Best of our wild blogs: 5 Oct 17

Knock, knock – Who’s there living on the sea urchins?
Mei Lin NEO

Singapore Bird Report-September 2017
Singapore Bird Group

Seminar: Convention of Biological Diversity in Singapore’s Context – Fri Oct 6 @NUS

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NEA and Spring Singapore seek proposals for systems to monitor pollution

Jose Hong Straits Times 4 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE - Pollution monitoring systems in Singapore are set to be given a boost.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) with Spring Singapore on Wednesday (Oct 4) jointly launched a search for proposals to tackle two issues.

First, they want to develop remote, real-time and cheap sensing systems to monitor the output of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter (PM) emissions from diesel vehicles.

Second, they want to be able to monitor and trace odours that are generated through industrial activity.

Singaporean firms, institutes of higher learning and research institutes are eligible to submit their proposals, with details coming online soon on the NEA website.

This comes under the Gov-Pact initiative, which stands for Enhanced Partnerships for Capability Transformation to drive Government Lead Demand.

The announcement came during the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore Catalyst 2017, held at One Farrer Hotel and Spa.

Opening the event was Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who spoke about the need to push for "Industry 4.0" - a "fourth industry revolution" which features the innovative integration of data analytics, automation, manufacturing and products.

Underpinning Industry 4.0, he said, was the pursuit of the circular economy, premised on continuously regenerating and recycling the materials that we use, to reduce waste production and ensure sustainability.

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3 billion plastic bags a year? Cut use with mandatory tax

Supermarkets are discussing a plastic bag surcharge. But they fear losing customers if they do so. More political will is needed to carry this measure through.
Audrey Tan Straits Times 5 Oct 17;

During a recent trip to the supermarket, I bought a bottle of wine, a pack of chips, some cup noodles and boxes of tissue paper.

The bill came up to $30, and the items were placed in three plastic bags. Even the tissue paper, which has its own plastic packaging with a handle, got its own bag.

The bags could have come in handy for when I had to bag wet trash, such as food waste, at home. But as it turned out, by separating recyclables such as plastic egg trays from the rest of the waste, just one bag had to go down the chute.

So into the cabinet went the rest of the bags, joining the veritable mountain of plastic bags that had accumulated over the past few grocery-shopping trips.

Plastic bags are undeniably useful: People use them for bagging waste, carrying wet umbrellas, or for holding sweaty clothes after a session at the gym.

But do we really need so many of them? Singapore used about three billion plastic bags in 2011, according the Singapore Environment Council (SEC). This number is likely to have risen as the population increased.

A plastic bag tax could be one way to reduce their number.

Last month, The Sunday Times reported that Singapore's four main supermarket chains - FairPrice, Dairy Farm Group, Prime Supermarket and Sheng Siong - are discussing plans to impose a surcharge for plastic bags of five to 10 cents.

The discussions came about after a green group, Zero Waste Singapore, called on the Government and businesses last year to introduce a levy on the use of plastic bags as a disincentive to shoppers who use them.


Why so much fuss over the humble plastic bag? The short answer is that they are toxic to the environment.

First, plastic bags, unlike paper bags, are made from non-renewable sources, such as crude oil. To manufacture the three billion plastic bags Singapore used in 2011, about 37 million kg of crude oil and 12 million kg of natural gas were required, said SEC.

Many households here reuse plastic bags to bag their trash. But no studies have yet determined what proportion of the three billion bags used here a year are reused.

Second, very little plastic is recycled here. Even though some 822,200 tonnes of plastic waste were generated last year, only 7 per cent was recycled. Of the 762,700 tonnes of remaining plastic waste, plastic bags constituted about a fifth of it, said the National Environment Agency (NEA). Non-recycled plastic bags, whether biodegradable or not, are all incinerated.

Third, the burning of plastic produces a residual ash. Excessive use of plastic bags could also clog up Singapore's only landfill, on Pulau Semakau. Ash residue from incineration is sent to the landfill, which is filling up at a rapid rate and may become full as early as 2035, a decade earlier than projected.

Fourth, plastic bags that end up as litter could also clog up Singapore's waterways and streets, and pose a danger to wildlife that may ingest it.

A surcharge is a tried-and-tested way of curbing excessive use of plastic bags. In October 2015, shoppers in Britain had to pay five pence (about nine Singapore cents) for each single-use plastic bag received. It resulted in the number of bags used by shoppers dropping by more than 85 per cent, reported The Guardian.

In Singapore, Japanese lifestyle brand Miniso said usage dropped 75 per cent after it imposed a 10 cent charge per plastic bag in April.

The possibility of a plastic bag tax being implemented in Singapore has sparked intense debate.


A Straits Times online poll had more than 75 per cent of over 4,700 respondents supporting a plastic bag tax. But many others spoke out vehemently against it on social media.

Plastic bags should be given out for free, detractors say, for two main reasons: The bags are needed for bagging trash; and the lower-income group may be adversely affected by such a tax.

If the bags are not given out for free, people may simply throw pollutive food waste directly into the common chute, turning it into a hot spot for cockroaches and other pests, they claim.

But as Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, points out, a plastic bag tax is not a plastic bag ban. People would still be able to get bags for their trash. He said: "Many people forget that the first step of the 3Rs is to reduce... If people are charged for plastic bags, they may try to reduce the number of bags they get at the counter."

Hong Kong, for instance, has a plastic bag levy. But not all bags are chargeable. Customers there pay 50 cents (nine Singapore cents) for every single-use plastic bag they take, unless the products they buy come under a list of exemptions set out by the Environmental Protection Department.

Plastic bags are given free if they are used for food hygiene reasons, such as when shoppers purchase fresh produce like vegetables and seafood; if they come as part of a product's packaging ; or if they are provided with the services, such as bags provided by laundromats.

"If Singapore follows this example, people will still have access to some plastic bags without having to pay for more at the cashier. They can reuse these plastic bags or other plastic packaging to bin their trash," said Zero Waste SG's executive director, Mr Eugene Tay.

Moreover, not all trash needs to be bagged. "If we separate recyclables from organic food waste, we will find that most of the waste would go into the recycling bin - which you don't need to bag," said Mr Tay, whose organisation in June last year published a study on how to reduce the use of single-use disposable plastics.

On how lower-income groups will be affected by a plastic bag tax, experts say it depends on how much the levy is.

And at 10 cents per bag, calculations by Zero Waste SG show that the surcharge would make up just 0.35 per cent of the annual income of a household living in a one-or two-room Housing Board flat.

"With the right recycling habits, one household on average requires about seven bags a week to contain organic food waste, which will add up to about $37 a year. It is still a small cost in the grand scheme of things," said Mr Tay.

Singapore Management University associate professor of marketing Hannah Chang said surcharges are typically small, but serve as a highly visible and continuous reminder to consumers.

Professor Euston Quah, who heads the economics division at the Nanyang Technological University, said: "If the charge is extremely low, for example, between five and 15 cents, it will make no difference to most people except that it might make a difference to lower-income groups."

But he noted that alternatives to plastic bags are available.

"The demand for plastic bags is certainly not inelastic, given that shoppers can easily take their own bags. It is simply an inconvenience cost to take their own bags," he added.


The fact that so many places around the world - from Britain and Denmark to Penang in Malaysia and Hong Kong - are implementing levies on single-use plastic bags shows that their excessive circulation is a cause for concern.

When news first broke here about the supermarkets' discussions, some wondered if an industry-wide agreement to implement a plastic bag surcharge constituted anti-competitive behaviour .

The Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) told The Straits Times that in general, agreements or discussions on prices between competitors are prohibited under the Competition Act, with the exception of agreements or discussions required under law, or which have net economic benefit.

"In this instance, CCS understands that as part of NEA's effort to encourage the use of reusable bags, they are engaging the supermarket operators to explore potential solutions to reduce excessive plastic bag usage," said a CCS spokesman.

But the NEA, when asked if it would consider making mandatory a plastic bag surcharge, would say only that it has been engaging supermarket operators "to explore potential solutions to reduce the excessive use of plastic bags" as part of its waste minimisation efforts.

With NEA declining to make it mandatory, businesses are holding out. None would be drawn to comment specifically about the proposed voluntary agreement, although Prime, Sheng Siong and Dairy Farm Group emphasised the need for all retailers to adopt a plastic bag charge for there to be an impact.

FairPrice, for its part, said it was "open to the possibility of charging customers for plastic bags to reduce its usage in complementing our overall sustainability efforts", although its director for corporate communications and brand, Mr Jonas Kor, emphasised its incentive-based scheme to reinforce "bring your own bag" efforts instead. FairPrice has had, since 2007, an incentive-based scheme offering customers 10 cents off a minimum spend of $10 if they take along their own bag.

Retailers' inertia on this is understandable, especially with online shopping posing a major disruptor to the retail sector. Levying an additional charge could further turn customers away.

This is where political will is needed. NEA can step in and make a plastic bag tax mandatory, as have governments of some other countries and territories, instead of passing the buck to supermarkets.

An additional tax, if imposed so soon after the water price hike kicked in in July, may not be welcomed by voters.

But in the long run, it is vital to help consumers recognise that the slight inconvenience is a small price to pay for the sake of the environment.

If something is worth doing, it should just be done.

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Malaysia: Tapirs to be reintroduced to Sabah

ruben sario The Star 4 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Plans are underway to reintroduce the tapir to Sabah, with three to four of the mammals to be translocated to the state from the peninsula as early as next year.

Malaysian Nature Society president Tan Sri Salleh Mohd Nor said there was evidence that the endangered creatures had once roamed the forests of Sabah but have since gone extinct.

“We think it’s possible to reintroduce the tapir, and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks has agreed to send some of the animals to Sabah,” he said after a lecture on forestry and climate change at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) here on Wednesday.

He said Sabah authorities had also agreed in principle to reintroducing the animals here.

“Now it’s a matter of getting the necessary funding for this initiative to get off the ground,” said Salleh, the former Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) director general.

Earlier in his lecture, he said Sabah was leading other states in the country in the conservation of its protected and pristine forests including the Danum Valley, Imbak Canyon and Maliau Basin.

“The state government’s policies are place to protect these important conservation areas. All these are to be lauded,” he added.

He said it was heartening to see the state engaging foreign expertise in the conservation efforts of these protected areas.

No formal agreement yet to reintroduce Malayan tapirs to Sabah
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 5 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: There has been no formal agreement by the Sabah government to bring Malayan tapirs to the state.

Sabah wildlife director Augustine Tuuga said although discussions on the matter had taken place, no official proposal has been made to the state cabinet.

His statement came about following news reports on plans to reintroduce tapirs to Sabah with the cooperation between the state Wildlife Department and related state agencies.

The report quoted Akademi Sains Malaysia’s (ASM) Tan Sri Dr Salleh Mohd Nor, who presented a lecture on forestry and climate change at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah here, yesterday.

Augustine, meanwhile, said Datu Rosmadi Sulai, the Permanent Secretary to the state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, had clarified that there has been no formal agreement by the state government on the matter.

“We are aware that there have been discussions and communication among Malaysian government officers, scientists and conservationists in Sabah and in Peninsular Malaysia on the matter but there is still no firm agreement among them on the proposal.

“In any case, the decision on such matters should be made by the Sabah cabinet. So far, we are not aware of any official proposal made to the cabinet for a decision,” said Augustine.

The Borneo Post had quoted Akademi Sains Malaysia’s (ASM) Tan Sri Dr Salleh Mohd Nor as saying that the Sabah government had agreed with the effort proposed by the Pencinta Alam Association.

Salleh was quoted as saying that the Wildlife Department in Peninsular Malaysia planned to hand over three to four tapirs to Sabah. The reintroduction programme, he said, was expected to commence early next year.

According to Salleh, the proposal to reintroduce tapirs back to Sabah was presented to the state government two years ago. He said tapirs had existed in Sabah in the past but had become extinct.

Salleh, who was presenting a lecture on forestry and climate change at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah yesterday, however said a more in-depth discussion is needed before the programme is implemented.

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Malaysia: Scientists find only two rare ‘suicidal’ sea cucumbers

arnold loh and ariel mckinney The Star 5 Oct 17;

GEORGE TOWN: After three nights of diving, expedition scientists only found two rare nocturnal and “suicidal” Golden Sea Cucumbers in Kedah’s Songsong Islands, the only place that this species is found in the world.

“If I hold it in my hand, it will feel my body heat and commit suicide by dissolving into mush,” said expedition leader Prof Dr Zulfigar Yasin.

Even more amazing is that after both specimens were safely brought to the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs) in Muka Head, Teluk Bahang, they became three.

The smaller one launched its de­­fence mechanism, said expedition echinoderm specialist Sim Yee Kwang.

“It couldn’t stand the stress of being transported and split itself into two. Now they are se­­parate individuals. The part where the mouth was is turning into a rectum while the original rearend is growing into a new mouth,” Sim said at the centre yesterday.

Cemacs scientists will now try to propagate the Golden Sea Cucum­bers (Stichopus fusiformiossa) using the three specimens.

But to save them from the brink of extinction and protect the 10km coral reef range, the scientists are preparing vital data to convince the Kedah government to gazette the reef into a marine protected area.

Although the islands are unpopulated, the scientists were dismayed when they reached Songsong Islands on Sept 27.

They found the islands surrounded by a toxic red tide or harmful algae bloom, usually caused by heavy human pollution.

“We deduced that the bloom is caused by fertiliser from Kedah’s padi fields,” said Dr Zulfigar.

With heavy rain, tonnes of ferti­liser will dissolve and flow into the sea via Sungai Merbok and Sungai Muda estuaries, 16km from Song­song Islands.

“Freshwater is lighter than seawater, so the fertiliser won’t mix until it has flowed farther out.

“These islands are just the right distance from the river mouths for the nutrients to mix with the seawater and create the red tide,” he said.

In spite of the danger, the scientists discovered that the coral reef has struck an unusual symbiotic friendship with the algae and ma­­naged to thrive – for the time being.

Marine biologist and Cemacs director Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan called it a “miracle”.

“The acclimatisation is a rare phenomenon and responsible for keeping the fisheries resources of Kedah vibrant,” said Dr Tan.

Marine Parks Department director-general Datuk Dr Sukarno Wagi­man said plans are underway to gazette three of the islands – Pulau Songsong, Pulau Bidan and Pulau Telor – and a rocky outcrop called Tukun Terendak into a marine park.

“We have sent a proposal to the Kedah government, which supports the move. Possibly, a radius of one nautical mile around the area will be a no-take zone while the second nautical mile radius will be a ma­­naged zone.

“We must now develop a public education programme for stakeholders, especially fishermen, to see the value of protecting the islands,” said Dr Sukarno, who attended the closing ceremony of the expedition in Cemacs.

Titled H2O (Highland to Ocean), the expedition was funded by the department and involved 20 ma­rine-based and 30 land-based scientists from nine government agencies who documented the species’ richness and ecosystems of Gunung Jerai and Songsong Islands since Sunday.

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Malaysia: Green Sukuk expected to have better outlook - Cagamas

Bernama New Straits Times 4 Oct 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Green sukuk in Malaysia is expected to have a better outlook in the near term with the support from Bank Negara Malaysia and Securities Commission Malaysia, says Cagamas Bhd Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Datuk Chung Chee Leong.

Chung said as banks in the country had started to focus on projects related to green environment, global warming and environmental sustainability, this could help drive the green sukuk trend.

“For example, more developers are building houses that could conserve the energy by using solar energy.

“Therefore, I think, there will be a greater traction for green sukuk in the near future,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the 14th Kuala Lumpur Islamic Finance Forum 2017 here today.

Green sukuk are Shariah-compliant investments in renewable energy and other environmental assets, of which the proceeds are used to finance construction, refinance construction debt, or finance the payment of a government-granted green subsidy.

In July this year, Malaysia issued the world’s first green sukuk – RM250 million Sustainable Responsible Investment Sukuk – to finance the construction of a solar project in Kudat, Sabah.

Chung said Malaysia has an ideal ecosystem to facilitate the growth of green sukuk as sukuk investor base was larger than the conventional investor base.

“As conventional investors could buy sukuk but sukuk investors could not do the otherwise, this has made issuers believed that sukuk is a better option for them,” he said.

On challenges faced by the sukuk issuers, Chung said, the tightening of monetary policy by the US central bank remained one of the biggest challenges because it could create volatility in yields and price.

“For our perspective, we issue on the margin, meaning we issue at X per cent, use the fund to give to somebody else at Y per cent and it smooths out the tightening.

“But for general issuers, they will be subjected to the increase, and that is why many issuers have issued the bond or sukuk before the actual (interest) rate is announced,” he said.

For investors, Chung said, they would quit from the emerging makets and move to the US market because they expected US dollar yield to raise.

Early in the session, Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd Executive Vice-President, Syed Alwi Mohd Sultan, said green bond could be the largest threat for sukuk industry.

“The green bond industry is going to overtake the green sukuk by itself, as between 2007-2012, the green bond industry only raised about US$20-US$30 billion (US$1 = RM4.22) annually while sukuk raised about US$100 billion annually.

“But in 2013 onwards, the green bond industry took off and issued US$80 billion in 2016, versus sukuk which only issued about US$78 billion last year,” he said, adding that for first half of this year, sukuk outstanding issuance was US$56 billion while green bond had achieved US$60 billion.

“When corporates want to raise funds for sustainability reasons, they will go for green bond instead of sukuk?” he asked.

Commenting on that concern, Chung said, the bond market has always raised a bigger fund against sukuk as the latter was just a certain fraction of the total bond market, and bond has a longer history than sukuk.

“But for Malaysia, one of our biggest advantages is that we have the investors from Singapore, Hong Kong and the UK who are interested in green sukuk,” he said.

Overall, he said, education and knowledge sharing remained the keys to drive not only the green sukuk alone, but sukuk as a whole.

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Indonesia: Bear kills farmer in Riau

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 4 Oct 17;

A bear attacked and killed a villager in Teluk Paman, Riau province, on Tuesday.

Local authorities in Teluk Paman said the bear attacked a couple, identified as Sarudi, 67, and his wife Buni, 47, who later died from the attack.

"The attack happened at around 10 a.m." Teluk Paman village head Rino Chandra said on Tuesday.

Rino said the couple had been collecting rubber tree sap on their land when the bear attacked them on Tuesday morning.

Sarudi sustained severe wounds to his head while protecting his wife from the bear. His wife Buni died on the spot.

Teluk Paman is located 80 kilometers from Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau province.

Responding to the attack, the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) has deployed a team to track down the bear.

"A team has been deployed to the location. They are equipped with a cage and anesthetic," BKSDA official Eduwar Hutapea said.

Sun bear, also known as the honey bear, can be found in forests across Southeast Asia.

Hunt continues as bear attack victim improving
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 5 Oct 17;

Saruli, a 60-year-old rubber farmer from Riau's Teluk Paman village who sustained serious injuries in a recent bear attack, is now in a stable condition as authorities continue to hunt down the bear to prevent a similar incident from recurring.

After six hours in the operating room at Arifin Achmad Regional General Hospital in Pekanbaru on Wednesday evening, Saruli's condition is improving.

“The patient is able to talk, but is still undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit," hospital director Nuzeli Husnedi said on Thursday.

Saruli, who sustained serious injuries throughout his body, particularly on the head, as well as a jaw fracture, was handled by a team of neurosurgeons, vascular and plastic surgeons.

His wife, 55-year-old Bunai, died from a fractured skull in the incident that occurred on Tuesday while the couple were tapping rubber on a plantation only around 500 meters from their house in Kampar Kiri district, Kampar regency.

A joint team of the Riau Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA), local police and the local administration continued on Thursday to search for the bear.

The efforts were to no avail, apart from finding bear tracks and claw marks. Authorities remain clueless of the bear species.

"Judging from the traces, it seems to be an adult bear," said Mulyo Utomo of the BKSDA.

Local residents have been instructed to temporarily halt activities on plantations following the first known attack of a bear in the area, which was suspected to be due to food depletion and habitat loss. (ipa)

Villagers kill bear inside settlement in Jambi
Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 12 Oct 17;

A sun bear was killed in a village in Kerinci regency, Jambi, on Wednesday after residents panicked upon seeing a wild animal in their settlement.

The sun bear died from a wound to the abdomen caused by a villager throwing a spear at it in Tebing Tinggi village.

"The bear entered a house," Kerinci Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Dwi Mulyanto said on Thursday. "One of the villagers was carrying a spear and hit the bear."

It is believed the bear wandered into the village as a result of food depletion and habitat loss.

The body of the bear was immediately taken to the Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) Agency.

In neighboring Riau province, a bear attacked a couple while they were tapping rubber on a plantation about 500 meters from their house in Teluk Paman village, Kampar regency, last Tuesday.

Saruli, a 60-year-old rubber farmer, survived but was left with serious injuries, while his wife, 55-year-old Bunai, died from a fractured skull in the incident, which has also been linked to a shrinking habitat. (ipa)

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Indonesia: Poaching of sumatran tiger remains rampant

Otniel Tamindael Antara 5 Oct 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The poaching of Sumatran tigers (Panthera Tigris Sumatrae) on the island of Sumatra for trading remains rampant, following the apprehension of a man in possession of a Sumatran tiger skin in Jambi.

Jambi Police and local Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) officials on Monday in the Berbak National Park apprehended Marsum (45), a resident of Tanjab Timur District, and seized a tiger skin and some tiger bones from him, according to Jambi Police spokesman Senior Commissioner Ahmad Haydar.

The actor is still being questioned as witnesses, but it is possible that his status will be upgraded as suspect if the investigators find any evidence of criminal activity.

Haydar remarked that Marsum admitted to have hunted the Sumatran tiger by using a 900-meter life electric wire to capture the rare, protected animal.

The tiger captured by Marsum was a female Sumatran tiger that was only about two years old. The perpetrator admitted that he would like to sell the Sumatran tiger skin for Rp105 Million, but before he made a transaction with a buyer, he had been apprehended.

"The case is still being developed. Now we have only one perpetrator, and to know the person who orders the tiger skin is still under police investigation," Haydar said.

Rampant poaching, coupled with the opening of massive plantation areas and forest fires, has led to the continued drop in the number of protected Sumatran tigers.

The Sumatran tiger is one of the last remaining tiger species in Indonesia after the Balinese and Javanese tiger species were declared extinct, but now, its existence remains under threat because its habitat has shrunk and it is being hunted for trading.

Previously in September 2016, Indonesia Environment and Forestry Ministry (KLHK) officials also apprehended two men in possession of a Sumatran tiger skin in Indragiri Hulu District, Riau Province, Security and Law Enforcement Center for Environment and Forests spokesman Edward Hutapea remarked at the time.

According to Hutapea, the two men were known by their initials as AH (51) and JO (35). The intact Sumatran tiger skin they were carrying was seized as evidence.

After a two-week coordination effort between the KLHK, Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and reconnaissance in Jambi, the officials apprehended the duo for illegally possessing the Sumatran tiger skin.

WWF said there was still a substantial market in Asia for tiger parts and products.

The confiscated Sumatran tiger skin had a length of some two meters and was intact, with no defects from head to tail, indicating that the poachers were professionals.

A South Sumatran police team early last year caught a man named Suharno alias Reno, a trader in Lubuklinggau city, South Sumatra.

When Suharno was caught, he was in possession of a tiger skin measuring 120 cm long in a plastic bag containing preservatives and some tiger bones weighing two kilograms.

To the authorities, the man claimed to have received those parts of tiger from a tiger hunter in Jambi.

An intact skin of a tiger at the time was sold between Rp50 million and Rp100 million, depending on its size and condition.

Suharno was then sentenced by the district court of Palembang to six months in jail while he could have been given a maximum sentence of five years and fined Rp100 million, based on Law Number 5 of 1990 on Ecosystem and Conservation of Living Natural Resources.

However, Animals Indonesia, a social community institution for animal conservation, deplored the fact that the Palembang district court meted out a light sentence to Suharno, the man involved in the tiger skin trade.

For the Animals Indonesia, the light sentence of Suharno was very disappointing because the defendant was clearly proven as indulging in trading skin and bones of Sumatran tiger, a species falling under protected animal category.

Therefore, every effort must be made to raise public awareness of wildlife protection after many large mammals such as Sumatran tigers are killed each year, their tusks hacked out, and their bodies are left to rot.

Public awareness must also be raised to curb illicit trade involving wild animals and their products which is currently the worlds fifth largest business with a turnover of US$19 billion each year.

Indonesia, according to ProFauna, is rich in biodiversity with more than 300 thousand wildlife species or 17 percent of those in the world.

Besides, the country also becomes the habitat of endemic wildlife, and most of them in Indonesia are found nowhere else around the world.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), there are 259 endemic mammals, 282 endemic birds, and 172 endemic amphibians.

Despite rich in biodiversity, Indonesia is also notorious as a country which has long list of the threatened wildlife, and the threatened wildlife in the country in 2011 included 184 mammals, 119 birds, 32 reptiles, 32 amphibians, and 140 fish.

There are 68 species which are critically endangered and 69 endangered species, and 517 vulnerable species. These wildlife will be eventually extinct if there is no action to save them from extinction.

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Indonesia: Ministry steps up online surveillance to end animal smuggling

Antara 4 Oct 17;

Padang, W Sumatra (ANTARA News) - To prevent and halt the rampant online trade of animals, the Environment and Forestry Ministry has scaled up efforts to monitor some social media platforms, an official stated here, Wednesday.

"After monitoring some suspected activities on social media platforms, we found signs of animal smuggling and directly arrested the suspect (for further probe)," Rasio Ridho Sani, the ministrys law enforcement director general, stated during a telephonic conversation in Padang, West Sumatras capital city.

Sani further explained that in order to prevent the animal from becoming extinct, the ministry had committed to crack down on animal smugglers operating online.

In case the ministry finds any indications of smuggling, the law enforcement officer will respond swiftly to arrest the suspects, he added.

According to its initial probe, the ministry said, the smuggling was linked to the global wildlife "black" market.

He remarked that the ministrys law enforcement team had frequently failed to thwart the trade of pangolins from Indonesia to China.

"Based on our investigation, the animal smuggling (racket) is linked to the international criminal network," Sani reiterated.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the pangolins (Manis javanica) had been listed as critically endangered animals since 2014.

"This species (the pangolin) is listed as Critically Endangered A2d+3d+4d due to the high levels of hunting and poaching for its meat and scales, which is primarily driven by exports to China," the IUCN Red List said on its official website.

Over the last 21 years, the IUCN said, the number of this animal species in the wildlife has declined by over 80 percent.

"The intensity of hunting has now moved to the southern parts of the species habitat," it remarked.

Apart from pangolins, the ministry had also recently seized six wild slow lorises (Nycticebus javanicus) in Agam District, West Sumatra Province.

The suspect, J, who was working with the West Sumatra Conservation Agency, was arrested when he was seeking buyers online.

The IUCN has listed slow lorises as critically endangered since 2013.

"This species is listed as critically endangered due to the combination of historic forest loss and continued degradation of the habitat suitable for the remaining animals," it stated.

The remaining population of slow lorises has now become fragmented, according to the IUCN Red List.

"The number of slow lorises was forecast to decline by at least 80 percent in the past 24 years (equal to three generations) due to severe, persistent, and ongoing persecution to fuel the pet trade," the IUCN remarked.(*)

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Indonesia: Six Hotspots Remain, Environment Ministry Accelerates Fire Extinguishing Process

NetralNews 4 Oct 17;

JAKARTA, NETRALNEWS.COM - Results of monitoring based on NOAA satellite on October 3 at 8 pm there were six hotspots in forest and land fires prone areas in Bangka Belitung, East Java, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and South Sulawesi (10/03/2017). While based on TERRA AQUA (NASA) with 80 percent confidence level there are seven hotspots, namely in South Sumatera one point, Riau two points, South Sulawesi one point, and East Nusa Tenggara three points.

Director of Forest and Land Fire Control of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Raffles B Panjaitan said that it makes the Forest and Land Fires Command Post Control Team immediately work to speed up the extinguishing process by moving as early as possible in the field, both from the levels of district, provincial, local government and patrol conducted by Manggala Agni Fire Brigade from Regional Operations.

"This command post collects information about the weather, the hotspot condition, the occurrence of forest and land fires that occurred in its working area for subsequent coordination and reporting in stages and then followed up as soon as possible", said Raffles B Panjaitan, as quoted from website of Ministry of Environment, Wednesday (10/04).

Until last night (10/03), according to monitoring by post from NOAA Satellite there were 2,328 points of hotspots throughout Indonesia. Meanwhile in the same period in 2016, the number of hotspots recorded as many as 3,707 spots. There is a decrease in the number of hotspots by 1,079 points or 31.67 percent.

Meanwhile, the TERRA-AQUA satellite (NASA) noted there are 1,717 hotspots. This number decreased by 1,782 points (50.90 percent), compared to 2016 in the same period, which was 3,497 points.

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Indonesia: Renewable energy potentials reach 441.7 GW - Ministry

Ignasius Jonan Antara 5 Oct 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesia Energy and Natural Resources Ministry has recorded renewable sources to generate power of up to 441.7 Gigawatts (GW), a report said here on Wednesday.

The ministrys renewable energy and power conservation directorate general, in its written statement received by Antara in Jakarta, stated that two percent of 441.71 GW, or 8.8 GW, have been generated from the plant installed this year.

In order to support the "green" and sustainable development, the Indonesian government has placed renewable energy as the countrys top project. The government also believed that the green energy would provide affordable electricity for public.

"Our target is that by 2025, all electricity and transportation facilities would be fueled by renewable energy," the Energy and Natural Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan remarked.

In order to reach the goal, the ministry has set some measures, including issuing the Ministerial Regulation No.36 on the Procedure of Initial Survey (PSP) and Exploration (PSPE).

According to the rule, the government could assigned private consultants to conduct some geological, geochemical, and geophysical surveys, as well as run the comprehensive evaluation and launch an exploration in order to receive information on geothermal reserves.

The survey, according to the regulation, would help the investors to calculate the comprehensive economic value, including the risk of the energy reserves.

The calculation remains important to receive a larger investment for the energy exploration project in the future.

Apart from the ministerial regulation, the government has also tasked the state-owned enterprises to improve the investments, in accordance with the Law No.21 Year 2014 on the Tax Allowance and other Non-Fiscal Incentives to the Geothermal Exploration.

The government, moreover, also simplifies the procedures of receiving license for the exploration by establishing the One-Stop Integrated Service (PTSP) at the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM).

(Reported by Afut Syafril/Uu. KR-GNT/INE/KR-BSR/B003)

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Mekong Delta faces three big challenges: Climate change, hydropower

VietNamNet Bridge 4 Oct 17;
Mekong Delta, the rice granary of Vietnam, is facing three big challenges due to the impact of climate change, unsustainable development and hydropower plants on the Mekong River, according to Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent expert on Mekong Delta ecology.

Climate change

Climate change is occurring in Mekong Delta, affecting all aspects of people’s life and production. Rising temperatures, hot weather, unseasonable rain and high frequency of extreme weather conditions are manifestations of climate change.

After the big flood in 2011, the Mekong Delta only saw medium and low floods. The extremely low floods occurred in 2015 which then led to the historic drought in the 2016 dry season. Flood came in 2016, but the flood peak was much lower than the average level in many previous years.

After the big flood in 2011, the Mekong Delta only saw medium and low floods. The extremely low floods occurred in 2015 which then led to the historic drought in the 2016 dry season. Flood came in 2016, but the flood peak was much lower than the average level in many previous years.
The water supply for Mekong Delta depends on the water capacity of Mekong with the average flow of 475 billion cubic meters per year. Of this, 16 percent is from China, 2 percent from Myanmar and 82 percent from the Laos-China border down. The rain in Mekong Delta, 1,400-2,000 mm per annum, contributes 11 percent to the water supply to Mekong Delta.

The original reason for the drought and saltwater intrusion in Mekong Delta was El Nino, but hydropower has made the situation more serious.

Hydropower plants

Located at the end of Mekong basin, thevMekong Delta has been heavily impacted by hydropower development on the mainstream of the river.

The hydropower plants on the Mekong have led to the reduction of fine silt, which causes soil erosion and affects agriculture. The phenomenon causes ‘silt starved water’, leading to river bank and coastal erosion. It also has adverse effects on fishery output in certain areas.

According to the Mekong River Commission, the load of fine silt decreased by 50 percent in 1992-2014, from 160 million tons per annum to 85 million tons.

The figure does not include sand and gravel components moving in the river bed, estimated at 30 million tons per year. It is projected that once the 11 dams in the downstream area are completed, the amount of fine silt will decrease by another 50 percent to 42 million tons per year.

Once the dams are built, sand and gravel from the upstream will be blocked. If so, serious landslides will occur on the Tien & Hau river banks.

By that time, 100 percent of white fish, i.e. fish which have to migrate upstream to breed will have disappeared.

Of 160 million tons of fine silt Mekong carries every year, 100 million tons of silt and 16,000 tons of nutrition is brought to the Mekong Plume area . Once the volume of silt and nutrition decreases, this will affect local fishery productivity.

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Time to shine: Solar power is fastest-growing source of new energy

Renewables accounted for two-thirds of new power added to world’s grids last year, says International Energy Agency
Adam Vaughan The Guardian 4 Oct 17;

Solar power was the fastest-growing source of new energy worldwide last year, outstripping the growth in all other forms of power generation for the first time and leading experts to hail a “new era”.

Renewable energy accounted for two-thirds of new power added to the world’s grids in 2016, the International Energy Agency said, but the group found solar was the technology that shone brightest.

New solar capacity even overtook the net growth in coal, previously the biggest new source of power generation. The shift was driven by falling prices and government policies, particularly in China, which accounted for almost half the solar panels installed.

The Paris-based IEA predicted that solar would dominate future growth, with global capacity in five years’ time expected to be greater than the current combined total power capacity of India and Japan.

Dr Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, said: “What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar photovoltaics [PV]. We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology up to 2022.”

The authority, which is funded by 28 member governments, admitted it had previously underestimated the speed at which green energy was growing.

The amount of renewable energy capacity forecast globally in 2022 has been revised upwards on last year’s forecast, driven by the IEA expecting a third more solar in China and India.

While China dominates the expansion of renewables, the US is still the second fastest-growing market despite Donald Trump’s pledge to revive coal and the uncertainties he has brought at a federal level.

Paolo Frankl, head of the renewable energy division at the IEA, said that solar and wind subsidies and other fundamentals meant the president’s impact would probably be limited.

However, that could change if there were reforms that retrospectively hit the subsidies or if the US International Trade Commission imposes tariffs on imports of Chinese solar panels. “There is a risk, but at the moment our forecast remains strong,” said Frankl.

India is set for a solar boom over the next five years, as bottlenecks such as integrating solar farms with the grid are overcome. The country’s renewable energy capacity is forecast to double by 2022, overtaking the EU on growth.

The picture for the UK is a “mixed message,” said Frankl. The IEA has revised downward its forecast for the amount of green energy to be built in the UK between 2017 and 2022, with offshore windfarms expected to account for most of the growth.

Despite the recent opening of the UK’s first subsidy-free solar farm, the prospects for British solar are fairly gloomy: the amount of solar forecast to be installed by 2022 is a fifth of the amount installed over the last five years.

The report found that renewables are becoming increasingly comparable to fossil fuels on price, with wind and solar projects setting record low prices in government auctions.

“Renewables may well become even cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives [over the next five years]. However, be careful because this does not automatically mean they are competitive and investment will flow. That depends on the risk of investment and whether remuneration flows make a project bankable or not,” said Frankl.

The growth in renewable power will be twice as large as gas and coal combined over the next five years, the IEA said. While that will take renewables’ share of electricity generation from 24% last year to 30% in 2022, coal will still be the biggest source of power.

The increasing scale of wind and solar power, and their intermittent nature at a local level, means that integrating them with power grids has become critical, the IEA said. Countries will need to bring forward policies that make grids more flexible, such as batteries and managing demand at peak times, it suggested.

One energy expert said that the IEA report was, if anything, underestimating the speed of renewables’ growth and the impact of them becoming so cheap.

Tim Buckley, director of energy finance studies at Australia-based analysts IEEFA, said: “2016 was another record high year of renewable installs and unexpectedly large renewable energy cost deflation, again highlighting the IEA’s continued underestimation of both these two trends driving the increasingly global market transformation.”

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Citizens must "flood the courts" in fight for climate justice: economist

Adela Suliman Reuters 5 Oct 17;

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world faces a ticking time bomb in the form of global warming, and recent disasters caused by extreme weather should motivate individuals to urgently seek “climate justice”, said leading U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs.

The U.N. special adviser urged citizens to “flood the courts” with legal cases demanding the right to a safe and clean environment, and to pursue major polluters such as big oil companies and negligent governments for liability and damages.

“Who’s going to rebuild? Who’s going to pay?” asked Sachs, referring to a spate of disasters, including floods and storms, which scientists say are being exacerbated by climate change.

Economic justice is important because communities are not impacted equally by the effects of climate change, he said in a lecture at the London School of Economics on Tuesday evening.

“The poor are always extraordinarily vulnerable to shocks because they have no buffer,” said Sachs. “They don’t have a voice in public policy, so when disasters hit they’re alone.”

Referring to Hurricane Maria, which pummeled the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico last month, cutting power and crippling the lives of 3.4 million residents, Sachs said the Caribbean region had “caused almost nothing of the devastation” but was paying for the damage from increasingly extreme weather.

Instead of patching things up after each crisis, individuals should fight for a legal regime that can respond to predictable and frequent threats, said the Columbia University professor.

Deep-pocketed oil companies - from Exxon Mobil to Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell - should bear the bulk of the legal blame and responsibility, but legal tools could also be used to seek remedy from governments, he argued.

The best-selling author said this approach would lead to tighter regulation of the fossil fuel industry, whose products emit heat-trapping gases.

“We need a right to climate safety firmly and clearly stated,” he added.

Sachs pointed to the $18.7 billion settlement agreed after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico - under which the company paid penalties to the U.S. government and five states - as a model for climate justice cases.

If a causal link with climate change can be proved, the proceeds from such lawsuits could pay for costly adaptation methods such as retrofitting buildings, re-housing communities and shifting the energy sector toward renewables, he said.

The Paris Agreement goes some way toward tackling the issue of climate justice by recognizing the importance of addressing loss and damage associated with climate change, but lacks any enforcement mechanism for liability or compensation, Sachs said.

The United States, under President Donald Trump, has given notice it wants to withdraw from the international accord to curb global warming, a move heavily criticized by Sachs.

Climate lawsuits should borrow from legal models that held tobacco firms liable for health damage from smoking, he said, predicting a rise in class actions targeting major oil firms.

In September, cities including San Francisco and Oakland filed separate lawsuits against five oil companies using the “public nuisance” doctrine, seeking billions of dollars to protect against rising sea levels.

Meanwhile in Oregon, teenagers have sued the federal government in a landmark case known as “Our Children’s Trust”, asserting that government policies have contributed to climate change, violating their constitutional right to life, liberty and property.

Sachs expects such cases to become commonplace, particularly in the United States, as more individuals’ lives are turned upside down by climate-related disasters.

“We’re in a very difficult race against time,” he said.

Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.

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