Best of our wild blogs: 1 Jun 17

Punggol after the oil spill
wild shores of singapore

Read more!

Nordic Investment in Indonesia, Singapore Linked to Deforestation: Report

Jakarta Globe 31 May 17;

Jakarta. While Nordic countries are on the forefront of global environmental initiatives, their asset managers have invested more than $2 billion in six Indonesian and Singaporean banks that finance environmentally damaging palm oil companies, says a report released by Rainforest Foundation Norway, AidEnvironment Asia and Fair Finance Guide Sweden on Tuesday (30/05).

According to the report, "Nordic Investments in Banks Financing Indonesian Palm Oil," finds that the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) has contributed the largest sum — $1.3 billion.

It is followed by Nordea with $0.3 billion, AP-Fonderna with $163 million, Swedbank with $140 million and Handelsbanken with $66 billion.

"Evidence that Norwegians and Swedes are indirectly supporting an industry that has destroyed huge tracts of rainforest is hard to square with this region’s reputation as a global leader in the fight against deforestation," senior policy adviser Vemund Olsen of Rainforest Foundation Norway said on the organization's official website.

"It's a sobering reminder of the powerful economic forces propelling Indonesia’s palm oil industry and rewarding companies that adopt a scorched earth approach to palm oil production."

Which Banks?

The main recipients of the Nordic investments in Indonesia are Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), Bank Mandiri, Bank Nasional Indonesia (BNI), and Bank Central Asia (BCA) – all of which, according to the report, have been backing palm oil companies that do not adopt sustainable practices.

Bank Mandiri, BNI, and BRI are said to be the three largest lenders to the palm oil sector, while BCA is "likely" the fourth.

Bank Mandiri has been linked to companies such as Darmex Agro/Duta Palma and Sawit Sumbermas Sarana, both of which have been charged with clearing forests. The latter even operates on forest land without a permit.

BNI has financed Best Group and Korindo, which have poor fire prevention and mitigation systems. The former has been involved in violation of workers' rights, while the latter is suspected of intentional forest burning.

BRI has given loans to Tunas Baru Lampung and Sampoerna Agro, both of which have been draining peatlands and are involved in land disputes with local communities.

The report also links BCA to HPI Agro and Indo Agri/Salim responsible for peat drainage.

The palm oil industry accounts for approximately 8 percent of the banks' total lending — approximately half of all lending for the industry.

Since early 2014, outstanding agriculture sector loans of the four banks have increased by 70 percent, and at the end of 2016, the loans for palm oil sector reached about $12.5 billion.

The Singaporean banks accepting Nordic investments are the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited (OCBC) and DBS Bank. Neither of them has disclosed details of their involvement in Indonesian palm oil sector, but their activities on the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) indicate that it exists.

By the end of 2016, OCBC had outstanding loans of Rp 12 trillion ($901.24 million) in the agriculture and mining sector, while DBS's outstanding loans to agriculture and fisheries stood at Rp 8 trillion.

According to AidEnvironment, among the banks behind the 16 palm oil companies listed on IDX, outstanding loans with OCBC and DBS respectively were the 6th and 8th largest.

OCBC has been giving loans to Tunas Baru Lampung and Sampoerna Agro, while DBS to Sampoerna Agro and Indo Agri/Salim.

"These [Indonesian and Singaporean] banks are a major part of the palm oil problem because they are funding destructive and unethical palm oil ventures while their narrow financial interests, which favor rapacious producers over more responsible companies, undermine efforts to make the industry more sustainable," Olsen said.

Solving the Problem

Fair Finance Guide Sweden project manager Jakob K├Ânig called on the Nordic banks and pension funds to withdraw investments from banks that support environmentally damaging palm oil businesses.

"We cannot be a credible leader in the fight to preserve the world’s rapidly dwindling rainforests when so much Nordic money is so closely tied to rainforest destruction," he said, as quoted by Rainforest Foundation Norway.

The report authors demand that the Southeast Asian banks adopt the No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) financing policy, aimed at ending deforestation, protecting peatlands, ensuring consent from communities for any land use and no human rights violations.

To address the problem, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia and Indonesian Financial Services Authority (OJK) have come up with a project titled "First Movers on Sustainable Banking," aimed at improving the environmental and social governance of Indonesian banks, and encouraging them to play a bigger role through their risk management frameworks, WWF said in a statement released on Wednesday.

WWF Indonesia and OJK have also developed a practical guide for responsible financing in the palm oil sector.

Read more!

Woman fined S$6,900 for keeping exotic wildlife

Channel NewsAsia 31 May 17;

SINGAPORE: A 32-year-old woman was fined S$6,900 on Wednesday (May 31) for keeping exotic wildlife, including an endangered veiled chameleon.

Tai Qi Hui's home was raided by officers from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) last July, and they found a total of 17 illegal wildlife specimens, comprising 14 exotic lizards, a snake, an ornate horned frog and an endangered veiled chameleon.

AVA officers had acted on a tip-off, after receiving information that the woman was allegedly selling illegal wildlife online.

Keeping wild animals such as exotic amphibians, snakes and lizards is not allowed in Singapore.

“Wild animals are not suitable pets as some may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans and can be a public safety risk if mishandled, or if they escape into our dense urban environment,” AVA said. “In addition, wild animals that are non-native to Singapore may also be a threat to our bio-diversity if released into the environment.”

It added that demand for such animals would also fuel the illegal wildlife trade.

Tai was fined S$1,500 for one charge of possessing an endangered species and S$600 for each of the nine charges of keeping wild animals. Seven other charges of keeping wild animals were also taken into consideration, said AVA.

The animals are currently in the care of the Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Read more!

Indonesia: Lombok villagers beat poverty with tortilla chips and mangroves

Thin Lei Win Reuters 31 May 17;

LOMBOK, Indonesia, May 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - J ust over three years ago, Herniati had never heard of tortilla chips, let alone tasted them. Now she loves them - making the crispy snacks has turned her from a housewife reliant on her husband's unstable income into the main breadwinner.

The family of four used to live on less than $8 a day, mostly from selling fish her husband caught. Herniati, who goes by one name, said their income had quadrupled since she began working, thanks to a project to improve local livelihoods.

"My income is now higher than my husband's. He's happy and proud of me," said the 35-year-old, giggling. "With the money, I first pay school fees for my children. Then we buy electronic devices."

Lombok, a beautiful, rugged island in eastern Indonesia, has long been overshadowed by its neighbour Bali. Located in West Nusa Tenggara, one of Indonesia's poorest provinces, Lombok is less developed, arid and prone to drought.

A sudden boom in its tourism industry has raised hopes poverty can be reduced, but some locals instead fear a jump in inequality.

Coastal villages are particularly vulnerable, experts say, because they have limited access to markets, the natural resources they rely on become degraded over time, and they depend on a single source of income, usually fishing.

Climate change impacts such as sea-level rise and more intense droughts and storms, combined with coastal erosion, could exacerbate these problems.

In Herniati's fishing village of Lembar Selatan in West Lombok, under an hour's drive from some of the island's most popular beaches, many families live below the national poverty line of around $27 per month.

But the villagers say their prospects have improved thanks to the Coastal Community Development Project (CCDP), run by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Indonesia's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

Funded by the Spanish, U.S. and Indonesian governments, it covers nine provinces in eastern Indonesia, a region that has historically suffered from low levels of development.

The CCDP supports rehabilitation of natural resources such as reefs and mangroves, provides fishing equipment to men, and trains fishermen's wives to become entrepreneurs, linking them with companies to sell their products. The villagers contribute manpower and re-invest profits into their communities.


"You can see there are many new buildings. It means they now have extra money," said Sapta Putra Ginting, national CCDP coordinator with the marine affairs ministry, pointing at brick houses with fresh coats of paint.

"Previously, when the husbands could not work, they had to borrow money at 100-percent interest rates. That's how our fishing communities stayed deep in poverty," he added.

About a third of the village benefits from the project, serving as a model for others who want to diversify their incomes through environmental protection and market access, Ginting said.

Local fisherman H. Nurudin said he has a personal savings account for the first time, in which he has tucked away 7 million rupiah ($525.50).

A group of fishermen supported by the project has saved 18 million rupiah, he said, using the money to repair boats and organise local events.

Sahdan, another villager in Lembar Selatan, has also seen his fortunes change for the better.

The 67-year-old has been a fisherman for as long as he can remember. For the past few years, however, he has been busy managing the village's 64-hectare (158-acre) mangrove conservation area.

Once a place with fast-deteriorating mangrove trees, it is now a popular attraction after new trees were planted with CCDP money. Shops, cafes and a housing project have sprung up nearby.

A walkway has been built among the mangroves, and revenues from entry fees, boat hire and hosting weddings are so good that Sahdan now fishes only occasionally, though catches are higher.

"Before the mangroves were planted we used to get 2 kg (4.4 lb) of fish a day. Now we get 5 or 6 kilos," he said, standing in a wooden gazebo as youths paddled kayaks in the water below. Scores of people visit every weekend, he added.

The mangrove park is doing so well Sahdan worries it could become a victim of its own success. Land prices in the area have soared from 2 million to 10 million rupiah per hectare, he said.


The CCDP ends in December, but local authorities and villagers plan to continue its work. National coordinator Ginting said one strategy is to work with big companies like Indonesia's state energy firm Pertamina, which has shown interest.

Another is to incorporate CCDP activities into village planning and budgeting, said Sarah Hessel, IFAD programme officer for Asia-Pacific. Under the 2014 Village Law, the national government aims to disburse up to $8.6 billion annually - over $100,000 for every village - for infrastructure and economic development until 2019, she added.

For Herniati and other fishermen's wives, there is no question of stopping what they are doing. They remember enduring years of stress over money and the safety of their husbands.

"The women worry every single day while the husbands are out fishing," said Herniati. "We worry the boats will sink in bad weather, that they cannot get fish when there are big waves."

The women now make tortilla chips and crackers, adding Lombok's special ingredient - seaweed - to the recipe, as well as more traditional Indonesian fare such as shrimp paste.

The products are then packaged and sent to Gerung, the capital of West Lombok Regency, where they are sold by a local business specialising in snacks and drinks including seaweed coffee.

"Before, I just waited for my husband to come back and sell fresh fish at the market," said Herniati outside the one-storey building where the women work, built recently with their profits. "Now we can sell value-added products. This has helped increase our family income."

($1 = 13,320.0000 rupiah) (Reporting by Thin Lei Win, editing by Megan Rowling; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit

Read more!

Survival of coral reefs requires radical rethink of what conservation means, say scientists

Reef conservation must not be an attempt to restore reefs of the past, but to identify the parts essential to their continued existence, and protect those.
Michael Slezak The Guardian 31 May 17;

The survival of coral reefs requires a radical rethink of what conservation means, as well as embracing some of the changes they are undergoing, according to a paper by leading coral reef scientists.

“Helping coral reefs to safely navigate the Anthropocene is a profound challenge for multiscale governance,” the scientists say in a paper published today in the journal Nature.

They argue reef conservation must no longer be seen as an attempt to restore reefs of the past, or conserve their existing values, but rather to identify the parts of reefs that are essential to their continued existence, and protect those.

The paper comes amid increased urgency from conservationists and reef managers around the world, sparked by the worst global bleaching event in recorded history. It caused mass die-offs in every major coral reef region of the world. On the Great Barrier Reef alone, it is estimated that about half the coral was killed in 2016 and 2017.

In the paper, the scientists argue saving the world’s reefs requires the acceptance that the reefs of the future will look very different to those of today, and humans may need to help them adapt – perhaps by intervening to increase the proportion of coral species that are tolerant to rising temperatures.

“In the coming centuries, reefs will run the gauntlet of climate change, and rising temperatures will transform them into new configurations, unlike anything observed previously by humans,” the paper says.

But the overall message was one of hope, said lead author of the paper Terry Hughes from James Cook University in Australia.

“There’s no shortage of people saying reefs will be dead by 2030 or whatever,” Hughes said. “They are going to be different systems with a different mix of species but if we throw the kitchen sink at it and especially deal with climate change then we will have functioning reefs that will sustain and repair themselves and be of some use to people,” he said.

The group of scientists, which includes both biologists and social scientists, argue the approach to reef conservation must change in several ways.

As coral reefs change, the authors say scientists and conservationists must focus on aspects of reef ecosystems that are the most important to their continued existence. They say biodiversity is no longer the most important value to protect, since some species are more important to the ecosystem than others.

They also suggest that helping reefs adapt may become an important strategy. “Ecosystem composition change is already occurring naturally, as corals respond and adapt to climate change, and could be promoted further through efforts to actively manipulate ecosystem configurations,” they write.

Besides embracing the fact that reefs will never be the same, they argue research and conservation must shift from the most direct impacts on reefs, and instead identify and target the root causes.

For example, rather than focusing just on the role herbivorous fish play in suppressing seaweed, thereby allowing reefs to recover, conservation efforts should focus on what drives the overfishing of those fish – such as poverty and market demands. “We tend to propose bandaids rather than dealing with the root cause of the issue,” Hughes said.

Underlying the finding that reefs will continue to survive is the assumption that agreements made at Paris to keep global warming to “well below 2C” are successful.

The researchers reviewed published experiments that examined the response of coral to rising temperatures, and found none that looked at the carbon dioxide levels they say reefs are likely to experience over the next century. Instead, those studies universally examined much more extreme scenarios, equivalent to several degrees of global warming.

“Most of the coral reef literature assumes business-as-usual emissions to the end of the century, which would result in global warming of 4, 5 or 6C,” says Hughes. “We will never get there – not because people will become more and more concerned about coral reefs – but because Florida will go under water and that will get people’s attention.”

Similarly, the authors said experiments examining the impacts of acidification looked at exaggerated scenarios, and the researchers said there were some suggestions acidification may not have a large impact on the growth of coral.

The understanding that coral reefs will never be the same is already affecting management practices around the world.

In Australia, the Guardian revealed last week that advisers to the government’s plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef have said it must stop trying to “improve” and restore the natural heritage values, and instead should aim to “maintain the ecological function” of the reef, while accepting its overall health would inevitably decline.

Similarly, sources have told the Guardian that discussions are occurring within Unesco, over how to protect natural heritage values, given that climate change means many heritage sites will inevitably be altered.

Not all coral reef biologists are supportive of efforts to manipulate reef ecosystems.

Justin Marshall from the University of Queensland said the new paper made many good points, but that he did not think attempts to pick and choose parts of reefs to save would be successful. “We’re consistently crap at playing God – or playing Darwin,” Marshall said, adding that ecosystems were too complex to predict the outcomes of particular interventions.

Read more!