Best of our wild blogs: 7 Feb 16

EIA (Phase 1) of CRL announced: where do we go from here?
BES Drongos

FREE Guided Herp Walk at Venus Loop (Valentine’s Day Special)
Herpetological Society of Singapore

List of significant Orthopterans from MacRitchie
Hopping Around

Northern Pintail-Our Past Records
Singapore Bird Group

Butterfly of the Month - February 2016
Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Venus Drive (05 Feb 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Indonesia: Iron ore freighter hits reef near Batam

The Jakarta Post 6 Feb 16;

BATAM: A Hong Kong-flagged Iranian MV Ocean carrier, sailing from Iran, hit a coral reef off Sambu Island, Batam, Riau Islands, early on Wednesday.

The vessel, carrying a huge volume of iron ore, remains stranded as it awaits salvage.

The local port authority and the Indonesian Navy are monitoring the vessel’s condition in anticipation of ship fuel or cargo pollution.

Sambu Island Port Authority head Rudi Widjanarko told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the evacuation of the ship could take up to a week. However, the agent handling the ship evacuation has not begun work as yet.

“The evacuation needs a week. It has yet to commence. We dive in order to look for damage that could cause an oil or cargo spill. It is currently being inspected,” said Rudi.

According to Rudi, reports of the incident had reached Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan in Jakarta and he had ordered maximum handling to prevent potentially disastrous sea pollution.

“The ship, sailing from Iran to China, reached half way. The ship is laden with iron ore, not uranium. We have inspected the documents and data submitted to us,” said Rudi.

More maritime accidents as sea turns treacherous
Nani Afrida, The Jakarta Post 6 Feb 16;

Maritime authorities have reported a rise in the number of accidents in Indonesian waters and have taken steps to mitigate the incidents.

On Wednesday, one cargo ship flying the flag of Hong Kong found itself stranded near the waters off Riau before being assisted by the Navy’s Western Fleet (Armabar) and towed to nearby Sambu Island.

The cargo ship, MV Ocean Carrier, was transporting iron ore and was headed to Yang Jian, China, from Fujairah, Iran.

Chief of Batam Naval Base Col. Eko Suyatno said that the cargo ship had found itself stranded after trying to avoid the busy traffic between Indonesia to Singapore.

“The cargo ship was stranded in the Batu Berhenti area,” Eko said.

The ship suffered no serious damage when two warships, the KRI Surik and the KRI Siwar, arrived to start the rescue effort.

The Malacca Strait is a busy maritime route for ships, cargo vessels and tankers, and collisions sometimes take place.

In December last year, a Danish-cargo ship, MT Thorco Cloud, sank off the coast of Batam after it collided with a tanker.

Based on data from the Maritime Security Board (Bakamla), in January 2016 alone, there were 29 maritime accidents, including eight sinking cases, five cases of stranded ships and three cases of
leaking ships.

The latest incident took place on Jan. 26 when a ship transporting 71 domestic tourists sank off Bokori Island, Southeast Sulawesi, after colliding with a rock and taking on water. No casualties were reported.

Two days after the incident, a fishing boat, the KM Hikmah Rizki, sank in the waters off east Aceh due to high seas. One fisherman was reported missing.

The causes of maritime accidents range from bad weather to overloaded and poorly maintained vessels.

It is often the case that boats capsize and sink because they are overcrowded.

Armabar said maritime accidents were mostly due to bad weather and overcapacity.

“However, we rarely see boats crash into one another because all ships have their own paths,”
Zainuddin said.

He said that the waters near the South China Sea could be quite treacherous, especially during the monsoon season.

“The areas near the South China Sea are quite dangerous with more than 2-meter high waves,”
he said.

Navy finds no toxic waste in HK tanker
Nani Afrida, The Jakarta Post 10 Feb 16;

The Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) stated on Tuesday that it did not find toxic waste inside a cargo ship recently stranded near Riau Islands.

The Navy said scientists deployed by the government to test whether the load inside the tanker, the MV Ocean Carrier, was uranium waste, had declared it was not.

“We have checked the cargo and interrogated the crew members. We have also opened one of the ship’s hatches to check its content,” TNI AL spokesperson Commodore Muhammad Zainuddin said.

The ship’s hatch contained iron ore, in accordance with its manifest.

“Another sign is that the ship’s crew members were not wearing special radioactive waste-handling attire,” Zainuddin said.

The cargo ship, flying the flag of Hong Kong, last week found itself stranded in waters near Riau before being assisted by the Navy’s Western Fleet (Armabar) and towed to nearby Sambu Island.

According to the ship manifest, the MV Ocean Carrier was transporting iron ore and was headed to Yang Jian, China, from Fujairah, Iran.

The cargo ship got stranded after trying to avoid the busy traffic between Indonesia and Singapore. Riau’s waters are part of Malacca Strait, a busy maritime route for ships, cargo vessels and tankers.

The MV Ocean Carrier suffered no serious damage when two warships, the KRI Surik and the KRI Siwar, arrived to start the rescue effort. It was reported that 22 crew members were onboard during the incident, and no casualties were reported.

However, information leaked to the public suggested that the ship was transporting uranium waste from Iran when it got stranded.

Head of the maritime security office for the western maritime zone Comr. Agung said that the cargo was now at Sambu Island port for further investigation.

“We confirmed that the information was not true. We have checked and found no uranium material, [...] only iron ore,” Agung said.

He also said that the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten), the sea security agency (bakamla) and related institutions had worked hand in hand on the investigation so far.

Agung asserted that if the cargo had been or contained uranium waste, it would have meant a serious problem in the area.

“[Uranium waste] is very dangerous for the security and safety of the waters of Riau Islands,” Agung added.

In December, Iran sent its first shipment of low-enriched uranium material to Russia, a key step in Tehran’s implementation of an historic nuclear accord with world powers.

According to ISNA news agency, Iran sent 8.5 tons of low-enriched nuclear material to Russia and received about 140 tons of natural uranium in return.

Another cargo ship, identified as Red Rock, was caught in West Nusa Tenggara waters last month, suspected of carrying toxic waste from a mining company operating in Sumbawa Island.

There has yet to be any confirmation of those allegations.

Read more!

Malaysia: Flood victims in three states evacuated from their homes

The Star 7 Feb 16;

SEREMBAN: More flood victims from Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor had to be evacuated from their houses following continuous rain.

As of yesterday evening, the number of all the evacuees rose to 442 victims compared to 184 earlier in the morning.

Negri Sembilan Fire and Rescue Department director Norazam Khamis said 111 families were evacuated to five relief centres after their homes were inundated following continuous heavy rain.

The latest district to be hit was Rembau.

The relief centres were opened at Dewan Orang Ramai Sg Kelamah (seven victims from a family), Kampung Parit Buloh Community Hall (31 victims from nine families), Masjid Sungai Dua (22 victims from four families), Lubuk Cina, Rembau (18 victims from three families) and Taman Pinggiran Sg Kelamah (364 victims from 94 families).

Norazam said four boats, two five-tonne lorries and a three-tonne lorry had been used for the rescue mission.

They were assisted by 28 Fire and Rescue Department personnel.

He said Jalan Gemas-Gemenceh was reported to be cut off as the road was submerged and also closed to all vehicles.

In Malacca, eight relief centres have been opened in Jasin and Alor Gajah to accommodate 264 victims after their homes were inundated by floodwaters.

Malacca Civil Defence Depart­ment director Effendy Ali said 186 were housed in five relief centres in Alor Gajah, while 78 others were taking shelter at three centres in Jasin.

He said the relief centres in Alor Gajah were the community halls of Kampung Gadek (40), Bukit Balai Durian Tunggal (14), Bukit Tambun Durian Tunggal (eight), the Taman Seri Cahaya Tebong Machap surau (14) and SK Belimbing Dalam (19).

The three centres in Jasin were at SMK Simpang Bekoh (50), SK Chohong (25) and Asahan community hall (three).

“Twenty of the victims in Jasin are students of a religious school located in the district,” he said.

Effendy said the first relief centre was opened in Jasin at 1am and the number of evacuees at all centres was expected to rise following continuous heavy rain.

In Johor, two villages in Ledang district were hit by flash floods following heavy rains since the evening.

Ledang district Civil Defence Department officer Mohd Shahrizan Abd Aziz said only one house was affected, but the road connecting Kampung Sialang Dalam and Kampung Seberang Gajah was temporarily inaccessible to light vehicles.

“Apart from the heavy rains, the flash floods resulted when Sungai Asahan and Sungai Cohong near the villages overflowed,” he said. — Bernama

Getting soaked on CNY
NURBAITI HAMDAN The Star 7 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: The Year of the Fire Monkey is off to a wet start with the weatherman predicting isolated rainfall and thunderstorms in many parts of Malaysia on the first day of Chinese New Year.

Despite the fire element in the Chinese zodiac sign, the nation looks set to experience cooling weather from the rain instead of warm sunshine.

According to the weather forecast by the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, east Johor and several divisions in Kudat and Sandakan in Sabah will experience isolated rainfall over the coastal areas in the morning of Chinese New Year tomorrow.

Isolated thunderstorms are expected to hit Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negri Sembilan, Malacca, Johor, Pahang and divisions of Interior and west coast of Sabah during the afternoon.

Similar weather will continue on the second day of the Lunar New Year with isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon expected in Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negri Sembilan, divisions in Kuching, Samarahan, Betong, Sarikei and Limbang in Sarawak, as well as divisions of Interior and west coast of Sabah.

MetMalaysia director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail said there could be flash floods if the thunderstorms were severe, especially if coupled by poor drainage systems in the districts.

Yesterday, more than 400 people had to be evacuated from several districts in Malacca, Johor and Negri Sembilan because of flash floods.

Despite the cooler weather from the rain, Malaysians should not be bundling up anytime soon as the rumoured “extreme cold weather” which came up in social media was far from the truth.

The Star had earlier debunked an unverified news report that went viral online, which predicted that Malaysia would experience cold weather during the Chinese New Year period.

Che Gayah said such a claim was “untrue”, adding that the temperature would remain within the normal range throughout February.

“The statement was not from me. The lowest temperature of 16°C was actually referring to last year’s minimum temperature,” she said.

Warning on strong winds, rough seas until Tuesday
BERNAMA New Straits Times 7 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Strong north-easterly winds of up to 60 kilometre per hour (kmph) with high waves of more than 4.5 metres is expected in waters off Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, eastern Johor, Sarawak, Labuan and Sabah (Pedalaman, Pantai Barat and Kudat) until this Tuesday.

The Meteorological Department, in a statement today, said a similar weather condition was also expected in waters off Condore, Reef North, Layang-Layang, Samui, Palawan, Tioman, Bunguran, Reef South and Kuching.

“Such a weather condition is dangerous to all beach and shipping activities, including oil platform,” it said.

It said the coastal areas in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and eastern Johor would also be exposed to the high tide phenomenon. --Bernama

Read more!

Malaysia: Calls to restrict fishing in Sabah marine park after picture of dead shark surfaces

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 6 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A picture of a reef shark killed by fishing nets within the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Park has sparked calls for immediate action to restrict fishing within the marine park.

In describing the incident as ``appalling,’’ Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) president Aderick Chong said action must be taken against those fishing in the protected area as it is an offence under the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park Enactment 1984.

He said that first-time offenders could be imprisoned one year or fined not exceeding RM20,000 or both while repeat offenders could face double the fine or jail or both.

"It is disheartening to see these pictures of dead sharks that must have struggled for their lives when they were caught in these nets," Chong said in a statement.

"Sharks' natural slow growth rate will further diminish the already threatened shark populations in Malaysia. Not only will it create an imbalance in our marine ecosystem, shark deaths result in a revenue loss to the country," Chong added.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park Manager Justinus Guntabid said that they were working to prevent the issue from recurring.

Chong thanked Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures for highlighting the issue and its immediate steps to work with Sabah Parks to clear the fishing nets discovered in the marine park,

``The result of this active collaboration has resulted in releasing live creatures including sharks and rays. We are also pleased to hear that the net from this incident has been completely removed," said Chong whose association spearheading a campaign to ban shark hunting and finning Sabah.

He hoped that preventive measures are implemented through joint surveillance by the dive centres, Sabah Fisheries & Fishing Trawlers Association, as well as Sabah Parks, to combat the destructive consequences of illegal fishing activities in Sabah.

A scientific study of sharks in the Semporna region carried out by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in 2012 valued a single living shark in Sabah's waters at US$815,000 to Sabah in terms of tourism revenue, compared with US$100 for its fins.

"Considering AIMS' recent survey, a total of three dead sharks would be equivalent to a loss of approximately US$2.5 million to Sabah," Chong added.

Killed in a protected park
MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 7 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A picture of a reef shark killed by fishing nets within the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Park has sparked calls for immediate action to restrict fishing within the marine park.

In describing the incident as appalling, Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) president Aderick Chong said steps must be taken against fishing in the protected area as it was an offence under the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park Enactment 1984.

He said the offenders should face the full brunt of the law, which provides for a one-year imprisonment, a fine not exceeding RM20,000 or both for first-time offenders, while repeat offenders could face double the fine or jail time or both.

“It is disheartening to see these pictures of dead sharks that must have struggled for their lives when they were caught in these nets. Furthermore, it is believed that the nets were from illegal fishing activities within the marine park,” Chong said in a statement.

He thanked Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures for highlighting the issue and its immediate steps to work with Sabah Parks to clear the fishing nets discovered in the marine park.

“The result of this active collaboration has resulted in releasing live creatures including sharks and rays. We are also pleased to hear that the net from this incident has been completely removed,” said Chong whose association spearheaded a campaign to ban shark hunting and finning in Sabah.

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

Tunku Abdul Rahman park manager Justinus Guntabid said they were taking steps to prevent this case from recurring.

Read more!

Malaysia: After tiger killed on highway, groups seek more passages for animals to cross roads

PATRICK LEE The Star 7 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s roads are not safe enough for animals to cross and more infrastructure is needed to help them do so, green groups said.

Their warnings came after a tiger was killed on a highway yesterday.

More than 100 animals were hit over the past year.

“If you have a road dissecting a (tiger’s) home range, it’s inevitable they will cross to the other side,” said Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia director Dr Melvin Gumal.

He said special passages built under or over roads would give animals a chance to cross them without being hit by traffic.

“There (passages) are not enough. Tapirs are killed, elephants knocked,” he said, adding that signs asking people to slow down were not enough.

At about midnight yesterday, a Malayan tiger was hit by a car on the East Coast Expressway Phase 2 (LPT2).

Bernama reported that environmental factors such as wild and domestic animals accounted for 113 accident cases on the LPT2 from Feb 1 to Nov last year.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks later confirmed that the tiger was pregnant with two foetuses aged about two months.

WWF-Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said there have been passages made, though the move to build them has been “slow”.

“We’re finding more increases (of wildlife accidents) on the roads. We need to work faster,” he said.

Malaysian Nature Society president Henry Goh said the LPT2 cut through primary forests in the peninsula.

The highway has been fully operational since Jan 31, 2015.

The Star previously reported that 1,924 wild animals were killed on roads in Malaysia from June 2006 to June 2014.

Malayan tiger killed on East Coast Highway was pregnant
PATRICK LEE The Star 6 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: The tiger that was killed on the East Coast Expressway Phase 2 (LPT2) was pregnant, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) confirmed.

Perhilitan Terengganu director Mohd Hasdi Husin told The Star that a post-mortem performed on the tiger found two dead fetuses.

"There were two fetuses about two months old, outside the uterus, which was broken because of the accident," he said over the phone on Saturday.

"I am very, very sad. Next time, hopefully this kind of accident will not happen again," he added.

Mohd Hasdi said the tiger suffered massive internal injuries and that its liver was ruptured and its hind legs broken.

He also added that the tiger may have been 10 to 15-years-old.

The area where the tiger was tragically killed, he said was near a forest reserve.

Images on social media spread earlier Saturday supposedly showing two tiger fetuses being taken out of its body.

The tiger was hit by a car heading to Kuala Terengganu at about midnight. It died on the spot.

Uproar on internet over death of pregnant Malayan tiger
FAISAL ASYRAF New Straits Times 6 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: There was an uproar on the Internet today over the death of a tiger which was hit by an MPV while crossing the East Coast Expressway Phase 2 (LPT2).

A picture of the carcass, propped up by an unidentified man, with a highway authority worker next to him showing a thumbs up sign, earned the wrath of social media users.

Facebook user Andrew Han posted:

"Why is he showing a thumbs up? He should be sad because this animal is now almost extinct"

Many social media users called on the authorities to make proper crossings for wildlife, posting pictures of animal crossings and bridges which had been built in other countries to enable animals to cross highways safely.

"The poor tiger. Other countries can build animal bridges for wild animals to cross our highways safely. Why cant we have the same?," said Facebook user Lina Samsudin.

The tiger died on the spot in the incident which occurred at 1am. The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) reported that the tiger, which was pregnant with two foetuses died due to massive internal injuries.

Facebook user Anna Dharma posted:

"Poor thing Malaysian tigers are at the brink of extinction worst still 2 cubs . What a waste really feel sad . We need to implement some precaution so this will never happen again".

Meanwhile, the car owner whose car hit the tiger refuted claims by some netizens claiming he deliberately hit the tiger.

The driver, Syahrin Abdul Aziz took his disappointment to social media.

"How did I deliberately hit the tiger?" he questioned his accusers.

Syahrin, who is a professional photographer by trade, also said he felt sorry that the tiger was pregnant, saying "it adds up to my sadness for the poor tiger."

In another Facebook post which garnered more than 500 likes and 350 shares, Syahrin related the incident in detail.

"It was dark as I drove East-bound heading towards the Ajil exit. There were no other motorists within 500 metres of my car. At KM320 (of the highway), it was totally dark and there was still no other vehicle on the road.

"The rain was heavy and the wind was strong. I slowed down my speed to around 100 to 120 km per hour," he wrote.

Syahrin further explained that at KM321.1, he was startled by the tiger which sprinted across the road in front of his car.

However, he said he couldn't stop his car in time as the tiger was only five metres away.

"It was too close. I couldn't do anything and accidentally ran into it.

"Still in shock, I stopped my car on the right lane for a while before I decided to continue driving 100 meters from the area as I was afraid that other tigers would be nearby," he said.

Tiger death an accident, says Perhilitan
PATRICK LEE The Star 7 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: The driver of the car that hit a tiger on the East Coast Expressway on Saturday will not be charged for causing the death of the animal.

A Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) spokesman told The Star that it was an accident, and that the driver reported the incident immediately after it happened.

The driver admitted in a post on Facebook to hitting the tiger on the East Coast Expressway Phase 2 (LPT2) at about midnight that day.

In the post, he said he only saw the tiger when it was about five metres away from his car.

The animal died on the spot.

Perhilitan officials later performed a post-mortem on the tiger, and found that it had been pregnant with two fetuses.

It was previously reported that the highway area where the tiger died was near a forest reserve.

More measures to be taken to prevent road kill in the future: Wan Junaidi
THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 7 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has directed the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia to step up surveillance and preventive measures along highways and roads identified as hotspots for wildlife crossing.

Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said Perhilitan had identified 126 hotspots nationwide, based on the number of road kills.

“The number of animals being killed on the road has been on the rise over the years, where 453 cases were recorded last year from 136 cases in 2007.

“This calls for immediate action. Hence, I have instructed Perhilitan and the Forestry Department to put up proper signs with clear visibility to notify motorists to be more vigilant and to drive carefully at these areas.

“The authorities have also been tasked to mend damaged fences between the highway and the jungle to prevent animals from entering highways and roads,” he told the New Straits Times.

Wan Junaidi said the problem arises when irresponsible parties or local farmers destroy the fences to transport their livestock or to access their farms.

“At times, the fences were damaged by fallen trees,” he said, adding that the ministry and agencies would cooperate with the local authorities to create awareness on wildlife in the area.

Wildlife road kills came to light when a Malayan tiger, a critically endangered animal (with only about 250 to 340 left in the wild) was killed crossing the East Coast Expressway Phase 2 (LPT2) on Saturday.

NST yesterday reported that the ministry has plans to build 37 viaducts at 37 hotspots to facilitate the movement of animals.

Wan Junaidi said he had notified Perhilitan director-general Datuk Abd Rashid Samsudin to study the cost of building wildlife sky bridge such as the one in Singapore to viaducts.

“Of course, we have to study other factors too, for example, the visibility (of animals) taking into account the Malaysian propensity to shoot and kill animals,” he added.

EcoKnights president Yasmin Rasyid said if viaducts were built at areas earmarked for wildlife crossing, it would certainly be useful in reducing the rate of accidents.

However, she noted that the authorities should review a particular area before any development activities to ensure it does not disrupt animal crossing.

“Proper studies need to be done for all future road developments to ensure that we are not fragmenting habitats of wildlife species. If it is going to fragment forest then the highways or roads should be redirected.

“Besides, motorists should be more careful and drive responsibly to avoid accidents.”
Meanwhile, Terengganu Wildlife Department had confirmed that the tiger which was hit by a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) at KM321.2 of the LPT 2 in Kemaman yesterday was from the wild, and did not escape from a zoo nearby.

Its director Mohd Hasdi Husin told Bernama that based on an autopsy, the tiger which was pregnant died from severe head injuries after being hit by the MPV.

He said another autopsy would be carried out by the veterinary department soon to determine the background and the original habitat of the tiger which weighed about 100 kilogrammes.

SPCA wants safer highway crossing points for animals
TASHNY SUKUMARAN The Star 10 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: The relevant authorities must work together to prevent road accidents like the recent one which killed an endangered Malayan tiger that was pregnant with two foetuses.

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Selangor patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said he was saddened by the incident.

“There have been about 10 cases of big animals killed after being hit by vehicles while crossing the East Coast Highway 2.”

He said the safety of road-users was also a cause for concern in such cases.

Lee called on the highway authorities and operators, Works Ministry and Natural Resource and Environ­ment Ministry to get together and address this matter with the help of the Wildlife Department.

“They have to discuss the issue in greater depth.

“It should also be raised in Cabinet due to the increasing number of accidents that have happened.”

Lee touched on the matter of animal tunnels, which many animal rights activists have also petitioned for in the past.

“Animals won’t necessarily use these tunnels, especially at night. There has to be alternative crossings provided for them.

“The relevant authorities can perhaps identify crossing points and provide special routes there.”

The death of the tiger caused a stir, especially when an autopsy revealed that she was pregnant with two cubs.

According to reports, Terengganu public order and traffic chief Supt Kamaluddin Mohamad said that wild animals frequently wandered onto the roads near a forest reserve.

Tapir, deer, wild boar, goats, cows and buffaloes have all been seen in the area.

Read more!

Malaysia: Usher in awareness on Malaysian primates this Monkey year

The Star 7 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: As Malaysians usher in the Lunar Year of the Monkey, conservationists are hoping that this will lead to more awareness on the need to protect the primates which are fast diminishing in Sabah’s forests.

Apart from the better known and endangered orangutan and proboscis monkeys, at least eight other species of primates in the state need to be conserved.

Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said his wish was for more people to learn about primates and to do their bit to help in conservation efforts.

He advised the public against buying or keeping them as pets, saying that primates “belong in the wild”.

“Once they are pets, they won't be able to adjust in the jungle.

“Do not hunt them. Their numbers are decreasing and they may not be around for long,’’ Dr Sen, who also heads the Wildlife Rescue Unit, said in an interview.

He added that, there were now about 11,000 orangutan in Sabah and an estimated 6,000 proboscis monkeys in the wild.

The 10 other types of primates in the state include the Bornean gibbon, the slow loris, Western tarsier, langurs (the silver langur, hose's langur and maroon langur) and long and pig-tailed macaques.

Dr Sen said the Bornean gibbon was also endangered with about 250,000 in Borneo while the slow lorris, western tasier and hose’s langurs were “vulnerable” too.

It has been reported that in only seven years, the population of the hose's langur has reduced by 80%. Silver and maroon langurs are less threatened.

Read more!

Indonesia: High-speed rail expensive, destructive: Observers

Anton Hermansyah, 6 Feb 16;

Given the multitude of cheaper and environmentally friendlier rail links that could be built between Jakarta and Bandung, experts have criticized the government’s decision to build a Chinese-sponsored high-speed railway, saying it is too expensive and risks destroying natural water reserves.

The cost of the project stands at around Rp 78 trillion, with passenger projection of only 29,000 people per day, according to Gadjah Mada University transportation researcher Danang Parikesit.

“Let’s say we built a medium-speed rail link there, with improvements such as a straighter line and signal upgrades. The average speed could be increased from the current 60 kilometers per hour to 120. The cost would be only around Rp 7 trillion,” Danang told on Friday.

The mass rapid transit (MRT) system currently underway, he pointed out, was also overpriced at Rp 16 trillion, with a capacity of 100,000 to 120,000 passengers per day. At a length of 16 km, the cost per km is one trillion rupiah.

“But with Rp 16 trillion, we could build 300 km of bus lines. The high-speed rail and MRT projects are both too expensive,” Danang said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) executive director Abetnego Tarigan said the Jakarta-Bandung rail project had the potential to degrade the environment, as it would reduce water absorption along the lengths of its track.

“The [project] is likely to violate the spatial law. Railway projects should help rather than degrade the environment,” he said on Friday as quoted by Antara news agency.

The watershed area, he continued, could be narrowed in the area of the project, thus disrupting the water supply for tea plantations in the nearby Walini area. As such, the project would benefit only the wealthy.

Besides environment degradation, the high-speed rail project would lead to land being converted from vegetative to industrial and residential land, as had happened on the north coast of Java, especially in areas around Karawang district and western Bandung, Abetnego said. (cal/ags)

Read more!

Indonesia: Blood supply down, dengue cases up

Andi Hajramurni, Ganug Nugroho Adi and Arya Dipa, The Jakarta Post 6 Feb 16;

An increase in the number of dengue hemorrhagic fever cases in cities across the country is sucking dry blood supplies at Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) offices.

In South Sulawesi, a spokesperson for the Makassar PMI’s blood transfusion unit, Sultan, said that the unit had been receiving requests for between 100 and 150 bags of blood every day.

“Since January, demand has risen continually. Today alone, by 2 p.m. we had received requests for 28 bags for seven dengue patients,” Sultan said on Friday.

As of Friday, Sultan said, the unit had left only around 400 bags of blood, which were predicted to last for just two more days. He added that in January, the unit had supplied 66 dengue patients in need of platelet.

To help increase the supply, the unit has been calling for blood donations. “Ideally we should have enough for at least four days. So at present we need between 600 and 800 bags of blood,” he said.

The South Sulawesi Health Agency has recorded 575 cases of dengue since January, leading to 11 deaths.

The PMI in Surakarta, Central Java, has also seen its blood stocks vanish alarmingly as dengue cases increase in the city. Surakarta PMI secretary Sumartono Hadinoto said on Friday that the stock was now at the “yellow-light” level.

“Today we have 553 bags of blood. That’s relatively safe, but it’s at yellow-light level. To be completely safe we need between 1,000 and 1,500 bags,” Sumartono said.

He added that with demand for blood for dengue patients shooting up by 10 percent, his office was actively searching for more blood.

Separately, the head of the Surakarta Health Agency’s disease control section, Arif Dwi, said that dengue cases tended to increase year after year in the city. In 2015, the office recorded 462 cases, a sharp increase from 256 cases in 2014.

“This year we recorded 24 patients in January, two of whom died. This month we currently have six patients in treatment,” Arif said.

In Bandung, West Java, the city PMI’s blood transfusion unit has also seen greater demand for blood.

Bandung PMI’s blood transfusion unit director Uke Muktimanah said her office had supplied some 500 bags of blood to at least 40 hospitals and individuals in the city.

“In Bandung the demand is relatively secure but we have also been receiving blood requests from outside the region,” Uke said on Friday.

The requests, she said, mostly came from Jakarta, with requests for up to 450 bags at a time. Other regions include Majalengka, Sukabumi and Tasikmalaya, which asked for up to 300 bags of blood per shipment.

According to Uke, the increase could be detected from the office’s blood supply data. On Feb. 2, the blood stock was 1,422 bags, while by Feb. 4, just two days later, there remained only 389 bags. She expressed hope that blood donors would increase to 200 from the usual 100 given the special circumstances and pressing need.

In Central Sulawesi, the provincial health agency meanwhile reported that seven dengue patients had received treatment at Undata Hospital in Palu over the previous four days, with one patient dying.

The agency also recorded that the mosquito-borne disease had claimed a total of 11 lives since the beginning of January.

In East Kalimantan, Balikpapan Health Agency head Balerina said that in most cases of deaths related to dengue, the patients were already in critical condition by the time they were admitted to hospital.

“They were already experiencing dengue shock syndrome, which leaves them with a chance of survival of only around 10 percent,” Balerina said.

Ruslan Sangadji in Palu, Suherdjoko in Semarang, Novi Budi in Balikpapan and Djemi Amnifu in Kupang contributed to this article.

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Indonesia: Zika travel advisory for more countries

Haeril Halim and Tama Salim, The Jakarta Post 5 Feb 15;

Following an order from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to prevent the fast-spreading Zika virus from entering the country, the Health Ministry on Thursday issued a travel advisory for Indonesians planning to go abroad, especially to Zika-affected countries.

In its most recently-updated travel advisory, the ministry encouraged Indonesians to take extra precautions should they have to visit countries most affected by the Zika virus such as Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Martinique, Panama and Suriname.

The government also issued travel warnings for Indonesians who wished to travel to countries considered to have “active transmission” status, namely Barbados, Bolivia, Curacao, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, French Guiana, Guadalope, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Mexico, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Tonga, Thailand, US Virgin Islands and Venezuela.

Health Minister Nila Djuwita Anfasa Moeloek said that Indonesian travelers visiting the countries on the list must always put on long-sleeved clothing and bring with them mosquito repellent and sleep on beds that have mosquito nets.

“In addition, if they feel sick, it is highly recommended that they go to see nearby doctors right away,” Nila told reporters at the vice presidential palace on Thursday.

Nila said she encouraged pregnant women to cancel or postpone their travel plans to the affected countries until local authorities there had contained the outbreak.

“If they have no choice but to visit the countries then pregnant women should carefully guard themselves from the possibility of being bitten by mosquitoes,” Nila said.

For incoming travelers or ones who have recently arrived from the affected-countries, the ministry said that they should all should undergo a medical checkup within 14 days of their arrival.

“They should directly visit doctors if they get any indications of fever, rashes, joint and muscle pain or headaches and eye redness. Also don’t forget to inform medical officers with regard to their travel history to the affected countries,” Nila said.

Indonesia has a history of Zika infections dating back to 1981. According to several studies, Zika was found in Indonesia in 1981 and in 2005.

The Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology warned in a recent report that the virus had been spreading for some time. A Zika infection was found among 103 blood samples that the institute had taken during a dengue fever outbreak in Jambi between December 2014 and April 2015.

The fast-spreading Zika virus is likely under-diagnosed in Southeast Asia, infectious disease experts have warned in several reports.

In addition, the government has also intensified efforts to step up preventative measures by deploying more officers at ports and airports where the traffic of men and goods from abroad takes place.

Separately, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir confirmed the issuance of a travel warning related to the outbreak of the Zika virus in South America.

Arrmanatha said although the health ministry was in charge of issuing health-related warnings, the foreign ministry was responsible for distributing the information to Indonesian nationals abroad through its website and offices around the world.

“We will send out the information to all our offices abroad to help notify the people who might be spending their holidays in the Latin American region,” Arrmanatha told a press briefing on Thursday.

The ministry has yet to receive any information from its representatives in Brazil regarding Indonesian nationals possibly infected by the Zika virus.

“In Ecuador and several other countries we have also not received any information regarding Zika virus infections,” he said.

Data from the ministry shows that at least 345 Indonesian nationals are in Brazil, working in the service sector and as business owners, mostly in Rio de Janeiro.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the virus will likely spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile.

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