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)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blogger Auto Pagination Speeds Page Loads but Angers Bloggers

Susan's Blogging Blog, by Susan Gunelius, Thursday February 25, 2010

Last week, Blogger rolled out Auto Pagination, which automates the amount of content that is displayed on Blogger blog pages based on the amount of HTML and and images on each page. Google claimed that the purpose behind the change is to speed page load time. For example, with the new Auto Pagination feature, a Blogger blog might be limited to only display two posts per page if those posts include a lot of images. Visitors would need to click on the Next Post link to view additional posts from the blog.

While the change is unlikely to affect a lot of smaller bloggers, it has caused concern from larger bloggers, particularly those who use Blogger for photo blogs or blogs that are image-intensive, such as celebrity fan bloggers.

Many of the Blogger users who found their blogs suddenly altered to display only a couple of posts per page blogged about the new Blogger Auto Pagination feature in order to complain about the change. According to some of the more vocal bloggers, they were able to email Google and work with them to modify their blogs so the Auto Pagination feature doesn't affect their blogs. If you use Blogger and dislike the Auto Pagination feature, be sure to contact Blogger support and voice your concerns.

Has the new Blogger Auto Pagination function affected your blog or any of the blogs that you read? Leave a comment and share your experiences.


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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Haiti earthquake relief: How bamboo can help

Green Earth News, by Stacey Irwin on February 24, 2010

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude devastated the island nation of Haiti. The powerful quake collapsed over 250,000 residences, leaving roughly 1 million people homeless. The world itself shook with the impact of the relief effort. International aid agencies and private citizens responded with an outpouring of donations. The focus of the relief effort started to encompass both immediate needs such as food, water and medicine, and also the long-range planning of rebuilding Haiti from the ground up.

Bamboo, with its many uses, can play a role in the relief effort.

With commitments from INBAR (International Network of Bamboo and Rattan) and CBTC (Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre), the World Bamboo Organization and Generation Bambou are leading the way to mobilize the world of bamboo businesses and organizations with the goal of providing and promoting bamboo structures and plantations as part of the long-range relief effort focused on effective housing and economic stability.

The immediate benefit of using bamboo is found in the development of Bamboo Instant Houses. Developed in 2008 by a engineering professor in China in response to the Sichuan earthquake of that year, these modular structures can be built in less than 2 weeks and conform to United States’ building code standards for quake resistance (a huge benefit when dealing with aftershocks as high as 4.5 magnitude). The bamboo shelters are less expensive than the traditional building materials for shelters and unlike tents, they are more durable, insulated and offer a higher degree of protection from the elements.

Bamboo can also serve to build more permanent, earthquake safe structures on the island of Haiti. According to INBAR, one billion people around the world live in bamboo houses and with its tensile strength and favorable elastic qualities, buildings made from bamboo are excellent at withstanding earthquakes. When a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Costa Rica in 1992, all 30 bamboo houses in the epicenter survived intact.

Bamboo buildings would also introduce the concept of “green” living to the Haitian people. The highly sustainable plant grows without use of pesticides or fertilizers and can be harvested in 3-5 years versus the 10 -50 years needed for most hardwoods and softwoods to fully mature. Bamboo also has minimal impact on soil erosion as it is capable of regeneration without needing to be replanted. And because it can be grown and harvested locally and worked on with simple tools, it is also a cost-effective option for a country as poor as Haiti.

Bamboo can not only serve to put a roof over their heads, but also food on their tables. Across the globe, third world countries are using this valuable resource to bolster their economies. From housing to clothing to furniture to food, there are over a thousand ways to use bamboo to produce marketable goods. Haiti can ensure long-term viable economic growth by strategically planning for bamboo plantations on the island and placing the materials and means of production in the hands of the people who need it most. Bamboo is the potential cash crop that can put Haiti on the road to economic freedom.

The rebuilding of Haiti can be a renaissance of sustainability and economic development for the tiny island if the right steps are taken to rebuild. Using the exceptionally renewable, cost-effective and versatile bamboo plant is one step in that right direction.

For more on the global role of bamboo, visit Green Earth New’s section on Bamboo’s Worldwide Impact.

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President outlines five strategies to save environment

Antara News, Wednesday, February 24, 2010 16:05 WIB

Nusa Dua (ANTARA News) - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono outlined five strategies to save the environment when officially opening the 11th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council /Global Ministerial Environment Forum, here on Wednesday.

The first strategy is to change the pattern of production and consumption in order to save the Earth which is seriously damaged, for the sake of the present and future generations.

Other strategies are to lower biodiversity loss by implementing real actions; to promote new orientation of development and economic paradigm which are pro-poor, pro-job, and pro-growth; to finalize agreements for sustainable development; and to finalize negotiations on climate change to ensure the success of the planned Mexico Climate Change Summit , the head of state said.

On the occasion, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner presented a UNEP Award of Leadership to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for promoting and conserving marine ecosystem management.

President Yudhoyono said he accepted the award as a recognition to the work of the whole Indonesian people in managing the marine ecosystem.

He also reaffirmed Indonesia`s commitment to reducing the level of deforestation and land degradation and to lowering the level of carbon emissions.

The world environmental minister meeting taking place under the auspices of UNEP at the Bali International Convention Center from February 24 to 26, is being participated in by around 1,000 delegates from 130 countries.The meeting`s slogan is "One Planet: Our Responsibility.

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Delegates from around the world have gathered in Nusa Dua for the UNEP conference. (JG Photo/JP Christo)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mountain cracks in Garut district threatens local people

Antara News, Tuesday, February 23, 2010 15:42 WIB


Garut, West Java (ANTARA News) - Thousands of residents of Cisitu village in Malangbong sub-district, Garut, are being evacuated following the appearance of huge cracks on a slope of Mount Cakrabuana since Monday (Feb 22).

The cracks, measuring between tens and hundreds of meters in length and about one meter in width, meant parts of the mountain slope could collapse any time and bury more then 2,000 people living in Cisitu village located at the foot of the mountain, Deni Suherlan, head of Garut`s public housing office, said on Tuesday.

"The cracks which used to have a width of only 0.5 meters have suddenly become wider and longer threatening local people, especially those who live in Cisitu village.

The people are now being evacuated to a safer place," Deni said.Apart from the crack threat, he added, the houses in Cisitu village were also prone to be hit by landslide.

Related authorities along with a team from the geological and volcanic disaster mitigation agency are on location to monitor the situation, Deni said.

Related Article:

Landslide hits plantation area, hundreds affected


UN Says Tougher Targets Needed to Avert Climate Disaster

Jakarta Globe, February 23, 2010

Environmental organizations want clear commitments to control deforestation and forest fires in Indonesia. (Photo: AFP)

Countries need to set tougher targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to avert a climate-change catastrophe, according to a new United Nations report released in Indonesia on Tuesday.

A study compiled by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that between 2020 and 2050, global emissions need to fall by between 48 and 72 per cent.

The report said the political will to cut greenhouse gases by around 3 per cent a year between 2030 and 2050 is needed for a “medium” likelihood — or at least a 50/50 chance — of keeping the global temperature increase at less than 2 degrees Celsius.

Under the non-binding Copenhagen Accord agreed at the UN climate change conference in December, countries pledged to cut and limit greenhouse gases by 2020.

“Yes, the Copenhagen Accord represents a significant step in the direction of managing emissions, but even in the best assumptions no one should assume for the moment that will be enough,” UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said at a news conference.

The study was published ahead of a meeting of global environmental ministers from Wednesday through Friday in the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

It analyzed the pledges of 60 developed and developing countries which were recently submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The study suggested that annual greenhouse gas emissions should not be larger than 40 to 48.3 gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxides in 2020, and should peak sometime between 2015 and 2021.

Steiner said Monday that the failure to reach a binding accord in Copenhagen has made efforts to reach such a deal more difficult.

“Copenhagen, in my mind, will be in history books as a moment where humanity has failed in its responsibility to act,” he said.

But he said the whole world shared a responsibility to act in the next annual climate conference in Mexico in December.

“You can always find reasons not to act because of someone else not doing the right thing,” he said. “And for Mexico, I think it will take leaders, and it is not only from the big ones (nations).”

DPA

Ministry Blasts ‘Illegal’ Freeport Mining

Jakarta Globe, Arti Ekawati & Reva Sasistiya, February 22, 2010

The increasingly frustrated Ministry of Forestry has issued a second warning to mining giant PT Freeport Indonesia for not obtaining a permit to mine in protected forest areas.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan told lawmakers he had sent Freeport, a subsidiary of giant US miner Freeport-McMoRan, an initial warning on Aug. 7 last year but had heard no reply.

Speaking on Monday at a hearing with the House of Representatives Commission IV overseeing the forestry and agriculture sectors, he said a 2004 government regulation in lieu of law (perppu) required a permit from the ministry to be issued for mining in protected areas. The forestry law prevents forest areas from being mined, but the 2004 perppu provided exceptions to 13 miners, including Freeport, provided they acquire “borrow-use permits” from the ministry.

Freeport has no such permit, Zulkifli said.

“Under the forestry [law] it is illegal, that’s why we sent the second warning,” Zulkifli said, adding that his ministry did not have authority to revoke the license for non-compliance.

Budiman Moerdiat, the communications manager of Freeport, which operates Grasberg, the world’s biggest gold mine and third-biggest copper mine, aired surprise at the minister’s move but said the company had a strong legal basis for not seeking a permit from the Forestry Ministry.

“We followed the rules that were set in our mining contract of work. We were granted lex specialis rights,” Budiman said, referring to a stipulation that the terms and conditions of the contracts would not be affected by any general Indonesian laws in the future.

Freeport acquired the Grasberg concession in 1988 and extended it for another 30 years in 1991. It was at that point that it was granted the lex specialis right. It holds the option to extend for a maximum of another 20 years.

“Law enforcers are supposed to be taking action to scrutinize the big [players], not only small ones,” said Zulkifli, who became forestry minister in October.

There are more than 516 permits for mining in more than 468,001 hectares of forest area.

Besides Freeport, other miners with exceptions include PT Karimun Granit in Riau Islands; PT International Nickel Indonesia (Inco) in South, Southeast and North Sulawesi; PT Indominco Mandiri in East Kalimantan; and PT Aneka Tambang in North Maluku.

Only Indominco and Aneka Tambang have acquired permits, and Inco is in the process.

Palm Oil, Sugar Cane Most Sustainable Energy Crops, Study Shows

BusinessWeek, February 19, 2010, 04:09 AM EST, By Rudy Ruitenberg

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Sugar cane grown in Brazil and palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia rank as the most sustainable of the current generation of biofuel crops, according to researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Researchers at the university’s plant-science department compared nine crops on criteria including soil erosion, water use for each unit of energy produced and nitrogen usage, according to Sander de Vries, author of the comparative study.

“In terms of net energy, sugar cane has the best score of all energy crops,” Wageningen University’s De Vries said by telephone yesterday. “A crop like corn, which scores poorly, is at 10 percent of that.”

Biofuels production amounted to 83 billion liters (21.9 billion U.S. gallons) in 2008, up fourfold from 2000, and accounted for 1.5 percent of global transport fuel consumption, according to the International Energy Agency. First-generation biofuels have faced “heavy criticism” regarding their long- term effect on the environment, according to the IEA.

Sorghum in China, as well as oil palms and sugar cane, make the most efficient use of land, water, nitrogen and pesticides to produce a unit of energy, according to the study in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy. Provided no forest is cleared to grow the three crops, they produce “much less” greenhouse gases than fossil fuels, the study said.

“It takes a lot of water to grow sugar cane, but on balance you get a big return,” De Vries said. “You get back a lot of sugar cane.”

Nine Criteria

The crops were compared by ranking them against the best- performing plant on each of nine criteria, De Vries said. Sugar beet and rapeseed in Europe, cassava in Thailand and soybeans in Brazil had an average ranking, according to the study.

“In every case we looked at the dominant production area,” De Vries said. “With regards to erosion, oil palm scores well, rapeseed also. Soy doesn’t do well in terms of net energy, but does in nitrogen efficiency.”

Oil palm was most sustainable with regards to the maintenance of soil quality, according to the study, which disregarded effects on societies, economies and biodiversity.

U.S. corn and wheat in Europe, used to produce ethanol, had the worst sustainability score of the nine crops studied.

“It takes a lot of energy to process those crops,” De Vries said. “For corn it’s just positive. For wheat the balance of greenhouse-gas reductions is zero.”

--Editors: Claudia Carpenter, Dan Weeks

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at +33-1-5365-5039 or rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stuart Wallace at +44-20-7673-2388 or swallace6@bloomberg.net

Unilever drops major palm-oil producer

BBC documentary shows Indonesian company clearing protected rainforest

The Independent, by Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Monday, 22 February 2010

Palm oil can be found in half of all the best-selling foods in the world

The household goods giant Unilever has distanced itself from a major palm-oil producer after a BBC documentary filmed its staff clearing protected rainforest to make way for plantations producing the widely-used ingredient. In its second blacklisting of a palm-oil producer in three months, Unilever said it would avoid buying supplies originating from the Indonesian company Duta Palma, ensuring they did not end up in best-selling brands such as Dove soap and Flora margarine.

The move – disclosed in an edition of BBC1's Panorama tonight – comes two months after Unilever halted its contract with another Indonesia company, PT Smart, following allegations by Greenpeace that it too was destroying rainforests. Duta Palma made no comment about the BBC's evidence. Following the suspension of its Unilever contract, PT Smart admitted to "minor mistakes" and introduced stricter environmental controls.

The disclosures pose fresh questions about the effectiveness of Indonesian laws protecting wildlife-rich jungles and the industry's attempt to clean up its image. Both Duta Palma and PT Smart are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the body founded to protect the jungle and convince shoppers they can consume palm-oil products with a clear conscience.

Unilever, the world's biggest user of palm oil and a founder member of the RSPO, is one of the few companies that has bought segregated sustainable supplies. Some 97 per cent of palm oil is mixed together in refineries, making it hard for any company to state that its supply has not come from newly-deforested land.

As The Independent reported last year, half of best-selling foods such as Kit Kat and Hovis contain palm oil, but environmental groups and the British government are alarmed at the widespread damage its production causes in South-east Asia.

Of particular concern is the destruction of peat-rich land that releases vast amounts of greenhouse gases and the loss of habitat for endangered creatures such as the orangutan and snow leopard. Despite claims by the industry that its operators obey national laws protecting pristine jungle, the BBC found heavy machinery knocking down trees in a protected area of Kalimantan on the Indonesian side of the island of Borneo. "This is clear evidence of illegal logging," Mr Rowe said in the programme, to be broadcast at 8.30pm tonight.

Willie Smits, the eminent primatologist and former environmental adviser to the Indonesian government, said: "The area is classified as high conservation-value forest. It's virgin forest. Under Indonesian law, you cannot convert this high-quality forest to an oil palm plantation... This is criminal; this should not take place. It means there is no hope left for the most endangered sub-species of the orangutan in west Kalimantan."

The Indonesian government said that it would look into the footage and that it was getting tough with illegal logging.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Researchers Say Toxic Pesticides Poisoning Indonesia's Farmers

Jakarta Globe, Fidelis E Satriastanti, February 21, 2010

Farmers spreading fertilizer on a rice field in Kediri, East Java.

Nusa Dua. As Indonesia hosts an international meeting on toxic and hazardous chemicals here, a nongovernmental organization said on Sunday that an increase in the country’s pesticide use had resulted in the poisoning of farmers.

That claim was made by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) in its latest report, “Asian Regional Report on Community Monitoring of Highly Hazardous Pesticide Use.” The report was released before the 11th Simultaneous Extraordinary Meetings of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, which opens today and runs through Wednesday.

The study was conducted in 2008 in collaboration with local partner organizations from eight countries — Indonesia, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam — with 1,304 farmers as respondents. It found that 66 percent of the active ingredients in pesticides used on vegetables, cotton, paddy rice and other crops were highly hazardous, according to PAN International classification criteria.

In Indonesia, the study was conducted by Gita Pertiwi, a green group focusing on pesticide issues. The group interviewed 100 farmers in Wonosobo, Central Java, in 2008.

Rosanna Dewi, executive director of Gita Pertiwi, said all of the respondents said they had suffered health problems, ranging from mild headaches to fainting and diabetes.

“All of the respondents, 39 females and 61 males, have found themselves manifesting symptoms caused by pesticides, from nausea and headaches to more serious problems like diabetes and cancer,” Rosanna said.

She said blood tests performed by health agencies had confirmed that 90 percent of the farmers had been poisoned by pesticides. She added that the problem was exacerbated by the rise in the different types of pesticides used in the country.

“In 2008, there were 1,702 kinds of pesticides [in Indonesia] coming from 353 companies. But now we have 1,822 from 273 companies,” Rosanna said. “The reason the numbers keep increasing is that [farmers] are tempted by rewards for buying certain products, for example, offers of a hajj trip.”

She added that farmers received little information on how to safely use of the pesticides.

“Based on FAO [UN Food and Agriculture Organization] standards, [farmers] should wear gloves, long sleeves, plastic coveralls and a hat, but they’ve always said it was too hot,” she said, adding that women should not be allowed to spray pesticides because it put them at risk of reproductive health problems.

Rosanna said the herbicide Paraquat continued to be used in the country, mostly on palm oil plantations.

“The substance is already banned based on the Rotterdam [Convention], but unfortunately we have not ratified it yet. It is very effective in killing weeds, but it can cause cancer much more quickly than other substances,” she said, adding that the Agriculture Ministry issued a ministerial regulation in 2007 that said only certified farmers could spray Paraquat.

PAN AP executive director Sarojeni Rengam said governments should phase out hazardous pesticides and phase-in non-chemical pest management approaches.

“Support needs to focus on the investigation, education and promotion of agro-ecological practices, biodiversity-based ecological agriculture and integrated pest management,” Rengam said.

Friday, February 19, 2010

NGO helps reveal illegal trade of endangered animals

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 02/19/2010 5:27 PM

The NGO ProFauna Indonesia is working with law enforcement authorities to uncover the illegal trade of rare animals, which has sent two perpetrators to prison in the past two months.

An unnamed rare animal trader was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment for illegally selling six kukang, or Sunda Loris (Nycticebus coucang), in East Java, ProFauna announced in a press statement recently.

However, police have yet to arrest another trader, found in possession of 15 kukangs, 15 Javan langurs (Trachypithecus auratus), a white-bellied sea-eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) and a leopard cat (Felis bengalensis) seized during a raid recently.

On Jan. 11, Jambi District Court sentenced a man to 3 years and 10 months in prison and fined him Rp 1 million for killing a critically endangered Sumatran tiger (at Rimbo Jambi Zoo) and for selling its organs. (nkn)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rare Sumatran Rhino Falls Pregnant in Indonesian Wildlife Sanctuary

Jakarta Globe, February 18, 2010

The population of Sumatran rhinos has decreased 50 percent over the last 15 years. (AP Photo/WWF Malaysia, Stephen Hogg, HO)

A rare Sumatran rhino in an Indonesian wildlife sanctuary will give birth in May to only the fourth calf of the endangered species born in captivity in more than a century, a scientist said Thursday.

The wild Indonesian-born mother, Ratu, was mated with Cincinnati Zoo-born Andalas, who nine years ago became the first of three rhinos born in captivity in the past 112 years, International Rhino Foundation executive director Susie Ellis said.

The calf is due to be born in a wildlife reserve on Sumatra island on May 11 after a 15-month pregnancy, Ellis said.

Sumatran rhinos are the world’s smallest rhino species, standing only 120 to 145 centimeters at the shoulder.

Andalas was moved in 2007 from the Los Angeles Zoo, where he grew up, to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary where he was gradually introduced to his mate.

The wild Sumatran rhino population has more than halved in the past 15 years and now numbers about 200, Ellis said. Another 10 live in captivity, including five in the 100 hectare Sumatran sanctuary, which is funded by the foundation.

“The captive population represents not only an insurance policy for the wild population, but also a means to study the basic biology of the species, which we must understand in order to save them,’’ Ellis said.

Only about 24,500 rhinos survive in the wild with another 1,250 in captivity, said the foundation, a global not-for-profit organization.

Associated Press

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Agriculture Minister to Open Up 10.000 Hectares of Land Annually

Tempo Interactive, Wednesday, 17 February, 2010 | 15:47 WIB

TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:Agriculture Minister Suswono said his office plans to open 50.000 hectares of new land per year within the next five years. He was optimistic that the program can be realized because the National Land Agency (BPN) had announced that 7,3 million hectares of land were neglected.

“These lands can be utilized for agriculture,” Suswono said in the 2010 – 2014 Agricultural Development Program seminar at the Agriculture Ministry on Tuesday (16/2). The utilization of these lands, he continued, is expected to increase the welfare of farmers.

At present, the average land ownership by Indonesian farmers is 0,3 hectare per capita. According to Suswono, this cannot be expected to support their livelihoods. “Land ownership families must be increased,” he said.

At the same occasion, the Agriculture Ministry’s secretary-general, Hasanudin Ibrahim, said there were 191 million hectares of agricultural land in Indonesia. "This is larger than Brazil and Australia," he said. However, the problem is that Indonesia has a much bigger population.

As a consequence, land ownership is smaller. “In Brazil, a farmer normally has up to five hectares of lands,” Hasanudin said. “That is why farmers there are relatively more prosperous than ours.”

PINGIT ARIA MUTIARA

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Indonesia Should Get Serious About Fight Against Cocoa Diseases, Group Says

Jakarta Globe, Arti Ekawati, February 16, 2010

A farmer picks cocoa at the Rangkahpawon plantation in Kediri, East Java. (Antara Photo/Arief Priyono)

The government has been criticized for its lack of successful action in tackling diseases that have ravaged cocoa crops for years.

Siswono Yudo Husodo, chairman of the Association of Indonesian Farmers (HKTI), the country’s leading farmers group, said on Tuesday the government had failed to take comprehensive action to eradicate diseases such as cocoa pod borer and vascular streak dieback.

“The government has never taken serious action to eradicate plantation diseases,” he said. “They never eradicate them completely, but only partially.”

Siswono said the diseases should have been controlled when they first appeared but they had not been and now were widespread.

For example, cocoa pod borer had first appeared in Central Sulawesi in 1987, he said.

“But there was no action to prevent it spreading and it had now become widespread,” he said.

Cocoa output has dropped in recent years, mainly due to diseases and aging trees.

In 2007, Indonesia produced about 520,000 tons of cocoa beans. This fell to 500,000 tons in 2008 and is expected to have fallen further to 480,000 tons in 2009, the Indonesian Cocoa Association (Askindo) said.

“Eradicating cocoa diseases needs to be done comprehensively at the same time,” Siswono said, adding that it was now being done in stages. “If we do it stage by stage, the infected plants will spread the disease to other healthy plants.”

Last year, the government launched a three-year program to revitalize cocoa plantations, including curbing disease and cutting down aging trees. The Agriculture Ministry allocated Rp 1 trillion ($107 million) for the program in 2009 and has allocated the same amount this year.

Achmad Mangga Barani, the ministry’s director general of plantations, has said the revitalization program was being implemented in stages because of its limited budget.

Average cocoa production is now only 0.5 tons a hectare. Under ideal conditions, it should be between 1.2 tons and 1.5 tons per hectare.

Indonesia is the world’s third-biggest cocoa producer, after Ivory Coast and Ghana, and has about 967,000 hectares of cocoa plantations.

Related Article:

Nestlé cultivates 140,000 disease-resistant cocoa trees


Monday, February 15, 2010

Indonesia May Open More Forests to Palm Oil

Jakarta Globe, Arti Ekawati, February 15, 2010

A similar regulation was issued in 1999 but was withdrawn after many forestry companies planted more of their land in palm oil than permitted. (Bloomberg Photo/Dimas Ardian)

As Indonesia looks for ways to meet its ambitious emissions-reduction targets, the Ministry of Forestry on Monday said it plans to issue a new regulation that would allow commercial forestry companies to plant crops such as palm oil in new concession areas.

The ministry said the “mixed forest” regulation was intended to help companies survive the current low timber prices and would enable them to grow biofuel crops to help alleviate the country’s energy shortage.

Environmental groups warned that the plan would accelerate deforestation, which contributes to global warming.

Hadi Daryanto, director general of forest production at the ministry, said the regulation would be issued soon and would only apply to forestry concessions granted after it took effect.

Indonesia has 36.8 million hectares of commercial forests, with the government holding another 44.3 million hectares available.

The regulation would stipulate that at least 49 percent of forest concessions in question be used for planting commercial forests, while up to 21 percent could be planted in crops. The remaining 30 percent would be set aside for conservation and the use of local communities.

A similar regulation was issued in 1999 but was withdrawn after many forestry companies planted more of their land in palm oil than permitted.

Hadi said he was optimistic that companies would adhere to the rules this time because the ministry had a much more sophisticated monitoring system.

Elfian Effendi, the executive director of Greenomics Indonesia, said the group opposed resurrecting the failed policy.

“The ministry will repeat the failure, since forestry companies will prefer to plant palm oil because it’s more profitable than planting commercial forests,” Elfian said.

Even without such a regulation many forestry companies had illegally planted palm oil in commercial forest areas, he said.

Newly Identified Leopard Species Captured on Film in Borneo

Jakarta Globe, February 15, 2010

An image grab from video footage shows a newly identified Sundaland clouded leopard, caught on camera for the first time ever, stalking through the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Malaysian Borneo's Sabah state. (AFP Photo)

The Sundaland clouded leopard, a newly identified and little understood species of big cat in Borneo, has been filmed for the first time.

The leopard, a healthy-looking animal a meter long and weighing about 40 kilos was caught on video at night at the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Malaysian Borneo’s Sabah state.

“What surprised us was that while clouded leopards are very elusive cats, this one was not scared at all,” said Azlan Mohamed, a field scientist with University Sabah Malaysia.

“Despite our powerful spot lights and the roar of our vehicle’s engine, it walked around our vehicle calmly,” he told AFP.

“It is rare to see the big cat in the wild. These cats are usually shy of humans, it was by chance we caught it on video.”

The Sundaland clouded leopard was classified as a new species through genetic studies several years ago and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature designated it as endangered in 2008.

Previously all clouded leopards living across the Southeast Asian mainland were thought to be the same species.

Azlan said the Sundaland species is the biggest predator on Borneo, a resource-rich island split between Malaysia and Indonesia where wildlife habitats are under pressure from logging and plantations.

Because of their nocturnal habits, secretive behaviour and small numbers, little is known about the beast, including how many of them are living in Borneo.

However, Azlan said the researchers found the remains of a samba deer which had been killed by one of the big cats.

Azlan is a member of a research team focusing on carnivores in Sabah, led by Andreas Wilting of the Leibnez Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research based in Berlin, Germany.

This big cat can be found in lowland rainforest on Borneo and in small numbers in areas of logged forest.

But environmentalist say that the clouded leopard faces the threat of poaching while rapid deforestation and the creation of rubber and oil-palm plantations in Borneo is destroying its natural habitat.

Azlan said Dermakot Forest Reserve, a 500 square kilometer area which had been commercially logged but where replanting is now underway, is also home to four other threatened wild cats.

Sixty cameras traps placed in Dermakot also captured images of the marbled cat, flat-headed cat, leopard cat and Borneo bay cat, all smaller in size than the Sundaland clouded leopard.

“These small cats feed on rats and mice,” he said.

Azlan said the research team was “surprised” to find all five cat species in Dermakot and four of them in the neighbouring Tangkulap Forest Reserve.

AFP

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Nestlé cultivates 140,000 disease-resistant cocoa trees

Manila Bulletin, February 13, 2010, 2:11pm

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Nestlé has cultivated 140,000 disease-resistant cocoa trees to distribute to farmers in Ivory Coast and should boost that number to 1 million per year by 2012, a company executive said.

Nestlé last year launched a plan to hand out the high-yield saplings to farmers with a view to possibly doubling their productivity and improving the often poor quality of Ivory Coast's cocoa.

''This year, we are aiming to produce 500,000, and from next year onwards, 1 million every year,'' Klaus Zimmermann, Nestlé's global head of research and development, said.

He spoke to Reuters during a visit of World Bank President Robert Zoellick to a Nestlé installation in Ivory Coast.

Zoellick used the occasion to highlight badly needed reforms to the sector, which he said had to be more transparent and tax farmers less.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa grower, which supplies 40 percent of world demand, has suffered in recent years from lower yields because of aging trees and black pod disease.

Cocoa sector reforms have been held back by a political crisis that has persisted ever since a 2002-3 war split the country in two, leaving the north in the hands of rebels.

Echoing similar efforts in Indonesia and Ecuador, Nestlé, the world's biggest food group, is carrying out research on cuttings from Ivorian plantations to help propagate the stronger varieties.

Zimmermann said Nestlé's high-yield plants would be a hit with farmers.

''When the farmer realises he can get three-fold his income on the same land, he will be convinced,'' he said.

Benefits of the plants include higher quality cocoa, in a country better know for its bulk than its top grades, resistance to disease and drought, and 50 percent to 200 percent more productivity.

Zimmermann cautioned, however, against thinking this would quickly solve Ivory Coast's aggregate supply problems.

''In Ivory coast there are 3 billion trees. If we plant over the next 10 years 12 million, the impact on the quantity of the product will not be that big,'' he said.

Ivorian cocoa plantations yield, on average, between 400 and 500 kilograms of cocoa per hectare, compared with averages closer to 2 tonnes per hectare in countries like Indonesia.

Exporters on Monday estimated about 751,000 tonnes of beans had reached Ivory Coast's two ports by Jan. 24, up from 681,049 tonnes in the same period last year.

Fears that a vicious combination of aging trees, disease and dry weather will bode poorly for cocoa crop yields this season have kept cocoa futures trading at 30-year highs in London and New York in the past few weeks.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bali rattled by six consecutive earthquakes

The Jakarta Post, Sat, 02/13/2010 1:12 PM

DENPASAR: Six repeated earthquakes jolted Bali early Friday, with the strongest quake striking at 2:43 a.m. local time at a registered magnitude of 6.6.

There was no immediate report of damage and casualties, said Bali police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Gde Sugianyar Dwi Putra.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) recorded that the first and the strongest earthquake struck 210 kilometers off the coast southwest of Nusa Dua, at 10 kilometers beneath the surface.

The earthquake was felt across the island as well as on the adjacent East Java and Lombok.

"The quake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami since the epicenter is distantly located in the ocean," said Theresia Elvin, an official with the Denpasar BMKG.

The first earthquake was followed by five smaller ones that lasted until 6:03 a.m.

"People did not notice the five subsequent earthquakes because of the low intensity," Theresia said. - JP

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tigers roam around regent’s office in Bengkulu

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 02/12/2010 12:54 PM

Residents of a housing complex near the Kaur regency administration office in Bengkulu woke up on Friday to the remains of three goats that had been mauled by at least two Sumatran tigers overnight, Antara has reported.

Deputy Regent Suarni Muhidin said a local resident, Syamsuri, reported the loss of three of his 33 goats and found traces of tiger footprints around his yard. The regency administration office guards said they heard the goats bleating just before midnight, as the tigers attacked them.

Several times residents of Maje district, located 25 kilometers away from the administration office complex, have reported that their cattle had fallen prey to tigers.

“Tiger used to spread fear in Maje, but now it is sparking anxiety in an area closer to the administration office,” Suarni said.

He called on residents to avoid hunting deer, or the tigers would continue to come looking for cattle.

Head of the Bengkulu Natural Resources Conservation Agency Supartono said forest rangers would evict the protected carnivores from residential areas and keep them inside the conservation area.