Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jul 17

Sentosa Tanjung Rimau is still alive
wild shores of singapore

Green Drinks: Economics As If People & Planet Mattered
Green Drinks Singapore

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Get pets from authorised places, urges AVA amid Malaysian rabies outbreaks

Samantha Boh Straits Times 27 Jul 17;

Outbreaks of rabies in the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Perak have taken five lives, prompting the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) yesterday to urge the public to obtain their pets from authorised pet shops, breeders and shelters.

Dog smuggling, the AVA said, opens Singapore to the disease, which has not reached its shores for more than 60 years.

It said: "We cannot take our rabies-free status for granted as the disease is endemic in the region."

Since 2014, 110 smuggled dogs have been seized by the AVA. Among them were 11 toy poodle, shih tzu and maltese puppies, which were seized from the modified fuel tank of a Malaysia-registered car in March. The smuggler was jailed for 30 weeks for smuggling and animal cruelty.

Yesterday, four of the toy poodles were taken to an animal shelter, where they will wait to be adopted. The rest will follow in the coming weeks.

The dogs have completed 100 days of quarantine at AVA's Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station, during which their health was monitored to ensure that they were not carrying any infectious diseases such as rabies.

Ms Clarissa Frany Francisco, executive manager of AVA's quarantine and inspection group, said: "They passed various health tests, and completed parasite treatments and vaccinations."

When the puppies were found, they were suffering from skin problems, diarrhoea and were dehydrated.

"We hope that there will be no smuggling cases. Not all smuggled animals have happy endings," Ms Francisco said.

Taking no chances with the rabies outbreak so close to home, the AVA has also sent out advisories since the beginning of this month asking pet shops, vets and other stakeholders to be vigilant. The advisories inform people on how to spot symptoms of the disease and who to contact to raise the alarm.

Rabies is mainly carried by dogs, though other mammals can also contract the disease. It is normally transmitted through a dog bite, when the dog's saliva comes into contact with a wound.

Symptoms of the disease, which eventually causes death, include aggression, behavioural changes and paralysis.

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Haze unlikely to hit Singapore next week despite Indonesia fires

Today Online 27 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — The likelihood of transboundary haze affecting the Republic is “expected to be low” for the rest of this week and next week, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Thursday (July 27), as parts of Indonesia continued to be shrouded in smoke from forest fires.

This is because “the prevailing winds over Sumatra are expected to continue to blow from the south-east or south”, it said in response to TODAY’s queries.

Six Indonesian provinces have declared states of emergency as peatlands burn and the risk of fires spreading elsewhere increased during the annual dry season.

There are currently about 180 hot spots in Indonesia — Aceh, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan provinces — but the number is significantly lower than in 2015, when haze cloaked large parts of South-east Asia.

Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reported 51 hot spots in Sumatra on Thursday, of which 37 were in Aceh province. Northern Sumatra has seven hot spots, Riau four and North and South Sumatra as well as Bengkuli and Bangka Belitung each recorded one hot spot each.

A number of schools in West Aceh district were closed as a result of the smoke, while visibility at the Meulaboh airport was reported to be about 500m, according to the Indonesian media.

Hospitals have reported an increased number of people seeking treatment for respiratory ailments.

“My throat feels scratchy and uncomfortable from breathing ... smoke has even entered my house,” housewife Yus, who like most Indonesians goes by one name, told Antara news agency. As a result, many residents have left their homes, seeking shelter with relatives.

“The smoke is so thick and it seeped into our home this morning. I decided to move to my parents home as I have a two-year-old child,” said Mr Osi, a resident in the Meulaboh district that is one of the hardest hit areas.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Twitter that forest fires are still burning in West Aceh and he suspected that it was a “deliberate act” caused by those who clear their lands by the traditional slash-and-burn method. He said the authorities have deployed helicopters to conduct water bombing to put out the fires.

Devastating dry-season fires in 2015 burnt through 2.6 million hectares and blanketed Sumatra, Borneo, Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand in health-damaging haze.

Plantation companies and villagers set the illegal fires because it is a faster and, for them, less-expensive way to clear land than by using machinery.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said on Wednesday that Indonesia has given its assurances that it is fully equipped to tackle the matter, including purchasing three helicopters that have been converted to conduct water bombing activities.

“We believed such steps can avoid the pollution problem from happening this year,” he said. AGENCIES

5 Indonesian provinces on emergency alert for forest fires amid dry season
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 27 Jul 17;

JAKARTA: Amid a growing number of hotspots in Indonesia, five provinces in Indonesia are on emergency alert for the spread of forest fires in peatlands.

In a statement on Wednesday evening (Jul 26), the country's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said the five provinces are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.

"The status will help the local governments to fight forest fires and the decision was taken after several regencies and districts in the provinces had earlier declared an emergency alert status," said BNPB's spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

Satellite images from the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space shows the number of hotspots creeping up, from 168 on Sunday to 269 on Thursday.

But two regencies in Riau province had declared themselves to be on emergency alert as far back as January to tackle any potential forest fires that could get out of control when the weather gets drier.

Earlier this month, the district of West Aceh also said it was on emergency alert when forest fires had spread over 70 ha within a week.

By setting putting themselves on emergency alert early, regions can ask for aid from the central government to tackle small fires and prevent them from growing into bigger ones.


Taking such anticipatory measures was one of the lessons learnt from the massive forest fires blanketing parts of Indonesia and its neighbouring countries with smog for months in 2015.

The environmental crisis destroyed 2.6 million hectares of peatlands and the World Bank estimated that it had caused US$16 billion in economic losses.

The Indonesian government had pledged to avoid a repeat of that disaster and has put in place mechanisms and processes to combat forest fires and transboundary haze. Indonesian President Joko Widodo had called for preventive measures, tougher law enforcement, more community involvement and better governance of private land and concessions.

Those measures appeared to have been effective as the number of hotspots went down by 83 per cent last year. Experts have said favourable weather conditions also helped.

Indonesia's neighbours have also shown appreciation for progress made in keeping forest fires and transboundary haze in check.

"Efforts to manage and prevent forest fires that have been done by the Riau provincial government have been very impressive," Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman told Indonesia's Antara news agency during his visit to Riau on Tuesday.

However, Indonesia is still grappling with the problem of intentional land burning. BNPB said majority of the forest fires were caused by culprits purposely using fire as an easy and cheap method to clear their land.

Over the past week, police in Palembang, South Sumatra have arrested two people for allegedly clearing land by burning.
Source: CNA/aa

Peatland fires destroy 69ha of land in West Aceh

Francis Chan Straits Times 28 Jul 17;

JAKARTA • Fires raging across carbon-rich peatland in Indonesia's West Aceh regency have destroyed some 69ha of land, including plots that belong to the local community and not companies, said National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho.

The thick smoke from the fires has forced some schools to close in the regency capital of Meulaboh.

Dozens of people, including children, are suffering lung infections from the haze.

"The fires were caused by people who clear their land using the traditional slash-and-burn method, so the fire spreads," said Dr Sutopo yesterday.

Satellites have in recent days detected more than 180 hot spots across Indonesia, mainly in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The number, however, was far lower than in 2015, when raging fires burning in Kalimantan and Sumatra led to a transboundary haze crisis that was not only the worst on record, but had also pushed Indonesia to the verge of a national emergency.

The choking haze led to widespread efforts by the government to prevent and suppress land and forest fires early.

This has kept the number of hot spots in Indonesia low since then, although experts have said favourable weather conditions also helped.

But Dr Sutopo said the dry land conditions and blistering weather in Riau islands have prompted firefighting task forces to intensify their patrols to prevent indiscriminate land burning.

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Malaysia: Beijing Enterprises unit invests RM2bil in Johor water solution project

The Star 27 Jul 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: China-owned water treatment company BEWG (M) Sdn Bhd (BEWG Malaysia) is undertaking a water solution project in Johor with an investment of RM2bil.

Chief executive officer and executive director Datuk Vence Ong Kian Min said the company would carry out a six-month study on a comprehensive solution to water resources in the state involving water and sewerage systems for the state government’s evaluation and proposals.

“We received the formal letters from the Johor State Executive Council a forthnight ago,” he told reporters on Thursday after the signing of a RM400mil Islamic medium-term notes issued by BEWG Malaysia.

BEWG Malaysia is also in talks with the Sarawak government as well as a few other states on solid waste sanitation projects.

“We are focusing on government and state-related projects and we are open for any private projects as well. It is still something that we want to explore but if you are looking at the scenario in Malaysia, most of the water-related projects are either government or state undertakings,” said BEWG Malaysia deputy chief executive officer and executive director Datuk Amirul Rahman Abdul Rahim.

BEWG Malaysia, which is an indirect subsidiary of Beijing Enterprises Water Group Ltd, was incorporated to undertake water treatment projects in Malaysia.

It is the first China-owned company to raise the RM400mil sukuk for a water infrastructure project.

In November 2015, the company was awarded a design-and-build contract to refurbish and upgrade water treatment and distribution facilities in Kemaman by the Terengganu government.

The proposed sukuk wakalah will part-finance the construction cost of the project, which is slated to be completed by November 2018.

“When we’d got the project in 2015, we found out there is a lot of scope that we need to look at. We redesigned some of the ratification works and is currently solving the land gazette issue.

“All the procurement is ready and we are confident of finishing it on time,” said Ong.

BEWG Malaysia chief financial officer Mustakim Mat Nun said the company was also looking at raising more funds in the capital market to finance water infrastructure projects. - Bernama

Meanwhile, BEWG, CIMB Investment Bank and Maybank Investment Bank said in a joint statement that BEWG (M) Sdn Bhd had tapped into the Malaysian sukuk market by issuing RM400mil Islamic medium term notes (sukuk wakalah) on July 19 - the first-ever ringgit denominated sukuk by a Chinese conglomerate.

The sukuk wakalah was fully subscribed at the point of launch which allowed BEWG to achieve its target funding size and meet its financing objectives. The sukuk wakalah carries a rating of AAIS (stable) by Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd.

Proceeds from the sukuk wakalah issuance will be used to partly finance the refurbishment and upgrading of the water treatment plant in Bukit Sah, Kemaman, where BEWG has been awarded the role of design and build contractor by the Terengganu State Government.

“This landmark transaction represents a number of ‘firsts’ for BEWG Malaysia and the Malaysian sukuk market. This is BEWG’s first-ever debt capital market instrument, the first ringgit denominated sukuk by a China-owned company for water infrastructure funding, and the largest ringgit denominated sukuk issuance by a China-owned company to-date.

“The issuance also enabled the Beijing Enterprises group to diversify its funding sources in Malaysia, which had so far been limited to bank loans,” BEWG Malaysia CEO Datuk Vence Ong Kian Min said in the statement.

“This water treatment project is not only important for the state of Terengganu and its people, but it also represents strong relations between China and Malaysia, in particular with the Terengganu State Government.

“The refurbished and upgraded water treatment plant will ensure reliable water supply to the Kemaman district which houses Peninsular Malaysia’s oil and gas production and refinery operations, and accounts for about 22% of the state’s 1.2 million population. This project is poised to meet the growing demand from industrial areas in Teluk Kalong and Kerteh which, in turn, will help promote the state’s long-term economic growth,” Ong said.

CIMB Investment Bank Bhd and Maybank Investment Bank Bhd are the joint principal advisers, joint lead arrangers and

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Malaysia: 1,000 fishermen upset over Penang reclamation work

AUDREY DERMAWAN New Straits Times 27 Jul 17;

GEORGE TOWN: Nearly 1,000 fishermen from Tanjung Bungah, Tanjung Tokong, Gurney and Paramount here are crying foul over their loss of livelihood as a result of ongoing reclamation works nearby.

The fishermen, who used to be able to make nearly RM3,000 a month previously, said they made only one-third the amount since the reclamation works started two years ago.

They also claimed that no help has been forthcoming from either the state government or developer of the project, except for a "saguhati" (consolation) payment in July 2015.

Their letters to the state government and developer, seeking bigger boats and engines for them to go further out to sea had fallen on deaf ears.

Mohd Shariff Abdul, 57, from the Tanjung Tokong fishing unit, said his income had been slashed by more than 60 per cent, due to the reclamation project.

"What happens when it reaches 100 per cent? By then, the waters where we used to fish will be a 'dead sea'. So, where am I going to get money to feed my wife and children?

"We are not being unreasonable. We just want the state government and developer to give us the necessary equipment to go out further to fish," he said when met today.

S. Selvaraju, 60, from the Paramount fishing unit, said the sea was no longer a healthy breeding ground for fish as it had been turned into a loading and unloading bay for the reclamation works.

He pointed out that there were also times where they were threatened by the workers.

The fishermen then sought assistance from Barisan Nasional leaders in the state after their requests were not entertained.

State Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong said the state government and the developer should not ignore the fishermen's plight.

He also urged the authorities to ensure that mitigation measures have been taken, as suggested in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report to minimise the impact on fishermen

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Malaysia: Sabah to offer more volunteerism tourism package in the name of conservation

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 27 Jul 17;

SEMPORNA: The Tourism and Culture Ministry (Motac) will be offering more volunteerism tourism packages for visitors here.

Its state director Ag Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar said such packages were trending among foreigners as most of these visitors often subscribe to the idea of holidaying with a cause, and in this case, conservation efforts.

“The package will have visitors paying to do the volunteerism work that will benefit the ecosystem. “The ministry is working closely with tour operators in developing such packages,” he said during the 1 Voluntourism End in Sipadan Bum-Bum Artificial Reef Programme at Bum Bum Island here.

The four days, three nights programme is part of the ministry’s ‘End in Sipadan’ year-long campaign to promote existing and new diving trails in the state.

Motac launched the diving campaign at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park last December and built artificial reef at Mari-Mari Sepanggar Island in April.

The final site for the campaign will be in Sipadan Island itself, known the world over as one of the world’s best dive sites.

Ahmad Zaki said although Sabah was well known for leisure dives, it was losing out to the strong competition neighbouring countries.

“The island here is a heaven for macro diving especially among underwater photographers.

“We can find a Lembeh seadragon here, which is actually a tiny seahorse as thin as a thread,” he said, adding the species were usually only found in Lembeh Island, Indonesia.

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Ivory Coast seizes record three tonnes of pangolin scales

AFP Yahoo News 28 Jul 17;

Abidjan (AFP) - Authorities in Ivory Coast have seized a record haul of three tonnes of pangolin scales worth an estimated $82,000, in what officials on Thursday called a "massacre".

Eight men of various African nationalities were apprehended overnight on Tuesday as they prepared to sell their merchandise, probably to Asia, said police captain Thimotee Gnahore of the country's transnational organised crime unit (UCT) told reporters in Abidjan.

The shy pangolin's brown scales are made of nothing more than keratin -- the same substance as fingernails -- but are highly prized in Vietnam and China where they are misleadingly touted as bearing medicinal properties.

Soaring demand for the products has seen an estimated one million pangolins plucked from Asian and African forests over the past decade, shunting them onto the list of species at the highest risk of extinction.

The total haul of three tons of pangolin scales -- contained in more than 60 large bags -- represented about 4,000 pangolins captured in Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Liberia, according to Adama Kamagate with the Eagle Network.

The American group, which helped with the Ivory Coast operation, works with 10 African governments to fight animal smuggling and corruption.

"This is a massacre," UCT commissioner Bonaventure Adomo said.

The seized scales will eventually be handed to conservation services and then destroyed, Adomo added.

According to Gnahore, the haul is estimated to be worth 45 million CFA francs (70,000 euros, $82,000) on the Ivorian market, but could fetch 100 times that amount on the Asian market, particularly in Malaysia and Thailand.

"It's a profitable trade," Gnahore said.

Trade in the world's most heavily trafficked mammal remains a major problem despite concerted efforts around the world 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.

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.

Their scales are sometimes used in the production of crystal methamphetamine, an illegal drug.

In Vietnam and China, the going rate for 1 kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of pangolin scales is more than 1,000 euros.

The creature's meat is also prized as a culinary delicacy and its body parts as an ingredient in traditional medicine in parts of Asia -- particularly China -- and Africa.

The eight men arrested, from Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Guinea, were part of a "large mafia-like network," Gnahore said, adding that the penalties for the men's crimes were too lenient.

"They face only one year in prison and a fine of 30,000 CFA francs. We really hope the law, which dates from 1960, will be reviewed quickly and hardened," Kamagate said.

According to Kamagate, Ivory Coast's pangolin population has been devastated by the trafficking, falling 50 percent in five years, and risks disappearing from the country's forests.

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