Best of our wild blogs: 31 Jul 16

Life History of the Chocolate Royal v2.0
Butterflies of Singapore

Read more!

Malaysia: La Nina effects in September likely to be weak

The Star 31 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: There will likely be no major change in the weather pattern when the La Nina phenomenon occurs in September.

Science, Technology and Innova­tion Minister Datuk Seri Madius Tangau said the effects of La Nina, commonly known to bring wet and rainy weather, would be weak based on the latest climate forecast.

“The current weather condition is not associated with the phenomenon but is influenced by other factors, especially wind patterns,” he said.

Tangau was responding to claims that La Nina had arrived sooner with some reports saying that recent heavy rains were linked to it.

Malaysians should brace for drier weather and even haze instead.

“We are now experiencing the southwest monsoon that started in May and will last until mid-September.

“At this time, the atmospheric conditions throughout the country will be drier with less rain. As a result, haze associated with burning activities is expected to occur,” Tangau said.

He said the average daily temperature for August will be between 22°C and 34°C.

Despite this, Tangau said some coastal areas in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca, west Johor, west Sabah and Sarawak will experience isolated heavy rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon during the current monsoon.

The public can get the latest weather information by calling the Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment’s hotline at 1-300-22-1MET (638).

They can also visit its website at or its official accounts on Facebook and Twitter, or download its mobile app myCuaca.

Read more!

Malaysia: More turtles nesting at Cherating beach now

The Star 31 Jul 16;

KUANTAN: A total of 376 turtles have landed on Cherating beach from January to June compared to only 262 turtles last year.

Pahang Fisheries Department director Datuk Adnan Hussain said the number of turtle eggs had also increased, registering 34,869 in that period.

In comparison, there were 24,204 eggs last year.

“Turtles have landed along the 3.5km Cherating beach and 95% of them are of Green Turtle species.The rest are Hawksbill Turtles and Olive Ridley Turtles,” he told repor­ters at a Turtle Awareness and Con-ser­vation Programme launched by the son of Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Tengku Abdullah at Cherating Turtle Sanctuary and Information Centre here on Friday.

However, he said that as of June, 25 turtle deaths were recorded compared to eight last year.

Adnan said the sanctuary managed to ensure more than 60% of eggs laid every year were hatched.

Its biggest achievement since it was set up in 2006 was getting 93% of eggs hatched, he said. — Bernama

Read more!

Malaysia: Sun bear back in its natural habitat

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 31 Jul 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A rescued orphaned female sun bear named Lawa is now back in the wild as conservationists called for more efforts made to protect this endangered species.

Lawa, which is about eight years old, was released back into its natural habitat in the rainforest of Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founder and chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said it was another proud step in animal conservation efforts.

He said Lawa, fitted with a satellite collar, was flown from its centre in Sepilok to the wildlife reserve on Thursday.

“After veterinarian Dr Rosa Sipangkui made a final check on Lawa, she was let out of the cage and back into the wild.

“She was brought in to the centre as a cub back in 2008,” he said, adding that they had been preparing the bear for its return to the wild.

Wong said Lawa had undergone rehabilitation training for eight years, learning all essential skills to survive in the wild such as nest-building, foraging and looking for food.

“The training was made possible in the state-of-the-art natural forest enclosure at our centre,” he said.

Wong said the cost involved was around RM50,000, including the satellite collar and air transport.

“We need public donations to continue with our efforts,” he said, adding that they had some 40 sun bears at the centre and it cost about RM80,000 a month to maintain them.

Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya commended the latest effort of the centre and hoped more sun bears could be released back into the wild.

Sun bears are protected by law in Sabah under the Wildlife Conserva­tion Enactment 1997.

Read more!

Indonesia: Govt continues reforestation program around Lake Toba

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 30 Jul 16;

As part of a forest conservation program, the government on Friday planted thousands of trees of different varieties in the mountainous areas around Lake Toba, which have been severely deforested due to forest fires and illegal logging.

The tree planting, led by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, was centered in Huta Ginjang, Muara district, in the regency of North Tapanuli.

Siti said the planting the trees showed the seriousness of the government in dealing with Lake Toba conservation. She added that the government had allocated three million trees to North Sumatra, most of which are for the reforestation of the areas around Lake Toba.

“We want to replenish areas around Lake Toba to make it look beautiful because the tourist site has become a national destination,” Nurbaya said before starting the planting of some 7,700 trees in Huta Ginjang on Friday.

She called on the Batak people to save the environment around Lake Toba for the future generations. She added that the Batak people harbored philosophies and local wisdom that would enable them to conserve Lake Toba and its surroundings.

North Sumatra Forestry Office head Halen Purba said the planting of the trees would be continued in other areas close to Lake Toba. He said the trees planted around Lake Toba included pine, avocado and candlenut.

“The trees are planted in an area of 15 hectares in North Tapanuli,” Halen told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He said the annual reforestation program around Lake Toba had been going on since the 1970s. However, reforestation has not been successful due to the rocky terrain in the area.

“We will keep planting trees around Lake Toba even though the location is prone to forest fires,” Halen said, adding that the government had prepared a budget for the reforestation of areas around Lake Toba.

“For this year, the reforestation budget for North Sumatra stands at over Rp 40 billion,” he said. Each regency or municipality will also receive money for the reforestation program.

Marandus Sirait, an environmentalist who received the Kalpataru Award in 2005 from the Toba Samosir regency, said the tree planting activities by the government in the areas around Lake Toba were useless and a waste of state funds because similar such programs had been proven to be unsuccessful.

“Reforestation has been organized many times in areas around Lake Toba. However, most of the programs have failed as the trees are caught in fires before they grow up high,” said Marandus.

Another conservationist, Hasoloan Manik, the recipient of the Kalpataru Award in 2010, sees the tree planting activities simply as a project to disburse the state budget.

Read more!

WWF calls for crack down on 'tiger farms'

AFP Yahoo News 29 Jul 16;

Geneva (AFP) - The World Wildlife Fund on Thursday urged Asian states to investigate all tiger breeding centres and crack down on any involved in black-market animal trade.

On the eve of the International Day of the Tiger, WWF said it was crucial for governments to identify and close so-called "tiger farms", which are distinct from zoos or breeding centres with a legitimate conservation mission.

Tiger farms have been linked to the highly lucrative and internationally prohibited trade in tiger parts.

The conservation group estimated that there remained 200 tiger farms in Asia, mostly in China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

"Closure of these operations... would significantly boost efforts to save the world’s remaining wild tigers," WWF said in a statement.

The tiger population in farms is about 8,000, more than double the estimated 3,900 living in the wild, WWF said in a statement.

The so-called Tiger Temple in western Thailand was closed in May after Thai wildlife officials discovered dozens of dead cubs inside a freezer.

"The shocking images from the Tiger Temple of tiger cubs frozen and prepared for the illegal trade provide clear evidence of what is really going on behind the scenes at these tiger farms and why they must be closed," said WWF tiger specialist Michael Baltzer.

Some tiger farm operators have insisted their aim is to provide tourists an opportunity to interact with exotic cats.

But WWF said the "incredibly high operating costs" of these farms made it more likely they were involved in black-market trade.

Tiger parts are sometimes used in Asian remedies which are claimed to boost virility or fight disease.

Tiger farms "undermine efforts to protect wild tigers and halt the illegal trade by complicating enforcement activities, and by normalizing and legitimizing the sale of tiger parts and products, which in turn drives up demand," WWF said.

A hastily-organised blanket closure of all tiger farms would however be disastrous for the animals, the organisation added.

Tigers living in farm-like captivity have become habituated to human presence and cannot simply be released in the wild, the group said.

It said a tiger resettlement plan needed to be in place before the farms were closed.

At a conference in St. Petersburg in 2010, 13 Asian countries agreed to double the number of tigers living in the wild on the continent by 2022, which is China's next Year of the Tiger.

Read more!

Plastic bag use plummets in England since 5p charge

Rebecca Morelle BBC News 30 Jul 16;

Plastic bag use has plummeted in England since the introduction of a 5p charge last year, the government has said.

In the six months after the levy was brought in last October, 640 million plastic bags were used in seven major supermarkets in England, it says.

In 2014, the waste reduction charity Wrap estimated the same shops had used 7.64 billion bags over the full year.

If that trend were to continue over the year this would be a drop of 83%.

It follows the pattern seen in the rest of the UK since the introduction of charges for bags.

'Life is safer'

Wales introduced a levy in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014. They saw reductions in bag use of 76%, 71% and 80%, respectively, in the first year after the fee was established.

The charge means all retailers with more than 250 full-time employees are required to charge a minimum of 5p to customers for single-use, plastic carrier bags, but paper bags are exempt.

Over the six months since the charge was introduced, the government said:

A total of 1.1 billion single-use carrier bags were sold by large retailers who registered and reported data
The net proceeds from the levy came to £41.3m

At least £29.2m was donated to good causes, such as environmental, education, health, arts, charity or voluntary groups

Just over two-thirds of retailers voluntarily provided information on the amount donated and the type of good causes it spent the donations on

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said the reduction in the number of bags being used was "fantastic news".

"It will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won't be saddled with mountains of plastic taking hundreds of years to break down in landfill sites."

This reduction in plastic could benefit the environment, especially the oceans.

A report published in the journal Science in 2015 estimated that about eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in global waters each year.

Dr Sue Kinsey, from the UK's Marine Conservation Society, said: "Every year we survey our beaches, and last year we found over 5,000 bags over one weekend."

She said that birds and marine mammals ate plastic, and bags were also breaking down into smaller pieces and being consumed by tiny marine organisms.

However she said that England could do more to further reduce plastic pollution.

'Administrative burden'

She said she wanted to see the exemption for small businesses on charging the levy removed.

"There's no exemption in Scotland and Wales, for instance," she told BBC News.

"If that exemption was removed, we'd see even more plastic bags removed from the environment, which has only got to be good news."

But extending the 5p charge would be too much of an administrative burden for smaller businesses, the government has previously said.

Meanwhile, Andrew Pendleton from climate change action group Friends of the Earth said plastic bags were only part of the problem.

He said that attention should now turn to the "millions of non-recyclable coffee cups that go to landfill, and to oversized boxes and excess packaging as a by-product of online shopping".

England's plastic bag usage drops 85% since 5p charge introduced
Number of single-use bags handed out dropped to 500m in first six months since charge, compared with 7bn the previous year
Rebecca Smithers The Guardian 30 Jul 16;

The number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has plummeted by more than 85% after the introduction of a 5p charge last October, early figures suggest.

More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge, but this figure plummeted to slightly more than 500m in the first six months after the charge was introduced, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

The data is the government’s first official assessment of the impact of the charge, which was introduced to help reduce litter and protect wildlife - and the expected full-year drop of 6bn bags was hailed by ministers as a sign that it is working.

The charge has also triggered donations of more than £29m from retailers towards good causes including charities and community groups, according to Defra. England was the last part of the UK to adopt the 5p levy, after successful schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Retailers with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees have to charge a minimum of 5p for the bags they provide for shopping in stores and for deliveries, but smaller shops and paper bags are not included. There are also exemptions for some goods, such as raw meat and fish, prescription medicines, seeds and flowers and live fish.

Around 8m tonnes of plastic makes its way into the world’s oceans each year, posing a serious threat to the marine environment. Experts estimate that plastic is eaten by 31 species of marine mammals and more than 100 species of sea birds.

The environment minister, Therese Coffey, said: “Taking 6bn plastic bags out of circulation is fantastic news for all of us,. It will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won’t be saddled with mountains of plastic taking hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill sites.

“It shows small actions can make the biggest difference, but we must not be complacent, as there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use.”

The charge was introduced to try to influence consumer behaviour after the number of carriers bags given out by seven major supermarkets in England rose by 200min 2014 to exceed 7.6bn - the equivalent of 140 per person and amounting to a total of 61,000 tonnes of plastic.

Matt Davies, chief executive of the UK’s largest retailer Tesco said: “The government’s bag charge has helped our customers [in England] reduce the number of bags they use by 30m each week, which is great news for the environment.”

Tesco expects its Bags of Help scheme to provide more than £20m in the first year to local environmental projects.

Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to break down, but plastic drinks bottles and disposable coffee cups are now being seen as a huge challenge in protecting the environment.

The results of the Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach cleanup in 2015 showed that the amount of rubbish dumped on UK beaches rose by a third compared with the previous year. The number of plastic drinks bottles found were up 43% on 2014 levels.

“There is always more that we can do,” said Dr Sue Kinsey, a technical specialist for waste at the Marine Conservation Society. “We encourage everyone to join in on our Great British Beach Clean this September to help keep our coastlines clean.”

Andrew Pendleton, of Friends of the Earth, said: “The plummeting plastic bag use demonstrates the huge benefits just a small change in our everyday habits can make. It means less damaging plastic finding its inevitable way into our waterways and countryside. This is a massive boon for nature and wildlife.”

He added: “With attention now turning to the millions of non-recyclable coffee cups that go to landfill and to oversized boxes and excess packaging as a by-product of online shopping, the government and forward-thinking businesses have a golden chance to cut waste and reduce resource use in a sensible way that consumers welcome.”

At the time of the launch, the government forecast that the charge would reduce use of single-use carrier bags by up to 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street. It is also expected to save £60m in litter cleanup costs.

Plastic facts
6bn single use plastic bags would cover an area of about 900,000,000m2, over three times the area of Birmingham.
6bn bags laid end-to-end it would stretch about 3m km, or 75 times around the world.
6bn bags are approximately equivalent to the weight of 300 blue whales, 300,000 sea turtles or 3m pelicans.

Read more!

A peek into underwater wonderland

The waters around Singapore may be murky but they teem with colourful life
Audrey Tan Straits Times 30 Jul 16;

Singapore is known for being a Garden City and it lives up to its name - both on land and underwater.

Colourful coral colonies can be found blooming in the waters off the Republic's southern coast, providing refuge for animals such as butterfly fish, nudibranchs (sea slugs) and even sea turtles.

Many may find this hard to believe, considering how murky the waters surrounding the country are - a far cry from the crystal clear waters of popular beach destinations such as the Maldives, or Tioman in Malaysia.

Yet last year, scientists here made two whale-related finds. In July, a whole carcass of a female sperm whale was found floating off Jurong Island. Later that year in November, a sperm whale tooth was found in a lagoon within the Sisters' Islands Marine Park.

It is not clear how the whale or the tooth came to Singapore, but finds like these show that when it comes to the marine life here, out of sight should not be out of mind.

Here is how you can learn more about Singapore's thriving marine life.


The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, located within the National University of Singapore (NUS) in Clementi, will enthral both divers and non-divers alike.

Other than learning more about Jubi Lee - the whale which washed up in Jurong last July - visitors to the museum also get the rare chance to gaze upon a specimen of the Neptune's cup sponge, an animal thought to be globally extinct since the early 1900s.

In 2011, the wine glass-shaped sponge - which can grow large enough for a child to sit on - was rediscovered off St John's Island, south of mainland Singapore. Scientists spotted another specimen here in 2014, and its location is being kept under wraps - not surprising, considering the sponge was driven to extinction due to overfishing.

The museum's specimen is housed in its Marine Cycles Zone, where guests can view other interesting marine specimens, such as sea stars.

For a geographical perspective, pay attention to a map depicting the location of the Coral Triangle - an area widely considered the world's richest underwater wilderness - which sits just south of Singapore.

Tickets to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum can be bought at the door - at $16 for adult Singapore residents, and $9 for children. For more details, go to


It may sometimes be difficult to see past an outstretched arm, but those certified to scuba-dive should take a leap of faith and hop off a dive boat.

Many dive companies here organise dive trips to sites such as Pulau Hantu every weekend.

It is also possible to dive at the Sisters' Islands Marine Park - Singapore's first and only marine park. The National Parks Board (NParks) last year launched two dive trails - one shallow, one deep - there to encourage greater appreciation of Singapore's marine treasures.

The trails have 20 underwater markers - 10 on each - which tell divers where to look for marine life. Station Four of the Shallow Dive Trail, for example, says a live giant clam is nearby, while Station Two of the Deep Dive Trail alerts divers to the variety of sea fans and sea whips. From first-hand experience, the ropes that mark the length of the trail are also useful visual tools for navigation.

Unlike the Pulau Hantu dive site, which is accessible all year round, this is not possible at the Sisters' Islands Marine Park as currents may not be suitable for diving at times. NParks will make available dive windows based on this and the conditions of the marine habitat. This is estimated to be two to four days a month.

To protect marine biodiversity and avoid overcrowding, NParks has imposed a cap of eight divers on each of the two dive trails at the park at any given time.

The trips are conducted by six approved dive operators, who offer packages priced at different rates, depending on the type of package and the services offered.

Divers who wish to explore these trails must have at least 20 dives, with one local dive experience within the past two years.

Those interested can find out more at


For non-divers who want to learn about Singapore's marine life by going out and about, there are options which do not require the donning of a wetsuit.

NParks and marine conservation groups conduct free guided walks to various intertidal areas - places which are not submerged during low tide.

NParks conducts walks at the intertidal area of the Sisters' Islands Marine Park, where visitors can expect to see anemone shrimps and seahorses. For more information, visit

Marine life also thrives in other parts of Singapore. The northern coast, for example, is characterised by mangroves, mudflats and sandy shores, and these habitats are home to a rich diversity of species.

Volunteer groups like the Naked Hermit Crabs conduct free guided walks to places such as the Pasir Ris Mangroves or the Chek Jawa wetlands in Pulau Ubin. Details can be found at

Although they may not look it, the waters around Singapore are home to a surprising amount of marine life. More than 250 species of hard corals - representing more than 30 per cent of hard coral species found around the world - have been recorded here. In addition, it has 12 of the 23 species of seagrasses in the Indo-Pacific region, about 200 species of sponges and over 100 species of reef fish.

So the next time you have the opportunity, take a peek into our waters. You may find that the biodiversity on our shores is worth protecting.

Read more!

Malaysian tigers becoming extinct, minister calls for greater public awareness

BERNAMA New Straits Times 29 Jul 16;

PUTRAJAYA: Only about 240 to 350 tigers are still living in the main habitats in Malaysia, according to a survey conducted by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN).

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the survey was conducted from 2010 till 2013 in the Endau Rompin and Belum Temenggor National Parks.

He said there must be greater public awareness about the efforts to conserve tigers in this country, especially among youths.

“The perception of the older generation about the benefits and medicinal values of tiger body parts must be eliminated and there must be greater awareness of conservation issues concerning wildlife, especially tigers,” he said in a statement here today.

Wan Junaidi said the government had also renewed its commitment in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which aimed to combat and end illegal hunting and smuggling of wildlife.

As a commitment to increasing the number of wild tigers, he said the government had introduced the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan 2008-2020.

He added that among the strategies which have been identified included habitat and species protection, research and conflict management.

“The government has also allocated RM18.7 million for the 1st National Tiger Survey which covers tiger habitats in Central Forest Spine (CFS) jungles,” he said.

Wan Junaidi also said the government would continue with its commitment in taking steps to combat crimes involving cross-border wildlife crimes with collaborations between national and international agencies.

Each year, July 29 is the date for the celebration of the International Tiger Day which is aimed at fostering awareness of tiger conservation throughout the world The annual event was announced in 2010 through an agreement between 13 “tiger range states” at the Global Tiger Summit in St Petersburg, Russia.

This year, the theme for the World Tiger Day is ‘Giving Wild Tigers a Future“, which mirrors the need for every level of society to play a part in ensuring that wild tigers flourish in their natural habitat and stop their extinction. --BERNAMA

Ministry aims to debunk myths to save tigers
The Star 30 Jul 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The Natural Resour­ces and Environment Ministry is on a mission – to debunk myths – so that the killing of endangered species, including tigers, will come to a stop.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the dwindling tiger population worldwide, including in Malaysia, was due to loss of habitat, illegal poaching and trade, as well as man-tiger conflict.

“And it also doesn’t help that there are superstitions on the advantages and benefits of eating tiger meat or other exotic meat.

“There is a need to create public awareness, especially among the young, on the importance of preserving tigers.

“We must tell them that there is no truth behind these myths,” he said during a gathering to comme­morate his first year in office, which also coincided with Interna­tional Tiger Day, on July 29 every year.

Dr Wan Junaidi said correcting misconception that consuming exo­tic meat had benefits would help to bring down the number or even stop wild animals from being killed.

According to a survey conducted by the Wildlife and National Parks Department, there are three main areas where tigers roam – Taman Negara in Pahang, Endau-Rompin National Park and Belum, Perak.Between 2010 and 2013, some 240 to 350 tigers were found in these areas.

“Our activities and what we do has effect on the environment and wildlife. We must not be excessive in our action and consider other living beings in our surroundings,” said Dr Wan Junaidi.

The Government’s commitment to preserve tigers was reflected in the introduction of a national tiger conservation action plan which identified several strategies, including protecting its habitat and species, research and conflict management.

A sum of RM18.7mil had been allocated under the 11th Malaysia Plan to conduct the first national tiger survey.

Read more!

Malaysia: Sabah can ban shark hunting

NICHOLAS CHENG The Star 30 Jul 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Seven new types of sharks and rays will be included in the endangered species list of the Fisheries Act but the rest of Malaysia’s 67 shark species are still free to be caught and consumed.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek also announced that Sabah was free to totally ban shark hunting if the state government so wished.

This comes amid mounting pressure from international and Malaysian conservationists and even from the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and the Sabah government to amend the Fisheries Act to totally ban shark hunting.

In an interview yesterday, Ahmad Shabery said Sabah would have to revise its own laws to ban shark hunting but federal regulations on sharks would remain the same.

He also explained that out of the 67 shark species, of which 48 could be found in Sabah waters, only two were considered endangered - the whale shark and the sawfish.

The ministry plans to gazette the oceanic white tip shark, four hammerhead shark species, the giant oceanic manta ray and the reef manta ray as endangered species, too.

“Not all sharks are endangered. They try to generalise sharks but there are 67 types. These are common species that you can see in the market every day, so you cannot generalise sharks as a whole.

“I agree that endangered species have to be protected. If Sabah wants a total ban on shark hunting, they have the right to do so. There is no problem with us. We don’t get the profit, only Sabah,” he said.

Sabah’s Fisheries Department exists separately from the Federal Government’s jurisdiction, he said, making it possible for the state to enact its own laws on shark hun­ting.

“But to have a blanket ban on all sharks under the Fisheries Act, that is not possible.

“ It’s not to say I don’t love sharks. Because if you want to do total banning, it has to fit international standards,” he said, explaining that total protection on an apex predator could lead to an ecological imbalance in marine life.

Ahmad Shabery disagreed with shark conservationists who claimed that 80% of Malaysia’s shark population had depleted since 1989, saying that studies were being done to sustainably manage the population – though no results can be announced yet.

According to ministry statistics, shark products make up 0.1% of Malaysia’s total fisheries output with 1,466 metric tonnes to the 1.45 million metric tonnes of seafood caught from 2008 to 2014.

According to wildlife conservation group TRAFFIC, Malaysia ranked 10 in the world for shark hunting, behind countries Indonesia, India, Mexico, Taiwan, the United States and Japan.

On Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar’s proposal to have sharks protected under a planned Protected Marine Animals Act, Ahmad Shabery said discussions were ongoing.

“I don’t want people to think there is a clash between two ministries. That is not the way we work. We will iron out between us,” he said.

‘Shark finning may not be banned’
RUBEN SARIO The Star 2 Aug 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A move by Sabah to pass its own law banning the hunting and finning of sharks, may see the enactment being challenged, said the Federal Government.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said there was a possibility that such a state law would be rendered ineffective.

“Our officers are studying the relevant laws, taking into account that federal law is supreme,” he told The Star yesterday.

“The state can only enact its own law if such legislation does not contradict with any existing provision in the Federal Fisheries Act that is currently enforced in Sabah.”

Masidi said that no state law to ban shark hunting and finning could stand up in court if it overrides provisions in the Fisheries Act which does not make such actions an offence.

“The reason is simple. Federal law takes precedence over state law.

“Any person charged under state law could apply for a court declaration that the state law is void because it goes against the provisions of a federal law,” Masidi said.

“The Fisheries Act needs to be amended to allow Sabah to enact its own law against shark finning.”

He added that Sabah could be excluded from certain provisions of the Act that would allow it to enact its own law.

There is mounting pressure from international and local conservationists on the Sabah government to amend the Fisheries Act to ban shark hunting and finning.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, however, saw amendements to the Act as unnecessary.

He had said that Sabah was free to amend its state laws to ban shark hunting, but federal regulations would remain.

The state Fisheries Department was outside the Federal Government’s jurisdiction, making it possible for the state to enact its own law on shark hun­ting, he said.

Ahmad Shabery had also said that out of the 67 shark species, of which 48 could be found in Sabah waters, only two were considered endangered – whale shark and sawfish.

Stricter laws needed to protect Sabah sharks, rays
ROY GOH New Straits Times 4 Aug 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Effective legislation on the capture and consumption of sharks and rays in Sabah must be formulated to protect the species.

In welcoming the announcement that Sabah has the authority to ban shark hunting, the Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) today said a constructive way forward is needed amidst national and international attention on the issue.

“We are asking the Federal and State governments to make changes to the Fisheries Act that may be necessary to enable Sabah to pass the desired State level legislation,” SSPA chairman Aderick Chong said in a statement.

“Since the federal Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry has already announced that Sabah can enact our own laws to ban shark hunting to protect sharks in Sabah, SSPA urges the state Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry to take action on the federal minister's nod on protecting sharks.

“Outside of Sabah Parks Marine Protected Areas or shark sanctuaries, the state ministry under Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin can consider to put in place a ban on shark landing, slaughtering and trading of Sabah's already depleted reef sharks and CITES listed endangered species,” he added.

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments.

SSPA was reacting to the response by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun that if the State enacted its own laws to ban the hunting and finning of sharks, it may result in the local legislation being challenged.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek had recently announced that Sabah has the authority to ban shark hunting.

Masidi had said Sabah could only enact its own law if such legislation does not conflict with any existing provision in the Federal Fisheries Act that is currently enforced in the State.

SSPA also views positively the proposal by Federal Natural Resource and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar to list sharks under a planned Protected Marine Animals Act pending the ironing out of technicalities between the two ministries, and between Federal and State authorities.

Shark Stewards Director David McGuire said ocean conservationists around the globe applaud the leadership of the Sabah and Federal governments for creating a solution that benefits sharks and ocean health.

Shark Stewards is one of eight SSPA members, the others being Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Malaysian Nature Society (Sabah branch), Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Shark, Education, Awareness and Survival (SEAS), Scubazoo, Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC) and WWF-Malaysia.

LEAP Executive Director Cynthia Ong meanwhile said new or amended laws need to be coupled with efforts to help shark fishermen find alternative sources of livelihood and a meaningful stake in the diving and ecotourism sector.

In recent years there has been a big change in public attitudes to sharks and shark fin soup in Sabah, with awareness raising reaching the point where there is a general call for action.

Fresh photos of sharks being finned on Pulau Mabul in Semporna were splashed all over the media in recent weeks, increasing the pressure on the Federal government to make a stand in relation to Sabah wanting protection for sharks, a matter the State has repeatedly raised.

Read more!

Indonesia on Global Tiger Day: Only 371 Sumatran Tigers Left in the Wild

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 29 Jul 16;

Jakarta. The Indonesian arm of international environmental conservation agency, World Wildlife Fund, has revealed that there are only 371 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, or less than 10 percent of the total number of tigers left in existence.

“This is an important reminder to us all that our [Sumatran] tigers are severely at risk of extinction. Before this, we had 3 species of tigers in Indonesia, two of which are already extinct – the Balinese tiger and Javanese tiger,” Nyoman Iswarayoga, WWF Indonesia director of communication and advocacy, said on Friday (29/07).

According to Nyoman, the critically endangered Sumatran tiger is the only species left in Indonesia and is at constant risk of the illegal wildlife trade and hunting and is suffering from habitat loss due to the loss of forest coverage around Sumatra.

Rasio Ridho Sani, the director general for law enforcement at the Environment Ministry, explained that conserving the environment — especially Indonesia’s forests — is imperative to the protection of tigers.

“By protecting our tigers, we will also protect our forests and if our forests are gone the tigers will be too,” Rasio said.

Rasio further contended that by protecting the environment, it will help secure Indonesia’s natural resources which can be used as a source of medicine and food for future generations.

“The future of the world lies in the hands of Indonesia,” he added.

Rasio said that the risk of extinction of protected wildlife — including tigers and fauna — has seen an increase every year, while he shared that his team is in talks of revising the current laws on environmental crimes.

“Our idea is to impose criminal sanctions on perpetrators for crimes against wildlife such as prison terms or fines, especially [when they involve] protected wildlife so that it will have a deterrent effect,” Rasio said.

The director general emphasized the importance of awareness through education as many are still unaware that preserving wildlife is important for people's livelihood and maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

However, Rasio did note that awareness of the importance of wildlife protection has improved over the years.

“[Wildlife protection] has improved, but it hasn't been easy. We must continue to teach people that buying products that use protected wildlife parts is illegal and that a heavy penalty awaits if they are caught [contributing to] the crime,” Rasio said.

Global Tiger Day is celebrated worldwide on July 29.

Consumers urged to use green products to save tigers
Jakarta Post 1 Aug 16;

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the World Wild Life Fund (WWF) have urged Indonesian consumers to be more aware of products containing palm oil, as the expansion of oil palm plantations has affected the critically endangered status of Sumatran tigers.

The purchase of palm oil-based products from sustainable sources could indirectly have a strong impact on the preservation of Sumatran tigers, RSPO Indonesia director Tiur Rumondang said in a discussion on Sunday aimed at educating the public on the connection between their consumption behavior and the tiger population.

“The current challenge faced by Indonesia is not only low consumer awareness but also a lack of responsibility and collaboration from industry players to ensure that the products they produce are made from sustainable palm oil,”
she said.

Among indicators of a sustainable product is certification by the RSPO.

“Under RSPO’s sustainable palm oil scheme, members are obliged to protect the high conservation value in their plantation management, including protecting rare, threatened or endangered species and high conservation value habitats,” she said, adding that only 33 companies in Indonesia had been certified by the RSPO.

The RSPO, which has earned worldwide acknowledgement, is a voluntary based organization. It only imposes certification on registered companies that want to compete in the global market, because the certification is believed to be a condition demanded by the international marketplace.

Tiar said if consumers demanded sustainable products, more companies would be willing to follow the standardization.

“We have to build a habit within a society, which always questions whether any food or product we purchase is harmful to the environment,” she said.

The WWF celebrated World Tiger Day on Friday, bringing attention to the critically endangered status of the species.

The organization revealed there were only 371 wild Sumatran tigers left in the world.

The forest director for Sumatra and Kalimantan with the WWF Indonesia representative office, Anwar Purwoto, said the number had significantly decreased in the last 25 years and the species may face extinction in the next five years if necessary action was not taken.

He went on to say that 70 percent of remaining Sumatran tigers lived outside their habitats because their habitants had been gradually transformed, including into oil palm plantations.

“It’s more dangerous when the tigers live outside their natural habitats because it may lead to conflict with nearby residents. Among reasons for the disappearance of the animals are conflicts with residents and of course, poachers,” Anwar said.

Anwar acknowledged that palm oil had become the flagship commodity of Indonesia due to high export and absorption of manpower.

Together with neighboring country Malaysia, Indonesia has become a main player in supplying almost 85 percent of global demand.

The government has also aims to produce 40 million tons of crude palm oil (CPO) annually by 2020, from 32 million tons per annum currently.

Of the current amount, only around six million tons of CPO is RSPO-certified.

Anwar opined that existing oil palm land was adequate to meet the country’s target, claiming that the use of high quality seeds would enable companies to optimize production capacity. He also added that farmers needed to ensure that the fruit did not go to waste during harvest. (fac)

Read more!

Indonesia: Environmental group challenges reclamation project in South Sulawesi

Andi Hajramurni The Jakarta Post 29 Jul 16;

Local residents and activists will continue to challenge land reclamation around Losari Beach, South Sulawesi, after a court rejected a lawsuit against the issuance of a permit for the project.

“The panel of judges did not have an environmental perspective,” Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) executive director Nur Hidayati said after a hearing on Thursday.

She emphasized that Walhi did not talk about the direct impacts from the reclamation project, but the long-term impacts in the future.

The Makassar State Administrative Court (PTUN) on Thursday turned down a lawsuit filed by Walhi against the South Sulawesi governor for the issuance of the permit to reclaim areas on the province’s famous waterfront, to be developed into residential and commercial areas.

Presiding judge Tedi Romyadi said the permit granted to PT Yasmin Bumi Asri would not cause pollution or damage the environment around the site, as claimed by Walhi. The lawsuit, therefore, was considered formally flawed.

“[The panel of judges] declares the lawsuit was not accepted and the plaintiff has to pay court expenses of Rp 2,963,500 [US$225.23],” said Tedi, who is also head of the Makassar State Administrative Court.

One member of the judging panel, Joko Setiono, had a dissenting opinion.

In its lawsuit, Walhi said the permit issued by the governor on Nov. 1, 2013 for the reclamation project would trigger pollution and environmental damage in the reclaimed area, including to the ecosystem, coral

“Before the reclamation, the environment in the area, including the coral reefs, was already severely damaged.”

The reclamation permit was initially granted to PT Yasmin Bumi Asri but last year part of the area, spanning around 100 hectares, was handed over to Ciputra Surya Tbk. for the development of a business center, hotel and luxury residential complex.

The remaining 57 ha were handed over to the South Sulawesi administration for the development of the Center Point of Indonesia (CPI), comprising a state guesthouse, convention building and open
green area.

Citing an explanation from an expert witness during trial, Tedi said environmental damage had been done before the reclamation occurred.

“Before the reclamation, the environment in the area, including the coral reefs, was already severely damaged,” said Tedi, adding that according to the expert witness, there was no mangrove forest at that time but only some mangrove trees.

He added that of the 157 ha area, some 20 ha had been reclaimed, saying the reclamation had not polluted the area.

Walhi promptly rejected the ruling and said it would appeal to the South Sulawesi State Administrative High Court.

The group also expressed its objection to the panel of judges, who left the courtroom immediately after reading out the verdict, without providing the plaintiff or its lawyer a chance to respond.

Nur Hidayati said the lawsuit was filed because the environment had to be preserved and grassroots communities, especially in coastal areas, had to be given space.

Hundreds of people from coastal areas around the reclaimed location who attended the trial similarly rejected the court’s ruling. They expressed support for Walhi to continue with the lawsuit.

Read more!

Malaysia, Singapore conduct chemical spill response exercise

Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE: To test Malaysia and Singapore's readiness to tackle chemical spills, a joint exercise was held along the East Johor Strait on Thursday (Jul 28).

The exercise is part of the bilateral cooperation programme under the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a joint news release.

Thursday's exercise simulated a collision between a chemical tanker departing an oil terminal in Pasir Gudang, Malaysia, and a cargo ship departing an adjacent shipyard, resulting in the spillage of 30 metric tonnes of the chemical Styrene Monomer. Styrene Monomer is a flammable liquid which floats on water. Prolonged exposure to highly concentrated vapour could lead to unconsciousness, coma and death, MPA and NEA stated.

The drill also simulated two crew members of the cargo ship falling overboard as a result of the impact.

The Marine Department of Malaysia led response efforts, while MPA supported Malaysian authorities in areas such as spillage clean-up and search-and-rescue efforts. NEA also supported the exercise by monitoring air and water quality for signs of chemical contamination, information exchange with the Johor Department of Environment, and was ready to coordinate cleanup efforts along Singapore's shorelines.

In total, Singapore deployed four vessels, 30 officers and 10 observers to support the exercise, MPA and NEA said.

- CNA/dl

Read more!

Nature groups propose changes to alleviate environmental impact in Mandai

TOH EE MING Today Online 29 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE — With public consultation on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for development plans in Mandai underway, nature groups have suggested modifications to the proposals to further mitigate any potential impact, while some have also called for more clarity on the level of impact expected.

When completed in 2023, Mandai’s 126ha mega-nature attraction will see a new Bird Park, a Rainforest Park, as well as an eco-lodge and an education centre.

Wildlife consultant Mr Subaraj Rajathurai noted that the building of an eco-bridge for wildlife crossing across Mandai Lake Road — one of the measures that had been announced to safeguard wildlife in the vicinity — would help minimise traffic accidents.

However, he added that Mandai Park Holdings (MPH), which commissioned the EIA, could look into more “green connections” to help animals “safely move from one area to another with minimum risk”.

Such links could include putting up ropes and continuous canopies for arboreal species, such as monkeys, squirrels and civets, to move freely between the trees, and identifying passage ways to prevent animals from going in the wrong direction.

Mr Subaraj also pointed out that while there will be narrow buffer zones, measuring 45m to 50m wide — where no construction or human activity will take place — there still needs to be “sufficient landscape and greenery to play a part in animals’ foraging and moving”.

Nature Society (Singapore) president Shawn Lum said while there is “no magic wand” to compensate for habitat loss, the developers could look into various ways of designing the attractions, such as sinking down aviaries to prevent trees from being impeded by large structures, and to allow for wild birds to still roost in undisturbed canopies.

Local conservationist Mr Tony O’Dempsey expressed concerns about locating the bird park next to the nature reserve. This could give rise to scenarios such as wildlife escapees competing with native birds for habitat and food resources, or cross-infections between native birds and captive birds via vectors such as mosquito and lice, he said.

Mosquito fogging near the nature reserve would also affect native insect wildlife there.

“These are things that mitigations, such as cage design, cannot satisfy 100 per cent ... We are taking a big risk,” Mr O’Dempsey said.

More attention also needs to be paid to the existing band of mature fruit and secondary tree species in the area — which provide a conduit for native animals such the Colugo — which would be cleared to make way for the project, he added.

Such a move would leave the eco-bridge as the only connection across Mandai Lake Road.

Citing how trees planted within the eco-bridge and buffer zones might not be tall enough to support arboreal animals, Mr O’Dempsey said other solutions could be found, which “leave the existing forest in place while utilising the surrounding grass land for structures”.

Co-founder of Cicada Tree Eco-Place Vilma D’Rozario said: “To have two large attractions added in, and accommodation on-site so close to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve is a great concern ... These are not good practices.”

Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chair of the conservation committee at Nature Society (Singapore), noted that greater efforts are needed to quantify adverse environmental impact.

He felt that the EIA’s concluding statement that the majority of the impacts “can be reduced to a residual impact magnitude of small or below” to be rather vague or misleading.

“This means that there are some — maybe a few — that cannot be reduced to this level (small or below). What are these impacts? How serious are they? These, as I see it, are not made clear in the report,” he added.

He said he will be helping the Nature Society to provide a formal and detailed feedback.

Mr Lum added: “In the risk assessment, we can list each of the risks one by one, the results of those impacts, the likelihood of these things happening, and then you can work on a more ecologically sound mitigation ... That becomes a starting point to address these issues more realistically.”

Those interviewed said they were glad that some of the input given by the nature groups was incorporated into the EIA.

Mr Louis Ng, Animal Concerns Research & Education Society’s (Acres) chief executive, said: “It was a more collaborative process, where we involved local experts, people who really understood the animals. We were thankful for that.”

Mr Subaraj added: “We just need to push a little harder, and make the layman understand what we know from years of experience in the field ... (so) we can make it a better place for wildlife.”

Eco-Lodge at Mandai to be 400-room full-service hotel
SIAU MING EN Today Online 29 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE — Up to 400 rooms and family accommodation units — alongside a full suite of facilities for banquets and events, a swimming pool and a spa — could be available at the new Eco-Lodge in the mega nature attraction planned for Mandai, when development works are completed in 2023.

And the planned Planet Explorer and Sri Seletar Point education centre will feature an “indoor nature-themed entertainment hub” with galleries for permanent and temporary exhibitions, and function rooms to host workshops and mini-lectures.

Occupying a 4.65ha plot of land — about the size of six football fields — located next to the Upper Seletar Reservoir, the Eco-Lodge has been conceptualised as a full-service hotel with its own drop-off point, a lobby and reception, food-and-beverage facilities, as well as banquet and events facilities.

“The overall building form and height will be low-rise, respecting existing tree lines and well-integrated with the surrounding landscape. A 15m setback from the reservoir edge will allow for a buffer area of vegetation close to the reservoir to be retained,” stated the report, which was commissioned by Mandai Park Holdings (MPH), which manages the three wildlife attractions already in the area — the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari.

The company also shared last month that there are plans to build more permanent accommodation such as tents, rustic cottages and family rooms. The Singapore Zoo already offers overnight camps.

Though the design and construction footprint of the Eco-Lodge had yet to be finalised at the time the report was written, it noted that the construction work for the accommodation is expected to take about four years. The building will be no taller than four-storeys to limit its shading and edge effects on the surrounding forested areas.

Meanwhile, Planet Explorer and Sri Seletar Point will be housed in a three-storey building, and is expected to draw about 25,200 visitors at its peak each day. The exhibitions will feature themes such as conservation, sustainability, natural sciences and biodiversity.

There are also plans to have function rooms to host events, workshops and mini-lectures, as well as training rooms for staff and vets from visiting zoos. Children can also attend classes on conservation at the Forest Kindergarten.

Other facilities in the building include a library, retail stores and offices. Construction work for the Planet Explorer and Sri Seletar Point is expected to take about three years and will be ready after the second quarter of 2022. When completed in 2023, the 126ha mega nature attraction in Mandai will see a new Bird Park — relocated from Jurong — a Rainforest Park, along with the Eco-Lodge and the education centre.

On Tuesday, MPH shared how original plans were modified after the assessment found that the construction and operation of the attractions could have an impact on the habitats, wildlife and vegetation, and cause pollution.

For example, Planet Explorer and Sri Seletar Point were envisioned to be housed in separate buildings along the reservoir edge. But this was tweaked to house them in a single building on a site where a multi-storey car park now sits, to reduce building footprint and avoid any impact on the nearby forested area.

Read more!

Bicycle-sharing scheme to start in Jurong Lake District by end-2017

Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE: A self-service bicycle scheme will be piloted in the Jurong Lake District (JLD) by the end of 2017, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in a media release on Thursday (Jul 28).

The scheme, which will encompass more than 1,000 bicycles and 100 docking stations, will allow members of the public access to a bicycle around the clock. They can pick up the bicycles at any self-service docking station and return it to a station within the system's service area, LTA said.

The stations are spaced about 400m apart, and will allow residents to make short trips from their homes to nearby MRT stations and bus interchanges, where they can return the bicycle and continue their journeys on public transport.

LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong said: “We believe this will catalyse take-up of cycling as it provides a convenient and healthy way to commute between homes, nearby amenities and the MRT stations.

"Through the pilot, we will study the scheme’s feasibility and determine if and how it can be extended to other residential towns as well,” Mr Chew added.


LTA said they will call a tender to appoint an operator who will own, build, operate and maintain the pilot bicycle-sharing scheme in JLD for eight years, with options to bid to operate a bicycle-sharing scheme in Marina Bay/City Centre as well as Tampines and Pasir Ris.

This means there will potentially be around 2,300 bicycles and 230 docking stations in total across the three locations, LTA said.


For members of the local cycling community, the scheme is miles apart from previous attempts at fostering a bicycle sharing culture in Singapore, including the 12-bicycle strong Isuda scheme in 2012.

"The biggest difference is the scale of the implementation of the proposal,” said co-founder of cycling interest group Love Cycling SG Woon Taiwoon, who helped raise awareness of Isuda among the community.

“It allows a very big spectrum of people to use the facilities. This is a very good step forward, that the bicycle is not regarded as a purely recreational item."

But ultimately, it will still take time to foster a bicycle-sharing culture in Singapore, Mr Woon said.

"The design needs to be robust, needs to be temper-proof," he said. "Over the last few years a lot of good has happened.

"I think we need to give it time, time for the infrastructure, time for people to also accept cycling as a mode of transport."


To defray some of the costs involved in setting up and operating the bicycle-sharing pilot in JLD, LTA said they will provide a grant. The potential operators will bid for a fixed grant they need in each year of the contract.

Besides appointing an operator for the bicycle-sharing scheme, LTA will also call a tender to appoint a sponsorship consultant. LTA will work with the consultant to engage suitable sponsors, who will get naming and advertising rights to the bicycle-sharing system, similar to other bicycle-sharing systems in overseas cities such as Citibike in New York and Santander Cycle in London.

The bicycle-sharing scheme complements existing efforts to facilitate cycling and to improve first-and-last-mile connectivity to public transport nodes and key amenities, LTA said.

Under the National Cycling Plan, more than 700km of cycling paths will be provided islandwide by 2030.

- CNA/am

Bike-sharing scheme could extend to Tampines, Pasir Ris, Marina Bay and city centre
TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 28 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE — Two more areas — Tampines-Pasir Ris as well as Marina Bay with the city centre — have been identified as possible locations for a bike-sharing pilot scheme to extend to.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) revealed this on Thursday (July 28) as they gave details of the tender they will call on Friday for an operator to own, build, operate and maintain a 1,000-bicycle-sharing system with 100 docking stations in the Jurong Lake District for eight years, starting end next year.

Bidders for this tender will also have to propose plans to expand the bike-sharing scheme to Marina Bay and the city centre, and to Tampines-Pasir Ris as well. If the system is launched in all three areas, the total number of bicycles in the scheme is estimated to rise to about 2,300, with around 230 docking stations.

To defray part of the costs of setting up and operating the pilot in Jurong Lake District, the LTA will provide a grant. Potential operators will have to bid for a fixed amount of grant they need each year of the contract. However, money from private sponsors are expected to partially fund the operations.

Another tender will be called on Friday to appoint a consultant that will engage suitable sponsors who will be entitled to naming and advertising rights to the bicycle-sharing system.

Plans for the bike-sharing pilot at Jurong Lake District, which will run 24/7, were announced by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan last week.

How much it will cost to use the bicycles will be decided by the operator, said the LTA on Thursday. In some cities, commuters get to ride free for the first 30 minutes, while others operate on a system of a monthly or annual pass.

In New York, for instance, an annual membership costs US$155 (S$210), while a monthly one is US$14.95. A 24-hour pass costs US$9.95.

The tender will stipulate that operators should accept payment through EZ-link or debit and credit cards.

On how the LTA would decide whether to expand the scheme, a spokesperson said: “We will look at the quality proposals submitted by the tenderers to see if (they) have taken into account the unique characteristics of the respective districts. We will also look at the financial proposals to assess the extent of economies of scale that can potentially be reaped in the respective options.

“Concurrently, we will evaluate the level of sponsorship interest before eventually deciding which option to choose.”

Jurong Lake District was chosen for the pilot because it is set to be re-developed into Singapore’s second Central Business District, said the LTA on Thursday. The authority’s considerations for expanding to the two new areas would be different, added a spokesperson.

Tampines and Pasir Ris, as mixed residential, industrial and commercial-use towns, should see higher frequency of trips during certain hours as commuters may use the bicycles to commute to and from work or to run errands.

In contrast, usage is expected to be spread out throughout the day in the city centre and Marina Bay, partially because there are key tourist attractions there.

“This will expand the parts of the city one can access quickly and easily ... for both tourists and Singaporeans to explore the sights of the city. This may hence translate to less frequent but longer bicycle-sharing trips,” said the LTA spokesperson.

“Usage may also be more consistent during the weekends or even in the wee hours as recreational night-cycling becomes increasingly popular or when public transport services are not available late at night,” the spokesperson added.

As part of the planning process, the public will be consulted on where pick-up and drop-off points for the bikes should be.

Read more!

Malaysia: Falsified permits are fuelling global illegal wildlife trade

The Star 29 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: It’s so easy – and even legal – to own exotic animals. And this is fuelling the global illegal wildlife trade.

This is because the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permits can be and are often falsified.

In Malaysia, traders who wish to sell exotic animals and individuals who want to buy them need to have the CITES permit for each one they want to sell or keep.

Traffic South-east Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said the existence of fake permits, which state that the animals were bred in captivity when they were actuality taken from the wild, was a “long-standing issue”.

“Wildlife is often taken illegally from the wild and laundered into the global market via captive-breeding businesses.

“The animals are exported with paperwork falsely declaring them as captive-bred,” said John.

She said the responsibility was with potential buyers to check whether the exotic animal they wanted to buy was indeed captive-bred.

“Keeping exotic pets, especially those sourced from the wild, may contribute to the decline of a species in the wild.

“If in doubt, do not buy,” she said.

She added that the Government needed to ensure that exotic animals, such as the Indian Star tortoise recently seized in the country from an illegal wildlife trafficking ring, were actually bred in captivity.

“We strongly urge governments to consult with experts before allowing the import, to look into the likelihood of the species in question actually originating from a breeding operation,” she said.

Wildlife Alliance Science and Global Development director Dr Thomas Gray said the exotic pet trade, even if legal, contributed to animal poaching from the wild.

“In many circumstances, it is used to launder animals caught in the wild as ‘commercially bred’.

“Many CITES permits are fake as it is physically impossible for all the ‘captive bred’ reptiles traded globally to come from genuine and well-managed captive facilities,” said Gray.

He said the ownership of exotic animals as pets should be discouraged.

Referring to two types of tortoises – red-footed and pancake – that were seen being sold in two exotic pet shops here, Gray said both of types of tortoises were CITES-listed species whose populations in the wild have been seriously impacted by the exotic pet trade.

“Neither species is suitable as pets,” he said.

Just RM3 for a protected wildlife licence
The Star 29 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: From as low as RM3 for a one-year licence from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan), Malaysians can legally own animals whose numbers are declining in the wild.

Depending on the species, the licence fee varies from RM3 to own a scorpionidae, RM5 (Burmese python), RM10 (short-tailed parrot) to RM20 for animals protected under Malaysian laws.

The law stipulates that only exotic animals bred in captivity can be sold in shops. However, there appears to be little checks on this.

Traffic South-East Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said animals categorised under Appendix II of CITES could only be traded internationally with proper permits and licences.

(Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora states that the species will face extinction unless poaching from the wild is controlled.)

“We don’t know where the traders are getting it from,” she said, adding that pet shops should seek verification on the origin of the animals.

Under the law, when a pet owner buys an animal, he must take it to a veterinarian who would then insert a microchip in it. In cases of birds, a ring would be attached.

After that, the new owner only has to bring the animal, his identity card, the receipt for the purchase of the animal, a utility bill (if the owner is living on a landed property) or a letter from the maintenance office to Perhilitan to apply for a licence.

Despite these easy steps to get a licence, there seems to be no awareness or urgency from pet owners to obtain it.

“When you buy an animal from us, we will issue you a receipt. Just bring it (the receipt) to Perhilitan and you can apply for the licence,” said a trader during a visit by The Star to an exotic pet shop in Petaling Jaya.

A visit to another exotic animal shop in Kuala Lumpur showed a similar scenario.

When the seller was asked where his supply came from, he remained silent. He said the onus was on the buyer to apply for the licence to own the exotic animals.

“You don’t need to have a licence to buy the animal, you can buy it first and then apply for licence.”

“They (the authorities) won’t check your house lah,” he added.

They however, stated that they had the CITES permits, as required by Perhilitan, to sell them.

Perhilitan enforcement division director Hasnan Yusop said owners of these animals must have a licence to keep the pets.

“We will only issue licences for owners to keep wild animals bought from traders authorised by Perhilitan.”

“These traders have operating licences from Perhilitan and each transaction made by them must be recorded,” said Hasnan.

Read more!

Malaysia: 600,000 trees planted for Kelantan restoration works

The Star 29 Jul 16;

TUMPAT: Some 600,000 trees of various species were planted by the Kelantan Forestry Department since June as part of the 2014 restoration works in flood-hit areas.

Its deputy director (Administration and Finance) Nik Mohd Hasanuddin Hussin said the process had been implemented in stages and was now expanding into areas around the Lebir River in Gua Musang.

“Recently, we managed to plant trees along a 20km stretch in some declining areas around Lebir River.

“This replanting process will be continued in stages up to the Sungai Kelantan,” he told reporters at the Greening and Beautification programme of Bandar Tumpat at Taman Kemahkotaan Tumpat, here yesterday.

Nik Mohd Hasanuddin said they were targeting a total of 1.1 million trees to be successfully planted this year based on the current development of the project.

The tree-planting project was being implemented through the provisions of the 11th Malaysia Plan amounting to RM1.7mil under the restoration programme for the rehabilitation of the declining areas along the Kelantan rivers.

Nik Mohd Hasanuddin said they also received advice from the Orang Asli on the species of trees, suitable to be planted on the riverbanks, besides obtaining the seeds from the community.

He said the selection of seedlings was important to comply with the location so it could withstand the onslaught of natural disas­ters. — Bernama

Read more!

Indonesia to re-investigate 15 firms suspected of causing Riau forest fires

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo has instructed authorities to re-evaluate cases involving 15 companies who were let off after being identified as suspect for causing forest fires in Riau province last year.

Head of Presidential Staff Teten Masduki told reporters on Thursday (Jul 28) that he has informed the president about the cases, and that Mr Widodo has asked national police chief Tito Karnavian, and Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar to follow up on them.

“I have reported to the president, and the president asked me to speak with the national police chief, and the Environment and Forestry Minister. As this concerns the law, we have to be careful about any intervention because the law in the region is autonomous,” Mr Teten was quoted as saying by online news portal

Last week, Riau district police stopped investigations into the companies due to a lack of evidence.

Senior Commissioner Rivai Sinambela, Director for Special Criminal Investigation, Riau police district had said that the cases did not demonstrate intent nor negligence.

He added the fires happened on land which could be owned by the community, and not on areas belonging to companies.

Mr Teten said he visited Riau last week to ensure that measures are in place to tackle any incidents of forest fires, and he was surprised upon learning that police had stopped investigations into the 15 companies.

“If there is other evidence related to the cases, it’s possible for (the investigation) to be opened again," Mr Teten said.

- CNA/nc

Read more!

ASEAN agrees to stop blame game over haze issue

Antara 28 Jul 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Association South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has agreed to stop the practice of blaming each other over the haze caused by forest fires in the region, an official stated.

"We have already established cooperation that focusses on technical approaches to overcome this problem together in the framework of the ASEAN," Director for ASEAN Political and Security Cooperation at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs M. Chandra Widya Yudha noted after a press briefing here on Thursday.

The cooperation, through the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, was signed in June 2002 and reaffirmed during the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on July 24, 2016.

Yudha pointed out that the importance of the Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution was not only to share the burden but also to find ways to solve it regionally.

"We agree to view this (haze pollution) as a global challenge and not just the responsibility of one country," he emphasized.

The haze had severely polluted the Southeast Asian region from the end of 2015 to the early part of 2016 when some forest areas in Indonesia, mainly in Sumatra and Kalimantan, were engulfed by fires.

During that period, the haze not only affected the locals in Sumatra and Kalimantan but also became a cause of concern for neighboring countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia.

To handle the haze issue, the Singaporean government had taken serious steps, such as banning paper and pulp products made in Indonesia and had requested to take legal action against some plantation companies in Singapore, among others.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government had not remained silent and had undertaken serious measures to extinguish the forest fires and to overcome the haze.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla remarked at the commemoration of World Environment Day 2016 in Riau Province on July 22 that the Transboundary Haze Pollution Agreement was not only important for Indonesia but also for the world.

"I always said that the neighboring countries should be fair, as when the condition of forests is good, they get fresh air too. That is why during difficult times, we should share the burden too," he emphasized.

According to the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and Environment data, the hotspots detected in the forest areas had decreased by 65 percent from some one thousand in December 2015 to 205 in July 2016.(*)

Read more!

Northern Vietnam struck by powerful storm

Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 16;

HANOI: A powerful storm rolled across northern Vietnam on Thursday (Jul 28) killing one person, delaying flights and felling hundreds of trees in the capital Hanoi.

Tropical storm Mirinae, which barrelled across China's Hainan island before surging into Vietnam in the early hours of Thursday, brought high winds and more than 280 millimetres of rain as it pushed inland.

More than 32,000 people were evacuated ahead of the storm which struck six provinces and cities across the north, authorities said.

In Hanoi, one person was killed and more than 500 trees were brought down, bringing widespread traffic delays. "Many trees have come down onto people's houses and cars," said Hanoi resident Tran Dai Thang.

Photos of the downed trees - an unusual politically touchy subject in Vietnam - spread across social media on Thursday.

Plans by city authorities to cut down many of the city's trees sparked protests last year and a rare u-turn by the government in a country where environmental destruction has fuelled public anger in the past.

National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines said it had to delay more than twenty flights to and from Hanoi because of bad weather. Widespread powercuts were also reported in areas of Nam Dinh, Thai Binh and Ninh Binh provinces.

Vietnam is hit by an average of eight to 10 tropical storms every year, which often cause heavy material and human losses.

- AFP/ec

Read more!

Kenting National Park sees worst coral bleaching in 17 years

Focus Taiwan 28 Jul 16;

Taipei, July 28 (CNA) Coral reefs in waters around southern Taiwan's Kenting area have been hit by the worst bleaching in 17 years, as sea temperatures continue to exceed 30 degrees Celsius, the Kenting National Park Headquarters said Thursday.

"This is the worst bleaching in Kenting since the El Niño event in 1998," said Chen Jung-hsiang (陳榮祥), an official from the headquarters.

Usually, sea temperatures around Kenting reach no more than 29 degrees in the summer, and only portions of the coral reefs suffer bleaching, usually lasting for only around one week, Chen said.

The bleaching recedes once the bottom layer of ocean water with colder temperatures reaches the surface, he explained.

This year, however, ocean temperatures have remained above 30 degrees for a month now, Chen said, adding that some coral has died, because bleaching that lasts over a week can be fatal.

The area hit by bleaching extends from Maobitou in the north of the area, to the west side of South Bay, and around 30 percent to 40 percent of the coral in the area has been affected, Chen said.

"This is a dire situation," he warned.

He said coral near the west side of the South Bay is worst- affected, and the coral species most susceptible to bleaching include acropora and montipora.

Kenting, located in the southernmost county of Pingtung, is a popular tourist destination known for its tropical weather and white sandy beaches.

Tsai Yung-chun (蔡永春), an experienced diver in Kenting, estimated that 60 percent of the coral located within five meters of the surface of the ocean in Kenting, and 20 percent of the coral located five to 10 meters from the surface, have been hit by bleaching.

He said the extent of the bleaching is more severe than in 1998, and even coral species with higher resistance to heat, such as finger coral, have been damaged by bleaching.

The arrival of a typhoon could lower the ocean temperature and improve the situation, Chen said.

Hsu Mao-ching (徐茂敬), chief of the headquarters' conservation research division, said his division will continue to cooperate with a coral bleaching monitoring task force formed by environmentalists and academics to monitor the coral reefs in the Kenting area.

To protect the coral reef ecosystem, he urged the public not to capture or eat coral reef fish, and not to step on coral when swimming in the ocean.

(By Kuo Chih-hsuan and Christie Chen)

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jul 16

Oil spill off Live Firing Islands, 26 Jul 2016
wild shores of singapore

Read more!

Very Large Ore Carrier Spills Fuel Off Singapore

The Maritime Executive 27 Jul 16;

On Tuesday morning, the very large ore carrier Berge Bureya spilled approximately one ton of heavy fuel oil into the Straits of Malacca off of Tanjung Piai, Malaysia, just west of Singapore.

The vessel's owner, Berge Bulk, confirmed the spill in a statement, and said that there were no injuries, no grounding and no involvement of third parties.

The firm said that "whilst in transit between Singapore and Brazil, a quantity of oil was identified leaking from the vessel and the crew immediately enacted emergency procedures to halt the leakage and to start a prompt clean-up operation. Berge Bulk Maritime is cooperating closely with the Malaysian authorities in the management of the spill and the vessel was boomed following the incident. The oil leak was stemmed quickly."

Officials with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency told local media that the spill had affected an area of approximately 20 nm, and that the vessel had been detained in accordance with the nation's environmental regulations.

As of Wednesday, the Bureya was at anchor off of Tanjung Piai.

The 300,000 dwt Bureya started life in 1993 as the oil tanker Seki. Berge bought her and converted her to a six-hold ore carrier in 2007. She carries up to 5,500 tons of fuel oil.

In 1994, as the tanker Seki, she was involved in a collision off of Fujairah in which her number one port wing tank was ruptured, spilling 16,000 tonnes of Iranian light crude.

Kapal Bawa Muatan HFO Bocor Di Perairan Tanjung Piai
Bernama 27 Jul 16;

JOHOR BAHARU, 27 Julai (Bernama) -- Sebuah kapal dagang asing yang membawa muatan minyak bahan bakar berat (HFO) mengalami kebocoran di perairan Tanjung Piai dekat sini, semalam.

Pengarah Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia (APMM) Johor Baharu, Kapten Maritim Aminuddin Abd Rashid berkata kebocoran pada bahagian kanan kapal itu menyebabkan kira-kira satu tan HFO tumpah di permukaan air.

Kapal itu yang dikenali sebagai Berge Bureya dan didaftarkan di United Kingdom pada asalnya membawa keseluruhan HFO 5,495 tan metrik, katanya dalam kenyataan di sini hari ini.

Aminuddin berkata kebocoran disedari ketika kapal itu dalam perjalanan dari Singapura ke Brazil melalui Selat Melaka.

"Selepas itu, kapal tersebut bersauh di kedudukan tiga batu nautika barat Tanjung Piai bagi memindahkan minyak ke tangki lain. Kerja pembersihan oleh syarikat kapal tersebut masih dijalankan sehingga kini sambil dibantu Jabatan Alam Sekitar, Jabatan Laut dan APMM," katanya.

Beliau berkata kapal berkenaan ditahan dan disiasat di bawah Akta Kualiti Alam Sekeliling 1974.


English translation from Google translate

Bring Cargo ship in the Sea of ​​HFO Leak Tanjung Piai

JOHOR BAHARU, July 27 (Bernama) - A foreign merchant ship laden with heavy fuel oil (HFO) leak in the waters off Tanjung Piai, near here, yesterday.

Director of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Johor Baharu, Captain Aminuddin Abd Rashid said the leak on the right side of the ship, causing about one ton of HFO spill on the water surface.

The ship was called Berge Bureya, registered in the United Kingdom was originally brought the whole HFO 5,495 tonnes, it said in a statement here today.

Aminuddin said the leak was discovered when the ship was en route from Singapore to Brazil through the Straits of Malacca.

"After that, the vessel is anchored in position three nautical miles west of Tanjung Piai to transfer the oil to another tank. The cleaning of the ship's company is still run until now and assisted the Department of Environment, Marine Department and MMEA," he said.

He said the vessel was detained and investigated under the Environmental Quality Act 1974.


Oil slick off Johor after ship springs leak
The Rakyat Post 27 Jul 16;

A foreign merchant ship laden with 5,495 tonnes of heavy fuel oil (HFO) sprung a leak in the waters off Tanjung Piai, near here, yesterday.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Johor Baru director Capt (Maritime) Aminuddin Abd Rashid said the leak on the right side of the ship caused about one tonne of HFO to spill into the sea.

Aminuddin said the incident was discovered when the British-registered ship, heading towards Brazil from Singapore, was passing through the Malacca Strait.

The ship then anchored three nautical miles west of Tanjung Piai to transfer the fuel to another tanker.

“Cleaning up work of the spillage is underway and the shipping company is being assisted by the Department of Environment, the Marine Department and MMEA.

“However, the ship has been detained and is being investigated under the Environmental Quality Act 1974,” he said in a statement, here today.

Ore carrier Berge Bureya spilled oil in Singapore Strait
SVILEN PETROV Maritime Herald 28 Jul 16;

Berge Bureya spilled oil and caused water pollution in Singapore Strait.

The accident happened during bunkering operations at anchorage in Tanjung Piai area, Malaysia. One of the transfer hoses broke, which caused spill of about one ton of heavy fuel and water pollution.

The transfer of the fuel was stopped immediately and the crew reported to the local authorities about the accident. The ore carrier was surrounded by oil booms to restrict expansion of the spot and enlarger of the pollution. The bulk carrier is cooperating with Malaysian authorities in cleansing operations.

The ore carrier Berge Bureya was en route from from Brazil to China, but probably stopped for bunkering at the Singapore Strait. The local authorities started investigation for the root cause of the accident and will determine who is responsible for environmental pollution.

The ore carrier Berge Bureya (IMO: 9036454) has overall length of 327.50 m, moulded beam of 58.00 m and maximum draft of 14.00 m. The vessel has deadweight of 293,239 DWT and gross tonnage of 155,823 GRT. The ore carrier Berge Bureya was built in 1993 by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering in South Korea. The manager and operator of the vessel is Berge Bulk Norway.

Berge Bureya Incident
Berge Bulk website 27 Jul 16;

Berge Bulk Maritime confirms that an incident involving its operated VLOC (Very Large Ore Carrier) “BERGE BUREYA” – (IMO/LR # 9297539) took place off Malaysia in the Malacca Strait earlier yesterday morning (July 26, 2016).

There were no injuries to any crew-members and there was no grounding or involvement of any third parties.

Whilst in transit between Singapore and Brazil, a quantity of oil was identified leaking from the vessel and the crew immediately enacted emergency procedures to halt the leakage and to start a prompt clean-up operation.

A quantity of bunker fuel was spilled and Berge Bulk Maritime is cooperating closely with the Malaysian authorities in the management of the spill and the vessel was boomed following the incident. The oil leak was stemmed quickly.

The company has now launched an investigation into the causes of this incident.

As additional information becomes available a further update will be issued.

For media inquiries contact:
Navigate Response:
Ed Ion Singapore +65 9111 6871 / Dustin Eno London +44 207283 9915

Vessel detained for causing oil spill
The Star 1 Aug 16;

JOHOR BARU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has detained a United Kingdom-registered vessel after leaked fuel was found near Tanjung Piai waters.

The vessel was on its way from Singapore to Brazil when the incident occurred on Tuesday on the western coastal areas of Johor, along the Malacca Straits.

Johor Baru Maritime director Capt Aminuddin Abd Rashid said the vessel was ferrying 5,495 metric tonnes of Heavy Fuel Oil from the island republic to the South American country when there was a leak on the right side of the ship.

“MMEA received a report from the Department of Environment (DOE) about the leakage, and one of our patrol boat was ordered to find and detain the vessel for further action.

“The vessel had anchored some three nautical miles west of Tanjung Piai when they found the leakage and was in the midst of transferring the oil to another vessel,” he said in a statement.

Aminuddin added that the leakage had caused the heavy fuel oil to spill into the sea, covering some 20 nautical miles area.

He also said that the vessel’s company was currently conducting cleaning work around the affected area.

MMEA will continue to monitor their cleaning process to make sure all the areas have been cleaned and prevent the oil from reaching the coastal area, causing more damage, he said.

Aminuddin also added that MMEA would continue to work closely with the Marine Department and DOE to monitor pollution in Malaysian waters.

He said the vessel has been detained to assist with investigations by the DOE under the Environmental Quality Act 1974.

Related link
Oil spill off Life Firing Islands, 26 Jul 2016 on wild shores of singapore

Read more!

Malaysia: More proof of shark hunting

The Star 28 Jul 16;

SEMPORNA: A group of tourists have caught on camera fresh evidence of shark hunting in waters here.

The photograph they took showed dead sharks laid out on a long boat with the tails of at least four hanging over the side.

The sighting comes just days after gory images of alleged shark finning activities in Pulau Mabul were circulated.

Having returned to their boat after a dive off the reef on Ribbon Valley on the south side of Mabul on July 22, the tourists from Sweden said they were disappointed because this was not something they had expected to see on their vacation.

Jonas Neander, who shared the photo with the Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA), said he was upset to see the boat zooming by with dead sharks, so close to the dive haven of Sipadan.

“I couldn’t believe it when we came up after the dive and saw the boat with the shark tails clearly hanging over the edge at noon.

“We had followed the online updates about the finning on Mabul – but to see it (dead sharks) with our own eyes was so disappointing, especially given the spectacular biodiversity of these waters which brings us back year after year,” said Neander, whose group comprised nine divers.

SSPA, in a statement yesterday, said it was deplorable that divers who visited Sabah, in particular the Semporna region, were witnessing the destruction of sharks.

“It is sad and unfortunate that tourists who are supporting the local economy by diving in Sabah are seeing dead sharks while on holiday.

They are here to appreciate what Sabah has to offer in terms of its biodiversity.

“We have an obligation to ensure that sharks remain in our waters, not just for the economic spin-off but also to ensure the health of the marine ecosystem in which sharks play a vital role as apex predators,” the association said.

Protecting sharks would benefit fishermen and the economy while also ensuring the future of Sabah’s diverse marine life, SSPA added.

The Sabah government is moving to create shark sanctuaries at all its six marine parks, including Semporna’s Tun Sakaran Marine Park, as conservation efforts while pressing for Federal laws to be enacted to ban shark hunting and finning.

Read more!

Malaysia: Wildlife Dept on buddhist release of pythons

Dept: Don’t release captive animals wildly
LO TERN CHERN The Star 27 Jul 16;

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Any organisation or individuals planning to release any animals into the wild should first consult the Wildlife Department.

Penang Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Loo Kean Seong said it was not an offence to release animals back into the wild as long it was the native species but they should be consulted as the animals could have parasites which may spread to other healthy specimens.

Commenting on the act of a group of individuals who recently released 16 pythons at an oil palm plantation, he said his department was not aware of the matter as they were not informed.

“Although the release was done with good intention, it is not necessarily good for the animals as such a practice will create a demand for them and this will lead to more being captured.”

It was reported that villagers and trekkers in Sungai Lembu were unhappy following video clips and photos of a group of men releasing the pythons went viral on social media.

The plantation is located near a village of about 500 people and the area is frequented by trekkers and mountain bikers.

Fire and Rescue Department spokesman Azman Hussin said those releasing snakes should do it responsibly as the firemen were always called when snakes were found in private properties.

"Snakes can be dangerous and should only be handled by trained professionals.

"By releasing snakes into populated areas, the department has to waste its resource by catching the snakes which should not have been there in the first place,” he said.

One of the men who released the snakes denied that the reptiles were freed in Sungai Lembu and declined to reveal where it was done.

Wanting to be known only as Goey, he said the snakes were bought from a pet shop with donations from Buddhist devotees and released into the wild as an act of goodwill.

Sungai Lembu Community Development and Security Committee (JKKK) secretary Yeo Keng Chuan when contacted said the residents had not lodged any police reports over the matter but he hoped that people would be more responsible when releasing wild animals.

Snake video causing anxiety
LO TERN CHERN The Star 26 Jul 16;

BUKIT MERTAJAM: A village here has been rocked by the mystery of 16 pythons that seemed to have pulled a Houdini act.

It all began when a video clip and photographs went viral, showing a group of men releasing the snakes at a place that were said to be an oil palm plantation in Sungai Lembu on July 18.

A furore ensued from trekkers and residents who were concerned about their safety.

One of the men has now come forward, claiming that the snakes were not released in Sungai Lembu or anywhere else in Penang.

The man, who only wanted to be known as Goey, refused to say where the pythons were released.

“We wanted to keep quiet about the matter but for the past one week, people have been condemning our act, which was done in good faith,” he said.

They bought the snakes from a pet shop on July 16 and released them as an act of goodwill.

Goey said the money used to buy the snakes came from donations from Buddhists, some from as far as China.

“We only helped them fulfil their wish to buy animals in captivity and release them to their natural habitat,” he added.

However, the video clip, which showed the men opening some sacks and releasing the medium-sized snakes, had caused anxiety in Sungai Lembu, which is a 20-minute drive from Bukit Mertajam.

Retired car dealer Tang Ching Swee, 51, who is an avid hiker, said: “We have about 100 members who would trek on different trails in Sungai Lembu almost every day.”

“The trails connect to Cherok To’Kun Forest Reserve where hundreds of hikers go daily,” said Tang, who has been hiking for the past two decades.

Rubber estate worker Chin Tee Aun, 51, also shared his concerns about being in the estate.

“As rubber tappers, we would enter the area sometimes twice daily; in the morning and late evening. We have not encountered any pythons but now we are very wary of every step we take,” he said.

Another resident Tan Sing Lee, 56, said the 500 villagers were worried for the safety of their children.

Some of the villagers also helped orchard owners to collect fruits such as durians, he added.

Sungai Lembu JKKK secretary Yeo Keng Chuan said that voluntary firemen together with villagers searched four areas around the oil palm estate on Sunday but found nothing.

“We tried to trace the location based on the background seen in the video clip but we were not able to determine the exact spot.”

When contacted, central Sebe­rang Prai Buddhist Association chairman Tan Jee Peng explained that Buddhists believed in doing good by releasing animals especially birds, fish and tortoises, during festivals.

He said the snakes should not have been released in populated places.

Read more!