling the crime scenes regularly and conducting their own investigations.

Mr Ng suggested that they could complement the authorities’ efforts: “We want to make sure we use our resources more effectively.”

Likening the team to first responders, Mr Ng said that they could interview residents from door to door, upon discovering the cat abuse case. “It’s useful to have residents going to residents. They’re more open to each other,” he added, urging more volunteers to join the team.

Several suspects have been rounded up for investigations, but the evidence on hand remains “inconclusive”, Mr Ng noted.

Madam Janet Sum, 53, founder of Yishun 326 Tabby Cat, an animal rescue group, said that the culprits appeared to be getting bolder, because of the cruelty of the acts. In a recent case on Nov 28, a cat was found strangled and dumped in a rubbish chute with a rope still attached to it.

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Orchard incidents 'likely due to heavy rainfall'

Samantha Boh, Janice Heng, Melissa Lin, The Straits Times AsiaOne 15 Dec 15;

The heavy rainfall of the last two weeks was likely to blame for a blackout at a mall and the collapse of a false ceiling at a hotel, both in the Orchard Road area.

In fact, the first two weeks of this month have been the wettest in six years, with the highest rainfall of 327mm recorded around the Orchard Road area. According to the Meteorological Service Singapore, the total rainfall recorded across the island between Dec 1 and Dec 13 ranged from 104mm to 327mm.

In comparison, the highest rainfall recorded over the same period from 2010 to last year was from 137mm to 314.8mm.

Last Saturday afternoon, Orchard Central was plunged into darkness after water seepage from a heavy downpour caused a blackout.

A day later, a false ceiling collapsed at a driveway at Hilton Singapore. Four people were taken to hospital.

Experts told The Straits Times that the high volume of rain likely caused water to seep through to the false ceiling, which is not designed to cope with the extra weight.

Mr Chong Kee Sen, president of The Institution of Engineers, Singapore, said main building structures can hold out against the weight of collected rainwater. But ceilings are made of lightweight materials and may not be able to withstand any excessive pressure.

"Water and moisture could also soften the ceiling board materials or could also cause corrosion to metal parts, but that takes a longer period of exposure," he said.

Singapore Contractors Association president Kenneth Loo said false ceilings are architectural elements, not structural ones, and are not designed to carry weight.

"So when you have the sudden impact of a load, it won't be able to take it."

One such possible load is rainwater that leaks in and collects on the false ceiling, he added.

He compared the Hilton incident to what happened at shopping mall Jem two years ago, when a leaking pipe caused the ceiling to collapse under the weight of the water.

The incidents at Orchard Central and Hilton Singapore came a few days after a slab of concrete fell from a pedestrian bridge outside Orchard Plaza last Wednesday.

The Building and Construction Authority told The Straits Times yesterday that it has appointed professional engineers to conduct a detailed probe into that case and the incident at Hilton Singapore.

It added that the incidents did not affect the structural safety of the overhead bridge and hotel, respectively.

Mr Loo said the best way to prevent such incidents is not to design architectural elements that can bear weight, but to "address the root cause" - that is, leaks.

Owners should regularly inspect their buildings for possible cracks where leaks could occur, he said.

Mr Chong said buildings could be designed such that water flows from the roof to ground-level storm drains as fast as possible, to minimise water build-up on the roof.

Meanwhile, do not forget the umbrellas as afternoon showers are likely today and for at least the next three days.

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Malaysia: Orangutans habitat disappearing -- Malaysian Primatological Society

R. SEKARAN The Star 16 Dec 15;

GEORGE TOWN: The orangutan is facing a serious threat of extinction if nothing is done to safeguard their habitat.

Malaysian Primatological Society (MPS) president Dr Mashhor Mansor said the primates, which were an endangered species, might go extinct by 2020 due to forest fires and poachers.

“It defies logic to see efforts being done to counter the threat to pandas but none for the orangutan population, which should be our responsibility,” he said during the launch of the Post-Haze Orangutan Conservation Fund 2015 at Universiti Sains Malaysia yesterday.

Conservation efforts, Dr Mashhor said, had always come from Europe for orangutans since the 1990s, which was a shame as it was an Asian problem.

“We have thousand of hectares of forest destroyed by private developers, which are the natural habitat of the orangutans, but no funding was forthcoming to relocate them to safer areas,” he said.

The MPS is a non-governmental organisation that focuses on conservation efforts for primates, especially in academics, research and management in Malaysia.

Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) chief executive officer Dr Jamartin Sihite said forest fires and the haze had compounded to the rapid decline in the orangutans’ survival, which numbered about 30,000 today compared to 60,000 in 2004.

“We need RM25.95mil a year to relocate the orangutans during the haze, where more than 500,000ha of forest was destroyed in Kalimantan,” said Dr Jamartin.

He said BOSF had to bring more than 700 orangutans from their habitat this year and relocate them to temporary shelters.

“The air pollution index reached more than 350 and some of the orangutans that came to the centre suffered respiratory infection,” he added.

Both he and Dr Mashhor were hopeful that the post-haze conservation fund would receive support from the public, private companies and individuals in the Asian region.

Those who wish to contribute can go to

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Huge international demand for wildlife from Malaysia, says TRAFFIC

New Straits Times 15 Dec 15;

THERE is a huge demand for wildlife sourced from within the country, including in the international exotic cuisine market.

Wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, said the trend was becoming more worrying as those behind the illicit trade tried aggressively to meet the increasing demand of the market.

Its Southeast Asia programme manager, Kanitha Krishnasamy, said failing to immediately rein in the culprits would only lead to the extinction of wildlife species in the country.

She revealed that these species, alive, in parts or already processed in secondary industries, were trafficked across land borders in lorries or hidden in cars or trucks to neighbouring countries before they were sent across the world where there was demand.

“There are many Malaysian poachers and Malaysian-based traders conducting business with others throughout the world, and this is done both legally and illegally.

“These exotic animals are also illegally exported via air and sea cargo when smugglers want to move large quantities or move them quickly.

“Sometimes, when rare and unique wildlife is smuggled for pets, they are hidden in check-in luggage or on the smuggler’s body or clothing.

“Some animals, or their parts, and plants are also brought into the country via small boats that dock at the countless illegal landings along Malaysia’s long coastline.

“It is not surprising that Malaysia is a popular supply market as it is rich in biodiversity, where wildlife is still abundant and is a big tourism draw,” she told the New Straits Times.

Kanitha said because of Malaysia’s strategic position and excellent logistics, it was also used as a transit point in the smuggling of wildlife parts and products, for example, ivory.

She said easy access into the forests, where in places like the 400,000ha Belum-Temengor served as haven for poachers, makes Malaysia an even more appealing supply market.

“Some poachers use firearms, snares or traps to capture the animals.

“Deer hunting, for example, is a serious problem, which affects the tiger population, as they are the latter’s main source of food,” said Kanitha, adding that the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which covered the peninsula was a strong law that afforded wildlife strong protection.

However, she said, the wildlife protection laws in Sabah and Sarawak were outdated.

Kanitha said according to a 2012 survey on the commercial trade of wild meat by TRAFFIC, Sabah and Sarawak had the highest number of restaurants where wild meat was served.

In Peninsular Malaysia, she said, the sambar and barking deer were found to be available in 20 restaurants, despite a moratorium in place prohibiting the sale of both species.

“Species such as the serow, also prized for its wild meat, is hunted in Malaysia.

“In the peninsula, the serow is the most commonly observed Totally Protected species in restaurants, being sold for up to RM30 per serving.

“Of the 165 restaurants that served wild meat in the peninsula, 18 restaurants in five states offered serow meat for sale.”

Kanitha said currently, raids and checks were conducted periodically, based either on tip-offs or investigations by the authorities.

She said the public could provide tip-offs to law enforcement agencies if they know of any poaching activities and that they could also call the Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019-3564194.

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Malaysia: Johor, Malacca, Selangor flood victims moved to 16 relief centres

The Star 15 Dec 15;

JOHOR BARU: Fifty-nine people from eight families have been moved to the Sekolah Kebangsaan Parit Bunga relief centre in Ledang following heavy rain.

Ledang District Civil Defence officer Mohd Shahrizan Ab Aziz said the group comprised 26 men and 17 women; five boys and seven girls; and three male infants and one female infant.

In a statement here Tuesday, he said the residents were evacuated around 2pm Monday.

In Malacca, 278 flood victims comprising 65 families in Malacca Tengah have moved to two relief centres, which were opened Monday.

The Civil Defence Department in a statement today said of the figure, 190 people from 46 families are at Sekolah Kebangsaan Krubong while 88 from 19 families, at Balai Raya Tanah Merah Krubong.

Meanwhile, the number of flood victims around Alor Gajah has decreased to 323 comprising 77 families as of 8 am, from 559 comprising 130 families at 9 pm last night.

They are temporarily housed at five centres - Sekolah Kebangsaan Belimbing Dalam (247); Balai Raya Kampung Beringin (35); Dewan Masjid Ar Rasidin (23); Balai Raya Kampung Panchor (10); and Balai Raya Kampung Bukit Balai (8).

In Shah Alam, 625 flood victims are currently staying at nine relief centres around Selangor as of 9 am.

Selangor Fire and Rescue operations assistant director Mohd Sani Harul said of the figure, 242 people from 59 families are at Dewan Merak, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Meru, Klang, near here.

"Others are at Balai Raya Kampung Salak, Salak Tinggi (30); Dewan Taman Gemilang, Dengkil (104); surau RTB Labu Lanjut, Sepang (77); and surau Ladang Tuan Mee, Kuala Selangor (40).

"The rest are at Surau At-Taufikiah, Puncak Alam (22); Dewan Majlis Perbandaran Klang, Kampung Kuantan in Klang (17); Sekolah Kebangsaan Sultan Abdul Samad, Kapar (58); and Dewan Orang Ramai Genting Sanyen, Sepang (35)," he said. - Bernama

Families leave homes as flood waters rise
The Star 16 Dec 15;

LEDANG: A three-hour downpour that led to flooding has forced 59 people from eight families to vacate their homes.

Johor Welfare Department deputy director Datuk Daud Arbah said the victims took refuge at a surau and the Tanjung Gading community hall on Sunday before they were shifted to the SK Parit Bunga relief centre the following day.

He said the victims from Kampung Parit Ponorogo and Kampung Tanjung Gading comprised 26 men, 17 women, five boys, seven girls, and four infants.

“We have provided essential needs including mattresses and mats (for senior citizens and children), blankets, ingredients for cooking, milk and food for the babies,” he said.

Flood victim Azman Rashid, 33, said he was fortunate as he managed to save a refrigerator, washing machine, a motorcycle and a car before the three main roads were cut off.

Another victim, Baharom Mohamad, 77, said his family managed to save important documents and several electrical appliances before the water rose to knee height.

Meanwhile, state Welfare Department officer Suhaila Omar said the three main roads connecting the two villagers were reopened, but flood waters still covered the area and some part of the residents' houses.

“We are also providing counselling services to the flood victims as well as toys for the children to keep them happy,” she said.

Meanwhile in Ipoh, the number of flood victims increased to 111 following heavy showers in Pantai Remis and Teluk Intan.

A Perak Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said some five families with 20 people had been relocated to the Padang Serai Religious School in Pantai Remis.

“Nine families with 38 people were moved to SK Changkat Jong in Teluk Intan,” he said.

The victims had moved to the temporary shelter on Monday between 6pm and 9pm.

At Parit in Perak Tengah, eight families with 32 people returned to their homes after the flood waters at parts of the village in Layang-Layang Kiri receded.

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Indonesia indigenous groups awarded for conservation

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post 14 Dec 15;

A local tribe from East Kalimantan and a green group from Belitung, Bangka-Belitung province, have won prestigious UN Development Program (UNDP) green awards for their efforts to protect the environment and advance sustainable development.

The Dayak Benuaq tribe from Muara Tae village in West Kutai, East Kalimantan, won the 2015 Equator Prize Award for protecting its forests from the encroachment of palm oil companies and coal mining firms.

The local green group Belitung Conservation Community, meanwhile, won the award for its work in rehabilitating, protecting and sustainably managing coastal resources in the province.

Representatives from the two groups joined members of 16 indigenous communities at a ceremony at the Mogador Theater in Paris last week to receive their awards. The ceremony was part of numerous sideline events at the COP21 climate conference in Paris.

Joining the winners to receive the awards were Hollywood superstar and environmental activist Alec Baldwin, UNDP administrator Helen Clark and Frances Seymour from the Center for Global Development.

The Dayak Benuaq tribe started its conservation efforts after losing 8,000 hectares of a total 12,000 ha of customary forests between 1993 and 2013 to mining and palm oil companies.

The local administration has deemed the tribe, which is now dealing with health problems and food and water shortages resulting from massive deforestation, as “antidevelopment” for rejecting a government request to give up its remaining 4,000 ha of forest to coal and palm oil companies.

The Belitung Conservation Community, meanwhile, was honored for its projects in the management of coral reefs, mangroves, fishing zones and tropical forests on the island.

The Equator Initiative, which is funded by the UNDP, said the group’s efforts had led to improved livelihoods and the restoration of a unique marine and coastal ecosystem.

Clark said that the two communities, along with 16 other winners, were true warriors in the fight against climate change.

“Our winners are not just sitting waiting for the new agreement. They are doing whatever they can to adapt to climate change and achieve sustainability for their community. They are thinking globally although they are acting locally. Their efforts are inspiring,” Clark said in her speech to honor the awardees.

Seymour, meanwhile, said indigenous people had played indispensable roles in protecting ecosystems.

“The evidence is clear that the presence of indigenous people is consistently associated with lower deforestation,” she said.

Baldwin said that the groups’ accomplishments could set an example for people around the world.

“I hope that you will each take the stories of the winners’ achievement and ingenuity with you to your respective sphere of influence,” he said.

Indonesia not dependent on international agenda: Environment minister
Antara 15 Dec 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia is not depending on international agenda when it comes to preserving its environment, Minister of Environment Siti Nurabaya said here on Monday.

"With or without international agenda, we must ensure preservation of environment in line with the mandate of the countrys 1945 Constitution," she said after attending a national meeting on "Adiwiyata," the environment education program, at her office.

She said Indonesias interest in the international world is linked with atmosphere integration with regard to physical environment problems such as river environment and tree felling.

International agreements like the recent Paris Agreement on climate change must serve to encourage the government in issuing even better policies, she said.

One hundred and ninety-five countries at the 21st UN Conference of Parties recently agreed to issue the Paris Agreement.

This agreement covers mitigation efforts to reduce emissions quickly to below 2 degrees Celsius, or 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible, implementing transparent carbon calculation and reduction of emissions.

The agreement also includes adaptation efforts by strengthening the capability of countries to overcome the impact of climate change, strengthening efforts to restore environmental damages or losses accrued due to climate change and extend assistance including funding countries to develop green and sustainable economies.

On the occasion, the environment ministry handed over Adiwiyata awards to 213 elementary, 176 junior high, 60 senior high and 40 senior high vocational schools.

Awards were also given to 11 schools which won in the green school competition and to 20 regions for implementation of climate change neighborhood program.(*)

Villages awarded for climate change mitigation
The Jakarta Post 15 Dec 15;

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has named 20 villages in the country winners of this year’s Climate Village Program (Proklim), awarding their initiatives to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation programs.

The ministry’s director general for climate change mitigation, Nur Masripatin, said on Monday that the villages had been awarded for concrete efforts on climate change mitigation, such as waste management techniques and recycling, energy conservation as well as forest fire prevention.

“They have shown us how to adapt to climate change and take concrete action to protect their environment from damage,” Nur said.

The ministry has been running the Proklim program since 2012 to encourage active participation of local communities at the neighborhood, hamlet or village level in dealing with climate change.

Nur also said that, in the long run, the program could contribute to reducing carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

She said the ministry planned to award 2,000 villages by 2019.

“Until this year, we have awarded 38 villages. You can imagine that we really need to rush to reach the target in the next four years,” Nur said.

This year, 174 villages had joined the competition, and the winners were announced after several stages of selection.

One of the winners is the village of Bono Tapung in Riau’s Rokanhulu regency, which was awarded for its biogas program.

Mahdi, a leading public figure in the village who initiated the biogas production in 2009, said that he produced biogas from the fermentation of cow dung which he collected daily.

“The biogas is now regularly used by most villagers for household needs, such as for cooking and lighting,” Mahdi said, adding that the village already had nine biogas production plants.

Another winner, Setya Negara village in Kuningan regency, West Java, was awarded for its Masyarakat Peduli Api (people who are careful with fire) group, which has been active since 2007.

The village’s economic and development division head, Kusri, said that the group was responsible to take care of a patch of forest in their village, which is located on the foot of the Ciremai volcanic mountain, the highest mountain in West Java.

“The group takes care of the forest, particularly during the dry season when the forest is prone to fire. They will do anything to preserve the source of water, because the forest is our source of life,”
Kusri said.

Nur stressed that the award winners could set an example for other communities.

“They could use social media, such as Facebook, through which they could post pictures of their activities, or by holding training coursing and consulting other villages. The point is, their initiatives should not cease,” she said. (foy)

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Millions without power, three dead as typhoon hits Philippines

AFP AsiaOne 15 Dec 15;

Typhoon Melor carved through the central Philippines on Tuesday bringing heavy rain and strong winds that left millions without power and at least three people dead, officials said.

One person died of hypothermia while two others drowned in floods in the poor fishing town of Catarman in Northern Samar province in the Visayas region south of Manila, municipal disaster officer Jonathan Baldo told DZMM radio.

The storm toppled trees and cut electricity to at least seven provinces, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said.

Christmas lanterns and lights, tin roofs and branches littered the streets of the city of Legazpi, which was battered by strong winds.

People who fled from their coastal homes spent a sleepless night in evacuation centres, sprawled on classroom tables and chairs as flying debris swirled around outside.

Melor whipped the vast Bicol peninsula, with a population of 5.4 million people, overnight before slamming into the Romblon islands on Tuesday morning.

Gusts had weakened somewhat by Tuesday morning but were still recorded at 170 kilometres per hour from 185 kilometres per hour on Monday. The storm was expected to weaken further as it heads to Mindoro island and out into the South China Sea later Tuesday, state weather forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in the typhoon-prone Bicol region, where 720,000 people were evacuated as early as the weekend.

"We have zero floods, zero deaths, zero casualties," Albay Governor Joey Salceda told ABS-CBN television.

"What we are asking for is the early restoration of electricity," he said, adding the entire province of 1.2 million people was without power.

Authorities were assessing Melor's damage while bracing for another typhoon brewing east of Mindanao, the country's main southern island, said NDRRMC spokeswoman Mina Marasigan.

Bad weather forced the cancellation of 16 domestic flights on Tuesday, adding to the 56 flights cancelled on Monday, the NDRRMC said.

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 typhoons a year, many of them deadly, with the strongest happening towards the end of the year.

The last deadly storm to hit the country this year, Koppu, killed 54 people and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes after it pummelled rice-growing northern provinces in October.

In November 2013, one of the strongest typhoons on record, Haiyan, flattened entire communities in the central region with tsunami-like waves, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.

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War against wildlife crime in Southeast Asia gets power boost

ASEAN is boosting its efforts to put an end to the illegal trade by engaging wildlife non-government organisations and frontline officers in Thailand.
Arglit Boonyai Channel NewsAsia 15 Dec 15;

BANGKOK: The battle against wildlife crime has long been plagued by low public awareness, poor funding and weak laws.

Now the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) Inter-Parliamentary Assembly is boosting its efforts to put an end to the illegal trade by engaging wildlife non-government organisations (NGO) and frontline officers in Thailand.

Labelled a non-traditional security threat by ASEAN, wildlife crime does not draw the same attention or outrage as terrorism or drug smuggling. Yet it is an industry that generates up to US$20 billion in profit a year, according to conservative estimates by wildlife NGO Freeland Foundation.

“It’s extremely important that ASEAN gets on top of the illegal wildlife trade or it’s going to be too late,” said Steve Galster, Freeland’s founder and executive director.

Regional governments do not have the budgets or legal framework to stop wildlife crime. Ranger squads are generally undermanned and lacking the budgets and equipment to patrol vast areas of forest, and are also often outgunned by the very poachers that they are sent to catch.

To help solve the problem, several parties with a part to play in fighting this illicit industry, including NGOs, parliamentarians from ASEAN member states and rangers from several Southeast Asian countries, recently met in Thailand's Petchaburi province.

“Our main problems are we don’t have the support or equipment for us to face the problems we encounter each day. We don’t have the weaponry, food or even manpower that we need,” said park ranger Kasidis Chanpradub.

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) has sent delegates into the field to get a better understanding of these problems and to create a common regional mechanism that will allow for the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, a 1973 treaty for wildlife protection.


Wildlife crime is especially relevant in South East Asia.

Not only does the region contribute to the global trade, it also acts as a transit point between source countries in Africa and consumer countries in East Asia.

AIPA delegate and Philippine MP Maria Lourdes Acosta-Alba said she believes that greater harmonisation of legislation across ASEAN is needed, but it will be a lengthy exercise.

“We are trying to update each other about our existing laws on wildlife protection and what proposed bills are pending, legislative measures and amendments that we want to propose. It’s a long process, but a good start,” she said.

This joint venture will be especially important, once the ASEAN Economic Community comes into effect in the new year, potentially making it easier for smugglers to transport goods across borders.

“There has been talk within AIPA to strengthen laws. Now, especially as they are going to breakdown their trade barriers and become one community, it’s extremely important that they hurry up, because it’s just going to make it easier to cross borders with wildlife,” Mr Galster said.

This meeting has renewed hope that there is high level support from politicians and people that hold the purse strings to make significant inroads in the war on wildlife crime.

- CNA/jb

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Unprecedented toxic algae lingers in Mississippi Sound

DMR Chief Scientific Officer Kelly Lucas said that in high concentration the algae can cause respiratory problems, especially in people that are already susceptible. She also said anglers can continue to fish in the Sound, but do not eat dead or distressed fish. Amanda McCoy
BY WESLEY MULLER Sun Herald 14 Dec 15;

BILOXI -- Mississippi's worst toxic algae bloom in recorded history kept the Gulf Coast under siege Monday for the fourth consecutive day, leaving dead marine life scattered along the shoreline.

Monty Graham, director of USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab and chairman of the Marine Science Department at NASA's Stennis Space Center, said he doesn't see any signs of significant change regarding the algae moving.

The winds are forecast to come out of the South," he said. "We're probably in a bit of a pattern where we're not going to change too much."

The bloom, which scientists call red tide, is a rare phenomenon that appeared in Mississippi waters Friday, causing officials to close all beaches and oyster reefs indefinitely.

DMR Chief Scientific Officer Kelly Lucas gives an update on the algae bloom currently in the Mississippi on Monday, December 14, 2015. Lucas said that in high concentration the algae can cause respiratory problems, especially in people that are already susceptible. She also said anglers can continue to fish in the Sound, but do not eat dead or distressed fish.

The Department of Marine Resources collected more water samples Monday to test algal concentrations. The results will be released once the tests are complete, DMR Chief Scientific Officer Kelly Lucas said.

"I think all the cities and counties right now are working on beach cleanup." Lucas said.

Algal concentrations, measured in cells per liter of water, typically become problematic at 10,000 cells per liter and will shut down oyster reefs at just 5,000 cells per liter. Scientists, however, recorded unprecedented numbers of more than 1 million cells per liter in some areas of the Mississippi Sound on Saturday.

Graham said he's never seen readings at that level in the more than 20 years he's worked in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

"You start getting worried when you get into the 10,000s and 100,000s (of cells per liter)," Graham said Saturday. "At the million mark, people even onshore, especially people with asthma, may start feeling the negative effects of it."

Scientists are working to forecast the movements of the algae.

Inia Soto Ramos, a biological oceanographer at USM's Ocean Weather Laboratory at Stennis, said a weekend thunderstorm created cloud cover that prevented any satellite imaging.

An expert on marine algae, Soto Ramos said the species affecting Mississippi is Karenia brevis, a single-celled phyoplankton that typically lives in warmer, saltier waters of South Florida. She said the algae contains a neurotoxin that kills other marine life and gets into the air through breaking waves.

Officials are warning the public, especially those with respiratory problems, to stay away from the beaches and immediate coastal areas, and anglers should avoid harvesting dead or distressed sea life.

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