Best of our wild blogs: 8 Mar 18

10 Mar (Sat): Free talk on kids well-being and natural curiosity
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Ten ways to be more eco conscious this year
Green Drinks Singapore

#BeSmart – An insight to the seafood industry
The Dorsal Effect

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Man jailed for illegally importing hard corals from the Philippines

Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: A 39-year-old man was sentenced to two months' jail on Wednesday (Mar 7) for illegally importing hard corals.

Cheng Yee Yong was found guilty of bringing in a consignment of corals from the Philippines which had been declared as "plastic aquarium ornaments".

All hard corals are protected species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and a valid CITES permit is required for their import or export, which Cheng did not have.

He was caught after authorities acted on a tip-off, said the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) in a joint news release on Wednesday.

They worked with a logistics company to follow up on the case. At the importer's premises, AVA seized 75 hard corals and five soft corals wrapped in plastic bags lined with paper and concealed in ceramic mugs.

The corals are now under the care of Resorts World Sentosa.

Under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, those convicted of illegally importing protected species can be fined a maximum of S$500,000 and jailed up to two years.

"The Singapore Government has zero tolerance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts and derivatives," said AVA and ICA.

Source: CNA/gs

Man jailed 2 months for illegally importing 80 corals
Charmaine Ng Straits Times 7 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE - A man was sentenced to two months' jail on Wednesday (March 7) for illegally importing corals.

Cheng Yee Yong, 39, committed the offence last year.

A total of 75 hard corals and five soft corals wrapped in plastic bags lined with paper and concealed in ceramic mugs were seized by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

The two agencies had acted on a tip-off and worked with a logistics company to follow up on an imported consignment of corals from the Philippines, which had been falsely declared as "plastic aquarium ornaments".

The corals have since been placed under the care of Resorts World Sentosa, said AVA and ICA in a joint statement.

Assistant curator Jason Lim said in an official blog post by RWS that most of the corals were in "poor to moderate condition when they arrived".

"About 12 pieces were in particularly bad shape, some of them were already rotting away. Only four to five pieces of corals were in excellent condition," said Mr Lim in the blogpost published in April last year.

Most of the corals are known as chalice corals, which can fetch high prices of up to US$2,000 (S$2,629) due to their vibrant colours.

The blog post added: "Once the corals are in good shape, they will be transferred to our habitats to add to the vibrant ecosystems."

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), hard corals are protected species. In this case, the hard corals were imported without a valid Cites permit, said AVA.

The soft corals, while not protected under Cites, can only be imported with an AVA permit.

Offenders who violate the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act may be fined up to $500,000 and/or face two years' jail.

"The Singapore Government has zero tolerance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts and derivatives," the statement added.

ICA said it will continue to conduct security checks on cargo, passengers and vehicles at the checkpoints to prevent attempts to smuggle in undesirable persons, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contrabands, while the AVA will continue to cooperate and collaborate with partner enforcement agencies to curb wildlife smuggling.

Travellers are reminded not to bring live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit. More information on bringing in animals from overseas can be found on AVA's website or its mobile app, SG TravelKaki.

Those who wish to alert the AVA on suspected cases of illegal wildlife trade can do so using their online feedback form or call 6805-2992. All information shared will be kept strictly confidential, it said.

"The public has a role to play in tackling illegal wildlife trade. Consumer demand is the impetus for poachers of endangered animals. The public can help reduce demand by not buying wildlife parts and products," the statement added.

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Indonesia: BMKG Warns Flood, Landslide as Heavy Downpours Increasing

Tempo 7 Mar 18;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) predicts heavy rains will increase on March 7-10, 2018 in some region of Indonesia including Jakarta. The citizen in many areas should be aware of strong winds that lead to damaged trees or fallen billboards.

BMKG Meteorology Deputy Mulyono Rahadi stated the current atmosphere up to the next few days is indicated to be increased. "Assessed by the wet airflow from the Indian Ocean to the Indonesian territory," he said in a statement received by Tempo on Tuesday, March 6.

The condition has caused heavy rainfall intensity in some parts of Indonesia including West Sumatra, Bengkulu, South Sumatra, Lampung, Banten, Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, and East Java. Heavy rains will also occur in Southern Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, Maluku, and West Papua.

BMKG calls the people living in those areas to be wary of floods or landslides. People should also be aware of the possibility of rain accompanied by a high wind which can lead trees or billboards to fall or collapse, and do not take shelter under the trees when the rain accompanied by lightning.


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The return of Indonesia’s forest fires

Pamela Victor The ASEAN Post 7 Mar 18;

Late last month, Indonesia saw the return of its infamous forest fires that occur each year producing toxic, choking smog in the form of haze as the rainy season trails off. The fires this time have broken out in the four provinces of South Sumatra, Riau, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.

Twenty-three of the 90 hotspots recorded across the country were in West Kalimantan, where thick smoke blanketed the provincial capital Pontianak and disrupted flights. In Riau, one of the hardest-hit regions during the particularly disastrous 2015 season, fires have destroyed 6.4 square kilometres of land, an area double that of New York’s Central Park.

This situation prompted the archipelagic nation to declare an "alert emergency" status - just one level below the most severe warning in all four affected provinces. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Agency (BNPB) stated that this status will allow firefighters and the central government to have better access to resources in order to combat the forest fires.

These state of emergencies in Riau and Central Kalimantan will be effective until May while in South Sumatra and West Kalimantan it will run until October and December, respectively.

Causes and effects of forest fires

Forest fires are not unfamiliar in the Southeast Asian region, yet alone Indonesia. The most common root of the problem is the practice of forest clearance via the slash and burn method – where the forest is set on fire as a more economical way of clearing land for new cultivation.

Peat soil, which characterises much of the areas affected, is highly flammable, causing localised fires to spread while making them difficult to stop, producing sizable amounts of carbon dioxide. Currently, we do not know for sure who is to blame for these new forest fires. However, environmental group, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia - who have been highlighting the issue for years in the country – says that it is caused by the “collective negligence” of companies, smallholders and government.

According to an analysis of World Resources Institute data based on the September 2015 fires -which recorded the highest amount of carbon produced - more than one-third of the fires in Sumatra occurred on pulpwood concessions. A good proportion of the rest are on or near land used by palm oil producers.

Citing a report by the World Economic Forum, Lindsey Allen, executive director of the conservation organization, Rainforest Action Network stated that “…many of these fires are a direct result of the industrial manipulation of the landscape for plantation development.”

Indonesia’s tropical forests are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. With the recurring forest fires, deforestation and loss of forest cover is inevitable. This in turn, endangers various flora and fauna, some that are already on the brink of extinction.

As for the effects on the population, there are many cases of respiratory tract infections and even some fatalities. In the case of the 2015 forest fires, it was estimated that more than 100,000 premature deaths were caused by it. As a result, the economy of the country has been affected by the loss of natural and human resources.

After the 2015 incident, financial damage to the region’s economy was estimated at 2 percent of Indonesia’s GDP, according to the World Bank. Some US$935 million was lost in relation to agricultural produce and trade - just in the Riau province alone.


With Indonesia set to host the Asian Games in 2018, the issue of forest fires is a major concern to the government given the propensity of fires in the province. The games are scheduled to take place during the dry season in Jakarta and Palembang and will accommodate roughly tens of thousands of athletes and visitors from around Asia.

Currently, to curb the forest fires, officials are preparing planes for cloud seeding and helicopters for water bombing. The BNPB will also be deploying soldiers, police, firefighters and volunteers to combat the fires. However, in order to ensure forest fires do not get out of hand, especially as the country gears up for the international games, the government must tighten controls and fast track certain infrastructure programs such as the proposed peatland rewetting systems. Apart from that, adequate monitoring should also be carried out so that carbon-rich peatlands that fall within private and public concessions are protected and preserved.

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Indonesia: Pangolin smugglers jailed for three years

Antara 8 Mar 18;

Bengkalis, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Bengkalis Class II District Court here on Wednesday sentenced two smugglers of 101 protected pangolins (Manis javanica) for three years and one month subsidiary in prison in addition to a penalty of Rp100 million.

"The suspects, with the initials A and B, have been found guilty of smuggling and trading the protected animal species. They will be imprisoned for three years in accordance with Article 21 No.2b of Law No.5 of 1990 on Conservation of Natural Resources," Zia Ul Jannah, a judge, stated during a hearing in Bengkalis, Riau Province.

Jannah noted that the 101 pangolins were rescued and later released by the Natural Resources Conservation Office (BBKSDA), while a boat used to transport the animals will be handed over to the treasury agency.

During the previous hearing, the general prosecutor had called on the judges to award a sentence of four years and six months subsidiary in jail and a penalty of Rp100 million to the two suspects.

During the final hearing at the district court, some officials of the conservation agency`s law enforcement as well as a representative of World Wildlife Fund Anid Wikasari were present.

According to Marhot Pohan, an official of the Conservation Office, the two suspects were couriers assigned to transport the pangolins from Paknik River in Riau to the Malaysian-flagged boats.

For every transaction, the suspects would have received Rp200 thousand to Rp800 thousand.

On Oct 24, last year, a joint task force of the Navy`s Western Fleet Quick Response 1.6 raided the two suspects in the Roro-Pakning waters and later seized the 101 pangolins.

"Bengkalis is one of the entry points of the global black market for protected animals. These pangolins, for instance, were planned to be smuggled into Malaysia, China, and Vietnam," Wikasari remarked.

Hence, following the trial, the Conservation official and the environmentalist expressed hope that the penalty will serve as a deterrent for other smugglers planning to conduct illegal activities.

Once the law enforcement apparatus succeeds in deterring the smugglers, the pangolins will be safeguarded from becoming extinct, she added.

Reported by Asripilyadi, Gianini Sonnevil
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Europe struggles to stem biodiesel import flood

Sybille de La Hamaide Reuters 8 Mar 18;

PARIS (Reuters) - Rising biodiesel imports from Argentina and an expected surge in shipments from Indonesia threaten to cripple output in the European Union, the world’s top producer of the renewable fuel.

An employee checks a bottle of Ester at the factory of Avril Group subsidiary Saipol, where biodiesel under the Diester brand and vegetable glycerin used for numerous industrial applications are manufactured, in Bassens, near Bordeaux, France February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
The European Union slashed import duties on Argentine biodiesel last September after Buenos Aires mounted a successful challenge at the World Trade Organisation, weeks after the United States imposed steep duties on the fuel.

The bloc is now considering whether to cut duties on Indonesian biodiesel.

Argentine soybean-based fuel is now entering the EU at much lower prices than rapeseed oil, the main material used by European producers, who say they cannot compete and in some cases are being pushed to the verge of bankruptcy.

Between August last year and January, 852,000 tonnes of biodiesel - around four times the capacity of a large EU plant - worth $617 million, were exported from Argentina to the bloc, customs data showed. Earlier in 2017, nearly all exports were heading to the United States.

Raffaello Garofalo, head of the European Biodiesel Board (EBB), said the impact of Argentine imports was already worse than expected.

“There is huge economic damage and we risk seeing many European renewable fuel producers close down in the face of these unfair import floods,” he said.

The EU is the world’s largest producer and consumer of biodiesel, a fuel made mostly from vegetable oils, which is renewable and aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

EU production of biodiesel was 11.9 million tonnes in 2017, up from 11.7 million a year earlier. But consultancy Strategie Grains, which initially said output would be stable this year, has cut its 2018 estimate to 11.6 million tonnes because of the Argentine imports.

Imports of Argentine biodiesel into the EU could hit 1.5 million tonnes in 2018, with a similar volume from Indonesia if the EU cuts its duties, Strategie Grains said.

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