Best of our wild blogs: 29 Apr 18

What are the benefits of Singapore mangroves?
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Now online: Singapore's marine life at the Natural History Museum
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Morning Walk At Upper Seletar Reservoir (28 Apr 2018)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Sexual Dimorphism : Part 1
Butterflies of Singapore

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Pigeon population will keep growing unless people stop feeding them: AVA

MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng intends to propose a bill to empower citizens to stop pigeon feeders.
Jalelah Abu Baker Channel NewsAsia 29 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: If you are concerned about pigeon droppings dirtying your laundry or other hygiene issues, it may come as a surprise to hear that it's not the birds which are causing the problem. In fact, their feeders are.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said that actively feeding pigeons and food litter are the main factors contributing to the growth of the pigeon population.

The authority was responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia on the root cause of the decades-old issue, and the effectiveness of the current penalties for pigeon feeding.

A spokesperson cautioned that the pigeon population will continue to grow if food is readily available, which will make pigeon-related issues worse, such as droppings on window ledges.

“Enforcement alone will not solve the pigeon-feeding problem,” she said.

The penalty for feeding pigeons is a fine of up to S$500. AVA penalised 130 people in 2016, five of whom were repeat offenders. Last year, that went up to 218, of whom eight were recalcitrant. As of Mar 20 this year, 93 people had been penalised, out of whom one was a repeat offender.

At the same time, AVA numbers suggest that concern about pigeons is increasing, with 5,500 instances of feedback in 2017, a 34 per cent increase from 4,100 in 2016.

The spokesperson added that pigeons are not native birds and are an invasive species. “Their droppings dirty the environment, and leftover food from pigeon feeding may attract other pests, like rats, that carry diseases and pose a risk to public health,” she said.

They can also potentially spread diseases to humans through contaminated droppings or via contact with diseased or dead birds, she added.


The authority has installed about 100 cameras since 2016, the spokesperson said. “Through the use of these cameras, AVA has taken enforcement actions against recalcitrant pigeon feeders, who are subjected to heavier penalties,” she said.

The presence of cameras also serves as a deterrent to pigeon feeding, she said, adding that in cases where the photos or video footage of the alleged feeders are available, AVA will also work with the respective Town Councils to put up notices at the feeding spots to appeal for information from members of the public.

AVA said that it takes a multi-pronged approach, which involves long-term planning to better understand and tackle the issue at its root, and shorter-term measures in order to address immediate threats to public health and safety.

Banner urging the public not to feed the pigeons, in Balam Road. (Photo: Jalelah Abu Baker)
In the long term, AVA conducts studies and analyses surveillance and feedback data to formulate a science-based management approach and continue efforts to educate the public on the right behaviour to have towards animals, the spokesperson added.

“As animal-related issues are often complex, there is no single solution,” she said.

She added that the public has a part to play.

“The public can play a bigger role in managing pigeon-related issues by talking to others about the downsides of feeding. By leveraging their sphere of influence, members of the public can help change the behaviour and perspectives within their community,” she said.

AVA also urged members of the public not to feed pigeons, and to report pigeon feeders.


Laws to empower citizens to stop animal feeders, including pigeon feeders, could come into effect, if MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng has his way.

Mr Ng told Channel NewsAsia during an interview about upcoming plans to conduct a public consultation on amending the Wild Animals and Birds Act. He is looking to file a private member’s Bill to make changes to the Act, which he believes currently has gaps.

He said that citizens could be issued with a warrant card in order to have powers to stop feeders and collect their details.

"Then feeders will know there are people watching," he said.

Among the changes he wants to introduce is the introduction of fines for feeding wild animals regardless of the location. He said the changes will address feeders regardless of the environment the animals are in, as enforcement prescribed in current laws distinguish between protected areas and other public areas.

When it comes to pigeons, he stressed that the feeding of pigeons and easy access to food for them are the problems.

“The issue is that we have been treating the symptoms - the pigeons - instead of the root cause, easy availability of food,” he said.


He recalled an incident that proved his point, although it did not involve pigeons. Some months ago, a monkey started turning up in the heart of his ward in Yishun. Mr Ng’s response was to get people to go door-to-door to give residents a simple instruction: Do not feed the monkey.

Residents heeded the advice, and in no time, the monkey left and was not seen again. Mr Ng pointed to this as a sure sign that if people do not feed the animals and watch from a distance, birds and animals will be less of a problem.

“If people don’t feed them, they are not going to breed rapidly,” he said, adding that current measures could be counter-productive, or not effective.

“If they were effective, this issue will not be decades-old,” he said.

He also addressed another solution AVA has tried: Feeding contraceptives to pigeons. He said this is not sustainable as it requires the birds to be fed without fail, and that increasing manpower to deal with such issues is not sustainable either.


When Channel NewsAsia visited some areas singled out for their pigeon problems in Ang Mo Kio, Boon Lay and Bukit Batok, residents pointed to recalcitrant feeders as culprits. However, they can be difficult to catch in action, they said.

One resident in Ang Mo Kio said that feeders wait till no one is around, and by the time she sees the food, the feeder is nowhere to be found. She added however, that even if she catches the offender red-handed, she would not know what to do.

Mr Jimmy Chua, 62, who takes care of a community garden in Ang Mo Kio Ave 10, said that he has come to the garden and seen it littered with items like bread crumbs and other food, thrown by people from windows that overlook the area.

“It’s so dirty. I know they live in this block, but I don’t know who they are or when they throw,” he said.

Mr Ng, who has also experienced residents complaining to him about pigeons, said that pigeon feeders think they are doing good and may not be aware of the harm they are doing.

MP for West Coast GRC, and the area’s town council chairman Patrick Tay echoed the view. While he said pigeons are “not a major problem” in his ward, he said they are a challenge to deal with.

“The main challenge are the feeders. They believe they are doing it out of compassion and kindness, and continue doing so,” he said.

Source: CNA/ja

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Use of poisoned bait not allowed: AVA on suspected stray dog poisoning in Yishun

Channel NewsAsia 28 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has addressed a widely shared online post by a group of animal lovers which claimed AVA contractors could be behind the suspected poisoning of a stray dog in Yishun.

In a Facebook post late Friday (Apr 27), AVA said it had deployed external contractors to remove stray dogs in Yishun Avenue 6, after receiving feedback that the animals were chasing members of the public in the area. It had also ascertained that they were a "public safety risk".

However, it emphasised that contractors are not allowed to use "poisoned bait". "All external contractors have to follow a set of guidelines jointly developed by AVA and SPCA," the authority said.

AVA added that it was informed that a dog carcass was disposed of, but that it "did not receive any reports on alleged poisoning of stray dogs in the area".

Its statement came in response to a viral post on the "Yishun 326 Tabby cat" Facebook page.

The group alleges that a stray dog was found dead after residents from the Yishun Riverwalk estate saw three men in a silver van visiting the area over the course of a few evenings.

"One of them was holding to a plastic bag and went into the forested area then returned empty-handed. The residents confronted them but they ignored (sic) and walked off. The next day, a dog carcass was found," the post read.

Volunteers from the Yishun 326 Tabby cat group said they later found dog food, gloves and "white powder" on the items in the forested area.

The group posted images of the dead dog and said it had made a police report.

Mr Louis Ng, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC and founder of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), weighed in on the matter on Saturday.

"Reading about animals being poisoned is something which makes me angry and many of you have written to me about the suspected stray dog poisoning case at Yishun Ave 6," he said.

He added that he has spoken to the authorities about the case and they assured him that use of poisoned bait is prohibited.

He also urged people with information on the incident to reach out to the authorities.

Source: CNA/na

AVA responds to stray dog 'poisoning case' in Yishun, says it does not use poisoned baits
Lydia Lam Straits Times 28 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has responded to an alleged case of stray dog poisoning in Yishun, saying it does not allow the use of poisoned baits.

The incident had been flagged by animal activist page Yishun 326 Tabby Cat, which posted photos of a dog carcass. The page claimed that residents at Yishun Riverwalk had noticed on Monday (April 23) that a silver van had been frequenting the area.

Three men are said to have been spotted with a plastic bag at a field where a pack of stray dogs are often seen. A plastic bag containing dog food and a pair of gloves covered with white powder were found later, the Facebook page said.

It alleged that the three men were contractors engaged by AVA.

"When called, AVA refuted the poisoning but admitted they did engage contractors to solve the complaint case whereby stray dogs ran after cyclists," said Yishun 326 Tabby Cat.

The group also claimed that it has filed a police report over the matter.

AVA addressed the claims in a Facebook post on Friday (April 27).

It stressed that all external contractors it engages for stray dog management have to follow a set of guidelines developed by AVA and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"Poisoned baits are not allowed to be used," said AVA.

It said it had responded to "recent feedback on stray dogs chasing members of the public in the Yishun Avenue 6 area".

After it conducted surveillance of the area, it "ascertained that there was a public safety risk", and activated contractors to remove the stray dogs.

However, AVA said it did not receive any reports on the alleged poisoning of stray dogs in the area, and the carcass has reportedly been disposed of.

AVA usually requires a carcass to perform autopsy for investigations. Without a carcass, it is difficult to ascertain cause of death.

AVA said its priority in stray dog management "is to ensure that public safety and public health are not compromised".

It added that impounded animals removed by activated contractors are checked when they arrived at AVA.

It works with animal welfare groups to rehome animals that are deemed suitable for rehoming.

"All external contractors have to follow a set of guidelines jointly developed by AVA and SPCA," said AVA. "These guidelines cover how contractors can capture, handle and transport animals, as well as the types of equipment that are allowed to be used in animal management operations."

Yishun MP Louis Ng, who is founder of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, addressed the matter in a Facebook post on Saturday.

"Reading about animals being poisoned is something which makes me angry and many of you have written to me about the suspected stray dog poisoning case at Yishun Avenue 6," he wrote. "I have spoken to AVA about this case and they have assured me that poisoned baits are not allowed to be used."

Those with information on this case can contact AVA at 1800-476-1600.

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Malaysia: Counting birds to save nature

Who says you can’t be part of a global environmental survey on birds, right from your own little garden?
Elena Koshy New Straits Times 28 Apr 18;

FOR most of my life, I hardly paid attention to birds. It was only as I grew older and more introspective did I become a person whose heart lifts whenever she hears an Asian koel singing, or the distinctive Helmeted hornbill calling, and who hurries out into the garden to spot the skittish Olive-backed sunbird flitting amongst my hibiscus. I watched them, drew them and soon stumbled into a hobby that seemed like a veritable rabbit hole into a world of natural wonders. I became a birdwatcher and I was never the same again.

Birdwatching is an adventure that begs to be embarked. A treasure hunt of sorts that leave you skulking through forest trails and the great wilderness beyond to look at beautiful flighty creatures that refuses to adhere to your well laid-out plans. They hide between branches, take flight before you can raise your trusted binoculars to your eyes and sometimes coyly make calls loud enough for you to twitch around excitedly but remain covertly hidden, much to your frustration.

You stalk wild creatures, not looking at pictures of them. You’re dependent on weather, geography and time of day. If you miss the Helmeted hornbill, there isn’t another showing for hours on end. It’s at heart, voyeuristic and you can’t do it without technology. To bring these creatures closer, you must interpose binoculars between yourself and the wild world. But the beauty about birds is that you can really find them anywhere. Out in your garden, in parks, in the cities, in our forests — the skies are literally the limit.

While the aesthetic beauty of birds remains undisputed (at least through the eyes of avid birdwatchers), these creatures play an even more significant role in determining the health of our planet. They’re the “canary in the coal mine” for our environment. Their health, abundance and distribution can signal trends in the health of the larger environment. What bird populations also usefully indicate is the health of our ethical values. One reason that birds matter — ought to matter — is that they’re our last, best connection to a natural world that’s otherwise receding.

On May 5, Global Big Day by eBird, a global ornithological network, invites you to be a part of a large movement of citizen scientists, to count birds. Your observations, alongside millions of others from countries around the world, will be compiled to power data-driven approaches to science, conservation as well as education.

Global Big Day

The skittish nature of birds makes them notoriously hard to count. There aren’t any sensors or apparatus invented to date that can note the type and number of birds in the area. Only people. Until the emergence of eBird which began collecting daily global data in 2002, one-day counts were the only method.

Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University and the National Audobon Society, eBird began with a simple brainwave - that every birdwatcher has unique knowledge and experience.

Tapping into that idea, eBird came up with an online database of bird observations that gathers basic information on bird abundance and distribution. By engaging with the common man and amateurs to participate in citizen science, eBird is an example of crowdsourcing and has been praised as an example of democratising science, treating normal citizens as scientists, giving access to the public and providing them a platform to use their own data and the collective data generated by others.

eBird compiles and documents bird distribution, abundance, habitat use and trends through checklist data collected within an easy but scientific framework. Birdwatchers enter when, where and how they went bird watching. They fill out a checklist of all the birds seen and heard during the outing.

eBird’s free mobile app enables offline data collection anywhere in the world. It also offers incentives for birdwatchers to stay involved with apps that enable them to compile and keep their life lists (records of the species they’ve seen), compare their sightings with other birdwatchers and know where to look for birds they haven’t seen before.

The Global Big Day is an initiative spearheaded by eBird to gather birdwatchers from all over the world to stand on the common ground of birds, and record their sightings in one day, no matter where they are.

A spokesman from eBird says: “For us, Global Big Day is a celebration of birds. By bringing people together, Global Big Day showcases the great birds from each region while helping to bring awareness to birding and conservation, regionally and globally.”

The Malaysian connection

In this part of the world, eBird Malaysia is a collaborative project managed by the Wild Bird Club Malaysia (WBCM), a non-profit and membership-based organisation whose mission is to conserve Malaysia’s unique birds and their habitats through promoting best practices for birdwatching.

“On Global Big Day, we’d like to call out to all bird watchers in Malaysia to participate in this massive bird counting exercise. Why not head to your favourite birding spot on May 5 and count birds? It could be your backyard, or the highland forests of Frasers Hill, the mangroves of Kuala Selangor or

even the wilds of Belum,” says Mark Ng, vice-president of WBCM, before adding with a smile: “Bring your family and friends, and make it an event so that more people can get to know about birds and nature!”

“If you live in Malaysia, you’re lucky to have this wonderful diversity of fascinating birds filling every corner of this nation,” continues Andrew Sebastian, bird guide, chief executive officer of Ecotourism & Conservation Malaysia (ECOMY) and WBCM member. “Malaysia is home to 796 species. Sixty four are endemics, found nowhere else in the world.”

While birds have instincts and the physical abilities to survive diverse, even harsh conditions that evolution has bequeathed to them, human beings, points out Sebastian, are reshaping the face of the planet — its surface, climate and oceans — too quickly for birds to adapt by evolving. “The future of most bird species depends on our commitment to preserve them. The question we have to ask ourselves is: are they valuable enough for us to make the effort? The answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’. They’re integral to our survival. It’s hard to imagine a world without birds in it.”

“Here’s your chance to make a difference,” chips in Ng. “Participate in this event and submit your findings on ebird Malaysia. If you’ve not done birdwatching before and are looking to explore this

interesting hobby, join us at the Wild Bird Club. Birdwatching is a wonderful way for people to connect back with nature.”

Join the Global Party

For birdwatchers, Global Big Day has given their pastime a new sense of purpose. Whether you see one bird or a thousand, it’s significant. And knowing that your observations can be used to make a difference to protect birds and their habitats, make this pursuit a meaningful one. And thanks to eBird, it’s not limited to just one single day, but all year round.

Join like-minded bird watchers from the Wild Bird Club Malaysia, participate in their activities and get to know our wondrous Malaysian avian species. From black and red broadbills, wreathed hornbills to the inquisitive sunbird perched on your windowsill, you can be sure that birdwatching may be just the adventure you’re seeking to embark.

As author and director of Cape May Bird Observatory puts it so succinctly: “Without birds, nature could lose her voice and the planet, its most engaging envoys. Birds matter precisely because they matter to us. Birds are real, elements that live within our sensory plane. They spread their wings and bridge the gap between our world and the natural world.”

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Can Indonesia's Komodo Dragons survive Chinese tourists?

The famed apex predators are able to kill anyone who gets near, but may themselves fall prey to Indonesia’s tourism ambitions
ERNEST KAO South China Morning Post 28 Apr 18;

The Komodo dragon can smell blood up to 4km away – and Agus, a forest ranger and guide at Komodo National Park, the only place in the world where this ancient lizard can be observed in the wild, can testify to their lethality.

Recently, a village carpenter had to have his leg sawed off after being bitten by one. And last year, a Singaporean tourist was attacked while trying to take a photo.

The reptiles have more than a dozen types of venom in their saliva that can prevent blood clotting.

“They don’t really think,” Agus says of the near-endangered animal, which feeds on local deer, water buffalo and wild pigs and can grow up to three metres long. “They act on basic instinct and are opportunistic carnivores. They need meat. Any meat.”

On this mild spring day, five adult Komodos are lazing in the shade by the rangers’ mess on Rinca, one of the three main islands in the protected park’s 26-isle archipelago, drawn in by the smell of food.

One of them flicks a pale forked tongue out to sample the air before making a slow stride to another spot in the shade. A small group of tourists snap pictures from a distance. None of them are speaking Chinese.

It is unusually tranquil for a Unesco World Heritage Site and one that, since 2011, has been called one of the world’s “seven new wonders of nature”. But foreign visitor numbers to one of Indonesia’s oldest national parks have been soaring in recent years – and a new influx of mainland Chinese visitors is expected in May.

Until 2011, few foreign visitors, barring the occasional diving enthusiast – the park is home to 50 world-class dive sites – or photographer, stepped foot on this less-travelled part of eastern Indonesia. It is a one-hour speedboat ride from the fishing town of Labuan Bajo, which itself is a one-hour flight east of the popular resort island of Bali.

Created in 1980, the park is nestled in Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands between East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara. The relative isolation of Rinca, home to about a fifth of the park’s 5,000 Komodo dragons, and the park’s other islands such as Komodo and Padar, has largely helped insulate its delicate ecosystem from development for decades.

The lizards’ large size is put down to a phenomenon known as “island gigantism”, a phenomenon caused by the absence of other carnivorous animals on an isolated land mass. The park topography itself seems to come straight out of Jurassic Park. Its rocky outcrops of volcanic origin sprout from the seas and are covered in lush green during the rainy season; its jagged mountain ranges, punctuated by open savannahs, are inhabited by prehistoric reptiles.

Buffered by mangroves, reefs, pink sand beaches and the azure waters of the Flores Sea, the park’s marine protected area is home to more than 1,000 species of fish, including manta rays, and 385 coral.

Around 278,000 tourists visited Labuan Bajo last year and of this figure, less than one per cent were from China, the country’s biggest source of inbound tourists. By contrast, the more well-known Bali received more than 5 million tourists, the bulk from China and Australia.

But fortunes could change for Labuan Bajo come May, when the park will receive its first large tour groups from China. Between then and the end of next year, 100 Chinese tourists are expected to arrive on the park’s shores every day, according to officials. That compares to an average of just 50 Chinese tourists a month since 2016 and even fewer before that.

Fifteen cruise ships are expected to make Komodo island a regular port of call, each carrying hundreds of passengers. The influx of cruises and Chinese tourists is expected to provide a significant boost to the 70,000 park visitors it received in 2017, mostly locals from Jakarta and the rest Europeans and Americans.

The expected increase mirrors a surge in Chinese tourists to Southeast Asia in general. Chinese tourist arrivals to the region have soared from around 4 million a year in 2006 to more than 20 million in 2016.

Divers explore a coral reef near Komodo island, Indonesia. Southeast Asia's biologically diverse coral reefs will disappear by the end of this century, wiping out coastal economies and sparking civil unrest if climate change isn't addressed, conservation group WWF has warned. Photo: Reuters

Agus looks to the coming surge with anxiety. While rangers depend on tourist revenues for income, the unspoilt environment is what appeals to the 500 to 1,000 daily visitors who already visit the park for trekking, snorkelling, diving, sunbathing or to see the dragons.

“This is the last natural habitat for the Komodo dragon,” he says. “Too much tourism will not be good for the local marine life or [the park]. We need to balance tourism [with conservation] of the ecosystem.”

The ties that bind Papua and Indonesia
More tourists means more noise, litter, sewage, waste and possibly, more limbs ripped off from overexcited visitors. More rangers, guest houses, toilets and amenities will be needed as well as a bigger water supply and waste disposal infrastructure. More signs explaining the rules of the park will have to be put up in Chinese.

“[More traffic] won’t just affect the Komodo dragon. It will disturb other animals like deer and wild pigs that the dragons feed on,” says Abdul Rahman, a Komodo National Park official and former ranger.

“Komodos depend on them for food. They are cannibalistic, if they don’t get enough food, they will start to eat each other.”

It will be hard for rangers to just say no. While the park is managed by the national government, rangers are not salaried officials. Each ranger gets about 40,000 Indonesian rupiah (HK$23) for every forest walk they conduct as well as a cut of the revenues from the refreshment stands and gift shops they run.

A Komodo dragon in the Komodo Island National Park in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Komodo island has been named among the world’s new seven wonders of nature. Photo: EPA
A Komodo dragon in the Komodo Island National Park in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Komodo island has been named among the world’s new seven wonders of nature. Photo: EPA

They will benefit from tourism more than any other stakeholder. Park revenues, Rahman says, are expected to see “70 to 80 per cent growth” after May.

“For money, it’s good, yeah. But for the park, I think not so good,” he says. “We need to set a maximum number of visitors that come every day. I think 3,000 per month is a reasonable number.”

Meanwhile, Labuan Bajo, the capital of West Manggarai Regency, is pouring resources into developing its tourism industry in line with the national target of attracting 500,000 foreign tourists – the final number is still under consultation – to the Flores region by next year.

Augustinus Christofer Dula, regent of West Manggarai, one of the eight regencies that divide the island Flores, admits that the government has been rather nervous about hard-selling the region’s tourism potential given the lack of capacity to absorb a sudden influx of visitors.

But with the region listed as one of 10 “potential Balis” by the national government, his hope is that Labuan Bajo will one day offer just as much.

Move over Aussies, the Chinese are coming. And Indonesia can’t get enough of them
Things are moving in the right direction. Labuan Bajo’s tiny airport has recently been refurbished with a shiny new terminal now plastered with Komodo dragon motifs and billboards. There are aspirations for it to become an international airport. New ports and marinas are in the pipeline. An international hospital catering to foreigners opened its doors in 2015.

Hotels are being built or expanded with new wings, some with jetties that provide speedboat services straight to Komodo National Park.

The aim, understandably, is to draw in the Chinese tourist dollar. “Chinese people believe in dragon myths,” Dula says. “Hopefully more of them will want to come and see the living dragons here.”

Dula says that in 2016-17, only 101 Chinese tourists came to Labuan Bajo. “We want more,” he says. “Our hope is that by inviting more Chinese tourists, we can develop our economy. When tourism grows, the economy will too.”

But how many tourists are enough? Over the years, concerns have been raised over Komodo National Park’s managerial and environmental issues, from land disputes, waste management and freshwater security issues to the impact of destructive fishing, oil spills, coral damage and conflicts between the fisheries and tourism sectors, according to WWF Indonesia.

Studies on Komodo National Park’s master plan and its maximum carrying capacity by the group last year found that it had huge potential for development as a prime tourism destination, but concluded the ecosystem was “very sensitive to irresponsible tourism”.

“The waste generated in Labuan Bajo [amounts to] 12.8 million tonnes per day,” said WWF Indonesia marine tourism coordinator Indarwati Aminuddin.

“Labuan Bajo is also lacking in clean water, followed by energy, food … its natural resources are also under pressure from fishing and other activities. From both studies, it is estimated that tourism carrying capacity is below 300,000 individuals per year.

There is a real concern that pristine areas of Indonesia such as Labuan Bajo could go the way of Bali.

In recent years, a Bali overrun by tourists has been besieged by concerns of pollution, waste management and freshwater scarcity.

A recent report by the Bali Water Protection Programme, for example, suggested that the island’s water table had dropped more than 50 metres in some areas in less than 10 years.

“In terms of environmental issues, the costs impacted by mass tourism … are only realised on a disaster basis,” says Satrio Wicaksono, forests and landscape manager at the World Resources Institute Indonesia, an environmental research organisation.

Protected parks aside, resort towns all over Southeast Asia have been under similar threats. The Philippine government recently announced the six-month closure of Boracay island, which the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte described as a “cesspool”, to recuperate its overwhelmed infrastructure.

“Since the area is very sensitive, Komodo National Park management needs to implement immediate action to manage the number of visitors in every tourism location in a national park area so that they can have impact monitoring in the areas,” Aminuddin added.

Back in Labuan Bajo, Dula understands the risks of giving into the trappings of mass market, commercial tourism as well as the potential impact it will have on sustainability.

He says a visitor quota to the parks should be implemented and hopes the national Ministry of Forestry and Environment that manages national parks can delegate more authority to the local government to run Komodo and control tourist flows. “Tourism will be nothing if the Komodo dragon goes extinct,” he says. ■

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Indonesia: Migrating birds from Siberia, Alaska land in West Kalimantan


A group of migrating birds from Siberia, captured by camera on Tengkuyung Beach, Kubu Raya regency, West Kalimantan, earlier this month. (Courtesy of Abdurahman Alqadrie, Ketapang Biodiversity Keeping/-)

Thousands of migrating birds have landed on several beaches in West Kalimantan.

Environmental activists say that this means the area is still well-preserved, though pollution can be seen on some places.

The activists have carried out birdwatching activities on Tengkuyung Beach in Teluk Pakedai subdistrict, Kubu Raya regency, West Kalimantan, since September 2017.

They found thousands of beach and river birds migrating from Siberia, Alaska and Europe.

Abdurahman Algadrie, director of Ketapang Biodiversity Maintenance, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that there were around 21 species of birds on the beach from September to April. They looked for food and stayed there for survival, and will begin flying home in May.

“They will return to their places of origin for breeding purposes. Come migration time, they will come back with their new offspring,” said Abudrahman.

In the previous migrating period last year, 10 Storm’s storks were found in a river. The species is considered endangered, with a population of only 500 worldwide.

These migrating birds have become an attraction in the area, especially for researchers. Moreover, the Kubu-Batu Ampar waters have been detected as a habitat for river dolphins, with several NGOs surveying the area.

Wahid, a senior citizen, said that for the last three years, the government had built infrastructure to make the location more accessible for visitors. However, he added that the visits did little to boost the local economy.

Yusran, head of Kubu Raya Planning and Development Agency (Bappeda), said that with a limited budget, ecotourism activities were being improved.

“Ecotourism has a number of impacts. Other than preserving the environment, it also has added value for local people,” said Yusran.

The area has only been developed in the last 10 years, with a budget of Rp 1.5 trillion and a proposed development budget of Rp 2.9 trillion. (wng)

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Mission 2018: bring the Paris climate pact to life

Marlowe HOOD, AFP Yahoo News 28 Apr 18;

Paris (AFP) - Front-line negotiators from more than 190 nations gathering for climate talks in Bonn on Monday face a daunting task: bring the 2015 Paris Agreement to life.

The world's only climate treaty pledges to cap global warming at "well under" two degrees Celsius and prevent manmade CO2 from leeching into the atmosphere by century's end.

But it left a mountain of critical rules and procedures to be worked out.

"This may sound like a technical exercise, but it matters," Todd Stern, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC and the top climate diplomat under Barack Obama, said in a recent speech.

"Guidelines have a lot to do with how strong the regime becomes."

The deadline for completing this "rule book" is the November climate summit in Katowice, Poland. The agreement itself goes live in 2020.

Negotiators have had more than two years to hammer out the fine print but -- as per usual -- have procrastinated.

"It's no secret that things have not been going swimmingly so far," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based advocacy and research group.

How quickly the world weans itself from fossil fuels, improves energy efficiency, and learns how to suck CO2 out of the air will determine whether climate change remains manageable or unleashes a maelstrom of human misery.

The window of opportunity for holding the rise in temperature at 2 C (3.6 F) -- much less the 1.5 C ceiling the Paris pact vows to consider -- has grown perilously narrow.

- Avoiding a 3C world -

A single degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming so far has already accelerated species extinctions, deadly droughts and flooding, and superstorms engorged by rising seas.

"Gradualism won't get the job done," said Stern. "We can't produce the results those scenarios call for without full-on commitment."

But trend lines are moving the wrong way: after remaining flat for three years, global CO2 emissions in 2017 went up by 1.4 percent, dashing hopes that they had peaked.

US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of Paris pact -- along with US efforts to boost fossil fuel technologies -- have not helped, even as China, France, Germany and Canada have stepped in to fill the breach in climate leadership.

Voluntary national pledges made under the treaty to cut carbon pollution, if fulfilled, would yield no better than a 3C world. Once-every-five-year reviews of these commitments don't kick in until 2023.

Negotiators know this is too late.

"The scale and pace of climate action must increase dramatically, and immediately so," reads a UN summary of written submissions to the Fiji-inspired Talanoa Dialogue, designed to inspire more ambitious CO2-slashing pledges.

Still, negotiations have bogged down.

Under pressure, the rift between rich and developing countries that stymied climate talks for more than two decades before the 2015 accord put all nations on the same page has reemerged.

- Danger of backsliding -

For the rulebook, "transparency" has emerged as a hot-button issue.

Rich nations, for example, favour a standardised yardstick for the measurement, reporting and verification of carbon-cutting pledges, with limited exceptions for the poorest countries.

Developing nations have pushed back, calling for greater "flexibility".

"This is an old debate," said Meyer. "Developed countries are concerned that some developing ones are trying to take us back to the past."

When it comes, however, to the rich-nation promise of $100 billion (82 billion euros) per year in climate finance from 2020, the issue cuts the other way.

"It has been frustrating to hear some developed countries celebrate their climate leadership even as they fall well short of the modest commitments they have made," said Thoriq Ibrahim, environment minister for the Maldives and chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States.

A key complaint by recipient nations is that rich ones have failed to map how and when money promised will be delivered.

Working out a coherent "user's manual" for the Paris agreement is also crucial for the signals it sends to the private sector, which must take the lead in the shift to a low-carbon global economy, Canadian environment minister Catherine McKenna told AFP.

"The markets need to see that governments are committed on climate action," she said in Paris last week following a meeting with her French counterpart Nicolas Hulot.

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