Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Baby orang utans rescued

The Star, Malaysia
June 30, 2009

Baby orang utans rescued


KUALA LUMPUR: Three baby orang utans believed to be part of a smuggled group of five animals were confiscated from the Taiping Zoo and a private ostrich breeder in Klang recently by the Department of Wildlife and National Park (Perhilitan).

The raid on the zoo came about after the private ostrich breeder in Klang, who was keeping one of the five baby orang utans, revealed the matter to Perhilitan enforcers.

It is learnt that Perhilitan is searching for the remaining two babies.

Confirming this, Perhilitan’s deputy director-general Misliah Mohamad Basir said the zoo was raided after a tip-off.

“All orang utans at the zoo are microchipped but these specimens were without microchips, hence we are able to ascertain that they are of dubious origin,” she said, adding that they were also without official papers.

As the orang utan is a totally protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 as well as prohibited from international trade for its status as an Appendix I species on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), keeping the animal is only possible with a special permit from Perhilitan.

Following the high-profile expose of the smuggling of about a dozen of orang utans from Indonesia in 2005, Perhilitan took an inventory of all orang utans held by private and public zoos to show its commitment to stemming out trafficking in the endangered species.

Orang utan, the sole Asian ape, is only found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Three sub-species of the genus Pongo pygmaeus are distributed in Borneo while Sumatra is home to Pongo abelii.

Misliah also said DNA samples of the two apes were taken to determine their origins and to facilitate further investigation and prosecution.

The confiscated orang utans are being held at Perhilitan’s temporary shelter in Cheras and are said to be healthy.

The Taiping Zoo officials could not be reached for comments.


Palm oil development threatens Aceh's orangutans

Jonathan Wootliff | Tue, 06/30/2009 11:26 AM | Environment The Jakarta Post

Conservation campaigners in Britain are calling on supermarkets to stop selling products that contain palm oil harvested from environmentally sensitive areas in Indonesia.

Palm oil is widely used in everything from chocolate cookies and potato crisps to detergent and lipstick, and Indonesia is the world's largest producer of this much prized commodity.

The target of this current campaign is the major London Stock Exchange-quoted conglomerate, Jardine Matheson, which is the majority shareholder in an Indonesian palm oil company that plans to convert sections of the Tripa swamp forest in Aceh, Sumatra into palm oil plantations.

Environmentalists claim that the venture will destroy a biologically rich ecosystem that is home to more than 6,000 orangutans.

Although more commonly known as one of Borneo's most endangered species, orangutan populations in Sumatra are dwindling at an even more alarming rate. Experts say that the species found on the island - which is more intelligent and sociable than its Borneo cousin - is well on the way to becoming the first of the great apes to go extinct.

Greenpeace is one of a number of international organizations condemning the Jardine Matheson controlled Astra Agro Lestar palm oil venture, which is headquartered in Jakarta.

It is emotively accusing the company of bankrolling the obliteration of a vital part of Indonesia's rainforests, right in the heart of the region that bore the brunt of the 2004 tsunami which claimed the lives of nearly a quarter of a million people.

Ironically, Jardine's, which is one of the world's oldest companys, was established in Canton in 1832 partly for the purpose of importing opium in to China. Today, it is one of the most respected international businesses in the world, owning a myriad of interests including the prestigious Mandarin Oriental hotel chain.

Its Website states that the company "has always been committed to making a positive contribution to the communities and regions in which it operates."

Astra Agro Lestari (AAL) robustly denies any wrongdoing, claiming its activities are in full compliance with Indonesian law, which requires comprehensive environmental studies that take into consideration any stakeholder concerns prior to the development of any plantations.

AAL says that these studies must cover the potential impact on endangered species, thereby discrediting allegations that its activities have any adverse impact on the orangutan.

The company claims to have set aside thousands of hectares of forest deemed to be of so-called High Conservation Value (HCV), and that the decision to go ahead with the Tripa project was based on the findings of an independent environmental study. In this instance it plans to convert only half of its 13,000-hectare concession as a consequence of conservation concerns.

Less than a quarter of Indonesia's palm oil producers have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the global organization which promotes sustainable practices in the industry. And yet AAL claims to fully endorse the principles of the Roundtable, although curiously, it is not yet a member.

Nothing is simple when it comes to environmental protection in Indonesia, as this Green-Watch column regularly attests. In Sumatra, locals call oil palm the "golden plant", thanks to the income that the fast growing industry delivers.

But conservation groups say the economic benefits come at a high price. In spite of their call for more responsible practices and stronger government action, even the governor of Aceh, known for his green credentials, seems unwilling to intervene.

It may be hard to judge the rights and wrongs of this particular confrontation, but it is clear that conservation groups must fight to protect Sumatra's rapidly depleting natural forests. I have been flying over the island for nearly a decade and have witnessed the clearing of massive areas of forests to make way for palm oil plantations.

The palm oil industry has its rightful place in Indonesia, and responsible development of well managed plantations that do not impact on biodiversity are a necessary if Indonesia's economy is to flourish.

But there is widespread disregard for the needs of the environment with weak enforcement of regulations and laws being all-too-commonplace. It would be far better, therefore, to entrust the palm oil industry to large businesses like AAL, which can be held account for their actions, than to allow an inevitable chaotic free-for-all to take place.

There is a disturbingly large gap between the accusations coming from environmentalists and AAL's counter claims.

It is in the best interests of the orangutan, local people and the company, that this serious dispute be resolved.

There has been a breakdown of trust that must be urgently addressed. It is surely beholden on AAL, and its highly competent parent company, to urgently execute a comprehensive engagement strategy with all of the concerned stakeholders.

Jonathan Wootliff is an independent sustainable development consultant specializing in the building of productive relationships between companies and NGOs. He can be contacted at jonathan@wootliff.com


A New Idea to Save Tropical Forests Takes Flight

To view and read this long but interesting article please click on the link below:


Buying up land to save wildlife

2009/06/30 New Straits Times, Malaysia

Buying up land to save wildlife

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government wants to purchase privately owned land at zones neighbouring the fragmented Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary to ensure the long-term survival of iconic wildlife such as the orang utan.

The move, along with plans to buy land at river banks, will lead to the eventual creation of forest corridors at the 26,000ha sanctuary, which is divided into 10 lots due to prior existence of oil palm plantations and villages.

Currently, a non-profit organisation, Borneo Conservation Trust, is purchasing land for the same purpose using money raised from corporations and individuals concerned with warnings of possible in-breeding of certain species that are unable to move from one protected forest to another.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said such a move was necessary for the sake of wildlife.

"For example, we have an estimated 30 Sumatran rhinoceroses but the remaining individuals are not breeding.

"We believe one reason for this is forests are not connected and they can't move about."

He said this when launching the Kinabatangan-Corridor of Life Tourism Association at Kampung Bilit on the banks of the Kinabatangan river at Sabah's east coast, yesterday.


Heart of Borneo needs extra monitoring

Heart of Borneo needs extra monitoring

Published on: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 Daily Express, Malaysia


Kota Kinabalu: WWF-Malaysia's Borneo Species Programme team has captured images of a female Sumatran rhino believed about 20 years old in the Heart of Borneo, further strengthening the need to sustainably manage the forest in this part of the region that is shared by Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.

Raymond Alfred, Senior Manager of the programme, stressed the importance of strong and coordinated enforcement in the forest reserves involving the Forestry Department, Wildlife Department and Sabah Foundation, with the support of the police, to ensure the survival of this endangered species.

The current enforcement and survey work in this area is supported by Honda Malaysia. Consistent monitoring of the rhino population here has so far identified the presence of two rhino calves.

Raymond said the future of the rhinos in Borneo now depends on how serious the forest reserves could be managed sustainably and how the enforcement and monitoring could be carried out effectively and be supported with appropriate activities.

WWF-Malaysia is now looking into how Forest Management Units (FMUs) could be sustainably managed since the forest stand and condition in most of the FMUs in Sabah are poor.

He said based on long-term field survey data, the rhino monitoring and survey activities in other forests by the programme shows that the home range of the rhinos is also affected by oil palm expansion near the eastern coastline of Sabah.

Raymond said the rhinos' key habitat in this forest may still or could be connected especially between the Tabin Willdife Reserve and Lower Kinabatangan River region.

Some of the rhino habitat in this area is very poor and already isolated, and the only option to manage these rhinos is through translocation and keeping them in a more secured forest area.

"Further conversion of the natural forests especially those located adjacent to swamp-mangrove forests in this area into mono plantation (particularly oil palm) would further eliminate the important corridor connecting these two key rhino areas," he said.

"So far, no specific management plan has been developed to address the issue of how the landscape corridor between Tabin Wildlife Reserve and Lower Kinabatangan River region could be identified and maintained since Tabin is already isolated from the main forest in the Heart of Borneo," he added.

WWF-Malaysia believes that full support and cooperation from the relevant oil palm companies (whose lands are adjacent to the swamp-mangrove forest) to allocate and restore corridors including tackling the illegal setting up wildlife traps along the oil palm-forest boundary and hunting activities in the forest reserves could support the survival of the rhinos in Sabah in long term.

Meanwhile, more than RM500,000 has been contributed to the State Wildlife Department by WWF-Malaysia to step up and enhance conservation work at the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

From this amount, more than RM100,000 would go to equipment used for patrolling and enforcement work against encroachment and illegal activities within the sanctuary's protected area covering 26,000 hectares.

On Monday, the WWF handed over patrolling and enforcement equipment comprising two fibreglass boats, four sets of VHF Radio Communication Centre and Reapter, computers and GPS units to the department at its office here.

The WWF enforcement team has been working closely with the wildlife officers for the past three years by patrolling together to protect the sanctuary from encroachers who regularly venture into these areas to extract logs, clear land for illegal planting activities as well as hunting.

"There has been tremendous success thus far," said team leader for WWF's Kinabatangan Corridor of Life (K-Col) Project, Julia Makajil.

"There is a very visible presence of enforcement in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary area, the level of which was previously unseen," she added.

WWF aim to address problems like degradation of the riverine eco-system resulting in habitat fragmentation, human-wildlife conflict, excess sedimentation and flooding due to over logging and development of agriculture plantations, mainly oil palm.

To see the article with a photo and map please click this link