Borrow human 'books' from the library - wildlife rescue in Singapore

WONG CASANDRA Today Online 25 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE — Want to borrow a human “book” to, well, read?

This Sunday (Aug 27), visitors – or “readers” – at the Taman Jurong Community Club will be able to “borrow” books from The Human Library Singapore.

The event, which returns for a third edition, will have six “readers” take turns to listen and pose questions to a participating human book at half-hour intervals.

Among the 42 participating “books” in the Human Library event is Kalai Vanan. The 31-year-old deputy chief executive of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) hopes to educate the readers on “problems and biodiversity that we have in Singapore regarding wildlife”, what measures public can take and some of the stories they encounter on a day-to-day basis.

“As we get more urbanised, people are going to encounter more animals (in Singapore). We want to cultivate a more tolerant and compassionate society where people look at wild animals… For example, snakes are not dangerous, they are shy animals,” said Kalai.

Kalai will also share his experiences as a wildlife rescuer in Singapore. He reckoned he has rescued “thousands” of wildlife species on occasionally “exciting” and “adrenaline pumping” missions, including those native to Singapore. These include sea turtles, slow lorises, pangolins, eagles and even crocodiles.

This year’s selection at the Human Library will also include para-athlete Claire Toh, paralympian Palanisamy Avaday and PsychKick co-founder Shafiqah Nurul Afiqah Ramani.

This will be Shafiqah’s second time participating as a “book”. This time, she will be sharing her own experience battling mental health issues.

Shafiqah, 24, has had suicidal thoughts since she was nine years old. She had been the only child, but had to contend with feelings of “abandonment and resentment” when the family dynamics changed with the arrival of younger siblings.

When she was 11, she was diagnosed with ameloblastoma, a form of cancer, which compounded her feelings of self-worth as she felt guilty about spending her parents’ hard earned money for her treatment.

After she was found to be self-harming “every few hours” in the toilet, she was diagnosed with depression at 17. Her struggles did not end there.

At 22, she attempted suicide again – a fifth time – and was warded at the National University Hospital for several months. She was then diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Since then, Shafiqah has been on the road to recovery and returned to school this year. She has also teamed up with other mental health sufferers to create chat-based apps aimed at better facilitating conversations between mental health patients and their psychotherapists.

The upcoming edition of the Human Library will see 11 community partners on board, including Thye Hua Kuan, Trybe, Daughters of Tomorrow, Singapore Association for Mental Health, and Goducate.

The event’s lead organiser Kelly Ann Zainal said 90 per cent of 960 slots for the upcoming session have been filled so far and 200 readers are expected to attend.

Human Library Singapore will take place at Taman Jurong Community Club from 12pm to 6pm on Aug 27. Walk-ins are allowed but interested readers are encouraged to register their interest here:

All “unclaimed” slots are released 10mins before each reading session to walk-in visitors.

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Sustainability in today’s business world

LEE HUI MIEN Today Online 25 Aug 17;

Sustainability has long been synonymous with environmental protection, and waste management and reduction, but in recent years, the scope of what “sustainable practice” encompasses has changed drastically.

Companies can no longer claim to be sustainable by simply following the mantra of “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”.

Sustainability now requires companies to proactively incorporate green efforts into every aspect of their organisation’s operations — from day-to-day practices on the shop floor, to the production processes that drive their businesses.

One such business that has succeeded in implementing sustainable changes from end to end is outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland.

This year, Timberland partnered Thread International to release an exclusive collection that went beyond environmental sustainability.

The collaboration transformed plastic bottles from the streets of Haiti into shoes, T-shirts and bags, and created positive social value and impact in the form of cleaner neighbourhoods and meaningful jobs through the manufacturing of the products.

In the process, the brand gained the support of consumers who felt good about using products they knew were making a positive impact on someone else’s life.

Given the many environmental and organisational benefits to be reaped from sustainability, what is hindering other companies from going green?

One of the biggest challenges to the adoption of green practices is that most companies perceive sustainability and profitability as being mutually exclusive. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, organisations are often reluctant to place sustainability at the core of their business strategies because of the misconception that going green is essentially a financial liability. However, there is a need to look past the dollar value and focus on the intrinsic benefits sustainable practices have on the business.

Our future is at stake

Sustainability is not just about the environment. It is also about our health as a society and ensuring that neither people, nor the planet, suffers — whether in the long or short term — as a result of environmentally negligent practices and legislation. As one of the key drivers in the push for sustainability, businesses should incorporate thoughtful and ethical sustainability practices in their day-to-day operations.

Sustainability Cultivates brand loyalty

In recent years, people have started making brand choices based on the values of a company, rather than the products themselves. A 2015 Sustainability Imperative Report by Nielsen found that 66 per cent of consumers were willing to pay more for sustainable brands that are manufacturing products in a socially responsible manner — an increase from 55 per cent in 2014, and 50 per cent in 2013.

Sustainability fuels innovation

They say necessity is the mother of invention. When companies start to see sustainability as a must, it can start to fuel innovation.

In the search for creative solutions to drive sustainable efforts, companies often open up opportunities for innovation in other areas.

An example of this innovation is the development of the circular economy. To reduce waste and drive greater resource productivity, companies are increasingly finding ways to keep resources in use for as long as possible to extract their maximum value.

When these products come to the tail-end of their service lives, their parts are then recycled to produce wholly new products that can be recirculated to consumers.

One of the pioneering firms of the circular economy was carpet tile maker Interface.

The company was the first carpet brand in the world to offer carpet leasing, which allowed consumers to return old carpets which are then placed back into production and recycled into new products.

Last month, Ikea launched a pilot initiative providing customers with the option of exchanging their pre-loved, fully assembled furniture for Ikea vouchers.

The Furniture Take-Back Initiative collected Ikea and non-Ikea furniture, which was assessed by staff, then either given to second-hand furniture shops or taken apart and recycled in an environmentally responsible manner.

Initiatives like these help to further the green agenda by ensuring that responsibility for the chain of custody of products is shared between manufacturers and end-consumers.

At the same time, companies are encouraged to design products that enable easy reuse and recycling, and require less material to produce. Policy approaches such as Extended Producer Responsibility are also adopted by governments to ensure that businesses take ownership of the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products.

Taken in whole, these measures work together to ensure that the onus of sustainability is shared by all the stakeholders involved.

Sustainability in the years to come

Sustainability is something we simply cannot afford to neglect when our green efforts, or the lack of them, have the immense potential to change our future. Not only must sustainability become the norm, it must eventually take a permanent, non-negotiable seat in organisations’ considerations and business models.

For a start, companies can begin with small-scale implementations by improving their operational resource efficiency on the shop floor.

As sustainability starts to become a mainstay, organisations should direct their efforts towards larger-scale initiatives, such as participating in the circular economy and collaborating with other organisations to tackle complex socio-environmental issues.

For example, companies can consider tapping the expertise of non-governmental organisations to devise solutions.

Ultimately, companies must view it as an imperative to secure a sustainable future for all.


Dr Lee Hui Mien is head of sustainability at IKEA Southeast Asia. Prior to her work at the global furniture giant, she also volunteered with the National Youth Achievement Awards Council as an environmental leader and at Southwest Community Development Council as a district councillor, advising on environmental projects.

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Sunseap inks 25-year deal to supply solar power to ST Kinetics

Today Online 25 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE – Homegrown sustainable energy provider Sunseap Group said on Friday (Aug 25) it will supply solar power to ST Kinetics, the land systems and speciality vehicles arm of defence contractor ST Engineering, under a 25-year agreement.

Under the deal, Sunseap will provide solar energy to ST Kinetics’ premises at five locations through solar panels installed on rooftops. Sunseap, the first and largest solar leasing company in Singapore, did not disclose the financial details of the deal.

Sunseap’s five megawatt-peak solar photovoltaic system for ST Kinetics is expected to be ready by October. Once completed, it will be able to generate up to 6.2 Gigawatts of solar energy per year and help ST Kinetics reduce its carbon footprint by about 2,633 tons annually. This is the equivalent of planting 67,523 trees over 10 years, Sunseap said.

Mr Lawrence Wu, co-founder and director of Sunseap, said: “It is heartening to see leading companies like ST Kinetics making a long-term commitment towards renewable energy solutions. We hope their sustainability efforts will help send the message that going green is not a choice but a necessary condition for successful business.”

“Sunseap stands ready to support all companies in their drive to be environmentally friendly, and we are confident that we can offer customised solutions that are best suited to the needs of different businesses,” he added. Other major clients of Sunseap include Apple, the Housing and Development Board, Singapore American School, Singapore Cruise Centre, Jurong Port, ABB and Panasonic.

Singapore has stepped up efforts to encourage businesses to reduce greenhouse emissions and consider clean energy options. The Government announced in Budget 2017 that a carbon tax targeting large direct emitters of greenhouse gases will be implemented in 2019.

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Public feedback sought for Jurong Lake District master plan

AMANDA LEE Today Online 25 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE – From having pockets of green space and a new water channel to rolling out various car-lite initiatives, these are some of the master-plan proposals for the Jurong Lake District.

The developments in the district, slated to be the Republic’s second central business district, are expected to be completed after 2040.

Features of the draft master plan can now be seen at a public exhibition being held at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Centre Atrium till the end of this month.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who launched the exhibition on Friday (Aug 25), said the Jurong Lake District is a major project in Singapore’s new phase of infrastructure development.

“Here, we are not just building another ordinary district. We are aiming to create a better, smarter and more sustainable centre for businesses, which will provide more jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans,” he said.

With the developments in the Jurong Lake District taking between 15 and 20 years or longer, the URA aims to create 100,000 jobs and add 20,000 new homes.

The developments will begin around the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) terminus area, which will be also located within the lake district.

In his speech, Mr Wong said that the Government is studying the possibility of putting out land parcels for sale within the next few years, which will create a critical mass of developments once the HSR terminus begin operations by end-2026.

The blueprint for the Jurong Lake District was first unveiled in the 2008 URA Master Plan. It is set to be a new growth area with two precincts – the commercial hub at Jurong Gateway, and leisure and recreational activities at Lakeside.

One of the key strategies of the new area is to make it a car-lite and commuter-centric one, where public transport will be seamlessly connected. For example, in public transit areas, only buses are allowed on the road. Residents will also have access to the new Jurong Region Line and the Cross Island Line, apart from the existing North-South and East-West MRT lines.

With a target of more than 80 per cent for public transport mode share in the district, roads will be prioritised for public transport, with more space for pedestrians, cyclists and personal mobility device users.

The introduction of a new water channel by the eastern shores of the Jurong Lake will create another island, increasing the total length of waterfront space to 17km. This will provide more space for social and community activities, as well as spaces for recreation, retail and food and beverage.

There will also be a new road to the Ayer Rajah Expressway, which will be used as an alternative route to divert traffic away from roads such as Jurong Town Hall Road.

To cater to the changing needs of developers, businesses, and workers, a regular grid structure for land parcels has been adopted for the district. This means that land parcels have to be adjusted through sub-division or amalgamation, and allows for flexibility to provide large land parcels for larger floor plates, or provide smaller parcels to meet evolving business needs. The bulk of the mixed-use business area will be zoned “white” to allow for flexiblity in uses.

Landlords can either combine or co-locate non-traditional uses, such as schools, community facilities, hotels and event spaces for companies and universities to meet and showcase their prototypes, to accommodate the needs of tenants and the market, the URA said.

Sixteen hectares of new parks and opens spaces will also be added in the district. They include the Central Park above the HSR terminus and the area around the former Jurong Hall. A green connector loop may be used for various sports and recreational activities.


Together with the 90-hectare Jurong Lake Gardens, there will be over 100 ha of extensive greenery and open spaces in the district.

The Jurong Lake Gardens West, which started its development last year, is scheduled to be completed next year.

The Jurong Lake Gardens Central, where the existing Chinese and Japanese Gardens are located, will feature tropical horticultural gardens within a rustic setting. It will be completed in stages from 2020.

The seven-storey pagoda will be retained and there are plans to create spaces near it for park users to rest and enjoy nature.

Meanwhile, the existing science centre building and the Jurong Town Hall building could also be repurposed with new uses.

All new developments within the district will also feature sky-rise greenery that will form a “green carpet” in the sky.

As the Jurong Lake District will be one of the most sustainable districts, all new buildings will be required to achieve a Green Mark rating to reduce energy consumption by up to 30 per cent.

Integrated urban systems will also be implemented in the district to tap the area around the future HSR terminus. They include common services tunnel, district cooling system, pneumatic waste system and urban logistics management system.

These urban systems will be placed undergrounds wherever possible, to free up above-ground space for people-centric uses, such as homes, offices, parks, and other community facilities.

Singapore’s ‘second CBD’ could see 24-hour business operations: Analysts
AMANDA LEE Today Online 25 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE – The upcoming Jurong Lake District, which is slated to be the second central business district (CBD) here, could be more bustling than the first, said property analysts on Friday (Aug 25).

Businesses within the new district – which also includes the future Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail (HSR) terminus – could include tour agencies, dining establishments, offices, banks and businesses in information technology.

Mr Colin Tan, director of research and consultancy at Suntec Real Estate Consultants, pointed out that businesses could operate around the clock, unlike the CBD area at Raffles Place, which becomes “quite dead at night”.

He said the 24-hour operation is possible due to the lake district’s population density and catchment area, something which the Raffles Place area lacks.

Mr Tan also pointed out that there could be tour agencies to organise day-trip packages to Malaysia, as the HSR promotes tourism and dining establishments which cater to a different audience, such as budget tourists.

Mr Wong Xian Yang, head of research and consultancy at real estate firm Orange Tee, said that businesses which have headquarters in Singapore with satellite offices in Malaysia, such as those in medical or education, could also set up offices in Jurong Lake District.

“(The) HSR could enable these businesses (to) expand their research into Malaysia by providing a convenient and fast mode of transport between (the two) countries,” he added.

As the HSR terminus is the focal point in Jurong Lake District, analysts also expect office rents to increase overtime.

“If Jurong Lake District manages to position itself successfully as a credible commercial hub, I would expect office rents (and home prices) to rise in the long run,” said Mr Wong.

However, Mr Tan pointed out that whether businesses are sustainable in the long-term would depend on the HSR’s attractiveness.

“In the initial stages, I’m sure (due to the novelty)... everybody wants to take (the HSR), but at the end of the day it got to make commercial sense (and) economic sense,” he added.

Meanwhile, other initiatives to make Jurong Lake District a more attractive place include having the district adopt a regular grid structure for land parcels. By doing so, land parcels can be adjusted through sub-division or amalgamation, and allows for flexibility to provide large land parcels for larger floor plates, for example.

The bulk of the mixed-use business area will be zoned “white” to allow for flexibility in uses.

Ms Christine Li, research director of Cushman & Wakefield Singapore, said the grid structure is a right move to respond to challenges of the fast-evolving real estate industry”.

“As real estate development tends to have long ‘gestation’ periods, landlords need to be much more flexible in order to future-proof the development,” she added.

Agreeing, Mr Chris Koh, director of property firm Chris International, said that this would give the Government the flexibility to adjust the land parcel sizes and usage.

As for white zoning, Ms Li felt that this “laissez-faire approach may backfire as developers who opt to fully fill their developments with the traditional residential, office and retail components will be able to outbid those developers who incorporate non-traditional spaces”.

This is because traditional spaces “command higher rents and capital values” than non-traditional spaces, she said.

“Therefore, URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) should consider tendering the sites using a two-envelope system, or imposing a requirement that a percentage of the white space be allocated for non-traditional uses," said Ms Li.

Much of road space in Jurong Lake District to be for public transport
AMANDA LEE Today Online 26 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE — Bus-only roads and consolidated deliveries from a central warehouse are among the initiatives to be rolled out in the Jurong Lake District, to reduce traffic and make it car-lite.

The district in western Singapore is set to be re-developed into a second Central Business District, and the authorities are planning to have public transport seamlessly connecting it to the rest of Singapore, as well as for connections within the district.

Apart from the existing North-South Line and East-West Line, other MRT networks to serve the district are the new Jurong Region Line and the Cross Island Line. The upcoming Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail terminus will also be located there.

At the launch of a public exhibition on Friday (Aug 25) to gather public feedback on the district’s development, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that one of the plans is to increase the district’s public transport mode share. This refers to the number of trips that commuters make using public transport compared to the total number of trips they make (which may include commutes using private vehicles).

The target is for this share to be more than 80 per cent, which would be higher than the national figure of 66 per cent. So roads will be prioritised for use by public transport.

Within the district, an MRT station or bus stop is expected to be at least a five-minute walk, or not more than 400m, away.

Ms Yvonne Lim, group director of physical planning at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), told reporters that it has planned for an area within the district to be a public transit zone, where only buses will run.

Outside of this public transit zone, there will be at least four consolidated underground car park hubs in the district for private vehicles.

To manage traffic contributed by private transport, the URA is looking at several measures, such as cutting down on freight trips.

In particular, to prevent traffic congestion during peak hours, and to reduce the volume of freight vehicles on the roads by at least 65 per cent, the URA is working with relevant agencies to consolidate goods deliveries.

For example, an offsite consolidation centre will be located near the district. Ms Lim said that the goods can be pooled at the centre and possibly loaded onto fewer trucks.

The network of cycling and shared paths in the district will be expanded for pedestrians and users of personal mobility devices.

At the Jurong Lakeside precinct, for instance, there will be dedicated cycling paths on every street.

The 290-hectare Jurong Lakeside precinct, designated as a recreational space with parks and a waterfront promenade, is one of two precincts within the Jurong Lake District. The other is the 70-hectare Jurong Gateway, which would be a commercial hub.

Jurong Lake District to create more than 100,000 jobs, 20,000 homes
Rachel Phua Channel NewsAsia 25 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: More than 100,000 new jobs will be created and 20,000 homes built in the 360-hectare Jurong Lake District, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said on Friday (Aug 25).

The Jurong Lake District project - set to be completed after 2040 - was first announced in 2008 as part of URA's efforts to provide more job and recreational options in the heartlands.

The Government has said it plans to transform the area into Singapore's second central business district.

The new jobs will be created in sectors such as the maritime industry, with the future Tuas mega port; infrastructure development, due to the neighbouring Jurong Industrial Estate; and in the technology sector with the Nanyang Technological University and the planned Jurong Innovation District nearby, URA said.

New residential developments will also be built in this western corridor, which will be a mixed-use business district. However, the exact mix of private and public development has not yet been determined, the authority said.

The district has been divided into two precincts - Jurong Gateway, the commercial hub where redevelopment has already begun, and Lakeside, where the future Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail (HSR) terminus will be located.

To cater to the changing needs of developers and businesses, URA said it will adopt a grid structure for land parcels sold through the Government land sales programme so that it can adjust the size of land parcels put up for sale more easily.

These land parcels will be "white zoned", meaning that they can house a mix of uses under certain conditions. Developers will have more freedom to decide on the uses of each site, which could range from apartments to museums.

Speaking at the launch of an exhibition to showcase the draft master plan, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said the project will create a "better, smarter and more sustainable centre for businesses", which will provide more jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans.

The development of the district, which will take at least 15 to 20 years, will start with the area around the HSR terminus as it is expected to begin operation by end-2026, he added.


URA also announced several features to make Jurong Lake District "car-lite". For example, there will be roads solely for public transport, and every street within the Lakeside precinct will have a dedicated path for cyclists and personal mobility device users.

The bus network serving the Jurong Lake District will also be expanded, with every development no more than 400m or a five minutes' walk away from a bus stop or an MRT station.

The aim is for more than 80 per cent of all commuter trips in the district to be via public transport, higher the current islandwide average of 66 per cent, URA said.

URA also said it hopes to cut the number of freight vehicles on the roads by at least 65 per cent - it plans to develop offsite logistic centres so that companies can consolidate their goods deliveries before entering the district.


To free up ground space, more underground spaces will be used. For example, URA will build at least four "consolidated" car parks - with each development 200m to 400m from a car park instead of each building having its own car park.

These underground spaces could also be used to house energy and waste systems such as a centralised waste collection point and a district-wide cooling system, the statutory board added.

The district-wide cooling system will serve the entire area, including residential developments, unlike the network currently used at Marina Bay which only serves commercial buildings.

An integrated district management platform could also be set up so that facilities managers can tap on real-time data to diagnose and fix problems quickly, URA said.


The plans for Jurong Lake District include sprucing up 116 hectares of greenery and open spaces, including a new park above the HSR terminus, URA said.

The 90-hectare Jurong Lake Gardens is also currently being renovated and could provide activity spaces for the new Science Centre. A water channel on the east side of the lake will also be formed to provide more waterfront space for leisure and retail activities, it added.

Proposals for the Jurong Lake District were developed by a team of consultants led by Dutch design firm KCAP Architects&Planners.

URA said it hopes to finalise the details of this master plan by 2019, and hold townhall sessions and focus group discussions among both businesses and residents to gather feedback on the proposals.

Members of the public can also give their feedback at the exhibitions showcasing the draft master plan, which will take place at the URA Centre from Aug 25 to 31 and at Westgate from Sep 8 to 17.

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Malaysia: Sabah foresters monitoring heli-logging

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 26 Aug 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah foresters will be keeping a watchful eye on helicopter logging activities at Gunung Rara bordering the Maliau Basin rainforest – an area dubbed “the Lost World”.

Chief conservator of Sabah Forests Datuk Sam Mannan said Maliau Basin would be safe from logging in the 15,000ha Gunung Rara Forest Reserve.

The reserve borders Maliau Basin, the internationally renowned conservation area on the east coast of Tawau and one of the remaining untouched forests on the planet.

“Maliau Basin is safe. It is being watched every day,” he said, in an effort to allay growing concerns over the move by the state government to allow Yayasan Sabah to resume logging in the concession areas close to Maliau.

“Any usage of old roads and landings in the buffer zones with Maliau is subject to strict conditions of the Maliau Basin Management Committee, if there is such a common boundary,” he said in a statement.

Mannan said that although helicopter harvesting was expensive, the state government “wants it used as it is the best method”.

He said such an airborne system reduces ground surface damage to just 5%, compared to 70% for conventional tractor logging or 35% for reduced impact logging.

Helicopter logging involves removing cut logs by cable from the air, reducing the infrastructure and trail-cutting needed for ground transportation of timber.

“The soil surface determines the forest regeneration. With little disturbance, re-occupation for regeneration (will be) rapid,” Mannan said.

Among the conditions for logging at Gunung Rara is strict adherence to environmental impact assessment findings, he added.

He said to ensure transparency, the state government had engaged independent international firm Global Forestry Services since 2009 to audit all logging operations.

Any infringements would be detected early for rectification or punitive action, he stressed.

Mannan said all harvesting of timber beyond 250-degree slopes was done only by helicopter logging which was used successfully in Kalabakan in 2014 but stopped owing to poor markets as well Sabah’s policy of turning more forests into totally protected forests (TPA).

Residual forests that can still be logged today in this manner have been reduced to 15,000ha, while 750,000ha of Yayasan Sabah’s 1.1-million-hectare concession area have been turned into TPAs.

“Almost all the virgin forests have been locked up for posterity,” Mannan said.

Sabah Forestry Dept slams misleading video alleging massive deforestation
BRANDON JOHN New Straits Times 25 Aug 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has achieved about RM40 million in revenue from crude palm oil (CPO) sales taxes and fresh fruit bunches (FFB) forest royalties last year.

Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) director Datuk Sam Mannan expects the figure to increase to RM100 million in the next five years.

He added those figures were an indication of the importance of oil palm plantations for the state’s economy and why the controversy surrounding them is unfair.

“Recently, a video clip has circulated, alleging massive deforestation and conversion (of the forest) to oil palm (plantations) in the Kalabakan-Gunong Rara Forest Reserve area.

“This video is misleading as it does not tell the whole story.

“In fact, the oil palm plantations in question are actually part of an agreement made between Yayasan Sabah, SFD, and the state government to address concerns regarding unsustainable logging,” he said.

The 2004 agreement saw Yayasan Sabah returning most of its forest concession areas, which were reserved for logging purposes, back for conservation and restoration.

“Over 684,842.75 hectares (65 per cent) of Yayasan’s concession areas have been converted to totally protected areas (TPAs) for conservation.

“If the earlier areas annexed for conservation over the years are taken into account, Yayasan Group would have sacrificed not less than 884,000 hectares for TPAs since the 1980s.

“With this level of unmatched sacrifice, Yayasan must find an alternative income to make up for the loss (of profits) and thus, the option with oil palm,” Sam added.

As part of the agreement, a portion of the logged areas were turned into oil palm plantations, while still maintaining their forest reservation status – a possible source of confusion for locals who falsely believe that the reserves are being destroyed for oil palm trees.

He added the forestry department decided that these plantations should still be considered forest reserves on the basis that after 30 years or so, the oil palm trees will be removed and the land be reforested.

While conceding that planting oil palm trees in a forest reserve may be a controversial use of the land, Mannan claims that the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

As mentioned earlier, the pragmatic decision has so far led to financial profit, covering Yayasan’s losses.

Furthermore, having the oil palm plantations as an alternate source of income has effectively reduced the government’s dependency on forest revenue, resulting in dramatically reduced logging and thus, better preserved forests.

“(In other words), an economic alternative has helped to support conservation.

“Nearly 900,000 hectares (of forests sacrificed for conservation purposes) is a global phenomenon, not known anywhere else in this country,” Sam said, adding Sabah’s massive forest reserves are also a hotspot for scientific expeditions, such as the UK Royal Society’s SAFE Project in 2011.

He added while the oil palm plantations may represent an eventual forest loss of 2.5 per cent for Sabah, they will ultimately aid in promoting the creation of 30 per cent of conservation or more.

“The allegation of wanton forest destruction is therefore malicious, reckless and will do harm to Sabah’s best efforts to have balanced development,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Sam also took the opportunity to address issues that were brought up regarding Yayasan’s helicopter logging, or ‘heli-logging’ operations in the Tawau region.

Parti Warisan Sabah vice-president Junz Wong had raised several points of contention with the practice.

Notably, Wong claimed that one of the contractors was given a highly lucrative deal where they were only required to pay RM65 per cubic metre, and that helicopter logging could result in environmental damages.

In response, Sam said that price was negotiated at a time when timber prices were not as good as they are today.

It is believed that the rates will be reviewed by Yayasan after the contractors have finished harvesting.

On the topic of environmental damage, Sam said that operations in the area are under strict conditions to reduce any damage and ensure improved forest regeneration.

“Maliau Basin (the forest reserve in question) is safe. It is being watched every day.”

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Endangered sharks, rays further threatened by global food markets

Using DNA barcoding technology, University of Guelph researchers discover a majority of the shark fins and manta gills sold around the world are from endangered species.
University of Guelph ScienceDaily 25 Aug 17;

A majority of shark fins and manta ray gills sold around the globe for traditional medicines come from endangered species, a University of Guelph study has revealed.

Using cutting-edge DNA barcoding technology, researchers found 71 per cent of dried fins and gills collected from markets and stores came from species listed as at-risk and therefore banned from international trade.

"Despite the controversy around shark fin soup and the fact that many of these species are threatened there is still a large market for shark fins and a growing demand for ray gill plates," said Dirk Steinke, integrative biology professor and member of the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics. "It's an area that until now has been hard to enforce because shark fins are dried and processed before they are sold making it difficult to identify the species."

Shark finning, or removing fins from live sharks, is illegal in Canada. Importing shark fins for sale is also illegal for species at-risk.

Published in Scientific Reports, the study was conducted with researchers from the Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save Our Seas Shark Research Centre at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Researchers collected 129 market samples in Canada, China and Sri Lanka representing 20 shark and ray species. Twelve of those species, including whale sharks, are listed as protected and illegal to trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

"We were surprised to find whale shark fins and gills were being sold," said Steinke. "This magnificent animal has been on the CITES Appendices since 2003."

Developed at U of G, DNA barcoding allows scientists to identify species of organisms using genetic material.

"DNA barcoding is an ideal tool when identifying dried samples or samples that have been processed," said Steinke. "It provides enforcement agencies with a method for detecting whether the fins and gills that are being sold are legal or illegal imported species."

About half of the world's 1,200 species of sharks and rays are listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature including 20 that may not be traded internationally.

"This study has shown that DNA barcoding can be a method to help prevent protected species from hitting the market."

Journal Reference:

Dirk Steinke, Andrea M. Bernard, Rebekah L. Horn, Paul Hilton, Robert Hanner, Mahmood S. Shivji. DNA analysis of traded shark fins and mobulid gill plates reveals a high proportion of species of conservation concern. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-10123-5

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