Best of our wild blogs: 7 Jun 17

What The Haze
People's Movement to Stop Haze

Red-Legged Crakes in Singapore
Singapore Bird Group

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Singapore Airlines signs declaration against wildlife trafficking

Channel NewsAsia 6 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore Airlines (SIA) is now amongst a group of 38 carriers which have pledged their support in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking routes.

It signed the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce Buckingham Palace Declaration on Monday (Jun 5), at the International Air Transport Association's annual general meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

The declaration, which was first inked by global transport leaders at the Buckingham Palace in 2016, commits signatories to take steps to shut down the routes exploited by traffickers of the illegal wildlife trade.

In a media release on Tuesday, SIA said that as a signatory, it agrees to implement actions set out in the declaration, such as adopting a zero tolerance policy towards the illegal wildlife trade, increasing awareness among passengers and staff, and providing staff training to identify and report suspected illegal wildlife.

Other airlines which have signed the declaration include Malaysia Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines and China Airlines.

"SIA and subsidiary SIA Cargo have long been against the illegal transport of wildlife and unsustainable animal products. SIA prohibits the carriage of any animals or wildlife by passengers, for example, with the exception of domesticated cats and dogs that are checked in, and service and emotional support dogs in the cabin," the airline said.

In addition, SIA Cargo only permits the carriage of live animals in compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and IATA Live Animal Regulations. It also stopped accepting the carriage of shark fin in August 2014.

“It is great to see Singapore Airlines committing to join the fight against wildlife traffickers. The illegal wildlife trade threatens the survival of many iconic species, and local communities that depend on nature-based tourism. Airlines can play an important role in helping the authorities stamp out this appalling trade,” said IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.

United for Wildlife was founded by The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Its ambassadors include tennis star Andy Murray and footballer David Beckham.
Source: CNA/dl

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5 leopard geckos seized at Woodlands Checkpoint

Channel NewsAsia 6 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: Five leopard geckos were seized from a Singapore-registered car at Woodlands Checkpoint last Friday (Jun 2), after they were found hidden inside pillows at the rear passenger seat.

The car was driven by a 51-year-old Singaporean man who was accompanied by a 32-year-old Singaporean female passenger.

They were directed for further checks shortly before 4pm and the five live geckos were discovered during inspection, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) in a joint news release on Tuesday.

The case has been referred to the AVA which is investigating the matter.

Keeping wild animals such as exotic amphibians, snakes and lizards are not allowed in Singapore, the authorities reminded.

"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," the release said, adding that wild animals that are non-native to Singapore may also be a threat to the bio-diversity if released into the environment.

Anyone convicted of importing animals or live birds without an AVA permit can be fined a maximum of S$10,000, jailed up to one year, or both.
Source: CNA/am

2 Singaporeans caught attempting to smuggle live leopard geckos from Malaysia
Today Online 6 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE — A Singaporean man and woman were caught with five live leopard geckos in their car at the Woodlands Checkpoint, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a joint statement on Tuesday (June 6).

The geckos were found hidden inside two pillows at the rear passenger seat of the car last Friday at 3.55pm, after ICA officers conducted checks on the in-bound Singapore-registered car at the Woodlands Checkpoint.

The car was driven by a 51-year-old Singaporean man, who was accompanied by a 32-year-old woman who is also Singaporean.

The case has been referred to the AVA and investigations are ongoing.

According to Reptiles Magazine’s website (, leopard geckos can fetch anything from US$20 (S$27.63) to US$3,000.

Keeping wild animals such as exotic amphibians, snakes and lizards are not allowed in Singapore and the importation of animals or live birds without an AVA permit is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of S$10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.

In the statement, the ICA and AVA reminded travellers against bringing live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit.

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, the agencies warned.

In addition, wild animals that are non-native to Singapore may also be a threat to our bio-diversity if released into the environment. Demand for such animals would fuel illegal wildlife trade, which severely impacts the wild populations of numerous species, the statement added.

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Indonesian Minister: ASEAN must cooperate more to combat plastic waste

The Jakarta Post 6 Jun 17;

Indonesia has called on ASEAN countries to cooperate to reduce plastic waste in the sea.

In a luncheon with representatives from 10 ASEAN countries in New York, in the United States, on Monday local time, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan elaborated the importance of a High-Level Conference of Plastic Waste in the Sea slated for September to address the issue.

“Plastic waste in the sea has inflicted losses of US$1.2 billion in the fisheries, shipping and tourism sectors and insurance business,” said Luhut in the event, which took place at the office of the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the UN.

“This can lead to a great disaster if we do not take immediate steps because unemployment can trigger poverty and social problems that may eventually lead to radicalism and terrorism,” he went on.

To tackle the problem, Luhut said, Indonesia had cooperated with the World Bank and Denmark to carry out research activities in 15 locations across Indonesia. Indonesia also partnered with the US to research fish populations suspected to have consumed plastic waste.

“Several research reports show that many vessels throw plastic waste in the ocean. Two thirds of the total plastic waste in the world is in South Asian waters,” said Luhut.

Therefore, the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Ministry has arranged action plans to address the issue. They include campaign activities to change people's habits and the issuance of policy reforms and law enforcement to reduce sea-based leakage and plastic production and consumption. (foy/ebf)

Maritime minister urges ASEAN countries to help reduce marine waste
Antara 6 Jun 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesian Maritime Coordinating Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has sought cooperation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help reduce plastic waste that pollutes the sea.

Pandjaitan attended a luncheon with the representatives of ASEAN member countries at the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Indonesia in the United Nations, New York, on Monday (Jun 5).

The meeting was held to provide a brief explanation of the upcoming Marine Plastic Debris Summit to be held in Bali, Indonesia, next September. Apart from the ASEAN countries, the summit will also be attended by China, India, the US, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.

"Marine plastic debris has caused losses worth US$1.2 billion in the fisheries, shipping, tourism, and insurance businesses," Pandjaitan noted in a press release received by ANTARA on Tuesday.

The paralysis of businesses in such sectors and the rise in unemployment can lead to other serious social and security issues, such as poverty, radicalism, and terrorism.

During the East Asia Summit (EAS) 2015, leaders of East Asia and ASEAN had firmly stated that marine pollution is a cross-border challenge that must be addressed effectively through international cooperation to achieve sustainable marine development.

All EAS participating countries had strongly committed to realizing marine and ocean sustainability as most of them are coastal nations and their economic development relies on their marine and fishery products.

"Strategically, maritime cooperation to solve the problem of marine waste can serve as a strong foundation to strengthen our existing maritime cooperation and bridge the differences in the views of these countries on waste management, such as the implementation of waste-to-energy projects and cooperation for its investment", Pandjaitan explained.

Waste-to-energy management can also be a new economic driver and stimulate the involvement of the far-flung private sector that directly benefits the community.

Thus, the state can encourage economic growth by reducing negative externalities to the environment, thus providing a concrete example of sustainable development.

"Based on these facts, I would like to call for your support to jointly strengthen our cooperation to address this critical issue by building regional awareness about plastic waste pollution and promoting private sector involvement, research institutions, and grassroots movements. Prior to the EAS, the ASEAN should share the same view on this issue," Pandjaitan remarked.(*)

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Indonesia: Mount Marapi erupts 45 times

Antara 7 Jun 17;

Bukittinggi, W Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Mount Marapi, which is located between Agam District and Tanah Datar District of West Sumatera Province, has erupted 45 times since Sunday (June 4), with volcanic dust reaching various heights.

According to the officer of Volcanic Monitor Post in Marapi, Hartanto, here on Tuesday, the latest eruptions occurred five times on Tuesday from 00.01 am to 06.00 am.

The officer noted that the mount erupted six times last Sunday and 34 times on Monday.

"The Marapi erupted and spurted volcanic dust as well as caused volcanic earthquake. The status is at level II," Hartanto remarked.

Hartanto stated that the eruption was still in medium alert.

He added that Marapi had been under alert since Aug 2011, and it showed a lot of shallow volcanic activity for the past two months.

"We ask people to refrain from any activity at a radius of 3 kilometers till the peak. We warn the climbers too," Hartanto revealed.

The officer noted that there were no residents who lived within the radius of 3 kilometers to the peak.

Additionally, the Head of West Sumatra Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency Nasridal Patria remarked that at least four districts and cities have prepared to handle the eruption.

The districts that are prone to eruption impact include Tanah Datar, Agam, Bukittinggi City, and Padang Panjang.(*)

Mount Marapi of West Sumatra erupts
Antara 5 Jun 17;

Documentation. Mount Marapi in West Sumatra (ANTARA PHOTO/ Arif Pribadi))
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Mount Marapi in West Sumatra erupted on Sunday spewing clouds of volcanic ash over the region of Tanah Datar of the Sumatran province.

Head of Data and Information Center of National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement received here on Sunday that the agency has set an exclusive zone within a radius of three kilometers from the Mount Marapis peak following the eruption.

The Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) reported that Mount Marapi (2,891 masl) erupted twice on Sunday at 10:01 a.m. and 10:22 a.m local time.

The first eruption sent a 300 meter high plume of smoke from the peak while the second one spewed ash much higher at around 700 meter high from the mounts peak.

"We urged people to remain calm and avoid misleading issues. The PVMBG will deliver early warning in the future will the mounts activity increase to pose danger," Nugroho said.

There have been no refuge camps set up yet since the residential areas are located outside the three kilometer radius of the exclusion zone.

Mount Marapi has been put on alert level II since August 3 2011. After the eruption occurred, there has been no increase of volcanic activities detected.

Meanwhile, District Head of Tanah Datar Irdiansyah Tarmizi said that the volcanic ash of Mount Marapi has blanketed four subdistricts namely Batipuh, Pariangan, Sungai Tarab and Salimpaung.

However, the daily activity of local people is not affected much by the thin layer of volcanic ash blanketing their homes.(*)

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Indonesia co-chairs world’s first ocean conference

Arif Gunawan Sulistiyono The Jakarta Post 6 Jun 17;

Indonesia has been chosen as one of the United Nations (UN) Ocean Conference vice presidents, marking its strategic position in supporting the world’s ocean conservation and the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The maiden Ocean Conference event, held from 5 to 9 June, 2017, adopted the theme of “Our Oceans, Our Future: Partnering for the Implementation of sustainable development goal [SDG] 14.”

Four world leaders, 1 vice president, 4 prime ministers, 1 royal prince, 1 deputy prime minister, 42 ministers, 6 vice ministers, and 46 international organizations are attending the event.

Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Panjaitan — who leads the Indonesian delegation along with Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti — is representing Indonesia as the vice president of the conference and will lead several events at the conference.

“The Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister’s role as the vice president and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister's presence at the conference indicates that Indonesia is serious about conserving the oceans, the seas, and the resources beneath,” said Indonesian Ambassador to the UN Dian Triansyah Djani in New York, Monday.

During the conference, Indonesia — in cooperation with Norway, Timor Leste, Interpol, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime {UNODC) — will hold three side-events to share its experience in dealing with the IUU fishing.

Indonesia has included the topic, along with coral conservation and marine debris, as part of nine voluntary commitments to achieve the SDG agenda and will present them at the event. (ags)

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Protected areas in ocean are key tool against climate change

AFP Yahoo News 6 Jun 17;

Miami (AFP) - Having more areas of the ocean that are protected from fishing, mining and tourism can be an important tool in the fight against climate change, international researchers said Monday.

Such areas can guard coastlines that are vulnerable to sea level rise and storms, and help restore marine species that are struggling due to warming and polluted waters, said a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences based on peer-reviewed studies on the impact of marine reserves around the world.

The report was released on the opening day of the United Nations' first-ever global conference on protecting the oceans, taking place in New York.

"Many studies show that well-managed marine reserves can protect wildlife and support productive fisheries, but we wanted to explore this body of research through the lens of climate change to see whether these benefits could help ameliorate or slow its impacts," said lead author Callum Roberts, professor at the University of York.

"It was soon quite clear that they can offer the ocean ecosystem and people critical resilience benefits to rapid climate change."

Marine reserves can lessen the impact of ocean acidification -- which kills coral reefs -- and provide refuge for species that are in decline, it found.

They can also "promote uptake and long-term storage of carbon from greenhouse gas emissions, especially in coastal wetlands, which helps reduce the rate of climate change," the study said.

Just 3.5 percent of the world's oceans are set aside for protection, and only 1.6 percent are fully protected from fishing and other exploitation.

International efforts are underway to raise the total to 10 percent by 2020.

At a meeting of the International Union for Conservation of Nature last year, delegates agreed that at least 30 percent should be protected by 2030.

Studies show the most benefits come from large, well-managed reserves that are protected from fishing, oil and mineral extraction.

"We were keenly aware that marine reserves can increase species' abundance and help alleviate food scarcity," said Beth O'Leary, a co-author and research fellow at the University of York.

"But our evaluation showed reserves are a viable low-tech, cost-effective adaptation strategy that would yield multiple co-benefits from local to global scales, improving the outlook for the environment and people into the future."

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Scientists just linked another record-breaking weather event to climate change

Chelsea Harvey Washington Post 5 Jun 17;

Last year, a remarkable April heat wave shattered all-time temperature records across Southeast Asia, prompting public health concerns, killing at least one elephant and making international headlines. Now, scientists believe the event was driven by the combined influence of a strong El Niño event and human-caused climate change. And they say events like it will only become more common in the future.

A new study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, finds that the 2016 April extreme can be attributed about 49 percent to the influence of a severe El Niño event, which began in 2015 and lingered into the following year, with global warming accounting for another 29 percent, and the rest attributed to unknown factors. But the researchers note that the impact of global warming is catching up and may become stronger than that of El Niño in the future.

“Basically, the global warming trend is going to overcome natural variability,” said the study’s lead author, Kaustubh Thirumalai, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics.

April is typically the hottest month of the year in Southeast Asia, but over the past century its temperatures have been growing even more extreme. The 2016 event was the record-breaker, but extreme events like it have been occurring with increasing frequency for decades. In the new study, the researchers examined the influence of both El Niño and long-term climate change on nearly a century’s worth of April extremes.

“We wanted to try to go into this business of ‘attribution,’ in which people try to parse out the temperature differences that are caused because of natural variability or man-made anthropogenic variability,” Thirumalai said. Scientists are growing increasingly interested in examining the extent to which human-caused global warming, vs. other climatic variables, is contributing to certain types of weather events, and how its influence is changing over time.

“I think these studies are very important in that they show how the relationships between these large-scale connected systems like El Niño and extreme events might change in a warming world,” said Friederike Otto, deputy director of the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute and an expert on climate change and extreme weather events, who was not involved with the new study.

For the new study, the researchers used multiple historical data sets and modeled simulations to analyze April temperatures from the past century and their relationship to both El Niño years and the long-term progression of global warming. They found that just about all extreme Aprils occurred in El Niño years.

The reason probably has to do with El Niño’s tendency to produce temporary drought-like conditions in Southeast Asia, the researchers suggest. Changes in the distribution of heat in the Pacific Ocean during El Niño years can alter atmospheric patterns throughout the region. The researchers note that post-Niño Aprils are typically associated with both reduced rainfall and cloud cover in mainland Southeast Asia.

The analysis also suggests that climate change has been making these April extremes more likely to occur over time. And, according to Thirumalai, it also tends to make these extremes even more intense than they would be otherwise.

“El Niño tends to prime this region for extremes, but global warming makes them worse,” he said. 2016 is a prime example. It may still have qualified as an extreme event without the influence of climate change, but it’s likely it would not have been as severe.

As it is, continued warming over time is only expected to increase the likelihood of these events in the future. According to Thirumalai, April extremes are occurring more frequently, and the analysis indicates that this is the result of steady warming over the past few decades, an effect that will continue into the future.

Because of the strong connection between April temperatures and El Niño, the authors suggest that scientists may be able to better predict extreme events in advance through closer monitoring of factors, such as sea surface temperatures, which can help them see strong El Niño events coming. But Otto, the University of Oxford scientist, cautioned that this method might become less reliable as the planet continues to heat up and the influence of global warming on extreme Southeast Asian temperatures catches up to that of El Niño.

“In the past, you needed El Niño to have extreme events like this,” she said. “In the future, this is not necessarily true.”

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