Rescued Bedok North goshawk released into the wild: WRS

Diane Leow, Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: A young goshawk that was rescued after it had trouble fledging from its nest in a built-up housing estate was released the day after it was picked up, Channel NewsAsia learnt from Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) on Monday (Mar 6).

The chick belonged to a family of relatively rare crested goshawks that first came to the attention of Singapore's birdwatching community when they built their nest in a tree in a car park at Bedok North Avenue 4.

But it was the mother goshawk which had to raise the brood on her own. The father failed to return to the nest shortly after the chicks hatched, and birdwatchers speculated that it had been killed.

The Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) said that a single parent would find it hard to raise two chicks alone, and that the mother was probably trying to get its chicks to fledge earlier, before they were ready.

Both chicks fledged on Feb 19 but ended up on the ground, birdwatcher Lee Li Er told Channel NewsAsia. The older one was put back in a tree and eventually managed to fly. The younger chick, which fell a few times, ended up on the ground again late in the evening, she said.

Ms Lee said that another birder asked animal rescue group ACRES to help, as it was getting dark and they were worried that the young bird might be attacked by cats or dogs.

She added that the ACRES officer said that the chick was healthy and that nothing was broken, although it was weak, exhausted and dehydrated.

The ACRES officer took the bird away and subsequently handed it to Jurong Bird Park's avian hospital for a more thorough check.

Ms Lee said that in the subsequent days, the mother goshawk was seen looking for the younger bird and leaving food for it.

Anxious for the chick to be reunited with its mother, enthusiasts told Channel NewsAsia that they had sought updates on the fate of the bird from Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which owns and manages Jurong Bird Park.

In response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, a spokesperson for WRS confirmed on Monday that the young bird was taken to Jurong Bird Park on Feb 20 and released back into the wild on the same day.

The bird received a full medical examination and was given a clean bill of health, WRS said, adding that the bird had been treated with fluids for mild dehydration and hypoglycaemia.

The Nature Society's Bird Group said it was glad to hear that the chick had been released.

"Hopefully it is released back at the same nest area," a representative for the group said. "It may need parents help to hunt for food for the first few days. If it can get hold of easy prey like mynas, rats, changeable lizards, pigeons and bats near where it was released, it will be fine."

The Bird Ecology Study Group echoed those sentiments. When asked about the chick's chances of survival after being released into the wild, the group's representative Dr Wee Yeow Chin said it depended on whether it was released near the nesting site.

"If so, the surviving adult would still be nearby with the other chick. If it was released elsewhere, chances of survival would be slim – (there would be) no one to teach it how to survive outside the nest," Dr Wee said.


The goshawk nest has drawn a lot of attention from bird lovers and Bedok North residents alike since the birds made their home in the housing estate.

"It’s such a rare thing to see," said Ms Lee. "Every day, if you go there, there’s a group of photographers trying to take action shots and watching what’s happening."

The Nature Society's Bird Group said that the crested goshawk was once listed as a rare resident bird, but that its numbers have been increasing over the past years.

The group added that goshawks have been known to nest at Bishan Park, Botanic Gardens, Sentosa and Kent Ridge, but that they are not easily seen.

Explaining why the goshawks could have chosen to nest at Bedok North, the group's representative said: "The crested goshawk nests where they can easily find food for the chicks. There could be a myna roost there at Bedok or pigeons around. Rats also form a part of their diet."

On how best to deal with fledglings that end up on the ground, the Bird Ecology Study Group's Dr Wee said that they should be left alone. "At the most they should be placed in a safe location by the nest, preferably on higher ground, away from stray cats and 'stray' people," said Dr Wee. "If necessary, be around but keep your distance, to see that no harm comes to them."

- CNA/dl

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Malaysia, Penang: Diminishing mangroves -- Save them before it's too late

AUDREY DERMAWAN New Straits Times 6 Mar 17;

GEORGE TOWN: Penang risks losing its mangrove forests within 10 years if unmitigated development continues to encroach on the areas.

Penang Inshore Fisherman Welfare Association (PIFWA) has estimated that there is only a quarter of mangrove forests left compared to the area in the 1960s.

PIFWA president Ilias Shafie said the remaining mangrove forests were fast making way for development.

Ilias said the only areas in Penang with dense mangroves were in Balik Pulau, Seberang Prai Selatan and from Juru to the Perak border.

“Right now, we do not see concerted efforts to protect our mangroves. Instead, the areas are being cleared such as in Bagan Jermal.

“If this continues, we may lose all our mangrove forests within a decade and our future generations will never get to appreciate them,” he told the New Straits Times.

The NST has recently reported that the remaining mangroves along the northern coast of Penang island were under threat by development.

PIFWA has been at the forefront in the conservation of the coastal environment and replanting of mangroves,

Fishermen from Bagan Jermal here had complained that mangrove areas covering nearly 10ha, or more than 10 football fields, were being cleared for a reclamation project.

Ilias said even the mangrove saplings planted by PIFWA since 1997 had been cleared for numerous purposes, leaving only about 250,000 from 300,000 planted.

He said when the tsunami hit parts of Asia, including Penang in December 2004, the mangrove forests had helped buffer its destructive impact and this spurred various quarters to have programmes to plant them.

“Various agencies sprouted overnight to plant mangrove saplings. However, that was mere hangat-hangat tahi ayam (spur of the moment).

“We hardly see anyone planting the mangrove saplings anymore... possibly, PIFWA is the only one doing so,” he said.

Ilias said when PIFWA first planted the mangrove saplings, it was for fisheries purposes as the mangrove swamps served as nurseries and breeding grounds for many fish species.

He said over the years, the mangroves had been cleared for establishing new villages, such as Tanjung Tokong, and setting up of industries in Batu Kawan.

Large swathes of mangroves have also been turned into prawn farming, agriculture and aquaculture activities.

Ilias pointed out that in the case of the 214.66ha Byram Mangrove Forest Reserve in Mukim 11, Seberang Prai Tengah, where century-old mangroves were once abundant, many had been destroyed due to leachate spillage, believed to be from a retention pond at the nearby Pulau Burung sanitary landfill.

The other mangrove forest reserve in the state is the 166.38ha Balik Pulau Forest Reserve.

“If the situation is left unchecked, the forest reserve will be adversely affected, and the mangroves will die.”

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Biological Sciences senior lecturer, Professor Siti Azizah Mohd Nor, said the loss of mangrove areas in some states in the peninsula had been estimated at 1.282ha, or one per cent annually, since 1990.

She said mangrove areas nationwide accounted for 0.58 million hectares, which were predominantly in Sabah and Sarawak, in 2008.

The Forestry Department has estimated that Malaysia lost almost 30 per cent of mangrove areas between 1975 and 2000 but there is no data on the size of the mangrove forests in Penang.

Siti Azizah’s colleague Dr Foong Swee Yeok, also a senior lecturer at USM’s School of Biological Sciences, said she had been involved in studying mangrove ecology since 1992.

Foong said mankind was behind the destruction of the mangrove ecosystem.

“The pressure on mangrove is growing as the human population along the coast increases.”

She said the status of mangroves as forest reserve had not spared them from being cleared despite rising awareness of their value.

“Most of the losses in the past 30 years were due to conversion of mangrove forest reserves into farm land, shrimp ponds, urban development and port construction,” she said.

Foong cautioned that if the mangrove forests were wiped out, the state would lose all the benefits from the ecosystem, such as for fisheries, coastal protection and sediment accretion, carbon sequestration, siltation reduction in rivers, bioremediation of waste and nature-based tourism.

She said the massive root systems of a mangrove tree offered protection from tsunami wave flow pressure, especially on moderate tsunami impacted zones such as Penang.

“Mangroves have significant value in the coastal zone due to the benefits they provide to the communities. Mangroves and its adjoining mudflats are ideal habitats and breeding grounds for resident and migratory wildlife.”

For example, she said these habitats were often the wintering and/or staging ground for at least 30 species of migratory waterbirds, which usually foraged at exposed mudflat during low tide and moved to mangrove forest or marshes at high tide.

Foong said many of the mangroves were potential nature-based tourism sites and a good example was the firefly tourism along Sungai Kerian in Nibong Tebal.

“Unique and rare fauna in the mangroves further add to its attraction,” she said.

For Noor Suhaiza Zainal, 24, who pursued her studies in natural resources sciences at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, it would be a waste if future generations were not exposed to the importance of mangrove forests.

“Most people usually associate mangrove forests with being dirty but it can be fun once you learn more about it,” she said.

Noor Suhaiza is helpinging Ilias at the Pusat Pendidikan Kecil Hutan Paya Laut in Sungai Acheh, Nibong Tebal, which he plans to turn it into an educational forest reserve.

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Indonesia: Floods force students to stay at home, put harvests at risk in Riau

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 6 Mar 17;

After four days of flooding, overflowing rivers in Kuantan Singingi regency, Riau, have paralyzed daily activities in several areas.

The regency’s education agency recorded that 19 schools had told students to remain at home to stay safe.

“Water inundates classrooms and schoolyards, and also the streets nearby. It will be hard for the children to come to school,” agency head Jupirman said on Monday.

Of the 19 schools, 17 were elementary schools while the remainder were junior high schools.

Schools located in Pangean district were flooded on Saturday and Sunday, but the water receded on Monday, enabling students to attend classes.

Kuantan Singingi Agriculture Agency head Maisir said at least 946.36 hectares of rice fields had been inundated, with Pangean the worst hit.

“If this continues over the next two days, our next harvest may fail,” he said. (wit)

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Australia: Climate change impact may be irreversible, five-yearly report says

Exclusive: State of the Environment report says heritage and economic activity are being affected and the disadvantaged will be worst hit
Katharine Murphy The Guardian 6 Mar 17;

An independent review of the state of Australia’s environment has found the impacts of climate change are increasing and some of the changes could be irreversible.

The latest State of the Environment report, a scientific snapshot across nine areas released by the federal government every five years, says climate change is altering the structure and function of natural ecosystems in Australia, and is affecting heritage, economic activity and human wellbeing.

It warns climate change will result in “location specific vulnerabilities” and says the most severe impacts will be felt by people who are socially and economically disadvantaged.

Record high water temperatures caused “widespread coral bleaching, habitat destruction and species mortality” in the marine environment between 2011 and 2016, it says.

The minister for energy and the environment, Josh Frydenberg, was due to release the report card on Tuesday morning.

In a column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the report indicates the impact of changing weather patterns is being felt in the ocean, on the Great Barrier Reef and on land, affecting biodiversity and species habitat.

“While carbon emissions per capita have declined from 24.1 tonnes in 2011 to 22.2 tonnes in 2015 and energy efficiency improvements are reducing electricity demand, the report makes clear that, for the world to meet its Paris goals, there is much more to do,” Frydenberg says.

The minister says the report makes clear Australia needs to prepare for changes in the environment and “put in place a coordinated, comprehensive, well-resourced, long-term response”.

He warns that failure to do so “will have a direct and detrimental impact on our quality of life and leave a legacy to future generations that is inferior to the one we have inherited”.

The minister says the report presents the government with a mixed picture. “Good progress has been made in the management of the marine and Antarctic environments, natural and cultural heritage and the built environment – while pressures are building in relation to invasive species, climate change, land use and coastal protection,” he says.

Frydenberg says the doubling of Australia’s population in the past 50 years and growing urbanisation “have all combined to contribute to additional pressures on the environment”.

Australia’s heavily populated coastal areas are under pressure, as are “growth areas within urban environments, where human pressure is greatest”, the report finds.

Grazing and invasive species continue to pose a significant threat to biodiversity.

“The main pressures facing the Australian environment today are the same as in 2011: climate change, land use change, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and invasive species,” the report’s summary says. “In addition, the interactions between these and other pressures are resulting in cumulative impacts, amplifying the threats faced by the Australian environment.

“Evidence shows that some individual pressures on the environment have decreased since 2011, such as those associated with air quality, poor agricultural practices, commercial fishing, and oil and gas exploration and production in Australia’s marine environment.

“During the same time, however, other pressures have increased — for example, those associated with coal mining and the coal-seam gas industry, habitat fragmentation and degradation, invasive species, litter in our coastal and marine environments, and greater traffic volumes in our capital cities.”

The report criticises the lack of “an overarching national policy that establishes a clear vision for the protection and sustainable management of Australia’s environment to the year 2050”.

It points to poor collaboration, gaps in knowledge, data and monitoring and a lack of follow-though from policy to action.

“Providing for a sustainable environment both now and in the future is a national issue requiring leadership and action across all levels of government, business and the community,” it says. “The first step is recognising the importance and value of ecosystem services to our economy and society.

“Addressing Australia’s long-term, systemic environmental challenges requires, among other things, the development of a suite of stronger, more comprehensive and cohesive policies focused on protecting and maintaining natural capital, and ongoing improvements to current management arrangements.”

Late last year, the government established a review of its Direct Action climate policy. The current policy has been widely criticised by experts as inadequate if Australia is to meet its international emissions reduction targets under the Paris climate change agreement.

Shortly after establishing the review, Frydenberg ruled out converting the Direct Action scheme to a form of carbon trading after a brief internal revolt. Many experts argue carbon trading would allow Australia to reduce emissions consistent with Paris commitments at least cost to households and businesses.

The Direct Action review still allows for the consideration of the potential role of international carbon credits in meeting Australia’s emissions reduction targets – a practice Tony Abbott comprehensively ruled out as prime minister – and consideration of a post-2030 emissions reduction goal for Australia.

The review also requires an examination of international developments in climate change policy, which is code for an assessment of what is happening on global climate action in the event the US pulls out of the Paris climate agreement.

The New York Times reported last week that the White House was fiercely divided over Trump’s campaign promise to cancel the Paris agreement.

Its report said Trump’s senior strategist Steve Bannon wanted the US to pull out of the Paris agreement but Bannon’s stance was being resisted by the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who are concerned about the diplomatic fallout.

The Turnbull government has already indicated that it intends to stay the course with the Paris agreement, and has argued it would take the US four years to withdraw from the deal under the terms of ratification.

But if the US withdraws from Paris, internal pressure inside the Coalition will intensify, and the prime minister will face calls from some conservatives to follow suit.

In his column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the Coalition is doing good work on the environment and the conservative parties in Australia have been responsible for establishing legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and programs such as the Natural Heritage Trust and the first mandatory Renewable Energy Target.

“The task now is to build on this proud Coalition tradition and to use this report to continue the good work the Turnbull government is already doing across so many areas of environmental policy,” he says.

State of the Environment report: bright spots, but much more to do
Australia has made solid progress in many areas covered by the five-yearly report, but population pressures, invasive species and climate change still present huge challenges
Josh Frydenberg The Guardian 6 Mar 17;

First established in 1996 and occurring every five years, the State of the Environment report is prepared by independent authors and provides a report card across nine thematic areas – the Antarctic environment, atmosphere, biodiversity, built environment, coasts, heritage, inland waters, land and the marine environment.

The report will this year for the first time be available in an interactive digital format, expanding its reach and ensuring greater use and engagement from the academic and broader community.

Like previous reports, this year’s document has its bright spots while also indicating a number of areas where there is much more to do.

Good progress has been made in the management of the marine and Antarctic environments, natural and cultural heritage and the built environment, while pressures are building in relation to invasive species, climate change, land use and coastal protection.

The number of people in Australia has doubled over the past 50 years. Growing urbanisation (two-thirds of the population live in our capital cities and 90% of people live in 0.22% of Australia’s land area) and heightened economic activity (Australia is experiencing its 26th year of consecutive economic growth) have combined to contribute to additional pressures on the environment.

The message, however, is not that development and sustainability are locked in a zero-sum game. Far from it. Rather, we must be conscious of these pressures, prepare for them and put in place a coordinated, comprehensive, well-resourced long-term response.

Failure to do so will have a direct and detrimental impact on our quality of life and leave a legacy to future generations that is inferior to the one we have inherited. This is why reports such as this are important and why we must continue to upgrade our capacity to collect and analyse critical environmental data.

The message is not that development and sustainability are locked in a zero-sum game
It’s also why last November I committed – along with state and territory environment ministers – to develop more detailed environmental accounts for Australia to build this capacity to better understand our environment and how best to protect it.

The report indicates that the Antarctic is in “generally good condition”, with evidence that the phasing out of powerful synthetic greenhouse gases, in which Australia has played a lead role under the Montreal protocol, is leading to improvements in the ozone layer.

Macquarie Island, which has seen rabbits and rats in plague proportions, is also recovering well following a successful invasive species eradication policy.

Invasive species more generally are a growing problem. We are all familiar with the devastation that has been unleashed across our continent by the arrival of cane toads, feral pigs and yellow crazy ants. But feral cats should top this list because their population growth and diet of marsupials, birds and reptiles make them one of the biggest threats to a number of nationally listed species.

The good news is that the federal government has acted in implementing a new threatened species strategy and appointing the first threatened species commissioner. However, there is a big task ahead with the addition of 44 animal and five plant species to the threatened species list, meaning there are now 545 animal and 1,312 plant species under threat.

One notable mention in the report was that humpback whales are increasing in number to a point where their current listing as “vulnerable” may need to be reconsidered.

Australia’s 108 national and 19 world heritage sites are admired both here and abroad and are integral to our cultural history and values. They remain, according to the report, “generally in good condition”, but the Great Barrier Reef last year was subject to a significant bleaching event, with climate change and the El NiƱo effect to blame.

Conscious of the threat to this natural wonder of the world, the federal government is jointly investing with the Queensland government $2bn to support our Reef 2050 plan to improve water quality and preserve the health of the reef.

Australia has a strong reputation in management of its national reserve system. Since 2011, the Ningaloo Reef has been added and extensions made to the Tasmanian wilderness and Kakadu properties on the World Heritage List. Since 2012, 12 new places have been added to the National Heritage List, including the Snowy Mountains scheme in New South Wales and Lesueur national park in Western Australia, ensuring that our historic places are preserved for future generations.

The report indicates that the impact of changing weather patterns is affecting biodiversity and species habitat.

While carbon emissions per capita have declined from 24.1 tonnes in 2011 to 22.2 tonnes in 2015, and energy efficiency improvements are reducing electricity demand, the report makes clear that, for the world to meet its Paris goals, there is much more to do.

Land clearing also comes in for attention in the report. With the exception of Queensland, land clearing rates over the past five years “have stabilised in all states and territories” and Indigenous protected areas have substantially increased.

Since 2008 there have been an additional 42 agreements and 20.6m hectares which are now covered under the Indigenous protected areas. The national reserve system, protecting important natural assets, has expanded to cover 17.9% of Australia’s land are, compared with 13.4% in 2011.

These are all significant improvements which are felt right across the environmental food chain as pollination, seed disposal and species’ survival rely on an ecosystem where vegetation and habitat are protected.

Despite the growth in urban population, air and urban water quality remain “good” according to the report, with “noticeable local improvements in water quality in the Murray Darling basin”. Sustainable diversion limits and water efficiency are having a positive impact on the fish and water bird stocks as well as natural vegetation.

There is no room for complacency. Regardless of one’s political persuasion, we all have a vested interest in protecting our commons.

The Coalition track record in this regard is strong. The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, like the Natural Heritage Trust and the first mandatory renewable energy target, were all initiatives of the Howard government.

The 10-year Murray-Darling basin plan was implemented by Malcolm Turnbull.

Former prime ministers Tony Abbott, Malcolm Fraser, William McMahon, John Gorton, Harold Holt and Robert Menzies all too had significant achievements to their name.

The task now is to build on this proud Coalition tradition and to use this report to continue the good work the government is doing across so many areas of environmental policy.

Josh Frydenberg is Australia’s minister for the environment and energy

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