Best of our wild blogs: 12 Nov 17

Lacewings of Singapore
Butterflies of Singapore

Morning Walk At Windsor Nature Park (11 Nov 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Hatchlings laid by endangered turtle at East Coast released

Audrey Tan Straits Times 12 Nov 17;

The clutch of eggs laid by a critically endangered hawksbill turtle at East Coast Park in August hatched last month, some 60 days after the pregnant turtle first made landfall.

The National Parks Board (NParks) had moved the eggs to a safer, unnamed location with less foot traffic and low light pollution. It was risky for the eggs to have remained at the original site, an urban beach.

Of the 141 eggs, 100 hatched on Oct 18. Some of the eggs were lost to predators such as monitor lizards, said NParks.

The baby turtles were released on a beach where they crawled towards the water themselves.

"This allows them to orientate themselves - a process called imprinting - so that they will be able to navigate back to the area when they have matured and are ready to lay their eggs," Dr Karenne Tun, director of the coastal and marine division at NParks' National Biodiversity Centre, told The Sunday Times.

Prior to the release, trained NParks officers recorded the vital statistics of the hatchlings, such as their weight and carapace (shell) length, for research and data collection purposes. Each hatchling was also inspected for any deformities.

The officers had received training earlier this year at Mon Repos Turtle Centre in Australia - an established institute on turtle ecology.

While sightings of turtle hatchlings have been regularly reported, the sight of a turtle laying eggs is a rare one. If one is sighted, members of the public should not touch it as doing so could scare or provoke the animal. People should instead keep their distance, speak softly, and contact NParks on 1800-471-7300.

"Similarly, one should not handle the eggs as that might damage them," said Dr Tun.

Ms Debby Ng, from marine conservation volunteer group Hantu Blog, said it was "outstanding" that Singapore's shores could still provide a safe nesting space for globally threatened species, such as the hawksbill turtle.

"It is evidence that urbanisation and wildlife existence need not be a zero-sum game. But... will there still be suitable shores for the surviving baby turtles to return and foster the next generation? With that in mind, we can guide practices today to ensure a future for these long-lived ocean ambassadors," she said.

Mr Stephen Beng, chairman of the marine conservation group of the Nature Society (Singapore) and a member of the Marine Turtle Working Group, agreed.

He said: "We have collectively proven that when we protect our natural spaces, even amid urbanisation, biodiversity flourishes.

"So we must continue to do more for our returning sea turtles; to preserve our natural beaches as nesting sites, and to protect our coral reefs as healthy foraging grounds."

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Malaysia: Rare Bornean clouded leopards caught on camera in Malaysian reserve

Reuters 11 Nov 17;

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Bornean clouded leopard and her two cubs were captured on camera strolling through a Malaysian forest reserve last week, a rare daytime sighting of the elusive animals in the wild.

Found only on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, the big cat species is known to zoologists as Neofelis diardi, with just 700 estimated to live in a habitat shrunk by poaching and deforestation.

“Seeing it in daytime is nearly unheard of, and never with its young,” said Michael Gordon, who filmed the animals cross a road and walk into bush in Deramakot in Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo, where camera traps first spotted the cats in 2010.

“The Sunda clouded leopard is difficult across most of its range, but the last 3 years I have been coming to Deramakot, I have seen it a quite a few times,” the photographer told Reuters, using an alternative name for the species.

The animal’s habitat has shrunk by a tenth each year over the last two decades, the World Wildlife Fund said, hit by poaching and deforestation for commercial purposes.

It feeds on monkeys, small deer, birds and lizards, and is the main predator on Borneo, an island shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

In 2007, genetic studies showed the species to be distinct from its nearest relative, the clouded leopard, or Neofelis nebulosa, which was first described scientifically by British naturalist Edward Griffith in 1821, the WWF says.

The range of the clouded leopard extends from Nepal on the Indian subcontinent to southern China and throughout South-East Asia.

The island clouded leopard has small cloud markings, a double stripe down its back and its greyer fur is darker than the mainland species, the WWF says.

Reporting by Angie Teo; Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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Malaysia: Pushing empurau to save sharks

stephanie lee The Star 11 Nov 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Empurau, said to be the most expensive fresh–water fish in the country, may be the answer to the dwindling shark population if people take to its flavour as a replacement for shark’s fin soup.

Spearheading this initiative is The Crab House Seafood Restaurant at Suria Sabah.

The owner, Leonard Teh, said it is working with the Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) and empurau breeder Go Seafood Sdn Bhd on this project.

“We still get orders for shark’s fin soup but we let our customers know that there are alternatives, such as empurau or lobster, which can help with shark conservation efforts,” he said.

The fish is prized for its rich, delicate flesh and firm texture, he said, adding that empurau gets its unique taste from a diet of special fruit that falls from trees into the rivers.

He said farmed empurau tastes better after being fed the fruit and bred at the right water temperature.

Empurau can be served raw as sashimi or steamed with sliced ginger.

He said its bones and skin can be made into soup while its scales can be fried and eaten – “every inch of the fish is edible”.

Teh said restaurants are prepared to remove shark’s fin soup from the menu if customers are willing to stop ordering it.

SSPA president Aderick Chong said it will hold an exhibition at Imago Shopping Mall from 11am to 6pm today to raise awareness on the need to wean ourselves off shark’s fin soup.

He said it is important for the public to know about the issues threatening the shark population and to do something about it.

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US groups honouring Paris climate pledges despite Trump

US states, cities and businesses signed up to ‘America’s pledge’ to combat global warning have a combined economic power equal to the world’s third-biggest economy
Fiona Harvey and Jonathan Watts The Guardian 11 Nov 17;

The US states, cities and businesses that have signed up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions despite president Donald Trump’s threats to withdraw from the Paris agreement would, if put together, have the clout of the world’s third biggest economy, after the US and China.

To date, 20 US states and more than 50 of its largest cities, along with more than 60 of the biggest businesses in the US, have committed to emissions reduction goals.

Added together, they have an economic power of about $10tn, placing this group behind only the US as a whole ($18.6tn) and China ($11tn) in terms of GDP.

On Saturday at the Bonn conference on climate change, these groups joined together to make “America’s pledge”, a commitment to combat global warming, in stark opposition to the Trump administration.

“This is very powerful,” said Paul Bodnar, a former lead negotiator at the climate talks for the US under Barack Obama. “These states and cities would be larger than 195 out of the 197 countries signed up to the Paris agreement.”

Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, led the group in vowing to take measures, such as reducing coal-fired power and investing in renewable energy and efficiency, which would substantially reduce their carbon output.

But some delegates want the companies and local governments involved to go further, by submitting reports on their progress towards their emissions-cutting goals to be subject to the kind of monitoring and accountability that is required from national governments under the UN process. They have put forward a draft text which, if accepted, would mean such voluntary commitments were made in line with UN standards, and could therefore be included in the national greenhouse gas inventories required from countries.

Kevin Conrad, of Papua New Guinea, told the Guardian: “We welcome their contributions, but they should be accountable [on their progress in meeting their voluntary goals]. Will they be willing to be reviewed on their results, not just on the blather?”

He said the draft text was aimed at giving these contributions “a legitimacy” under the UN’s rules. “They should be transparent,” he said. “We do not want to pre-judge America’s Pledge, we just want rigour on the results.”

The group’s commitments fall outside the pledges under the landmark 2015 Paris agreement, and are likely to fall short of the requirements on carbon-cutting under the pact. Trump has vowed to withdraw the US from this agreement, the first to bind developed and developing countries to a specific temperature goal.

At the Bonn COP23 talks, scheduled to continue to the end of the week, nations are discussing how to improve their pledges on cutting carbon in line with scientific advice. Under the Paris agreement, they must hold global temperature rises to no more than 2C, which scientists say is the limit of safety, beyond which climate change is likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.

Current pledges under the Paris agreement are inadequate to reach this goal and it is estimated they would bring the world to 3C of warming, which would cause drastic changes in sea level rises, bring droughts and floods to many areas of the world, and make agriculture impossible in huge swaths of the globe.

However, consensus on how to strengthen the pledges is proving elusive, and is unlikely to be finalised at these talks.

Meanwhile, the Trump White House has indicated its priorities, to the consternation of many delegates, by scheduling a meeting at the talks focusing on the future of coal and how its use can be continued with new technologies.

The America’s Pledge report will be released in the alternative US headquarters at the talks, the US Climate Action Center. The giant inflatable dome sits on the edge of the conference – which many of its supporters claim is a sign of its endorsement as a semi-official player.

Despite the geographical proximity of the “America’s Pledge” delegation, there are limits to what non-state actors can do. They are excluded from many of the technical talks and cannot tap into federal funds that states use to finance commitments to slow climate change or reduce its impacts. More importantly, it is harder for them to set a course for the country.

But while that is missing, Antha Williams, head of the Bloomberg Philanthropies environment team, said it was necessary to fill the void.

“It would be better if we saw leadership from the White House, but the overarching point is that cities, states and companies that represent more than half of the US are showing their support for climate action.”

Nick Nuttall, communications chief of UN Climate Change, said the organisers were willing to work constructively with non-state actors.

“We are extremely supportive of the whole mass of cities, states and territories who have been aligning themselves with the Paris agreement,” he said. “American cities and states have been very active, which is welcome – and it mirrors what is happening elsewhere in the world.”

His comments were echoed by several delegates.

“We don’t turn a blind eye to anyone,” said Antonio Marcondes, the chief negotiator for Brazil. “We talk to the federal government and we have been approached by non-state bodies. Our policy is that we are willing to work with anyone who can move this process forward.”

But some climate activists warned against expecting too much from the America’s Pledge team.

Thanu Yakupitiyage, of the NGO said the climate pledges by many mayors and governors were a welcome step, but she urged still greater ambition and concrete policies to phase out fossil fuels.

“America’s Pledge is a start and we’ll be holding our elected officials, including governor Jerry Brown, to his word. As we look towards the climate summit that the governor has announced for 2018, we want more than words; we want a tangible action plan and steps taken,” she said.

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