Best of our wild blogs: 29 Oct 17

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 12 Nov 2017 (Sun)
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Halloween Fashion Week
BES Drongos

Night Walk At Dairy Farm Nature Park (27 Oct 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

The Butterfly Antennae
Butterflies of Singapore

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Malaysia: Taps in 1.8 million south Johor households run dry

kathleen ann kili The Star 28 Oct 17;

JOHOR BARU: Some 1.8 million residents in southern Johor have been struck by a major water supply disruption after three water treatment plants were shut down due to high ammonia levels found in raw water from Sungai Johor.

Operations at three water treatment plants – the Semangar, Sungai Johor and Tai Hong water treatment plants – were stopped Saturday after a high level of ammonia was recorded.

SAJ Ranhill Sdn Bhd corporate communications head Jamaluddin Jamal said that residents in at least three districts, namely Johor Baru, Kulai and Kota Tinggi, have been affected by the shutdown that may last up to two days.

He said that the ammonia level of 2.75 parts per million (ppm) recorded late Friday night had not reduced as of 4.30pm on Saturday. The level is much higher than the Health Ministry's permitted level of 1.5ppm.

"This is not the first time high levels of ammonia have disrupted water supply. We have recorded three major incidents this year alone," he said in a statement here on Saturday.

Jamaluddin said the situation could be prolonged if ammonia levels do not drop.

"We urge the public not to panic and to use water wisely," he said, adding that affected residents could contact its hotline at 1800-88-7474 for assistance.

Ammonia pollution at Sungai Johor caused by chicken droppings processing factory
Bernama New Straits Times 29 Oct 17;

JOHOR BARU: The ammonia pollution in Sungai Johor near Kota Tinggi, yesterday, was caused by a chicken droppings processing factory close to the river.

Johor Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the pollution has affected 160,000 user accounts of Semangar water treatment plant who were living in Kulai, Senai, Gelang Patah, Iskandar Puteri, Skudai, Kempas, Taman Sri Austin and Kangkar Pulai.

He said this was the third incident of ammonia pollution and based on Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ) investigation, it was caused by the same party.

“The Department of Environment (DOE) previously did not support the approval in the Preliminary Assessment Site (PAT) to proceed with the project in the area and we also regret that the local Land Office and Veterinary Department did not take stern action over the matter,” he told reporters at the Johor Talent 3 Graduation Ceremony at Warisan Sultan Abu Bakar Complex, here today.

He said the chicken droppings processing factory had to be closed immediately in order to ensure such incident does not occur again.

“The DOE does not have any authority to close (the factory) but we have referred the matter to the local Land Office and Veterinary Department for immediate action,” he said.

He added, a meeting regarding the matter would be held tomorrow, which would be chaired by the Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) and related agencies including SAJ, DOE, Land Office and Veterinary Department. -- BERNAMA

160,000 homes and businesses affected after Semangar water treatment plant shuts down due to excessive ammonia
The Semangar water treatment plant was shut down due to excessive amount of ammonia in Sungai Johor. NSTP File pic.
Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 28 Oct 17;

JOHOR BARU: SAJ Ranhill Sdn Bhd (SAJ Ranhill) has been forced to shut down the operation of the Semangar water treatment plant since late last night following the presence of excessive amount of ammonia in Sungai Johor.

SAJ Ranhill said this is the third time this year that the plant had to be shut down because of ammonia pollution.

"When this happens, we had no choice but to stop the plant's operations in order to prevent ammonia from seeping into the treated water supply system and disrupt the water quality received by the users.

"Our main concern is the quality of the water that we supply and we have to meet the standard level of ammonia set by the Health Ministry, which is set at 1.5 parts per million (ppm).

“We have taken the decision to stop treating the raw water from the river after it was found to have a high level of ammonia, which was recorded at 2.75 ppm early this morning," said SAJ Ranhill in a statement.

The company's corporate communication head Jamaluddin Jamil said the plant will remain shut down until the ammonia level at the river dropped to the required level.

"It is difficult to say how long the plant will remained shut down because we have to wait until the ammonia level goes down. Even after the plant starts operating, we have to wait for some time in order to build up the pressure before normal supply is restored," said Jamaluddin.

The plant is the main plant that supplies treated water to parts of Johor Baru and Kulai and its closure is expected to affect 160,000 account holders in areas like Skudai, Kempas, Senai, Pulai, Gelang Patah and Tanjung Kupang.

Meanwhile, consumers were left fuming at the repeated occurance of ammonia pollution that has affected their water supply.

Sheikh Mohayuddin said residents in his neighbourhood woke up to find out that they have been hit by a water cut.

"I urge the administrator (of SAJ Ranhill's Facebook page) to update us earlier about this disruption. There has beem no water from only put up the notice on the disruption in the afternoon," he said on Facebook.

He said that as his house was on a hilly area, whenever there is a disruption to water supply, he will be one of first few victims to experience it, and among the last last to get water supply back.

As for Jalaludin Hashim, he urged the water utility and all related state agencies to take note of how the water supply chain could be polluted.

He said a better filter system to avoid ammonia pollution was needed.

Lawrence Ho was more critical of the state's water resources and urged for the authorities to go after those polluting the river.

"Where did the ammonia come from? Industrial discharge? They should look at the source of the problem, not just wait for the level of ammonia to drop," said Ho.

SAJ Ranhill has urged consumers to contact 1800887474 for further information.

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Malaysia: Lone elephant runs wild in Kupang village, strikes fear in farming community

Safuri Kamarudin New Straits Times 28 Oct 17;

BALING: Over 600 residents at Kampung Bukit Hijau, Kupang voiced their fear over the 'unpleasant visit' from an elephant which has destroyed their crops.

Since the elephant made its presence known to the villagers, many of the locals here have stayed away from their farms, worried that they will run into the elephant.

The village's Development and Safety Committee chairman Idris Yaacob said the wild elephant had destroyed the villagers' crops including banana trees, rubber plant seedlings, coconuts as well as betel trees.

He added the elephant was also getting bolder.

"The elephant usually comes into the village late at night and goes back into the woods early in the morning.

"Many villagers are now afraid to go to the farms and this has caused them to lose their income," he said, adding that he has informed the Wildlife and National Parks Department and hopes that appropriate action will be taken soon.

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Convention of Migratory Species: Chimpanzees among 33 breeds selected for special protection

BBC 28 Oct 17;

Species like Chimpanzees seeing large reductions in numbers, there are now 50% less than three generations ago
A UN-backed wildlife conference held in the Philippines has voted for additional protections for a list of 33 endangered species including chimpanzees, leopards and giraffes.

Whale sharks, the world's largest fish, were also included on the list.

The six-day long Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) concluded on Saturday, demanding better protections for species that cross country borders.

The groups executive secretary said "everybody has to pitch in" to efforts.

"It has helped to convey the message that the future of migratory wildlife is integral to our own future and that we all have the responsibility to act," Bradney Chamber said.

Governments also made commitments to cooperate on reducing the negative impacts of marine debris, noise pollution and climate change on migratory species.

More than 1,000 delegates from 129 countries debated species' protection at the 12th conference of its kind, backed by the United Nations Environment Programme.

China is still not part of the delegation, but organisers said the country had made some advances on animal protection, such as committing to shut-down the ivory trade and banning the serving of endangered species, such as shark fin soup, at government events.

Hosts the Philippines lobbied for the inclusion of whale sharks, which have become a tourist attraction for the nation. Three other shark breeds were also included in the list.

Ten species of vultures were also singled out for special protection, alongside well-known African mammals deemed to be in danger.

Giraffes are on decline on the continent, with only 90,000 thought to be left in the wild.

Lesser-known species were also singled out for protection - including the Gobi Bear found in the Gobi desert in Mongolia and China. Organisers said only 45 of them remain in the wild.

Lions, whale sharks, other endangered species get more protection
Philippine Daily Inquirer 30 Oct 17;

ENDANGERED Lion cubs Sarah and Benjamin are shown at a circus in Stuttgart, Germany. The endangered animals are among 34 selected to receive heightened protection at the meeting of the Conservation of Migratory Species in Manila. —AFP

Lions, chimpanzees, giraffes, leopards and a wide variety of sharks, including the whale shark, received added protection at a UN wildlife conference in the Philippines, organizers said on Saturday.

Some 34 endangered species were selected to receive heightened conservation efforts at the 12th conference of state parties to the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) that just concluded in Manila.

Protecting migratory species poses particular difficulties since they cross borders, including possibly moving to countries with less stringent wildlife protection systems, said Bradnee Chambers, CMS executive secretary.

“If the species is moving around all of these countries, everybody has to pitch in,” he said at the end of the weeklong conference.

Director Theresa Mundita Lim of the Biodiversity Management Bureau said migratory animals played a critical role in the planet’s ecosystem.

‘Inspiration for people’

“They act as pollinators, control pests and are a source of food and income. They are also an inspiration for people here in the Philippines and all around the world,” Lim said.

Lions, leopards and chimpanzees were singled out as needing more conservation work. The chimpanzee in particular is at risk as its numbers have dropped sharply in recent years due to habitat loss, the organizers said.

The giraffe, which is in decline throughout Africa with fewer than 90,000 animals left in the wild, was also listed.

All four of these African mammals were approved by a “wide majority” for additional protection measures, a CMS statement noted.

“Everybody in this room can identify with these animals,” Chambers remarked.

Vultures, sharks

Less popular species also received additional protection, including 10 species of vultures.

Chambers said these birds provided a vital service by cleaning out carcasses, which prevents the spread of diseases like anthrax and rabies.

Also listed was the whale shark, the largest fish in the world. The Philippines had lobbied for this creature, which had become a major tourist attraction.

Three other shark species—the angel shark, dusky shark and blue shark—were also listed along with three species of rays, the organizers said.

The Pew Charitable Trusts praised the CMS action, saying it was crucial to save these marine animals.

“In some regions, the newly protected shark species have experienced population declines of 50 percent or more,” Pew shark conservation expert KerriLynn Miller said in a statement.

Also listed was the Gobi bear, which lives in the wild regions shared by Mongolia and China. Only 45 specimens remain in the wild, the organizers said.

Compliance review

One of the breakthroughs of the meeting was the adoption of a “compliance review mechanism,” to check if member countries respect the protective lists, the organizers said.

The conference also saw agreements to create an intergovernment task force to curb the illegal killings of birds crossing the East Asian-Australasian Flyway; a conservation road map for the critically endangered African wild ass; and guidelines on assessing impact of marine noise activities

Also adopted by the convention’s 124 state-parties during the weeklong conference was the Manila Declaration on Sustainable Development and Migratory Species, and the Philippine proposals for resolutions on Marine Protected Area Networks in Southeast Asia, sustainable tourism, and the conservation of critical intertidal and coastal habitats for migratory species.

A Pew international conservation expert, Max Bello, said that even though the CMS lists did not provide for sanctions, many member countries still complied with them.

“It does work. It needs more [authority] for sure. But you can use it. It’s actually a very good tool,” Bello said.

“A year or two ago, I was helping some group in Peru in the coast of the South Pacific and we used CMS to convince the government of Peru to protect the giant mantas that come from Ecuador every year,” he recalled.

More than 120 states are party to the CMS, but this does not include China and many other Asian countries.—REPORTS FROM AFP AND JAYMEE T. GAMIL

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Nestlé, Hershey and Mars 'breaking promises over palm oil use'

This year’s Halloween confectionery will contain palm oil grown on land that should lawfully be habitat to orangutans, rhinos and clouded leopards, despite commitment to clean up supply chains
Arthur Neslen The Guardian 17 Oct 17l

Nestlé, Mars and Hershey have been accused of breaking pledges to stop using “conflict palm oil” from deforested Indonesian jungles, just days before the annual Halloween confectionery frenzy.

The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) says consumers have been “deceived” by promises from the brands to clean up their supply chains which were subsequently delayed, revised or watered down.

Laurel Sutherlin, a spokesman for the group, told the Guardian: “For too many years, Nestlé, Mars and Hershey have cherry-picked their [palm oil] targets and then moved the goalposts when they don’t achieve them. There’s just no further room for error to prevent the extinction of tigers, orangutans and elephants.”

The last parcel of Sumatran rainforest in which these three species all roam – along with rhinos, clouded leopards and sun bears – is vanishing at a dramatic pace as lucrative palm oil plantations illegally eat into tropical forestland.

The brands source palm oil from this 2.6m hectare Leuser region, via complex supply chains, some involving traders linked to suppliers illegally logging in the region.

Nestlé promised to end deforestation in its supply chain by 2015 in response to Greenpeace’s KitKat campaign of 2010. After Ran’s “Snack food 20” report, this was upgraded to a pledge of “no sourcing from areas converted from natural forests after 1 February 2013”. The target was missed.

“Four years later we can now trace over 90% of our palm oil back to the mill of origin and almost two thirds back to the plantation level,” said Nestlé spokeswoman Peggy Diby. “Our ambition is to raise this figure to 100% by 2020, back to plantation.”

In July, Nestlé told the Guardian it could only source 47% of its palm oil to plantations, suggesting a big improvement in the last three months.

Hershey’s said in 2014 that it would source all of its palm oil back to the mill level by 2015, and to plantations by 2016. But its plantation level sourcing actually fell in 2016 from 27% to 14%, and the commitment has been deferred until 2020.

Greenpeace protestors dressed as orangutans demonstrate against palm oil harvested from rainforest destruction outside a Nestle shareholders’ meeting
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Greenpeace protestors dressed as orangutans demonstrate against palm oil harvested from rainforest destruction outside a Nestle shareholders’ meeting. Photograph: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Jeff Beckman, Hershey’s communications director said: “While we remain deeply committed to pushing all stakeholders to accelerate traceability and bring full transparency to this supply chain along with our supplier partners, we realised it would take more time to achieve this goal than originally anticipated.”

Mars did not respond to a request for comment, despite a promise of “cutting suppliers trafficking conflict palm oil by the end of 2015,” which campaigners claim has not been met.

Gemma Tillack, Ran’s campaign director said: “It is our view that the brands have deceived consumers by continually claiming to be tackling deforestation when they have not executed the actions required to achieve a moratorium on the forest frontlines of their global supply chains.”

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