Best of our wild blogs: 23 May 16

Wild fun for kids during the June school holidays!
wild shores of singapore

Burrowing Giant Clam (Tridacna crocea) @ Sentosa
Monday Morgue

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Crude tanker storage fleet off Singapore points to stubborn oil glut

Today Online 21 May 16;

SINGAPORE — Prices for oil futures have jumped by almost a quarter since April, lifted by severe supply disruptions caused by triggers such as Canadian wildfires, acts of sabotage in Nigeria, and civil war in Libya.

Yet flying into Singapore, the oil trading hub for the world's biggest consumer region, Asia, reveals another picture: that a global glut that pulled down prices by over 70 per cent between 2014 and early 2016 is nowhere near over, and that financial traders betting on higher crude oil futures may be in for a surprise from the physical market.

A graphic from Marine Traffic. Each arrowhead represents a moving ship, while squares indicate anchored or moored ships.

"I've been coming to Singapore once a year for the last 15 years, and flying in I have never seen the waters so full of idle tankers," said a senior European oil trader a day after arriving in the city-state.

As Asia's main physical oil trading hub, the number of parked tankers sitting off Singapore's coast or in nearby Malaysian waters is seen by many as a gauge of the industry's health.

Judging by this, oil markets are still sickly: a fleet of 40 supertankers is currently anchored in the region's coastal waters for use as floating storage facilities.

The tankers are filled with 47.7 million barrels of oil, mostly crude, up 10 per cent from the previous week, according to newly collected freight data in Thomson Reuters Eikon.

That's enough oil to satisfy five working days of Chinese demand, suggesting recent supply disruptions — which have mostly occurred in the Americas, Africa and Europe — have done little to tighten supply in Asia as Middle East producers keep output near record volumes in a bid to win market share.

"The volumes of oil stored at sea in South East Asia — predominantly Singapore and Malaysia — appear to have increased significantly," said Mr Erik Broekhuizen, Global Manager of tanker research and consultancy at New York-based shipping brokerage Poten & Partners. "The current volumes are the highest for at least the last five years."

Many participants in the physical market dispute recent notes from financial players like Goldman Sachs that forecast a further rise in crude futures.

"There has been quite a bit of bullishness from hedge funds in recent months, betting on higher oil prices, and even the analysts at Goldman Sachs have recently turned more bullish on oil prices," said Mr Ralph Leszczynski, head of research at ship broker Banchero Costa.

"Prices are unlikely to rise too much as the specter of glut is still there," he said.


In fact, the need to store oil is so strong that traders are calling up banks to finance storage charters despite there being no profit in keeping fuel in tankers at current rates.

"We are receiving unusually high amounts of queries to finance storage charters," said a senior oil trade financier with a major bank in Asia.

"These queries come from traders fully aware that they will not make a profit from storing the oil. This isn't a trade play, it's the oil market looking for places to store unsold fuel," he added.

A trade financier at a European bank said there had been a "spike in interest from oil traders to finance their storage needs" since the start of the year as onshore facilities were almost full.

Both bankers declined to be identified as they are not allowed to speak to the media.

Storing oil on ships can be profitable when prices for future delivery of crude are higher than in spot market, a term structure known as contango, as long as future prices are high enough to offset tanker charter costs.

But the one-year contango for Brent crude futures has collapsed from US$7.60 (S$10.50) per barrel in January to just US$4, far below the US$10 that traders say is currently required to make floating storage financially attractive.

At a charter cost of more than US$40,000 a day for a Very Large Crude Carrier that can store 2 million barrels, the contango is nowhere near steep enough to make it profitable to store oil on tankers for sale at a later date.

"Floating storage is unattractive economically, given the current term structure in crude futures," BMI Research said this week.

Despite this, BMI said that "the volume of crude in floating storage has risen sharply in recent months," adding that the phenomenon was global, with floating storage up 19.5 percent between the first quarters of 2015 and 2016.

"There is clearly still far too much physical crude going around for the glut to be over," said the European oil trader after flying in to Singapore. "And the paper market seems blissfully unaware of it."

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Malaysia: Rains came but dams still at critical level

ROYCE TAN The Star 23 May 16;

SERDANG: Water rationing will continue in Mersing and Kota Tinggi despite most dams in critical areas showing an improvement in the level due to rain the past week.

National Water Services Commis­sion (Span) CEO Datuk Mohd Ridhuan Ismail said the rationing would continue until June 15 as the level at the water treatment plants there was still below the critical mark due to insufficient raw water flowing into the plants.

“Water levels at the Lok Heng and Sungai Gembut treatment plants are seeing an increasing trend.

“We hope the rain continues so that the situation will be better.

“The level at the Bukit Merah dam has risen significantly.

“As of Friday, the level was at 8.10m or at 74.8% capacity,” he told reporters after flagging off the Thirsty Runner 2016 here yesterday.

The Timah Tasoh dam in Perlis was at 26.18m (13.3%) and the Congok and Layang dams in Johor were at 3.77m (10.35%) and 19.12m (15.1%) respectively.

He also advised Malaysians to save water as the country’s usage per capita was at 211 litres compared to the world’s standard usage at only 150 litres.

On the logging of the Ulu Muda forest reserve in Kedah, which is also an important water catchment area, Mohd Ridhuan said both water and timber sources were under the purview of the state go­vernment.

“I’m sure that they are doing it wisely because the catchment area is part and parcel of Kedah’s water source as well,” he said.

“It’s the state government’s prerogative to monitor the situation.”

Water rationing ends for Felda Lok Heng residents
YEE XIANG YUN The Star 23 May 16;

JOHOR BARU: Residents staying at Felda Lok Heng in Kota Tinggi will be relieved to know that the scheduled water supply exercise for the area ends today.

SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd Corporate Communications chief Jamaluddin Jamil (pic) said that this was following the increase in water levels at Sungai Sedili Kecil, which supplies water to the Lok Heng water treatment plant.

He said that the water level had reached 2.67m compared to the critical level of 1.5m recorded previously which warranted a scheduled water supply exercise to be carried out.

“This puts an end to the exercise, which began about a month ago and water supply has resumed regularly,” he said in a statement here on Monday.

The settlement, which has more than 18,000 consumers, was among the areas in Kota Tinggi and Mersing affected by water cuts on 85,000 domestic and industrial consumers since a month ago.

However, Jamaluddin said that areas receiving water supply from the Sungai Gembut, Tenglu and Sungai Mersing water treatment plants would still experience scheduled water supply for the time being.

Cloud seeding must go on in Penang
The Star 23 May 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The water situation in Penang is still not safe as the level at the dams has not reached 60% even with the recent cloud seeding operations.

Penang Water Supply Corporation Sdn Bhd (PBAPP) chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said that cloud seeding should continue until the effects of El Nino taper off at the end of June.

“Both the Teluk Bahang and Air Itam dams must reach the 60% mark. Right now, it’s hovering at around 50%,” he said when commenting on the recent cloud seeding operation which was successfully carried out on Friday in the northern states.

He said the water levels at the Muda and Beris dams in Kedah were presently around 30%.

A statement on the portal of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry revealed that cloud seeding had brought rain to the Timah Tasoh dam in Perlis, the Beris and Ahning dams in Kedah and the Teluk Bahang and Air Itam dams in Penang.

“The Federal Government should not let up on the cloud seeding ope­rations as the dry weather is expected to continue throughout June,” said Jaseni.

He added that if cloud seeding was stopped now, the level in all the dams would drop and it could create a major issue early next year even if it rained after June.

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Indonesia: Lake Toba ecosystem badly needs protection

Erika Pardede Jakarta Post 22 May 16;

The government is now working on the establishment of a tourism authority for Lake Toba in North Sumatra as part of its program to turn the famous lake into one of the country’s major tourist destinations.

At present, the public can now enjoy newly opened direct flights between Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and Silangit Airport, near the lake. A toll road will also be built to shorten the travel time to reach the lake overland.

People will soon witness the rise of mass tourism at Lake Toba, Samosir Island and the seven regencies that share the lake. What will the impact of this tourism development be? Many people are waiting curiously, hoping that development will improves their lives. Meanwhile others are calling for a prudent approach in developing the plan.

The Lake Toba ecosystem and its surrounding area serves the people living in the area. It provides abundant fresh water. Lake Toba is recognised as the largest permanent lake body in Southeast Asia.

The basin and catchment area, through farming and fishing, supplies food to the community, whilst a forest provides wood and various herbs. For more than 20 years, two hydropower plants in Siguragura and Tangga have been supplied with water from Lake Toba.

The Lake Toba ecosystem services, in fact, go beyond those basic needs. Beside all those benefits, the lake ecosystem also plays a crucial role in regulating the water flows and water regime.

Like other lakes throughout the globe, the ecosystem of Toba also helps to regulate the atmosphere and climate, and dampen environmental disturbances such as storms and floods. It helps as a biological control mechanism to decrease destructive populations.

Moreover, the lake ecosystem also supports the process of soil formation, photosynthesis, pollination and nutrient cycling. Those processes support and affect the ability of the ecosystem to maintain its provisional processes and services.

Last but not least, Lake Toba provides cultural, spritual, recreational and aesthetic benefits for people. Batak tribes in the area are still connected to and maintain their traditional culture, handed down from generation to generation.

There are lots of myths among the native people and they practice traditional rituals. Being buried in their homeland Toba, the land of their ancestors, is something most Batak people desire. They preserve tombs and cemeteries contain graves from ancient times to the present.

Population growth and development over the past two decades has affected the ecosystem of the lake. Its catchment area faces an environmental crisis characterized by widespread deforestation, drought, water level decline, water-quality degradation, invasive species and loss of biological diversity.

Developing the lake into a major tourist destination has caused concerns about its impact on the ecosystem. The tourism industry brings financial gain, and a location becoming a tourist destination brings both direct and secondary impacts, affecting tour operators, tourist enterpreneurs, local residents and the central government.

However, besides financial benefits, it can also have a negative impact on the environment.

Many studies have revealed that tourism can put pressure on natural resources, local resources and create land degradation. Human activities that cause habitat destruction and widespread deforestation has affected the slope and land around the lake. Tonnes of logs are daily extracted from the forest.

There has been significant land-use conversion for industrial and residential development. Later on, tourism will demand a large amount of land to support the need for hotels, recreation areas, resorts and parks. This will further shift the land-use pattern from predominantly forest and farmland to infrastucture that supports tourism.

Currently, intensive agricultural practices and floating-cage aquaculture in the lake have led to contamination, both from a chemical used in agricultural practices and fish food.

The spreading of hyacinth water plants over the lake surface is an indication of a change in water quality suggesting the water has been affected by a heavy pollutant.

The high concentration of tourists can also cause forms of pollution such as air, water, noise and aesthetic pollution; besides increase of solid waste, sewage and littering. Tourism activities can lead to the loss of biological diversity, and in the long run at the global level will contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer and climate change.

Finally, although Toba Land is not new to tourism, the goverment‘s plan will big changes to the area. Is the community ready for such a big leap to support today’s style of tourism. Disruption of cultural practices may also occur, and people will need to adapt to the new situation.

The development of Lake Toba as a tourist destination should also consider its negative impacts on the ecosystem.

The writer is a lecturer at the University of HKBP Nommensen, Medan

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Malaysia: Sabah poachers persist despite crackdown

RUBEN SARIO The Star 22 May 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s endangered wildlife continue to be the target of poachers as recent raids by authorities here over the past week have shown.

Sabah Wildlife Department rangers stumbled on three carcasses of bearded pigs and a mousedeer when they stopped a four wheel drive pick up truck along the Paitan-Kanibongan road in northern Sabah on Saturday.

Department director William Baya said the three people who were inside the vehicle had been detained for further investigations under Section 41 (2) of Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 for illegal possession of protected wildlife.

He said more wildlife species were seized in a joint enforcement operation by the department, Forestry Department and police in Tawau between May 20 and 22.

Baya said three groups of individuals were detained after they were found to be in possession of the carcasses of a civet cat, a flying fox and bearded pigs.

Stressing that the department was continuing its crackdown against poachers, he said hunters should apply for the necessary permits first.

Poachers still targeting Sabah’s endangered wildlife
The Star 24 May 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s endangered wildlife continue to be the target of poachers as recent raids during the past week here have shown.

Sabah Wildlife Department rangers discovered three carcasses of bearded pigs and that of a mousedeer when they stopped a pickup truck along the Paitan-Kanibonganroad in northern Sabah on Saturday.

Department director William Baya said the three people who were inside the vehicle have been detained for further investigations under Section 41(2) of Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, for illegal possession of protected wildlife.

He said more wildlife species, including civet cats and flying foxes, were seized in a joint enforcement operation by the department, Forestry Department and Police in Tawau between May 20 and 22.

Baya said three groups of individuals were detained after they were found to be in possession of the carcasses of a civet cat, a flying fox and bearded pigs

He said the department would continue its crackdown against poachers, and added that hunters should apply for the necessary permits first.

Bearded pig, mousedeer carcasses found during roadblock
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 22 May 16;

BELURAN: A roadblock along the Paitan-Kanibongan road here yesterday morning turned up unusual discoveries in the form of exotic animal carcasses.

Three people were arrested by the Sabah Wildlife enforcement team when the carcasses of three bearded pigs and a mousedeer were found in their 4WD vehicle.

The trio will be investigated under Section 41(2) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 for possession of protected wildlife product without permit. Elsewhere, three other groups of people were arrested for similar offences between May 20 and 22 in Tawau.

The joint operations between the Wildlife, Forestry Department, police and Sabah Foundation yielded wildlife species such as bearded pigs, civet cats and flying foxes.

State Wildlife director William Baya, in a statement today, reminded the public to obtain permits when engaging in protected wildlife related activities to avoid enforcement action. Between Jan 2014 and Sept 2015, more than 20 people were charged with possession of wildlife.

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Indonesia: Hunting of endemic pig-deer continues in Sulawesi

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari The Jakarta Post 22 May 16;

Rife hunting of the babirusa pig-deer in Gorontalo continues with hunters seeking the animal for its meat amid accusations that the pig-deer is destructive of local plantations. There are four species of pig-deer endemic to Indonesia, the North Sulawesi pig-deer — the most well-known — is virtually hairless, unlike the those found outside of Sulawesi. Buang Hassan, head of Lembah Permai subdistrict in Wongarasi district, Pohuwato regency, said the forest in his region had been used as a gateway for pig-deer hunters looking to hunt the animals.

He said that at least four hunters visit the region each week to hunt, both individually and in groups.

“They don’t just hunt pig-deer, they also kill wild boar and sometimes anoa,” Buang told The Jakarta Post recently.

Buang claims that most hunters come from neighboring subdistricts such as Banuroja and Londoun and usually stay in the forest for three to four days to hunt.

He said that they hunted using mesh, locally known as dudeso, and used small rafts to transport their catch along the river. A raft reportedly enables the hunters to transport between two to four boars home each trip.

To deceive security personnel, hunters, according to Buang, tend to chop the animals into pieces before leaving the forest, selling the meat as far away as North Sulawesi.

Buang said the Lembah Permai subdistrict administration had been unable to do anything to stop the illegal hunting of the pig-deer. “The hunting ground is far from here, this subdistrict is only an entrance gate. And they hunt to support their respective families,” he said.

Lembah Permai is a transmigration area, inhabited since 1993. The population comprises various ethnic groups, including Minahasa and Bolaang Mongondow. Apart from being traded as meat, the North Sulawesi pig-deer is often netted in traps set by local farmers to protect their plantations.

The head of the Second Conservation Region of Gorontalo’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency ( BKSDA ), Syamsuddin Hadju, said such practices were common among farmers living around the Nantu Forest Wildlife Reserve in the Gorontalo and Boalemo regencies.

“As their plantation areas are close to Nantu forest, pig-deer wander into the traps while looking for food,” said Syamsuddin, adding that locals were also known to deliberately set traps inside the conservation forest.

He said routine surveillance was conducted in the area in cooperation with the local police. Meanwhile, a campaign for the preservation of the local pig-deer population — estimated to have declined to a total of 5,000 — has also intensified.

Nantu is considered important because it is the only forest in Sulawesi where people are able to observe the pig-deer at close range. Each morning and afternoon, a herd of pig-deer visit the Adudu mudhole in search of water.

Lynn Marion Clayton, founder of Yayasan Adudu Nantu Internasional ( YANI ), refers to the mudhole as the pig-deer herd’s health cafe.

With a PhD in Conservation Biology from Oxford University, Clayton, who has been conducting research on hog deer in Nantu forest since the 1990s, explained that the ground water in the mudhole had a high salt and mineral content and thus, the water is an antidote for a toxin contained in Pangi or kluwak, one of the pig-deer herd’s favorite foods.

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UAE: $5.8m grant launched for saving endangered dugong and seagrass ecosystems

Mohammad Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund announces launch of grant during Global Communication Conference
Sami Zaatari Gulf News 22 May 16;

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Abu Dhabi: The Mohammad Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZ Fund) on Sunday announced the launch of a $5.8 million (Dh21.30 million) grant to save the endangered dugong and its seagrass ecosystems across the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific.

The announcement of the grant was made at the Global Communication Conference, and coincided with International Day for Biological Diversity. As part of its initiative, the MBZ Fund also announced that it would be partnering with students from Zayed University and 16 other international universities to help raise awareness on the subject.

“The presence of dugong and seagrass in a marine ecosystem is a good indication that the ecosystem is healthy. Protecting these species and their environment is good for local communities because a healthy marine environment provides plentiful food, protects coasts from storm erosion and ensures clean seawater,” Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, managing director of the MBZ Fund, said.

“The Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project, executed by the MBZ Fund, represents an unprecedented global investment in the conservation of these endangered species and contributes to Abu Dhabi’s already impressive track record of supporting environmental conservation efforts worldwide.

“Working with Zayed University students and their counterparts from different universities across the world gives the Fund the opportunity to tap into the insights of a digitally connected and environmentally aware generation,” she added.

Dr Frédéric Launay, board member and acting director-general at the MBZ Fund, speaking on the issue of creating awareness, said it was not easy and that it would take hard work to get the message across and people invested in the matter.

“This is a challenge — how to convey the needs to care and feel responsible for the fate of species and its ecosystem, in eight countries of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, with a wide array of culture, tradition, and language.

“It is a challenge to convince people to work together to save species that most people will never actually see in its environment. Saving species is a challenge that the MBZ Fund took eight years ago, at a time where species conservation and the people committed to it, were left alone. Today the Fund has supported more than 1300 projects in over 140 countries,” he added.

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