Best of our wild blogs: 29 Nov 17

Singapore Raptor Report – October 2017
Singapore Bird Group

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Malaysia: Saving the banteng, the most endangered large mammal in Sabah

Kristy New Straits Times 29 Nov 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A workshop starting tomorrow will kickstart efforts to draft a Bornean Banteng Action Plan for Sabah to be submitted to the state government.

International and local scientists, governmental agencies and industry players are convening to save another iconic species endemic to the State. The banteng is also known as tembadau.

In a joint statement here, the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) that are organising the two-day workshop said recommendations will be given on protecting the Bornean banteng based on findings of a five-year state-wide survey conducted by them.

"Then Action Plan will be drafted based on the proposed recommendations from the workshop.

"It will be validated by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group before being submitted to the State Government for approval," said DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens.

The species is threatened by heavy poaching, habitat loss and forest fragmentation in Sabah where only last month, three banteng were poached by hunters in three protected areas in Sabah in the space of three days.

"At this rate, the species will not survive another 20 years and we will lose it like we lost our Sumatran rhinoceros," he stressed.

According to a survey using camera traps in several protected and unprotected areas statewide, it is estimated there are four or five isolated populations of banteng.

"One is on the west coast, one or two in central Sabah, one in the south-east and one in the north-east of Sabah.

"The total population is estimated to be around 400 to 500 individuals, making the Bornean banteng the most endangered large mammal in Sabah,” added Goossens.

Earlier this year, stakeholders have also convened two separate events to come up with plans for the conservation of the proboscis monkey and Sunda clouded leopard, respectively.

He added that DGFC has also been supported by

Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) since April 2011 with a commitment of RM3.96 million over a period of six years, to conduct research on the three species.

The action plans for the three species are expected to be ready by early 2018.

YSD chairman Tun Musa Hitam has stated that the Foundation will be waiting in anticipation for the submission of the three action plans to the Sabah state government.

The Foundation has also sponsored one Malaysian student, Lim Hong Ye who pursued his Master’s degree at Universiti Malaysia Sabah and graduated this year.

He will present his work on banteng at the workshop tomorrow.

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Malaysia: Something fishy in Semporna - surge in crown-of-thorns population

The Star 29 Nov 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A population surge in crown-of-thorns starfish (pic), which consume corals, is worrying the diving community in Semporna.

Divers noticed the sharp increase at some coral reefs near Semporna, the gateway to the renowned diving haven of Pulau Sipadan and the Tun Sakaran Marine Park.

Local divemaster Pius Angelo Mak said the divers were unsure what they should do to tackle the problem.

“A group of us started picking up these crown-of-thorns starfish about two weeks ago and drying them under the sun to kill them before casting the carcasses into the sea,” Pius said. “We’re not sure if this is right approach but it seemed the right thing to do.”

Sabah Parks watching out for starfish invasion
The Star 30 Nov 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Parks is hoping the crown-of-thorns starfish boom in waters off Semporna will not spread to the islands that it manages.

Its director Dr Jamili Nais said it is aware of the surge in numbers of the starfish, which consumes coral.

Divers have found that the areas affected so far are not within waters protected by Sabah Parks.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed that the creatures will not spread to our areas,” Dr Jamili said yesterday.

The state parks contain important marine ecosystems and are big draws for divers and tourists.

“This is like an illness and we have these starfish affecting our islands once in a while but we have always taken immediate steps to stop their spread,” said Dr Jamili.

Coral reefs are one of the main attractions Sabah has to offer divers.

Dr Jamili said Sabah Parks would also help manage the problem in affected areas if it gets an official request.

Earlier this week, some divers noticed a sharp increase in starfish numbers at several coral reefs near Semporna, the gateway to the renowned diving haven of Pulau Sipadan and Tun Sakaran Marine Park.

Local divemaster Pius Angelo Mak said the divers are unsure of what they should do to tackle the problem.

He said a group of them started picking up the starfish about two weeks ago and drying them under the sun to kill them before casting the carcasses into the sea.

They are not sure if that is the right approach but “it seemed like the right thing to do”.

Researchers from Australia’s James Cook University found in 2015 that a single injection of white vinegar kills a crown-of-thorns starfish within 48 hours without harming surrounding marine life.

It is a much cheaper alternative to the previous lethal injection of bile salts and the researchers noted that starfish-eating animals appeared to savour these “pickled” carcasses.

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Malaysia: Floods getting worse in Kelantan and Terengganu

The Star 29 Nov 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The floods which hit the east coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu have worsened, sending more people to relief centres as heavy rain continued in several areas and the levels of some rivers breached the danger point.

According to the National Disas­ter Management Agency’s Disaster Portal, as of 8pm yesterday, a total of 5,492 victims had been evacuated: 3,726 in Kelantan, 1,750 in Terengganu and 16 in Perlis, which was also affected by floods on Monday night.

On a related matter, Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said 47 relief centres have been opened in Kelantan and 41 in Terengganu, as well as one in Perlis to accommodate evacuees.

Bernama reported that evacuees in Kelantan were being put up at relief centres in the districts of Kota Baru, Pasir Mas, Tanah Merah, Pasir Puteh, Kuala Krai, Machang and Bachok.

Kelantan and Terengganu river water levels have now reached danger point, a check on the Drainage and Irrigation Department website Info Banjir showed.

In Kelantan, the Sungai Golok stations at Jenob, Tanah Merah, and Rantau Panjang, Pasir Mas, exceeded the danger level, with water levels of 23.5m and 10.44m respectively at 6pm yesterday.

The Sungai Nerus station at Kampung Langkap in Setiu, Terengganu, recorded a water level of 21.73m at 6.30pm yesterday, exceeding the danger level of 21.5m.

More than 6,700 people evacuated due to Kelantan floods
Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 29 Nov 17;

KOTA BARU: Twenty-eight people from Tumpat were evacuated last night after their homes in Kebakat were hit by floods.

The evacuees, from six families, were moved to the Sekolah Kebangsaan Kebakat, which had been converted into a flood relief centre.

According to the state government's flood portal, the number of flood evacuees in Kelantan stands at 6,719 people as of 7.30am today.

The victims, from 2,052 families, are now seeking shelter at 97 relief centres in nine districts.

Pasir Mas recorded the highest number of victims of 2,237, followed by Kota Baru (1301) and Tanah Merah (970).

The other affected districts are Bachok, Jeli, Kuala Krai, Machang and Pasir Putih.

As of 7.30am, the water level at Sungai Golok in Rantau Panjang was measured at 10.66m, which is 1.66m beyond its danger level of 9m.

The water level at Sungai Golok in Jenob meanwhile was recorded at 23.52m (danger mark 23.50m).

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Indonesia: Eleven dead as floods and landslide hit East Java

Agence France-Presse Jakarta Post 28 Nov 17;

At least 11 people have died in severe floods and landslides in Pacitan, East Java, an official said Tuesday.

A landslide killed nine people at Pacitan and two people died in floods triggered by heavy rain in the same area.

Thousands of homes were flooded and 4,000 people forced to evacuate them, said a spokesman for the national disaster mitigation agency.

The extreme weather will continue to hit the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali, the spokesman added, warning people to be prepared for floods, landslides and tornados.

The agency said it urgently needs blankets, clothes and inflatable boats for affected areas.

The country is often hit by landslides and floods.

Twelve people including three children died in a landslide on the holiday island of Bali in February.

In September last year almost 30 people died in devastating floods and landslides in Garut, West Java.

Flood hits Central Java, forces thousands to evacuate
Ganug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post 29 Nov 17;

Thousands of residents in Surakarta, Central Java, are being forced to evacuate after floodwater engulfed hundreds of homes following heavy rains that have been falling since Tuesday morning.

In Sukoharjo, homes in Karangwuni and Tegalsari villages in Weru district were flooded after the Siluwur River burst its banks.

“More than a 100 homes, several schools and hundreds of hectares of farming land are flooded,” Weru district head Samino said Wednesday.

He added that the Sukoharjo administration and the Klaten Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) were still trying to evacuate residents from their homes as the water level was still high.

Bayat, Klaten, also faced a similar situation where the Dengkeng River overflowed and flooded the surrounding area.

In Wonogiri, floods and landslides have hit 14 subdistricts since Tuesday morning.

“This is the worst flooding in the last 10 years. There are no casualties but 2,000 residents have been evacuated to temporary shelters,” Wonogiri Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Bambang Haryanto said on Wednesday. He said in December 2007, floods killed 17 residents of Tirtomoyo subdistrict.

This year, the flood blocked roads that connected Wonogiri-Pacitan and Wonogiri-Tirtomoyo, he added.

At least 11 people died after the Cyclone Cempaka hit Java Island. The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) issued a warning on Monday that the cyclone had formed off the southern coast of Java and was ready to hit Java and Bali islands. (hol/ebf)

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Thai police arrest 16 protesting against coal-fired power plant

Reuters 28 Nov 17;

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai authorities have arrested 16 people who were protesting against the construction of a coal-fired power plant, drawing criticism of the military government from rights activists and environmentalists.

The planned power plant in the southern province of Songkhla will consist of two 1,000-megawatt units, and is part of a power development plan to 2036, but activists object to its expected environmental and health impact on communities in the area.

The 16 protesters were arrested on Monday as they traveled from Thepa district, the site of the plant, to the provincial capital to present a petition to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was due in the city on Tuesday for a meeting.

“This incident shows the true face of Thailand’s military dictators, who have committed a long list of abuses and repressions since the May 2014 coup,” Sunai Phasuk, Thailand researcher for U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.

Six protesters were injured in a scuffle with police, said anti-coal activist Supat Hasuwannakit.

“The use of force was uncalled for,” Supat told Reuters.

A few police officers were injured, police said, adding that the 16 had been charged with blocking traffic, assaulting authorities, and resisting arrest. Police have requested that a court detains them.

Tara Buakamsri, country director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a statement the action against the protesters reflected a “complete failure” by the government to promote a peaceful and inclusive society.

“The Thepa power plant has no legitimacy to be built,” the group said.

The first unit of the power plant is due to begin operating in 2021.

Its environmental health impact assessment was completed in August and is pending approval by the National Environment Board.

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat

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Shell doubles up on green spending and vows to halve carbon footprint

Anglo-Dutch giant to spend $2bn on wind power, biofuels and electric cars as it bows to shareholder pressure by setting new company climate change target
Adam Vaughan The Guardian 28 Nov 17;

Shell has doubled its spending on clean power and bowed to shareholder pressure by promising to halve the carbon footprint of the energy it sells by 2050, as the oil giant said it was stepping up its ambitions on green energy.

The Anglo Dutch firm is increasing capital expenditure for its new energies division, to $1bn-$2bn (£750m to £1.5bn) a year for 2018-2020, up from a previous plan of up to $1bn a year by 2020.

But the spending on wind power, biofuels and electric car infrastructure will still account for a small fraction of the giant’s planned $25-30bn annual investment. Shell has $5bn-$6bn a year pegged for deepwater drilling and $2-3bn a year allocated for shale oil and gas.

The company’s new climate change target aims to cut the net carbon footprint of its products in half by 2050, and around one-fifth by 2035.

“It is making sure that the products within society have an overall lower carbon footprint. That is the longterm way of making sure our business remains a relevant business in the face of the energy transition,” said Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive.

The carbon target is similar to one put forward by shareholder activists at the company’s AGM earlier this year, which the board opposed and defeated.

Shell said the goal addressed the spirit of the shareholders’ proposal but the company’s chosen methodology meant it did not have “negative side-effects” of the resolution. “We could see a kernel of truth and relevance in there,” said Van Beurden.

The Dutch activist shareholder group behind the proposal, Follow This, welcomed the new target.

“We applaud Shell’s ambitious decision to take leadership in achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to well below 2C,” said the group’s founder, Mark van Baal.

Shell said it would grow its new energies division through its existing businesses and by acquiring companies, as it has done recently by buying electric car charging firms Ionity and New Motion.

Van Beurden defended the level of spending on green energy. “Is the investment we are going to put in new energies enough? Let’s see, we have to start somewhere,” he said.

Wind and biofuels would have a key role, he said. “We will systematically improve, we will grow this business up to be a very significant part of the future of the company, otherwise you can’t even get to a 20% reduction of a carbon footprint.

“But we have to do it in a disciplined way. If we destroy value in this process, no one is going to be served.”

However, the company said hydrocarbons would still be at the heart of its business and the global energy landscape over the next two decades.

“Oil and gas will remain an important part of the energy system [up to 2030], no credible forecast says otherwise,” said Van Beurden.

On the idea that some of its assets would be stranded by governments taking action on carbon emissions as part of the Paris climate deal, he said: “I think we will have very limited, if any, stranded assets [in the 2020s].”

The chief executive said that the firm sees underlying reasons that the oil price could go even higher than where it stands now, at just over $60 per barrel, but in the meantime the price could be unpredictable.

“I think we will see an era of volatility,” he said, adding: “You may argue the fundamentals point to a slightly higher oil price than we see at the moment.”

As expected, Shell also announced it was would begin rewarding shareholders in cash rather than issuing more shares.

“Ben van Beurden has delivered an early Christmas present for Shell shareholders,” said Nicholas Hyett, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, of the scrapping of the scrip dividend which was introduced after Shell bought gas behemoth BG Group for £35bn in 2016.

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