Best of our wild blogs: 13 Feb 18

Invasive mussels on Singapore's northern shores
wild shores of singapore

Swimmer Crabs
Hantu Blog

The most adorable snake in our mangroves!
wild shores of singapore

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NUS study yields valuable insights on underreporting in international wildlife trade

Findings suggest large portions of the markets for illegal and legal wildlife remain unknown, hampering regulation and conservation efforts
National University of Singapore EurekAlert 11 Feb 18;

Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have established several key trends in wildlife trade following an in-depth study on international wildlife trade data. The findings shed light on the market forces driving the movement of wildlife products around the globe, and indicate our understanding of illegal and legal wildlife trade is biased towards certain species and regions of the globe.

The findings also implied that wildlife trade networks may be more complicated than previously thought, undermining enforcement and conservation efforts. Regulatory authorities, such as The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), can leverage this information to improve existing conservation efforts and policies.

Mr William Symes, a PhD student from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, who led the study, said, "Increasing our understanding of the drivers of international wildlife trade is critical as unsustainable harvesting of wildlife can lead to population decline and the extinction of species. While there is currently a database of legal trade in restricted species, it relies on the submission of annual reports which can be undermined by weak domestic legislation and governance hence we are not getting a complete picture of the industry."

Using a novel gravity-underreporting model, the researchers carried out a comprehensive analysis and comparison of over 370,000 records of wildlife trade between 2004 and 2013 across three groups - mammals, avian and reptiles. The key findings established from the analysis include:

Illegal products entering the USA come predominantly from Canada, Mexico and China

Illegal products entering the USA were less likely to be intercepted if they were coming from Africa, central Asia, Eastern Europe and Pacific Island states suggesting the existence of complex trade networks and the potential for the laundering of illegal products through legal markets

Different drivers and markets exist for mammalian, avian and reptilian trade, suggesting a nuanced approach to regulation and monitoring, which accounts for these differences, is required for effective conservation.

CITES success depends on products considered, and trade in less well studied groups such as orchids, timber or corals are likely to be less well regulated by CITES.

Using the insights generated as a guide, regulatory authorities can allot conservation resources more efficiently. "The trends we have established in this study highlight the need for regulatory bodies to look beyond the existing databases and take into account the uncertainty surrounding our current understanding of wildlife trade in their conservation efforts. For example, capacity building to improve our ability to regulate and monitor trade in less well studied species and in countries with higher levels of corruption are essential if we want to prevent trade driven extinctions globally" explained Assistant Professor Roman Carrasco from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, and co-author of the study.

The study was published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation in December 2017.

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Malaysia: Sand mining hurting firefly population in Kuala Selangor

The Star 13 Feb 18;

PUTRAJAYA: Selangor needs to be wary of sand mining activities near Kuala Selangor as it is affecting the population of fireflies in the area, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said such activities should be done at least three nautical miles away from the firefly’s habitat.

“Fireflies feed on a certain type of snail that is found on the soil. When there is sand mining or sand stockpiles, it will destroy the snails.

“These will cause the firefly to go extinct because its source of food is affected.

“It is important that we preserve our fireflies, as it is both a tourist attraction and an indicator of the mangrove area’s health,” Dr Wan Junaidi told reporters after launching the International Symposium on Coastal Erosion and Environ­ment 2018.

He was responding to claims by Kuala Selangor MP Datuk Seri Irmohizam Ibrahim that sand mining activities in Kampung Kuantan over the past year had affected the habitat of fireflies, contributing to its dwindling population.

Firefly watching is one of the biggest tourist draws in Kuala Selangor, which is about a 40-minute drive away from Kuala Lumpur.

Selangor urged to do more to protect fire flies in Kuala Selangor
HASHINI KAVISHTRI KANNAN New Straits Times 13 Feb 18;

PUTRAJAYA: Selangor has been urged to be more sensitive in addressing issues surrounding the extinction of its famed fireflies in Kuala Selangor.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the state should understand that sand mining activities in a range of three nautical miles from the insects habitat, could affect the flies, commonly known as lightning bugs.

"Even more, if the sand stockpiles are left with a kilometer of their habitat. This is because the insects would lose their source of food.

"These insects largely feed on a special type of snail which is found on the soil and if the sand stockpile covers the ground, their source of food is definitely disturbed and they would go extinct," he said.

Wan Junaidi was speaking to reporters after the launching of International Symposium on Coastal Erosion and Environment 2018 (ISCEE), here, today.

His comments came in light of the recent revelation of a local Malay daily which reported that sand mining activities in the state, had affected the habitat of the fireflies.

The report said the insects habitat is in the verge of extinction due to the excessive sand mining activities carried out in Kampung Kuantan since last year.

Kuala Selangor member of parliament Datuk Seri Irmohizam was quoted as saying the sand mining activities in the area, had caused the trees there to be destroyed, hence the fireflies' natural habitat is ruined.

Wan Junaidi said there is an important need to preserve the bugs mainly because it is an indicator of the of the country's mangrove health, apart from being a tourist attraction.

"I am not blaming anybody but the state-government should know better on preserving and conserving the nature, including the insects," he added.

He adds the ministry is currently drafting the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) which will take into account all environmental issues including development matters which affects the environment. This will also cover the fireflies and its habitat.

On the Symposium, Ean Junaidi said, the ministry had released an updated National Coastal Erosion Study which found that 15 per cent of Malaysia's coastline had experienced erosion.

In addressing this, he said the government had allocated RM624.5 million in an effort to reduce erosion and its related damages.

"This involves beach nourishment, construction of breakwaters, barriers and revetments.

"These project’s seek to benefit 45.38 km of coastline involving 250,000 people and to protect loss of public property up to RM75 million," Wan Junaidi added.

He said the three-day synposium beginning today, is aimed at providing a platform to share expertise and experience to find the best methods in mitigating coastal erosion.

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Indonesia: Rafflesia Bengkuluensis and Gadutensis in bloom in Bengkulu

Antara 12 Feb 18;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News)- A Rafflesia bengkuluensis and a Rafflesia gadutensis flowers are now in bloom in Bengkulu Province, Sumatra Island.

"We found a Rafflesia bengkuluensis in bloom in its habitat in Penangkulan River basin area," Andi Yan, a member of the Padang Guci Youths` Rare Flower Community, said here, Monday.

The bengkuluensis found in Manau IX village, Kaur District, is expected to be in full bloom on Tuesday (Feb 13).

Rafflesia gadutensis is now in full bloom in Boven Lais protected forest in North Bengkulu District.

"At present, the flower petals are open perfectly," Riki Septian, a member of the North Bengkulu community for rare flower, said.

Many domestic and foreign tourists visited Boven Lais and Bukit Daun protected forests located in North and Central Bengkulu Districts, to enjoy watching the giant flowers in their habitats.

"We have made a path and provided home-stay accommodation for tourists here," he said.

Bengkulu Province has identified at least five Rafflesia flower species, notably Rafflesia arnoldii, Rafflesia bengkuluensis, Rafflesia gadutensis, Rafflesia hasselti and Rafflesia kemumu.

Kaur District is the endemic habitat of Rafflesia bengkuluensis identified by Rafflesia experts from the University of Bengkulu and the University of Kebangsaan Malaysia, in 2005.

Besides Rafflesia bengkulensis, Rafflesia arnoldii also grows in Kaur forest.

reported by Helti M Sipayung
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Microplastics pollute most remote and uncharted areas of the ocean

First data ever gathered from extremely remote area of the South Indian Ocean has a surprisingly high volume of plastic particles, say scientists
Sandra Laville The Guardian 12 Feb 18;

Microplastics have been found in some of the most remote and uncharted regions of the oceans raising more concerns over the global scale of plastic pollution.

Samples taken from the middle of the South Indian Ocean Рat latitude 45.5 degrees south Рshow microplastic particles detected at relatively high volumes. Șren Gutekunst, from the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, who analysed the samples, said the data showed 42 particles per cubic metre, which was surprising given the remoteness of the area.

“Data on microplastics has not been taken from this extremely remote area before and what we found was relatively high levels,” he said. “There are places in the ocean which are not being observed and that is why it is so special for us to be doing this. It is amazing that we have the opportunity and this could lead to much further knowledge about what is happening with microplastics in the ocean.”

The samples were gathered by a research vessel taking part in the Volvo round-the-world ocean race as it skirted around the Antarctic exclusion zone. The race takes them through ocean areas so remote they have never been sampled before, allowing Gutekunst and his team to collect new data.

Gutekunst said research on microplastics in the ocean was in its relative infancy. Currently scientists can only account for 1% of the plastic they think is in the ocean.

The data collected during the race showed the highest microplastic levels around Europe’s north Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, where levels range from 180-307 particles/metre cubed. High levels were also recorded off the coast of Cape Town (152 per cubic metre) and the Australian coast (114-115 particles per cubic metre).

More than 8m tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year. Recent research has shown that billions of pieces of plastic are snagged on coral reefs, sending disease rates soaring.

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