Best of our wild blogs: 14 Jan 17

Living reefs and seagrasses at Pulau Tekukor
wild shores of singapore

Green Drinks: Minimalism, Refurbishment & Recirculation
Green Drinks Singapore

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Rescued corals thrive on sea walls

Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Jan 17;

The sea walls around one of Singapore's Southern Islands are now thriving with marine life - life that would otherwise have been snuffed out by works to build a new port in Tuas four years ago.

Of the 213 corals that were grown in nurseries and then transplanted onto sea walls on Lazarus Island, south of the mainland, scientists recorded a survival rate of more than 90 per cent.

The corals lying in the path of port development works were given a second lease of life, after the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) took steps to save them.

In 2013, the agency engaged marine biologists from the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) to collect small coral fragments from Sultan Shoal, located south of Tuas, to be grown in nurseries.

Each barely the length of a human finger, the hope was to nurse the fragments into larger, fist-size colonies that could be used to rehabilitate reefs. It was a novel method that proved successful.

The findings were published last November in the science journal Ecological Engineering.

The method also helped improve the coral cover at the three transplant sites on Lazarus Island. One of the sites saw hard coral cover increase from 3 to 20 per cent.

The results were encouraging, as it showed that man-made structures, such as sea walls, could be conducive for marine life, reducing the impact of coastal development and loss of marine biodiversity, said Dr Toh Tai Chong, a research fellow at TMSI who led the project.

Healthy coral reefs are important as they not only draw marine life, but are also effective buffers against strong waves and can help filter pollutants from the water, said coral expert Chou Loke Ming, who supervised the project.

The transplant sites were selected for their similarities to the source site at Sultan Shoal, in terms of water temperature, underwater currents and level of sedimentation in the waters. This ensured they were conducive to coral growth in the first place, said Dr Toh.

The coral nursery project is just one of the initiatives funded by MPA to save marine life in the way of the Tuas port development.

Between September 2013 and August 2014, MPA also relocated more than 2,000 coral colonies from Sultan Shoal to the waters off St John's Island and Sisters' Islands.

About 50 volunteers helped out in activities such as harvesting coral fragments and transplantation.

For the coral nursery project, the inclusion of volunteers in fieldwork and data analyses could help lower the cost of the project by up to 23 per cent, Dr Toh noted.

He said: "The savings in manpower expenses can reduce the high costs of rehabilitation projects and could encourage companies to undertake such efforts. More importantly, the engagement of volunteers promotes environmental awareness and stewardship."

An MPA spokesman said: "MPA has always believed that while developing our ports to meet future demands, environmental protection should not be compromised and MPA would adopt a similar approach for our future projects."

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Murky waters help save corals in the short term

Audrey Tan, Straits TImes AsiaOne 14 Jan 17;

Murky waters are the bane of scuba divers, but for corals, the sedimentation could be an unlikely ally in the struggle against warming seas.

A new study has found that murky waters could reduce the impact of sea temperature rises on corals - though only in the short term.

Corals depend on symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae to make food. Bleaching occurs when abnormally high sea temperatures cause corals to expel the zooxanthellae living in them, turning them white and causing them to lose a food source.

Sediment suspended in water helps to reduce the amount of solar irradiance - radiant energy per unit area - affecting the corals, said coral expert Chou Loke Ming, an adjunct research professor at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Tropical Marine Science Institute, who was on the team that did the study.

"This helps to reduce sunlight energy through the water. Although the water temperature is elevated, the reduced sunlight energy helps to lower the impact," he said.

This could explain why corals growing in shallow areas here survived two major bleaching incidents in 1998 and 2010.

An analysis of corals at 15 sites over 27 years from 1986 - when Prof Chou's laboratory started quantitative reef monitoring - to 2012 showed that coral cover at depths of 3m to 4m could recover to the way they were within a decade.

At these shallow sites, coral cover over the years ranged between 25 per cent and 49 per cent, with the highest cover recorded when monitoring first started. The greatest decline occurred between 1988 and 1998 - due to the El Nino weather phenomenon that was linked to prolonged warm weather here.

But the corals recovered within the next decade. By 2008, mean coral cover had recovered to about 40 per cent, where they were in 1993, noted the study led by Dr James Guest, now a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

Scientists from NUS and the National Parks Board (NParks) also contributed to the study, which was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

"The most interesting finding was that the shallow reefs appeared to recover well after major bleaching in 1998. This is all the more surprising when you consider how impacted Singapore's marine environment is," Dr Guest told The Straits Times.

However, Prof Chou warned that in the long run, murky waters could do the corals more harm than good.

"Overall, turbid waters interfere with the filter feeding of corals and reduce the sunlight energy required by the symbiotic algae. Over the long term, turbid waters can negatively affect the health of coral communities."

The picture of coral recovery at deeper sites of 6m to 7m was less rosy, with no recovery to historical levels observed. Overall, the 30 per cent coral cover decline at deeper sites was more than twice that of the 12 per cent decline at shallow sites.

No sign of bleaching on a small colony of ring favid corals on Cyrene Reef. The study found that at deeper sites, the coral cover decline was 30 per cent, more than twice that of the 12 per cent decline at shallow sites.Photo: The Straits Times
Prof Chou said the sharper decline could be due to the presence of coral rubble, which accumulates at the bottom of a reef slope. "Even if coral larvae manage to settle on rubble pieces, they would not be able to survive because the rubble can turn over and bury larvae that settle on the surface."

The finding has implications on measures to safeguard corals during bleaching incidents, such as the one last year.

Moving corals to deeper waters was initially considered by NParks as a strategy to protect corals during bleaching, but NParks decided against doing so last year. Instead, it closed the dive trails at Sisters' Islands Marine Park, reopening them only last month, to allow more time for the corals to recover.

Dr Karenne Tun, director of the coastal and marine division at the NParks' National Biodiversity Centre, said: "The findings from this study add to our existing knowledge of spatial and temporal trends of Singapore's reefs over the past three decades."

Added Dr Tun, who was also part of the study: "It also reflects how proactive management measures, like reef restoration and species recovery programmes, can enhance reef recovery following stress events."

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AVA lifts suspension on 2 fish farms hit by oil spill

TOH EE MING Today Online 13 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Two farms may now sell fish again after a suspension order was lifted by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), as they have completed cleanup operations due to the recent oil spill and fish samples taken from them have passed food-safety tests.

In a statement on Friday (Jan 13), the AVA said that the two farms — Tiberias Harvest and Singapore Aquaculture Technologies — have also put in place measures such as setting up canvas skirting and closed containment systems to reduce the risk of oil incursion into the farm. However, sales of crustaceans from one of these two farms, which AVA did not name, remains under suspension as food-safety evaluation is ongoing. The suspension for 10 other farms remains.

Some 300 tonnes of oil gushed into the waters off Singapore last Tuesday, after two ships collided off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor, Malaysia.

The AVA had earlier ordered 12 fish farms to suspend sales in the aftermath of the accident.

Noting that the situation had “improved significantly”, an AVA spokesperson said on Friday that most of the oil had been removed from the farms, but a few farms are still in the midst of cleaning up farm structures and equipment such as nets and floating drums, and taking measures to prevent re-entry of residual oil.

AVA officers have been visiting coastal fish farms in the East Johor Straits daily to ascertain and mitigate the situation, including helping with the cleanup efforts, it said. The authority added that it would also be helping the fish farmers on their claims arising from their business losses due to the oil spill. A check with a few farms on Friday showed that operations are still held up, with reports of business taking a hit.

Mr Timothy Ng from 2 Jays farm, which was among those suspended, said that the bulk of the oil had been cleaned up from the water, but he still sees cleaners trying to scrape off oil from the flotation barrels by hand or with absorbent cloths.

His farm has about four to five tonnes of fishes, but it is difficult to quantify the losses, he said.

Mr Ng, who is also president of the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore, said: “I’m beginning to see that some of the fishes are not well, and more have died. I counted another 100 that died, but these are still early stages … We just have to wait and see.”

Another fish farmer Phillip Lim lamented that the coastal fish farming industry is finding it difficult to survive after being hit by a series of incidents, such as plankton blooms causing mass deaths, and now the oil spill. “The public is very cautious now, but we can’t blame them,” he said, adding that sales have declined by 80 per cent.

While he and some other farmers are hoping for some form of compensation from AVA, the costs of engaging a lawyer is a major deterrent for those who have sustained huge losses.

“Who helps the small farmers? Big farmers have no problem as they can engage lawyers, but some small farmers may not want to claim,” Mr Lim said. “When do (we) dare to start (selling), when will the water quality recover, and is it suitable for farming … there are many question marks,” he added.

Mr Tan Choon Teck, from FC57E Fish Farm, said in Mandarin: “We just hope that we can recover some of our losses and quickly sell our fish … It’s a big headache for us (worrying about this).”

AVA lifts sales suspension for 2 fish farms affected by oil spill
Channel NewsAsia 13 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: Two of the 12 fish farms that were affected by the massive oil spill more than a week ago have had their sales suspension lifted, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) on Friday (Jan 13).

The farms, Tiberias Harvest and Singapore Aquaculture Technologies, are the first to have the suspension lifted, after completing their clean-up operations. They have also implemented measures like putting up canvas skirting and closed containment systems to reduce the risk of oil spreading into their farms.

"Fish samples collected from these two farms have passed our food safety tests," said AVA. It added, however, that one of the farms is still not able to resume sales of crustaceans like lobsters and crabs, "as food safety evaluation of the crustacean species is ongoing."

Since the oil spill on Jan 3, caused by a collision between two container vessels off Johor, AVA said its officers have been visiting coastal fish farms in the East Johor Straits daily to assess and manage the situation.

"The situation has improved significantly. Much of the oil has been removed from the farms. A few farms are still in the progress of cleaning up their stained farm structures and equipment, and putting in mitigation measures to prevent re-entry of residual oil," said AVA.

The sales suspension for the other 10 farms remains. AVA said it is helping the fish farmers in seeking compensation for their losses.

- CNA/gs

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Wild boar feedback more than quadruples in last 2 years

In 2016, Singapore’s veterinary authority received 140 pieces of feedback about the animals and euthanised 21 of them as a result.
Justin Ong Channel NewsAsia 14 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Feedback to the authorities about wild boars increased sharply last year, with more members of the public contacting the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore with complaints, sightings and other comments.

The AVA told Channel NewsAsia on Thursday (Jan 12) it received 140 pieces of feedback about wild boars last year - up from 80 in 2015 and 30 in 2014 - mirroring the increased number of sightings reported by media in recent months.

Last year, two motorcyclists were hurt in separate accidents - in April and November - involving wild boars which had wandered onto expressways. In June, one of the untamed pigs reportedly chased and injured a boy in a Punggol housing estate. A video of a woman feeding the animals in the same vicinity emerged some days later.

In response to the feedback last year, AVA told Channel NewsAsia it trapped and “humanely euthanised” 21 wild boars as relocation options are unavailable.


The agency also said 13 of the pieces of feedback it received in 2016 about boars were from the vicinity of Pasir Ris Heights and Pasir Ris Drive 3, which has emerged as a hotspot for sightings. AVA has been conducting surveillance and control operations in the area to ensure public safety.

Kidz Meadow, a kindergarten located along Pasir Ris Heights, told Channel NewsAsia its staff and students had never encountered any wild boars, although one parent recently informed the school of a sighting at a nearby carpark. In response, the preschool reached out to the National Parks Board, who said it would look into the matter.

Meanwhile, residents in the area who were out jogging and walking on Thursday evening told Channel NewsAsia they were generally unconcerned by the presence of the feral swine.

Two of those people - who did not want to be named - even said they had never seen the boars in their respective 10 and 17 years of staying in Pasir Ris.

Resident Jason Guo, however, said that at least once a week, he would spot a herd of about 10 grazing in the forested area along Pasir Ris Heights. This only started about a year ago, the 25-year-old engineer added.

Another resident, Mr Kong, said boar sightings in the area were infrequent - although the 50-year-old did come across one further up north pounding the running path in Pasir Ris Park.

“Nothing to worry about… If they come near you, just siam,” he said, using the Singlish term for getting out of the way.

When Channel NewsAsia visited the area on Thursday evening, a solitary boar was spotted along Pasir Ris Heights, just before Kidz Meadow Kindergarten.

But a herd of at least 15 was openly grazing at the junction of Pasir Ris Drive 12 and 3, in close proximity to passing cars and cyclists.

Neeraj Bansal, who has lived just across the junction for three years, said that sightings had increased sharply in the last two weeks.

“I’m a bit concerned,” said the 33-year-old business analyst. “I have little kids, and some of the boars are very big and have really sharp teeth. Whenever we see them, we turn the other way and go off.”

“I’m not sure how they’re coming here,” he said, while suggesting the authorities could perhaps fence off the forested areas from the main road.


AVA said the wild boars could be venturing into the open due to the presence of food or feeders. “Irresponsible feeding of wild animals can lead to an unsustainable population growth,” said a spokesperson.

“We urge the public to play their part and not feed wild boars.”

Anbarasi Boopal, director of the wildlife rescue centre at the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), agreed.

“Wild pigs have been fed by public regularly at Lorong Halus and there have been food and food packets left for wild pigs at Pasir Ris as well on the main road. It will draw the animals out," she said.

“An island-wide ban on feeding wildlife should be implemented to prevent such situations and should be enforced strictly.”

“When wild animals associate humans with food, they will continue to explore outside their habitats, returning for food and may even approach humans for food.”

AVA also advised the public not to approach, disturb, or try to catch the wild boars.

“The public should keep a safe distance from the wild boars and avoid confronting or cornering them, as wild boars may attack if they feel threatened,” said the agency. “Female wild boars with piglets should be left alone as they are very protective of their young.”

“Do not interact with the wild boar, and ensure that young children and pets are kept away as they may be curious and approach it.”

AVA said it would continue to monitor the situation and take necessary measures to ensure public safety.

Ms Anbarasi suggested that measures such as trapping and culling were “not a solution”.

“Singapore is growing as a green city where urbanisation meets wildlife habitats,” she explained. “Wild animals will continue to adapt in these pockets and will continue to explore new habitats."

"In this light, it is very important for everyone to be aware of ways to live in harmony with the wildlife, to prevent human-wildlife conflict situations.”

Rise in boar numbers spurs debate on wildlife feeding
The Straits Times AsiaOne 15 Jan 17;

While the authorities have been busy culling wild boars in Pasir Ris, at least one resident has been feeding the animals, which may have doubled in population in the area.

The thriving pack of wild boars in Pasir Ris Drive 3 has become the subject of a debate between people for and against wildlife feeding.

A local resident said the pack grew from about 10 to more than 20 animals in the last two years.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it culled 21 boars in the same area last year to try to keep the population under control.

When The Sunday Times visited on Thursday evening, a middle- aged woman had stopped her car at the junction of Pasir Ris Drive 3 and Pasir Ris Farmway 1 and doled out a large pile of rice mixed with canned dog food on the soil-covered slope nearby.

The food attracted about 20 wild boars, which had appeared earlier from the forested patch farther up the slope marked with military-protected area signs.

A pungent animal smell pervaded the air, and grunts and squeals were heard as the boars ate to their hearts' content.

The woman, who declined to be named, said she lived nearby and had fed the animals periodically for close to a year.

"All animals have the right to live... They (the wild boars) should be left alone because they don't bother people," she added before driving off.

Retiree Thomas Abraham, 65, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, first saw the animals about two years ago and has been observing them closely out of interest.

He supports the feeding, saying that the animals get hungry and look skinnier during the dry season.

"We can't let them starve...

"They are no danger to humans and they run away when people come too close," said Mr Abraham.

However, Ms Tricia Kat, 42, an aviation consultant who jogs through the area every other day, said: "If they're wild, you shouldn't give them food. They'll know where to look for it."

She added that the animals are a potential hazard to passing cyclists and runners, who might collide with them.

"Maybe they could build a fence to keep them in... I hope they won't be culled," said Ms Kat.

The number of cases of wild boar-related feedback received by AVA has ballooned over the years, from about 30 in 2014 to 80 in 2015 and 140 last year.

AVA urged the public not to feed wild boars, as it may change their behaviour and make them reliant on humans.

Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, went further, saying there should be an islandwide ban on all wildlife feeding, and not just in the nature reserves.

Other wildlife experts said last year that the increase in wild boar sightings in Punggol and Pasir Ris could be due to urban development reducing their habitat or people drawing them out into the open by feeding them, rather than population growth.

Wild boars were involved in at least two traffic accidents last year when motorcyclists collided with them on the Bukit Timah Expressway and Seletar Expressway.

A boy was hospitalised in May after being attacked by one in Punggol.

Just last week, Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported wild boar sightings in the Housing Board estate in Woodlands Street 41, with residents blaming these on people feeding pigeons and stray dogs.

Meanwhile, the National Parks Board is doing a population study of the wild boars to help manage them.

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Rail Corridor on track to close this quarter

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 14 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Authorities will seal off the area around the old Bukit Timah Station in the first quarter of this year, to lay a 22-km stretch of water pipes to feed the Central Business District.

The closure had originally been slated for the third, and then the fourth quarter of 2016.

The section - which stretches from the PIE/Jalan Anak Bukit Flyover to Holland Road - is the last along the Rail Corridor to be closed. Singapore's national water agency PUB said work has already begun near Greenleaf Walk, and the rest of the stretch will be closed progressively.

Authorities will provide a 2m-wide access path from the PIE/Rifle Range Road to Holland Road near Bukit Sedap during the closure, so that the stretch will remain accessible for pedestrians.

Areas will progressively be reopened from the end of 2017. The stretch on which the station sits is scheduled to reopen in the fourth quarter of 2018. The area will later be developed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to cater to workplaces and homes in the vicinity, though some stretches such as that near the Bukit Timah Railway Station "can remain more natural", said a URA spokesperson.

Visitors told Channel NewsAsia they hoped that any development work done would preserve the area's countryside nature, as well as its iconic bridges and rail tracks.

"It's very nice because it's still very rustic," said retiree Matilda Woo. "We get to walk and experience the old railway, and we see a lot of people cycling."

"It's very rare in Singapore to have clean, flat land that you can have an easy walk on," said Ms Gladys Thio, also a retiree.

Mr Eric Tay, who decided to have his wedding photographs taken along one of the corridor's iconic steel bridges before the stretch closed, said he appreciated the history of the former railway line, which once linked Penang to Singapore.

"It's a very pretty railway line that's been closed off. (My fiancee and I) came here to preserve some memories," said Mr Tay in Mandarin.

Other visitors, such as club DJ Adam Averdal, said they hoped the stretch could encourage more people to take up sports in the great outdoors. "A lot of Singaporeans, we work a lot and even students study a lot and they don't get out enough. And even when they do go out, they go to shopping malls, other buildings, cinemas," he said.

Some felt that the place could also be better signposted.

"Sometimes it's difficult to find where you can access it (the stretch), if you haven't gone with a friend before or looked carefully on maps," said Ms Sofia Haakansson, a Swede who bikes the stretch twice a week. "The signage on how to get onto the green corridor could be greatly improved."

Environmental group Nature Society (Singapore) said it hopes that however the place is developed, awareness would also be raised of Singapore's rich biodiversity.

"The magic and beauty of the rail corridor is the forest and the greenery that you see alongside," said the group's vice-president Leong Kwok Peng.

"We very much hope that in whatever design and master planning that's going to take place, (it) keeps as much of all this wild growth and the forest intact. Because that is what gives magic to the corridor."

- CNA/nc

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Indonesia: Choppers sent to fight forest fires in Riau, Kalimantan

Rizal Harahap and Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 14 Jan 17;

Central government to send choppers to Riau, Kalimantan Climatologists warn of more forest fires in Kalimantan due to rising temperatures

The central government will deploy helicopters to Riau and Kalimantan to help local administrations fight forest fires, which have begun to appear in some areas, an official has said.

“We are currently waiting for the helicopter. Other than Riau, reports say another helicopter will be deployed to Kalimantan,” Riau Environment and Forestry Agency head Yulwiriati Moesa said during a coordination meeting with the Riau governor’s office on Friday.

She said the Riau administration had requested assistance from the Environment and Forestry Ministry in Jakarta to address the forest fires.

She said the chopper would help them put out fires found in Riau’s 12 regencies and municipalities.

“I visited the location where the forest fires occurred inside the Bukit Betabuh protected forest in Kuantan Singingi regency a couple days ago. The firefighters there experienced difficulties reaching the hot spots in the hilly area. That is when a helicopter is needed,” she added.

The province is planning to form a joint patrol to anticipate forest fires in addition to building canals and a hot spot monitoring center.

“Not to mention, we will also increase monitoring of private companies in the forests. We have demanded they report their inventory of equipment and facilities to prevent and mitigate forest fires,” Yulwiriati added.

Although hot spots have been detected this week in some Riau regencies, including in Rokan Hulu, Rokan Hilir, Siak and Meranti Island, the province has yet to issue an emergency alert, a status that is needed for the provincial adminismantan tration to start deploying all equipment to areas prone to forest fires.

“It needs at least two regencies or municipalities to declare an emergency alert in their areas [before we can issue a provincial emergency alert],” Riau administration regional secretary Ahmad Hijazi said.

Ahmad said his office was currently pushing for some regencies such as the Kuantan Singingi regency and Rokan Hilir regency to increase their status so that Riau province could announce the emergency alert aimed at “anticipating haze in the early stages”.

Military Region Command (Korem) 031/Wira Bima commander Brig. Gen. Nurendi called on all stakeholders to increase preparedness amid predictions that say the province might face a harsher dry season this year.

“The sooner these things are handled, the better that will be. Patrols and education is necessary and so is the effort to spread posters banning slash-and-burn practices,” said Nurendi, who last year led a task force to fight forest fires.

He also expressed support for all related stakeholders engaged in making sure the existing canals, built last year to maintain the wetness of peat land in the province, worked well.

“All elements should work handin-hand to fight forest fires. We must end annual haze,” he added

Meanwhile, climatologists have warned that the decrease in rainfall, followed by lower humidity and higher temperatures in West Kali- from the beginning of this month, would increase the potential for forest fires in the province.

Head of the Climatology Station in Mempawah, Wandayantolis, said analysis of climate conditions in the province over the last five days showed that rainfall intensity had continued to decline, especially in the west coast all the way through to the north beach.

Air humidity has also decreased, due to the loss of vapor layers. This has caused a rising intensity of sunlight reaching the ground, thus taking the temperatures higher.

“The increasing temperatures on the ground will make land and forests more prone to fires,” he stressed. “The decrease in rainfall intensity is predicted to continue during the following week. Midway through this month, the 10-day intensity of rainfall will only be between 21 to 100 milimeters, or categorized as low to medium intensity.”

Officers at the Meterology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency in Supadio, Pontianak, said that as of Jan. 12, monitoring through NOAA satellites showed 7 hot spots. The hot spots are located in four regencies out of the total 14 regencies throughout West Kalimantan.

The four regencies are Pontianak, Kubu Raya, Mempawah and Sintang.

The West Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) recorded that the number of hot spots in 2015 reached 2,271. The regency with the highest number of hot spots was Sintang with 778, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency head of emergency Bosman Hutahaean.

In 2016, the number of hot spots in the province decreased to 1,575, mostly located in Sanggau with 342.

In Pontianak, the BPBD and private firefighters conducted joint efforts to extinguish the fires.

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Indonesia: Dead whale stranded on East Lombok Beach

Antara 13 Jan 17;

Mataram (ANTARA News) - A dead whale was found stranded on Seriwe Beach in Jerowaru Sub-district, East Lombok District, West Nusa Tenggara Province.

"The dead whale was found by the local fishermen on Thursday," Senior Adjunct Commissioner I Dewa Wijaya of the West Nusa Tenggara Police stated here, Friday.

The whale, weighing four tons, was 10 meters long, and its diameter was one meter.

He believed that the whale was rather old, so it was easily washed ashore by the waves.

(Reported by Dhimas B. Pratama/Uu.F001/INE/KR-BSR)

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Indonesia: Endemic 'Walking' Sharks Species Threatened by Unsustainable Tourism, Collectors

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 13 Jan 17;

Jakarta. Research shows that five of the nine species of bamboo shark in the world can be found in Indonesia, with four species endemic to Indonesia.

A study conducted by Conservation International (CI), the Indonesia Institute of Sciences (LIPI), the Western Australian Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, found that bamboo sharks roam the waters north of the Australian continent, near Papua New Guinea and West Papua, and around the islands of Halmahera and Aru in Maluku.

The four species are Freycinet’s Epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium freycineti), Cendrawasih Epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium galei), Halhamera Epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium halmahera) and Henry’s Epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium henryi).

A fifth species, the speckled carpetshark (Hemiscyllium trispeculare), is not only found near Aru Island but also along the northern and western coasts of Australia.

Bamboo sharks, which fall under the Hemiscyllium genus, are also known as "walking sharks" due to their capability to "walk" on the seabed using their fins.

According to CI, a Virginia-based environmental NGO, walking shark populations are under threat due to irresponsible fishing, oil spills, rising water temperature, natural disasters, reclamation developments and unsustainable tourism practices.

“It’s easy to find the sharks in shallow waters when snorkeling, but because of the ease with which they can be found, it is clear these threats are becoming larger,” CI Indonesia marine program director, Victor Nikijuluw, said in a statement. “Habitat destruction threatens preservation, but if those areas are conserved well, the existence of shark species can provide a unique charm and boost tourism [in these areas].”

Victor implored tourists and local residents to keep marine conservation in mind, especially of coral and seagrass areas where bamboo sharks spawn.

LIPI added that bamboo shark populations are at risk due to their limited swimming capability and low distribution, highlighting the importance of preserving coral reefs.

Yet another threat comes in the form of exotic aquatic animal collectors.

“Walking sharks are often used as ornamental fish, which are valued highly in the international market […] It is essential to have conservation efforts for these sharks and their habitats, to ensure they can be found not in aquariums but in their natural habitats,” Fahmi, a LIPI shark expert, said.

Indonesia has already taken some steps to conserve walking shark populations by including the species in the government's National Action Plan (RAN), but CI believes that it all begins with sustainable tourism practices in the areas of Raja Ampat and Kaimana in West Papua.

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