November 18, 2021Lu Shegay & Zihao Yu

Study Shines a Light on Indonesia’s Murky Shark Fishery and Trade


November 5, 2021

As a fisheries biologist in Indonesia, Andhika Prasetyo connects with fishers by accompanying them on their voyages out to sea. He can always tell from their faces whether the day’s fishing is going well: if there are smiles, the catch will be good.

But managing the balance between ample catches and long-term sustainability is a challenge. Fisheries authorities often struggle to keep track of where fish are caught across Indonesia’s vast archipelago and to trace their subsequent trade in domestic and international markets. For example, unscrupulous traders reportedly buy export-restricted species from domestic markets to sell covertly on lucrative international markets. In 2020, an undercover investigation by Indonesian media shed light on the “tricks” used to conceal protected species’ fins from authorities. One method is stacking fins within the middle or lower layers of crates to evade detection by busy customs officers.

The study also revealed a complex web of trade within Indonesia. Fishers typically sell sharks and rays whole at the market, then bulk buyers cut them up and process them into products. Important transit hubs in Papua and Bali were identified through which products such as shark fins and meat enter domestic markets or are sold to exporters in the port cities of Jakarta and Surabaya on the island of Java. They also found that as little as 4% by weight of shark and ray landings were exported, a finding the researchers attribute to unsystematic data collection and high rates of domestic shark meat consumption, some of which goes unreported.

International trade in live sharks and rays, most likely to supply aquariums and high-end restaurants, mainly in China (including Hong Kong), Malaysia, and the U.S., is surging, according to the study. In recent years, live shark and ray exports from Indonesia have nearly doubled every 12 months. There appears to be a particularly high demand for coral reef species.

One solution is to equip monitoring officers with better skills and species identification methods. Although expert observers can identify protected and export-restricted species from fins or torsos, it is impossible to visually identify the origin of heavily processed products. Nonetheless, closing trade loopholes is only part of the solution since it will not directly stop threatened sharks and rays from being caught in the first place. It will still be necessary to trace were protected or export-restricted species are being caught and to work with those fishing communities.

Commentaries of IALA

Indonesia is one of the countries that is considered home to many species of sharks and rays, with an annual average landing of 110,737 metric tons between 2007 and 2017. While in some places, fishing of sharks and rays occurs intentionally, mainly for the purposes of shark finning, 86% of Indonesian catches comprise incident fishing of sharks and rays, in accordance with the report published in 2018 by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Globally, the population of sharks and rays declines by approximately 70% due to the fishing industry. As for Indonesia specifically, out of 221 species in the country, only 6 species are legally protected in a full amount from any type of catch and trade. These species are the whale shark, the giant manta ray, the reef manta ray, and three species of sawfish. But the legal protection may not be always sufficient, the issue with enforcement in the country remains open.

Coastal Forest at Labrador Nature Reserve, Home to Critically Endangered Species, To Be Restored


November 7, 2021

A 2.5ha coastal beach forest in Singapore's Greater Southern Waterfront will be restored as part of a new Forest Restoration Action Plan for Labrador Nature Reserve. The plan will also see the development of a new Keppel Coastal Trail from 2022, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced on Sunday (Nov 7).

Calling the coastal hill forest "one of the rare and unique habitats" in Labrador Nature Reserve, NParks said the forest houses some "very rare" species of plants that are tolerant to salt exposure and poorer soil conditions. As part of the restoration, about 5,000 native trees that are suited to the coastal forest environment will be planted in the area. These trees will provide food and shelter for native species and strengthen the resilience of the ecosystem.

Commentaries of IALA

Taking all necessary steps to conserve the habitat so the population of animals may be restored. Labrador Nature Reserve is a crucial place in Singapore for lots of animals as it is home to more than 100 bird species and 15 mangrove species, including critically endangered species like the straw-headed bulbul.

The efforts to provide restoration to this area are also planned to be extended into the sea, especially since the Labrador Nature Reserve contains the last remaining natural rocky shore on mainland Singapore and is home to a wide diversity of marine species as well. The Forest Restoration Action Plan for Labrador Nature Reserve states that future restoration efforts shall be done by 2030.

Lion at Singapore Zoo Tests Positive for COVID-19; Five Lions Now Infected


November 10, 2021

An African lion at the Singapore Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19 after showing signs of illness, the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) said on Wednesday (Nov 10). This comes a day after it was announced that four Asiatic lions at the Night Safari had contracted the coronavirus. Nine Asiatic lions at the Night Safari and five African lions at the Singapore Zoo have been isolated, including the five that have COVID-19. 

AVS noted that according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), there is currently no evidence that animals play a role in the spread of COVID-19 to humans. However, there have been “sporadic and isolated” reports of animals testing positive for the virus in other countries, after being in close contact with people who are infected with COVID-19.

The four Asiatic lions at the Night Safari tested positive after being exposed to infected employees at the wildlife park. Mandai Wildlife Group said on Tuesday that three keepers from the Night Safari Carnivore section had tested positive for COVID-19.  

After two keepers tested positive while off-duty, tests were conducted on team members who had been in contact with them. A third employee, who was asymptomatic, subsequently tested positive at work and was stood down from duty.

Commentaries of IALA

While there is no proof that animals may spread the coronavirus to humans, humans do the contrary, and it remains dangerous for humans to interact with animals while carrying the virus. It is an undeniable fact that animals mostly suffer from human activities exploiting them. Zoos are not beneficial for animals because of their life-long captivity. However, it became a serious issue especially after the hit of the pandemic. After the hit of the virus, a lot of facilities have remained without staff due to quarantine measures, and many lacked the immediate reaction to the problem. While presently there is a potential recovery with fewer humans infected, animals in zoos remain in danger of interacting with humans potentially carrying and spreading the virus.

In Nepal, Doubling Down on Tiger Conservation Looks to Pay Off


November 11, 2021

In 2010, Nepal and the 12 other countries with wild tiger populations came up with an ambitious plan: Double the population of tigers in the wild by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac. In the decade since then, however, Nepal is the only country that has even come close to achieving that goal. From 121 tigers in 2010, there are now about 240 in Nepal’s various national parks and adjacent protected areas, with the government aiming for 250 by 2022. To sustain a healthy population of wild tigers, two key factors are space and prey. Aryal estimates Nepal could hold up to 700 tigers if the buffer zones adjacent to the national parks are expanded, and more wildlife corridors between protected areas are created. Best case, the tiger population could double in just five years, he says.

The recent history of tigers is a bleak one. A century ago there were about 100,000 wild tigers spread across Asia’s various landscapes. By the early 2000s, that number had plummeted by 95%, due largely to poaching and loss of habitat. What used to be nine subspecies have been whittled down to six, with the Javan, Bali, and Caspian tigers going extinct. Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia lost their tigers, and the big cats are now restricted to just 13 countries: Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, and Russia.

By 2010, when the range countries decided to double the population, there were an estimated 3,200 tigers left in the wild. Today that number is about 4,000, but this is dwarfed by the estimated 5,000 to 10,000 tigers held in captivity in the U.S. alone, and the unknown number kept on Chinese tiger farms. Those latter populations suggest tigers as a species aren’t going extinct any time soon. So why the urgency to double the wild population?

Commentaries of IALA

Tigers are among those wildlife animals that are losing their habitat or having their habitat fragmented due to anthropogenic activities, thus, the population of tigers in Asia continues to decline. A key factor that Nepal had in its success is strong enforcement against poaching. Nepal’s zero-poaching approach means no tigers have been shot in a decade.

Moreover, Nepalese conservation efforts involved the military, with heavily armed soldiers patrolling parks like Chitwan using drones and surveillance cameras, along with sniffer dogs, elephants, jeeps, motorbikes, boats, and bicycles. Under Nepalese law, it is prohibited to hunt, apart from trophy hunting of a few species. Poaching, even of common species such as wild boar and deer, leads to long prison sentences, while killing a tiger is penalized with a life sentence.

Animal Rights Groups Decry as Inhumane New Policy of Capturing and Killing Wild Boars That Stray into Hong Kong Urban Areas


November 13, 2021

Activist groups including the Hong Kong Wild Boar Concern Group and Hong Kong Animal Post made the joint appeal on Saturday urging authorities to instead improve the current policy to “capture, neuter and relocate” the animals in place since 2017. The Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) announced a day earlier that it would start to regularly capture and euthanize wild boars that had entered urban areas using dart guns with anesthetics.

The change in approach came after a surge of wild boar sightings in populated areas, causing a nuisance and even injuries to residents. The latest such encounter happened on Wednesday when a wild boar knocked down a part-time police officer and bit him on the leg in Tin Hau. Immediately after the attack, the wild pig ran off, going over the edge of the car park and falling about 10 meters. It was later certified dead at the scene by a veterinary surgeon.

Hong Kong Animal Post urged authorities to respect animal rights and recognize that the wild boars were sentient beings that did not deserve to be killed. Both organizations called on the government to improve the design of rubbish bins in country parks and urban areas so that wild boars did not enter in search of food.

Commentaries of IALA

With the expansion of the scope of human activities, More and more wild animals are facing the risk of habitat reduction, fragmentation, or loss. Wild animals that have lost their habitat have to interact with humans. Hong Kong has about 3,000 wild boars, and boars are seen more frequently than before. Humane euthanization is not the right way to solve the problem. It is better to help the homeless wild boars find a new home to live in with enough space and a source of food and water.

Learn more about Do’s and Don’ts for Human-wild boar encounter here.

Chinese Anti-Pandemic Workers Club Corgi to Death, Triggering Online Backlash


November 15, 2021

The killing of corgi by anti-pandemic workers in the Jiangxi Province city of Shangrao has angered Chinese netizens after a video of the pet’s death was posted to Weibo on Friday (Nov. 12). The dog’s owner, surnamed Fu (傅), posted a video that showed two workers dressed in full PPE beating the dog with iron bars, according to a report by WhatsonWeibo. Fu was undergoing quarantine at a nearby hotel that did not allow pets and so could not be there to save her dog’s life. She reportedly received threatening phone calls from people telling her to self-censor and remove the video as it started to go viral.

The incident became a trending topic on Chinese social media over the weekend, with one hashtag about the story reaching over 170 million views on Weibo. The response to the news was overwhelmingly negative, with many netizens criticizing the workers for killing the innocent pet, especially since it had not even tested positive for COVID-19, per WhatsonWeibo.

Responding to the online backlash, local authorities in Jiangxi released a statement the next day, claiming the dog was dealt with through “harmless disposal” (无害化处理) Chinese government mouthpiece the Global Times soon entered the fray, saying that although their handling this time was “imperfect,” the public ought to be more lenient toward anti-pandemic workers, given their supposed fatigue. The outlet claimed the worker responsible had apologized to the owner, been appropriately reprimanded, and transferred to another position.

There have been several cases of animal cullings during the pandemic that have angered netizens in recent months. In September, three pet cats that tested positive for COVID-19 were destroyed in China’s Harbin, triggering a backlash on social media.

Taiwan has also had similar incidents. In August, for example, authorities in Kaohsiung culled 154 cats that had been smuggled aboard a boat across the Taiwan Strait, triggering an outcry among the country’s animal rights groups.

Commentaries of IALA

Pets are protected as regular personal property in the Chinese legal system. The administrative acts of the local government shall have the rationality and legitimacy to deal with the citizens’ personal property. Under the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases and Animal Epidemic Prevention Law, the relevant authorities have the power to deal with animals that have been infected with infectious diseases. One foundation in China (Tajijin) has filed the application for the government information disclosure to ask the official to explain the basis for making the decision to deal with the corgi.

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