Best of our wild blogs: 19 Apr 15

Singapore's natural history museum: opening soon!
wild shores of singapore

White-bellied Sea-eagle – fishing sequence
Bird Ecology Study Group

Night Walk At Venus Drive (17 Apr 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum now open

Channel NewsAsia 18 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: The doors of the Republic’s first natural history museum officially opened on Saturday (Apr 18), giving visitors the opportunity to see centuries-old exhibits from a unique collection, most of which has never been seen before.

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, the region's first such museum, showcases about 2,000 historic exhibits.

First mooted by Sir Stamford Raffles, the collection of South-east Asian biodiversity began in 1849 at the Raffles Museum. Taking star-billing today is a trio of near-complete fossils of giant diplodocus skeletons – nicknamed Prince, Apollonia and Twinky. A recent acquisition, the rare skeletons are more than 80 per cent complete.

The dinosaurs played host today at a special viewing by a group of 250 invited guests. They included President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Ambassador-At-Large Tommy Koh and experts from museums around the world.

Built at a cost of about S$46 million, the museum was funded with support from the Lee Foundation and private donors.


President Tan hailed the museum as a "ground-up initiative" that brings together Singaporeans from all walks of life, to contribute to a "worthwhile cause".

Said Dr Tan: "The development of this museum is an example of how with commitment, hard work, and the support of the community, Singaporeans can pursue their passions and make a difference to society. The museum will serve to educate many generations of Singaporeans the importance of protecting our heritage and contribute to regional and global biodiversity research."

Also present at Saturday’s special viewing was Mr Eric Alfred, the last curator of the old Raffles Museum which originally housed the previous collection. He recognised a few old 'friends' – a sea turtle, previously on display at the Raffles Museum.

“She was found in Singapore, and they killed her and stuffed her and brought her up. It’s the first record of a leathery turtle in Singapore waters. When you see specimens that you recognise, you sort of feel happy that they are still around,” Mr Alfred said.

In a Facebook post on Saturday afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean hailed the museum’s collection, adding that there are over 500,000 specimens of flora and fauna on display – many that are over 150 years old from Raffles’ collection.

The museum will be open to the public from Apr 28. Tickets are available from SISTIC.

- CNA/dl

A night at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Dawn Karen Tan, Channel NewsAsia 18 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: Natural history evokes wonder, and museums evoke curiosity and enchantment - put them together and you can open minds to new worlds. Ahead of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum's opening on Apr 28, Channel NewsAsia's Dawn Tan took a peek into the brand new museum.

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is laid out in about 20 zones spread out over two floors. On the ground level, exhibits tell the evolutionary story of the South East Asian region, including a zone dedicated to creatures that used to fly or crawl through the undergrowth.

The museum houses all types of treasures from the natural world - from the microscopic to the gigantic, and from the oddly bizarre to the stunningly beautiful.

The museum has no windows, because the exhibits can be affected by light or heat. In temperature-controlled glass cabinets, dioramas tell the history behind each precious specimen, some of which no longer exist in Singapore. One example is the cream-coloured giant squirrel, a local species believed extinct in Singapore because it has not been seen in the wild for more than 50 years.

The museum also houses "Cabinets of Curiosity", which holds curios and collectibles from a bygone era, full of taxidermied specimens that look almost alive. The museum also tells the story of how the collection survived the war years after 1942.

A leather-bound replica of a natural history book on birds by Guy Charles Madoc belongs to part of that story. Madoc, a prisoner of war during World War II, wrote the 146-page manuscript while he was interred for five years at Changi Prison.


One of the museum's most significant and valuable exhibits on display is a bird from famed naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace's collection, said museum officer Marcus Chua.

"Singapore's natural history attracted some star naturalists of the time, among whom is Alfred Russel Wallace who's best known as being the co-discoverer of evolution," said Mr Chua. "And he made Singapore one of his main stops in his journey's across the Malay Archipelago. He noted that the hills of Bukit Timah were exceptionally rich in beetles."

"Wallace's collections are very valuable today," added Mr Chua, who pointed out that the museum houses one of the birds from Wallace's collection, a flycatcher.

In the back rooms of the gallery is a treasure trove of over half a million specimens, making it one of the largest collections of South-east Asian animals in the region. In fact, there are too many to all go on display.


It turns out that the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is not that far removed from London's famed Natural History Museum, as Singapore has all these taxidermied specimens thanks to the British's early preoccupation to collect.

"What many people may not know was that Sir Stamford Raffles was also a very ardent naturalist, he loved animals and plants, he was very curious, and his ideas in 1823 were very important," said the head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Professor Peter Ng. "He included the idea of having a natural history museum for the people, what are the treasures of the region, and Singapore."

Those ideas eventually led to the construction of the National Museum on Stamford Road - the original home of Singapore's natural history collection, the Raffles Museum.

"It grew in reputation as a hub for zoological and anthropological studies," said Dr Ng. "The one thing I must say about the English, they were very good hunters. As they went around the region surveying, looking for things they caught all sorts of strange things, brought it back, stuffed it, studied it, reported on it."

Donations, such as a fragile nine-foot long tusk from a narwhal, also make up part of the collection. The 200-year-old tusk - from what is also known as the ''Unicorn of the Ocean'' - was gifted by the Russian government to businessman ''Whampoa'' Hoo Ah Kay, one of Singapore's pioneers of the 1800s.

The horn eventually ended up in the possession of his great-granddaughter, Mdm Hoo Miew Oon.

"As a child I used to run and play around the tusk with my cousins," said Mdm Hoo. "And during the Japanese occupation, my grandfather wrapped the tusk with newspaper and torn clothing. And hid it behind the old fashioned day bed, to prevent the Japanese to take the tusk away or destroy the tusk."

The new museum is self-funded which means every cent for the construction and development had to be sourced from contributions. It has raised to date seed funding of close to S$46 million.

That meant the museum could go ahead with the purchase of the biggest animals to walk the earth: Three diplodocus dinosaur fossils, which will get star billing at the new museum.

Excavated in the arid deserts of Wyoming, the three skeletons are expected to draw dinosaur enthusiasts and the scientific community.

While the museum displays a range of species that once lived on our shores and in our jungles, it's a reminder of not just how much was lost, but more importantly, how much more there remains to protect.

- CNA/av

A house for creatures great and small
Lim Yaohui The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Apr 15;

DINOSAURS are here to stay at the new 8,500 sq m, $46 million Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which opens its doors to the public on April 28.

Prince, Apollonia and Twinky, three 150-million-year-old diplodocid sauropod dinosaur skeletons, are the stars of the museum's main gallery that traces the history of life on earth.

The museum is Singapore's first and only natural history museum and is home to over a million plant and animal specimens.

Visitors can expect to see more than 2,000 specimens, divided into 15 zones, in the exhibition gallery which covers some 2,500 sq m. The rest will be kept for research and education purposes.

The main floor showcases the history and biodiversity of plants and animals on our planet, focusing on plants and animals from South-east Asia.

The mezzanine floor consists of two main areas - the heritage gallery, consisting of specimens from the original Raffles Museum, and the Singapore Today area which introduces the geology of Singapore and conservation efforts here.

The move from the old to new museum started in August last year and ends today.

It was a delicate journey that required a team of seven museum curators, 10 professional art movers and five student assistants and museum specialists.

Before the move, the specimens were placed in waterproof boxes to prevent condensation, then frozen at -21 deg C for two weeks in a big refrigerated container outside the museum as part of the decontamination process.

They were then thawed before being stored or displayed in the new building.

The museum has a long history, starting in 1878 as the Raffles Library and Museum. It was Sir Stamford Raffles' idea to build a depository for specimens of the region's flora and fauna.

It underwent several changes before the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR), comprising the zoological collection and herbarium, was formed in 1998.

There, visitors could see a small part of the museum's collection in the public gallery, which was opened in 2000 on the third floor of Block S6 at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Kent Ridge Campus.

But the RMBR collection was so large, only 0.1 per cent of it could be on show at any one time, leading to a quest for a bigger home.

The opening of the new museum, next to the University Cultural Centre at the NUS, will likely renew public interest in Singapore's biodiversity and natural heritage.

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Scotland's plastic bag usage down 80% since 5p charge introduced

Dramatic reduction reflects similar falls in single-use carrier bag consumption in Wales and Northern Ireland, with England to bring in charge this year
Nicola Slawson The Guardian 17 Apr 15;

Plastic bag usage in Scotland has plummeted following the introduction of a 5p charge.

Early figures from retailers show that single-use carrier bag usage has fallen by more than 80% since the charge was introduced on 20 October 2014.

The results are in line with the dramatic reduction in plastic bag usage in Wales, which introduced the charge in 2011. It was also brought in by Northern Ireland in 2013 and a drop in usage of nearly 72% was reported the following year.

Meanwhile, official figures showed last year that the use of plastic bags had risen in the UK for the fourth year in a row to 8.3bn. England has yet to introduce the charge, but it is expected to come into force later in the autumn.

The figures were welcomed by environmental campaigners. Helen Bingham, a spokesperson for Keep Britain Tidy, said: “This is proof that a bag charge does work and significantly cuts carrier bag use in one fell swoop.

“We can’t wait to see it coming to England in October.”

It was also reported on Friday that charities in Scotland have benefited too. Scotland’s environment secretary, Richard Lochhead, announced that four major retailers have donated more than £1m to good causes since signing up to Zero Waste Scotland’s carrier bag commitment.

Marks & Spencer has raised £214,374 for good causes, with funds going to the Marine Conservation Society, WWF, the Orkney sustainable Fishery Improvement Programme and numerous smaller local charities.

Lochhead said he was delighted the charge was making such an impact.

He said: “It suggests that many consumers are now in the habit of reusing bags, which should reduce the amount of litter that blights our communities and natural environment, and costs a fortune to clean up.”

He declared that it was fantastic the charge has raised so much for worthy causes.

Lochead added: “This is just the tip of the iceberg and I am looking forward to seeing fuller figures later in the year.”

Iain Gulland, the chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Over the past six months, we’ve seen an incredible change to shopping habits in Scotland. Shoppers have embraced the 5p charge and rapidly reduced their consumption of single-use carrier bags more readily than we ever hoped.”

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Demand for rubber 'threatens forests'

Helen Briggs BBC Environment 17 Apr 15;

The global demand for rubber tyres is threatening protected forests in Southeast Asia, according to a study.

Tropical forests are being cleared for rubber plantations, putting endangered birds, bats and primates at risk, say UK researchers.

By 2024, up to 8.5 million hectares of new rubber plantations will be needed to meet demand, they report in Conservation Letters.

This could have a "catastrophic" impact on wildlife, they warn.

Species such as the endangered white-shouldered ibis, yellow-cheeked crested gibbon and clouded leopard could lose precious habitat, said the team led by Eleanor Warren-Thomas, from the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

"The tyre industry consumes 70% of all natural rubber grown, and rising demand for vehicle and aeroplane tyres is behind the recent expansion of plantations. But the impact of this is a loss of tropical biodiversity," she said.

"We predict that between 4.3 and 8.5 million hectares of new plantations will be required to meet projected demand by 2024. This will threaten significant areas of Asian forest, including many protected areas."

Eight-point-five million hectares is about the size of the land area of Austria.

Biodiversity concern

Rubber is the most rapidly expanding tree crop within mainland Southeast Asia.

Concern has been growing among conservationists that switching land use to rubber cultivation can harm soil, water and biodiversity.

The first review of the effects on biodiversity and endangered species found the problem was comparable to oil palm and was linked to the growing tyre market.

The study focussed on four biodiversity hotspots in which rubber plantations are expanding:
=Sundaland (Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali)
=Indo-Burma (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, most of Myanmar and Thailand, and parts of Southwest China, including Xishuangbanna and Hainan Island)
=Wallacea (Indonesian islands east of Bali and Borneo but west of New Guinea, plus Timor Leste)
=The Philippines.

It found that numbers of bird, bat and beetle species can decline by up to 75% in forests that have been converted to rubber.

Sustainability initiatives

The researchers, from UEA and the University of Sheffield, are calling on tyre manufacturers to support initiatives such as certification schemes.

Commenting on the study, Dr Matthew Struebig of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, UK, said certification standards for the rubber industry were key to protecting forests.

"There's a lot we can do as scientists and the public to make rubber production more wildlife-friendly," he said.

"It can range from agro-forestry - mixing rubber with other trees - to retaining patches of natural vegetation along rivers or in small conservation set-asides, as is done in organic farming in Europe.

"The onus is on the rubber industry to develop a certification standard that is credible, for the public to support that, and for scientists to help develop ways to manage the rubber crop in an environmentally friendly way."

The research is published in the journal Conservation Letters.

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Best of our wild blogs: 18 Apr 15

Nature in Singapore
Nature rambles

Variegated Green Skimmer feeding
Bird Ecology Study Group

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Expect to feel the heat for the rest of April

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 17 Apr 15;

IF YOU think the weather is hot and humid now, then be prepared to sweat for the rest of the month.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has forecast that afternoon temperatures will hit 34 deg C on several days over the last two weeks of this month due to sunny skies and light wind conditions. Thundery showers are also expected.

Yesterday, some parts of Singapore recorded a temperature of 34 deg C, according to weather observations on the NEA website.

Some of the days ahead may also see a slight haze, especially in the early mornings, due to the accumulation of particulate matter in the light wind conditions.

Based on long-term data, April is the warmest month in the year.

The warm weather has prompted some people, like Ms Denise Chee, 27, to change their habits. The recruitment officer said she avoids the heat by buying lunch and taking it away to eat in the office instead.

Financial analyst Charisse Tay, 22, now runs in the gym instead of outdoors. She also drives more instead of taking public transport.

For Ms Grace Lin, a transport industry executive, the air-conditioner at home is now powered up at least twice a week. "I used to sleep with just the fan, but now I turn on the air-conditioner more often," said the 24-year-old.

Eateries, too, are taking measures to keep customers cool.

Skyve Wine Bistro, an eatery in Winstedt Road, has installed more wall fans to cool diners. Said restaurateur and owner Celine Tan: "The weather has been really hot recently and it does affect some of our guests."

The House of Seafood restaurant has also installed eight cooling fans from Taiwan at its seaside eatery in Punggol. The fans spray a fine mist that cools outdoor temperatures to a comfortable 19 to 20 deg C in the evenings, said chief executive Francis Ng.

Bringing some cheer amid the heat will be the short thundery showers in the afternoon on four or five days, and in the morning for one or two days, said the NEA in its fortnightly forecast.

It added that rainfall for the entire month of April is likely to be near normal, although about two thirds of Singapore received below-normal rainfall in the first two weeks of the month.

The latest weather forecast comes amid projections announced on Wednesday that the country could see hotter weather and more extreme weather fluctuations at the end of this century. If the world does nothing to limit the effects of climate change, temperatures here could soar to 36.7 deg C - beating the record high of 36 deg C set on March 26, 1998.

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Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum-themed stamp series to be launched

Channel NewsAsia 17 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: To mark the opening of Singapore’s first natural history museum, a series of stamps featuring animal specimens will go on sale from Saturday (Apr 18).

The new stamp issue features four animal specimens from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum: The sauropod dinosaur, the Giant Hawker dragonfly, the Black and Yellow Broadbill and the Leathery Turtle, said SingPost in a news release on Friday.

A pre-cancelled First Day Cover affixed with the four stamps, and a presentation pack with the complete set will also go on sale at post offices, added SingPost.

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore will open to public on Apr 28.

- CNA/xq

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Caution advised on Iskandar residential, commercial property: Maybank

Channel NewsAsia 17 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: The property oversupply situation in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor, is "likely to get worse before it gets better", said Maybank Investment Bank's research wing in a report, with property values in an increasingly crowded development space possibly declining over the medium term.

In a research note issued by the Malaysian bank on Tuesday (Apr 14) urged investors to be cautious about the region, noting that property transactions and prices in Iskandar have been dropping.

The value of property transactions in Johor had fallen by 33 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the Q4 2014, underperforming the country (-7 per cent) and other major cities such as Kuala Lumpur (-12 per cent) and Penang (8 per cent).

Property prices in Johor were also weaker than that of other cities, with the House Price Index (HPI) contracting 1 per cent quarter-on-quarter. In contrast, property prices in the whole of Malaysia dropped 0.2 per cent, the research paper said.

Residential and commercial property transaction values plunged 42 per cent and 43 per cent on-quarter in the fourth quarter 2014, respectively, compared to the 4 per cent dip by industrial properties.

"The latest statistics reaffirm our view that industrial properties are a better investment choice in Iskandar due to the relocation of small medium enterprises (SMEs) from Singapore and its relatively limited supply as compared to residential and commercial properties," Maybank said.


The research note said that Malaysian developers have scaled back their launches and shifted their product mix to avoid direct competition with Chinese developers, and have lowered sales expectations for their projects at Iskandar.

"Judging from the number of approved high-rise projects, the Iskandar property market could be hit by too much supply of high-rise mixed development projects if there is still no coordinated planning and control - this will induce price volatility," Maybank analyst Wong Wei Sum said in the research.

"The oversupply situation will be exacerbated by the huge incoming supply in 2015/2016, where units under construction have risen 18 per cent year-on-year in 2012 and 2013, respectively."


The research note also raised concerns about "aggressive landbanking activities" by Chinese developers in the already-crowded Iskandar region.

"Without coordinated planning and control, this could aggravate the oversupply situation and induce price wars, especially in the high-rise mixed development segment."

For instance, Shanghai-based Greenland Holdings Group recently expanded its foothold in the space with the acquisition of a 128-acre freehold land in the south of Bandar Baru Permas Jaya. This was after its first purchase of 14 acres of land in Danga Bay in 2014. The company is also looking to acquire about 1,200 to 1,400 acres of industrial land near the Tanjung Langsat Industrial Complex, according to Maybank.

"If this materialises, Greenland will emerge as one of the largest land owners in Iskandar with a total landbank of 1,342 acres and it would pose strong competition to the local developers," the report said.


Maybank also said it is "cautious" over "massive land reclamation" in Iskandar.

Reclamation works spanning 3,425 acres for the Forest City project has been given the green light from the Development of Environment. The development will spread over a 30-year period, and will consist of four man-made islands reclaimed in four phases.

"The execution and planning of such reclamation projects is complex, especially Forest City, and carry elements of risk and uncertainty. Hence, developers' financial positions are paramount; else we may see projects being abandoned or price wars initiated to clear inventories or reduce sales risks by the developers," Maybank said.

"More importantly, the failure of any of these projects could erode buyers' confidence and perception on Iskandar."

As such, the bank said it remains cautious on property exposure in Iskandar, instead preferring developers with exposure in the Klang Valley and Penang.

Klang Valley, in particular, is preferred because of the upcoming KVMRT and LRT lines, and potential KL-Singapore high-speed rail project, which will end at Bandar Malaysia, Maybank said.

More importantly, the strong population growth potential in Greater KL and Klang Valley - a possible 40 per cent increase to 10 million by 2020 - offers more sustainable demand for properties, it added.

- CNA/kk

Many risks in land reclamation at Iskandar, bank says
LEE YEN NEE Today Online 18 Apr 15;

The large-scale land reclamation for housing developments carried out by Chinese developers in Iskandar raises many uncertainties, a Maybank research report has warned, saying any failure of these projects risks undermining investor confidence in the special economic zone.

“We are cautious on the massive land reclamation in Iskandar Malaysia,” the report said. “The execution and planning of such reclamation projects is complex and carry elements of risk and uncertainty. Hence, developers’ financial positions are paramount, else we may see projects being abandoned or price wars initiated to clear inventories or reduce sales risks by the developers. More importantly, the failure of any of these projects could erode buyers’ confidence and perception on Iskandar Malaysia.”

Several reclamation projects by Chinese developers have made headlines in recent months as they drew concerns from environmental groups to the Singapore government. Nonetheless, the projects have received the go-ahead from Malaysian authorities after they were scaled down in some cases.

One of them, Country Garden’s Forest City, is a massive 1,386ha development on four man-made islands off Johor near the Second Link with Singapore. Guangzhou R&F Properties’ Princess Cove project will see 30,000 homes built on a 46.9ha plot, part of which will be reclaimed along the coastline of Johor Baru. The reclamation will extend the Johor shoreline nearer to Singapore.

While Country Garden’s net gearing could potentially drop to 0.58 after securing HK$6.3 billion (S$1.1 billion) equity funding from China’s Ping An Insurance, Guangzhou R&F has the weakest financial position with a net gearing of 1.2 times, the Maybank report said. LEE YEN NEE

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Malaysia: Only three Sumatran rhinos left in Sabah - Masidi

RUBEN SARIO The Star 18 Apr 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wildlife experts are for the first time acknowledging the grim fate of the state’s Sumatran rhinos.

They are now certain that the three rhinos in captivity are the only ones left and they are incapable of breeding due to health problems.

State Tourism, Culture and Envi­ronment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said wildlife researchers had reported it was unlikely that there were any rhino left in the wild in the absence of any sightings of the creature.

(Wildlife experts had previously thought that there were about 10 rhinos in Sabah’s forests.)

“We are facing the prospect of our Sumatran rhinos going extinct in our lifetime,” said Masidi when opening a seminar on the environment organised by the Judicial Depart­ment.

The saddest part was that these creatures had been hunted to virtual extinction for their horns which have a nutritional value similar to nails, he added.

He said the state was fast running out of options to get the three remaining rhinos – females named Puntong and Iman and the male Tam – to produce offspring.

Masidi said the three rhinos had problems with their reproductive systems and wildlife experts were not able to come up with any solutions as yet.

Voicing a similar concern for Bornean elephants, Masidi noted that he had been alerted by the Wildlife Department of the disco­very of orphaned elephant calves two days in a row.

“The likelihood is that they (the mothers) have been illegally hunted,” he said.

Masidi added that with the increasing number of wildlife-rela­ted offences, the department was currently being restructured to se­­parate its enforcement and prosecution unit.

“We need more qualified prosecutors to ensure we are successful in taking poachers and other offenders to court,” he said, adding that the enforcement unit was also being beefed up.

Chief judge for Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjun said a special court had started operating in Sabah to hear environment-related cases and to dispose of them within four weeks.

He said the Environment Court would hear cases at the magistrate, Sessions and High Court levels.

He added that he had also issued a reminder to judges that the penalties they mete for environmental related offences must send a strong message from the courts.

Malanjun said it was for this reason he recently enhanced the penal­ty of a pangolin smuggler from a RM10,000 fine to RM25,000 and ordered the offender to be jailed for the maximum three years as well.

“The courts can impose a RM10,000 fine for someone con­victed of wildlife smuggling but will this be a deterrent if the price of a pangolin in China is RM50,000?” he asked.

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Malaysia: Over 20 tiger smuggling bids foiled

PATRICK LEE The Star 18 Apr 15;

PETALING JAYA: More than 20 tiger smuggling attempts have been busted by wildlife authorities in the past five years.

This comes as data from the World Bank showed that 70 of the country’s 336 mammal species were fa­­cing extinction, including the Malayan tiger.

“Perhilitan (Department of Wild­life and National Parks) had been able to detect and take action in 22 cases rela­ting to tiger or tiger parts since 2010,” a Perhilitan spokesman said.

He added that in 2012 and 2013, a total of four cases involving tigers were successfully prosecuted in courts. Those found guilty of hunting tigers without special permits can be jailed for up to three years and fined RM100,000, or both.

Those found killing female tigers, can be fined up to RM300,000, or be jailed for up to 10 years, or both.

There may only be between 250 and 340 tigers left in the country’s wild.

The spokesman said mammals were most threatened by wildlife habitat loss caused by human activities.

He said wild animals depended on forests for shelter, and without this, their survival rate would drop.

“Poaching is made easier when the forests are cleared or when there are access roads into natural areas,” he said.

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Malaysia: 'Hairless' sun bear in quarantine weak but able to eat

SHARON LING The Star 17 Apr 15;

KUCHING: The sick sun bear found near Sibu early this month is now able to eat and climb but remains in quarantine at the Matang Wildlife Centre.

The bear is currently under the care of Dr Silje Robertsen, a volunteer veterinarian from Norway.

"As of today, the animal is alert, able to climb and to eat normally.

"The sun bear is still kept in quarantine, as she is still weak and suffering from hook worms, mite infestation and moderate anaemia," Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) said in a statement on Friday.

SFC said it was still too early to determine whether the sun bear could make a full recovery as it had been very sick for a prolonged period of time.

"In the meantime, her treatment will continue based on a carbohydrate-rich diet with food supplements, antibiotics and protein.

"She will remain quarantined to minimise external disturbances," SFC said.

It added that the wildlife centre had been inundated with calls about the sun bear.

The centre's manager Siali Aban said there had been many enquiries from visitors wanting to see it.

The sick sun bear had been spotted in January by Indonesian plantation workers, who were shocked by its strange and hairless appearance.

Photos and videos of the animal went viral online, attracting many comments on its Gollum-like appearance.

It was found by workers near a palm oil estate in Meradong district on April 2 and handed over to SFC.

Sun bears are the smallest of the world's eight bear species and are found throughout mainland Asia, Sumatra and Borneo.

They are classified as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List and are at risk of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival improve.

In Sarawak, the sun bear is protected under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998.

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Malaysia: Sabah special court for environmental offences begins operations

RUBEN SARIO The Star 17 Apr 15;

KOTA KINABALU: A special court has started operating in Sabah to hear environment-related cases and dispose of them within four weeks.

Chief Judge for Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjun said the Environment Court would hear cases at the magistrate, Sessions and High Court levels.

He said the special court was also part of the judiciary’s move to dispose cases involving specific crimes such as snatch theft, and those where the victims were tourists.

“Specific judges have been appointed to preside in this court,” he said after the opening of a environment seminar by State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun here Friday.

Malanjun said he has also issued a reminder to judges that the penalties meted out environment-related offences must “send a strong message” from the courts.

He said it was for this reason he had recently enhanced the penalty of a pangolin smuggler from a RM10,000 fine to RM25,000, and ordered him to be jailed a maximum of three years as well.

Malanjun added that the state needed to introduce stiffer penalties for environmental offences.

“The courts can impose a RM10,000 fine for someone convicted of wildlife smuggling but will this be a deterrent if the price of a pangolin in China is RM50,000?”

Malanjun said there was also a need to strengthen the investigation and prosecuting capabilities of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

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