Best of our wild blogs: 14 Sep 17

Communities struggle to save Sabah’s shrinking mangroves

Read more!

Man fined S$6,600 for keeping star tortoises, hedgehog

Channel NewsAsia 13 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE: A man was fined S$6,600 on Wednesday (Sep 13) for keeping two Indian star tortoises and a hedgehog, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said.

Lim Kok Huat, 33, had meant to sell the animals.

In a media release, AVA said it received a tip-off on Feb 28 that an individual was selling illegal wildlife online and conducted a sting operation on Mar 8.

The tortoises and hedgehog were seized and placed under the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

The keeping or selling of wild animals is not allowed in Singapore as the demand for such creatures would "fuel illegal wildlife trade", said AVA, adding that the animals may also pose a public safety risk if they are mishandled or if they transmit diseases to humans.

Releasing non-native wild animals may also threaten biodiversity, the agency said.

The Indian star tortoise is a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna or Flora (CITES).

Those convicted of illegally importing or exporting, possessing and selling CITES-protected species can be fined up to S$500,000, jailed two years or both.

It is also an offence to keep or sell wild animals not protected by CITES, such as hedgehogs. Offenders can be fined up to S$1,000.
Source: CNA/hs

Man fined for possessing and selling illegal wildlife
ASYRAF KAMIL Today Online 13 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE – A 33-year-old man has been fined S$6,600 for the possession and keeping of illegal wildlife, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) Wednesday (Sept 13).

Lim Kok Huat was found to have kept two Indian star tortoises and a hedgehog, which were meant for sale online. The AVA said they had received a tip-off that an individual was selling illegal wildlife and had worked to monitor his activities with their informant.

During their investigations, the AVA found that Lim had use plastic containers to transport the star tortoises and hedgehog.

A sting operation was then conducted on 8 March 2017.

In a media release, the AVA said that the keeping and selling of wild animals, such as tortoises and hedgehogs, are not allowed in Singapore and that demand for such wildlife would fuel illegal wildlife trade.

“Wild animals are not suitable pets as they may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans and can be a public safety risk if mishandled or if they escape into our dense urban environment. In addition, wild animals that are non-native to Singapore may also be a threat to our biodiversity if released into the environment,” the AVA said.

According to the AVA, it is an offence to illegally import and export, possess, sell, offer and advertise for sale or display to public any illegal wildlife species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) of Wild Fauna or Flora, including the online sales of such wildlife species.

The Indian star tortoise is protected under Cites but the hedgehog, while classified as an illegal wildlife, is not protected under the law.

For possessing the star tortoises, Lim could have been fined up to S$500,000 and/or two years’ jail, while he could have been liable to a fine of not exceeding S$1,000 for the possession of the hedgehog.

The AVA said that while they continue to ensure measures against illegal trading of wildlife is enforced, members of the public could play their part to report suspected cases of illegal animals being smuggled or offered for sale in Singapore.

Those with information on illegal wildlife activities may contact the AVA at 6805 2992 to make a report.

Read more!

Indonesia: Hotspots detected across Sumatra Island

Antara 14 Sep 17;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Terra and Aqua Satellites have detected 27 hotspots across Sumatra Island, according to the Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

"The hotspots, having a trust level above 50 percent, were detected in seven province in Sumatra," Slamet Riyadi, head of the data and information section of the Pekanbaru climatology office, stated here on Wednesday.

Of the total 27 hotspots, 14 were found in South Sumatra, five in West Sumatra, three in Bangka Belitung, two in Jambi, and one each in North Sumatra, Bengkulu, and Riau Provinces.

In Riau, the hotspot was found in Rupat Sub-district, Bengkalis District.

According to the Riau disaster mitigation office (BPBD), Riau is experiencing a transition from dry to rainy season.

The number of hotspot tended to decrease during Sept.

The Riau BPBD is vigilant of possible forest fires in accordance with the emergency status of forest fire that has been declared by the Riau provincial government since early this year until Nov 2017.

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

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

In 2015, Indonesia was hit hard by forest and plantation fires that had affected 2,089 million hectares of area and inflicted financial losses worth Rp220 trillion.

The wildfires in 2015 affected commercial flights, offices, businesses, schools, and public health.

Some 504 thousand people suffered from respiratory ailments, and flora and fauna habitats were damaged, as 2.6 million hectares of forest areas were gutted by wildfires.

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.(*)

Read more!

Walruses in Alaska may have died in stampede

DAN JOLING AP Yahoo News 14 Sep 17;

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Thousands of Pacific walrus are coming to Alaska's northwest shore again in the absence of summer sea ice and not all are surviving.

A survey Monday of a mile of coastline near the Inupiaq Eskimo village of Point Lay found 64 dead walruses, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told The Associated Press.

Most of the animals were younger than a year old. The cause of death is not known, said agency spokeswoman Andrea Medeiros, but stampedes — set off when startled walruses rush to the sea, crushing smaller animals — are a likely suspect.

"Our thinking is, because of the age of the animals — they were young animals — it's likely that it was caused by a stampede, probably more likely than disease, given the age class," Medeiros said.

A polar bear, hunter, airplane or boat can cause a stampede. Alaska Native residents of Point Lay, who may legally hunt walrus for food, expressed concern after seeing an airplane flying near the herd and possibly circling.

"That certainly is a concern," Medeiros said. "That's not what we want people to be doing."

Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines instruct pilots of single-engine planes to stay at least a half-mile away from walruses on land or ice, and if closer, to fly above 2,000 feet (610 meters).

The guidelines call for helicopters and multi-engine aircraft to stay a mile away, or if closer, above 3,000 feet (915 meters). The agency warns that it is only guidance but creating a disturbance is a violation of federal law.

Several hundred walruses came ashore near Point Lay on Aug. 3, the earliest recorded appearance of a herd in a phenomenon tied to climate warming and diminished Arctic Ocean sea ice.

A week later, the number had grown to 2,000. In the past month, 30,000 to 40,000 walruses at times have crowded the beach, Medeiros said.

Walrus dive hundreds of feet to eat clams on the ocean bottom, but unlike seals, they cannot swim indefinitely. Historically, sea ice has provided a platform for rest and safety far from predators for mothers and calves north of the Bering Strait.

However, sea ice has receded much farther north in recent years because of global warming, beyond the shallow continental shelf, over water more than 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) deep. That's far too deep for walruses to reach the ocean bottom.

Instead of staying on sea ice over the deep water, walruses have gathered on shore to rest.

Calves born earlier this year are especially vulnerable when shoulder to shoulder with mature females that weigh more than a ton.

Residents of Point Lay reported three to five dead walruses in early August. A community member who works with the Fish and Wildlife Service counted 64 dead walruses Monday and tagged them so they would not be counted in a later survey.

The agency hopes to send a veterinarian to determine the cause of the deaths. No one has witnessed a stampede.

"Depending on when the last time he did his survey, it may be an accumulation over several weeks," Medeiros said.

Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity, who wrote the 2008 petition to list walruses as threatened or endangered species, said the Fish and Wildlife Service should review guidelines for protecting walruses.

"These animals are suffering a great deal of stress from climate change, and when they're pushed ashore, they should get very strong protections from disturbances," she said.

The ultimate threat to walruses is the rapid loss of sea ice due to climate disruption, she said, adding that rollbacks of climate change protections by the Trump administration will further endanger the animals.

Ice in the Chukchi Sea has not reached its minimum for 2017. Walruses likely will keep coming ashore until ice starts to re-form with the onset of winter, Fish and Wildlife said.

Read more!

Chocolate industry driving deforestation of Ivory Coast: report

AFP Yahoo News 14 Sep 17;

Abidjan (AFP) - The chocolate industry is indirectly driving massive and illegal deforestation in Ivory Coast, fuelling a catastrophic decline in wildlife, a green group said Wednesday.

"In several national parks and other protected areas, 90 percent or more of the land mass has been converted to cocoa," the group Mighty Earth said in its investigation.

"Less than four percent of Ivory Coast remains densely forested," it said. "The chocolate companies’ laissez-faire approach to sourcing has driven extensive deforestation in Ghana as well."

Habitat loss has been disastrous for protected species, ranging from chimpanzees and leopards to pygmy hippos and elephants, it said.

The animals are forced into ever-smaller areas, making it easier for them to be tracked down and slaughtered by poachers.

In Ivory Coast, the world's biggest cocoa producer, accounting for 40 percent of world output, "deforestation has pushed chimpanzees into just a few small pockets, and reduced the country’s elephant population from several hundred thousand to about 200-400," the report said.

It said major chocolate brands were indirectly involved in a "shocking" trade, in which growers produced cocoa in national parks, who sold it to middle men, who then sold it on to a handful of firms that control roughly half of the world's market.

From there, it was sold to big chocolate companies.

"According to our analysis, 291,254 acres (117,900 hectares) of protected areas were cleared between 2001 and 2014," Mighty Earth said.

Over the same period, Ghana, another big West African producer, lost 7,000 square kilometers (2,700 square miles) of forest, or about 10 percent of its entire tree cover.

Around a quarter of that deforestation in Ghana was connected to the chocolate industry, the report charged.

Traders Cargill, Olam and Barry Callebaut, which are named in the report, say on their websites that they are aware of the problem of deforestation in the cocoa sector, and have set up to programmes for deforestation-free supply chains.

Leading chocolate and cocoa companies, under an initiative launched by Britain's Prince Charles, have promised to come up with a "framework of action" to end deforestation in the industry.

Their project is due to be unveiled for the world climate conference in Bonn in November. Deforestation is not only destroys habitat, but is also a major contribution to global warming.

The world demand for chocolate stands at around three million tonnes annually, a figure that rises between two and five percent each year, in a market worth around $100 billion (84 billion), according to the report.

Most of it is is manufactured and consumed in Europe and North America.

Read more!