Best of our wild blogs: 10 Jul 18

25 Jul (Wed): Research talk by Professor Richard Thompson (Marine Litter)
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Singapore Raptor Report, Late Spring Migration, April-June 2018
Singapore Bird Group

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New used water and waste treatment plant in Tuas to expand water supply and landfill lifespan

Audrey Tan and Luke Anthony Tan Straits Times 9 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE - More than $5 billion in tenders will be called for a new plant in Tuas that will utilise waste to expand the Republic's water supply and extend the lifespan of its one and only landfill on offshore Semakau Island.

The tenders, which will be called over the next five years, involve civil, mechanical and electrical engineering works. They are for a novel, first-of-its kind facility in Tuas, which will incorporate both used water and waste treatment plants in one facility, said national water agency PUB and the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Monday (July 9).

Construction of the facility is expected to start next year (2019), and will be completed in phases from 2023. It is expected to be fully ready by 2027.

Tuas Nexus will be the first plant that enables PUB to reclaim industrial used water, for use by industries on Jurong Island and Tuas. Traditionally, industrial used water is treated before being discharged into the sea.

Tuas Nexus will also be the first to treat both used water and food waste in the same plant to produce biogas.

Used for electricity generation, biogas is produced when organic material in food waste or sludge from used water react with bacteria.

By combining used water sludge with food waste, Tuas Nexus will be able to increase the amount of biogas produced by 10 per cent. This is because of the higher organic content in food waste, said PUB principal engineer Mark Wong.

Coupled with other renewable energy sources at Tuas Nexus - including solar panels and the conversion of heat produced by the incinerators to electricity - the plant will be completely energy self-sufficient.

This means it will not need to draw fossil fuel-generated electricity from the grid to power its operations, said NEA and PUB in a statement.

In fact, excess electricity - enough to power up to 300,000 homes - will be exported back to the national grid.

Said Mr Yong Wei Hin, director for PUB's deep tunnel sewerage system phase 2: "The Tuas Nexus is a bold innovation in the action for climate change and sustainability. This pioneering facility... marks a new way in which used water and solid waste will be treated in Singapore."

He was speaking to the media at the Tuas Nexus showcase at the Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit Singapore conferences held at the Marina Bay Sands.

The integration of both water and waste treatment plants in Tuas Nexus will result in overall carbon savings of more than 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year - equivalent to taking 42,500 cars off the roads.

The new plant, which will also allow incineration bottom ash (IBA) to be extracted from waste, will enable Singapore to expand the lifespan of Semakau Landfill, said Mr Joseph Boey, project director at NEA's integrated waste management facility.

Some 20 per cent of every tonne of incinerable waste comprises incineration bottom ash.

"If we are able to extract this IBA for use in other areas, such as in construction, we will be able to reduce the amount that goes into the landfill and expand the lifespan."

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Lightning strike cause of Pulau Busing oil storage tank fire: Shanmugam on preliminary findings

Channel NewsAsia 9 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: Preliminary investigations show that a lightning strike was the cause of the oil storage tank fire on Pulau Busing in March, which took firefighters six hours to extinguish.

This was revealed by Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam on Monday (Jul 9), in his written response to a Parliamentary question by MP Fatimah Lateef.

Preliminary findings indicate that the fire was caused by a lightning strike on the rooftop of the tank, Mr Shanmugam said, adding that investigations are still ongoing.

He also stressed that the Fire Code requires oil storage tanks to have a lightning protection system, and that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is investigating why the system seemed to have failed in this case.

A total of 128 SCDF personnel and 48 firefighting and support vehicles were deployed for the operation, in addition to the Company Emergency Response Team (CERT) members stationed on Pulau Busing.

According to Mr Shanmugam, CERT were the first responders to the fire, and helped managed to prevent the spread of the blaze before SCDF arrived.

He added that during the fire, other companies on neighbouring islands also provided resources to help fight the fire.

Special large monitors that discharge 23,000 litres of foam solution per minute, as well as specific fire appliances to cool the adjacent oil tanks, were also deployed to fight the fire, Mr Shanmugam said.

Source: CNA/am(aj)

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Malaysia: Call for efforts to save Malayan tiger

Bernama New Straits Times 9 Jul 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: Poaching still remains the most urgent and critical threat to the Malayan tiger, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia).

Its executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma noted that the presence of foreign poachers in Malaysian jungles underlined the urgent need for the country to step up wildlife protection efforts on the ground, including transboundary collaboration.

“The illegal wildlife trade is an organised crime that is threatening the existence of many species. It operates the same way as illegal drugs and weapons – by dangerous international networks with links across the globe,” he said in a statement today.

Its executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma noted that the presence of foreign poachers in Malaysian jungles underlined the urgent need for the country to step up wildlife protection efforts on the ground, including transboundary collaboration. (NSTP file pic)
He said, by practising intolerance towards wildlife crimes and working together to support conservation, there was still hope to protect the Malayan tiger.

“It’s time for the Malayan tiger to be made a national priority and a collective responsibility of all Malaysians,” he said, noting that Global Tiger Day would be marked on July 29. – Bernama

Be the voice of our tigers
Letters to The Star 10 Jul 18;

WE are losing our Malayan tigers, the symbol of our national pride. The Malayan tiger proudly flanks our jata negara or national emblem. It is a representation of strength and courage, an inspiration to Malaysians from all walks of life.

As the world gears up to celebrate Global Tiger Day on July 29, Malaysia is in the spotlight again after the recent raid announced by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) in Pahang last week. Some of the most valuable animal parts seized, including skin, were suspected to be from three Malayan tigers, one of which is believed to be a tiger cub.

NGOs, enforcement authorities, corporate stakeholders and local communities alike are racing to keep our tigers alive. Yet, despite all the collaborative efforts, poaching for the illegal wildlife trade remains the most urgent and critical threat to the Malayan tiger.

The influx of foreign poachers into Malaysia’s forests is indeed alarming. In last week’s raid, six Vietnamese poachers were arrested, all of whom are believed to be part of an illegal network that targets mainly tigers.

Over the past year, there has been significant progress in tiger conservation efforts in Malaysia. For instance, Perak made history last year when it became the first in South-East Asia to register Royal Belum State Park for Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CATS), which is an accreditation scheme that encourages tiger conservation areas to meet a set of standards and criteria to assure effective and long-term tiger conservation.

During a high-level Dialogue on Enhancing Tiger Conservation Efforts in July 2017, the Perak state government committed to achieving zero poaching by 2020. The state reiterated this commitment at the Royal Belum–WWF Conservation Summit held in November 2017.

While it may seem far-fetched, zero poaching is not impossible. A success story is Nepal, which achieved 365 days of zero poaching for rhinos, elephants and tigers between 2013 and 2014. This was only possible due to effective and continuous collaborative efforts among enforcement agencies like the police and armed forces, and regulatory bodies such as the National Tiger Conservation Committee (chaired by the Prime Minister of Nepal) and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. These bodies were established specifically to address poaching and the illegal wildlife trade network holistically from an enforcement perspective.

Nepal has now set a precedence in curbing poaching on a global scale.

WWF-Malaysia has always advocated the need to have more intelligence-based and collaborative efforts among other enforcement agencies to support anti-poaching operations. We commend Perhilitan on the recent bust and for their continuous efforts to collaborate with the army and police in fighting wildlife crime.

However, for Malaysia to achieve zero poaching as Nepal has, it will likely require a much bigger step-up in collaborative efforts especially due to the lack of adequate enforcement staff on the ground to protect our forests.

The illegal wildlife trade is an organised crime that is threatening the existence of many species. It is operated in the same way as the illegal drugs and weapons trade by dangerous international networks linked across the globe.

The scale of the global illegal wildlife trade as a business is massive, with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) valuing it at between US$7bil and US$23bil a year in 2017.

In a report released in March 2017, UN Environment and Interpol also estimated the value of environmental crime at up to US$258bil annually. With a growth rate of five to seven percent each year, environmental crime is outpacing the growth of our global economy by two to three times. After narcotics, human trafficking and weapons, wildlife crime is the fourth most lucrative illegal business in the world.

Yes, we stand to lose our tigers. However, by practising intolerance towards wildlife crimes and working together to support conservation, there is still hope to protect our Malayan tiger for generations to come.

We can still ensure their survival if we act now, instead of standing by the sidelines while their extinction is documented.

Even our Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was recently quoted saying, “if we do not care and consider animals as something that could become extinct, there will not be any more animals in the world one day.”

It is time for the Malayan tiger to be made a national priority and the collective responsibility of all Malaysians. This Global Tiger Day, be a voice for our tigers.


Petaling Jaya

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Elephant poaching: 'Sick' EU ivory sales 'cover up illegal trade'

Matt McGrath BBC 10 Jul 18;

The open, legal sale of antique ivory in many European countries is covering up a trade in illegal and recently poached ivory, campaigners say.

Researchers from environmental group Avaaz bought 100 ivory items and had them radiocarbon dated at Oxford University.

Three quarters were modern ivory, being sold illegally as fake antiques.

Ivory from an elephant killed by poachers as recently as 2010 was among the items passed off as being antique.

"It's sick," said Bert Wander from Avaaz, which organised the purchase of the items.

"I'm looking at the trinkets we bought on my desk, and to think that an elephant with all the things we are learning about them, about their cognition and their advanced societies, and to think that one of them has died for this bracelet I'm holding now, it makes you sick to your stomach."

The items were purchased from both antique dealers and private sellers in 10 countries across Europe.

All the ivory pieces were advertised as originating from before 1947 or had no date information. The 1947 date is important because the EU classes ivory from before this date as antique and it can be traded without restriction.

When the items were analysed by Oxford University's Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, more than 74% were found to be from after 1947.

The tests are able to show when the ivory grew on a living elephant, not when the creature died. This means the ivory could have come from elephants killed decades after the date of the sample.

Of greater concern, though, was the fact that one in five were from elephants killed after the global ban on the ivory trade came into force in 1989. One piece purchased in Spain may have come from an elephant whose ivory was formed after 2010.

All the pieces bought in Bulgaria, Italy and Spain were illegal, as were large majorities of the items in France, the Netherlands and Portugal.

In the UK, one fifth of the pieces purchased by Avaaz were outside the law.

The EU says that last year it strengthened measures to fight poaching and end the trade in raw ivory. Tackling trafficking should be a priority for all enforcement agencies in member states, officials said.

"The Commission will continue to fight any kind of illegal trading, including the fraud of passing off recent ivory as antique," said EU spokesman Enrico Brivio.

"Addressing elephant poaching and ivory trafficking is a cornerstone of the EU action against wildlife trafficking and the EU has recently adopted numerous initiatives to this end."

Why is this important?

European Union officials have claimed that there is no evidence that the legal ivory trade in the EU is helping to cover up a trade in illegal items - but this survey calls that into question. It will undoubtedly lead to calls for a complete ban.

Does the sale of small trinkets kill elephants?

The EU legal market in ivory may consist mainly of small items, but they add up to several tonnes sold each year.

Europe also remains a major exporter of legal, worked ivory to big Asian markets which is also encouraging poaching across Africa, according to experts.

While the numbers of elephants being killed has dropped for the last five years, around 55 are still being killed every day. In many locations, the future of the elephant will not be sustainable if this keeps up.

How come this loophole exists?

The EU has tried to curtail the trade in legal ivory being used as a cover for illegal sales by requiring all material acquired between 1947 and 1990 to be sold with a government issued certificate. But all a seller has to do is say that they believe the ivory comes from before 1947 and it's almost impossible to contradict them.

Why hasn't the EU cracked down before?

Accurately determining the age of a piece of ivory is impossible without going to the expense of radiocarbon dating.

How many ivory markets are left?

Not many. Some of the leading markets have now banned any sales including Hong Kong, the world's biggest, which will phase out the legal trade over the next three years.

China has also banned all trade except what it terms "genuine antiques". The US has effectively banned trade while the UK is in the process of adopting a near total ban on ivory sales, with exemptions for the trade in musical instruments and ivory sales to museums.

What will happen in the EU now?

The European Parliament has already called for a ban, and member states like the UK are leading the way with a comprehensive phase out of legal sales on the way to becoming law.

The European Commission is currently reviewing whether or not EU restrictions on ivory go far enough.

"The EU consultation which closed in December 2017, collected almost 90,000 responses," said Eleonora Panella, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw).

"We know that the vast majority was from people asking for stringent measures, this has for sure an impact of further decisions. We hope that a good decision will be taken soon, we were expecting something already this July, [it] now seems that it has been postponed.

"The Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London in October could be the perfect moment to show the leadership we are asking for."

I have an ivory trinket, what should I do with it?
If the sales of all ivory pieces is outlawed across the EU and the UK, many people will mixed feelings about the small tokens they're left with.

"We would support exemptions such as the ones proposed in the UK for family heirlooms and historical items," said Eleonora Panella.

"These should be allowed to be passed down to family members or donated to museums, but they cannot be bought, sold or traded for goods in kind."

People might also want to donate them to an elephant charity which could arrange for their destruction or use them in educational activities.

Illegal ivory openly sold across Europe: study
AFP Yahoo News 11 Jul 18;

Brussels (AFP) - Traders are selling illegal ivory openly across the European Union through a loophole allowing trade in "antique" items, the campaign group Avaaz charged Tuesday.

Avaaz said nearly all of the 109 ivory pieces it bought in 10 EU countries were found to be illegal after they were tested at Britain's Oxford University.

It said one-fifth of the items came from elephants killed after the global ivory trade was banned in 1989 and three quarters from animals slaughtered after 1947.

EU law requires government certificates for the sale of ivory acquired after 1947 and before 1990, but Avaaz said none of the ivory it bought had a certificate.

"This bombshell evidence proves beyond doubt that illegal ivory is being sold across Europe," Avaaz campaign director Bert Wander said in a statement.

"It must spark the end of this bloody trade. Every day the sale of these trinkets continues is a day closer to wiping out majestic elephants forever," Wander added.

Avaaz bought the items over a four-month period from Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Britain.

It said the study counters claims by the European Commission, the 28-nation EU's executive arm, that there was no evidence of illegal ivory being sold.

The new evidence, it added, puts pressure on the EU to ban the trade outright because so many pieces are being passed off as "antique" ivory from elephants killed before 1947, which is legal.

The most recent ivory tested by Oxford's radio-carbon dating unit was from after 2010, Avaaz said.

"The Commission should close the antique ivory loophole, end ivory exports from Europe and shut down the EU's internal trade in raw tusks," Avaaz said.

"This is the only way it can preserve its status as a leader in fighting the wildlife trade and protecting African elephants," it added.

The EU's environment commissioner Karmenu Vella ‏pledged to look into the claims after visiting Avaaz's exhibition of illegal ivory outside the Commission in Brussels.

The work is a "very helpful contribution for @EU_Commission as we go through process of planning our next steps," Vella tweeted. "Protecting living elephants the priority."

Avaaz said China, Hong Kong and Britain have all implemented or announced ivory bans over the last year.

It said as many as 30,000 elephants are slaughtered each year, warning the animals could be extinct in the wild within decades if not enough action is taken.

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