Best of our wild blogs: 9 Nov 16

One Day to The Singapore Eco Film Festival (#SGEFF)
Green Drinks Singapore

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Indonesia: Pangolins thrown a lifeline to save them from extinction

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 8 Nov 16;

Pangolins, the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal, have been given a lifeline after the implementation of a ban on trading them internationally.

Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters due to their appearance, long tongues and diet of ants and termites, are one of the planet’s most unique species, so much so that they have a mammal order to themselves, Pholidota.

The species even inspired a popular Pokemon character, Sandslash.

The animal’s uniqueness unfortunately has prompted humans to hunt them. More than a million wild pangolins have been killed in the last decade to feed the rising appetite in China and Vietnam for its meat and scales, used in traditional medicine and to make fashion items, such as shoes.

Pangolins also suffer from their relative obscurity compared to more well-known endangered species, like orangutans and polar bears.

“The trade of pangolins is so rampant now that it threatens the pangolin population,” WWF Indonesia conservation director Arnold Sitompul said.

Many pangolins being trafficked are from Indonesia, the home to one of eight species of pangolins, called Sunda Pangolin.

In July 2015, Indonesian officials in Surabaya, East Java, seized 1.3 tons of frozen pangolin bound for Singapore.

Animal rights activists have also found that pangolin trade has moved online.

“Based on our data, there were 106 online postings for pangolin sales on social media from January to October in Indonesia this year,” Arnold said.

One pangolin could sell for up to Rp 2 million (US$152) and the value of pangolins being illegally traded this year reached Rp 2 billion.

Increased consumption of pangolins has driven the species to scarcity in Asia, with four Asian species of pangolin, Indian, Philippine, Sunda and Chinese, having been decimated by illegal poaching.

Conservation efforts have been unfruitful as the animals breed slowly and are easy to catch as they simply roll up when threatened.

In September, 182 countries of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) unanimously agreed to impose a ban on international trade for all pangolin species at a global wildlife summit in Johannesburg in September.

Pangolins’ status was also upgraded from CITES appendix II to appendix I, the strictest protection possible.

Initially, Indonesia was the first country to oppose the ban, saying that it would actually harm the country’s attempt to save pangolins from extinction.

“Indonesia thinks upgrading pangolins to appendix I could discourage the public’s participation in breeding the species,” the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s spokesman, Novrizal Tahar, said.

Furthermore, an upgrading of status to appendix I would not be effective without an improvement in regulations and law enforcement in source countries, transit countries and consumer countries, he said.

The Indonesian government has made efforts to conserve pangolins by breeding the animal in a conservation area in Probolinggo, East Java, which so far has succeeded in spawning eight pangolins.

The government initially hoped the pangolins from the conservation area could be legally traded to other countries, but the recent ban will not permit that.

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Indonesia: Sulawesi Waters Face Threats, Conservation is Urgent

Tempo 8 Nov 16;

TEMPO.CO, Kendari - A large number of coral reef ecosystems in Southeast Sulawesi have suffered heavy damages. The condition is evident in the region's low levels of hard coral coverage and high rubble and elevated sedimentation rate. Damages are mainly caused by increasing nickel mining activities in the region.

Another threat surfacing in the region is the blooming of the Crown of Thorns (Acanthaster planci), a species of thorny starfish, which growth rate reaches up to 30 species based on data sample of a biophysical study conducted in Southeast Sulawesi on October 14 to October 25, 2016.

In addition, the prevalent use of bombs also pose severe threats to the coral ecosystem in the region. Even worse, the expedition team discovered that in coastal villages, some people continues to turn to coral as foundation of their house.

Despite all of the threats, the Southeast Sulawesi coastal ecosystem is expected to fully recover. In several locations, the expedition team noted a significant growth of new corals (small, hard corals), high levels of hard corals coverage, schools of unicorn fish and yellowtail baracuda, and a wide range of protected species, such as hawksbill turtles, green sea turtles, leatherback turtles, whales, whale sharks, dolphins, and manta ray.

"To optimize the marine conservation area network plan in Southeast Sulawesi, a biophysical study has been done to evaluate the correlation between areas. The study has resulted in a recommendation for the establishment of three groups of marine conservation areas in the province, in which the Lasolo Bay Marine Park (TWAL) and Southeast Sulawesi Marine Protected Area (MPA) belong to one of the groups," said Anung Wijaya, Conservation and Rehabilitation staffer of the Southeast Sulawesi Marine and Fishery Department, also a member of the expedition team.

Imam Mustofa, Sunda Banda Seascape and Fisheries Leader of WWF-Indonesia, said that "the expedition is one of WFF-Indonesia’s efforts to support the establishment of Southeast Sulawesi MPA. The commitment must be followed through by carrying out more intensive, strategic conservation efforts to transform the area into an MPA, to preserve marine ecosystem, and to boost sustainable social-economic benefits to society."


Explosives, Sedimentation Damage Southeast Sulawesi's Underwater Ecosystems
Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 9 Nov 16;

Jakarta. Southeast Sulawesi, as part of the Coral Triangle, is home to Indonesia's most unique marine biodiversity, but major degradation of its coral reefs has taken its toll.

According to the Economic and Natural Resources Secretariat, Southeast Sulawesi has potential catches of up to 542,000 tons of fish annually. To unlock this opportunity, the province has been trying to figure out what has gone wrong in its waters.

During the 12-day Southeast Sulawesi Expedition, the World Wide Fund for Nature Indonesia found that the waters in the region are under threat due to an overpopulation of Crown of Thorns starfish, which prey on corals, damaging the ecosystem.

On top of that, the organization also found that the rampant use of explosives to stun fish has caused coral reefs to degrade, with sedimentation from nickel mining also considered to have caused further damage.

However, the expedition did not only bring bad news but also came up with possible solutions for the recovery of ecosystems in Southeast Sulawesi's waters.

"We have optimized a plan for a network of marine conservation areas in Southeast Sulawesi, implemented through a biophysical environment study to assess the link between the areas," Anung Wijaya, conservation and rehabilitation officer at the Southeast Sulawesi Marine and Fisheries Agency, said in a statement on Tuesday (08/11).

He added that study results recommended three groups of marine conservation area networks in the province. This include the Tesuk Lasolo Marine Park and Southeast Sulawesi Marine Conservation Area.

"Currently, the status of the Southeast Sulawesi Marine Conservation Area is at the preparation stage for a management plan and zoning area. Hopefully, a decision by the Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs will be concluded soon," Anung said.

Coral recruitment, or the process of tiny coral larvae attaching and establishing themselves in reef communities, was also found to be prevalent in the coastal ecosystems, proving that there are signs of recovery on the reefs.

However, WWF Indonesia believes the good news can only become better if conservation efforts intensify.

"The commitment of changing the status [of the Southeast Sulawesi Marine Conservation Area] requires intensive and strategic conservation efforts, for the sake of preserving marine ecosystems, and an increase in social benefits as well as a sustainable economy for the community," said Imam Mustafa, WWF Indonesia leader for the Sunda Banda Seascape and Fisheries.

WWF: Sulawesi Coral Reefs Under Serious Threat
TEMPO 14 Nov 16;

TEMPO.CO, Kendari - A large number of coral reefs' ecosystem in the waters of Southeast Sulawesi is in a bad condition. Based on the Southeast Sulawesi Expedition report conducted by the WWF-Indonesia, the damages are shown from its low level of hard coral layers and the high amount of the coral rubble and its sedimentation level.

“Southeast Sulawesi waters is under serious threats caused by the increased nickel mining activities in the province,” said Estradivari, WWF-Indonesia Marine Conservation Coordinator, on Sunday, November 13, 2016.

There are other factors threatening the livelihood of the coral reefs, such as the blooming of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) that reached 30 activities per location based on the October 14-25 data. The use of explosives that reached seven explosions in one location is also the problem. “Meanwhile, (our) team can still observe the uses of coral reefs as building foundations in a number of coastal villages,” Estra said.

Conservation and Rehabilitation Staff of the Marine and Fishery Agency, Southeast Sulawesi Province, AnungWijaya said that the agency has conducted a biophysical study in observing the inter-regions relation in order to optimize the network of conservation areas in Southeast Sulawesi waters.

The result of this study suggests the establishment of three groups of marine protected area networks in the province. “Lasolo Bay Marine Nature Park (TWAL) and the Southeast Sulawesi Province Regional Aquatic Conservation Area (KKPD) are a part of the groups,” Aanung said.


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Indonesia: Leuser Still Exploited by Palm Oil Companies Despite Moratorium - NGO

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 9 Nov 16;

Jakarta. The Rainforest Action Network, a California-based environmental group, has released a report showing that palm oil companies operating in the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh are still clearing forests despite a national moratorium.

The report titled "Protecting the Leuser Ecosystem," which was released on Sunday (06/11), states that Landsat satellite imagery showed palm oil concessionaires clearing 294 hectares of forest between July and September.

"While in July 2016, 38 hectares of forest were lost in Leuser concessions, this increased to 58 hectares in August 2016. September 2016 satellite analysis showed more than a threefold increase over the previous month, with a loss of 199 hectares of forest," the report says.

According to the report, 7,187 hectares of forest and peatland were destroyed in Aceh province between January and September.

After the moratorium was announced in April, a circular letter was distributed by the Aceh governor in June, proving that palm oil companies are still disregarding the order to halt forest clearance.

RAN identified the six biggest culprits as Tegas Nusantara, Surya Panen Subur II, Agra Bumi Niaga, Tualang Raya, Aloer Timur, Dua Perkasa Lestari and Putra Kumia.

Forest degradation has been evident in several regions that are essential not only for Sumatra's endemic wildlife, but also the livelihoods of people in the area.

"It's hard to adequately express the importance of the Leuser Ecosystem, both to the millions of Acehnese people who depend on it for their livelihoods and clean water, but also for the entire world, as it regulates our climate and provides a home to the last wild populations of Sumatran elephants, orangutans, tigers and rhinos still coexisting in the wild," RAN forest campaigner Chelsea Matthews said in a statement on Monday.

Regions include the south, which was dubbed as the Sumatran orangutan capital of the world by expert Ian Singleton, and the northeast, which is a key migratory corridor for Sumatran elephants for water supply and food.

"The lowland rainforests of northeast Leuser are also of considerable value to the communities living in the surrounding areas. These forests provide and regulate the flow of clean water, supplying homes, agriculture and fisheries along the coastline of northern Aceh – fish being the top source of protein for local people," RAN said.

Despite this, RAN believes the moratorium has had a positive effect on the region, but that urgent and stern action is needed to avoid repeating the 2015 haze crisis and to conserve the critically threatened Leuser Ecosystem.

"Halting the destruction of forests and peatlands – and stopping the forest fires, often intentionally set to aid the expansion of industrial palm oil development – will reduce Indonesia's carbon footprint, the severity of the annual haze crisis and secure the lives and livelihoods of countless communities," Matthews said.

As palm oil is in high demand in the food industry, RAN warned major global players such as PepsiCo, Kraft Heinz, Nissin Foods, Toyo Suisan and Tyson Foods and Snack Food 20 that they are at a high risk of sourcing palm oil that was grown at the expense of the Leuser Ecosystem.

RAN also noted that three palm oil giants, Wilmar, Musim Mas and Golden Agri Resources, play a vital role in combating this issue as their suppliers are in the region, especially by pushing for sustainable palm oil practices, including traceability.

"These companies control over 50 percent of the global market and have the ability to make huge impacts in their supply chains," the report said.

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Indonesia: Finless porpoise habitat found

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 8 Nov 16;

The finless porpoise has been confirmed to inhabit Kubu Raya regency waters in West Kalimantan, according to DNA tests published on Monday in Pontianak.

The tests were jointly conducted by the Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA), the West Kalimantan chapter of Word Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, and the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) of Bali-based Udayana University.

It was not previously known that finless porpoises existed in the area.

The mammal was initially trapped in a fisherman’s trawl in Padang Tikar district in April. The WWF only had samples from the head, fin and tail of the animal because it had been cut into pieces.

The samples were sent to Udayana University to identify the species.

WWF Indonesia’s West Kalimantan program manager Albertus Tjiu said the finding was important given minimum data about this particular animal in the world.

In addition, the existence of finless porpoises is considered important for the ecosystem because its presence serves as an indicator of the health of the water, the mangrove condition and the abundance of fish in the area, he added.

There are 88 types of sea mammals or cetaceans recorded, 34 of which exist in Indonesia. Three of them can be found in West Kalimantan waters in Kubu Raya regency. Finless porpoises, according to Albertus, are categorized as the smallest cetacean, measuring fewer than two meters in length.

Finless porpoises, he said, are different from other cetaceans. They are shy and not acrobatic, so they can only be seen on the surface of the water when breathing.

“Other porpoises are interactive and like to jump high, so they are often seen,” said Albertus, adding that no natural documentation on finless porpoises was yet available.

Last month, a whale was found stranded in Padang Tikar district waters, proof that the area was an important habitat for sea mammals. This was supported by the survey conducted by the WWF in 2011.

“The finding of a finless porpoise in Kubu Raya gives additional information about the presence and spread of the species in Indonesia,” Albertus said.

Head of West Kalimantan BKSDA Sustyo Iriono said the findings showed Kubu Raya has a high diversity of sea mammal species.

“This species is different from the one found in Mahakam waters in East Kalimantan,” said Sustyo, adding that the species was vulnerable to extinction, and its existence was very important to the ecosystem.

He said raising awareness among fishermen about the importance of preserving the animal is a challenge. Such a mammal was vulnerable to being trapped in trawls although the fisherfolk were not trying to catch the finless porpoises, he added.

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Five hottest years on record have occurred since 2011 - World Meteorological Organisation

Matt McGrath BBC 8 Nov 16;

New data released by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) shows that the five years from 2011 to 2015 were the warmest on record.

The report, published at global climate talks in Morocco, strongly links human activities to rising temperatures.
It says that some studies found the the burning of fossil fuels had increased the probability of extreme heat by 10 times or more.

The authors say that 2016 will likely break the record for warmest year.

African exception

In their report on the global climate 2011-2015, the WMO says that the world's temperature was 0.57C above the long term average, which they define as being between 1961 and 1990. The five year period was the warmest for all continents except Africa.

Throughout these years, temperatures over most of Europe were more than one degree Celsius above the long term trend.

This was also the case in the Asian part of the Russian Federation, over much of the Sahara and Arabian regions, parts of South Africa, southwest US and the interior of Brazil. The mercury even reached three degrees above the average on the Arctic coast of Russia.

The report suggests the burning of fossil fuels increased the probability of extreme heat events by a factor of 10
"The Paris Agreement aims at limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts towards 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels," said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas.

"This report confirms that the average temperature in 2015 had already reached the 1 degree C mark. We just had the hottest five-year period on record, with 2015 claiming the title of hottest individual year. Even that record is likely to be beaten in 2016."

The rise in temperatures is linked directly to the increase in greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. In 2015 the WMO says the annual mean concentrations of CO2 were at the symbolically important level of 400 parts per million (ppm), having grown by between 1.9ppm and 2.99ppm between 2011 and 2015.

The new report highlighted the human fingerprint in these emissions and the link to extreme weather events by looking at academic literature in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS).

"Of 79 such studies published by BAMS between 2011 and 2014, more than half found that anthropogenic climate change contributed to the extreme event under consideration," the new report says.

The review says that the most consistent influence of the use of fossil fuels on the climate has been on the probability of extreme heat. Some studies showed that the probability has increased by ten times or more. Among the heat events that the report highlights include the record high seasonal and annual temperatures in the US in 2012 and in Australia in 2013.

Other significant events that the WMO believes are linked to warmer temperatures include the East African drought in 201-2011 which caused an estimated 258,000 excess deaths. They also point to heat waves in India and Pakistan in 2015 that claimed more than 4,100 lives.

"The effects of climate change have been consistently visible on the global scale since the 1980s: rising global temperature, both over land and in the ocean; sea-level rise; and the widespread melting of ice," said the WMO's Petteri Taalas.

"It has increased the risks of extreme events such as heatwaves, drought, record rainfall and damaging floods," he said.

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