Best of our wild blogs: 6 Jul 16

Living shores of East Coast Park
wild shores of singapore

Predawn at Chek Jawa coral rubble
Chek Jawa Mortality and Recruitment Project

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Sustainability reports boost Singapore's status as global market

Wong Wei Han Straits Times and AsiaOne 6 Jul 16;

Under new SGX rules, listed companies must issue annual reports on their sustainability practices and performance. Some company chiefs grumble about the work needed to produce these reports, while supporters say sustainability is key to company performance.
When investors look at which company to put their money on, the decision is often based on financials such as earnings and cash flow. But a less tangible dimension has emerged in recent years that looks beyond a firm's mere dollars and cents.

All over the world, the focus on corporate sustainability - a company's performance in the environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects of its business - has never been higher, forcing regulators to step up ways to bring more transparency to this somewhat abstract aspect of corporate behaviour.


After a public consultation in January, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) launched its sustainability reporting requirements last month. Under the "comply or explain" rules, all listed companies must issue annual reports on their sustainability practices and performance.

The new rules strengthen the sustainability reporting guidelines available since 2011. Annual reports are expected to cover non-financial areas, ranging from the management of environmental risks and resources to employee satisfaction, supply chain partner practices and social responsibility initiatives, depending on the company's business and reach.

SGX chief executive Loh Boon Chye said the new reporting framework "will enhance the visibility of Singapore-listed companies among investors who seek sustainable investment".

The SGX announcement echoed similar initiatives taking shape elsewhere. The European Union is looking to put into law its requirements - on a "comply or explain" basis - for non-financial reporting by December. Hong Kong's stock exchange in December upgraded its ESG Guide, also to "comply or explain" requirements. The guide will be implemented - in two phases - by the end of this year and next.This means companies can comply with the guidelines, or choose to explain why they do not wish to do so.

Ms Yeo Lian Sim, SGX special adviser and former chief regulatory officer, told The Straits Times: "We don't see this as a competitive matter of where we stand compared with others. We're doing this because it enables investors to have a more consolidated analysis of a company, and it also helps them reflect on the quality of management.

"This is what the investors want - both here and globally - so this is what we're giving them, as part of the global marketplace."

Ms Yeo added that the bourse will now focus on implementing the requirements and helping companies figure out how to prepare the reports.


Part of the potential challenge for a listed company is to manage the scope and details of its report.

The SGX requirements suggest but do not dictate the reporting format. More importantly, to avoid being too intrusive and prescriptive, companies are given the flexibility to decide what environmental, social and governance factors are relevant enough to go into their reports.

Mr Adrian Chan, a board member of five listed companies, sees an initial learning curve for smaller firms. "The tricky part for them will be trying to avoid boilerplates. They will have to do a bit of research on what their peers have done, and that may result in some herd mentality at the start," he said.

Some of the companies that have been issuing sustainability reports are Keppel Corp, Singtel, Singapore Airlines and Singapore Press Holdings.

Another is CapitaLand, which released its 2015 sustainability report last month - its seventh since 2009. A quick glance at the 62-page document shows that CapitaLand has achieved a 22.6 per cent carbon emission reduction for its operational buildings, putting it well on course to hit its 2020 target of 23 per cent. Since 2009, it has saved over $93 million in utilities expenses. Investors will also learn that in 2015, the property giant's employees suffered 57 work-related injuries, down from 2014's 68, while the employee absentee rate fell from 4.3 days per person per year to 3.9.

CapitaLand chief corporate officer Tan Seng Chai said: "Every report is a year-long preparation, by a dedicated in-house team updated on the latest reporting guidelines."

It is not a process CapitaLand measures by financial gains, Mr Tan said, adding: "We find that by focusing on sustainability first, all other benefits fall into place naturally, from cost avoidance arising from reduced energy and water consumption, to greater employee satisfaction."

A spokesman for Wilmar International, which issues its sustainability reports biennially, agreed: "Adopting sustainable practices enables operational cost-savings and higher productivity in the long run. For example, responsible and controlled chemical application... reduces our reliance on pesticide and herbicide, thereby reducing our cost."

The agribusiness dedicated large sections of its 2013 report to addressing environmental concerns, showing that the total number of fires across its regional plantations fell to 46 in 2013 from 114 in 2012. Year-to-year breakdown of water, fertiliser and herbicide usage volume was also available. It will issue its 2015 report in the third quarter this year.


These efforts are welcomed by fund managers, who increasingly subscribe to the notion that sustainable businesses make the best investment.

"The ability to manage (environmental, social and governance) risks is central to a company's ability to continue to operate," said Aberdeen Asset Management Asia corporate governance head David Smith.

"These issues are often termed non-financial, but can have very real financial implications. For example, if a firm produces drinks, how does that company access the water required for production? Does it control its water supply?"

To answer these questions, Aberdeen will try to meet a company's management at least twice a year. "Unless we're totally happy on (these) issues, we don't invest," Mr Smith added.

In line with that stance, Aberdeen does not invest in Alibaba, regional managing director Hugh Young previously told The Straits Times, due to discomfort over a perceived lack of governance disclosure.

The London- and Frankfurt-based Arabesque Asset Management has taken this principle even further and made sustainability the definitive feature of its portfolio as it believes it "shows you the DNA of a company and helps us pick the stocks that outperform the benchmark", said Mr Andreas Feiner, who heads Arabesque's ESG research and advisory unit.

That selection process entails putting a company through a rigorous assessment based on more than 200 parameters under 12 categories. Arabesque will then assign a proprietary score to decide whether a company goes into its portfolio and how much capital should be allocated to it.

"Our methods have led us to rule out companies such as Volkswagen and Toshiba, which eventually turned out to be the right decision," Mr Feiner said.

Last year, Volkswagen was found to have cheated on emission tests in the United States while Toshiba was rocked by an accounting scandal.

At the other end of the spectrum, Arabesque has found plenty of jewels, including several in Singapore. It gave CapitaLand a score of 95 out of 100 for its efforts on environmental, social and governance while rating Singapore Exchange 89 and Keppel Corp 77.

The quantitative approach of building its portfolio around sustainability has in turn rewarded Arabesque, which manages assets of around US$50 million (S$67 million).

"We have found the difference in returns to be around 1 to 1.5 per cent per annum - significant enough for our clients to cover the fees, generate extra returns and, at the same time, align themselves with the world of sustainable investment," Mr Feiner added.


Yet even though the case for sustainability is strong, not everyone here is enthusiastic about the new reporting requirements.

Sustainability is clearly important but the reports are not likely to show anything other than boilerplate statements, said renowned Singapore-based investor Jim Rogers.

"Sure, I will not want to invest in a company that isn't sustainable; it's something that a savvy investor needs to know anyway. But if you don't, I doubt you will ever hear any company report that it's bribing officials in Africa or not treating its employees right.

"Maybe a company will do that, but I'm really sceptical. From what I know so far, it sounds to me more like window-dressing and an unnecessary burden to companies."

This sentiment was echoed by some listed companies that have limited resources or are more concerned with keeping their noses above water.

A China-focused, Catalist-listed property firm, which declined to be named, sees sustainability reporting as a drag at this point as it is trying to steer its struggling business back to growth.

"We are already having difficulty trying to get basic stuff like occupancy data from the China side. Now, imagine how challenging it will be if we have to find out how the building materials are sourced. The amount of effort and time involved is no joke," its chief executive said.

"The preparation will be a distraction to us. We're already in survival mode, so sustainability reporting is my last priority now."

Mr Chan said the comply-or-explain requirement means that companies will at least have a choice: "If a company really doesn't think the report is worth the time, it will just have to justify that decision."

Mr Feiner, however, stressed that the SGX is on the right track with its latest initiative.

"Hopefully, five years down the road, sustainability reporting will become a culture where investors are so used to seeing ESG issues addressed that companies can no longer selectively disclose such information."

He added: "There is always a way to make something cooler, stronger, more effective. But to summit Mount Everest, you have to first reach the base camp. That's what we are doing now."

Just as importantly, sustainability reporting is in essence not unlike the other regulatory initiatives Singapore has pushed, such as last month's commitment to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development anti-tax-avoidance framework.

It confirms Singapore's status as a developed market that is fully in sync with global standards and narratives. And if doing so can empower investors in the process, all the better.

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Petition to move monkey from Kent Ridge Park to UK gets over 2,800 signatures

Kent Ridge Park is “not safe” for macaque Chippy, claims UK monkey sanctuary director Jan Garen, adding that then monkey has “nowhere to go”.
Celine Low, The New Paper AsiaOne 5 Jul 16;

An online petition by a UK monkey sanctuary to re-home a monkey from Singapore has garnered over 2,800 signatures.

The petition organiser, Mrs Jan Garen, director of Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary, said she wants to raise more awareness of the issue.

She told The New Paper last Thursday that she had been waiting for the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) to clear the way for the monkey to be sent over.

Her sanctuary is in Swansea, Wales, and rescues unwanted or mistreated monkeys from zoos and laboratories around the world.

Mrs Garen said the sanctuary currently has 90 monkeys.

She told TNP that she first heard of the long-tailed macaque from a family in Singapore that is willing to pay for the cost of up to $6,000 to ship the monkey over.

The monkey has been spotted in Kent Ridge Park.

A 70-year-old woman, who declined to be named, lives at nearby Normanton Park condominium, and has befriended the monkey, whom she calls Chippy.

When TNP visited the park last Thursday, the monkey appeared among the trees in front of a pond, just as the elderly woman arrived.

Commenting on how it looked dirty, she tried to wipe it with a cloth, but was greeted with shrieks from the animal.

Despite her assurances that it was very friendly, the monkey - which appeared to be a juvenile - looked aggressive at times and even bit her right forearm.

But the woman brushed off the bite, saying it was not serious, and continued cooing over the animal.

She claimed that people cycling through the park have almost run over the animal, and she was concerned for its safety.

Mrs Garen said that after sending her requests to AVA on June 15, she had not heard from it so she started the petition on June 24.

She said the monkey had "nowhere to go".

What about leaving it in the forest as a wild animal?

She replied: "It's not safe there because people in the park have chased him with sticks."

She found this out from people who messaged her on Facebook, she said.


Mrs Garen understands that there has been complaints from the public and that it could lead to the culling of Chippy.

She also maintains that her sanctuary has the experience of looking after macaques even though the species lives in tropical climates.

Mrs Garen said the sanctuary has rescued six long-tailed macaques previously from laboratories, pet shops and even from a ship in Malaysia.

Most of the people signing the petition - 90 per cent - are from Singapore, she added.

A joint advisory by AVA and National Parks Board (NParks) said they have received eight monkey-related feedback from the vicinity of Kent Ridge Park between January and June 28 which were all about a lone monkey.

The executive director of the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres), Mr Louis Ng, said he is aware of the online petition and has urged the authorities not to cull the macaque.

He told TNP that feeding is the root of the problem as it will start to rely on people for food.

Mr Ng, who is also the MP for Nee Soon GRC, said of the elderly woman who has been feeding the monkey: "I don't doubt that she loves the monkey, but it's a wild monkey and the monkey will be more aggressive."

A joint advisory by AVA and NParks advised the public against feeding monkeys as this alters their natural behaviour.

Illegal monkey feeding carries a fine of up to $50,000, jail up to six months, or both.

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AVA gets to the heart of prawn mystery

VALERIE KOH Today Online 5 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE — Addressing a complaint from a consumer about an unknown substance found in a prawn, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said on Tuesday (July 5) that the “gelatinous blob” was the heart structure of the crustacean.

“It is normal anatomy and is prominent in fresh prawns. There are no food safety concerns, and the prawns are safe for consumption,” an AVA spokesperson said.

Recent media reports in Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao and The Straits Times stated that a 40-year-old woman bought 25 prawns from a wet market in Sengkang last week, but while handling them, she found slimy, gelatinous blobs inside several of them. She boiled them, and they turned into a white solid.

The woman reportedly said she had read about practices where seafood suppliers pump chemicals into prawns to increase their weight and to fetch a higher price.

In response to media queries on Tuesday, the AVA said that as part of its food safety programme, imported prawns and shrimps, whether fresh or frozen, are monitored and sampled for food safety and for compliance with the authority’s standards and requirements.

Its sampling tests cover a variety of chemical contaminants and microbiological hazards, including pesticide residues and drug residues such as antibiotics and hormones. Microbial hazards such as salmonella are also tested.

The spokesperson added: “Food products that fail our inspections and tests will not be allowed for sale, and enforcement action (such as the) destruction of the implicated food product, licence suspension, import restriction will be taken.”

Wholesalers here import prawns from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Seafood wholesalers and stallholders told TODAY that they have not heard of suppliers injecting chemicals into prawns to jack up their price.

Madam Ivy Teo, 65, who sells fresh seafood at a Tampines wet market and gets her supplies from the wholesale fish market at Senoko Fishery Port, said: “Sometimes for fish, fishermen stuff things inside to make it heavier, but I’ve never heard of this being done for prawns before.”

Allswell Marketing has been supplying seafood to hotels and restaurants since 1986. Its director Lily Wong said she had never seen prawns with similar gelatinous blobs. “It’s hard to check for these things, because you can’t see it unless you peel open the prawn,” she said.

[wildsingapore comment: This link was added to the comments on the above article]

AVA probes whether gelatin injected in 'abnormal' prawns sold at Sengkang wet market
AsiaOne 5 Jul 16;

Chinese vendor investigated for selling shrimp containing jelly-like substance
Update: An investigation by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has found that the "gelatinous blobs" are part of the prawns' heart structure.

"It is normal anatomy and is prominent in fresh prawns. There are no food safety concerns, and the prawns are safe for consumption," an AVA spokesman said.

SINGAPORE - A woman who had bought some prawns from a Sengkang wet market last week made a strange discovery.

When the 40-year-old, who wanted to be known only was Madam Huang, was cleaning the 25 prawns that she bought from a stall at Rivervale Plaze, she found translucent blobs.

The Singapore permanent resident, who moved here from Guangdong, China, felt something was amiss when the blobs turned into a solid white "rubber-like substance" when the prawns were placed in boiling water.

She had recently read online about seafood suppliers from Vietnam who inject prawns with gelatin-like chemicals to boost their weight so that they can fetch a higher selling price.

"In my home town, it is common for suppliers to illegally inject substances into prawns and sotongs. That is why I noticed the blobs," she said.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is investigating the matter and "looking into whether the sale weight of the crustaceans were artificially increased by injecting gelatin in them", said the report.

An AVA spokesman said: "As part of AVA's food safety programme, imported prawns and shrimp (fresh or frozen) are monitored and sampled for food safety and compliance with our standards and requirements."

Sampling tests cover a wide range of chemical contaminants and microbiological hazards, including pesticide residues, drug residues such as antibiotics and hormones, and microbial hazards such as salmonella.

"Food products that fail our inspections and tests will not be allowed for sale and enforcement action will be taken," the spokesman added.

The stallholder who sold Madam Huang the prawns told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that he had bought the prawns from wholesalers, adding that he had never encountered this before in his 10 years of running his business.

Prawns in Singapore are sourced from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

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Malaysia: Hari Raya water disruption for thousands in Kedah

G.C. TAN The Star 5 Jul 16;

ALOR SETAR: Some 20,000 homes in several areas in the state will face water disruption during the current festive season.

State Housing and Local Government, Water Supply and Water Resources and Energy Committee chairman Datuk Badrol Hisham Hashim said the 20,000 affected homes are account holders of Syarikat Air Darul Aman Sdn Bhd (Sada) in Kota Setar, Pokok Sena, Merbok and Baling.

He cited increased usage by the balik kampung folk for the Hari Raya holiday.

"To overcome the problem, Sada has been ordered to send water tankers to the affected areas," he said at a "Jom Bakar Lemang" event with the media in Kuala Nerang on Monday.

He said the water concessionaire has also been instructed to ensure that all affected consumers, including surau and mosques, receive water supply throughout the Hari Raya season.

Badrol Hisham also said that the state government is building a water treatment facility in Pokok Sena, which will take 18 months to complete as a long-term solution to the water shortage problem in the state.

"Other alternatives are being studied, including underground water sources in Tupah, Merbok," he added.

More water lorries to the rescue
The Star 6 Jul 16;

ALOR SETAR: The state government has instructed Syarikat Air Darul Aman Sdn Bhd (SADA) to use more lorries to ferry water to areas facing shortages.

State Housing and Local Government, Water Supply and Water Resources and Energy committee chairman Datuk Badrol Hisham Hashim said Kota Setar, Pokok Sena, Merbok and Baling had been identified as the critical areas.

“The water shortage is caused by increased demand as many have returned home for the Raya celebrations.”

He said about 5,000 homes in the areas were affected.

“To overcome the problem, SADA has been told to increase the numbers of lorries sending water to the affected areas.

“SADA must ensure that all affected consumers including suraus and mosques receive enough water throughout Raya.

“We want SADA to supply water according to the needs of the customers and not based on a timetable,” Badrol Hisham said during a ‘Jom Bakar Lemang’ programme with the media on Monday.

He said a new water treatment facility was being built in Pokok Sena and would be completed in 18 months.

He added that the authorities were also studying the possibility of tapping underground water in Tupah, Merbok.

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Malaysia: Perak firemen battling forest fire and oil palm plantation blaze

SYLVIA LOOI New Straits Times 5 Jul 16;

IPOH: Firemen in the state are having their hands full fighting a raging forest fire at Bukit Kledang.

A Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said between 2ha and 2.4ha of forest at Bukit Kledang are currently ablaze. "We received a distress call at 9.57am informing us of the incident.

Twenty firemen from Ipoh, Pasir Puteh and Pasir Pinji were despatched to the scene," he said.

He said the firemen have been split into three teams to fight the fire. "The operation to put out the blaze is still ongoing," he added.

Meanwhile in Pantai Remis, firemen are busy putting out fire at an oil palm estate.

It is understood that said as many as 1ha of the estate was affected.

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Malaysia: Kalimantan hotspots may not cause haze in Sarawak — Wan Junaidi

Borneo Post 6 Jul 16;

SIBU: Hotspots detected in Kalimantan, Indonesia may not cause the return of transboundary haze in Sarawak.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said such haze usually only occurs when there are fire outbreaks in Indonesia.

“There are several hotspots detected in Kalimantan, which may affect Lundu, Bau and Kuching. But owing to only very few hotspots, the haze might not reach Sarawak,” he told The Borneo Post when contacted yesterday.

“Peninsula also the same, previously in 2015, fires were raging in Riau region but the hotspots seen now are widely distributed all over Sumatra. The smoky haze may not reach the Peninsula, not at that rate of hotspots.”

He was commenting on the possibility of transboundary haze occurring in the state or other parts of the country following the detection of several hotspots in Kalimantan by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre on Monday.

“We just hope that the Indonesian authority keeps its word when their ministers assured me during the meetings that I had with them in August 2015,” he added.

Wan Junaidi allays fears of severe haze this year
BERNAMA New Straits Times 7 Jul 16;

KUCHING: Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar today allayed fears of a severe transboundary haze occurring this year.

He said Indonesia, where the haze originated from land-clearing fires, seemed to be doing its part to honour its commitment to check the annual phenomenon.

So far, there were only a few hotspots in Sumatera and two in Kalimantan, he told reporters at his Aidilfitri open house here.

Wan Junaidi said Indonesian law allowed its 40 per cent of smallholders cultivating oil palm and trees for pulp and paper to conduct open burning on their farmlands of about two hectares each.

However, he believed that the haze would not be so serious this year as Indonesia faced a lot of pressure from Malaysia and Singapore which suffered the most from the phenomenon.

“Whatever it is, Indonesia is still going to be answerable to its neighbours based on the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution 2002,” he said.

Wan Junaidi also said that global warming was making weather conditions unpredictable.

“It is common, during the current hot season now, when there is rain, there are always thunderstorms with very strong winds.

We are going to see a lot more of these,” he said.

He advised all local councils and state governments to take the necessary precautions for the low-lying areas and ensure proper drainage to prevent flash floods from happening repeatedly. --BERNAMA

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Indonesia: BMKG detects 11 hot spots in Jambi

Jakarta Post 4 Jul 16;

JAMBI: The Jambi Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency (BMKG Jambi) detected on Sunday 11 hot spots in six regencies in Jambi province.

Each of the hot spots were located in Batin XXIV district, Batanghari regency, Lembah Masurai district in Merangin regency and Mandiangin district, Sarolangun regency, one each in Batang Asam, Tebo Tengah, Tengah Ilir and Senyerang districts, two in Sumay district in Kerinci regency.

“We are 100 percent sure of the hot spots in Tebo and Sumay, but about 80 percent sure in Kerinci,” said Jambi BMKG Jambi head Nurangesti on Sunday.

He said areas in which his team was below 80 percent sure of were likely to be objects exposed to excessive sunlight. — JP

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Indonesia: New Haze Fears as Palm Oil Firms Ditch Indonesia Pact

Beh Lih Yi Jakarta Globe 6 Jul 16;

Jakarta. Environmentalists have warned of greater risks of haze and forest fires in Southeast Asia after major palm oil firms ditched a landmark "zero deforestation" pact in Indonesia.

Top producers and traders said last week that the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) will be disbanded, arguing Indonesia's recent efforts to strengthen its own certification standards were sufficient.

Indonesia, the world's top palm oil producer, has been criticized by green activists for failing to stop the region's annual haze outbreaks - mainly caused by fires started in the country to cheaply clear forests and land for plantations.

IPOP, signed in 2014, was hailed as a historic effort by palm oil firms to agree to new limitations on what land could be cleared for plantations to grow the edible vegetable oil, used in everyday goods from biscuits to shampoo.

Jakarta, which saw the pact as competition to the government's own standards, argued the agreement was too difficult for smallholders to comply with. Smallholders account for about 40 percent of its palm output.

But green groups said disbanding IPOP was a blow to Indonesia's efforts to cut deforestation and fight the annual forest fires, which last year were among the worst on record and cloaked the region in haze for weeks.

"Haze fighting is a joint effort, it is more effective when companies come together," said Bustar Maitar, Southeast Asia forest director at the Center for International Policy, a Washington-based think tank.

"This shows Indonesia, as a main palm oil producer, is losing the momentum to produce sustainable palm oil," he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Maitar said the government's own standards, known as the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil system, were less strict as they only ban land clearing in so-called primary forests, which have been untouched, and peat land.

IPOP, meanwhile, also prohibits land clearing in forests that have regrown after being cut down or cleared, and bush land that has high carbon content.

"If the palm oil, paper, and rubber industries want to avoid a repeat of the haze disaster, they will need to team up ... to ensure that only suppliers free of deforestation and human rights abuse obtain access to markets," Glenn Hurowitz, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, added.

Signatories of IPOP included Wilmar, Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, Asian Agri, Astra Agro Lestari and Musim Mas.

The decision to disband IPOP appears to run counter to recent efforts by the Indonesian government to stop deforestation and halt the annual forest fires. In April, the government announced a moratorium on new palm oil concessions.

A recent study showed forest fires that blanketed Southeast Asia last year released the greatest amount of climate-changing carbon since record blazes in 1997, producing emissions higher than the whole European Union.

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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China passes law to 'regulate' wild animal products

AFP Yahoo News 4 Jul 16;

China has passed a new wild animal protection law banning the sale of food made from endangered species, but allowing other products derived from them, state media said, amid controversy over its wildlife policies.

The measure, approved by China's Communist Party-controlled parliament on Saturday, "strengthens regulation of the use of wild animals and products derived from them," the official Xinhua news agency said.

Environmental campaigners previously slammed a draft of the law for treating animals, including tigers and bears, as commercial resources and saying it would not halt their slaughter.

The draft would "further entrench policies of captive-breeding for commercial use of parts and derivatives of captive tigers", the Environmental Investigation Agency said.

China passed a law on wild animal protection in 1989, partly to give a framework for the export of products derived from wildlife, and it was previously revised in 2004.

The new law bans the production and sale of all food products made from endangered animals, according to a version posted on the website of the National People's Congress, China's rubber stamp legislature.

But it allows for "breeding and public performances" by endangered animals as well as "the sale, purchase and use" of products made from such animals, as long as permission was granted by "authoritative departments".

It was not clear whether or how it differentiated between products and food.

Campaigners say that legalised use of endangered species can be exploited as a cover for poaching, putting more pressure on already vulnerable animals.

Xinhua quoted official Yue Zhongming as saying under the new law "the use of wild animals and derived products should rely mainly on captive-bred animals, and it must not hurt wild populations and habitats".

It was not immediately clear how such approvals would be managed.

Breeding of sika deer, a nationally-listed endangered animal, could be allowed as "millions have been bred under controlled conditions nationwide", Xinhua quoted forestry official Zhou Xun as saying.

Captive tiger numbers are soaring in China, with up to 6,000 -- twice the global wild population -- in about 200 farms across the country, according to estimates.

Bears are also bred for use in traditional Chinese medicine -- for which there is no orthodox scientific evidence -- using a process to extract their stomach bile which many activists condemn as cruel.

China's captive breeding industry is worth 7.8 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) a year, news website China Dialogue quoted expert Shi Haitao as saying last year.

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