Bio-diversity

WWF to help new teachers on environment

Posted on July 24, 2012. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-New Straits Times-

PUTRAJAYA: The Education Ministry, along with the World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia), will set up committees and task forces in teacher training colleges nationwide to educate future teachers on the environment.

The ministry and WWF-Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday to support the eco-institute programme in teacher training institutes.

Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Rosli Mohamed said the programme aimed to produce future teachers who were more focused on environmental issues.

“This agreement signifies the cooperation in the 27 teacher training colleges in the country.”

He hoped that both parties would work together to pool ideas and share their experiences in educating teachers who would, in turn, instil the same values in their students.

“It is part of the government’s initiative to transform the education system and expand environmental values with programmes such as the eco-insitute that will continue until 2014.”

The ministry also launched the eco-institute website which will be used to discuss and get feedback.

WWF-Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma said the committees would ensure the smooth running of the programme.

“The committees will be tasked to organise programmes and activities on environmental issues.”

The eco-institute was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in April.
Read more: WWF to help new teachers on environment – General – New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/nation/general/wwf-to-help-new-teachers-on-environment-1.111835#ixzz21e5hxvuz

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Wildlife trafficking drops 80%

Posted on March 15, 2012. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

PUTRAJAYA: Wildlife trafficking cases have dropped by over 80% since the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 came into force.

Wildlife Department figures showed that just 464 cases were recorded last year, compared to an average of 3,500 cases a year between 2007-2010.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said this was a positive development in the fight to save the country’s natural environment.

“I’m very happy to note that the Act has had an effect. We’ve learned from the previous Act, that one main ingredient is deterrent (penalties).

“Wildlife trade is not an option. It is illegal and destroys our bio-diversity, and be assured that you will be caught,” he said after launching the Where’s My Mama 2.0 campaign here Thursday.

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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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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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Animal lovers: Thank goodness dragons aren’t for real

Posted on January 16, 2012. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

PETALING JAYA: Animal rescuers are thanking their lucky stars it is the Year of the Dragon this year, as the mythical creature cannot be bought by those seeking to embrace the upcoming Chinese New Year.

Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better (MDDB) founder Wani Muthiah said the Chinese zodiac years of the Dog and Rabbit were a “nightmare for rescue groups”.

She pointed out that the current Rabbit Year, which ends on Jan 22, saw many rabbits abandoned by irresponsible pet owners, who had rushed to buy them at the start of last Chinese New Year.

“Keeping an animal is a big responsibility. These are living beings with feelings.

“They are confused and frightened when abandoned.

“Thank goodness, dragons don’t exist. Otherwise, there will be a lot of abandoned dragons after the New Year is over,” she said, stressing that people should not just buy and discard their pets at their pleasure.

PAWS shelter manager Edward Lim warned that the spillover effect from the Year of the Rabbit was not over yet, predicting the shelter would receive more abandoned rabbits for another half a year.

He said it was a “very stupid thing” for people to want rabbits as pets just because it was the Year of the Rabbit.

“Owners are the biggest culprits. It is also sad, but true, that pet shops are capitalising and catering to the demand.

“At the end of the day, the animals suffer,” he said, adding that the shelter had accepted and found homes for around 30 rabbits in the past year.

Lim stressed that future pet owners should be more responsible in selecting their pets, especially in the Year of the Dog.

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NGO stands firm on orang utan abused claim

Posted on January 11, 2012. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-Free Malaysia Today-

UK-based NGO Nature Alert says its photographs were not taken in certain angles to deliberately shame Malaysia, but depicted the real situation.

PETALING JAYA: Peeved with the government’s tendency to deny any wrongdoing when it comes to animal abuse, UK-based animal conservation NGO Nature Alert said, “The past is a place to learn from, not live in.”

Nature Alert was responding to the statement by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry last weekend which brushed off the NGO’s claim that orang utans kept at the Malacca Zoo have been abused.

The ministry claimed that Nature Alert took photographs of the orang utans in certain angles in order to deliberately mislead the public and that it was making baseless accusations in an attempt to tarnish Malaysia’s image.

“It would appear the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and the ministry, are becoming ever more desperate to mislead the public into thinking reality is nothing but an illusion.

“It is ridiculous of Perhilitan to say we are manipulating the orang utans to damage the country’s reputation,” said Sean Whyte, chief executive officer of Nature Alert.

Whyte said the photographs of the orang utans taken from the Malacca Zoo was “what we saw with our own eyes.”

“The camera does not lie and neither do we. Anyone so minded could take the same photos. Keeper supervision is lax to non-existent,” he claimed.

Whyte said that on every visit the NGO had made to the zoo, including last weekend right after the response from the ministry, it had only observed the same mother and baby orang utan outside.

He was responding to the ministry’s claim that the orang utans were not kept in small cages 24-hours and were released on rotational basis outside.

“We took photos of the remaining orang utans inside their cages because this is where they always are unless brought out to impress a friendly journalist.

“Perhilitan through their serial neglect over many years are doing the damage. We are reporting what we are seeing. Just because it makes uncomfortable reading for Perhilitan , this does not make it untrue. Anyone scanning the news will know we are by no means the sole critic of Perhilitan,” said Whyte.

He also claimed that on two occasions, a keeper of one male orang utan also told Nature Alert that the animals were never allowed outside into the sunshine and open air.

Rejected visit to A’ Famosa enclosure

Whyte admitted to the ministry’s accusation that he had turned down a friendly invitation to view a new orang utan enclosure at A’Famosa.

He explained that he did so because he had no reasons to “be in the presence of a company which has abused orang utans”.

Nature Alert investigator Shiva Lucian said: “Here we go again. Perhilitan and their friends at A’ famosa trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the media and public. In the meantime orang utans remain locked up in cages, just as they have been for 12 months or more.”

Shiva, who visited A’Famosa last week, said that the new enclosures were used as a movie set and no orang utan were in sight.

While admitting that it was a “big improvement”, he said that it was “nothing” as it was still the same golf resort which “imprisoned eight orang utans in squalid conditions for 12 months and caught red-handed in the past with wild orang utans but never prosecuted.”

“In 2011, eight orang utans were incarcerated like this for 12 months at A’Famosa with the full knowledge and complicity of Perhilitan. Are the four orang utans returned to A’Famosa back behind bars again? Certainly they are nowhere to be seen in the new outside enclosure,” asked Whyte.

The group had repeatedly called for the animals to be sent back to a sanctuary in Sarawak rather than be put in A’Famosa, where some orang utans were transferred out due to reports of abuse.

“It’s time Perhilitan stopped talking and started doing for the hundreds of suffering animals in zoos throughout Malaysia,” he said.

On Dec 31, FMT reported the discoveries of Shiva of the NGO Friends of Orang Utan.

He had taken photographs of abused orang utans, who were “kept at secret locations” of the zoo. He reported that he saw eight orang utans held captive in tiny dirty cages where they could barely move, and without “a single leaf” for enrichment of their environment.

The plight of the orang utans was also highlighted in the online versions of British newspapers, The Daily Mirror and Daily Mail. It was reported that the stories sparked off a bombardment of 60,000 angry e-mails to Perhilitan and zoo officials.

Whyte, who condemned the treatment of the apes, had sought the prosecution of Melaka zoo staff by Perhilitan officials.

He said he had lodged numerous complaints with the authorities but saw little action being taken.

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Borneo elephants now classified as totally protected species

Posted on January 11, 2012. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-Asiaone.com-

The Star/Asia News Network
Wednesday, Jan 11, 2012

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia – Those who kill Borneo elephants will now face a mandatory jail term as part of Sabah’s efforts to upgrade its conservation of the animal.

State Tourism, Culture and En­­vironment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the elephant was classified as a totally protected species under its wildlife laws.

“This means that as far as our elephants are concerned, if you kill, you go to jail,” he said when closing a wildlife conference here yesterday.

The conference was jointly organised by the state’s Wildlife Depart­ment and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

Under the totally protected classification, those convicted of killing the animals will be liable for a mandatory jail term of up to five years.

Previously, those convicted of killing these animals, which were listed only as protected, were liable to a fine of up to RM30,000 (S$12,339) or three years in default or both.

Masidi said the state was also finalising its draft of a request to the Federal Government to amend the Fisheries Act to prohibit the hunting of sharks in Malaysian waters.

“We hope that with such changes, we won’t see the sale of shark’s fin in this country soon,” he added.

On concerns that the state’s agricultural sector was impacting the environment, Masidi said: “We know we are blessed with an abundance of natural assets and we are determined to protect them.

“But Sabah, too, has its peculiarities and among these is that we are dependent on agriculture to eradicate poverty.

“So, you can criticise us but please see our side of the story, too.”

Meanwhile, Sabah Wildlife De­­partment director Laurentius Ambu said among the consensus reached at the conference, which was atten­ded by conservationists and oil palm industry representatives, was the need to push zero tolerance for wildlife killing.

“If companies would make it clear to their staff that they would be fired if they were found to be killing wildlife illegally, this could be a highly effective tool,” said Laurentius, adding that such an approach should be taken for protected species.

He said participants also highlighted the need for the maintenance of forest corridors in plantations.

“If such corridors no longer exist, these should be re-established wherever possible. It is, however, recognised that corridor establishment is expensive and challenging, and needs to be done together with other management tools,” he added.

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Expert: Two new Rafflesia species found

Posted on January 2, 2012. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

RAUB: Two new species of the Rafflesia may have been discovered in the Lata Jarum forests in Ulu Dong here.

Frasers Hill Research Centre head Prof Dr Jumaat Adam, who disclosed this, said the flowers were unique in the region.

“I am still studying the discovery. We need to go through the process of cross-checking against the criteria of other species in the world to confirm it,” he told The Star.

Blossoming discovery: Dr Jumaat posing with a blooming Rafflesia found in the Lata Jarum forest.

Dr Jumaat, a lead environmental researcher of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, is a pioneer in Rafflesia research.

Declining to disclose the exact location for fear of endangering the flowers, he said one species had a much larger diaphragm aperture than other Rafflesia flowers in Malaysia.

The flowers found in the peninsula are usually about 10cm but this specie measured 14cm in diameter, he said, adding that it also had more anthers.

The diaphragm is the hole in the centre of the Rafflesia where insects enter and collect pollen from the anther.

Dr Jumaat said he had yet to come up with names for the new species as there was still a lot to be studied about the flowers.

“Due to scientific-naming conventions, I cannot name the flowers after myself if they are indeed new species,” he added.

Dr Jumaat said Lata Jarum had a lot of potential for a eco-tourism centre and the Rafflesia could be promoted as an icon for Raub.

“We are also working with the state government to conserve the Rafflesia here because they are very vulnerable,” he said.

“Right now, anyone can just come in and pluck the buds,” he said

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Beached dolphin dies in Penang

Posted on January 2, 2012. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

GEORGE TOWN: A hawker found a dolphin beached near Tanjung Bungah here.

Unfortunately, the dolphin died 30 minutes after G. Balakumaran spotted it.

Balakumaran, 36, said he saw the dolphin floating at about 5pm on Saturday.

Lifeless: Firemen and MPPP workers dragging the dead dolphin to bury it at Tanjung Bungah beach.

“It was close to dying, so I called the (state) Fisheries Department but there was no reply,” he claimed.

He alerted The Star, whose representative called the Penang Muni­cipal Council (MPPP).

By the time three MPPP workers and officers from the Fire and Rescue Department’s station in Bagan Jermal arrived, the dolphin had died.

They then buried it at the beach.

The incident attracted hordes of onlookers.

MPPP councillor Ong Ah Teong said it was the third case of dolphins found dead here last year.

“The first was found rotting at the beachfront near Eastern and Oriental Hotel in May, while the second was found dead off Gurney Drive in September,” he added.

Ong said the state recorded the highest number of dead dolphins found last year compared to the previous years.

He said it was difficult to pinpoint the reason why dolphins ended up stranded or dead off the shores here.The council’s urban development department was only responsible for clearing up the dead dolphins, he added.

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Rhino saved in dramatic rescue

Posted on December 27, 2011. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

KOTA KINABALU: A dramatic helicopter rescue of a young and rare female Sumatran rhinoceros on Christmas Day has boosted hopes for the survival of the species that is facing extinction.

Sabah wildlife department director Dr Laurentius Ambu described the helicopter airlift of the rhino as a world’s first in a tropical rainforest.

The rhino, aged between 10 and 12 years and named Puntung, was first caught on Dec 18 in a joint operation by the department and the Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora).

Safe and sound : Puntung wallowing in her temporary enclosure at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu.

It was kept within a temporary enclosure at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and placed in a crate on Christmas eve for relocation to the nearby Borneo Rhino Sanctuary, also within the reserve. However, rains and foggy conditions delayed the airlift.

“It was only on Christmas morning that the fog cleared temporarily and gave us a window to let the helicopter lower its cables to hook up the crate,” said Dr Ambu.

With an estimated 20 to 30 rhinos left in the wilds of Sabah, the capture and trans-location of Puntung gives conservationists another shot at breeding the species in captivity. It is hoped Puntung would mate with a lone captive male rhino, named Tam.

Dr Ambu said the conservation programme here is in touch with a similar programme in Sumatra.

Special mission: A helicopter lifting the crate of the rhino from the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu on Christmas Day.

“This is now the very last chance to save this species, one of the most ancient forms of mammal. We need collaboration and support in our efforts to prevent the extinction of this unique species that was once found in abundance,” he added.

Meanwhile, department chief veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said they hoped to get Puntung to mate with Tam, a middle aged male rhino, which was rescued in 2008 and placed at the rhino sanctuary.

“Attempts to get Tam to mate with another rescued female rhino, named Gelegup, failed as she was old and infertile,” he said, adding that Puntung looked healthy enough for breeding.

“We captured Puntung because, after two years of observation, we found that there were no male rhinos in the vicinity and it was unlikely for it to find a mate within its natural surrounding,” Dr Sen said.

“From camera trap observations, Puntung also had old injuries on its front left limb, giving more reason for her capture.”

Bora executive director Dr Junaidi Payne said Puntung was doing reasonably well.

“It was trapped, kept in an enclosure for a while and then airlifted in a noisy helicopter. It suffered some minor abrasion and is being treated with antiseptics.

“She is allowing people to handle her now and is drinking and eating well,” Dr Junaidi added.

He said the helicopter used in the rhino rescue, operated by American company Erickson Air Crane that has an office in Miri, was brought in for the airlift at a cost of US$70,000 (about RM210,000).

Yayasan Sime Darby has provided large financial support for Bora’s efforts to save the rhinos while Malaysian Palm Oil Industries Council was also aiding the wildlife department’s rescue unit.

Since 1996, the Sumatran rhino has been listed as “critically endangered”, which is just a step away from being extinct in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List.

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