Best of our wild blogs: 16 Nov 16

Singapore Bird Report-October 2016
Singapore Bird Group

Garden Stories: Natural Farmer & Permaculturist Mr Tang Hung Bun
The Tender Gardener

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Motorcyclist in ICU after wild boar collision

Zhaki Abdullah, Straits Times AsiaOne 15 Nov 16;

It was reported that the motorcyclist, who was not identified, lost control of his vehicle when he tried but failed to avoid hitting a wild boar on the BKE. He is now in intensive care at National University Hospital.

A 25-year-old motorcyclist was hospitalised after a collision with a wild boar on the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) on Sunday night.

The accident happened at about 7pm on the BKE heading towards the Pan Island Expressway, past the Dairy Farm Road exit.

The boar was killed in the collision.

Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News reported that the motorcyclist, who was not identified, lost control of his vehicle when he tried but failed to avoid hitting the animal. He then skidded and landed in the right-most lane of the expressway, and was subsequently admitted to the intensive care unit at National University Hospital.

He was still unconscious yesterday morning. His head and left hand were in bandages.

A 48-year-old cabby, who wanted to be known only as Mr Zhang, said the boar was about 1m long and appeared to have run out from a forested area onto the BKE.

In April, a 49-year-old logistics worker fractured his right shoulder after he, too, ran into and killed a wild boar with his motorbike on the Seletar Expressway.

In May, a boy was hospitalised after he was injured by a wild boar near Edgefield Plains in Punggol.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority received 58 reports of wild boar sightings between January and July this year.

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Singapore PM praises Indonesia`s handling of haze problem

Antara 15 Nov 16;

Semarang, C Java (ANTARA News) - Singapores Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong praised and thanked Indonesia for the handling this year of smoke from forest fires.

He conveyed the appreciation during a bilateral meeting with President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) here on Monday.

"Just now we also talked about smoke. PM Lee thanked because the handling of the problem this year has been considered better organized and law enforcement has also been carried out more firmly," President Jokowi said

He said the two countries had discussed the issue intensely which was caused by forest fires.

The two leaders at the meeting also discussed terrorism.

"We exchanged information about issues related to terrorism. I think we will keep doing it," he said.

On the occasion PM Lee also thanked Indonesia for having aborted a terrorists plan to launch a rocket to Singapore.

The meeting was also highlighted by batik diplomacy where President Jokowi and First Lady Iriana invited PM Lee and wife Ho Ching to see the process of batik making.

PM Lee and wife even took an opportunity to try painting batik.

"Mme Ho Ching has a lot of batik collections. She likes batik and so she was very happy to be given an opportunity to try painting batik," President Jokowi said.(*)

Singapore, Indonesia move to boost trade ties
SIAU MING EN Today Online 15 Nov 16;

SEMARANG — Singapore is looking to enhance cooperation with Indonesia through investments beyond traditional destinations, increasing tourist traffic and by setting up a business council involving both countries.

This was announced on Monday (Nov 14) by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, following an inaugural retreat held in Semarang between the two leaders. The meeting came after Mr Widodo’s state visit to Singapore in July last year.

Speaking at a joint press conference after the retreat, Mr Lee said: “I told the President we are keen on strengthening our economic cooperation with Indonesia and we would like Indonesia to succeed.”

Last year, Singapore invested US$5.9 billion (S$8.3 billion) in Indonesia, making it the latter’s largest source of foreign investment. Investments have grown further this year, with Singapore investing US$7.1 billion in Indonesia within the first nine months.

Mr Lee noted that Singapore companies are investing in other regions of Indonesia, apart from the traditional destinations of Jakarta and Batam-Bintan-Karimun (BBK). Citing the Kendal Industrial Park — Singapore’s first industrial park outside BBK — in Semarang as an example, he noted that this “significant project” would create up to 4,000 jobs. “So it’s a win-win outcome for Singapore and for Indonesia,” Mr Lee said.

During the retreat, both leaders also reviewed the progress of other areas of cooperation, including tourism.

Mr Lee and Mr Widodo witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Singapore Tourism Board and the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism to, among other things, develop the cruise industry and build capacity in the sector. Several other MOUs were also signed on the sidelines of the retreat, including an agreement to develop smart city solutions for Makassar City in Indonesia.

During the press conference, Mr Widodo said he had a productive meeting with Mr Lee and the Singapore delegation, where they discussed economic collaboration as well as the terrorism threat and the South China Sea issue. He agreed that both countries should continue their economic cooperation, and welcomed the signing of the new bilateral agreement on tourism.

Speaking to the Singapore media to wrap up his visit to Indonesia, Mr Lee said that while there are issues for the two countries to deal with — such as terrorism and the transboundary haze problem — there is a “willingness and desire on both sides to take the relationship forward”.

Mr Lee said of bilateral relations: “The cooperation is good, it’s progressing, we work together ... the economic relations are very intense, the investments are continuing from Singapore into Indonesia and growing, and we are looking at new areas of cooperation as well, including tourism (and) the digital, IT field.”

Mr Lee said the setting up of the business council — which could be co-chaired by the Singapore Economic Development Board and Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board — was timely. Noting the private sector’s involvement in economic projects between the two countries, he added: “The best way to do that is for our business people to get together and meet one another regularly, and a business council, I think, is well justified because we have this format with quite a number of our other partners but we have not had one with Indonesia yet.”

On the haze problem, Mr Lee noted that this was high on Mr Widodo’s agenda. During their meeting, Mr Lee thanked Mr Widodo for his actions in tackling the haze issue in Indonesia, which “has made a difference this year”. Mr Lee also offered Singapore’s help to deal with the problem, which he noted affects all South-east Asian countries.

Turning to terrorism, Mr Lee said Singapore and Indonesia have been cooperating together, “mostly quietly”.

“It is an issue of concern to us and to them,” he said. Singapore has encouraged Indonesia to take the lead on the sharing of intelligence and best practices among Asean members in terms of “not just fighting the terrorist but also dealing with this at the ideological level because there are groups within Indonesia which are quite radical but ... are not proscribed yet”. During the meeting, Mr Lee said he thanked Mr Widodo for Indonesia’s role in arresting the terror suspects in Batam who planned to attack Singapore in August.

Next year, Singapore and Indonesia will celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations. Following yesterday’s meeting, Mr Lee and Mr Widodo announced that both countries will hold “commemorative events to showcase the breadth and depth of the close and warm bilateral ties”, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release. Singapore will also host the next Leaders’ Retreat.

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Veganism gaining ground in Singapore

Online vegan store sees growing demand; more eateries now offering meatless options
EVELINE GAN Today Online 16 Nov 16;

Singapore — Having abstained from meat and eggs over the last eight years, engineer Varun Kumar ought to have found it easy to drop cow’s milk from his diet when he decided to turn vegan this year.

But the transition was a struggle for the 31-year-old, who used to mix ghee into his food and drink at least a glass of milk daily. Lacto-vegetarians omit meat and eggs from their diets but consume dairy products, while vegans abstain from all animal products.

For Mr Varun, whose family members are Hindus, the psychosocial barriers of omitting milk from his diet proved to be more challenging than giving up familiar foods.

“A variety of Indian dishes and desserts are prepared using ghee, butter or milk, and that meant that my family has to prepare my meals separately. They also cannot understand why I want to drop milk from my diet because cows are sacred to Hindus and cow’s milk is considered beneficial for health,” he said.

Mr Varun turned to a local support network called PlantForward by local non-profit group Animal Allies, an outreach project of the Vegetarian Society Singapore (VSS) that provides support to help people go vegan.

Since its launch in March this year, 131 people have joined the support group’s WhatsApp chat or Facebook group, where experienced vegan volunteers are on hand to provide informal support.

There, Mr Varun found the emotional support and nutrition-related information he needed to ease his transition to a vegan diet.

“Psychologically, it can be very difficult to make the switch when everyone else around you isn’t doing the same thing. But meeting like-minded people from the support group has helped me a lot,” said Mr Varun, who decided to go vegan after watching a documentary on the dairy industry.

The majority of PlantForward’s members are millennials and teens who have questions on how to eat healthily and affordably, satisfy their cravings for comfort foods and dine with meat-eating family and friends while making the transition, said Mr Michael Broadhead, volunteer coordinator at Animal Allies and executive committee member of VSS.

People who require additional support are referred to a mentorship programme by Vegan Outreach, a United States-based non-profit organisation which connects them to a volunteer vegan mentor in Singapore, he said.

“There are barriers to a vegan lifestyle in today’s culture, so we try to support people to reach their goals. When going vegan, the most challenging aspect is dealing with family and friends who are unsupportive. Globally, research has shown that having available resources and support helps people who are trying to reduce meat consumption to overcome these barriers,” said Mr Broadhead.


Veganism is gaining ground in Singapore. Local vegan Jaslyn Goh, founder of online vegan mart Souley Green, said the number of orders she gets per month has increased about threefold, from five to six orders per month when the online store first launched in May this year.

Mainstream restaurants and eateries including McDonald’s and the Soup Spoon have also jumped on the green bandwagon by including meatless options in their menus.

There are currently over 500 restaurants offering vegan and vegetarian dining options in Singapore, according to the HappyCow app, which lists vegan and vegetarian restaurants and health food stores around the world.

While some people give up animal products for moral or environmental reasons, many do so to adopt a healthier lifestyle, said VSS president George Jacobs.

“Slowly but surely, the myth that you need meat to be healthy and strong is disappearing. Increasingly, scientific evidence shows that there are health advantages to a plant-based diet, such as a lower risk of heart disease and cancer,” said Dr Jacobs, who switched from a vegetarian to vegan diet 10 years ago.

Ms Jaslyn Goh adopted a vegan diet initially to manage severe acne. She said a vegan diet has helped calm the painful breakouts, and she feels less lethargic now than when she was consuming meat, dairy and eggs.

According to Ms Lynette Goh, senior dietitian at National Healthcare Group Polyclinics’ Clinical Services, vegans tend to have a lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol from cutting out meat, which may lower their risk of heart disease.

A plant-based diet may also reduce cancer risk due to its higher intake of nutrient-dense foods such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fibre.

But whether any particular diet is healthier than another is subjective, she said.

“A vegan diet can be healthy if the person meets all nutritional requirements and follows the general guidelines of a healthy eating pattern. On the other hand, it may not be as healthy if the diet is high in saturated fat or refined sugars. Some vegans fall into the trap of loading up on unhealthy food to fill their stomachs when they don’t get adequate essential nutrients such as protein to fill them up,” said Ms Lynette Goh.

The VSS and Animal Allies advocate a “wholefood, plant-based” diet, which focuses on nutrient-dense foods and minimises highly refined and processed foods. For example, eat baked potatoes but not potato chips, said Dr Jacobs.


While a vegan diet is suitable for people of all ages, including children, it has to be planned well to meet each individual’s nutritional needs, said Ms Lynette Goh. She advised seeking professional help from a dietitian before embarking on a vegan diet.

High quality plant-based protein from soy, nuts and legumes can substitute meat protein when taken in the right amounts, she said. The Health Promotion Board recommends taking two to three servings of meat or its alternatives (tofu, pulses, lentils and the like) per day.

But while plant protein can replace meat protein, it cannot truly be a substitute for all nutrients as certain nutrients like vitamin B12 and D have no plant-based equivalent.

“Pure vegans who do not include milk products and eggs are at a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies and should ensure that they find other sources of nutrients to replace those usually found in animal foods. If the diet is not carefully planned, one may miss out on some essential nutrients such as vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and calcium,” said Ms Lynette Goh.

She added that a vegan diet may not suit certain groups of people such as the underweight or malnourished, as well as those with medical conditions such as cancer or who are recovering from illness.

Diet need not be an all-or-nothing choice, if the focus is on health, said the experts.

“There is no real need to cut out all meat products from one’s diet,” said Ms Goh.

A healthier lifestyle also involves more than dietary changes, added Dr Michael Wong, director of the Health for Life clinic at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and a family physician at the hospital’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.

“People with chronic disease should also look at other aspects of their lifestyle. Lifestyle changes such as being more active and less sedentary, not smoking, not drinking excessively and watching out for one’s weight and waistline will also help to improve their health status,” said Dr Wong.

She changed diet for her skin

EVELINE GAN Today Online 16 Nov 16;

When Ms Jaslyn Goh embarked on a vegan diet to improve her skin condition last year, it took her about a month to cut salmon and eggs from her meals. The transition, said the 21-year-old online business owner, was difficult as they were her comfort foods.

But she controlled her cravings, believing that diet change would improve her cystic acne condition that dotted her entire face with inflamed, pus-filled pimples.

Her skin has since cleared up, although some scarring remains. These days, her taste buds have also changed and lean towards vegetables and fruits that she used to dislike, such as eggplant, capsicums and avocados.

“Now when I dine out with my family at a Japanese restaurant, they can dangle a piece of salmon in front of me and I won’t even crave it,” she said. Apart from her dietary preferences, turning vegan has also changed her perspective on life. Instead of focusing on the paper chase like most of her peers, the polytechnic graduate plunged all her savings of “several thousand dollars” into starting Souley Green in May this year.

The online store focuses on vegan, eco-friendly food and lifestyle products, most of which are sourced from local companies. “Diet is just one aspect of veganism. It has made me think twice about how I want to live my life, which was why I decided to start a plant-based, cruelty-free marketplace. I feel a lot happier and lighter now than when I was eating meat,” she said. EVELINE GAN

From ‘carnivore’ to vegan overnight
EVELINE GAN Today Online 16 Nov 16;

Until six years ago, 33-year-old teacher Michael Broadhead was a committed “carnivore” who had grown up eating meat, dairy and eggs every day.

“I used to hate vegetables and even made fun of my best friend who was on a vegetarian diet. How the tables have turned,” said the volunteer coordinator at Animal Allies, who turned vegan in 2010.

The turning point came when he was exposed to a vegan diet while volunteering at a reforestation camp in southern India.

At the same time, he watched a documentary on how dolphins are caught and slaughtered. Moved by the chilling images, Mr Broadhead began to rethink his dietary choices. He went from heavy meat-eater to vegan overnight, cutting meat, fish, dairy and eggs from his diet.

“When you see the conditions most of these animals live in, it really wakens your compassion. I realised I had a choice to live a life that reduces harm as much as possible,” he said. His drastic change shocked his family and friends. “Back then, veganism was a foreign concept to them. But they were inspired when they realised that I was getting healthier; my eczema and asthma symptoms improved,” he said.

Mr Broadhead acknowledged that the drastic changes are not easy for most people. “A vegan lifestyle is a process, so everyone needs to find a reason that motivates them to move step by step. Give yourself flexibility when you need it. It’s not an all-or-nothing choice.” EVELINE GAN

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Malaysia: Supermoon's tidal effect to last for a week, Terengganu braces for floods

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 15 Nov 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Swimmers, picnickers, tourists and beach combers have been warned to avoid activities in or near coastal areas and rivers as the high tide phenomenon is expected to persist for the next week following Monday’s supermoon effect.

The advisory was issued by the State Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID), as forecasts predict tide levels of up to 3.5 metres high, especially in the flood-prone Kemaman district.

The supermoon effect is expected to be compounded by the northeast monsoon impact this year, with a notably higher and prolonged tidal level.

So far, two people have died in the current monsoon season after the boat they were in capsized in Sungai Chegar Batang in Besut.

State DID director C. Poobalan said all islands off Terengganu have been off-limits to tourism activities since early this month, following the start of the northeast monsoon.

He said this did not mean that rivers and coastal areas are safer. "Do not underestimate the waves at coastal areas, especially the undercurrent which will pull you into the water any time. What I mean is to stop from all swimming activity.

"Even collecting shellfish near riverbanks or estuaries is not safe due to swift river currents.

Refrain from all water-related activities – at least from this month until February, or when the monsoon is over," he said in an interview.

The latest tidal-level data shows that Kemaman will see a tidal level of between 3.2m to 3.5m, from 9.15pm to 1.30am daily this week.

In Kuala Terengganu, the tidal level will range from 2.6m to 2.7m, from 10.45pm to 2am daily for the next one week starting today.

Meanwhile, the supermoon effect saw different reactions from the public yesterday, with some treating the event like a carnival as they waited near estuaries to see the biggest moon in their lifetime – as well as the anticipated high tides.

But Rokiah Ali, 73, from Kampung Mengabang Tengah in Kuala Nerus, whose house is just five metres away from the sea, said she was in no mood to enjoy the supermoon.

"I have already shifted my belongings, especially electrical appliances and gas stove and tank, to higher ground.

The past floods still haunt me, as I incurred huge losses," she said.

Weather forecast puts a damper on Terengganu folk’s joy
The Star 16 Nov 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Many in Terengganu were relieved that Monday’s supermoon did not cause tidal waves, floods or significant rise in sea levels here. However, their joy may be short-lived.

Three more instances of high tides along with heavy rains are expected from mid-December.

The forecast during the period includes daily thunderstorms that may cause rivers to swell, said Terengganu Civil Defence Depart­ment director Lt Kol Che Adam A. Rahman.

“Floods are expected if there is continuous rainfall of more than 100mm a day,” he said.

However, the showers were not expected to be as heavy as those in 2014, which caused massive floods and mass evacuations, he added.

The state’s disaster management committee had spent the last month preparing for the floods.

Rescue drills involving all relevant agencies included flood evacuation operations.

The Department of Irrigation and Drainage would monitor water levels at 38 stations and instal early warning sirens at 23 locations, said Che Adam.

Web cameras to monitor floods at eight locations, he added, had been installed in five districts.

Che Adam also assured the public that the department and other agencies were prepared with adequate assets and personnel.

237 Klang residents evacuated over flood concerns
The Star 16 Nov 16;

PORT KLANG: Fear of floods during the extra high tide due to the recent supermoon has forced 237 people into two evacuation centres here.

Klang Fire and Rescue Depart­ment headquarters zone chief Amerhaizal Sahak said the 68 families from Kampung Tok Muda and Mile 5 Jalan Kapar volunteered to leave their homes over worries of flood bunds giving way.

Water levels in Kampung Tok Muda rose to 5.5m but not above the bunds, he said.

Firemen had earlier reinforced the bunds with sandbags near a fishing jetty to prevent flooding.

Some river water did flow over bunds near the Mile 5 Jalan Kapar stretch, Amerhaizal added, but not enough to cause flooding.

Selangor Health, Welfare, Women and Family Affairs exco committee chairman Dr Daroyah Alwi said meals and health checks would be provided to the families being housed in two multipurpose halls in the north Klang district.

Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM) chairman Datuk Seri Dr Irmohizam Ibrahim assured the public of ample stocks of fish despite fishermen not being able to go out to sea.

The National Fishermen’s Assoc­iation had been asked to release frozen stocks to meet consumer demands throughout the country, he said.

“In doing so, we will be able to ensure that prices of fish are stable and the supply is adequate.”

Frozen stock are fish caught and kept in cold storage to ensure food security.

Dr Irmohizam added that LKIM had advised fishermen not to go to sea until Nov 18, when the extra high tide phenomenon ends.

Supermoon causes two king tides in Penang
The Star 16 Nov 16;

GEORGE TOWN: Penang experienced two king tides around midnight and again at noon yesterday, said Penang Astronomical Society president Dr Chong Hon Yew.

The exceptionally high tides were due to the perigee-syzygy phenomenon, also known as a supermoon.

“The king tide is caused by the combined gravitational attraction of the moon and the sun on the water in Earth’s ocean,” Dr Chong said.

He said at around midnight, the total gravitational force from the moon, which was vertically overhead, and the sun below created the king tide.

The same thing happened at midday when the sun was vertically overhead and the moon was below, with the total gravitational force causing the second king tide.

“Six hours before and after each king tides occurred, we experienced exceptionally low tides,” he said.

These exceptionally high and low tides will continue for the next few days.

Dr Chong added that there would be lower tides on Nov 21, when a third quarter moon is set to occur.

Some 20 houses in Kampung Manis, Prai, were flooded due to the king tide phenomenon between 1am and 3am yesterday.

Penang Civil Defence Department director Pang Ah Lek said floodwaters in the village reached up to 0.45m.

“Sungai Perai overflowed after a 3.1m-high tide. The village is situated on a low-lying area near the river.

“However, no evacuation centres were opened,” he said in a statement here yesterday.

Over at the Esplanade, the situation was generally calm despite high water levels after midnight yesterday.

People were seen enjoying hawker food at Weld Quay, where most of the Clan Jetties are located.

Several villages on the mainland were also flooded after a downpour on Monday.

The affected villages were Kam­pung Tok Konan, Kampung Haji Musa, Kampung Manggis, Kampung Bukit Teh and Taman Jambu in Bukit Mertajam, and Kampung Nenas in Sungai Kechil, Nibong Tebal.

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Indonesia: Riau flood spreads, up to 2,000 houses inundated

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 15 Nov 16;

Flooding in Rokan Hulu regency in Riau province has spread to other areas and inundated almost 2,000 houses in five districts on Tuesday.

Rokan Hulu Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) data show that the hardest hit is Rambah district, where eight villages have been were inundated by water overflowing from the Batang Lubuh River. The BPBD said 978 families comprising 3,396 people were affected in the district.

Rambah Samo district has 350 families or 1,082 people affected by the flood in five villages.

Water overflowing from the Aliantan River hit Kabun district has inundated the homes of 270 families comprising 340 people in Aliantan and Batu Langkah villages.

Floodwater hits Rokan Hulu regency in Riau on Nov. 15. The police and the military are helping people cope with the disaster.(Courtesy of BPBD Rokan Hulu/File)

Rokan Hulu BPBD head Aceng Herdiana said the administration had erected shelters and communal kitchens and distributed ready-to-eat food to flood victims.

Assisted by the Indonesian Military and the National Police, Rokan Hulu BPBD evacuated people from the villages and helped them salvage valuable belongings, such as electronic equipment. (evi)

Thousands of houses in W. Java flooded
Jakarta Post 15 Nov 16;

Water from overflowing rivers has flooded thousands of houses in the West Java municipalities of Tangerang, Bekasi and Karawang following heavy rain.

“In Karawang, the flood was caused by water from the Citarum river and its tributaries, while in Tangerang it was caused by the Angke river overflowing,” Sutopo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said Monday, as quoted by news agency Antara.

He added that flooding in Karawang had intensified from Friday to Monday. In Telukbuyung village of Karawang regency, 678 houses, two mosques, two schools and seven prayer houses had been inundated, he said, while at the Bintang Alam housing complex, 650 houses had been flooded, affecting 997 people.

On Monday, five districts near the Citarum river in Bekasi regency were also flooded, Antara reported.

On Sunday in Tangerang, thousands of houses were flooded by the overflowing Angke river. Local authorities reported seven affected locations in Tangerang: Larangan Utara, Ciledug Indah, Karang Tengah, Flyover Cibodas, Alam Jaya, Periuk Jaya and the Total Persada housing complex. (evi)

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Surge in seizures of captive-bred tigers strengthens call for Asia to close all tiger farms

WWF 15 Nov 16;

With commercial tiger breeding in Asia threatening the future of the world’s remaining wild tigers, governments must announce concrete steps to close all the continent’s tiger farms within the next three years at the international conference on illegal wildlife trade starting tomorrow in Viet Nam.

A full TRAFFIC report released today on tiger trafficking found that an estimated 30 per cent of tigers seized between 2012 and 2015 were reported to come from captive breeding facilities, highlighting their growing role in the illegal trade. While complicating enforcement activities, tiger farms also legitimise the sale of tiger parts and products, which drives up demand.

“There is no longer any doubt that tiger farms are stimulating and expanding the illegal tiger trade or that they should all be closed down,” said Michael Baltzer, Leader of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. “The Hanoi Conference is the perfect platform for governments to commit to shutting Asia’s tiger farms, which would contribute enormously to the survival and recovery of tigers in the wild.”

Tigers will be high on the agenda at the conference in Viet Nam. Despite enhanced regional efforts to stop the poaching and trafficking, the Reduced to Skin and Bones Re-examined report indicated that an average of 109 tigers were killed and traded each year since 2000. And the true number is surely higher since these figures come from reported seizures, while much of the trade goes undetected.

Viet Nam has also become an increasingly significant hub for tiger trafficking and home to a growing number of tiger farms – close to 40 per cent of the country’s reported seizures came from captive facilities. Its role in the illegal tiger trade was highlighted by the Wildlife Justice Commission at its public hearing this week in The Hague. Overall, there are estimated to be more than 7,000 tigers in farms in Asia, mostly in China, Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam.

“The rising number of tigers suspected to be from captive sources is a sure indication that these farms are leaky. This is most prominent in Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, author of the TRAFFIC report.

In October, Laos announced that it would close its tiger farms, while Thailand has initiated investigations into all of its captive breeding facilities after shocking discoveries at the Tiger Temple earlier this year, including finding the corpses of 40 tiger cubs preserved in jars.

“Thailand and Laos have already signalled an end to tiger farming: Viet Nam should join them and help lead efforts to ban commercial tiger breeding across Asia,” said Thinh Van Ngoc, Country Director of WWF Viet Nam. “There are no more excuses for allowing tiger farms to operate. The evidence is clear, while technical and financial assistance is available – all that’s needed is the political will.”

On November 23rd, the world will mark the 6th anniversary of the groundbreaking “Tiger Summit” in St Petersburg and the halfway point of the global Tx2 campaign to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022 – the most ambitious and visionary recovery programme created for a single species.

For the first time in a century, global wild tiger numbers have increased slightly. But with only an estimated 3,890 in the wild, the species is still far from safe, particularly as poaching shows no signs of abating. Indeed, India has reported 76 tigers poached this year – its highest figure for 6 years.

“Decades of campaigning and on-the ground efforts to halt tiger poaching have achieved some significant successes, but the threat remains as grave as ever,” said Baltzer. “Ending tiger farming would ease the pressure and help law enforcement agencies focus on the poachers and traffickers of wild tigers.”

Along with announcing plans to close all tiger farms, Asian governments can also take a series of immediate, concrete steps to ensure captive-bred tigers do not enter the illegal trade chain before the closures take effect.

All governments should support an Indian government proposal to create a regional stripe pattern database that can compare images of seized tiger skins with camera trap photos of wild tigers and photos of captive tigers; compile sets of DNA markers from both wild and captive tiger populations within their country; and launch focused, evidence-based behavioural change programmes to reduce demand for tiger parts and products.

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Australia: Destruction of kelp forests by tropical fish shows impact of ocean temperature rises

Deforestation near Coffs Harbour coincided with 0.6C temperature rise, which had ‘catastrophic’ effect of attracting fish
Calla Wahlquist The Guardian 14 Nov 16;

Herbivorous tropical fish have destroyed kelp forests in northern New South Wales, showing that even small increases in ocean temperature can lead to kelp deforestation, an Australian study has found.

The University of NSW study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, found that the disappearance of kelp from waters near Coffs Harbour coincided with a threefold increase in the number of tropical fish in the region.

The deforestation coincided with an 0.6 degree temperature rise. While that was not enough to directly impact the kelp, lead author Dr Adriana Vergés said it had the “truly catastrophic” effect of attracting hungry fish.

The study examined video footage of 12 sites between 2002 and 2011. In 2002, six of the sites contained kelp. By 2010, all the kelp was gone.

The proportion of kelp showing signs of bite marks increased from less than 10% in 2002 to more than 70% in 2008, before there was no kelp to measure. At the same time the proportion of tropical fish in the ecosystem increased from less than 10% to more than 30%.

Most prolific were surgeonfish, which increased from 9% of the local fish population in 2002 to 33% at the end of the study period in 2011.

Once the kelp had been removed, the ecosystem changed “quite dramatically” to become more tropical, in a trend Vergés said could potentially be seen globally.

“We call it a homogenisation of community,” she said. “It’s a bit like globalisation – everything starts to become the same everywhere.”

Researchers used video originally filmed to catalogue fish populations to track the decline of the kelp forests and also conducted experiments in kelp-free areas to see what fish would appear to snack on a spring of transplanted kelp.

In one of the videos, a school of rabbitfish crowded around a scrap of kelp briefly lifts to let a shark glide past, before descending again.

In another a lamington urchin, a creature that looks like a bald tennis ball that has been cut in half and covered in white spikes, can be seen motoring towards the kelp from some distance away before crawling on to the frond.

Urchins are traditional kelp grazers but this species is tropical.

Vergés said the decision to examine the impact of fish stemmed from a similar study into mass kelp death off the Western Australian coast, where a 100km stretch of kelp forests died in a marine heatwave in 2011.

That study found the kelp was prevented from regenerating by rabbitfish and parrotfish, which ate any regrowth.

The director of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Prof Peter Steinberg, who contributed to the UNSW study, said the findings increased the range of temperatures that could be considered to have a catastrophic impact because the tropical fish were triggered by a much smaller increase in temperature.

“It may be in Western Australia the heatwave simply beat the fish to it,” he said.

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