Best of our wild blogs: 4 Apr 17

Rare Trees at MacRitchie Forest: Xerospermum noronhianum and Ormosia bancana
Flying Fish Friends

Marvellous March at the Sisters Islands Marine Park
Sisters' Island Marine Park

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Illegal import of corals from the Philippines seized in Singapore

Channel NewsAsia 3 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: An illegal consignment of corals from the Philippines has been seized from an importer's premises, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) in a joint news release on Monday (Apr 3).

AVA officers seized 75 hard corals and five soft corals on Mar 30 that were wrapped in plastic bags lined with paper and concealed in ceramic mugs. They had been declared as "plastic aquarium ornaments".

Singapore is a signatory of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), under which hard corals are a protected species. CITES permits are required for any import, export and re-export of protected species, including their parts and products.

While soft corals are not protected by CITES, the authorities said they were also seized as they had been falsely declared and were bundled together with the illegal shipment of hard corals.

AVA and ICA said they acted on a tip-off and worked with a logistics company to follow up on the consignment from the Philippines. It led them to the importer’s premises where the corals were eventually seized.

The corals are now under the care of Resorts World Sentosa, while the importer is assisting AVA with investigations.

"Under Singapore's Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, offenders can be fined up to S$50,000 per scheduled species (not exceeding a maximum aggregate of S$500,000) and/or up to two years imprisonment upon conviction," said AVA, adding that it will continue to work with partner local and international enforcement agencies to curb wildlife trafficking.

The authorities also reminded travellers against bringing live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit.

- CNA/xk

ICA, AVA seize illegally imported coral reefs
Today Online 3 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — A haul of 75 hard corals and five soft corals that were illegally imported into Singapore from the Philippines have been seized by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

The marine invertebrates were falsely declared by the importer as "plastic aquarium ornaments", the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a joint statement with AVA on Monday (April 3).

Following a tip-off, ICA and AVA officers worked with a logistics company to locate the illegal shipment at an importer's premises.

The corals are now under the care of the Resorts World Sentosa, while the case is being investigated, both agencies added.

Hard corals are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), of which Singapore is a signatory.

Both agencies noted that while soft corals are not protected by CITES, they were also confiscated as they were falsely declared as "plastic aquarium ornaments", and were bundled together with the illegal shipment of hard corals.

Offenders who trade in endangered species may be liable to a fine of S$50,000 for each protected species (not exceeding a maximum aggregate of S$500,000), and/or jailed up to two years.

Investigations against the importer are ongoing.

Illegally imported corals declared as 'plastic aquarium ornaments' seized
AsiaOne 3 Apr 17;

Some 80 corals that had been illegally imported into Singapore has been seized, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a joint statement on Monday (April 3).

They had been imported from the Philippines, and were falsely declared as "plastic aquarium ornaments".

The corals, which included 75 hard corals and five soft corals, were picked up at the importers premises, where they had been wrapped in plastic bags lined with paper, and conceals in ceramic mugs.

They are now under the care of Resorts World Sentosa while the case is investigated.

According to AVA, hard corals are a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which Singapore is a signatory. Therefore, CITES permits are required for the import, export or re-export of CITES species, including their parts and products.

Under the Republic's Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, offenders can be fined up to $50,000 per scheduled species (not exceeding a maximum aggregate of $500,000). They may also be jailed for up to two years.

Meanwhile, although soft corals are not protected under CITES, they were seized together as they had been falsely declared.

Both agencies stressed that the Government adopts a zero-tolerance stance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species.

ICA said that it would continue to conduct checks on cargo, passengers and vehicles at the Republic's checkpoints, while AVA said that it would continue its efforts to partner local and international enforcement agencies to curb wildlife trafficking.

The authorities also reminded travellers against brining live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit.

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Mandatory energy targets, regular energy audits on the cards for some industries in Singapore

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 3 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: A Bill that would make it mandatory for some companies to set energy targets, audit their energy consumption and adopt industrial equipment that meet minimum energy efficiency standards was passed in Parliament on Monday (Apr 3).

Non-compliance with the enhancements to the Energy Conservation Act (ECA) could mean energy-intensive companies might face heftier penalties, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

The Act, introduced in 2012, requires 180 energy-intensive companies to implement basic energy management practices. They include monitoring energy use and appointing energy managers to look into ways of improving energy efficiency for these companies.

In tabling the Bill, Minister Masagos Zulkifli said 60 per cent of Singapore’s carbon emissions in 2014 came from the industrial sector. The sector also makes up about two–thirds of the nation’s total energy consumption rate.

He said changes to the Energy Conservation Act are thus necessary to ensure Singapore meets its annual energy efficiency improvement rate of between one and two per cent annually, double or triple the current amount. Mr Masagos said such improvement rates are to ensure Singapore achieves its pledge set out in the Paris Climate Change Agreement to reduce emissions targets.

Enhancements to the Act will include improving the energy-efficiency of industries, improving their greenhouse gas emissions reporting and the new Vehicular Emissions Scheme to encourage motorists to buy greener vehicles.


While companies included under the Act have put in place basic management practices, Mr Masagos said data shows many companies do not have a structured framework to manage the use of energy and guide efforts to improve efficiency.

With the enhancement to the Act, companies will now need to adopt a structured system that will require them to “constantly re-examine” and improve energy efficiency efforts. Mr Masagos said senior management for these companies will be responsible for setting policies and targets relating to energy, its evaluation and action plans. Companies will be required to have the Energy Management System plan by 2021 or 2022, depending on the size of their facilities' energy consumption.

These companies will also be required to conduct regular energy audits, and be required to submit the first audit, known as the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Assessments by 2021.

Another key change that takes effect next year will require companies with new industrial facilities and expansion projects on a major scale to undergo design reviews that incorporate energy efficiency measures. “Many companies have given feedback that the lifespan of industrial equipment can be very long – 30 years or more,” Mr Masagos said. “Thus, it is challenging to introduce new technologies midway as it disrupts their operations. Instead, it is better to identify and incorporate energy efficiency opportunities at the start of the project.”


Mr Masagos said data obtained under the Act also showed that there is much room for improvement in the energy efficiency of common equipment such as motors. To that end, he said the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) would be extended to cover industrial equipment and systems, starting with motors in 2018.

MEPS currently imposes standards on household appliances. Mr Masagos said the scheme has been successful in raising the energy efficiency standards of household products.


Mr Masagos said enhancements to the Act would include reporting greenhouse gas emissions as previously announced. This means large emitters will be required to submit a monitoring plan, and a report based on the approved plan. Companies will also have to standardise their greenhouse gas emissions computing data, in line with methodologies set out by the National Environment Agency.

The final enhancement to the Act includes revisions to the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS), which will be replaced with the Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES). Previously, only carbon dioxide emissions were taken into consideration in measuring a vehicle’s emissions.

Under the VES, four other pollutants, including carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons emissions will be measured. Mr Masagos said the enhancements to the Bill could result in at least a seven per cent reduction in Singapore’s greenhouse gas emissions.

- CNA/mo

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Malaysia: MACC and environmental activists team up to beat graft

The Star 4 Apr 17;

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has joined forces with environmental activists and academics to form a network to tackle corruption in environmental management.

“All the parties involved have agreed to form a closer strategic network to share information and strengthen law enforcement against corruption and abuse of power related to environmental issues nationwide,” the MACC said in a statement.

The partnership aims to raise awareness on the impact of corruption on the environment.

Among the environmental NGOs are Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia, Sabahat Alam Malaysia and Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam and the academic institutions included Rimba Research, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Chemical Engineering Department, and Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia Science and Environment Centre.

The partnership would be known as the Environmental Protection and Anti-Corruption Caucus.

“This is to ensure more serious attention is given to violation of the environment and ensure immediate action is taken by the MACC against those involved in corruption and abuse of power involving the environment,” it said.

It said an integrated and sustainable approach is essential to eradicate illegal logging, pollution of rivers and ecosystems, illegal land clearing to prevent tragedies such as floods and soil erosion.

MACC sets up EPACC to tackle corruption, abuse of power involving environment
Bernama New Straits Times 4 Apr 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has set up the Environmental Protection and Anti-Corruption Caucus (EPACC) in collaboration with non-government organisations and environment experts to eradicate corruption and abuse of power on environment issues. MACC in a statement said it was the result of a round table meeting today chaired by MACC Chief Commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad to discuss and share information on corruption issues related to the environment.

Among the NGO and experts involved in the discussion were Natural Resources Protective Association Malaysia (PEKA); Forest Research Institute of Malaysia; Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), Friends Of The Earth Activist Association (KUASA); Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Chemical and Energy Engineering Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Science and Environment Centre (KIAS) and the Malaysian Institute of Islamic Understanding (IKIM).

“All parties involved agreed to set up a closer strategic cooperation network in information sharing effort and empowering enforcement action in curbing corruption and abuse of power on issues involving environment in the country,” said the statement. --Bernama

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Malaysia, Johor: Policy to protect the environment

MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 1 Apr 17;

JOHOR BARU: The state government will introduce a wellbeing policy by the third quarter of this year aimed at protecting and keeping the environment clean from pollution.

Johor Health, Environment, Education, and Information committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said a study on the new policy known as Dasar Kelestarian Alam had five key initiatives.

They are conservation of natural resources, green economy, upgrading the management system, empowering the rakyat and promoting a prudent lifestyle.

Ayub added the policy was expected to be launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin in August this year.

“Before the policy is launched, the state government will be holding a town hall to get feedback about the initiatives from stakeholders such as the rakyat, non-governmental organisations and environmental experts,” he said after the district-level Community in River gotong royong event held at Sungai Tebrau near Kampung Bakar Batu here on March 30.

Ayub added the policy would educate the rakyat that keeping the environment clean was the responsibility of all and not just the government.

Ayub cited the pollution of Sungai Skudai where rubbish amounting to 500 tonnes is collected yearly, as well as the dirty conditions of Sungai Tebrau.

“Besides effluents from industrial and plantation waste, we also found all sorts of rubbish along Sungai Skudai including a mattress and bed thrown by irresponsible individuals.

“Under the policy, the state government will charge factories or anyone found polluting the environment a certain amount of money as it costs a lot to clean up the environment,” he said.

Ayub commended volunteers from the Johor Youth Council for helping to clean up the river.

“There are six polluted rivers in the state and the government will introduced a council, headed by the State Economic Planning Unit (Upen), which will come up with appropriate measures to clean the rivers.

“If we want clean rivers, we will need everybody, including local councils, to be more proactive in their approach,” he said.

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Malaysia: SWAT team handles rogue crocs in Sarawak

Bernama New Straits Times 3 Apr 17;

KUCHING: On Feb 8, Selamat Draup went to the riverbank of Sungai Santubong to catch river prawns, just as he did every other day.

However, when he did not return home after the activity that day, his family became worried and subsequently reported him missing.

The location, in Kampung Santubong, is a popular area for prawn-catching among the locals.

One of them told Bernama that it had be a routine of the 54-year-old secondary school staff. He said that Selamat had been blessed with bountiful catch over the last few days and had shared his haul with the nearby residents.

On the next day (Feb 9) after he was reported missing, a search and rescue (SAR) team was mobilised along the river.

They found the lower half of his body some three kilometres where he had been catching prawns. It was believed that a crocodile had attacked him.

The situation triggered a response from the Sarawak Forest Corporation (SFC) Swift Wildlife Action Team (SWAT). The team is usually deployed to contain wildlife threats, this time involving a man-eating crocodile.

SFC Wildlife Officer Christopher Kri Ubang said the SAR operations typically involve the police, the Fire and Rescue Department, the Civil Defence Force. In this case, the SWAT team only went down to the ground as soon as it was confirmed that there had been a reptilian attack on a human being.


Not much is known about the SWAT SFC. Their movements are much of a mystery. The media only came to know of their activities through the press statements issued after the success of each operation.

This writer intended to find out more about their work by following them on a four-day crocodile hunt at Sungai Santubong, after the tragic death of Selamat Draup.

Kri said that the SWAT team started operating in 2013 and was mainly in charge of saving wildlife and reducing the conflicts between man and beast throughout Sarawak.

He is the Head of Operations for the team and has over 30 years of experience in animal conservation under his belt. He said that the team comprised 15 people with six based in Kuching and three in Sibu, Bintulu and Miri respectively.

He said among the tasks handled by the team were the culling or relocation of crocodiles, saving wildlife, solving human-wildlife conflicts in areas affected by such conflicts and helping the Sarawak Forest Department in enforcement duties, if the need arises.

“The members of the team did not undergo special training for the tasks. We consider whatever experience we have gained as training. This is because among us, there are those who are very experienced, not just in (the capturing of) crocodiles but wildlife in general,” he told Bernama.

He said that other operations typically handled by the team included reducing the conflict between macaques and local residents.


The conflict between crocodiles and humans in Sarawak often becomes the area of focus.

According to an SFC spokesperson, a study to identify the population of saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) in the state from 2012 through 2014 revealed that there are approximately 13,500 of the species inhabiting the 22 river basins throughout the state.

The study also found that the population density of river basins Similajau (5.74 persons per kilometre), Saribas (2.25 persons per kilometre) and Samarahan (2.17 persons per kilometre). These are the three areas with the highest population of crocodiles in Sarawak.


Hence, to reduce the crocodile-human conflict, SFC has identified Crocodile Free Zones.

When a crocodile is found in the area, it has to be removed as it is believed that it will pose danger to the local population as well as their property.

The areas designated as Crocodile Free Zones includes area with a high population of residents; recreational areas or resorts that organise water activities like bathing, boating and jet-skiing; riverbanks; schools, clinics and places of worship. Areas where there are public requests for the removal of crocodiles would also be taken into consideration.

There are 19 areas throughout Sarawak that have been declared Crocodile Free Zones in Kuching (7), Sri Aman (1), Sarikei (1), Sibu (1), Bintulu (1), Miri (6) and Limbang (2).

In Kuching, the zones are located in Kuching City (from Satok Bridge to Baraj); Pasir Panjang to Pasir Pandak; the Damai Beach Resort, Santubong; Telok Asam, Teluk Lakei, Telok Tajor and Telok Bako Kecil (Bako National Park); Kampung Bako; the recreational areas for bathing at the Gua Angin Nature Reserve and Pantai Siar and Pantai Pandan in Lundu.

In Sri Aman it is the Sri Aman Waterfront; Sarikei (Sungai Sarikei Waterfront); Sibu (Sungai Sibu Waterfront); Bintulu (Sungai Bintulu Waterfront) and Limbang (the Sungai Limbang Waterfront and Sungai Lawas Waterfront).

The areas declared as Crocodile Free Zones in Miri are from the Miri Marina to the Piasau Bridge; the Batu Niah town; Sepupok town; from the Sungai Bekenu Waterfront to Kampung Dagang; Esplanade Marudi and the Sungai Long Lama Waterfront.


According the statistics issued by SFC, there have been 12 cases of crocodile attacks in 2013, eight in 2014, eight in 2015, seven in 2016 and as at March 16, 2017, five cases have been recorded.


Kri said that when his team was informed of the case of Selamat Draup, they were on a crocodile culling operation in Sungai Skrang, Sri Aman.

“After the crocodile culling operation in Sungai Skrang, on Feb 14, the SFC SWAT team did a survey of Sungai Santubong,” he said.

On Feb 16, a 2.9-metre long female crocodile ate the bait they put out, resulting in the capture of the riparian predator that was estimated to be about 200kg.

“However, the necropsy performed on the crocodile did not reveal any human remains in its stomach,” he said.

The operation was thus continued from March 6 to 11.

“The second time around, we managed to trace four crocodiles, two of which were over 3m-long and the other two less than 3m-long,” he said.


The operation required the use of an aluminium boat measuring 3.66m-long, 16 hooks with chicken and goat as bait, marker buoys and caving ropes.

The SWAT team members involved in the operation also brought with them boat knives and other emergency preparations in the event of animal attacks. They were accompanied with fully armed police officers.

Kri said that the methods of capture depended on the situation. Sometimes it was the use of bait at selected locations or a metal cage.

“The baits were attached on a specially-made hook measuring 6 by 2 inches. The hooks were placed at 16 selected locations along the river within a 2.5-kilometre radius from the location of the crocodile attack,” he explained.

The team went down to the river for surveillance every morning and evening. They had to limit their movements to minimise the disturbances to the environment so as not to scare the crocodiles away.

“To determine where to place the bait, we asked the villagers where the crocodiles lived and did a probability assessment based on that information. That accounts for 50 percent of it.

“The other half comes from our own assessments based on our surveillance and target areas,” he explained.

Kri said that when a crocodile ate the bait, it would inadvertently tug the marker buoy. This would alert the team that a crocodile had gone for the bait.

After four days of following the operation, this writer concluded that the process was certainly not easy.

Kri said in this particular operation, the crocodile they were trying to trap were rather resistant to the bait.

“Animals can survive for days after a meal, so they might not go looking for food after one,” he said.


Kri said the team had many times encountered alarming situations during such operations. This includes the times when their boat nearly capsized after being struck by the reptile.

“There were a few times when crocodiles tried to knock over our boat from below. When they eat our bait, they would drag our buoy markers along and this stresses them out. A stressed animal will fight back.

“When we pull (the hook) and the crocodile doesn’t surface, we need to be careful because we don’t know where it is. It is stronger and heavier than us and we must remember that the water is their home. We are going into their territory and we must be extra careful. Otherwise we would be putting ourselves abd the others in danger because an injured crocodile would do anything to free itself,” he explained.

Kri said the largest crocodile caught by SWAT was about 5.4m long (17 feet), in Batang Samarahan on Jan 15. It was believed that it had earlier attacked and killed a local fisherman.


Kri said that despite the lack of specialised training, the members of SWAT each had experience in dealing with the conflicts between crocodiles and man.

He said members needed to have multipurpose skills and be ready for a variety of tasks, including steering a boat, should the need arise.

“We work as a team. There are no ‘heroes’. Before going into an operation, everyone agrees on what needs to be done and goes on out to do it.

“For example, if they come across a crocodile, they already know their roles and there is no need for further discussions,” he said.

They generally avoid night time operations, except when necessary.

“Sometimes we have to camp by the river. That adds up to the challenge and it makes us more committed to it.

SWAT member Wan Mazlan Wan Median, 58, is one of the more recognised member of the team after his picture hauling a captured crocodile in Samariang became viral in December 2016.

Wan Mazlan said the job required a high degree of patience, focus and preparedness to deal with any conflict that might arise.

“I have been injured during operations and I have also nearly died after being attacked by a crocodile. I was rather new at the time and had yet to gain experience, but it is different now,” he said.


Often times we pay no heed to the reminder to not litter, especially in rivers. The fate that befell people like Selamat Draup, however, is a stern warning as to why we should observe the advice.

Kri said that crocodile necropsy often reveal that its stomach contents included a number of plastic bags.

“This is what we found in the past one year handling conflicts between crocodiles and human beings. For example, at the riverbanks in Sri Aman, every time someone comes by the river to throw away rubbish, the crocodiles would surface and swim towards the rubbish.

“The reptile is attracted to the garbage because it has been conditioned to think that there is food among it. However, imagine when in the future, someone goes to the river to do something other than to dispose of rubbish. What would happen then?” -- Bernama

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Indonesia: For farmers in Mamuju, python skins traded for pocket money

The Jakarta Post 3 Apr 17;

The death of Akbar Salubiro, a farmer in Central Mamuju regency, West Sulawesi, who was killed and eaten by a giant python last Thursday, might have shocked people, but more often it is humans who prey on the snakes, not the other way around.

The forest rangers from the Mamuju Natural Resources Conservation Unit recorded that at least 1,000 python skins are being sold annually in Mamuju.

“Almost all districts in Mamuju and Central Mamuju have a lot of pythons. Farmers usually sell them to traders,” said M. Hardi, the chief of the forest rangers, as quoted by on Saturday.

Ismail Passokorang, 53, confirmed Hardi’s statement. Passokorang worked as a supervisor on the government's land clearing projects from the 1970s until the early 1990s.

“Land clearing workers often saw many snakes in Tobadak, Karossa and Topoyo,” he said.

He added that the land clearing in Mamuju occurred from the 1980s to the 1990s when it was still a regency in South Sulawesi.

Ismail also said in the 1980s, workers in Mamuju often sold snakeskins to traders in Bebanga village in Kalukku regency, around 50 kilometers from Mamuju. The snakeskin sheets were dried, weighted and packed before being sent to Makassar.

He added that he almost never heard of people being eaten by snakes. “If the snakes eat goats, sheep or pigs, that’s common, but a snake eating a man, that’s new,” he said. (mrc/wit)

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