Best of our wild blogs: 14 Jun 17

1 July (Sat) - Free guided walk at the Pasir Ris Mangroves
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Return to Terumbu Raya after mass coral bleaching
wild shores of singapore

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Indonesia: 28 Hotspots Detected on Sumatra Island

Tempo 14 Jun 17;

TEMPO.CO, Pekanbaru - The Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has detected 28 hotspots, indicating forest and plantation fires, in four provinces located on Sumatra Island on Tuesday.

The hotspots were found in Aceh, North Sumatra, Riau, and Lampung provinces, Slamet Riyadi, head of the data section of the Pekanbaru meteorology station, said on Tuesday.

Aceh has 14 hotspots, North Sumatra has seven, Riau has four, and Lampung has three, he stated.

In Riau Province, the hotspots were detected in Pelalawan District (two hotspots), and in Indragiri Hulu and Indragiri Hilir, one hotspot was detected each.

"Of the four hotspots in Riau Province, one has been confirmed as forest fire," he revealed.

The wildfire is located in Kuala Kampar sub-district. The Riau disaster mitigation office tried to trace the fire by using a helicopter.

The office was ready to deploy five helicopters to drop water bombs to put out the fire.

The Riau authorities have extended the forest fire emergency status from April 30 to November 2017 to enable utmost efforts to prevent forest fires from spreading to wider areas.

Five helicopters, namely MI-171, MI-172, MI-8, and S-61, have been in standby at Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force base in Pekanbaru to support the fight against forest fires.

Last year, Indonesia was relatively free from haze from forest fires thanks to joint efforts involving military officers to prevent and put out the fires.

Based on monitoring data of the NOAA satellite, the number of hotspots in 2016 had decreased by 82.14 percent compared to that in 2015, while the Terra and Aqua satellites showed a drop of 94.58 percent.

Currently, Indonesia is bracing for forest and plantation fires, as the country is forecast to experience drought from June to October this year that could induce wildfires.

Despite the country being relatively free of haze and smog arising from forest fires last year, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has urged all stakeholders to undertake early preventive measures against wildfires.

The head of state has reminded ministers and regional authorities to remain vigilant against forest fires starting from early this year.


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Indonesia seizes pangolins, scales worth $190,000

AFP Yahoo News 14 Jun 17;

Medan (Indonesia) (AFP) - Indonesian authorities have seized hundreds of critically endangered pangolins and scales in a haul worth $190,000 after uncovering a major smuggling operation, an official said Wednesday.

Two men were also arrested after navy officers raided a warehouse near a port on Sumatra island late Tuesday, acting on a tip-off that it was being used to store the creatures which are also known as "scaly anteaters".

They discovered 223 live pangolins, 24 of the creatures which were already dead and frozen as well as nine large bags of pangolin scales, local navy spokesman Sahala Sinaga told AFP.

He said the total haul seized near the city of Medan, which was going to be sent to neighbouring Malaysia, was worth an estimated 2.5 billion rupiah (about $190,000).

It was further evidence that trade in the world's most heavily trafficked mammal remains a major problem despite concerted efforts to clamp down.

Last year, the reclusive, gentle mammal received the highest level of protection against illegal trade at a global conference in South Africa.

Sinaga said the detained men, both 43, were suspected of being small players in a larger syndicate. They could face up to five years in jail and a fine of 100 million rupiah if found guilty of breaking wildlife protection laws.

"They claimed the pangolins would be shipped to Malaysia," said Sinaga, adding the scales could have been intended for use in the production of crystal methamphetamine.

Pangolin scales are sometimes used in the production of the illegal drug. The creature's meat is also prized as an edible delicacy and its body parts as an ingredient in traditional medicine in parts of Asia -- particularly China -- and Africa.

It was just the latest case of pangolins being seized from alleged smugglers in Indonesia -- in August last year authorities found more than 650 pangolins hidden in freezers on the main island of Java and arrested a suspect.

Protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the pangolins found in Indonesia as critically endangered.

Pangolins, which have bad vision but a good sense of smell and hearing, are covered in tough, overlapping scales, and eat ants using pink, sticky tongues almost as long as their bodies.

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Malaysia: Customs seizes 288kg of pangolin scales worth RM3.8mil

JO TIMBUONG The Star 13 Jun 17;

SEPANG: The Customs Department has seized a 288kg shipment of pangolin scales worth RM3.68mil bound for a fake address in Ampang.

Customs assistant director-general (enforcement) Datuk Paddy Abd Halim said the seizure was made last Friday at an air cargo warehouse at the KLIA Free Trade Zone.

"The consignment came in from Ghana and was marked as oyster shells on the air waybill," he said.

He also said the department is investigating whether the scales were destined for the local or international market.

The scales will be handed over to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) for further action.

He said this was the third shipment of pangolin scales intercepted this year.

Last month, the department seized 712kg of pangolin scales worth RM9.18mil in shipments from Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The import of pangolin scales without a permit is illegal and offenders face a maximum fine of up to 20 times the value of the seized items, jail time not exceeding three years or both.

Pangolin scales are often used in traditional medicine and are believed to be a cure for illnesses such as malaria.

More pangolin scales seized
JO TIMBUONG The Star 14 Jun 17;

SEPANG: The Customs Depart­ment’s largest seizure of pangolin scales last month has not deterred wildlife smugglers from trying to sneak in another batch of the illicit cargo through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Smugglers tried to hoodwink enforcers by labelling the consignment as oyster shells on the airway bill and gave a fake address. However, their attempt to avoid detection was foiled after Customs officers received a tip-off.

Last Friday morning, enforcers found 288kg of the scales packed in gunny sacks and inside 12 cardboard boxes in an air cargo warehouse at the KLIA Free Trade Zone.

Customs Department assistant director-general (enforcement) Datuk Paddy Abd Halim said the scales were worth about RM3.68mil.

“This is the third seizure of pangolin scales at KLIA this year after last month’s operations,” he told reporters.

He said the scales came from Ghana and were addressed to a bogus location in Ampang.

Despite Kuala Lumpur being marked as the final destination, enforcers were unsure whether they were destined for the local or international market.

Paddy said enforcers were trying to determine whether a different syndicate was behind the latest smuggling attempt.

“The modus operandi seems to be the same but a different syndicate could be behind this new attempt. This is also part of our investigation,” he said.

Paddy said the scales would be handed over to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) for further action.

The import of pangolin scales without a permit is illegal under Schedule Three of the International Trade Act on Threatened Species 2008.

The case is being investigated under Section 135(1) of the Customs Act 1967 for smuggling prohibited goods.

Offenders could face a maximum fine up to 20 times the value of the seized items or jail time not exceeding three years or both.

Last month, Customs seized 712kg of the scales worth at least RM9.18mil, which came from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana.

A full-grown pangolin is said to have about 500g of scales which can fetch more than RM1,000 in the black market.

“Pangolin scales are used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments but there are no scientific facts to back this claim,” Paddy added.

Malaysia makes third major pangolin scale seizure in a month
WWF Malaysia 13 Jun 17;

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 13th June 2017–For the third time in just over a month, Malaysian authorities have seized a large shipment of pangolin scales inbound from Africa. This latest seizure brings the total weight of confiscated scales so far to a tonne.

On 9th June the Royal Malaysian Customs Department discovered 288kg of pangolin scales in 12 boxes at the air cargo warehouse in Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s Free Trade Zone. The shipment, originating from Accra, Ghana, was falsely labelled as oyster shells.

Although Malaysia was specified as the final destination, the address in Ampang listed on the airway bill was found to be fake, said Dato’ Paddy Bin Abd Halim, Malaysia’s Customs Assistant Director General for Enforcement, at a press conference today.

No arrests have yet been made and investigations continue under Section 135 (1) (a) of the Customs Act 1967.

The latest seizure marks the third large-scale pangolin scale interception in Malaysia in just over a month, reinforcing previous indications that the country is of significant concern within trafficking trade chains

Last year, TRAFFIC and the University of Adelaide published a study that confirmed the widely-agreed consensus of a dramatic switch from Asian to African pangolin species in trade over a 38-year period between 1977 and 2014. Analysis showed that 79% of the scales recorded in trade since 2010 were from African pangolins.

“Malaysian Customs has intercepted an alarming volume of wildlife contraband from Africa since April this year, and for this we congratulate them,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Senior Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

“However, multiple shipments comprising of rhino horns, pangolin scales and live Critically Endangered tortoises – all of them listed in CITES Appendix I – entering Malaysia signifies a very worrying pattern; that traffickers feel they can continuously move their contraband through the country”.

On 2nd May Customs officers at the same airport seized a 408kg shipment from Ghana that transited through Dubai on its way to Kuala Lumpur. A second shipment weighing 304kg from Democratic Republic of Congo that passed through Kenya and Dubai was seized just two days later in Kuala Lumpur. In the previous month, Customs seized 18 rhino horns from Mozambique.

Dato’ Paddy told reporters that although two of the shipments came from Ghana, it did not necessarily mean they were both from the same sender or syndicate.

“We hope this level of enforcement effort will continue,” said Dr Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia. “More importantly, investigative work at national and international levels needs to be stepped up to put the perpetrators behind these transactions out of business for good.”

Pangolins are among the most trafficked mammals in the world and the scales remain in high demand for use in traditional medicines, especially in China.

Due to the tremendous pressure from illegal trade, over 180 nations at the CITES[1] summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2016 agreed to a ban of the international trade in all eight pangolin species by listing them on CITES Appendix I.

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Malaysia: Wild sun bear rescued from drain in Seremban housing area

Nur Aqidah Azizi New Straits Times 14 Jun 17;

SEREMBAN: A wild sun bear was rescued after it became trapped in a drain at a housing area in Taman PJ here on Monday.

The bear is believed to have become lost after wandering out from a nearby forest.

The animal was discovered by a resident, who then alerted the authorities.

State Civil Defence Force (APM) Regional Disaster Operations Officer, Lieutenant (PA) Mohd Najib Abdul Karim said the department deployed several personnel to rescue the bear, which weighed 25kg.

“We managed to remove it from the two-metre deep drain and transfer it to a cage.

“Although the bear was aggressive and tried to escape, it didn’t attack anyone from the team during the rescue mission. We believe the bear came from the woods near the housing area,” he said.

He said the bear was unhurt in the process. It has been sent to the Wildlife and National Parks Department for further action.

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Malaysia: No more plastic bags in Johor supermarkets

The Star 14 Jun 17;

JOHOR BARU: All hypermarkets and supermarkets in Johor have to replace their plastic bags and polystyrene containers with biodegradable ones beginning July 1.

State Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said hypermarkets were supposed to have done this early this month but it was postponed due to Ramadan and Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

“This is among the first steps by the state government to make Johor plastic and polystyrene-free starting from Jan 1, 2018,” he said after launching Iskandar Malaysia Ecolife Challenge (IMELC) 2017 at the Johor Education Department yesterday.

He said Johor Biotechnology and Biodiversity Corp (J-Biotech) was appointed as an anchor in implementing the use of biodegradable products.

“J-Biotech is in the midst of finding a proper mechanism and is discussing with supermarkets and hypermarkets.

“Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin will make an announcement on how we will implement it at the next state Budget tabling,” he added.

Ayub said he did not see any problem with the stores complying with the state ruling.

He reminded the community to bring along their own bags when shopping for groceries.

On the event, Ayub said IMELC’s main objective was to protect the environment under the Low Carbon Society Blueprint for Iskandar Malaysia 2025.

He added that the plan was to make Iskandar Malaysia a developed economic corridor with low carbon emission of 58% until 2025.

Since the IMELC was introduced four years ago, 77 primary schools within the Iskandar area had dramatically lowered their water and electricity bills, he said.

“This year, the programme has been expanded to 346 schools involving 34,000 students and I believe Iskandar will be a low carbon society,” he added.

Johor’s switch to biodegradable food containers gains support
The Star 17 Jun 17;

JOHOR BARU: Food and beverage operators are supporting the state government’s biodegradable-containers-only policy which will take effect on July 1, with some already introducing such containers to customers.

Food stall owner Rozita Ramli, 53, who has been running her business at Taman Maju Jaya for the past 14 years, said her customers were getting used to the biodegradable plastic containers.

She started using them this month.

“Despite the containers costing more, we are supporting the state government’s initiative against the use of polystyrene due to its harmful effects.

“The biodegradable products are not only safer to use but also slightly larger and microwaveable, she said yesterday.

She said the green containers were being sold at about three times the price of the polys­tyrene type. A pack of 100 polystyrene containers is about RM7 while the biodegradable ones are RM22.

Rozita said it was harder to get supplies of the biodegradable containers now but she expected this to change soon, with the price dropping as well.

The containers are cheaper in the states that adopted the green-containers-only policy, such as Penang and Melaka, said Rozita.

Restaurant owner Ng Yaw Kwang, 35, agreed that the banning of polystyrene containers was a good move.

“It is also better for the environment,” he said.

It was reported that all hypermarkets and supermarkets in Johor have to replace their plastic bags and polystyrene containers with biodegradable ones from July 1.

This was announced as the state government’s first step towards making Johor polystyrene-free by 2018.

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