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News articles on asia
Mongabay.com news articles on asia in blog format. Updated regularly.
(08/30/2010) Rapid expansion of oil palm plantations across Southeast Asia have run roughshod over customary tenure systems, resulting in exploitation of local communities, conflict, and outright human rights abuses, reports a new assessment of the palm oil sector by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), an international indigenous rights group.
Snakes on a plane! Malaysian reptile trafficker busted at airport
(08/28/2010) A notorious reptile smuggler has been busted at Malaysia Kuala Lumpur International Airport after his luggage was found to contain 98 snakes and a turtle, reports the Malaysian Star.
Cargill backtracks on sustainability push for palm oil, says activist group
(08/26/2010) Cargill has not suspended its relationship with a palm oil company recently exposed for misleading investors and buyers on its environmental transgressions, reports the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), an activist group campaigning against environmentally-damaging forms of palm oil production.
Photos: Asia's tiniest frog discovered living inside carnivorous plants in Borneo
(08/25/2010) One of the world's smallest frogs has been discovered living inside carnivorous plants in Borneo, reports Conservation International, a conservation group that is jointly supporting a campaign with IUCN to search for some of the world's 'lost amphibians.' The species, described in Zootaxa by Indraneil Das and Alexander Haas of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and Biozentrum Grindel und Zoologisches Museum of Hamburg, is named Microhyla nepenthicola after the plant in which is was found, Nepenthes ampullaria, a species of pitcher plant from Malaysian Borneo.
Allegations abound: are nepotism and corruption behind the Sabah coal plant?
(08/25/2010) Allegations of government corruption and corporate kick-backs are swirling around a planned 300 MW Chinese coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah. While the plan to build the coal plant in Lahad Datu Bay has come up against strong and unrelenting grassroots opposition, the federal government continues to turn a deaf ear to opposition, arguing that the energy plant is necessary to power Sabah and stop blackouts. However, critics say the coal plant—which is to be built on the edge of the Coral Triangle and 20 kilometers from Tabin Wildlife Reserve—will damage fish stocks with chlorine and thermal discharges, upend the lives of locals dependent on fishing, and devastate eco-tourism in the region. In addition, the coal plant goes directly against Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's agreement at Copenhagen to reduce the country's carbon emission intensity by 40 percent by 2020.
Indonesia's forest conservation plan may not sufficiently reduce emissions
(08/25/2010) One third of Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation originate from areas not officially defined as 'forest' suggesting that efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) may fail unless they account for carbon across the country's entire landscape, warns a new report published by the World Agroforestry Centre (CGIAR). The policy brief finds that up to 600 million tons of Indonesia's carbon emissions 'occur outside institutionally defined forests' and are therefore not accounted for under the current national REDD+ policy, which, if implemented, would enable Indonesia to win compensation from industrialized countries for protecting its carbon-dense forests and peatlands as a climate change mechanism.
Gazprom, Shell and Clinton Foundation back rainforest carbon deal in Borneo
(08/24/2010) A forest conservation project backed by Shell, Gazprom Market and Trading and the Clinton Foundation on the island of Borneo has won approval under a carbon accounting standard, reports Reuters.
India blocks 'Avatar' mining project that threatened tribe
(08/24/2010) A controversial plan to construct a bauxite mine on indigenous lands in the Indian state of Orissa has been canceled by the country's environment ministry. The scheme had been opposed by a wide range of human rights and environmental groups, which likened the mine to India's Avatar for its potential damage. An earlier mine, run by the same company — Vedanta — caused pollution, adversely affected crops, and caused social upheaval.
Norway divests from Malaysian logging company after rainforest destruction
(08/24/2010) The Norwegian Government's pension fund sold all its 16 million shares of Samling Global, a Malaysian timber company, after concluding the firm had committed 'serious transgessions' in logging outside of concession areas and destroying protected rainforests, reports the Bruno Manser Fund. The sale, worth a total of $1.2 million, represents about 0.3 percent of the company's outstanding shares based on today's closing market price in Hong Kong.
Fraud allegations against Indonesian palm oil giant widen, tarnishing auditors and sustainable palm oil initiative
(08/19/2010) Sinar Mas, an Indonesian conglomerate whose holdings include Asia Pulp and Paper, a paper products brand, and PT Smart, a palm oil producer, was sharply rebuked Wednesday over a recent report where it claimed not to have engaged in destruction of forests and peatlands. At least one of its companies, Golden Agri Resources, may now face an investigation for deliberately misleading shareholders in its corporate filings.
India's Avatar: decision coming on mine that threatens indigenous group
(08/17/2010) In the Indian state of Orissa a drama more wild than James Cameron's imagination has been playing out. An indigenous people, the Dongria Kondh, have spent years protesting the plans of British-based mining giant Vedanta Resources to build a 125-billion-rupee ($2.7 billion) open-cast mine on the Niyamgiri Mountain, which they have long viewed as a deity. Yesterday, the Dongria Kondh won a victory, but not the war: a four-person panel set up by the India's Environment Ministry said the mine should not go ahead as it threatens two tribal groups. Another panel with the Forestry Advisory Council (FAC) will consider this report on August 20th as Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, mulls whether or not to approve the mine.
Massive coral bleaching in Indonesia
(08/16/2010) A large-scale bleaching event due to high ocean temperatures appears to be underway off the coast of Sumatra, an Indonesian island, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Logging may swamp Indonesian peatlands, destroy local sustainable sago industry
(08/16/2010) Industrial logging concessions on islands off the coast of Sumatra threaten to undermine a sustainable community industry that may hold to key to protecting Indonesia's carbon-dense, but increasingly endangered peatlands.
Malaysia preparing to take big step backward on energy policy
(08/13/2010) I write to you as a deeply concerned and saddened citizen of Malaysia. For most of the 45 years of my life, I have been proud to be Malaysian. Recently, I have become heartbroken to be Malaysian. I am profoundly grateful to write this with the support of both my local communities in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and California, U.S.A., and a larger world community. That said, I take full ownership of and sole responsibility for the views articulated in this letter; I express them from my stand as a mother, an earth citizen and a leader.
Logged forests retain considerable biodiversity in Borneo providing conservation opportunity
(08/12/2010) A new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B finds that forests which have undergone logging in the past, sometimes even twice, retain significant levels of biodiversity in Borneo. The researchers say these findings should push conservationists to protect more logged forests from being converted into oil palm plantations where biodiversity levels drop considerably and endangered species are almost wholly absent. Given that much of Borneo's forests have been logged as least once, these long-dismissed forests could become a new frontier for conservationists.
APP refutes Greenpeace charges on deforestation, though audit remains absent
(08/12/2010) Asia Pulp & Paper, which has long been a target of green groups for deforestation and threatening imperiled species, is touting a new audit the pulping company says finds allegations made by environmental NGOs, including Greenpeace and WWF, are "baseless, inaccurate, and without validity". Conducted by the international accounting and auditing firm Mazars, the audit itself has not been released; however Mazars has signed off on the validity of a 24 page document entitled "Getting the Facts Down on Paper".
Orangutan populations collapse in pristine forest areas
(08/12/2010) Orangutan encounter rates have fallen six-fold in Borneo over the past 150 years, report researchers writing in the journal PLoS One. Erik Meijaard, an ecologist with People and Nature Consulting International, and colleagues compared present-day encounter rates with collection rates from naturalists working in the mid-19th Century. They found orangutans are much rarer today even in pristine forest areas. The results suggest hunting is taking a toll on orangutan populations.
New NASA images reveal devastating impact of Russian fires
(08/11/2010) A new series of images released by NASA show the extent of smoke hovering over Moscow and Central European Russia, while another image measures the amount of carbon monoxide in the area, a gas which can produce a number of health problems. Russia is in the midst of a full-scale disaster as hundreds of forest and peatland fires are covering part of the world's largest nation in a thick cloud of smoke. Temperatures in Moscow and elsewhere have broken past heat records several times in the last month while a long drought combined with fires have led to the loss of 20 percent of Russia's grain crop, causing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to ban grain exports. Russian officials say that it;s likely some 15,000 people to date have died from the disaster.
Audit finds palm oil company destroyed peatlands, but not primary forest
(08/10/2010) An environmental audit of palm oil company, PT SMART, found that the company had not cut primary rainforest, yet had destroyed carbon-rich peatlands; however the audit analyzed only 40 percent of PT SMART's holdings and investigated none of its plantations in New Guinea. A subsidiary of agricultural giant Sinar Mas, PT SMART has been accused in a number of reports by Greenpeace of both destroying high conservation value forests and draining peatlands. Greenpeace's reports caused both food giants Unilever and Nestle to drop PT SMART as a supplier of their palm oil, while Cargill stated it would wait to hear the results of the audit. Given the audit's results, both sides are claiming victory.
Summer from hell: seventeen nations hit all-time heat records
(08/09/2010) The summer isn't over yet, but already seventeen nations have matched or beaten their all-time heat records. According to Jeff Masters' WunderBlog, Belarus, the Ukraine, Cyprus, Russia, Finland, Qatar, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Niger, Chad, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Ascension Island, and the Solomon Islands have all equaled or broken their top temperature records this year. In addition, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Asia was taken in Pakistan at 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53 degrees Celsius); this incredible temperature still has to be reviewed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Officials point to Russian drought and Asian deluge as consistent with climate change
(08/08/2010) Government officials are pointing to the drought and wildfires in Russia, and the floods across Central and East Asia as consistent with climate change predictions. While climatologists say that a single weather event cannot be linked directly to a warming planet, patterns of worsening storms, severer droughts, and disasters brought on by extreme weather are expected as the planet warms.
Timber barons linked to illegal logging in Indonesian New Guinea
(08/05/2010) Timber barons are illegally exploiting Indonesia's increasingly threatened lowland rainforests on the island of New Guinea for merbau wood, found an undercover investigation conducted by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and its Indonesian partner Telapak.
Myanmar creates world's largest tiger reserve, aiding many endangered Southeast Asian species
(08/04/2010) Myanmar has announced that Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve will be nearly tripled in size, making the protected area the largest tiger reserve in the world. Spanning 17,477 square kilometers (6,748 square miles), the newly expanded park is approximately the size of Kuwait and larger than the US state of Connecticut.
Camp merges technology and conservation for local students
(08/03/2010) From July 23-25, Taiwanese undergraduates held a camp in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, that taught local high school students to use technology as a conservation tool. The Taiwanese volunteers aimed to help local people in this popular rainforest tourism destination to use the Internet to research and promote sustainable tourism practices. The high school students, who had no formal training in using the Internet, learned to use email, produce a blog, conduct research, and use GPS devices to create a map of part of the local trail system.
Scientists condemn current development plan in Kalimantan
(08/02/2010) Scientists with the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) have released a resolution opposing the current development plan for a road and bridge crossing Balikpapan Bay in the Indonesian state of Kalimantan. The resolution states that the plan threatens not only the fragile ecosystems within the bay, but of the nearby mangroves as well as the Sungai Wain forest and its watershed, vital for local industry and people. According to ATBC, the plan could be easily remedied by officials picking an alternate route, which is also favored by locals since it would be 80 kilometers shorter.
Longtime target of green groups, Cargill, to supply sustainably-certified palm oil to Unilever
(07/30/2010) Agriculture giant Cargill has announced an agreement to supply Unilever with 10,000 metric tons of palm oil sustainably-certified from the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Cargill has often come under fire from green groups for being linked to the rainforest destruction. The Dutch-English company Unilever—the world's biggest buyer of palm oil—has been trying to move its palm oil sources away from deforestation with a goal of sourcing only 'sustainable' palm oil by 2015.
Indonesian people-not international donors or orangutan conservationists-will determine the ultimate fate of Indonesia's forests
(07/29/2010) Many of the environmental issues facing Indonesia are embodied in the plight of the orangutan, the red ape that inhabits the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Orangutan populations have plummeted over the past century, a result of hunting, habitat loss, the pet trade, and human-ape conflict. Accordingly, governments, charities, and concerned individuals have ploughed tens of millions of dollars into orangutan conservation, but have little to show in terms of slowing or reversing the decline. The same can be said about forest conservation in Indonesia: while massive amounts of money have been put toward protecting and sustainable using forests, the sum is dwarfed by the returns from converting forests into timber, rice, paper, and palm oil. So orangutans—and forests—continue to lose out to economic development, at least as conventionally pursued. Poor governance means that even when well-intentioned measures are in place, they are often undermined by corruption, apathy, or poorly-designed policies. So is there a future for Indonesia's red apes and their forest home? Erik Meijaard, an ecologist who has worked in Indonesia since 1993 and is considered a world authority on orangutan populations, is cautiously optimistic, although he sees no 'silver bullet' solutions.
Endangered otter rediscovered in Borneo
(07/25/2010) The last time the hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) was seen in Borneo it was road-kill, but researchers have now photographed a living individual of this elusive and endangered species. Photos were taken by camera trap in the Dermakot forest in Sabah, a state of Malaysian Borneo. While the last specimen known in Borneo was killed by a car in 1997, the species hasn't been found confirmed in Sabah for over a century.
Scientists commend Indonesia for conservation measures, but urge immediate action on forests and peatlands
(07/23/2010) Scientists convening at the annual Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) meeting in Sanur, Bali urged Indonesia's leaders to strengthen measures to protect the country's biologically-rich ecosystems. In a resolution issued on the final day of the five-day conference, ATBC commended Indonesia for recent moves to protect forests, including a pledge to cut illegal logging and a billion dollar partnership with Norway to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, but asked the government to immediately implement a planned moratorium on new forestry concessions on peatlands and primary forest lands.
Citibank's shark fin soup promotion draws ire, ends early
(07/22/2010) Citibank Hong Kong has canceled its promotion of shark fin soup after activists cried foul, according to the New York Times. The branch had offered Citibank card holders 15 percent off a shark fin soup dinner at Maxim's Chinese Cuisine for the month of July.
Indonesia's forests are a global heritage, says VP
(07/21/2010) The vice president of Indonesia on Wednesday urged scientists and the broader international community to help Indonesia find a balance between conservation and natural resource use.
Wildlife trafficking hubs identified in Indonesia
(07/21/2010) The bulk of illegally traded wildlife moves through two "triangles" that span the Indonesian archipelago, an ecologist told scientists attending a meeting convened in Sanur, Bali by the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.
Activist against illegal mining shot dead in India
(07/21/2010) On July 20th two unidentified men rode up to Amit Jethwa on a motorcycyle as he was coming out of his office in Ahmedabad and shot him dead at point blank range. Jethwa had recently filed a petition against illegal logging in the Gir Forest, the last home of the Asiatic lion, a subspecies of the African lion listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List.
Rare primate photographed for the first time
(07/18/2010) The Horton Plains slender loris (Loris tardigradus nycticeboides, thought extinct by researchers for over six decades, has finally posed for a photograph. This small nocturnal primate lives in the surviving montane tropical forest of Sri Lanka. The species was photographed during a recent expedition by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)'s EDGE program in conjunction with Sri Lankan researchers.
Illegal logging declining worldwide, but still 'major problem'
(07/15/2010) A new report by the Chatham House finds that illegal logging in tropical forest nation is primarily on the decline, providing evidence that new laws and international efforts on the issue are having a positive impact. According to the report, the total global production of illegal timber has fallen by 22 percent since 2002. Yet the report also finds that nations—both producers and consumers—have a long way to go before illegal logging is an issue of the past.
China seizes over 2,000 illegally trafficked pangolins
(07/14/2010) Boarding a suspect fishing vessel in the early morning of June 6th, Chinese customs officials discovered 2,090 frozen pangolins and 92 cases of pangolin scales, weighing an astounding 3,960 pounds. Manned by five Chinese and one Malaysian national, the boat was awaiting instructions via satellite phone as to where to meet another ship to transfer the illegal cargo while still at sea.
Large-scale forest destruction in Sumatra undermines Indonesia's deal with Norway
(07/13/2010) While the Indonesian government basks in a recent agreement with Norway to slow deforestation to the tune of a billion US dollars, a new report by Eyes on the Forest shows photographic evidence of largely government sanctioned deforestation that flouts several Indonesia laws. Potentially embarrassing, the report and photos reveal that two companies, Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resource International (APRIL), have destroyed 5 percent of Riau province's forests since 2009, including deep peatlands, high conservation value forests (HCVF), Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger habitat, and forest within the Giam Siak Kecil- Bukit Batu UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In total, over 130,000 hectares (an area larger than Hong Kong) of mostly peat forest were destroyed for pulp.
Violence a part of the illegal timber trade, says kidnapped activist
(07/07/2010) The European parliament made a historical move today when it voted overwhelmingly to ban illegal timber from its markets. For activists worldwide the ban on illegal timber in the EU is a reason to celebrate, but for one activist, Faith Doherty of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the move has special resonance. In early 2000, Doherty and an Indonesian colleague were kidnapped, beaten, and threatened with a gun by illegal loggers in Indonesian Borneo.
Forest loss in India likely worse than conventionally believed
(07/06/2010) Researchers have questioned 2009 findings by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) that found that India's forests were, unlike many tropical Asian nations', on the rebound. According to the FSI, Indian forests had grown by almost five percent from the 1990s. Yet, were these finding too good to be true?
Forgotten species: the cryptic Jerdon's courser
(07/06/2010) According to my Oxford English Dictionary, 'cryptic' means: 'secret, mystical; mysterious; obscure in meaning; enigmatic'. This is the perfect adjective for the rare Indian bird, Jerdon's courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus). 'It is not so easy to spot as it is a small bird and when you show the torch it crouches and merges with the surroundings. So we need very good trained eyes to look for them,' Dr. P. Jeganathan recently told mongabay.com.
KFC, Walmart contributing to destruction of Indonesia's rainforests, endangering orangutans
(07/05/2010) Major U.S. companies are contributing to the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests by sourcing paper from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a subsidiary of Indonesia-based conglomerate Sinar Mas, alleges a new report from Greenpeace. Investigating two sites on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the activist group documented destruction of rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands by APP, a company that has lost several major contacts in recent years due to its poor environmental record. Greenpeace called out Walmart, Auchan, and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) as companies that continue to buy from APP despite its role in deforestation and peatlands degradation.
Papua New Guinea strips communal land rights protections, opening door to big business
(06/30/2010) On May 28th the parliament in Papua New Guinea passed a sweeping amendment that protects resource corporations from any litigation related to environmental destruction, labor laws, and landowner abuse. All issues related to the environment would now be decided by the government with no possibility of later lawsuits. Uniquely in the world, over 90 percent of land in Papua New Guinea is owned by clan or communally, not be the government. However this new amendment drastically undercuts Papua New Guinea's landowners from taking legislative action before or after environmental damage is done. Essentially it places all environmental safeguards with the Environment and Conservation Minister.
How do Asian elephants survive in fragmented and unprotected landscapes?
(06/28/2010) A new study in Tropical Conservation Science has found that Asian elephants living in a combination of fragmented forests and agricultural landscapes still depend on natural landscapes—rivers and forests—for survival. Following two herds of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in the Valparai plateau among the Anamalai Hills of India for three years, researchers found that the elephants spent much of their time, relative to their availability, near rivers and amid forest fragments. When they entered agricultural landscapes they preferred Eucalyptus and coffee to tea.
Interview with a conservation giant from India
(06/27/2010) It is perhaps sacrilegious to squeeze all the achievements of the Wildlife Trust of India Chairman, Dr M K Ranjitsinh in one short profile note. A scion of the former royal family of Wankaner in Saurashtra, Gujarat, he is one of the most distinguished and accomplished wildlifers in India and indeed the world. Named after the famous cricketer, Dr Ranjitsinh has led a peripatetic and multifarious life that has seen him make full use of his multi talented personality.
Scientists warn that Malaysia is converting tropical forests to rubberwood plantations
(06/24/2010) The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has condemned Malaysia's booming practice of converting tropical forests into rubberwood plantations, arguing that the conversion threatens Malaysia's biodiversity, endangered species, and releases significant greenhouse gas emissions.
Massive forest loss spurs Nepal to ban logging for two months
(06/23/2010) Nepal has announced a two month ban on logging throughout the mountainous country, reports the AFP. The ban was issued after officials received reports of alarming deforestation in lowland areas; according to one official over 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of forest was lost in a few months, more forest than was lost from 2000-2005.
Violence at indigenous logging blockade in Borneo
(06/21/2010) A road blockade organized by Penan tribesmen in Malaysian Borneo turned violent over the weekend when a timber company official allegedly struck a native protester, reports the Bruno Manser Fund. Malaysian state police, who arrived in logging company vehicles, subsequently told the Penan to dismantle their blockade, which was established to protest continued logging of rainforest lands.
Swiss giant orders investigation into its largest palm oil supplier
(06/15/2010) Migros, Switzerland's largest supermarket chain, will lodge a formal complaint against Malaysia's IOI Group after the palm oil grower was linked to illegal forest-clearing and encroachment on customary lands, reports the Bruno Manser Fund.
Indonesia's plan to save its rainforests
(06/14/2010) Late last year Indonesia made global headlines with a bold pledge to reduce deforestation, which claimed nearly 28 million hectares (108,000 square miles) of forest between 1990 and 2005 and is the source of about 80 percent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia would voluntarily cut emissions 26 percent — and up to 41 percent with sufficient international support — from a projected baseline by 2020. Last month, Indonesia began to finally detail its plan, which includes a two-year moratorium on new forestry concession on rainforest lands and peat swamps and will be supported over the next five years by a one billion dollar contribution by Norway, under the Scandinavian nation's International Climate and Forests Initiative. In an interview with mongabay.com, Agus Purnomo and Yani Saloh of Indonesia's National Climate Change Council to the President discussed the new forest program and Norway's billion dollar commitment.
Poachers kidnap and murder ranger in India
(06/14/2010) A forest guard (i.e. ranger) in Orang National Park paid the ultimate price for protecting wildlife last week. Hassan Ali was found with two bullets in his stomach after being kidnapped by four men allegedly connected to poaching operations targetting the park.
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