Monday, July 28, 2014

When the buying stops, the killing can too by Asha Kaushal. Posted on July 27, 2014, Sunday

Dr Ronald Orenstein
IF you are an avid follower of nature-oriented television channels, you would have heard the tagline: “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”
Reiterating this was Dr Ronald Orenstein, who recently presented a talk entitled ‘Ivory, Horn and Blood’ in Kuching.
During his presentation, which was organised by the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre and the Kuching branch of the Malaysian Nature Society, Orenstein enlightened the audience on a very little known crime – poaching.
Unknown to many of us, wildlife poaching has long been an international criminal enterprise, equivalent to the illegal arms and drugs trade.
Rhinos have long been killed for their horns, which are believed to hold medicinal and healing properties.
East Asian communities believe that the horns, when ground and consumed, can cure everything from fever to cancer. It is also believed to be an aphrodisiac and all-purpose health tonic.
This is a myth that has not been proven. These claims are merely marketing ploys that victimise the ill, increase profitability for the irresponsible involved in the illicit wildlife trade, and cause the murder of thousands upon thousands of wild animals.
Horns are made of the same type of protein (keratin) that make up our hair and fingernails. In other words, consuming rhino horn is essentially equivalent to biting and swallowing your fingernails or hair. Orenstein explained the need to debunk myths related to the therapeutic uses of rhino horn.
Rhino horn and elephant tusk ivory have also been associated with wealth and status all around the world.
Those who can afford genuine and exclusive decorative items made from horn and ivory have encouraged the trade of these two items on the black market.
Orenstein pointed out that rhinos and elephants are at risk of disappearing, thanks to the menacing automatic rifles brandished by poachers who are funded by the very same international gangs that back wars and the illicit drugs trade.
Rhino horn is said to be as valuable as gold or cocaine, and in this horrendous trade, hundreds of park rangers and those responsible for protecting these animals, particularly in Africa, have been murdered.
During his presentation, Orenstein showed graphic photos of murdered park rangers, and rhinos and elephants left for dead after being brutally mutilated for their horns and tusks.
In his plea to the audience, Orenstein emphasised the need to educate and sensitise the general public to the carnage and atrocities that take place just to acquire horn and ivory.
Orenstein’s talk was based on his recently published book entitled ‘Ivory, Horn and Blood – Behind the Elephant and Rhinoceros Poaching Crisis’, which examines the historical and current situation faced by elephants and rhinos, and trade in ivory and horn.
Orenstein is a Canadian and part-time resident of Kuching. A wildlife conservationist, he has authored eight books on science and nature. He is a recognised expert on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
He acts as a consultant for Humane Society International (HSI) and has represented HSI and other organisations at many Cites meetings, including all Meetings of the Conference of the Parties since 1987, as well as at other treaty meetings including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
At the 1987 Cites meeting, Orenstein was seconded to the official delegation of Malaysia, and oversaw the successful adoption of three Malaysian government proposals to protect Malaysian wild species.
At the 1989 meeting, he was one of the engineers of the compromise amendment that led to an international ivory ban.
He served on the official working group that prepared revised criteria for listing Cites species, adopted in 2004.
Orenstein has worked for many years on elephant and rhinoceros conservation issues.
He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Species Survival Network (SSN), a coalition of over 80 non-governmental organisations working with the Cites treaty, and also of the Elephant Research Foundation (ERF).
He is also a member of MNS Kuching branch and frequently posts about Sarawak’s natural history on his blog ‘A Wandering Naturalist’ (
Orenstein’s latest book ‘Ivory, Horn and Blood – Behind the Elephant and Rhinoceros Poaching Crisis’.
The Malaysian Nature Society

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Building a wildlife corridor in the heart of Borneo. By Danielle Sendou Ringgit @danitbpseeds

UST LAST FEBRUARY, a report on the sighting of the rarely seen Clouded Leopards on Mount Santubong immediately sparked excitement among nature-lovers.
Secretive and solitary, it is rather difficult to study this creature as they are rarely seen anywhere in the forest and studying them can be challenging.
With a distinctive black and greyish patterned fur coat, over 2 metres in length and weighing up to 25 kg, this rare and exotic creature is severely threatened by hunting and loss of its forest habitats.
In November last year, according to Borneo Bulletin, a spotted clouded leopard was caught slipping into human habitat in Brunei when it was spotted by security guards roaming around a facility before they called the authorities. Thankfully, the leopard was caught and safely released into the wild.
The Bornean clouded leopard seen resting on a tree in Brunei's capital. – Photo courtesy of DONNY TAN & ADIB TAHA/ Borneo Bulletin photo
The Bornean clouded leopard seen resting on a tree in Brunei’s capital. – Photo courtesy of DONNY TAN & ADIB TAHA/ Borneo Bulletin photo
Sadly, this wasn’t the first time a spotted leopard had been found roaming urban areas. Wildlife authorities have reported a lot of cases of encroachment by these big cats looking for food in recent years indicating that its natural habitat has been disturbed.
Since their living habitats have been harassed mostly by human activities such as excessive logging, deforestation and development of agriculture for crops and plants, it is no wonder these wildlife creatures have begun to invade human habitats.
These animals face difficulties in migrating to other parts of the jungle due to the scarcity of safe passage or routes for them to use. Even though there are currently 31 national parks, eight nature reserves and four wildlife sanctuaries in Sarawak, their scattered locations throughout the state and also around Borneo makes it harder for the wild animals to move around to breed, thereby limiting their gene pool.
During a presentation at the ‘Youth Green X-Change Programme – Talk on Sustainable Development’ held at Azam Complex, World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) head of conservation Dr Henry Chan said that the idea of a wildlife corridor, linking protected areas from Kalimantan to Sabah could help boost the rich ecosystem of Borneo.
So, what’s the big deal about this corridor and why are they so important?
The Heart of Borneo proposed boundary. Photo credit
According to conservation corridor website, Wildlife Corridors are habitats that may vary in size, shape and composition connecting fragments of patches of habitats to help the migration and movements of individuals through both disposal and migration so that the gene pool and diversity are maintained between local populations. It is by linking population throughout the landscape that there are fewer chances for wildlife animals to extinct.
In many cases of endangered species where their habitat has been disturbed, sometimes the only way they can survive is to migrate to another part of the forest for protection as well as food. The corridor may enable animals to travel a long distance.
The wildlife corridor vital to ensure the safety of animal was proven in 2012 through an 18-month intensive study conducted by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) between two areas in the fragmented Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.
The long-term study which used camera traps funded by four American zoos: Houston, Columbus, Cincinnati and Phoenix was initiated by SWD to gather information on the presence/absence of wildlife in the corridor and document its use by different species.
Through the study, they identified 27 species of mammals including the extremely rare otter civet, the clouded leopard, Malayan Sun Bear, six species of birds including the endangered storm stork and it was indicated that the animals relied on the forested link to get from one patch to another.
The sun bear (Ursus malayanus) is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC). From:
The sun bear (Ursus malayanus) is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Photo credit: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), Vulnerable . Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), Vulnerable.  Photo credit: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), Least Concern. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), Least Concern. Photo credit: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The crested serpent eagle (Spilornis cheela), Least Concern. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The crested serpent eagle (Spilornis cheela), Least Concern.  Photo credit: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), Endangered. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), Endangered. Photo credit: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
Bornean elephant take two. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
Bornean elephant take two. Photo credit: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
A romp of oriental small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinerea), Vulnerable. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
A romp of oriental small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinerea), Vulnerable. Photo credit: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), Endangered. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC)
The proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), Endangered. Photo credit: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC)
According to DGFC Director, Dr Benoit Goossens, since there is a high diversity of mammal species and also abundance of individuals making use of the narrow corridor in the forest, without it, most animal populations would diminish and probably go extinct.
Borneo may only make up about 1% of land in the world but it holds approximately 6% of the globe’s biodiversity in its rich tropical rainforest. Our rainforest is the habitat for clouded leopards, sun bears, orang utan, proboscis monkey, pygmy elephants and hornbills.
With the high diversity of living individuals in our tropical forest, national parks have played a key role in providing habitats for wildlife animals in our tropical forest but due to these protected areas being scattered around Borneo, it is hard for these wildlife animals to migrate safely to ensure their survival.
Other examples of animals that depend on the corridor for migration purposes are the pygmy elephants and orang utans in Lower Kinabatangan. In 2012, the Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) secured a 5.7-acre land which served as an ecological corridor for fragmented forests in Sabah for the migration of elephants and orang utans.
The idea of the wildlife corridor from Kalimantan to Sabah was initially addressed by the Sultan of Brunei during the ‘Heart of Borneo’ (HoB) meeting the previous year and that the implementation of the programme would be carried out in stages.
The HoB initiative, a combined effort of both government and NGO was initiated by a joint Declaration by the governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia in 2007 covers approximately 200,000 square kilometres of inter-connected forest in all three regions which covers 30% of Borneo.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Don’t take dengue fever lightly Posted on July 20, 2014, Sunday

Aedes mosquito having its fill of blood.
A YOUNG housewife was not bothered about mosquitoes until she came down with dengue fever about four years ago.
It started as a mild headache before morphing into a burning fever.There was a rash of tiny red spots over her arms, chest and back.
“The fever was awful but the headache was the worst — like being tortured,” recalled the 35-year-old from a suburban village accessible by all vehicles.
Taking paracetamol did not prove very effective and it was worse when she tried to sleep.
“The headache — it was horrible,” she said on condition of anonymity.
She suffered for two days and one night before seeking medical help.
“I was first examined by a medical assistant from one of the rural clinics. He immediately referred me to the Sarawak General Hospital.
“I was too weak to go to the hospital — and thank goodness, my husband was there to help me,” she said.
At first, the hospital was unable to confirm the dengue virus but because there was an outbreak in Kuching back then, they put me in the ward.
“I was prescribed paracetamol but on my first night in hospital, I just felt awful. The next day, my blood test confirmed it was dengue. Luckily, I did not have any serious complications,” she added.
The housewife started feeling a lot better after the first day in hospital with the doctors monitoring her condition.
On the second day, she was informed the fever had peaked and the worst was over. She stayed in hospital for two nights and three days.
She said the illness made her “incredibly weak” for a week after she was discharged and it took a while for her to fully recover.
The mother of four said she would never again be casual about protection against mosquitoes.
“I don’t ever want to go through the same ordeal. I have learnt my lesson and will always make sure mosquitoes have no place in our home,” she said.
The life cycle of Aedes mosquito.
Chills and headaches
A general worker in his mid-40s had also struggled with Dengue fever about a year ago. It started with fever, chills and headaches.
“When I first got it, my days were spent under the blanket in my bedroom. It was horrible and I didn’t know I had Dengue fever until the doctor told me,”said the man who also preferred not to be identified.
He first felt something was wrong when he woke up one Sunday morning with “one of my worst hangovers ever.”
The night before, while clubbing, he had a few cans of beer but the morning after, he felt as though he had downed a whole bottle of whisky.
He had pounding headaches all day, chills even when the weather was hot and muscle aches all
over. Miraculously, the next day, his fever subsided — the headaches were gone and he felt better.
“In fact, I felt so good I decided to return to work. As I got started, the pain came back — my feet were really sore and my fingertips hurt.
“I felt something was wrong when I could not move my fingers — the pain was so bad. Red dots started appearing all over my hands and feet. So I asked my friend to drive me to a private clinic.”
He claimed at first the doctor seemed doubtful it was Dengue because most patients suffered a lot more than he did. Nevertheless, he was referred to the Sarawak General Hospital where he was given a blood test.
About an hour later, the results confirmed he was infected by Dengue fever. His platelets count was low but not so low as to require hospitalisation.
Severe cases of Dengue are called hemorrhagic fever and can result in internal bleeding, low blood pressure and death.
The man said the doctor told him he must have a very strong immune system to suffer fever for only one day. Normally, victims are out for a week — or require hospitalisation.
He was also told there is no real medical treatment for Dengue fever other than rest, hydration and removal of mosquito breeding grounds.
He made sure he heeded the doctor’s advice to get plenty of rest and drink a lot of water over the week.
“My brush with Dengue was a mild one — I was lucky,” he said.
The two above narratives should serve as an eye-opener to all that Dengue fever is a painful affliction.
Dengue fever is caused by a tropical virus and spread by mosquitoes. It is a serious disease that can leave sufferers bed-ridden for weeks — and also kills tens of thousands people worldwide every year.
Dengue has been in the news in Malaysia everyday for weeks now.
The state of Dengue has, in fact, reached endemic level as reported cases continue to rise. As such, the government has set a two-month target to reduce Dengue fever cases, especially in the 492 localities where the disease is active.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced this on July 14 after chairing the inaugural meeting of the National Committee on Dengue in Putrajaya.
He said the Committee would endeavour to achieve the target by initiating “optimum measures” to control the disease.
“We hope to see a positive impact over the next two months. Dengue fever cases and deaths are reportedly rising — and this is alarming,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.
According to media reports, Selangor has the highest number of localities where the disease is active at 264, followed by Kelantan (66), Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya (45), Negeri Sembilan (41), Johor (28) and Sarawak (14).
Between January and July this year, 48,845 cases of Dengue fever have been reported — up 34,719 (246 per cent) over 14,126 for the corresponding period last year. Ninety-two deaths were also reported.
State Health Department director Datu Dr Zulkifli Jantan said as of June this year, Sarawak recorded 674 cases of Dengue fever with three reported deaths. However, overall, cases in the state this year were down 14.2 per cent compared to 786 cases in the corresponding period last year.
Even so, the public cannot be complacent but must continue taking measures to curb the spread of the disease by destroying the breeding grounds of Aedes mosquitoes in their compounds.
The community’s participation is the key to Dengue prevention.
Facts on dengue
The habitats of Aedes
Dengue fever — severe dengue
Dengue is a vector-borne disease transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. There are four serotypes of the virus that causes dengue and are known as DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, DEN-4.
Severe Dengue is a potentially lethal complication which can develop from dengue infections.
It is estimated there are over 50-100 million cases of Dengue worldwide each year and three billion people living in dengue endemic countries.
Where does the disease occur?
Dengue is mainly transmitted by a mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and distributed across all tropical countries. Travellers already infected with the virus also spread the disease when they get bitten by the local Aedes mosquito population.
Dengue outbreaks can occur anytime — as long as the mosquitoes are still active. However, in general, high humidity and temperature are conditions that favour mosquito survival, increasing the likelihood of transmission.
Dengue fever skin rashes.
Dengue fever causes flu-like symptoms and lasts for two to seven days. It usually occurs after an incubation period of four to 10 days after the bite of the infected mosquito.
High fever (40°C/104°F) is usually accompanied by at least two of the following symptoms:
Headaches, pain behind eyes, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands, joint, bone or muscle pains and rash.
In severe Dengue, the critical phase takes place around three to seven days after the first signs of illness. Temperature will decrease although this does NOT mean the person is necessarily recovering. Special attention needs to be given to these warning signs as it could lead to severe dengue: Severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bleeding gums, vomiting blood, rapid breathing and fatigue/restlessness.
When severe Dengue is suspected, the sick person should be rushed to the emergency room or to the closest health care provider.
There is no vaccine or specific medication for Dengue fever.
Patients should seek medical advice, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Paracetamol can be taken to bring down fever and reduce joint pains. However, aspirin or ibuprofen should not be taken since they can increase the risk of bleeding.
Patients can transmit the infection via Aedes mosquitoes after the first symptoms appear (within four to five days — maximum 12 days). As a precautionary approach, patients can adopt measures to reduce transmission by sleeping under a treated net, especially during the period of illness with fever.
Infection with one strain will provide life-time protection only against that particular strain. However, it’s still possible to become infected by other strains and develop into severe dengue.
When warning signs (listed above) of severe dengue are present, it’s imperative to consult a doctor and seek hospitalisation to manage the disease. With proper medical care and early recognition, case-fatality rates are below one per cent. However, the overall experience remains very discomforting and unpleasant.
Dengue fever skin rashes.
What should I do?
If you suspect you have Dengue, you need to see a doctor immediately.
Who spreads the disease?
Dengue is spread through the bite of the female mosquito (Aedes aegypti). The mosquito becomes infected when it takes the blood of a person infected with the virus. After about one week, the mosquito can then transmit the virus while biting a healthy person. The mosquito can fly up to 400 metres looking for water-filled containers to lay its eggs but usually remains close to the human habitation.
Aedes aegypti is a daytime feeder: The peak biting periods are early in the morning and in the evening before dusk.
Dengue cannot be spread directly from person to person. However, a person infected and suffering from Dengue fever can infect other mosquitoes. Humans are known to carry the infection from one country to another or from one area to another during the stage when the virus circulates and reproduces in the blood system.
Breeding grounds
The mosquitoes thrive in areas close to human population (urban areas).
The Aedes mosquito lays its eggs in water-filled containers inside the house and surrounding areas of dwellings. The eggs hatch when in contact with water. Eggs can withstand very dry conditions and survive for months. Female mosquitoes lay dozens of eggs up to five times during their lifetime. Adult mosquitoes “usually” rest indoors in dark areas (closets, under beds, behind curtains).
Reducing the risk
The best preventive measure for areas infested with Aedes mosquito is to eliminate the egg-laying sites – called source reduction. Lowering the number of eggs, larvae and pupae will reduce the number of emerging adult mosquitoes and the transmission of the disease.
Examples of breeding habitats: Indoor, ant traps, flower vases and saucers, water storage tank (domestic drinking water, bathrooms), plastic containers, bottles, outdoor, discarded bottles and tins, discarded tyres, artificial containers, tree holes, potholes, construction sites, drums for collecting rainwater, shells, husks, pods from trees, leaf axils of various plants, boats and equipment.
Items that collect rainwater or are used to store water should be covered or properly discarded. The remaining essential containers should be emptied and cleaned and scrubbed (to remove eggs) at least once a week. This will prevent adult mosquitoes from emerging from the egg-larva-pupa stage.
Outdoor breeding grounds of dengue-spreading Aedes mosquitoes are destroyed through fogging.
Reduce exposed skin to mosquitoes bites. Long-sleeved clothing and mosquito repellents are the most viable options.
Window and door screens, air-conditioning reduces the risk of mosquitoes coming into contact with the household members. Mosquito nets (and/or insecticide-treated nets) will also provide additional protection to people sleeping during the day or protect against other mosquitoes which can bite at night (such as Anopheles (malaria).
Household insecticides, aerosols, mosquito coils or other insecticide vaporisers maybe also reduce biting activity.
Generally, breeding grounds in the environment are destroyed through periodical fogging.
(Source: World Health Organisation)
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News bites from the natural world by Tom MacLaughlin. Posted on June 29, 2014, Sunday

It is estimated that thousands of wild civets are poached from the wild for coffee farms.
Tsunami model for Sabah
A TSUNAMI that occurred off the coast of Brunei, known as the Brunei Slide, has been modelled to show the affects of the waves on Brunei and East Malaysia.
During the first 15 minutes, the west coast of Western Sabah would have gotten waves of 24 metres, while Brunei and the Northeast Malaysia coast would have received waves of 14 metres and 17 metres respectively.
The research was conducted by Mui Fatt Chai and others from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).
For more go to
Rising of New Zealand
The islands of New Zealand split off from Antarctica about 80 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.
New Zealand then became part of the sea floor only to rise again about 25 million years ago during the Oligiocene.
This ‘Moa Ark’ hypothesis has been challenged by some scientists as they feel that part of the land mass remained above water.
The discovery of A kinabalu from North Borneo and A rostralis from Norfolk Island, west Pacific, has led to the belief that at least part of the islands were above water during the entire period from when it was associated with Gondawana.
A kinabalu and A rostralis are mites and are thought to be associated with the New Zealand ones aeons ago.
For more go to
A civet eats coffee berries at a farm.
Coffee and civet cats
The most expensive coffee in the world (Kopi Luwak) has partially been digested by two civets (Palm Civet – Paradoruxsus hermaphroditus and Binturong – Arctictus binturong).
These two species have been kept in “inadequate conditions that result in a high rate of morbidity and mortality”.
It has been estimated that thousands of wild civets have been poached from the wild to maintain these farms.
This has reduced wild populations and this is of concern especially for Binturongs, as they categorised as being vulnerable to extinction.
In traditional farms, workers collect the expelled beans from beneath the coffee trees.
The writers of the article maintain that coffee beans produced and collected this way is mutually beneficial to the civets and human.
This method of production should not negatively affect wild populations.
For more go to
Some scientists have challenged the ‘Moa Ark’ hypothesis as they feel that part of the land mass remained above water.
The Malaysian Nature Society

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