Best of our wild blogs: 18 Jul 18

Some bleaching at Pulau Semakau (East)
wild shores of singapore

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Ship fire near Marina Barrage put out after 5 hours, no injuries reported

Toh Ting Wei Straits Times 16 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE - A fire on a ship on the waters off Marina Barrage was put out by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) on Monday afternoon (July 16), after five hours of firefighting operations.

No injuries were reported, and all crew members of the ship were accounted for.

Damping down operations to cool down the ship and prevent a rekindling of the fire were still ongoing as of Monday evening around 10pm, the SCDF said in a Facebook post.

In the accompanying video to the post, two vessels were filmed firing jets of water at a towering ship.

The SCDF was alerted to the fire at around 3.10pm on Monday, and the fire had involved contents of the crew cabin on the upper decks of the ship.

Four firefighting vessels from the SCDF Marine Command were deployed in response to the incident.

"Upon arrival, SCDF Marine firefighters adopted a two-pronged approach namely, boundary cooling on the exterior of the affected ship using two water monitors from the Rapid Response Fire Vessel and deploying two water jets to penetrate into the cabins to mitigate the deep-seated fire," said the SCDF.

"After approximately five hours of firefighting operations, the fire was extinguished."

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Malaysia: Elephant found dead in Ulu Segama's oil palm plantation

Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 17 Jul 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A male elephant, with a badly wounded foot, was found dead in an oil palm plantation at Ulu Segama, Lahad Datu, yesterday.

Plantation workers discovered the elephant's carcass in the Low Woo Thien oil palm plantation at 5.10pm and alerted the Lahad Datu wildlife office.

Sabah Wildlife Department officer Siti Nurain Ampuan Acheh, in a statement, said a team of rangers from the district wildlife office was immediately dispatched to the location.

She said the team found no criminal element in the elephant’s death but noted its rear foot was wounded by snare trap.

“The height of the elephant was measured at 5 feet 10 inches and it was believed to be four to five years of age.

“The cause of death was due to septicemia from the severely injured leg caused by the wound, concurrent with severe helminthiasis (gastrointestinal parasites infection),” she said.

This was the third reported incident of wildlife carcass discovery thus far, this month.

On July 11, a semi-adult male orangutan was found dead in an orchard adjacent to Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.

The Wildlife Department was alerted of the discovery by a staff of a nearby resort.

A team from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre found no sign of infliction or physical injury.

This follows the discovery of a carcass of an adolescent male proboscis monkey the following day in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

A Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) research team, which found the remains near their research centre, performed a post-mortem on it recently.

Sabah Wildlife director Augustine Tuuga had said the proboscis monkey had an open abscess on its right hip and right lung, which might have caused the death.

Nonetheless, Augustine said the department would further investigate the death of these totally protected animals.

Trapped young jumbo found dead at plantation
The Star 19 Jul 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A young elephant has been found dead at the Low Woo Thien oil palm plantation area in Ulu Segama Lahad Datu after it apparently stepped on snare traps.

Sabah Wildlife Department public relations officer Siti Nur’Ain Ampuan Acheh said the carcass of the male juvenile jumbo was discovered by plantation workers at about 5.10pm on Monday.

She said a team of rangers from the Lahad Datu Wildlife Office was immediately sent out to check.

“Upon inspection, the team found that the elephant only had an injured foot, believed due to stepping on snare traps,” she said in a statement.

There were no signs of foul play, she added.

The elephant, said to be between four and five years old, is believed to have succumbed to its infected wound and parasitic infection.

At least eight elephants have been reported dead due to various reasons in Sabah, including in the east coast and Lok Kawi Wildlife Park here between April and this month.

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Malaysia: New home for elephants in Kota Tingggi to be completed next year

Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 17 Jul 18;

JOHOR BARU: The construction of a 100-hectare elephant sanctuary in Kota Tinggi, which will be home to around 30 elephants, is expected to be completed and fully operational by next year.

Johor Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said construction work, which began in the middle of last year, is about halfway complete.

“We expect the sanctuary to be completed and become operational by next year,” said Jamalun Nasir, although he declined to reveal the exact date for the completion.

The sanctuary is located along Jalan Lombong in Kota Tinggi, near the Kota Tinggi waterfalls.

”The project will cost about RM15 million in total. It is a joint project between the Federal and state governments,” said Jamalun Nasir.

He said the exact number of elephants which can be housed at the sanctuary have not been finalised yet.

“However, we expect between 20 to 30 elephants can be housed at the sanctuary.”

The proposal to establish the sanctuary was first mooted in 2014 as an effort to reduce the conflict between wild elephants and humans. It will also serve as a tourism attraction for nature lovers.

Former state Health, Environment, Information and Education Executive Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat had previously said that Johor’s forests are home to about 140 wild elephants, with the majority of them in Segamat, Kluang, Mersing and Kota Tinggi.

Ayub also said that between 2008 and May last year, state Perhilitan had transferred 48 wild elephants out of Kluang, with each transfer process costing about RM50,000.

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Tun Mustapha: Malaysia’s Conservation Experiment

One marine park in Malaysia is trying to find a collaborative solution to Southeast Asia’s environmental woes.
Ben Blackledge The Diplomat 17 Jul 18;

It’s a dark night, the moon providing little illumination on the unusual procession making its way along a pristine beach on a remote island in Malaysian Borneo. Our guide and local wildlife warden, Absan Saman, pauses occasionally, searching for clues in minor indentations in the sand or behind the crowded treeline.

Tailing behind, trudging in pairs with M16s firmly gripped in their hands, a police escort follows on what seems a tame mission. Their presence is a necessity in the piracy-stricken region. Joining tonight and taking up the rear are Saman’s mentors from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

This is Saman’s nightly ritual. Starting at 9 p.m. and normally finishing just before dawn, he searches for a treasure that has become an increasingly rare sight — nesting sea turtles.

Tigabu Island is just one of many in an archipelago situated 150 kilometers north of the region’s capital, Kota Kinabalu. The surrounding area received protected status and was gazetted in May 2016 as Tun Mustapha marine park. Measuring over 1 million hectares, Tun Mustapha is the largest such park in Malaysia and is jointly managed through collaboration between the government authority, Sabah Parks, NGOs, and local communities.

Joannie Jomitol, WWF senior program officer based in the local town of Kudat, lists the myriad of issues the park is facing: over-fishing, use of destructive techniques like cyanide or bombing, habitat destruction, and poaching amongst others.

Protecting such a large area requires a collaborative approach, explains Jomitol. “It is a special park because this is the first park that’s [been designated] multi-use. [There are] more than 80,000 people living on the coastline dependent on the marine resources so we cannot simply close the park. We must take into consideration the livelihoods of these people.”

The multi-use model breaks the park into zones to restrict fishing activity and allow reef regeneration; some are for community fishing, others commercial, and some are designated as completely off limits.

But introducing limits on fishing for communities of subsistence fishermen creates problems if the objectives are not fully understood. Multiple sources confirm the marine park is still a source of contention and estimate that around half the population are for, half against, splitting some communities down the middle.

To replace this loss of income, the WWF promotes “alternative livelihoods,” giving training and support to locals who are trying to diversify their sources of income, from sea cucumber production to eco-farming and tourism.

“The key is information,” explains Jomitol. “I’m sure not many people understand [about] the park, what it does. When they don’t understand what the benefit is to them… they will resist.”

Jomitol’s message to the villagers: “The park is not meant to destroy you, but to build you from within.”

Tun Mustapha lies within the rich waters of the Coral Triangle, an area stretching between the Philippines in the north, Java in the west and the Solomon Islands in the east. The Nature Conservancy, a multinational charity that raises conservation issues across Asia, asserts the conservational importance of the area and considers it a “global epicenter of marine biodiversity.”

The triangle contains the highest biodiversity of coral (76 percent) and reef fish (37 percent) found anywhere in the world. The Tun Mustapha Expedition Report, published in 2012 by the WWF, found 252 species of hard coral and 350 species of fish as well as migratory species such as dugong, whale shark and the endangered green turtle. Every year the importance of conservation is highlighted by discoveries of discarded turtle carcasses, most notably in 2015 when 19 were found on Palau Tiga in one night, thought to have been abandoned in a botched poaching operation.

Saman freely admits that decades ago, like many others, he would fish-bomb the reef off Tigabu. He recalls “[In the 1990s] if we go out to the sea for two or three days, the catch can support two or three months of expenses, but now if you go out for one month it won’t cover one month’s expenses because the fish stock is depleted.” Thinking of his children began to change his perception, “If I continue to bomb, I will kill all the small fish and then the small ones will not be able to grow big. I want my children to get big fish too.”

When the WWF came to the village in 2009, the idea of taking care of marine life came more naturally to Saman, who had raised animals as a child, than others. The WWF provided training including an internship at nearby “Turtle Island” in Sandakan, a turtle reserve off the coast of Sandakan.

Now qualified as an Honorary Wildlife Warden with Sabah Parks, Saman spends his nights patrolling local beaches for turtles nests, racing poachers who take the eggs for a source of food. If a poacher finds the eggs first, there’s little Saman can do. In a small community these poachers may be friends or family — for his safety, he has to avoid confrontation.

When he finds a nest, he’ll carefully transfer the eggs to a secure hatchery where they can incubate in safety. On hatching, Saman organizes informational events to teach the other villagers about the value of conserving their marine life. There are fledgling signs that the community is becoming aware of importance of conservation: Last year he received a phone call from a poacher offering him a share of a turtle nest they discovered in recognition of his efforts.

Despite these successes, the logistics of informing and correcting misconceptions across 1 million hectares and over 80,000 people present a challenge to the WWF.

British owner of eco-guesthouse Tampat Do Aman, Howard Stanton, thinks it’s an information issue, “Different groups as a whole could do a lot more to listen and explain. They need to get onboard because, if they say no, it’s their back garden. It’s just gonna end up a right mess again.”

Stanton empathizes with local villagers who don’t understand why their fishing is being restricted. “It’s their livelihood, that’s their food. You tell a local fella, ‘Your families have been fishing in these local areas for the last 200-odd years and now [you] can’t go there. [They’ll be] frightened of the authoritarianism, of what could happen. You’ve got to feed your kids.”

On nearby Balambangan Island, the WWF found inspiration through a gentle soul within the local community. When Suriah Binti Taha, fondly known as “Aunty Suriah,” saw the plummeting fish stocks, she felt there must be more they could do. As an avid gardener, Taha rallied the women of the village and reached out to the WWF, showing them the bountiful crops in her backyard.

In April 2016, the WWF funded internships in Kota Kinabalu for members of the community, including Taha’s son, and provided them with everything they would need to begin: fences, water tanks, and seeds. Then they stepped back. Within months the community was growing a variety of crops from cassava (the source of tapioca) to pineapple — now there are three farms up and running, with the concept fast spreading to other villages.

Taha’s husband, Akbari Bin Jikirun, quickly saw the benefit of eco-farming over fishing, “Before I could get baskets of fish. Now, I can get only two or three in one night,” he says. “Eco-farming is more sustainable than going out fishing because, with an eco-farm, you can build it up… whereas if you go fishing you’ll most likely use fish bombs and that is not sustainable for nature.”

Suaib Bin Seleh, known locally as “Rambo,” a nickname from his previous job guarding fish farms armed with “no gun, just a mouth,” ran one of the most successful enterprises before his wife fell ill. Returning to his farm after months, he surveys a state of disrepair which will take weeks of hard work to recover.

It’s a difficult occupation — at least once a year the crops will be decimated by drought or floods. But, during the peak months, each farm can make up to 700 Malaysian ringgit ($175) every month— a profitable venture when compared to a typical fisherman’s salary of 400 ringgit.

There are tentative signs that the efforts of Saman and his fellow wardens will be rewarded but, as with all community-based conservation, it’s a process that cannot be forced. The flow of information is key — if the locals understand the long-term benefits, they may be more accepting of the inconvenience they bestow.

In the future, Jomitol sees a transformed Tun Mustapha, one which provides shelter and protection not only for the exquisite marine life found within its boundaries but for its human custodians, “When everything is in place, they’ll be no more fish-bombing, the fisheries will be sustainable, the communities will be getting a good supply and so the poverty level [will go] down…” she says.

“We’d like to see the ecosystems thriving, the coral reef resilient, and communities resilient to what’s to come.”

Ben Blackledge is a freelance journalist based in Hong Kong

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Indonesia: Hot spots detected in Sumatra ahead of Asian Games

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 17 Jul 18;

The government has detected 29 hot spots in Riau in the past two days and responded by sending helicopters to extinguish the fires to secure the Asian Games, which will be held in Jakarta and Palembang in South Sumatra in August.

The Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reported Tuesday morning that Terra and Aqua satellite readings showed the 29 hot spots were in four regencies and municipalities in Riau province. The most hot spots, 15, were detected in Dumai while another seven were in in Rokan Hilir regency, six in Bengkalis and one in Siak.

“Twenty-four of them have a level of certainty higher than 70 percent, meaning the hot spots very likely are fires,” said Marzuki, BMKG Pekanbaru’s data and information head.

Marzuki said the number was higher than on Monday morning, when only 12 spots with a high level of certainty had been detected. He said on Monday afternoon that no more hot spots had been detected.

Across Sumatra Island, Riau had the most hot spots, the data showed. On Tuesday morning, the satellite detected 15 hot spots in Lampung, two each in South Sumatra and Bangka Belitung, and one each in North Sumatra and Bengkulu.

“Riau had the most hot spot numbers since Sunday afternoon, when 16 in six regencies were detected,” Marzuki went on.

The head of Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Edwar Sanger, said the Riau Forest Haze Task Force had deployed five helicopters to extinguish a fire in Dumai. Four were from the central government and one from Sinarmas Forestry.

“We flew from Pekanbaru to Dumai at 6:30 a.m. local time to conduct water bombing,” said Edwar.

“We are working hard to keep Riau free of haze to make the Asian Games in Palembang and Jakarta a success,” he went on.

Edwar said he had yet to calculate the size of areas affected by fire.
His office closely monitor three areas, namely Rokan Hulu, Rokan Hilir and Dumai. It has not rained in the three regencies in the past 10 days.

He warned the public about very dry peatland, telling people not to clear land for farming using the slash-and-burn method.

The Riau administration has extended the Forest Fire Alert status to Nov. 30 this year. Since the beginning of this year, nearly 2,000 hectares of land has been burned in Riau. From January to May, Riau detected 283 hot spots in 11 out of 12 regencies and municipalities. (evi)

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Sea level rise threatens internet infrastructure, new research shows

While internet infrastructure is designed to be waterproof, it's not designed to be permanently underwater, researchers warn.
Brooks Hays UPI 17 Jul 18;

July 17 (UPI) -- Sea level rise threatens the internet, according to a new study by researchers at the universities of Wisconsin and Oregon.

Thousands of miles of fiber optic cable are laid beneath several major coastal cities. Large swaths of this vital communications infrastructure could be underwater in less than 15 years, researchers warn.

"Most of the damage that's going to be done in the next 100 years will be done sooner than later," Paul Barford, a professor of computer science at Wisconsin, said in a news release.

Most people use wireless technology to connect to the world wide web, and cloud computing remains a popular buzzword, but the internet remains rooted in the ground. In addition to cables, rising seas could damage data centers, traffic exchanges and termination points, all components vital to the information highway as it is currently constructed.

These many components make up what's called the "physical internet." Large portions of the physical internet are spread across major coastal cities, including New York, Miami and Seattle -- all cities threatened by rising seas.

For the latest risk assessment survey, scientists at Wisconsin and Oregon compared the predictions of sea level rise models used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the Internet Atlas, a geographical database detailing the physical internet.

Much of the physical internet relies on traditional rights-of-way. Cables are buried along highways, following coastlines from city to city.

"When it was built 20-25 years ago, no thought was given to climate change," Barford said.

Massive submarine communications cables allows the global information network to connect continents separated by large oceans. These marine cables come ashore and plug into terminal centers located in coastal cities.

While internet infrastructure is designed to be waterproof, it's not designed to be permanently underwater, which is what much of it may be as global temperatures continue to rise and polar ice caps continue to melt.

Authors of the new survey detailed their work this week at the Applied Networking Research Conference, a meeting of internet network researchers held in Montreal.

Researchers suggest the best longterm solution to the problem is the relocation of internet infrastructure to higher, drier ground.

"The first instinct will be to harden the infrastructure," Barford said. "But keeping the sea at bay is hard. We can probably buy a little time, but in the long run it's just not going to be effective."

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