World Wildlife Day 2018

World Wildlife Day falls on 3rd March every year, and it’s a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The theme for World Wildlife Day in 2018 is “Big cats: predators under threat”. Big cats, and their smaller relatives, are among the most widely recognized and admired animals across the globe. However, today these charismatic predators are facing many and varied threats, which are mostly caused by human activities. Overall, their populations are declining at a disturbing rate due to loss of habitat and prey, conflicts with people, poaching and illegal trade.

In Singapore, both the Tiger (Panthera tigris) and Leopard (Panthera pardus) were wiped out, but the Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) still survives. However, it too is threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The roads that run along and through our forest fragments take their toll. For example, it was feared that the Leopard Cat had become extinct in mainland Singapore, until 2001, when a roadkill was found in Mandai, on the fringes of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Another roadkill was reported from Jalan Bahar, along the edge of the Western Catchment, in 2007.

Roads also threaten Leopard Cats and other wildlife in Peninsular Malaysia – even big cats are not spared. There are two notable recent incidents: in February 2016, a Malayan Tiger was hit by a car as it crossed the East Coast Expressway Phase 2 in Terengganu, which cuts through a forest reserve. A necropsy revealed that it was a pregnant tigress. And in June 2017, a melanistic Leopard (typically called a ‘black panther’) was found dead along Jalan Sungai Yu-Merapoh in Pahang, not far from an eco-viaduct that serves as a wildlife crossing.

Over the past century we have been losing wild cats, among the planet’s most majestic predators, at an alarming rate. World Wildlife Day 2018 gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about their plight and to galvanize support for the many global and national actions that are underway to save these iconic species.

Photo credits: Leopard Cat roadkill by Charith Pelpola
Tiger and Leopard roadkills from New Straits Times

Malaysia: Visitor released fish into lake

 

Photos: Rahayusnida Roosley Facebook

21st February 2018;

The mystery behind scores of dead fish found floating in Tasik Permaisuri Park, Cheras, may have been solved.

A visitor was reportedly seen releasing a batch of Catfish into the lake on Saturday morning, a day before a large number of fish were found floating in the lake, giving out a foul smell.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall corporate planning director Fadzilah Abd Rashid said the fish likely died as they could not adapt to the new environment.

“The maintenance and administration team did not receive any request from the public to release fish into the lake.”

Fadzilah said similar incidents happened last year, where fish reared as pets were released into lakes around the city.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry’s deputy secretary-general (policy), Datuk Sallehhuddin Hassan, said the Fisheries Department had collected fish samples for tests.

“We sent our officers to take samples of the lake water and fish,” he said, adding that the ministry would work with the Department of Environment on the matter.

The Fisheries Department, in a statement, said images posted on social media showed that the dead fish belonged to the Catfish species.

“A team was despatched to check the site after a report was lodged by the public.”

He said the turbidity and oxygen levels in the lake were normal.

It was learned that the department had not approved any fish-breeding programmes in the park.

Source: New Straits Times

The photos show what are likely to be Walking Catfish (F. Clariidae). Several species are raised for food in Malaysia, such as the native Common Walking Catfish (Clarias aff. batrachus), the possibly non-native Broadhead Catfish (Clarias macrocephalus), and the introduced Clarias gariepinus, as well as hybrids between the three species.

Malaysia: Dead fish in Cheras lake


Photos: Rahayusnida Roosley Facebook

20th February 2018;

The sight and smell of dead fish floating at the lake at Taman Tasik Permaisuri in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, shocked many people over the weekend.

Joggers and visitors who frequented the park claimed a foul smell was permeating the area on Sunday morning.

This led them to the dead fish at the lake.

Rahayusnida Roosley, 52, said she saw many dead fish at the end of the lake close to the Bandar Tun Razak Stadium.

She was there with family members jogging when they made the discovery.

“I was there from 7.30am to 9am.

“It’s a landscaped park with ample parking paths and a lovely lake with water features. It’s frequented by a lot of people who jog, walk, do tai-chi and aerobics.

“It’s a shame if the park is not maintained. I hope Kuala Lumpur City Hall will fix it soon,” said Rahayusnida, who posted pictures of the dead fish on her Facebook account.

Checks by Actionline the same day saw some fish floating, but not as many as indicated in the photos taken by Rohayunisda.

A visitor, Shakir, 19, when met at the park, said he saw the dead fish the night before, but did not report it to the authorities because it was late in the evening.

“I was at the park with friends when I noticed something floating on the lake.

“I do not know about my friends, but I saw the fish floating, so I assumed they were dead.

“I figured the park maintenance workers would take care of it.”

Another visitor, who wanted to be known only as Din, claimed that the lake would normally be replenished with fish before fishing competitions.

City Hall health and environment director Datin D. Noor Akma Shabudin confirmed reports were lodged by the public on the dead fish.

She said City Hall would get to the bottom of the problem and would seek help from other departments.

“We have notified the Fisheries Department to take samples from the lake to determine the cause.

“The Landscape Department has been informed as the park is under its purview.”

“I do not know about dead fish, but usually, when festive seasons come, there will be fishing competitions.

“It could probably be fish that were released for the competitions, but they then died.”

A maintenance supervisor, who declined to be named, said visitors complained to them about the dead fish the same day and some claimed the fish might have been poisoned.

“I received a complaint from the visitors around 8am and went to see the lake before calling the cleaning team.

“I saw Catfish with breadcrumbs near them. This is the first time Taman Tasik Permaisuri has faced such a bizarre situation. We removed the fish because the smell was unbearable.”

Source: New Straits Times

The photos show what are likely to be Walking Catfish (F. Clariidae). Several species are raised for food in Malaysia, such as the native Common Walking Catfish (Clarias aff. batrachus), the possibly non-native Broadhead Catfish (Clarias macrocephalus), and the introduced Clarias gariepinus, as well as hybrids between the three species.

Malaysia: Caged fish breeders suffer major losses due to flood

13th January 2018;

The flood that hit the district early this month had not only caused damage to public and private properties, but also caused major losses to caged fish breeders here as they were left with thousands of dead fish.

Most of the breeders attributed the death of their fish to several reasons, including the strong river current on Jan 1 and 2 when the water level of Sungai Pahang began to rise.

Khaidir Ahmad, 55, from Kampung Tebing Tinggi, Lebak here, when contacted today said he suffered losses of more than RM33,000 after over 5,000 patin (Iridescent Shark Catfish) (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) and Tilapia (Oreochromis spp.), as well as 300 kerai (Lemon-fin Barb) (Hypsibarbus wetmorei) fish, in his cages died during the flood.

He said the strong river current had caused the fish to suffer wounds as they were cornered and squeezed to the cage.

“The fish were also believed to have died due to the high turbidity level of the river which caused the fish gills to be covered with mud and deprived them of oxygen,” he said, adding that bacterial infection in the eyes and scales of the fish due to the deterioration in the water quality of Sungai Pahang was also believed to be the cause of death of the fish.

Meanwhile, Temerloh Fisheries Officer Shahidan Roslan said the Fisheries Department had taken samples from the live fish in order to determine the cause of death of thousands of caged fish of several breeders in the district.

He said the department had also informed the state Fisheries Department Bio-security Division, immediately after receiving a report on the incident.

Shahidan said initial inspection found that the death of patin and Tilapia fish was probably due to the strong river water pressure during the recent flood.

“The investigation revealed that most of the dead fish were found in the front area of the cage which might have received the high impact of the strong current,” he said.

Source: The Sun Daily

Malaysia: Make our roads safe for wildlife too

By M. Veera Pandiyan, 10th January 2018;

It’s a frantic fight for survival and they are losing badly. They are killed by illegal hunting in the forests, and at the fringes, they face the wrath of farmers or planters.

As if that’s not tragic enough, Malaysia’s endangered wildlife species are now also ending up as roadkill.

On Christmas Eve, a Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) died after being knocked down by a motorcyclist on the East Coast Expressway 2 (LPT2) near Kuala Dungun.

Earlier the same day, a Tapir (Tapirus indicus) was hit by a car on the Gua Musang-Kuala Krai trunk road. Appallingly, a group of men who found the carcass skinned and mutilated it.

Two days earlier, another Tapir died after being struck by a car along the Seremban-Kuala Pilah road.

According to Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Dr Hamim Samuri, 2,130 animals, mostly endangered species, have been killed in road accidents over the past five years.

Tapirs were at the top of the roadkill list last year, but the slaughter also included Elephants (Elephas maximus), Sun Bears, Tigers (Panthera tigris), Binturong (Arctictis binturong), Leopard Cats (Prionailurus bengalensis), and the Sumatran Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis).

Based on the files of the Department of Wildlife and Parks (Perhilitan), most of the deaths have been recorded on 61 road and highway networks in the peninsula.

Five routes are the deadliest for these poor creatures – the Kuala Lipis-Gua Musang road, the Kulai-Kota Tinggi stretch, the Gua Musang-Kuala Krai highway, LPT2 and the Taiping-Selama trunk road.

There are fears that the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE), which will cut through 106ha of degazetted Ampang forest reserve, will imperil the movement of wildlife, especially foraging mammals.

Already there have been sightings of the Sumatran Serow near Ukay Perdana, indicating that construction of the new highway has disturbed the habitat of this rare species.

Wildlife conservationists are worried that the construction of the Malaysia-Singapore High-Speed Rail project and the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) will similarly impact endangered animals.

What can be done to prevent the accidents and needless deaths of threatened species?

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has proposed a meeting involving several ministries, the Public Works Department, the Road Transport Department and the police to discuss the issue.

According to a report in a local daily, he said drivers who disregarded wildlife crossing signs should be fined heavily, adding that there were 236 signboards and 113 hotspots.

But then, who in the right mind would want to collide with any animal on the road?

Accidents involving wildlife not only threaten endangered species but also jeopardise drivers and passengers in the vehicles.

Instead of just more signs, a more effective animal detection system is needed to prevent such collisions.

Perhaps the minister and his officials should consider what a Brazilian biologist and two of her friends have created to prevent wildlife-vehicle crashes.

Fernanda Delborgo Abra set up ViaFauna, an electronic animal detection system for roads and highways, with two partners – Mariane Rodrigues Biz Silva and Paula Ribeiro Prist.

The system, powered by solar panels, was developed with support from the São Paulo Research Foundation.

It comprises a pair of motion sensors (transmitter and receiver) fixed on short poles just like those used for speed traps and installed 100m apart. Each pair of sensors covers a road kill hotspot.

The transmitter sends the receiver a beam of infrared light invisible to humans and other vertebrates.

When the beam is interrupted by an animal, the sensor transmits a signal to the pole, which in turn conveys the information via radio, activating an electronic message panel or a revolving beacon on top of an animal crossing sign.

The system, which has reportedly reduced the number of collisions by 90%, warns drivers hundreds of metres or even a kilometre ahead of an actual animal crossing, giving them time to take precautions.

It is more effective than a mere sign warning that wildlife may cross the road.

ViaFauna’s system targets wild and domestic animals over 3kg because of their detectability and impact on road safety and shows how many creatures cross the road successfully, contributing to studies of animal movement dynamics.

Let’s hope that a comparable system can be implemented in Malaysia.

The bigger problem, of course, is the flourishing illegal wildlife trade, which is driving many species towards extinction along with the widespread perception that Malaysia is a major hub for illegal trafficking of animal parts, especially ivory.

On Aug 29 last year, the Sabah Customs Department seized three tonnes of Elephant (African Elephant) (Loxodonta sp.) tusks and five tons of Pangolin (African Pangolin) (Phataginus or Smutsia sp.) scales at the Sepanggar Port. The China-bound shipments were traced to Nigeria.

The department seized eight tonnes of Pangolin scales at the same port, exactly a month earlier.

At about the same time in the peninsula, Perhilitan found 2,000 reptiles and dozens of wildlife parts in separate operations conducted in Kelantan and Perak.

Enforcement officers arrested a Vietnamese man with more than 200 parts of protected species, comprising Sun Bear claws and teeth, Tiger claws and teeth and Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor) horn, among other things.

According to WWF-Malaysia’s executive director and CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma, poaching and wildlife trafficking are threatening the survival of many distinctive species in Malaysia, including the critically endangered Malayan Tiger.

The battle between poachers and conservationists continues daily, even in the Belum-Temenggor Forest Complex, a key tiger conservation priority site.

Source: The Star

Malaysia: When will animals get the right of way?

By Tan Sri Dr. Zakri Abdul Hamid, 8th January 2018;

On Dec 25, the New Straits Times reported the heartbreaking death of an adult Malayan Sun Bear, struck by a motorcyclist around dusk on an expressway near Kuala Dungun.

Known scientifically as Helarctos malayanus (sometimes also known as the “dog bear” due to its small size, short snout and ears, and short, glossy fur), it was simply trying to cross a road. Sadly, news about roadkill — animals killed by vehicles — is growing more common.

Roads alter and isolate animal habitats and populations, deterring movement and resulting in extensive mortality. To be sure, roadkill is not unique to Malaysia. It is a global aberration, a consequence of human encroachment on animal habitats in the name of development.

About 2,100 animals were killed in traffic accidents in the past five years, according to a recent report quoting Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Dr Hamim Samuri, mostly endangered species such as Tapirs (Tapirus indicus), Sun Bears, Elephants (Elephas maximus), Mountain Goats (Sumatran Serow) (Capricornis sumatraensis) and Tigers (Panthera tigris).

“Most of the accidents occurred because the animals were trying to cross roads or highways to find shelter, food, mates and habitats,” he said. He advised motorists to be careful and pay attention when driving near forests.

At the rate these animals are being killed due to human callousness, more than advice is needed. A more comprehensive plan to prevent roadkill must be considered in the context of the National Policy on Biological Diversity, launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak two years ago during the opening ceremony of the fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Kuala Lumpur.

As recently suggested by Malay-sian Nature Society president Henry Goh, “A concerted effort, involving government agencies and departments, namely the
Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan), the Forestry Department, police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers, is vital to find a long-term solution to the issue.”

The number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and other animals killed by vehicles each day is hard to imagine. The official roadkill numbers in Malaysia surely underestimate the true toll.

Widely reported insurance industry statistics, for example, reveal that United States drivers hit an estimated one million to two million animals every year, the equivalent of a collision every 26 seconds. Note that those are just the incidents reported for insurance purposes, usually involving a large animal and serious vehicle damage. Uncounted are the millions of smaller animals crushed by tyres or hit by windshields.

European authorities estimate that as many as 27 million birds are killed by vehicles each year. A Brazilian study estimates 1.3 million animals die every day under cars and trucks.

The effectiveness of some well-known measures to reduce roadkill has been widely documented. These include animal bridges or tunnels — viaducts for animals to safely cross over or under highways — and other human-made barriers. A recent Canadian tunnel and fencing project reduced by 89 and 28 per cent respectively the number of turtles and snakes venturing onto a road in a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve. Other helpful innovations include solar-powered alert panels that line a highway and help nighttime drivers see animals more easily.

Our authorities are certainly aware of the problem. Just last February, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar directed Perhilitan and the Forestry Department to step up surveillance and preventive measures along highways and roads identified as hotspots for animal crossing. Identified now are 126 roadkill hotspots nationwide, with plans by the ministry to build viaducts at 37 hotspots to facilitate the movement of animals. This is an encouraging start.

Ultimately, however, the rakyat must take collective responsibility. We cannot leave it to the government or “nature champions” like Henry Goh or Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma, chief executive officer of WWF Malaysia, who rightly opined that Malaysia has failed to sufficiently protect its fauna. A paradigm shift in attitudes is needed immediately.

First, we must accept the right of fauna to coexist with humans. This is not to say that we should regard them as domesticates, but rather that we develop a healthy respect for their continuous survival in this country, one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth;

Second, the term “wildlife” or “wild animals” (binatang liar or worse, binatang buas in Malay) has threatening, human-unfriendly connotations. Let’s simply refer to our fauna as animals or haiwan; and,

Finally, and most importantly, our deference to animals that find their way onto our roads and highways must be at the same level we would accord a child crossing the street on the way to and from school. Then, and only then, can roadkill be reduced or prevented altogether.

Source: New Straits Times

Malaysia: Malaysian Nature Society concerned over dead Dolphins

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Picture of the dead Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin* found at the Tanjung Bungah beachfront.

By Imran Hilmy, 6th January 2018;

The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has questioned why no autopsy was conducted on two Dolphins found dead less than a week apart at the Tanjung Bungah beachfront.

MNS advisor D. Kanda Kumar said Dolphins are not common in Penang waters but have been spotted around the island sometimes.

He said it is quite baffling that the Dolphins were found dead in the same area within the same week

“This might indicate something is wrong with the waters there, we might not know whether the area is contaminated or the Dolphins had plastic waste in their stomachs”, he told The Sun when contacted.

Kanda Kumar said the relevant authorities should come and collect the carcasses for an autopsy.

He said without an autopsy, the cause of death of the mammals will not be known.

“There must be a reason why the Dolphins were found dead in the same area, there could be something wrong with the waters”, he said.

When contacted Penang Department of Fisheries (DOF) director Noraisyah Abu Bakar confirmed that the department had received reports from the public about the dead Dolphins.

She said the mammals are from the common species of dolphins known as Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)*.

She also pointed out the mammal is not endangered, the department is not required to conduct an autopsy on the carcasses.

“Following the standard operating procedure, we did not conduct an autopsy on the mammals as it is not endangered”, she said.

Noraisyah said necessary action had been taken by the department and urge the public to inform the authorities if they discover any dead marine species in their respective areas.

She also called on environmentalist groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to work together with the FIR in creating awareness and at the same time protect endangered marine life in Penang waters.

Source: The Sun Daily

*Contrary to the opinion of the Penang Department of Fisheries director, the carcasses look more like Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins (Sousa chinensis), and have been identified as such by multiple sources in other reports.