Best of our wild blogs: 18 Nov 16



Green Drinks 2017: What the Community Told Us
Green Drinks Singapore

Raffles Lighthouse corals recovering from bleaching
wild shores of singapore


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How Singapore may tame storm water

Ng Joo Hee Straits Times 18 Nov 16;

The hundreds of aspiring Wayne Rooneys who practise at Opera Estate Football Field are oblivious to the fact that they conduct their kickabouts above a massive stormwater detention tank. Similarly, the thousands of visitors to Singapore's sole Unesco World Heritage site do not know that tour buses are spewing them out above an even more gargantuan stormwater tank.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens' new coach park serves as a roof for the Stamford Detention Tank - essentially a very large rectangular concrete box that extends 28m into the ground, and big enough to temporarily restrain 38,000 tons of rainwater, enough to fill about 15 Olympic pools.

Both the Stamford Detention Tank and the Stamford Diversion Canal - which will eventually empty the contents of the tank into the Singapore River - are nearing completion and will be our insurance against a repeat of the Orchard Road floods of 2010 and 2011.

It can rain a lot in Singapore.

More than 124mm of rain fell in a few hours on June 5, 2011. Singapore's average annual rainfall is around 2300mm. So on that fateful day, the equivalent of three weeks' worth of precipitation got dumped just upstream of our famous shopping street in one go, with dire consequences.

No number of conventional drains can cope with that kind of rainfall intensity. Hence a new approach was required to ensure that there would be no encore of the deluge five years ago.


SOURCE-PATHWAY-RECEPTOR

To tame storm water effectively, the method that Singapore's national water agency, PUB, has since adopted is a far more holistic one that embraces much more than "plain vanilla" drains and canals. This so-called "source-pathway-receptor" approach dictates that flood protection does not just encompass drains and canals (the pathways), but also upstream areas generating stormwater run-off (the source), and parts downstream which might be flooded (the receptors).

The whole idea is to slow the accumulation of storm water at every stage, even during the heaviest bout of rain, by detaining, retarding, delaying and diverting it, so that it does not overwhelm our drainage infrastructure.

AT THE SOURCE

Source measures are best explained by referring to any greenfield location that has been given over to development. Much of the rain that falls on a field or vegetated area will soak into the ground. Once an area is built on, however, it becomes impervious and starts generating surface run-off instead.

It is well established that imperviousness is positively correlated to the frequency of flood recurrence. The trick then is to reduce the run-off coefficient, or the fraction of rainfall that is converted to run-off, at its source.

Since 2014, PUB has required real estate developers to implement measures to reduce run-off from their plots by up to 35 per cent. The less imaginative may just put in a detention tank, but green roofs and bioswales (landscape elements used to slow, collect and filter storm water) can also help, and are prettier to boot.

Good examples include the garden on top of Orchard Central Mall, the Housing Board's Greenwood Sanctuary @ Admiralty, and the Balam Estate rain garden.

UPSIZED PATHWAYS

It doesn't just rain a lot in Singapore. We expect that, increasingly, it will come all at once. Climate change may also parch Singapore but, at the same time, studies suggest a trend towards higher rainfall intensities, and an increasing frequency of high-intensity rain events.

Do more intense storms call for bigger drains? Upsizing every drain and canal is impossible, and would be prohibitively disruptive and expensive. And by themselves, larger storm drains will not keep Singapore's streets dry. But upgrading drainage infrastructure in tandem with source and receptor enhancements just might.

After the floods of 2010 and 2011, PUB raised drainage design standards markedly in preparation for more intense storms. The new standards apply equally to public and private developers. On our part, PUB embarked on a drain improvement binge. Since 2012, we have commenced works, large and small, to improve and expand drainage at more than 300 locations all over our island. Most of these have already been completed.

The re-naturalisation of the Kallang River in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, previously an ugly concrete canal, must be the most well-known of these projects. Although most people would look at it as parkland beautification, it was, first and foremost, drainage improvement.

The Kallang River is Singapore's longest river, connects Lower Pierce Reservoir to Marina Reservoir, and is a crucial stormwater pathway. With her own flood plain in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, that stretch of the Kallang River is now able to provide more flood protection than ever before.

AT THE RECEIVING END

When we get to the receptor end, storm water mitigation usually comes in the form of more "brute-force" applications, like raising an entire road or the platform of a new building. The idea here is to give flood waters no chance of affecting transport or dwelling.

This may sound somewhat extreme but for certain topographies, they are the best and only way. For naturally low-lying areas, such as parts of Bedok and Siglap, which are inevitably vulnerable to flooding when heavy rain coincides with high tides, raising platform levels is the most obvious means of flood protection.

More generally, it just makes sense for property owners to have the entrances to their basements and underground facilities fully shielded from flood water.

The best illustration of receptor mitigation is perhaps the Marina Barrage. Curiously, after the Orchard Road floods, public blame was assigned to the newly completed barrage, so much so that this became something of an urban myth.

Nothing is further from the truth. The barrage did not and could not have caused Orchard Road to be flooded. Marina Barrage was conceived of and functions as a flood alleviation scheme - to eliminate the influence of high tides on drainage in low-lying areas in the city and to release excess storm water from its catchment. Pop into the visitor centre at the barrage and this becomes amply clear to anyone watching the scale model there in motion.

A ROLE FOR EVERYONE

Everyone has a stake and a role in flood protection. Drains and canals are not public bins and we must never throw trash into them because they need to be free flowing in order to carry storm water away, and because this storm water will eventually be turned into our drinking water.

The Orchard Road floods and the damage they caused have a silver lining however: As harbingers of climate change, they spurred early action. The predicted climate effects - record-high temperatures, irreversible sea level rises, and significantly dryer weather but with increased frequency of the most intense rain - are frightening and, if ignored, will absolutely devastate both our water system and drainage infrastructure.

Our only hope, as always, is to be clear-eyed about the challenge facing us and respond in an intelligent and coordinated fashion. The only way that we may possibly defend ourselves against the droughts and the floods to come is for all parties to work hand in hand.

About the writer

Mr Ng Joo Hee, 50, is chief executive of PUB, Singapore's national water agency.

He is responsible for the supply of potable water, the reclamation and treatment of used water, and the management of storm water in Singapore.

He also holds a concurrent appointment as the deputy secretary (special duties) in the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.


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Malaysia, Johor: Focus on water management

ZAZALI MUSA and MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 18 Nov 16;

ISKANDAR PUTERI: The state government has outlined 14 initiatives on water management to ensure the state will have sufficient water supply in the long term.

Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said it would allocate RM79.7mil under the state’s Budget 2017 to address issues on water related problems, including finding new sources of water and overcoming supply disruptions.

“We are committed to solve the water related problems and issues in Johor though innovative, comprehensive and radical approaches,” he said when tabling the budget at the Johor state assembly sitting in Kota Iskandar here yesterday.

Mohamed Khaled said RM65mil would be channelled to conduct raw water transfer project from Sungai Lenggor to Congok dam, both in Mersing district.

He said RM3.5mil would be used to instal a pipeline from Sungai Johor to Upper Layang dam, RM2mil for the Sungai Johor Integrated River Basin Management and RM1.8mil to conduct feasibility study on the construction of coastal reservoirs at the estuaries of Sungai Johor, Sungai Pulai and Sungai Mersing.

Others include RM1mil to build two well tubes in Kota Tinggi and to conduct a study on exploring the possibility of groundwater reserves as new water resources with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

Mohamed Khaled said apart from the state-related initiatives on water management, Johor would also implement water-related initiatives with financial allocation from the Federal Government.

He said the initiatives include RM500mil allocation from the Federal Government for the Iskandar Malaysia Raw Water Channelling project, of which a RM5mil initial allocation would be utilised next year.

“Sustainable and sufficient water supply in the long term are vital to continue attracting investments into Johor which is strategically positioning itself as the southern economic powerhouse,” said Mohamed Khaled.

He said the Kahang dam project which started in May 2014 is expected to be completed next year while the RM128mil Kahang water treatment plant will be ready by 2018.

He said RM7mil has been allocated to upgrade the Congok dam.

Mohamed Khaled said the government would also extend the on-going free water programme to benefit more households under the state’s Budget 2017.

He said 2,108 new households registered under the E-Kasih and Orang Asli Development Department list would receive free 25 cubic metres of water monthly from 2,892 existing households, adding that the government would spend RM3mil on the programme.

Mohamed Khaled said the government would also allocate RM14.5mil next year, compared to RM11mil this year, to extend the free bus service Bas Muafakat Johor.

“The free bus service has benefitted about 1.34 million commuters since its introduction in April this year to October,” he said, adding that the route would also be extended from 813.8km to 1.357km.


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Malaysia: DOE traces Sg Buah oil spill to transport company

The Star 18 Nov 16;

SEREMBAN: The Department of Environment (DOE) has traced the transport company whose truck was involved in an accident on the Elite Expressway on Oct 22 resulting in palm oil by-product spilling and flowing into Sungai Buah.

It has recorded statements from several people on the cause of the contamination of Sg Buah and Sg Semenyih which caused treated water supply to some 1.6 million consumers in Selangor to be disrupted.

State DOE director Norhazni Mat Sari said her officers hoped to interview another one or two people before wrapping up the probe.

“The transport company has confirmed that one of its trucks spilled palm oil by-product in an accident at the spot a major spill was found.

“We have opened two investigation papers and will refer the matter to the deputy public prosecutor next week,” she told The Star.

The transport company failed to notify the DOE of the spill although it was required under the law.

DOE officers stumbled upon it while investigating the cause of the river contamination.

The water authorities in Selangor had to shut down the Sungai Semenyih treatment plant on Oct 28 upon detecting a strong odour from Sungai Buah in Negri Sembilan.

It also built three bunds at the confluence of Sungai Buah and Sungai Semenyih to prevent the water from flowing into treatment plant.


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Indonesian forest fires exposed 69 million people to 'killer haze'

Channel NewsAsia 16 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: Wildfires in Indonesia and Borneo in 2015 exposed 69 million people to unhealthy air pollution and are responsible for thousands of premature deaths, new research has shown.

The study, published on Wednesday (Nov 16) in Scientific Reports, used detailed observations of the haze from Singapore and Indonesia, a press release from Newcastle University said.

By analysing hourly air quality data from a model at a resolution of 10km, the team showed that a quarter of the population of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia was exposed to unhealthy air quality conditions between September and October 2015. Previous studies looked at daily levels at a much lower resolution.

Estimating that between 6,150 and 17,270 premature deaths occurred as a direct result of the haze pollution, the research team - involving academics from the United Kingdom, United States, Singapore and Malaysia - said the study confirmed the extent of this public health crisis.

"To put this into perspective, we estimate that around 1 in 6,000 people exposed to the polluted haze from these fires died as a result. The uncertainty in these estimates is mostly due to the lack of medical studies on exposure from extreme air pollution in the area,” said the study's lead author, Dr Paola Crippa from Newcastle University.

“The wildfires of 2015 were the worst we’ve seen for almost two decades - as a result of global climate change, land use changes and deforestation. The extremely dry conditions in that region mean that these are likely to become more common events in the future, unless concerted action is taken to prevent fires," Dr Crippa added.

TEN TIMES THE RECOMMENDED LIMIT OF PM2.5

The UK-led study said in the two months of haze last year, levels of PM2.5 - the most dangerous of these tiny toxic particles in the air - were on average above 70 micrograms per cubic metre with peaks reaching 300 micrograms in densely populated areas such as Singapore, the study said.

WHO air quality guidelines state that levels of PM2.5 - a key smog indicator - should not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic metre in a 24-hour period.

Professor Dominick Spracklen, a co-author of the study based at the University of Leeds, explained: “In most of the UK, levels of PM2.5 are usually below 10 micrograms per cubic metre and we would consider a serious pollution episode to be where concentrations rose to above 30 micrograms per cubic metre.

"During these fires, Singapore experienced levels of pollution 10 times higher. It is hard for us in the UK to imagine air pollution as bad as that experienced across much of Indonesia and Singapore last autumn.

“If large fires occurred every year, repeatedly exposing the local population to polluted air, the number of deaths would rise substantially - to as many as 75,000. Our findings are consistent with a recent estimate of the number of deaths that occurred due to long-term exposure to air pollution from these fires.”

A study by Harvard and Columbia universities published in September said the 2015 haze crisis caused more than 100,000 premature deaths, with at least 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore. However Singapore and Malaysia's health ministries took issue with the findings, saying the modelling studies did not take into consideration mitigating measures implemented by countries affected by the haze.

- CNA/ec


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Indonesia: River Conservation Key to Riau’s Future - WWF

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 17 Nov 16;

Pekanbaru. World Wildlife Fund Indonesia has launched their second water laboratory in Rimbang Baling, Riau in aims to raise awareness for river conservation and water security for the province.

The Riau water lab is adjacent to freshwater river Subayang, which has been targeted for conservation by the local government in order to revitalize threatened downstreams in the province.

The first water laboratory was introduced in Bandung, West Java, earlier in March which has become an educational platform focusing on the importance of rivers to ecosystems.

For Rimbang Baling, it was especially important as it serves as an ecosystem for Sumatra’s endangered tigers.

“Rimbang Baling has been a popular monitoring site for Sumatran tigers, which is why we need to continue preserving the Subayang River,” said Wisnu Sumantoro, WWF Indonesia program manager for Riau, in Pekanbaru on Tuesday (15/11).

“Water is an important source of livelihood, as without it, living organisms cannot survive, and neither will forests.”

The educational platform was also inaugurated with the support of global banking firm HSBC as part of its water program.

“[River conservation] is not just a [corporate] responsibility, it’s a calling,” said Nuni Setyoko, senior vice president of HSBC Indonesia.

While it may seem strange that a bank is financially backing the project, Nuni said that without water, there is no socioeconomic growth, leaving a bleak outlook for the bank in the future.

The Rimbang Baling ecosystem has over 170 species of birds, 50 mammals and 70 fish.


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Indonesia: Expert blames unchecked construction, poor drainage system for floods

The Jakarta Post 17 Nov 16;

Poor drainage systems and reduced water catchment areas due to excessive building activity are the main causes of flooding currently affecting several regions of Indonesia, an expert has said.

Yayat Supriyatna, an urban planner from Trisakti University in Jakarta, said apart from high-intensity rainfall, urban development in many cities of the country was not accompanied by adequate water management measures.

“Uncontrollable urban development, which does not pay serious attention to an area’s water management system, has damaged water flows and catchment areas. This has also damaged the drainage systems,” he said Thursday.

Yayat said the authorities in charge should take necessary measures to prevent natural disasters by, among others things, creating artificial water catchment areas.

“In the past, near Pagarsih in Bandung, West Java, there was Lake Aksan, which served to contain water. It’s gone now, and we’ve seen the consequence.”

Bandung is one of the cities currently hit by severe flooding. On Oct. 25, a rescue team spent nearly six hours to pull out a car from under a bridge in Pagarsih after it had been swept away by floodwater the previous day.

In the province of Riau, floods and landslides hit several areas following days of heavy rain.

Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) spokesperson Harry Tirto predicted that the intensity of rain would continue to increase until March next year.

“We will enter a transition phase from the wet to the dry season in April or May next year. For the time being, we will see the peak of the rainy season in December to March.” (fac/ebf)


Floods, landslides cut off road access
Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 17 Nov 16;

Heavy downpours across the country have continued to cause flooding and landslides.

In Jambi, heavy rains in Rantau Pandan district, Bungo regency, on Tuesday night caused a landslide, cutting off a main road connecting the subdistricts of Rantau Duku, Luluk Mayam and Rantau Pandan.

Soil, big rocks and fallen trees covered the road, preventing people from commuting between the neighboring districts of Rantau Pandan and Bathin III Ulu.

Commuters were forced to wait for hours until a fire agency cleared some of the debris to create temporary access.

“The clearance was just a temporary solution, at least the trapped people could pass through,”
Arpan Tuyani, head of the Bungo Fire Agency, which cleared the debris on Tuesday night, said on Wednesday.

He added that the agency did not have the necessary heavy equipment to clear all the debris.

In West Java, 1,231 customers of state-owned electricity company PLN experienced blackouts due to floods in Karawang and Bekasi.

PLN West Java distribution spokesperson Suargina said nine power stations in Karawang and another one in Bekasi had to be switched off.

Suargina said the power stations were located in submerged areas.

“It was impossible to operate them, as doing so could lead to short circuits,” he said.

“The 10 power stations have been switched off for a week,” he added, as quoted by Antara.

He added that power stations in industrial areas were not affected by floods.

Separately, Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil met with House of Representatives Speaker Ade Komarudin on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the situation in Bandung, which has been experiencing severe flooding on account of extreme weather.

“I reported the situation in Bandung city that requires inter-region coordination with regard to the extreme rainy season, floods and so on,” Ridwan said at the House in Jakarta, on Tuesday, as quoted by kompas.com.

Meanwhile, head of the Bandung Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Tata Irawan, said 611 families or 2,030 people in the regency had been displaced by the overflowing Citarum River.

They have been staying at evacuation centers for two weeks.

He said the evacuees would need to remain at the evacuation centers for a little longer because the flooding had not eased.

“The floods in Bandung regency are different from the ones in Bandung city. Here, they are massive, fast and deep while in Bandung city water subsides in one to two hours,” he said as quoted by tempo.co, Wednesday.

Tata said the evacuees hailed from three districts, namely Dayeuhkolot, Baleendah and Bojongsoang.

“The evacuation centers are spread in 23 spots in three districts. Some are big, some others are just occupied by two to three families,” he said.


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Indonesia: Landmark court ruling against illegal forest clearing expected to serve as deterrent

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 18 Nov 16;

A landmark Supreme Court ruling ordering a plantation company to pay a high fine for illegal forest clearing is expected to serve as a deterrent for companies that seek to engage in deforestation.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari (MPL) was guilty of illegally clearing forests in Pelalawan Regency, Riau, from 2004 to 2006.

The pulp and paper company was ordered to pay Rp 16 trillion (US$1.19 billion) in fines, the highest of any case of environmental destruction in the nation’s history.

“The ministry appreciates the Supreme Court’s decision on illegal clearing carried out by PT MPL. Hopefully this ruling will have a deterrent effect on others,” the ministry’s law enforcement director-general, Rasio Ridho Sani, said.

In 2002, then-Pelalawan regent Tengku Azmun Jaafar authorized PT MPL to exploit 5,590 hectares of forest in his regency.

However, the court found that the company had cleared a total of 7,466 ha of forest in the area, meaning that it had illegally cleared 1,873 ha of forest outside of its concession. For this, the company was ordered to pay Rp 4 trillion in damages.

PT MPL’s permit was also problematic, as Azmun was sentenced to 11 years in prison by the Corruption Court in 2008 for taking bribes from MPL.

He was convicted of illegally authorizing 15 companies, including PT MPL, to exploit 120,000 ha of forest in Pelalawan between 2002 and 2003, resulting in Rp 1.2 trillion in state losses.

Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) lecturer Bambang Hero Saharjo, who calculated the damages, said the Supreme Court’s ruling was in accordance with his calculations.

“We appreciate the ruling because it matches our damage calculations based on the facts in the field,” he told The Jakarta Post.

The damage includes a loss of forest functions, such as water catchment and erosion mitigation, as well as a loss of biodiversity.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has been on a winning streak recently in environmental cases against companies responsible for deforestation and land and forest fires. Earlier this year, plantation company PT National Sago Prima (NSP) was found guilty of forest fires in its concession in Meranti Islands regency, Riau, and thus had to pay Rp 1.07 trillion in fines.

In August, the Palembang High Court in South Sumatra found pulpwood firm Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) guilty of illegally lighting fires in its concession in 2014.

The High Court ordered BMH, which supplies products to Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Group, to pay Rp 78.5 billion in damages, a small fraction of the Rp 7.8 trillion in damages sought by the Environment and Forestry Ministry when it first filed the civil suit against BMH last year.

However, none of the fines match the total of those slapped on PT MPL. “This is the biggest fine in our history,” the ministry’s environmental dispute settlement director, Jasmin Ragil Utomo, told the Post.

He said that PT MPL could still file for a case review at the Supreme Court. “But it won’t halt the execution [of the ruling],” Jasmin said.

He added that the court would follow up on the ruling by allowing the company to make a proposal on how it would like to pay the fines.

“We have to study the proposal first, whether the company can pay in installments or not. We have to get input from other ministries because this is non-tax state income,” said Jasmin.

PT MPL used to be a supplier to Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), Indonesia’s second-largest pulp and paper producer.

“However, we have not sourced fiber from MPL since February 2015,” APRIL spokesperson Agung Laksamana told the Post, adding that PT MPL was not affiliated with APRIL or with Royal Golden Eagle Group.

With the recent Supreme Court decision, Agung said APRIL would immediately terminate its supplier contract with PT MPL and would not work with the company in the future.


Court fines company Rp 16 trillion for illegal logging
Adisti Sukma Sawitri The Jakarta Post 18 Nov 16;

In the wake of a landmark verdict that saw a plantation company fined Rp 16 trillion for illegal logging, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar on Thursday demanded that law enforcement institutions enforce the sentence.

The Supreme Court has found PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari guilty of unlawful logging on about 7,000 hectares of land outside of its concession in Riau.

The fine is the largest to date in an illegal logging case.

Read also: Landmark court ruling expected to serve as deterrent

"I will find a way to push related authorities to enforce the verdict," said Siti, whose ministry is a plaintiff in the case.

She lamented that sentences in other environmental cases the ministry had won in the Supreme Court had not been enforced.

Last year, the Supreme Court ordered oil palm plantation PT Kallista Alam to pay Rp 366 billion after being convicted of starting fires in the Leuser conservation area in Aceh. (evi)

Related links

Indonesian logging firm fined a record US$1.2 billion for deforestation
eco-business.com


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Viet Nam’s illegal bear trade persisting more than a decade after ban imposed

TRAFFIC 17 Nov 16;

Hanoi, Viet Nam, 17th November 2016—TRAFFIC’s research finds the illegal market for bears, bear parts and derivatives in Viet Nam is still strong, with only a moderate decline in open availability following the introduction of legislation to ban their sale in 2006.

Released in the margins of the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, An assessment of trade in bear bile and gall bladder in Viet Nam (PDF, 6 MB), analysed data from surveys of shops in six cities across Viet Nam in 2012 and 2016. It followed a 2010–2011 TRAFFIC investigation into the bear bile trade across 13 countries and territories in Asia.

In the 1990s, bear bile farms were established throughout Viet Nam to address increasing consumer demands. In 2005, the Vietnamese government made it illegal to extract bile from bears but not to keep them, and without a government-backed plan to deal with the thousands of bears then held in captivity, many bear farms kept their animals under the guise of wildlife refuges although owners were required to microchip and register their animals.

Under legislation introduced in Viet Nam in 2006, it is illegal to hunt, transport, keep, advertise, sell, purchase and consume bear species or their parts and derivatives.

However, the report provides evidence of a range of bear products still on offer. Of the 70 traditional medicine (TM) and other outlets surveyed in 2016, 40% had bear products for sale – down from 56% in 2012. Raw bear bile was the most prominent product openly available, much of it is reportedly sourced from bear farms in the country. Surveys showed more traders were aware of the illegality of this trade in 2016, and the authors suggest this could mean it had been driven underground.

The most expensive product for sale was gall bladder, the availability of which fell from 12 outlets in 2012 to only two in 2016, neither of which claimed to store gall bladder on the premises. However, traders claimed it was sourced from wild bears in Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Russia and Thailand. Consumers were said to be willing to pay more, up to twice the price, for wild-sourced, freshly harvested products.

“Although our study found bear bile farming is unlikely to be profitable and is in decline in Viet Nam, the sale of wild-sourced products is particularly alarming and highlights the ongoing threat to bear populations across Asia,” said Lalita Gomez, a Project Officer with TRAFFIC and an author of the new report.

The researchers found that the current trade dynamic strongly suggests bear farming may have exacerbated the threats to wild bear populations in Southeast Asia, creating a network of captive facilities where it is relatively easy to launder in wild-caught bears.

“TRAFFIC offers full support to the Vietnamese Government to develop an action plan to eliminate all illegal bear farms by 2020 and enforce legislation on the illegal trade of bear products,” said Madelon Willemsen, Head of TRAFFIC in Viet Nam.

Animals Asia, who provided funding and technical assistance for the study, are among a number of NGOs working with the Vietnamese government authorities on addressing the trade in bears.

Animals Asia has rescued 165 bears, four of them in the past week, and successfully rehabilitated 151 of them into sanctuaries. Together with the Traditional Medicine Association in Viet Nam, Animals Asia is also distributing a guide for alternatives to bear bile amongst TM practitioners.

The Researchers recommend implementing a road map to prevent the sale of illegal bear products and closing down all bear farms within Viet Nam to prevent wild bears from being illegally funnelled through these channels.

“Although the legislation is in place to protect bears, Viet Nam needs to ensure it is adequately enforced,” said Willemsen.


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Hot seawater imperils Saipan corals

Erwin Encinares Saipan Tribune 17 Nov 16;

Coral reefs on Saipan are in danger due to bleaching caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean, according to Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality marine biologist and technical adviser Lyza Johnston. Coral bleaching occurs when seawater temperatures get too warm for the corals, causing them to expel the algae that give the corals their color.

Current reports by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have it that 2016 was the second warmest year to date. The situation is made worse by the Pacific Ocean phenomenon called El NiƱo, which also causes sea temperatures to rise.

Because of the warm temperature, the seawater has been warming up, causing corals to bleach. The bleaching of corals pose as a threat to the tourism industry of Saipan since the corals are one of the attractions for visitors who come to the islands.

The Saipan lagoon, one of the more popular dive sites on Saipan, is home to numerous coral reefs. According to Johnston, the corals in the lagoon are greatly stressed and 85 percent of the species known as the “staghorn coral” is already dead in BECQ monitoring sites.

“We have a lot of stress on the corals in the lagoon specifically,” she said.

“We have set up long-term monitoring sites in the lagoon and we’ve lost up to 85 percent of staghorn corals at our long-term monitoring sites. There are areas outside of our sites that are still alive, but we think our sites are pretty representative of what is going on in the lagoon,” added Johnston.

Johnston said that major coral bleaching happened during 2013 and 2014, and just a little for 2016. This, however, does not mean that the corals are doing well.

“Most of the bleaching we’ve seen is from thermal stress that the climate change is causing. The atmosphere is getting warmer and the sea surface is getting warmer as well. Corals have a very narrow temperature tolerance and corals actually have a symbiotic relationship with microscopic algae that lives in their tissue and when the water gets too warm, they expel the algae, which is the reason why they look white,” said Johnston.

Johnston clarified that corals that are bleaching are not dead.

“They are not dead at that point. The tissue of the coral is transparent, kind of like a jellyfish, so what you’re seeing is the exoskeleton underneath—but they are not necessarily dead. If the water doesn’t cool down quickly, and they don’t regain their symbiotes, they will die, though,” said Johnston.

Another enemy of the corals are the species known as the crown of thorns starfish, a multiple-armed starfish that feed off of coral polyps, preventing it from developing into a coral reef.

“We do monitor for the crown of thorns starfish. We’ve had breakouts in the past, but we haven’t seen any abnormally high numbers for 2016,” said Johnston.

Johnston said the monsoon systems during the summer helped the seawater cool down to some extent, but said that society must do its job in order to preserve the coral reefs of Saipan.

“Local scale threats will essentially reduce the coral’s resilience, such as land-based sources of pollution, habitat destruction, people stepping on the corals, and sedimentation from pollutants will actually make them bleach faster,” said Johnston.

“What we can do locally is reduce all of those stressors and keep them as healthy and strong as possible so they are able to better resist thermal stress and other global scale stressors,” she added.


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Prince William warns poachers are outrunning efforts to stop wildlife trade

Animals are still being killed in horrifying numbers despite global efforts to stop the poaching crisis, says prince at Hanoi summit
Adam Vaughan The Guardian 17 Nov 16;

Poachers killing Africa’s rhinos and elephants are still one step ahead of efforts to stop the multibillion wildlife trade, Prince William has warned.

Traffickers have become more sophisticated and increasingly brutal, and animals are dying in “horrifying numbers”, the Duke of Cambridge told an international wildlife summit in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday.

The prince’s speech came as the UK pledged an extra £13m to tackle the problem and environment secretary, Andrea Leadsom, promised the UK would show leadership to protect precious wildlife. The UK hosted the first of the wildlife summits in 2014, where 46 countries agreed an accord to combat the trade.

But the prince said that, despite that global deal and ensuing efforts, the poaching crisis has continued.

“There is much to be proud of and I want to make sure we take confidence from what has been achieved. We are on the right side of history. But here is the problem: we know that we aren’t moving fast enough to keep up with the crisis. Rhinos, elephants, pangolin, lions – they are all still being killed in horrifying numbers,” he said.

“So while we’ve made progress, the truth is we are still falling behind. A betting man would still bet on extinction.”

He said that since the London declaration two years ago, poachers’ methods in the “killing fields of Africa and Asia” had become more sophisticated, and they were killing more rangers.

But putting an end to the trade was possible and there was widespread international acknowledgement that the killing needed to stop, he said. “It is only a test of will.

“And compared to other global problems, I really do believe it is relatively straightforward to solve.”

Officials and ministers from 42 countries agreed a joint declaration to follow through on the commitments they made in London, which include tougher enforcement and cracking down on corruption.

Teresa Telecky, director of the wildlife department for the Human Society International, said: “The statement demonstrates high-level government commitment to stamping out poaching and illegal wildlife trade.”

Uganda announced it would destroy its 15-tonne stockpile of seized ivory next year, following high-profile ivory destructions such as Kenya’s burn earlier this year.

The UK said it was committing an extra £13m for measures tackling the crisis, doubling the UK’s funding against the trade. “The UK is determined to do all we can to show global leadership in fighting the illegal wildlife trade and protecting the world’s precious wildlife,” said Leadsom.

Ministers in September announced a UK ban on ivory younger than 70 years old, but were criticised by conservationists for stopping shy of a total ban.


Over 100 tigers killed and trafficked each year: Report
Channel NewsAsia 16 Nov 16;

HANOI: With fewer than 4,000 left in the wild, tigers are on a precipice - yet more than 100 of the big cats are still killed and illegally trafficked each year, according to fresh analysis published on Wednesday (Nov 16).

The latest estimate comes as experts and dignitaries, including Britain's Prince William, gather in Vietnam's capital for an international wildlife conference which kicks off on Thursday.

The two-day meet joins governments, NGOs and activists to combat illegal wildlife trade and is being hosted in a country that has become a nexus for smuggling and consumption.

Traffic, which campaigns to protect endangered animals and help governments catch those who trade in their parts, published a new analysis looking at 16-years of tiger seizure data from across the globe.

They estimate an average of 110 tigers became victims of the trade each year since 2000.

The study also illustrates the growing role breeding centres play in fuelling the trade, especially in Southeast Asia.

Researchers singled out Thailand, Laos and Vietnam as among the world's top countries for tiger farms.

"These countries have clearly made little meaningful progress in controlling this source of supply," Kanitha Krishnasamy, a co-author of Traffic's report said in a statement. "Any further stimulation of demand could have a more disastrous impact on wild tigers."

Around 30 per cent of tiger parts seized between 2012 and 2015 now come from captive tigers compared to just two percent between 2000 and 2003.

Animal rights groups argue that by keeping demand for tiger parts going, farms simultaneously perpetuate the destruction of tigers in the wild.

Laos recently announced plans to close its tiger farms while Thailand has initiated investigations after a long tussle with a controversial Buddhist "tiger temple" that for years had been at the centre of allegations of complicity in the trade.

But both countries have a long history of corruption and policing crackdowns that rarely result in permanent successes on the ground.

Animal rights groups hope the Hanoi conference will pile pressure on governments to redouble efforts to stem the trade and close down farms.

"Ending tiger farming would ease the pressure and help law enforcement agencies focus on the poachers and traffickers of wild tigers," Michael Baltzer, from the World Wildlife Fund said.

Prince William, who has become a champion of endangered species in recent years, met with Vietnam's prime minister and vice president on Wednesday.

- AFP/ec


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