Best of our wild blogs: 8 May 16

Chek Jawa check-up with net
wild shores of singapore

200m net removed at Chek Jawa (7 May 2016)
Project Driftnet Singapore

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Gardens by the Bay
Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Dairy Farm Nature Park (06 May 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

ICCS volunteers spread awareness about marine trash at the Asia Dive Expo 2016!
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Discover Pulau Ubin during Pesta Ubin, 14 May – 12 June 2016!
Otterman speaks

Read more!

Malaysia: Fishermen baffled by poor daily catch

The Star 8 May 16;

BALIK PULAU: Some 1,000 fishermen from Pulau Betong and Kuala Sungai Pinang are claiming dwindling financial returns due to low catch for the past one month.

They claimed they did not know the cause and hoped the authorities would carry out water quality analysis in the sea to get to the bottom of the matter.

Pulau Betong assemblyman Muhammad Farid Saad said some of them had stopped going out to sea as the money spent on petrol was more than their income.

“The fishermen claimed that they managed to catch only two to three prawns and very little fish nowadays.

“Their livelihoods have been affected severely,” he said after accompanying the fishermen out to the sea in Pulau Betong yesterday.

Muhammad Farid said that according to several fishermen, the anchors of their boats would be covered with black silt emitting foul smells.

He urged the National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia, the Fisheries Department, and the Department of Environment to conduct immediate investigations.

Read more!

Malaysia: Bukit Bintang next to be polystyrene-free in KL

The Star 7 May 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Bukit Bintang is set to become the second area here to be free of polystyrene food containers as Kuala Lumpur City Hall pursues its green city initiative.

City Hall planning executive director Datuk Mohd Najib Mohd said Satuday that the move would be implemented by the end of this year.

Dataran Merdeka was declared a prohibited area for polystyrene food containers in July last year.

"Polystyrene food containers are non-biodegradable, have an undesirable effect on the environment and complicate the management of solid waste," he told reporters after launching the 'Jom Bersih Bukit Bintang', the 10th in a series of a cleanliness programmes.

About 800 people from various government and private sector agencies participated in the programme to clean up the Bukit Bintang area.

Mohd Najib said City Hall was working with other agencies to organise "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" (3R) programmes to create awareness and educate city dwellers. – Bernama

Read more!

Malaysia: Seven caught ferrying 'exotic bushmeat' in Keningau

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 7 May 16;

KENINGAU: Sabah Wildlife detained seven people after they were caught ferrying different types of dried bushmeat.

They were arrested when the department’s rangers and honorary wildlife wardens mounted a road block along the Keningau-Kalabakan stretch early morning.

The four-wheel drive vehicle the men were in contained a variety of exotic wildlife meat including wild boar, barking deer, monitor lizard, mousedeer and flying squirrel.

The dried bushmeat were found inside a box and three plastic bags in the rear bucket of the vehicle.

Meanwhile, several stalls at the Nabawan weekly market or "tamu" here, notorious for selling bushmeat, were not in operation during checks.

All vehicles coming from the direction of Nabawan were inspected but none were found to carry any bushmeat.

Wildlife director William Baya said the enforcement effort would be ongoing to curb any forms of wildlife offences.

Between Jan 2014 and Sept 2015, more than 20 people were charged with possession of wildlife.

Crackdown on bushmeat trade
MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 9 May 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The wildlife department has ratcheted up pressure on illegal hunters in Sabah’s Nabawan and Keningau districts.

Seven people were arrested with about 35kg of dried bushmeat, from wild boar, barking deer, monitor lizard, mousedeer and flying squirrel apparently caught illegally in forest reserves in interior Nabawan.

Sabah Wildlife Department enforcement chief Augustine Tuuga said the seven, who were timber camp workers, were detained at a roadblock along the Keningau-Kalabakan road on Saturday.

“The dried bushmeat was inside a box and three plastic sacks in the bed of their four-wheel-drive vehicle,” he said, adding that an initial investigation found that the men had hunted the animals and smoked the meat.

The arrests come amid calls by conservationists for more enforcement against the trading of bushmeat in the interior of Sabah, particularly at Nabawan tamu (market) where it is sold openly and enforcement officers who try to crack down on the activity are threatened.

The department sent an undercover team to the tamu at around noon on Saturday but found the stalls empty, said Tuuga.

“We believe the customers, particularly those from outside the district, were reluctant to buy bushmeat after they saw our roadblocks while driving into the town.

“They may have been afraid of being stopped by our enforcement team on the way back,” he said, adding that no bushmeat was found despite checks on all vehicles coming out of Nabawan.

Department director William Baya said it was stepping up enforcement and intelligence gathering in different parts of the state.

Recently, the department said it was targeting hunters in efforts to stop the bushmeat trade, having arrested two groups of hunters and seized wild boar, barking deer, pangolin and civet cat meat last month.

Read more!

Indonesia: Land and forest fires rarely stop in Riau’s unique climate

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 7 May 16;

Hot spots are still present in a number of regencies in Riau province despite it being the rainy season.

The province — which is prone to disruptive, haze-producing land and forest fires — hopes to reduce its number of hot spots this year, especially in the fire-prone areas of Bengkalis, Rokan Hulu, Indragiri Hilir, Pelalawan and Meranti Islands.

“This is what the provincial and local administrations have been doing, controlling the growing number of hotspots,” acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi “Andi” Rachman said on Tuesday.

A number of efforts have been made to reach the target, he said, including issuing a gubernatorial decree on land and forest fire prevention. There are 16 action plans that need to be executed by the government and the administrations, especially those related to preparing equipment and personnel at companies with concession areas located on peatland.

“Firms with fires on their concession areas will be evaluated,” Andi said.

The Riau administration will involve not only the military, the National Police and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency ( BNPB ), but also ask locals to be more aware of potential fires in their areas.

The Riau administration has allocated Rp 123 billion ( US$9.4 million ) to preventing and dealing with the fires.

It also coordinates with the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency ( BMKG ) to detect fires.

“The experience of dealing with haze disasters since 2014 has left Riau better prepared to face dry seasons,” Andi said.

Riau has been made a pilot project in the prevention of land and forest fires, he said.

Head of Riau BMKG, Sugarin, said the province’s coastal areas of Bengkalis, Rokan Hilir, Pelalawan, Siak, Indragiri Hilir, Meranti Islands and Dumai were prone to fires because they rarely received rain.

He suggested the provincial and local administrations continue to be cautious of the emergence of hotspots in the eastern coastal regions, which are also home to a lot of fire-prone peatland.

Riau’s eastern coast has a unique climate, Sugarin said, as the areas did not follow rainy or dry seasons. He said there was such a difference in climate there that hotspots continued to emerge in Riau even during rainy season.

In many cases, companies have been deemed responsible for land and forest fires. In 2015 alone, from 8,399 hotspots detected by NASA satellites, 3,355 were inside the concession areas of industrial forestry companies and another 458 in oil palm plantation areas.

Many of the companies denied accusations made against them, arguing that lighting fires in their own concession areas would, in the end, cause huge financial losses for them.

They mostly blamed the fires on flames leaping from neighboring lands.

Law enforcement agencies has been frequently mentioned as an effective way to help control land and forest fires in the region.

This year alone, Riau Police have named 65 suspects of causing land fires. All of them were landowners and farm workers.

Riau Police spokesperson Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo said that some of the suspects were caught red-handed while carrying out slash-and-burn methods. Others were arrested following a series of investigations.

“We have warned people not to clear land by burning it, but such practices still continue,” he said.

Read more!

Indonesia: Authorities Begin Water Bombing After Fast-Spreading Fires Detected in Riau

Jakarta Globe 7 May 16;

Jakarta. Authorities have dispatched helicopters to assist efforts to extinguish land and forest fires across Riau province after at least 13 hot spots have been detected, officials said on Friday (06/05).

The spots were detected on Friday in five districts throughout the coastal area of Riau, with five hot spots in Pelawan, four in Siak, two in Indragiri Hilir, as well as one apiece in Meranti and Indragiri Hulu.

Of the 13, four were confirmed to be fire spots — indicating land and forest fires with a level of credibility at over 70 percent — Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) head Sugarin said.

"They were detected in the Siak subdistrict of Sungai Apit," Sugarin said on Friday, as quoted by state-run news agency Antara.

An MI-8 helicopter was dispatched on the same day to begin water bombing fire spots which can't be accessed through land, Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edward Sanger said.

While the approximate size of the affected areas is not yet known, he said they are peatlands which have faced dry conditions, causing the fire to spread faster.

"We have to take prompt action in response," Edward added.

Land and forest fires are an annual environment disaster in Indonesia for the last decade. Some observers have described last year's fires as the worst on record.

The fires destroyed vegetation on millions of hectares of land, afflicting more than half a million people with health problems and resulted in billions of dollars in economic losses.

Read more!

Illegal wildlife trade campaign enlists tourists

Mark Kinver, BBC News 8 May 16;

Conservationists have launched a global campaign asking the public to help tackle the illegal trade in wildlife.

They have developed a smartphone app that allows people to submit images and data of suspicious items on sale, possibly helping enforcement agencies.

The United Nations estimates the illegal trade is worth billions of pounds each year.

Despite efforts to crack down on the slaughter, it continues to grow, say campaigners.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in the poaching of threatened species, raising concern about the long-term survival of iconic animals such as tigers and rhinos.

Growing demand for protected animal body parts and products on the Chinese black market is widely viewed as one of the main drivers for the growth in the trade.

A recent report by UK think-tank Chatham House said demand was rising at an "alarming rate".

The authors said that activity in the illegal ivory trade had more than doubled since 2007, with ivory reaching a price of US $2,205 (£1,526) per kilogram in Beijing.

Rhino horn was reaching mind-blowing prices of US $66,000 per kilogram - more than the price of gold or platinum.

Crime prevention agencies recognise the threat posed by criminal targeting wildlife - listing the global trade alongside drugs, arms and human trafficking.

The app - Wildlife Witness - was developed by Taronga Conservation Society Australia in partnership with Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Its focus was the South East Asia region, which has been identified has a hub in the global illegal wildlife trade.

In this expansion of the scheme, Chester Zoo will look to raise awareness of the project across Europe while San Diego Zoo will do the same in the US.

"The reason why it is important for zoos to get involved is because we have access to really large audiences, and zoos have an important role to try and get these messages out," said Scott Wilson, head of field programmes at Chester Zoo.

"Rather than us just saying 'Look at this, isn't it terrible?' this campaign allows people to download the app and actually be involved and take action."

Mr Wilson told BBC News how people could submit data: "If people are travelling or are on holiday and if they see something as they are walking through the markets and they see something - say a baby sun bear that should not be there, or ivory on sale that they suspect is illegal, they can record it with this app and the data goes straight to Traffic.

"This will really boost the amount of information that is coming through to them, and this helps them to identify trends in wildlife trade and - more importantly - they can use that data to try and influence the enforcement policies and the really big changes that need to take place."

However, Mr Wilson was quick to point out that people should not take unnecessary risks.

He urged: "We do not want people putting themselves at risk and we certainly do not want them confronting people in a marketplace. If they can take a picture, great, if not then just put the data in the app afterwards."

Chris Shepherd, South-East Asia regional director of Traffic, said there had been an "unparalleled spike in illegal wildlife trade".

He observed: "Sadly, animals are being illegally killed or taken from the wild around the world to be sold for traditional medicines, luxury food, horns or other parts, restaurant dishes, fashion items or pets."

Dr Shepherd explained how people could help using the app: "We want people to be the eyes and ears in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade."

Read more!