Sarawak to make the pangolin a totally protected species

The pangolin, a unique and protected species among Bornean mammals in Sarawak, is to have its classification upgraded to the “totally protected” category in the state. — NSTP Archive By Bernama – October 14, 2019 @ 10:00pm

KUCHING: The pangolin, a unique and protected species among Bornean mammals in Sarawak, is to have its classification upgraded to the “totally protected” category in the state.

The animal, which is also known as the “Scaly Anteater” or its scientific name Manis javanica, has been topping the chart as the most frequently seized mammal in Asia’s illegal wildlife trade and is currently facing extinction.

Naming the shy and quiet animal as his favourite, Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Zolkipli Mohamad Aton said the corporation would conduct a study to find out its current population, before submitting a proposal to the government to upgrade its category.

This, he said, was a common procedure.

However, he added that if there were indicators, for instance from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, saying that they had to do it immediately than the classification upgrade would be made a priority.

“For now, on our job list, we want to review our Wildlife Masterplan, after that the relevant laws, but if there are indicators by outsiders, if they say, look you must do it, if not they (species) will go extinct, then we have to put it as priority,” he said.

In Sarawak, species that are totally protected may not be kept as pets, hunted, captured, killed, sold, imported or exported or disturbed in any way, nor may anyone be in possession of any recognizable part of these animals.

Animals in the category include the proboscis monkey, the bornean gibbon, rhinoceros, naked bat, dugong and marine turtles.

Zolkipli said Sarawak still had quite a number of pangolin, but in other states, the numbers were declining.

“So, these smugglers now want to come over here (Sarawak). We have been warned by other people, better look after your pangolins.”

He said the animal, being a rare and hardly seen species, had numerous myths surrounded it, especially among traditional medicine practitioners, which contributed to demand, among others, for its scales.

“They say it has medicinal value, but I can quote an article by the World Conservation Society that says that pangolins scales are made of keratin, which is the same material as human fingernails, so in reality there is no medicinal value there, but because of tradition, people tend to go for these things.

“There are some who like its meat, but pangolin meat is not even fleshy,” he said.

Zolkipli said the SFC would also review its wildlife-related laws to increase the penalty for offenders.

Traffic Southeast Asia director Kanitha Krishnasamy, in an article earlierthis year, posed a rather intriguing question about the penalty involving offences related to wildlife smuggling in the country and wanted state governments to review their laws.

Citing a case on Feb 7 this year, where Sabah Police and the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) shut down a pangolin processing factory and warehouse after seizing 30 tonnes of pangolin and body parts.

She was quoted as saying that the maximum amount of fine under the state’s enactment was nowhere near the syndicate’s possible revenue.

“This is also important because the worst financial penalty the suspect in the Feb 7 case may get, if convicted under the Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment, is a fine of RM250,000.

“Meanwhile authorities have valued the seized items at RM8.4 million, making the syndicate’s revenue 33 times higher than the law’s heftiest fine,” she was quoted as saying.

The pangolin, with its prehensile tail and lacking teeth, normally eats ants and termites taken from nests in trees, on the ground or below ground with insect nests opened with their strongly clawed feet and the contents licked up with the long, sticky tongue.

Usually nocturnal, sleeping during the daytime in underground burrows, it is mostly seen on roads at night, where it is slow-moving and conspicuous, although the eyes reflect very little light. – Bernama

Jokowi Orders Crackdown on Arsonists: SE Asia Haze Update

 Updated on 
Firefighters battles a forest fire in Kampar, Riau Province on Sept. 9.
Firefighters battles a forest fire in Kampar, Riau Province on Sept. 9. Photographer: Wahyudi/AFP via Getty Images

Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered a crackdown against individuals and companies responsible for forest fires that have caused a dangerous haze in parts of Southeast Asia, disrupting air travel and closure of schools.

Jokowi, as Widodo is commonly known, held a limited cabinet meeting in Pekanbaru in Riau, one of the worst affected areas, late on Monday to review steps to fight the fires, his office said in a statement. The president directed the disaster mitigation agency to expand the scope of artificial rain even as authorities deployed an additional 5,600 troops and firefighters.

Stinging smoke from illegal burning to clear land for palm oil and paper plantations has covered western and central regions of Indonesia and parts of Malaysia with thousands of people reporting acute respiratory illness. The raging hotspots have revived fears of a repeat of 2015 when a total of 2.6 million hectares of land was affected, costing Indonesia 221 trillion rupiah ($15.7 billion) in economic losses.

Here’s the latest:

Hotspots Status (Tuesday)

The total number of hotspots in Indonesia rose to 2,984 on Tuesday from 2,583 on Monday, with the Indonesian part of the Borneo island accounting for almost 1,000 fires. The hotspots have affected 328,724 hectares of forest and farm land this year, data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency show.

Haze Outlook

The weather is forecast to remain dry in the southern Asean region and the prevailing winds are expected to continue blowing from the southeast or southwest in the next few days. Hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan are expected to persist with the dry weather, while hazy conditions in the region look set to remain, the Asean Specialized Meteorological Centre said in a statement.

Schools Shut

The Malaysian state of Selangor, near Kuala Lumpur, closed 145 schools on Tuesday, affecting 187,928 students when air pollution reached “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” ranges, according to a statement from the state’s education department. Schools in Pekanbaru, the main city in Riau, were ordered to be closed through Tuesday as a thick smog cover engulfed the city, the Tempo reported.


Forest fire rages in Kampar, Riau Province on Sept. 9.

Photographer: Wahyudi/AFP via Getty Images

Pollution Levels

Kuching and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Hanoi and Jakarta were among the world’s top cities with the poorest air quality, according to IQAir AirVisual pollution data. The air quality index in Kuching in haze-hit Sarawak state was 220 on Tuesday, a level deemed very unhealthy, while it was at 157 in Kuala Lumpur, an unhealthy level for sensitive groups.

Flight Cancellations

The haze blanketing western parts of Indonesia continues to cause air traffic disruptions. Lion Air on Monday diverted all flights to and from Samarinda airport in East Kalimantan to Balikpapan as the haze reduced visibility, the Indonesian carrier said in an emailed statement.

A total of 11 airports were affected on Monday with 10 flights canceled and 50 flights delayed and few others diverted, according to Airnav. PT Garuda Indonesia, the national carrier, said it will cancel 15 flights through Sept. 19.

Respiratory Illness

Indonesia opened temporary clinics to treat thousands of people suffering from acute respiratory illness in the haze struck regions. Authorities distributed masks to people in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra and Kalimantan. More than 9,000 personnel drawn from the military, police and disaster mitigation agency with the help of 42 helicopters are involved in fighting the fire, official data showed Monday.

Malaysia plans to carry out cloud seeding in the worst affected regions, the Star newspaper reported Sunday. The air quality in Singapore, which slipped to unhealthy levels on Saturday, is forecast to improve, according to the National Environment Agency.

Calcium Oxide

With the rainy season in the worst affected regions not expected until mid-October, the only lasting solution to douse the forest fires will be through artificial rain, according to the disaster mitigation agency. However, with smoke particles preventing cloud formation, the agency plans to sprinkle about 40 metric tons of calcium oxide to break the particles, the agency said Tuesday.

Capital Relocation

Indonesian authorities will conclude an environmental study on the location for new capital identified by President Joko Widodo in East Kalimantan, the environment ministry said Monday. While the province is largely free from hotspots, haze from fires raging in other parts of Borneo can affect the new capital, Laksmi Wijayanti, inspector general at the ministry, told reporters. The capital relocation may also mean greater law enforcement in the region, Wijayanti said.


Haze caused by forest fires over the Musi river in Palembang, South Sumatra, on Sept. 7.

Photographer: Abdul Qodir/AFP via Getty Images

Malaysia and Indonesia Spar

Environment ministers from Malaysia and Indonesia have traded blame on the haze situation with Kuala Lumpur offering help to put out the forest fires.

Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said the country has offered technical firefighting assistance to Indonesia and is prepared to deploy them if requested.

— With assistance by Yudith Ho, and Harry Suhartono

What happens when parts of South Asia become unlivable? The climate crisis is already displacing millions

(CNN)Almost six million people are under threat from rising flood waters across South Asia, where hundreds of thousands of people have already been displaced as a result of heavy monsoon rains.

The flooding comes as India was still reeling from a weeks-long water crisis amid heavy droughts and heatwaves across the country which killed at least 137 people. Experts said the country has five years to address severe water shortages, caused by steadily depleting groundwater supplies, or over 100 million people will left be without ready access to water.
In Afghanistan, drought has devastated traditional farming areas, forcing millions of people to move or face starvation, while in Bangladesh, heavy monsoon flooding has marooned entire communities and cut-off vital roads. Especially at risk are the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees living in fragile, makeshift camps along the country’s border with Myanmar.
This is the sharp edge of the climate crisis. What seems an urgent but still future problem for many developed countries is already killing people in parts of Asia, and a new refugee crisis, far worse than that which has hit Europe in recent years, is brewing.

Monsoon disaster

Agriculture in South Asia has depended on the annual monsoon for centuries. If the rains arrive late, as they did this year, they can cause widespread drought and water shortages. Since the late 19th century, scientists and government agencies have sought to model and predict when the monsoon will come, a vital task in apportioning relief and assistance to the two billion or so people who depend on the monsoon for sustenance.
Climate change is making this task increasingly difficult, however. According to a study in the journal Nature, the warming of the Indian Ocean, the increasing frequency of the El Niño weather phenomenon, air pollution and changing land use across the subcontinent has led to steadily decreasing rainfall, increasing the variability of the monsoon and making it harder to accurately model.
Cruelly, as the overall amount of rain has decreased, leading to drought, the frequency of extreme rainfall, causing flooding and landslides, has actually gone up, the Nature study found.
Researchers said there had been a threefold increase in “widespread extreme rain events” over central India between 1950 and 2015, which brought with them a potentially “catastrophic impact on life, agriculture and property.”
“The overall intensity and frequency of extreme events are increasing over the region,” the study said, adding that projected changes showed “further intensification of extreme precipitation over most parts of the subcontinent by the end of the century.”
A combination of rising temperatures and more severe droughts and flooding is raising the very real question whether parts of India could soon be unlivable for humans. And its not just India, scientists predict extreme heatwaves that can kill even perfectly healthy people are becoming more common across South Asia, as well as much of the Middle East and North Africa.

Unequal effects

Climate change is no longer a future event. We already appear locked into 1.5C of warming, once hoped to be the top limit of human-caused climate change, and are now on path to blow through the 2C limit set by the Paris Agreement.
The unfolding climate emergency will affect the entire world, but it will not do so equally, or all at the same time. Parts of the globe will see manageable temperature spikes or variable weather, as others face deadly droughts, heatwaves, flooding and extreme weather. Those who survive these climate shocks may find local agriculture and infrastructure devastated, making them all the more vulnerable in future.
Rising sea levels and coastal flooding is expected to effect millions more in some of the world’s least developed countries.
According to the United Nations, more than 120 million people could slip into poverty within the next decade because of climate change, forcing them to “choose between starvation and migration.”
Researchers from Stanford University have previously warned that climate change is making poor countries poorer, widening global inequality between nations.
“We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer,” said Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, last month.
But while the air conditioned, hurricane and typhoon-proofed cities in the developed world may be able to better cope with the immediate effects of climate change, they will not escape the ramifications of how the crisis unfolds in other countries.
Climate change could make this country disappear

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Climate change could make this country disappear 04:05

Climate refugees

People affected by climate change will not stay put as their children drown or die of heat stroke or thirst. The Norwegian Refugee Council estimates that 26 million people are displaced by disasters such as floods and storms every year, or one person every second. By 2045, according to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, some 135 million people could be displaced as a result of land and soil degradation.
Most of those people become internally displaced, in effect refugees within their own country. But the numbers forced to flee across borders is on the rise — driven too by violence and persecution — reaching 70 million this year, a record high.
According to government documents published by the ABC this week, Australia alone may face up to 100 million climate refugees in the coming years, as large parts of the Indo-Pacific is hit by rising sea levels and extreme weather.
Australia — which is among the worst offenders for global emissions — has some of the most draconian policies for dealing with refugees in the developed world, housing them in offshore detention camps which have been denounced by the United Nations and human rights groups.
Other countries have reacted to existing refugee flows — many of which are already effected by climate change even if this is not widely discussed — with shifts to nativism and often violent anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Making matters worse, the UN’s Refugee Convention currently does not recognize those fleeing climate change as entitled to protection by international law. This could enable countries to refuse to offer sanctuary, or regard those entering the country as illegal immigrants.
South Asia is already suffering as a result of climate change, a crisis caused by the developed world’s consumption patterns and fossil fuel-driven capitalism. The effects of that crisis will not remain confined to the region for long, however, nor will the people already dealing with the sharp end of it.

Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhinoceros in poor health


Tam Rhinoceros Malaysia

Tam is the last surviving male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia. (Photo: Facebook/WWF-Malaysia)

KOTA KINABALU: The health of Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhinoceros is deteriorating, said Sabah’s Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew on Sunday (May 19).

“Tam’s appetite and level of activity have dropped suddenly since the end of April, and he is now given medicine daily because some of his internal organs are not functioning well,” she added.

If Tam dies, it would leave Iman as the last surviving female Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia, after another female rhinoceros Puntung was euthanised in June 2017.

“Hopes to find a mate for him were dashed when Puntung was found to have multiple cysts throughout her uterus,” Ms Liew was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

“Iman, on the other hand, was found to have massive uterine fibroids,” she added.

Puntung was captured in 2011, while Iman was captured in 2014.

READ: Scientists warn a million species at risk of extinction

READ: UN kicks off major climate change effort

“These illnesses are a reflection of too few rhinoceros and insufficient breeding success during the last decades of the 20th century,” said Ms Liew.

Tam was captured by a wildlife team in August 2008 at the Kretam palm oil plantation in Tawau, which was previously a jungle area.

To gain his trust, the team from the Sabah Wildlife Department, SOS Rhino and WWF-Malaysia fed and befriended Tam for a week, before coaxing him into a crate, the New Straits Times reported. He was thought to be in his mid-20s when he was taken to Tabin Wildlife Forest Reserve, Ms Liew said.

Since 2011, Malaysia’ efforts to save rare animal species from extinction have been focused on reproductive technology, such as in-vitro fertilisation and collaboration with Indonesia, she added.


Extinct species of bird came back from the dead, scientists find

The white-throated rail colonized the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean -- twice.

(CNN)A previously extinct species of bird returned from the dead, reclaiming the island it previously lived on and re-evolving itself back into existence, scientists have said.

The white-throated rail colonized the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean and evolved to become flightless, before being completely wiped out when the island disappeared below the sea around 136,000 years ago.
But researchers found similar fossils from before and after that event, showing that the chicken-sized bird re-appeared when sea levels fell again a few thousand years later, re-colonized the island and again lost the ability to fly.
The flightless rail can be found on Aldabra to this day.
The extremely rare process is known as iterative evolution — the repeated evolution of a species from the same ancestor at different times in history.
The team’s study, published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, marks the first time the process has been seen in rails, and is one of the “most significant” instances ever found in birds, according to the authors.
Fossil records from before and after  Aldabra was submerged proved the bird's evolutionary feat.

“We know of no other example in rails, or of birds in general, that demonstrates this phenomenon so evidently,” co-author David Martill, of the University of Portsmouth, said in a statement.
The rail’s return to Aldabra is not the only time in its lineage that it has escaped extinction.
The parent species of the rail, indigenous to Madagascar, would frequently see its population explode, forcing the birds to migrate in great numbers from the island off the coast of East Africa.
Many of those that flew north or south drowned in the Indian Ocean, and those that went west landed in Africa, where they were eaten by predators.
But the lucky few who went east ended up on islands including Mauritius, Réunion and Aldabra, the latter of which was studied by the researchers.
The rails on Aldabra lost the ability to fly over time, because the lack of predators made it unnecessary — just as the dodo of Mauritius did.
Unfortunately, that gave them no means of escape when the island was submerged and all its flora and fauna were wiped out.
But unlike the dodo, which became extinct in the 17th century, the white-throated rail was resurrected to tell the tale once the island re-emerged and birds started migrating to the destination again.
That means one species of bird from Madagascar gave rise to two separate species of flightless rail on Aldabra in the space of just a few thousand years.
“Only on Aldabra, which has the oldest palaeontological record of any oceanic island within the Indian Ocean region, is fossil evidence available that demonstrates the effects of changing sea levels on extinction and recolonization events,” Martill said.
“Conditions were such on Aldabra, the most important being the absence of terrestrial predators and competing mammals, that a rail was able to evolve flightlessness independently on each occasion,” he explained.
“These unique fossils provide irrefutable evidence that a member of the rail family colonized the atoll, most likely from Madagascar, and became flightless independently on each occasion,” the study’s lead author, Julian Hume of London’s Natural History Museum, added in a statement.
“Fossil evidence presented here is unique for rails, and epitomizes the ability of these birds to successfully colonize isolated islands and evolve flightlessness on multiple occasions,” he said.

First human casualty from bird flu reported in Nepal


KATHMANDU: Bird flu, also known as avian influenza (H5N1 influenza), has recently been determined as the cause of the death of an infected person from Kavrepalanchok district. This is the first reported avian flu casualty in the country, Ministry of Health and Population confirmed.

According to the health ministry, the 21-year-old patient whose identity has been kept under wraps, died on March 29 after having contracted the flu.

The results of the test on pathological sample extracted from the patient’s body, which was received on April 30, was found to be H5N1 influenza positive. The health officials who had diagnosed bird flu as the cause of the patient’s death had sent the patient’s sample to Japan for further tests.

Nepal witnessed an outbreak of the disease from early March this year.

Details to follow.

No sightings of Sumatran rhinos in key areas of Sabah, extinction likely

KOTA KINABALU: No Sumatran rhinoceros have been detected in Sabah by the latest surveys, indicating that the species may have become extinct.

However, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew expressed optimism that these habitats remained suitable for this species during the question-and-answer session in the state assembly sitting on Wednesday (April 17).

“My ministry, through the Wildlife Department, has in the past collaborated with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Borneo Rhino Alliance and WWF Malaysia to conduct rhino population surveys at the forest reserves of Ulu Segama and Ulu Malua as well as Tabin Wildlife Reserve, and identified as the key areas for this species.

“It started in 1978 when Faunal Survey of Sabah started, and it is still ongoing.

“However, these studies did not find any rhino footprints, and the cameras did not record any pictures either – meaning these areas no longer have rhinos,” she said in response to a question by Calvin Chong Ket Kiun’s (DAP-Elopura) on whether there had been any reports of rhino footprints after 2016.

“However, I would like to inform you that Ulu Segama forest reserve and Tabin wildlife reserve remained suitable as a habitat for this species, even though the rhino population no longer exists,” added Liew.


Call to end buying, rearing and trapping of wildlife

MIRI: The public in Sarawak must help to end wildlife abuse by stopping the buying, rearing and trapping of wild animals.

Sarawak Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin, who coordinated the rescue of two protected macaques in Miri city, said wildlife possession must not become a normal occurrence.

“Do not buy, rear or trap wildlife. Do not keep them as pets without knowledge on how to handle them in a humane manner, and provide them with proper living conditions.

“Anyone with knowledge of such actions must alert the forestry authorities.

“Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) has a wildlife rescue team called Sarawak Wildlife Action Team (SWAT) to handle rescue operations.

“It was SWAT that rescued the two macaques here.

“After I called up the SFC state chief Oswald Bracken Tisen in Kuching, he directed SWAT to rescue the macaques from the house where they were kept” said Lee.

Lee, who is Senadin state assemblyman, visited the Piasau Nature Reserve where the two rescued macaques will be kept for health checks and treatment.

“After the macAsques are confirmed to be healthy, they will be released to the Matang Wildlife Sanctuary near Kuching,” he said.

Initial investigations found that the owners had kept them illegally in their backyard at Taman Tunku Miri since they were babies, he said.

He said the owners told SFC officers they took in the animals after “finding them abandoned” in a forest in Miri.

Lee said SFC was investigating other cases of illegal wildlife possession and sale of wild animals for slaughter at the Tamu Muhibah and Tamu Centrepoint in Miri.

There are people trapping wild animals throughout Miri and other parts of Sarawak and then selling them as pets or for their meat.

Those with information can call the SFC in Kuching, send details via e-mail or call the hotline listed on SFC’s website.