Best of our wild blogs: 1 May 16



First nesting record of the Buffy Fish Owl
Singapore Bird Group

Larval Host Plant for Butterflies: Malayan Mistletoe
Butterflies of Singapore


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Snow underwater? It's corals spawning

Waters off Republic's southern islands have recently been drawing scientists to the event
Audrey Tan Straits Times 1 May 16;

The beaches of Singapore's idyllic southern islands have been touted as a great place to unwind, but over the past week, the area has had a different draw for scientists and marine volunteers.

It has been the season for "underwater snow".

When the corals surrounding the southern islands spawn, they release millions of eggs and sperm bundles into the water at the same time. The pink or yellow bundles are buoyant, causing them to float upwards. For a diver witnessing the spectacle, it looks like it is snowing in reverse.

In Singapore, such mass synchronised coral spawning takes place once a year, and usually on three or four nights after the full moon in late March or April.

This year, the start of the local spawning period was last Monday, the third night after the full moon. The National Parks Board (NParks) has been monitoring the yearly affair for the past 10 years, as part of its management strategy for marine and coral biodiversity conservation.

Coral expert Chou Loke Ming said corals spawn at the same time to ensure successful fertilisation. Eggs and sperm released into the water join to form free-floating larvae, which float until they find a suitable home.

NParks' researchers, volunteers and scientists from institutions such as the National University of Singapore headed out to sea at dusk for four nights starting on Monday to observe the event in the reefs off Pulau Satumu, where monitoring was conducted in previous years. It is out of bounds to recreational divers.

Dr Karenne Tun, director of the coastal and marine branch of NParks' National Biodiversity Centre, said that over the past decade an average of 25 to 35 coral species have been recorded spawning over the entire spawning period.

When The Sunday Times went on a dive with the researchers on Monday, a total of seven species of hard coral were recorded spawning between 7pm and 9.30pm. But Dr Tun noted that more species could be recorded spawning if larger and more reef areas are surveyed.

Coral expert Chou Loke Ming, an adjunct research professor at the Tropical Marine Science Institute, said corals spawn at the same time to ensure successful fertilisation.

Eggs and sperm released into the water join to form free-floating larvae, which float until they find a suitable home - usually a hard surface they can latch on to.

"Many of the eggs, fertilised eggs, or larvae are sought after by fish because of the rich nutrition they provide. That's why spawning releases very large numbers, so that some will survive the perilous period until they settle on suitable substrates," said Prof Chou.

For Mr Stephen Beng, chairman of the marine conservation group of the Nature Society (Singapore), witnessing the event here was a special moment that surpassed his experiences watching coral spawn in places like Tioman, Dayang and Christmas Island.

He joined researchers from NParks on a dive to monitor the event on Wednesday.

"Even though this year's spawning was less intense compared to previous years', watching our corals reproduce sent feelings of joy.

"The circle of life always brings hope for the future, but we mustn't be complacent with doing our part to address the many threats our reefs face daily, such as climate change and pollution."



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Indonesia leads on fires and haze: What others (Singapore) should do

Simon Tay and Lee Chen Chen Jakarta Globe 30 Apr 16;

Indonesia is making every effort to ensure that the terrible fires and haze that occured last year will not recur. The reassurance was given at the recent third Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources ( SDSWR ) by Nazir Foead who heads the newly created Peatland Restoration Agency ( BRG ).

This is the clearest indication yet by a senior Indonesian official of the priority given to this issue by the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Given that fires have recurred since 1997-1998 and worsened in the last two years, some may cynically dismiss this as merely nice words on paper that is not fire-proof. But we believe that Indonesia is undergoing a critical sea change in attitudes towards addressing this problem.

The statement by Nazir, who holds a ministerial-level appointment, does not come out of the blue. Last year, President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, visited provinces hit by haze and saw first-hand how terribly it inflicts Indonesians living nearest to the fires.

At the Paris meeting to conclude the global agreement on climate change, the President gave substantial undertakings to cut down emissions, which mainly relate to the fires and deforestation.

Early this year, the BRG was formed with the clear and ambitious aim to protect and restore two million hectares of peatland, which is one of the key sources of fires and haze. In March, the Riau provincial government declared a state of emergency after fires in some districts began spreading rapidly because of strong winds.

Recognizing and declaring the emergency allowed an earlier and stronger response, and more than 700 police and soldiers were deployed to ensure the fires did not get out of hand.

These are clear signs that the Jokowi administration intends to respond, not only in speeches but also in hard work on the ground and in reshaping important agro-forestry sectors of its economy.

For Indonesia, taking leadership on the issue is logical and in the country’s national interest. The fires and haze cause severe social, environmental and economic costs — in 2015, some 2.6 million hectares of forest and farmland in Indonesia were burned, and the cost to the Indonesian economy was estimated by the Jokowi administration to be as much as US$33.5 billion.

For the first time, a number of concession licenses have been cancelled. Bank Mandiri — the largest bank in the country — has now stopped granting loans to develop palm oil plantations on peatlands. Just before Nazir spoke, the President announced a moratorium on new concessions for oil palm plantations.

Still, questions remain. Different interests are at play. Many larger corporations may still find it convenient not to care about the fires or the broader questions of sustainability since these can add to their cost of production. Many such corporations have influence in politics and bringing them to task will not be easy.

Moreover, there are many small-scale farmers who do not have the means or financial capacity to switch to land clearing without fire. While these communities must be protected from the fires and haze, they also need to find ways to continue to work for their livelihoods.

These are important economic and social dimensions to be resolved in tandem with the need for better environmental protection.

In many ways, the challenges of dealing with the fires and haze are symptomatic of much wider questions in Indonesian politics and the change promised by President Jokowi, as the non-elite “people’s President”. These questions are still to be resolved by Indonesians and left to their internal processes.

But this does not mean that others outside of Indonesia cannot assist. Now that the Indonesian government is taking a leadership role in addressing the issue, what can others do to support it?

We believe that Singapore, the region, and indeed the global community can lend assistance in three main ways. The first is to strengthen governance in the resource sector including the key corporations that are often dominant players and who deal freely across borders. The second is to foster an informed consumer movement and generate support for sustainably-sourced products. The third is to increase the capacity of local communities to prevent and respond to fires.

The cross-border control of corporations has been a finger-pointing exercise for many years, with allegations that Singaporean and Malaysian companies are involved in and condone unsustainable practices. Singapore’s Trans boundary Haze Pollution Act ( THPA ) attempts to address that.

It is therefore a step ahead that Singapore has in the last year been active in addressing corporations and their key officers involved in the haze.

As reported at the SDSWR by the Singapore Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli, the government has served notices on a number of companies and will hold all Singapore-based companies to account. Moreover, it recently served notice to a foreign director of one such company while he was visiting Singapore.

A second dimension of governance concerns how these corporations obtain financing. If environmental protection and sustainability criteria are integrated and quantified as part of the risk framework for banks, alongside commercial considerations, errant companies will have to mend their ways or face greater difficulty in obtaining financing for their operations.

At present, many international banks already screen their loans on environmental, social and corporate governance ( ESG ) criteria, seeking certification or other proof that their clients’ practices are internationally acceptable.

The gap has been with the regional banks.

Here, it is notable that Indonesia’s own banking regulator, the Financial Services Authority ( OJK ), has taken the lead. OJK released its Sustainable Finance Roadmap in 2015 and has since launched an 18-month project to help local banks integrate ESG criteria into their credit approval frameworks. At the SDSWR, the Chairman of OJK, Muliaman Hadad, pointed out that sustainable finance can be profitable and that Indonesia will continue to mainstream the concept into the financial sector.

Banks and financial regulators in the region can support the efforts of Indonesia by harmonizing measures with one another so as to prevent firms that cannot meet the ESG standards from shifting to other markets and lenders with lower or no standards.

While the domestic consumer market in Singapore is comparatively small by ASEAN standards, the government has made clear its stand to support environmental sustainability by committing to procure only printing paper products that are certified under the Singapore Green Label.

Likewise the Malaysian government’s green procurement and eco-labeling initiatives can promote a sustainable agro-forestry sector in the region by sourcing only from certified origins.

Finally, Singapore and the international community can support Indonesia’s grassroots efforts to prevent and suppress fires through transnational collaboration on capacity building projects at the provincial level.

The haze crisis last year saw ground-up efforts by civic groups in Singapore to supply masks and humanitarian aid to villages in some of the worst-hit provinces.

More community-to-community projects can be promoted to encourage good agricultural practices and eventually help local communities mitigate external risks arising from climate change.

The Jokowi administration has demonstrated resolve and leadership to avoid a repeat of the haze last year. More can be achieved when we stand ready to lend our full support.


Simon Tay is chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs ( SIIA ) and Lee Chen Chen is
director for policy programs. The SIIA launched a policy brief on haze titled Southeast Asia’s Burning Issue: From the 2015 Haze Crisis to A More Robust System at the third Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on 15 April 2016.


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People recycling less despite govt measures to encourage it

Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 May 16;

Since September 2014, every HDB block has had a blue recycling bin, in which people put paper, plastics and other recyclables, placed nearby.

Reader Jason Oon wrote to askST to commend the National Environment Agency (NEA) on its efforts at encouraging recycling and the introduction of recycling bins at HDB estates.

He added: "I'm interested in knowing if NEA monitors recycling outputs from residential areas and if what people are putting into the recycling bins is indeed recycled or ends up being treated as garbage because they are contaminated."

Environment reporter Audrey Tan answers.

As pointed out by the reader, the Government has implemented a slew of measures to encourage people living here to go green. Unfortunately, Singapore residents are still recycling less.

In March last year, The Straits Times reported that the domestic recycling rate fell to 19 per cent in 2014 from 22 per cent in 2010.

This was despite a raft of government initiatives to make it more convenient for people to recycle.

For instance, since September 2014, every Housing Board block has had a blue recycling bin, in which people put paper, plastics and other recyclables, placed close by. Before the initiative began in 2011, one bin was shared by five blocks. In January 2014, the HDB also said it would install recycling chutes in all new blocks with throw points on each floor.

Recyclables collected in the big blue bins are picked up by a dedicated recycling truck and sent to a materials recovery facility, where they are sorted into different waste streams, such as plastic, paper, metal and glass, bundled, and sent to local and overseas recycling plants.

Although there have been cases where public waste collection companies were found to have mixed items meant for recycling with rubbish for incineration during refuse collection, the NEA requires recyclables and waste to be collected separately and in separate trucks.

There are various recycling facilities in Singapore for recycling different types of waste. When paper is sent to a recycling facility, for instance, it is shredded, soaked in vats, and made into pulp. After further refinement, the pulp is fed into a machine to be made into sheets of paper. Recycled glass is first sorted at the facility based on colour, then cleaned and crushed into cullets, which are melted to form new products.

A list of local recycling companies which process different sorts of waste can be found at www.nea.gov.sg.

The NEA said the dip in domestic recycling rate in 2014 was largely due to a 30 per cent increase in food waste output over the period.

If food waste is placed with other recyclables, it would contaminate the lot, which the public waste collector then has to toss out. This puts the brakes on Singapore's green push. A good habit to practise at home is to separate food waste from other recyclables instead of dumping them together.

In Seattle in the United States, residents who fail to separate food waste from trash can be fined US$1 (S$1.35) for each violation, and up to US$50 for business or apartment complexes.

Last year, the overall recycling rate here was 61 per cent.

Will it be necessary to implement a fine system here, considering that Singapore wants to have an overall recycling rate of 70 per cent by 2030? You decide.


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Malaysia: Water-rationing only a stop-gap measure, says don

JOASH EE DE SILVA The Star 1 May 16;

PETALING JAYA: Water rationing can only be a stop-gap measure for the current water crisis brought about by the depleting reserve at the Bukit Merah dam.

But it is not viable in the long run, said Dr Zaki Zainudin, associate professor in water quality and modelling at the Inter­national Islamic University Malaysia.

“For me, rationing is only a stop-gap measure, it is not sustainable,” he commented on the call by the National Water Services Commis­sion (SPAN) urging the Perak government to consider stricter rationing to allow water to be available for up to 60 days, instead of the current 30 days.

The Perak Water Committee, however, responded that rationing would be conducted only if the water level dropped to 5.18m from the current 6.21m.

Dr Zaki said that during rationing, people tended to overcompensate and store more water as backup and that it may not be a very effective measure.

He said that in the short term, the state may have to look at intercity water deployment and acquire water from other states.

With a smaller population, the water demand is not as critical in Perak so intercity water deployment can help in the short term.

“But in the long run, at the federal level, there is a need to look at more sustainable measures for water catchment areas, water resource management and better control in pollution and river basin management,” he said.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer) president S. Piarapakaran said the Perak government could reduce water pressure at night as usage was low then.

“But in doing so, they must ensure no contamination can enter the treated water supply system because of the low pressure.

“SPAN can identify premises, industries and commercial use in non-critical sectors and control water use, as it is allowed under Section 54 of the Water Services Industry Act 2006.

However, Piarapakaran said that as water crisis issues will be a recurring problem for many years to come, the Government must look into colour-coded alert systems to manage the crises.

He suggested a three-colour system of yellow, orange and red be used to signal what measures needed to be taken.

“For example, yellow is mild where water to non-critical sectors must be reduced, while orange is when water levels are dropping close to critical level, and red where an emergency is declared under Section 56 and there are more stringent rules and regulations.”

He added that there should be long-term planning of catchment areas, where dams are built and further expanded in stages over 15 to 25 years to meet increasing water requirements.


Contingency plan in place to manage Perlis water crisis: MB
BERNAMA New Straits Times 30 Apr 16;

ARAU: The state government of Perlis has drawn up a contingency plan to properly manage the water crisis and distribution of treated water supply to areas affected by water rationing in the northern part of the state.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man said the plan prepared by the state government was a guide and reference for all agencies and affected areas in the state, with the water crisis expected to prolong until September.

“To ensure the plan is implemented smoothly, I have submitted it to all the relevant government departments, agencies and organisations,” he said when opening the Pauh state constituency’s Community Day-cum-Arau 1Malaysia People’s Housing Project Internet Centre Open Day, here, today.

esides the state government, the other organisations which received the plan were the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, National Water Services Commission, Syarikat Air Perlis, National Disaster Management Agency (NaDMA), and state Drainage and Irrigation Department and Public Works Department.

Nonetheless, Azlan said, all parties were hoping for the water level at Timah Tasoh Dam to rise further with rain in the last few days.

“Despite rain in the last two days, water flowing into the dam will take time as the hot weather has resulted in a high rate of vapourisation, causing the water level at the dam to continue falling.

“We hope this (water crisis) will not drag on and the water level at the dam will return to normal soon at 29.1 metres,” he said.

Meanwhile, Perlis Drainage and Irrigation Department director, Abdul Najib Abdullah said the water level at the dam was still critical at 26.14 metres today, down 0.01 metre from 26.15 metres yesterday.

Perlis Meteorological Department director Muhammad Khalil Ab Jalil said the temperature in the state as at 4 pm recorded a fall to 33.5°C compared to 36°C yesterday.

“The temperature recorded in the last few days was expected to return to normal by June as the El Nino impact on the state was expected to gradually weaken when the inter-monsoon period peaked in May.

“During this period, there will rain and thunderstorms, especially in the evening, throughout the state,” he said. -- BERNAMA


PAIP helping drought-hit Chini residents
The Star 1 May 16;

KUANTAN: Pengurusan Air Pahang Bhd (PAIP) has provided 43 static tanks to supply water to residents of Chini, who are badly hit by drought caused by El Nino.

PAIP said in a statement that 4,500 account holders were affected by the disruption of supply from the Chini water treatment plant.

Until yesterday, 16 tanker lorries had sent water to the Chini 3, 4 and 5 highland areas, it said.

Pahang director of health Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said spring water near the Felda Chini Training Centre was unsafe for drinking and cooking because it contained coliform and e-coli bacteria.

It could only be used for washing and bathing.

PAIP said 81 static tanks, seven tanker lorries and seven filling stations have been supplying water to the people of Lipis, since a supply problem at the Air Jelai treatment plant.

Also, two tanker lorries and 29 static tanks were providing water to 360 account holders in Mentakab, Lanchang and Temerloh.

Supply from the Lubuk Kawah plant in Temerloh has been disrupted by drought, PAIP said. — Bernama


Padi farmers in Kerian suffer RM56 million in losses due to El Nino
RAJA KHALIDATUL ASRIN New Straits Times 30 Apr 16;

BAGAN SERAI: Padi farmers in the Kerian district are suffering losses totalling RM56 million due to the heat wave.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said 8,097 hectares of 21,108has padi fields in the distict were affected by the El Nino, involving 3,175 farmers.

"Although the government has not declared it as a disaster area, we will continue to help them.

"We have no specific fund for such a problem but we will find ways to help ease their burden," he said after visiting the affected farmers at Kampung Dew here today.

Present were Agriculture Department director-general Datuk Ahmad Zakaria Mohamad Sidek, Kerian Intergrated Agriculture Development Area director Zahimi Hassan and Bagan Serai member of parliament Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali.

Kerian has more than 8,000 farmers and they been produce 36,000 metric tonnes of padi every harvest.

Tajuddin said the water level at Bukit Merah dam was still within the stage three critical level and the authorities would have to wait until May 15 before they could decide whether the water could be released to the padi fields.

He said the government would use the RM4 million allocation for farmers affected by the El Nino, to help padi growers in Kerian district.

Apart from digging tube wells, he said more water pumps would be sent to the affected area in Kerian district to help irrigate the drying padi fields.

"Kerian district, which is one of the main padi producers, is facing a massive problem when 4,600 hectares of padi fields are yet to be planted with seedlings due to lack of water," he said.


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Malaysia: MB warns of court action against those who contaminate Pulau Redang

The Star 1 May 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Chalet and hotel operators who pollute the waters of Pulau Redang will be taken to court and face hefty fines, promised Mentri Besar Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman.

Government agencies conducted a spot check on Thursday after the pollution was highlighted in The Star and Ahmad Razif said they found open burning of rubbish, oil slicks along the beach and inappropriate channelling of sewerage from the island.

“We cannot compromise on such matters. Sometime next week, I will go to Pulau Redang to see what is going on.

“I will also be visiting other islands, including Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Kapas, to see whether such things are happening there too,” he said.

After that, a meeting with all the operators will be held to discuss the matter, he said after a ground breaking ceremony for the Terengganu Halal Centre and launch of the Anak Terengganu Entrepreneur’s Car­nival in Gong Badak yesterday.

In his speech earlier, Ahmad Razif announced that more incentives would be given to companies in Terengganu that employed only locals.

He said the incentives could be in the form of infrastructure cost reductions, discounts on utility bills and cuts in assessment tax.

This initiative by the state government was to lessen the unemployment rate while ensuring 40,000 job opportunities for the people of Terengganu by 2020.

“A special committee will be formed to look into the matter and come up with incentives,” he said.

This was the first official public event that Ahmad Razif attended since the revocation of his “Datuk Seri” title.


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Malaysia: Generating revenue without felling trees

The Star 1 May 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The forests in Sabah are set to become a key revenue earner for the state without any tree being felled.

Instead, the state government is exploring revenue options through ecosystem services such as clean water and air, biodiversity, soil protection and carbon sequestration.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said this new approach was necessary following a decline in revenue from timber products.

However, it is costly to manage the forest so the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) approach is being used.

“PES is a scheme in which service providers are compensated to cater for environmental services to the user,” Mannan said after a one-day workshop on developing PES for Sabah.


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Indonesia: Thousands of hotspots detected in peatlands this year

thejakartapost.com 30 Apr 16;

Thousands of hotspots have been detected by the government this year, an early warning sign of the rampant forest fires which have in the past caused massive losses in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA ) satellites, currently operated from Singapore, detected 1,075 hotspots between January and April, a decrease from 3,411 hotspots in the same period last year, says the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

In contrast, the Terra-Aqua satellites detected 2,710 hotspots, an increase from 1,432 hotspots detected last year.

The main factor for the forest fires is human behavior, although fires also occur due to the damaged peatland ecosystem and the El Niño weather phenomenon, said Kemal Anas, the ministry’s law enforcement director-general on Friday.

The NOAA and Terra-Aqua satellites produced different results because they detect hotspots at different minimum temperatures: 44 and 42 degrees Celsius, respectively.

A hotspot is not to be mistaken for a forest fire as, according to the ministry, a hotspot is an initial indication which could lead to ground checks.

In April, the greatest number of hotspots were found in East Kalimantan ( 235 ) and Riau ( 105 ) according to NOAA satellites. While Papua ( 542 ) and East Kalimantan ( 286 ) recorded the highest according to Terra-Aqua satellites.

Failure to contain hotspots last year resulted in the destruction of 2.61 million hectares of forest and peatlands in Sumatra and Kalimantan, leaving 21 people dead and more than a half-a-million people to suffer from respiratory problems as a consequence of the five-month-long choking haze that smothered surrounding areas.

Last year's fire crisis cost the economy Rp 221 trillion ( US$16.5 billion ), around 1.9 percent of the country's GDP, more than double the cost of rebuilding Aceh after the 2004 tsunami.

According to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment ( Walhi ), at least 308 forest fires occurred at plantations in concession areas managed by giant corporations including Wilmar, Sinar Mas and APRIL groups, in Sumatra and Kalimantan last year.

The government has reprimanded those companies involved in the fires, with three having land-use or environmental permits revoked and a further 16 seeing permits suspended.

“All corporations with revoked permits are required to turn all of the concession areas over to the government. Suspended corporations are required to hand back burnt areas,” Kemal said. ( vps/bbn )

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA ) satellites, currently operated from Singapore, detected 1,075 hotspots between January and April, a decrease from 3,411 hotspots in the same period last year, says the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

In contrast, the Terra-Aqua satellites detected 2,710 hotspots, an increase from 1,432 hotspots detected last year.

The main factor for the forest fires is human behavior, although fires also occur due to the damaged peatland ecosystem and the El Niño weather phenomenon, said Kemal Anas, the ministry’s law enforcement director-general on Friday.

The NOAA and Terra-Aqua satellites produced different results because they detect hotspots at different minimum temperatures: 44 and 42 degrees Celsius, respectively.

A hotspot is not to be mistaken for a forest fire as, according to the ministry, a hotspot is an initial indication which could lead to ground checks.

In April, the greatest number of hotspots were found in East Kalimantan ( 235 ) and Riau ( 105 ) according to NOAA satellites. While Papua ( 542 ) and East Kalimantan ( 286 ) recorded the highest according to Terra-Aqua satellites.

Failure to contain hotspots last year resulted in the destruction of 2.61 million hectares of forest and peatlands in Sumatra and Kalimantan, leaving 21 people dead and more than a half-a-million people to suffer from respiratory problems as a consequence of the five-month-long choking haze that smothered surrounding areas.

Last year's fire crisis cost the economy Rp 221 trillion ( US$16.5 billion ), around 1.9 percent of the country's GDP, more than double the cost of rebuilding Aceh after the 2004 tsunami.

According to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment ( Walhi ), at least 308 forest fires occurred at plantations in concession areas managed by giant corporations including Wilmar, Sinar Mas and APRIL groups, in Sumatra and Kalimantan last year.

The government has reprimanded those companies involved in the fires, with three having land-use or environmental permits revoked and a further 16 seeing permits suspended.

“All corporations with revoked permits are required to turn all of the concession areas over to the government. Suspended corporations are required to hand back burnt areas,” Kemal said. ( vps/bbn )


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Indonesia: Entire process for new palm oil permit issuance ends -- Minister

thejakartapost.com 1 May 16;

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya confirmed that as a follow up to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s directive, the entire process for the issuance of new palm oil permits under her authority had ended.

“I have put a stop to the entire process for the issuance of new permits for palm oil expansion under my authority, from A to Z. This is a concrete proof that we are following up President Jokowi’s directive,” she told foresthints.news, as quoted by Greenomics Indonesia.

The environment and forestry minister has the authority to release convertible production forests located in state forest areas for development purposes outside the forestry sector, such as for palm oil plantations.

Commenting on existing palm oil permits outside the state forest areas, Siti said the government was discussing the steps it needed to take in reviewing the permits. She asserted that any reviews must be conducted together with relevant ministries and local governments, particularly in the case of concessions, which retained good forest cover.

Citing an example, the minister said millions of hectares of state forests in Papua and West Papua could be qualified as convertible production forest, in which they fell outside the existing moratorium map. Thus, the forests could be legally released for development purposes, including for palm oil, she added.

“We are applying the moratorium on new palm oil permits in those millions of hectares even though the area falls outside the existing moratorium map. I have already given the order to stop issuing new permits for palm oil in convertible production forests. The authority for this rests with me,” Siti said.

The minister further said President Jokowi was really worried about the ongoing palm oil expansion, which involved the opening up of forests with intact forest cover on a massive scale. This was especially the case in Papua, the majority of which was home to intact forests, she said. Therefore, the whole issue needed to be reviewed at the national level while at the same time, a moratorium needed to be imposed on palm oil expansion in areas throughout Indonesia, she added.

Siti further said a presidential regulation was being prepared to form the legal basis for the palm oil and mining expansion moratorium.

“The President has asked me to prepare the legal basis for the moratorium, which demonstrates how serious he is about the issue. Now we are in the process of drafting a presidential regulation as a legal back up to the President’s directive to the palm oil and mining expansion moratorium,” the minister said. ( ebf )


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Indonesia: Hornbill poaching rampant in Gorontalo

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari The Jakarta Post 30 Apr 16;

Kadir Hanafi, 40, took down the beak of a knobbed hornbill hanging near the door of his house in Puncak Jaya village, Taluditi district in the regency of Pohuwato, Gorontalo. As he’s showing the beak, he said he got it from a hunter over 10 years ago.

A man of Gorontalo origin who migrated to Puncak Jaya, Kadir said he deliberately hung the beak in his house with the belief that it had magical powers to ward off peril and disaster.

“That is what people say. I just follow. I am not the only one doing the same thing,” he said Wednesday.

Wagiyanto, 48, another migrant in Puncak Jaya who originates from Java, on the other hand, said he collected the beak of the hornbill, locally known as the Alo bird, more because he was interested in its beautiful shape.

“About its magical element, I don’t believe it. It’s just a myth,” he said, adding that he got the beak himself from his own hunting activities in 2015. He said a flock of Alo birds flew over his village back then. He shot one down with an air gun. He collected the beak and consumed the meat.

He said at that time he did not know that the bird was protected. Now a member of the village consultative council ( BPD ), Wagiyanto said he had issued a ban on people hunting protected birds.

Puncak Jaya is a transmigration village established by the government in 2002. It is located 223 kilometers from the provincial capital of Gorontalo and is inhabited by Gorontalese and Javanese ethnic communities.

The area previously was a protected forest. It’s not surprising that various animals can be found there. The village has been the habitat of the Alo bird, the local name of Julang Sulawesi ( Rhyticeros cassidix ), an endemic bird species of the island.

Cultural observer Karmin Baruadi of Gorontalo State University’s School of Literature and Culture suggested that the tradition of hanging the beak of a bird inside a house was a legacy from cultural animism.

“The Gorontalese culture, as far as I know, does not recognize such a tradition,” he said, adding that the tradition could have been the faith of a few people that was passed on to generations.

Biodiversity officer Panji Ahmad Fauzan of Burung Indonesia, said the Julang Sulawesi bird or popularly known as “rangkong” was a protected Sulawesi endemic bird.

In Gorontalo, the birds have been a favorite among poachers. Due to massive poaching, the International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN ) has declared the species vulnerable. Panji said Julang Sulawesi was a key animal for the survival of a forest ecosystem.

Margaret F. Kinnaird and Timothy G. O’Brien, senior ecologists and researchers of rangkong from the Wildlife Conservation Society ( WCS ), nicknamed rangkong as the “farmers of the forest” due to their role of spreading seeds. They said there was a positive correlation between rangkong and healthy forests.

There are many trees whose survival depend on fruit-eating birds to spread their seeds. Without rangkong, particular trees for sure will disappear because no new plants could replace old and dying ones.

Ara are among the rangkong’s favorite fruits as they are available almost the whole year. There are 200 estimated ara tree species that have been the main food source for rangkong. The bird has been considered as the best ara seed spreaders thanks to its high coverage area.


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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Apr 16



14 May (Sat): Chek Jawa boardwalk tour with the Naked Hermit Crabs
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Night Walk At Tampines Eco Green (29 Apr 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG


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Slow loris finds itself stranded far away from home... at Yishun carpark

AsiaOne 30 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE - It has a permanent look of surprise on its face, but this slow loris was probably really afraid when it found itself surrounded by a concrete jungle instead of the lush greenery she is used to.

Earlier this month, officers from the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres) were notified of a slow loris stranded in a multi-storey carpark at Yishun Central. The resident who found the nocturnal animal recognised it immediately and knew that it was not in a place it belonged.

One of Singapore's critically endangered creatures, slow lorises are usually found deep in the nature reserves of Singapore where they enjoy a diet of fruit, sap, nectar, bird eggs and insects.

In a video uploaded on Acres' YouTube account, the slow loris can be seen perched on the ledge three storeys above ground.

With thick gloves to protect himself from the the animal's strong and toxic bite, an Acres officer grabs hold of it and brings it carefully to safety.

Manager of Acres' wildlife department, Kalai, told AsiaOne in a phone interview that the Sunda slow loris, which is native to Singapore, is usually not found near residential areas.

So how exactly did this "young adult" female slow loris get to a carpark in Yishun Central?

Kalai says there are just two possible scenarios. One possibility was that it had been sold as part of the illegal pet trade and escaped from captivity, while the other possibility was that it could have accidentally 'hitched' a ride out of the nature reserve on the car of an unsuspecting visitor.

If the small animal was indeed smuggled into the heartlands illegally, it could have gone through lots of hardship and would have difficulty adjusting in the wild, Kalai said.

To ensure it was ready to be released back into the wild, Acres officers fed the slow loris a small piece of guava from a height. When the slow loris reached for its treat, it revealed a lovely set of teeth, including its canines. This, Kalai says, was an important sign as illegal traders usually clip the teeth of slow lorises to prevent them from biting. This cruel action also makes it almost impossible for the animal to adapt back to the wild.

After spending just over a day with Acres, the slow loris found in Yishun was microchipped and determined fit for re-entry into its natural habitat.

Video footage shows Acres officers opening up its cage in an undisclosed forested area. While it seemed slightly confused at first, the slow loris soon noticed the greenery around and began to crawl out (slowly, of course) into its new home.

Hopefully this furry little animal gets to enjoy the rest of its days roaming free in the reserves, undisturbed by human activities. Remember - illegal trade causes these exotic animals lifelong pain and suffering. They might be cute, but they don't belong in the confines of your home.


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