Archive for January, 2012

‘Lynas plant licence application full of holes’

Posted on January 27, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

-malaysiakini.com-

Anti-Lynas groups are charging that the application submitted for the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) pre-operating licence is “full of holes”.

In a four-page joint memorandum submitted yesterday, Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) and the Stop Lynas Coalition (SLC) said among other issues, the Lynas’ waste management plan does not fully disclose the contents of its waste streams.

“In the absence of complete data, it will be risky and impossible for the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (Mosti), and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to assess the merits and credibility of Lynas’ remedial procedures for its waste streams,” the memorandum states.

NONEIn a press statement, SMSL chairperson Tan Bun Teet (right) said, “We are disappointed, but not surprised by the very weak application presented by Lynas.

“Most worrying of all is that Lynas’ proposed waste management plan is full of holes and is totally unsafe. Under no circumstance should the government issue the licence.”

Meanwhile, SLC chairperson Andansura Rabu urged the government to ensure that Lynas carries out detailed environmental impact and social impact assessments, and ensure both reports are readily available for public scrutiny.

No permanent solution for waste

Other issues raised in the submissions include Lynas’ lack of a permanent solution for its wastes disposal, and plans to use Lamp’s waste materials to produce commercial gypsum and fertiliser enhancers, which they said would “literarily scatter Lynas’ radioactive substances into households, offices and food production areas”.

The submission adds: “Mosti and AELB should not issue any pre-operational licence unless and until Lynas can realistically demonstrate a safe permanent solution to its massive amount of radioactive wastes.”

The submissions were presented to Mosti and AELB yesterday at the Pahang state secretariat office, where the documents of Lynas pre-operating licence application have been on display.

“We hope the government will seriously consider the comments and suggestions presented through the submissions. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to take the matter to the court,” the joint memorandum states.

When contacted later yesterday, Tan told Malaysiakini that around 300 people gathered outside the state building to show support for the anti-Lynas groups, but were confronted by about 30 police officers led by the Kuantan district police chief.

Tan said the police initially ordered the group to disperse, except for five representatives to submit the memorandum, but rescinded the order when told that the area was a public place where members of the public could submit their views on Lynas to the AELB.

Nonetheless, police barred the bulk of the supporters from entering a room where Lynas’ application documents are kept for public viewing, allowing only a small group to hold a press conference there.

NONELynas’ application for the rare earth refinery has been on public display from Jan 3 until yesterday, but the display has been criticised by the two NGOs for its restrictive rules, such as allowing only one person to read the 300- to 400-page document at a time, and for only one hour.

Lynas Corp is reportedly said to be waiting for a Jan 30 decision on its licence application from the AELB.

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Wait for safer plan for Lynas plant, groups urge Government

Posted on January 27, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

-The Star-

KUANTAN: The authorities have been urged to wait until a safer plan is implemented for the planned construction of a plant by Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Four groups protesting the plant here said Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry and Atomic Energy Licensing Board should reject the plant’s pre-operational licence application.

Save Malaysia Stop Lynas chairman Tan Bun Teet said they were disappointed by the weak presentation put up by the company and claimed the proposed waste management plant was unsafe.

Stop Lynas Coalition chairman Andansura Rabu said the proposed plant would result in hazardous and radioactive substances being scattered into the air.

“The Government must enforce its own law to make sure Lynas carries out a detailed environmental impact assessment,” he said.

Pahang Bar Committee chairman Hon Kai Ping pointed out that the location of the permanent disposal facility had not been identified.

“The current location of the residue storage facility built within the plant was unsuitable.

“The land is reclaimed swamp land and is just few kilometres away from the sea,” he added.

Malaysian Medical Association representative Dr Yu Siew Hong said there was no safe dosage of radiation emitted from such a plant.

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Malaysia Ranked 25th Out Of 132 Countries In Environmental Performance Index 2011

Posted on January 27, 2012. Filed under: Environmental Policy |

JOHOR BAHARU, Jan 27 (Bernama) — Malaysia has been ranked 25th out 132 countries in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2011.

It is Malaysia’s best ranking in the index thus far.

Malaysia EPI team head Prof Datuk Dr Zaini Ujang said the rankings, which were announced at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland yesterday, put Malaysia in the same league as high scoring countries like Germany, Iceland, Findland, Denmark, Japan and Belgium.

“Based on this new benchmark, Malaysia showed the best performance among Asean countries and was third best in the Asia-Pacific region after New Zealand and Japan.

“In 2010, Malaysia was ranked 54th out 163 countries with Singapore in 28th place. The city-state dropped to 52nd place last year,” he told reporters here today.

Zaini, who is also Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Vice-Chancellor and chairman of the Malaysian Environmental Council, said the EPI was developed by Yale University and Columbia University in the United States in collaboration with the European Commission and the WEF to evaluate the performance of countries’ environmental management with the two main objectives being environmental wellbeing and pollution control.

He said the EPI also served to create awareness on planning and policymaking by countries so as to ensure targets were set for environmental management and provision of accurate data on it based on 25 indices.

He said among the aspects evaluated were climate change, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and air and water pollution.

“Based on the results released, Malaysia showed very good performance in terms of air pollution scoring 97.3 per cent, agriculture 95 per cent while for biodiversity and habitats it was 90.1 per cent.

“However, Malaysia needs to take proactive steps to improve the indices on climate change and forestry as the score was 28 and 17.4 per cent respectively,” he said.

He added the achievement was the result of the importance placed on environmental matters in the country’s New Economic Model and put Malaysia in a good stead to attract even more investors and tourists.

— BERNAMA

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Degree in nuclear engineering

Posted on January 26, 2012. Filed under: Energy |

-NST-

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia to be the first local varsity to offer the programme

nuclear engineeringProf Datuk Dr Zaini Ujang (second from right) with Prof Dr Rose Alinda Alias, Prof Dr Mohd Azraai Kassim (right) and Prof Dr Wahid Omar. Pic by Roslan Khamis.

1 / 1

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia will be the first local university to offer a nuclear engineering bachelor degree.

UTM vice-chancellor, Datuk Prof Dr Zaini Ujang said,  to meet demands in this field, the university’s Faculty of Science has been tasked to set up the  programme beginning September under its 2012/2013 academic session.

The programme would be opened initially to 30 students who are holders of Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) and matriculation students.

“For a start, 30 local students will make up the first batch and they will undergo the four-year bachelor’s degree programme.

“The applicants will be evaluated by the Higher Education Ministry, and they need to possess a minimum requirement of 3.0 cumulative grade point average (CGPA) at STPM or matriculation level.

“Apart from the  ministry, the students will be further scrutinised by UTM and other related agencies to ensure that they are qualified to take up this challenging field,” said Zaini after the appointment and handing over of duties ceremony involving top UTM administrators recently.

Zaini said the nuclear programme was in line with the government’s aim of producing experts in nuclear technology, and to establish reusable sources of energy by 2020.

“All facilities and infrastructure for this new course have been completed  two years ago, and we are now awaiting its first intake.

“We would be acquiring the services of an internationally-recognised nuclear expert to be the programme’s lecturer.

“The programme aims to produce research that could help with the country’s efforts to obtain new forms of energy to reduce our dependence on  on fossil
energy sources such as oil, gas and coal.”

He said nuclear engineering research would help create new skills and lead to new products    in the fields of agriculture and medicine.

Meanwhile, Prof Ir Dr Mohd Azraai Kassim, who was previously UTM deputy vice-chancellor (academic and international), was  appointed as the university’s new deputy vice-chancellor (research and innovation).

The  position was  held by Datuk Prof Dr Marzuki Khalid, whose tenure ended on Jan 15.

Former UTM School of Graduate Studies dean, Prof Dr Rose Alinda Alias  replaces Mohd Azraai as deputy vice-chancellor (academic and international).

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Locals say market won’t buy Lynas’ recycled waste

Posted on January 26, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The Malaysian Insider
By Shannon Teoh
January 26, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — Lynas Corp’s plans to recycle waste from its controversial RM2.5 billion rare earth plant in Kuantan into a commercial product will not be accepted by the market, local residents opposed to the refinery said today.

The Stop Lynas Coalition (SLC) and Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) groups said in a joint submission to the government that the synthetic gypsum the Australian miner hopes to produces from its waste is the subject of an international safety campaign due to radiation fears.

File photo of the site of the Lynas plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.

“The use of phospho-gypsum plaster-board and plaster cement in buildings as a substitute for natural gypsum may constitute an additional source of radiation exposure to both workers and members of the public,” the document quoted from Internet-based environmental organisation Zero Waste America.“The American Gypsum Association does not accept gypsum made with contaminated materials. Contaminated gypsum in the USA has resulted in a class action against the supplier and the importers,” the groups said.

The two residents groups presented the document today after the end of the public viewing and feedback period for Lynas’ long-term waste management plan that must be approved by regulators before it begins operations.

Local residents and environmentalists have criticised Lynas Corp for not having a long-term waste management plan and claimed the company would store radioactive waste onsite, which is about 2km from the nearest residential area.

But Lynas has said a permanent depository facility (PDF) for radioactive waste from its controversial rare earth plant will only be needed in a “worst-case scenario” where it is unable to reprocess its waste into commercial products.

According to Lynas, refining rare earth ore from Mount Weld, West Australia will result in three forms of residue, two of which have a radiation level of below 1 Becquerel per gramme (Bq/g) which is considered non-radioactive and outside of regulatory control by both international and local authorities.

It plans to recycle these two wastes into synthetic gypsum and fertiliser although the process has not been finalised.

However, its water leach purification (WLP) residue is projected to have a radiation level of 6 Bq/g, regarded as “very low-level” radioactive waste.

But Lynas, which received an additional funding boost of RM700 million this week through the sale of bonds, says it is “very confident” it can dilute the WLP to below 1 Bq/g to be used as a base in road building.

The anti-Lynas groups also questioned today whether the market “can fully absorb the colossal amount produced given that Lynas will be producing at least 300,000 tonnes of contaminated waste every year.”

Putrajaya bowed to public pressure in April after sustained opposition from local residents and environmentalists due to fears of radiation pollution and put the project on ice pending a review by international experts.

In July, the government agency adopted 11 recommendations set out by the review and said it would not allow Lynas to begin operations or import rare earth ore until all conditions, which include a comprehensive, long-term and detailed plan for managing radioactive waste, are met.

According to Lynas, regulators Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) will meet on January 30 to decide on whether to issue a pre-operating licence which will be followed by a full licence within two years if the plant meets safety requirements outlined in its application.

Lynas is anticipating a windfall of RM8 billion a year from 2013 onwards from the manufacture of rare earth metals that are crucial to the manufacture of high-technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and bombs.

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Nature Alert misleading the public on orangutans

Posted on January 25, 2012. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

From Yamuna Perimalu, via e-mail (Head of Corporate Communications, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE))

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) together with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) would like to address the issues raised by Sean Whyte, CEO of Nature Alert in FMT on Jan 11, with regards to the news of orangutans being abused at Melaka Zoo.

The Ministry and the Department are highly concerned with the way Nature Alert is misleading the public by issuing pictures taken at certain angles that doesn’t depict the way orangutans managed by Zoo Melaka. The pictures were taken only to form a perception among the public that these orangutans are badly managed which is the ultimate objective of this UK based NGO.

It is important to note that anybody can take pictures of orangutans in their respective cages and claim that they are being abused because as it is a well known fact that pictures may tell a hundred stories but not the truth. The truth can only be discovered by conducting a thorough check with the respective zoo management about the issue and not by just producing pictures to mislead the public.

In this aspect, the Ministry has clarified the issue in a leading newspaper last week which can be found at this link http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/1/7/nation/10213526&sec=nation

In this regard, we also would like to reiterate that the government led by the Prime Minister pays utmost importance on transparency in handling all issues ranging from rakyat’s welfare to wildlife welfare. This government fully believes that with elements of transparency, openness and integrity, any issue can be resolved amicably.

With this kind of approaches in our way of doing things, we had extended our invitation to Mr Whyte for a visit to A Famosa Resort to view and analyse the newly built enclosures for orangutans but regrettably, Mr Whyte refused to accept our invitation.

The session was a success in gathering feedback, expert opinions and knowledge from all the NGOS present which showed their commitment in managing the wellbeing of our orangutans. Mr Whyte’s refusal to join the said group of NGOS to analyse, discuss or provide feedbacks in managing orangutans in our zoos clearly shows that Mr Whyte’s has a different priority.

As a Ministry responsible to safeguard the biodiversity in this country, we welcome feedback, criticism, opinions and so forth and this can be seen clearly with our involvement with NGOS in resolving issues related to wildlife. We have been working very closely with our NGOs in various fields and would expect the same from from Nature Alert.

Since orangutans are Malaysia’s natural heritage, the concern for the environment and welfare of the orangutans and other wildlife  is not the monopoly of any party including Nature Alert. We are equally as concerned, if not more, hence, issues of orangutan welfare and management should not be an issue to be manipulated by any party.

Being the second oldest zoo in Malaysia, further improvement is needed to upgrade the existing facilities and this will be undertaken from time to time. These actions need thorough planning and executed accordingly in line with the new zoo guidelines to be enforced soon. Here, we would like to invite all our stakeholders to share their knowledge, experiences and feedbacks for better management of zoos in time to come.

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Towards a cleaner planet: Green technology takes precedence

Posted on January 25, 2012. Filed under: Environmental Science |

-The Borneo Post-

KUCHING: The utilisation of resources such as fossil fuels and raw materials to power our technological advancements and energy needs come at a price as by-products such as greenhouse gases (GHG), toxic run-off and solid waste are produced and channelled back to the natural world in alarming quantities.

In a concerted effort to curb the effects of our destructive doings, technological enterprises, regulatory bodies, environmental watchdogs and entire governments strive to practice cleaner and safer activities which enhance ecological efficiency while minimising adverse environmental impacts.

Green technology endeavours to develope products, equipment and systems to conserve the natural environment and resources, which minimise and reduce the negative impact of human activities.

According to a spokesman of the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation, the criteria of green technology products, equipments or systems were minimising the degradation of the environment, zero or low GHG emissions, safe for use and promoted healthy and improved environment.

The Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui stated, “In line with our new focus on green technology, the government has launched the RM1.5 billion Green Technology Financing Scheme.

“This move is intended to attract the private sector to participate in green technology entrepreneurship. This fund will be able to facilitate and fast track efforts by companies that are now pursuing green technology businesses.

“Having provided the catalyst for green businesses to grow in the country, we envisage the initiatives that the government has implemented so far will generate impressive economic multiplier effects.”

Malaysia embarked on a comprehensive palm oil bio-fuel programme in1982 and successfully established the use of palm methyl esters and the blend of processed palm oil (five per cent) with petroleum diesel (95 per cent) as a suitable fuel for the transport and industrial sectors.

The Malaysian Green Building Index (GBI) which was launched in early 2009, provided an opportunity for developers and building owners to design and construct green, sustainable buildings that could provide energy and water savings whilst providing a healthier indoor environment.

In the global scene, the research arm of conglomerate giant Samsung Group opined that the energy and environment industry had become vital due to the depletion of natural resources and environment changes.

Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) stated, “Developments in materials science actually hold huge potentials that could lead to future innovations.

“Eco-friendly vehicles, distributed electricity generators and other green technologies will develop as new and important industries. In order to enhance battery performance, an innovative material featuring energy density, price, stability and long lifespan is essential.”

SAIT’s mobile rechargeable battery technology has become the foundation for expanding research to large capacity batteries for electric vehicles as well as renewable energies such as solar cells and fuel cells.

While aiming to increase the input energy efficiency of devices and systems, the concept of green technology also focused on minimising the resource waste or output losses; one such example was the heating and cooling industry.

The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) and Panasonic, two recognisable brands here, have taken leaps and bounds in materials engineering in the quest for shielding against thermal energy and efficient energy transfer.

With 3M’s automotive solar film, solar heat would be blocked from entering vehicles by filtering out 99.9 per cent of heat generating ultra-violet light, significantly reducing the work load of the air-conditioner and in turn reducing the amount of fuel used to operate the vehicle.

With regards to air-conditioners, Panasonic’s advanced variable speed compressors and brushless motors provide energy savings, with average consumption rates of about 40 per cent to that of conventional designs.

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Australia’s Lynas Rare Earths Facility Now Caught in Thorny Malaysian Politics

Posted on January 17, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

-http://community.nasdaq.com-

The final approval allowing Australia’s Lynas Corp.’s rare earths facility to be fully operational is now caught in a thorny path of Malaysian national elections slated in March.

Well-placed sources in government said that the forthcoming national election in Malaysia is weighing down on the final approval as officials are afraid to receive a negative backlash and loose crucial votes.

The negative perception on the environment impact of the project, perceived to be the biggest rare earths resource outside of China, has not been fully effaced causing the local and national governments to delay its final green light for the project.

“Prime Minister Najib wants to get solid votes in Kuantan, where the Lynas project is located. So this is another reason for the delay,” a ranking government official explained.

With the current government administration led by the ruling Barisan Nasional Party led by incumbent Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak wanting to get an edge over top competitor Pakatan Rakyat led by Anwar Ibrahim, it must not provoke the public with any controversial policies.

The government official, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, said the Lynas rare earths project may get its permanent license after the gamut of political elections had been eased out.

Australia’s Lynas Corp. said in related reports that it is still confident to get the temporary license by end of the month or at least on 30 January to assure its investors.

Temporary License Application

Lynas Malaysia said in a separate statement that its application for a temporary operating license meets requirements and if approved by the government at the end of the month, it can fire up its controversial RM2.5 billion rare earth plant in Kuantan in six weeks.

Top officials from the local subsidiary of the Australian miner insisted that despite three revisions before its application was made available for public viewing, the document was never rejected by local regulators Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB).

“We prepared the document that meets requirements and it has been going back and forth because the authorities want more information and deliberation.

“It is wrong to say versions one to three were rejected. When the (AELB) expert panel reviewed, they did not reject, they wanted more information.

“We have fulfilled requirements. If you leave it to them (the panel), it is enough already. But they want the public to read it easily,” Lynas Malaysia managing director Datuk Mashal Ahmad told The Malaysian Insider in an interview.

Professor Ismail Bahari, the company’s radiological safety adviser, said that “Lynas was asked to adapt… to meet ever-changing requirements.”

They both agreed that unless there was a clear objection raised by the public during the two-week viewing period that ends on January 17, there was no reason for AELB to reject the application given it had met requirements adopted after a government review by international experts in June.

Public Pressure

Putrajaya bowed to public pressure in April after sustained opposition from local residents and environmentalists and put the project on ice pending the review by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In July, the government agency adopted 11 recommendations set out by the review of the refinery being built in the Gebeng industrial zone and said it would not allow Lynas to begin operations or import rare earth ore until all conditions, which include a comprehensive, long-term and detailed plan for managing radioactive waste, are met.

The Malaysian government source also explained that a temporary license is also a way for Lynas to prove that the plant meets safety requirements outlined in its application.

Contract Agreements

According to Lynas, AELB will meet on January 30 to decide on whether to issue a pre-operating license which will be followed by a full license within two years if the plant meets safety requirements outlined in its application.

Mashal also said today its rare earth ore was ready to be shipped from its mine in Mount Weld, Western Australia, and would take “minimum a month or 1½ months” to arrive in the 95 per cent completed plant in Kuantan.

He added all other operational matters would also be finalised in “just about that time.”

He also said that multinational corporations such as engineering giant Siemens and BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, had already signed on to buy rare earth from Lynas, “indrectly confirming that we conform to international environmental standards.”

“Because we conform, they can label their products as green products. The fact they want to enter into a contract with us means they have to do a thorough audit to ensure Lynas is a green supplier,” he said.

He said Siemens has also signed a letter of intent to embark on a RM500 million joint venture with Lynas to produce supermagnets for wind turbines “which logically should be next door” to the refinery.

Lynas is anticipating a windfall of RM8 billion a year from 2013 onwards from the rare earth metals that are crucial to the manufacture of high-technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and bombs. With reports from Malaysia Insider , RareEarths Metal Blogs

For comments and suggestions on this article, contact the editor c.jared@ibtimes.com.au

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

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Captive rhino romance may be last hope for species

Posted on January 17, 2012. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-Reuters-

(Reuters) – Puntung is a Sumatran rhino, one of roughly two hundred left in the world.

Captured in a Borneo forest on Christmas Day, she is the latest addition to Malaysia’s Borneo Rhino Sanctuary — and experts say she may also be one of the last hopes for a species on the brink of extinction.

Veterinarians want to introduce Puntung to Tam, a 20-year-old male Sumatran rhinoceros in the enclosure next door, in the hopes that they will breed — although this cannot take place for a number of months yet, until Puntung is deemed ready.

Estimated to be 10 to 12 years old, she was airlifted to the sanctuary in the Tabin Forest Reserve after her capture, and has since been adjusting to her new home, eating more than 60 kg (132 lb) of leaves each day.

“She doesn’t look stressed, she’s eating well … but the stress (of a new environment) is enough to offset her cycle, her normal cycle,” said Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, a veterinarian with the Borneo Rhino Alliance.

“So she may not have a cycle now. That’s why we’re monitoring her.”

Captive breeding is now regarded as the only way to boost the population of the two-horned Sumatran rhino, which at 500 to 600 kg (1,100 to 1,322 lb) and 1.3 metres tall (4.3 feet) is the world’s smallest rhinoceros.

Deforestation and illegal hunting have decimated the population in the wild, and habitat fragmentation has cut the surviving animals off from potential mates. The animals are ageing to the point where they are too old to breed.

But even the capture of Puntung, dubbed a “Christmas miracle” by scientists, does not mean success is assured.

Though she is the right age to breed, she may well turn out to be infertile, said John Payne, at the Borneo Rhino Alliance.

“The rhinos that were caught in Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sumatra in the past … quite a few wild caught females did have reproductive tract problems. They weren’t producing eggs or they had cysts or tumors in the fallopian tubes,” Payne said.

“So we are not over the hurdle yet. It may prove that she’s not fertile, in which case we need to go on what sort of treatments might be possible to make her fertile.”

The sanctuary’s only other female rhino, Gelegob, was unable to conceive even with the help of fertility treatment, since she could not produce eggs. She is now 30 years old and blind.

If Puntung shows signs of being ready after six months of observation, she’ll be released into an enclosure with Tam, who walked out of a palm oil plantation in 2008 and refused to go back into the forest.

The two are now being kept in adjacent paddocks so each is aware of the other’s existence. But Sumatran rhinos are solitary animals and only come together in the wild for courtship and the rearing of young.

Two breeding attempts have been made since the Malaysian captive breeding project began in 1983, but neither succeeded. The last successful attempt to breed captive rhinos took place at the Cincinnati Zoo in the United States.

Rhinoceros horns are a coveted ingredient in traditional Eastern medicine, which has led to widespread illegal hunting.

The WWF said last year that the Javan rhinoceros had been poached into oblivion in Vietnam and is now believed to be confined to one population of less than 50 individuals in an Indonesian national park.

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Malaysia to set up ‘environmental courts’

Posted on January 17, 2012. Filed under: Environmental Policy |

-zeenews.india.com-

Kuala Lumpur: Calling environmental crime a threat to man’s existence, Malaysian authorities have decided to set up “environmental courts”.

“A court dedicated to handling environmental issues was important as 60 per cent of Malaysia was covered in forests,” said Chief Justice Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria, adding there should be an end to the lack of sensitivity to such crimes.

“The judiciary would provide more training to its judges and officers on environmental law,” said Zakaria.

Similar courts and tribunals had been set up in neighbouring countries in tandem with the Johannesburg Principles on the Rule of Law and Sustainable Development, which was adopted by 60 countries, in 2002, he said.

The Johannesburg Principles affirmed that an independent judiciary and judicial process were vital for the implementation, development and enforcement of environmental law, said Zakaria.

He called environmental crime a threat to man’s existence and added that the judiciary needed to be serious in protecting mother earth.

Meanwhile, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia – a national, non-profit organisation that works to conserve nature and the protection of the environment — has welcomed the proposal to set up “environmental courts” in the country, saying it had been a long time advocate for a robust framework to protect the environment.

“The proposed establishment of a specialised court would go a long way in ensuring strict implementation, enforcement and compliance of environmental laws and policies,” said WWF-Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Dionysius Sharma.

“We are certainly encouraged by Chief Justice Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria’s outlook that environmental issues must be prioritised,” he said.

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