Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jun 18

7 Jul (Sat): R.U.M. mangroves and coastal cleanup
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Hear About Low Impact Living at Green Drinks SG x The Green Collective SG Relaunch Party
Green Drinks Singapore

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'Intense rain' caused flash floods in central, western Singapore: PUB

Channel NewsAsia 26 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: "Intense rain" caused flash floods in three locations across central and western Singapore on Tuesday (Jun 26) morning, leaving vehicles and pedestrians to wade their way through murky waters as they made their way to work during peak hour.

The flash floods occurred in Lorong Kismis, Toh Tuck Avenue and along PIE towards Tuas after the Eng Neo exit, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) said.

The PUB said that Old Toh Tuck Road saw more rain on Tuesday than the entire monthly average for June. Across four hours, 150mm of rainfall was recorded in the area, compared with the average rainfall of 130.7mm in the entire month of June, PUB said.

One video submitted by a Channel NewsAsia reader showed cars making their way slowly through brown waters at Toh Tuck.

Another video - which was circulating on social media - showed the flood after the PIE exit at Toh Tuck and a motorcycle being pushed by two people in the rain.

PUB said that its officers "were immediately deployed to the flooded locations to investigate and render assistance". By 12.20pm, all flash floods had subsided, it added.

"We urge the public to exercise caution and avoid stepping into or driving into flooded areas. During heavy rain, the public should stay tuned to radio broadcast and check PUB’s Facebook or PUB's mobile app MyWaters for flood updates," it said.

The Meteorological Service on Jun 14 had said that wetter weather can be expected in Singapore during the second half of the month, compared to the first half.

The Southwest monsoon has set in over Singapore and the surrounding region, and is expected to last till September, it added.

Source: CNA/na(aj)

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Palm oil ‘disastrous’ for wildlife but here to stay, experts warn

The deforestation it causes is decimating species such as orangutans and tigers - but the alternatives could be worse, finds authoritative report
Damian Carrington The Guardian 26 Jun 18;

It is consumed daily by billions of people but palm oil is “disastrous” for wildlife such as orangutans and tigers, according to an authoritative new report. However, the analysis warns that alternatives are likely to drive biodiversity losses elsewhere, rather than halt them.

The analysis, from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), found that rainforest destruction caused by palm oil plantations damages more than 190 threatened species on the IUCN’s red list, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia. It also found that palm oil certified as “sustainable” is, so far, only marginally better in terms of preventing deforestation.

However, alternative oil crops, such as soy, corn and rapeseed, require up to nine times as much land and switching to them could result in the destruction of wild habitat in other parts of the world, such as Brazil and Argentina, the report warns. It recommends stronger action to ensure new palm oil plantations do not cause forests to be felled.

Palm oil provides a third of the world’s vegetable oil, from 10% of the land used for all oil crops. It is used in a huge range of food products and eaten by half the world’s population, with a quarter of production used in cosmetics, cleaning products and as biofuel.

“When you consider the disastrous impacts of palm oil on biodiversity from a global perspective, there are no simple solutions,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general. “If we ban or boycott it, other, more land-hungry oils will likely take its place.”

“Palm oil is here to stay and we urgently need concerted action to make palm oil production more sustainable, ensuring that governments, producers and the supply chain honour their sustainability commitments,” she said. Deforestation for palm oil frequently takes place despite legal bans.

The new report from the IUCN Oil Palm taskforce estimates the total area of industrial scale palm oil plantations at 18.7m hectares, with smallholder plantations taking the total to 25m hectares, equivalent to the area of the UK.

Despite the controversy over palm oil, there are no easy solutions, said Erik Meijaard, the IUCN report’s lead author. “Palm oil is decimating south-east Asia’s rich diversity of species as it eats into swaths of tropical forest,” he said. But, quoting US writer HL Mencken, he added. “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

One issue is that it is often easier to cut down virgin forest for new plantations, rather than deal with the complicated ownership issues that come with already degraded land. Another is that while some communities can benefit from plantations, as Indonesian and Malaysian governments argue, other communities can suffer.

Furthermore, plantations are often created in poor locations, meaning yields are low. “A lot of oil palm planting seems to be dumped in places wherever people can get hold of land,” said Meijaard. “There needs to be pressure on countries like Malaysia and Indonesia to start seriously looking at how to optimise this sector.”

Sustainable certification is intended to demonstrate that palm oil has not caused deforestation but is currently poor, according to Meijaard: “Certification is nowhere near as good as it should be. But [we] still think it is needed as the only objective way we can judge whether palm oil adheres to certain principles. The [certification body] needs to step it up and improve.”

A spokeswoman for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which certifies almost 20% of all palm oil, said: “While we acknowledge that the certification system is not perfect, it has made a real contribution against deforestation.” RSPO said it was currently strengthening its standards.

Arguments over palm oil have been bitter with the most recent flare-up occurring over the European Union’s decision to ban palm oil from use as biofuel, though not until 2030. In the run up to the decision, Malaysian minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong warned of a multi-billion dollar trade war: “Don’t expect us to continue buying European products.”

Malaysia also called a recent academic paper on huge orangutan declines “hyperbolic” and media reports on it “fake news”. “We’ve come to expect nothing less from our opponents in Europe and the environmental minions who do their bidding,” said the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

Richard George, at Greenpeace UK, said: “Time and time again we’ve caught RSPO members destroying forests for palm oil, including trashing orangutan habitat. If the RSPO wants to have a future, it must adopt ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ standards and ensure they are rigorously enforced.”

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Indonesia: Patrol stepped up to prevent Javan leopard from entering settlement

Arya Dipa The Jakarta Post 26 Jun 18;

The Tasikmalaya Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) has set up a communication network connected to people living near the Gunung Sawal Wildlife Reserve in Ciamis regency, West Java, to prevent human-wildlife conflict in the area.

Didin Saripudin, head of BKSDA Tasikmalaya’s conservation division, said agency personnel had taken turns to carry out patrols in the area, following a report that a Javan leopard had entered a settlement near the wildlife reserve.

“Twelve agency personnel participated in the routine patrols,” said Didin in Bandung on Tuesday.

As reported earlier, residents of Cikupa village in Lumbung district, Ciamis, claimed they had seen a leopard enter their settlement and attack their livestock.

“The incident occurred one week before Idul Fitri. As soon as we received the report, we dispatched our team and managed to chase the animal back into the [wildlife reserve] by using fireworks,” said Didin.

Following the incident, the wildlife reserve’s rangers decided to carry out routine patrols around the village.

It is not the first time that a leopard has entered the settlement in Cikupa village. In 2009 and 2015, villagers caught two and last October, a leopard caught by the villagers was handed over to BKSDA West Java last October.

The Gunung Sawal Wildlife Reserve is the natural habitat of the Javan leopard, a predator that is endemic to Java Island. (ebf)

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Indonesia: Dry season estimated to continue until October

Reporter: Martha Herlinawati S Antara 26 Jun 18;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) estimated that the dry season would continue until October 2018 and could cause water shortage problems in various areas of Indonesia.

Head of Public Relations and Information Data Center of BNPB Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated in a written statement on Monday night that some areas in the provinces of East Java, Central Java and Yogyakarta have been hit by drought.

"Many residents are asking for clean water supply, although the dry season is just entering the early period but in fact, some areas begin to experience drought," he said.

Some areas in Gunung Kidul district, Yogyakarta province have been affected by drought. They were Girisubo sub-district with 4,572 households, Ngelipar sub-district with 1,853 households or 5,637 inhabitants, Paliyan sub-district with 6,014 households or 20,769 people, Panggang sub-district with 1,232 households or 4,677 inhabitants, Purwosari sub-district with 912 households or 3,390 inhabitants, Rongkop sub-districts with 3,820 households or 11,800 people, Tanjungsari sub-districts with 3,100 households or 11,186 residents, Tepus sub-districts with 8,232 households or 32,851 inhabitants, Ponjong sub-districts with 766 households or 2,765 inhabitants, and Gedangsari sub-districts with 1,106 households or 3,448 people.

Due to the occurrence of drought disaster, the Regional Disaster Management Office of Gunung Kidul District has distributed 5,000 liters of clean water.

The office targeted to distribute 3,360 clean water tanks with a daily distribution of 24 clean water tanks, and six units of a 5,000 liter water tank fleet which are completed diesel-fueled water pumps, pipes and hoses.

"Distribution of clean water has started on June 4 until now," he said.
Editor: Otniel Tamindael

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Indonesia hosts convention on international trade in endangered species

Martha Herlinawati S Antara 26 Jun 18;

Endangered Tarsius sangirensis in Sangihe island, North Sulawesi (ANTARA FOTO/Stenly Pontolawokang)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia is hosting Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Yogyakarta on June 25-29, 2018.

"CITES aims to review the progress of the implementation of the CITES Tree Species Program in the Asian region and the implementation of individual country projects," Director of Conservation of Biodiversity of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Indra Exploitasia stated in a written statement on Tuesday.

In his opening remarks, he said the activity served as a conservation step towards the sustainability of endangered plant species.

He stated the Second Regional Workshop on the Management of Wild and Planted Agarwood Taxa aimed to share experiences of various countries in the management of forest plantations and agar tree population in nature, as well as to prevent over-exploitation and ensure that legal trade of agarwood does not exceed its sustainability level.

"This meeting is important for Indonesia, not only to manage sustainable forests, but also to seek a balance between conservation, economy and human welfare through trade of wood products and their derivatives," he said.

In addition, the meeting also aimed to establish a network of inter-state collaboration both in safeguarding plant species and law enforcement for environmental and forest crimes, especially illegal trade of protected crops inside and outside of sustainable forest areas.

CITES is an international agreement between countries based on World Conservation Union (IUCN) resolution. This activity is a collaboration of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry with the Secretariat of CITES and International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), which is funded by the European Union.

A total of 40 participants representing CITES Asia Range States that have a list of plant species included in the protection list of CITES Appendix were present at the meeting, among others from Indonesia, Malaysia, China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Nepal, as well as the CITES Secretariat, ITTO, and representatives from the European Union.

Editor: Otniel Tamindael

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Indonesia: Corpse flower blooms in Bengkulu residents` breeding area

Antara 26 Jun 18;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - A two-meter-high corpse flower, or Amorphophallus titanum, has been in full bloom in the rare flower breeding area of the residents of Tebat Monok Village, Kepahiang District, located some 53 kilometers from Bengkulu City, Bengkulu Province.

"The flower was in full bloom on Monday (June 25) afternoon and was in this state for only a few hours before its buds collapsed back in," Holidin, owner of a rare breeding area, noted here on Tuesday.

He stated that when the flower was in full bloom, it emitted a rotten stench.

The stench arising from the carcass flower, in no way, reduces the beauty of the flower that blooms in purplish and unusual shapes.

Although the petals collapse back in, the uniqueness of the carcass flower can still be enjoyed for up to the next two days.

Holidin remarked that before the flowers attain full bloom, the rare flower encampment area is opened to the public.

"Many visitors stop by as the location of this captive breeding site is also very strategic on the Bengkulu-Kepahiang road crossing," he said.

According to Holidin, the breeding area is intended for educational tourism in addition to the preservation of endemic rare flowers in Bengkulu.

The location is also home to some other types of carcass flowers, such as Amorphophallus variabilis, Amorphophallus gigas, and Amorphophallus paeonifolius.

Rafflesia arnoldii has also been grown in the breeding location since 1997, but until now, it has not bloomed.

Kartini, one of the visitors, was enthralled by the uniqueness of carrion flowers whose size exceeds the average height of humans.

"This is my first experience to witness carrion flowers. They smell a bit rotten but are very unique," she stated.

Visitors can enter this place free of charge. However, Holidin and his family have put up a voluntary donation box to support the management of the breeding area.

Reported by Helti Marini S
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Rising seas: 'Florida is about to be wiped off the map'

Sea level rises are not some distant threat; for many Americans they are very real. In an extract from her chilling new book, Rising, Elizabeth Rush details how the US coastline will be radically transformed in the coming years
Elizabeth Rush The Guardian 26 Jun 18;

In 1890, just over six thousand people lived in the damp lowlands of south Florida. Since then the wetlands that covered half the state have been largely drained, strip malls have replaced Seminole camps, and the population has increased a thousandfold. Over roughly the same amount of time the number of black college degree holders in the United States also increased a thousandfold, as did the speed at which we fly, the combined carbon emissions of the Middle East, and the entire population of Thailand.

About 60 of the region’s more than 6 million residents have gathered in the Cox Science Building at the University of Miami on a sunny Saturday morning in 2016 to hear Harold Wanless, or Hal, chair of the geology department, speak about sea level rise. “Only 7% of the heat being trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the atmosphere,” Hal begins. “Do you know where the other 93% lives?”

A teenager, wrists lined in aquamarine beaded bracelets, rubs sleep from her eyes. Returns her head to its resting position in her palm. The man seated behind me roots around in his briefcase for a breakfast bar. No one raises a hand.

“In the ocean,” Hal continues. “That heat is expanding the ocean, which is contributing to sea level rise, and it is also, more importantly, creating the setting for something we really don’t want to have happen: rapid melt of ice.”

A woman wearing a sequined teal top opens her Five Star notebook and starts writing things down. The guy behind her shovels spoonfuls of passionfruit–flavored Chobani yogurt into his tiny mouth. Hal’s three sons are perched in the next row back. One has a ponytail, one is in a suit, and the third crosses and uncrosses his gray street sneakers. The one with the ponytail brought a water bottle; the other two sip Starbucks. And behind the rows and rows of sparsely occupied seats, at the very back of the amphitheater, an older woman with a gold brocade bear on her top paces back and forth.

A real estate developer interrupts Hal to ask: “Is someone recording this?”

“Yes.” The cameraman coughs. “Besides,” Hal adds, “I say the same damn thing at least five times a week.” Hal, who is in his early seventies and has been studying sea level rise for over 40 years, pulls at his Burt Reynolds moustache, readjusts his taupe corduroy suit, and continues. On the screen above his head clips from a documentary on climate change show glacial tongues of ice the size of Manhattan tumbling into the sea. “The big story in Greenland and Antarctica is that the warming ocean is working its way in, deep under the ice sheets, causing the ice to collapse faster than anyone predicted, which in turn will cause sea levels to rise faster than anyone predicted.”

According to Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, rising sea levels are uncertain, their connection to human activity tenuous. And yet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects roughly two feet of rise by century’s end. The United Nations predicts three feet. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates an upper limit of six and a half feet.

Take the 6 million people who live in south Florida today and divide them into two groups: those who live less than six and a half feet above the current high tide line, and everybody else. The numbers slice nearly evenly. Heads or tails: call it in the air. If you live here, all you can do is hope that when you put down roots your choice was somehow prophetic.

But Hal says it doesn’t matter whether you live six feet above sea level or sixty-five, because he, like James Hansen, believes that all of these predictions are, to put it mildly, very, very low. “The rate of sea level rise is currently doubling every seven years, and if it were to continue in this manner, Ponzi scheme style, we would have 205 feet of sea level rise by 2095,” he says. “And while I don’t think we are going to get that much water by the end of the century, I do think we have to take seriously the possibility that we could have something like 15 feet by then.”

It’s a little after nine o’clock. Hal’s sons stop sipping their lattes and the oceanographic scientist behind me puts down his handful of M&M’s. If Hal Wanless is right, every single object I have seen over the past 72 hours – the periodic table of elements hanging above his left shoulder, the buffet currently loaded with refreshments, the smoothie stand at my seaside hotel, the beach umbrellas and oxygen bars, the Johnny Rockets and seashell shop, the lecture hall with its hundreds of mostly empty teal swivel chairs – will all be underwater in the not-so-distant future.

One of the few stories I remember from the Bible vividly depicts the natural and social world in crisis. It is the apocalyptic narrative par excellence – Noah’s flood. When I look it up again, however, I am surprised to find that it does not start with a rainstorm or an ark, but earlier, with unprecedented population growth and God’s scorn. It begins: “When human beings began to increase in number on the earth.” I read this line and think about the 6,000 inhabitants of south Florida turning into 6 million in 120 short years. “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become.” I think about the exponential increase in M&M’s, Chobani yogurt cups and grande lattes consumed over that same span of time. The dizzying supply chains, cheap labor and indestructible plastic. “So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.’” And then the rain began.

I do not believe in a vengeful God – if God exists at all – so I do not think of the flood as punishment for human sin. What interests me most is what happens to the story when I remove it from its religious framework: Noah’s flood is one of the most fully developed accounts of environmental change in ancient history. It tries to make sense of a cataclysmic earthbound event that happened long ago, before written language, before the domestication of horses, before the first Egyptian mummies and the rise of civilization in Crete. An event for which the teller clearly held humans responsible.

Dig into geologic history and you discover this: when sea levels have risen in the past, they have usually not done so gradually, but rather in rapid surges, jumping as much as 50 feet over a short three centuries. Scientists call these events “meltwater pulses” because the near-biblical rise in the height of the ocean is directly correlated to the melting of ice and the process of deglaciation, the very events featured in the documentary footage Hal has got running on a screen above his head.

He shows us a clip of the largest glacial calving event ever recorded. It starts with a chunk of ice the size of Miami’s tallest building tumbling, head over tail, off the tip of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Then the Southeast Financial Center goes, displaying its cool blue underbelly. It is a coltish thing, smooth and oddly muscular. The ground between the two turns to arctic ice dust and the ocean roils up. Next, chunks of ice the size of the Marquis Residences crash away; then the Wells Fargo Center falls, and with it goes 900 Biscayne Bay. Suddenly everything between the Brickell neighborhood and Park West is gone.

The clip begins again and I watch in awe as a section of the Jakobshavn Glacier half the size of all Miami falls into the sea.

“Greenland is currently calving chunks of ice so massive they produce earthquakes up to six and seven on the Richter scale,” Hal says as the city of ice breaks apart. “There was not much noticeable ice melt before the nineties. But now it accelerates every year, exceeding all predictions. It will likely cause a pulse of meltwater into the oceans.”

In medicine, a pulse is something regular – a predictable throb of blood through veins, produced by a beating heart. It is so reliable, so steady, so definite that lack of a pulse is sometimes considered synonymous with death. A healthy adult will have a resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute, every day, until they don’t. But a meltwater pulse is the opposite. It is an anomaly. The exception to the 15,000-year rule.

From 1900 to 2000 the glacier on the screen retreated inward eight miles. From 2001 to 2010 it pulled back nine more; over a single decade the Jakobshavn glacier lost more ice than it had during the previous century. And then there is this film clip, recorded over 70 minutes, in which the glacier retreats a full mile across a calving face three miles wide. “This is why I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the largest meltwater pulse in modern human history,” Hal says.

As the ice sheets above Hal’s head fall away and the snacks on the buffet disappear, topography is transformed from a backwater physical science into the single most important factor determining the longevity of the Sunshine State. The man seated next to me leans over. “If what he says is even half true,” he whispers, “Florida is about to be wiped off the map.”

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