Best of our wild blogs: 12 Jun 18

Tales of Tekong
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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Malaysia: Melaka orders halt to sand mining, forest product harvesting

Bernama New Straits Times 11 Jun 18;

MELAKA: The Melaka state government has ordered all sand mining activities as well as harvesting of forest products to stop effective July 1 to ensure sustainability of the environment for future generations.

Chief Minister Adly Zahari said the move was aimed at addressing problems related to the destruction of the state’s natural resources as well as an alternative in boosting the country’s economy.

“The revenue we collected from the activities is only about RM900,000 while the cleaning and drainage management works cost RM33 million. This decision is for the sake of future generations.

“The move to stop sand mining only affects land activities without involving coastal sand reclamation projects,” he told reporters after attending the Melaka state government monthly assembly here today.

At the same event, four local authority heads as well as 84 councillors took their oaths of office. The four were Melaka City Council mayor Datuk Azmi Hussain, Hang Tuah Jaya Municipal Council president Mahani Masban, Alor Gajah Municipal Council president Zamzuri Arifin, and Jasin Municipal Council president Mustaffa Ali.

Meanwhile, Adly also announced an allocation of RM3,000 per month each for opposition state assemblymen, to acknowledge the mandate given them by the people.

“The state government has also appointed 29 new faces to spearhead state agencies and subsidiaries for a smooth state administration system following the terminations and new appointments made on June 1,” he said. — BERNAMA

End to logging in Melaka
The Star 12 Jun 18;

MELAKA: Logging and sand mining activities in the state will cease July 1 when permits issued for the activities expire at the end of this month, said Chief Minister Adly Zahari.

He said the decision was made during a state exco meeting after comparing the benefits and disadvantages of such activities to the state and its people.

He said the state government received about RM900,000 from issuing licences to sand mining operators across the state.

“However, we have to spend up to RM33mil to clean up polluted rivers and drainage systems for which the sand mining and deforestation activities are partly to blame,” he said after attending the state’s civil servants monthly assembly at Seri Negeri in Ayer Keroh here.

On the sea reclamation activities, Adly said the state government was evaluating the number of projects approved, underway, and those that have yet to begin before making a decision.

He said they also formed a committee to discuss with the developer the mega Melaka Gateway project in Pulau Melaka, Banda Hilir.

“We want to see the latest status of the project and future plans.

“Only then we can decide what to do concerning the project,” he said.

On another matter, Adly said the state government has agreed to give RM3,000 in monthly contributions to all Barisan Nasional assemblymen to operate their centres.

He said the contribution was to recognise the Opposition’s role in serving the local communities.

Adly also presented appointment letters to Melaka Historic City Council (MBMB) mayor Datuk Azmi Hussain, Alor Gajah Municipal Council (MPAG) president Zamzuri Arifin, Jasin Municipal Council (MPJ) president Mustaffa Ali and Hang Tuah Jaya Municipal Council (MPHTJ) president Mahani Masban who took their oath of office during the assembly.

A total of 24 MBMB council members, MPAG (20), MPJ (24) and MPHTJ (20) also took their oath of office and received their letters of appointment from Adly.

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Malaysia: Poacher nabbed for keeping 2 mousedeer carcasses

Mohd Rafi Mamat New Straits Times 11 Jun 18;

KUANTAN: A 34-year-old poacher was arrested yesterday, for possessing two mousedeer carcasses at his home in Rompin.

The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) believed the two animals were caught at Jekatih Selancar forest reserve recently.

State Perhilitan director Ahmad Azahar Mohammed said during the 4.40am raid, the enforcement personnel only managed to detain the 34-year-old man.

He said two of his friends fled the scene upon realising the presence of the enforcement personnel.

It was learnt that the carcasses will be sold off after the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations this week.

"In the raid, we seized a handmade firearm with bullets, one Global Positioning System (GPS) unit, large knife and a torchlight."

Ahmad said the man will be investigated under Section 60(1)(a) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 for hunting and possession of wildlife without licence.

NSTP reported recently that the growing demand for exotic dishes to be served during Aidilfitri is expected to result in an increase of poaching in Pahang.

Among the sought-after wildlife which promises lucrative returns are sambar deer, kijang (barking deer) and kambing gurun (serow).

Based on the black market value, a kilogramme of sambar deer meat is priced between RM60 and RM80, the kijang meat can fetch above RM80 while the price of serow, depends greatly on the deal between the buyer and seller as it is very difficult to hunt for one.

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Indonesia: Authorities urged to investigate killing of tame elephant in East Aceh

Hotli Simanjuntak The Jakarta Post 11 Jun 18;

Authorities in Aceh have been urged to immediately complete their investigation into the killing of a tame elephant in East Aceh, Aceh, and take legal measures against illegal ivory trade.

“I hope the police can complete their investigation into this case so it will never again happen to other elephants,” said East Aceh resident Muhammad Adam on Sunday.

Bunta, a 27-year-old male elephant from Conservation Response Unit (CRU) Serbajadi in Bunin village, Serbajadi district, East Aceh regency, Aceh, was found dead on Sunday. One of its tusks had been removed.

Adam said the elephants at CRU Serbajadi helped to prevent conflicts between local residents and wild elephants entering their land.

“This is really upsetting and cannot be tolerated. We [the local residents] have suffered great losses from the elephant’s death because the number of tame elephants that can help prevent conflicts with wild elephants has continued to decline,” said Adam.

Aceh Environment and Natural Forests Foundation (HAKA) secretary Badrul Irfan said the killing of the tame elephant was a serious problem that must be resolved immediately.

“Law enforcers must immediately investigate this problem. Maximum legal sanctions must be imposed against them,” said Badrul, who heads the Leuser elephant patrol team in Aras Napal, Besitang, North Sumatra.

“Bunta’s death is a great loss. I ordered for the heightened monitoring of all CRUs and the Saree elephant conservation center in Aceh Besar regency,” Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency head Sapto Aji said. (ebf)

Elephant killed for ivory in East Aceh
Hotli Simanjuntak The Jakarta Post 11 Jun 18;

A male elephant was found dead from poisoning in East Aceh, Aceh, on Sunday. One of its tusks had been removed.

Bunta, 27, was part of the Conservation Response Unit (CRU) elephant team, which wards off wild elephants trying to enter the area. Bunta and three other elephants had been stationed at CRU Serbajadi in Bunin village, Serbajadi district, East Aceh, Aceh, since January 2016.

The team was tasked with preventing animal-human conflicts in the area. Bunta was the main police elephant at CRU Serbajadi, which was visited by Hollywood actor Leonardo Di Caprio in March 2016.

Based on information provided by the CRU Serbajadi team on Sunday, Bunta was found dead when a mahout went to relocate him from a forest located 500 meters from the CRU base camp to another area at 8 a.m. local time.

He saw Bunta lying on the ground dead with one of his tusks missing. The mahout reported the incident to the Serbajadi Police, who forwarded the report to the East Aceh Police.

East Aceh Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Wahyu Kuncoro said it appeared that the elephant had eaten poison-laced bananas and mangoes. "We are waiting for the […] the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency's veterinarian team to reveal cause of death." (ebf)

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Thailand becoming ‘garbage bin of world’


EXPERTS on waste management and environmental protection are warning that Thailand could become the garbage bin of the world, as the government’s policies to promote the waste-to-energy industry have already resulted in plastic waste imports to the Kingdom.

Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand director Penchom Saetang said the country’s recent waste management trends run counter to correct waste management methods. The government’s current path will prevent a proper solution to waste management problems and unintentionally lead to waste from other countries being dumped in Thailand, she said.

Penchom singled out for criticism the promotion of private investment in small waste-to-energy projects across the country.

“Waste-to-energy is one of the most polluting methods for both waste management and power generation, because not only will burning garbage emit toxic pollutants, but the leftover ashes are also very hazardous and require very careful disposal in a secured landfill. And so building many small waste-to-energy plants is a very bad decision,” Penchom said. “I do not contest the advantages of waste-to-energy, as it is one of the acceptable measures to deal with unrecyclable waste, but we should have only a few big waste-to-energy plants that are properly equipped with all pollution control measures.”

Highlighting her concern over the small size of the waste-to-energy projects now being promoted by the government, Penchom said it was not cost-effective for the investors to install expensive pollution-control systems.

They are forced to reduce the money spent on environmental protection in order to keep their investment profitable.

According to the five-year waste management masterplan, local administrative organisations are required to manage waste. However, the private sector is also encouraged to invest in waste disposal plants, based on the assumption that they are more able and ready to properly oversee waste disposal.

Forty-four provinces meet the criteria, allowing them to initiate private-sector investment in waste-to-energy plants. Those criteria include the availability of a feed-in powerline, ability to ensure a feedstock of at least 300 tonnes of garbage. In contrast, a total 102 areas in 49 provinces have the capacities for investment in refuse-derived fuel (RDF) processing plants. For the less populated areas that have below 50 tonnes of waste generated per day, the authorities and residents are advised to locally process their waste into fertiliser and bury the leftover garbage in a local sanitary landfill.

As of the end of 2017, the Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency Department reported that there were 15 waste-to-energy plants operating – both biogas plants and waste incinerators – and generating a total 42.82 megawatts of electricity. Nine of these waste-to-energy plants in Bangkok, Phuket, Samut Prakan, Tak, Saraburi, and Khon Kaen are waste incinerators operated by private companies.

Lack of waste segregation was another big problem that needed addressing to properly operate a waste-to-energy plant in Thailand, Penchom said. The waste-to-energy plants in Hat Yai and Phuket, were burning all kinds of garbage for power, without segregation to pull out less flammable materials, thus causing serious environmental problems and also damaging the operational system of the plants, she said.

To get a better burn, “the operators of these plants then turn to external sources of higher quality waste and import plastic waste from other countries as fuel to supply the operation of their plants and keep their business running”, she said.

If the trend continued, “Thailand will eventually be the waste disposal hub of the world, leaving only hazardous ashes, sicknesses from pollution and a contaminated environment for Thai people”.

Plastic waste smuggling to Thailand is already underway, as demonstrated by recent media reports after officers on May 30 found four containers of plastic waste at Laem Chabang Seaport. It was later identified that these plastic wastes had originated from 35 countries.

Penchom urged the related agencies not to prioritise generating electricity from waste, but to instead correctly tackle the country’s waste by first reducing, reusing and recycling before turning the remaining unrecyclable waste into energy.

In an update on the progress of the country’s waste management masterplan, inspector of Local Administration Department Suwit Chanhuan said that 5,731 local administrative organisations have already grouped together with nearby counterparts to form 324 clusters for the efficient enhancement of waste management.

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Thai turtle's plastic-filled stomach highlights ocean crisis

AFP Yahoo News 11 Jun 18;

Bangkok (AFP) - Startling images of plastic shreds, rubber bands and other debris found jammed in the stomach of a green turtle in Thailand have highlighted the crisis of waste-strewn seas following the widely publicised death of a whale this month.

Thailand is one of the world's largest consumers of plastic, which kills hundreds of marine mammals and reptiles swimming off its coasts every year.

The problem grabbed public attention in the first week of June when an autopsy of a dead pilot whale found near the border with Malaysia revealed 80 plastic bags inside its stomach.

The green turtle, a protected species, suffered a similar fate after washing up on a beach in the eastern province of Chanthaburi on June 4, Weerapong Laovechprasit, a veterinarian at the Eastern Marine and Coastal Resource Research and Development Centre, told AFP.

Plastic, rubber bands, pieces of balloon and other rubbish had filled the turtle's intestinal tract, leaving it unable to eat and causing its death two days later.

"It was feeling weak and couldn't swim," Weerapong said. "The main cause of death is the sea trash."

Veterinarians discovered the blockage using X-rays and tried to save the turtle by feeding it intravenously, but were only able to extract the garbage after its death.

Weerapong said that in the past about 10 percent of the green turtles stranded on beaches in the area had ingested plastic or suffered infections after coming into contact with the waste, but this year about 50 percent of the incidents were trash-related.

More than half of the eight million tonnes of plastic waste dumped into the world's oceans every year comes from five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, according to a 2015 Ocean Conservancy report.

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'Shocking' die-off of Africa's oldest baobabs: study

Mariƫtte Le Roux AFP Yahoo News 11 Jun 18;

Paris (AFP) - Some of Africa's oldest and biggest baobab trees -- a few dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks -- have abruptly died, wholly or in part, in the past decade, researchers said Monday.

The trees, aged between 1,100 and 2,500 years and some as wide as a bus is long, may have fallen victim to climate change, the team speculated.

"We report that nine of the 13 oldest... individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died, over the past 12 years," they wrote in the scientific journal Nature Plants, describing "an event of an unprecedented magnitude."

"It is definitely shocking and dramatic to experience during our lifetime the demise of so many trees with millennial ages," said the study's co-author Adrian Patrut of the Babes-Bolyai University in Romania.

Among the nine were four of the largest African baobabs.

While the cause of the die-off remains unclear, the researchers "suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular."

Further research is needed, said the team from Romania, South Africa and the United States, "to support or refute this supposition."

Between 2005 and 2017, the researchers probed and dated "practically all known very large and potentially old" African baobabs -- more than 60 individuals in all.

Collating data on girth, height, wood volume, and age, they noted the "unexpected and intriguing fact" that most of the very oldest and biggest trees died during the study period.

All were in southern Africa -- Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia.

The baobab is the biggest and longest-living flowering tree, according to the research team. It is found naturally in Africa's savannah region, and outside the continent in tropical areas to which it was introduced.

It is a strange-looking plant, with branches resembling gnarled roots reaching for the sky, giving it an upside-down look.

The iconic tree can live to be 3,000 years old, according to the website of the Kruger National Park in South Africa, a natural baobab habitat.

- 'Difficult to kill' -

"One ancient hollow baobab tree in Zimbabwe is so large that up to 40 people can shelter inside its trunk," says the park.

"Various baobabs have been used as a shop, a prison, a house, a storage barn, and a bus shelter."

The tree serves as a massive store of water, and bears fruit that feeds animals and humans.

Its leaves are boiled and eaten as an accompaniment similar to spinach, or used to make traditional medicines, while the bark is pounded and woven into rope, baskets, cloth, and waterproof hats.

The purpose of the study was to learn how the trees get so enormous.

The researchers used radiocarbon dating to analyse samples taken from different parts of each tree's trunk.

They found that the trunk of the baobab grows from not one but multiple core stems.

According to the Kruger Park, baobabs are "very difficult to kill".

"They can be burnt, or stripped of their bark, and they will just form new bark and carry on growing," it states.

"When they do die, they simply rot from the inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibres."

Of the ten trees listed by the study authors, four died completely, meaning all their multiple stems toppled and died together.

The others saw the death of one or several parts.

The oldest tree by far, of which all the stems collapsed in 2010/11, was the Panke tree in Zimbabwe, estimated to have existed for 2,500 years.

The biggest, dubbed Holboom, was from Namibia. It stood 30.2 metres (99 feet) tall and had a girth of 35.1 m.

Arguably the most famous baobab, called Chapman, was a declared a national monument in central Botswana, bearing the carved initials of explorer David Livingstone.

The tree named after South African hunter James Chapman, who visited it in 1852, saw all six its stems topple simultaneously on January 7, 2016 where it had stood for some 1,400 years.

Other than the oldest and biggest, the research team observed that many other mature baobabs had died.

The deaths were not caused by an epidemic, they wrote, with Patrut adding: "there were no signs of disease".

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