Best of our wild blogs: 26 May 16

Sarcotheca griffithii: A Native Star in MacRitchie Forest
Flying Fish Friends

April nesting of the GRT Drongos
Singapore Bird Group

Kusu Island
Offshore Singapore

Getai night on Pulau Ubin
The Long and Winding Road

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Don't let humans be the death of nature

Audrey Tan Straits Times 26 May 16;

Otter pup with fish hook highlights need for regulation, education and volunteers' help
More Singaporeans are venturing outdoors to get closer to nature - such as going hiking, fishing, mountain biking or taking photographs of nature.

But the downside is that Singapore's wildlife and nature areas can be damaged by unethical recreational practices.

Last month, a wild otter pup was found with a fish hook lodged near its eye. Instead of using a barbless hook, irresponsible fishermen had used a barbed one, which national water agency PUB advises against.

And bird photographers hungry for "action shots" were caught last October apparently baiting eagles using live fish injected with air and styrofoam, so they would remain afloat.

Fishermen are venturing into illegal areas to fish, leaving in their wake fishing lines and hooks that ensnare other animals. Hikers go off trail and tread on sensitive vegetation. Mountain bikers have caused damage to soil and roots in nature reserves.

The nature community recognises that nature sites are increasingly being used as places of recreation by urban folk, and welcomes this.

But conservationists are calling for ways to better manage the human impact.

There is also a need for city-dwellers to be aware of how to interact with nature and wildlife. Wild boars, long-tailed macaques and otters have been spotted in urban areas such as Bishan Park.

The answer cannot be in extreme solutions, such as making all nature areas off-limits, or else simply letting people do whatever they please.

A balance has to be found. This could lie in regulation, which could help ensure protection in the short term, and education, a longer process to help people recognise the importance of interacting with nature sustainably.

On May 17, the BBC reported that the Thai authorities are set to close the island of Koh Tachai as tourism is wrecking the environment.

Singapore should move to ensure that its nature areas do not degenerate into such a state.

Unlike countries such as Thailand, the Republic's nature areas are scarce. Only 0.28 per cent of Singapore's land is covered with primary lowland dipterocarp (a family of plants predominantly seen in South-east Asia) forest and freshwater swamp forest.

Without adequate protection, the last remnants of Singapore's natural history could be lost.


In countries such as Sweden, people are given the "freedom to roam" - they have a right to enjoy the great outdoors on their terms. They can walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on almost any land. But small Singapore cannot afford to do this.

The Republic's nature reserves, for instance, are designated to protect representative sites of key natural ecosystems. But they are also being used by mountain bikers and hikers.

As for the 17 reservoirs here, the PUB says they are primarily for the country's water supply - but a growing number of anglers (and otters) are using them for relaxation.

The growing interest in nature is all well and good, but there should be a limit to the number and types of activities that can be conducted.

As wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, 53, points out: "There should be a space for everybody. But when everybody wants to be in the same space, then we have a problem."

Regulation, however, need not necessarily come in the form of restrictive or prohibitive measures.

Mr Luke Gino Cunico, 39, owner of the Fishing Kaki online forum, suggests that a licensing scheme could weed out irresponsible and illegal amateur fishermen. His forum, which has a code of conduct for anglers, has grown fourfold over the past five years and has about 450,000 members.

Under such a scheme, Mr Cunico suggests that anglers have to obtain a licence to fish, for which they must apply for and pay a fee. They must also adhere to certain guidelines, such as the amount of fish they can catch, or the types of hooks they can use.

This increases accountability and prevents anglers from feigning ignorance about established fishing etiquette, details of which the PUB lists on its website. This includes measures such as using barbless hooks, and disposing of fishing lines and hooks properly.

The PUB has already limited recreational inland fishing activity to designated areas at Pang Sua Canal, and at 10 out of Singapore's 17 reservoirs.

But recent cases such as the hooking of the young otter have shown that PUB's current measures - such as listing etiquette on its website, and designating fishing areas - are not enough to stop irresponsible and illegal fishing activity.

The PUB said it is studying the feasibility of a licensing scheme here, although a spokesman pointed out that reservoirs in Singapore are primarily for water supply.

An encouraging example of regulation is what the National Parks Board (NParks) is doing at the Sisters' Islands Marine Park.

It has imposed a cap of eight divers on each of the two dive trails at the park at any given time to protect marine biodiversity and avoid overcrowding.

"This allows the public to appreciate nature without creating unnecessary stress on the environment and allowing conservation and recreation to take place in harmony," said Ms Sharon Chan, NParks' director of the Central Nature Reserve.


Manpower is an issue when it comes to enforcement, but there is also a wide network of passionate volunteers who can be the eyes and ears protecting the environment.

Volunteers from nature groups and scientists conducting research in nature areas spend a lot of time in these places and can help to guide fellow users on correct ways to conduct themselves.

"Enforcement officers cannot be everywhere, and the continual presence of wardens in the nature reserves, especially on weekends, will help create a sense the forest is being monitored," said biologist David Tan, 26. He is from the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group, which hopes to get more people to appreciate Singapore's primary rainforest.

NParks has been working with the community to manage and encourage appropriate behaviour in our green spaces through measures such as its Nature Warden Scheme. This enlists the help of volunteers from the nature community to advise the public on the responsible use of reserves.

Mr Subaraj, who has been a nature warden for about 20 years, suggests that the scheme be made more robust by giving wardens limited enforcement powers, such as being able to take the details of those caught behaving irresponsibly and damaging the reserve.

In the face of declining plant and animal species due to factors including human encroachment, the Republic cannot afford to be lax with enforcement in nature reserves, he said. For instance, birds such as the scarlet minivet and a lizard known as the large forest gecko have disappeared from places such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

"Nature reserves are for the protection of biodiversity, and activities that jeopardise this should not be allowed there," Mr Subaraj said. "There are other areas where activities such as mass runs or corporate events can be carried out, such as at the more than 300 parks."


For nature areas to be sustained even as they are used for recreation, Singapore needs to nurture in its people a respect for all living things.

Environmental education starts at home, said Dr Vilma Ann D'Rozario, co-founder of environmental education group Cicada Tree Eco-Place.

"Parents and children should explore Singapore's wild areas together, where parents can be the role model and demonstrate ethical ways of interacting with wildlife," said Dr D'Rozario.

In schools, the Ministry of Education said environmental awareness and stewardship are developed in students through the humanities and science curriculums, and co-curricular programmes, such as environmental clubs.

Field trips to nature reserves and parks also help students learn about trail manners and park etiquette.

Come 2020, all Secondary 3 students will be exposed to rustic camping on Pulau Ubin or Coney Island.

To supplement this, all teachers should be equipped with an understanding of wildlife and nature, so they can explain their importance to students when a teachable moment arises, said Mr N. Sivasothi, a lecturer at the National University of Singapore's department of biological sciences.

I witnessed such a moment last Friday. A raptor chick had been found near the Reflections at Bukit Chandu, a World War II heritage site. Two scientists being interviewed responded to the call for assistance.

A s one of them - a bird researcher - monitored the chick's progress from a distance, he explained to students who had gathered around how to identify signs of distress: It had a gaping mouth and seemed to be stunned.

Juvenile birds on their maiden flight can sometimes fall, and they might recover if given time; it was important to keep a distance from wildlife, he told them.

At the National Institute of Education (NIE), trainee teachers are exposed to environmental issues. "Ecological literacy is covered in both core and elective courses in NIE initial teacher education programmes," said Associate Professor Lim Kam Ming, associate dean of programme planning and management at NIE's office of teacher education.

"Armed with such content knowledge and practical experience, NIE's graduates would be ideal ambassadors to educate future generations to appreciate and preserve the delicate balance of nature."

The students had gone to the heritage site for a field trip, but ended up with a valuable biological lesson.

Nature Photographic Society (Singapore) president Fong Chee Wai summed it up when he told The Straits Times: "In nature photography, you cannot force a bird to perch where it doesn't want to perch.

"We must know when to back off when necessary if we truly love nature, as our goal should be to ensure that nature blossoms, rather than degenerates in our hands."

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Ubin worth protecting for its rich biodiversity

LING XIN HUI Today Online 26 May 16;

Given Pulau Ubin’s abundant biodiversity, conservation measures are necessary to protect its more than 720 native plant species and 500 animal species. I am heartened by the measures being planned (“Restored shoreline, boardwalk to protect Ubin’s biodiversity”; May 23).

These species are essential to both humans and nature, and for educating young visitors to Ubin.

First, these species keep the food chain functioning. Without some of them, other animals might end up being dominant on the island. Their prey would then disappear quickly, creating a vicious cycle and disrupting the food chain.

Such happenings are evidenced by the increasing population of wild boars, as their predators have decreased in number. This is worrying, as the wild boars can, especially in large numbers, bring harm to visitors and endanger the boars’ prey.

The second reason conservation measures must be undertaken is that Ubin’s plant and animal habitats are vital to educate its visitors, especially young ones, who will play a significant role in its conservation in the future.

To conserve Ubin successfully, efforts must be kept consistent for decades. And to allow future generations to see Ubin’s beauty is to allow them to understand the importance of protecting the island, its natural habitats and its species.

The shoreline restoration work can also contribute to educating the public on coastal protection measures, serving as learning sites to pique students’ interest in geographical topics.

I am concerned, however, about the construction of the coastal boardwalk. Though it is a useful way of letting the public gain more insight into Ubin’s biodiversity, it might bring pollution, too. The boardwalk extends to the sea, and any increase in littering would disrupt conservation efforts.

One way to reduce such occurrences is to have guides take small numbers of visitors onto the boardwalk. The guides would then be there to monitor and advise visitors on the proper measures for efficient coastal protection.

As a deterrent, substantial fines could be imposed on those who do not adhere to the guidelines.

Let us support this commendable effort to preserve Ubin, given the many benefits it will bring.

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MAS to issue new coin set featuring Singapore's native orchids

AsiaOne 25 May 16;

SINGAPORE - A series of $1 coins featuring Singapore's native orchids will be issued next month, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced in a statement on Wednesday (May 25).

Named The Splendour of Native Orchids series, the special set of silver proof coins will feature orchids from the Native Orchids of Singapore coin series that was issued from 2011 to 2015.

Each set will comprise 10 pieces, and a total of 4,000 sets will be issued.

Each orchid will be featured in full colour on each coin, and will be set against a sandblasted background.

The name of the orchid will be minted on the coins' shiny upper circumference, while the obverse bears the Singapore Coat of Arms with the year 2016.

Each coin weighs 8.56 grams and has a diameter of 24.66 millimeters.

MAS said that the series celebrates the beauty of orchids that once thrived in Singapore, some of which are still found in the island's forests today.

The 10 orchids that will be featured are:

- Cymbidium finlaysonianum

- Grammatophyllum speciosum

- Arundina graminifolia

- Bulbophyllum macranthum

- Bulbophyllum flabellum-veneris

- Dendrobium crumenatum

- Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi

- Coelogyne rochussenii

- Dendrobium leonis

- Dendrobium secundum

The coin set will be issued on Jun 24, and orders must reach the Singapore Mint by Jun 12. MAS added that orders will be subjected to balloting if the coin sets are oversubscribed.

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New standard for handling frozen seafood launched

Called TR49: 2016 Cold Chain Management of Frozen Fish and Seafood, it covers the application and observance of temperature control for the cold chain management of raw and minimally processed frozen seafood.
Calvin Hui Channel NewsAsia 25 May 16;

SINGAPORE: A new standard for handling frozen fish and seafood was launched on Wednesday (May 25).

Called TR49: 2016 Cold Chain Management of Frozen Fish and Seafood, the technical reference was jointly launched by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation Standards Development Organisation (SMF-SDO) and SPRING Singapore, together with Seafood Industries Association Singapore (SIAS).

It is targeted at key stakeholders in the fish and seafood industry, including producers, importers, retailers and regulatory authorities.

TR49 covers the application and observance of temperature control for the cold chain management of raw and minimally processed frozen seafood.

For instance, under guidelines from the technical reference, fresh fish and seafood and their products that are to be chilled "shall be held at a temperature of 0°C to 4°C at all times".

The guidelines cover the stages of post-harvesting, handling, packaging and re-packaging, storage, distribution, transportation and retail.

Speaking at the launch of TR49, Mr Andrew Kwan, Board Member of SPRING Singapore, added: "TR49 provides the necessary guidance to reduce food and seafood spoilage by ensuring proper temperature control across the value chain, from producer to retailer, to minimise waste."

He added that the standard will help prevent food scares and negative consumer perceptions that can have a detrimental impact on the industry over a long period.

While TR49 is not mandatory for companies in the industry to adopt, Mr Kwan cited how case studies have shown how standards have helped to contribute up to 4 per cent of a company's annual sales revenue.

The technical reference is a provisional standard and will be reviewed after two years. The aim is to develop and update the technical reference so that it can be adopted as a Singapore Standard.

Mr Ting Heng Luan, a member of the working group for TR49, said the new guidelines do not cover ready-to-eat raw fish, which came under the spotlight with a spate of Group B streptococcus (GBS) infections linked to the consumption of raw fish last year.

According to Mr Ting, the handling processes for frozen fish or seafood and ready-to-eat raw fish are "very different".

"The FSC (Food Standards Committee) is currently working on a certain set of guidelines in view of the recent food scare, and hopefully in the very near future, these guidelines will be available for the public, for the consumers, and for the industry," he said, adding that these separate guidelines for ready-to-eat raw fish are expected to be ready at the end of the year or early next year.

- CNA/dl

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Malaysia: Over 100 birds of different species seized from Kluang house

NELSON BENJAMIN The Star 25 May 16;

JOHOR BARU: Hundreds of birds of different species were seized from a house in Jalan Station, Kluang, on Tuesday.

The raid by the Johor Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) was part of operations carried out by Malaysia and Singapore against the smuggling of birds and puppies.

The birds seized include Burung Musai Batu, Electus Parrot, Grey Parrot, Love Birds, Ringlet Paraleet, Plum Headed Parakeet and Green Cheked Conure.

Johor Perhilitan director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said in the raid in Kluang, a man, believed to be the owner of the three-storey house, was arrested.

“We believe that this house was used as a store before the birds were sent to neighbouring countries," he said, adding that the birds were all kept on the top floor to avoid detection.

The 136 birds that were recovered are worth RM180,000.

Nasir said all the birds were believed to be from Pahang while the Parrot species were from a neighbouring country.

"This suspect is believed to be involved in bird smuggling especially the Burung Murai Batu," Nasir said, adding that the suspect has been trying to hide his activities behind a permit applied to Perhilitan for commercial breeding of birds.

In the other case, Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officials stopped a Malaysian-registered car driven by a Malaysian and seized six puppies hidden in the car at the Woodlands checkpoint several days ago.

The officers found the puppies hidden inside a modified compartment in the rear passenger seat of the car.

A 43-year-old man has been detained for investigations.

The importation of any animal of live birds without a Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) permit is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of S$10,000 RM30,000 or one year imprisonment.

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Malaysia: Turtle landings in Libaran bring cheer to locals

AWANG ALI OMAR New Straits Times 26 May 16;

SANDAKAN: Two turtle landings during the day has got wardens excited on Pulau Libaran off here.

On Tuesday, a green turtle came to shore at about 11am and laid 80 eggs, followed by another of the same species that came to lay 61 eggs at about 8am.

Friends of Sea Turtles Research and Education or FOSTER advisor James Ahlin said this was a new phenomenon and has not occurred since the Taman Hadiah turtle hatchery was set up on the island three years ago.

James said sea turtles, green or hawksbill or even leatherback have been reported to nest or lay eggs during the daytime but it is considered rare.

Harun William, the honorary wildlife warden who has been with the Taman Hadiah turtle hatchery since it started, has experienced hawksbill turtles coming ashore to lay eggs during the day three times over a year ago.

“I have not seen any green turtles coming ashore during the day before though,” Harun added.

Alexander Yee, the president of FOSTER, is encouraged by the incident.

“Regardless if its green or hawksbill turtles, I am just glad sea turtles are coming ashore to lay their eggs.

"It is indeed encouraging to see an increase in eggs laying incidents.

We will continue to be on Libaran to protect and conserve our sea turtles.”

Sabah hatchery welcomes first egg-laying turtles
RUBEN SARIO The Star 26 May 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The appearance of turtles coming ashore at a private hatchery on an island off the east coast Sandakan district has been a pleasant surprise for officials there.

This is the first time green turtles have come ashore during the day to lay their eggs since the Taman Hadiah hatchery in Pulau Libaran was set up three years ago.

The island's honourary wildlife warden Harun Willam said the first egg-laying occurred at about 11am on May 24 when a turtle deposited 80 eggs.

Another turtle came ashore at about 11am on the following day and laid 61 eggs, he said.

“I have not seen any green turtles coming ashore in the day time before. I am not sure why this is happening,” Harun said.

He said Hawksbill turtles laid eggs on the island’s beaches on three occasions nearly a year ago.

Friends of Sea Turtles Research and Education (Foster) adviser James Ahlin said that while it is generally known that sea turtles come ashore and lay eggs at night, the marine creatures have been known to do it during the day as well.

The Taman Hadiah hatchery is part of a turtle conservation programme carried out jointly by Foster and the Sabah Wildlife Department.

The programme includes creating awareness on the conservation of sea turtles, undertaking research projects to better understand the life cycle of sea turtles in the Libaran island area and making research programmes on sea turtles available for international and local students.

Since Foster started work on Pulau Libaran, turtle landings on the island have seen a marked increased while more than 21,600 hatchlings have been released between November 2011 and December last year. These comprise 14,851 green turtles and 6,821 Hawksbill turtles.

Foster president Alexander Yee said they were encouraged by the day-time appearance of the turtles.

“Whether green or Hawksbill turtles, I am just glad they are coming ashore to lay their eggs. We will continue to be on Libaran to protect and conserve our turtles,” he added.

Egg-citing time for turtle hatchery
RUBEN SARIO The Star 28 May 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Turtles coming ashore to lay eggs at a private hatchery on an island off the east coast of Sandakan have pleasantly surprised officials there.

It was the first time the green turtles have came ashore to lay eggs during the day since the Taman Hadiah hatchery at Pulau Libaran was set up three years ago.

The island’s honourary wildlife warden Harun Willam said the first time this happened was at about 11am on May 24 when a turtle laid 80 eggs.

Another turtle came ashore at about 11am the next day and laid 61 eggs.

“I have not seen any green turtle coming ashore at daytime before. I am not sure why this is happening,” Harun said.

He said since the hatchery was set up, hawksbill turtles had laid eggs on the island’s beaches on three occasions nearly a year ago.

Foster (Friends of Sea Turtles Research and Education) adviser James Ahlin said while sea turtles tend to come ashore and lay their eggs at night, the marine creatures have been known to do so during the day too.

The Taman Hadiah hatchery is a turtle conservation programme by Foster and the Sabah Wildlife Department.

The programme includes creating awareness for the locals and visitors about the conservation value of sea turtles, undertaking research projects with the goal of better understanding the life cycle of sea turtles surrounding the Libaran island area and to make available research programmes on sea turtles for international and local students.

Since Foster started work on Libaran island, there has been a marked increase in turtle landings. Between November 2011 and December 2015, more than 21,600 turtles hatchlings have been released.

These comprise 14,851 green turtles and 6,821 hawksbill turtles.

Foster president Alexander Yee said they were encouraged by the daytime appearance of the turtles.

“Whether they be green or hawksbill turtles, I am just glad they are coming ashore to lay their eggs. We will continue to be on Pulau Libaran to protect and conserve our turtles,” he added.

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Malaysia: Sabah's Tun Mustapha Marine Park gazetted for conservation

ROY GOH New Straits Times 26 May 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia's biggest marine park located north of Sabah has been gazetted, promising better protection and conservation.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun tweeted; "Its done ! Tun Mustapha Marine Park in northern Sabah is gazetted."

He also posted a copy of the State Government Gazette under the Sabah Parks Enactment 1984.

The park which measures close to 900,000 hectares is located off the districts of Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas right up to the Straits of Balabac.

With the declaration, the size of protected marine parks in Sabah now stretches to about two million hectares along with the Tun Sakaran Marine Park and the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

In 2003, the Tun Mustapha Park was proposed by the Sabah government shortly after it was recognised as a globally significant priority marine conservation area.

The park is situated within the Coral Triangle which is a six million sq km marine area that directly sustains and protects more than 120 million people in coastal communities across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste.

Malaysia’s largest marine park comes to life
WWF 29 May 16;

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia – The establishment of the Tun Mustapha Park in Malaysia, formally gazetted last week, marks a milestone in global marine conservation. Following more than a decade of dedicated efforts by government authorities and civil society, the creation of Malaysia’s largest marine park is an important step forward in protecting valuable coastal marine resources and promoting sustainable development.

Situated in an area of the western Pacific Ocean known as the Coral Triangle, the new park will help protect almost 1 million hectares of coral reef, mangrove, seagrass and productive fishing grounds including more than 50 islands. The establishment of the park will facilitate the implementation of targeted conservation measures to benefit both the environment and local communities living in one of the world’s most biodiverse marine ecosystems.

“After such a long effort, it is great to have achieved landmark protection for this rich home of marine biodiversity,” said Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, CEO of WWF-Malaysia. “The Tun Mustapha Park is a global symbol of how we can collectively commit to serving nature and humanity.”

Tun Mustapha Park boasts more than 250 species of hard corals, around 360 species of fish, endangered green turtles and dugongs as well as significant primary rainforest, mangroves, and seagrass beds, supporting the food security and livelihoods of thousands of people. However, overfishing, destructive fishing and pollution have threatened its unique ecosystem in recent years, highlighting the need for sustainable management.

The park’s gazettement, which comes after more than 13 years of work led by Malaysia’s Sabah Parks with government agencies, local communities, international partners, and support from non-governmental organisations including WWF-Malaysia, will pave the way for intensified efforts to address the pressures on the area’s fragile resources.

“The establishment of Tun Mustapha Park will boost the conservation and biodiversity of this uniquely rich natural environment,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “This will also help ensure the sustainable management of the significant marine resources in the area that support jobs, livelihoods and food security. The park’s gazettement should act as a model and an inspiration for marine conservation in the Coral Triangle and worldwide”.

The park heralds a new approach to nature management in places like Sabah. It will allow for sustainable uses, especially ensuring local communities living in the protected area can continue their activities within designated zones. This is critical as the area’s productive fishing grounds support more than 80,000 people in coastal and island communities, generating around 100 tonnes of fish catch each day.

“WWF is extremely excited by the declaration of Tun Mustapha Park. We congratulate the Sabah State Government, the Sabah Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, and Sabah Parks for taking the bold steps required toward the gazettement of the park, thus forging the way for innovative marine protected area management in Sabah and Malaysia,” added Sharma.

WWF-Malaysia will continue to work with the Sabah State Government in the coming years to operationalize the park. WWF will provide technical support to Sabah Parks and collaborate with other agencies, the private sector, local communities and other non-governmental organisations to implement a solid management plan to ensure the sustainable use of resources.

The Tun Mustapha Park is testament to Malaysia’s commitment to the Coral Triangle Initiative and its contribution toward increasing the global percentage of marine protected areas. Recognizing its global significance in boosting the conservation of this biodiversity hotspot, WWF awarded the Sabah State Government the Leaders for a Living Planet award in April 2015.

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Malaysia: Alarm raised as La Nina brings wet dampener

The Star 26 May 16;

PETALING JAYA: Experts have sounded the alarm over the state of Cameron Highlands with fears that La Nina will hit by the end of the year.

While Cameron Highlands has seen this year as one of its driest yet – affecting even its vegetable and flower production – the rains may yet bring havoc with landslides and flooding.

The area has seen a total rainfall of 221mm from January to April compared with 763.2mm for the same period in 2006.

Climate expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah said there was now over a 70% chance of La Nina hitting between October and December during the north-east monsoon.

“We could see 10% to 15% more rainfall across the region,” he said.

The large clearing – legal and illegal – of forests in Cameron Highlands for vegetable farming, he said, was likely to lead to landslides, particularly at slopes with 25-degree inclination or more.

“Forests are better ‘exporters’ of rain than vegetables. Rain water doesn’t infiltrate the soil as deep in vegetable plots as in the forest because their roots aren’t very deep.

“The soil around the vegetables quickly gets saturated and it cannot hold the water. So, there’s a high run-off,” he said.

“Chances of landslides occurring around vegetable plots are higher than in forests. If there are slopes, that’s much worse,” he said.

Depending on the slopes, Prof Azizan warned that a big chunk of soil could be sliced off the slope.

“It is a major disaster that can kill. You are talking of tonnes and tonnes of soil moving,” he said.

In its May 12 update, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in United States said that while the world weather was still in a weakening El Nino phase, there was a 75% chance of La Nina striking in fall and winter.

While Cameron Highlands is undergoing a dry spell now with less rain as it moves into the southwest monsoon, Prof Azizan said this was still broken by thunderstorms.

“Thunderstorms have a high intensity of rainfall around 60 to 100mm per hour. So, it has very strong erosion power. I expect more flooding,” he said.

There are an estimated 4,000 legal and illegal farms in Cameron Highlands.

Cameron Highlands has already had several bad experience with flooding, with erosion causing sedimentation on river beds, making the rivers shallower and more likely to burst their banks.

Already, there was a landslide in Kuala Terla just days ago.

“Be prepared for the worst,” said Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands president R. Ramakrishnan.

El Nino triggered over 200 heat-related cases
The Star 26 May 16;

OVER 200 cases of heat-related illnesses were reported during the El Nino period, said the Health Ministry.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said as of May 4, 212 cases were reported by government health facilities.

“This comprises 52 cases of heat cramps, 136 cases of heat exhaustion and 24 cases of heatstroke,” he said in a written reply to Dr Mansor Abd Rahman (BN-Sik).

Dr Mansor asked about the number of heatstroke-related cases and the Government’s efforts to manage them.

Dr Subramaniam said the number of cases reported included two fatalities, one in Segamat, Johor, and the other in Jitra, Kedah.

He said the ministry had issued guidelines for the public so that people would take preventive measures until the hot season was over.

These, he added, included postponing or limiting extreme sports activities, drinking sufficient water and dressing in light and bright-coloured clothes to avoid heat absorption when outdoors.

Meanwhile, nearly 20,000 illegitimate children were born to underage women in the past three years, said the Home Ministry.

The National Registration Depart­ment said there were 19,230 children born to women aged under 18.

“In the same period, the police recorded 326 cases of baby dumping,” it said in a written reply to Datuk Dr Nik Mazian Nik Mohamad (PAS-Pasir Puteh).

Dr Nik Mazian had asked to state the number of illegitimate children born to underage women and the number of baby dumping cases recorded.

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Malaysia: 43 polluted rivers, mostly in urban areas - Wan Junaidi

BERNAMA New Straits Times 25 May 16;

PUTRAJAYA: A total of 43 or nine per cent of rivers in the country, mostly in the urban areas are recorded as polluted, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

Out of the 473 rivers monitored by the Department of Environment, he said 186 rivers or 39 per cent were slightly polluted while 244 rivers or 52 per cent were clean.

“Most of the polluted rivers are in urban areas where high pollution load originates from multiple sources including water wastewater plants, industries and commercial premises and coupled with small base flow volume due to large percentage of paved areas,” he said in his keynote speech at the Seminar on Water Resources Security in the Context of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGD) here today.

His text of speech was read by his deputy Datuk Hamim Samuri.

Meanwhile, Wan Junaidi said he was concerned of suspended sediment pollution from land development activities where huge tract of lands were being cleared for replanting or new commercial crops.

He said for most cases there was little erosion control measures and most of the sediments would be washed into waterways during storms.

“I have received reports that turbidity level for one major river in Malaysia has even reached 6,000 Nephelometric Turbidity Unit (NTU),” he said adding that in a typical case a reading of 1,000 NTU would render a water treatment plant to be shut down.

Wan Junaidi said the proposed Water Resources Act was expected to strengthen water resource management in Malaysia.

“My ministry realises that strong commitment and cooperation of all stakeholders are needed especially the state government and for that reason we have gone to all the states to explain the importance of working together and to accept the proposed bill,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said his ministry was also committed to support and implement the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development (SDG) especially at the security aspect of water resources for the nation. -- Bernama

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Malaysia: Penang stands by its rights to extract water from Sungai Muda without paying Kedah

Penang pours cold water on Kedah’s demand
TAN SIN CHOW The Star 25 May 16;

GEORGE TOWN: Penang stands by its riparian rights to extract raw water from Sungai Muda without payment being made to Kedah.

Penang Water Supply Corporation Sdn Bhd (PBAPP) chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa (pic) said the state has been abstracting water from the river at its own cost with its own infrastructure.

“The river defines the boundary between Penang and Kedah, and we are not two countries. Both states contribute to Malaysia’s gross domestic product.

“The river is a natural flowing river. Unlike Johor which is charging Malacca for pumping raw water to the latter, Kedah is not pumping raw water to Penang.

“We are only taking the balance of the water that is flowing into the sea from our side of the river,” he said at a press conference after the 16th annual general meeting of PBA Holdings Bhd at Jen Hotel yesterday.

An English daily had earlier quoted Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah as ticking off the Penang government for not paying compensation despite benefiting from water cached in Kedah.

He said the source of water was from Kedah which generated income for Penang. As such, the Penang government should pay Kedah.

To this, Jaseni said Sungai Muda did not exclusively belong to Kedah.

He said that during a parliamentary debate related to the realignment of Kedah-Penang state borders to the middle of Sungai Muda in 1985, it was noted that Kedah had agreed that Penang may draw raw water from the river.

“There was no mention of charges. This ‘water guarantee’ is, in fact, a precondition for a 1973 Asian Development Bank loan arranged by the Federal Government for the Sungai Muda Water Scheme,” he said.

Jaseni said they had no plans to build another dam near Sungai Muda, but to expand Mengkuang Dam and boost Penang’s water supply by three folds.

He said that upon completion, the new Mengkuang Dam will be the size of 27 Air Itam dams.

Jaseni said Penang always supported Kedah’s bid to seek compensation from the Federal Government for gazetting and protecting the water catchments in Ulu Muda.

“This is for the benefit of 3.8 million people in the northern region.

“However, Kedah should gazette the water catchments in Ulu Muda before asking for compensation,” he said.

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Malaysia: Don’t blame us, it’s global warming, say Cameron Highlands farmers

The Star 26 May 16;

IPOH: Farmers have been unfairly blamed for causing the temperature to go up at Cameron Highlands.

A farmer, who declined to be named, said the rising temperature was a global phenomenon and was affecting the entire planet, not just the highlands.

“I think it’s not right to put the blame on the farmers here. Ipoh, too, had a hot spell few month ago, was it because of the farmers and their farming methods?” he asked.

“It is mainly due to global warming,” he claimed, contrary to an expert’s view that the warming was higher at Camerons than globally.

The farmer also noted that the greenhouse farming method used by some was one of the factors affecting the climate change.

The farmer, in his 60s, also said the general perception towards them have changed because of the illegal land clearing for farming.

“There are thousands of farmers at the highlands. Some of the genuine farmers have been criticised even when they are not involved with the land clearing activities,” he said.

“The authorities could do more to track down those responsible,” he added.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong declined to comment.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) inbound vice-president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said that with the massive clearing, heavy rains would cause landslides. He said the winding mountain roads could then be cut off with people stranded, as has happened in the past.

“Many tourists from the peninsula and Singaporeans with interest in farming and nature visit Cameron Highlands. Global warming is everywhere but more noticeable here,” he said.

Urging the Government, especially the Natural Resources and Environment Minister, to make the correct but difficult decisions on enforcement, Tan said safety and lives were “more important than pleasing specific groups of people.”

There should harsher punishment for those who illegally cleared land.

Cameron Highlands Floricultu­rists Association president Lee Peng Fo said they were used to facing landslides and flooding during rains at the end of the year.

“I am more worried about gloomy weather during La Nina as the lack of sun also affects the growth of flowers,” he said.

A new clearing – in water catchment area
The Star 26 May 16;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Barely a day after 7.28ha of land here was found to be illegally cleared, another new site has opened up.

This illegally cleared site, at the top of a hillock, is within a water catchment area serving some 30,000 people in Tanah Rata and Kg Raja.

While the water intake point and plant are fenced, those responsible for the clearing could access the area by cars.

“Even then, that’s a big hole in the fence,” said Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach) president R. Ramakrishnan.

Evidence of the site was captured using video mounted on a remote control device sent up by a monitoring team from Reach.

Screen captures of the video showed two bare patches of brown atop a dense forested area, which is itself surrounded by tracts of farm land.

Ramakrishnan said their team discovered the new illegally cleared site on Sunday.

He said he had yet to inform the land office of this new find.

“Any clearing in a water catchment area is illegal.

“Last weekend, we noticed the bare patches of land when there was none before.

“Sure enough, when we checked, we found the site,” he said, adding that when he was last in that area two weeks ago, there was no clearing.

It was likely that the land was being illegally cleared for agriculture.

“From the video, it’s difficult to assess the size of the clearing involved,” he said.

Ramakrishnan said that in the past three months, there had been increased cases of illegal land clearing, adding that his team was stumbling upon one almost every two weeks.

“Since the first phase of Ops Gading ended last year, the culprits have come back,” he said.

The second phase of Ops Gading started on March 3 and will end on July 30.

Bad news for greens and tourism
SIM LEOI LEOI The Star 26 May 16;

PETALING JAYA: Cameron Highlands is warming at a faster rate, made worse by the El Nino since beginning of this year. And that’s bad news in all sorts of ways.

The rise in temperature will affect the vegetable farms in Cameron Highlands, which produce 600 tonnes of greens every year, reducing both their quality and quantity.

Tourism, another big industry in Cameron Highlands, will also be affected.

The onset of La Nina at the end of the year will bring 10% to 15% increase in rainfall but that’s of little relief as it is likely to lead to landslides, especially around vegetable plots, destroying the produce.

The heat in the first half of the year will also have caused the soil to become loose and dry, making erosion worse during heavy rainfall.

Climate expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah said global warming had caused a 0.5°C rise in temperature around the world over the past decade.

“But more than global warming, it (temperature increase) is due to Cameron Highlands’ own signature.

It shows a 0.2°C to 0.3°C on top of the rise from global warming,” he said in an interview.

“Some places like Ringlet, with its higher build-up, may see more,” added Prof Azizan.

Data on temperatures in Cameron Highlands over the past 20 years showed that the increase was mainly due to land use changes, he said.

Trees, he said, were a natural “air-conditioning”,

“Leaves are good reflectors and forests, having a bigger surface area of leaves, are better reflectors than vegetables,” he pointed out.

Prof Azizan said most of the legislation on keeping a balanced development in Cameron Highlands were already there but that nobody was enforcing it.

“If we are able to manage the development well we can have the cake and eat it too. But we must not be too greedy,” he said.

The other method, he said, was to keep the forest, adding that this should be on higher altitude than the surrounding areas to have a cooling effect.

Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands president R. Ramakrishnan said the temperature increase was also due to the greenhouse plastic covering used by farmers.

It was also caused by the thousands of visitors flocking to the popular tourist spot.

Asked if the re-foresting of vast tracts of illegally cleared land could help right the temperature, Ramakrishnan said the higher elevation meant slower growth rate for the trees.

“It took us 16 years to reforest a 50 acre barren piece of land in Gunung Brinchang while it should only take five years in the lowlands.”

No new illegal clearing on Camerons, says Wan Junaidi
ROYCE TAN The Star 27 May 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: There are no more new cases of illegal land clearing in Cameron Highlands, says Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said aerial inspections showed no signs of illegal land clearing, and parts of the forests destroyed were mainly state forests.

“The Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and the Forestry Department have started replanting at the forest reserves.

“For parts of the forests that were destroyed, we are still discussing with the state government for reforestation and rehabilitation.

“The state government also has to determine whether the lands are from land grants or from illegal clearing,” he told a press conference after the awards ceremony for graduating foresters and forest rangers at the Forestry Training Division in Kepong near here yesterday.

On allegations of misappropriation among officers and officials in the Forestry Depart­ment, he said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is “observing” the situation.

“If there is any evidence, bring those people to court,” he said.

He added that the proposal to raise the fine in the National Land Code (Amendment) Bill 2016 up to RM500,000 had been passed in the Dewan Rakyat.

“If we want to save the water and the rivers, we have to save the forest, observe the river reserves, the siltation and that those in the logging industry must be aware of the effects from these activities.

“If the forests are destroyed, the sponge effect that absorbs water would be gone; rivers will become shallow and floods would easily occur,” Dr Wan Junaidi said.

In his speech earlier, Dr Wan Junaidi urged everyone to look beyond timber and try to preserve what was present now as it would be costlier to reforest and replant.

“We have to retain at least 50% of forest cover. If you interfere with nature, then nature fights back against you,” he said.

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Indonesia must build nuclear power plant immediately -- Minister

Antara 25 May 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Minister of Research, Technology and Higher Learning Education, Mohamad Nasir, said Indonesia must immediately build a nuclear power plant to meet the electricity needs of 60,000 megawatt by 2025.

"A nuclear power plant must be given serious consideration," he argued here on Tuesday.

He pointed out that the trend has shifted from oil and coal to new and renewable energy sources, including nuclear.

He cited the example of France, saying it has been producing and using nuclear power, and also exports it. Germany, although it has decided to stop nuclear power development, still uses energy produced by Frances nuclear power plants.

In the Middle East, he added, the United Arab Emirates is building four nuclear power plants which will be completed at a rate of one plant each year between 2017 and 2020.

Nasir, who spoke to the UAEs Minister of Energy during the Asia-Africa Conferences annual summit in Bandung last year, explained that the country, which is the third biggest producer of oil, would shift from oil to nuclear.

"Nuclear is our future, as oil is for our children and grandchildren," Nasir quoted the UAE minister as saying when asked why his country would opt for a nuclear power plant.

Saudi Arabia, which has suffered a budget deficit after a plunge in the oil price, has declared it will use nuclear power to replace oil by 2020.

In Asia, he observed, Malaysia has also committed to develop a nuclear reactor.

"Our neighbor has seen that if in 2018-2019, Indonesia does not build a nuclear power plant, it will do so in Serawak," he stated.

He posited that if security and safety are cited as reasons for Indonesia not building a nuclear power plant, Malaysia will do it near Indonesia.

"The question is if a disaster happened, who would be affected first? It will be us (Indonesia)," he underscored.

Nasir advocated that nuclear power plant development is very safe and controlled while energy from the plant could reduce cost as it is very cheap.(*)

Indonesia has sufficient number of nuclear experts: Minister
Antara 25 May 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Minister of Research, Technology and Higher Education, Mohamad Nasir, said Indonesia has a sufficient number of nuclear experts to develop the technology.

Indonesia has several universities which have study programs in nuclear science and engineering, the minister pointed out here on Tuesday.

"The Bandung Institute of Technology has engineering and physics program, and the Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta has nuclear physics program. So, we have a lot of human resources adept in nuclear engineering," Nasir explained.

However, according to him, the Indonesian human resources in nuclear technology have not been working in the country because there is no nuclear technology development program in Indonesia yet.

As a result, they are working in other countries where the nuclear technology is well developed.

"A lot of our human resources are working in Japan and Russia, and even very likely to work in Malaysia," Nasir observed.

In addition to human resources, the minister added, Indonesia also has abundant nuclear elements in nature, such as uranium, which has not been explored for nuclear power plant.

He stated that the ministry, together with the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan), continues to conduct research and development in the field of nuclear energy to generate power, develop treatments and build a nuclear reactor.

Nasir also wanted Indonesia to immediately utilize its nuclear potentials as an alternative source of energy. He stressed that the nuclear power plant and other nuclear utilizations are safe.(*)

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Indonesia: Jakarta reclamation unnecessary -- Minister Susi

Dwi Atmanta, Corry Elyda and Agnes Anya The Jakarta Post 25 May 16;

Reclamation should only be a last resort after other efforts to enhance land supply have been exhausted, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti says.

Responding to a question from an Indonesian student attending a gathering at the Indonesian Embassy in Vienna on Sunday evening, Susi said President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had given a clear guideline for reclamation projects.

“The President has underlined that reclamation shall not harm stakeholders, especially fishermen, the environment and prevailing regulations,” Susi said.

The government has suspended the Jakarta Bay reclamation project as doubts have been raised over the environmental impact and benefits the project could bring for the general public. The decision came after top executives of a property giant awarded permits for the project and a city council member were arrested in early April in connection with a bribery case pertaining to the megaproject.

Susi said reclamation would only be allowed for the construction of public facilities, such as a seaport or power plant.

“The Jakarta reclamation project is for property, which is not really needed,” Susi said.

“Jakarta may dream of emulating Dubai, which built artificial islets for exclusive property through reclamation. But Jakarta has been facing serious problems ,such as recurring floods and a clean water shortage, which may worsen if the reclamation goes ahead,” Susi added, to the applause of nearly 200 Indonesian nationals who packed the embassy’s Nusantara room.

Susi said reclamation could threaten not only the marine environment of the city but also state facilities situated near Jakarta Bay, including the Muara Karang power plant. The plant is the energy backbone of Greater Jakarta.

“To exacerbate the matter, the reclamation issue has been linked to politics. Suspension of the project was deemed politically motivated as it was decided ahead of the Jakarta gubernatorial election, but we would have suspended anyways,” Susi said.

She, however, said her authority was limited and that permanent termination of the project was the authority of the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

Separately, expert Muslim Muin of the Bandung Institute of Technology ( ITB ) said the city administration and developers could not compare the reclamation project in Jakarta Bay to those in other cities such as Dubai.

“Dubai does not have 13 rivers downstreaming to its sea, so it will not be threatened by flooding,” Muslim, who earned his doctorate degree in ocean engineering from the University of Rhode Island, said.

He argued the islets would create canals effectively extending the flow of rivers into the sea. He said it would increase dredging sedimentation along the coast and if it was not dredged, the surrounding area would be prone to flooding.

The Corruption Eradication Commission ( KPK ) is questioning the legal basis used by the Jakarta administration in collecting contributions from the reclamation developers.

Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama said on Tuesday that his administration decided the contributions based on an agreement with the reclamation developers in 2014, in which they decided on the additional contribution.

The agreement, he argued, was carried out based on his discretion rights as stipulated in Law No. 30/2014 on administrations.

Jakarta's artificial islands face fierce opposition
ARDI WIRDANA Nikkei Asian Review 25 May 16;

Hundreds of fishermen flock to island G, one of 17 land reclamation areas in Jakarta Bay, in an April 17 protest against the project. (Indonesian Traditional Fishermen’s Association)
JAKARTA -- Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has earned plaudits in his two years as governor of Jakarta for his efforts to transform the capital into an orderly and modern metropolis. However, his support for property developers seeking to create luxury islands in Jakarta Bay has landed the governor in a political and legal mess.

The Jakarta Bay reclamation project in North Jakarta calls for 17 artificial islands, mainly to house high-end residential and commercial facilities. Eight are already under construction.

But the project is surrounded by controversy. It was first broached in 1995 when the Jakarta government proposed to then-President Suharto that building the islands would be a good way to expand the city's land area.

Although Suharto quickly issued a presidential decree approving the project it was strongly opposed by the environment and forestry ministry, which argued that reclamation would harm the environment. Over the next 20 years the issue became a subject of fierce conflict within the government and the courts. The environment ministry and the Jakarta city administration have refused to back down and have appealed every court ruling.

After suffering a setback with an unfavorable ruling by the Supreme Court in 2009, developers were buoyed by the arrival of Basuki as Jakarta governor. Basuki has openly supported the reclamation project, which includes 16 artificial islands owned by the developers and one by Pelindo II, a state port operator, which plans to use it to expand Tanjung Priok port.

Basuki believes the reclamation project will not only expand the city's land area by 5,100 hectares but also address land subsidence problems in the built-up area and water pollution issues in Jakarta Bay.

The capital is sinking by an average of 7.5 centimeters a year -- rising to 25 cm in coastal areas, according to academic studies. The governor has warned that Jakarta could be submerged in 10 years unless the city reclaims land off the north coast. Supporters say the reclamation project will combat water pollution by absorbing the toxicity of heavily polluted waters.

"In 40 years, if there is no reclamation, there will be famine because the number of citizens is increasing and there is not enough land," Basuki told reporters last month. Unfortunately for the governor, however, the project has become mired in conflicting laws and regulatory oversight.

Two laws govern the island reclamation project. The first relates to spatial planning, which gives the regional administration the power to issue construction permits. But another law requires the environment ministry and the maritime affairs and fisheries ministry to give their approval after making environmental impact assessments.

The city government has ignored input from the environment ministry and issued permits to developers. But opponents have objected that Jakarta lacks legal authority for land reclamation, which means that the permits are illegal.

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Indonesia: Reclamation destroying mangroves in Manado

Lita Aruperes The Jakarta Post 25 May 16;

Reclamation projects that had been started in Manado in the 1990s had not only had made hundreds of fishermen lose their jobs, but also destroyed mangroves along the city’s coastlines stretching 18 kilometers from north to south.

The projects had turned the mangroves into shopping malls and posh hotels — the icons of modernity.

“The size of the reclamation area is about 700 hectares and it pushes the fishermen out of their livelihoods,” said Rignolda Djalamaluddin, an agriculture and fisheries lecturer with Sam Ratulangi University.

In the first stage of the reclamation project, the coastlines of the three districts of Wenang, Sario and Malalayang disappeared and so did the mangroves. The projects forced many fishermen to switch professions.

The second stage of the project, which is now ongoing, affected three more districts, Singkil, Tuminting and Bunaken, the latter of which is famous for its diving spots.

“Once this second project is completed, we can imagine how big a mangrove area will disappear,” he said recently.

Rignolda’s concern was not baseless. Now, people can hardly find mangroves from the north, which borders with the regency of North Minahasa, to the south where it borders with the regency of South Minahasa.

“The only mangrove left in Manado is in the Bahowo neighborhood. That is the last bastion of the mangrove following the two decades of the reclamation project,” said Sonny Tawisjawa of the Wildlife Conservation Society ( WCS ), an organization that offers advocacy to the people in the coastal area.

Bahowo is one of the four neighborhoods in the Bunaken district, which borders with the regency of North Minahasa. Local residents very much rely for their livelihoods on the ocean.

Mangrove is crucial for people living on the coastlines given its ecological, biological and economical benefits. “Mangrove serves to keep the muds and protects the soil from erosion,” Sonny added.

It also serves as the habitat of some fish and a place for breeding. At the same time, the mangrove produces tree trunks or branches that can be used as firewood.

The Manado Environment Agency has no detailed information on the size of mangrove left in the capital of the North Sulawesi province, but Sonny said the mangrove left in Tongkaina village, including in Bahowo, was about 84 hectares.

“We do not know the master plan of the reclamation. If it continues to Bahowo, Manado will no longer have mangrove,” Sonny added.

While the local administration seems to ignore the condition of the coastlines, residents have started to conserve their surroundings by growing trees along the water.

“We keep the mangrove by regularly planting trees,” said Benyamin Loho, head of the Bahowo neighborhood in Bunaken.

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Indonesia: Around 100 Sumatran tigers live in Mount Leuser National Park

Antara 26 May 16;

Langkat, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) - A recent study has shown that there are only around 100 Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris Sumatrae) currently inhabiting Mount Leuser National Park which straddles the border of Aceh and North Sumatra Province.

"That was the current number based on the data collection done by our field officers," Head of Area III of Mount Leuser National Park Sapto Aji Prabowo said here Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in overall Sumatran regions, the population of the endangered endemic wild cat is about 400 to 500.

Illegal poaching has become a threat to the existence of the Sumatran tigers, Prabowo said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Police of Langkat District, North Sumatra arrested three residents suspected of hunting the tigers in Kutagajah Village of Kutambaru subdistrict.

The Langkat Police and personnel of Mount Leuser National Park Authority arrested them Tuesday evening along with some evidence such as a dried tiger skin, a plastic bag containing tiger bones, and two motorcycles.

The tiger skin and bones were valued at Rp42 million (roughly US$3,000) by the suspects.

The poached tiger was only five years old as per the observation of its teeth and bone size, Prabowo said.

The Mount Leuser Authority has urged the peoples participation to provide any information concerning the hunt on not only Sumatran tigers but also other protected animals in the national park.

Mount Leuser National Park covers around 7,927 square kilometer in northern Sumatra.

The park, located in the Barisan Mountain Range, is named after Mount Leuser (3,199m) and protects a wide range of ecosystems such as the Sumatran tigers and orangutans. (*)

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Indonesia: Five suspects named in Riau ivory trade case

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 24 May 16;

Following intensive questioning, Riau Police’s special crime investigation directorate on Monday named five suspected members of a wildlife trading syndicate over their alleged involvement in the illegal trade of Rp 920 million ( US$67,610 ) worth of elephant tusks.

The men have been identified as Makruf, 46, from Gayo Lues regency, Aceh; Syafrimen, 60, from Bungo regency, Jambi, Nizam Akbar, 43, head of Gema village in Kampar Kiri Hulu district, Kampar regency, Riau; Wartono, 45, from Kampar Kiri in Kampar regency, Riau; and Yusuf, 42, from Marpoyan Damai, Pekanbaru.

Police Special Crime Investigation Director Sr.Comr.Rivai Sinambela said that the five suspects had been arrested on Friday afternoon at Shushi Tei, a restaurant on Jl. Soekarno-Hatta, Pekanbaru, as they were about to sell a pair of ivory tusks. Weighing 46 kilograms in total, the elephant tusks, both almost two meters long, had allegedly been offered at a price of Rp 20 million per kilogram.

“This illegal trade was uncovered following an investigation into reports regarding elephant deaths across the country. After the protected animal species organ trading network was traced, we provoked the network’s members to show up by contacting them for a business deal. Entrapped in the restaurant, the suspects could not deny their involvement [in the illegal wildlife trade] as they were in possession of a pair of elephant tusks. This was evidence,” Rivai said in a press conference on Monday.

Based on information provided by the five suspects and coordination between the Riau police and the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency ( BKSDA ), it has been confirmed that the two elephant tusks were obtained in Aceh, the result of wildlife hunting.

“They intentionally brought the tusks to Pekanbaru to sell them in the city. They claim this was the first time they had engaged in protected animal special organ trading,” said Rivai.

Makruf and Syafrimen, according to Rivai, had transported the tusks overland to Pekanbaru in a private minibus. Meanwhile, Nizam, Wartino and Yusuf each played broker roles and had been assigned to seek buyers of the tusks.

“We are still investigating the case. The five suspects have been detained. In the network, they are only vendors, not executors or elephant hunters,” said Rivai, adding that the police were pursuing the elephant hunters.

Rivai said the suspects would be charged under the Conservation of Biodiversity and its Ecosystem Law, which carries a sentence of five years imprisonment and Rp 100 million in fines.

“Our investigators are scrutinizing the ivory market in Riau to reveal what the tusks are used for — as decoration or for other purposes,” said Rivai.

World Wildlife Fund ( WWF ) Wildlife Crime Team Coordinator for Central Sumatra, Osmantri, said the conservation group appreciated the collaboration between the police and the BKSDA.

However, Osmantri said, that the arrest of the five suspects had indicated that the level of wildlife crime in Riau was alarming and needed serious attention.

“In less than a month, the Riau Police managed to uncover two wildlife organ trading cases. They have now uncovered an illegal trade in elephant tusks, having recently revealed a case of tiger skin trading. Surveillance activities must be tightened,” he told ( ebf )

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Indonesia: Bird Species Extinction Threatens Indonesia's Unique Biodiversity

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 25 May 16;

Jakarta. A worldwide study has found 13 Indonesian bird species, including the Garuda-like Javan Hawk-eagle, face a serious risk of extinction due to the illegal pet trade.

Home to one of the world’s richest biodiversity environments, Indonesia has over a thousand bird species across the archipelago.

With Indonesia's long tradition of bird keeping, the country has topped a worldwide poll with 28 threatened bird species. Brazil, in second place, has 24 threatened species.

The Javan Hawk-eagle is at risk, along with the newly rediscovered Silvery Wood-pigeon, Helmeted Hornbill, Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet, Javan Green Magpie, Black-winged Myna, Bali Myna, Straw-headed Bulbul, Javan White-eye, Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush, Sumatran Laughingthrush and Java Sparrow, with an additional 14 bird subspecies also in danger.

Most of the species are kept as domestic pets with thousands more killed to be illegally traded overseas, as a substitute to China's ivory demands. Others are excessively hunted.

“Whether it's species or subspecies, the message is the same: excessive trade is wiping out Indonesia’s wild bird species at an alarming rate,” said Chris Shepherd, Southeast Asia director at wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic and co-author of the study.

As reported by the Straits Times, the industry is worth millions, with players profiting illegally from the business.

“There’s a huge criminal element,” he added on Wednesday (25/05).

The wildlife watchdog urged governments and conservation organizations to take further action in preventing the loss in bird species and not only focus their wildlife protection programs for orangutans, tigers and elephants.

In the study titled ‘Trade-driven extinctions and near-extinctions of avian taxa in Sundial Indonesia’, the authors provided solutions such as better law enforcement, public awareness campaign, conservation breeding and market and genetic surveys.

In April, authorities recovered smuggled birds stuffed in plastic bottles trafficked from West Papua to Surabaya.

The police found 34 birds, including 4 birds-of-paradise, 6 cockatoos and 15 parrots and the remaining found dead due to lack of oxygen, as reported by environmental website Mongabay Indonesia.

The first case of smuggled 22 yellow-crested cockatoos stuffed in plastic bottles surfaced social media last May, where they were found being trafficked in Surabaya.

Indonesian birds face extinction due to pet trade – study
Indonesia’s national bird, the Javan hawk-eagle, is among 13 species threatened by illegal trade, warns a wildlife watchdog
Agence France-Presse The Guardian 25 May 16;

Thirteen species of Indonesian birds, including the country’s symbolic Javan hawk-eagle, are at serious risk of extinction mainly due to the pet trade, a wildlife watchdog warned Wednesday.

The vast Indonesian archipelago is home to a dizzying array of birds and keeping them as pets has long been part of the national culture, with birdcages a common sight outside homes and shops across the country.

However increasing demand for some species as pets has led to dramatic population declines, wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic warned in a new study.

“This is a multi-million-dollar industry, there’s a huge criminal element and many people are profiting illegally from this business,” Chris Shepherd, Traffic’s director for south-east Asia and a co-author of the study, told AFP.

Huge demand for songbirds in Indonesia has also put bird species in other countries such as Malaysia and Thailand in danger, Shepherd said.

The Javan hawk-eagle is Indonesia’s national bird and the inspiration for the Garuda, the mythical winged creature that adorns the country’s coat of arms.

Other species at risk of extinction include the silvery woodpigeon, yellow-crested cockatoo, scarlet-breasted lorikeet, Javan green magpie, black-winged myna, Bali myna, straw-headed bulbul, Javan white-eye, Rufous-fronted laughingthrush, Sumatran laughingthrush and Java sparrow.

The helmeted hornbill is also at risk but unlike the others, is not kept as a pet. Thousands are being illegally killed and traded for their unique “casques” – a solid lump of fibrous protein that runs along the top of the bill and on to the skull.

It is used as a substitute for elephant ivory, to meet demand in China, according to Traffic.

It is illegal to hunt birds in the wild in Indonesia and sell them as pets but critics say the law is often flouted, and major bird markets in cities still operate freely.

Shepherd said that government efforts to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade too often focused on endangered species such as orangutans, tigers and elephants, and did not do enough to protect birds.

The Traffic report called for a range of solutions to tackle the problem, including better law enforcement and public awareness campaigns.

Trade wiping out Indonesia’s bird species
TRAFFIC 25 May 16;

Jakarta, Indonesia, 25th May 2016—A new study has revealed that 13 bird species—including Indonesia’s national bird, the Javan Hawk-eagle—found in Sundaic Indonesia are at serious risk of extinction because of excessive over-harvesting.

The study also finds that an additional 14 bird subspecies are in danger of extinction. The driver behind this crisis is the enormous demand for birds for the domestic pet trade.

The keeping of birds as pets in Indonesia is an integral part of the national culture, yet the high levels of demand for some species have fuelled excessive hunting with the populations of many rapidly disappearing.

Besides the Javan Hawk-eagle, the other full species at risk include the Silvery Woodpigeon, Helmeted Hornbill, Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet, Javan Green Magpie, Black-winged Myna, Bali Myna, Straw-headed Bulbul, Javan White-eye, Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush, Sumatran Laughingthrush and Java Sparrow.

Although most of them are kept as pets, the Helmeted Hornbill is an exception: as TRAFFIC recently revealed, thousands are being illegally killed and traded for their unique solid bill casques, carved as a substitute for elephant ivory, to meet demand in China.

Another of them, the Javan Green Magpie, was recognized as a full species as recently as 2013—and simultaneously documented as in grave danger of extinction owing to trade pressure. In direct response, the Threatened Asian Songbird Alliance (TASA), operating as a formal body of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), initiated a programme of captive breeding in a number of zoos, as assurance colonies, for security and propagation purposes.

Such conservation breeding is the last hope for some of the taxa affected. According to the study: “Regrettably five subspecies…are probably already extinct, at least in the wild, due primarily to trade.” They include one subspecies of a parrot (Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet), three subspecies of White-rumped Shama, an accomplished songster and one of the Hill Myna, popular because of its ability to mimic human voices.

“Whether its species or subspecies, the message is the same: excessive trade is wiping out Indonesia’s wild bird species at an alarming rate” said Dr Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s Director for Southeast Asia, and a co-author of the study.

“Despite the alarming scale and consequences of the bird trade, governments and even conservation organizations often don't view this issue as a high priority. This hampers efforts to prevent further losses.”

The solutions to the bird trade crisis in Indonesia lie in a combination of better law enforcement, public awareness campaigns, in situ management, conservation breeding, conversion of trappers to wardens and field, market and genetic surveys, say the study’s authors.

Meanwhile as certain favoured species disappear because of trapping, others are targeted as “next-best” substitutes, while commercial breeders sometimes hybridise taxa for “better” effects, leading to further conservation complexities.

The study’s authors also consider whether commercial breeding could help alleviate the situation, but conclude that “while attractive in theory, [commercial breeding] presents difficulties that are probably insurmountable in practice.”

Trade-driven extinctions and near-extinctions of avian taxa in Sundaic Indonesia (PDF, 220 KB) was published in Forktail, the journal of the Oriental Bird Club.

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Thailand: Coral damage off Phuket forces tour clampdown

The Phuket News 25 May 16;

PHUKET: Marine officials have banned tourist activities at coral reefs near three islands off Phuket’s east coast to prevent further damage to corals at the popular tour sites.

They have also ordered the removal of facilities and structures used for tourist activities from all three islands: Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nui and Koh Khai Nai, all located a handful of kilometres from Phuket.

Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) regional chief Watcharin Na Thalang informed Phang Nga and Phuket tour operators and guides of the ban, issued last Thursday (May 19), at a meeting yesterday (May 24).

“We want operators and guides active in Phang Nga and the surrounding areas to understand the rules and procedures in conducting a tour to prevent further damages to our marine natural resources and the coastal area. They must practice environmentally friendly tourism,” Mr Watcharin said.

At least 60 speedboats per day, as well as increasing numbers of restaurants and shops, are diminishing existing natural resources in the coastal areas around the three islands, said a recent report by the Phuket Marine Biology Centre, Mr Watcharin pointed out.

“Tour groups spend at least three hours swimming, feeding fish and snorkelling in the water, which severely damages the marine ecosystem, especially on coral reefs,” Mr Watcharin explained.

“Coral reefs are crucial to marine ecosystems and our last survey showed the area around Koh Khai Nai has corals covering 120 rai, Koh Khai Nok has 109 rai and Koh Khai Nui 17 rai. Today, a tremendous amount of corals have been damaged and getting them to recover is very difficult,” he said.

“The reasons for coral damage in the Koh Khai area is from the coral-bleaching process, which occurs naturally and from human activity. This includes the increasing number of tourists, boats that anchor on the corals, people walking on corals while playing in the water, feeding marine animals and catching them to take photos of with them.

“All these activities negatively impact the marine ecosystem and cause a deterioration in natural resources. They must be stopped. We have discovered that about 80 per cent of the coral reefs in the area have suffered damage,” Mr Watcharin said.

Suchart Rattanareangsri, Director of the DMCR’s Conservation division, added, “We started frequent inspections of the area in March, and today we still see tourists feeding fishes and collecting corals from the reefs.

“However, the number of boats anchoring on the reefs has decreased. Most tour boats follow instructions and drop tourists off in the designated areas.”

Regarding the beach clean-ups in the area, Mr Suchart said, “Officials are clearing all beach umbrellas and beach chairs in the area. Shops and restaurants on the Koh Khai islands will be removed and the Royal Forest Department has been contacted to carry out the removal of these structures.”

The officials are determined to maintain these regulations by informing all involved parties of the ban, Mr Suchart said.

“Tour operators and guides will follow the rules and regulations laid out. Officials will post the order in Thai, Chinese, English, Russian and other languages and tourism business and tourists must obey,” he warned.

“We will set routes where tour boats may enter and depart from these areas, and where they cannot enter. Officials will also install more mooring buoys in the area, so far we have added 40.

“We will propose to the local government to send more officials to monitor the tour operators and tourists in these areas to prevent them from engaging in any activities that will damage the coral-reef ecosystems,” he added.

Thailand closes dive sites over coral bleaching crisis
In a rare move to shun tourism profits for environmental protection, 10 popular dive sites have been shut down in a bid to slow a coral bleaching crisis
Agence France-Presse The Guardian 26 May 16;

Thailand has shut down 10 popular diving sites in a bid to slow a coral bleaching crisis, an official said Thursday, in a rare move to shun tourism profits to protect the environment.

The tropical country’s southern coastline and string of islands are home to some of the world’s most prized white sand beaches and scuba sites, and the booming tourism industry props up Thailand’s lagging economy.

But warming waters and ever-growing swarms of visitors have damaged coral reefs and local ecosystems.

The National Parks department has now indefinitely closed at least 10 diving spots after a survey found bleaching on up to 80% of some reefs.

“The coral reefs are affected by unaware tourists – when they go diving they may touch or step on the reef. Closing those spots will help the reefs recover naturally,” National Park officer director, Reungsak Theekasuk, told AFP.

The diving sites lie off beaches stretching from Rayong province in the east down to Satun in the far south.

Coral bleaching, primarily caused by warming waters, has been wreaking havoc on the region for years.

It occurs when corals come under environmental stress – such as stronger than normal sunlight and warmer sea temperatures – and respond by shedding the algae that give them their brilliant colours.

Corals can survive bleaching but they become more vulnerable to further damage while the condition persists.

Reungsak said the closed diving sites will be inspected ahead of peak tourist season, which starts in November.

“Where we see there is still a crisis, we will have to keep the area and reefs preserved,” he said.

Thailand closes 'overcrowded' Koh Tachai island to tourists
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The parks department also recently ordered the closure of Koh Tachai, a popular island in the Andaman Sea, to let it recover from environmental damage caused by overcrowding.

Thailand’s vital tourism industry remains one of the few economic bright spots as the junta-led government struggles to kickstart the kingdom’s stumbling economy.

Tourism accounts for around 10% of Thailand’s economy, and officials have said they hope to attract 32 million visitors in 2016.

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Why Vietnam Is Running Dry, Worst Drought In Nearly 100 Years

Tim Daiss, Geopolitical analyst and energy markets journalist based in Asia
Forbes 25 May 16;

* Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is suffering from its worst drought in nearly a century, and the effects have been devastating
* This year’s drought could also lead to a serious reduction in exports of major goods produced in the region, including rice, seafood, and coffee.

Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is suffering from its worst drought in nearly a century, and the effects have been devastating . Experts’ claim that the drought is caused in part by this year’s El Niño, one of the worst on record.

El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, as opposed to La Niña, which is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). An El Niño effects weather patterns around the globe, often with destructive consequences.

NOAA also said that April “was record warm for the month, rounding out one full year of record-breaking monthly temperatures for the globe, the longest such balmy streak in the 137-year record, which dates back to 1880.”

Nguyen Van Tinh, deputy head of the hydraulics department under Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture, told AFP in March that the water level of the Mekong River had gone down to its lowest level since 1926, leading to the worst drought and salinization there.

A Bloomberg report said last month that the drought is also compounding a Southeast Asia water shortage along the 3,000-mile Mekong River that runs from Tibet to Thailand to the South China Sea, as climate change and too many dams erode livelihoods for millions of farmers. Water shortages have also hampered agriculture in nearby Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.

The impact of this year’s drought on Vietnam has been and continues to be overwhelming for the Southeast Asian nation of 90 million people, which is still largely an agricultural society. Vietnam’s economic growth in the first quarter of the year dropped to 5.6% year-on-year as its agricultural output dropped due to the drought. First quarter GDP growth for the same period in 2015 was 6.17%.

Capital Economics claims that this year’s drought could also lead to a serious reduction in exports of major goods produced in the region, including rice, seafood, and coffee.

U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that the Mekong River countries of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar produce about 62 million metric tons of rice, or 13% of global output, which makes this year’s drought particularly problematic, while prices for rice will rise as a result, further impacting the lives of the area’s economically marginalized. Vietnam is the world’s third-largest rice exporter.

The Mekong River, according to the World Wildlife Fund, accounts for as much as 25% of global freshwater catch and provides livelihoods for at least 60 million people.

Le Anh Tuan, a professor of climate change at the University of Can Tho in the heart of the Mekong region, said as much as 40-50% of the 2.2 million hectares (5.4 million acres) of arable land in the delta had been hit by salinization.

However, individual farmers are suffering the most. The Bloomberg report said that many in the Mekong Delta could not endure poverty caused by the drought and have fled the area, some looking for manufacturing or other jobs in other regions of the country. Families have broken apart and most have lost not only their livelihoods but their hope as well.

Professor Tuan said that “we do not have any specific measures to mitigate the situation,” adding that residents had been urged to save water for domestic rather than agricultural use.

Preparing for and mitigating the impact of future droughts

The National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) states that drought is different from other natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods and can be more difficult to detect and can last much longer than other weather events.

However, just because a drought is different from these other natural disasters doesn’t mean that countries, including Vietnam, can’t plan for the phenomenon and take steps to help protect themselves from its devastating fallout.

According to Water Security: The Water-Food-Energy-Food-Climate Nexus, published in 2011 by the World Economic Forum, localities can prepare for future droughts by harvesting rainfall. (Rainfall harvesting) catching and storing rainfall has been used for over a thousand years, tracing its history back to the 9th and 10th centuries, in countries scattered across Africa and Asia.

In addition, supplying more water from sea-water by building desalination plants along the coast on an either large or small scale depending on funding and other variables is also an option. Desalination plants nearest the Mekong Delta could help alleviate any future drought induced water shortages.

Desalination plants operate in more than 120 countries world-wide now, including Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Spain, Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, Cape Verde, Portugal, Greece, Italy, India, China, Japan, and Australia, while the cost of desalination plant construction has decreased in recent years.

Farmers can also diversify and plant more drought-resistant seeds to mitigate drought risks as well as planting salinity resistant crops. These as well as other steps can be implemented by all stake-holders in the Mekong Delta region, so that events of 2016 won’t have to repeat themselves in the future.

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Indonesia: Three nabbed for hunting Sumatran tigers

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 26 May 16;

A joint team comprising personnel from Mount Leuser National Park and the Langkat Police has arrested three members of an alleged Sumatran tiger poaching group in protected forests within the national park in Marike subdistrict, Langkat, North Sumatra. Groups of poachers of rare and endangered Sumatran tigers are believed to have long been operating in the protected forests.

Mt. Leuser section V head Palber Turnip said the alleged tiger poachers had long been targeted by rangers for hunting endangered species in the national park. He claimed to have evidence of the sales of endangered species.

“I once pretended to be a buyer when a suspect claimed that he could provide me bear and deer pelts. All the pelts offered were from rare animals they obtained from hunting in the national park,” Palber told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said the arrests were made following a tip-off from residents that a person intended to sell a tiger pelts and other organs. Based on the information, added Palber, the joint team then moved to the location, with one team member pretending to be a buyer.

“The price agreed to for the tiger skin and other organs was Rp 42 million [about US$3,139]. The transaction and handover of goods were carried out in a plantation around the Marike subdistrict,” Palber, a member of the joint team, said.

Based on the agreement, they met with a group of three alleged poachers in a plantation in Marike on Tuesday afternoon. When the suspects showed the tiger skin and other organs to the undercover officer, the other team members immediately arrested them.

“The three poachers did not resist arrest. They were immediately taken to the Langkat Police station for processing,” said Palber.

The suspects, identified as Dedi, 25; Ledes, 28; and Hendra Tarigan, 25; are all from Bahorok subdistrict, Langkat regency.

Langkat Police detective chief Adj. Comr. Agus Sobarna Praja said that based on questioning, the suspects did not work on their own and only served as intermediaries.

Dedi said that the tiger skin had been obtained from a person named Bukti Sembiring, who was still at large. Bukti is suspected to have hunted the wildlife by trapping and then handing the caught animals to the suspects for them to sell.

“He often hunts tigers in the national park and offers the pelts at Rp 25 million,” said Dedi at the Langkat Police on Wednesday.

Poaching of endangered Sumatran tigers is rampant in the national park. Sumatran tigers are hunted and killed not only for their skins but also their organs.

Three members of a Sumatran tiger skin trading network were arrested recently and sentenced to two years in prison.

Three residents arrested for hunting Sumatran tiger
Antara 25 May 16;

Langkat, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) - The police of Langkat District, North Sumatra, have arrested three residents on charges of hunting a Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) in Kutagajah Village of Kutambaru Sub-district.

"The three suspects are being questioned intensively," Chief of Langkat Police Adjunct Senior Commissioner Mulya Hakim Solichin stated here on Wednesday.

The three suspects identified as PA alias Dedi (25), HT alias Hendra (25), and DS or Deden (28) were the residents of Bungaran Hamlet of Ujung Bandar Village of Bahorok Sub-district.

The Langkat Police and personnel of the Mount Leuser National Park Authority arrested them on Tuesday evening along with some evidence comprising a dried tiger skin, a plastic bag containing tiger bones, and two motorcycles.

The local authority had earlier received a tip-off from a local resident that someone was interested in selling tiger skin and bones in the Sogong Hamlet of Kuta Gajah Village in Kutambaru Sub-district.

The tiger skin and bones were valued at Rp42 million (roughly US$3 thousand).

The local police deployed its personnel to investigate the report and arrested the suspects and took them to the Langkat Police Office for further investigation.

The three suspects are charged with violating the law on nature and ecosystem conservation and face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of Rp100 million.(*)

Indonesia arrests 3 men accused of poaching Sumatran tigers
The alleged wildlife poachers were believed to have hunted the tigers within the protected forests of Mount Leuser National Park on Indonesia's vast, main western island of Sumatra.
Channel NewsAsia 26 May 16;

JAKARTA: Three men accused of poaching rare Sumatran tigers in Indonesia have been arrested, an official said Thursday (May 26), with police seizing animal hides, bones and teeth during raids.

The alleged wildlife poachers were believed to have hunted the tigers within the protected forests of Mount Leuser National Park on Indonesia's vast, main western island of Sumatra.

Sumatran tigers are considered a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with fewer than 400 remaining in the wild.

"I hope with this arrest, people will understand that protected wildlife is very important not only for Indonesia but the world," Bambang Dahono Adji, a senior official at Indonesia's environment and forestry ministry, told AFP.

Tiger skins, bones and teeth were found at the homes of the alleged poachers during raids by police. The tigers are hunted for their body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine and fetch high prices.

Investigations are still under way to determine whether the men were involved in a wider wildlife smuggling syndicate.

Adji said tougher laws had been proposed to crackdown on poachers, as the existing regulations were too lenient on offenders and did not serve as an effective deterrent.

"We want harsher punishments, and I hope the parliament will act quickly to legislate these revisions," he said.

Last August police in Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra island, arrested four men for allegedly killing a Sumatran tiger and trying to sell its body parts.

Apart from being hunted, the animals are also under threat from the destruction of their rainforest habitat to make way for palm oil as well as pulp and paper plantations.

- AFP/rw

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