Best of our wild blogs: 18 Feb 17

World pangolin day 2017

It’s World Pangolin Day! Conservation news

Singapore to implement carbon pricing
Green Future Solutions

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As animal encounters hit the headlines, a divide opens up

SIAU MING EN Today Online 18 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE — A few months ago, Bukit Panjang resident Madam Sherry Yeo watched, stunned, as a monkey appeared at the windowsill of her 12th floor unit, and then made its way into her kitchen for a bite of her leftover red bean bun.

“I’ve been living here for the last 10 years and have never seen monkeys in the area until they started appearing in November,” said the 44-year-old cleaning assistant living in Block 467 Segar Road.

The block of flats Mdm Yeo lives at faces Zhenghua Nature Park, which was recently expanded to provide a larger green space for residents and increase the green buffer for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The park’s 3.8ha extension was officially opened in 2015.

In recent months, Mdm Yeo has observed that at least one monkey will appear on most mornings and evenings, often climbing into residents’ homes, presumably in search of food. “They can mess up the house and eat our food. And after eating, they will defecate here and there,” she added in Mandarin.

Singapore may be the Garden City, but it is not always paradise: Be it monkeys, wild boars, or lately, chickens, the Republic has a long history of encounters between people and wildlife, and how they are handled have continued to provoke debate.

Two weeks ago, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) put down 24 free-roaming chickens around Thomson View and the Sin Ming area. It had received 20 complaints, mainly about noise, from nearby residents, and later explained that risk of exposure to bird flu prompted it to cull the chickens. It also said there was “clear scientific evidence” that the chickens are susceptible to the virus and could transmit the disease to humans.

The ensuring uproar saw some up in arms over what they felt was a “knee-jerk” response to a minor complaint; others said culling them would prevent possible contamination of the gene-pool of the red junglefowl, the wild and vulnerable cousins that live among them.

When animals and humans collide, culling is one method employed by the authorities — in the case of macaques and wild boars — much to the chagrin to wildlife activists, who question whether such decisions are backed by scientific data and studies, and whether this information can be made public.


Compared to the days of villagers being eaten by tigers, today’s tussles with crowing chickens and bun-eating monkeys seem mild, and could even be seen as an improvement.

According to Associate Professor Michael Gumert, a primatologist from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), such conflicts date back to the Republic’s early years as a nation. A clash between humans and the long-tailed macaques was first recorded at the Singapore Botanic Gardens in the 1960s, and the animals were subsequently culled in the 1970s.

“Heck, people used to be eaten by tigers in Singapore, so I would say conflict is much less now in terms of the average cost and potential damage per person. Another lower cost now is since no one farms, no one takes expensive crop losses,” he said.

While data on whether wildlife population has grown is inconclusive, two factors appear to contribute to the perception that conflicts are on the rise — urban development encroaching on the last of Singapore’s pockets of wilderness, while efforts at greening Singapore increasing the chances of encountering wildlife, setting the stage for clashes.

For example, families of smooth-coated otters are now often spotted in Singapore’s rejuvenated waterways — such as Kallang River @ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park — but some have also eaten koi from homes at Sentosa Cove, and fish from a farm in Pasir Ris Park.

As Singapore urbanises, less space is left for what could be the same number of animals, said founder of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) Louis Ng, noting that much of the development has also taken place around the edge of the nature reserves.

“The animals have to go somewhere and they are coming into the urban areas… (for instance), we are seeing a lot of the pythons come out of our toilet bowls because they are using our drains as their new networks, their new roads. Obviously then the amount of conflict will increase,” said Mr Ng, who is also a Member of Parliament.

As encounters with the wildlife become more frequent, people start to develop a “fear about what these animals are and what will they do to me”, which then leads to more complaints, he added.

NUS Associate Professor Harvey Neo said the number of conflicts may appear to be on the rise, because of a vocal minority that have become less tolerant of particular forms of wildlife or nature. It does not help that the authorities seem to be reactive to such voices, he added.

Professor Agustin Fuentes from the Department of Anthropology in the University of Notre Dame in the United States, who has studied the monkey-human interactions here, noted that Singapore has also done well in keeping green spaces in the urban landscapes, and there could be more species around to engage in such conflicts, he added.

Dr Lena Chan, group director of the National Parks Board’s (NParks) National Biodiversity Centre, said NParks has made efforts to enhance and restore certain natural habitats, while at the same time, connecting the fragmented natural spaces.

As such there could be more sightings of wildlife — and interactions — when more people use green spaces like the parks. “Now whether that leads to conflict or not (boils) down to your attitude,” she said, adding that so-called conflicts usually arise when humans initiate action, such as feeding.

It is difficult to pinpoint whether the wildlife population here is increasing or not as the trend varies across different species. To date, there are about 1,500 long-tailed macaques, 500 wild boars and more than 50 smooth-coated otters.

Dr Chan said the act of feeding – similar to giving “fast-food” to these animals — will lead to animals thinking that food is available in an urban setting, and that they no longer need to hunt for food in the nature reserves.

Wildlife activist Vilma D’Rozario said that it is “dangerous” to suggest that more wildlife is thriving in these increased green spaces without proper studies.

“We do not want people to say, hey we have to cut back on what NParks is trying to do, to green our landscape,” she said, adding that this would then affect the green habitats for the wildlife.

Pointing out that Singapore has lost 95 per cent of its forests, while National Parks Board has created more parks than habitats, Assoc Prof Gumert said the wildlife population would not have grown.


Regardless of wildlife population size, the AVA has generally been receiving an increasing number of wildlife-related feedback, said its spokesperson.

The authority did not respond to TODAY’s queries on the number of animals it has culled. But previous media reports showed that close to 630 monkeys were culled by the AVA in 2015. That same year, they received about 750 monkey-related complaints. In 2013, 570 monkeys were culled and had received about 1,870 related complaints.

In managing wildlife populations, AVA’s priority is to ensure that public health and safety are not compromised, she said.

Meanwhile, NParks’ approach to the human-wildlife conflicts is science-based, said Dr Chan. “If you don’t approach it from science (and have) a knee-jerk reaction, then you’ve got no leg to stand on later to say, ‘How do I defend this action?’” she noted.

Over the past two years, they have been studying and collecting data on the various wildlife species here, such as its population size and growth rate, demographics, living space, and how development is encroaching into their habitats.

But at least five to 10 years of study is needed for a more complete picture. In the meantime, Dr Chan said the authorities are also more mindful about taking any action before the data collection is complete.

“NParks is an agency responsible for biodiversity conservation, so we take it seriously... It has got to be backed by some science, long-term monitoring,” she added. In addition to complaints, other factors need to be considered in the management of human-wildlife interactions.

When asked if there is a threshold before the authorities decide to take any action, Dr Chan noted that there is no “magic figure”.

In the case of the macaques, while NParks can do a population viability analysis by plugging information on demographics, population, food availability, among others into a formula, the situation is complicated by human factors — such as when humans feed the monkeys and lure them out of the forest.

For the wild boars, Dr Chan said the authorities made the decision to cull them in 2014, for instance, as studies found them to be “very damaging” to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. They were eating the regenerated saplings and their population size was increasing very rapidly, she added.

Asked if NParks’ goals may clash with the AVA’s, and how the two agencies work together to manage human-wildlife conflicts, Dr Chan said the board works actively with the community to create awareness and educate the public on the importance of responsible behaviour in managing human-wildlife interactions.

This community includes AVA, residents, schools, the grassroots and various animal welfare groups, she added.

But ACRES’ Louis Ng felt culling was being done here on a complaints’ basis, rather than in a scientific way. “Such culling hasn’t been effective. If it has worked, it would have worked decades ago,” he added, citing studies that have shown how the culling of feral cats in Southern Tasmania have subsequently led to increases in population and activity. The same situation was seen in the culling of ferrets in the United Kingdom.

Mr Ben Lee, founder of nature conservation group Nature Trekker, said that there were other options — such as relocating the animals — which the authorities failed to explore. “The authorities should be more transparent when they want to cull, when providing information and data for the reason of culling,” he said.

NParks’ Dr Chan said wild animals have their own mechanisms for controlling their own population. “They can sense that if their population is getting high, they can sense that there is food limitation and space, they will do their own ways of managing their own population,” she added.

But within Singapore’s urbanised setting, where there are no predators such as the tigers, population of certain wildlife will increase because of the absence of these predators. In these cases, human beings have to play the predator role. “But to the best, we would like to leave it to nature and let them control,” said Dr Chan.

Others such as wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai also felt that culling is a necessity in Singapore, particularly with exotic animals introduced into the natural environment.

Prof Fuentes felt that “Singapore is ahead of the game on hand” by actively managing human-wildlife interactions, but the Republic country also relies heavily on culling, which in many cases is “often a short-sighted and suboptimal response”.

Assistant Professor Frank Rheindt from National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Biological Sciences urged a “healthy perspective” on the issue.

“Nowadays, Singapore’s growth has levelled out, and human wildlife conflict would therefore be at much lower levels than before – even if certain members of the public may perceive this differently,” he said.

Added Assoc Prof Gumert: “Wildlife conflict in Singapore is only an inconvenience, not a real meaningful conflict in terms of damaging peoples’ lives, like in other areas of South-east Asia.”

NParks’ Dr Chan also stressed the distinction between human-wildlife interaction and conflicts. “Not everybody thinks it’s a conflict ... The silent majority do appreciate (the wildlife) but they don’t write thousands of letters,” she added.

To ensure positive interactions with the animals, Singaporeans need to be educated about the wildlife, backed by science and data. “Unless people know the facts — and they can’t love something, appreciate something, if they don’t know anything about it,” said Dr Chan.

NUS’ Dr Neo noted that people who complain about animals may not be persuaded by science. “Telling the one person who encounters a wild boar that the wild boar population is actually manageable will not make any difference to their perceptions if they are ill-disposed to the animal in the first place,” he added.

Assoc Prof Gumert, commenting on the varied response to the culling of different animals, attributes to anthropomorphism. “We love animals that are cute and cuddly and tend not to care about animals that are not. I think our disdain for culling is mostly driven by this, and not a general concern for life,” he added.

That said, the management of human-wildlife conflicts should move away from being too complaint-oriented, where “complaints seem to supersede the science and ecology of wildlife population management”. Rather than turn to the public for answers, wildlife experts and ecologists should set ground rules.

“Public sentiment towards which animals to save (is) pretty much governed by the same psychological mechanisms by which we pick stuffed animals at the toy store, while decisions to eradicate animals are easily driven by selfish motivations to clear out everything we conflict with,” he said.

By 2030, the goal is to have nine in 10 homes within 400m of a park, as set out in the 2015 Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. “We are aware, all the time, that there will be potential for interactions ... But on the other hand, there are other segments of the population who really like it and say we really want more parks,” said Dr Chan.

The authorities want to provide pockets of nature near where people live for a better living environment, she noted. “But at the same time you also have wildlife and wildlife actually use these spaces, and you can’t tell them, ‘this is reserved, stop here,’...It’s better for people to appreciate wildlife and live harmoniously,” said Dr Chan.

Grouses about snakes, birds and monkeys on the rise
SIAU MING EN Today Online 18 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE — There has been an increase in the number of complaints about snakes and birds since 2013, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) revealed, while complaints against monkeys have been falling despite a rise last year.

Last year, the AVA received about 7,860 complaints about birds (up from about 4,360 in 2013) and about 850 for snakes (compared to about 220 in 2013). For monkeys, the number of complaints went down from about 1,870 in 2013 to 750 in 2015, before rising to 910 last year.

A spokesperson from AVA said: “Most of the feedback is related to disamenities caused by wildlife, such as noise and soiling, and the incursion of wild animals into premises. There has also been feedback regarding concerns on health risks posed by animals.”

The authority said that the increased feedback could be due to a greater awareness of its role as a first-responder for animal-related issues, which it took up in 2012.

The spokesperson stressed that AVA’s priority in its approach to managing the wild animal population is to ensure that public health and safety are not compromised.

If the animals do not pose significant health or safety concerns, it would advise the feedback-providers on ways to mitigate the situation, such as working with town councils to trim trees.

In cases where animals enter premises and destroy property, injure residents, or are potential carriers of disease, it would work with the relevant parties to explore relocation options wherever possible.

“If AVA has no alternatives, it has to act decisively to safeguard public health and safety through humane euthanasia,” the spokesperson added.

In other measures, it has embarked on various studies, including trials on the effectiveness of bird contraceptives in managing the pigeon population.

It also routinely conducts surveillance and keeps track of the feedback received to understand which areas have greater human-wildlife interaction.

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Singapore evaluating when, how best to impose carbon pricing

Move is part of govt plan to cut emissions intensity to 36% below 2005 levels by 2030.
Andrea Soh, Business Times AsiaOne 17 Feb 17;

Singapore is set to impose a carbon price as it looks to cut greenhouse emissions to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, The Business Times has learnt.

The government is now determining the timeline and what form of carbon pricing to take in the city-state, according to the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS).

Various countries around the world have implemented some form of carbon pricing as they seek to reduce emissions in a cost-effective manner. Singapore, too, has been studying this policy option and monitoring such international developments for some time, said NCCS.

"Alongside current measures such as regulations, incentives and capability building, a carbon price can help improve energy efficiency, lower carbon emissions and promote low-carbon technology," said a spokesman in response to a BT query. "We are evaluating when and how best to implement carbon pricing in Singapore."

The move follows other policy initiatives the government is planning to cut the country's emissions intensity to 36 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, as it had pledged under the 2015 Paris climate change pact.

It has set a target of ramping up improvement in energy efficiency in the manufacturing sector by one to 2 per cent a year from 2020 to 2030. In November last year, it also said that it is planning to tighten energy monitoring and reporting requirements for large industrial players.

The industry sector, which accounted for 59 per cent of Singapore's greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, is expected to take most of the weight of a carbon price. The petroleum refining, chemicals and semiconductor sectors made up the bulk of these emissions. The largest refining and petrochemical complexes in Singapore are owned by Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil.

Shell, together with five other European oil majors such as BP and Statoil, had during the run-up to the Paris summit in 2015called on governments to introduce a carbon price. This, they said, would discourage high-carbon options and help to stimulate investments in the right low-carbon technologies. ExxonMobil has said that it is supportive of a carbon tax. "We are committed to working with the Singapore government on this important issue to find solutions that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring Singapore's long-term competitiveness," said an ExxonMobil spokesman, adding that the group is taking action to reduce emissions in Singapore through energy efficiency initiatives such as building cogeneration plants.

A price on carbon emissions - Graphic showing the two main forms of carbon pricing and its pricing in Asia. It is increasingly gaining favour with governments as countries around the world look for ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions.Photo: The Business Times

Carbon pricing can take either the form of a carbon tax which puts a price on each tonne of carbon produced, or an emissions trading scheme which uses market mechanisms to price carbon.

The Singapore government had indicated that carbon pricing is an option as early as in 2010. Then, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed that the government already worked with a shadow carbon price.

"If there is a global regime to curb carbon emissions and that means that Singapore will have to reduce our own emissions more sharply than we are doing now, in order to comply with international obligations, then we will have to make the carbon price explicit, to send the right price signals," he said in a speech at the Singapore International Energy Week.

In the Climate Action Plan unveiled in July last year, the government said that it will be studying the need to price carbon to enhance energy efficiency efforts across all sectors.

"A carbon price would send appropriate price signals to encourage changes in energy consumption, provide market incentives for the adoption of energy-efficient technologies and low-carbon solutions, and stimulate growth in green industries," said NCCS in the document.

But a carbon price will incur costs, including affecting Singapore's competitiveness, it also noted. "Its overall impact will have to be studied."

The shift in Singapore's position comes as the idea of a carbon price increasingly gains popularity with other governments around the world. About 40 national jurisdictions and over 20 cities, states and regions are already putting a price on carbon, according to the World Bank.

Carbon prices range from about US$1 per tonne of carbon emissions in Poland and Mexico, to US$137 per tonne in Sweden, a report by the World Bank in October last year showed. In Asia, South Korea has started a national emissions trading scheme in 2015, while China aims to roll out a nation-wide emissions trading system by the second half of this year.

"A carbon price would send appropriate price signals to encourage changes in energy consumption, provide market incentives for the adoption of energy-efficient technologies and low-carbon solutions, and stimulate growth in green industries."

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Indonesia: Task force of forest fire prevention extinguishes land fires

Antara 17 Feb 17;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - A task force of forest fire prevention workers in Riau province has managed to extinguish the land fires which devoured 20 hectares of dry peatlands in Pangkalan Terap village, Kerumutan sub-district, Pelalawan district.

"Firefighting carried out by both teams on the ground and in the air took up to five days," secretary of Mangala Agni of Center for Natural Resources Conservation of Riau province, Ihsan Abdillah told ANTARA in Pekanbaru, Friday.

Manggala Agni is Indonesias Forest Fire Control Brigade formed by the Forestry Ministry.

Abdillah said the joint officers had trouble putting out the fires at the location because of the rough terrain, potentially flammable dry peat, and limited water resources.

Riau province alerted a Bell 412 helicopter capable of transporting 1,200 liters of water for bombing.

"A total of 28,000 liters of water was poured into the location of the fires to help the blackout," he pointed out.

Because of the hard work of the joint team, including Manggala Agni, Regional Disaster Management Agency, Indonesian National Army, and the police, the land fires were extinguished, even though the rain had abated in the last two days.

"Thank God, all fires have been extinguished. Currently, we are focusing on cooling (the land)," he said.

Based on the data released by the Riau Police, the burnt land was owned by a company engaged in the business of oil palm plantations, PT Sumber Sawit Sejahtera in Pelalawan district.

Meanwhile, the fires in Pelalawan district occurred several times in 2017. The land fires had also occurred in Segati village, Langgam sub-district, Pelalawan district last month.

The hotspots were located not far from the Tesso Nilo National Park in Pelalawan district. Three hectares of land at the site were burned, although firefighters eventually extinguished the land fires.(*)

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Indonesia to declare battle against marine plastic debris

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 18 Feb 17;

Indonesia will declare its commitment to combat plastic debris in marines on Feb. 23. Studies indicate that the country may be the second-biggest contributor to marine plastic debris worldwide, with an estimated 1.3 million tons originating from the archipelago annually.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said on Saturday that Indonesia is among 10 countries committed to combating the problem.

"Indonesia has received special attention because we are one of 10 countries, including Brazil, committed to cleaning up waste in the ocean," she said during the commemoration of National Waste Awareness Day in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan.

Siti added that the government would officially declare the commitment on Feb. 23.

Indonesia is also scheduled to present a national action plan during the fourth World's Ocean Summit in Bali from Feb. 22 to 24.

In January 2016, a World Economic Forum report concluded that with the current trajectory, there would be more plastic than fish measured by weight in the world’s oceans by 2050. A previous study by APEC estimated that marine pollution cost member economies US$1.3 billion. Moreover, 95 percent of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120 billion annually, is lost to the global economy. (evi)

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Indonesia: Three named suspects for feasting on orangutan in Kapuas

Jakarta Post 18 Feb 17;

The police have named three suspects for allegedly slaughtering, cooking and eating an orangutan after the endangered species was caught wandering around in an oil palm concession in Kapuas regency, Central Kalimantan.

Kapuas Police chief Sr. Comr. Jukiman Situmorang said on Friday that after 10 people had been taken in for questioning on Tuesday, investigators had decided to name three plantation workers, identified by their initials AY, 30, EMS, 39 and ER, 23, suspects.

“They [allegedly] killed the orangutan just to consume its flesh,” said Jukiman, adding that the police would not detain the suspects because the maximum penalty for the offense was not more than five years.

The case is believed to have occurred at an oil palm concession owned by PT Susantri Permai, part of Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group, in Tumbang Puroh village, on Jan. 28.

The incident reportedly began when a worker was harvesting fruit before encountering and being chased by an agitated orangutan.

The worker later told the story to AY who then went out to hunt down the animal, where he purportedly killed it with an air rifle and machete. The animal was then taken by AY and his two colleagues EMS and ER to a nearby camp to be dined on.

(Read also: 10 held for slaughtering, cooking, eating orangutan)

“They’re just like pigs or deer, the orangutan was skinned, chopped up and cooked,” said an eyewitness who works at the plantation as a fruit harvester but refused to be named for safety reasons, on Tuesday.

Jukiman said the perpetrators could face up to five years in prison if found guilty under the law on biodiversity conservation.

Orangutans are under grave threat from their shrinking rainforest habitat due to illegal logging, land conversion and forest fires, as well as from poaching and climate change.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has adjusted its status for the species from “endangered” to “critically endangered”—one category before extinction.

The IUCN estimates that the number of Bornean orangutans has dropped by nearly two-thirds since the early 1970s and will further decline to 47,000 by 2025.

As orangutans keep losing their habitat, they are forced to roam into plantation areas in search of food, which can lead to them being killed.

“That’s why orangutans enter oil palm plantations [because these areas] used to be part of their habitat,” said Yaya Rayadin, an orangutan researcher at Mulawarman University in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, on Tuesday.

Orangutans are often deemed disruptive by palm oil companies as they like to eat leaves and young palm fruit bunches.

According to research in 2006, an orangutan can destroy 30 to 50 oil palms in a day.

“They are forced to eat [the fruit bunches] because they have no other options,” said Yatim, an environmental activist from Muara Wahau, East Kalimantan.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar was said to be enraged upon receiving the report and said the ministry would work closely with the police to ensure the perpetrators faced justice.

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Indonesia: Sumatra elephants' habitat continues to shrink: NGO

Antara 17 Feb 17;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - The habitat of Sumatra elephants (Elephas Maximus Sumatranus), which continues to shrink, has sparked more conflict between the endangered species and humans, an NGO working in the field of nature conservation has said.

"Conflict (with humans) has occurred more often because the habitat of the elephants has continued to shrink. In the latest incident, wild elephants roaming the Gajah Makmur village led to a feeling of restlessness among the villagers," the program coordinator of the Nature Conservation Alliance (Akar) Network, Ali Akbar, said here on Friday.

An investigation conducted by the Akar Network found that the corridor that is the elephants roaming track in the Seblat Nature Tourism Park has increasingly shrunk due to changing patterns of land use.

The cultivation rights awarded to some plantations and illegal land clearing have led to a situation where elephants feel annoyed in their own habitat.

"The wild elephants entering the village came from Seblat Park, having passed through the oil palm plantation of PT Alno to HPT Air Rami, but then found themselves trapped in Air Rami," he explained.

Ali argued pointed out to the statement of the Bengkulu-Lamping nature conservation agency, which claimed that the protected species could not return to the Seblat elephant training center due to forest encroachment at Air Rami production forest.

Based on investigation on the ground, Ali revealed that the encroachers had left the site and currently there are some 10 rubber farmers with less than 20 hectares of planting area in the region.

"The elephants have often passed through the farmers land and no one disturbed them. But this time they had entered the Gajah Makmur village and that sparked anxiety among the villagers," he added.

He suspected that the endangered species could not pass PT Alno plantation area to return to the Seblat training center because they tried to guard the plantation area with fire.

"We need a solution to save the remaining elephants to avoid further conflict with humans," Ali stressed.

Previously, an official of the Bengkulu-Lampung nature conservation agency (BKSDA), Said Jauhari, had said that dozens of elephants were trapped at the Air Rami production forest and could not return to Seblat due to illegal land clearing in the area.

Said estimated that there are some 30 wild elephants in Air Rami.(*)

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Indonesian flooding spreads to more areas

Fardah Antara 18 Feb 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - As forecast by the National Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysic Agency (BMKG), the rainy season in Indonesia has peaked in February, triggering hydrometeorological disasters such as floods and landsides in several provinces.

In the last few days, floods have been reported in Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara, West Kalimantan, North Maluku, Banten, and North Sulawesi, among others.

Floods in Jakarta since February 15, have hit 7,788 people, or 3,393 households, following incessant rainfall that caused the Ciliwung River to spill over its bank.

"Heavy downpour in upstream and central areas of Ciliwung River triggered flooding along its bank in Jakarta," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBN), said in a statement.

Flood waters, reaching a height of up to 1.5 meter, submerged several areas in East Jakarta, such as Cawang, Cibubur, Rambutan (Ciracas Sub-district), Cililitan, Kampung Melayu, and Bidakara Cina (Jatinegara Sub-district).

In Cirebon, West Java, floods have hit seven sub-districts, following incessant rains that caused several rivers to swell and overflow, leaving thousands of homes inundated.

Senior Commissioner Yusri Yunus, spokesman of the West Java Police Office, here, Thursday, confirmed the natural disaster in Cirebon on February 14.

The seven sub-districts were Lemahabang, Asjap, Gebang, Greged, Pangenan, Pabedilan, and Susukanlebak.

Landslides also affected several villages in the district, he said.

The West Java Police have deployed officers and rubber boats for evacuation in flood-hit villages.

Several schools were also flooded, thereby preventing students from attending them.

"Now, students are asked to help clear the mud and floodwaters from their schools," Samsul Huda, a teacher of Islamic junior high school, added.

In Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Incessant and heavy downpour triggered flooding in several parts of the West Kalimantan provincial capital of Pontianak.

Several roads were inundated, with floodwaters reaching heights of between 10 centimeters and 40 centimeters, Aswin Thaufik, head of the Pontianak disaster mitigation office, said on Feb 16.

Floods also affected several residential areas in the city. In the Danau Sentarum area, the floodwaters reached a height of up to 50 centimeters.

In North Sulawesi, floods hit Bitung City have forced 4,622 inhabitants to take refuge in higher grounds.

The floods have hit the sub-districts of Aertembaga, Maesa, North Lembeh, and South Lembeh, Head of North Sulawesi Disaster Mitigation Office Noldy Liow said on Feb 14.

Incessant heavy rain since Sunday had caused flooding that submerged 1,132 homes and a landslide that buried 30 homes.

In West Nusa Tenggara Province, floods hit seven sub-districts in Sumbawa District on Feb. 11.

As many as 5,232 houses in Lebak and Pandeglang Districts, Banten Province, had been flooded from Feb 9 to Feb 11.

Floods forced 4,510 inhabitants of Bitung in North Sulawesi Province to take refuge in higher grounds on Feb 12.

In Banten, floods submerged 1,908 homes in 65 villages in 17 sub-districts in Lebak District, caused by several rivers overflowing their banks.

"We are constantly distributing relief aid, particularly food items, to prevent flood victims from facing any shortage," Kaprawi, head of the Lebak disaster mitigation office, stated recently.

Most of the homes affected by flooding are located near riverbanks, he pointed out.

Floods also submerged 1,273.25 hectares (ha) of rice fields in Lebak, 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.

In addition to flooding, landslides were also reported to have killed 13 people and buried several homes in Kintamani Sub-district of Bali Province recently.

"The heavy rain that occurred since Thursday evening (February 9) has triggered landslides in three villages of Kintamani, Bangli District," Nugroho said in a statement on February 11.

Meanwhile, whirlwind damaged 924 homes in several sub-districts in East Flores District, East Nusa Tenggara (NTB).

The whirlwind hit the eastern part of Flores Island from February 6 to 12, Paulus Igo Geroda, head of the East Flores Disaster Mitigation Office, said in Kupang on February 17.

The disaster also damaged 19 school buildings, seven houses of worship, four clinics, 38 shops, and 34 other public facilities.

Larantuka town was the worst affected by whirlwind, as 654 homes located along the Larantuka beach were damaged.

The authorities will help rehabilitate the damaged buildings, he promised.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Nila F Moeloek has warned the public of diseases that spread during flooding in the current rainy season.

"During flooding, microbes causing diseases, such as diarrhea, typhus, and leptospirosis caused by rat droppings, are carried by flood waters," Moeloek said on Feb 14.

She also reminded the public to maintain cleanliness during flooding, which often triggers diseases.

In case of flooding, those affected by the disaster should take refuge in safe, clean, and dry places, the minister stated.(*)

Floods affect 7,788 residents of Jakarta
Antara 17 Feb 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The floods that have hit Jakarta since Wednesday affected 7,788 people or 3,393 families in the capital, following incessant rains that caused Ciliwung River to overflow its banks.

"Heavy downpour in the upstream and central areas of Ciliwung River has triggered flooding along the the river bank areas in Jakarta," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, noted in a statement.

Floodwaters, reaching a height of up to 1.5 meters, submerged several areas in East Jakarta, such as Cawang, Cibubur, Rambutan in Ciracas Sub-district, Cililitan, Kampung Melayu, and Bidakara Cina in Jatinegara Sub-district.

In Cawang, floodwaters reaching 150 centimeters high affected 3,896 people of 1,188 households, and one-meter-deep floodwaters in Kampung Melayu affected 1,456 people, or 443 families.

He urged the residents of Jakarta to remain vigilant as the peak of the rainy season will last until late February 2017.

Meanwhile, floods have also hit the three sub-districts of East Cikarang, Kedungwaringin, and Muara Gembong in Bekasi District, West Java Province, following incessant heavy rains that caused the Citarum River to overflow its banks since Monday.

The floodwaters reached a height of up to two meters and inundated an elementary school in Kedungwaringin.(*)

Whirlwind damages 924 homes in East Flores
Antara 17 Feb 17;

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - Whirlwind has damaged 924 homes in several sub-districts in East Flores District, East Nusa Tenggara (NTB).

The whirlwind hit eastern part of Flores Island from February 6 to 12, Paulus Igo Geroda, head of the East Flores disaster mitigation office, said here, Friday.

The disaster also damaged 19 school buildings, seven houses of worship, four clinics, 38 shops, and 34 other public facilities.

Larantuka town was the worst affected by the whirlwind, as 654 homes located along the Larantuka beach were damaged.

Whirlwind and heavy downpour also damaged over 1,400ha of agricultural fields.

The authorities has promised to help rehabilitate the damaged buildings.(*)

Floods in Central Java displace thousands of residents
Suherdjoko The Jakarta Post 18 Feb 17;

Flooding has struck several areas in Central Java over recent days, displacing thousands of local residents and cutting off access via main roads.

For the last two days, the overflowing Pemali, Cisaranggung and Babakan rivers have damaged embankments, causing flooding in several areas, including Brebes, Wanasari, Banjarharjo, Losari and Jatibarang.

Flooding struck 10 villages in Brebes regency, forcing 4,930 people to be evacuated from the area. The number of displaced residents has reached 4,930 people, with the potential to increase if weather conditions worsen over the coming days.

Among the villages struck by floods were Terlangu, Miri, Lengkong and Wangandalem.

Data from the Brebes Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) showed that floodwater in 16 villages had reached 30 to 150 centimeters deep, affecting approximately 1,500 houses.

Flooding also cut off access via the main road connecting Brebes and Tegal regencies through Jatibarang.

Central Java search and rescue team spokesperson Zulhawary Agustianto said the areas worst impacted by the flood were Terlangu and Kemaron villages.

“Those two villages are located near the damaged embankment. The flood reached 1 meter [deep] in certain areas,” Agustianto said.

The three biggest evacuation shelters currently housing residents are Lengkong with 1,350 people, Brebes Sports Center with 1,075 residents and Pulosari with 850 residents. Wisma Saditan accommodated the smallest number of residents, with only 30 people taking refuge there.

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Harsh Measures to Protect the Pangolin in Africa

Liz Komen 16 Feb 17;

SATURDAY is World Pangolin Day, a day dedicated to the pangolin, the scaly mammal that has been recognised as the most trafficked animal in the world.

For the first time, all four African and all four Asian pangolin species have been listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) which gives them a complete international trade ban and importantly, all nations that are party to Cites are committed to put measures in place to curb and prohibit any poaching or trade in wild caught specimens.

Through the ages, pangolins have been eaten in Africa and in Asia. A strong belief that they have medicinal, magical and spiritual properties still exists. The highest rates of consumption are in China, where it was estimated that over the decade from 2004 to 2014, more than one million pangolins of both Asian and African species were traded.

These are all animals caught in the wild as no captive breeding programme has ever existed that can provide for commercial exploitation.

China has a population of over 1,4 billion people with high rates of pangolin consumption despite the visibly decreasing populations of Asian pangolins. With this knowledge, China has regulated pangolin trade for many years and the eating of pangolins has been illegal since 1989.

Strict regulation of the trade in pangolin scales has been in place since 2007. This regulation allowed for a legal trade of 26 600kg of pangolin scales annually, but the trade was limited to animal medicine wholesalers and traditional Chinese medicine retailers.

Companies that were legally allowed to trade were specifically registered with the government. However, research in China between June and July 2016, exposed a wide circle of unregulated and illegal activity. It was exposed that 35% of animal medicine wholesalers and 62% of medicine retail shops along with 153 online advertisers were illegally selling pangolin scales.

As far as could be identified, these scales were mostly from south-east Asian countries, the major sources being Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, and to a lesser extent illegally traded scales from African countries including Nigeria and Cameroon.

Before the current up-listing to Appendix 1 there had been legal imports of pangolin scales. Based on importer data, China reported nine imports involving pangolins between 2001 and 2014. Two of these records in 2014 indicated a total of 3 948 kg that came from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Apart from legal imports, around 16 000 kg of pangolin scales are reported to have been intercepted and confiscated on mainland China since 2007. However, research into consumption has indicated that even when adding the reported illegal pangolin scales to existing legal stocks in China, this amount could not have satisfied market demand.

Even before the up-listing of all pangolins to Appendix 1 a number of African countries recognised the difficulty of having a large consumer-driven market demand. With the depleted pangolin populations in Asia and the knowledge that Africa was being viewed as a source, heavy penalties for illegal capture and trade have been put in place as a deterrent.

Some of these, though not all actually enforced yet, include South Africa, which imposes a fine of US$694 444 or 10 years in jail. Nigeria - US$15 923 or three years in jail. Cameroon recently increased the fine from US$5 154 or 1 to 3 years to US$17 182. South Sudan - US$1 666 and 14 years in jail. Zimbabwe - US$500 or nine years in jail.

In 2015 courts in Zimbabwe convicted 47 people and jailed them for nine years each and in 2016 there were 42 convictions.

Zimbabwe has been a leader in Africa for punishing poaching of pangolins and they believe that this has been a deterrent as no large consignments have since been intercepted from that country.

At present there is no specific evidence of pangolins being sourced for international trade from Namibia although the animal is protected and hunting it can lead to a jail sentence. However, with consignments of other natural resources moving through the country's ports and borders, Namibian officials must be vigilant.

At every level, both the local and foreign public needs to be aware of the seriousness of any attempts to capture and trade in endangered species. Most importantly, awareness must be created of the extremely harsh punitive measures.

Be Aware - World Pangolin Day

* Information sourced from TRAFFIC Bulletin September 2016 "An overview of Pangolin Trade in China" Ling Xu, Jing Guan, Wilson Lau and Yu Xiao

Tons of pangolin scales up in flames in Cameroon
WWF 17 Feb 17;

Cameroon today, February 17, burnt over three tons (3094kg) of pangolin scales in ongoing fight against poaching and illicit trade of this lone mammal with scales.

The scales, which were seized from traffickers mostly at airports in Yaoundé and Douala, Cameroon’s two major cities, were set ablaze by the country’s Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Philip Ngolle Ngwese. This is the first time Cameroon is setting pangolin scales on fire after country burnt its ivory stockpile on April 19, 2016.
Since 2013, there has been an upsurge in trafficking of pangolin scales, destined for china, with several tons being seized each year. According to the wildlife minister, 8134kg of pangolin scales were seized between 2013 and 2016. Of this number 5040kg are under seal as suspect traffickers are facing trial in a court in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital. The rest, 3094kg, have been burnt.

The torching of the scales came on the eve of World Pangolin Day. In Cameroon, there exist three types of pangolin species; the giant, long tail and the tree or white-bellied pangolin. Until the last Convention on International Trade in Endangered species (CITES) COP17 meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, last year, only the giant pangolin was totally protected. In the face of exponential increase in scales trafficking, CITES has declared all pangolin species totally protected.

“The burning of these scales reaffirms the determination of the government of Cameroon to fight against wildlife trafficking in general and pangolin scales in particular,” Minister Ngwese said.

Cameroon, alongside other pangolin range countries, is battling to stem this new wave of scales trafficking with the supported of WWF. According to Dr. Hanson Njiforti, WWF Cameroon Country Director, the government of Cameroon has taken a bold and proactive step to save what is left of pangolins in the forest. “The bigger challenge now is to stop the traffickers from killing the pangolins because 8000 kg of scales means several thousands of pangolins have been killed,” Dr. Njiforti said.

Pangolins are the only mammals in the world covered in scales. Unfortunately, these cool spikes have made them to become the most trafficked mammal in the world.

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