Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"The Greater Akashic System" – July 15, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) (Subjects: Lightworkers, Intent, To meet God, Past lives, Universe/Galaxy, Earth, Pleiadians, Souls Reincarnate, Invention: Measure Quantum state in 3D, Recalibrates, Multi-Dimensional/Divine, Akashic System to change to new system, Before religion changed the system, DNA, Old system react to Karma, New system react to intent now for next life, Animals (around humans) reincarnate again, This Animal want to come back to the same human, Akashic Inheritance, Reincarnate as Family, Other Planets, Global Unity … etc.)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle
American zoologist played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Gorillas in the Mist would have been 82 on Thursday (16 January 2014)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Danish auction house stops ivory sales after protests

Yahoo – AFP, 24 Nov 2015

Ivory, as displayed here at an auction on October 28, 2008 in Windhoek, Namibia,
is sold for jewellery and decorative objects, with much of it is smuggled to China,
where many increasingly wealthy shoppers are buying ivory trinkets (AFP)

Denmark's second largest auction house said Monday it had stopped selling ivory products amid a social media storm over its planned sale of two tusks belonging to an African elephant.

The nearly two-metre (80 inch) tusks, weighing 28 kilogrammes (62 pounds) each, were to have gone under the hammer for a total of 150,000 kroner (20,107 euros, $21,344) on Wednesday.

"We try to be as aware as possible of what can cause offence," Kasper Nielsen, a sales director at Bruun Rasmussen, told AFP.

The move had been based on "the reactions we have received both" from the conservation group WWF "and our customers on social media," he said.

The decision also covered any tusks and horns belonging to the endangered species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the company said.

The auction had been slammed by the WWF as immoral, and on the company's Facebook page one user had left comments that said: "Supporting the poachers is horrific!" and: "I will never do business with this outfit again."

Rampant poaching of elephants in Africa has caused a major drop in their numbers over recent decades.

There are between 419,000 and 650,000 elephants left, according to conservation group Save the Elephants.

In a bid to show their determination to end the trade in ivory, Kenya's wildlife authority last week vowed to destroy its vast ivory stockpile from several thousand elephants, nine times more than the largest pile torched so far.

Ivory is sought out for jewellery and decorative objects and much of it is smuggled to China, where many increasingly wealthy shoppers are buying ivory trinkets as a sign of financial success.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Russia gives France puppy to replace killed police dog

Yahoo – AFP, 21 Nov 2015

Russia has offered to send an Alsatian puppy named Dobrynya (pictured) 
to France in a gesture of solidarity after police dog named Diesel was killed
during a raid on jihadists linked to the Paris attacks (AFP Photo/HAND OUT)

Moscow (AFP) - Russia has offered to send an Alsatian puppy to France in a gesture of solidarity after a police dog was killed during a raid on jihadists linked to the Paris attacks.

Russia's interior minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said he had written to his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve offering to send a puppy named Dobrynya to replace Diesel, a Belgian Shepherd killed in a huge raid north of Paris last Wednesday.

Kolokoltsev said that as "a sign of solidarity with the people and police of France," he was offering the puppy, which "will be able to occupy the place in service of the police dog Diesel killed during a special operation to neutralise terrorists."

The dog is named after a hero of Russian folk legend, Dobrynya Nikitch, famed for his strength, goodness and courage, he added.

The ministry late Friday posted pictures of the small fluffy puppy and a video of him playing with a ball, which can be viewed here:

The puppy was also shown on state television on Saturday.

A member of a French special police unit and a police dog during a raid on an
 appartment in the Paris suburn of Saint-Denis on November 18, 2015 following
attacks in the capital city that claimed 130 lives (AFP Photo/Francis Pellier)

Dobrynya is two months old and lives at a police dog centre in the Moscow region, Channel One television reported. He will have to undergo medical checks and quarantine before going to France.

Two dog-handlers from Moscow police's special forces also posed with their dogs and signs with the hashtag "Je Suis Diesel" on the service's Instagram account.

"Our four-legged friends also serve the police, protecting society from terrorist threats," the Moscow police service said.

The hashtag #JeSuisChien (I am a dog) trended on Twitter after French police announced that seven-year-old Diesel died in the raid targeting Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Three people died during the massive operation at the apartment in Saint-Denis north of Paris -- Abaaoud, his cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen, and a suicide bomber who has yet to be identified.

Seven people arrested during the raid were freed on Saturday.

Related Article:

Friday, November 20, 2015

US government ends research on all chimpanzees

Yahoo – AFP, 19 Nov 2015

Captive chimpanzees were listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife
Service last year (AFP Photo/Yasuyoshi Chiba)

Washington (AFP) - Chimpanzees will no longer be used for US government research and the remaining 50 chimps in federal custody will be sent to a sanctuary for retirement, health authorities said.

The decision by the National Institutes of Health came two and a half years after the agency announced it would phase out most of its biomedical research using chimpanzees, which are humans' closest living relative and share 98 percent of the same genes.

Since 2013, no new applications for research using chimps have been approved, and last year, captive chimps were listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The NIH said the endangered designation requires researchers to obtain an extra permit for any experiments that could harm the animal, and that no such permits have been sought.

"As a result of these numerous changes over the last few years and the significantly reduced demand for chimpanzees in NIH-supported biomedical research, it is clear that we've reached a tipping point," NIH director Francis Collins said in a statement.

"In accordance with NIH's commitment in June 2013, I have reassessed the need to maintain chimpanzees for biomedical research and decided that effective immediately, NIH will no longer maintain a colony of 50 chimpanzees for future research."

The NIH-owned chimps are "now eligible for retirement" at the Federal Sanctuary System operated by Chimp Haven in Keithville, Louisiana, Collins said.

The NIH said it will continue to use other non-human primates for research.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dutch appeal court upholds fur farming ban

DutchNews, November 10, 2015

Photo: Romoro via
The ban on fur farming introduced in the Netherlands in 2013 has been upheld by the appeal court in The Hague. 

A lower court last year found in favour of fur farmers who are furious at being ordered to shut down their companies without compensation. The appeal court, however, said on Tuesday that the new legislation does take the interest of fur farmers sufficiently into account because of the 11 year changeover period. 

Fur farmers said in a reaction to Tuesday’s ruling that they will take the issue to the high court. ‘We have already said that we will pursue this case to the bitter end,’ a spokesman for the fur farmers association NFE told news agency ANP.

 ‘We are extremely puzzled as to why last year the court found in our favour and now opinions have changed. This is both a surprise and a disappointment, because we had not expected it,’ the spokesman said.

The ban on fur farming came into effect on January 15, 2013 and included an 11-year transition for existing companies. 

The Netherlands has some 160 fur farms producing five million pelts a year. The sector employs some 1,400 people. The Netherlands is the third biggest fur farming nation in the world behind Denmark and China.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Eagle owl which terrorised Purmerend faces ‘life’ in captivity

DutchNews, November 8, 2015

An eagle owl. Photo: Brocken
Inaglory via Wikimedia
The eagle owl which terrorised the Dutch town of Purmerend earlier this year is to remain in captivity for the rest of its life, local paper Noordhollands Dagblad said at the weekend. 

The risk that the bird will continue to attack people if it is released is too great, the local authority is quoted as saying in a briefing for councilors. 

The owl was caught in mid March after officials issued a special permit for its capture. They have now asked for government permission to keep the bird in captivity, the paper said. 

The owl attacked dozens of people in the town, north of Amsterdam, and generated newspaper headlines around the world. Several people had to get hospital treatment for wounds to their heads during its five-week reign of terror, and the council recommended people carry umbrellas as protection.

Experts at the bird sanctuary where the eagle owl has been placed say it is a young male in good health and with strong eyesight. They have also concluded the bird was born in captivity and is used to people. 

No ring

The bird is not ringed or chipped and no clue has been found as to where the bird has come from. Eagle owls can have a wingspan of almost two metres when fully grown and it may have been released into the wild by its owner, the council briefing said. 

Even if it is released a long way from civilization, the bird is likely to return to places where people live, the council quotes the experts as saying. The sanctuary would like to keep the owl but does not have a zoo licence. It has now applied for one, the paper said.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Rare Sumatran rhino 'Hope' arrives in Indonesia to mate

Yahoo – AFP, 2 Nov 2015

This photo obtained November 2, 2015 courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo shows
 male Sumatran rhino Harapan in his crate upon arrival in Sumatra (AFP Photo)

Jakarta (AFP) - A rare, US-born Sumatran rhino arrived Monday at his new home in Indonesia, an official said, where it is hoped he will find a mate and give his critically endangered species a shot at survival.

Harapan, an eight-year-old male whose name means "Hope", arrived at a specialist rhino sanctuary on Sumatra island at dawn after a long journey from a zoo in Cincinnati.

A senior biodiversity conservation official in Indonesia's forestry ministry told AFP the rhino was "adapting well" after travelling 36 hours by air, sea and land to reach to the national park.

"He is healthy and has a great appetite," Bambang Dahono Adji told AFP.

Harapan, a male Sumatran rhino, pictured
 in a photo taken on July 23, 2013 courtesy
 Michelle Curley of the Cincinnati Zoo, 
Ohio (AFP Photo)
"We noticed this morning he was lapping up all the leaves. Being Sumatran, perhaps he preferred local fare, like rice instead of cheese," he joked.

Sumatran rhinos are among the rarest in the world, with just 100 believed to still exist.

Harapan was the last remaining rhino of his kind in the US, but without a mate there it was decided he should return to Sumatra to have a chance at producing offspring.

His older brother, Andalas, also moved from a zoo in Los Angeles to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park in 2007.

Since then, he's fathered a calf at the park, with a second offspring expected in May.

Harapan will be quarantined for just over two weeks before entering the sanctuary, Adji said, where it's hoped he will follow in his older brother's footsteps and mate with one of three female rhinos there.

"Like his brother, we hope he will be able to breed and boost the Sumatran rhino population here," Adji said.

Challenges ahead

Rhino experts welcomed news of Harapan's return to his ancestral homeland, especially given the desperation in recent years as the species' future looked bleaker than ever.

With few alternative options, the Cincinnati Zoo took the controversial step in 2013 of trying to mate Harapan with his older sister Suci. The female died the following year in yet another blow for conservationists trying to save the species.

"It's good news that he's (Harapan) here in Indonesia to mate with unrelated females," Widodo Ramono, head of the Rhino Conservation Foundation of Indonesia, told AFP.

"Inbreeding would cause genetic degeneration, which brings problems such as illnesses and defects."

Another forestry ministry official Andhika Respati said Harapan's transition out of captivity would come with challenges, though a vet and two keepers from Cincinatti accompanied the rhino to offer advice to his new carers.

"One challenge is how to get him used to life and finding food in the forest, as he had been living in the zoo from birth," Respati told AFP.

"However we think he will adjust just fine."

Sumatran rhinos are the only Asian rhinoceroses with two horns. They are covered in woolly hair that ranges from reddish brown to black in colour.

While Javan rhinos are considered the world's rarest rhinos, Sumatran rhinos are under increasing threat by poachers and continue to lose precious forest habitat.

Dutch government initiates animal-free testing fund

DutchNews, November 2, 2015

Photo: vkovalcik via
The Dutch government wants to set up a new investment fund which will put money into developing animal-free research. 

The cabinet plans to fund the start-up costs but the rest of the investment will have to come from the private sector, junior economic affairs minister Sharon Dijksma said in a briefing to parliament. 

The fund will be open to researchers who want to develop techniques for testing drugs and other substances without using animals, Dijksma said. 

Every year some 500,000 animals are used in scientific experiments in the Netherlands. Around half of the experiments are for scientific purposes and a third for the production and testing of drugs. The rest were used for assessing dangerous substances and for training purposes. 

Dijksma said the Netherlands aims to be the world’s most advanced nation in terms of animal-free research by 2025.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Joko Cuts Short US Trip to Deal With Fire, Haze Crisis

Jakarta Globe, Basten Gokkon, October 27, 2015

President Joko Widodo inspects a firefighting operation on burning peat forest in
Pulang Pisau district, Central Kalimantan, on Sept. 24. The president has cut short
 his inaugural visit to the United States to coordinate a response to the worsening
forest fires. (AFP Photo/Romeo Gacad)

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has decided to cut short his first official visit to the United States as a forest fire crisis blazes out of control back home.

“The president has received recent updates from the minister for politics, legal and security affairs minister regarding the haze that has affected more Indonesian people,” Arrmanatha Nasir, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told the Jakarta Globe late on Monday.

He said Joko and part of his delegation would immediately return home on Tuesday after attending scheduled events in Washington, D.C., where the president met with President Barack Obama, congressmen and US executives on Monday.

Joko’s return means he will not attend much-anticipated meetings with technology executives from Apple, Google and Microsoft, among others. Representing him in Silicon Valley instead, Arrmanatha said, will be the communications and trade ministers, as well as the head of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM).

Arrmanatha said the president would fly to either South Sumatra or Central Kalimantan once he arrives back in the country. Both provinces are among the hardest hit by forest fires generating intense volumes of health-threatening haze.

A top legislator earlier on Monday lashed out at the president for going abroad just as the fire and haze crisis worsens. Up to three-quarters of Indonesia is affected to varying degrees by the haze.

Related Articles:

China is lending the Netherlands two pandas

DutchNews, October 26, 2015

China is lending two giant pandas to the Netherlands, foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders said on Monday. 

The minister was speaking in Beijing on the second day of a state visit by king Willem-Alexander and queen Máxima. 

The loan is ‘a sign of the special bond between China and the Netherlands’, the minister told Dutch media. 

The loan is definitely a sign of close ties between the two countries, but the Netherlands has been pushing for it for some time, according to Volkskrant reporter Marije Vlaskamp. 

‘Prime minister Mark Rutte did not ask explicitly during his visit to China two years ago, but he hardly stopped talking about it,’ she writes. 

The pandas are not a gift and will cost the Netherlands money, although how high the cost will be is not known. 

The pandas will housed at Ouwehands Zoo in Rhenen, but it is not yet known when they will arrive. ‘It depends on the preparations, including the building of an enclosure for them,’ a spokesman told the Volkskrant. 

Junior economic affairs minister Sharon Dijksma says she has signed an agreement with the Chinese forestry commission for the two animals. She says it offers the opportunity for working together on other animal protection programmes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Indonesia fires can't be put out, Malaysian minister warns

Yahoo – AFP, 19 Oct 2015

Facing growing pressure, Indonesia earlier this month agreed to accept international 
help after failing for weeks to douse the fires from slash-and-burn farming that have
 shrouded angry neighbours Malaysia and Singapore in smoke for weeks (AFP
Photo/Mohd Rasfan)

International efforts to douse raging Indonesia fires will fail and Southeast Asia could face several more weeks of choking smoke until the rainy season starts, Malaysia's environment minister warned on Monday.

Facing growing pressure, Indonesia earlier this month agreed to accept international help after failing for weeks to douse the fires from slash-and-burn farming that have shrouded angry neighbours Malaysia and Singapore in smoke for weeks.

But Malaysia was forced once again to close schools in several areas Monday due to unhealthy air, and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the crisis could continue for another month.

"Unless there is rain, there is no way human intervention can put out the fires," he told AFP on the sidelines of Malaysia's parliament session, warning that the blazes were spread across "huge areas" of Indonesia.

Even the multi-nation effort now under way "is not enough to put out the fires," he added.

"We hope the rains will come in mid-November. It will be able to put out the fires," Wan Junaidi said.

On Friday, Indonesia launched its biggest fire-fighting assault yet, with dozens of planes and thousands of troops battling the illegally started agricultural and forest fires in its territory on the huge islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

Thirty-two planes and helicopters -- including six aircraft from Singapore, Malaysia and Australia -- were deployed to back up more than 22,000 personnel on the ground.

The fires and resulting region-wide haze are an annual dry-season problem, but experts warn the current outbreak is on track to become the worst ever, exacerbated by tinder-dry conditions from the El Nino weather phenomenon.

The acrid air has sparked health alerts, sent thousands to hospitals for respiratory problems, and caused the cancellation of scores of flights and some major international events across the region.

Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho also offered sobering comments Monday, saying the fires were "yet to be overcome."

Sutopo said satellite data indicated Indonesia now had more than 1,500 "hotspots", which are loosely defined as areas where fires are either burning or where conditions are ripe for blazes to break out.

"The actual number is higher as the satellite is not able to penetrate the thickness of the haze in Sumatra and (Borneo)," he added.

Malaysia enjoyed a brief spell of lowered haze last week, but the government -- which has repeatedly ordered school closures across wide areas as a health precaution -- did so again on Monday as skies once again reverted to the now-familiar soupy gray.

Schools were closed in several states and in the capital Kuala Lumpur as pollution levels climbed well into the "unhealthy" range under the government's rating system.

Air quality in Singapore, however, improved Monday after entering "unhealthy" levels over the weekend.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pregnant chimp adopts orphan in 'unheard of' act

Yahoo – AFP, 14 Oct 2015

Baby chimp Boon - who was orphaned when his mother Soona died shortly after 
he was born on October 9, 2015 - clings to his new adopted mother Zombi in 
Monarto Zoo, southeast of Adelaide, Australia (AFP Photo/David Mattner)

Sydney (AFP) - An Australian zoo Wednesday unveiled a baby chimp adopted by a pregnant female in an "unheard of" act after his mother died during birth.

The baby, whose name Boon means blessing, was orphaned when mum Soona died shortly after he was born at Monarto Zoo, southeast of Adelaide, late last week.

The adoption of another female's baby by a 
pregnant female, an "unheard of" act amoungst
 chimps, has happened at Monarto Zoo in
Australia (AFP Photo/David Mattner)
But in a heartwarming twist, the "strong" and "healthy" infant was immediately adopted by fellow chimp Zombi, who had remained by Soona's side as she died.

The zoo's senior primate keeper Laura Hanley said she did not know of anywhere else in the world where a pregnant chimpanzee had taken on the role of surrogate to another infant, so close to a birth of her own.

"I'm humbled by what we've seen from the chimpanzee troop over the last few days -- it's unheard of to see a heavily pregnant chimpanzee adopt an orphaned newborn infant," she said in a statement as the "miracle" baby made his public debut.

"From the minute she first cradled the newborn, she's been amazing -- grooming, supporting and nursing the little man as though he was her own.

"The unique situation certainly reinforces the strong bond our chimps share and the similarities these amazing creatures have with their closest living relative, us."

Hanley said she was optimistic Zombi would continue to care for Boon once her own baby was born later this month.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Singapore banks urged to curtail loans to haze-linked firms

Yahoo – AFP, Martin Abbugao, 9 Oct 2015

A worker waters a field as downtown buildings are shrouded in smog in
Singapore on October 5, 2015 (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Singapore (AFP) - An umbrella group of local and foreign banks in smog-hit Singapore has urged members to make "sustainable development" part of their lending requirements, stepping up pressure on companies linked to land-clearing fires in Indonesia.

The 158-member Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) on Thursday issued guidelines for the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, forest degradation and biodiversity loss among the criteria for approving commercial loans.

The move came in the wake of fires illegally started to clear land for plantations on Sumatra island and the Indonesian part of Borneo, which have shrouded Singapore and Malaysia in acrid smoke since early September.

"The banking sector in Singapore wants to play a bigger role in driving responsible business and long-term sustainable development," ABS director Ong-Ang Ai Boon said in a statement.

The smoky haze has also reached the popular Thai holiday islands of Phuket and Samui, forcing several planes packed with beach-bound tourists to turn back.

Palm oil and pulp and paper companies are believed to be the main culprits behind the use of burning to clear massive tracts of land for their plantations, but prosecution by Indonesian authorities has been rare, prompting affected countries like Singapore to resort to economic pressure.

Singapore's biggest supermarket chain, NTUC Fairprice, this week withdrew from its shelves all paper products sourced from Indonesian-owned Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), which has corporate offices in the city-state.

The company's suppliers are suspected of starting forest fires in Indonesia.

The Fullerton Hotel is blanketed in thick haze, in Singapore, on September 24,
2015 (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Related Articles:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Singapore moves against Indonesian firms over haze

Yahoo – AFP, 26 Sep 2015

The Fullerton Hotel is blanketed in thick haze, in Singapore, on September 24,
2015 (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Singapore (AFP) - Singapore has launched legal action that could lead to massive fines against Indonesian companies blamed for farm and plantation fires spewing unhealthy levels of air pollution over the city-state.

Five Indonesian companies including multinational Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) have been served with legal notices, according to a Singapore government statement issued late Friday.

The move followed a bitter diplomatic spat over Indonesia's failure to stop a severe outbreak of smoky haze which has also affected Malaysia and persisted for years.

APP, part of Indonesia's Sinar Mas conglomerate, is one of the world's largest pulp and paper groups and publicly upholds "sustainability" and forest conservation as core principles. Its products include stationery and toilet paper.

APP was asked by Singapore's National Environment Agency to supply information on its subsidiaries operating in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.

The group, which has paper mills in Indonesia and China, did not immediately reply when asked by AFP for comment.

Under a 2014 law called the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, Singapore can impose a fine of Sg$100,000 ($70,000) for each day that a local or foreign company contributes to unhealthy levels of haze pollution in Singapore, subject to a maximum total of Sg$2.0 million.

Singapore is located near Indonesia's vast Sumatra island, where fires have traditionally been set off by farmers and plantations to clear land for cultivation.

Four other Indonesian companies -- Rimba Hutani Mas, Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa and Wachyuni Mandira -- have been told to take measures to extinguish fires on their land, refrain from starting new ones, and submit action plans to prevent future fires.

Sinar Mas is also involved in palm oil production, an industry widely blamed for forest fires in Indonesia.

In its statement issued Friday, the Singapore government said it was "examining how to apply more economic pressure against errant companies," including a review of its own procurement policies.

A soldier inspects a peatland forest on fire in Kampar district, Riau province, 
on Indonesia's Sumatra island, on August 7, 2015 (AFP Photo/Alfachrozie)

Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said the haze problem has lasted "for far too long".

"This is not a natural disaster. Haze is a man-made problem that should not be tolerated. It has caused major impact on the health, society and economy of our region," he said in the statement.

Singapore declared emergency shutdowns of elementary and high schools on Friday after the air pollutant index hit "hazardous" levels.

It eased to "moderate" levels on Saturday but a shift in wind direction can quickly change the situation.

The current haze outbreak is the worst since mid-2013. The recurring crisis grips Southeast Asia nearly every year during the dry season.

Singapore officials have reacted with outrage to Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla's comments that Indonesia's neighbours should be grateful for good air quality most of the year, and that Jakarta need not apologise for the crisis.

Indonesia has previously said that Singapore-based companies were among those responsible for the blazes.

About 3,000 troops and police have been sent to Sumatra to fight the fires, with Indonesian authorities saying last week that it would take a month to bring them under control.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Eyes on elephants as Google cameras snap Kenya reserve

Yahoo - AFP, September 15, 2015

A Google Street View vehicle collects imagery for Google Maps while driving down
a street in Calais, northern France, on July 29, 2015 (AFP Photo/Philippe Huguen)

Samburu (Kenya) (AFP) - For once, Google was unlikely to face privacy complaints as the US Internet giant on Tuesday launched its Street View service in Kenya's Samburu park, in a move conservationists said could help protect endangered elephants.

Special cameras have taken panoramic images of the reserve while driving down dusty tracks -- and have also been fixed to a backpack to penetrate deep into the bush.

Some of Google's previous Street View forays have brought complaints on privacy grounds.

A lioness stands near an oryx at the Samburu
National Park in Kenya (AFP Photo/
Pedro Ugarte)
But this time there were no demands to blur out faces -- the main residents of the 165 square kilometre (65 square mile) reserve are 900 elephants.

The idea is to allow viewers to click and view the elephant herds close up.

"We hope that by bringing Street View to Samburu, we will inspire people around the world to gain a deeper appreciation for elephants," said Farzana Khubchandani of Google Kenya.

Slightly larger than a basketball, Google's camera contains 15 individual fixed-focus lenses that simultaneously capture a 360 degree image roughly every three metres.

The Kenya project was launched in collaboration with conservation group Save the Elephants.

"It's exciting to open a window onto Samburu, and to help us better protect its elephants," said Save the Elephants chief Iain Douglas-Hamilton, speaking in Samburu, some 300 kilometres (185 miles) north of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Kenya is struggling to stem poaching to protect its remaining elephant population -- currently estimated at 30,000 -- and just over a thousand rhinos.

With ivory raking in thousands of dollars a kilo in Asia, conservationists have warned that African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a generation.

"Giving people a virtual tour will bring Samburu to the world, and inspire the world to come to Samburu," county governor Moses Lenolkulal said.

"The more people experience our culture, our people and the majestic elephants and other wildlife with which we co-exist, the more we are able to conserve and sustain the Samburu culture and its fragile ecosystem for generations to come."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Zoos in Taiwan and China arrange sika deer for pandas swap

Want China Times, CNA and Staff Reporter 2015-09-15

Sika deer at Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung. (File photo/Lin Hsiu-li)

A zoo in southern Taiwan said Sunday it has reached an agreement with a zoo in China to exchange a pair of Formosan sika deer for two giant pandas.

The Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung will give two of its sika deer to the Chengdu Zoo in southwest China's Sichuan province, said Chuang Hsuan-chih, director of the zoo.

In return, the Chinese zoo will gift two of its pandas to Shoushan Zoo, Chuang said.

The exchange is expected to enrich the diversity of species at Shoushan Zoo, which has been seeking to do so but has been limited by its funding and space.

The zoo, which attracts around 1 million visitors each year, said it is hoping to attract private investment to expand the zoo complex.

Shoushan Zoo expects it will be at least two years before the exchange can take place, due to the complex process and paperwork.

Taipei Zoo received two pandas from China in 2008, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan. The pair produced a cub in 2013 named Yuan Zai, which has become the zoo's star attraction.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dutch banks invest in massive Ukraine poultry farm

DutchNews, September 14, 2015

From the SOMO report's cover
Dutch banks have invested millions of euros in a massive chicken farm in Ukraine which is competing with Dutch poultry farms, the Volkskrant reported on Monday. 

The Ukraine farm, Myronivsky Hluboproduct (MHP) is owned by one of Ukraine’s richest men and kills and processes 332 million chickens a year, the paper said. This is roughly three quarters of the Netherlands’ total production of chicken. 

The paper bases its claims on  research by SOMO, the centre for research of multinational corporations. SOMO’s new report on MHP, titled Chicken Run, shows the extend of Dutch involvement in the project. 

For example, both Rabobank and ING have invested in the plant and, the Volkskrant says, the involvement of Rabobank is particularly significant because of its ties to the Dutch farming community. 

In addition, Rabobank has committed itself to improving animal welfare in factory farms and the rules in Ukraine are much less strict than in the Netherlands, the paper states. 


Rabobank told the Volkskrant it had no indications that MHP is breaking national laws and declined to comment on the size of its investment. 

Dutch agribusiness firms are also involved in the Ukraine project, the report states. 

‘Furthermore, MHP has sourced technological equipment for the Vinnytsia complex from a range of mostly Dutch suppliers,’ it said. ‘In several cases these companies have received export credit insurances from Atradius DSB. Since the opening of the EU market for Ukrainian poultry, the Netherlands has accounted for the majority of EU imports of MHP’s products.’ 

Ukraine is also home to a massive battery chicken farm which has 23 million hens. Efforts last year to have egg imports from battery farms in Ukraine failed.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dutch hunters take part in controversial hunt in South Africa

DutchNews, September 10, 2015

Photo: Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation
A Dutchman who moved to South Africa in 1997 to set up a fruit exporting business is at the centre of a drive hunt allowing foreign hunters to shoot wildlife as it is herded past them, animal welfare groups say. 

Anton de Vries, who is one of the owners of SAFE, South Africa’s fifth biggest fruit exporter, is said to be behind the hunt which is taking place at three three farms in Limpopo. The hunt master is said to be Dries van Rooyen, who also works for SAFE, Wildlife at Risk International reported. 

De Vries has declined to comment on the claims when approached by reporters. A receptionist told reporters from she had been ordered not to reveal De Vries’s cellphone number. She said the company ‘had nothing to do’ with the excursions. The SAFE website has since been taken offline. 

South African broadcaster Carte Blanche said it had been told at a meeting with De Vries and local officials that 13 Dutch and Belgian nationals are taking part in the hunt near the town of Alldays in Limpopo province. 

The hunters take aim from purpose built platforms overlooking the bush as the animals are drive towards them. In the first three days, over 50 animals, including baboons, warthogs and antelope had been killed. 


The outcry comes just two months after the global furore surrounding the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by an American dentist. 

The National Council of SPCAs, the South African animal welfare group, has appealed for the driven hunt to be halted. Activists have also tried to have the hunt stopped by going to court. 

Driven hunts have been banned in the Netherlands since 2002 but are not illegal in South Africa. However, the practice is widely considered unethical and inhumane, news channel Carte Blanche said.

Related Article:

Walt Palmer, left, and one of his many trophies.