Best of our wild blogs: 25 Jul 17

St John's with dolphins, seahorses!
wild shores of singapore

Threatened and Vulnerable in Singapore
Hantu Blog

Don’t miss Jane Goodall in Singapore! 6 to 8 Aug 2017

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Temporary fences put up at Tuas bus terminal to prevent wild boars from entering

Natasha Razak Channel NewsAsia 24 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: Barriers have been put up at Tuas bus terminal to deter wild boars from entering the premises, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said on Monday (Jul 24).

Wild boars have been spotted entering the bus terminal due to "persistent feeding by people", ACRES said, adding that this is "not good and will result in animals being reliant on people for food which could cause a potential conflict situation".

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, ACRES said that the fences, provided by TKHSingapore, were put up in conjunction with SBS Transit as a "potential solution" to the problem.

ACRES also said that proper enforcement action will also be put in place to deter feeding of wild animals island wide. This "might involve" a collaboration between different entities and organisations so as to build "a more compassionate society".

ACRES added that putting up the temporary fences "took a while" to be implemented as they were looking at various solutions to form a barrier.

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Malaysia, Forest City: Green projects must also consider habitats lost

SERINA ABDUL RAHMAN Today Online 25 Jul 17;

Rising out of freshly reclaimed land in the Tebrau Straits between Singapore and Malaysia is an 800-hectare mixed development with homes, businesses, recreational areas and an international school for 700,000 people.

Named Forest City, its developer, Country Garden PacificView (CGPV), has touted its sustainability and green features. The development uses the latest in smart green technology to control energy use.

It has extensive plans for rainwater harvesting, and it uses recycled materials in the tiniest details such as road humps and parking bumps. Its masterplan, designed by Sasaki Associates, promises a “symbiotic relationship” between the natural and built environments, with a 250-hectare seagrass preserve, 9km of mangrove forests and 10km of shallow coves and mudflats.

The project also boasts a breathable transport hub, where cars are parked underground, and with free monorail services and kilometres of car-free pathways. This utopia is capped by the well-publicised use of Vernonia elliptica creeping plants on its buildings. The rest of Forest City’s marketing strategy is focused on its proximity to Singapore.

Back in China, news has emerged of another Forest City in Liuzhou Province, where one million plants and 40,000 trees will ensconce a 142-hectare project that will house 30,000 people. The designers predict that the development will absorb 10,000 tonnes of CO2 and 57 tonnes of pollutants annually, and will produce 90,000 tonnes of oxygen.

Similar to the Malaysian version of Forest City, its buildings are “nature-based” and draped in green; its architectural visualisation has the mandatory train station and no visible cars.

It all looks very attractive, and fits perfectly into China’s 2016 State Council guidelines to focus on the construction of buildings that are economic, green and beautiful. Liuzhou’s version of the revolutionary balanced urban environment takes it a step further, with its plans for solar panels for renewable energy and the use of geothermal energy to power its air-conditioning.

With China’s push to be the new leader in renewable energy and climate change action, these two projects fit perfectly into the new environmentally friendly image that China is building for itself. The irony is in the details.

The Malaysian Forest City project is blossoming in what was otherwise planned as an industrial hub; this Western Gate of the Iskandar Development Region was designed around the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, the Tanjung Bin power plant and other oil, gas and chemical processing and storage facilities. This part of south-west Johor is just across the water from Singapore’s Tuas industrial area and the future Tuas Megaport.

Of course, it would make sense to have these large carbon- and pollutant-absorbing development projects placed nearby to offset the environmental damage inflicted by industries.

The Liuzhou Forest City is set to grow next to an industrial area for exactly that reason.

The designers for both projects stress the importance of bringing “the forest into the city” to counter the problems of climate change. But just how much damage is being done by the development itself?

The Liuzhou project has just had its groundbreaking ceremony along the Liujang River, known for its 19 bridges and summer swimming activities. In Johor, the impact of development is already visible.

The CGPV Forest City project is in an area that harboured good biodiversity despite its proximity to port and industry. Within six months of reclamation beginning, a strip of sand had cut across Malaysia’s largest intertidal seagrass meadow. Sedimentation in the adjacent waters increased, leading to extraordinary blooms of green algae that smothered the already-stressed seagrass areas.

Long-term habitat monitoring of the area by a local community organisation has revealed that a smaller coastal seagrass patch that was a known source of prawns and the feeding grounds of the endangered dugong has disappeared under the first reclaimed island.

The sand strip is to be removed and the rest of Forest City’s islands will be built around the biggest seagrass meadow that remains to minimise further damage.

Coastal mangroves are also affected by this development. The new islands will be linked by bridges to the mainland, and stretches of coastal mangroves are making way for these new roads and highways.

CGPV has also recently begun a new phase of its development; the creation of three golf courses and an associated resort complex in 809 hectares of formerly Ramsar gazetted mangroves.

This is in addition to its newly launched 160-hectare integrated building system facility. Visits to these sites show that clearfelling of these mangroves is already in progress.

But why should mere seagrass or messy mangroves matter?

Seagrass is nature’s solution to climate change. Coastal wetlands comprising seagrass and mangrove forests sequester carbon at a rate that is 10 times greater than mature tropical forests. These habitats trap sediments that would otherwise pollute and muddy coastal waters. They also produce oxygen.

On top of that, the combined seagrass, mangrove and coral reef habitats reduce the impacts of large waves and create a complete nursery, feeding and breeding ground for species of fisheries value. Fish caught in these waters supply seafood buyers in Singapore, Johor Bahru and Pontian. Put simply, without these habitats, we would have less seafood to eat.

There are other intrinsic values; the habitats are host to charismatic endangered species such as dugongs, seahorses, otters and turtles, and generate ecotourism and other revenues for the local community. They are, of course, the bedrock of the surrounding fishermen’s livelihoods.

To be sure, CGPV is taking steps to mitigate damage to the seagrass. A local university has been hired to independently monitor the health of the seagrass meadows, and habitat rehabilitation and species restocking is in the plan. But there is yet little word on how the impact of the coastal mangroves will be contained.

Truly sustainable development needs to take into account habitats lost, not just ecosystems rebuilt. Post-2004 tsunami research by Kyoto University showed that a buffer of natural mangrove forests could have reduced wave impacts by up to 90 per cent, a far higher success rate than any artificial structure. We can only hope that both projects achieve their lofty green goals. At the rate that the planet is tumbling towards climate disaster, there is no time for a mirage that misses the forest for the trees.


Dr Serina Abdul Rahman is a Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

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Indonesia: 73 hotspots detected across Sumatra Island

Antara 24 Jul 17;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News)- The meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG) has detected 73 hotspots in 10 provinces across Sumatra Island, on Monday morning.

Of the total 73 hotspots, 14 were found in North Sumatra, 13 in Riau, 10 in Aceh, and eight respectively in Jambi, South Sumatra and Bengkulu, six in West Sumatra, four in Bangka Belitung, and one each in Riau Islands and Lampung, Sukisno, head of the Pekanbaru meteorology office, said.

In Riau Province, the 13 hotspots were detected in districts of Pelalawan (three), Rokan Hilir (five), Bengkalis (one), Indragiri Hilir (one), Indragiri Hulu (one), and Rokan Hulu (one).

Of the 13, five of them were believed to come from wildfires.

Since early this year, the Riau provincial administration had declared a forest fire emergency status to optimize forest fire prevention efforts.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has deployed five helicopters to carry out water bombing to extinguish forest and plantation fires.

Despite the country being relatively free of haze smog arising from forest fires last year, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has urged all stakeholders to undertake early preventive measures against wildfires.

The head of state has reminded ministers and regional authorities to remain vigilant against forest fires, starting from early this year.(*)

Wildfires gutted over 60 hectares of Aceh forest
Antara 24 Jul 17;

Banda Aceh, Aceh (ANTARA News) - Wildfires have gutted more than 60 hectares of forest and bush areas in West Aceh District, Aceh Darussalam Province, due to drought.

Wildfires had spread to wider areas in the western coast of Sumatras northernmost province, Yusmadi, head of the Aceh disaster mitigation office, said here, Monday.

He opined that several local farmers had started the fires to clear farming land during the ongoing drought.

"This is caused by farmers and not companies. They cleared land and burnt dried leaves, but the fires spread deep into the forest," he remarked.

Last week, Captain Sudarsono, commander of the Johan Pahlawan regional military command, had said that around 50 hectares of peatland area in West Aceh was gutted by fires.

Meanwhile, the meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency has detected 73 hotspots in 10 provinces across Sumatra Island on Monday morning.

Of the total 73 hotspots, 14 were found in North Sumatra; 13 in Riau; 10 in Aceh; eight respectively in Jambi, South Sumatra, and Bengkulu; six in West Sumatra; four in Bangka Belitung; and one each in Riau Islands and Lampung, Sukisno, head of the Pekanbaru meteorology office, said.(*)

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Indonesia environment minister wants permanent ban on licenses to use forest land

Reuters 24 Jul 17;

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's environment minister said on Monday she wants to make permanent a moratorium on issuing new licenses to use land designated as primary forest and peatland.

The moratorium, part of an effort to reduce emissions from fires caused by deforestation, was extended by President Joko Widodo for a third time in May.

"So far its only been extended, and extended again. I want a permanent (moratorium)," said Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar. "Our primary forest cannot be cleared out."

Indonesia is prone to outbreaks of forest fires during dry seasons, often blamed on the draining of peatland forests and land clearance for agriculture such as the cultivation of palm oil.

The resulting choking smoke from the world's biggest palm oil producer often blows across to neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia, slashing visibility and causing a health hazard.

Established in 2011, the moratorium covered an area of more than 66 million hectares (163 million acres) by November 2016.

Reporting by Jakarta bureau; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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Best of our wild blogs: 23-24 Jul 17

Return of underwater garden at Pulau Ubin
wild shores of singapore

Mangrove fun with R.U.M. at Ubin Day 2017!
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Favourite Nectaring Plants #10
Butterflies of Singapore

Princess Carplet (Amblypharyngodon chulabhornae) @ Kranji Marshes
Monday Morgue

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Best of our wild blogs: 22 Jul 17

Volunteer opportunity for NUS‒NParks Marine Debris Project (Jul – Aug 2017)
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Celebrate National Day with a Coastal Cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang East (Sat 05 Aug 2017)
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Night Walk At Punggol Promenade Nature Walk (21 July 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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New grid system to manage energy use in Singapore

SIAU MING EN Today Online 22 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — Research money will be channelled towards the ways Singapore could be using energy in the future, by managing the country’s gas, solar and thermal energy under a smarter energy grid system.

This was revealed after the 10th Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council meeting on Friday (July 21). Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong chaired the meeting to review the progress of the S$19 billion set aside for research, innovation and enterprise between 2016 and 2020.

The money is part of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan announced last year, which had identified four areas of focus: Advanced manufacturing and engineering, health and biomedical sciences, services and digital economy, and urban solutions and sustainability.

The next-generation grid system proposed, known as Grid 2.0, will change the way gas, solar and thermal energy sources are converted into electrical energy, transmitted, stored and used. This system will be more efficient, sustainable and resilient.

Dr Yeoh Lean Weng, director of urban solutions and sustainability research at the National Research Foundation, said that Singapore cannot take its electrical power systems for granted and needs to reduce its carbon emissions to honour the commitments in international agreements.

Under the Paris climate agreement, Singapore has committed to cut carbon emissions per dollar of gross domestic product by 36 per cent come 2030 — down from 2005 levels — and to stablise emissions.

As part of Grid 2.0, researchers will, for instance, look at using “cold energy” — which comes from converting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to its gaseous form — to cool buildings, industry and vehicles.

The use of such cold energy could save Singapore more than S$180 million a year.

LNG is stored at minus 161°C and has to be warmed up by seawater and gasified before it is used in power stations to generate electricity.

Dr Yeoh said that none of this cold energy is used today, and the cold seawater is discharged into the sea. Instead, there can be a system where the extreme cold can be used to produce liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen from air.

Liquid oxygen, for example, can be used to burn natural gas in a special generator, where less natural gas is needed to produce the same amount of electricity.

There are also new opportunities in the district cooling systems. District cooling is the centralised production of chilled water that is piped to buildings for air-conditioning. Another “phase change material” with a higher melting point could be used, instead of the melting point of ice at 0°C. This could result in less energy being used to cool buildings here.

Prime Minister Lee said on Friday he was encouraged that companies are investing more in research, innovation and enterprise activities, and some have set up corporate laboratories as well.

“The 10th (Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council) has given us guidance to consolidate our gains, and sharpen our focus on four growth areas. We still have more to do, but we have made good progress,” he added.

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Indonesia: Pepsico, Unilever and Nestlé accused of complicity in illegal rainforest destruction

Palm oil plantations on illegally deforested land in Sumatra – home to elephants, orangutans and tigers – have allegedly been used to supply scores of household brands, says new report
Arthur Neslen The Guardian 21 Jul 17;

Pepsico, Unilever and Nestlé have been accused of complicity in the destruction of Sumatra’s last tract of rainforest shared by elephants, orangutans, rhinos, and tigers together in one ecosystem.

Plantations built on deforested land have allegedly been used to supply palm oil to scores of household brands that also include McDonald’s, Mars, Kellogg’s and Procter & Gamble, according to a new report.

“If more immediate action is not taken to enforce ‘no deforestation’ policies, these brands will be remembered as the corporate giants responsible for the destruction of the last place on earth where Sumatran elephants, orangutans, rhinos and tigers roamed side by side,” says the study by Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

Using satellite data, photographic evidence and GPS coordinates, the research builds on evidence gathered earlier this year to show ongoing illegal forest clearances across swathes of the 2.6m hectare Leuser ecosystem, despite a moratorium announced last June.

The palm oil reaches major brands via a twisting supply chain that stretches from the PT Agra Bumi Niaga (ABN) logging company, which delivers to a processing mill owned by PT Ensem Sawita (ES), which then sells the palm oil on to some of the world’s largest traders. PT is an abbreviation that denotes a limited liability company in Indonesia.

PT ABN declined requests for comment but after extensive Guardian inquiries, PT ES admitted using ABN’s palm oil – due to confusion after the logging firm changed its name – and said that it “regretted this failure”.

The company promised to “strengthen our traceability practices by exchanging information to relevant stakeholders who have palm oil plantation data.”

However, Gemma Tillack, RAN’s agribusiness campaigns director, said that ABN’s name change had been reported, and the continued inability of palm traders and food brands to source the palm they used back to the plantations showed a wider failing of due diligence systems.

“Relying on NGOs to uncover the truth is simply not good enough,” she said. “If RAN, with our relatively limited budget, can figure it out, then multibillion dollar, multinational corporations certainly can. The fact that they haven’t demonstrates that it is not a lack of ability holding them back, but a lack of will.”

Leuser’s vanishing ecosystem is already have a devastating effect on critically endangered elephants which use it as a migratory corridor. At least 35 elephants were killed in Leuser between 2012-2015, and human-animal conflicts are fast increasing as palm plantations fragment animal habitats.

Many species such as tigers, clouded leopards and sun bears are becoming more vulnerable to poachers, as their environment disappears. Leuser is still Sumatra’s largest rainforest and its Unesco world heritage status was reaffirmed this month, despite Indonesian government protests.

But its deforestation rate is among the world’s highest. In the 2015 haze disaster, Sumatran wildfires, often linked to plantation activity, destroyed 8,000 sq miles of rainforest, contributing to the early deaths of an estimated 100,000 people and emitting more CO2 than the whole of the UK that year.

Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo responded with a moratorium on new palm oil permits last April. Two months later, Aceh’s governor, Zaini Abdullah ordered palm oil companies to halt all forest clearing, even where valid permits existed.

But RAN’s research shows that ABN continued clearing another 336 hectares of Sumatran rainforest after Abdullah’s instruction, with 12 hectares of new deforestation since February.

In just one district of the Leuser, nine other suppliers to milling companies continued logging activities since last June across concessions with a combined area of more than 26,000 hectares, according to RAN’s research.

Tillack said: “We believe that there was a rush to clear land because the [logging] companies knew that there would be government intervention to stop forest clearances.

“Global brands like Pepsico can no longer hide behind paper promises and simply blame their international partners for forest crimes. The Leuser ecosystem will die a death of a thousand cuts if brands don’t start taking urgent action to address the root cause of this crisis.”

A spokesman for Pepsico, singled out by RAN as “the ultimate snack food 20 laggard”, said “We take this issue very seriously, and we are making significant investments to improve every aspect of our palm oil supply chain. After being informed of the allegations, we immediately initiated a thorough investigation. While we do not source directly from the mills in question, we identified direct suppliers who had the mills in their supply chains. We have been assured that these suppliers are taking corrective actions to address the allegations.”

Unilever admitted that it had indirectly bought palm oil from PT ABN through its suppliers, Wilmar and Musim Mas, and said that it had requested “a response and an action plan” from them soon.

Nestlé also said that it was investigating the allegations with Wilmar – which told the guardian that it was sending a team to the region to assess whether other sources in its supply chain were using palm oil sourcing back to PT ABN’s 2,000 hectare concession.

Mars and Kellogg’s stressed their sustainable palm oil policies, while Procter & Gamble said that it had told suppliers about its responsible sourcing policy. McDonald’s denied any links to PT ABN.

Of the palm oil traders which supplying the food brands, IOI said that that it had “registered recent deliveries from PT ES in our supply chain” but that the firm had “confirmed that they no longer source from PT ABN”.

Golden Agri-Resources said that its exposure to PT ES was “relatively small” but that it would visit the company in the next weeks to find out if it was indirectly selling on palm oil from PT ABN. Cargill and Musim Mas both said that they were investigating the reports.

However, the companies had been warned about ‘conflict palm oil’ entering the supply chain through PT ES’s third-party suppliers since 2014, and engagement with the firm had not changed its behaviour.

“Brands and traders tend to hide behind supply chain complexities,” she said, “but consumers need to know whether or not the palm oil they use is connected to the destruction of rainforests.”

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Malaysia: Port of Tg Pelepas files RM31.9mil oil spill damage suit

M. HAFIDZ MAHPAR The Star 20 Jul 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Port operator Pelabuhan Tanjung Pelepas Sdn Bhd (PTP) has filed a suit seeking RM31.86mil plus interest for losses due to an oil spill at PTP’s premises from tanker MV Trident Star in August last year.

MMC Corp Bhd, which owns 70% equity interest in PTP, told Bursa Malaysia that PTP had filed in rem (against a vessel) and personam (against a person) writ on Tuesday against Rising Star Shipping Sdn Bhd - the beneficial owner of the ship - and The Shipowners’ Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association (Luxembourg) Singapore branch (the Club).

The Club is a mutual insurance association which offers protection and indemnity insurance to vessels’ owners, operators and charterers worldwide.

PTP, the claimant, operates and maintains Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor as well as providing port facilities and other related services.

MMC said at about 7am on Aug 24, 2016, at about 7am, Trident Star was berthing at ATT Tanjung Bin Terminal and, in the course of loading a cargo of 2,500 metric tonnes of marine fuel oil, there was an overflow from one of its tanks onto the upper deck of the vessel which subsequently spilled into the sea.

“The oil spill thereafter spread out into the adjacent waters and towards PTP’s premises causing oil pollution damage. As a result, PTP suffered various and substantial losses,” it said.

Besides RM31.86mil being PTP’s losses from the incident, PTP is seeking interest at a rate of 5% per year from the date of the start of the suit until the full and final payment as well as costs and other reliefs.

Rising Star had earlierm on Feb 17, obtained a declaration from the Kuala Lumpur High Court limiting its liability to a maximum of 4.51 million Special Drawing Rights (equivalent to about RM25mil.

“The filing of in rem and in personam writ herein is to therefore secure the interest and right of PTP towards the fund. Any amount in excess of the fund will be claimed against the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund in London,” MMC said.

According to MMC, the proceedings are not expected to have any material impact on the group’s earnings, net assets or gearing for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2017.

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Scale of pangolin slaughter revealed – millions hunted in central Africa alone

Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked wild mammal and decimated Asian populations have sharply shifted the focus of exploitation to Africa
Damian Carrington The Guardian 20 Jul 17;

The true scale of the slaughter of pangolins in Africa has been revealed by new research showing that millions of the scaly mammals are being hunted and killed.

Pangolins were already known to be the world’s most trafficked wild mammal, with at least a million being traded in the last decade to supply the demand for its meat and scales in Asian markets. Populations of Asian pangolins have been decimated, leaving the creatures highly endangered and sharply shifting the focus of exploitation to Africa’s four species.

Pangolins are secretive, nocturnal and some species live in trees, making them very hard to count and the total size of the populations in Africa is unknown. But the new analysis, based on data collected by hundreds of local researchers at scores of hunting sites and bushmeat markets across central and west Africa, found up to 2.7m are being killed every year, with the most conservative estimate being 400,000 a year.

“The number is definitely shocking,” said Daniel Ingram, at the University of Sussex, UK, and who led the research team. “Pangolins have been hunted out of many areas in Asia and recent analyses show there is a growing international trade between Africa and Asia. If we don’t act now to better understand and protect these charismatic animals, we may lose them.”

Pangolins curl up into a scaly ball when threatened, which defeats natural predators like lions but is no defence against human hunters. The researchers found half the animals had been snared or trapped, despite wire snares being illegal in most of the 14 central African nations analysed in the research.

The analysis, published in the journal Conservation Letters, also found that almost half of the pangolins killed were juveniles, an indicator that the populations are being dangerously overexploited as animals are being caught before they can reproduce. This is particularly harmful as pangolins are slow breeding and produce only a single pup every year or two.

The new estimates of pangolins killed are likely to be minimum numbers as they included only three of Africa’s four pangolins, the giant, white-bellied and black-bellied species. The fourth, the cape pangolin, lives in southern and eastern Africa, outside the study area.

Furthermore, it is illegal to kill giant pangolins in all the countries, meaning not all the illicit trade in the animals will be included in the estimates. The giant pangolins are particularly sought after and the researchers found the price demanded in urban markets has soared almost six times since the 1990s. They also found hunting of the African pangolins in 2014 was 150% higher than in the 1970s.

Richard Thomas, from the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, said very little had been known about pangolin populations in central and west Africa. He also pointed the “remarkable regularity” of major pangolin seizures. In June alone, Malaysian authorities seized three big shipments of pangolin scales, each representing many thousands of animals and originating from Africa.

A total ban on the international trade in any pangolin species was passed by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species in September. But Ingram said the enforcement of both international and national laws had to be increased to prevent African pangolins following their Asian cousins on the path to extinction.

The demand in Asia for pangolin meat and scales as delicacies and supposed medicinal uses is a major factor in cross-border trade but a significant proportion of African pangolins are eaten locally. Ingram said that measures are also needed to develop alternative livelihoods for African hunters of pangolin, but he believes there is still enough time left to act: “I am optimistic that something can be done.”

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