Best of our wild blogs: 5 Dec 17

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 9 Dec 2017 (Sat)
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Dugongs at Cyrene Reef!
wild shores of singapore

5 things you can do to save our oceans
Little Green Men

I just popped a GIANT paper!
Mei Lin NEO

Read more!

LTA, PUB set up committee on tunnel flood prevention

Channel NewsAsia 5 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and national water agency PUB have formed a committee to regularly look into flood prevention for tunnels, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Tuesday (Dec 5).

The committee will also study some long-term measures beyond the current generation and put them in place, he said.

“The PUB-LTA Standing Committee will institutionalise our lessons and hard-earned experiences, lest they disappear with us at the crematorium,” he said in a speech at the 5th Joint Forum on Infrastructure Maintenance at the Environment Building on Scotts Road.

The committee, set up on the suggestion of former PUB chairman Tan Gee Paw, will ensure future generations do not lose sight of the hazard of floods, Mr Khaw added.

The flooding of the Bishan-Braddell MRT tunnel on Oct 7 was not a failure of engineering, but a “failure of organisational management" at SMRT, he said.

“The Oct 7 incident throws up other issues: HR policies, staff rotation, staff supervision, staff engagement and staff motivation."

While the engineering design is straightforward, regular maintenance, periodic audits, checks and tests make the difference as to whether the anti-flooding mechanism will work as designed, he said.

“The Oct 7 flooding incident will be remembered for a long time. It’d better be,” he said.

In an email to LTA and PUB last month, Mr Tan also suggested building in the civil infrastructure in new tunnels to accommodate sluice gates, which completely seal the tunnels against flooding, Mr Khaw said.

Such sluice gates exist in tunnel portals in Taipei, where they have to deal with typhoons. "We may never experience typhoons but we will experience heavier rainfall periods, as the typhoon belt shifts southwards and we sit at the periphery of these typhoons," Mr Tan had said.


SMRT must emerge stronger from the incident, Mr Khaw said, adding that he has "full confidence" in SMRT, its chairman Seah Moon Ming and his team.

"While we are keenly aware of various gaps in SMRT that still are not yet addressed, do appreciate the many tireless, but necessary jobs that have already been done, and the risks avoided."

He also warned that SMRT may experience other incidents as it tries to catch up on "what could and should have been done years ago". He asked the public to give their support to SMRT staff, to make their jobs easier and raise their morale.

“The hardest role is always the men and officers fighting in the trenches. The burden on their shoulders are the heaviest. Their families are also affected if they see that their loved ones are being screamed at, or castigated,” he said.

The least that we can do is provide them with moral support, he said.

“The pride in SMRT still lurks among the rank and file. We can build on that.”
Source: CNA/cy

Read more!

Ivory trafficking: Singapore a transit hub but ‘actively working’ to tackle problem, says Cites

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 4 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE — Despite being labelled a country of “primary concern” last year for its role as a transit point for ivory trafficking, Singapore will not have to come up with a National Ivory Action Plan after efforts to convey its measures at tackling wildlife trafficking bore fruit.

At the end of a meeting held in Geneva last week by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (Cites), Singapore was excluded from having to come up with an action plan, which is a tool by Cites to get various parties to strengthen controls. Singapore is a party to Cites, a multilateral treaty to protect endangered wild plants and animals. According to Cites’ website, Singapore is the only country of primary concern that is not participating in the National Ivory Action Plan process.

The Republic was named a country of primary concern by wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic last year in a report that stated illegal ivory consignments that went through Singapore grew far more prominent between 2012 and 2014.

Singapore has rejected the ignominious title and raised doubts on how the conclusion was made.

In the past year, Singapore authorities have engaged the Cites secretariat and examined the methodology of the report by the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) — managed by Traffic — which tracks illegal trade in ivory and other elephant products.

The Cites secretariat conducted a mission to Singapore in April where it visited land and sea checkpoints. It concluded that requesting Singapore to develop and roll out an action plan is unlikely to have any significant impact beyond measures which it is already taking. Singapore’s “prominence in the ETIS report may be due to its role as a major transit hub, and less as a reflection of any lack of response to illegal ivory consignments”, the secretariat found.

The agencies here are “well aware of the issue of wildlife crime and actively working to combat it”, drawing upon established strategies, it added.

In September, some Cites standing committee members – which provide policy guidance to the secretariat – made a similar visit to Singapore.

The Republic also engaged a statistician from the National University of Singapore and an economist from the Singapore Management University to analyse the ETIS’ report.

The academics’ work “raised several questions about the methodology and conclusions of the ETIS report”. For instance, the report has modelling assumptions that are “subjective, hard to justify, and raise doubts about the report’s findings”, Singapore contended in a document submitted for the Geneva meeting.

Singapore has asked Traffic to share the code or algorithm used in the ETIS analysis but has yet to receive information from Traffic. “To be credible, there is a critical need for transparency, objectivity and clarity in the process and approach (of the ETIS analysis),” the Republic said.

Countries, especially those that have been flagged, need more understanding of the methodology, relative weightage of proxy indicators and broad assumptions made. “Unfortunately, the current analysis does not hold up to such basic standards,” Singapore said.

Last year, the Republic was grouped with Malaysia, Malawi and Togo as major transit hubs in the ETIS’ report. Using data from 2012 to 2014, the report found these countries rarely made ivory seizures and were seldom implicated in seizures made by others. But where there were seizures, the cases tended to involve large quantities. These countries had the greatest proportion of seizures that weighed 800kg or more, suggesting the involvement of higher-level organised criminal activity, said Traffic.

Responding to TODAY, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) – Singapore’s Cites management authority – said it is heartened by Cites’ decision not to include Singapore in the National Ivory Action Plan process.

Singapore’s measures to combat wildlife trafficking include legislation, prosecution, intelligence and investigation, said AVA. For instance, the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act allows Singapore authorities to take action against illegal wildlife consignments, even those in transit, which is over and above Cites obligations, said AVA.

Singapore regularly monitors retail outlets and online sources for the illegal sale of wildlife and wildlife products, said AVA. The authority works with online sites such as Carousell and Locanto to share information on relevant laws and investigate suspected cases of possession and sales of illegal wildlife.

Singapore formed a panel of expert advisers in June to advise AVA on policy directions for legislative reviews, environmental issues, biodiversity matters and enforcement efforts. The panel is made up of representatives from the Asia-Pacific Centre of Environmental Law, the Interpol Environmental Crime Unit, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, the National Parks Board and Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

The Government has said it is looking into a domestic ban on the sale of ivory. “Singapore does not condone the illegal wildlife trade. We take a zero tolerance stance on the sale or keeping of wildlife, and the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle or engage in illegal trade of wildlife,” AVA said.

However, not everyone was happy with the outcomes at the Geneva meeting.

Conservationists welcomed the fact that countries will be asked to report on efforts to close domestic ivory markets, but some were disappointed that Japan and South Africa were not included in the National Ivory Action Plan process and Singapore was let “off the hook”.

“The standing committee has kept up the pressure for international cooperation to curb ivory poaching and smuggling, despite its reluctance to confront countries like Japan and Singapore which appear to be in denial about their own role. The big question now is whether the closure of other ivory markets will start to reduce poaching levels well below their current levels,” said Mr Robert Hepworth, senior advisor to the United Kingdom-based David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

More than 20,000 elephants are reportedly slaughtered in Africa every year for their ivory.


Since January, Singapore has received seven actionable intelligence reports relating to Cites wildlife, according to the Republic’s report to Cites. These resulted in three seizures:

- One related to ivory and resulted in the seizure of two illegal ivory bird cage accessories and four illegal ivory bracelets smuggled by a Vietnamese national travelling into Singapore. He was fined S$10,000 and the items were confiscated.

- The other two seizures are pending prosecution. One involved 75 pieces of hard corals, and the other involved eight pieces of cut rhino horns and about 17.7g of rhino horn shavings.

The seizure of rhino horn pieces came out of Singapore’s participation from June to August in Operation Savannah, which included Korean and Vietnamese customs. The eight cut pieces of rhino horns were seized at Changi Airport in September. The case is pending court mention and investigation findings will be shared with implicated countries through Interpol and other customs or Cites authorities.

Singapore is working with the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of Pretoria in South Africa to trace the origins of the rhino horns using DNA analysis.

- Of the four reports that did not result in seizures, one was “not timely” and the information was passed on to the next port of call. Two others were investigated and containers were inspected but no wildlife was found. The last involved an alleged smuggler who did not enter Singapore. He has been put on the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority’s watch list.

Read more!

Electric car-sharing scheme to hit the roads Dec 12

Elizabeth Neo Channel NewsAsia 4 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: The first fleet of cars for an electric car-sharing scheme will hit the roads next Tuesday (Dec 12).

BlueSG, a subsidiary of French transportation firm Bollore Group, said it will deploy 80 vehicles which users can book via the BlueSG mobile app. The app will be available on the App Store and Google Play from Dec 5.

The company signed an agreement with the Land Transport Authority and the Economic Development Board last year to develop the electric car-sharing programme, which will see 1,000 electric cars deployed in stages.

Rentals will be charged based on duration instead of distance, and users can choose from two subscription plans.

Under the premium yearly membership plan, priced at S$15 a month, subscribers are charged S$0.33 per minute for a minimum booking of 15 minutes.

The weekly membership plan does not charge a recurring fee and users will pay S$0.50 per minute for a minimum duration of 15 minutes.

Read more!

Trio seen allegedly poaching for shellfish and crabs at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

SIAU MING EN Today Online 4 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE —Three men believed to have been poaching shellfish and crabs were seen at the mudflats of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Sunday (Dec 03).

Mr Ben Lee, the founder of nature conservation group Nature Trekker, said he spotted the trio at about 5.20pm while he was conducting a guided tour.

The men, dressed in t-shirts and bermudas, were seen picking items from the mudflat and placing them in a white plastic bag. Mr Lee snapped photos of the men and alerted the National Parks Board to what was happening.

Two NParks staff arrived about 30 to 45 minutes later and escorted the men out of the nature reserve, said Mr Lee.

Mr Lee said he was shocked and disappointed at what he saw and guessed the men were probably picking shellfish and crabs to eat or sell.

The immediate effect of the men’s actions were “not that great” as they appeared to be collecting a small amount of shellfish, which reproduce quite quickly, he said.

“The impact is great if (such poaching) is done extensively,” he said, adding that the authorities need to step in to prevent others from doing the same.

Under the Parks and Trees Act, no one is allowed to capture, displace or feed any animal in a national park or nature reserve without the approval from the commissioner of parks and recreation. They are also not allowed to collect, remove or willfully displace any other organism.

TODAY has reached out to NParks for comments.

Mr Lee, who visits the nature reserve about four to eight times a month to conduct guided tours and teach others about wild bird migration, said he has seen a handful of illegal poaching cases at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in the past.

Some have tried to fish with trawl nets in chest-deep waters.

In 2015, he alerted the authorities to a group of people on a raft, pulling in a large net to check for fish.

Volunteers like himself can help NParks to keep a lookout for illegal activities, he said.

Members of the public should learn about activities prohibited in nature reserves, he added.

“A nature reserve is a place for the preservation and protection of wildlife and such illegal activity should not be allowed to happen. It’s a place where you leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs.”

3 men spotted 'poaching' crabs, shellfish from Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Lydia Lam Straits Times 4 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE - A nature guide on a visit to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve was shocked to see three men allegedly poaching shellfish and crabs on Sunday (Dec 3).

Mr Ben Lee, a full-time nature guide at Nature Trekker, told The Straits Times on Monday that he saw three men scooping shellfish and small crabs into large plastic bags at around 5.20pm.

Mr Lee, 54, said the three men appeared to be digging purposefully for the creatures and continued in earnest for about half an hour. One looked to be in his late 40s and the other two were in their 20s.

Mr Lee, who has visited the reserve for around 20 years, notified the National Parks Board, and an officer arrived soon after.

The officer confiscated the items from the three men, said Mr Lee. Meanwhile, he stood at the bridge blocking off the exit with five or six other people who were with him.

He said the men had most likely dug up the creatures for personal consumption, or "for sale to whoever is interested".

Three men spotted allegedly poaching shellfish and crabs at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

This is not the first time Mr Lee has tipped news organisations off about improper activity in Singapore's parks and reserves.

In 2015, he told ST about a couple and a young child in a kayak at the same reserve.

Canoes and kayaks are not allowed in the area, which is home to wild saltwater crocodiles.

"A nature reserve is a place for the preservation and protection of wildlife and such illegal activity should not be allowed to happen," he said.

"It's a place where you leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs. The taking or removing of shellfish and small crabs is considered illegal and is within the ambit of the law."

ST has contacted NParks for more information.

Read more!

Malaysia, Johor: Ensuring protection of water sources

The Star 4 Dec 17;

THE Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) is taking steps to protect rivers and prosecute those involved in polluting the main water source in the state.

State Works, Rural, and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said since October 2014, the Water Enactment 1921 had been amended to give Bakaj more authority in controlling water sources.

However, until now, there has not been a single pollution case brought to court under the Enactment.

“This is because of difficulties in enforcing the Enactment because it overlaps with other legislation such as the Environmental Quality Act 1974 under the Environment Department,” he said in reply to Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba (BN-Pasir Raja) and Tan Chen Choon (DAP-Jementah) at the state assembly sitting.

Aware of this, Bakaj had made a decision to implement total maximum daily loads (TMDL) which was a better way to protect rivers.

“The TDML would need at least two years’ of studies and once gazetted, it would surpass any jurisdiction under the Environmental Quality Act 1974,” he said.

Hasni added that Bakaj has received an allocation to install measurement tools in strategic locations to obtain accurate readings within 24 hours once pollution occurs.

The tools are being installed along Sungai Johor and will enable a quicker response from Bakaj.

“With the installation of these tools and usage of TMDL, we will be able to take action to ensure water quality is not affected.”

Hasni added Bakaj would also need to gazette water catchment areas and introduce new rules to protect sources including requiring land owners obtain approval or a licence prior to carrying out activities that could potentially harm water quality.

Read more!

Malaysia: Pahang govt to cancel projects in Merapoh if land clearing activities found harmful to environment

T N ALAGESH New Straits Times 4 Dec 17;

KUANTAN: The state government is prepared to put the brakes on all land clearing activities at Mukim Batu Yon in Merapoh, Kuala Lipis, if such activities were found to harm the ecosystem and water catchment areas.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said matters concerning Merapoh should have been informed to him at the beginning so that the logging and land clearing works could have been halted much earlier.

"The logging activities are under Yayasan Pahang (YP) while the land clearing works are for an oil palm plantation belonging to the Pahang Agriculture Development Corp (LKPP). The piece of land was given to LKPP in 1992. We were only recently notified about the logging activities.

"If the site serves as an important water catchment area, we will cancel the projects. YP can find other areas for logging while LKPP has to move elsewhere for oil should not be a problem as the Menteri Besar is the chairman for both YP and LKPP," he told reporters after opening the conference on Sustainable and Responsible Mineral Resources Development in Malaysia here today.

He was commenting on the recent logging activities in Merapoh which prompted the State Department of Environment on Nov 27 to issue a two-week stop work notice and instruction to start rehabilitating the land.

This was following reports that the logging activities were conducted close to 669 hectares around Gua Hari Malaysia (Malaysia Day Cave) which had high tourism potential and was a source of clean water to around 10,000 residents in eight villages.

Meanwhile, Adnan said those who had information about projects that could pose a threat to the environment in Pahang should come forward and inform the relevant authorities, including himself.

"Do not wait till things get out of control....the trees have been cut and then only do they come to inform. We want to cooperate and work together....tak kan Menteri Besar nak kena bawa pita ukur untuk ukur semua (don't tell me that as the Menteri Besar I will have to go to the ground with a measuring tape and check the areas myself)," he said.

Govt willing to stop Merapoh projects
The Star 5 Dec 17;

KUANTAN: The Pahang government is willing to cancel logging and development projects in the Merapoh Forest near here after taking into account the significance of the area as a water catchment.

The a decision will be seen as a victory for local environmental groups who have been lobbying against the projects.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said the project would have been cancelled had he been inform­ed about it much earlier.

The logging project, he said, was under Yayasan Pahang while the development of the oil palm plantation was on land belonging to the Pahang Agricultural Development Board (LKPP).

“The LKPP land was given in 1992. The problem now is that we were informed late.

“If it is critical as a water catchment, we can cancel it.

“Yayasan can look for another place to log, LKPP can find another area for its oil palm. It is not too difficult because the mentri besar is both chairman of the Yayasan and LKPP,” he said after opening the Conference on Sustainable and Res­pon­sible Mineral Resources ­Deve­­­­­­­­­­lo­p­ment in Malaysia here yesterday.

Also present was Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minis­ter Datuk Seri Dr Hamim Samuri.

Adnan said those who knew that the project could have an impact on the environment should have informed him immediately and not wait until the damage is done.

“Do not wait until the forest has been cut down to tell me.

“We must work together – do not just keep saying negative things about the mentri besar.

“Don’t expect the mentri besar to bring a measuring tape to measure everything,” he said.

Logging activities in Merapoh became a heated issue late October through the involvement of environmental groups that led to the solidarity of the inter­­­­­national community on social media through #savemerapoh.

The logging, carried out to open up a road for the transportation of forest products before work on an oil palm estate begins, had also caught the attention of the Federal Government.

On Nov 30, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was reported to have said he had instructed the director-general of the Department of Environment to issue a stop-work order for all activities in that forest. — Bernama

Read more!

Indonesia: Lake Toba faces threat of water pollution

Apriadi Gunawan THE JAKARTA POST 4 Dec 17;

A man rowing in the vast Lake Toba, listed as a Special Economic Zone (KEK) and a priority destination. (Shutterstock/File)

As the government steps up efforts to boost tourism and promote Lake Toba as a prime tourist destination, the iconic North Sumatra lake continues to be marred by water pollution.

The finding was made recently by a team of researchers from the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, which is currently conducting a further study on how the environmental problem has affected the ecosystem in the lake.

In its initial study, the team found that lake’s water had been polluted by industrial waste, keramba (floating net cages for fish cultivation) and the flow of dirty water from nearby rivers.

“Our provisional results showed that the pollution covers about 30 percent of the lake,” research team coordinator Krismono told The Jakarta Post recently.

The heaviest pollution occurred near the industrial area, river estuary and areas where keramba are installed, Krismono said.

The research was carried out amid the recent deaths of thousands of tons of fish in kerambas in Humbang Hasundutan regency’s Baktiraja district, which is located in the southern part of the lake.

A total of five such incidents have occurred this year in several parts of the lake, including some in a different regency.

Water pollution, Krismono added, was a factor that contributed to the fish deaths, but kerambas being used to cultivate fish beyond their capacity is suspected to be the main cause of the incident.

“This is a warning nevertheless. This situation needs to be resolved immediately.”

A total of six individuals are involved in the team carrying out the research that began on Nov. 27. Slated to be completed on Dec. 6, the research is a follow-up to the previous study in August that aims to support the government’s plan to turn Lake Toba into a pollution-free international tourist attraction.

The study in August found that the main source of pollution in the lake was the water from 25 polluted rivers that flowed into it.

Recognized as the biggest volcanic lake in the world at 87 kilometers long and 27 km wide with the breathtaking natural beauty of Samosir Island at its center, Lake Toba spans seven regencies in the province, including Humbang Hasundutan, Toba Samosir, Karo and North Tapanuli.

Albert Sidabutar, the spokesman for Toba Samosir regency, which covers a vast area in the southeastern part of the lake, confirmed the lake had been polluted for a long time, with his regency being one of those contributing to the environmental damage.

Pollutants from his region, he added, came from the industrial area, and eventually flowed into the river running to the lake.

“We have been trying [to resolve the problem], but it is taking a long time as the solution is dependent on residents’ awareness,” Albert said.

The Toba Samosir administration, he added, had launched several campaigns and training events for residents in order to raise their awareness about the environment, and to foster a sense of belonging with the lake and a shared responsibility to keep it clean.

The picturesque Lake Toba, which some people envision as the “Monaco of Asia,” is among 10 new priority destinations in the national strategic tourism plan, which was launched recently by the government.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has recently inaugurated Silangit International Airport in North Tapanuli and Medan-Tebing Tinggi toll road to support the plan for the 10 new destinations, which have also been dubbed the new Balis.

Before gaining its spot in the priority list, the image of Lake Toba had declined in recent years.

Read more!

Indonesia faces severe weather warning

Fardah Assegaf Antara 5 Dec 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Severe weather has hit several regions in Indonesia, triggering hydrological natural disasters, such as floods, landslides, huge sea waves, and strong winds, that have affected thousands of people during the current rainy season.

Cyclones, which are quite rare in the country, have also built up lately, with Cempaka and Dahlia cyclones becoming the famous ones.

Several provinces that have been hit by natural disasters include Aceh Darussalam, Yogyakarta, East Java, Central Java, West Java, North Sumatra, Batam, West Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, North Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara, and Riau.

Few of those regions, such as Yogyakarta, East Lombok, Pekalongan Sidoarjo, and Kulon Progo, have declared emergency alert status because of the hydrological natural disasters.

Karangasem District in Bali Province has also declared an emergency status due to eruptions of Mount Agung, forcing thousands of people to evacuate to safer places.

On Nov 28, the Yogyakarta Special Autonomous Provincial Administration has declared an emergency alert status following natural disasters, such as floods, landslides, and whirlwinds, which hit Bantul and Kulon Progo.

The National Meteorological, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency had reported that extreme weather will continue for three days, but Yogyakarta has declared an emergency status for two weeks, Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, the governor of Yogyakarta, has stated.

The decision to declare the emergency status was taken during a coordination meeting on disaster mitigation, attended by officials of the Yogyakarta disaster mitigation office.

According to data from Yogyakarta city`s disaster mitigation office, landslides hit nine locations and whirlwinds also affected nine locations, claiming the lives of three residents.

In Kulon Progo, 20 locations were hit by whirlwinds, 27 by landslides, and 6 by floods, affecting 58 people, injuring 3, and leading to 2 others going missing. At least one thousand hectares of rice fields were also inundated.

In Gunung Kidul District, one person died, two were injured, and 3,276 others affected by whirlwinds, landslides, and floods.

In Aceh, floods had hit tens of villages in Lhokseumawe and North Aceh District, following incessant heavy rains over the past several days.

In North Sumatra, floods hit 21 villages in five sub-districts, Tebing Tinggi. The flooding was triggered by incessant heavy rains in upstream areas in Simalungun District and Pematang Siantar, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said in a statement, on Dec 3.

In the districts of Pacitan and Ponorogo in East Java Province, power outage was reported in 80 villages, as power sub-stations were damaged due to flooding in the two districts. A total of 76,362 end users were affected by the power outage.

Coordinating Minister for Culture and Human Development Puan Maharani recently chaired a coordination meeting on hydrological and geological disaster mitigation efforts. Several ministers and relevant high-ranking officials were present in the meeting.

"This meeting discussed coordination to anticipate and mitigate floods and landslides currently occurring in several regions in Indonesia and the eruption of Mount Agung in Bali," Maharani remarked.

Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has called on the public to stay vigilant against severe weather lately.

"I call on the public to stay vigilant because of the extreme weather," Jokowi told the media on Dec 2.

The Head of State has instructed his relevant officials, particularly the personnel of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI), the National Police (Polri), the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), and regional administrations, to anticipate the disaster and be ready to provide assistance to the public when needed.

"We have to anticipate the impacts of extreme weather, particularly on food production," he stated.

So far, there have been no reports on the weather`s impact on crop production; however, anticipation should be intensified.

"This is just December, and we will be moving into January soon," he said, referring to the peak of rainy season, which falls in January and February. He added that logistic routes must also be protected from natural disasters.

In fact, according to data of the World Bank, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other extreme natural disasters push 26 million people into poverty each year and cost the global economy more than half a trillion dollars in lost consumption.

Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa has revealed that natural disasters have also pushed people into poverty in Indonesia.

"Some 80 percent of people affected by natural disasters have finally pushed them into poverty again, although they had previously been categorized as prosperous," she remarked on Dec 3.

She cited data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) that 323 towns and districts across the country are prone to natural disasters during December this year.

The minister also revealed that the number of people displaced by natural disasters, such as floods, landslides, and volcano eruptions, have significantly increased annually.

The number of evacuees reached 3.2 million during 2017, up from 2.7 million in 2016 and 1.2 million in 2015, Parawansa pointed out, while officially closing the National Jamboree of Muhammadiyah`s volunteers, which was organized by the Muhammadiyah Disaster Management Center (MDMC).

She lauded the jamboree, because volunteers played crucial roles in helping victims of natural disasters.

The minister also asked every stakeholder in charge of handling disasters to always be ready to deliver assistance, particularly during December, the peak of rainy season.

"The peak of rainy season is in December; therefore, we must increase our vigilance and alertness. Hopefully, we can pass this December safely," she revealed.

Editor: Heru Purwanto

Read more!

Thailand: Leatherback turtle power on wane as trawlers take toll

APINYA WIPATAYOTIN Bangkok Post 4 Dec 17;

The "Tao Mafueng" or leatherback sea turtle, the largest of all living turtles, is on the verge of extinction from the Thai sea, according the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Thanya Nethithammakul, the department chief, said yesterday the species had not been seen for some time, having not come to lay eggs as usual. Leatherback sea turtles swim seasonally to lay eggs at two sites. The first is Thai Muang Beach in Khao Lampi-Hat Thai Muang National Park in Phang Nga and the second is a stretch of beach in Sirinat National Park in Phuket.

Monitoring between 2003-2013 at Thai Muang Beach found turtles laid 2,678 eggs there and 1,574, or 58.7% survived.

At Sirinat National Park, 166 eggs were laid between 1999-2013 but the survival rate was slim given the intensive property development along the beach, and since 2013 no further eggs have been observed there.

"This is unusual. The disappearance of Tao Mafueng serves as an alarm call. Do not forget that Thailand was once a sanctuary for leatherback turtles," said Mr Tanya, adding that irresponsible fishing, including the use of trawlers, is one of the factors to blame.

Property development on the beach had played a role in scaring the turtles away. Another factor is the traditional belief that consuming turtle eggs will boost one's health, especially sexual virility. There have been reports of villagers selling leatherback eggs for up to 150 baht each, according to information from the department.

Four-year absence of leatherback turtles at Phuket nesting beaches
“The last time that we received a report of leatherback turtles laying eggs in these national parks was in 2013. This is abnormal and very worrying".
Phuket Gazette 5 Dec 17;

With the leatherback turtle already listed internationally as a critically endangered species, the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department yesterday expressed serious concern that none of the animals had returned to beaches in Phuket and Phang-nga to lay eggs since 2013.

Director-general Thanya Netithammakun raised the alarm over the survival of the leatherbacks, as there have no reports of females of the species returning to lay their eggs at the beaches in Khao Lampi–Hat Thai Mueang National Park in Phang-nga province and Sirinat National Park in Phuket for four years. Thanya said he suspected that increased development on the beaches was the main reason for the disappearance of the giant turtles, as the greater presence of human activities on the beaches disrupted their nesting grounds.

“The last time that we received a report of leatherback turtles laying eggs in these national parks was in 2013. This is abnormal and very worrying, because the turtles will nest on the same beach every year during November to February and these two national parks are the main nesting grounds for leatherback turtles in Thailand,” he explained. In light of this growing concern, the department is striving to develop a plan to re-establish a suitable environment for the turtles to nest on these beaches again. Leatherbacks are the largest turtle species in the world and can be found in all tropical and subtropical oceans.

However, the species is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as being critically endangered, and is also on Thailand’s list of reserved animals. The major reasons for the worldwide mass reduction in leatherback numbers are the loss of nesting grounds and sea-garbage problems, as it is increasingly common to find that the turtles die from consuming plastic bags, which closely resemble their main diet of jellyfish.

- Phuket Gazette & The Nation

Read more!

Sea turtles' sad fate: from restaurant menus to plastic 'soup'

Mariƫtte Le Roux AFP Yahoo News 4 Dec 17;

Watamu (Kenya) (AFP) - Gently, Kenzo the sea turtle is lowered onto a beach where a scattering of bottle caps, candy wrappers, yoghurt cups and discarded flipflops scar an otherwise idyllic setting.

As its human handlers step aside, Kenzo struggles out of the harness, pushes hard with its flippers on the sand, and slides into small waves specked with bits of plastic trash.

With a final gulp of air, the hawksbill turtle executes a perfect butterfly stroke and disappears into deeper water -- a rare lucky escape for one of Kenya's sea turtles, increasingly under siege from humanity's plastic binge.

Dozens of the endangered creatures need rescuing every year around the coastal town of Watamu, where plastic litter accumulates in the Indian Ocean and the beach from as far afield as Indonesia, Madagascar and Yemen, according to the product labels.

Most common are bottle tops, but there are also cigarette lighters, toothbrushes, food containers, different lengths of string, drinks bottles and of course, the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag.

Turtles confuse these items, bobbing and fluttering about in the ocean currents, for jellyfish or other prey. To their peril.

"It causes a blockage... but they're still hungry so they keep eating and it compounds, compounds, compounds and they explode on the inside," said Casper van de Geer, manager of Local Ocean Conservation, which runs the Watamu turtle rescue.

"Or they are in such pain that they recognise that they have to stop eating and they basically starve," he told AFP at Watamu's Blue Lagoon as he repeatedly bent down to pick up one piece of beach litter after the other.

- 'Sometimes they can't' -

Many turtles are found floating, barely alive, having eaten so much plastic that they become buoyant and can no longer dive into the depths where they live and feed.

Once they reach this point, few can be saved.

At a turtle "clinic", van de Geer and his team tube-feed laxatives to the turtles in hopes that the intestinal plug can be loosened.

"It takes a while but eventually after a lot of pain, and I mean it's a reptile so it can't express pain like a mammal can in its face, but you can see that it's just closing its eyes and its all sort of tensed up and all of a sudden 'poof', it all comes out," he told AFP.

But "sometimes they can't. More (often) than not, the animal will... die."

Plastic ocean pollution is a key item on the menu for ministers from over 100 countries gathering in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi for a three-day UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) starting Monday.

The problem is a global one, affecting all the oceans and hundreds of animal and plant species.

According to environmental group WWF, 8.8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year, the equivalent of a garbage truck dumping a full load every minute.

Plastic is cheap, versatile and nigh-indestructible. And by now it is pretty much everywhere.

A shopping bag is estimated to degrade over hundreds of years, and harder plastics could be around for millennia before they are broken down and absorbed in the environment.

- 'A very successful story' -

In July, US researchers said more than 9.1 billion tonnes of plastic had been produced to date, most of it dumped into landfills and the oceans.

Ahead of the UNEA meeting to tackle the scourge of pollution, UN Environment Programme head Erik Solheim urged action to stop the oceans becoming a "plastic soup".

On current trends, he warned, "by 2050 there will be more plastic in the seas than fish."

In Watamu, the locals do what they can.

Mohamed Iddi, a 42-year-old fisherman, proudly proclaims that he voluntarily collects two or three large garbage bags full of plastic along the Blue Lagoon beach every day.

"Some plastic is brought from the sea. Some others is from... when people they come for the enjoyment on the beach, for the barbecue, the picnic," he says, pointing to large piles of collected rubbish, divided into categories, with a special heap for shoe soles.

"Sometimes I find (plastic) in the stomachs" of the fish he catches. "Ropes, the small ones. Because when the fish goes to look for some prey... when it finds something like this... it will think maybe it is something to eat."

Elsewhere in town, a project called Regeneration Africa melts and treats the plastic gathered by volunteers such as Iddi, and moulds it into paving stones and other materials to sell for funds to continue the anti-plastic drive.

Fisherman-turned-environmentalist Kahindi Changawa, 40, looks with a smile over the tank for Kai, a green turtle which has been recovering from plastic ingestion at the Watamu rehabilitation centre for nearly a month.

Green turtles were once a delicacy in Kenya, but may no longer be eaten under laws to protect the endangered species from extinction.

Kai was brought in emaciated, and unable to stay underwater. On top of the laxative, it was given anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic medicines, and appetite-boosting multivitamins.

For six days now, no plastic has been spotted in the turtle's stool, Changawa says with tangible relief.

"It has fully recovered, when you take it out (of the recovery tank) it is flapping, it is fighting," he said.

"It's a very successful story, we are hoping to release it if not today, in the next two days or so."

Many others will not be so lucky.

Read more!

'Shame and anger' at plastic ocean pollution

David Shukman BBC 5 Dec 17;

Scientists who advised the Blue Planet II documentary team say they feel "shame and anger" at the “plague of plastic” impacting the natural world.

Even in the remote waters of Antarctica, they have found evidence of plastic killing and harming seabirds.

Wandering albatrosses – which have the longest wingspan of any birds alive today – are thought to be especially vulnerable.

Nesting on the barren islands of South Georgia, they feed their young by scouring thousands of miles of ocean for squid and fish but often bring back plastic instead.

The final episode of what has become the most-watched TV programme of the year explores how the oceans are threatened by human activities including overfishing and pollution.

It will be broadcast on Sunday 10 December.

In a particularly moving scene, Dr Lucy Quinn, a zoologist, is seen checking albatross chicks on Bird Island where she was the British Antarctic Survey’s winter manager for more than two years.

One chick that Dr Quinn found dead and later dissected was killed because a plastic toothpick that it swallowed had pierced its stomach.

Others had regurgitated plastic items including cling film, food packaging, cutlery and parts of bottles.

Dr Quinn told me: “I feel real shame and anger that it’s humans who have caused this problem.

"It’s really sad because you get to know the birds and how long it takes the parents, away for ten days at a time, to collect food for their chicks and what they bring back is plastic.

"And what’s sad is that the plague of plastic is as far-reaching as these seemingly pristine environments."

It's not known how many albatross chicks in Antarctica die from plastic pollution every year – it's thought to be fewer than the losses suffered by Laysan albatrosses on Midway Atoll in the Pacific .

But on Bird Island, predators often eat dead chicks before the researchers can reach them – and the suspicion is that the effect of the plastic goes beyond the direct killing of seabirds.

According to Dr Quinn, the threat is more insidious, weakening birds as they waste energy trying to digest plastic, which has no nutritional value, and potentially poisoning them as chemicals are released when the plastic breaks down in their stomachs.

Research at the other end of the world into a smaller relative of the albatross – the fulmars of the North Sea – shows that while plastics may directly kill seabirds, it is the debilitating effects of the waste that could be more serious.

Studies of fulmars found dead on beaches or caught accidentally by fishermen – which Dr Quinn has also been involved in – show that from 2010-2014, UK fulmars were found to contain on average 39 particles of plastic weighing a total of 0.32 grams.

In an unsettling image, the volume of space taken up by that plastic in a fulmar’s belly is the equivalent in a human stomach of the contents of a typical lunchbox, and usually the plastic is made up of consumer items used just once and then thrown away.

Most shocking is the effect of party balloons, released in a moment of celebration, but then catching the eye of a fulmar searching for food.

Dr Quinn remembers one occasion when she dissected one of the birds.

"I couldn’t believe my eyes, seeing a balloon in the bird’s oesophagus, which would have killed it, along with cling film, toothbrushes and packaging – I feel extremely sad for the birds and impatient to do something," she said.

The plastic may be undermining the fulmars’ health, which could affect their ability to breed - with long-term implications for the population as a whole.

The threat from plastic waste is not limited to pieces that are visible – bottles, bags and other items break down into minute fragments, or "micro-plastics", which enter the food chain in every corner of the ocean.

Scientists from the University of Newcastle even identified tiny fibres in the smallest creatures living in the deepest part of the Pacific, the Mariana Trench.

Dr Jon Copley, of the University of Southampton, who joined the Blue Planet submarine filming in Antarctica, says that although he did not spot any plastic in the polar waters, he has been shocked by its presence elsewhere.

"When I've seen plastic in the deep ocean - such as a bin liner we found near deep-sea vents in the Cayman Trough - there's an initial shock and disappointment that our rubbish has got here before us as explorers.

"But then there's the realisation that our everyday lives are more connected to the deep ocean than we perhaps think.

"Every piece of plastic rubbish has a story, so it also makes me wonder about the chain of events that led to that particular item ending up in the deep ocean, and whether any of those events could have been prevented."

Read more!

Ocean plastic a 'planetary crisis' - UN

Roger Harrabin BBC News 5 Dec 17;

Life in the seas risks irreparable damage from a rising tide of plastic waste, the UN oceans chief has warned.

Lisa Svensson said governments, firms and individual people must act far more quickly to halt plastic pollution.

"This is a planetary crisis," she said. "In a few short decades since we discovered the convenience of plastics, we are ruining the ecosystem of the ocean."

She was speaking to BBC News ahead of a UN environment summit in Nairobi.

Delegates at the meeting want tougher action against plastic litter.

Ms Svensson had just been saddened by a Kenyan turtle hospital which treats animals that have ingested waste plastic.

She saw a juvenile turtle named Kai, brought in by fishermen a month ago because she was floating on the sea surface.

Plastic waste was immediately suspected, because if turtles have eaten too much plastic it bloats their bellies and they can't control their buoyancy.

Kai was given laxatives for two weeks to clear out her system, and Ms Svensson witnessed an emotional moment as Kai was carried back to the sea to complete her recovery.

'Heart-breaking' reality

"It's a very happy moment," she said. "But sadly we can't be sure that Kai won't be back again if she eats more plastic.
"It's heart-breaking, but it's reality. We just have to do much more to make sure the plastics don't get into the sea in the first place."

Caspar van de Geer runs the turtle hospital for the group Local Ocean Conservation at Watamu in eastern Kenya.
He had demonstrated earlier how uncannily a plastic film pulsating in the water column mimics the actions of the jellyfish some turtles love to eat.

"Turtles aren't stupid," he said. "It's really difficult to tell the difference between plastics and jellyfish, and it may be impossible for a turtle to learn."

On a pin board he's compiled a grid of sealed clear plastic bags like the ones used at airports for cosmetics.
Here they contain the plastic fragments removed from the stomachs of sick turtles. Half of the turtles brought here after eating plastics have died.

A huge table at the hospital is laden with an array of plastic waste collected off local beaches - from fishing nets and nylon ropes to unidentifiable fragments of plastic film.

There's waste from down the coast as far as Tanzania - but also from Madagascar, the Comoros Islands, Thailand, Indonesia and even a bottle from far-away Japan.

There's a score of mysterious white plastic rings which staff speculate are the rims of yoghurt pots, a plastic lighter. There are disintegrating woven plastic fertiliser bags, plastic straws - and much more.

Bite marks show some items like small suncream bottles have clearly been nibbled at by fish, because they look like potential food.

Local people scour the beach daily for plastic waste. They want clean beaches, and they're aware that local hotels want the same.

But along the high water line millions of the fragments of plastics are mixed in with dried sea grass, too small to be collected.

Gaining momentum?

"The scale of the challenge is absolutely enormous," says Ms Svensson. She's backing a resolution by Norway this week for the world to completely eliminate plastic waste into the ocean.

If all nations agree to that long-term goal it'll be considered a UN success.

Certainly, it sounds more ambitious than the current commitment to substantially decrease waste inputs into the sea by 2025.
But some environmentalists argue that the absence of a timetable for preventing waste is a huge failing.

Tisha Brown from Greenpeace told BBC News: "We welcome that they are looking at a stronger statement, but with billions of tonnes of plastic waste entering the oceans we need much more urgent action.

"We need manufacturers to take responsibility for their products - and we need to look at our consumption patterns that are driving all this."
Indonesia - the world's second biggest plastics polluter after China - has pledged to reduce plastic waste into the ocean 75% by 2025, but some observers doubt legal rules are strong enough to make this happen.

Plastic waste is also on the agenda for this month's China Council - an influential high level dialogue in which world experts advise China's leaders on environmental issues.

Kenya itself has banned single-use plastic bags, along with Rwanda, Tanzania and - soon- Sri Lanka. Bangladesh has had controls for many years, especially to stop bags clogging up drains and causing floods.

But bags are just one part of the problem - there are so many other types of plastic flowing through waterways.

"The UN process is slow," Ms Svensson admitted. "It could take 10 years to get a UN treaty agreed on plastic litter and a further two years to get it implemented.

"We have to progress through the UN because this is a truly global problem - but we can't wait that long.

"We need to get much stronger actions from civil society, putting pressure on business to change - they can switch their supply chains very fast. And we need more individual governments to take urgent action too."

She praised the BBC's Blue Planet series and urged other parts of the media to highlight the issue.

Ms Svensson said the ocean was facing multiple assault from over-fishing; pollution from chemicals, sewage and agriculture; development in coastal areas; climate change; ocean acidification; and over-exploitation of coral reefs.

"This is a planetary emergency," she said. "I sense there is a momentum now about the need to act. We just have to be much faster."

As we left Watamu after Kai's joyous release, I turned back for one last glance at the Indian Ocean. A small boy tossed a plastic bottle over his shoulder into the sparkling water.

Read more!