Best of our wild blogs: 11 Apr 16

Coral overload at Terumbu Bemban
wild shores of singapore

Participation in International Coastal Cleanup Singapore has doubled over a decade
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Eartheater Cichlid (Geophagus altifrons) @ Kranji Reservoir
Monday Morgue

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More parks to save shy monkey from extinction

NParks also plans to study the banded leaf monkey's behaviour and population so as to boost their numbers.
Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Apr 16;

The shy, gentle banded leaf monkey may be able to claw its way back from the brink of extinction here, with some help from the experts.

The authorities are expanding the primates' living quarters, and studying their behaviour and population, in an effort to boost their numbers. One of two monkey species native to Singapore, these creatures are critically endangered, with at most 60 of the black and white leaf-eaters left. Unlike their gregarious cousins - the long-tailed macaques - they stay hidden deep in Singapore's forests, away from people and human homes.

Part of the effort to save them involves habitat expansion, said the National Parks Board (NParks).

"The provision of additional forested habitats, in the form of new nature parks, would help to sustain and possibly increase the population of banded leaf monkeys," Dr Lena Chan, director of NParks' National Biodiversity Centre, said.

One such park, the upcoming Thomson Nature Park next to Lower Peirce Reservoir in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, is especially important, said Ms Andie Ang, 30, who studies banded leaf monkeys and is a member of the primate specialist group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

It lies within the area where these monkeys forage for food, so reforestation will enhance their existing habitat, explained Ms Ang, who is pursuing a PhD in biological anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in the United States.

"The monkeys are now restricted to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and could easily be wiped out in the event of a fire or a disease outbreak," she pointed out.

In addition to habitat enhancement, which includes planting trees that provide food for the monkeys, it is also vital to ensure that forest fragments separated by roads are reconnected, she stressed.

Forest canopy connectivity, especially above the Old Upper Thomson Road next to the Thomson Nature Park, will be crucial for the dispersal of the monkeys into nearby forest patches, said Ms Ang.

Thomson Nature Park is one of four announced by NParks in February last year. The others are Chestnut, Windsor and Springleaf nature parks.

Springleaf and Chestnut parks are already open to the public, and Windsor is expected to open later this year. There is no timeline yet for the Thomson park.

Ms Ang said: "It is wonderful to hear about the nature parks. They will not only protect the biodiversity but also bring people closer to nature."

However, she cautioned that the parks must be well designed so a balance can be struck between public accessibility and nature protection.

Dr Chan added that NParks will also work with stakeholders in developing ecological studies to guide the development of long-term management strategies for the banded leaf monkeys.

There is reason to be optimistic, and NParks has already successfully championed several other disappearing species.

The tiger orchid, which went extinct here in the wild, is one such example. The world's largest tree-growing orchid, it was re-introduced to the island in 1999 and can now be found along Holland Road and East Coast Park.

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Full speed ahead for car-sharing in Singapore

Local car-sharing operators are looking to expand their fleet, with some keen on being part of a programme involving electric cars.
Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 10 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: Local car-sharing operators are looking to expand their fleets, amid high Certificate of Entitlement prices and increasing demand.

Major players in the car-sharing industry such as Car Club, Popular Rent A Car and Smove said they have seen a membership increase in recent years.

"Car-sharing became more accepted because people started to perceive the car as a different tool, or they are looking to extract greater value from the car,” said vice-president of Car Club Gary Ong. “Typically, they are predominant users of the public transport and they would just like the car for occasional use, so we are trying to plug that gap."

Unlike renting a car, car-sharing allows one to rent a car from one place and drop it off at another. It costs about S$10 per hour and about S$300 to S$400 a month, according to estimates.

“You can access it 24-7 without having to own one,” said Popular Rent A Car managing director Ho Kok Kee. “That's the beautiful thing about it - it's like a 7-11 store, as convenient as that."


Transport authorities are now evaluating proposals for an electric car sharing programme, to put 1,000 electric cars on Singapore's roads within 10 years.

According to Land Transport Authority documents, authorities are currently evaluating three possible car-sharing models. The first is a station-based model, where drivers are required to park at designated lots equipped with charging stations.

The second is a free-floating model, where you can park at any public or private car parks, regardless of whether it has a charging station or not. The hybrid model, which is the third option, is a combination of both.

The electric car-sharing programme will also require the involvement of a consortium of companies. This includes car-sharing operators and companies that provide charging services and electric vehicle manufacturers.

Some car-sharing operators have said they are keen on being part of this future electric car-sharing ecosystem.

"We do collaborative projects, research projects and R&D projects with local institutes of higher learning,” said Mr Ong. “We do it with NTU and we're consistently looking to do it with many other institutions in Singapore. We view that as preparation as well. At the same time, we want to be part of the local ecosystem to build it up locally, to be part of a ‘uniquely Singapore’ solution."

Channel NewsAsia understands that around three companies have been shortlisted so far and that results will be announced by the end of 2016.


However, others have some concerns. "The Government is putting in a lot of effort to provide many options for our citizens, but I think it is still in the very early stage,” said Mr Ho. “To me, it is pretty complex and a big jump from our current business model. We are talking about establishing a whole electric charging infrastructure. When we are more established, we might consider."

According to Smove's chief operating officer Joseph Ting, the problem of shortage of parking spaces could arise if electric cars are parked in convenient areas. “If we have more electric vehicles on the road, this may mean less space for normal car owners,” he said.

“Is this a trade-off the Government is willing to take in the interest of the longer term sustainability of transport in Singapore? I think there are some painful choices to be made, but if they are made, I'll say it will work as Singapore is a small, dense and urban population with a high technology take-up rate.”

Mr Ting's company switched from electric to hybrid cars before. "We did start out as a fully electric fleet, as part of the Government's Phase One of the electric vehicle testbed. We ran that for about a year and the response was good and we could see that Singaporeans were getting used to electric cars. The reason why we pivoted away from that to hybrid cars was that we needed to grow fast as a business.”

For Car Club’s Mr Ong, the success of the electric car-sharing programme will pave the way for the roll-out of driverless vehicles. These cars, also known as autonomous vehicles or AVs, are currently being tested in areas like one-north and Sentosa.

"When you go to electric vehicles, you need to have proof of concept, like that there's no mileage anxiety and so on. The perceptions become more robust and that's when you move on to the AVs which I think will be the game changer," he said.

"(But) at the end of the day, we can't put out 1,000 vehicles right on the spot,” he added. “It has to be staggered - infrastructure has to be set out in the right way, priorities have to be maintained. So that's how I think it will be - it will be a staggered roll-out towards 10 years, and at the end of 10 years we will hit the 1,000."

- CNA/xk

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Malaysia: Semporna community, tourists applaud shark conservation efforts

The Borneo Post 11 Apr 16;

SEMPORNA: The local community and tourists in Semporna joined together to applaud the state government’s recent efforts for shark conservation and marine protection.

The support was evident at Shark Week, a conservation event co-organised by Scuba Junkie, the award winning dive operator, and Green Semporna, a community-led conservation organisation based in Semporna.

Shark Week, which is now in its third year, focuses on responsible, reliable information about sharks and rays and their conservation issues and efforts worldwide, particularly the sharks of Sabah and the work of the Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA).

The importance of Sabahs marine ecosystems and the conservation efforts to protect them, by both the Malaysian government and environmental NGOs, were also highlighted during the week.

This is my third visit to Sabah, said Yali Yuan, a tourist from Beijing, China at Shark Week on Pulau Mabul.

I come here every year because of the amazing wildlife, and because I want to dive with sharks. Sabah is so beautiful I have been diving in both Semporna and Kota Kinabalu and I have seen so many different types of sharks and rays. Anything the government is doing to protect this unique place, especially the creation of shark sanctuaries, is to be applauded!

Shark Week was once again an amazing success, with over 200 local school children taking part in conservation activities on the island, as well as hundreds more at Shark Awareness Roadshows at local schools in Semporna.

The Marine Recreation class from Kolej Komuniti, Semporna, visitied Pulau Mabul for a two-day conservation workshop, which included a special section on sharks and rays, specifically the sharks and rays of the Semporna region and the need for another shark sanctuary there.

I enjoyed the conservation workshop, particularly the fish identification lesson and snorkel. But I was really fascinated to find out about the different types of sharks and rays seen in my home area, it seems incredible that such diversity is on my doorstep rivalled by only a handful of places around the world. I think it would be good to have something in place to protect the sharks and rays here, something to keep my home area so special, said one of the students attending the workshop.

Sabah has an amazing wealth of marine biodiversity, not least the number of sharks and rays seen in the area. There are an estimated 63 species of sharks and 68 species of ray in the Semporna region alone, and Sabah in particular is one of the worlds best places to dive and snorkel with sharks, boasting species from the extremely rare and elusive Borneo shark to the largest fish in the sea, the graceful whale shark.

The creation of the three shark sanctuaries in Sabah is a vital step. The sanctuaries will not only protect our wildlife, but will ensure future tourism revenues and provide livelihoods for local people. It is estimated that a shark will bring in US$1.9 million in diving tourism, over its lifetime. Creating sanctuaries for Sabahs sharks makes sound environmental and economical sense, said director of Kolej Komuniti Semporna, Norasmah Jaafar.

The event also had numerous presentations and talks from shark experts, held at Scuba Junkies Mabul Beach Resort, which were popular with visitors to the island with full attendance every night.

Many tourists to the island remarked on the unparallelled biodiversity of the region, and commended the honourable plans of Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun to create three shark sanctuaries in Sabah, and his continued calls to ban shark hunting and finning in Sabah.

Many also voiced their support for the work of the Sabah Shark Protection Association, particularly the #myfinmylife campaign, which aims to aid shark conservation by reducing the demand for shark fin soup.

We at Scuba Junkie are fortunate enough to be in a position where we can engage both local communities and tourists in shark conservation activities and promote the work of the SSPA. We were inspired by the support we received for Shark Week, in particular the support shown for the creation of another new shark sanctuary in the Semporna region, said environmental officer for Scuba Junkie SEAS, David McCann.

We have thousands of divers coming here every year to dive with sharks and rays. The dive industry in Semporna is healthy, and provides sustainable livelihoods for many in the region. Creating a shark sanctuary in Semporna would ensure not only that the remarkable biodiversity of sharks and rays here are protected, but ensure that tourists would continue to come here for many years, said manager at Mabul Beach Resort, Steve Ashby.

Sharks are responsible for maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem. With so many people in the Semporna region relying on the ocean for sustenance, they stand to lose this ability if sharks are not protected. Sharks in our oceans will help ensure a healthy ocean for the local communities, a win-win situation, McCann continued.

Such was the success of Shark Week, while Shark Week 2017 is already in the planning stages.

Being from Semporna, I am very proud to have seen the support for shark conservation in Shark Week,” said chairperson of Green Semporna, Rina Ismail.

“It has been a really busy, but positive week. Green Semporna will continue working towards better shark conservation in this area. Our dedicated Shark Team have a series of events planned for this year. However, it saddens me to still see shark products on sale in Semporna, but hopefully with everyone working together we will bring an end to this and sharks will remain where they belong, in the oceans, bringing joy to many people.

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Malaysia: Poachers may have triggered forest fires in Beaufort

AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 10 Apr 16;

BEAUFORT : Poachers may have been responsible for fires that caused extensive damage to a forest reserve here and an agricultural project for smallholders.

District Officer Mohd Shaid Othman said the poachers may have started the fire to chase out sambar deer from the forest before shooting the animals.

"We received information about this from the public and we leave it to the police to investigate," he said adding information about the poachers has been given to the authorities.

Shaid said the peat fires which began spreading extensive early last weekend had damaged about 70 per cent of the Binsulok Forest Reserve which stretches about 12,000 hectares.

"About RM5 million worth of crops planted by participants of the government Binsulok Mesej project under the Sabah Land Development Board and Rural Development Ministry were damaged," he said.

Under the poverty eradication project, smallholders plant between 1 ha go 10 ha of pineapples or oil palm in their respective plots.

Shaid expressed his gratitude to the Fire and Rescue Department who were relentless in battling the peat fires everyday until it rained yesterday and briefly today.

The Fire and Rescue department Assistant Director of Operations Khairul Azuwan said operations have been suspended for now after the downpour but most of their equipment were still at the fire sites.

"We have declared a temporary stand-down but we remain on full alert in case fire starts spreading," he said adding new teams will also be replacing those who were on duty at the scene.

259 schools closing because of heat wave
RAHIMY RAHIM The Star 11 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: Schools in Jerantut and Temerloh in Pahang and Perlis will be closed today as temperatures in those areas have exceeded 37°C over a 72-hour period, says the Education Ministry. In a statement, the ministry said that the closure was a precautionary measure to safeguard the health of the over 100,000 pre-school, primary and secondary pupils in the state.

However, the ministry said that only pupils would be excused from attending classes, with no replacement school day required, but school staff would still have to be in school to carry out other duties that did not involve teaching.

The ministry also directed the Perlis and Pahang education departments to ensure that the directive was adhered to, and also sought the cooperation of parents to monitor their children’s activity during the ongoing heat wave.

The closure involved 259 schools (68 secondary and 191 primary) in all three areas with 97,533 pupils (91,862 secondary and primary, and 5,671 preschool).

The ministry also asked parents to monitor the movement and activities of their children during the closure.

Meanwhile, Meteorological Department director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail shared that more showers and thunderstorms are forecast to cool down the current heatwave that has seen the mercury rising in various parts of the country – at least until the end of next month.

Che Gayah said the country had already entered the inter-monsoon season with more rains and thunderstorms in the afternoons, especially over the west coast states of the peninsula.

“The inter-monsoon season is expected to last until mid or the end of May,” she said yesterday.

For this month, areas in Perlis, Kedah, Penang, north of Perak, Kelantan and the north of Terengganu are expected to experience slightly below average rainfall.

All other places in peninsular Malaysia are expected to see normal average rainfall throughout the whole month.

The average rainfall for the peninsula is expected to be between 100mm and 250mm and between 100mm and 450mm for Sabah and Sarawak.

However, Che Gayah said the country would be experiencing the south-west monsoon, which is the dry season, from June until September.

This is also the time when transboundary haze from Indonesia is likely to recur.

As at 1pm yesterday, Ipoh and Chuping both recorded 36°C, followed by Prai and Alor Setar at 35°C and Malacca, Kota Kinabalu and Senai at 34°C.

The water levels at three major dams – Padang Saga in Kedah, Bukit Kwong in Kelantan and Bukit Merah in Perak – have also recorded a drop to below the half-way mark.

Seberang Prai Tengah in Penang holds the record of not having any rain for 41 days, followed by Bahagian Kudat (Langkorn estate) in Sabah with 27 days.

259 Malaysian schools ordered closed as heatwave lingers
Schools in Perlis, as well as in Jerantut and Temerloh in Pahang, were ordered to close on Monday (Apr 11) due to extreme heat as a result of the El Nino phenomenon.
Channel NewsAsia 11 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: All schools in Perlis, as well as Jerantut and Temerloh in Pahang, were ordered to close on Monday (Apr 11) due to extreme heat as a result of the El Nino phenomenon.

The Malaysian Education Ministry in a statement on Sunday said the directive was a measure to safeguard students' health, as the temperature in the affected areas had readings above 37 degrees Celsius at a time, every day, and for more than 72 hours.

"This closure involves 259 schools, that is 68 secondary schools and 191 primary schools, while the number of students involved is 97,533, that is 91,862 primary and secondary school students and 5,671 students in pre-school," the statement said.

However, according to the ministry, the school closures involve only the absence of pupils, and the session need not be replaced. "The operation of the schools' administration, except for teaching and learning activities, must go on as usual," it said.

The ministry has also requested the education departments in Perlis and Pahang and the district education offices in Jerantut and Temerloh to conduct surveillance to ensure compliance with the directive.

"The ministry will also make announcements from time to time on any changes relating to the phenomenon," the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Community Development Department (Kemas) in a statement on its Facebook page said all Kemas kindergartens and nurseries in the three places would also be closed in line with the directive by the Education Ministry.

However, its said staff must turn up as usual.

- Bernama/jb

Parts of Sabah still dry despite rain
RUBEN SARIO The Star 11 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A two-hour downpour on Saturday in parts of Sabah’s west coast failed to reach the Trus Madi forest reserve where fires are still burning, and northern Pulau Banggi where some islanders have resorted to using drain water.

Banggi islander Salma Marail said some desperate villagers had resorted to getting water from the drain near Kampung Batu Layar.

It is where animals like cattle come to drink.

She said Saturday’s rainfall over the state’s west coast did not reach Banggi, although the sky was cloudy.

Despite assurances that 3,000 cartons of bottled water were being shipped from the northern Kudat town to Banggi, Salma said many islanders had yet to see any of them.

Fellow islander Jailani Badri said getting water was becoming difficult as hundreds of people queued daily at the single spring in Kampung Timbang Dayang.

“There is a well near the Esscom base in Karakit but the water level there is too low to collect at times,” he said.

A Sabah Water Department official said it would be sending 30,000 litres of water by boat from Kudat to Banggi, beginning today.

“We are keeping a close watch on the weather situation and hoping that Banggi will receive some of the rainfall, as forecast for Sabah’s northern region over the next two to three days,” he added.

The Banggi water treatment plant with a production capacity of two million litres per day was shut down on Friday after the island’s only river that was its water source ran dry.

In a related development, Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said fires spanning some 2,000ha were still burning at the Trus Madi forest reserve, about 70km south-east of the city.

There was too little rain over Trus Madi to make any difference, he said yesterday.

He said firemen and Forest Department rangers were still working around the clock to extinguish the patches of fires at the 185,000ha forest reserve near the Keningau and Tambunan districts.

Mannan said department personnel were also on the lookout for arsonists who could have started the fires in the forest reserve. Fortunately, the Saturday afternoon downpour had doused much of the peat swamp fires at the Binsuluk forest near the west coast reserve, he added.

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Malaysia: Use biological methods to solve dengue issue, Selangor urged

WANI MUTHIAH The Star 11 Apr 16;

KLANG: The relevant authorities should consider using biological methods to counter the dengue epidemic in the country which is fast spiralling out of control.

Former president of the Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine Assoc Prof Dr S. Vellayan said this method included the use of fish, dragonflies and genetically engineered mosquitoes to battle Aedes mosquitoes.

“The western mosquito fish known as Gambusia affinis, which eats mosquito larvae, can be released into drains, ponds and places with stagnant water.

“This method has been used in countries such as the United States, China and Cambodia to control the mosquito population,” said Dr Vellayan, who is with Universiti Teknologi Mara Puncak Alam’s Faculty of Pharmacy.

He said freshwater shrimps could also be used to control larvae from becoming mosquitoes.

According to Dr Vellayan, dragonflies, which are also being used extensively in Cambodia and some parts of the United States, could also be released in specific areas for the purpose.

“The dragonfly nymphs in the water eat the mosquito larvae and the dragonflies eat the adult mosquitoes,” said Dr Vellayan, who is a veterinarian.

He explained that genetically engineered mosquitoes could also be released to mate with Aedes mosquitoes and since the engineered variety was barren, there would not be any spawning of eggs.

“Mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria can also be released to eliminate the Aedes,” he said.

When a male mosquito infected with Wolbachia mates with a female Aedes mosquito, her eggs will not hatch.

He added that the initiatives should be undertaken by the respective local councils and City Halls as the dengue menace was no longer a medical issue but an environmental problem.

Klang MP Charles Santiago concurred that dengue was now an environmental problem and as a result, the local councils had a bigger role to play since garbage and filthy surroundings were the biggest contributors to Aedes breeding grounds.

Santiago said some of the local councils in Selangor were slow and sometimes not receptive to suggestions and ideas given to them to counter the dengue menace.

To rectify this, he said Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s office should be directly responsible for dengue eradication activities if the state wanted to effectively counter the epidemic.

Selangor has consistently recorded the highest number of dengue cases in the country with 65,168 cases – almost 50% of the 120,836 cases recorded nationwide in 2015.

This year, Selangor again recorded the highest with 13,306 cases between January and March 2.

Out of the 55 dengue-linked deaths nationwide during the same period, 18 were from Selangor.

Overall dengue cases reduced, but seven states show increase
HASHINI KAVISHTRI KANNAN New Straits Times 10 Apr 16;

PUTRAJAYA: Dengue cases have reduced from February until the end of March this year, similar to last year's trend within the same period.

In a statement today, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said a total of 2,130 cases were reported throughout the country from March 27 to April 2.

"There are five less cases compared to the week before which had 2,135 cases," he said.

He, however, noted that seven states showed an increase in dengue cases in the past week.

"The states are Selangor with 35 cases (2.9 per cent increase), Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya (15 cases or 10.4 per cent), Sarawak (12 cases or 24 per cent), Sabah (eight or 28.6 per cent), Negri Sembilan (two cases or 3.3 per cent), Perlis (one case or 50 per cent) and Pahang (one or two per cent)," he said.

From Jan 2 to April 2, Dr Noor said, total cumulative cases for dengue cases showed an increase of 8.9 per cent or 3,046 cases, leaving the total case as of last week at 37,190 cases compared to the same period last year with 34,144 cases.

Dr Noor said the number of fatalities also reduced to 87 deaths in the 13th week of year compared the 108 deaths in 2015.

He said that in efforts to reduce the number of cases, the ministry has also conducted checks on construction sites.

"A total of 2,334 construction sites were inspected in which 743 sites have found to be Aedes mosquito breeding grounds," he said.

Meanwhile, he said no Zika cases have been reported so far. "Zika and dengue cases can be avoided if people practice a clean lifestyle.

"People must work together to clean and destroy Aedes breeding sites in their surroundings," he added.

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Malaysia: Beetle may destroy palm oil sector

TASHNY SUKUMARAN The Star 11 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: A species of beetle illegally brought in across the Thai-Malaysian border has been ravaging the nation’s palm trees, and – if left unchecked – can potentially decimate the palm oil industry within just 20 years.

The red palm weevil, or Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, is a species of beetle that excavates holes in the trunk of palm trees, eventually killing the plant. It infests coconut palms, date palms and oil palms.

According to the Department of Agriculture’s (DoA) Plant Biosecurity Division, so far a whopping 465ha of coconut trees are gone, mainly in Terengganu and Kedah.

There are 85,799ha of coconut palms in Malaysia. Additionally, 335 date palms have been eaten.

So far, said department head Faridah Aini Muhammad, no commercial plantations had been affected, but the weevil’s spread was a major cause for concern.

“What worries us is that if these beetles do not have access to their main source of food in date palms, they will move to oil palm trees.

“There have been reports which are still unconfirmed as yet, but it is a very real concern,” she said, adding that research was currently ongoing in several universities across the country.

“Research at UKM has shown that even without being forced, the weevil will go to the palm oil fruits and breed inside the tree itself.”

The red palm weevil first entered the country when seedlings and date palms were illegally brought in across the border with the beetle in the trunks.

Under Malaysia’s Plant Quaran­tine Act, the import of any palms except for research purposes is prohibited.

So far, the weevil can be found in five states – Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, Penang and Terengganu – with the latter being the worst-hit.

“People have been bringing pandan coconut and date palms in for years, but after El Nino recently the weather became more suitable for these palms to flower and fruit, so people wanted to bring it in,” said Faridah.

However, unknown to most people, the bulk of the date palms smuggled in were ornamental plants that would not fruit.

While Malaysia is home to several other species of palm weevil, the one that has recently entered our shores breeds far quicker and so is more dangerous.

“To control its spread, we must spray cypermethrin (an insecticide) every two weeks until the infestation is dead. We have to do preventive spraying as well, including soil drenching (adding diluted chemicals to the base of plants),” said Faridah.

The adults are also killed with the use of pheromone traps, which can be used as an early detection method.

“If we find beetles in the traps, we know there are probably more,” she said.

The DoA has also met with and briefed the Smuggling Prevention Unit (UPP) of the Border Control Agency to look into the matter.

The Biosecurity Division has urged Malaysians to contact the DoA if they notice a possible infestation, or spray insecticide themselves.

“The first sign will be a wilting crown – the leaves fall into a skirt-like formation around the tree. They will then start dropping.

“Eventually, the whole trunk will be hollowed out and potentially fall, which is also a risk to the public, as some areas use palms as avenue trees to line roads and pathways, and even around mosques,” she said.

Faridah said that while the beetle had appeared in Malaysia in 2010, the situation had worsened due to an increase in smuggling.

“We have approached nurseries and told them to stop selling these smuggled date palms, but people must stop buying from unreliable sources, and report any potential smuggling to the authorities,” she said.

Still the lesser of two weevils
The Star 11 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: The red palm weevil has been detected in oil palm plantations, according to UKM Biology head Prof Dr Idris Abd Ghani, but it is unclear if they are infesting the trees.

“We have caught them in pheromone traps but we do not know if they are eating the trees. The plantations are big areas and it can take up to two years for the whole tree to completely die. Initially, the yield will just be lower,” he said.

The beetle has been found in Felcra and Felda areas, but there is no evidence of the individual trees being affected.

“The red palm weevil is not new to Malaysia, but it is only recently becoming a problem. Related species have already been reported as attacking oil palms in places such as Guam. We have to monitor these plantations in the country,” he said.

According to Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) director-general Datuk Dr Choo Yuen May, the board was aware of the weevil’s presence but noted it was attacking “largely coconut areas” and was being closely monitored.

She said MPOB was taking steps to limit the spread of the beetle, including joint research with Universiti Malaysia Terengganu to closely monitor the beetle in oil palm plantations and the possibility of the weevil’s coexistence with other pests, such as the oryctes beetle that thrives in dead or decaying tree trunks.

“The weevil was commonly detected in the coastal regions of eastern states such Terengganu and Kelantan. Serious infestation of the weevil was mainly on coconut trees by the species R. ferrugineus.

“A survey in 2011 found that more than 550,000 coconut palms throughout Terengganu had been severely attacked by the red palm weevil.

“The distribution of R. ferrugineus was restricted only to the eastern and northern parts of Malaysia, covering Terengganu, Kelantan, Perlis and Kedah,” she said, adding that the monitoring of Felcra and Felda areas in Terengganu had shown the presence of the weevil.

“However, it was mainly due to the existence of coconut palms planted in the housing quarters, parking areas and other recreational public areas.”

She said that while there were no signs of attack on oil palms in the sites of study, the red palm weevil could be trapped within the same oil palm replanted areas with palms aged one to three years.

Choo said the oryctes beetle also had to be monitored, as a weevil attack could be related to a heavy initial attack by the former.

“Additionally, close monitoring, especially in oil palm plantations adjacent to the infested coconut areas should be continued.

“Ongoing collaborations with uni­­­versities should also be conti­nued to develop effective control methods for better management of the pest,” she said.

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Indonesia: LIPI launches expedition to Wallacea in search of undiscovered species 9 Apr 16;

The Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI) plans to launch a three-week expedition to Sumba in East Nusa Tenggara and West Sulawesi on April 15 to explore hidden biodiversity, including endemic flora, fauna and micro-organisms.

The end of the expedition is expected to pave the way for further development and local welfare.

The Widya Nusantara Expedition will involve two teams consisting of 70 researchers, with a budget of Rp 2.1 billion (US$ 159,756).

“The expedition aims to show the vast biodiversity that can be used by local communities and regional governments,” LIPI chairman Iskandar Zulkarnain said on Friday, referring to the burgeoning global bio-resources industry.

Senior LIPI researcher Anas Saidi said the expedition would benefit both science and society.

Sumba and West Sulawesi are both located within Wallacea, a biogeographical transition zone from Asia to Australia in central Indonesia, which is believed to have immense biodiversity. According to the institute, many endemic species remain unrecorded, including fungi, microbes and, on Sumba, freshwater micro-flora and micro-fauna.

LIPI life sciences researcher Witjaksono said that West Sulawesi had a high level of endemism as a result of its geological history, Sulawesi having been formed by at least five paleo-islands.

“Besides, West Sulawesi is a relatively new province [having been formed in 2004]. So we need to explore more data about its biodiversity,” he said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Kehati) program manager Basuki Rahmad said that further exploration was needed in Sumba and West Sulawesi, as the areas were home to several endemic species vulnerable to the illegal wildlife trade.

“There are lots of rare species of birds in those regions regarded as ‘sexy’ commodities for the illegal wildlife trade,” Basuki said. “As such, the expedition is needed to check the real situation on the ground.”

LIPI is also to send a separate expedition to Sumba from July 26 to Aug. 15. The assigned team will include 30 terrestrial researchers looking to explore oceanography, seismogenic zones and ecological connectivity around the island. (vps/bbn)

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