Best of our wild blogs: 15 Apr 18

Our corals have spawned

Lepak in SG youths - making change for our shores!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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Rare plant with smell of rotting flesh spotted in Tambunan

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 13 Apr 18;

TAMBUNAN: A flowering plant that can grow up to 3.5 metres, one of the world’s largest species, has been spotted here.

The Amorphophallus titanum, also known as titan arum, boasts a stunning flowering structure which is accompanied by the putrid scent of rotting flesh.

Usually found in Indonesia and known as Bangkai Raksasa, Kampung Kuyungon villagers here said the plant was also known as Lopung-Lopung.

Mairinc Patrick said two weeks ago, her family spotted the huge plant at their farm which grew to the height of her 5-year-old nephew.

“We have seen the plant before, but at that time, it was about a metre tall.

“The stem of the lupong-lupong will be the only part that grows at the initial stage and only later will the leaf come out,” she said, adding some locals said the plant was edible.

Mairinc added the plant will have pungent smell when it dies after about two weeks.

Netizens have also claimed to have seen the species grow behind their houses.

District officer Thomas Logijin when contacted said there were reports of new discoveries of titan arum plants growing in other parts in Tambunan.

According to website, the titan arum lives in the rainforests of western Sumatra, on steep hillslopes that are between 120 and 365 metres above sea level.

The species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants.

The deforestation of the Sumatra rainforest affected titan arum numbers directly, and the situation also impacted the rhinoceros hornbill, an important seed distributor for such plant species.

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Indonesia: W Sumatra to build sea turtle conservation areas

Darwito Antara 14 Apr 18;

Padang, W Sumatra (ANTARA News) - The Office of Marine and Fisheries of West Sumatra Province will increase sea turtle conservation areas in order to maintain its population.

"Currently, the authority of the conservation area is moving from city or district to province, while we are still making a territorial mapping," Head of West Sumatra Office of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Yosmeri remarked here on Saturday.

He stated that the conservation areas are located in Padang City, Pariaman City, Padang Pariaman District, and Coast District. Moreover, it will be also be built in West Pasaman District and Agam.

"We will try to improve the facilities in conservation areas, such as in Pariaman City," he added.

In addition, the fish ponds that contain marine creatures will also be built in Pariaman`s conservation area.

He further stated that the pond will later look like a marine aquarium and attract tourists, providing better economy to the local people.

The rate of West Sumatra people eating sea turtles, both eggs and meat, is quite high. The local government and related institute must educate the public on avoiding consuming sea turtles and on the punishment for those who violate the rule.

The people of Mentawai Islands eat sea turtle meat as part of their custom, but they get poisoned after eating it.

In fact, in Mentawai Islands, there is a rare sea turtle named the leatherback sea turtle.

"If possible, we will also build a special conservation area for leatherback sea turtles in Mentawai District," he explained.

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Indonesia, China agree to develop high-temperature reactor

Antara 13 Apr 18;

Beijing (ANTARA News) - Indonesia and China has agreed to develop a multifunction laboratory for a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor.

The agreement was signed by Indonesian Minister of Research, Technology, and Higher Education Mohamad Nasir and Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang in Beijing on Thursday night (Apr 12).

The agreement document was inked on the sidelines of the launch of the ASEAN-China Innovation Year 2018 and the China-ASEAN Innovation Forum.

"China`s innovation needs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Similarly, ASEAN`s innovation needs China," Zhigang noted.

In addition to Indonesia, China also agreed to develop a railway system research center with Thailand, develop a new and renewable energy laboratory with Laos, and develop radar and communications satellites with Myanmar.

China has collaborated on science and technology projects with 158 countries and is involved in 200 international scientific and technological organizations, according to local media.

"We continue to support the openness and cooperation in science and technology and technology innovation more broadly and deeply," Wang noted.

The Chinese Ministry will also seek to synergize the idea of the Silk Road and the Maritime Lane of the 21st Century or "Belt and Road" with the ASEAN development plan to build the China-ASEAN community.

Minister Nasir had paid a working visit to China on April 12-15, 2018. He had an opportunity to hold a bilateral meeting with Zhigang at the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology office in Beijing.

Nasir is also scheduled to meet with representatives from the Tsinghua University and members of the Indonesian Students Association in China at the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing on Friday.

Nasir will continue his visit to Chengdu, Sichuan Province, on Saturday (Apr 14) to observe the Technology Industry Development Zone, the Research and Development Center at Xinan Jiaotong University, the Giant Panda Research and Development Center, and Dufu Museum.

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Global shipping in 'historic' climate deal

David Shukman BBC 13 Apr 18;

The global shipping industry has for the first time agreed to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases.

The move comes after talks all week at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London.

Shippings has previously been excluded from climate agreements, but under the deal, emissions will be reduced by 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

One minister from a Pacific island state described the agreement as "history in the making".

Shipping generates roughly the same quantity of greenhouse gas as Germany and, if it were accounted for as a nation, would rank as the world's sixth biggest emitter.

Like aviation, it had been excluded from climate negotiations because it is an international activity while both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement involved national pledges to reduce greenhouse gases.

Plea for action on shipping emissions

Shipping faces demands to cut CO2

The United States, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and a few other countries had not wanted to see a target for cutting shipping emissions at all.

By contrast the European Union, including Britain, and small island states had pushed for a cut of 70-100%.

So the deal for a 50% reduction is a compromise which some argue is unrealistic while others say does not far enough.

Kitack Lim, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization, who had chaired the controversial talks, said: "This initial strategy is not a final statement but a key starting point."

The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands had opened the conference with a plea for action.

Although it has the world's second largest register of shipping, it had warned that failure to achieve deep cuts would threaten the country's survival as global warming raises sea levels.

As the talks concluded, the nation's environment minister David Paul said: "To get to this point has been hard, very hard. And it has involved compromises by all countries. Not least by vulnerable island nations like my own who wanted something, far, far more ambitious than this one."

Mr Paul added: "This is history in the making… if a country like the Marshall Islands, a country that is very vulnerable to climate change, and particularly depends on international shipping, can endorse this deal, there is no credible excuse for anybody else to hold back."

Laurent Parente, the ambassador of Vanuatu, also a Pacific island nation, was not satisfied but hoped the deal would lead to tougher action in future.

"It is the best we could do and is therefore what this delegation will support as the initial strategy that we have no doubt will evolve to higher ambitions in the near future."

By contrast, the head of the US delegation to the talks, Jeffrey Lantz, made clear his country's opposition to the deal.

"We do not support the establishment of an absolute reduction target at this time," he said.

"In addition, we note that achieving significant emissions reductions, in the international shipping sector, would depend on technological innovation and further improvements in energy efficiency."

Mr Lantz reiterated that the US, under President Trump, has announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

He also criticised the way the IMO had handled the talks, describing it as "unacceptable and not befitting this esteemed organisation."

But a clear majority of the conference was in favour of action.

The UK's shipping minister, Nusrat Ghani, described the agreement as " a watershed moment with the industry showing it is willing to play its part in protecting the planet".

The move will send a signal through the industry that rapid innovation is now needed.

Ships may have to operate more slowly to burn less fuel. New designs for vessels will be more streamlined and engines will have to be cleaner, maybe powered by hydrogen or batteries, or even by the wind.

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Battle to save Africa's elephants is gaining some ground

Christopher Torchia, Associated Press Yahoo News 14 Apr 18;

MIKUMI NATIONAL PARK, Tanzania (AP) -- The elephant staggered and keeled over in the tall grass in southern Tanzania, where some of the world's worst poaching has happened.

It wasn't a killer who targeted her but a conservation official, immobilizing her with a dart containing drugs. Soon she was snoring loudly, and they propped open her trunk with a twig to help her breathe. They slid a 26-pound (12-kilogram) GPS tracking collar around the rough skin of her neck and injected an antidote, bringing her back to her feet. After inspecting the contraption with her trunk, she ambled back to her family herd.

The operation was part of a yearlong effort to collar and track 60 elephants in and around Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve, widely acknowledged as 'Ground Zero' in the poaching that has decimated Africa's elephants in recent years. The Associated Press traveled to the area to witness how the battle to save the continent's elephants is gaining some momentum, with killings declining and some herds showing signs of recovery. Legal ivory markets are shrinking worldwide, and law enforcement has broken up some key trafficking syndicates, say experts.

But it's far too early to declare a turnaround. Poachers are moving to new areas and traffickers are adapting, aided by entrenched corruption. The rate of annual elephant losses still exceeds the birth rate. And the encroachment of human settlements is reducing the animals' range.

"The trend in poaching is going in the right direction, but we have a long way to go before we can feel comfortable about the future for elephants," said Chris Thouless of Save the Elephants, a group based in Kenya, where elephant numbers are rising again.

In a move to crack down on demand, Britain this month announced a ban on ivory sales. In China, trade in ivory and ivory products is illegal as of 2018. And in the U.S., a ban on ivory apart from items older than 100 years went into place in 2016.

If poaching can be brought under control here in Tanzania, there is hope that the killing of elephants can be stemmed elsewhere on the continent.

Africa's elephant population has plummeted from millions around 1900 to at least 415,000 today. Intelligent and emotional, with highly developed social behavior, elephants have been hunted for their ivory for centuries. A ban on commercial trade in ivory across international borders went into effect in 1990, but many countries continued to allow the domestic buying and selling of ivory.

Increased demand from consumers in China fueled a new wave of killings.

In Tanzania alone, the elephant population declined by 60 percent to 43,000 between 2009 and 2014, according to the government. Much of the slaughter happened in an ecosystem comprising the Selous and the adjacent Mikumi National Park. A tourist guide told The Associated Press that several years ago, he and a client saw an elephant family at sunset in the Selous reserve. They returned the next day to the ghastly sight of carcasses of elephants slaughtered for their tusks.

The killings in Tanzania appear to have slowed down. A count in the Selous-Mikumi area last year added up 23 carcasses of poached elephants, just 20 percent of the number found four years earlier. And African elephant poaching has declined to pre-2008 levels after reaching a peak in 2011, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

It's a positive trend, but there is speculation there is a dearth of elephants to kill in many areas.

"All the 'easy' elephants are dead," said Drew McVey, East Africa manager for the WWF conservation group.

In Tanzania's Selous region, more newborn elephants are visible and confident elephants are moving more widely outside unfenced, officially protected areas, said Edward Kohi, principal research officer with the state Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute and leader of the GPS collaring program funded by WWF. The collars are designed to allow rangers to track the movement of elephant herds, and then mobilize to protect them if they move into poaching hotspots. By receiving satellite-transmitted data on mobile phones, rangers could also intercept elephants that drift into a human settlement or fields of crops.

Adam Rajeta, a farmer and cattle herder living next to Mikumi park, said elephants sometimes cause havoc.

"During the harvesting season, they come close to our homes," Rajeta said. "When they do, we beat drums and make noise to scare them and thus protect ourselves. Only with God's mercy do they leave our neighborhood."

There has also been movement to crack down on trafficking. Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who took office in 2015, took a hard line and authorities have arrested key suspects linked to trafficking syndicates.

However, the fight against the illegal ivory trade is like squeezing a balloon — when gains are made in one area, such as Tanzania, the killings intensify in another spot, like Mozambique's Niassa reserve to the south, which is linked to the Selous by a wildlife corridor. And international seizures of smuggled ivory appear to be as large as ever, a possible sign of hurried efforts by traffickers to move stockpiles before business gets too difficult.

On Friday, media in Mozambique reported the seizure by authorities of more than a ton of elephant ivory that had been stashed in a shipping container by traffickers. It had been bound for Cambodia, the reports said.

Some poaching gangs in Niassa are Tanzanian and "there is a lot of movement across the border" that includes other illicit trade, including in timber and minerals, said James Bampton, Mozambique director for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. The group co-manages Niassa with the government.

There are probably fewer than 2,000 elephants in Niassa, Bampton said. That's a small fraction of the estimated number a decade ago in Mozambique's main elephant refuge. Periodic thefts of confiscated ivory and rhino horn in Mozambique also raise concerns about official collusion with traffickers.

Another worrying development is evidence of increased processing of ivory tusks into jewelry and trinkets within Africa, instead of the old method of shipping raw ivory out of the continent. This allows traffickers to transport ivory in smaller quantities that are hard to detect and avoids increased scrutiny of ivory-carving operations in Asia.

The challenges of protecting wildlife were apparent to AP journalists who traveled with the collaring team in Mikumi park next to the Selous reserve, a U.N. world heritage site.

Plans to deploy a helicopter to help spot and herd the elephants fell through. Vehicles got stuck in mud. One morning, a startled wildlife official sprinted to his vehicle after briefly entering a toilet labeled "Gents" at a dirt airstrip. A female lion who had been reclining in a stall sauntered out.

The team sometimes tracked elephants on foot, studying big round footprints, broken branches and the freshness of elephant dung for clues to their whereabouts.

Just two out of a planned five elephants were collared over three days in the Mikumi park. The conservationists refrained from darting elephant matriarchs, instead choosing younger females that they know will follow the group. They also intend to collar often solitary bull elephants.

The elephants displayed their social bonds in one instance, retreating into a defensive circle after hearing the pop of the dart gun. When a female was hit, the others appeared to try to prop up their woozy companion before fleeing.

Suspected traffickers are a threat to more than elephants. In August 2017, conservationist Wayne Lotter, credited with helping Tanzanian authorities dismantle some ivory smuggling operations, was murdered in Dar es Salaam in an apparent hit. Eight people have been arrested for the murder, including two bank officials and several businessmen.

Tanzania's Selous-Mikumi region is known as one of the biggest killing fields for African elephants, but the vast wilderness of about 23,000 square miles (60,000 square kilometers) still offers hope for the world's biggest land animal.

In 50 to 100 years, said Kohi, the collaring team leader, "when the human population is skyrocketing, this will be one of the important areas for the conservation of elephants."

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Popularity of tigers, lions, bears could be their downfall: study

AFP Yahoo News 13 Apr 18;

Tampa (AFP) - Iconic animals like elephants, tigers, lions and panda bears are everywhere in movies, books and toystores. But their wide pop culture presence skews public perception of how endangered these animals really are, researchers said Thursday.

Online surveys, zoo websites, animated films and school questionnaires were scoured by US and French researchers for the study, published in journal PLOS Biology.

Using these sources, scientists made a list of the top 10 most charismatic animals: tigers, lions, elephants, giraffes, leopards, pandas, cheetahs, polar bears, gray wolves and gorillas.

Researchers also found that almost 49 percent of all the non-teddy bear stuffed animals sold in the United States on Amazon were one of these 10 charismatic animals.

In France, 800,000 "Sophie the giraffe" baby toys were sold in 2010, more than eight times the numbers of giraffes living in Africa.

Lead author Franck Courchamp of the University of Paris said that these animals are so common in pop culture and marketing materials that they create a "virtual population" in people's minds, one that is doing far better in perception than reality.

"Unknowingly, companies using giraffes, cheetahs or polar bears for marketing purposes may be actively contributing to the false perception that these animals are not at risk of extinction, and therefore not in need of conservation," Courchamp said.

The average French citizen "will see more virtual lions through photos, cartoons, logos and brands in one month than there are wild lions left in West Africa," said the report.

Researchers urged companies that use these animals in their marketing to donate a portion of the proceeds to conservation groups.

"The appearance of these beloved animals in stores, in movies, on television, and on a variety of products seems to be deluding the public into believing they are doing okay," said co-author William Ripple, a professor of forest ecology at Oregon State University.

"If we don't act in a concerted effort to save these species, that may soon be the only way anyone will see them."

Ripple added that "a major threat faced by nearly all of them is direct killing by humans, especially from hunting and snaring," a reality he described as "sadly ironic, as these are some of our most beloved animals."

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Insect farms gear up to feed soaring global protein demand

Karl Plume, Reuters Yahoo News 14 Apr 18;

LANGLEY, British Columbia (Reuters) - Layers of squirming black soldier fly larvae fill large aluminum bins stacked 10-high in a warehouse outside of Vancouver. They are feeding on stale bread, rotting mangoes, overripe cantaloupe and squishy zucchini.

But this is no garbage dump. It's a farm.

Enterra Feed, one of an emerging crop of insect growers, will process the bugs into protein-rich food for fish, poultry - even pets. After being fattened up, the fly larvae will be roasted, dried and bagged or pressed to extract oils, then milled into a brown powder that smells like roasted peanuts.

The small but growing insect farming sector has captured attention and investments from some heavyweights in the $400 billion-a-year animal feed business, including U.S. agricultural powerhouse Cargill Inc [CARG.UL], feed supplier and farm products and services company Wilbur-Ellis Co and Swiss-based Buhler Group, which makes crop processing machinery.

Fast food giant McDonald's is studying using insects for chicken feed to reduce reliance on soy protein.

"This pioneering work is currently at the proof-of-concept stage," Nicola Robinson, McDonald's Corp sustainable supply chain manager, told Reuters. "We are encouraged by initial results and are committed to continuing to support further research."

The fact that such global food production giants are turning to insects illustrates the lengths they will go to find alternative sources of protein that are profitable and sustainable as animal feed or additives to human food. Bugs are just one many alternatives being studied or developed by major agricultural firms. Others include peas, canola, algae and bacterial proteins.

Global population growth and an expanding middle class have raised per capita meat consumption by 50 percent over the past four decades, fueling fears of a protein pinch. Traditional sources of the key macronutrient are growing increasingly unreliable amid a changing global climate and worries about the environmental impacts of row-crop farms and commercial fishing.

Benoit Anquetil - strategy and technology lead for Cargill's animal nutrition business - called developing new sources of protein a "long-term opportunity."

"Sustainable protein is a key challenge, which is why Cargill is evaluating the viability of insects as part of the solution to nourish the world," Anquetil said.

People tend to pivot from grain- and plant-based diets to meat-based meals as they grow wealthier. The problem is that as meat demand grows, feed production needs to grow faster. It typically takes about two pounds of feed to produce a pound of chicken. For pork, it takes four pounds.

Expanded cultivation of soybeans - the foundation of livestock and poultry rations for decades - is not a long term solution because it contributes to deforestation and overuse of harsh farm chemicals.

In addition, supplies of fishmeal - an aquaculture feed made from wild-caught fish and fish by-products - have fluctuated wildly with climactic cycles, overfishing and regulation to prevent it.

Nutritionists and scientists have long touted insect consumption for humans as a sustainable and cheap source of protein, but snacking on bugs is a stomach-churning prospect for people in many countries and cultures. Introducing insect protein further down the food chain may be more palatable.

The bug business still has a few hurdles ahead - like the yuck factor, even when the insects are fed to animals. Regulators will also need to be convinced that ground-up bugs won't introduce new toxins into the food supply.

"They are considered filth in the food system," said Virginia Emery, CEO of Beta Hatch, which grows mealworms above an auto body shop near Seattle-Tacoma Airport.


Cargill conducted an insect-based feed trial on poultry in 2015, but the company's efforts with insects have since focused on bolstering its growing aquaculture business, where demand for alternative proteins is most acute.

Beta Hatch is chasing the same market. The small company's mealworms - larvae of the mealworm beetle - will likely end up as fish food as Emery expands her business with the help of an investment from Wilbur Ellis, whose fish-farming customers have pressed for sustainable alternatives to fishmeal.

"Fishmeal has a limited supply, and aquaculture is continuing to grow," said Andrew Loder, president of Wilbur Ellis' feed division. "We see insect meal as one piece of a solution."

Fish farming is growing fast with growing consumer demand and increasing concerns about overfishing, resulting in catch restrictions in many depleted fisheries. Warming oceans in some areas have also disrupted supplies.

That means fish eaten by humans will increasingly come from farms - driving up demand and prices for fish feed.

Fishmeal is made from wild-caught anchoveta, herring and other oily fish that represents about 25 percent of a typical aquaculture feed ration, which typically also includes grains or soybean meal.

But fish farms cannot rely solely on crop-based feeds to nourish their naturally carnivorous stock.

"You can feed an animal all grain, and it will grow, but it may not grow as quickly and efficiently and may be prone to disease," said Andrew Vickerson, chief technology officer at Enterra.


Insect farmers grow black soldier fly larvae and mealworms because they are docile, easy to grow and high in protein and digestible fat.

Mealworms can be grown with little water and studies have shown they can "rescue" nutrients by consuming grains not fit for livestock production without passing on harmful toxins. Black soldier fly larvae also contain high levels of calcium and iron and can feed on a broad array of food waste.

Crickets - a favorite for human consumption in some countries - are by contrast picky eaters. They're also noisy, and can damage nearby crops if they escape.

Enterra is expanding to a second commercial-scale plant in Calgary within the next year and targeting opening similar facilities in other North American cities every year for the next five years, with financing from Calgary-based Avrio Capital and UK-based Wheat Sheaf.

Protix opened its first commercial black soldier fly larvae plant in the Netherlands in 2017 and will break ground on a second facility there later this year, aided by a $50 million investment from Buhler. The Dutch company, working with fish farmers, has also launched a brand of "friendly salmon," fed with rations containing insect meal instead of fishmeal.

"If we are able to be successful in Europe, then this will be a global solution," said Protix CEO Kees Aarts.

Neither company would disclose the production costs or capacity, citing proprietary technology. But both said their insect feed prices are on par with to slightly above competing feeds like fishmeal.

Ohio-based EnviroFlight, a black soldier fly larvae producer, will break ground on the first commercial-scale insect meal production facility in the United States near Cincinnati later this year.


Humans have been eating insects for centuries, but the practice is not common in many western cultures and still spooks food regulators.

Black soldier fly larvae production has gained a handful of approvals in Europe, Canada and the United States, mostly for use in fish farms. Poultry, swine and pet food regulations are not as far along.

"Since fish eat insects in the wild naturally, it is easier for consumers to wrap their heads around insects as part of the feed," Cargill's Anquetil said.

Thorough safety testing of insects as feed will be critical for consumer acceptance, said Thomas Gremillion, director for the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America.

"If there was a big change in how animals are being fed, I'd want to see some extra scrutiny of whether the animals were accumulating any kinds of toxins from the insects," he said.

It will take years for the insect farming sector to scale up. But growing the business to even a small market share would make a big difference to the feed industry and the environment, said Robert Nathan Allen, an insect farmer and chairman of the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture.

"If we're replacing 5 or 10 percent of the proteins that are normally in those feeds with insect protein," Allen said, "That's a lot of resources saved."

(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Additional reporting by Ben Nelms in Langley, British Columbia; Editing by Simon Webb and Brian Thevenot)

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