Global Warming Kills 14% of World's Corals in a Decade
October 5, 2021
Dynamite fishing and pollution - but mostly global warming - wiped out 14 percent of the world's coral reefs from 2009 to 2018, leaving graveyards of bleached skeletons where vibrant ecosystems once thrived, according to the largest ever survey of coral health.
The hardest hit were corals in South Asia and the Pacific, around the Arabian Peninsula, and off the coast of Australia, more than 300 scientists in the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network reported. Loss of coral from 2009 to 2018 varied by region, ranging from 5 percent in East Asia to 95 percent in the eastern tropical Pacific.
The UN's climate science advisory panel, the IPCC, projects with "high confidence" that global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels will see 70 to 90 percent of all corals disappear. In a 2 degrees Celsius warmer world, less than 1 percent of global corals would survive.
East and Southeast Asia's "Coral Triangle" - which contains nearly 30 percent of the world's coral reefs - were hit less hard by warming waters over the last decade, and in some cases showed recovery.
Commentaries of IALA
Climate change has become a serious issue that affects all living beings, both land and aquatic. But the climate crisis may also affect us, humans, because the disappearance of the oceans may deprive us of the air we need to breathe. Oceans absorb over 90% of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions, shielding land surfaces but generating huge, long-lasting marine heatwaves that are pushing many species of corals past their limits of tolerance. Coral reefs provide the habitat for thousands of aquatic species, at least a quarter of all marine animals and plants, although it covers only a tiny fraction of the ocean floor (0.2%). Apart from that, they also provide protein, jobs, and protection from storms and shoreline erosion for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. There is an urgent need to take all necessary measures to protect the marine environment, including the end of overfishing activities and reduction of all the drives that cause climate change, such as animal agriculture, which is responsible for the major part of greenhouse gas emissions.
Locals Cut Up Dying Beached Whale Shark for Consumption in West Java
October 5, 2021
Conservation authorities in Indonesia have condemned a recent incident in which a beached whale shark was cut up and reportedly consumed by locals on the western coast of the island of Java. The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) was found dead by residents living near Cirarangan Sindangbarang Beach in West Java province on the morning of Sept. 26. When officials arrived after having received a report of the stranding, they found that the animal had already been cut up into small pieces, some of which were said to have been eaten by the locals.
Indonesia has recently been training locals to carry out immediate rescue operations for stranded marine animals to keep them alive while waiting for conservation authorities to arrive. It also strongly discourages locals from cutting up and consuming any body parts, citing health risks. However, the initiative has not yet reached many of the locations where strandings are most common, due to budget constraints and a lack of marine animal experts at local levels.
The local marine resources management department in West Java said it would look into the latest incident and plan a public awareness-raising program to discourage the consumption of protected sea species.
Commentaries of IALA
Strandings of marine mammals have become a common case in many countries, including Indonesia, which is home to the longest coastline of Asia. However, the reasons for such strandings have not been established yet. According to some theories, starvation due to ingestion of marine debris, being separated from the pod/groups, and ship strikes serve as grounds for such cases.
Whale sharks are legally protected under the law of Indonesia, and consumption of even the dead whale shark is punished by imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine of IDR 100 million (USD 7000). Although regulations and liability exist in the country for violations of the law, the problem with enforcing such regulations remains open.
The population of whale sharks has globally declined by more than 50% for the past several decades, and the species is classified as Endangered under the IUCN Red List. The major threats to these animals include oil and gas drilling activities, fisheries, and recreational activities.
In Bali, Prominent Official Faces Backlash Over Illegal Pet Gibbon
October 7, 2021
An elected official in Bali surrendered a baby gibbon to conservation authorities last month after a social media post showing him playing with the animal at home caused outrage among animal rights advocates and conservationists, the latest in a long line of similar incidents in the mega biodiverse country.
On Sept. 14, I Nyoman Giri Prasta, the head of Bali’s Badung district, posted a video to Instagram of his baby siamang, a type of gibbon. “This is Mimi, I take good care of her,” he says in the video.
The district chief’s video was quickly deleted, and the next day, a new video uploaded to his account showed him handing over the siamang to the head of Bali’s conservation agency. In it, Giri Prasta says he gave up the animal so that it could be rehabilitated and released into the wilds of its native Sumatra.
In March, authorities confiscated nine eagles, all of them protected species, from the home of the deputy governor of Aceh province. Later that month, conservation authorities were “attacked” while trying to recover a pet orangutan from a “paramilitary leader” in North Sumatra province, according to Panut Hadisiswoyo, the head of the Orangutan Information Center, a group that combats the illegal wildlife trade. Neither of the perpetrators has been punished, Panut said.
Agus Budi Santosa, the head of the Bali conservation agency, said the siamang would be rehabilitated at a facility in West Sumatra province before being released into its natural habitat. He said he was focused on returning the animal to the wild and hadn’t thought about punishing Giri Prasta for breaking the law.
Gede Nyoman Bayu Wirayudha, the founder of the Bali Wildlife Rescue Center, where the siamang was initially transferred after its confiscation, said baby gibbons that are presumably taken from their mother in the wild to be kept as pets are at high risk of developing stress-related problems.
Commentaries of IALA
The siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) is an arboreal, black-furred gibbon who is native to the forests of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. This species is the only species in the genus Symphalangus and is endangered due to such factors as illegal pet trade, poaching, and habitat loss.
Habitat fragmentation of siamangs occurs due to plantations, forest fire, illegal logging, encroachment, and human development. Palm oil plantations have removed large areas of the siamang's habitat in recent decades, and it replaced much rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia, where the siamang originally lived. Another major ground is human intervention, namely, infrastructure development in many areas, including roads, which now divide conservation areas and have caused forest fragmentation and edge effects.
Primates are hunted to their meat in some parts of Asia, but not in Indonesia. Rather, they are hunted in Indonesia for the illegal pet trade. In Indonesia, the siamang is legally protected, and keeping a protected species as a pet is penalized by imprisonment for up to 5 years under the 1990 Conservation Act, however, even the prosecution of such crimes remains non-enforceable.
China Pledges USD 233 Million to Global Biodiversity Fund
October 12, 2021
China on Tuesday pledged to inject US$233 million into a new fund to protect biodiversity in developing countries during a key UN conservation summit, despite disagreements among major donors on the initiative.
Beijing — the world’s biggest polluter — has sought to play a more prominent role internationally in biodiversity conservation in recent years. Its pledge came as delegates from about 195 countries gathered in the southern Chinese city of Kunming for the first of a two-part summit on safeguarding plants, animals, and ecosystems. The summit aims to establish a new accord setting out targets for 2030 and 2050. Global spending to protect and restore nature needs to triple this decade to about US$350 billion annually by 2030 and US$536 billion by 2050 to meet this target, a UN report said in May.
Commentaries of IALA
This was an important step in the direction of the conservation of nature by China. According to Chinese President Xi Jinping, China “will take the lead in establishing the Kunming biodiversity fund with a capital contribution of 1.5 billion yuan (US$233 million) to support the cause of biodiversity conservation in developing countries.” A key proposal being debated at the conference is the “30 by 30” agenda that would afford 30 percent of the Earth’s land and oceans protected status by 2030.
Biodiversity is important to all living beings for many reasons. It provides functioning ecosystems that supply oxygen, clean air, and water, pollination of plants, pest control, wastewater treatment, and many ecosystem services and it represents a wealth of systematic ecological data that help us to understand the natural world and its origins. At a time when more than 1 million species are at risk of extinction - and the links between human health and the health of the planet are clear - the stakes have never been higher, according to the experts. This step is especially important at present times when we all are experiencing the climate crisis in all parts of the planet.
As Seizures of Poached Giant Clams Rise, Links to Ivory Trade Surface
October 15, 2021
In April 2021, authorities in the Philippines made a notable discovery. On a beachfront property on Sitio Green Island in Palawan province, they found shell after shell of giant clams, all protected species, laid out on the sand. The stockpile of shells weighed more than 200 metric tons, and their commercial value was estimated at around 1.2 billion Philippine pesos ($23.6 million), making this the most substantial confiscation in Palawan.
The most commercially valuable giant clamshells are ones that have become “fossilized” after spending a long time in the seabed, Neo said, since they provide a thicker surface on which to carve. Giant clamshells also have higher value when they display rich red, purple and brown hues, or translucent jade-like shades, she said.
The WJC report suggests the translucent giant clamshells resemble elephant ivory when carved. Therefore, investigators hypothesize that clamshells may have been increasingly used as a substitute for ivory when China enacted a ban on elephant ivory in 2018. Right now, the only indication of the size and severity of the trade is reported seizures. Since 2016, there have been 14 seizures of giant clamshells in the Philippines, the largest one taking place in October 2019, when officials confiscated 120,000 metric tons of shells with an estimated value of $39 million. There have also been 46 seizures reported in China, but most of these cases involved “small, retail-level quantities of shells and shell crafts,” and only one was linked to the Philippines, according to the WJC report.
The report notes that 17% of clamshell seizures also contained elephant ivory, and other types of ivory such as mammoth and narwhal, which suggests that the same criminal groups trafficking ivory could also be trafficking clamshells. Other seizures of giant clamshells contained other illegal marine products such as hawksbill turtle shell crafts, corals, and seahorses.
The report also suggests that Japan is a market of concern since its government does not currently offer any protections for giant clams. Additionally, Japan has legal markets for both giant clamshells and elephant ivory. But at present, investigators have not identified any smuggling routes from the Philippines into Japan — or into China, for that matter.
Commentaries of IALA
Poaching of giant clams is a common practice in the Philippines, and for the last 5 years, there were approximately 13 similar seizures made by the authorities. In the Philippines, federal law prohibits the gathering, possession, or trade of 7 of the 12 known giant clam species, and such actions result in fines or imprisonment.
Giant clams are the largest shellfish in the world, and they mostly exist in shallow coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and the Red Sea, with the highest diversity in the Coral Triangle area in the South Pacific. These animals are hunted for their meat by the communities living in coastal areas in Asia and the South Pacific. However, for the past 50 years, poaching and trade of these animals have become popular for luxury food, sale for aquariums, and decorations. Presently, the giant clam is listed under Appendix II of CITES, which strictly regulates their trade, but it remains unclear whether this inclusion would be effective for the protection of these animals.
Rescuers of Endangered Slow Loris in Indonesia Not Resting on Their Laurels, Despite Drop in Smuggling
October 16, 2021
Despite numerous arrests of sellers and buyers as well as a relentless campaign to stop the trade, demand for slow loris seems to still exist, as evidenced by the many social media posts of people with their pet Javan slow lorises in Indonesia and abroad. Poaching has been one of the main reasons for slow lorises’ sharp population decrease, along with habitat loss, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) noted.
The veterinarian said poachers typically held slow lorises in small cages once they were captured from the wild or placed in plastic fruit crates when they were smuggled across provincial or national borders.“ The creature is mostly solitary in the wild and can be very territorial,” she said. “This is why slow lorises can get embroiled in fights over territory and food.” The fights could be so nasty that slow lorises sometimes got permanently injured and even died, particularly in captivity where such brawls occurred more frequently. Life in captivity, where the threat of attack from other slow lorises was constantly lurking, could be stressful and traumatizing for some slow lorises that they sometimes nibbled on their own flesh, the veterinarian continued.
After more than a year of no major arrests and raids, police foiled the smuggling of 79 Javan slow lorises in January 2019. The lorises were being transported from West Java province, where they were captured, to an international port in East Java where they would be smuggled to China. There had been several small arrests since – the latest occurred in July when two people were arrested in Riau province for trying to sell eight Sumatran slow lorises.
National police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan said the low number of arrests did not mean that the slow loris trade had truly declined, adding that poachers might have simply gotten better at hiding their operations.
Commentaries of IALA
Slow lorises are a group of several species of nocturnal strepsirrhine primates that make up the genus Nycticebus that are found in Southeast Asia, namely Bangladesh and Northeast India in the west to the Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines in the east, and from Yunnan province in China in the north to the island of Java in the south. Because of their cute and fluffy appearance, they have been the attraction for many people actively engaging in the wildlife pet trade, however, these animals are the world’s only venomous primates and endangered due to several factors. According to the wildlife protection unit manager of the International Animal Rescue, slow lorises in Indonesia “are not only sold as pets. In Sumatra, they are sometimes slaughtered as offerings in a dark magic ritual to cast evil spells on others. In other parts of the country, some people killed lorises for their oil which they believe can act as a love potion.”
For the last 24 years, for instance, the population for the Javan slow loris has decreased by more than 80%. Currently, the species is classified as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List. Slow lorises are mainly threatened by habitat loss, habitat degradation, poaching, and illegal wildlife trade. But despite various campaigns of animal rights activists, the number of cases for illegal activities has not yet decreased.