Best of our wild blogs: 31 Mar 17

Changi seagrasses with oil sheen and otters
wild shores of singapore

Mangrove madness in March with R.U.M.
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

UN launches campaign to take out ocean trash

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Singapore fish farms claim compensation limbo in wake of Johor oil spill

Justin Ong Channel NewsAsia 31 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: Fish farms affected by a major oil spill in January said they have yet to receive compensation, even as their businesses continue to reel from the damage caused by two container vessels colliding off the Johor straits.

About 300 tonnes of oil were spilled into the surrounding waters, affecting 12 fish farms near Pulau Ubin. A sales suspension imposed on the farms by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) was only fully lifted two months later.

But for Mr Peter Ong, the move has done little to alleviate the dire situation at his Sin Bee Fish Farm, where he estimates his losses due to the oil spill to be around S$1 million.

“My fish are still dying day by day,” he said in Mandarin. “When AVA came to help clean up, about 60 to 70 per cent of my farm could not be cleaned.”

AVA, however, said clean-up operations were completed to "internationally acceptable standards", with the expert guidance of international oil spill consultants.

Mr Ong also told Channel NewsAsia that AVA had promised that the shipping companies’ insurers would reimburse the farmers before Chinese New Year. "But there’s been nothing from them," he said. "Now, they don’t even pick up my calls.”

He said he could not afford to take legal action against the shipping firms, a point echoed by Philip Lim, who owns three fish farms.

“For small, old farmers like us, it’s costly,” said Mr Lim. “We don’t know the procedures in the first place. We don’t know the rules and regulations. We are not educated.

“How could we meet these people?” he lamented, referring to the shipping companies and their insurers.

Mr Dirk Eichelberger, the director of affected fish farm Singapore Aquaculture Technologies, said going through AVA was more effective, after earlier attempts to reach the shipping companies directly “led to nothing”.

“There is no clear ruling on who is at fault, so we ran into a wall,” he said, adding that he eventually sought legal action but was unsuccessful.

“At the moment, even AVA who is trying to help can't tell what additional input is required to settle the claims. The insurers take their sweet time - no communication, no feedback. This is all frustrating.”


In response to queries, AVA said in a statement that the farmers, as private entities, could directly submit claims for damages to the shipping firms' insurers.

"However, AVA has been helping affected fish farmers consolidate their claims, and is working closely with the insurers to expedite the claims process," it added.

“AVA helped the farmers to submit the consolidated claims to the insurers in early February 2017. The insurers informed us that the claims process will take time as they have to consult their principals based in the UK on all matters pertaining to oil spill claims.

"We will continue to liaise with the farmers and the insurers to expedite the claims process."

The authority added that it has assigned an account manager to every food farm, including coastal fish farms.

"Our AMs (account managers) proactively reach out to the farmers to enquire if they need any assistance on farm related issues. The farmers can also contact their AMs if they require assistance."


Meanwhile, Mr Timothy Ng, whose 2 Jays fish farm was nearest to the oil spill, said he will continue to meet directly with the shipping companies’ insurers.

“Some of my fish are still affected,” he said. “But we are trying to work out some method to give the insurers the information they need.

“I don’t see a need for legal action at the moment - until we have no way of discussion and it leads to a dead end.”

Mr Ng, who is also president of the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore, urged other fish farmers to give local authorities “reasonable time to act”.

But the likes of Mr Eichelberger and Mr Lim - who both said they are still cleaning up their farms - disagreed.

“There might be ways for the Government to apply pressure, yes,” said Mr Eichelberger. “And no one is asking for something unjustified. A first payment should have been made already, before Chinese New Year.”

Said Mr Lim: “If AVA is sincere, they should help us farmers with a token sum first, rather than make us wait for compensation.

“They can claim compensation easily as a Government body. But not us. We are just farmers.”

Mr Ong said he needs about S$300,000 to rebuild his farm, failing which he may shut down his eight-year-old business altogether.

“The situation is not good,” said Mr Lim. “There is not much confidence in continuing what we do, after the plankton bloom and now this.”

Earlier, when asked to place a figure on his losses, he simply laughed and said: “I cannot estimate that. My three farms, the effort put into them, the value behind them … I cannot estimate that.”

- CNA/cy

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Water inefficient taps to be phased out from April 1

Today Online 31 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Taps that are not water efficient will be phased out from Saturday (April 1), the Public Utilities Board (PUB) announced on Friday.

A four-tier rating system, the Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (MWELS), will also be introduced for washing machines at the same time, complementing the current maximum 3-tick ratings.

These new measures are aimed at encouraging usage of water-efficient fittings and household appliances.

The PUB said washing in the kitchen sink and showering were the two most water-consuming activities at home, taking up 22 and 29 per cent of the total household water usage, respectively.

Water fittings rated 3-ticks or more can save 54 per cent more water on average when compared to those with an 0-tick rating, it added.

The PUB also said the 0-tick models will no longer be sold or supplied. However, it added that the prices for the 1- to 3-tick rated models were not that much pricier than those with the 0-tick.

Mr Michael Toh, PUB’s Director of Water Supply (Network) said: “The phasing out of 0-tick taps and mixers, and allowing only those with 1-tick or more to be sold or supplied are part of PUB’s plans to eventually phase out water inefficient fittings and appliances.”

“By looking out for the water efficiency label affixed on the water fittings and appliances, consumers can purchase water-efficient fittings and appliances, save water in their daily activities, and reduce their water bill,” Mr Toh added.

“For example, they can save 43 per cent of water per wash when they use a 4-tick washing machine instead of a 2-tick washing machine.”

The statutory board also noted that the market share of 3-tick washing machines increased from 3 per cent in 2011 to 88 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 based on a market survey it commissioned.

Currently, washing machines that use 9 litres or less of water per kg load are awarded 3-ticks. Under MWELS, such washing machines will still be given 3-ticks, while machines that use 6 litres or less of water per kg load will be given a 4-tick rating.

As of Dec 2016, there are 79 “2-tick” models, 474 “3-tick” models and 41 “4-tick” models of washing machines available in the market.

The MWELS currently rates water fittings such as taps and mixers, dual-flush low capacity flushing cisterns (LCFCs), urinals, as well as appliances such as washing machines.

It will be extended to include dishwashers from Oct 2018.

Water-inefficient taps to be phased out from April
Channel NewsAsia 31 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: To encourage water conservation, less water-efficient taps and mixers will be phased out, while a four-tick rating will be introduced for washing machines, national water agency PUB said on Friday (Mar 31).

The new Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme standards, which kick in on Apr 1, will see zero-tick water fittings disallowed for sale in Singapore.


inRead invented by Teads
The scheme was introduced in 2009 to help consumers make more informed decisions when buying water fittings and appliances. The more ticks a product has, the more water-efficient it is.

“Washing in the kitchen sink and showering are the two most water-consuming activities at home, taking up 22 per cent and 29 per cent of total household water usage, respectively,” the agency said.

Using a three-tick tap or mixer can save an average of 54 per cent more water compared to a zero-tick one, PUB said, adding that one- to three-tick fittings do not cost more than less efficient zero-tick models.


The agency also said that doing laundry takes up about 19 per cent of total household water usage. The market share of three-tick washing machines rose from 37 per cent in 2011 to 88 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 – an indication of an “increased consumer preference” for water-efficient models, it said.

Three-tick washing machines use 9L or less of water per kg load. With the introduction of four-tick washing machines, washing machines that use between 6L and 9L of water will be given a three-tick rating, while machines that use 6L or less will get a four-tick rating.

As of December last year, there were 79 two-tick models, 474 three-tick models and 41 four-tick models of washing machines available in Singapore.

Mr Michael Toh, PUB’s director of water supply (network), said the new standards are part of plans to eventually phase out water-inefficient fittings and appliances.

“Water is a precious resource, and everyone is encouraged to make water conservation a way of life. One way we can do this is through the use of more water-efficient fittings and appliances,” he said.

- CNA/cy

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Singapore shipping industry boosts efforts to meet emissions goals

RUMI HARDASMALANI Today Online 31 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s maritime industry is stepping up efforts to reduce the environmental impact of shipping and related activities, ahead of the 2020 target that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has set for a 0.5 per cent global cap on sulphur emissions from marine fuels, from the current 3.5 per cent limit.

A spokesperson from the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) told TODAY that the carbon tax announced in Singapore’s Budget 2017 would not affect the marine industry as greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping are under the purview of IMO.

Among the raft of measures rolled out by the MPA under its green initiative, first announced in 2011 and extended last year to 2019, is the green energy scheme to adopt cleaner marine fuels, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Until recently, the maritime industry has relied heavily on highly polluting fuel oil, a residual distillate of the crude oil refining process, according to Mr Francis Kan, who writes for MPA’s publication Singapore Nautilus.

“One large vessel in one day can emit more sulphur dioxide than all the new cars that come onto the world’s roads in a year. That is reason enough to cap emissions,” Mr Kan cited Mr Thomas Koniordos, head of business line environmental solutions at Norwegian chemical company Yara International, speaking on the sidelines of the 19th Singapore International Bunkering Conference and Exhibition in October last year.

“Domestically, sulphur oxide emissions is not an issue for Singapore as all harbour craft operating in the Port of Singapore use marine gas oil, which contains less than 0.5 per cent of sulphur,” said the MPA spokesperson.

“Our domestic maritime sulphur oxide emissions contribute just 1 per cent of Singapore’s sulphur oxide emissions, with land-based industrial emissions contributing the bulk.”

Mr Yaw Yan Chong, director of oil research in Asia at Thomson Reuters, however, cautioned that the 0.5 per cent cap on sulphur marine fuels is likely to drive up costs in the shipping industry, as there is insufficient production of clean fuel globally to feed the world’s marine industry’s consumption.

Coming at a time when the shipping industry is just picking up from the global downturn, this will have an adverse impact on the recovery of the maritime economy, said Mr Yaw.

“We are working closely with the MPA, bunker suppliers, oil majors and other stakeholders to ensure there will be sufficient low sulphur fuel to meet projected demand come 2020. We are also in discussion with the IMO to ensure details for implementing the 2020 sulphur cap are practical and implementable, and that shipowners will not be penalised for factors beyond their control,” said Mr Michael Phoon, executive director of the Singapore Shipping Association.

According to the MPA, more than half of new Singapore-registered ships are built to a higher energy efficiency design index than mandated by the IMO.

“Our green initiatives are largely incentive-based, and we have seen encouraging results.

“For example, under the green port programme, more ships calling at our port now use fuel containing less than 0.5 per cent sulphur to qualify for the flat rate of 25 per cent concession in port dues,” said the MPA spokesperson.

Ms Elaine Ng, transport and logistics tax partner at PwC Singapore, however, cautioned that while there has been a steady increase in ships being registered that meet or exceed the energy efficiency design index, “the question is whether the fee reductions and annual tonnage reductions are substantial enough to offset the costs of converting existing vessels to meet these new requirements, especially in the current cyclical downturn.” Rumi Hardasmalani

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Singapore Botanic Gardens opens conservation-focused Learning Forest

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 31 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: A new, conservation-focused section of the Singapore Botanic Gardens was opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (Mar 31).

Located within the Tyersall-Gallop extension of the Gardens, the 10-hectare Learning Forest aims to restore the natural conditions of lowland forests and wetlands in the area, as well as bolster conservation efforts of local plant species.

Previously used for agricultural purposes in the 19th century, after which it was used for large residential estates, the site was carefully restored based on detailed site surveys and old maps.

The Learning Forest now forms part of the protective buffer zone around the UNESCO Heritage Site portions of the existing Botanic Gardens. It integrates with the Gardens' existing 6ha of primary rainforest - one of Singapore's last remaining tracts of such habitats.

The site features swamp orchids in their natural habitat, local plant species discovered and documented by several of Singapore’s pioneering botanists, a collection of wild variants of local fruits like lychees and mangosteens, as well as an elevated boardwalk among some of the tallest rainforest trees - several more than 100 years old.

It is also home to more than 600 plant species – many of them rare or endangered, as well as 200 species of wildlife including birds, mammals, reptiles and butterflies. It will serve as a reference for ongoing research work in the field of restoration ecology for the region.


Speaking at the opening event, Mr Lee said the Learning Forest builds on the Botanic Gardens’ "legacy of conservation and improvement".

"Ultimately, our Botanic Gardens thrive not because of the interesting mix of plants, but because within it, there's life," he said.

"It's teeming with activity, it's loved and nurtured by the community, by all age groups."

He also announced that National Parks Board (NParks) will launch a new Citizen Science programme, where volunteers can help monitor the long-term ecological health of the Botanic Gardens. This includes submitting sightings of animals spotted in the Gardens using the SGBioAtlas mobile app.

"This is NParks' version of Pokemon GO, with a purpose," said Mr Lee. "Real animals which you capture on your smartphone. And the data which you collect will help NParks to monitor animal populations and improve conservation and biodiversity."

The Learning Forest can be accessed from Tyersall Avenue, near the Gardens' Swan Lake. Its opening hours are from 5am to midnight.

- CNA/cy

New Learning Forest opens at Singapore Botanic Gardens
SIAU MING EN Today Online 31 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — From touching pieces of the white flaky bark from the Gelam tree, to strolling on a tree-canopy-level boardwalk, to wandering into the freshwater wetland habitats, visitors will get to experience these and more at the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ new Learning Forest.

Officially launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (March 31), the 10ha secondary forest next to Tyersall Avenue houses more than 700 plant species and more than 200 species of fauna.

It is also linked to the main garden’s 6ha nature area — one of Singapore’s few remaining patches of primary rainforest — and contains some of the plant species found there.

Back in the 19th century, the forest site was used for cultivation and later, for large residential estates before it was set aside as part of the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ extension plans in 2009.

The National Parks Board (NParks) said that construction works for this secondary forest took slightly less than three years, and it involved restoring former habitats as well as regenerating certain species of flora.

Today, it features a lowland forest ecosystem at its southern end, and at its northern tip are a 1.8ha forest wetland, a collection of wild fruit trees, and a bamboo garden. The forest also forms part of the protective buffer zone against the urban development around the gardens, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Visitors will be able to trek past giant trees that can grow up to 60m tall along an 8m-high, 260m-long elevated boardwalk. Lining the boardwalk are trees such as the Sea Apple tree, which used to be planted by the British as firebreaks near the highly flammable lalang wastelands.

Other plant species include the forest palms such as the Ibul, which has seeds toxic enough to kill an elephant. The Gelam tree, which gave heritage district Kampong Glam its name, has a unique white flaky bark and visitors can get to feel the bark’s spongy texture.

Further up north of the forest, NParks also restored the wetland ecosystem that was already there in the 1860s. It now includes more than 200 plant species. There, visitors will find a freshwater swamp habitat, Pulai Marsh, that eventually feeds into Swan Lake, a natural water source in the main garden. They may also see flora species such as Pulai Basong — fewer than 20 of its kind are left in Singapore. Fauna such as the Red-legged Crake and the Black Marsh Terrapin are some of the inhabitants in the marshland.

Located near the wetlands are the man-made Orchid Islands, where native orchids thrive. Some of the species include the yellow and red Deer Antlered Phalaenopsis, which was once extinct but has been reintroduced by NParks.

Over at the wild fruit tree arboretum, there are more than 50 species of trees. One is the bright yellow-orange Asam Gelugor, a critically endangered species that has fruit which can grow up to 10cm in diameter, and another is the Redan tree, where the fruit is a hairless relative of the rambutan.

Another learning area is the the bambusetum, which features more than 30 species of bamboo found in Asia. Of note is the Giant Bamboo, which can grow up to 10 storeys, and its stems are wide enough to be used as buckets when cut.

Speaking at the official opening of the forest, Mr Lee said the gardens' was successful in its Unesco bid because for more than 150 years, Singapore took special care of the gardens.

Now, the Learning Forest builds on this legacy of conservation and improvement, he said.

While takes decades to plant a garden or forest, Mr Lee added that in the fullness of time, the new forest will be able to enrich Singapore's natural heritage.

Admission to the Learning Forest is free, and it is open from 5am to midnight daily. The wetlands and the boardwalk will be closed from 7pm to 7am to keep a conducive environment for the wildlife.

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Malaysia: Hundreds displaced by floods in Perak, Malacca

Bernama New Straits Times 31 Mar 17;

IPOH: Two relief centres were opened in the Perak districts of Larut, Matang and Selama, about 70 kilometres from here, following flash floods due to a non-stop downpour since Wednesday evening.

According to a statement from the Perak Disaster Management Committee secretariat, 118 people from 29 families affected by the floods were at the relief centres.

The statement said 96 people were placed at Surau Kelip-Kelip Kampung Dew, while 22 are at Surau Ar-Rahmahniah.

A survey of victims at the Kampung Dew relief centre found that most residents did not have time to move their belongings.

Kampung Air Puteh village headman, Rosli Ishak, 56, said floodwaters began entering their homes at 7pm on Wednesday after heavy rainfall caused Sungai Sepetang to overflow.

In Malacca, the number of flood victims increased to 154 from 19 families in Alor Gajah, compared to 54 people yesterday evening.

Malacca state Disaster Management Committee secretariat Lt Col. Effendy Ali said the victims were evacuated to two flood relief centres, namely Masjid Kampung Panchor and Balai Raya Kampung Panchor. -- BERNAMA

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Malaysia: Sheep-killer leopard caught

The Star 31 Mar 17;

A CLOUDED leopard (pic)that killed 10 sheep owned by villagers in Kampung Gamin Hilir, Negri Sem­bilan, was caught on Wed­nesday.

Kosmo! reported that the animal, an endangered spe­cies, was lured into a trap by Perhilitan (Department of Wildlife and National Parks) personnel using a live goat.

Negri Sembilan Perhi­litan director Wan Mat Wan Harun confirmed the catch but declined to reveal the age and weight of the leopard, and how it would be dealt with.

Villager Fauzi Ishak, 44, claimed he lost over RM3,000 when the leopard killed five of his sheep on Saturday.

Another villager, Aris Adam, 77, said he lost five sheep costing RM5,000 on March 15.

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Malaysia: 6, including foreigners, to stand trial for illegal possession of 1,308 tortoises

KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 31 Mar 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The sessions court here has fixed April 5 and 6 as trial dates for six men accused of possessing 1,308 tortoises without a valid permit.

Judge Ainul Mohamed Shahrin said the prosecution team succeeded in proving a prima facie case against all the accused, despite several technical issues.

Ibrahim Kahal, 44, Rashed Delan, 38, Alsadat Belog, 39, Madal Juldin, 37, Sidik Napaeh, 23 and Rasid Alain, 38, pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the offence committed on Dec 7 on a boat headed for nearby Pulau Mengalum.

Rashed and Alsadat are locals, while the other four are Filipinos.

Rashed, Alsadat as well as Ibrahim, who is an IMM13 holder, had previously been granted bail of RM20,000 each, with RM10,000 to be deposited.

They are charged under Section 41 (2) of the 1997 Wildlife Conservation Enactment, which was read together with Section 41 (1) of the same Enactment, which provide for punishment according to Section 34 of the Penal Code.

Each could be fined a minimum of RM30,000 and a maximum of RM100,000, or receive between six months’ and three years’ imprisonment.

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Indonesia: MUI Lebong speaks out against tiger hunting

The Jakarta Post 29 Mar 17;

With the number of Sumatran tigers dwindling, the local chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) in Lebong Regency, Bengkulu, has said it would step up the campaign against tiger hunting in the region.

The council issued a fatwa to protect endangered animals, including the tigers, in 2014. The fatwa, which declared tiger hunting un-Islamic, was part of the council’s support for the campaign, MUI Lebong chairman Amin Amir said.

“People keep hunting even though the law regarding this matter has been regulated,” he said as quoted by on Wednesday.

“We will tell our preachers who live in villages near the forest to spread the information about the protection of endangered animals,” he added.

(Read also: Tiger skin traders get four years in prison)

Lingkar Institute director Iswadi welcomed Amin’s support for the campaign to protect endangered animals, saying the MUI had a strategic role in raising people’s awareness about the issue. (rdi/ary)

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Indonesia: Snake eats human in Sulawesi, under pressure of deforestation -- Expert

Andi Hajramurni The Jakarta Post 29 Mar 17;

The incident of a large python eating a man in a West Sulawesi village has triggered new concern over “uncontrolled” deforestation across the country, which many believe to be responsible for the numerous incidents of animals attacking humans.

The body of Akbar, a 25-year-old palm oil farmer in Salubiro village, Karossa district, Central Mamuju regency, was found inside the belly of a 7-meter-long python near his palm oil plantation on Monday night.

Rahmansyah, an agriculture lecturer from Hasanuddin University in Makassar, said the killer snake might have had its habitat disturbed by the growing human activities in the area, such as palm oil plantations that have continued to expand.

“Because the habitat is destroyed, the snake’s natural food sources are also affected. Thus, the snake went out to the palm oil plantation to seek prey,” he said on Wednesday.

According to Rahmansyah, the forest was the python’s natural habitat but had continued to expand into a palm oil plantation. “It’s becoming more difficult for the animals to find their natural food,” he said.

Junaedi, the secretary of Salubiro village in West Sulawesi, said the last time such a large python was found in the area was in the 1990s, when the forests started to transform into palm oil plantations.

Shocked by the incident, farmers in the village had stayed at home over the past few days when it was actually time to harvest palm oil. (bbs)

Indonesian man found dead in belly of 7m-long python
The Jakarta Post 29 Mar 17;

An Indonesian man has been found dead inside the belly of a seven-meter-long python, a local media reports.

Akbar Salubiro had not been seen since setting off to harvest palm oil in a remote village on the island of Sulawesi. The 25-year-old man was missing since March 26.

A search found the giant python sprawled out next to his garden with the 25-year-old’s boots clearly visible in its stomach, according to

Villagers then used a large knife to cut open the snake’s belly slowly revealing the father-of-two’s body.

The horrifying footage shows the corpse being slowly removed from the killer reptile as the leathery skin is peeled away.

Akbar's neighbor Satriawan said: "He was found in the location of the garden.

"Initially Akbar set out from his home to go to harvest palm. After not returning to his home, people looked for him."

Akbar's wife, Munu, was away at the time and only found out when pictures and video emerged in the news, Tribun Timur said.

Village secretary Salubiro Junaidi said: "People had heard cries from the palm grove the night before Akbar was found in the snake’s stomach.

"When the snake was captured, the boots Akbar was wearing were clearly visible in the stomach of the snake.

"Resident cut open the belly of the snake and Akbar was lifeless."

Reticulated pythons suffocate their victims before swallowing them whole, reports said.

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Good news for elephants: China's legal ivory trade is 'dying' as prices fall

Elephant conservationists hopeful that demand for ivory in China is falling amid government clampdown on ivory sellers, but experts remain wary of poaching
Adam Cruise The Guardian 30 Mar 17;

The wholesale price of raw legal ivory has dropped by almost two thirds since China, the world’s largest ivory importer and trader, announced plans to close down its domestic market, according to new research.

Researchers working for the conservation organisation Save the Elephants visited Beijing and Shanghai, as well as six cities whose markets had never been surveyed before: Changzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shenyang, Suzhou and Tianjin. The researchers, Lucy Vigne and Esmond Martin, concluded that the legal trade in ivory is dying.

In early 2014, the average wholesale price of tusks was $2,100 (£1,700) per kg, the researchers found. By late 2015, just months after China symbolically burned half a ton of stockpiled ivory and announced plans to end the domestic trade, the price had fallen to $1,100 per kg. By February 2017 it had reached just $730 per kg.

The research team also found that many retail shops were closed or closing with vendors trying to offload stocks. The legal shops have been sitting on old stocks of worked ivory trying to sell items for the same prices to recoup the high costs of purchasing raw ivory.

Some conservationists have welcomed the latest findings.

“We must give credit to China for having done the right thing by closing the ivory trade,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, president and founder of Save the Elephants. “There is now greater hope for the species.”

Elephant populations have been crashing in the last few years; a pan-African survey of savannah elephants published at the end of last year showed them down by a third of a total population – or 144,000 elephants – over seven years directly as a result of the ivory trade. A separate analysis by the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group, which also included a survey of forest elephant populations, revealed a similar pattern.

The drop in the prices has been attributed, in part, to the Chinese government’s public commitment to close down the nation’s legal ivory trade. “With the end of the legal ivory trade in China the survival chances for elephants have distinctly improved,” said Douglas-Hamilton.

China’s ivory factories are to be officially shut down by 31 March 2017, and all retail outlets will be closed by the end of the year. There have been intensive public awareness campaigns that have involved celebrities such as actor Jackie Chan and shown Chinese consumers that buying ivory is having a negative impact on Africa’s elephant populations.

However, the main reason for the decline, says the report, is the Chinese economic slowdown. Late last year economic data suggested that growth prospects in the world’s second largest economy remain gloomy. Consumer spending, even though it had improved on the previous year, is not picking up as much as China would hope. Hardest hit are more expensive luxury materials such as raw ivory.

And the reduction in prices may not have as big an impact as many hope. Professor Alejandro Nadal, an economist from the Centre for Economic Studies, El Colegio de México, warned we must not jump to conclusions. “The key variable that will determine the effect on poaching is not prices. It is profits,” he said.

Nadal believes that selling ivory at low wholesale prices could spell higher profit levels at the retail end of the chain. So even though wholesale prices have dropped, ivory retailers therefore could see their profitability increase.

Nadal asks whether its these big retail traders who are driving the poaching:

“To get a better answer to that question, we need to know more about the links with the illegal trade: do the price reductions affect the prices in the illegal trade?”

In fact, the research found that illegal ivory traders, by contrast to the legal outlets, have indeed benefitted from falling prices. The researchers discovered that the illegal dealers have been buying raw illegal ivory for less and selling items quickly at much reduced prices compared with legal businesses, undercutting them. “While legal dealers have suffered, illegal traders have been enjoying a profitable business,” the report concludes.

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Malaysia: Dept expects more human-elephant encounters around Lahad Datu

RUBEN SARIO The Star 30 Mar 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Instances of humans encountering wildlife around Lahad Datu are expected to increase due to the opening of more forests in the area, said the Sabah Wildlife Department.

This follows an incident in Kampung Jawa, near Lahad Datu, on March 19 when when two bull elephants damaged oil palm crops and ate fruits grown by villagers.

The elephants were tracked down in a five-day search and were moved to the Kawag forest reserve last Sunday.

"We will likely see more of elephant intrusions closer to Lahad Datu town in time to come," said the department’s wildlife rescue unit acting manager Dr Diana Ramirez.

She said this is because it is easier for elephants to move around as more areas between the Danum Valley and Lahad Datu are being cleared.

Dr Ramirez said this was not the first human-elephant encounter in Lahad Datu as 10 elephants were translocated from Bikang in 2013.

Last year, 24 elephants were translocated after they were found roaming in an area between Kampung Sri Putatan and Kampung Binuang, less than 10km from Lahad Datu.

There are an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 elephants in Sabah.

Wild elephants moved to forest reserve after wreaking havoc in village
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 31 Mar 17;

LAHAD DATU: Two bull elephants had been moved to the Kawag Forest Reserve after they wreaked havoc at Kampung Jawa here.

Sabah Wildlife Department’s wildlife rescue unit received a report on the presence of the two elephants last week at the village located about 2km from the town.

The unit acting manager Dr Diana Ramirez said a team of officers were dispatched to the location to capture the elephants to prevent further damages.

It was reported that the elephants have been destroying and feeding on the villagers’ crop and even went near the houses.

“This is the first time wild elephants from the Danum Valley elephant population made their way so close to Lahad Datu township.

“This is probably because much of the land area between Danum Valley and Seri Perdana has been opened for human dwellings, fruit orchards and oil palm plantations,” she said in a statement.

Ramirez added that there were possibilities of more elephant encroaching into the town as many areas between the valley and town had been cleared.

The team, assisted by villagers and stakeholders, managed to capture and translocate the elephants to the forest reserve on Sunday after intensive tracking for five days.

In 2013, the unit had translocated 10 elephants from Bikang here, and in 2015, 24 elephants were also moved from Kg Sri Putatan. Both areas were located less than 10km from town.

Sabah may see more jumbo conflicts
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 2 Apr 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Elephant-human conflicts are increasing in Sabah’s east coast with more land being opened up for agricultural purposes.

There is growing concern among wildlife officials because the latest case last week happened barely two kilometres away from Lahad Datu town.

“We expect to see all areas from Sandakan towards south Kalabakan up to Sapulut, Maliau Basin, becoming hotbeds for such encounters,” said Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga.

On March 19, two bull Borneo pygmy elephants damaged oil palm crops and ate fruits grown by villagers.

The elephants were tracked down in a five-day search and were moved to the Kawag forest reserve last Sunday.

Tuuga said such encounters between man and animal often result in loss of crops and even injuries involving both parties.

“We have records of such incidents with the animal or human injured or attacked. We are still compiling the cases in each district,” he said.

The situation, he said, would worsen if the animals had nowhere else to go due to rapid development.

To address the problem, Tuuga advised estate and plantation operators to install electric fences.

In 2013, 10 elephants were translocated in the Bikang area of Lahad Datu.

Last year, 24 elephants were translocated after they were found roaming in an area between Kampung Sri Putatan and Kampung Binuang, less than 10km from Lahad Datu.

There are an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 elephants in Sabah.

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