Best of our wild blogs: 15 May 16

Morning Walk At Lower Peirce Reservoir (14 May 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Indonesia reviewing cooperation with Singapore in environment, forestry matters: Report

All procedures concerning planned bilateral collaborations in environment and forestry matters with Singapore have reportedly been put on hold.
Chandni Vatvani, Channel NewsAsia 15 May 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesia is reportedly reviewing all existing, planned and future bilateral cooperation in environment and forestry matters with Singapore.

In a report by environmental news website on Saturday (May 14), Indonesian Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya said she was leading the review process herself, and that the review was a substantial step that needed to be taken.

She added that there was a set of clear and measured criteria for the review process, and that this could see some existing bilateral collaborations terminated.

The minister spoke to on Thursday, after meeting with government officials in her office.

“We are looking at these bilateral collaborations in terms of substance. If it comes down to breaking off any existing bilateral collaborations, this would be the logical consequence of a substance-based review process,” the minister told

She was quoted as saying that the bilateral collaborations up for review would even include projects concerning haze and forest fire-related issues. Currently, all procedures with respect to planned bilateral collaborations have reportedly been put on hold.

Dr Nurbaya said she had already drafted a letter to be sent to a number of local governments, asking them to refrain from any direct bilateral cooperation with Singapore, especially with regard to issues related to haze and forest fires.

“Once again, this also forms part of the review process for all bilateral collaborations in the field of the environment and forestry with Singapore,” the minister told

The minister stated that the review process was part of a set of measures being undertaken by Indonesia alone, and it was not a joint process with Singapore.

“We are only going to inform Singapore at a later stage, of the existing bilateral collaborations that are to be terminated, as well as those planned collaborations which will not go ahead. Basically, we only feel obliged to notify them (the Singapore Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources) of our decisions,” the minister was quoted as saying.

Her comments came after Singapore’s National Environment Agency last week issued a court warrant in an attempt to question the director of one of the Indonesian firms linked to illegal forest fires that caused the haze last year.

The director did not attend the interview and an Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman said it lodged a protest against Singapore’s actions. However, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs later labelled the comments "puzzling", saying no such protest was received at its embassy in Jakarta.

Singapore has also put in a request to the Indonesian government for data and information on companies associated with and involved in last year’s forest fires, which caused last year's prolonged haze spell.

According to, Dr Nurbaya said her ministry would continue to uphold local laws. It will impose suspensions or revocations for concessions which violate rules and take court action where needed, she stated.

“We uphold the law in an independent manner based on Indonesia’s own laws and regulations. We certainly don’t rely on data and information derived from other countries as the basis for our legal processes," Dr Nurbaya said.

"We are not looking for a scapegoat for not enforcing the law. The objective of our law enforcement measures is to create conditions which enable the prevention of any recurrence of land and forest fires this year and any other year in the future,” the minister was quoted as saying.

- CNA/ek

RI-Singapore diplomatic spat continues over haze
Hans Nicholas Jong and Tama Salim The Jakarta Post 16 May 16;

Indonesia has rejected claims by the Singapore government that the latter did not receive an official complaint over plan to prosecute Indonesian businessmen for their alleged involvement in the annual problem of air pollution caused by fires in Sumatra.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency ( NEA ) recently obtained a court warrant against the director of an Indonesian company who failed to turn up for an interview with Singaporean authorities despite being served a legal notice when in that country.

The businessperson, who has since left Singapore, may be detained “for the purpose of investigations” if he or she tries to reenter the country, an NEA spokesman said, without naming the executive or the company.

“The Indonesian ambassador has conveyed [a protest] to the Singaporean environment minister,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said on Sunday.

The spokesman disclosed last week that the government had conveyed an official protest to Singapore. Another senior Indonesian diplomat said the Indonesian ambassador conveyed the protest on May 6.

However, a spokesperson for the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied receiving any such protest. “Mr Arrmanatha’s remarks are puzzling. He reportedly said that the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore had ‘strongly protested’ against the NEA’s actions. We have, however, not yet received any representation from the Indonesian Embassy,” the spokesperson insisted last week.

Singapore argues it is entitled to take such legal action as a result of the Trans boundary Haze Pollution Act ( THPA ) that its parliament passed in 2014.

The law enables regulators to sue individuals or companies in neighboring countries that cause severe air pollution in Singapore through slash-and-burn agricultural practices.

It was first proposed in 2013 after a huge rise in the number of forest fires on the neighboring Indonesian province of Riau caused thick smoke that blanketed Singapore in a choking haze.

Arrmanatha said the government had strongly protested against what it considered to be an encroachment on Indonesian sovereignty.

“[We protested at] the way they interviewed or interrogated the Indonesian executive because we regarded it as inappropriate,” Arrmanatha said.

While it is Singapore’s prerogative to enact its own laws, Indonesia could not allow its own citizens to be adversely affected, he asserted.

However, the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs has defended the move.

“The THPA is consistent with international law, which allows a country to take appropriate action to protect itself from external acts that cause harm within the country. It does not encroach upon the sovereignty of any specific country,” the ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Singapore argues the THPA adds to the collective efforts to hold errant companies accountable for their irresponsible actions that have been detrimental to the well-being of people in the region, including the people of Indonesia who have been the worst affected.

“We are therefore puzzled as to why Indonesia does not welcome these efforts,” said the ministry.

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Malaysia: Johor allocates RM1mil to set up dugong sanctuary

The Star 15 May 16;

JOHOR BARU: The state government has allocated RM1mil to set up a dugong sanctuary along the eastern coastline of Johor.

Johor Fisheries Department director Zamani Omar estimated that about 30 to 50 dugong had been spotted between Pulau Sibu and Pulau Tinggi here in recent years.

“We believe that many of the dugong from south Johor, which was once a dugong haven, had migrated to the eastern part of the state.

“The migration is probably due to developments taking place at the southern part and the abundance of seagrass near the eastern islands,” he said when contacted.

Zamani said the state was planning to have a watch area for the dugong around the areas including a marine passage area to stop vessels from passing through.

“We have come across several instances where the dugong succumb to injuries from being hit by ship propellers. This can be avoided if vessels do not pass through the area where dugong usually roam,” he added.

He said the allocated funding would include the implementation of awareness campaigns, adding that regulations to protect sea cows would be drawn up, too.

The project and new rules on sea activities near the two islands are expected to be implemented by next year.

“Plans to open up a marine park, to be named Taman Laut Sultan Iskandar, are also underway as we want to create a place where the public can catch a glimpse of the creatures and educate the young ones.

“We have already started engaging with consultants, who will probably work with their foreign counterparts, to realise our plans,” he said.

Zamani said the state government would go all out to turn Pulau Sibu and Pulau Tinggi into an agro-tourism area, where fishing activities are also likely to be prohibited.

‘Create database to monitor population’
The Star 15 May 16;

JOHOR BARU: Researchers should create a database to monitor the population and movement of dugong within Malaysian waters, especially in southern Johor, Malaysian Nature Society Johor chairman Vincent Chow said.

Such a database would give a clearer picture on the mammal, including its migratory pattern and dietary habits, he said.

Chow said researchers should take a similar approach to what was being done on animals such as elephants and tigers which were being tagged to keep track on them constantly.

“Currently, there is no specific monitoring system for the dugong species unlike for whales,” he said in an interview.

Chow said that data compiled through tagging could help authorities to locate the mammals and keep an eye on them.

The dugong population in Johor is facing extinction, especially in the southern-most areas of the state, due to vast land reclamation works.

Johor’s western coastline areas of Sungai Pulai and Pulau Merambong near Gelang Patah and some parts of Tanjung Bin in Pontian are rich with the type of seagrass, which is the main diet of the dugong.

Chow believes that the dugong would be extinct within 25 years if no measures were taken by the authorities to look into the problem.

With no documentation on the dugong in Johor waters, he said information was based purely on the sightings by local fishermen.

Like salmon which would return to its birthplace to spawn, he said dugong was known to return to Sungai Pulai, Pulau Merambong and Tanjung Bin to give birth as the seagrass areas were the perfect hideout for them.

The dugong, he said, were “loyal” to their partners.

“If their partners die, the other one would experience depression and would also die not long after,” he said.

Chow said the decline in the number of dugong and other marine life in the areas was a clear indication of the deterioration of water quality.

The tell-tale signs were already there as the number of dugong in those areas had already declined by half now compared to those seen in the 1960s and 1970s, he added.

Chow suggested that the authorities engage with stakeholders, including environmentalists, scientists and non-governmental organisations and local communities, on matters related to the environment.

“We are not against any development but it must take into consideration of the environmental impact.

“Developers should strictly adhere to the guidelines and it all boils down to enforcement,” he said.

Dugong on the verge of extinction

GELANG PATAH: Known also as the sea cow, the dugong which inspires many tales like mermaid legends is on the verge of extinction.

The vast development taking place in south Johor, once a popular feeding ground for the mammal, has led to its dwindling numbers.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, local fishermen would often catch a glimpse of the shy creatures as the area was abundant with spoon seagrass, their main diet.

Kampung Sungai Simpang Arang fishermen chief Tang King Tong, 68, recalled an incident in 2004 where a 30kg baby dugong got caught in a fishing net.

“We convinced the fisherman to release the dugong back into the sea as it was still a baby. Its mother was roaming near the shore, as if waiting for her baby,” he said in an interview.

Tang claimed it was a common practice in the old days for the orang asli community to consume dugong meat, which tastes like beef.

“Orang asli would also carve the bones into a pipe,” he said, attributing this to a belief that smoking it would help reduce body temperature when a person was suffering from high fever.

There was also talk then that the tear drop of a dugong was believed to have magical powers, so bomoh would use it to make love potions, he claimed.

Tang, who has been living in the village since marrying his orang asli wife in the 1960s, claimed there were about 200 to 300 dugong five decades ago but their number had decreased by more than half.

“Besides dugong, it was common to spot crocodiles, turtles and bottlenose dolphins in the waters of Gelang Patah, especially near Pulau Merambong which is rich with seagrass.

“The seagrass is a favourite breeding ground for prawns, crabs and seahorses as the marine creatures can camouflage themselves on the seabed or hide from their predators there,” he said.

He believes that the number of sea creatures had dipped due to land reclamation works.

Another fisherman Rolen Oni, 35, said he first saw a dugong, almost 5m long, when he was about 16 years old.

“Three adult dugong had died in the past due to injuries from ship propellers near the port area.

“Some people have even offered financial rewards to fishermen in the village if they manage to catch a dugong alive,” he claimed.

Kampung Pendas Laut fishermen head Azman Adan, 45, said the 3km sandbar from Tanjung Kupang to Tanjung Adang was the dugong’s favourite playground before the development of a seaport within the area.

“It was once common for fishermen to spot dugong grazing on the seabed during low tide but now it has become a rare sighting,” said Azman, who has been going to sea since he was 13 years old.

The most recent spotting of a dugong was on May 5 when the carcass of one was found floating in the sea near the village after it had apparently sustained injuries from fishing nets.

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Indonesia: Green turtle population shrinks in Pasoso

Ruslan Sangadji The Jakarta Post 14 May 16;

The green turtle population continues to decrease around Pasoso Island, Donggala regency, a three-hour drive, or 108 kilometers, from Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi.

According to Ahmad, whom works as a guard on the island, during recent spawning seasons only 19 turtles have been known to lay eggs at the beach.

“Previously there were hundreds of them,” Ahmad told The Jakarta Post by phone on Thursday.

The 64-hectare Pasoso Island — known as Turtle Island — is considered a final fortress for green turtles. It has also been a crossing point for the animals.

Ahmad said a mature female green turtle could lay between 60 and 150 eggs each season, but explained that only a few, perhaps 11, of the hatched baby turtles make it safely to the sea and grow to reach adulthood.

Blaming the decrease of the protected turtle population on rampant poaching, he said many come to the island from outside the region to catch turtles and collect eggs for consumption.

Other factors, according to Ahmad, include fishing with explosives and trawl nets. “Many fishermen come here to hunt turtles,” Ahmad said.

He said that green turtles in Pasoso usually roam and lay eggs on the island over a period of 15 days every six months. They lay eggs during daylight hours and return to the sea when the sun goes down. After the mature female turtles have laid their eggs, they migrate to Kalimantan.

Munir, a representative from the Central Sulawesi Marine and Fishery Agency, said his office had included Pasoso Island in its action plan for conservation and preservation programs.

However, such programs are temporarily postponed whenever the green turtle population shows signs of increase, resulting in rampant hunting of the animals.

Munir expressed hope that the preservation program would continue, considering the present conditions. He said poachers mostly hunted by disguising themselves as fishermen when, in fact, they are illegally hunting for green turtles.

Admitting that he had once consumed turtle meat and eggs, Mohamad Nasrun, a local, said that before the green turtle was declared a protected species it had been common for locals to see the turtles wandering around.

“In the past, there were turtles as far as the eye could see. The beach was full of them. It’s not the case now,” Nasrun said.

The Donggala regency administration has initiated programs to protect green turtles around Pasoso from predators, including poachers and wild beasts. The administration has also instigated green turtle breeding programs.

“We have proposed that Pak Ahmad be nominated to receive the Kalpataru Award for his work to guard the green turtles around Pasoso Island,” Donggala Regent Kasman Lassa said, referring to the national award for environmental preservation.

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Indonesia: N. Sulawesi to focus on marine tourism

Lita Aruperes The Jakarta Post 14 May 16;

North Sulawesi has pledged to focus on the marine sector in developing tourism in the province, as 13 out of the 15 regencies/cities in the region have sea territories and diving spots.

Head of North Sulawesi Tourism Agency, Happy Korah, said that another tourist attraction in need of infrastructure improvement were waruga ( old thumbs )

“Our target is Bunaken, which is also a national target,” said Happy, adding that Bunaken was popular among foreign tourists, although the site was not well managed.

Bunaken Marine National Park ( TNLB ) is a conservation area covering 89,065 hectares, of which 16.85 square-kilometers is located in Manado city, the provincial capital. The area is known for its high biodiversity, one among the world’s highest, with 20 diving spots. It has three main ecosystems of tropical waters, namely coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass.

Happy said that in developing the province’s tourist industry, his agency would need to work with other agencies, such as the transportation agency for infrastructure improvement and public works agency for improvements to transportation and traffic facilities.

He also said that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had ordered the public works and transportation agencies to build infrastructure, especially those heading to tourist sites.

“When infrastructure is good, tourism can also be developed. When everything is good, many tourists will for sure come,” Happy said on Thursday, while adding that his agency has set a target of receiving 40,000 to 50,000 tourists this year as compared to last year’s 36,000.

Head of the North Sulawesi Public Works Agency, JE Kenap, said his side was ready to develop infrastructure to support tourism. A similar commitment was also expressed by North Sulawesi Transportation Agency head Joy Oroh.

Joy said improvements, for example, had been made in the management of passenger facilities at Sam Ratulangi Airport, where the runway had been extended from 250 to 450 meters.

Improvements, Joy said, had as well been made in the island region. “Almost every island in the region now has piers of 50 to 100 m, so passengers won’t get wet when they get off the ships,” Joy said.

North Sulawesi Governor Olly Dondokambey said he had proposed for new pioneered ships to the Transportation Ministry, to be operated in the island region.

“Additional units are needed so transportation on remote islands can be accommodated,” he said.

Meanwhile, chairman of the North Sulawesi branch of the Association of Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants ( PHRI ), Jhony Lieke, said that 30 star-rated hotels in the province were ready to accommodate tourists. Yet, he said, training was needed to further improve human resources.

Another practitioner in the tourist industry, Peggy Adeline Mekel, echoed Jhony’s statement, saying that employers needed to catch up with existing developments and provide better services to visiting tourists.

General manager of national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia’s Manado branch office, Dedy Irawan, also expressed his readiness to support local administrations’ programs in the tourism sector.

“We plan to open a direct route connecting China and Manado,” Dedy said, adding that the plan might be realized in 2017 or 2018.

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Indonesia: Gorontalo whale sharks must not be over exploited -- Minister Susi

Antara 14 May 16;

Gorontalo (ANTARA News) - Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in the Botubarani waters, Kabila Bone, Bone Bolango District, Gorontalo Province, must not be over exploited, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has reminded.

"I appeal to you to not destroy the phenomena of 17 whale sharks in Gorontalo. Because as we intensify tourism, we must not injure the whale sharks while we watch, approach and appreciate them," she said here Saturday.

She urged visitors and locals to keep a distance from the whale sharks, whose frequent sightings have attracted tourists.

Under the decree of the maritime affairs and fisheries ministry No. 18 Year 2013, whale sharks are protected to ensure their preservation.

Whale shark sightings, however, are still allowed to become a tourist attraction as long as they are carried out by paying attention to shark preservation.

Minister Susi Pudjiastuti expressed her support towards developing the whale shark sightings as a tourist attraction and she presented a book on guidelines on whale shark sightings.

The minister visited the Olele Marine Park located near Botubarani, held dialogs with local fishermen, and presented financial assistance to fishermen communities in the region.

Maritime Spatical Management Director General Brahmantya Satyamurti has urged local communities to help preserve whale sharks as a tourist attraction.

"This tourism must be supervised by local communities. How could we step up tourism without having to disturb whale sharks? Excessive number of boats could cause stress on whale sharks," he added.

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