Category Archives: conservation

One Big Happy Group – SGM

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We were lucky enough to have 120 members of the Soka Gakai Malaysia group visit us this weekend.  Members of the group were of all ages, from tiny youngsters to seniors, yet they all shared the same enthusiasm for learning about sun bears!

SGM1

In three different groups of about 40 people, the SGM folks were guided along the forest path and out to the observation deck. Wong, Siew Te lead the happy pack and shared an informational sun bear talk with each group.

There was plenty of action in the bear enclosures, as Fulung, Mary and Bongkud explored the treetops and displayed their fabulous climbing skills!  Later, a curious orangutan came over to the observation deck to ‘sneak-a-peak’ at the second group, which led to a quick evacuation and an even more action-packed afternoon.eatingleaves

Members of the SGM were also able to share some time with our knowledgeable bear staff and learn all about our bears, the BSBCC and our future plans for development.

SGM was quite a generous and enthusiastic group for their entire visit by starting the morning with a festively adorned ‘Sun Bear Donations’ box and ending their visit with moon pies and homemade sandwiches for the whole BSBCC team.

Their spirited energy was a refreshing delight for the bear crew, and we hope their visit to the centre was a fruitful experience, full of great sun bear memories for them to share.  Thank you for your support SGM!

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BSBCC to hold fundraiser to meet increasing cost of caring for Sun Bears

New Sabah Times, 2013-June-21, Page13

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Fallacy And Absurdity

June, 20, 2013 – 7:11 pm

Fallacy And Absurdity

With the demand of traditional medicine seekers, Sun Bears continue to be at risk of getting hunted in the wild – BSBCC Wong

By Jaswinder Kler

caged20SANDAKAN: Hunted for generations in the jungles of Borneo for the bile from its gall bladder and for food, the Malayan Sun Bear continues to be a target for the ever present global demand in traditional medicine and exotic meat.

The fallacy of the benefits of bile and the idiocy of humans is threatening the world’s smallest bear which is said to have dwindled in numbers by 30 per cent in the last three decades.

Asiatic Black Bears, for example, are kept in unimaginably cruel conditions in small metal cages and their bile extracted for up to 20 years, and then killed once they are unable to produce the liquid.

While there are no bear bile farms in Malaysia, bear bile is consumed locally. Bear gall bladder, bear bile capsules and other bile products are sold illegally in traditional medicine stores.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founder and chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said natives, particularly in Borneo, traditionally believe that the Sun Bear’s bile ejects itself out of the gall bladder and spreads inside a bear’s body, healing injuries in a fall.

File picture of Sun Bear bile sold at the Gaya Street market in Kota Kinabalu. – Picture courtesy of BSBCC.

File picture of Sun Bear bile sold at the Gaya Street market in Kota Kinabalu. – Picture courtesy of BSBCC.

“Sun Bears can climb high up on trees and normally climb down slowly from the tree. However when they encounter human encroachment in the forest when they are on a tree, they tend to slide down quickly or even drop themselves from the tree. They then recover quickly and go about their day.

“This has erroneously made people believe that the phenomenon is due to the power of the Sun Bear bile that spreads within the body and heals the bears, allowing them to recover instantly.

“This is why Sun Bears are traditionally hunted in the wild for their bile, apart from their meat,” Wong said.

With this demand, Sun Bears continue to be at risk of getting hunted in the wild, Wong said in a statement to create awareness on the plight of Sun Bears.

While the actual number of Sun Bears in the wild is unknown, its status as a Totally Protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment and its listing as “Vulnerable” on The IUCN Red List are not keeping those after its bile away from the risk of prosecution.

BSBCC founder and CEO Wong Siew Te with rescued Sun Bear, Natalie. As cubs, bears are cute but the law does not allow anyone to keep them as pets. – Picture courtesy of BSBCC.

BSBCC founder and CEO Wong Siew Te with rescued Sun Bear, Natalie. As cubs, bears are cute but the law does not allow anyone to keep them as pets. – Picture courtesy of BSBCC.

Under the Enactment, those found in possession of a Sun Bear or its product could face a fine of up to RM50,000 or a jail term of five years, or both.

Wong said Sun Bears are still hunted in Borneo for their purported medicinal properties, and cited a recent news report on bear meat and parts being sold at a market in Kapit, Sarawak.

Other threats that Sun Bears face include habitat loss and demand for the exotic pet trade.

“Sun Bear cubs are cute and there is demand for such a pet. To get a cub, the mother is killed to prevent hunters from getting harmed. Once these cubs grow, they become aggressive and it becomes dangerous to keep them as pets.

“This is when they are surrendered to the authorities. They lose survival skills when kept as pets, as this is something they learn from their mothers,” he said.

Bears surrendered to or confiscated by the Sabah Wildlife Department are sent to the BSBCC adjacent to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. It is currently home to 28 Sun Bears.

Awareness activities will be stepped up once the BSBCC is officially opened to the public, tentatively by early next year.

The BSBCC is planning to hold a fund raiser on July 20 in Sandakan to meet the ever increasing costs of caring for Sun Bears in captivity and for awareness work.

Sun Bears are also sought after for the pet trade, but problems emerge once the bears grow older and become aggressive. – Picture courtesy of BSBCC.

Sun Bears are also sought after for the pet trade, but problems emerge once the bears grow older and become aggressive. – Picture courtesy of BSBCC.

The fundraising dinner with the theme “Big Dreams, Little Bears” will see Wong sharing with guests updates on Sun Bears, apart from an exclusive photographic art auction by Jonathan Tan and performances by Jaclyn Victor, Gary Chow, Pink Tan and Amir Yussof and friends.

A free documentary screening is scheduled for July 21 at the Sabah Hotel for 500 students, teachers and representatives of local associations.

The BSBCC is a non-governmental organisation set up in 2008 through collaboration of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).

Major funders for BSBCC include Yayasan Sime Darby, the federal Tourism Ministry, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, the Sabah State Government and other foreign and local organisations.

To learn more about Sun Bears, visit www.bsbcc.org.my and Facebook page www.facebook.com/ sunbear.bsbcc.

The untold story – Sun Bears and their impacts

http://borneoinsider.com/2013/05/29/the-untold-story-sun-bears-and-their-impacts/

 

May, 29, 2013 – 5:58 pm

The untold story – Sun Bears and their impacts

A Sun Bear digging decayed wood in search of termites and other wood burrowing invertebrates. – Photo courtesy of BSBCC.

A Sun Bear digging decayed wood in search of termites and other wood burrowing invertebrates. – Photo courtesy of BSBCC.

By Jaswinder Kler

SANDAKAN: From dispersing fruit seeds to carving out narrow holes on trees, later used by hornbills and squirrels to nest in, the Malayan Sun Bear contributes to a thriving forest.

The smallest of the world’s bears serve as forest doctors, engineers and planters and by foraging for termites and other insects, help mix nutrients in the soil.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founder and chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said the species that lives in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia plays important roles in the ecosystem.

Describing the Sun Bear’s task as a forest doctor, Wong said the species uses its claws to scrape off and destroy termite nests around tree bark, and this in turn saves the host tree from dying due to termite infestation.

“Sun Bears do this to get termites and their larvae, an important food source for these bears. If they do not do this, the termites will eventually kill the host tree by feeding on the wood fiber from the inside.

“Uncontrolled termite populations could lead to the death of many trees,” he said in a statement issued by the BSBCC to create awareness on the Sun Bear which is listed as “Vulnerable” on The IUCN Red List and at risk of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival improve.

Threats including habitat loss, poaching and the pet trade have led to a decline by at least 30 per cent of the species in the last three decades. Their actual numbers in the wild are unknown.

Wong Siew Te examining a tree cavity dug by a Sun Bear looking for honey. – Photo courtesy of BSBCC.

Wong Siew Te examining a tree cavity dug by a Sun Bear looking for honey. – Photo courtesy of BSBCC.

Wong said Sun Bears are fond of eating honey, creating holes in trees when extracting honey of stingless bees that build nests under tree bark.

“Holes that Sun Bears create are eventually used by hornbills or squirrels to nest in. They build homes for other forest dwellers and this is why we call Sun Bears forest engineers,” he said, adding that in Bahasa Malaysia, the species is known as beruang madu since it likes consuming honey (madu is the Bahasa Malaysia word for honey).

He said as forest planters, Sun Bears spread seeds of large fruits such as durian and jackfruit when travelling in a wide home range of about 14 square kilometers.

“They are among the largest mammals in the tropical rainforest and through their travels, they defecate swallowed seeds, away from the mother tree which increases chances of the seeds’ survival.

“Through their role as nutrient mixers, Sun Bears facilitate soil turn over and regeneration when they forage for termites and other insects,” he said.

Wong said despite the many important functions that Sun Bears serve, their long term survival in the wild depends on the continuous existence of natural forests.

A Sun Bear destroying a termite nest to hunt for termites. – Photo courtesy of BSBCC.

A Sun Bear destroying a termite nest to hunt for termites. – Photo courtesy of BSBCC.

He stressed that as forest dependent species, Sun Bears cannot survive in oil palm or other agricultural plantations.

“They need large tracts of natural forests in order for them to sustain viable populations where they can search for food, shelter and reproduce. There is so much that Sun Bears are doing for the forest and this is something we all need to understand and appreciate.

“Today, their numbers are going down and more are ending up in captivity,” he said.

The BSBCC located adjacent to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is currently housing 28 rescued bears. Some were illegally kept as pets and others were found trapped following forest clearing.

The BSBCC is hoping to hold a fund raiser on 20th July in Sandakan to meet the ever increasing costs of caring for Sun Bears in captivity and for awareness work.

Awareness activities will be stepped up once the BSBCC is officially opened to the public, tentatively by early next year.

The BSBCC is a non-governmental organisation set up in 2008 through collaboration of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).

To learn more about Sun Bears, visit www.bsbcc.org.my and Facebook page www.facebook.com/ sunbear.bsbcc.

Jelita the stuffed sun bear won big prize

Text and photos by Maria Collin

I am very happy to announce that my little sun bear, Jelita, made
specially for the next BSBCC fundraiser has won a Golden George Award –
the “Oscar” of the teddy bear world!
I entered her in the competition in the hope that she might engender
more awareness of Sun bears – and she did me proud! I was stunned and
thrilled to bits when she won the “naturbär” category…………and i
have to say that the trophy is quite something – two kilos of solid
bronze, and heavy to hold when you are shaking with emotion and excitement!
The Golden George competition is run in conjunction with the Teddybär
Total show in Münster, Germany – a two day event which attracts
exhibitors from all over the world. And there  I was there with my
bears, but wearing sun bear t.shirts – a copy of Forty Wild Life Heroes
open on my table (at the appropriate section) and  telling anyone who
would listen about “our ” bears 🙂
And the nicest thing happened on saturday morning……the show
organiser took the Bürgermeisterin (Mayoress) of Münster around the
show, after she had opened it………….came to my table, introduced
us and then told her that I not only make bears but campaign hard for
REAL bears – how nice was that? Result is that she went off clutching a
flyer inviting her to our fund raiser………YAY!
anyway – Jelita is one of the prizes in our June fundraiser – and she
comes with added allure……..”Oscar – winer”.  I hope she raises lots
for the BSBCC………..oh – but I get to keep the trophy !
 

 

 

Wildlife Heroes close up with Wong

By Siew Te Wong

I am humbled and honored to have been select as one of the 40 Wildlife Heroes across the world who featured in the Book “Wildlife Heroes: 40 Leading Conservationists and the Animals They Are Committed to Saving.”

Thank you the authors of the book, Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken for your kindness to feature me and my work on sun bears in this book.

Thank you all of you who supported and helped me over the years, and keep supporting and helping on our work on sun bears.

Without your support, I would not be what I am today.

Without your help, we would not be achieving what we have achieved today.

Together we can, we have, and we will make a different!

 Thank you all!

 

 

  

 

Wildlife Heroes: 40 Leading Conservationists and the Animals They Are Committed to Saving

From http://www.wildlifeheroes.org/

cover

People around the world are fascinated by wildlife and wildlife conservationists – they are captivated by the animals, and those people working in the remote corners of the Earth to save them. Wildlife Heroes provides a visual and written window into the world of these admired individuals, the fascinating species and the issues that must be resolved to save them.

With one-third of known species being threatened with extinction, wildlife conservationists are some of the most important heroes on the planet, and Wildlife Heroes profiles the work of 40 of the leading conservationists and the animals and causes they are committed to saving, such as Belinda Low (zebras), Iain Douglas-Hamilton (elephants), Karen Eckert (sea turtles), S.T. Wong (sun bear), Steve Galster (wildlife trade), and Wangari Maathai (habitat loss). Since we all should have an interest in conservation, there is a chapter providing information on ways people can get involved and make a difference. Chapter introductions are by author Kuki Gallmann, actor Ted Danson, actress Stefanie Powers, Congressman Jay Inslee, and TV personality Jack Hanna.

The book’s stunning photos capture the beauty of the animals and the magnetism of the heroes as they work in the often grueling conditions where the animals live. Each chapter is introduced with a personal essay by celebrities who themselves are committed wildlife champions, including actor Ted Danson (Cheers, CSI), actress Stephanie Powers (Heart to Heart, Herbie Rides Again), US Representative Jay Inslee, TV Host Jack Hanna (Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures, Into The Wild), and author Kuki Gallman (I Dreamed of Africa).

Wildlife Heroes will appeal to both avid animal enthusiasts and casual readers wishing to learn more about our planet and the people working to protect it.

Julie Scardina

julie-author-sm

Julie Scardina is Animal Ambassador and Corporate Curator responsible for Animal Training and Animal Ambassador programs for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Scardina serves on the board of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, is an active mentor and board member with the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders and participates on the World Wildlife Fund National Council. She regularly travels into the field to learn about and document the projects and conservation issues so important today. Scardina shares her passion for animals and the parks education, conservation and rescue efforts as a monthly guest on the “Today” show and as a long time guest on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. Scardina graduated with honors from San Diego State University.

Jeff Flocken

jeff-author-sm

Jeff Flocken is DC Office Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare where he leads the organization’s policy experts advocating for animals. In this capacity he works on campaigns combating the wildlife trade and conserving polar bears, lions, whales, tigers, and elephants, among other species. Before this, Flocken worked for the US government doing international species conservation. Flocken has been a consultant on movies, books and television shows addressing wildlife issues, and serves on advisory boards for several wildlife organizations. Flocken is also the cofounder of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders initiative which mentors and provides training for up-and-coming wildlife leaders. He has a law degree from Wayne State Law School, and graduated with honors from the University of Michigan.

The Heroes:

Marc Ancrenaz

HUTAN, Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project

 

Claudine Andre

Friends of Bonobos

 

George Archibald

The International Crane Foundation

 

Felicity Arengo

The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History

 

May Berenbaum

Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Conservation through Poverty Alleviation International

 

Shivani Bhalla

The Ewaso Lions Project

 

Elena Bykova

Saiga Conservation Alliance

 

Rogerio Cunha de Paula

Instituto Pro-Carnivoros

 

Ted Danson

Oceana

 

Vera da Silva

Projecto Boto

 

Luke Dollar

Earthwatch Institute

 

Iain Douglas-Hamilton

Save the Elephants

 

Raoul du Toit

International Rhino Foundation

 

Sylvia Earle

National Geographic Society
Deep Search Foundation

 

Karen Eckert

Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network

 

Claudia Feh

TAKH: The Association for the Przewalski’s Horse

 

Grace Ge Gabriel

International Fund for Animal Welfare

 

Steve Galster

FREELAND

 

Kuki Gallmann

The Gallmann Africa Conservancy

 

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall Institute

 

Edgardo Griffith

Houston Zoo El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center

 

Rosamira Guillen

Proyecto Titi

 

Jack Hanna

Columbus Zoo Partners in Conservation

 

Alison Jolly

Lemur Conservation Foundation
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

 

Gerald Kooyman

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

 

Belinda Low

Grevy’s Zebra Trust

 

John Lukas

Okapi Conservation Project of Gilman International Conservation

Wildlife Conservation Network

 

Wangari Maathai

Green Belt Movement

 

Laurie Marker

Cheetah Conservation Fund

 

Diane McTurk

Karanambu Trust

 

Patricia Medici

IUCN Tapir Specialist Group

 

Stefanie Powers

William Holden Wildlife Foundation

 

Gregory Rasmussen

Painted Dog Conservation

 

Eugene Rutagarama

International Gorilla Conservation Programme

 

Kassie Siegel

Center for Biological Diversity

 

Claudio Sillero

Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme

 

Leandro Silveira

Jaguar Conservation Fund

 

Judy St. Leger

SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund

 

Brent Stewart

Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute

 

Deborah Tabart

Australia Koala Foundation

 

Nguyen Van Thai

Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program

 

Merlin Tuttle

Bat Conservation International

 

Amanda Vincent

Project Seahorse

 

Siew Te Wong

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center

 Wong_w_bear_feeding

 

Reviews:

The wildlife and wild places of our planet are threatened as never before by human population growth and our constant destruction of the natural environment. We desperately need wildlife heroes, and this timely book celebrates 40 of those who are struggling to save various species around the world. These men and women are shining inspirations, and hopefully, after reading this book, you will be inspired to do something yourself to help animals in need.”

Jane Goodall Ph.D., DBE, Founder – The Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace

jeff-jane

Publishers Weekly
“Environmental advocates Scardina and Flocken profile the grassroots organizations, tenacious scientists, and willful philanthropists that shape today’s conservation policy and practice. Each portrait centers on a threatened or endangered species and describes the life and work of the person who has dedicated his career to protecting the species from extinction. Organized into sections corresponding to the four elements—Earth, Water, Air, and Fire—with introductory essays by celebrities like Ted Danson, the subjects are grouped according to their habitat, with “Fire” focusing on the broader threats to the world’s ecosystems. The pithy summaries of the activists’ struggles are accompanied by informative tidbits about the biology, behavior, natural history, and cultural context of the target species, along with delightful photographs of both human and beast. From the grassland-dwelling maned wolf of Central South America to the iceberg-hopping emperor penguin of Antarctica, the book shows how negative human interference imperils the welfare of all living things, and suggests that by taking an active role in conservation, education, and community building, we can help prevent the tragic loss of the world’s biological diversity.”

Booklist
“Conservationists Scardina (a regular on Today and The Tonight Show) and Flocken have created an alluring book of dazzling photographs and stirring stories of adventure and breakthroughs that introduces intriguing “wildlife heroes” and portrays the imperiled animals they have dedicated, even risked, their lives to save… this keenly charismatic, solidly informative call for the preservation of life affirms that it is still possible, with concerted effort, to save animals from extinction.”

 

Read more about this book at:

http://www.wildlifeheroes.org/

Saving the World’s Smallest Bear –

 http://behindtheschemes.org/2012/02/25/saving-the-worlds-smallest-bear/

Episode 2: “Saving the World’s Smallest Bear”
Guest: Siew Te Wong, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Host: Rhishja Cota-Larson

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/UOSKfkXsueA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

How to fight organized wildlife crime in East Asia

Repost from http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0727-hance_wildlifecrime_seasia.html

How to fight organized wildlife crime in East Asia
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
July 27, 2011

 Slow lorises, like these caged individuals, are imperiled in Southeast Asia for the illegal pet trade. In the wild, traders kill loris parents to take their babies. Pet lorises have their teeth pulled out to make them appear 'cuter'. Photo courtesy of the Wildlife Conservaiton Society (WCS).
Slow lorises, like these caged individuals, are imperiled in Southeast Asia for the illegal pet trade. In the wild, traders kill loris parents to take their babies. Pet lorises have their teeth pulled out to make them appear ‘cuter’. Photo courtesy of the Wildlife Conservaiton Society (WCS).

Organized criminal syndicates are wiping out some of the world’s most charismatic wildlife to feed a growing appetite for animal parts in East Asia#8212;and so far governments and law enforcement are dropping the ball. This is the conclusion from a new paper in Oryx, which warns unless officials start taking wildlife crime seriously a number of important species could vanish from the Earth.

“We are failing to conserve some of the world’s most beloved and charismatic species,” Elizabeth Bennett, author of the paper, said in a press release. “We are rapidly losing big, spectacular animals to an entirely new type of trade driven by criminalized syndicates. It is deeply alarming, and the world is not yet taking it seriously. When these criminal networks wipe out wildlife, conservation loses, and local people lose the wildlife on which their livelihoods often depend.”

Organized criminals are decimating some of the world’s favorite species: rhinos, elephants, and tigers are all imperiled by the bloody trade. However, the trade has also hit lesser-known species, such as pangolins, saiga, slow lorises, sun bears, and any number of bird and reptile species. The consequences of this trade are massive: tigers are down to a few thousand survivors, two species of rhino are now dubbed Critically Endangered, the saiga antelope has seen its population drop by 95 percent in two decades, and many forests in Southeast Asia have been described as eerily quiet due to a lack of wildlife.

 
Songbirds sold in a Laos market for food. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

 

 

Songbirds sold in a Laos market for food. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

In the struggle to save these species from the illegal trade, officials are being out-witted and out-funded by sophisticated smugglers who employ the newest technology, clever techniques, and corruption to avoid arrest. Perhaps, even more importantly, wildlife crime is simply not seen as a priority in many parts of the world, where enforcement is lacking and laws are out-of-date.

“The trade is large-scale and commercialized: elaborate and costly hidden compartments in shipping containers or below wholesale shipments of sawn timber, fish or scrap products, in which are concealed massive quantities of wildlife products from ivory to bear paws and frozen pangolins. The traders are also light on their feet, frequently changing routes and modes of operation as enforcement commences in any one place, and continually working through the routes and means of least resistance. […] Trade through e-commerce from web sites whose location is difficult to detect and who operate beyond the current realms of wildlife legislation and enforcement is a further challenge,” Bennett, who began her career in conservation more than 25 years ago in Asia, writes in the paper. She now works for Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Bennett says the ultimate responsibility for this wholesale decimation of species is due to rising demand for wildlife products in countries like China, Vietnam, and Thailand. In many cases consumers are paying high prices for illegal wildlife products which they believe are curatives. However scientists have shown that animal parts such as rhino horns have no medicinal benefits whatsoever.

According to Bennett there is only one way to stop the criminal activity in time to save species from extinction: law enforcement.

“Enforcement is critical: old fashioned in concept but needing increasingly advanced methods to challenge the ever-more sophisticated methods of smuggling. When enforcement is thorough, and with sufficient resources and personnel, it works,” she writes. Although ‘old-fashioned’ Bennett says tools such as DNA testing kits, smartphone apps for species ID, and high-tech software for Internet crime need to be employed.

Currently enforcement is especially lacking along trade routes and in markets. In many parts of Southeast Asia one can finds illegal wildlife parts sold openly with no fear of punishment.

“We must dedicate the intellectual, funding and personnel resources needed to supersede those of the criminal organizations involved,” she writes. “This requires greatly increased numbers of highly trained and well equipped staff at all points along the trade chain: most especially in core sites where the species are being hunted but also along key transportation routes and in end markets.”

  Dealer shows off coats of wild cats in market in China. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Dealer shows off coats of wild cats in market in China. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laws that were crafted before the current crisis of the illegal trade also must be updated.

Bennett says that changing the cultural beliefs that prop up this illegal trade should pursued, but laments that such changes ‘is likely to be on a generational time scale.’

“We do not have that luxury of time for many of the species currently targeted by trade,” she explains. “In the short-term the only practical way to reduce demand is through enforcement, both acting as a deterrent and also demonstrating that this is not a socially acceptable norm,” Bennett writes.

In the end, the survival of elephants, tigers, and rhinos, along with innumerable other species, depends on law enforcement, the judiciary, governments, NGOs, and the public coming together to tackle the below-the-radar problem.

“Unless we start taking wildlife crime seriously and allocating the commitment of resources appropriate to tackling sophisticated, well-funded, globally-linked criminal operations, population of some of the most beloved but economically prized, charismatic species will continue to wink out across their range, and, appallingly, altogether,” Bennett warns.

CITATION: Elizabeth L. Bennett. Another inconvenient truth: the failure of enforcement systems to save charismatic species. Oryx. doi:10.1017/S003060531000178X.

Malaysian government to launch RSPO rival for palm oil certification

Repost from http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0802-malaysian_palm_oil_standard.html

Malaysian government to launch RSPO rival for palm oil certification
mongabay.com
August 02, 2011

The Malaysian government is developing its own certification system for palm oil production, potentially creating another rival to the certification system run by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), reports Malaysia’s Business Times.

Speaking in Australia, Malaysian Commodities Minister Bernard Dompok said the government is in the “preliminary stage” of developing a sustainability standard for palm oil production to counter tighter standards being pushed by the RSPO.

“We will go ahead because the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil keeps on changing its goal posts on how to produce sustainable palm oil,” he was quoted as saying. “We will come up with a national certification scheme.”

Indonesia — the world’s top palm oil producer — has already announced its own certification scheme, which is primarily based on compliance with Indonesian law and is therefore compulsory.

Malaysian Palm Oil Council Chief Yusof Basiron said Malaysia’s certification standard would be similar and aim to address concerns raised by environmentalists.

  palm oil fruit
Oil palm seed. Palm oil is used widely in processed foods. By virtue of its high yield, palm oil is a cheaper substitute than other vegetable oils. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

“The industry is already highly monitored. We will just tweak it a little bit and look at what the market and the NGOs want,” Basiron was quoted as saying.

“If they don’t want deforestation, then we will include it in the certification requirements. If they don’t want orang utan to be destroyed, we will include it too.”

The remarks came as both officials met in Australia to voice opposition to an Australian bill that would require separate listing of palm oil on product labels. Presently palm oil can be generically listed as “vegetable oil” under Australian food regulations, but green groups, concerned over deforestation associated with some palm oil production, have pushed for stricter labeling requirements. The Malaysian palm oil industry says labeling — which only applies to palm oil, not other vegetable oils — could lead to discrimination against palm oil-containing products. Up to half of processed food products in some markets contain palm oil, according to the environmental group WWF, which is pushing RSPO certification.

While the creation of another certification standard could create confusion in the marketplace, at least one RSPO member welcomed the move.

“The fact that they are creating their own system (just as Indonesia before them), means RSPO is transforming the system,” said the member, who requested anonymity since he wasn’t authorized to speak on behalf of the organization. “It is, essentially, a race to the top instead of the bottom. Our standard will move towards sustainability and the market will respond.”

“In short, we welcome such developments,” he continued. “If anything, it reinforces what we hope to achieve.”

The RSPO was launched in 2004 as a way to address growing concerns over palm oil production. Its code of conduct includes an explicit commitment to “continual improvement” of its standards.

The first shipments of RSPO-certified palm oil reached market in late 2008. Since then, production has surged, reaching 4.7 million metric tons through the first three months of 2011. A number of the world’s largest producers, traders, financiers, and buyers have now joined the RSPO, including Walmart, Hersheys and CitiBank last week.

But the RSPO has faced criticism from some environmentalists, who say its monitoring and enforcement mechanisms remain weak.

The RSPO recently took action against IOI Group, a Malaysia-based member accused of particularly egregious breaches of RSPO’s code, including social conflict with forest people and clearing of rainforests. Last year the body booted PT SMART, Indonesia’s largest palm oil producer, after it was found to be in violation of RSPO standards. PT SMART has since announced a strict forest policy that will allow it to attain RSPO certification.