Best of our wild blogs: 16 Feb 18

The most adorable snake in Singapore mangroves!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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5 things you need to know about how the carbon tax works

Aqil Haziq Mahmud Channel NewsAsia 16 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE: Starting next year, the Government will impose a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as part of its commitments under the Paris climate agreement,

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget speech last year that the tax will create a "price signal" to incentivise industries to reduce emissions.

It will also create "new opportunities" in green growth industries such as clean energy, he added, pointing out that revenue from the tax will help to fund measures by industries to reduce emissions.

The tax will affect 30 to 40 large emitters, defined as those that emit 25,000 or more tonnes of greenhouse gases annually. The Government is looking at charging between S$10 and S$20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions.

The final price will be announced in the Carbon Pricing Bill, which will be introduced in the first quarter of this year.

While the tax will not apply directly to households, Mr Heng expects a "modest" trickle-down effect on consumers. The idea is for power generators to pass on the cost of the carbon tax, experts said.

The National Climate Change Secretariat has said that for the average household living in a four-room flat, the tax translates to an increase of S$1.70 to S$3.30 per month in electricity tariffs.

So, here's what you need to know about how the carbon tax works:


The bill states that facilities which emit more than 2,000 tonnes but less than 25,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually must continue to submit an emissions report, in line with the Energy Conservation Act.

"Taxable facilities" which emit more than 25,000 tonnes every year must submit an emissions report that is verified by an independent third party and based on a monitoring plan.

Once the carbon tax kicks in next year, facilities will have to monitor their emissions for a year before submitting their emissions report by Jun 30, 2020. Emissions reports must be submitted by Jun 30 each year.


The monitoring plan must state how a facility ensures the quality of data required for computations in the emissions report. If required, the plan must also be independently verified.

The monitoring plan must be submitted by Dec 31 each year.


If the authorities find that an emissions report or monitoring plan is inaccurate or incomplete, they can direct the facility to rectify the document and resubmit it.

If the facility discovers an inaccuracy, it must notify the authorities as soon as possible. It should also describe the circumstances that led to the error and how it will be corrected. Where applicable, it should give an estimate of the greenhouse gases represented by the error.

Those who intentionally provide inaccurate information to dodge taxes can be fined triple the evaded amount, on top of a fine capped at S$10,000, and/or jailed up to three years.


"Taxable facilities" can buy carbon credits from the National Environment Agency (NEA) at a fixed price throughout the year. At the end of an assessment year, the credits are used to pay tax levied on their total greenhouse emissions.

The price of the credits will be determined closer to the date of implementation.

This system gives the authorities the flexibility to adopt other methods if and when needed, such as linking Singapore’s carbon pricing framework to that of a bigger jurisdiction.

Taxes must be paid by Sep 30 each year. Those who fail to pay the carbon tax can be fined triple the amount of outstanding tax. The first carbon tax is expected to be paid in 2020.


All facilities can apply to be deregistered if their greenhouse gas emissions fall below certain thresholds for three consecutive years.

But if they can prove that they have made “significant and substantial changes” to processes that will lower emissions "considerably" below these thresholds, they can apply for deregistration the following year.

NEA will approve such applications on a case-by-case basis.

Source: CNA/hz

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Indonesia: Fire ravages tens of hectares of peatland in West Kalimantan

Antara 15 Feb 18;

Pontianak, W Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - A fire has razed tens of hectares of peatland areas in Pasir Village, Mempawah District, West Kalimantan Province, since Tuesday night (Feb 13).

Commander of the Mempawah District Military Command 1201/Mph Lieutenant Colonel Anom Wirasunu noted on Thursday that military personnel had attempted to put out the fire to prevent it from spreading shortly after it broke out.

"We had been at the scene on Wednesday for around four hours, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time. The smoke there was thick due to the land fire," he noted.

He said peatland areas in several parts of Mempawah District are prone to fire, particularly when the temperature is high.

The fire was spotted in three different places in Mempawah Hilir, according to the survey conducted by a joint team of personnel assigned to put out the fire.

"In just one of the three places, some 30 hectares of land have caught fire," he noted.

Several plots of land of dragon fruit and pineapple plantations belonging to local residents had caught fire in Sebukit Rama Hamlet in Mempawah District.

Although efforts to extinguish the blaze were undertaken since Tuesday evening, the fire has spread to other peatland areas at Sebukit Rama.

"Yesterday, we tried to put out the blaze using a fire truck and a robin portable fire extinguisher. (However, today), we have three robin portable fire extinguishers and a fire truck," he added.

Reported by Teguh IW and Aries Zaldi
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Indonesia: Dramatic decline in Borneo's orangutan population as 150,000 lost in 16 years

Fresh efforts needed to protect critically endangered animals from hunters and habitat loss as population more than halves
Ian Sample The Guardian 15 Feb 18;

Hunting and killing have driven a dramatic decline in the orangutan population on Borneo where nearly 150,000 animals have been lost from the island’s forests in 16 years, conservationists warn.

While the steepest percentage losses occurred in regions where the forest has been cut down to make way for palm oil and acacia plantations, more animals were killed by hunters who ventured into the forest, or by farm workers when the apes encroached on agricultural land, a study found.

Researchers estimate that the number of orangutans left on Borneo now stands at between 70,000 and 100,000, meaning the population more than halved over the study period which ran from 1999 to 2015. Without fresh efforts to protect the animals, the numbers could fall at least another 45,000 in the next 35 years, the conservationists predict. The real decline could be worse, because the prediction is based only on habitat loss, and does not include killings.

The bleak assessment of the state of the Bornean apes comes from an international team of conservationists who compiled one of the most comprehensive reports yet on the animals, which in 2016 were declared “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“I expected to see a fairly steep decline, but I did not anticipate it would be this large,” said Serge Wich, a co-author on the report at Liverpool John Moores University. “When we did the analyses, we ran them again and again to figure out if we had made a mistake somewhere. You think the numbers can’t be that high, but unfortunately they are.”

The researchers studied 16 years of ground and helicopter surveys that recorded the numbers and locations of nests that orangutans built in the trees from branches and leaves. The nests have long been used to infer the sizes of orangutan populations because the animals themselves are so elusive.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, the team describe how the decline in nests from 1999 to 2015 points to the staggering loss of 148,500 orangutans in Borneo. The conservationists identified 64 separate groups of orangutans on the island, but only 38 are thought to comprise more than 100 individuals, the minimum that is considered viable for a group.

The forests of Borneo are being fragmented by new plantations and building projects and the associated loss of trees led to falls in local orangutan populations of up to 75%, the study found. In the dense forests, orangutan numbers fell by 50%. While that is a lower rate, it amounts to more animals because most of the apes live in these areas. “This is the biggest chunk of the loss,” said Maria Voigt at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. “More than 70% of the orangutans lost are in the forest.”

Hunters in Borneo tend to enter the forest to find pigs and deer, but if they encounter a large orangutan, they can take the animals for food. Female orangutans are occasionally killed for their young, which are sold on as pets. Far more of the apes die when they venture on to plantations, and into people’s gardens, where they are shot or killed with machetes. Last week, authorities on Borneo found the body of a male orangutan bearing machete scars and wounds from 130 airgun pellets.

“We need to work with people to help them understand that orangutans are not dangerous and that it’s illegal to kill them,” Wich said. One approach that might work, he said, is to have Indonesian and Malaysian role models raise awareness of orangutans through social media.

“We know this decline has been largely due to hunting, and if we can turn that around, these orangutans could, over a long period, bounce back. When you lost the habitat, it’s gone forever, but the forests are still there. If we can stop the hunting and killing, we can reverse the trend.”

Emma Keller at WWF said: “Orangutans are disappearing at an alarming rate. Their forests homes have been lost and degraded, and hunting threatens the existence of this magnificent great ape. Immediate action is needed to reform industries that have pushed orangutans to the brink of extinction. Consumers can make a difference through only supporting brands and retailers that buy sustainable palm oil.”

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China confirms first human case of H7N4 bird flu

AFP Yahoo News 15 Feb 18;

Hong Kong (AFP) - China has confirmed the first human case of H7N4 bird flu, prompting Hong Kong to issue a health warning for those travelling to the mainland during the busy Lunar New Year holiday.

The strain was identified in a 68-year-old woman from the eastern province of Jiangsu who was admitted to hospital after falling ill on December 25 but had since recovered, according to China's National Health and Family Planning Commission.

"She had contact with live poultry before the onset of symptoms," Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection said late Wednesday after being informed of the case by Chinese authorities, who said the virus genes were of avian origin.

The world's first human cases of bird flu were reported in Hong Kong in 1997, when six people were killed by the H5N1 strain of the virus. Hundreds more have died worldwide in subsequent outbreaks, especially of highly-virulent strains like H7N9.

The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city is a high-risk area for the spread of communicable diseases because of its high population density and busy regional and international transport links.

"Travellers to the mainland or other affected areas must avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms," the Centre for Health Protection warned after the H7N4 strain was reported by China.

Authorities in China and Hong Kong did not provide further details on the H7N4 strain found in the woman, such as its virulence. An outbreak of this type of bird flu hit chickens in New South Wales, Australia, in 1997, according to World Health Organization records.

Hong Kong authorities are already battling a deadly flu outbreak, and were forced to shut down kindergartens and primary schools early for the Chinese New Year break.

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Pangolin trade still flourishing despite ban

UNEP 15 Feb 18;

Pangolins are small mammals that only move around at night. Hardly a zoo has been able to keep one alive. And yet, they sit above the elephant and rhino as the most illegally trafficked animal in the world.

Pangolins are amazing: With shiny scales and pointy heads, they look like miniature dinosaurs; baby pangolins ride around on their mothers’ tails; they slurp ants with 25cm-long tongues; and they can curl up into an armoured ball that foxes any predator – except humans. Being so elusive, not much more is known about them.

Pangolin researchers meeting in January 2017 in Singapore concluded that increased demand from China for pangolins has led to "great declines" in populations across Cambodia, Viet Nam, and Laos.

“Pangolins have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, but growing human populations and greater wealth across China have increased demand,” says the Worldwatch Institute. “Pangolin fetuses, scales, and blood are used in medicine, the meat is considered a delicacy, and stuffed pangolins are sold as souvenirs.”

All eight (four Asian and four African) species of pangolins are now prohibited from international trade thanks to greater protections they won at the 2017 conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which UN Environment hosts.

However, new research based on cross-border pangolin seizures shows that a combined minimum of 120 tons of whole pangolins, parts and scales were confiscated by law enforcement agencies from 2010 to 2015. On average pangolins weigh about 5 kilograms, so that’s a lot of pangolins.

The research was published in December 2017 by TRAFFIC and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and titled The Global Trafficking Of Pangolins: A comprehensive summary of seizures and trafficking routes from 2010–2015. It highlighted the truly global nature of the trade: 67 countries/territories were implicated, including those not home to pangolins.

Smugglers were said to be using 27 new global trade routes, and Europe (especially Germany and Belgium) was identified as a major transit hub, mostly for African pangolins being transported to Asia. However, the Netherlands was reported as a destination for large-quantity shipments of body parts and scales from China and Uganda, respectively.

The report’s findings underscore the highly mobile nature of smuggling networks, with traffickers quickly shifting from commonly used routes after a short period and creating many new routes each year to evade enforcement efforts.

17 February is World Pangolin Day. Find out how the UN’s Wild for Life campaign is working to protect pangolins and other species threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.

The Environmental Investigation Agency says there has been a significant growth in the trade of African pangolin species, especially for scales, in the last few years.

In November 2017, China announced the seizure of 11.9 tons of scales from a ship in Shenzen, the world’s largest ever pangolin seizure.

“This report shows that while enforcement efforts are absolutely critical, we must give as much priority to tackling the demand that drives illegal trade,” says UN Environment wildlife communication expert Lisa Rolls.

“World Pangolin Day on 18 February is an important awareness-raising moment. We need to get the word out there to educate consumers who may not be informed about the impacts of their purchases and to try and prevent new users. We are asking people to join the Wild for Life campaign for Pangolin Day and spread the word!”

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