Best of our wild blogs: 19-20 Jun 18

RIP Mama Jong
wild shores of singapore

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Pod of Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins spotted off Pulau Semakau

Charmaine Ng Straits Times 19 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - In his 10 years of fishing, Mr Quek Wei Teck has never come across anything like it.

The 39-year-old was with six other friends on a yacht off Pulau Semakau last Saturday afternoon (June 16) when they saw something jump from the water.

"All of us stopped fishing and rushed to the front (of the yacht)," said Mr Quek, who owns a fishing academy.

As they got closer, they were treated to the sight of at least six dolphins - one of which appeared "a bit pinkish in colour", he told The Straits Times on Tuesday.

As the yacht inched slowly towards the pod so the fishing enthusiasts could get a closer look, the dolphins continued frolicking in the water.

"The nearest we got was about 10 to 20m," Mr Quek said. "We've been there many times but it was our first time seeing dolphins."

The group then whipped out their camera phones to try to capture the sighting.

Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins spotted off Pulau Semakau in Singapore

Chairman of the Nature Society (Singapore)'s Marine Conservation Group Stephen Beng told ST that the dolphins are Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins, or pink dolphins - named after the colour they grow into with age.

The dolphins of this species are common in Singapore waters, and have been observed around the southern islands, Mr Beng added.

"It's good that these dolphins are commonly spotted in our reefs," he added. "It is important for us to be aware of their existence in our waters, and that they are part of our reef ecosystem."

He added that people should not discard fishing lines and nets in the sea, as they pose a threat to the marine life living in the waters, including dolphins, otters and sea turtles.

In April this year, a dolphin was spotted at Bedok Jetty, after it was reportedly caught in a fishing line.

After about 15 minutes, the fisherman cut the line and the dolphin drifted away into the waters, according to an eyewitness.

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Endangered SEA Aquarium turtles Hawke and Louie released into the wild

Channel NewsAsia 19 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Two rescued sea turtles swam to freedom on Tuesday (Jun 19) after more than two years of rehabilitation.

Hawke, a critically endangered male hawksbill turtle, and Louie, an endangered green sea turtle, were released by the SEA Aquarium into the waters around Singapore in the hope that they breed and increase the population in the wild.

Hawke was released at about 10.50am in the waters of Sisters' Island Marine Park while Louie was released about an hour later in the waters of Pulau Semakau, SEA Aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa said in a press release.

"Both started swimming immediately in the water and disappeared from sight within seconds," said the two organisations. "Following the release, Louie was later spotted swimming near the same boat with its head out of the water, as though it was bidding farewell to its caretakers."

The turtles were tagged and microchipped so they could be identified should they return to Singapore's shores, they said, adding that the two release points were chosen in consultation with the National Parks Board.

"It is an emotional moment for our team today to see Hawke and Louie return to the ocean, but our end goal has always been to nurse these turtles back to health and release them back into their natural environment," said Mr Kenneth Kwang Keng Hei, aquarist at SEA Aquarium.

"Our team has spent more than two exciting years caring for them like our babies and it is an aquarist’s dream to see our animals grow healthy after rehabilitation and return to the wild so they can contribute to the overall marine ecosystem.”

Both turtles had made their "official debut" during World Turtle Day last year and were the first sea turtles to join SEA Aquarium's marine life collection, according to the aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa.

Louie was only one week old when it was handed over to the aquarium on Sep 28, 2015. The turtle had been found by a member of the public in a drain, and weighed only 20g when it first arrived at the aquarium.

It has since grown to about 61cm in length and weighs 21.5kg.

Hawke arrived at the aquarium on Mar 24, 2016 after being found in the sea by a member of the public.

Believed to have been abandoned by its owner, who had kept it illegally as a pet, the turtle weighed 800g when it first arrived but has since grown to 59cm in length and weighs 23kg.

In addition, it has a slightly pyramided carapace - a shell deformity likely attributed to poor nutrition and care during its early years, according to the aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa.

To prepare the turtles for their release, Hawke and Louie were gradually moved from back-of-house areas to larger habitats at the aquarium to "encourage exploration" and interaction with other "compatible marine life", said the aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa.

In addition, the aquarists fed the turtles a diet similar to that found in the wild including items such as sea jellies, squids and prawns.

Before their release, the aquarium's animal health team conducted a "thorough veterinary examination" which indicated both were healthy and suitable for release.

According to the aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa, there are seven different species of sea turtles: Green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, olive ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and flatback.

Of these, six are considered threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. Flatbacks are not listed as threatened due to insufficient data.

Worldwide, sea turtles face many threats (primarily from humans), including injuries from boat propellers, entanglement in fishing nets, plastic pollution and poaching for eggs, meat, skin and shells.

Source: CNA/nc

2 rescued sea turtles released back into the wild after 2 years of rehabilitation at S.E.A Aquarium
Charmaine Ng Straits Times 19 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - Two sea turtles that were rescued and put under the care of the S.E.A Aquarium have been released into the wild after more than two years of rehabilitation.

The turtles were released into the waters around Singapore on Tuesday morning (June 19), in hopes that they will breed and increase their population in the wild, the aquarium said in a statement.

The release was done with support and assistance from the National Parks Board, the aquarium added.

Hawke the hawksbill turtle - a critically endangered species- was released in the waters of Sisters' Islands Marine Park. Meanwhile, Louie of the endangered green sea turtle species was returned to the waters of Pulau Semakau.

Both turtles were tagged and microchipped so they can be identified if they return to Singapore's shores in the future, the S.E.A Aquarium said.

During their two years at the aquarium, the turtles were under the care of curatorial and animal health teams.

Aquarist Kenneth Kwang said it was an emotional moment for the team to see both turtles return to the ocean.

"Our team has spent more than two exciting years caring for them like our babies and it is an aquarist's dream to see our animals grow healthy after rehabilitation and return to the wild so they can contribute to the overall marine ecosystem," he said in the statement.

Upon release, both turtles started swimming immediately in the water and disappeared from sight within seconds, according to the aquarium.

"Following the release, Louie was later spotted swimming near the same boat with its head out of the water, as though it was bidding farewell to its caretakers," it added.

Prior to their release, both turtles underwent a veterinary examination, including a blood test, weight and length measurement, to ensure they were healthy.

To prepare them for the wild, both turtles were moved gradually from back-of-house areas to larger habitats at the S.E.A Aquarium, to encourage exploration and interaction with other marine life.

Louie the green sea turtle was one week old and weighed 20g when it came under the care of the aquarium in 2015, after it was found in a drain by a member of the public. It is now 21.5kg and has grown to 61cm.

As for Hawke, the hawksbill turtle was believed to be kept illegally as a pet, and weighed 800g when it first arrived at the aquarium. The male turtle now weighs 23kg and measures 59cm, said the S.E.A Aquarium.

Hawke also has a shell deformity, which is likely due to poor nutrition and care when he was young, said the aquarium.

Both Louie and Hawke are native to Singapore, and were the first sea turtles to join the aquarium's marine life collection.

There are seven species of sea turtles: green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, olive ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and flatback. Of these seven, six are considered threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

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Singapore’s largest electric vehicle charging network to have 500 charging points islandwide by 2020

Amir Yusof Channel NewsAsia 19 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s largest electric vehicle (EV) charging network - consisting of 500 charging points islandwide - will be made available in public areas such as malls, residential areas and business parks by 2020, Singapore Power (SP) Group announced on Tuesday (Jun 19).

The network, which SP Group said will be a boost for electric vehicle adoption in Singapore, will first be rolled out with 30 charging points that will be in operation by end-2018.

“Singapore is regarded as an ideal environment for EVs as it is highly urbanised and compact,” SP Group said.

“This pervasive charging network will plug a critical gap in scaling up EV adoption in Singapore by reducing range anxiety in EV drivers,” it added.

SP Group's head for strategic development Goh Chee Kiong told media that there is a concern among drivers that their vehicles will "run out of juice" when driving from point A to point B, and the launch of a large charging network is crucial to giving these drivers "peace of mind".

In tandem with the charging points, SP also announced the launch of two tenders for the network. The tenders are for the procurement of charging hardware for both AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current) chargers, and for the installation of the chargers.

The national utility company highlighted that of the 500 charging points, more than 100 will be 50kW-DC charging points, a fast charge technology that can fully charge an EV in 30 minutes.

According to SP Group, the technology allows EVs to be charged three to seven times faster than predominant EV chargers available in Singapore today, which are rated at 7.4kW.

"And that gives drivers more comfort when charging their EVs with us ... and provides them a faster turnaround time," explained Mr Goh.


Additionally, the group will also be introducing an SP Group mobile application to allow drivers to locate available charging stations in Singapore.

Besides that, the application can also provide drivers with automated updates on their charging progress and electronic payment modes for use of the charging points.

"Through the app, we will be also be able to provide information to the EV drivers on whether charging has been completed as well as the charging duration of the cars," explained Mr Goh.

In terms of costs, Mr Goh explained that the pricing plan for the charging stations will be released closer to the launch of the network at the end of the year, but he confirmed that the pricing will be "tiered" based on the type of chargers.

In 2016, SP Group’s EV journey commenced when it started to convert its entire vehicle fleet to electric vehicles. As of Jun 19, the company said it has 30 EVs, with 40 charging points across 13 locations.

SP Group said the move allowed it to develop its capabilities to operate an internal charging network that will now be scaled up to a nationwide public charging network.

Source: CNA/zl(mn)

500 electric vehicle charging points to be rolled out by 2020
CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 19 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE — In a bid to encourage more people to own electric vehicles (EV) in Singapore, utility provider Singapore Power (SP) will be installing 500 new charging points across the island by 2020, with the first batch of 30 operational by the end of this year.

Announcing the initiative on Tuesday (June 19), SP Group said the points will be accessible to drivers and located at shopping malls, residential areas, business parks and industrial sites, among others.

There are currently 40 EV charging points owned by SP Group islandwide, most of which are located at the firm's depots.

The upcoming roll-out will be the largest public EV charging network in Singapore, noted SP Group chief executive officer Wong Kim Yin.

Of the 500 charging points, more than 100 will be 50kW-DC (direct current) charging points, which is a fast charge technology that can fully charge an EV in less than 30 minutes. Existing chargers currently run at between 7.4kW and 8kW.

The higher speed charging points will reduce full charge times from about eight hours to 30 minutes, said SP Group head of strategic development Goh Chee Kiong. He pointed out that one of the main grouses of EV drivers is that their vehicles run "out of juice" after a day of driving, and the lack of chargers on the island.

There are currently only 5 DC chargers on the island, added Mr Goh.

SP Group is also developing a mobile application to allow EV users to make payments through the app. Users will also receive real-time information about the availability and the location of the charging points.

The pricing plans will be announced closer to the launch of the network.

SP Group also announced the launch of two tenders for the EV charging network.

These are for the procurement of charging hardware for both AC (alternating current) and DC chargers — which have power ratings ranging between 22kW and 50kW — and the installation of the chargers.

While SP Group said that it has yet to decide on the exact locations of the additional charging points, it welcomes recommendations by users and prospective drivers who are interested to have chargers installed near their premises.

SP Group is not the only firm providing public charging infrastructure for EVs here.

Red Dot Power announced in February that it would be partnering Finnish technology specialist PlugIT to install at least 50 charging stations islandwide by the end of 2019. Its first installation will begin in September.

Another electric charging service provider, Greenlots, has also installed 16 public charging stations at office buildings and shopping malls such as The Heeren.

Greenlots has plans to install another 50 by the end of the year, said its regional manager Terence Siew, who is also the president of the newly-founded EV association of Singapore.


While the move by SP is aimed at getting more people to use EVs, EV adoption in Singapore had come under the spotlight earlier this month after Tesla founder Elon Musk claimed that Singapore’s policies are not supportive of such vehicles.

The LTA said in response that it encourages the adoption of greener and cleaner vehicles such as EVs, but that it is part of its approach to address emissions levels and air quality. The wider aim, said the LTA, is to achieve a car-lite society.

With 354 electric cars currently registered in Singapore as of May, the addition of 500 new charging points will see the latter outnumbering the number of EVs here.

However, Mr Wong said that investing in infrastructure is crucial to incentivise people to adopt EVs.

He said: “It’s a chicken and egg question, without charging points, people will not buy EVs. But without EVs, operators (will question) whether to invest in charging points. In this aspect, we are taking the lead.”

Mr Goh said that the implementation of a “pervasive charging network” will resolve the conundrum while addressing the “range anxiety” that some drivers have about how far EVs can go.

While boosting supporting infrastructure is key for the adoption of EVs, the move to add 500 additional charging points was met with some skepticism.

Citing the lack of demand for EVs, Dr Park Byung Joon, urban transport expert from the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) questioned the need to build more charging points.

He said: “There could be some concerns over why we are building up capacity when demand (for EVs) isn’t really there yet.

“Also, one doesn’t actually need a special outlet to charge vehicles, you can charge an EV with any kind of electrical outlet in Singapore.”

The uptake of EVs in Singapore also boils down to the price of the vehicles, said Dr Park, as he pointed out that the “upfront cost of buying an EV” is significantly higher than that of a normal petrol car.

Checks by TODAY found that the Ioniq Electric, the first mass-market, battery-powered electric car introduced here, is priced at about S$137,000, while other variants of Hyundai petrol cars like the Elantra costs within the $70,000 to S$80,000 range.

Mr Siew, however, felt that a public charging network is still important to support users who live in public housing and condominiums.

“While charging EVs may not be an issue for those who live in landed properties, a large majority of people in Singapore still live in HDBs and condominiums and they might not necessarily have access to charging points in their vicinity,” he said.

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KFC Singapore to stop providing plastic caps and straws for drinks

Channel NewsAsia 18 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: KFC announced on Monday (Jun 18) that in an effort to reduce single-use plastics, it will no longer provide plastic caps and straws with drinks at its 84 outlets in Singapore starting on Wednesday.

It will, however, continue to offer plastic caps for takeaway drinks.

In a press release, the fast-food chain said that the move - part of its No Straws Initiative - will see a reduction of 17.8 metric tonnes of single-use plastics in a year.

"We acknowledge the strain that single-use plastics put on our environment and are taking steps to do our part in endeavouring a change," said Ms Lynette Lee, general manager at Kentucky Fried Chicken Management.

"We recognise that every little bit counts and are proud to be the first fast food restaurant in Singapore to champion this movement, one straw at a time," she added.

KFC Singapore's first attempt at going green was in December 2016 when it phased out dine-in paper boxes and served their meals in reusable baskets instead. In early 2017, KFC replaced the foam packaging for their breakfast platters and porridge bowls with recyclable paper ones.

The efforts reduced their use of paper boxes and foam packaging within six months by nearly 2.5 million and more than 700,000 sets respectively, it said.

The company also said it will continue to review and roll out the use of more biodegradable packaging.

Source: CNA/hs

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Malaysia: The government should introduce more stringent laws to curb wildlife poaching activities

Amira Eizan Azman New Straits Times 19 Jun 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: Animal activist, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the government should introduce a more stringent law to help curb wildlife poaching activities as many of the culprits are not deterred by the punishment provided under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

“The Act should be amended to include a mandatory minimum jail term for those found guilty to be involved in poaching activities, including those who keep the carcasses of the wild animals.

“Although the Wildlife Conservation Act, which was passed in 2010 to replace the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, is tough on lawbreakers, some quarters claimed that it is not a deterrent enough,” he added.

NST in its recent reports exposed that poachers have become cruel and they opted for brutal ways to catch animals including laying wire snares that could inflict a slow painful death.

The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) had proposed for the amendment of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and with that, poachers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and it will provide heavier punishment while a minimum period of imprisonment will be introduced as currently the act has no such provision.

Lee said all Malaysians must be more proactive in curbing the sale and purchase of endangered animals and their parts through a more effective national and international legislation and enforcement.

The patron of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Selangor hoped that the enforcement agencies can strengthen their cooperation to help cripple poaching syndicates nationwide.

He further suggested the agencies involved use the latest technology, including drones, remote sensing and camera trapping, to curb poaching and smuggling activities all over the country.

“Wildlife protection is not only the responsibility of the enforcement agencies but protecting wildlife but requires collaboration across NGOs, government, corporate stakeholders and local communities.”

He believed that greater public awareness, better law enforcement and stronger political will are needed to not only prevent illegal wildlife trade but also to avoid over exploitation of natural resources.

“Animal cruelty in whatever form must never be tolerated and we need to care for all of them as they also have the right to live and share this planet, Lee said giving his opinion in regards of animal rights.

Anybody who has any information on wildlife crime can lodge a report to the Perhilitan hotline (1-800-88-5151, office hours) or the Wildlife Crime Hotline at 0193564194.

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Indonesia: Sperm whale found stranded in East Aceh

The Jakarta Post 19 Jun 18;

A sperm whale was found stranded on Kuala Baroh Bugeng Beach in Nurussalam district, East Aceh regency, on Sunday.

"We estimated the weight [of the whale] to be about 10 tons. It is in a decaying condition," a resident said as quoted by

The huge mammal drew the attention of nearby residents who, according to Antara news agency, harvested oil from its body on Monday.

Ten beached sperm whales were found by residents of Aceh late last year in Ujong Kareung, Mesjid Raya district, Aceh Besar regency.

Four of the whales later died and were buried, while the other six were returned to the water by about 50 rescuers. (evi)

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A battle to save Indonesia's orangutans

BBC 19 Jun 18;

A deep peatland forest in Indonesian Borneo is home to one of the world's largest remaining populations of endangered orangutans, but as BBC Indonesian editor Rebecca Henschke reports, the habitat is under threat despite changes in law designed to protect it.

Borneo is one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet and has some of the world's oldest forests.

In Ketapang, in West Kalimantan province, the light dances through the thick canopy. It's hard to see more than a few metres through the tangle of vines and branches.

But from the air, a canal 9km long can be seen cutting a scar into the thick green carpet of the forest.

It's the first part of a project by the Indonesian company PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa (MPK), which wants to develop the land as a logging plantation.

"We have attracted investors from Canada and China. They are building timber industries around this plantation such as pile wood, flooring and furniture," says the company's office director Hans Saputra.

The company was granted a logging licence for around 48,000 hectares back in 2008. Work to develop the land began here in 2013.

An environmental assessment report was commissioned to secure the licence, but it made no mention of orangutans nor of the other animals in the area.

Yet, between 800 and 1,000 critically endangered orangutans call this forest their home, according to a 2017 survey conducted by the state Natural Resources Conservation Centre (BKSDA) in partnership with international environmental groups.

That makes it the largest orangutan population living outside of a protected area in Indonesia, said the report.

If the logging goes ahead, they will lose their home.

International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia runs a nearby rescue and rehabilitation centre, taking in homeless and orphaned orangutans.

"There is no way we can rescue over 1,000 orangutans," says the IAR's national head, Karmele Llano Sanchez.

"So we are going to lose one of the most important orangutan populations we have left. With populations rapidly declining, every orangutan counts."

Lungs of the world
Deforestation accounts for one fifth of all carbon released into the atmosphere worldwide, according to Greenpeace.

But the land is valuable and, despite it being illegal in Indonesia, peatland is often cleared for agriculture by slash and burn practices. This has seen the country become the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

The swampy floor is thick with decaying trees and rich organic matter metres deep in places. A dense, deep carbon sink.

"Forests like this control our climate," says Greenpeace forests campaigner Ratri Kusumohartono.

"When it's cleared or dried out it easily burns and releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere."

In 2015 a longer dry season made the annual land-clearing fires catastrophic.

Across Indonesia, 2.6 million hectares were burned and an unhealthy haze blanketed the region for months. Schools and airports were closed and the World Bank estimated the fires caused losses up to $16bn (£12bn).

In 2015 a long dry season caused land clearing fires to get out of control.
Amid a local and international outcry, President Joko Widodo brought in a change in law to try and prevent peatland from burning.

There were to be no new peatland forest conversions, even within existing concessions. Companies owning deep peatland could no longer cut down intact forest and put the land to industrial use.

That affected companies like PT Mohairson. In April last year, in a letter seen by the BBC, the ministry of environment and forestry ordered the company to "stop all operations" within a day.

And they were told to "fill in the canal" - which drains the peat swamp forest- within 20 days or "heavier penalties" would apply.

More than a year on, the canals have been blocked but not filled in and despite the change in law, some work is continuing. When the BBC visited the area in March this year, from the public road we saw workers making the foundations of a building near the canal.

"If this is correct, this is a clear violation and we will investigate," said the director general of environmental damage control at the environment minister, Mr MR Karliansyah, when we showed him what we documented.

"The forest is virgin forest, that should be saved," he said while looking at the images.

"If they haven't started logging and the forest is still intact and under law it's now protected forest, it must be conserved, it cannot be touched."

He said he would send a team to investigate again.

When the law changed, some protections were put in place for companies. If more than 40% of the land they owned could suddenly no longer be legally developed, the law lets them swap it for another area not covered by the sanctions.

Mr Karliansyah said the government had already done such land swaps with companies in similar situations.

PT Mohairson's Han Saputra said it's not that simple.

"We don't want to sell, we will not swap it - we have already built industry that we need there."

The change of policy at the central government has left the company confused and frustrated, he said.

"Suddenly we were told to stop because of these new rules and we were told to shut it all down after we have invested so much," he said.

He insisted they have complied with the government sanctions by blocking the canal, and are drawing up new work plans at the moment to comply with the new regulations.

He said the workers we saw were making a storage room for their equipment.

Investment denied

While the government in Jakarta - more than 1,000km away - is promising to protect the peatlands, it's coming under pressure from local governments, worried about the economic impact of halting development.

The governor of West Kalimantan, in a letter to the president last year, asserted that restricting use of peatlands will threaten nearly 90,000 jobs and jeopardise billions of dollars of exports.

"This is a really bad precedent for the rule of law and investment in Indonesia," said a visibly angry Gusti Hardiansyah, the special adviser on climate change to the governor of West Kalimantan.

"Just because you want to save orangutans you want to sacrifice the local people in Indonesia. You cannot do that! We will protect our people first not just the environment."

But not everyone here wants this kind of investment.

"That's the only forest left in our area. We want that left for our grandchildren," said Ira Sahroni a local famer who lives close to where the canal has been dug out.

Widespread deforestation is already making it harder to get fresh water, he said, and has led to fires in the dry season and floods in the wet.

"We want the voice of the little people to be heard, we don't want big investors coming here and causing us to suffer just for the benefit of a few."

Greenpeace's Ratri Kusumohartono says the Ketapang project is a test case.

"The government needs to show that they are serious about protecting peatland and enforcing their own regulations to show they are serious about stopping the fires from coming back every year."

At the IAR rescue and rehabilitation centre in the area, staff were caring for those orangutans already suffering from the destruction of their forest home.

A group of babies were brought back to the centre after a day at "forest school", where they learn basic survival skills.

"They come from areas where the forest has been cleared or burnt," says Ms Sanchez.

"Once orangutans lose their habitat it's easy for them to be killed, so they have all lost their mothers."

"We try to mimic the same conditions that they would have had in the wild. It can take seven to eight years, the time they would have spent with their mothers."

The hope is that they can be released into the wild but unless the government enforces its own regulations to protect their habitat, their future looks bleak.

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