Best of our wild blogs: 19 Dec 16

Night Walk At Dairy Farm Nature Park (16 Dec 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Indo-Pacific Tarpon (Megalops cyprinoides) @ Chek Jawa
Monday Morgue

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Recycling enthusiasts awarded for innovative ideas

KOH SWEE FANG VALERIE Today Online 19 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE — While at the supermarket, Mdm Goh Bong Yeo, 83, often receives compliments for her shopping trolley made from recycled drink cartons.

It took her two to three months to collect, wash and cut up around 100 empty cartons, which she then tied onto an old trolley frame to transform it into her shopping trolley.

Yesterday, Mdm Goh won a consolation prize at the annual Central Singapore Upcycling Contest.

“I’m very happy. I always get people asking me where I get my trolley from — it can even contain a five-kilogramme packet of rice,” she said.

She first ventured into recycling about two years ago, after her daughter encouraged her to learn a new skill, instead of idling at home.

The pair have since made handbags and laundry bags out of recycled materials found at home.

“My daughter taught me how to make these items. She said we shouldn’t waste things,” said Mdm Goh.

Ms Denise Phua, mayor of Central Singapore District, urged residents to practise repurposing old objects and breathing new life into them.

“Personally, it aligns with my own values and our district’s values that we should try to make our lifestyles simpler and to reduce or eliminate wastage as much as possible (in) a society that is underlined by quite a lot of consumerism, a society that is going for a lot more better and newer things,” Ms Phua told reporters after giving out prizes to contest winners.

The top prize went to Ms Saumya Sahi Kumar and Ms Nituna Kanodia, both 34, for their serving tray made of old photo frames, wine bottle corks and discarded tiles. The two women, who are college friends, said they went from restaurant to restaurant to ask for bottle corks.

It took them about a week to collect the materials, refine the design and construct the tray.

They had started talking about recycling years ago but only got down to committing themselves to it about four months back, said Ms Saumya, who added that they sometimes rummage through garbage to find unwanted gems.

“Trends come and go a lot. But all the stuff that people are throwing out — we could actually do something with them,” said Ms Nituna. VALERIE KOH

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Malaysia: 5 million fingerlings released in Pahang

NOR AIN MOHAMED RADHI New Straits Times 19 Dec 16;

KUANTAN: The Pahang Fisheries Department has released more than five million fingerlings (juvenile fish) into rivers since 2010 to increase the population of freshwater fish.

Its director, Datuk Adnan Hussain, said 5,147,475 fingerlings had been released to address the decrease in fishery resources in the state’s rivers.

“The department began noticing a decrease in fishery resources in main rivers based on an inventory research conducted in 2006, as well as feedback from freshwater fishermen, who say there are less fish in the rivers,” he said in an interview recently.

He said the department then conducted a series of research to identify the problem before deciding to implement the “rear and release” programme to increase the freshwater fish population.

“During the first year of the programme (in 2010), 607,600 fingerlings, aged between 2 and 3 months, were released into the main rivers in the state.”

The rivers included Sungai Pahang, Sungai Semantan, Sungai Jelai, Sungai Tembeling, Sungai Lembing and Sungai Rompin.

Adnan said the fingerlings were also released into small rivers, such as Sungai Penor, Sungai Belat and Sungai Kerau; two lakes, Tasik Chini and Tasik Bera; and the Chereh Dam.

“The species released include lampam, sebarau, udang galah, temelian, baung, terbol, ketutu and kelah.”

He said during the second year of the programme, 204,800 fingerlings were released, followed by 767,240 in 2012, 907,630 (2013), 465,400 (2014) and 987,800 (last year).

He said the fish fry came from the department’s breeding facilities at the Perlok Aquaculture Extension Centre in Jerantut and Bukit Tinggi Aquaculture Extension Centre in Bentong.

He said although the fishery resource in the state was satisfactory, the programme would continue.

“The department will continue with the programme. This year alone, 1,207,005 fingerlings have been released from January to October.

“Jerantut recorded the highest number with 708,000 fingerlings, followed by Temerloh with 200,000,” he said, adding that the department had received requests from local leaders and village heads for the programme to be carried out in their areas.

He said the department spent between RM150,000 and RM200,000 annually for the programme, adding that the feedback from fishermen was positive.

“They are thankful for the department’s effort. Fishermen say six months after the release, they will get a lot of fish.”

In May, during state Rural Development, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Committee chairman Datuk Shafik Fauzan Sharif’s visit to the Perlok Aquaculture Extension Centre, he said the state government would prioritise the breeding of freshwater fish, especially those under threat of extinction, such as kerai, patin muncung and jelawat.

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Malaysia: Fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos left

OLIVIA MIVIL New Straits Times 18 Dec 16;

ALL the remaining Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia and Indonesia, which number less than 100, should be managed as a single population to facilitate the reproduction of the critically-endangered species.

Researchers believe only a few of the species are left in Malaysia. Two females, Puntong and Iman, and a middle-aged male, named Kertam, have been relocated to the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

Puntong, 20, had her front left foot torn off in a hunter’s snare trap when she was an infant, while Iman was the last wild rhino to be captured in Danum Valley, Sabah, in 2014.

Both have problems conceiving due to the conditions of their reproductive system.

Iman, despite being diagnosed with severe fibroids in the uterus, can still produce eggs.

Sabah-based Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora) executive director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne says over a period of two-and-a-half years, 15 Sumatran rhino eggs have been obtained from Iman and Puntong.

Bora’s role is to care for rhinos in the sanctuary, and seek and capture rhinos in the wild.

All rhino eggs have been used for in-vitro fertilisation efforts, but have yet to yield results.

“We need more females in the programme to secure the first embryo faster and work out the protocols and conditions for success,” Payne says.
He says many factors affect the success of fertilisation, including old age, poor quality of sperm and eggs and other infertility-related conditions.

Factors that need to be considered include the optimum pH level, ideal temperature and protein requirements for the egg maturation liquid during procedures at the laboratory.

On the male rhino’s part, its sperm can be frozen with liquid nitrogen, so that it can be used later for in-vitro fertilisation.

Payne says even though about a quarter of all remaining Sumatran rhinos have significant fertility issues, efforts to boost the reproduction rate are in the pipeline through advanced reproductive and cellular technologies.

“We should not rely on hope to save the endangered species in the wild. In the past few decades, there have been too few individuals in any one area to form a viable breeding population,” he says, quashing a recent report by a researcher on the possible discovery of a rhino footprint in the Danum Valley conservation area.

Last year, Malaysia declared that there were no more Sumatran rhinos in the wild.

Since 2006, an experienced field team from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia has been searching for rhino footprints. Tens of thousands of hours of footage have been recorded, but no trace of rhinos have been found.

However, during a survey between Aug 16 and Aug 29 at the conservation area, WWF Sabah Terrestrial Conservation Programme manager Sharon Koh Pei Hui said the team spotted a 23cm-wide footprint that might be from a Sumatran rhino.

Payne says it was inconceivable that a half-tonne mammal would leave a vague outline of a single footprint, with no other signs of its existence in the vicinity.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga says discussions with the department’s Indonesian counterpart was underway to cooperate on rhino breeding.

He says government is committed to conserving the critically endangered species.

“In-vitro fertilisation requires experts and high technology to increase the success rate.

“For now, we are relying on expertise from Germany, and the cost for each fertilisation attempt is about RM300,000.”

To support the effort, the Federal Government has allocated RM11.9 million for advanced reproductive technology for rhinos.

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Malaysia: Sabah wants pangolin declared as totally protected species

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 18 Dec 16;

KINABATANGAN: A cabinet paper to revise the status of pangolin in Sabah has been prepared and expected to be tabled early next year.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said Sunda pangolin was the only species found in Sabah but it was protected under Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 which they can be hunted with permits.

“Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world, and are mainly threatened by poaching for international trade involving live animals, meat and scales.

“Another threat is the habitat loss and fragmentation, although the severity of this threat requires further research in Sabah,” he said in a statement following the success of the centre in fitting satellite unit on a Sunda pangolin which was rescued by a villager Nasri Manjah at a palm oil plantation.

Goosen added the heavy trade of the species had prompted Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun to push Sunda pangolin to become a totally protected species.

State Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said about 22,000 pangolins were killed between May 2007 and Jan 2009 to supply a syndicate.

“Nasri, a full-time farmer, has lived in the Kinabatangan since 1976, and according to him pangolins were very common in his time but nowadays they are hard to spot.

“I am glad that he decided to save the pangolin by giving it to us and gave the animal a chance to survive, although several possible buyers were negotiating with him,” he added.

Meanwhile, the rescued adult female pangolin weighing at 7.72 kilogrammes has been named Asa, meaning “don’t give up” in Malay.

It was attached with a Global Positioning System unit weighing 80 grams on its scales, situated at its hind leg near to its tail to minimise interference with its movement.

The pangolin had been released and successfully tracked for already a week.

The centre’s lead researcher Elisa Panjang said it was difficult to study the species due to its elusive behavior and rarity.

“We want to understand how the pangolin responds to its environment, particularly in degraded and fragmented forest such as the Kinabatangan.”

Sabah team conducting study on Sunda pangolins
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 19 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Nasri Manjah saw an adult pangolin crossing the road near an oil palm estate in the Kinabatangan district and decided to bring it home.

He asked his son to share the find on his Facebook account and received offers from people wanting to buy the animal.

However, Nasri, who has lived in the district since 1976, refused to sell the female Sunda pangolin because he wanted it to be rescued after seeing its numbers declining due to hunting over the years.

His find gained the attention of Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) researchers Elisa Panjang, a doctorate student registered at Cardiff University and Dr Laura Benedict, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wild­life Department (SWD) Rescue Unit.

They later brought the animal to the DGFC. It was fitted with a global positioning system (GPS) unit and released.

Elisa said the 7.72kg pangolin which has been named “Asa”, was tracked for a week after its release to help the team carry out a research on pangolins and their habitat.

She said pangolins were scaly mammals, making them unique.

“So few studies have been made on the pangolins due to their elusive behaviour and no detailed research has been carried out on them.

“We want to understand how pangolins respond to the environment, particularly in degraded and fragmented forests like Kinabatan­gan.”

The project is a long-term collaboration between DGFC and SWD and is financially supported by Houston Zoo and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said pangolins were the most trafficked mammal in the world.

He said the Sunda pangolin was the only species found in Sabah and protected under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, which meant that one must have a licence to hunt them.

However,state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun had been seeking for the Sunda pangolin to become a totally-protected species, Dr Goos­sens said.

SWD assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said the department wanted to upgrade the status of pangolins to Schedule 1 (prohibiting hunting, possession, consumption and sale of pangolins, and any parts).

Sabah Wildlife Department found that more than 22,000 pangolins were killed in Sabah between May 2007 and January 2009 to supply one smuggling syndicate.

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Vietnam: Dire threat to famed Con Dao flora, fauna

VietNamNet Bridge 18 Dec 16;

The famous Con Dao Island’s ecosystem and its biodiversity is seriously threatened by overexploitation and low environmental awareness of visitors and locals.

Concerned officials as well as residents are calling for strong protective measures that can prevent the slide into irrecoverable loss.

"The commercial hunting of marine resources and pollution of their natural habitat have resulted in a loss of natural regeneration of marine fauna," Tran Dinh Hue, deputy head of Con Dao National Park’s Management Board, told the Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper.

“Out of ignorance, many people have been hunting for endangered species using different methods," said Nguyen Van Son, owner of a restaurant in Con Dao District.

He said some visitors to the island still wanted to buy products from rare species like the eggs of vich (Cheloniidae), a kind of sea turtle.

This demand would impact efforts to save and preserve the turtle, he said.

While the depletion of natural resources is increasingly evident, inadequate penalties posed a challenge for forest rangers trying to prevent and discourage violations, Hue said.

A large number of fishing vessels can be seen in waters near the island every day.

Instead of using traditional methods, fishermen can be seen using cyanide fishing – where the poisonous substance is sprayed to stun the fish, or using light to attract fish to specific areas to harvest them. Both methods are prohibited, Hue said.

In addition, fishermen are also illegally fishing in the wetlands of Con Dao National Park, posing risks to all marine organisms.

Natural disasters have also damaged the island’s ecosystem rendering it more fragile, so the harm caused by human actions is compounded.

The Linda storm, which hit the island in 1997, destroyed one third of its forest area and damaged about 1,000 coral reefs and sea grass.

The El Nino phenomenon exacted a heavy toll on local coral reefs in 1998, 2010 and in April and May this year.

Nguyen Khac Pho, deputy head of the national park, said rising sea levels had narrowed the number of nesting locations for sea turtles and affected their reproduction.

Tourism impacts

“The park’s biodiversity is also threatened by tourism activities,” Pho said.

The fact that many tourists choose Con Dao Island for its beautiful, pristine natural beauty is a challenge to conservation efforts, he said.

He said turtles will not crawl ashore to dig their nests, or they will stop preparing their nests and return to the sea if they detect noises and light at night.

Pho also blamed tourists for purchasing products of endangered species for the increase of violations in the field.

A number of people have tried to catch and trade meat and eggs of vĂ­ch, a rare and endangered animal, for high profits, he said.

Besides sea turtles, yen hang (Collocalia), another endangered birds, need to be protected.

The numbers of this special bird have been dwindling rapidly over the past few years, Pho said.

Patrol team

Faced with these challenges, the Con Dao National Park Management Board has set up new rules to conserve marine resources and implement forest protection commitments.

It plans to expand its patrol team to 70 people, assigning some to guard the nesting areas of endangered species.

The board will also co-ordinate with relevant agencies in dealing with violations.

Located on the Cn Dao archipelago, the national park covers nearly 20,000ha with 6,000 ha of forest and the rest belonging to the marine protected area.

It is home to many plant and animals species endemic to Viet Nam and South Asia.

According to the park management, 29 species of mammals, 85 species of birds, 46 species of reptiles and amphibians and about 1,080 vascular plant species have been recorded at the park.

Surveys conducted by Nha Trang Institute of Occanography have shown 1,323 species of marine fauna and flora, including 44 listed in the Red Data of Viet Nam.

The coral reef at Con Dao used to be the most pristine in Viet Nam, covering around 1,000ha.

The Park was recognised as the country’s six marine Ramsar site in 2014. Ramsar, or the Convention of Wetlands, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides a framework for conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

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Scientists discover 163 new species in Greater Mekong region: WWF

Reuters 18 Dec 16;

A rainbow-headed snake and a dragon-like lizard are among 163 new species that scientists recently discovered in the Greater Mekong region, conservation group WWF said on Monday, adding rapid development in the area, from dams to mines, was threatening wildlife survival.

The discoveries, published in a report on Monday, include a gecko in Laos with pale blue skin and a rare banana species discovered in northern Thailand that is critically endangered because of increasing deforestation.

The Greater Mekong is home to some of the world's most endangered species. Rare or endangered animal parts, including tiger bones and rhino horns, are seen as collector's items by some and are often used in traditional medicine.

In June, Thai wildlife authorities raided the Tiger Temple west of Bangkok, a popular tourist attraction. There they discovered scores of dead tiger cubs, frozen tiger carcasses, skins and dead cubs in jars, as well as other protected species.

It remains unclear why the Tiger Temple was storing dead tiger cubs and parts, although officials have said they might have been used for traditional Chinese medicine.

Jimmy Borah, Wildlife Programme Manager for WWF-Greater Mekong, said the new species discovered in the Greater Mekong region were a reminder that there is hope at a time when extinction rates are increasing at an alarming rate.

"The Greater Mekong region keeps reminding us that there are ​many incredible, unexplored areas, leading to new discoveries happening every year and it is crucial that we protect them before they are lost," Borah told Reuters.

A 2016 report by WWF found that by 2020 global populations of fish, birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles could have declined by two-thirds in just 50 years.

The Greater Mekong is a global hub for illegal wildlife trade.

"Many collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars or more for the rarest, most unique and most endangered species, often buying them at the region's illegal wildlife markets," said Borah.

"To save them, it's crucial that we improve enforcement against poaching and close illegal wildlife markets."

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Japan culling 210,000 birds amid spreading avian flu

Channel NewsAsia 18 Dec 16;

Tokyo - Japan has begun slaughtering about 210,000 farm birds in northern Hokkaido to contain another outbreak of a highly contagious strain of avian flu, an official said on Sunday.

It is the fifth mass cull this winter in Japan with hundreds of officials working to prevent the spread of the virulent H5 strain, which has been detected at several farms across the country.

Just weeks earlier, outbreaks led to a cull of 550,000 chickens in the central city of Niigata and 23,000 ducks in the Aomori prefecture south of Hokkaido.

Authorities have also banned the transport of poultry and poultry products in areas close to the affected farms, while sterilising main roads leading to them.

But progress has been slow this time with just 32,310 chickens at the farm in Shimzu town in northern Hokkaido culled by Saturday evening, local officials said in a statement.

"We continue to cull the chickens today but the work is difficult as the air temperature falls to some -20 degree Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) at night" in addition to fallen snow that is another obstacle, an official told AFP.

Before the current outbreaks, Japan's last confirmed case of avian flu at a farm was in January 2015.


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