Best of our wild blogs: 25 Feb 16

Environment Conservation Activity: OBS Project IsLand-A-Hand, 5 March 2016
Green Drinks Singapore

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Malaysia: Alarm over elephant inbreeding

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 25 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Poor connectivity between Sabah’s forests may put the future of its Bornean elephant population in jeopardy.

Experts believe that the state’s 2,500 Bornean elephants were at risk of inbreeding in fragmented areas of its jungles as they are unable to meet elephants from other parts to mate and strengthen their gene pool.

This was the main conclusion of a paper published online yesterday in the scientific journal Biological Conservation by a team of scientists from Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah (DGFC), Cardiff University (UK), the NGO Hutan (Sabah), Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (Portugal), the Institute for Systems Genomics (USA), the CNRS (France), and Sabah Wildlife Department.

Over the years, the clearing of land for development and the opening up of plantations have left many forests fragmented, making it difficult for wildlife to roam without coming in conflict with humans.

The study said inbreeding could occur in the future among the elephants in forested areas of Lower Kinabatangan, Upper Kinabatangan and Central Sabah if these areas are not connected.

“The study basically tells us that there is a need for the elephants in the various areas to meet and mate to create a bigger gene pool for its very survival in Sabah,’’ DGFC director Dr Benoit Goosens said.

He said the study found that the Bornean elephants showed a low degree of genetic differentiation among its populations.

“It is now very important to secure forest connectivity between these distinct populations to avoid further fragmentation within the population if we want to conserve the species,” he said.

The study was funded by the Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Elephant Family, Houston Zoo, Columbus Zoo and the Portuguese Science Foundation.

Dr Goosens, the lead author of the study said their teams spent several months collecting dung samples from all elephant ranges in Sabah and then analysing their DNA to provide an insight into their genetic diversity and determine the degree of population fragmentation and isolation of the existing herds.

“It was alarming to detect reduced gene flow levels among elephant populations in Sabah, especially between ranges such as the Kinabatangan, Tabin and Central Sabah (Malua, Ulu Segama, Kalabakan, Kuamut, Gunung Rara Forest Reserves).”

He said that the recent news of a potential bridge to be built over the Kinabatangan river in Sukau and further road development within the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, could jeopardise the long-term survival of the elephant population in the region and subsequently in the state.

Hutan’s scientific director Dr Marc Ancrenaz said there was a need for a long term solution by securing elephant “highways”, or forest corridors that the animals can use to move across forests as the current situation is seeing a lot of human-elephant conflict.

The paper can be found at the following link until April 13, 2016:

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Indonesia: Some 19 hotspots detected on Sumatra island

Antara 24 Feb 16;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - A total of 19 hotspots were detected in three provinces on Sumatra Island on Wednesday, according to data released by the Pekanbaru Meteorology, Geophysics and Climatology Agency (BMKG).

Of the 19 hotspots, 11 were found in Aceh Province, spokesman of the Pekanbaru BMKG Slamet Riyadi stated here on Wednesday.

North Sumatra has six hotspots and Riau has two, he revealed.

In Riau, the hotspots were detected in the districts of Bengkalis and Pelalawan.

Earlier, Riau also had two hotspots respectively in the districts of Siak and Indragiri.

He, however, noted that the hotspots did not always develop into forest fires in the current rainy season as the province had experienced low to moderate intensity rain.

The agency has forecast that the rainy season would peak in March and April.(*)

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Indonesia: Severe dengue spreads across regions, claims lives

Agus Maryono, Kusumasari Ayuningtyas, and Lita Aruperes, The Jakarta Post 25 Feb 16;

Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) continues to spread, claiming lives in a number of regions across the country.

In Banyumas regency, Central Java, the disease killed at least nine people during February and 72 others are reported to have received hospital treatment in the last week.

The latest victim was Faiz Fairus Aziz, 11, a fifth grade student at SDN 4 Rawalo in Rawalo district, who died on Monday.

Faiz’ mother Mainah, 32, said her son had presented with a fever four days prior to his death and was taken promptly to a clinic in her subdistrict, Rawalo.

“My son was treated by the doctor who owns the clinic. I didn’t know he had contracted the disease,” Mainah said.

The Banyumas regency administration recently declared an extraordinary occurrence status for the disease. Mosquito eradication efforts such as fogging have also been conducted in endemic areas and mass mosquito nest eradication measures have been carried out across 331 subdistricts in 27 districts.

In Klaten, Central Java, a 2-year-old toddler from Jogonalan died on Sunday due to the disease. He is the third victim recorded to have died from the disease in the area this year.

To date, the Klaten Health Agency has recorded 145 cases of dengue with two DHF fatalities.

“We have to remain cautious until April this year,” the agency’s disease prevention and control (P2P) division head Herry Martanta told The Jakarta Post, Wednesday, adding that dengue was endemic from the beginning of the rainy season until the beginning of the dry season.

While North Sulawesi have recorded two DHF deaths since January, according to Hendrik Tairas, an official from the North Sulawesi health agency, the number of dengue cases had decreased significantly in the region, with 122 cases throughout January and February compared to 418 cases reported during the same period last year.

“Declaring an extraordinary situation is not only based on the number of infections, we have to consider many aspects. We do not feel that current situation here requires an extraordinary status,” he said.

In Surakarta, Central Java, the number of dengue cases has been on the rise. As of the third week this month, there has been one reported death and 46 people have received hospital treatment. The city treated 14 patients last month.

According to the head of Surakarta Health Agency’s disease prevention and environmental health division, Efy S. Pertiwi, the spread of the disease was likely to increase, with peak infections expected to occur in May. She said the rise had begun at the end of January.

“From the first to the third weeks of January we only had eight cases. From the fourth week of January to the third week of February, however, 46 people had received hospital treatment,” she said on Wednesday, adding that, of the patients, 39 had been children of between 2 and 12 years old.

Health Ministry data shows that Indonesia recorded a total of 100,347 dengue cases last year, with 907 DHF fatalities.

The highest number of recorded fatalities occurred in 2007 when 1,599 people died as a result of the disease.

Ganug Nugroho Adi also contributed to the story from Surakarta

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Indonesia: Jakarta withdraws from plastic bag charge program

Dewanti A. Wardhani, The Jakarta Post 25 Feb 16;

The Jakarta administration has withdrawn from the national policy requiring stores to charge for plastic shopping bags that was issued by the Environment and Forestry Ministry just last week.

The policy was issued by Minister Siti Nurbaya on National Waste Awareness Day through a circular and stipulates that retailers must not give plastic bags to customers for free, but must charge at least
Rp 200 (1 US cent) for each.

The Jakarta administration will instead enforce a 2013 bylaw on waste management, which Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja said was sufficient for reducing plastic bag waste.

Therefore, Jakarta will instead order retailers to use biodegradable plastic bags and leave the decision to charge customers for them up to the retailers.

Jakarta was among seven cities, along with Tangerang, Banten, Bogor, West Java, Bandung, West Java, Banda Aceh, Aceh, Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, and Surabaya, East Java, to implement the policy. There were initially 23 cities, but many postponed action or backtracked because of a lack of preparation.

The seven cities make up almost 10 percent of the national population, but with a population of 10-million Jakarta backing out of the program will mean the six remaining cities would represent only about 6 percent of the country’s 250 million people.

Ahok said that the Jakarta administration would inform retail shops and convenience stores of the administration’s decision.

Article 21 of the bylaw states that shopping centers, shops and markets must use “environmentally friendly” plastic shopping bags as part of a citywide attempt to minimize waste, meaning that the plastic bags used must be made of recyclable and easily biodegradable materials.

Article 129 of the bylaw further states that all shopping centers, shops and markets that neglect or deliberately ignore their obligation to use biodegradable plastic shopping bags as stipulated in article 21 would be fined between a minimum of Rp 5 million and a maximum of Rp 25 million.

“The Jakarta administration has very detailed regulations on plastic bags and our bylaw is already very advanced as opposed to just imposing charges. We will enforce our own bylaw instead of enforcing the plastic bag charge policy,” Ahok told reporters at City Hall Wednesday.

Jakarta Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) head Junaedi said his office would disseminate information to retailers in the next three months.

He said that the production costs of biodegradable plastic bags were higher than of regular plastic bags, thus retailers could charge customers. Junaedi predicted that biodegradable bags would cost from
Rp 800 to Rp 1,000 each.

He, however, said that retailers could keep the money to cover the production costs of the biodegradable bags.

PT Indomarco Prismatama public relations manager Nenny Kristyawati said that Indomaret had already been using biodegradable bags since 2009. Indomaret does not charge customers for their plastic bags. Other retailers such as Alfamart and The Food Hall also uses biodegradable plastic bags.

Tiza Mafira, the director of the Plastic Bag Diet (DKP) movement said that her organization had never supported biodegradable plastic bags. She said such bags, which had earned Indonesian National Standards (SNI) certification, were not completely degradable in the natural environment.

Tiza, citing 2015 research by the United Nations Environment Programme, said many plastic bags found littering the sea were biodegradable.

“Reducing is the first step before reusing and recycling. The government cannot rely on regular plastic bags or oxodegradable or biodegradable bags as the only solution,” Tiza said, adding that she instead advised the Jakarta administration to implement the plastic bag charge policy.

Jambi stands against plastic bag fee policy
The Jakarta Post 24 Feb 16;

The Jambi administration has expressed opposition to the government’s new plastic bag policy, requiring modern retailers to charge customers for plastic bags. Mayor Sy Fasha said the program would only benefit retailers, calling it “irrelevant”.

“Why don’t we just ban them [plastic bags]?” Fasha said on Monday evening, as quoted by

In February last year, prompted by online and offline petitions that attracted 70,000 signatures, the Environment and Forestry Ministry issued a circular stating that retailers should start charging customers for plastic bags.

The policy was implemented in seven major cities on Sunday and is expected to eventually be implemented in a further 23 cities.

Fasha said that his administration had been considering whether or not to issue a regulation that bans the uses of plastic bags.

“It is better for residents to bring their own shopping or plastic bags from home,” he said.

Jakarta to regulate use of plastic bags
Antara 25 Feb 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Jakarta provincial administration plans to establish a gubernatorial regulation that manages the implementation of paid plastic bags in markets of the region.

"In order to implement the paid plastic bag policy in Jakarta, the administration will establish a regulation, which necessitates retailers to charge customers for plastic bags," Jakarta Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat stated here on Thursday.

The gubernatorial regulation will support the new pre-paid plastic bag policy that is being simultaneously applied in 22 cities.

Minister of Environmental Affairs and Forestry Siti Nurbaya had announced the new policy that makes it mandatory for shoppers to be charged a minimum of Rp200 per bag during the commemoration of National Trash-Free Day. The regulation is firstly being implemented by modern retail shops.

According to Hidayat, the gubernatorial regulation will levy penalties on retail shops in modern and traditional markets that do not follow the policy.

"We will test the policy by establishing a gubernatorial regulation as the legal foundation. After the regulation has been implemented successfully, we will establish the regional regulation on the use of plastic bags," Hidayat explained.

Hidayat said the prepaid plastic bag regulation can be implemented easily in modern markets compared to traditional markets.

Thus, the administration will impose appropriate sanctions on stores that do not abide by the policy.

The deputy governor stated that the policy was aimed at improving the peoples awareness of environment preservation by reducing the use of bags that will lessen the amount of plastic waste.

"We hope the people would not use plastic bags as the policy is being implemented in Jakarta. They can bring their own bags while shopping in markets to reduce plastic waste," Hidayat emphasized.

Indonesia plans to reduce its plastic garbage by up to 1.9 tons a year through the garbage reduction program.

According to the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Forestry, the annual national garbage production has reached 64 million tons, of which some 14 percent comprises plastic weighing 8.9 million tons. (*)

Jayapura supports plastic bag policy
The Jakarta Post 27 Feb 16;

JAYAPURA: The Jayapura municipal administration in Papua is making preparations to apply the plastic bag fee policy, Mayor Benhur Tommy Mano said on Friday. The new policy, to be applied in 22 major cities including Jayapura, requires modern retailers to charge costumers for plastic bags.

Mano said that his administration would disseminate information regarding the policy to the public so as to both increase awareness and invite opinion on the matter before implementation, Antara reported.

However, several retailers in the city have already begun to charge customers Rp 200 (1.5 US cents) per plastic bag.

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Carbon emission cuts only way to save coral from acid seas: study

Alister Doyle, Reuters Yahoo News 25 Feb 16;

OSLO (Reuters) - Corals under threat from acid seas can only be saved by deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, scientists said on Wednesday, and engineering the chemistry of sea water around coral reefs was only possible on a very small scale.

In a U.S.-led study, scientists mixed chemicals into a lagoon, cut off from the sea at low tide, at Australia's One Tree Island to locally reverse the global trend of acidification that makes it harder for corals to build their stony skeletons.

They showed that the coral, part of Australia's Great Barrier reef, grew better when bathed in seawater mimicking conditions before the Industrial Revolution, which ushered in widespread burning of fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide.

Their study, the first to isolate the impact of acidification from other damaging factors such as rising temperatures and pollution, warned that "technical challenges ... would probably make it infeasible at anything but highly localized scales (for example, protected bays, lagoons)."

"The only real, lasting way to protect coral reefs is to make deep cuts in our carbon dioxide emissions," the study's co-author, Ken Caldeira, from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California, said.

Carbon dioxide forms a weak acid when mixed with water, undermining the ability of creatures such as corals, crabs, lobsters or oysters to build protective shells.

"Ocean acidification is already taking its toll on coral reef communities. This is no longer a fear for the future; it is the reality of today," lead author, Rebecca Albright, also from the Carnegie Institution, said in a statement of the findings in the journal Nature.

An international report in 2013 said today's pace of ocean acidification is the fastest in 55 million years.

Corals alone contribute almost $30 billion a year to world economies - as nurseries for fish, tourist attractions or protective barriers from storms - according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Reefs are also under threat from record ocean temperatures, compounded by an El Nino weather event in the Pacific.

Governments agreed a deal in Paris in December to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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