Archive for February, 2011

Can palm oil firms really create a sustainable future?

Posted on February 28, 2011. Filed under: Bio-diversity, Forestry/Wetlands |

The palm oil industry has stepped up efforts to reduce its environmental impact, but as Jessica Shankleman discovers, many challenges remain

Plans to create a sustainable palm oil industry are set to take a major step forward next month when the World Bank Group (WBG) presents a long-awaited strategy detailing how it could lift its moratorium on new palm oil investments as part of efforts to enhance the sector’s sustainability practices.

The strategy is intended to create a framework for WBG to selectively invest in projects in a bid to tackle some of the key barriers facing the growth of a sustainable palm oil sector, such as the lack of protection for high-conservation-value forests and the absence of formal procedures for sharing economic benefits with poor rural stakeholders – key concerns that prompted WBG to suspend its palm oil investment programme in 2009.

The past few years have seen some palm oil developers step up efforts to practise more environmentally responsible techniques, such as avoiding peat land or virgin forests development, or implementing zero-burning replanting techniques, while also launching a new sustainable palm oil certification scheme.

According to the voluntary certification body, the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), these investments resulted in the volume of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) capacity more than doubling in 2010, from less than 1.5 million to 3.5 million tonnes.

WBG is expected to argue that its investment moratorium has been an important factor in encouraging companies to adopt these more sustainable practices. But the sector also appears to have benefited from increased cooperation between industry and NGOs. Just last month, Singapore-listed Golden-Agri Resources signed an unprecedented forest conservation policy in partnership with not-for-profit group The Forest Trust (TFT), in response to pressure and lobbying by green groups within the RSPO over allegations of illegal forest clearing.

Yet the shift towards more sustainable operations has a long way still to go if the industry is to satisfy its many critics.

For example, questions continue to be raised over how to tighten up voluntary RSPO standards, without deterring companies from adopting sustainability practices that can drive up costs. While some of the more responsible palm oil producers claim their sustainability efforts are motivated by a commitment to the environment and human rights, customer demand also plays a crucial role in improving standards, and at the moment sustainable certified palm oil remains a niche market.

China demand

In Europe, demand for sustainable palm oil has increased as a result of high-profile campaigns by green groups targeting multinationals such as Nestlé and Unilever. However, some industry players believe that some palm oil producers, particularly in Indonesia, will continue to supply unsustainable palm oil as long as major customers in China and India continue to purchase it.

Puvan J Selvanathan, group chief sustainability officer from one of the leading sustainable palm oil producers, Sime Darby, said China’s commitment to sustainable palm oil will be critical to tipping the balance in terms of demand.

“If China were to make a decision tomorrow… then the whole dynamic of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and how it’s going to be taken up by the world would completely change,” he said “So this is something that would be very, very important, very significant.”

RSPO standards

There are also growing concerns about the effectiveness of the RSPO’s voluntary standards – a concern highlighted by green groups such as Friends of the Earth, which has argued that RSPO certified palm oil is “certainly likely to be more sustainably produced than non-certified palm oil, but a voluntary certification scheme can never guarantee sustainability”.

The lack of a standard to measure and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) is a particular concern. In the past two years, the RSPO has struggled to determine how best to measure emissions from the numerous palm oil production processes, an essential step towards setting reduction targets.

The group’s GHG working group is aiming to test and finalise a tool to measure emissions by the end of this year, although the RSPO itself acknowledges, “the sustainability of palm oil production can only really be claimed when explicit consideration has been given to GHG emissions”.

In broad terms, WBG identifies land use change and deforestation as the largest single contributors to GHG emissions in tropical countries. But dealing with palm oil mill effluents (POME) is another significant issue.

The most commonly used treatment for POME is anaerobic digestion through a series of open ponds. However, the process is a major source of methane, which is significantly more potent than carbon dioxide as a contributor to global warming.

Some larger palm oil producers are testing methane capture technology on these ponds, which can then be used as power for the mills. If these capture processes prove successful, it could open up new business opportunities. For example, the methane could be separated into hydrogen and nano carbons, with the hydrogen providing power to its mills and nano carbons being used to make electronics or fillers.

However, methane capture technology, like many of the sustainable practices being implemented by RSPO members, is unviable for smallholders because of the high up-front costs.

Poverty alleviation

Palm oil has traditionally been seen as an important alleviator of poverty for developing countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, and some industry players argue that mandatory targets for sustainable palm oil would alienate smallholders if they are introduced too soon.

For example, poorer plantations would be reluctant to replace ageing trees with higher-yield crops because they would have to wait eight years until the fruit could be harvested to make a return on investment. In the early years of palm oil development in Indonesia and still today, this gap was covered by sales of timber from cutting down tropical rainforest, but that would clearly violate CSPO sustainability standards.

WBG argues that incentives, such as the United Nations REDD+ scheme (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) could help to plug this funding gap, but REDD+ is still very much at the pilot phase, and critics fear the forest protection scheme could be undermined if it is seen to support plantation developers.

Continued demand

Despite the fact the palm oil sector has been widely criticised for causing deforestation and emitting greenhouse gases, many experts still predict that sustainable palm oil could play a significant role in meeting rising demands for food and edible oils over the coming decades.

WBG itself acknowledges that palm oil is five to ten times more productive than other oil-bearing crops such as soyabean and sunflower, and it also has lower requirements in terms of fuel, fertilisers and pesticides per tonne of production.

As plantation companies advance into African nations such as Liberia, Ghana and Cameroon, targeted investment from WBG would have the potential to drive the expansion of the palm oil sector while ensuring improved sustainability standards are met.

However, WBG’s involvement would still prove controversial with many green groups that want to see more robust mandatory sustainability standards and remain concerned the sector’s expansion into new countries could again fuel deforestation.

But regardless of the WBG’s eventual decision, growing global demand for palm oil means developers look set to continue to seek funding from private financiers to fuel their expansion plans. It remains to be seen if increasing demand for sustainable palm oil and continued pressure from customers and green groups will be sufficient to ensure this expansion is managed in an environmentally responsible manner.

Jessica Shankleman has travelled to Malaysia as part of a press trip organised and funded by Sime Darby

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Penang set to be beautified with completion of mangrove area

Posted on February 28, 2011. Filed under: Bio-diversity, Forestry/Wetlands |

-The Star-

GEORGE TOWN: A mangrove forest about the size of a football field will soon take shape off Gurney Drive, with the planting of the final batch of 2,000 mangrove saplings.

Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu said the forest would cover the seafront off the Marina Bay condominium, near Tanjung Tokong, to the Gurney Drive coast.

Teh, who is heading the mangrove planting project, urged the state government to gazette the area as a forest reserve to prevent people from cutting the trees.

On reports on the chopping of six young mangrove trees at Gurney Drive in December last year, he said it was done by an owner of a restaurant there.

“The owner chopped down the trees as they blocked his customers’ view of the sea.

“The Penang Municipal Council has warned the owner not to repeat the action. The issue has been resolved,” he told reporters after the planting of the last batch of saplings by volunteers yesterday.

“We have planted 10,000 mangrove saplings in the area since last April,” he said, calling on the state government to provide funds for a walkway in the forest for people to enjoy the natural ambience.

“We can also put the mangrove forest on the map so it that will become a popular tourism attraction,” he said.

Teh said the 8,000 mangrove saplings planted off Tanjung Tokong have grown into trees.

“They have now become a habitat for many types of birds, including cranes,” he said.

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Seized pangolins to be released into the wild

Posted on February 26, 2011. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

GEORGE TOWN: A court order has been obtained to release into the forest the 135 pangolins that were recently seized by the Penang Wildlife and National Parks Depart­ment (Perhilitan).

The department obtained from a magistrate’s court in Butterworth the order to release the seized mammals worth RM100,000.

The pangolins were taken to court in three four-wheel drive vehicles from the department’s office here.

On Thursday, Perhilitan scored its biggest seizure of pangolins and arrested two men who were caught moving the animals in cages into two modified cars in Sungai Dua, Butterworth.

Going home soon: A Perhilitan enforcement officer holding on to one of the seized pangolins at the court in Butterworth yesterday.

The duo were believed to be members of an illegal wildlife trade syndicate which brought in pangolins from other states and smuggled them out to neighbouring countries.

It is learnt that the pangolins, weighing between 5kg and 7kg, could fetch up to RM200 per kg. Even their scales could fetch a high price for their medicinal value.

Despite being toothless, they devour ants, termites and other insects using unusually long, sticky tongues, and are able to quickly roll themselves up into a tight ball when threatened.

Due to difficulties in getting ants and termites, Perhilitan had bought a few bags of worms to feed the 135 pangolins housed in several cages at its Jalan Gurdwara compound here.

The scaly anteaters are said to be consuming about RM15 worth of worms every evening during their brief captivity.

“We have a problem looking for ants and termites as these are not for sale,” said state Perhilitan director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim, adding that tracking chips would be put on some of the mammals for future identification and tracking purposes.

Penang Chinese Medicine Hall Association chairman Yeong Sen Yong said pangolin meat was believed to have an aphrodisiac effect.

“As for the (tough, overlapping) scales, they are said to be antipyretic (quelling fever) and detoxifying,” he added.

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Malaysian experiment releases 3 orangutans in wild

Posted on February 24, 2011. Filed under: Bio-diversity |


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian researchers are testing whether three young orangutans reared in captivity can adapt to life in the wild outside Borneo, while activists insisted Wednesday the experiment was a flawed way of trying to help the endangered primates.

The project is spearheaded by a private foundation that runs Orangutan Island, a research center and tourist attraction in northern peninsular Malaysia. The facility has bred orangutans in captivity over the past decade despite criticism by animal rights groups that conservation programs should focus instead on protecting existing orangutans in the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra.

D. Sabapathy, the center’s senior manager, said researchers released three captive orangutans on a neighboring island last week. They are expected to remain there for up to six years before officials determine whether they can be let loose, either in peninsular Malaysia or Borneo.

The project marks the first time that orangutans have been allowed to roam on their own in peninsular Malaysia. Activists estimate some 50,000 orangutans live in the wild in Malaysian and Indonesian territory in Borneo, while another 7,000 can be found on Indonesia‘s Sumatra island.

The three apes include Sonia, born at the center eight years ago, and two others — Ah Ling, 17, and Nicky, 23 — found by wildlife authorities in Borneo a decade ago and brought to the center. Sabapathy said he was not sure whether Ah Ling and Nicky had lost their mothers or were rescued from poachers.

“It’s a rehabilitation program,” Sabapathy said. “It’s not that we simply will release them anywhere.”

The orangutans’ lives are expected to change dramatically. On Orangutan Island, they were kept in a 5-acre (2-hectare) enclosure, where they were fed by workers and observed by tourists.

During their stay on the neighboring island, they will enjoy freedom across a 14-acre (6-hectare) forested area, where workers have hidden bananas and tapioca for them to find until they are accustomed to obtaining food such as wild fruit and termites on their own.

Researchers are using binoculars to monitor their behavior, including how they build nests and interact with their environment without human contact.

Marc Ancrenaz, co-founder of French-based conservation group Hutan, said however that resources for orangutan conservation research could be used more effectively elsewhere.

“There’s no reason why they should do this. … We (already) have a wild population” of orangutans in Borneo, Ancrenaz said.

Orangutans in the wild face threats such as the loss of habitat due to illegal logging and agriculture, as well as illegal hunting of the apes for private collections or use in traditional medicine.

The Orangutan Island center houses 25 orangutans, including 17 born there. Orangutans are known to live up to 60 years in captivity, but not as long in the wild.

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Unesco warns Penang on swiftlet breeding shophouses

Posted on February 24, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Star-

GEORGE TOWN: Malacca and George Town’s joint Unesco World Heritage Site status may be in jeopardy due to the conversion of heritage buildings here into swiftlet breeding premises.

Unesco’s World Heritage Centre has expressed concern over the matter following a series of reports the organisation had received.

Centre director Francesco Ban­darin said, in a letter dated Jan 14, the re­­ports stated that there were 200 to 300 swiftlet farms in George Town.

He had sent the letter to Ali Abdul Ghani, Malaysia’s permanent delegate to Unesco in Paris.

It is believed the reports received by Bandarin had alleged that a number of the farms were located in heritage buildings, notably shophouses.

These shophouses were sealed and continuously moistened to provide a conducive environment for the swiftlets, to the possible detriment of the building fabric.

Bandarin urged the authorities in Malaysia to verify the accuracy of the reports, and should the allegations be true, to assess the impact of the situation.

In his letter to Ali, Bandarin pointed out that the World Heritage Committee had, in its decision to inscribe the site, singled out the significance of shophouses as an integral part of the heritage townscape.

The letter was subsequently forwarded to the National Heri­tage Department and George Town World Heritage Incorporated.

Penang Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said he viewed the letter as a subtle warning for stakeholders to take action or face the possibility of George Town being delisted as a world heritage site.

Chow said the Penang Munici­pal Council had identified swiftlet farms run by 121 operators in 128 heritage buildings.

A total of 28 new and unregistered farms run by 27 operators had been closed down.

Chow said action to move out the remaining farms was being taken in stages.

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Malaysia: Conservation and development in tug-of-war

Posted on February 23, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

Malaysia, February 23 – A recent report by an international environmental group flagging the alarming rate of deforestation in Sarawak did not surprise local activists – they have been saying the same thing for years.

‘If we look into the pattern of deforestation over the years, the only pristine areas left are probably the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries,’ said Mr Raymond Abin Bira, coordinator of the Sarawak Conservation Action Network, which groups 16 green non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the state.

One result, he said, has been landslides resulting from the felling of trees, which contributes to soil erosion. Last year, tonnes of logs were washed into Sarawak rivers in a landslip, causing the Rajang River to be impassable for days.

The deforestation received fresh attention recently when Wetlands International, an NGO based in the Netherlands, used satellite images to show large swathes of peatland being converted to oil palm plantations.

About 10 per cent of Sarawak, or 1.28 million ha, is peatland.

Wetlands International said two-thirds of it had been forested, but from 2005 to last year, almost 353,000ha were cleared.

‘In just five years, almost 10 per cent of all Sarawak’s forests and 33 per cent of the peat swamp forests have been cleared,’ it said in its Feb 1 report. Of these, 65 per cent was for oil palm plantations, it added.

It warned that at this rate, the whole of Sarawak’s peatland may be gone in 10 years, as they come under increasing pressure for agricultural land.

The tug-of-war between conservation and development is intense given the stakes: Malaysia produces 40 per cent of the world’s palm oil in an industry that is worth RM60 billion (S$25 billion) and provides 600,000 jobs.

It is the world’s second-largest producer after Indonesia, and palm oil has been identified as one of the key growth areas under Malaysia’s new economic plans to help double incomes in a decade.

Currently, about 4 million ha nationwide are planted with oil palm. But as land runs out in the peninsula, plantations have moved to East Malaysia where Sarawak’s plantations are growing the fastest.

Last November, Sarawak Land Development Minister James Masing told The Star that the state could be the country’s largest palm oil producer by the end of this decade.

Mr Balu Perumal, a botanist with the regional NGO, Global Environmental Facility, said there is now great pressure on ‘marginal areas’ such as wetlands as the prime growing areas have mostly been taken up.

Peatland is a type of wetland where the soil is made up of organic matter, unlike mineral soil. As it is permanently waterlogged, it has to be drained for planting.

This makes it difficult and expensive to convert to agricultural use, but despite the costs, it is not just in Sarawak that peatland is fast turning into plantations.

According to another report by Wetlands International last year, there are 281,000ha of peat soil under cultivation in the peninsula, 72 per cent of which is planted with oil palm.

All in all, about 20 per cent of Malaysia’s palm oil is produced on peatland. But in Sarawak, the figure is 44 per cent, it added.

This has dismayed some conservationists. Mr Balu said peatland, even including the logged areas, should be left alone. Clearing it releases vast amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Drained peatland is also easily combustible during dry spells, making it a fire hazard and a cause of noxious haze.

What’s more, Malaysia’s peat swamp forests are home to many endangered species, such as the Borneo pygmy elephant, the Sumatran rhino and the Bornean clouded leopard. The waters of the peat swamps are also known for the highest numbers of freshwater fish species in the world. Clearing the peatland puts their habitats and existence in jeopardy.

For these reasons, conservationists are raising the alarm and fighting to stop the deforestation. Mr Balu’s organisation, for example, is lobbying the Selangor government to cancel plans to turn a 900ha peat swamp called Kuala Langat South into an oil palm estate.

Both the federal and Sarawak ministers in charge of oil palm could not be reached for comment, but they have previously said Malaysia is working to strike a balance.

At present, only 157,000ha out of 4 million ha of oil palm plantations have been certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry-NGO association created in 2004.

But its secretary-general, Mr Darrel Webber, said interest in sustainability is growing rapidly because of greater consumer awareness. Most of the big Malaysian plantations such as Sime Darby Plantation and IOI Group are already members, joining the likes of global companies such as P&G;, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson and The Body Shop.

Its members pledge not to plant in high-conservation-value areas. These may include peatland, depending on the type of flora and fauna there, how the native community uses it, and if it is covered by primary forest.

Audits are conducted regularly on members, all the way along the supply chain, said Mr Webber. All audited findings are made available for public viewing and comment. When members fail to comply, they are asked to rectify areas where they fall short.

Mr Webber declined to comment on details of the Wetlands International report, but said it was worrying if it was accurate.

The fact remains that while RSPO member-retailers are stepping up plans to buy palm oil from plantations certified as sustainable, robust demand from India and China for unsustainably sourced oil means others can still avoid doing so. Big bucks or biodiversity? The battle over Sarawak’s forests continues.

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Land policy with native rights in mind needed

Posted on February 23, 2011. Filed under: Indigenous People |

-Free Malaysia Today-

KOTA KINABALU:  The absence of a land policy in Sabah has contributed to the loss of property rights for the indigenous people in Sabah, according to Sabah PKR.

Kong Hong Ming, a presidential council member, said indiscriminate alienation of state land and the takeover of native customary rights (NCR) lands have caused untold hardship to thousands.

“Sabah has never had a land policy. It is time to have one on management of land resources. It must be managed by the state to serve the basic needs of every man and woman who are lawfully citizens of the state, instead of electively feeding the greed of a few,” he said.

Referring to the criminal prosecution by Sabah Forestry Department of six farmers who were found guilty by the Tenom magistrate’s court on Nov 12 last year for ‘trespassin’ into the Kuala Tomani forest reserve to plant hill paddy, he said such a situation should never arise to indigenous people.

“Indigenous people in Sabah are being unjustly deprived of their customary land rights and in the process made poorer and eventually made landless.

“After 47 years of  independence and since September 16, 1963,  the law is without order and justice is far insofar as enforcement and respect for fundamental and human rights are concerned.

“The indigenous people are no longer free to enter state land or allowed to take jungle produce which was practiced since time immemorial, before the existence of any form of governmental administration.

“Today genuine natives of Sabah find themselves to be the oppressed groups under BN rule in terms of their right to property and livelihood from their ancestral lands,” Kong said.

Massive alienation of land

Kong, who also heads PKR Tawau,  said complaints of land grabs and encroachments and destruction of ancestral and customary land are now common events.

He said Suhakam had also expressed concern that the highest numbers of complaints amounting to 977 cases were received from Sabah, compared to 251 cases in Sarawak and 654  in Peninsular Malaysia between 2005 to 2010.

“Today, the natives of Sabah have to compete for land ownership with the powerful and politically connected corporations, and have often become victims of acquisition of state land by government agencies.

“The include SAFODA, SLDB, Lembaga Industri Getah Sabah and other GLCs and corporations that are eyeing land resources and joint ventures with private companies under the guise of public purpose and development.

“Many natives who have applied for five to 15 acres of land 30 years ago are still waiting for the titles to the land that they have occupied and cultivated for generations.

“For many of them, they are waiting in vain, as the land that they have occupied and cultivated had already been given to big corporations,” he said.

Kong went on to add that in recent years, massive acres of state land were alienated to corporations and government agencies at such amazing speed unknown to the natives.

“The BN government alienated 60,000 hectares of state land and 10 forest management units covering about 1,000,000 acres for 100 years to private companies that are encroaching vast areas of NCR land.

“In the 18 districts of Sabah, more than 32,532 native families have become victims of land grabs involving 349,500 acres of NCR land.

“Despite protests, memorandums and appeals to the BN government and leaders, the natives continue to suffer hardship and injustice for the loss of their land.

“It is time the natives examine the failure and neglect by BN government in looking after their welfare and legitimate interest in breach of its fiduciary duty to them as enshrined in Articles 153 and 161(A)(5) of the federal constitution,” said Kong.

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Seven Deadly Sins Of Commuting

Posted on February 23, 2011. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |


KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 (Bernama) — Malaysian commuters have identified seven deadly sins of commuting that cause them the most stress on the way to work and undermine their productivity and job satisfaction.

Based on a survey done by workspace solutions provider Regus, bad or dangerous driving by other road users tops the list of sins.

Road rage, loud mobile phone conversations, and foul smell (body adour/bad breath from other commuters or smelly food) also figure as major commuting stress factors, according to the survey findings.

Other deadly sins are delays and service interruptions, lack of information from the service providers, and pollution and the heat.

The survey notes that in Malaysia, the average one-way commute is 29 minutes while 15 per cent of Malaysians have to travel over 45 minutes each way.

“Yet the time taken to commute is less of an issue than the commuting experience,” said the news release on the survey findings.

The survey was conducted to identify the major causes of commuting stress across drivers and users of public transport.

Regus vice-president for Southeast Asia and ANZ, William Willems said in the release that the public could recognise their own worst experiences in the survey findings, adding that road rage and dangerous driving was a real concern for other drivers and pedestrians.

“Being left in the dark about service interruptions or traffic jams is also a killer for a calm and productive working day.

“With regard to mobile phone users, some do not realise or care that they are ruining many people’s day right from the start.”

Willems said Regus advocated flexible working location and hours to avoid all the stress and strains which could have an adverse effect on employees’ output, motivation and happiness.

“Travelling to a work location closer to home, especially outside of peak hours, is often the best way to avoid stress for a happier, calmer and ultimately more fruitful day’s work.”

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Lizard smuggler nabbed at checkpoint

Posted on February 23, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

-The Star-

JOHOR BARU: A 40-year-old man’s attempt to smuggle five Tucktoo lizards (tokek) worth an estimated RM85,000 was thwarted by authorities here.

The man, an Indonesian national, was detained at the Customs and Immigration checkpoint here at the Stulang Laut Ferry terminal at about 6.30pm on Sunday.

State Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services (Maqis) deputy director Siti Nur Ahmad said initial investigations had found that the lizards were brought in through Batam, Indonesia and were hidden in five bottles that were stored inside a box.

Lizard in the bottle: Siti Nur showing one of the five Tucktoo lizards seized by officials at the Stulang Laut ferry terminal on Sunday.

“The suspect came into the country via a ferry on a visitor’s pass. An X-ray scanner spotted the smuggled reptiles when the man brought his luggage through the checkpoint,” she told a press conference yesterday.

She said further investigations revealed that the lizards were meant for sale here. A single lizard could be sold for as much as RM35,000 due to its supposedly medicinal properties.

“The lizards had to be seized as one needs to have permits to bring animals into the country,” Siti Nur said, adding that this was the first time someone had attempted to smuggle animals through the checkpoint here.

She said the man had since been released, and the lizards would be handed over to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in accordance with the Wildlife Conservation Act.

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Borneo Pygmy elephant Rocco suddenly sickens and dies

Posted on February 23, 2011. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-


KOTA KINABALU: An endangered Borneo Pygmy elephant, Rocco, has died in captivity at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park here.

Rocco, reportedly about 27 years old, died at 3.30am on Monday, hardly 24-hours after it showed signs of weakness that was treated with emergency intravenous and subcutaneous fluid therapy.


Rocco the elephant about to give some primary school students a ride at the Sabah Zoological and Botanical Gardens. – Filepic

Sabah Wildlife Department senior veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said Tuesday that the cause of death was due to prolonged lying in a reclined position (recumbence) that put pressure on the internal organs and triggered respiratory and circulatory failure in the Rocco’s body.

He said blood samples had been sent to the Veterinary Services Department’s Animal Disease Research Centre for bacteriological investigations to ascertain the possible cause for its sickness.

Rocco had given birth to three calves over the years in captivity – two females named Sumandak and Amoi and a male named Ganesh.

The Borneo Pygmy elephant has an estimated life span of about 60 years in the wild.

Sabah Wildlife department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said Rocco was healthy and eating well before it suddenly became weak.

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