Best of our wild blogs: 8 Dec 16

Sungei Buloh Wetlands 23 Anniversary
Art in Wetlands

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Malaysia, Malacca: Faced with rapid erosion, residents want to see master plan of reclamation project

New Straits Times 7 Dec 16;

MALACCA: Is Malacca’s future, particularly that along its storied coastline, one that is bereft of its traditional ways, a sprawling metropolis inhabited by foreigners buying into foreign investments?

This is the multi-billion ringgit question asked by many as the face of the 70km-long coastline transforms through massive reclamation works.

“What we would all like to see is a master plan on what these reclamation projects are going to project,” said Lim Heng Tin, a 66-year-old whose childhood memories of growing up on Kampung Hailam’s lush beach have been wiped away by rapid erosion in the past two months.

From where the fallen Malacca Club Rotunda’s guardpost lies in shambles, having been blown to pieces during high tide on Friday morning, with the beach that once protected it well eroded, Kampung Hailam folk need to just look out to sea to find the alleged reason for the damage.

From Klebang, to the west of the Kampung Hailam cape, beyond what was once the turtle hatching haven of Pulau Upeh, dredging is visible, as landfills push on further into deeper sea.

So far, there are plans available for the RM8 billion Melaka Gateway port, which is an extension of Pulau Melaka up to Pulau Upeh, along with commercial and residential developments within its project.

Another mammoth project — the RM12.5 billion Kuala Linggi International Port (KLIP), is being questioned by experts who said the project has not been approved by the Department of Environment.

On Nov 6, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released to the New Straits Times damning statistics of the dwindling number of recorded landings of the critically endangered Hawksbill turtles along the Malacca coastline.

Residents, too, have highlighted the lack of turtle landings, which, in past years, have been sighted along the coast from Klebang, with Pulau Upeh, now close to no longer being an island, recording among the highest landings.

The Malacca government, possibly alerted to the damage being done to turtle habitats, on Nov 7 announced through Tanjung Bidara assemblyman Datuk Md Rawi Mahmud the designation of an 800m stretch of beach along Padang Kamunting to Air Hitam Darat as a turtle sanctuary, to be left untouched and devoid of human activities to allow turtles to lay eggs.

Along the coast, there are stories such as how restaurant owner Bertrand Pau and residents in a neighbouring condominium block were locked in a legal and lengthy debate with the state government as the dredging began to reclaim land in front of what was once sea-fronting properties.

The result? Reclamation commenced to the left and right of their properties, eventually leaving an eyesore of a pool of stagnant seawater fronting their property.

“We must know what we want. But what is happening here, nobody knows. They just seem to reclaim and reclaim with no end,” said Pau.

“Tourism is Malacca’s bread and butter. Tourists come for our tradition, heritage and beaches. But what is left of those now? This is what everybody should ask.”

Excessive land reclamation means smaller catch for Malacca fishermen
New Straits Times 7 Dec 16;

MALACCA: As a lean and fit-looking 40-year-old Edgar Rodrigues stands to greet visitors at the lobby of a four-star hotel, one might guess his build could be the result of lifting countless kilogrammes of guests’ luggage at his workplace.

But that is far from the truth. A turn of fate had caused this well-spoken traditionalist from the Portuguese Settlement to make the most difficult shift in his life just a year ago, from a fisherman to hotel bellhop.

“I couldn’t support my family with my income. What used to be catches worth between RM150 and RM200 in a four-hour shift are now gone.

“These days, we drift the butterfly net for four hours and we’re considered lucky if we have RM30 worth in catch,” said Rodrigues.

He had to give up life as a coastal fisherman, earning his living from drifting butterfly nets to catch geragau prawns (acetes, a genus of small krill-like prawns) used in the production of the popular local condiment cincaluk.

As a landfill developed to extend what was Pulau Melaka, a man-made island that came into existence more than 30 years ago, in came what Rodrigues describes as “dead mud”, one that is toxic and inhabitable for the prawns.

And it is not just Rodrigues who is feeling the pinch.

From more than 100 people with butterfly nets painting a picturesque view in the muddy waters off the Portuguese Settlement, 49-year-old Hilary d’Costa is now among the 10-odd people who still cast their nets in the hopes of earning a living.

Only a handful of acetes is his take from three hours of labour on the day the New Straits Times caught up with him, and d’Costa duly threw them back into the sea, hoping that they would spawn.
“Only geragau is available here these days. Other species of fish have depleted. Those days, in June when it is the geragau season, I can easily catch up to 40kg within three hours. Now, I catch so few that they can’t even be used to cook a proper dish,” he said.

Those in the Portuguese Settlement have had several brushes with the authorities over the years, in battles for their plot to not be taken away by reclamation.

Chef and traditional Portuguese cuisine campaigner Benildus da Silva, 42, believes the compensation paid by the state government should be in the form of increased educational and commercial opportunities.

“Our livelihoods, the traditional ways, they are gone. We came from the sea, so we would want to live by the sea. But that can’t be the case anymore. We are a small (community of) people, just about 2,000 of us living here. We can’t fight the authorities and large corporations.

“Some of us in the Portuguese Settlement had been compensated with a nominal sum for the loss of livelihood, but many who agreed did not see the bigger picture. We are losing something that has been a part of us, which we can’t get back.

“What they should have asked for was compensation in the form of opportunities. If the land was to be reclaimed, we should be given commercial lots to do business and our children given opportunities in education, so they can find other jobs, instead of the traditional ones.”

It isn’t just those in the Portuguese Settlement who are affected.

Along the coast in Klebang and Tanjung Kling, fishermen are facing similar plights due to declining marine life caused by what they claimed was excessive reclamation.

The days of the coastal fishermen, said Rodrigues, were gone, with conditions fit only for larger industrial-sized trawlers who ply their trade in deeper waters.

“There is no place for the traditional fisherman on the coast. It is all gone. We have to move on, but it is sad that Malacca has lost this part of our heritage,” he said, an air of defeat about him.

Experts puzzled over Kuala Linggi International Port's construction
ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL AND KELLY KOH New Straits Times 7 Dec 16;

MALACCA: Just how the RM12.5 billion Kuala Linggi International Port (KLIP) has been given the go-ahead to begin construction in the first quarter of next year has left experts, who deemed the project an environmental hazard, puzzled.

Experts reviewing the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) report on the proposed KLIP insist the Department of Environment (DoE) had rejected the report, based on its location.

Former International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Department of Engineering Associate Professor Dr Zaki Zainudin, who was in the team that review the report, confirmed that the team had agreed upon a consensus against the project.

The DEIA report was prepared by the proponent’s consultants.

“The main issue was the location. The port would be built on reclaimed land, which would form an island right at the river mouth of Sungai Linggi.

“The biggest concern is that this may disrupt the hydrodynamics and cause floods, which would affect towns and people upstream.

“We came to a consensus that the location was not suitable as it would disrupt the flow of water from the river, marine life and the livelihood of the people.

“Thus, I was shocked to see press reports that the project would start in the first quarter of next year, when our team (which review the DEIA report) had advised the DoE against it,” he told the New Straits Times.

The commencement of the project, announced by owners TAG Marine Sdn Bhd on Nov 28, with its managing director, Datuk Wira Noormustafa Kamal Yahya, also announcing the bulk of the funding would be from Chinese investors, will be an expansion of the Kuala Linggi Port, which opened in 2001.

The Kuala Linggi Port serves mainly the oil and gas industry, while the expansion would be to provide larger scale servicing facilities aimed at the more than 100,000 vessels transporting US$60 billion (RM266.5 billion) worth of trade through the Straits of Malacca annually.

Noormustafa had said the project would provide 6,000 new jobs.

This, however, raised further question marks and public outcry over the excessive land reclamation along Malacca’s 70km-long coastline, with another project amassing land past Pulau Upeh, about 20km south of Kuala Linggi, allegedly causing dangerous levels of erosion at the coast along Tanjung Kling.

Along the coast of Malacca, public outcry is increasing as the once popular stretches of beaches in Klebang have disappeared, while the livelihoods of fishermen continue to be affected.

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron, when contacted by the NST, ticked off the developers, stating that the project would only be allowed to continue when all standards were adhered to.

“Launching it is not a sign that work can commence.

“They can launch it a thousand times, but if the required documentation and standards are not met, the project will not be allowed to continue.” he said.

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Malaysia: ‘No oil palm on swampy land’

SARBAN SINGH The Star 8 Dec 16;

SEREMBAN: Negri Sembilan, a major palm oil producing state, will no longer allow the palm to be grown in swampy areas and abandoned padi fields to prevent the state from “drying up”.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said his administration had to resort to this as many streams and sections of rivers had dried up since the crop was grown on a big scale statewide in recent years.

“Not many of us know that a fully grown oil palm needs more than 200 litres of water a day to survive and give a good harvest.

“Since many of our streams and sections of rivers have dried up due to a combination of factors including oil palm cultivation, we do not want to allow the crop to be grown in swampy areas and abandoned paddy fields,” Moha­mad told reporters after chairing the state exco meeting.

He said the state exco had rejected applications from two companies to do so at the meeting.

Mohamad has also directed the state and district land administrators to ensure the ruling was complied with.

“I have nothing against oil palm cultivation but we need to strike a balance so that we are not completely dried up in 20 years’ time,” he said.

He added that other crops could be grown if there was a need to rehabilitate abandoned padi fields.

Citing an example, he said a company had successfully grown pineapples in the abandoned padi fields in Rembau.

“These pineapples which are now produced on a commercial scale are very juicy and sweet, and much sought after.

“Pineapples are also a good substitute as they don’t require much water,” he said.

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Malaysia: MMEA seizes 1,400 tortoises

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 8 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian coastguards intercepted a boat and rescued 1,400 tor­toises that were being taken out of Sabah for the exotic food market in Vietnam.

Six crewmen, two of them Malay­sians, were arrested when the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) inter­­cepted a boat 1.6 nautical miles from the state capital at 3am.

Kota Kinabalu MMEA commander First Admiral Adam Aziz said they believed that the tortoises were to be handed over to buyers in international waters off Pulau Mengalum about 40 nautical miles from here.

“Our investigation indicates that a boat from Vietnam was waiting for them along our international borders,” he said, adding that it is the first time that illegal smuggling and trading of tortoises were detected by the agency.

He said that investigations were carried out under the state Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1996 which carries a fine of between RM30,000 and RM100,000 and a minimum jail term of six months to five years.

“We will be handing the tortoises to the Wildlife Department,” he said, adding that the foreigners among the crew would be investigated for offences under immigration laws.

First Admiral Adam said that the tortoises were collected from a businessmen in Kinarut near Kota Kinabalu and handed over to the members of the crew to be exported to waiting buyers in international waters.

However, the species of the tortoises and whether they are listed under the wildlife protection list in the state could not be immediately ascertained.

Of the 1,400 tortoises seized, 200 were dead.

Each tortoise was valued around RM30.

In a separate incident, the agency is searching for a fishermen Mohd Helmi Otong, 20, who went missing in Samawang waters west of Sabah late Tuesday after his boat capsized.

The boat was recovered but Mohd Helmi is still missing.

MMEA seize 1,400 tortoises headed for the pot
MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 7 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) foiled an attempt to smuggle out some 1,400 tortoises meant for the exotic food market in Vietnam.

Six crewmen, comprising two locals and four fishermen, were also arrested when the MMEA intercepted the boat about 1.6 nautical miles from the state capital at about 3am Wednesday.

Kota Kinabalu MMEA commander First Admiral Adam Aziz said it is believed that the tortoises were to be handed over to buyers in international waters off Pulau Mengalum, about 40 nautical miles from here.

"Our investigations indicate that there was boat from Vietnam waiting for them along our international border," he said, adding that this was first time that the MMEA had detected illegal smuggling and trading of tortoises.

He said that investigations were carried out under the state's Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1996, which carries a fine of between RM30,000 and RM100,000 and a jail term of six months to five years.

"We will be handing it over to the Wildlife Department for further action," he said, while the foreigners among the crew will be investigated also for offences under immigration laws.

First Admiral Adam said that the tortoises were collected from a businessman in Kinarut near Kota Kinabalu and handed over to the members of the crew for "export".

However, it could not be immediately ascertained the exact species of the tortoises and if they fall under the wildlife protection list.

Of the 1,400 tortoise seized, 200 were already dead. Each tortoise is valued around RM30.

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IUCN Red List update highlights trade threat to Southeast Asian birds

TRAFFIC 7 Dec 16;

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 7th December 2016—First profiled through TRAFFIC’s work on birds threatened by demand for the cagebird trade, a number of Southeast Asian birds are now perched in higher categories of threat in the latest update of the IUCN Red List released today.

According to the IUCN, the Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush Garrulax rufifrons, Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet Trichoglossus forsteni and Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus are among a suite of species uplisted to higher threat categories as a result of the impacts of trade. Ample evidence points towards unsustainable levels of illegal capture for the cagebird trade, largely centred on Java, as driving their deteriorating status.

The list of species identified for uplisting was drawn from the 28 species prioritized during the first Asian Songbird Trade Crisis Summit held in September 2015. The Summit brought together experts from various fields to formulate actions to save them from extinction. An IUCN-SSC Southeast Asian Traded Songbird Specialist Group was conceived during the Summit and is in the process of being created.

Prior to the summit, TRAFFIC sounded the alarm in a report recording over 19,000 birds representing 206 species for sale in Jakarta’s Pramuka, Jatinegara and Barito markets over a three-day period. Another three-day inventory of five major markets in eastern and central Java documented nearly 23,000 birds for sale. This May, another paper highlighted 13 bird species and a further 14 subspecies found in Sundaic Indonesia that are at serious risk of extinction because of excessive over-harvesting. It was through these studies, and the Summit, that species previously thought to be abundant and relatively unaffected by trade were brought into the spotlight.

The Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati is one such example. It was only traded in low volumes a decade ago, but in the past few years work by TRAFFIC and other organizations including Planet Indonesia has uncovered a massive demand for the species, exemplified by confiscations of thousands of individuals.

TRAFFIC submitted data from these market surveys and trade analyses through the BirdLife Threatened Bird Forums and a recent publication on laughingthrushes to support the recommended uplistings of many of these species.

“It is important that the conservation status of these species are being updated to reflect the threats facing them, but much more needs to be done to address this looming Asian songbird crisis,” said Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia. “It is due to lack of research, lack of protection measures and ineffective regulation that these species have been ranked in this list of threatened species in the first place.”

The second Asian Songbird Trade Crisis Summit will take place in February 2017, gathering all partners to share progress since the first meeting and to put into action the regional strategy to enhance conservation and enforcement efforts for bird species threatened by trade.

In addition to a number of songbirds, the Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus and Timneh Parrot Psittacus timneh were also uplisted. In October, both species, collectively termed African Grey Parrots, received higher protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) through a listing in Appendix I due to unsustainable levels of harvesting for trade. A WCS and TRAFFIC study highlighted discrepancies in trade figures of the import and export of the species in Singapore.

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