Best of our wild blogs: 31 Jul 16

Life History of the Chocolate Royal v2.0
Butterflies of Singapore

Read more!

Malaysia: La Nina effects in September likely to be weak

The Star 31 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: There will likely be no major change in the weather pattern when the La Nina phenomenon occurs in September.

Science, Technology and Innova­tion Minister Datuk Seri Madius Tangau said the effects of La Nina, commonly known to bring wet and rainy weather, would be weak based on the latest climate forecast.

“The current weather condition is not associated with the phenomenon but is influenced by other factors, especially wind patterns,” he said.

Tangau was responding to claims that La Nina had arrived sooner with some reports saying that recent heavy rains were linked to it.

Malaysians should brace for drier weather and even haze instead.

“We are now experiencing the southwest monsoon that started in May and will last until mid-September.

“At this time, the atmospheric conditions throughout the country will be drier with less rain. As a result, haze associated with burning activities is expected to occur,” Tangau said.

He said the average daily temperature for August will be between 22°C and 34°C.

Despite this, Tangau said some coastal areas in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca, west Johor, west Sabah and Sarawak will experience isolated heavy rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon during the current monsoon.

The public can get the latest weather information by calling the Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment’s hotline at 1-300-22-1MET (638).

They can also visit its website at or its official accounts on Facebook and Twitter, or download its mobile app myCuaca.

Read more!

Malaysia: More turtles nesting at Cherating beach now

The Star 31 Jul 16;

KUANTAN: A total of 376 turtles have landed on Cherating beach from January to June compared to only 262 turtles last year.

Pahang Fisheries Department director Datuk Adnan Hussain said the number of turtle eggs had also increased, registering 34,869 in that period.

In comparison, there were 24,204 eggs last year.

“Turtles have landed along the 3.5km Cherating beach and 95% of them are of Green Turtle species.The rest are Hawksbill Turtles and Olive Ridley Turtles,” he told repor­ters at a Turtle Awareness and Con-ser­vation Programme launched by the son of Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Tengku Abdullah at Cherating Turtle Sanctuary and Information Centre here on Friday.

However, he said that as of June, 25 turtle deaths were recorded compared to eight last year.

Adnan said the sanctuary managed to ensure more than 60% of eggs laid every year were hatched.

Its biggest achievement since it was set up in 2006 was getting 93% of eggs hatched, he said. — Bernama

Read more!

Malaysia: Sun bear back in its natural habitat

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 31 Jul 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A rescued orphaned female sun bear named Lawa is now back in the wild as conservationists called for more efforts made to protect this endangered species.

Lawa, which is about eight years old, was released back into its natural habitat in the rainforest of Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founder and chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said it was another proud step in animal conservation efforts.

He said Lawa, fitted with a satellite collar, was flown from its centre in Sepilok to the wildlife reserve on Thursday.

“After veterinarian Dr Rosa Sipangkui made a final check on Lawa, she was let out of the cage and back into the wild.

“She was brought in to the centre as a cub back in 2008,” he said, adding that they had been preparing the bear for its return to the wild.

Wong said Lawa had undergone rehabilitation training for eight years, learning all essential skills to survive in the wild such as nest-building, foraging and looking for food.

“The training was made possible in the state-of-the-art natural forest enclosure at our centre,” he said.

Wong said the cost involved was around RM50,000, including the satellite collar and air transport.

“We need public donations to continue with our efforts,” he said, adding that they had some 40 sun bears at the centre and it cost about RM80,000 a month to maintain them.

Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya commended the latest effort of the centre and hoped more sun bears could be released back into the wild.

Sun bears are protected by law in Sabah under the Wildlife Conserva­tion Enactment 1997.

Read more!

Indonesia: Govt continues reforestation program around Lake Toba

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 30 Jul 16;

As part of a forest conservation program, the government on Friday planted thousands of trees of different varieties in the mountainous areas around Lake Toba, which have been severely deforested due to forest fires and illegal logging.

The tree planting, led by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, was centered in Huta Ginjang, Muara district, in the regency of North Tapanuli.

Siti said the planting the trees showed the seriousness of the government in dealing with Lake Toba conservation. She added that the government had allocated three million trees to North Sumatra, most of which are for the reforestation of the areas around Lake Toba.

“We want to replenish areas around Lake Toba to make it look beautiful because the tourist site has become a national destination,” Nurbaya said before starting the planting of some 7,700 trees in Huta Ginjang on Friday.

She called on the Batak people to save the environment around Lake Toba for the future generations. She added that the Batak people harbored philosophies and local wisdom that would enable them to conserve Lake Toba and its surroundings.

North Sumatra Forestry Office head Halen Purba said the planting of the trees would be continued in other areas close to Lake Toba. He said the trees planted around Lake Toba included pine, avocado and candlenut.

“The trees are planted in an area of 15 hectares in North Tapanuli,” Halen told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He said the annual reforestation program around Lake Toba had been going on since the 1970s. However, reforestation has not been successful due to the rocky terrain in the area.

“We will keep planting trees around Lake Toba even though the location is prone to forest fires,” Halen said, adding that the government had prepared a budget for the reforestation of areas around Lake Toba.

“For this year, the reforestation budget for North Sumatra stands at over Rp 40 billion,” he said. Each regency or municipality will also receive money for the reforestation program.

Marandus Sirait, an environmentalist who received the Kalpataru Award in 2005 from the Toba Samosir regency, said the tree planting activities by the government in the areas around Lake Toba were useless and a waste of state funds because similar such programs had been proven to be unsuccessful.

“Reforestation has been organized many times in areas around Lake Toba. However, most of the programs have failed as the trees are caught in fires before they grow up high,” said Marandus.

Another conservationist, Hasoloan Manik, the recipient of the Kalpataru Award in 2010, sees the tree planting activities simply as a project to disburse the state budget.

Read more!

WWF calls for crack down on 'tiger farms'

AFP Yahoo News 29 Jul 16;

Geneva (AFP) - The World Wildlife Fund on Thursday urged Asian states to investigate all tiger breeding centres and crack down on any involved in black-market animal trade.

On the eve of the International Day of the Tiger, WWF said it was crucial for governments to identify and close so-called "tiger farms", which are distinct from zoos or breeding centres with a legitimate conservation mission.

Tiger farms have been linked to the highly lucrative and internationally prohibited trade in tiger parts.

The conservation group estimated that there remained 200 tiger farms in Asia, mostly in China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

"Closure of these operations... would significantly boost efforts to save the world’s remaining wild tigers," WWF said in a statement.

The tiger population in farms is about 8,000, more than double the estimated 3,900 living in the wild, WWF said in a statement.

The so-called Tiger Temple in western Thailand was closed in May after Thai wildlife officials discovered dozens of dead cubs inside a freezer.

"The shocking images from the Tiger Temple of tiger cubs frozen and prepared for the illegal trade provide clear evidence of what is really going on behind the scenes at these tiger farms and why they must be closed," said WWF tiger specialist Michael Baltzer.

Some tiger farm operators have insisted their aim is to provide tourists an opportunity to interact with exotic cats.

But WWF said the "incredibly high operating costs" of these farms made it more likely they were involved in black-market trade.

Tiger parts are sometimes used in Asian remedies which are claimed to boost virility or fight disease.

Tiger farms "undermine efforts to protect wild tigers and halt the illegal trade by complicating enforcement activities, and by normalizing and legitimizing the sale of tiger parts and products, which in turn drives up demand," WWF said.

A hastily-organised blanket closure of all tiger farms would however be disastrous for the animals, the organisation added.

Tigers living in farm-like captivity have become habituated to human presence and cannot simply be released in the wild, the group said.

It said a tiger resettlement plan needed to be in place before the farms were closed.

At a conference in St. Petersburg in 2010, 13 Asian countries agreed to double the number of tigers living in the wild on the continent by 2022, which is China's next Year of the Tiger.

Read more!

Plastic bag use plummets in England since 5p charge

Rebecca Morelle BBC News 30 Jul 16;

Plastic bag use has plummeted in England since the introduction of a 5p charge last year, the government has said.

In the six months after the levy was brought in last October, 640 million plastic bags were used in seven major supermarkets in England, it says.

In 2014, the waste reduction charity Wrap estimated the same shops had used 7.64 billion bags over the full year.

If that trend were to continue over the year this would be a drop of 83%.

It follows the pattern seen in the rest of the UK since the introduction of charges for bags.

'Life is safer'

Wales introduced a levy in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014. They saw reductions in bag use of 76%, 71% and 80%, respectively, in the first year after the fee was established.

The charge means all retailers with more than 250 full-time employees are required to charge a minimum of 5p to customers for single-use, plastic carrier bags, but paper bags are exempt.

Over the six months since the charge was introduced, the government said:

A total of 1.1 billion single-use carrier bags were sold by large retailers who registered and reported data
The net proceeds from the levy came to £41.3m

At least £29.2m was donated to good causes, such as environmental, education, health, arts, charity or voluntary groups

Just over two-thirds of retailers voluntarily provided information on the amount donated and the type of good causes it spent the donations on

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said the reduction in the number of bags being used was "fantastic news".

"It will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won't be saddled with mountains of plastic taking hundreds of years to break down in landfill sites."

This reduction in plastic could benefit the environment, especially the oceans.

A report published in the journal Science in 2015 estimated that about eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in global waters each year.

Dr Sue Kinsey, from the UK's Marine Conservation Society, said: "Every year we survey our beaches, and last year we found over 5,000 bags over one weekend."

She said that birds and marine mammals ate plastic, and bags were also breaking down into smaller pieces and being consumed by tiny marine organisms.

However she said that England could do more to further reduce plastic pollution.

'Administrative burden'

She said she wanted to see the exemption for small businesses on charging the levy removed.

"There's no exemption in Scotland and Wales, for instance," she told BBC News.

"If that exemption was removed, we'd see even more plastic bags removed from the environment, which has only got to be good news."

But extending the 5p charge would be too much of an administrative burden for smaller businesses, the government has previously said.

Meanwhile, Andrew Pendleton from climate change action group Friends of the Earth said plastic bags were only part of the problem.

He said that attention should now turn to the "millions of non-recyclable coffee cups that go to landfill, and to oversized boxes and excess packaging as a by-product of online shopping".

England's plastic bag usage drops 85% since 5p charge introduced
Number of single-use bags handed out dropped to 500m in first six months since charge, compared with 7bn the previous year
Rebecca Smithers The Guardian 30 Jul 16;

The number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has plummeted by more than 85% after the introduction of a 5p charge last October, early figures suggest.

More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge, but this figure plummeted to slightly more than 500m in the first six months after the charge was introduced, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

The data is the government’s first official assessment of the impact of the charge, which was introduced to help reduce litter and protect wildlife - and the expected full-year drop of 6bn bags was hailed by ministers as a sign that it is working.

The charge has also triggered donations of more than £29m from retailers towards good causes including charities and community groups, according to Defra. England was the last part of the UK to adopt the 5p levy, after successful schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Retailers with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees have to charge a minimum of 5p for the bags they provide for shopping in stores and for deliveries, but smaller shops and paper bags are not included. There are also exemptions for some goods, such as raw meat and fish, prescription medicines, seeds and flowers and live fish.

Around 8m tonnes of plastic makes its way into the world’s oceans each year, posing a serious threat to the marine environment. Experts estimate that plastic is eaten by 31 species of marine mammals and more than 100 species of sea birds.

The environment minister, Therese Coffey, said: “Taking 6bn plastic bags out of circulation is fantastic news for all of us,. It will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won’t be saddled with mountains of plastic taking hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill sites.

“It shows small actions can make the biggest difference, but we must not be complacent, as there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use.”

The charge was introduced to try to influence consumer behaviour after the number of carriers bags given out by seven major supermarkets in England rose by 200min 2014 to exceed 7.6bn - the equivalent of 140 per person and amounting to a total of 61,000 tonnes of plastic.

Matt Davies, chief executive of the UK’s largest retailer Tesco said: “The government’s bag charge has helped our customers [in England] reduce the number of bags they use by 30m each week, which is great news for the environment.”

Tesco expects its Bags of Help scheme to provide more than £20m in the first year to local environmental projects.

Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to break down, but plastic drinks bottles and disposable coffee cups are now being seen as a huge challenge in protecting the environment.

The results of the Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach cleanup in 2015 showed that the amount of rubbish dumped on UK beaches rose by a third compared with the previous year. The number of plastic drinks bottles found were up 43% on 2014 levels.

“There is always more that we can do,” said Dr Sue Kinsey, a technical specialist for waste at the Marine Conservation Society. “We encourage everyone to join in on our Great British Beach Clean this September to help keep our coastlines clean.”

Andrew Pendleton, of Friends of the Earth, said: “The plummeting plastic bag use demonstrates the huge benefits just a small change in our everyday habits can make. It means less damaging plastic finding its inevitable way into our waterways and countryside. This is a massive boon for nature and wildlife.”

He added: “With attention now turning to the millions of non-recyclable coffee cups that go to landfill and to oversized boxes and excess packaging as a by-product of online shopping, the government and forward-thinking businesses have a golden chance to cut waste and reduce resource use in a sensible way that consumers welcome.”

At the time of the launch, the government forecast that the charge would reduce use of single-use carrier bags by up to 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street. It is also expected to save £60m in litter cleanup costs.

Plastic facts
6bn single use plastic bags would cover an area of about 900,000,000m2, over three times the area of Birmingham.
6bn bags laid end-to-end it would stretch about 3m km, or 75 times around the world.
6bn bags are approximately equivalent to the weight of 300 blue whales, 300,000 sea turtles or 3m pelicans.

Read more!