Best of our wild blogs: 2 Aug 17

Internships for our shores (Aug 2017 to Mar 2019)
Singapore Celebrates our Shores 2018

Jam-packed June and July at the Sisters' Islands Marine Park
Sisters' Island Marine Park

Join our People's Expedition to Experience Peat in September
People's Movement to Stop Haze

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Singapore unlikely to be affected by transboundary haze: NEA

Felicia Choo Straits Times 1 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - People in Singapore can breathe easy for the time being, as the haze from Indonesia has a low likelihood of affecting the country, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

In response to queries from The Straits Times, NEA said on Tuesday (Aug 1): "For this week, the prevailing winds over Sumatra are expected to continue to blow from the south-east or south. The likelihood of transboundary haze affecting Singapore is thus expected to be low."

The number of satellite-detected hot spots across Indonesia also fell slightly to 214 on Monday (July 31), according to Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency.

There were 239 hot spots the day before, caused by forest fires which were located mostly in the western regions of Aceh and Kalimantan.

To combat the spread of haze and prevent a repeat of the 2015 regional haze crisis, more than 21 billion litres of water have been dropped by aerial firefighters over fires in Riau since January, covering more than 549ha of land.

NEA said there have been occasional instances of increased hot-spot activities in Sumatra and western Kalimantan since the start of the traditional dry season in June.

"Based on the NOAA19 satellite, the highest increase was in the last few days of July, when up to 29 and 33 hot spots were detected respectively in Sumatra and Kalimantan," it said.

On Tuesday (Aug 1), the Meteorological Service Singapore said in a statement that prevailing South-west monsoon conditions are expected to persist in the first two weeks of August, with higher rainfall and low-level winds forecast to blow from the south-east or south-west.

However, while showers are expected on most days, “a few warm days with daily maximum temperatures reaching as high as 34 deg C can still be expected”, it added.

Many Indonesian forest fires detected as dry season approaches
Today Online 2 Aug 17;

JAKARTA — Indonesian satellites are detecting hundreds of hotspots from forest and land fires as dry season approaches, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said Tuesday (Aug 1).

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said satellites of the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space detected 176 hotspots on July 27, 277 on July 28, 238 on July 29, and 239 on July 30, mostly in the provinces of West Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara and Aceh.

“During the past four days, forest and land fires in West Kalimantan have spread to several areas with 126 hotspots being detected Sunday morning,” Mr Sutopo said.

Efforts to extinguish the fires continue with four water bombing helicopters deployed, while police, military personnel and local people battle the blazes on the ground.

“The main obstacles in extinguishing the fires are the huge area to take care of, difficult access to the site, limited water sources, dry weather and the lack of public awareness not to do illegal slash-and-burn practices,” Mr Sutopo said.

The peak of the dry season is predicted to arrive in September, raising worries that the number of hotspots will increase.

Since January, the government has declared emergencies in five provinces — Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra all on the island of Sumatra, and West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.

Forest and land fires have become an annual problem in Indonesia, particularly between April and October.

In 2015, the worst forest fires in 20 years occurred because of the El Nino weather phenomenon. Fires that year burned 2.6 million hectares of land, caused US$16 billion (S$21.74 billion) in damage, and exposed millions of people in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia and Singapore, to toxic haze. KYODO NEWS

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Sustainability means doing the right thing for the environment 'even when no one is looking': Masagos

Jose Hong Straits Times 1 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - If people are not fined when they litter, and businesses do not get incentives to adopt green practices, will the environment suffer?

The real test for a sustainable Singapore, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, will be "whether we will do the right thing for the environment, even when no one is looking and there is no regulation".

Mr Masagos was speaking at an inaugural forum on Tuesday (Aug 1) that brought together 300 representatives from the voluntary, academic, government and private sectors to discuss environmental collaboration.

The Partners for the Environment forum, held at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre, is organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and online news publication Eco-Business.

While participants did not go so far as saying that green practices would flourish without any support or regulations, they did agree that Singapore has come a long way in such efforts.

Property giant City Developments' (CDL) chief sustainability officer Esther An said that Singapore now has enough environmental regulation.

"Now the devil is in the implementation, and in taking action to do it."

She told The Straits Times that the firm began its conservation drive in 1995, even before initiatives such as the Building and Construction Authority's (BCA) Green Mark scheme or the United Nations' (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.

BCA launched its scheme in 2005 while the UN launched the goals in 2015.

Ms An said that CDL's vision of "conserve as we construct" began under the late deputy chairman Kwek Leng Joo, who was addressing the construction industry's negative impact on the environment.

The current vision of "building value for tomorrow, today" has the same foundation, she said.

Participants also emphasised that solving environmental problems, with all its legal, business and social implications, is not a task that can be handled by individual sectors.

Only collaboration between different fields of society would effectively tackle issues such as climate change and pollution.

Individuals can also play their part.

As customers, they can help drive change in business, vice-president of global carpet-making firm Interface Erin Meezan pointed out.

Ms Meezan, who is also the firm's chief sustainability officer, added that with customers demanding more green products and being willing to pay more for them, businesses would adapt. She was speaking about the positive role that businesses play in pushing for environmental change.

Chief executive of non-governmental organisation (NGO) World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore, Ms Elaine Tan, told The Straits Times that the event was the largest forum she had attended involving players from the private, public, academic and voluntary sectors.

"Ten years ago you would never see the NGOs being invited to these things."

She added that the NGOs present agreed that the voluntary sector was fragmented, and that they needed to come together before more concrete action could be taken. "They need to find collaborative and synergistic ideas to work together."

Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said that while she was pleasantly surprised by the day's turnout, "beyond this there are many, many more companies we need to reach out to".

Eco-Business editor Jessica Cheam said that the forum aimed to inform government policy, and that the results of the day's discussions will be compiled into a report that will be released in the next few weeks.

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Malaysia: Second dead finless porpoise washes up at beach in a month

Borneo Post 1 Aug 2017;

The carcass of the finless porpoise at Tanjong Lobang beach.

MIRI: A dead finless porpoise was found washed ashore at Tanjong Lobang beach around 5pm on Sunday.

The discovery of the mammal was made by a member of the public.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) branch chairperson Iqbal Abdollah rushed to the scene after he was informed of the matter.

Iqbal, in a statement yesterday, said the female mammal, measuring about 110cm, was believed to have had its tail cut off by fishermen.

“Its tail was cut when it was entangled in the fishermen’s fishing nets. Its side fins also suggests that the mammal was trapped in a net.

“The carcass of the porpoise looked fresh, therefore I believe that the cause of death was drowning during the entanglement and cutting of the tail,” he said.

Earlier this month, a dead finless porpoise was also found washed ashore near Beach Republic.

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Bangladesh: Sundarbans wildlife sanctuary doubles in size

Hedait Hossain Molla Dhaka Tribune 30 Jul 17;

The government protection now extends to 52% of the Sundarbans

The government issued a gazette stating that the protected zones in the Sundarbans have been increased from 23% to 52%.

On Sunday, Environment and Forest Secretary Ishtiaque Ahmed issued a gazette declaring the government decree.

The expansion will add 12 forest compartments spanning over 1,78,250.584 hectares to the existing 1,39,699.496 hectares in 10 compartments. In total, the protected zone now covers 3,17,950 hectares out of 6,01,700 hectares of the Sundarbans.

Khulna Forest Conservator Amir Hossain Chowdhury, who is also the director of the Tiger Monitoring Survey project, said: “This new expansion will help the tiger population grow. It will also protect the biodiversity of the forest.”

Sundarbans (West) Forest officer Md Bashirul Al Mamun said the administration will take steps to ensure animals can roam freely in the sanctuary.
“We are going to strictly restrict all natural resource collecting activity in the area. Local residents and those who depend on the forest resources will be notified immediately,” the forest officer said.

Bangladesh doubles wildlife sanctuary to save its tigers
The Star 1 Aug 17;

DHAKA: Bangladesh has more than doubled the size of the wildlife sanctuary in the world’s largest mangrove forest to try to protect endangered Bengal tigers whose numbers have fallen sharply, officials said Tuesday.

More than half, or 52 percent, of the 6,017 square kilometre (2,325 square mile) Sundarbans -- one of the largest habitats of the tigers -- has been declared a sanctuary this week, said the government’s chief forest conservator Shafiul Alam.

The Sundarbans, which also straddles parts of eastern India, is home to some rare animals including the Irrawaddy dolphins and the Bengal tigers, both declared endangered because of poaching and a loss of their habitat.

Previously the wildlife sanctuary was limited to 23 percent of the forest cover, and villagers and tourists had unrestricted access to the rest of the mangrove forest.

A 2015 survey found a dramatic decline in the numbers of the Bengal tiger -- 106 tigers, down from 440 during a 2004 count.

Monirul Khan, a tiger expert and zoology professor at Jahangirnagar University, said the decision would “surely help” increase the number of wild cats.

“This is a law. We appreciate it. If it’s enforced effectively, I’m hopeful it will help the animals, especially the tigers, to grow in numbers,” Khan said.

Amir Hossain, head of the government’s Tiger Monitoring Project, said the expanded sanctuary “will be a safe roaming and breeding haven for the tigers”.

“People’s movement in the extended sanctuary will be restricted,” he said. The nearly 350,000 locals who depend on the Sundarbans to collect fish, honey and logs will not be allowed to enter it, he said.

Despite this expansion, the wildlife and the delicate ecosystem of the Sundarbans still face an existential crisis from a controversial power plant at the edge of the forest which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is moving ahead with, experts said.

A UN agency last October asked the government to halt construction of the 1,320-megawatt power plant, saying there was a high chance that pollution from it would “irreversibly damage” the Sundarbans.

“The government should rethink about the power plant as the extension of the sanctuary alone won’t make much difference for the tigers and other Sundarbans animals,” Khan said. -AFP

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Meat industry blamed for largest-ever 'dead zone' in Gulf of Mexico

A new report shows toxins from suppliers to companies like Tyson Foods are pouring into waterways, causing marine life to leave or die
Oliver Milman The Guardian 1 Aug 17;

The global meat industry, already implicated in driving global warming and deforestation, has now been blamed for fueling what is expected to be the worst “dead zone” on record in the Gulf of Mexico.

Toxins from manure and fertiliser pouring into waterways are exacerbating huge, harmful algal blooms that create oxygen-deprived stretches of the gulf, the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, according to a new report by Mighty, an environmental group chaired by former congressman Henry Waxman.

It is expected that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) will this week announce the largest ever recorded dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to be larger than the nearly 8,200 square-mile area that was forecast for July – an expanse of water roughly the size of New Jersey.

Nutrients flowing into streams, rivers and the ocean from agriculture and wastewater stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then decomposes. This results in hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, in the water, causing marine life either to flee or to die.

Some creatures, such as shrimp, suffer stunted growth. Algal blooms themselves can cause problems, as in Florida last summer when several beaches were closed after they became coated in foul-smelling green slime.

America’s vast appetite for meat is driving much of this harmful pollution, according to Mighty, which blamed a small number of businesses for practices that are “contaminating our water and destroying our landscape” in the heart of the country.

“This problem is worsening and worsening and regulation isn’t reducing the scope of this pollution,” said Lucia von Reusner, campaign director at Mighty. “These companies’ practices need to be far more sustainable. And a reduction in meat consumption is absolutely necessary to reduce the environmental burden.”

The Mighty report analyzed supply chains of agribusiness and pollution trends and found that a “highly industrialized and centralized factory farm system” was resulting in vast tracts of native grassland in the midwest being converted into soy and corn to feed livestock. Stripped soils can wash away in the rain, bringing fertilisers into waterways.

Arkansas-based Tyson Foods is identified by the report as a “dominant” influence in the pollution, due to its market strength in chicken, beef and pork. Tyson, which supplies the likes of McDonald’s and Walmart, slaughters 35m chickens and 125,000 head of cattle every week, requiring five million acres of corn a year for feed, according to the report.

This consumption resulted in Tyson generating 55m tons of manure last year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with 104m tons of pollutants dumped into waterways over the past decade. The Mighty research found that the highest levels of nitrate contamination correlate with clusters of facilities operated by Tyson and Smithfield, another meat supplier.

This pollution has also been linked to drinking water contamination. Last week, a report by Environmental Working Group found that in 2015 water systems serving seven million Americans in 48 states contained high levels of nitrates. Consuming nitrates has been linked to an increased risk of contracting certain cancers.

“Large parts of America are being plowed up for corn and soy to raise meat,” said von Reusner. “There is very little regulation so we can’t wait for that.

“The corporate agriculture sector has shown it is responsive to consumer concerns about meat production so we hope that the largest meat companies will meet expectations on this.”

The report urges Tyson and other firms to use their clout in the supply chain to ensure that grain producers such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland employ practices that reduce pollution flowing into waterways. These practices include not leaving soil uncovered by crops and being more efficient with fertilizers so plants are not doused in too many chemicals.

The US is an enormous consumer of meat, with the average American chewing through 211lbs in 2015. A study released earlier this year found that US beef consumption fell by nearly one fifth from 2005 to 2014, possibly due to concerns over health or the environment. A new increase is now expected.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, beef and pork production is forecast to grow significantly over the next decade, driven by lower feed costs and healthy demand. By 2025, the average American is expected to eat 219lbs of meat a year. Just 3% of Americans follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

This voracious appetite for meat has driven the loss of native forests and grasslands in the US and abroad, releasing heat-trapping gases through deforestation and agricultural practices. Agriculture produced 9% of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, according to the EPA.

A spokesman for Cargill said the company was an “industry leader” for sustainable practices, pointing to its efforts with environment groups to address air, water and soil quality in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.

“Protein consumption is growing globally and we are working to meet increased consumer demand with sustainably and responsibly produced foods and supply chains,” said the spokesman. “We are dedicated to protecting animal welfare, reducing environmental impact, increasing transparency and keeping workers and consumers safe.

“We also continue to improve livestock feed efficiency. Over the last 15 years we have seen an overall trend in reducing the volume of feed for each pound of beef produced.”

A Tyson spokeswoman said “we don’t agree with the group’s characterization of our company but share its interest in protecting the environment.”

“It’s true the livestock and poultry industry is a major buyer of grain for feed, however, the report fails to note that a large percentage of corn raised in the US is used for biofuel and that a significant portion is used for human consumption,” she added.

“Tyson Foods is focused on continuous improvement. We are constantly looking to improve and lead the industry, so that we can deliver sustainable food to people every day at a scale that matters to the world.”

Archer Daniels Midland were also contacted for comment prior to publication.

This article was amended on 1 August 2017 to clarify a previous version of the standfirst that incorrectly identified the source of the toxins.

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