Best of our wild blogs: 14 Feb 17

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Local firm's Brunei fish farm to help boost food security

Carolyn Khew Straits Times 14 Feb 17;

In a boost for Singapore's food security, local company Apollo Aquaculture Group will be setting up a high-tech farm in Brunei in a joint venture.

Mr Eric Ng, 44, group chief executive officer of Apollo Aquaculture Group, said the vertical fish-farming system will be remotely controlled and monitored from Apollo Aqua- culture's farm in Singapore.

With underwater sensors to measure parameters like temperature and salinity, the need for manpower is reduced and workers can respond to emergencies quickly, he said.

Noting that the yearly output of fish is eventually expected to reach 5,000 tonnes per year, Mr Ng said the farm will produce fish for consumption, such as groupers, as well as ornamental fish.

The joint venture between Apollo Aquaculture and a Bruneian partner - KR Apollo - was announced yesterday at a groundbreaking ceremony at the new farm in Brunei.

Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon and Bruneian Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Ali Apong attended the event.

In his speech, Dr Koh said Singapore is always looking to strengthen its food security by importing from a variety of sources.

He said: "Now, we have a vibrant farming sector, but as you can all understand, there are very obvious space constraints in Singapore.

"Brunei, on the other hand, is looking to diversify its economy, and agriculture is a potentially lucrative sector. One can see the potential for collaboration and sharing of know-how."

Mr Ng's decision to venture into Brunei was partly because his farm is one of 62 in Lim Chu Kang that will see their leases expire in 2019.

"Land is very scarce here. Brunei is different - they have abundant land and resources," said Mr Ng.

"By setting up a farm in Brunei, it also ensures that we have a backup in case anything happens to our farm here," he added.

Professor Paul Teng, adjunct senior fellow in food security in the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said any additional imported food source would increase Singapore's resilience.

However, he added that the cost effectiveness of importing seafood from Brunei remains to be seen.

"It would probably still cost less to import seafood from Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia," he added.

Last year, Singapore imported fresh and frozen fish from about 80 countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Denmark and Senegal. There were no Brunei imports.

Past imports of fish from Brunei were minimal, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

Local fish farmers produced 4,900 tonnes of fish last year, accounting for about 10 per cent of fresh (live and chilled) fish eaten here.

Mr Ng hopes the joint venture will be a positive example for local farms to follow.

He said: "The traditional method for fish farming has never changed. It's very tough work. But with technology, the possibilites are endless."

Singapore delegation visits agriculture, aquaculture sites
James Kon and Fizah HAB Borneo Bulletin 15 Feb 17;

FOLLOWING fruitful visits to numerous agriculture and aquaculture sites in Brunei Darussalam for the past two days, Singapore’s Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Development Dr Koh Poh Koon described that Brunei and Singapore has a ‘good natural fit’ to cooperate and come together to work on beneficial ways towards Brunei’s effort in diversifying its economy and at the same time increase Singapore’s food resilience.

Singapore’s Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Development who capped off his visits at the Searay Aquatech Sdn Bhd’s nursery located in the Serasa area in an interview said, “Brunei has a larger land mass and sea space so this is where Brunei has very rich natural resources and very favourable conditions for agriculture and aquaculture. Singapore with its smaller land mass and sea space would find a natural fit to look into investment opportunities in Brunei which also fits in with Brunei’s diversification of economy leveraging in with the lucrative agriculture sector.”

Building on the strong foundation of the bilateral ties of both countries, he said “during my two-day visit in Brunei, it is very clear that from the people-to-people level and government-to-government level, we have very close relations.”

He cited that some of the industry players from Singapore who are in Brunei for the first time on the trip can feel a sense of warmth and hospitality as well as officials from Brunei were very helpful in providing information and answering any inquiries giving a sense of confidence in looking at investment opportunities in Brunei.

“We hope that this kind of networking and opportunity seeking will continue beyond this trip to further build on the strengths that we have over the last few decades,” the minister added.

On the response from the Singaporean delegates, he said, “They are very excited and see that there are opportunities available in Brunei which were not available in Singapore. I felt that many good conversations have taken place and I hope that they will make more visits to Brunei to explore new partnerships as well as understand the environment here.”

The Singaporean Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Development Dr Koh Poh Koon’s yesterday first visited one of the aquaculture farms situated at the Tanjung Pelumpong Aquaculture site in Muara as part of studying possible investment opportunities between Brunei Darussalam and Singapore.

Accompanying the minister and the Singaporean delegates were the Singapore High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam Lim Hong Huai and the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism Dr Haji Abdul Manaf bin Haji Metussin.

The owner of the farm, Awang Haji Azahari bin Haji Chuchu explained the production capabilities of the farm before guiding the visitors to the floating fish farm. The local aquaculture farm, ODE Aquaculture and Agriculture, produced hybrid groupers, mouse grouper, seabass amongst others and produced up to 265 mt/year for both local and foreign market.

The visit to the Tanjung Pelumpong Aquaculture site was followed by a visit to Searay Aquatech Sdn Bhd’s fish nursery. On hand to welcome the Singapore delegation was Jeannie Loh, Managing Director of Searay Aquatech.

Searay Aquatech has 78 units of marine cages at Tanjung Pelumpong Marine Fish Cage site and the species culture include Seabass, Grouper, Pompano and Trevally. Currently the fishes are exported to China and Hong Kong.

Last year, there were about 12 tonnes of Seabass and one tonne of Groupers exported overseas.

MOS Dr Koh Poh Koon leads delegation to Brunei to explore Agri-Investment Opportunities
MND Press Release 12 Feb 17;

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Minister of State for National Development, and Trade and Industry is visiting Brunei from 13 to 14 February 2017, at the invitation of Bruneian Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism The Honourable Dato Haji Ali Bin Apong. Dr Koh will also call on Minister II of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Honourable Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng to discuss investment opportunities between the two countries.

While in Brunei, Dr Koh will officiate the ground-breaking ceremony of KR Apollo Sdn Bhd. Jointly developed by Apollo Aquaculture (a Singaporean company) and its Bruneian joint venture partner, KR Apollo Sdn Bhd will embark on food fish hatchery and ornamental fish (guppy) production. There are plans to eventually export the fish to Singapore and other countries. Dr Koh will also visit several other Bruneian agriculture farms.

Dr Koh said, “I hope this trip encourages our local farms to adopt a global perspective and look beyond our shores to leverage international opportunities. Like our local SMEs, we want to help more of our farms establish themselves as globally competitive companies.”

Dr Koh is accompanied by officials from the Ministry of National Development, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority as well as representatives from the farming industry.

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Chickens culled because of bird-flu risk, not noise: AVA

Today Online 14 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE — It is not complaints of noise, but the risk of exposure to bird flu that prompted the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) to cull free-roaming chickens in areas where there are “relatively high numbers” of them, the authority said on Monday (Feb 13) in a letter to TODAY’s Voices page.

Dr Yap Him Hoo, director-general of the AVA, said: “The noise issues only serve to bring attention to the relatively high numbers of free-roaming chicken in certain areas, which in turn raise the exposure risk to bird flu in these localities.” He added that “various media reports” may have given the impression that the AVA is taking action solely because of complaints of noise, but that is not the case.

It was reported early this month that the AVA had put down the chickens around Thomson View and Blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue, after receiving 20 complaints from residents last year, most of them related to noise.

Dr Yap said that the risk of free-roaming chickens being exposed to bird flu is significant here, because Singapore is one of the stopover nodes for migratory wild birds: “This means that the chickens on our island can catch the disease through direct contact with wild birds or even through their droppings ... There is clear scientific evidence that chickens are very susceptible to the bird-flu virus, and (they) can in turn transmit the disease to humans. This was indeed what happened when the region was struck with bird flu in 2004.”

Free-roaming chickens culled due to health and safety concerns, not noise: AVA
Channel NewsAsia 13 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: Following the debate over the recent culling of free-roaming chickens at Sin Ming, the director-general of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), Dr Yap Him Hoo, said the birds were put down due to concerns over public health and safety and not because of complaints over noise.

"The risk of free-roaming chickens in Singapore being exposed to bird flu is real and significant, as we are a stopover node for migratory wild birds," wrote Dr Yap in a letter published by the TODAY newspaper on Monday (Feb 13).

AVA had earlier said it culled 24 chickens in the Sin Ming area after getting about 20 complaints from residents last year, largely about noise.

Dr Yap stated: "The noise issues only serve to bring attention to the relatively high numbers of free-roaming chickens in certain areas, which in turn raise 
the risk of exposure to bird flu in these localities."

AVA manages free-roaming chickens for public health, safety
Today Online 13 Feb 17;

We thank all Voices writers who shared their views on the management of free-roaming chickens and take this opportunity to clarify the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority position.

One of the AVA’s responsibilities is to ensure that Singapore is kept free from associated animal and plant diseases that pose a threat to public health.

In this regard, the AVA must do surveillance work to detect and control diseases well before they can potentially spread to Singapore.

There is clear scientific evidence that chickens are very susceptible to the bird flu virus and can in turn transmit the disease to humans. This was what happened when bird flu struck the region in 2004.

That is also why the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization, in a joint statement in 2004 about battling bird flu, mentioned the need to manage free-range chickens: To control bird flu at source.

Keeping poultry in a bio-secured environment is one of the OIE’s recommended measures to prevent bird flu incursion.

The risk of free-roaming chickens in Singapore being exposed to bird flu is real and significant, as we are a stopover node for migratory wild birds.

This means that chickens on our island can catch the disease through direct contact with wild birds or even through their droppings.

In a recent bird flu outbreak in Denmark, investigations found that it started because of contact between wild birds and free-roaming chickens.

There have also been cases of outbreaks around the world where the primary risk factor for human infection was linked to direct or indirect exposure to infected poultry.

For example, in recent months, there had been reports of human infections in China and Vietnam owing to close proximity to infected chickens, such as in live poultry markets or during preparation of meals using free-roaming chickens.

Various media reports may have given the impression that the AVA is taking action solely because of complaints about noise.

But that is not the case. Our concern is not about noise but about public health and safety.

The noise issues only serve to bring attention to the relatively high numbers of free-roaming chickens in certain areas, which in turn raise 
the risk of exposure to bird flu in these localities.

We recognise the views expressed by different stakeholders and will continue exploring various options to manage the free-roaming chicken population.

We are also continuing our studies of the risks of a bird flu outbreak in Singapore, to better understand how the disease may start and spread through free-roaming chickens here, and what measures are needed to reduce public health risks.

We seek the understanding of all Singaporeans as we go about doing this work to keep our nation and our people safe.

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Teacher's pet? Otters spotted at NUS

Diane Leow Channel NewsAsia 13 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: Teaching assistant Kenneth Neo was fixing up an eco car at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Engineering Faculty on Monday morning (Feb 13) when he spotted some unusual visitors.

There was a group of otters wandering outside Block E1A at about 11am.

"I was very surprised," Mr Neo told Channel NewsAsia. "My workshop is quite far away from the main road. The surroundings are so urbanised; (there are) not so many swampy areas. And NUS is quite far away from the coastal side (of Singapore)."

According to Mr Neo, the four otters crossed "quite a few roads" before ending up at the university's Engineering Faculty, and eventually left via Clementi Road.

While the cute quartet was still scurrying around, Mr Neo quickly asked his colleague to take a look while he took a video.

"It's really a rare sight. I've never really seen them live before with my own eyes," Mr Neo said, adding that in his five years working at NUS, he has not seen any signs of wildlife.

"I just hope they are doing well and find their way back to wherever they came from."

Mr Sivasothi N, who runs the OtterWatch group which consolidates otter sightings in Singapore, told Channel NewsAsia this is the first time otters have been spotted at the university. The closest previous sightings have been at Kent Ridge Park and Pasir Panjang, he said.

The senior lecturer at NUS' Department of Biological Sciences said he believes the furry creatures turned up at the university as they were searching for new habitats.

"All otters have to do this at some time. It is just a matter of whether they were seen," he said, adding that moving through urban habitats can be "life-threatening" for the otters as they could meet with traffic accidents, or be attacked by animals such as pet dogs.

Besides otters, Mr Sivasothi added that animals such as pangolins, civets and long-tailed macaques have been spotted in urban areas as well, as they are looking for habitats suitable for living.

"They may be individuals prompted by maturation to search for mates or new unoccupied habitats, or individuals and groups forced out by competition, or driven out due to disturbances to their original homes such as development," he said.

If members of the public see otters moving around, Mr Sivasothi said it would be best to watch from a distance, enjoy the sightings and report it to the OtterWatch Facebook group.

"I do hope the otters found their way back safely to more suitable habitats. I would be happy if they returned after we naturalise the Sungei Pandan Kechil - the canal which runs between AYE and NUS and drains past West Coast Park to the sea - the way Bishan canal was naturalised," he said.

- CNA/dl

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Electric car sharing scheme set for Aug start

Christopher Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Feb 17;

Environmentally conscious individuals will have another reason to ditch their cars in as early as August, when the first of 1,000 French- made battery-powered hatchbacks are deployed here in the first big- scale car-sharing scheme of its kind.

Unlike some tax-exempt electric taxis with research plates plying the roads here, cars operated by Blue Solutions - which has a similar scheme in Paris - are normal-plated cars with full taxes.

Blue Solutions managing director (Asia and Middle East) Franck Vitte told The Straits Times that a soft launch of the phone apps-based car-sharing programme will take place some time in August.

It will start with 10 to 20 cars in five to 10 locations, somewhat fewer than the 125 cars and 50 locations envisaged last June when the Government announced it had awarded the 10-year car-sharing contract to France's Bollore Group, the parent company of Blue Solutions.

Mr Vitte is, however, confident of having 1,000 cars across 500 locations in four years' time. Each location will have about four parking spaces with chargers. The first few cars of the fleet are already here. The two-door, four-seater hatchbacks with lithium-metal-polymer batteries will have a range of 250km, and initial tests have shown that air-conditioning has little impact on that.

Mr Vitte said usage charges are likely to be slightly lower than taxi fares, starting from "a few dollars" for the first 15 minutes, followed by per-minute charges. Frequent users will enjoy lower rates.

Describing the sharing service as more like a self-drive taxi than a rental service, Mr Vitte is confident the business model will be viable despite losses in Paris. "There are 1.7 million driving licence holders here and around 500,000 private passenger cars," he noted. "So there is a potential of 1.2 million users. And Singapore has a much higher population density than Paris."

In Paris, the average usage for the company's electric fleet is seven rentals per day per car.

Mr Vitte reckons Singapore will have a similar usage frequency, but will be more viable commercially. "In Paris, we have no control over how much we charge, or our location. So, often we had to set up in low-density areas, or areas with a high crime rate, and our cars were sometimes vandalised or burnt."

In Singapore, cars will be able to carry advertisements, Mr Vitte noted. This will help it partly defray running costs such as parking.

"This will be another mode of public transport," he said. "We're not competing with taxis or other car-sharing operators... We're providing a complementary service."

He said the company's fixed point model is better than a free-float model (where users drop the car off anywhere) because it offers the predictability of public transport, and users need not worry about parking availability or charges.

The cars have an estimated open market value of $20,000, and cost less than $100,000 on the road.

National University of Singapore Business School assistant professor Yang Nan has doubts about the scheme's viability. "Given that the on-demand transit industry is flourishing, and that taxis are widely and inexpensively available, its market niche is very small," he said, adding that "balancing the fleet and maintaining availability across locations will be challenging and expensive".

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Malaysia's shooting-star bauxite industry faces burn up

Emily Chow Reuters 13 Feb 17;

Already under fire for widespread environmental damage, Malaysia's once lucrative bauxite mining industry is facing a likely death knell from neighboring Indonesia's move to allow a resumption of exports.

This time last year, Malaysia was the world's biggest supplier of the aluminum-making raw material to top buyer China, but its exports tumbled after government action aimed at reining in the little regulated industry.

The latest move could spell the end for a sector that only sprang to life in late 2014 after Indonesia banned ore exports, and illustrates the risks facing miners across Southeast Asia from increasingly uncertain government policy.

Copper giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc warned last week it could slash output from Indonesia amid a long-running dispute with the government, while the Philippines has ordered the closure of more than half the country's mines on environmental grounds.

"Policy risk is huge in mining right now," said Daniel Morgan, mining analyst at UBS in Sydney. "In supplier policy, you've got changes to Indonesia's mining policy, the Philippines and Malaysia."

A host of mining operations sprang up along Malaysia's bauxite-rich east coast to fill a supply gap after Indonesia in 2014 barred exports of mineral ores in a bid to push miners to build smelters.

In 2015, Malaysia shipped more than 20 million tonnes to China, well ahead of nearest rival Australia and up nearly 700 percent on the previous year. In 2013, it shipped just 162,000 tonnes.

But the dramatic rise came at a cost as largely unregulated miners failed to secure stockpiles of bauxite. The run-off from monsoon rains turned rivers and coastal seas red, contaminating water sources and leading to a public outcry.

The government imposed a mining moratorium in early 2016, and shipments to China from existing stockpiles fell to 165,587 tonnes in December, with little indication the government is set to change its mind.


Malaysia's natural resources and environment ministry said any decision to lift the moratorium would be based on how well miners follow regulations to preserve the environment rather than economic gain.

Recent rains in Kuantan have caused some bauxite runoffs from existing stockpiles, minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told Reuters.

"The heavy rains proved that the mitigation was not adequate. Now by having this before me, I am not yet prepared to allow them to start the operations," he said, declining further comment on the topic.

Indonesia introduced new rules last month that will allow exports of nickel ore and bauxite and concentrates of other minerals in a sweeping policy shift, but did not specify when it would resume exports.

The announcement could be the final nail in the coffin for Malaysia's industry, as its miners expect China to switch to Indonesia's better quality and cheaper ore, due to lower production costs.

"Indonesian bauxite miners kept a lot of stockpiles ... They can sell cheap," said a miner from local company based in Kuantan, a key bauxite mining area in the state of Pahang.

"If the volume coming out of Indonesia is over 10 million tonnes, Malaysia has to say goodbye."

Unlike recent ructions in nickel supply from Indonesia and the Philippines that pushed up prices, Malaysia's near exit from bauxite has had little impact on the supply chain as new suppliers emerged, particularly in Guinea in West Africa.

"Some of these commodities are pretty plentiful, like bauxite for instance," noted UBS's Morgan. "When we talk to aluminum companies in China, we haven't detected that they're worried about a bauxite shortage."

The greater effect may be on Malaysia's export-based economy where bauxite surged to become a key mineral shipped to China, its largest trading partner. At a bauxite price of $50 a tonne, Malaysia's 2015 exports were worth over $1 billion.

The scandal-tainted Prime Minister Najib Razak's government is pushing to boost revenue as he prepares for a tough election that has to be called by end-2018.

"There will be less export income," said Ooi Kee Beng, deputy director of Singapore based research centre ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. "The loss of jobs at a time when common people are facing economic difficulties will have political impact that is unwelcomed by the government."

(Additional reporting by Joseph Sipalan and Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by Praveen Menon and Richard Pullin)

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Malaysia: Major poaching ring crippled

NURBAITI HAMDAN The Star 14 Feb 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of poachers, including a plantation general manager, have been nab­bed by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) in a bust that may have crippled one of the major poaching syndicates in Kelantan.

The seven Malaysians, aged between 28 and 52, were believed to have been on their way out of the jungle at Aring 5 in Gua Musang when they were arrested on Friday.

High on Perhilitan’s wanted list, the notorious poachers have been eluding the law since 2013.

They are believed to have been involved in illegal hunting for a long time in Kelantan up to the boundaries of Perak.

Perhilitan director-general Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said the department’s enforcement officers and Malaysian Armed Forces personnel carrying out 1Malaysia Biodiversity Enforcement Operation Network checks at the national park had stopped the men, who were in two four-wheel drive vehicles, as they were behaving suspiciously.

Upon inspection, the officers found an organ believed to be from a crocodile.

What was more shocking was the number of weapons found in the vehicles; a Benelli 12-bore gun and three shotguns, 77 bore type bullets, 32 slug type bullets, 22 nails, two knives, an axe, eight machetes and three units of plastic explosives and detonator as well as 27 firecrackers.

The arrests led to two separate raids – in Tanah Merah on Saturday and on Sunday at several places around Gua Musang – that netted two elephant tusks, elephant meat believed to have been smoked, nine chainsaws, 56 bullets, two rifle ma­gazines and three machetes.

The seized weapons, equipment and goods were estimated at RM500,000, while the remnants of wildlife were worth some RM15,000 in the black market.

“We believe that with this arrest, we have busted a major poaching syndicate in Kelantan that has been actively hunting wild buffaloes, serow, elephants and Sambar deer,” Abdul Kadir told a press conference here yesterday.

A department spokesman said the men had given the authorities the slip many times and it was hard to track them down.

“Just look at the amount of wea­pons they have. These are professional poachers,” the spokesman said.

The elephant tusk seized could fetch up to RM2,000 per kg while a pair of tiger fangs were sold at RM3,000 on average in the black market, Abdul Kadir said.

“The smoked elephant meat could have been sold for medicine.”

The suspects have been remanded for four days since Saturday to help with investigations.

Perhilitan enforcement division director Salman Saaban said the group of poachers targeted large mammals based on the equipment seized.

“Usually chainsaws are used to retrieve elephant tusks and the rifles used are powerful enough to shoot elephants and gaur.

“They are believed to be part of a syndicate, which is supplying wildlife parts to neighbouring countries,” said Salman, adding that Perhilitan was still investigating the extent of the group’s network.

The suspects face a maximum RM100,000 fine or up to three years in jail or both if they are convicted of poaching and keeping protected wildlife without permit under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

Those with information on wildlife poaching could contact Perhilitan through its hotline 1-800-88-5151 (Monday to Sunday, 8am to 6pm) or file an e-aduan on

Perhilitan lauded for busting syndicate
The Star 14 Feb 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic has given its thumbs up to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) for crippling the wildlife poaching syndicate in Kelantan.

Traffic South-East Asia senior pro­­gramme manager Kanitha Krish­­na­samy said the case highlighted how the threat of poaching and illegal wildlife trade should be viewed with a great degree of se­­riousness by all government agencies concerned with national security.

“This is a significant victory for wildlife and we congratulate Perhilitan and the Malaysian Armed Forces for their efforts under the 1Malaysia Biodiversity Enforcement Operation Network programme.

“We hope the Government continues to see the value of such collaboration and continues to fund it,” Kanitha said.

He also urged the authorities to seriously look into the source of the explosives and weapons which the offenders had.

“It is a sobering reminder of the lengths to which poachers are willing to go to secure their kill,” he said.

Asia’s elephants are under increa­sing threat largely due to habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, while poaching of elephants for their ivory was reported recently in Sabah, where two pygmy Asian elephants were found killed with their tusks removed late last year.

Asian elephants are fewer in number than their African cousins.

Only males have tusks and therefore any poaching of animals for their ivory leads to skewed sex ratios, severely impacting wild po­pulations.

According to Perhilitan’s database, at least 15 elephants had been poached in the peninsula since 2013.

Seven men, including a plantation general manager, have been nabbed by Perhilitan in a series of raids since Friday.

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Indonesia: Police foil attempt to smuggle pangolins to Malaysia

Antara 14 Feb 17;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Police in Bengkalis district of Riau province have foiled an attempt to smuggle 89 pangolins to Malaysia.

"The pangolins were smuggled from South Sumatra by the four suspects," Bengkalis police chief Adjunct Senior Commissioner Hadi Wicaksono said here on Monday.

Hadi stated that the four suspects, aged between 32 and 49 years, were arrested on Sunday by patrolling officers near Pekanbaru-Bengkalis route in Siak Kecil sub-district, Bengkalis.

They were planning to smuggle the protected species to Malaysia through illegal port in the border areas of Dumai and Bengkalis.

"The police smelled a suspicious odor from the car. When they checked inside, they found dozens of pangolins tied up in sacks and baskets," he added.

The police have seized the pangolins for further investigation. Five of the pangolins died, and 84 others needed medical attention.

Hadi noted that the police have worked in cooperation with Riau conservation agency to take further action to save the protected species.

All pangolin species are protected under national and international laws, and two are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.(*)

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Indonesia: Floods submerge over 1,273 hectares of rice fields in Lebak

Antara 14 Feb 17;

Lebak (ANTARA News) - Floods submerged 1,273.25 hectares (ha) of rice fields in Lebak District, Banten Province, inflicting material losses worth billions of rupiah.

"We hope the Agriculture Ministry would help by offering compensation for the losses incurred, as the paddy fields were ravaged by floods. Hence, after receiving the aid, the farmers could speed up replanting," Itan Oktarianto of the local agriculture office, stated here, Monday.

The paddy plants inundated by the floods are between two and five weeks old.

"If the paddy plants are flooded for five consecutive days, they will be destroyed," he noted.

The flooded rice fields are located in 14 sub-districts, including nine ha in Bojongmanik, 14 ha in Sobang, 317 ha in Gunungkencana, 12.25 ha in Leuwidamar, and 30 ha in Bayah.

Moreover, floods also affected 171 ha of rice fields in Banjarsari, 100 ha in Cirinten, 254 ha in Malingping, five ha in Lebak Gedong, one ha in Cilograng, 45 ha in Cijaku, 2.5 ha in Muncang, nine ha in Cibeber, and 302 ha in Wanasalam.

Flooding in Lebak was triggered by incessant heavy rains that caused several rivers to overflow their banks.

Oktarianto believed the flooding is the worst to have occurred in Lebak over the last five years.

Indonesia is currently experiencing rainy season that has caused flooding in several provinces, including East Java, West and East Nusa Tenggara, and Jakarta.

(Reported by Mansyur/Uu.F001/INE/KR-BSR/O001)

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Act now before entire species are lost to global warming, say scientists

Climate change is threatening about 700 endangered species and policymakers must act urgently to lessen impact
Elle Hunt The Guardian 13 Feb 17;

The impact of climate change on threatened and endangered wildlife has been dramatically underreported, with scientists calling on policymakers to act urgently to slow its effects before entire species are lost for good.

New analysis has found that nearly half (47%) of the mammals and nearly a quarter (24.4%) of the birds on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species are negatively impacted by climate change – a total of about 700 species. Previous assessments had said only 7% of listed mammals and 4% of birds were impacted.

“Many experts have got these climate assessments wrong – in some cases, massively so,” said Dr James Watson of the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society, who co-authored the paper with scientists in the UK, Italy and the US.

Published in the Nature Climate Change journal, the analysis of 130 studies reported between 1990 and 2015 painted a grim picture of the impact of the changing climate on birds and mammals already under threat.

Most researchers tended to assess the impact of climate change on one species or ecosystem, and often cast forward 50 or 100 years, ignoring the fact the climate is already altered, said Watson. “I think that’s a real problem with how the scientific community has communicated the issue, because people are always labelling it as a future threat. When you combine the evidence, the impact on species is already really dramatic.”

Some species were more vulnerable than others, with elephants and primates’ ability to adapt to changing conditions curtailed by their slow reproductive rates. Rodents that could burrow to escape extreme environments would be less impacted.

Mammals with specialised diets were “already far more affected” than others, as were species of birds living at high altitudes. Animals found in tropical and subtropical forests under an existing threat of habitat degradation faced an additional challenges from climate change.

Watson said many assessments of red listed species had assumed that hunting, deforestation and loss of habitat posed greater and more immediate risk than climate change.

“Many risk assessments are simply blind to the fact that climate change is happening now. If you read a scientific paper on climate change and species, it’s always that things will get worse in the future, not that it’s happening now.”

The extent of the problem was likely to be much worse than even Watson’s analysis had found, he said, because mammals and birds were the subject of the most studies.

“These are the species that you’d hope we’d be most accurate on. Amphibians, reptiles, fish, plants – we are almost certainly out by a massive order of magnitude in our current assessments of vulnerability to climate change.

“We’ve got this wrong for birds and mammals, which are our most studied groups – what are we getting wrong for species we don’t know much about, like corals, bats, frogs, fungi?”

Governments needed to act urgently to lessen the impact of climate change by slowing its progress by drastically reducing emissions and strengthening the reliance of species and ecosystems, said Watson.

“We’ve got to give nature a fighting chance – that means we have to ensure systems are healthy and functioning. We cannot allow degradation and fragmentation of ecosystems, and we need to manage invasive species.

“Policymakers can’t just put it off. They have to realise that every decision they make now impacts species’ chances, and by not acting – by allowing the status quo to continue – we will lose nature’s ability to rapidly adapt in future.”

With the IUCN red list the “global standard” by which every nation assessed its progress towards saving threatened species, Watson said he and his co-authors were hopeful that their analysis would influence intergovernmental policy as well as upcoming revisions of the strategic plan of the UN framework convention on climate change.

“But just getting the list right isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s got to go beyond documenting a crisis – this study shows we’ve got to act on it.”

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90 Percent Of Fish We Use for Fishmeal Could Be Used To Feed Humans Instead


Most of us don't spend a lot of time thinking about what the farmed seafood we eat might itself be eating. The answer is usually an opaque diet that includes some kind of fishmeal and fish oil. Fishmeal is usually made from ground-up, bony trash fish and forage fish — like anchovy, menhaden or herring — that nobody is clamoring for, anyways.

Except researchers now say these are the very types of fish that may be more valuable to humans who eat them directly, rather than being diverted toward aquaculture and other uses.

In a new study out Monday in the journal Fish and Fisheries, researchers say that the vast majority of fishmeal is actually made up of fish deemed suitable for "direct human consumption." Currently, a quarter of the world's commercially caught fish, 20 million tons of wild seafood, is directed away from our dinner plates every year, and instead, is used for fishmeal production. Researchers say a whopping 90 percent of that catch is considered "food grade" and could be eaten directly, potentially creating an important source of nutrition for those in developing countries at risk of food security.

"I was expecting there to be more truth to the argument that most of these fish don't have a place for human consumption, that there's generally not a market or a possibility of a market for these fish, but that's not what we found," says lead author Tim Cashion, research assistant at Sea Around Us, a project at the University of British Columbia's Institute for Oceans and Fisheries that works on globally reconstructing marine catches from 1950 to present.

Of the 20 million tons of fish destined for fishmeal production each year, Cashion says most of it, an estimated 70 percent, is directed towards aquaculture, followed by pig and chicken production that uses it to speed growth and provide important nutrients.

When we think of farmed seafood, American appetites keep shrimp and salmon at the top of the list, but globally, it's fish like tilapia or carp that are most widely farmed. In the past, those species were typically not fed fishmeal, but researchers say that's no longer the case.

"Species that weren't being fed with fishmeal and fish oil before are now being fed it to supplement the diet. A good example of that is carp production in China," says Cashion, noting that China farms the majority of aquaculture production in the world. Indeed, a 2013 study of three Chinese provinces found that "virtually all carp and tilapia farmers... use manufactured feeds containing fishmeal."

So fish that were once filter feeders or grew on vegetarian feed, are now fed a diet that relies on fishmeal to help speed growth, adding even more pressure to a finite resource like forage fish.

But there's evidence the trend can go in the other direction as well. The salmon industry has been making strides in lowering the amount of fishmeal and fish oil in its feed by incorporating alternatives like soybean or algae. And Atlantic herring, once used heavily for the fishmeal/fish oil reduction industry, is now sought after for direct human consumption.

"We've now seen this fishery flip," says Cashion. "That's changed in the last 15 years. People started eating these fish again, and there's larger export market opportunities to Japan and Europe, too."

But perhaps it's not enough. For example, Peru and Chile have the world's largest anchoveta fishery, making them the world's largest producers of fish for fishmeal. Plenty of us know that anchovies are delicious and can be a coveted secret ingredient, but they're not always embraced like they should be.

"Generally, over the world, a lot of people eat anchovies. In Peru they used to eat anchovetta, and now that they have an industry, they eat very little," says Cashion.

And Cashion warns, the types of fish being used in fishmeal production is actually expanding. Species like pompanos, drums and miscellaneous marine crustaceans, sometimes sourced from bycatch in shrimp trawl fisheries, are also now being used for aquaculture. It's a troubling trend at a time when the U.N. is issuing warnings about making food systems more resilient to climate change, and when other predictions include malnutrition warnings for millions related to global seafood catch declines.

"In a world with many food insecure populations and people that could substantially benefit from having more fish in their diet ... that we're using 20 million tons of fish to feed aquaculture and livestock production? I think people should care about that," says Cashion.

For most American eaters, fish like fresh sardines can be difficult to source and even more intimidating to prepare. And few restaurant diners gravitate toward choosing fish like anchovy or herring first.

"If you look around the world at all the cuisines that rely on these oily, healthy fish throughout the centuries, they haven't found it hard to prepare. Preparing isn't the problem, it's creating a culture of desiring them," says New York-based chef Dan Barber, author of The Third Plate. "One doesn't covet a sardine the way we covet a halibut."

Barber makes a good analogy when comparing typical forage fish to land-based grain crops.

"It's true on the farm as well. We eat wheat and corn and rice, but we don't eat millet, rye or buckwheat. They're the sardine equivalent," he says. "They have high yields, they're beneficial to the ecology in the same way smaller fish are, yet we don't have a culture around eating rye the way Europe does, or millet in North Africa or buckwheat like Japan."

Beyond the important human health benefits of including fish in our diets, especially for vulnerable populations, there are broader consequences to our global dependence on fishmeal. Marine mammals and seabirds depend on populations of small fish, too. We've seen first-hand how an El Nino-fueled crash in sardine stocks off the U.S. West Coast recently meant starving sea lion pups. And similar declines can impact higher-value fish like salmon, cods or tuna that depend on robust forage fish populations.

Fish destined for fishmeal production means less food for more coveted wild species like salmon, cod or tuna higher up the food chain, Cashion says.

Like other vexing food production problems, there's no easy answer for how to successfully redirect fish headed for fishmeal production towards our dinner plates instead. Cashion says large-scale change needs to be driven by governments, intergovernmental organizations and nonprofits that will promote food security through "direct human consumption" of fish.

Make it happen, he says, "and there'd be more high-quality fish available to humanity as a whole."

Clare Leschin-Hoar is a journalist based in San Diego who covers food policy and sustainability issues.

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