Best of our wild blogs: 25 May 17

3 Jun, 2017 (Sat): Balik Chek Jawa with the Chek Jawa community
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Secretive Critters Always Spark My Curiosity
Love our MacRitchie Forest

31 May (Wed): Green Drinks Documentary Night - Disobedience
Green Drinks Singapore

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Malaysia: Sabah to fight nature with nature

RUBEN SARIO The Star 25 May 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Researchers are racing against time to breed a tiny insect that they hope will destroy an aquatic plant that is drying up lakes and ponds around Sabah.

State Agriculture Department director Idrus Shafie said the Salvenia Molesta had thus far infested 19 out of the 20 oxbow lakes in the Kinabatangan region in Sabah’s east coast.

He said the fast-growing aquatic fern that could double its area from 10sq m to 20sq m in just three days choked lakes and ponds in Kota Belud, Tuaran, Paitan and Papar.

They believed the fern, native to South America, was brought in as an ornamental plant for aquariums and later discarded in drains or lakes where it began to spread rapidly.

He said the department was alerted about the infestation by Kinabatangan villagers in 2015 and were shocked when satellite imagery showed that almost all of the oxbow lakes there were choked with the weed.

The plants dry up the lakes as they displace the water.

“They are upsetting an entire eco system,” Idrus added.

He said the department brought in more than 350 of the Cyrtobagous salviniae weevils from Melaka last year and had been breeding these insects at its research centre in Tuaran and at the Tungog oxbow lake in the Kinabatangan.

“The weevils will take at least another year before we have enough to contain the situation.”

The weevils, originally from Australia, were used to control a similar infestation of the water ferns in the peninsula during the 1980s.

He said there was no fear of the insects – about the size of rice weevils – getting out of control as they were host specific in that they only consumed that particular water fern.

“We saw at the Durian Tunggal lake in Melaka, where the weevils could only be found among the remnants of the water ferns there,” Idrus added.

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Malaysia: Cops save 141 pangolins bound for the pot


ALOR SETAR: A total of 141 live pangolins were rescued by police following a raid at a double-storey house in Taman Desa Seraya here.

Police also found a stash of the animal's scales during the raid.

Kota Star district police chief Asst Comm Mohd Rozi Jidin said the raid was conducted about 2pm Tuesday following a tip-off.

"We received information of suspicious activities carried out and we sent a team to the scene to investigate. We had to break open the front door of the house before we found the endangered animals in sacks and boxes," he said.

ACP Mohd Rozi added that the pangolins were handed to the Kedah National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) for further action.

Meanwhile, Kedah Perhilitan director Muhammad Ali Che Aman said that they were investigating the case under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

He said that, offenders could be fined between RM50,000 and RM100,000, sentenced to a maximum of three years' jail or both if found guilty.

Poacher’s pangolin stash sniffed out
The Star 25 May 17;

ALOR SETAR: A strong smell coming from a double-storey house in Taman Desa Seraya led to the rescue of 141 live pangolins.

Police had to break down the front door with the help of firemen and discovered the scaly anteaters in sacks and boxes inside.

Kota Setar OCPD Asst Comm Mohd Rozi Jidin said they raided the house at 2pm on Tuesday after being told of suspicious activities inside.

“We rang the doorbell and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. We had to force open the locked door and found the animals,” he said.

Police believe that the pangolins, weighing between 2kg and 5kg each, were meant for consumption both locally and in neighbouring states.

ACP Mohd Rozi said they also seized a car which was said to belong to the suspected poacher. It had false registration plates and a forged road tax disc.

He added that the endangered animals had been handed over to the state Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) for further action.

The case is being investigated under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act, which carries a maximum fine of RM100,000 or up to three years’ jail, or both.

Pangolin meat is considered an exotic delicacy, while the scales are used in traditional medicine.

It is said that the live animal can fetch between RM400 and RM600 per kilo.

A neighbour, who declined to be named, said he had noticed a stench coming from the house since Saturday.

He said a man would usually come by at around midnight and leave at about 6am.

“He would be there only for a short time and in the wee hours,” the neighbour said.

“We could hear water running and some washing going on inside the house. Some of us tried ringing the doorbell to find out what was going on, but no one would answer.”

Another neighbour said she had not seen the suspect but could always hear water flowing out of the house into the drain.

The owner of the house, who wanted to be known only as Gun, was shocked to learn that his property had been used as a transit point for an endangered species.

“I rented out the house to a man from Seremban for two years,” Gun said.

“I have not seen him because he is always busy. The monthly rental was usually deposited into my bank account.”

140 live pangolins rescued from house in Alor Star
ZULIATY ZULKIFLI New Straits Times 24 May 17;

ALOR STAR: A total of 140 live pangolins were rescued following a police raid at a house in Taman Desa Seraya, Jalan Lencong Barat here, yesterday.

Kota Star district police chief Assistant Commissioner Mohd Rozi Jidin said the raid was made about 2pm following a tip off.

“We received information of suspicious activities at the location and sent a team to investigate.

“We had to break open the front door of the house before we found the endangered animals in sacks and boxes,” he told a press conference this morning.

He said also found were scales, empty sacks and boxes.

Rozi said the pangolins were handed to the Kedah National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) for further action.

Kedah Perhilitan director Muhammad Ali Che Aman, when contacted, said the department is investigating the case under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

He said guilty parties could be fined not less than RM50,000 and not more than RM100,000 or up to three years’ jail, or both.

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Thailand: Parks Dept orders dugong project to be revised

APINYA WIPATAYOTIN Bangkok Post 25 May 17;

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has ordered Hat Chao Mai's national park chief to revise the dugong monitoring project in Trang province after an activist group lodged a complaint, saying equipment used in the project could endanger the rare species.

The three-month project started in April. Satellite tracking tools have been attached to three dugongs in the area as scientists study their behaviour and habitat.

Parkpoom Witantirawat, coordinator of the Saving Andaman Network Foundation, who opposes the project, said some dugongs have moved out of the national park to Libong island since the study started.

He said the satellite tracking device could be dangerous as its long cords could get caught around fishing equipment.

He said it did not make sense to monitor three dugongs especially when local fishermen have been working closely to protect the animal by setting aside an area of 100,000 rai to protect its habitat. They avoid using any fishing equipment in the area which could be harmful to the mammal.

However, he admitted some kinds of fishing equipment not friendly to dugongs can still be found, so further talks are needed with fishermen.

Thailand has about 160 dugong, with five or six dying a year. More than 90% are living in the Libong Non Hunting Area and the rest in Hat Chao Mai National Park.

Sontham Suksawang, director of the National Park Office, said the department was worried about conflicts between forest officials and locals over the dugong.

"The national park's chief has acknowledged the department's concerns and understands we need scientific research and local participation. Research should be done based on local acceptance," he said.

He said the department has suggested the Hat Chao Mai National Park chief could review the project or the satellite microchips could be removed.

The project is carried out with the support of the National Science and Technology Development Agency, with the aim of studying the dugong's habitat so the department can set up a proper management zone for the species, which is now at risk of extinction due to the harm inflicted by fishing devices.

Manoch Wongsuryrat, chief of the Hat Chao Mai National Park, wrote on Facebook recently the project was being carried out under the supervision of scientists from Chulalongkorn University.

He said the research team was striving to protect the dugong population based on scientific methods.

Noted veterinarian backs satellite tracking of dugongs after NSTDA suspends project
Khanittha Sitong The Nation 29 May 17;

Chulalongkorn University Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animals Research Centre director Nantarika Chansue has said that a scheme to fit dugongs with satellite transmitters was not harmful to the animals.

She also said the tracking programme would benefit future research and conservation of the marine mammals in the Trang Sea and help to reduce mortality rates.

Nantarika’s comments on Monday followed an earlier announcement by the Pathum Thani-based National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) on its website that it would suspend the fitting of transmitters on to dugongs at Hat Chao Mai National Park’s Koh Mook on the grounds that the technology was involved in unresolved disputes over reported negative impacts.

The NSTDA, which is sponsoring the research project, said it had decided to end the tracking programme while urging stakeholders to contribute to the sustainable conservation of dugongs. Chulalongkorn veterinarians had been participating in the project by conducting health checks and collecting blood samples.

Nantarika said the research team prioritised the safety of dugongs, while research methods were subjected to careful scrutiny and conformed to international standards.

She also cited medical reports that showed the stress hormone levels in dugongs’ blood did not exceed normal levels as they were fitted with transmitters.

“While people might feel otherwise, the scientific test gives clear evidence [about the dugongs’ stable health],” she said adding that officials had not just relied on data from the trackers but had dived with the dugongs to observe their behaviour.

She said the data on dugong behaviour and migration patters would help to formulate a better conservation strategy based on zone management. She added that many villagers had joined in conservation efforts to ensure dugong habitat would not be disturbed by human activities.

Dugong deaths that had been blamed on the satellite transmitters were actually caused by them getting caught in fishing equipment, Nantarika said, adding that fishermen should refrain from casting nets in conservation areas if they wanted to spare the marine mammal.

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