Best of our wild blogs: 26 Jul 16

Mass coral bleaching at Sentosa, Tanjung Rimau
wild shores of singapore

Butterfly Photography 101 Part 2 - Macro Photography and Magnification Devices
Butterflies of Singapore

Poll on Plastic Bag Charge – Volunteer signup to conduct interview
Zero Waste Singapore

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Nearly 10,000 dengue cases reported in Singapore this year

Channel NewsAsia 26 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE: Nearly 10,000 dengue cases have been reported in Singapore since the start of the year, with more than 200 new cases reported each week for the past five weeks, according to latest figures published on the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) dengue website.

There were 266 dengue cases in the week ending Jul 23, up from the 223 cases reported in the previous week. Another 33 cases were reported between Jul 24 and 3pm on Jul 25.

A total of 9,912 cases have been reported this year. Six people have died of the disease so far, with the latest fatality a 72-year-old woman who lived in Simei. There were four dengue fatalities in the whole of 2015.

There are now 43 active dengue clusters in Singapore – down from 44 the previous week – including nine classified as high-risk. The biggest cluster is in the Telok Kurau and Dunbar Walk area, where 83 cases have been reported, including 11 in the past fortnight.

The area around Admiralty Drive and Sembawang Drive is the second-largest cluster, with 54 cases reported so far, including five in the past two weeks.The area around Jalan Ismail and Lorong Marican near Eunos has also been classified as high-risk, with 53 cases reported, including five in the past fortnight.

In an advisory on its dengue website, NEA called for vigilance from homeowners to prevent mosquito breeding amid the traditional peak season for dengue in Singapore. The majority of mosquito breeding habitats are still being found in homes, such as in domestic containers, flower pot plates and trays, it said.

The Ministry of Health and NEA have warned that the number of dengue cases in Singapore may exceed 30,000 this year, higher than the record of 22,170 reported in 2013.

- CNA/cy

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Malaysia: Law to protect sharks in the works

NICHOLAS CHENG The Star 26 Jul 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Under Malaysian law, sharks can be consumed because they are considered “fish”.

That can soon change with a new legislation that is aimed at listing sharks as a protected animal.

Sharks, which come under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is listed as “fish” under the Fisheries Act.

What Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar wants to do is to remove sharks from the purview of the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry (MOA) and to recognise it as a protected species under a planned Protected Marine Species Act.

Following the circulation of gory images of alleged shark finning activities in Pulau Mabul, near Sipadan in Sabah, he said: “It’s rather unfortunate that our law defines sharks as fish. It’s not under me, it’s under the MOA.

“They are concerned about food, protein and consumption while at the same time they are also looking after the sharks.

“So, there is a bit of a conflict there,” he told reporters yesterday.

Dr Wan Junaidi said his ministry was drafting a Protected Marine Species Act, so that “anything under CITES will be placed under my ministry”.

“Let the fish for consumption be under the MOA and let the protected species in the sea and rivers be under my ministry,” he said.

Dr Wan Junaidi said negotiations with the MOA were in the initial stages, which may see an amendment to the Fisheries Act in order to make way for the proposed law.

However, he said the drafting of the Act itself was almost done.

“Now it is just the high-level negotiations and getting it to Cabinet and Parliament,” he said.

On the Pulau Mabul shark finning photographs, Dr Wan Junaidi said he could not verify the authenticity of the reports but environmentalists have already expressed outrage over the issue.

Malaysia, according to the World Wildlife Fund, is the ninth largest producer of shark products and the third largest importer of shark fins in the world.

Conservation organisation Traffic reported that more than 231 tonnes of sharks were caught in Malaysia between 2002 and 2011, accounting for 2.9% of the total globally-reported shark catch.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that between 2004 and 2011, the domestic consumption of shark fins by Malaysians jumped an average of 54% each year.

Images of de-finned sharks and shark products being sold openly in Sabah have triggered calls by environmentalists and even Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun to impose a ban on the activity.

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Malaysia: Wild jumbo placed in forest reserve

The Star 26 Jul 16;

GERIK: A wild male elephant, aged more than 30 years, was relocated to the Royal Belum Forest Reserve after it was captured by the Perak Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department.

The elephant named Awang Perah was relocated last Wednesday after it was sedated and brought out of Kampung Perah here with the help of two female decoy elephants from the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre in Temerloh.

Under the guidance of decoy elephants Kala and Rambai, the wild elephant was taken out of the village area on a special lorry yesterday.

The operation led by the centre’s Elephant Unit chief Nasharuddin Othman involved 25 personnel from the Perak Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department and the centre.

Nasharuddin said villagers reported seeing the wild elephant near the Perah highway stopover area.

“The elephant was responsible for destroying crops such as banana trees in Kampung Perah for several months,” he said. — Bernama

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Malaysia: Close watch on weevil infestations on palm trees

The Star 26 Jul 16;

KOTA TINGGI: The Johor Agriculture Department is currently monitoring red palm weevil (RPW) infestations on palm trees, especially date palm, said its director Ahmad Kamil Mohd Yunus.

He said at the moment the department was controlling the situation with the use of RPW pesticides to ensure the infestations were under control and not threatening crops.

“Together with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), we are also monitoring the red palm weevils in oil palm plantations,” he said after launching an agricultural support services programme at Kampung Temenin Baru, Kota Tinggi here recently.

He said under the Plant Quarantine Act 1976, the date palm trees were not allowed to be imported or brought in as they were linked to the entry of harmful pests, which will not only affect date palms but also coconut and oil palm trees.

“If convicted, the guilty party can be subject to a fine of RM10,000 and will also bear all costs to control and destroy the pests,” he said.

“Right now, if we detect the presence of the pest on any plantations, a notice will be issued to the farmers to destroy the trees,” he said in response to the attacks on date palm plantations in the east coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu.

On the service programme, he said the practice of going to the ground was a direct and great way to learn about problems faced by farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs and subsequently in resolving them.

A total of 57 Johor agricultural officers took part in the programme to give advice to farmers on growing of durian and duku trees, kelulut honey production as well as on nursery management. – Bernama

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Indonesia: Police drop fire cases in W. Kalimantan

Jakarta Post 25 Jul 16;

West Kalimantan Police will not prosecute a company and three individuals allegedly involved in four cases of land and forest fires in 2015, citing a lack of evidence.

Local police spokesman Sr. Comr. Suhadi SW confirmed recently the legal process involving the four cases had been terminated.

“Following a preliminary investigation we came to the conclusion that there is not sufficient evidence to build those cases,” Suhadi said.

In total, 35 cases of land and forest fires occurred last year, four of which allegedly involved companies and the remaining 31 involved individuals. Suhadi did not reveal the identity of the companies and the individuals.

Meanwhile, West Kalimantan has been free from haze as of July because of a lower number of hotspots compared to last year. In the January to July 2016 period, authorities detected 43 hotspots, which were far fewer than the 378 hotspots found in the same period last year.

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Indonesia: Way Kambas National Park Declared 36th Asean Heritage Park

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 25 Jul 16;

Jakarta. The Way Kambas National Park in Lampung province, southern Sumatra, was officially declared the 36th Asean Heritage Park on Monday (25/07).

The national park – which serves as a home for endangered wildlife such as the Sumatran elephant and Sumatran tiger – was selected as a conservation area during the last previous Asean Heritage Park hearing.

"The inauguration of [Way Kambas National Park] as an Asean Heritage Park is the highest honor for [the park], emphasizing its importance as a conservation area," Lampung acting provincial secretary Sutono told Republika online news outlet on Monday.

According to Sutono, the Way Kambas National Park is the only conservation area in the world where the Sumatran rhino is bred semi-naturally in the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.

"In May, the international conservation world received the good news of the birth of two-horned Sumatran rhinos at the Sumatran rhino sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park," Sutono told state news agency Antara. He added that the birth was evidence of the park's success in managing the breeding of endangered rhinos.

The Way Kambas National Park is the fourth Asean Heritage Park in Indonesia.

Two of the other national parks are also in Sumatra. They are the Mount Leuser National Park and the Kerinci Seblat National Park. The fourth is the Lorentz National Park in Papua.

Sutono believes declaring the conservation area an Asean Heritage Park – a title only given to selected protected areas with high biodiversity and unique ecosystems in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region – is a form of commitment along with the Asean Heritage Park committee to continue preserving the flora and fauna in the area.

The fifth Asean Heritage Park committee hearing is held in Bandar Lampung and all 10 Asean members are invited to discuss biodiversity and conservation matters in the region.

According to Republika, Indonesia has listed Jakarta's Thousand Islands and Southeast Sulawesi's Wakatobi as this year's nominees for the Asean Heritage Park listing.

Launched in 2009, the triennial meeting is organized by the Asean Center for Biodiversity, whose committee members discuss, evaluate and nominate conservation areas in South East Asia.

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Best of our wild blogs: 24-25 Jul 16

Mass coral bleaching at Terumbu Pempang Tengah
wild shores of singapore

Mass coral bleaching at Pulau Semakau East
wild shores of singapore

Common Scarlet (Crocothemis servilia) @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Monday Morgue

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Malaysia’s largest marine park opens in Sabah

The Star 25 Jul 16;

KUDAT: Sabah has launched the Tun Mustapha Marine Park, the country’s largest marine park and it is now part of the massive Coral Triangle.

This marine park spreading almost 890,000ha from Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu will see the conservation and rehabilitation of ma­­rine lives, is just a step away from achieving a 10% conservation on seafront and marine lives by 2020.

The Coral Triangle is a marine area located in the western Pacific Ocean.

It includes the waters of Indo­nesia, Malaysia, the Phi­lip­pines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Coral Triangle is named for the staggering number of corals (nearly 600 different species of reef-building corals alone) that nurture six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and more than 2,000 species of reef fish.

The Coral Triangle also supports large populations of commercial tuna, fuelling a multi-billion dollar global tuna industry but is at risk due to non-sustainable fishing and other marine activities.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, who made this announcement at the Kudat Festival, said that the gazetting of the Tun Mustapha Marine Park was proof of the government’s commitment to protect the environment.

He added that such a move would benefit villagers as more tourists would be interested to visit Sabah.

This, he said, would generate more tourism revenue for the go­vernment and more business opportunities for the people.

“Tourism is among the main sectors for Sabah and the country, and that is why it is important for us to ensure that our natural resources are protected for generations to come,” he said.

Musa also said that other countries were interested to learn Sabah’s conservation efforts and policies.

Tourism, Culture and Environ­ment minister Masidi Manjun, who was also present at the event, said the state’s main development agenda “is to see a balance with nature and conservation”.

“Sabah is pro-conservation, we want to make sure there’s a ba­lance between physical development and the environment,” he said.

Masidi said Sabah must ensure that it looked after its resources and ensure the people continue benefit from it via the tourism industry.

“We want the locals to give their cooperation to the state and Sabah Parks,” he added.

Six Sabah marine parks to become shark sanctuaries
The Star 25 Jul 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Six of the ma­rine parks under Sabah Parks will be gazetted as shark sanctuaries in an effort to protect the species.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Masidi Manjun made the announcement in the wake of the recent slaughter of sharks off Sabah’s Mabul island.

The incident which went viral on social media caused an uproar among netizens.

He said the move to gazette might be able to help protect the population of sharks around Sabah as the state government was not able to legally ban shark hunting and finning.

However, he said the initial approach would be more educational than imperative.

“We want to start the creation of shark sanctuaries by educating the people so that they feel that they have ownership of the programme,” Masidi said.

He explained that education was more important because in the end, the success or failure of a programme depended on how much the people felt that it belonged to them.

He added that he wanted the locals and fishermen to be with the government in making the initiative a success.

“We want them to understand that they can continue to hunt according to their traditions and way of life but to leave enough for conservation,” explained Masidi.

Tun Mustapha Park, Malaysia's largest marine park, officially launched
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 24 Jul 16;

KUDAT: Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman launched Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), Malaysia's biggest marine park, here today.

The park, spanning approximately 898762.76 hectares, promises better marine protection and conservation in this part of the world.

It was declared a protected area under the Sabah Parks Enactment 1984 by Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sabah Tun Juhar on May 19.

Speaking to the local community and tourists, Musa said the success of the gazettement was part of the state government's efforts in advancing the people's socio-economy through various sectors. "This is a historical event for us.

With the establishment of this large marine park, Malaysia's commitment in the Convention of Biological Diversity, United Nations Environment Programme to protect at least 10 per cent of the marine and coastal area can be achieved by 2020."

Present at the launch of the TMP were State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun and assistant minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming, and State Special Tasks Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang.

In 2003, the TMP was proposed by the Sabah government shortly after it was recognised as a globally-significant priority marine conservation area.

The marine park is located off the districts of Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas right up to the Balabac Strait.

It is also is situated within the Coral Triangle which is a six million sq km marine area that directly sustains and protects more than 120 million people in coastal communities across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste.

With its declaration, the size of protected marine parks in Sabah now stretches to about two million hectares along with the Tun Sakaran Marine Park and the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

Meanwhile, Masidi said the six marine parks under Sabah Parks would be part of a sanctuary in an effort to protect the shark population.

"We will start the initiative of the creation of a shark sanctuary by educating the people so they too have ownership of the programme.

"I must admit that one of the reasons why there seems to be an apparent failure in wildlife protection is perhaps we have not done enough to educate the village folks on conservation.

"I believe the people need to feel passionate enough to be part of the system; that is what we need to emphasise in the enforcement of the shark sanctuary in all marine parks in Sabah."

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Malaysia: Tackle pollution in drainage system first

The Star 25 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: River pollution should be tackled upstream where the drains are, said Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) River Engineering and Urban Drainage Research Centre director Prof Dr Nor Azazi Zakaria.

Dr Nor Azazi said it would be pointless cleaning rivers if drains flowing into them continued to be dirty.

“There needs to be a sustainable design to trap and collect rubbish from flowing downstream. Clean drains mean clean rivers.

“The Government has also spent so much to maintain our rivers and to collect rubbish. We need to re-look our enforcement measures to overcome this.

“If rubbish keeps being dumped into drains and rivers, it would affect a river’s stability – the riverbed, river capacity and equilibrium would all be influenced adversely.

“Secondly, it will also affect water supply downstream and the aquatic life in the river,” he said.

Dr Nor Azizi said it was high time the Government seriously considered including the environment in the school curriculum, starting from the lower levels.

He said that awareness programmes such as the “Love Our River” campaign need to be run professionally to ensure they can be measured and improved on.

The “Love Our River” campaign is carried out by the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) to encourage public awareness, empathy and care for rivers and includes concerted efforts to clean up rivers nationwide.

It was launched in 1993 to educate the public on the importance of rivers and the environment while highlighting the critical state of pollution of the rivers.

The Malaysia Environmental Quality Report 2014 showed that based on the 473 rivers monitored by the Department of Environment, 186 rivers (39%) were slightly polluted and 43 rivers (9%) were polluted in 2014.

This is an increase of the 173 rivers (36.6%) slightly polluted and 25 polluted rivers (5.3%) the previous year.

An average of 2,200 tonnes pollute rivers monthly despite campaigns
MANJIT KAUR The Star 25 Jul 16;

IPOH: Every second, someone is dumping rubbish into Malaysian waterways and an average of 2,200 tonnes of rubbish is being collected every month from traps built across rivers in the country.

In just the upper part of Sungai Klang, which includes Sungai Gombak and Sungai Batu, a total of 21 tonnes of rubbish is collected monthly.

The rubbish is collected from 11 trash screens built across rivers, and from 500 gross pollutant traps built in drains to prevent rubbish from flowing into rivers.

“This means that every day, people along the upper areas of Sungai Klang are throwing 700kg of rubbish into drains and rivers,” said Malaysian Water Partnership (MyWP) vice-chairman Datuk Hanapi Mohamad Noor.

“Despite numerous programmes and campaigns by the authorities, including the ‘Love Our River’ campaign launched more than 10 years ago, not much progress has been achieved,” he said in an interview.

“The campaign was to create public awareness and sensitivity towards the need for cleaner rivers. Yet, the responsibility is always left to the authorities without much support from the people,” he said.

Hanapi, who is a former DID River Basin Management Division director, said Sungai Klang was not the most polluted river but still significant as it flows into the Kuala Lumpur city centre.

Malaysians, he said, must understand that trash thrown onto roads or other public spaces would end up in the drains and rivers after the rain.

Hanafi said adequate funding for maintenance of drains and preservation of rivers had always been a problem.

The cleaning of rivers was not a one-off programme but should be carried out throughout the year, he said, adding that this meant that there was a need for an annual budget of about RM100mil yearly to clean the rivers in Malaysia.

As for the laws, he said they were adequate in dealing with litterbugs but there was a lack of enforcement.

“Singapore is seen to be successful in maintaining a cleaner environment, including the drains and rivers due to its strict enforcement of laws,” he said.

In Malaysia, he said 97% of water used for domestic, industrial and irrigation purposes came from surface water in rivers and reservoirs.

Hanapi cautioned that water supply to users would be affected if rivers were seriously polluted, since the upper section of intake points of water treatment plants, and operation for the plants would have to be closed then.

This, he said, had happened several times in Sungai Langat in Selangor when the river at the water supply intake points was found to be polluted with ammoniacal nitrogen.

“If more people realise that the water they are drinking comes from rivers, they may think twice before polluting it. The cost for water treatment can get really high. This could even lead to higher water tariffs,” he added.

Hanapi said the amount of rubbish that ended up in rivers was actually higher because not all rivers were installed with rubbish traps or log booms.

This also excludes the garbage that is collected by local authorities from drains, he added.

Plastic and polystyrene clogging up Klang River
ROYCE TAN The Star 25 Jul 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: A horrendous stench greets those who go near the log boom at the downstream of Sungai Batu, one of the tributaries of the Klang River.

What’s worse is the sight of the log boom where heaps of rubbish are collected, made up mainly of plastic bags and bottles and polystyrene containers.

A check by The Star recently found a kayak, motorcycle helmets, footballs, tree branches, tin cans and many others.

According to a spokesman from the Drainage and Irrigation Department’s (DID) Klang River basin office, this was a common sight at the log boom.

“We have even found things like sofa sets, mattresses, refrigerators, washing machines and motorcycle frames.

“Many take the easy way out by dumping everything into rivers, even though they know very well that this will pollute our rivers.

“This log boom itself (in Batu River) traps more than a tonne of rubbish monthly. It’s worse during the rainy season because more garbage gets washed into the rivers,” he said.

A log boom is a barrier placed in a river that is designed to collect or contain floating garbage.

Last year, 205 tonnes of rubbish were collected just from the Klang River and its many tributaries – 75 tonnes from gross pollutant traps (GPT), 60 tonnes from log booms and trash rakes and 70 tonnes from manual cleaning.

From January to April this year, 85 tonnes of rubbish have already been collected.

The spokesman said river cleaning was done using various methods such as installation of river traps like gross pollutant traps, log booms and trash rake, manual cleaning and the use of manpower and machineries.

He said GPTs were provided at the downstream end of drains or engineered waterways which discharge to sensitive rivers, water quality control ponds or urban lakes to reduce sediment load, litter, oil and chemicals.

“In the Klang Valley, the River of Life (RoL) project was initiated to transform the Klang-Gombak River corridor in Kuala Lumpur into a vibrant and liveable waterfront generating economic value.

“This project is focused on cleaning up and beautifying the polluted rivers in the Klang Valley.

“This initiative is led by DID with the support of 26 agencies across four ministries, including local authorities such as Selayang Municipal Council, Ampang Jaya Municipal Council and DBKL.

“DID has exceeded its target by completing the construction of 369 gross pollutant traps, log booms and trash rakes,” said the spokesman.

He added that the Government had allocated RM3bil since 2011 for the project until 2020.

The Government had also allocated RM114mil to rehabilitate rivers under the “One State One River” programme from 2006 to 2007.

Ministry: Work together in cleaning Sg Klang
The Star 26 Jul 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is calling on the Selangor state government and local councils to work together in cleaning up Sungai Klang.

Following a front page report by The Star that 21 tonnes of rubbish is collected monthly from the Klang Valley’s biggest river, minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he wanted to keep its waters clean.

But the ministry’s will alone would not be enough, he said, noting that the Federal Govern­ment only had jurisdiction of 8km of the 120km river.

“The local councils must work with us. They cannot rely on my ministry alone because water resources and the river are under the state purview.

“This is why we are inviting Selangor to work together with us to make the river a river of life. If not, waste from domestic and industries will continue to pollute it,” he said.

Malaysian Water Partnership vice-chairman Datuk Hanapi Mohamad Noor said that as many as 700kg of rubbish was thrown into drains daily which eventually find its way into Sungai Klang.

This despite the “Love Our River” campaign that was launched more than 10 years ago.

The Malaysia Environmental Quality Report 2014 showed that based on the 473 rivers monitored by the Department of Environment, 186 rivers (39%) were slightly polluted and 43 rivers (9%) were polluted in 2014.

This is an increase of the 173 rivers (36.6%) slightly polluted and 25 polluted rivers (5.3%) the previous year.

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Malaysia: 60 wild elephants detected along Gerik-Jeli highway

BERNAMA New Straits Times 23 Jul 16;

GERIK: Users of the East-West Highway from Gerik-Jeli may at times be faced with a panic situation when they come across wild elephants roaming, and a large number of them crossing the highway.

According to the Perak Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) director Noor Alif Wira Osman, the wild elephants were from the Royal Belum State Park and Temenggor Forest Reserve here.

Noor Alif said there are more than 60 elephants in the area, which is equivalent to about 70 per cent of the big eared animal’s population in Perak.

“Five small groups of elephants were detected roaming along an 80-kilometre stretch of the road.

Normally, wild elephants will roam in the early morning, and late at night, depending on the weather,” he told Bernama here recently.

According to Noor Alif, although a 200m wildlife crossing (viaduct) had been constructed at KM157 of the route, wild animals including elephants still roamed in the area or sneaked onto the highway.

He also reminded the public, especially motorists to not panic when coming across wild animals on the road and honk at them, but instead give them way to cross the road. --BERNAMA

Drivers warned not to honk at elephants crossing roads
The Star 24 Jul 16;

GERIK: Users of the East-West Highway between Gerik and Jeli have been warned against approaching or honking at wild elephants crossing the road.

Perak Perhilitan director Noor Alif Wira Osman said these wild animals were from the Royal Belum state park and the Temenggor forest reserve.

“There were five small herds detected moving near a 80km stretch of the highway. They will normally wander in the early morning and late evening,” he said yesterday.

Noor Alif said although a 200m viaduct had been built at KM157 of the East West Road from Gerik to Jeli, elephants continued to wander along the highway.

Noor Alif reminded the public not to panic if they should come across the elephants.

“They should also not come out of their cars and approach the animals or throw any objects at them,” he said.

The Royal Belum state park is the third largest after Taman Negara in Pahang and the Crocker Range Park in Sabah, and is known for its endangered wildlife species, such as Sumatran rhinos, elephants, tapirs and primates. — Bernama

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Indonesia: Riau’s Zamrud forest named newest national park

Haeril Halim and Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 23 Jul 16;

The government on Friday celebrated World Environment Day (WED) by officially opening Zamrud National Park in Siak regency, Riau. The park aims to conserve the remaining forest and ecosystem against industry in the region, home to nearly 3 million hectares of palm oil and timber plantations for pulp and paper companies.

The decision of the Environment and Forestry Ministry to upgrade the status of the 31,000-ha peatland forest, which has two lakes inhabited by endangered species such as gold arowanas, from a wildlife reservation to a national park aims to ensure it is not converted for industrial use in the future.

In his speech for the event themed “Go Wild for Life”, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said massive industrial expansion in the forests of Riau had damaged the ecosystem and that the government would work to harmonize industrial and environmental policy.

“If the environment is exploited on a large scale for economic purposes, that will harm the environment. There must be harmony between the two,” Kalla said, adding that the environment needed to be preserved for the future of the Earth.

His comments were in line with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s pledge to impose a moratorium on new oil palm plantation licenses in light of severe deforestation, especially in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said the new status of the Zamrud forest would protect it from unlawful activities such as illegal logging and plantation encroachment.

“The existence of the Zamrud National Park is a boon for environmental sustainability,” Siti said.

Around 5.7 million ha of Riau’s total 9 million-ha area are peatland forest prone to annual fires.

The province made headlines in 2015 after being blanketed in choking smog for several months, causing respiratory problems in hundreds of local people and trillions of rupiahs in state losses from disruptions to economic activity. The haze also polluted neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

Friday’s event was the first time the government has held WED celebrations outside of Jakarta. Also on Friday, the Environment and Forestry Ministry gave out dozens of awards to local administrations, such as Surabaya and Surakarta cities, for their environmental achievements, a WED tradition.

“Zamrud is now the third national park in Riau after Bukit Tiga Puluh and Tesso Nilo national parks,” Siak Regent Syamsuar said, adding that the proposal to increase Zamrud’s status to national park had been submitted in 2002.

Zamrud, the regent claimed, is the only national park boasting pristine forest.

“The forest at Giam Siak Kecil has been destroyed by encroachment. If encroachers run out of room there, they will certainly move on to Zamrud. Even now, certain parties are attempting to claim land on the periphery of Zamrud. It is just a matter of time. That’s why we need to start protecting it now,” Syamsuar added.

He added that the deforestation at Tesso Nilo park in Pelalawan regency should serve as a lesson for the government.

“We strove to convince the Environment and Forestry Minister to grant national park status to Zamrud forest. If Zamrud forest is damaged, there’ll be no more forest in Siak,” the regent said.

Zamrud forest is home to 38 types of bird, of which 12 are endangered, as well as endangered mammals such as Sumatran tigers, deer and tapirs.

On Friday, the ministry freed three eagles and 56 gold arowanas in Zamrud to mark the conservation efforts.

Zamrud also contains major gas resources, which are currently being exploited by PT Bumi Siak Pusako and PT Pertamina Hulu.

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