Several warm days expected in first half of October: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 30 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: The first half of October is likely to see a few warm days, similar to the temperatures seen in the last week of September, said the National Environment Agency in an advisory on Friday (Sep 30).

During this period, the daily maximum temperatures are forecast to range between 33°C and 34°C on most days and could reach a high of around 35°C on a few days, the agency said.

Short-duration thunderstorms are also expected in the first half of October on four to six days, mostly in the late morning and afternoon. In addition, widespread thunderstorms with occasional gusty winds are expected on two to three days between the pre-dawn hours and morning.

Rainfall for the first fortnight of October is expected be slightly below normal, said NEA.

The agency noted that Singapore saw a few warm days, particularly in the last week of September.

On Sep 29, Changi climate station logged the highest ever recorded daily maximum temperature for September - 34.4°C. The previous record for September was 34.3°C on Sep 15, 2000.

September also saw thunderstorms accompanied by gusty winds on several days, mostly in the early hours, said NEA. Rainfall was heaviest on Sep 14 over the Paya Lebar-MacPherson area, where a total of 86.6mm of rainfall was recorded.

The agency said that most parts of Singapore received slightly below normal rainfall in September 2016. The highest rainfall of 216.4mm – 23 per cent above average - was recorded around the Telok Blangah area. Rainfall was lowest around Mandai where 86.4mm – 57 per cent below average - was recorded.

- CNA/ek

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Second Zika cluster closed

Today Online 30 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — The Bedok North area is now no longer an active Zika cluster, according to an update on the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) Zika website on Friday (Sept 30).

This makes it the second cluster to be closed, after the Bishan Street 12 cluster was closed on Wednesday.

The cluster, which saw a total of five reported Zika cases, comprises areas at Bedok North Avenue 2, Bedok North Avenue 3, Bedok North Street 3.

There are now seven active clusters:

Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive/Paya Lebar Way/Kallang Way/Circuit Road/Geylang East Central/Geylang East Avenue 1;

Joo Seng Road;

Elite Terrace;

Ubi Crescent;

Jalan Raya/Circuit Road;

Sengkang Central/Sengkang East Avenue

Hougang Ave 7.

Meanwhile, there have been no new locally-transmitted Zika infections here on Friday, with the total number standing at 398.

Separately, Thailand confirmed on Friday that the Zika virus had caused two cases of microcephaly, a condition that results in babies being born with small heads. This is the first time microcephaly had been linked to Zika in South-east Asia.

Zika cluster at Bedok North closed: NEA
Channel NewsAsia 30 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: The Zika cluster located at Bedok North is now closed, according to data from the National Environment Agency's website on Friday (Sep 30).

The area was identified as a potential cluster on Aug 30 after three Zika cases were reported there.

In all, five cases were reported in Bedok North Ave 2 (Block 514), Bedok North Ave 3 (Blocks 404, 405, 507), as well as Bedok North St 3 (Block 525). No new cases were reported in the last fortnight.

The Zika cluster at Bedok North is the second to be closed, after NEA announced the closure of the Zika cluster at Bishan Street 12 on Wednesday. The cluster was closed on Sep 19 after no new cases were reported there fore two weeks, and the agency said it would continue "close surveillance" in the area until Oct 10.

NEA said the continued surveillance period takes into account the incubation period of the Zika virus and the lifespan of the Aedes mosquito.

Seven Zika clusters - Aljunied Crescent, Joo Seng Road, Elite Terrace, Ubi Ave 1, Balam Road, Sengkang Central and Hougang Ave 7 - remain. Of these, Aljunied Crescent is the only cluster which has reported cases in the past fortnight, according to NEA's website.


Data on NEA's website also showed that no new Zika cases were reported on Friday. This is the second day this week - after Sep 26 - that no new locally transmitted Zika cases were reported.

As of Sep 30, a total of 398 locally transmitted Zika cases have been confirmed in Singapore.

- CNA/dl

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Malaysia: Money growing on trees

CHRISTINA CHIN The Star 2 Oct 16;

THE country has lost billions of ringgit in revenue because our forestry products couldn’t be commercialised.

Citing an example, Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) director-general Datuk Dr Abd Latif Mohmod shares how it received a mere RM80,000 last year in patent royalty payments while companies that use their products and technology earn millions in sales.

But the institute’s fortunes are about to change with the FRIM Act that came into force yesterday.

It’s expected to rake in 10 to 15 times more money in revenue for FRIM, which Dr Abd Latif says will be channelled back into forest research and conservation activities, the community, and nation building.

Recalling how he ended a collaboration with a company that had made over RM1.5mil in yearly sales of mangosteen skin juice, Dr Abd Latif fumes at how FRIM was only paid RM400 despite the juice’s popularity.

“That’s why I stopped them from selling it two years ago. We got so little money from the licensing technology agreement but we’re the ones extracting the juice from the skin. It’s our hard work.”

The Act, he says, is a long time coming – 10 years to be exact. It’s a piece of legislation he’s been pushing for since 2006.

Explaining its necessity, he shares how the institute was previously under the Primary Industries Ministry (now known as the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry), and governed by the Malaysian Forest Research and Development Board (MFRDB) Act.

But since its move to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, FRIM’s role changed. It was tasked with promoting sustainable management and optimal use of forest resources via research, moving away from primary industries.

FRIM found itself limited by an archaic law despite a shift in its role, functions and responsibilities.

With the new Act, FRIM has finally come into its own.

The Act lets FRIM carry out its R&D on pressing issues in the forestry sector, and use the revenue from commercialisation of its products and services to finance projects. This will allow the institute to generate 30% of its total operating costs by 2020.

Before this year is up, FRIM plans on getting its business arm off the ground. So instead of just providing technical services, it can negotiate contracts via a newly set up subsidiary or business arm.

“We can’t do everything for free. Businesses approach us because they know we’re good but we aren’t compensated fairly for the value of our work.

“Many have asked us to be their joint-venture partners but we couldn’t previously because the MFRDB Act didn’t allow commercialisation. As a result, we got RM10,000 in royalty instead of RM1mil if we’d partnered with the company. Imagine how many other research projects that money would have funded.”

The RM20mil FRIM gets from the Government for its management and operational expenses isn’t enough. Research, he points out, isn’t cheap.

The Cabinet, at every Budget, he says, stresses the need for patents and the commercialisation of R&D. With its technical expertise and huge data collection, FRIM is sitting on a gold mine.

The institute’s herbarium contains 300,000 specimens collected from all over the country in collaboration with forestry departments, universities and other agencies. These specimens are documented and carefully stored for reference, research and conservation.

Yet, years of championing the environment hasn’t translated into cash.

Dr Abd Latif explains that when Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was made Natural Resources and Environment Minister last year, he saw the urgent need for the FRIM Act – and he pushed hard to get it passed.

“This is not just for FRIM – it’s for Malaysia. We must be recognised as owners of our R&D. Our R&D should be to generate funds for the Government. FRIM cannot depend on the Government for everything. And once we start making a profit, we can pay our scientists better.”

Testing of forestry products and certification of their sustainably managed origins is an issue today, especially if Malaysia is looking to export. The Act allows FRIM to test and certify forest products to ensure that they meet international standards – a very important function, says Dr Abd Latif.

Recalling how rubber trees were previously either thrown away or burnt, he shares the story of FRIM’s achievement: “When the European Union required all imported wood to be chemical-free, we came up with the technology for our rubber wood to comply. We are the only country in the world holding a patent for this. It made Malaysia popular. Rubber wood is now a RM7bil industry.

“Our R&D clearly has potential. And with successful commercialisation, we can do even more.”

The Act not only allows the institute to be a touch point for industry but it also brings research to the rakyat. FRIM now also provides training, testing and technical services for local herbal entrepreneurs.

“So if the orang asli have a herbal concoction to treat an illness, we’ll help study the plant and its healing properties. So when it’s commercialised, they’ll receive their dues.”

But FRIM, he assures, won’t be distracted from its research functions. In fact, its scope for research has expanded to include pressing global issues like climate change, ecotourism, reforestation, and biotechnology.

“When the upcoming biodiversity law for environmental protection is tabled next year, FRIM will play a big part in the conservation process because we know the forests like the back of our hand,” Dr Abd Latif says with a glint of pride.

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Malaysia: Lojing - major disaster waiting to happen


GUA MUSANG: Lojing is dying. Something must be done fast by the authorities to rehabilitate the highlands or it will face problems like Ringlet in Cameron Highlands.

The saddening fact is massive land clearing for farms in the Lojing Highlands was highlighted more than three years ago.

No action was taken since then and now, the situation seems to be going downhill in the country’s Main Range, with no signs of improvement.

The highlands, which was pristine as recently as the late 1990s, has lost half of its forest cover, endangering the lives of orang asli settlement and rare species such as Rafflesia flowers.

The soil erosion is so bad that the water is now almost undrinkable.

“This is serious because Sungai Belatop is an upstream river in the highlands which joins up to Sungai Brok.

“There are orang asli settlements there which use these rivers for their daily water needs and Sungai Nenggiri in Kuala Krai before flowing into Sungai Kelantan in Kota Baru,” said hydrological and water quality modelling expert Prof Dr Mohd Ekhwan Toriman.

Prof Mohd Ekhwan pointed out that the major source of sedimentation in Sungai Kelantan came from the Lojing Highlands as a result of soil erosion which was also one of the main reasons why the river was not suitable to supply water in Kelantan.

The state now has to rely on tube wells for water in the area.

Heavy sedimentation as a result of soil erosion in Sungai Belatop in the highlands meant a reduction in the river’s capacity to hold the water.

“In Sungai Belatop, rainfall is localised over that particular area which can cause debris flood and mudflows and affect the orang asli settlements downstream.

“Lojing needs to be rehabilitated fast in order to prevent it from deteriorating further,” he said in an interview.

The Lojing Highlands, said Prof Mohd Ekhwan, was the backbone of Peninsular Malaysia as part of the Main Range, which contributed 60% of the country’s water reserves and acted as an indicator of local climate change.

“Any uncontrolled development will change the hydrological water cycle,” he said, adding that it was “still not too late to save Lojing”.

Showing a topography map of the highlands, Prof Mohd Ekhwan indicated that over a quarter of the land was at between 25° and 35° in inclination which was considered very steep.

“If you put a map of the land use side by side, you will notice that this corresponds with the areas cleared for farming.

“This is because it’s near the river network,” he said.

It has been reported that much of the land – some on steep hills – had been cleared for vegetable plots, especially by farmers from Cameron Highlands.

Many of these farms are not following best management practices such as proper waste disposal.

Prof Mohd Ekhwan said his study showed that one hectare was churning out 24 tonnes of coco peat and plastic waste, with about 26,301 tonnes of waste being produced yearly.

“If much of this waste is thrown into the river, it will have a huge environmental impact,” he said.

A 2012 study by Prof Mohd Ekhwan’s team showed that Sungai Belatop had rising levels of magnesium from the use of fertilisers while iron and calcium were also on the rise.

Cameron Highlands-Kinta-Lojing is among the three Special Management Areas in the Main Range where agriculture and urban-related activities have been permitted under strict control to safeguard safety and environmental quality.

The team has carried out research on water quality and river modelling in Lojing Highlands for the past 20 years.

Council: Logging in Kelantan not checked since March
The Star 2 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Logging activities in Kelantan has gone unchecked since March after the country’s leading timber certification organisation suspended auditing there.

The Malaysian Timber Certifi­ca­tion Council claimed the state authorities and loggers had failed to adhere to international standards and guidelines for forest management.

The council said the move came about after the parties did not respond to major non-conformity corrective recommendations.

As a result, all logs originating from the state after March were not certified under the international Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, making it harder for concessionaires to export these logs to foreign countries.

Johor is another state with a similar suspension since January.

However, a council spokesman clarified that logging activities were still deemed legal even without certification as long as a permit was issued by the state government.

According to the spokesman, the certification system was vital for due diligence practices in logging to ensure minimal environmental, safety and social impacts to the forest.

Among some of the international guidelines use by auditors to review logging activities here include the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Article 1 to 10 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the International Labour Organisation Conventions.

It also examines social impacts of logging under the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is pertinent now due to the recent Gua Musang standoff between villagers and loggers.

The hills of Lojing stripped bare
SIM LEOI LEOI and SYED AZHAR The Star 1 Oct 16;

GUA MUSANG: Travelling along the Central Spine Road from Cameron Highlands into Lojing, it’s hard to spot much greenery on both sides of the highway.
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Instead, in what was once the pristine Lojing Highlands – along the country’s Main Range and stretch of forest reserves – many tractors are busy at work clearing land.

When we reached there by jeep, we saw the tractors, a few almost perched on the treacherous slopes. The tractors looked like little more than ants against the vast backdrop of cleared hills.

Some of the areas involved were so vast that only an image from a drone or satellite could do justice to the size.

Where the excavators are not around, the land is almost certainly marked with the ubiquitous lines of greenhouse plastic all over the hillside.

The plastic covering is much like those at the vegetable farms in neighbouring Cameron Highlands.

Along the highway, several signboards, warning of wildlife from the permanent forest reserves nearby, including Lojing and Sg Brok, and that any development or land clearing must get the written permission of the Gua Musang land officer have been put up.

Many of the rivers – including Sungai Belatop, which meanders through the permanent Sungai Brok forest before joining Sungai Nenggiri and eventually, Sungai Kelantan – are a teh tarik colour.

Even the tributaries nearby, such as Sungai Jedip and Sungai Deng­kong, are polluted with soil from erosion, according to the orang asli nearby.

Along these rivers are various orang asli settlements, mainly from the Temiar tribe, who depend on the water for their daily needs.

Nasir Dollah, who used to live in one of the settlements in Lojing, said he used to fish from rivers in the area, such as Sungai Belatop.

“But now, we can no longer depend on the river. We need to buy our fish,” he said.

While the settlements had piped water supply, Nasir said the water from the rivers could not even be used for washing or cooking.

“To get some clean water, we have to go farther into the interior,” he said.

Asked if there was a warning issued against using the water from the rivers due to pollution, Nasir said he could not remember any.

“But the villagers feel that the water in the rivers is no longer suitable for use,” he said.

Another orang asli, Isa Alang, said Sungai Belatop was not the only polluted river.

“Other rivers in the area are also polluted due to land clearing and development nearby.

“We used to be able to bathe in the rivers. They are now full of yellow sand.

“We have raised the issue many times with various parties, inclu­ding the land office, but the matter has not been resolved,” said Isa, who is also the Community Develop­ment and Security Committee chief for the settlement at Pos Brooke, Lojing.

The settlement, with more than 58 families with over 200 residents, now has to totally depend on piped water supply for their daily needs.

The orang asli, however, are not keen on piped water. They are used to the getting their water from nature.

“If we want fresh river water, we have to walk very far, up to three to four hours into the jungle,” Isa added.

He also complained that besides Sungai Belatop, other nearby rivers such as Sungai Jedip and Sungai Dengkong were also heavily pollu­ted because of nearby development projects.

100ha of forest reserve now a durian orchard
The Star 1 Oct 16;

PETALING JAYA: A total of 100ha of land, about the size of 120 football fields, have been converted into a durian orchard in the permanent Sungai Brok forest reserve near the environmentally sensitive area of the Lojing Highlands.

This conversion is the latest in what critics have called blatant attempts by both the Kelantan go­vernment and companies to carve out areas of forests near the Central Spine Area, which is important for the country’s water reserves and the climate.

Already, the river basin of Sungai Belatop, an important water catchment area in the forest reserve, has been shown to be heavily polluted with sedimentation and heavy me­tals with pesticide residue from nearby farming.

Drastic changes in land use in the river basin, especially for vegetable farming and monoculture over the past years, have also affected nearby orang asli settlements, which largely depend on the river for their daily needs.

The Kelantan Mentri Besar has agreed to an application by a company to convert the 100ha of land. The state Forestry sub-committee is chaired by the mentri besar himself.

Under the application, the converted land is to be planted with durian kunyit, which is also known as the Musang King, one of the most expensive varieties in the market.

In August, the durian was priced up to RM60 per kg in the Klang Valley.

Kelantan Forestry director Zahari Ibrahim said he had no knowledge of the land approval.

He confirmed that there had been a request for land in the forest but claimed that this had been shot down by the mentri besar.

“We get all sorts of applications for forest land in Kelantan. Whether this is approved or not will be deci­ded by the mentri besar.

“As far as I know, the state go­vernment has frozen all applications for plantation purposes but I cannot remember when,” he said, adding that a letter dated March 31 was a “mere application”.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia field re­searcher Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman, who showed the letter to The Star, claimed such applications for land conversions were just an excuse for clearing of forest trees.

“In peninsular Malaysia, forest plantations, usually timber latex clone (TLC) rubber tree plantations, are still considered forest. Only the land use is changed but the land status remains,” he said.

“It is for this reason that the area of forest reserve in Kelantan has not changed,” claimed Meor Razak.

He also claimed that among a list of 41 licences approved for logging concessions by the state government in various permanent forest reserves in Gua Musang and Lojing, two were for mining in the Nenggiri forest reserve.

“This is against the Gua Musang local plan as well as the National Physical Plan,” he said.

Among the forest reserves affected are Perias, Sungai Betis, Ulu Galas, Nenggiri, Gunung Rabong, Sungai Brok and Batu Papan.

According to the Kelantan Forestry Department website, the area of gazetted Permanent Forest Reserve in the state stood at 623,849ha as at 2012.

Rafflesia in danger by land clearing
The Star 2 Oct 16;

GUA MUSANG: The rare Rafflesia – a flower that can grow up to 1m in diameter and 10kg in weight – has been severely affected by the land clearing activities in Lojing Highlands.

Universiti Malaysia Kelantan senior lecturer Zulhazman Hamzah said the growth of the rare species – considered the “icon of conservation” – depended on pollination and seed dispersal.

“When I first visited Lojing in 2008, I saw in one area more than 100 buds. But now, I see only about 30, a very drastic reduction.

“I think this is because of the development in the area,” he said.

There are about 28 species of the Rafflesia, which are found in only four countries in the world – Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The one found in Lojing, said Zulhazman, is believed to be the biggest in Malaysia and second biggest in the world.

Zulhazman added that the presence of these flowers could be promoted as an eco-tourism site to generate income for the state.

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Malaysia: Sediment reduces dam’s capacity

LOSHANA K SHAGAR The Star 3 Oct 16;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Sedi­ment that covers the equivalent of 80 football fields rising two storeys high sits at the bottom of the Ringlet reservoir here.

This has reduced the dam’s water capa­city to less than half of its original amount.

An estimated four million cubic metres of sediment clogs the man-made Ringlet Lake despite extensive dredging efforts by Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB).

TNB generation division (asset operations) senior manager Roslan Abd Rahman told reporters during a site visit to the Sultan Abu Bakar Hydroelectric Dam recently that the reservoir could hold only 2.7 million cubic metres of water, far less than half its actual capacity.

Four water sources flow into the dam, namely the Ringlet Lake and the Bertam, Habu and Tenom rivers. Bertam Valley is next to the dam.

The site visit revealed that the water in the dam was murky due to sedimentation.

Residents are concerned that there could be another mudslide if there are heavy downpours over the next three months.

In October 2013, excess water that flowed into the reservoir had to be released, causing massive floods and four deaths.

“Once the water level at the Sultan Abu Bakar dam hits 3,513 feet, the dam gates will automatically open, but the danger is that releasing so much water at once will endanger valley residents.

“This is why we have lowered the operating level to 3,500 feet during the monsoon season, so we have more response time to manage the water storage,” said Roslan.

TNB spent over RM180mil between 2008 and 2013 to clean up the Ringlet reservoir and the Sultan Abu Bakar Hydroelectric Dam, dredging up nearly 350,000 cubic metres of silt every year.

However, the reservoir has since 2014 been accumulating a staggering 500,000 cubic metres of silt per year, forcing TNB to increase its dredging activities to clear 750,000 cubic metres a year.

“Also, some two tonnes of solid wastes every week is collected from the reservoir. This amount increases during a heavy downpour.

“We are doing all we can to clear the sediment and rubbish, but these efforts are not going to be sustainable in the long run if the sediment and rubbish keep increasing,” said Roslan.

About RM80mil was spent in 2013 and 2014 just to remove rubbish from the water sources.

Even the recently completed Susu Dam and the Ulu Jelai Hydroelectric power project sites nearby were showing signs of sedimentation, despite being very new, Roslan said.

“As long as people’s attitude towards disposal of rubbish and land clearing does not change, our actions will not have much effect in the long run,” he said.

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Indonesia: Poaching rate of Sumatran tiger remains alarming

Otniel Tamindael Antara 30 Sep 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The poaching of Sumatran tigers across the island of Sumatra for trading remains at an alarming rate, though the Indonesia Environment and Forestry Ministry (KLHK) officials have blocked several attempts.

Rampant poaching, coupled with the opening of massive plantation areas and forest fires, has led to the continued drop in the number of protected Sumatran tigers.

The Sumatran tiger is one of the last remaining tiger species in Indonesia after the Balinese and Javanese tiger species were declared extinct, but now, its existence remains under threat because its habitat has shrunk and it is being hunted for trading.

KLHK officials on Thursday (Sept. 29, 2016) apprehended two men in possession of a Sumatran tiger skin in Indragiri Hulu District, Riau Province, Security and Law Enforcement Center for Environment and Forests spokesman Edward Hutapea told Antara in Pekanbaru on Thursday night.

According to Hutapea, the two men are known by their initials as AH (51) and JO (35). The intact Sumatran tiger skin they were carrying was seized as evidence.

After a two-week coordination effort between the KLHK, Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and reconnaissance in Jambi, the officials apprehended the duo for illegally possessing the Sumatran tiger skin.

WWF said there was still a substantial market in Asia for tiger parts and products.

Both actors are still being questioned as witnesses, but it is possible that their status will be upgraded as suspects if the investigators find any evidence of criminal activity.

The confiscated Sumatran tiger skin had a length of some two meters and was intact, with no defects from head to tail, indicating that the poachers were professionals.

A South Sumatran police team early this year caught a man named Suharno alias Reno, a trader in Lubuklinggau city, South Sumatra.

When Suharno was caught, he was in possession of a tiger skin measuring 120 cm long in a plastic bag containing preservatives and some tiger bones weighing two kilograms.

To the authorities, the man claimed he receive these parts of tiger from a tiger hunter in Jambi.

An intact skin of a tiger is sold between Rp50 million and Rp100 million, depending on its size and condition.

Suharno was then sentenced by the district court of Palembang to six months in jail while he could have been given a maximum sentence of five years and fined Rp100 million, based on Law Number 5 of 1990 on Ecosystem and Conservation of Living Natural Resources.

However, Animals Indonesia, a social community institution for animal conservation, deplored the fact that the Palembang district court meted out a light sentence to Suharno, the man involved in the tiger skin trade.

For the Animals Indonesia, the light sentence of Suharno was very disappointing because the defendant was clearly proven as indulging in trading skin and bones of Sumatran tiger, a species falling under protected animal category.

Therefore, every effort must be made to raise public awareness of wildlife protection after many large mammals such as Sumatran tigers are killed each year, their tusks hacked out, and their bodies are left to rot.

Public awareness must also be raised to curb illicit trade involving wild animals and their products which is currently the worlds fifth largest business with a turnover of US$19 billion each year.

Indonesia, according to ProFauna, is rich in biodiversity with more than 300 thousand wildlife species or 17 percent of those in the world.

Besides, the country also becomes the habitat of endemic wildlife, and most of them in Indonesia are found nowhere else around the world.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), there are 259 endemic mammals, 282 endemic birds, and 172 endemic amphibians.

Despite rich in biodiversity, Indonesia is also notorious as a country which has long list of the threatened wildlife, and the threatened wildlife in the country in 2011 included 184 mammals, 119 birds, 32 reptiles, 32 amphibians, and 140 fish.

There are 68 species which are critically endangered and 69 endangered species, and 517 vulnerable species. These wildlife will be eventually extinct if there is no action to save them from extinction.

In 2015 the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry handled 27 cases of protected wildlife-related crimes, mostly involving mammals.

Of the 27 cases, 14 cases involved mammals, two birds, two primates, four fishes, four reptiles, and one flora, according to the ministrys Director General for Law Enforcement, Rasio Ridho Sani.

Forest is the natural habitat for the wildlife but the main factor of threatened wildlife in Indonesia is deforestation, making the forest in the country is now less than 120 million hectares.

Forest conversion into palm oil plantation, industrial production forest, and mine becomes serious threat towards the survival of rare wildlife including orangutan, Sumatran tiger, and Sumatran elephant.

Trade in Endangered Tigers Increasing in Asia: Wildlife Watchdog
Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 30 Sep 16;

Jakarta. The wildlife trade monitoring network known as Traffic, and the World Wildlife Fund have published a new report on the illegal trade in tigers in Asia, which shows that at least 1,755 of the endangered animals were seized between 2000 and 2015, including 136 from Indonesia.

Most of the animals, or their body parts, came from captive breeding farms, which house between 7,000 and 8,000 tigers, according to Traffic's report released on Thursday (29/09).

The number is alarming as there is only an estimated 3,900 tigers left in the wild.

"Criminal networks are increasingly trafficking captive-bred tigers around Asia, undermining law enforcement efforts and helping to fuel demand. Tiger range countries must rapidly close their farms or wild tigers will face a future only as skin and bones," WWF senior vice president Ginette Hemley said.

There are more than 200 captive tiger facilities in Asia, namely in China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

The most commonly trafficked tiger product is the skins, followed by bones, which are used for medicinal or quasi-medicinal purposes. In Indonesia, tiger specimens are mainly used in taxidermy.

According to Traffic, stuffed Sumatran tigers are associated with luxury. Several hundred stuffed tigers, or their skins, have been registered among the possessions of wealthy Indonesians and the military elite.

Only 371 Sumatran tigers are left in the wild.

"The illegal trade in tigers, their body parts and products, persists as an important conservation concern. Despite repeated government commitments to close down tiger farms in Asia, such facilities are flourishing and playing an increasing role in fueling illegal trade," Traffic executive director Steven Broad said after the report was released.

The report recommends the establishment of intelligence-led law enforcement that can dismantle illegal trade networks; the revision of national legislation in tiger range countries; and improvements in reporting protocols for crimes related to the animals.

Environment and forestry officials confiscate sumatran tiger skin
Antara 30 Sep 16;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The officials of Environment and Forestry Ministry (KLHK) for Sumatran region apprehended two men in possession of a Sumatran tiger skin in Indragiri Hulu District, Riau Province.

"The apprehension and the confiscation of the Sumatran tiger skin is the result of development among the KLHK, Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)," local Security and Law Enforcement Center for Environment and Forests spokesman Edward Hutapea remarked here.

Edward noted that the Sumatran tiger skin was seized as evidence from the two apprehended man, known by their initials as (51) and JO (35).

After a two-week coordination effort between the KLHK, Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and reconnaissance in Jambi, the officials apprehended the duo for illegally possessing the Sumatran tiger skin, according to Edward.

WWF said there was still a substantial market in Asia for tiger parts and products.

Both actors are still being questioned as witnesses, but it is possible that their status will be upgraded as suspects if the investigators find any evidence of criminal activity.

The confiscated Sumatran tiger skin had a length of some two meters and was intact, with no defects from head to tail, indicating that the poachers were professionals.

Authorities Seize Sumatran Tiger Skin in Riau
Fazar Muhardi, Anggi Romadhoni & Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 30 Sep 16;

Jakarta. Officials of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry have confiscated a two-meter long Sumatran tiger skin in Indragiri Hulu district, Riau province.

"This was a collaboration between the ministry, World Wildlife Fund and the Natural Resources Conservation Agency [BKSDA] and has been developing over the past two weeks," the ministry's law enforcement and security center head Eduwar Hutapea said in Pekanbaru on Thursday (29/09).

Eduwar said that skin of the adult Sumatran tiger was seized from two alleged perpetrators, identified only by the initials A.H. and J.O., in Batang Gangsal district earlier on the same day.

The two are still considered witnesses and the police will name them suspects once the investigation links them with the crime.

During the arrest, police also confiscated a motorcycle and tiger bones.

The number of Sumatran tigers that have been poached in the region has set off alarm bells at the ministry and prompted officials to uncover more of these illegal acts, especially with the population of big cats declining rapidly due to deforestation.

Wildlife crime watchdog Traffic has stated that more than 1,700 tigers have fallen victim to the illegal wildlife trade over the past 15 years, with their skins being the most commonly trafficked item.

Two Riau residents arrested over alleged tiger skin trade attempt
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 1 Oct 16;

Environment and Forestry Ministry officers have arrested two residents of Batang Gansal village, Siberida district, Indragiri Hulu regency, Riau, for allegedly attempting to sell a Sumatran tiger skin, which is about two meters long.

Security and Law Enforcement Agency official at the ministry’s law enforcement directorate general Eduward said the wildlife trade case was discovered through information from a local resident, who reported that there would be a tiger skin selling transaction. An intelligence team investigated the report and managed to identify the two traders. The perpetrators, identified as Ayat, 51, and Niko, 38, were spied on for two weeks.

“In their operation, the team personnel disguised themselves as an interested buyer and contacted Ayat and Niko. They agreed to make a transaction in Simpang Granit, Batang Gangsal. Ayat and Niko were arrested in the raid, during which a Sumatran tiger skin was confiscated as evidence,” Eduward said on Friday.

Wrapped in a blue plastic bag, the tiger skin was still wet because it had been soaked in chemical liquid to prevent it from drying. All of the tiger’s bones had been removed, leaving only the soles of its feet and claws. It was suspected that the tiger was recently killed because it still looked fresh.

“The tiger’s skin is complete, from the head to the tail. The skin was removed from its body neatly. It seems that the procedure was executed by professionals,” said Eduward.

He said Ayat and Niko could be charged for violating Law No. 5/1990 on the conservation of natural resources and the ecosystem, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and Rp 100 million (US$7,682.56) in fines. (ebf)

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Indonesia: President tells Police to deal firmly with environmental destruction leading to flooding

Ayomi Amindon The Jakarta Post 1 Oct 16;

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has instructed the National Police to take firm action against perpetrators of environmental damage who he said were responsible for a flash flood in Garut, West Java, last week.

During his visit to Dr. Slamet General Hospital in Garut on Thursday, Jokowi emphasized the importance of law enforcement to prevent environmental damage.

"I have ordered the police to take action against all environmental destruction that results in floods, such as in Garut. [Action is needed] not only here, but throughout the country," Jokowi asserted.

Regarding damage upstream of the Cimanuk River, Environment and Forestry Ministry will conduct conservation efforts and spatial management, he added.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) recently said sand and clay quarrying upstream of the Cimanuk River had caused environment damage and led to the deadly flash flood in Garut.

Currently, the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) is still searching about 19 missing victims. The government will also build two temporary camps for victims who lost their houses during the disaster. (dmr)

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Indonesia: Over 4,000 Hectares of Forest Destroyed in Aceh in Five Months

ANTARA Jakarta Globe 30 Sep 16;

Jakarta. More than 4,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed in the Leuser Ecosystem Zone in Aceh province over a five-month period this year due to changes in land use, according to nongovernmental organization the Aceh Natural Forests and Environment, or HAkA.

Agung Dwinurcahya, manager for geographic information systems at HAkA, said the total forest cover was reduced from 1,820,726 hectares in January to 1,816,629 hectares in June.

The Leuser Ecosystem Zone stretches over 13 of the province's 23 districts, but most of the forest destruction took place in East Aceh, with up to 1,870 hectares.

In the districts of Gayo Lues and Central Aceh, 405 hectares were lost, while South Aceh saw a loss of 378 hectares.

Additionally, 187 forest fire hotspots were recorded in the province between January and June, with 56 in East Aceh alone. Hotspots were not monitored in North Aceh, West Aceh and Aceh Singkil.

"Hotspots are directly proportional to the loss of forest cover in Aceh. Take East Aceh for example. The district saw the largest number of hotspots. These are the main contributors to deforestation," Agung said on Thursday (29/09).

While the 927 hectares lost in East Aceh occurred mainly in production forests, most of the 184 hectares lost in Gayo Lues losts were in protected areas.

Agung added that the largest forest loss in a limited production forest occurred in Southwest Aceh, with 46 hectares. In South Aceh, most of the losses occurred in wildlife reserves, with up to 70 hectares, while national parks in Southeast Aceh lost 123 hectares.

According to environmental news website Mongabay, the Leuser Ecosystem also recorded 2,398 forest crimes during the period.

Nearly a quarter of the crimes, mainly involving poaching, illegal road construction, illegal logging and forest encroachment, occurred in Aceh Tamiang district.

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Vietnamese rally outside Taiwanese steel plant that spread toxic waste

Channel NewsAsia 2 Oct 16;

HANOI: Thousands of Vietnamese protested on Sunday at a steel plant run by a unit of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics to demand the unit leave the country and compensate more people after one of the country's biggest environmental disasters, witnesses said.

Protesters in Ha Tinh province vented their anger at Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, which has offered US$500 million in damages and admitted that its US$10.6 billion steel plant was responsible for massive fish deaths along a 200-km (124-mile) stretch of coastline in April.

The protest started early Sunday and finished around noon, with police in helmets and shields deployed to guard the compound. The police left as the number of protesters, estimated at about 10,000 people, outnumbered them, protestor Tran Viet Hoa said by phone.

Images posted by demonstrators on social media matched the description. There were no injuries or arrests reported.

Some demonstrators climbed a front gate reinforced from inside by fire trucks and other vehicles, but they were not able to get in, Hoa said. Others entered from a back gate and smashed some windows and cameras.

Formosa in Taiwan could not be reached for comment and an official responsible for external relations at its Ha Tinh unit said he was not aware of the situation and would respond later.

Police and the provincial authority, the Ha Tinh's People Committee, could not be reached for comments.

The Vietnamese government has offered favourable conditions to attract foreign investment, with companies such as Samsung Electronics and Intel key drivers of the economy and sources of jobs.

Formosa is one of its biggest investors and protests against the firm took place in Vietnam's biggest cities over several weekends since April. In some cases, police used excessive force to thwart them, rights groups say.

Another witness said people were angry because they encountered resistance from police while trying to peacefully assemble.

"People were irritated because they just want to meet Formosa directly and negotiate," said the witness, who declined to be named.

Demonstrators were demanding Formosa close the steel plant and give more compensation and do a better environmental cleanup. They wanted the government to stop an alternative plan of discharging the waste into a local river instead of into the sea for better monitoring, the witness said.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry in a statement said its representatives in Vietnam had contacted the steel plant, which police had shut down temporarily.

"The representative office has asked Vietnamese authorities to send more police to protect the plant, its employees, and the lives and property of all Taiwanese businessmen in Ha Tinh province," it said.

(Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom and Faith Hung in TAIPEI; Editing by Martin Petty and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

- Reuters

Thousands protest steel plant over Vietnam fish deaths
AFP Yahoo News 2 Oct 16;

Hanoi (AFP) - Thousands of Vietnamese protesters surrounded a Taiwanese steel plant Sunday, some scaling walls and holding signs demanding its closure, as anger flares against the firm for dumping toxic waste into the ocean killing tonnes of fish.

Huge crowds on motorbike and foot gathered at the Formosa plant in central Ha Tinh province, with some holding signs saying: "Authorities, please close Formosa plant for the future of the nation" as others chanted angrily.

Dead fish and other marine life began washing ashore in central Vietnam in April, the country's worst ecological disaster in decades that devastated livelihoods in coastal towns where fishing is the main source of income.

Taiwan's Formosa, which is building a multi-billion dollar steel plant in the area, was blamed for the disaster and fined $500 million.

The government said it would start paying affected fishermen in October and confirmed last week that payouts would range from $130 to $1,600 per person depending on losses calculated between April and September.

Sunday's demonstrators demanded additional compensation.

"The protestors, who were directly hit by the Formosa scandal, asked for compensation and required the plant to close," witness Hoang Sy Son told AFP.

Photos and video on social media showed protesters, led by a Catholic priest, surrounding the steel plant in Ky Anh township and chanting bible passages.

"A lot of security people and vehicles were deployed here, but no clashes were seen," Son added, speaking from the rally.

AFP could not reach authorities for comment Sunday.

The rallies came days after fishermen in the area filed more than 500 lawsuits demanding additional compensation from the government over the disaster.

Demonstrators have held rare protests in several cities across the authoritarian country after the mass fish deaths, with police breaking up some rallies and jailing scores.

Protesters blamed officials for dragging their feet on investigations into the scandal.

Formosa is no stranger to controversy in Vietnam. In 2014, three people were killed when anti-China riots took place at the same Ha Tinh steel plant, where a scaffolding collapse also killed 14 last year.

The conglomerate has paid millions of dollars in fines over environmental mishaps elsewhere.

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Australian storm disrupts supply of raw materials to Asia

Channel NewsAsia 30 Sep 16;

SYDNEY: The world's fourth biggest copper deposit Australia's Olympic Dam remained indefinitely idle on Friday and production at some of the country's major steelworks halted, after a massive power outage, disrupting supply lines of raw materials to Asia.

The power outage across South Australia state on Wednesday, caused by severe storms, has paralysed some of the world's largest sources of copper, uranium, lead and precious metals.

BHP Billiton said on Friday said it could not say when it would be able to restart its Olympic Dam mine, which is also the world's single biggest supplier of uranium.

"We just don't know at this stage," a spokesman said.

Prices on the London Metal Exchange have started to rise as commodities traders bet on Asian buyers scouring raw materials elsewhere.

Lead futures galloped to the highest price in 16 months after the world's biggest lead smelter, located in South Australia and a key supplier to Chinese battery manufacturers, went down due to power failure.

The owner of the smelter, which churns out 185,000 tonnes of lead annually for customers in Asia, Belgium-based Nyrstar, warned it could be two weeks before operations resume.

"You can't remove this much metal from the market for that amount of time and not expect people to scramble around for new supplies," said a metals traders in Sydney, who has been buying lead futures since the storm hit on Wednesday.

South Australia's Whyalla steelworks, which competes directly with Chinese producers of steel reinforcing bar and long products, has seen production halt after molten metal started cooling and solidifying in its blast furnace.

Production of 3,500 tonnes of steel a day and nearby mining of iron ore to feed the mill have stopped and it could be up to a week before power is restored, the mill's financial administrator, Mark Mentha, said.

While most of South Australia's ports reopened on Friday and ground transport was returning to normal, there may be little to put on ships.

"This storm is unlike anything we'd seen before and it's hard to say when things will get back to normal," a spokesman for the ports said.

Nigel Long, acting chief executive of the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy warned the state risks an exodus of investment in raw materials.

"If the security of electricity cannot be guaranteed, then the resources industry is likely to look elsewhere," Long said.

Australia over the past two decades shifted its economic reliance from Europe and the United States to the emerging Asian powerhouses, which have come to regard the country as "Asia's quarry."

Countries including France, China, India and Japan rely on uranium from Australia to power nuclear generators, the majority of which is mined in South Australia.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Michael Perry)

- Reuters

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