Monday, February 07, 2011

Malaysia Deforestation Is Three Times Faster Than Rest Of Asia Combined

(AP) - New satellite imagery shows Malaysia is destroying forests more than three times faster than all of Asia combined, and its carbon-rich peat soils of the Sarawak coast are being stripped even faster, according to a study released Tuesday.

The report commissioned by the Netherlands-based Wetlands International says Malaysia is uprooting an average 2 percent of the rain forest a year on Sarawak, its largest state on the island of Borneo, or nearly 10 percent over the last five years. Most of it is being converted to palm oil plantations, it said.

The deforestation rate for all of Asia during the same period was 2.8 percent, it said.

In the last five years, 353,000 hectares (872,263 acres) of Malaysia's peatlands were deforested, or one-third of the swamps which have stored carbon from decomposed plants for millions of years.

"We never knew exactly what was happening in Malaysia and Borneo," said Wetlands spokesman Alex Kaat. "Now we see there is a huge expansion (of deforestation) with annual rates that are beyond imagination."

The study was carried out by SarVision, a satellite monitoring and mapping company that originated with scientists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

"Total deforestation in Sarawak is 3.5 times as much as that for entire Asia, while deforestation of peat swamp forest is 11.7 times as much," the report said.

Malaysia's peatland forests are home to several endangered animals, including the Borneo Pygmy elephant and the Sumatran rhino, as well as rare timber species and unique vegetation

Kaat said the study showed deforestation was progressing far faster than the Malaysian government has acknowledged.

Scientists say the destruction of the Amazon, the rain forests of central Africa and in Southeast Asia accounts for more than 15 percent of human-caused carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

Live forests soak up carbon from the atmosphere, while burning trees release that stored carbon – contributing to climate change in two ways at once. But emissions effect is amplified when trees are felled from the peatlands and the swamps are drained for commercial plantations.

Malaysia and Indonesia produce about 85 percent of the world's palm oil, an ingredient in cooking oil, cosmetics, soaps, bread, and chocolate. It also is used as an industrial lubricant and was once considered an ideal biofuel alternative to fossil fuel, but it has fallen out of favor because of earlier reports of widespread rainforest destruction for the expansion of plantations.

Indonesia has pledged to slow deforestation in its territory, and last year Norway pledged to give Jakarta $1 billion a year to help finance an independent system of monitoring and quantifying greenhouse gas emissions.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Greeted by Trash at Teluk Kampi

Teluk Kampi, one of the longest and remotest beach in Penang National Park.

The stingless beehive

The strangling ficus after the host tree was strangled and had since decayed.

The suspected feces of a feral dog.

Greeted by trash

It has been at least 6 years since we last step foot on Teluk Kampi, one of the 8 beaches in Penang National Park. I remember we went there immediately after the tsunami and we found most vegetation along the beach were harsh brown and dry, after being washed with salt water. Today it is green.

Teluk Kampi is a special place for us. A remote beach not visited by many but we have been there countless time. In fact, each time we hike there from Pantai Kerachut, we have to bash through the overgrowth. It just mean that there were few hikers to Teluk Kampi.
You hardly see any trash along the trail as well as on the beach. The beach is long (about a kilometer) and the sand is white. There are several small streams that were our source of fresh water. A war trench is fading away and disappearing among the overgrowth. A solitary "pokok melaka" (Indian gooseberry) that once stood so firmly with fruits is now difficult to spot.

A wild dog was seen hurriedly disappearing into the bushes. Now I can understand why a four-legged skink was found crawling on a tree, apparently escaping from the hunting instint of the dogs on the ground! Mind you when a national park has introduced domesticated animals (we saw another pack of dogs at the ridge of Teluk Duyung), the local indigenous wildlife suffers. And that could be the reason why I didn't see any amphibian (usually frogs) and shy otters swimming across the small island off the beach. Of course these feral dogs will be competing with the local species for food too.
A national park status has provided a permanent protection for the last piece of wilderness in Penang Island. It has also increase the inflow of hikers and visitors to this remote part of the park. With increase visitors, the trash is becoming a norm. And that, withered a protected park.
The carefree flight of the white bellied sea eagles as the sun descended and disappearing into the sea were something that we will cherished for life. We should have been selfish to keep this to ourselves. I regret being one of the activists that lobbied the Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve as a Penang National Park more than 10 years ago. I thought by protecting it as a park, all these nature wonders will be kept for future generations. I am not so sure now!

Is this the way to welcome the rabbit year?


Welcome to the year of the Rabbit

Pet bunny craze spells bad news for rabbits
By Victoria Jen
31 January 2011 1205 hrs

TAIPEI : Rabbit souvenirs are flying off the shelves in Taiwan.

Some end up in personal collections, while others as presents to family and friends.

But there is one gift people in Taiwan are being asked not to buy for the Year of the Rabbit - and that's pet bunnies.

A shop owner said sales of its rabbits have gone up by as much as 30 per cent since October.

And that number is going to peak, ahead of the Lunar New Year.

"This year is the Year of the Rabbit, so many products with rabbit pattern are shown on television. And seeing how cute rabbits are makes many people want to buy one as a pet. That's why the demand is so high," said Lai Tai Yuan, owner of Ay Mhau Yuan Company.

Demand for pet rabbits is on the rise, as Taiwanese usher in the Year of the Rabbit. But animal activists are worried that many will end up on the street before the year is over.

Last year alone, more than 16,000 rabbits were abandoned in Taiwan.

The Taipei Rabbit Society is a shelter dedicated to rescuing the animals. It is worried that even more rabbits will be abandoned this year.

"A bunny is only about the size of your palm when you buy it. It grows three to four times bigger after six months as it becomes an adult rabbit. That's usually when they fall out of favour with their owners and get abandoned. If we take the Lunar New Year as the peak of rabbit sales, then we expect to see the height of abandonment this coming July and August," said Kuo Ba, spokesman for the Taipei Rabbit Society.

Rabbits are extremely vulnerable, and have practically no chance of surviving on its own.

"Pet rabbits are different from rabbits in the wild. When they end up on the street, their chances of survival are almost zero. They are easy target for attack from stray dogs, cats and even humans, or they can die from eating fertilizer and grass with pesticide," said Kuo.

- CNA /ls