Best of our wild blogs: 23 Jul 16

Seagrass meadows next to the Changi Boardwalk, with otter
wild shores of singapore

If you have a masked fruit bandit in your roof & wish to remove it, what should you do?
Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

TECH TARIK 2016 – Oceans Exploration
Neo Mei Lin

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Indonesia calls on neighbours to help tackle forest fires

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 23 Jul 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla on Friday (Jul 22) reiterated his call to neighbouring countries to help Indonesia tackle forest fires.

"If they want, let’s work together for common interest. In the past, Singapore, and Malaysia has helped - that’s good. Don’t just blame (Indonesia). It’s not that we like (the situation), no," said Mr Kalla during his visit to Siak regency, Riau province, on Friday as reported by online news portal

Mr Kalla was in Riau, one of the provinces badly affected by the forest fires last year, to commemorate World Environment Day. The massive forest fires devastated more than two million hectares of land causing toxic haze to blanket parts of Indonesia and the region.

This year, fewer hot spots have been detected, and the Indonesian government attributed this partly to better efforts in anticipation what caused the fires, and containing them early.

“Do we really like the haze? No, right? But it was because of natural occurrences, and acts of people. What is important is that we are working hard. We are trying to restore the peatlands, we are providing all the necessary equipment,” said Mr Kalla.

He pointed out that helicopters are on stand-by at the airports, and the government is ready to deploy the military, police and local communities to fight the fires.

“As I’ve always said, the neighbouring countries must be fair. If the situation is good, they get good air, but if the situation is bad, we go through the bad times together. The first to get it is the people in Riau, Jambi. They suffered more than over there (the region),” said Mr Kalla.

The outspoken vice president has denounced neighbouring countries several times in the past for complaining about the haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia.

However, Indonesia’s efforts in tackling forest fires came into question when 15 out of 18 companies suspected of being responsible for the forest fires last year got off the hook with the law.

On Thursday, reported that the district police in Riau will be stopping investigations on the 15 companies due to the lack of evidence.

“It does not fulfil the elements of intent nor negligence, so we decide to stop investigating the cases,” said Senior Commissioner Rivai Sinambela, Director for Special Criminal Investigation, Riau police district.

Commissioner Rival said that the fires happened on land which have conflicting ownership with the community, and not on areas belonging to the companies.

In 2015, police began investigations on 18 companies suspected of causing forest fires, but only three went to the courts. The three companies PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo, PT Palm Lestari Makmur and PT Wahana Subur Sawit were eventually acquitted.

- CNA/ec

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Malaysia: Animal accidents are avoidable

BERNAMA New Straits Times 22 Jul 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Recent reports have indicated that there are more than 1,914 animal deaths on our roads and highways since 2011.

According to the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), in the last 15 years, Malaysia has lost around 60,000 species of animal life forms a year as a result of natural areas being cleared to make way for development-logging, plantations, housing and various other human exploits.

The rapid development is a major cause of concern for the habitat protection in our country. Almost every other day, monkeys, monitor lizards and iguanas are victims of vehicles on the highways, with their carcasses being repeatedly flattened on the roads.

Development has encroached into the livelihoods of our primates. Such animals who have lived for eons in the deep forests are coming out to urban areas in search of food since development has stolen their homes and sources of food for their livelihood.

The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) Conservation and Biodiversity confirmed that 378 foxes, 170 wild boars, 65 leopards and 33 tapirs were also fatal victims of such incidents, with many more unaccounted for as their numbers are unknown.

Our tigers, hornbills, elephants, tapirs, foxes, whales, dolphins and even insects must be protected and nurtured.

NGO’s like MNS and WWF have tirelessly put in great effort on a wide range of issues like the Kuala Muda coast in Penang to national issues in the Belum -Temengor Forest Complex, Endau-Rompin and Taman Negara as some examples of where our policy and advocacy have succeeded in ensuring effective conservation of our wildlife.

They are also working closely with the Federal and State agencies on Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Over 750 bird species have been recorded within the country’s political boundaries in various habitat types or ecosystems ranging from the lush, evergreen tropical rainforests to even man-made environments such as urban parks and fruits orchards. There are about 37 species which are highly vulnerable to be extinct.

Insects, or rather commonly known as bugs, are also aplenty. Most people hate bugs. They bite or sting, cause allergic reactions, transmit germs, and perhaps leave a little hole here and there among our belongings.

They may be small and insignificant, and nice to squish. However, human culture is largely connected or influenced by insects as thousands of years ago they were greatly associated in aspects of symbolisms, religion and philosophy, right up to literature, medical and therapeutic value, art and entertainment; all unmatched by any other group of animals on the planet.

Insects plays a major role for life on Earth. They are cleaners and decomposers, pollinators, food producers and food themselves, amongst others, whilst humans use them for medicine and food, art, dye and jewellery.

The Kuala Selangor Fireflies Protected Area (Restricted Activities) may be the country’s first insect habitat protection programme. We need more gazetted of such protected areas to show our commitment towards nature.

I was made to understand that there are massive plans for development within the restricted area along the coastal area which will have a direct impact on the “Berembang” trees - the home of the fireflies.

Though there are several detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) studies for almost all development projects, very few are being enforced today.

These reports must be studied immediately and carefully, and implemented to avoid abuse and neglect of the ideas, plans and locations for such areas.

There should be more road signs to highlight wild animal crossings; transverse bars to reduce the crossing of the animals on our highways; well-maintained high quality fencing to prevent animals from getting onto the roads; viaducts on the highway which are hot spots for wild animals and speed breakers at strategic locations to reduce the collision between vehicles and wildlife.

The Malaysian Highway Authorities is tasked with improving and maintaining the laws in the area of road safety.

It must involve the cooperation of state governments, local authorities, government agencies and stakeholders with the ultimate aim of reducing vehicle-animal crashes through several approaches such as more underpasses and overpasses, better fencing, plantings and combinations of all.

A sustainable action plan must be devised by the government with the concerted support of the NGO’s and all related agencies to produce affirmative plans what will ensure that we will not lose the wonderful natural habitats which is our national asset.

Malaysia is the twelfth richest mega-centre for biodiversity in the world and we have over 185,000 types of animal species and 15,000 of flowering plants.

Unfortunately, our biodiversity is under threat and we are listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data list.

Malaysia tops the list under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. To address this, I think the government, the NGOs and every citizen of our nation must embark on initiatives that preserve the flora and fauna species as per the IUCN guidelines.

Environmental awareness must be made as syllabus in all our schools curriculum, to educate especially our future generations.

The Malaysian mind set, attitude and commitment towards using our natural resources must be done wisely. It is not just the government’s role to protect the habitats. It is the responsibility of everyone.

NGO’s are struggling to fulfill the increasing demands of development without any sustainability in the road map of development. Species protection is the key to advocating the conservation of these habitats as it will allow for flora and fauna to thrive in their natural environment. -- Bernama

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Malaysia: Two-metre high flood waters engulf parts of Klang Valley

ZAHRATULHAYAT MAT ARIF New Straits Times 22 Jul 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: A severe thunderstorm today saw homeward-bound motorists caught in gridlock after several areas were inundated by flash floods.

The 4pm downpour, which lasted more than two hours, triggered flash floods in several areas of the Klang Valley.

These included Jalan Cheras, Kampung Cheras Baru and Jalan Lapangan Terbang in Subang.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant operations director Mohd Sani Harul said they received reports of metre-deep flood waters, but noted that no injuries were reported.

Mohd Sani said the department first received a distress call between 4pm and 5pm as the water level almost reached up to a metre deep near the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang.

The flash floods brought traffic to a standstill.

"Traffic slowed to a crawl for several hours, especially near the exit to the New Klang Valley Expressway," he said, adding that traffic conditions were back to normal by about 9pm.

Mohd Sani said the motorcycle lane along the Federal Highway near Subang Jaya was flooded between 4.30pm and 5.30pm. “The floodwaters were about a metre high.

Water from Sungai Damansara also overflowed there,” he said.

In Kampung Cheras, flood waters reaches up to two-metres in depth due to the failure of flood control pumping stations.

Meanwhile, stagnant water and poor drainage in Jalan Cheras headed towards Kuala Lumpur caused flash floods at 6.10pm.

"Firemen established that poor drainage led to the flash flood," he said.

Meanwhile, a City Fire and Rescue Department spokesman also cited that the construction of the mass rapid transit (MRT) system as a contributing factor.

Storm triggers flood chaos
The Star 23 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: Thunderstorms wreaked havoc in several locations in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, causing flash floods that led to traffic snarl-ups.

Strong winds and downpours were reported yesterday near the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang with flood levels rising up to thigh-high.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant operations director Mohd Sani Harul said the flash floods occurred between 4pm and 5pm.

“It resulted in traffic slowing to a crawl for several hours, especially near the exit to the New Klang Valley Expressway,” he said.

Several motorists took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

User @adrianashrmaine tweeted: “Subang airport to Glenmarie takes two hours.”

Another user, Khairun Nisa Ismail speaking as @putrikulon, bristled: “Shah Alam to Subang to Sungai Buloh. It took two hours. Omg terok giler traffic (traffic is horrible).”

Mohd Sani said a motorcycle lane along the Federal Highway near Subang Jaya was also flooded between 4.30pm and 5.30pm.

“The flood was about a metre-deep in the low-lying area. Sungai Damansara also burst its banks there,” he added.

Meanwhile, stagnant water and poor drainage in Jalan Cheras heading to Kuala Lumpur caused a flash flood at 6.10pm. A Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department spokesman also cited the mass rapid transit (MRT) construction as a contributing factor to the situation.

Separately, a team of firefighters removed a wall that collapsed at SK Taman Seri Rampai in Kuala Lumpur.

The spokesman said the wall had collapsed last month and needed to be removed to prevent schoolchildren from falling into a drain.

KL roads choked with traffic after heavy rain and flash floods
P. DIVAKARAN The Star 22 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: Several areas in Kuala Lumpur are experiencing unusually slow traffic after flash floods and heavy rain in the city on Friday afternoon.

According to Star Traffic's twitter account @mytraffic, traffic as at 5pm is slow along most main roads in and around Kuala Lumpur.

It was reported that traffic at 4pm was backed up along the East West Link (E37) from Seputeh to Taman Desa, possibly due to flash floods in the area.

Meanwhile, stagnant water caused problems for motorist on Besraya near the CIMB bank from the Pandan Jaya LRT station to Pandan Indah.

As at 4.45pm, however, the water level at both these areas had receded although traffic was reported to be moving slowly.

Heavy traffic is also reported around Jalan Syed Putra (from Mid Valley to the Kuen Cheng High School) and at Jalan Sultan Iskandar (from the Parliament building to PWTC).

Motorist are also being advised to expect delays along the Kerinchi Link from the Pantai toll headed towards the city via the Federal Highway.

The SMART tunnel remains open to traffic along both decks.

Flash floods and traffic chaos after Klang Valley thunderstorm
NADIRAH H. RODZI The Star 22 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: An afternoon thunderstorm wreaked havoc in several areas in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, causing flash floods that led to traffic mayhem in the Klang Valley.

Strong winds and heavy downpours were reported Friday near the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang with floodwaters reaching thigh-high.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant operations director Mohd Sani Harul said the flash floods occurred between 4pm and 5pm.

“It resulted in traffic to slow to a crawl for several hours, especially near the exit to the New Klang Valley Expressway," he said.

Several motorists took to Twitter to vent their frustrations over the traffic mayhem.

A user with the tweet handle @adrianashrmaine tweeted: “Subang airport to Glenmarie takes two hours.”

Another user, identified as Khairun Nisa Ismail with the tweet handle @putrikulon, said: “Shah Alam to Subang to Sungai Buloh. It took two hours. Omg terok giler traffic (God, the traffic was horrible).”

Mohd Sani added that the motorcycle lane along the Federal Highway near Subang Jaya was flooded between 4.30pm and 5.30pm.

“The floodwater was about a metre high. Water from Sungai Damansara also overflowed there,” he said.

Meanwhile, stagnant water and poor drainage in Jalan Cheras heading towards Kuala Lumpur caused a flash floods at 6.10pm.

A KL Fire and Rescue Department spokesman also cited construction of the mass rapid transit (MRT) as a contributing factor.

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Indonesia: Over 40% of Riau's Forests Have Been Cut Down -- NGO

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 22 Jul 16;

Jakarta. The Indonesian arm of the World Research Institute's Global Forest Watch has revealed that over 40 percent of Riau's forests have been cut down for concessions since 2001, ranking it as the province with the highest level of deforestation in the country.

"You can see from the map that over the years, tree cover loss in Riau has accumulatively grown since 2001," WRI Indonesia member Hidayah Hamzan said in Jakarta on Thursday (21/07). He added that 75 percent of the province was once covered by forests.

However, on the bright side, GFW's maps – which are freely available for public access – also showed that tree cover has increased in Riau in recent years, making WRI Indonesia hopeful for the future of the province's forests.

"There are a number of replanting, restoring and regenerating activities in the area. Although some tree cover loss is near protected areas [such as the Tesso Nilo National Park], we must ensure and warn forest rangers about possible deforestation in those areas," Hidayah said.

Global Forest Watch recently launched a map to identify and predict forest fires around the world, including Indonesia, to help companies see improvements or law-breaking issues happening in their concessions.

They have also added the new Global Land Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) alert system for Kalimantan's forests to act as a warning system and to spot potential fires almost in real time by using satellite data.

Users are able to see recent tree cover loss data, as the map is updated weekly. They can also subscribe to alerts on the website. GLAD alerts have been installed for Kalimantan, with the WRI hoping to expand the system throughout the archipelago.

Another recently added feature Global Forest Watch has on their maps is the commodities palm risk tool, which indicates and analyses each mill's risk of unsustainability and legality, helpful for businesses to learn about more sustainable methods.

Together with global consumer goods company Unilever, it is part of an initiative that would help businesses to move towards sustainable supply chain commodity practices by using deforestation-free palm oil.

"We're working together with our global partner Unilever, who is committed to be deforestation-free by 2019, and they help us by giving us input of what data companies need to move towards a sustainable development," WRI Indonesia deputy director Andika Putraditama said. "Palm oil is the most problematic commodity, and we want to change that."

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Indonesia: 'Riau One Map' a Platform for Sustainable Forest Management

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 22 Jul 16;

Jakarta. Following the goals of the government's "one map" policy, World Research Institute Indonesia recently initiated the Riau One Map to encourage sustainable forest and land management in the province.

The campaign will take four years, with members of the research institute facing an uphill battle in collecting, gathering, preparing, consolidating and delivering data, while at the same time keeping negotiations transparent.

Currently, an indicative map of Riau's open land and forests has been compiled by REDD+ — an international effort to reduce carbon emission — but a definitive map still has a long way to go.

Nirarta Samadhi, WRI Indonesia Director, stressed that the end goal is not to create the map, but to create a credible platform allowing relevant stakeholders to talk about the issues faced in land and forest management in the province.

"We must open up a communication platform which promotes transparency. This will help reduce conflict and identify the problems faced by each stakeholder," Nirarta said on Thursday (21/07).

According to the director, a transparent platform will help determine land borders and land redistribution – a common conflict between the private sector and government when fires break out in unregistered lands – which can help increase revenues, he claims.

"We can increase non-tax base revenues considerably, by 60 percent to 300 percent," Nirarta claimed.

The research institute has chosen Riau as the location of this pilot project because of numerous, problematic land-related cases in the province, with deforestation levels and carbon emissions higher than in other provinces in the country.

According to Nararta, government authorities have their own land and forest maps containing different data, which stresses the need for a single map for Riau.

The Riau One Map will be freely available to the public after four years. If all things go well, WRI Indonesia will expand the One Map project to South Sumatra and Papua by 2018.

Many experts believe forest and peat land fires in Indonesia are likely to start up again when the rainy season ends. They say not enough has been done yet to head off the risks.

Slash-and-burn clearance of land — much of it to plant oil palm, and trees to make pulp and paper — is the main culprit fueling the fires that smolder deep underground in peat. They have pushed up pollution levels, disrupting daily life from Indonesia to Singapore and Malaysia.

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Indonesia: Critically Endangered Sentani Rainbowfish Rediscovered in Papua

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 22 Jul 16;

Jakarta. After decades of being considered extinct, researchers have recently spotted specimens of the rainbowfish in Papua's Lake Sentani.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the freshwater species, known by its scientific name Chilatherina sentaniensis, as critically endangered in 2012.

According to a previous study by Australian ichtiologist Gerald R. Allen, the species was last seen in 1954, leading to it being declared likely extinct in the wild.

"Based on this phenomenon, the urgency of the systematic study in the diversity, domestication and conservation of the rainbowfish in Lake Sentani will become one of the prioritized rescue programs of Papua's endemic species," said lead researcher Kadarusman, a taxonomist and polytechnic lecturer in Sorong, West Papua.

The multi-party field research was conducted with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, through its educational unit under the human resources development and community empowerment agency, and took place between April and May this year. So far, it has collected 623 specimens from 44 populations around the corner of the lake and river systems in the vicinity.

Results of the research were disseminated on June 2, where the team presented a map of where rainbowfishes occur in Lake Sentani, with the aim to assist future research and development for the fisheries department, cultivation and conservation of the species.

The research team managed to find four different subspecies of rainbowfish inhibiting Lake Sentani, one of which is able to invade the river ecosystem in the Cyclops Mountains.

Kadarusman and his team have proclaimed a rediscovery of the charismatic fish in a remarkable success for Indonesian taxonomists, instead of foreign researchers, which boosted the reputation of the Papuan research team.

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Indonesia: Lake Toba set to be cleared of fish cages

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 22 Jul 16;

In a bid to improve the appearance of Lake Toba, the North Sumatra administration and seven regencies and municipalities have agreed to rid the site of keramba (floating net cages), used for breeding fish.

The presence of numerous keramba at the popular tourist site is said to degrade the scenery around the lake, while the waste pollutes the waters.

An agreement between the provincial, regency and municipal administrations will be signed in Jakarta on Monday, ahead of its implementation.

North Sumatra administration secretary Hasban Ritonga said his office would report on the action plan to the central government on Saturday before the signing on Monday.

“This is parts of our efforts to support the central government’s program to make Lake Toba a national tourist destination,” Hasban told reporters at his office on Thursday.

Hasban said the move to clear the lake of fish cages was part of efforts to make Lake Toba the Monaco of Asia. The central government aims to remove all keramba within the next two years.

He said the target was realistic, considering the lake was home to numerous fish cages belonging to both individuals and companies.

“We will set up an integrated team comprising the North Sumatra provincial administration, seven regency and city administrations and nine ministries to realize the target,” Hasban said.

Simalungun Regent JR Saragih expressed his support for efforts to free Lake Toba of fish cages, saying his administration would start clearing the lake starting from the Parapat area.

“Parapat and other regions have to be freed of fish cages. We will involve the military and the police in the clearing,” Saragih said.

Rudi Hertanto of PT Aquafarm Nusantara, a Swiss company operating numerous fish cages on Lake Toba, expressed surprise at the government’s plan, saying his side had not been invited by the government to discuss the issue.

“Up to today we have not yet been informed about the plan to get rid of [floating net cages] from Lake Toba waters,” Rudi told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He expressed disappointment over the plan, arguing that his company’s presence on the lake was at the invitation of the North Sumatra administration.

“PT Aquafarm operates a fisheries business on Lake Toba at the request of the North Sumatra administration. Ironically it’s also them who will stop us,” Rudi said, adding that his company had been operating in the area since 1998.

He said he had no idea about what would happen to his 1,500 employees if fish cages on Lake Toba were forced to stop operations.

He also said his company supported the government’s policy to make Lake Toba the Monaco of Asia. However, he expressed hopes that the policy would not put an end to the fisheries industry, which employs thousands of workers.

Tens of thousands of floating fish nets have been used on Lake Toba for years. They are operated both by locals and companies such as Aquafarm and Japfa.

Recently, millions of goldfish and parrot fish being bred in keramba operated by locals died en masse, causing billions of rupiah in losses.

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