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.

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)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

US zoo to breed rhino siblings

Google – AFP, Kerry Sherdian (AFP), 27 July 2013

Suci, a female Sumatran rhino is shown at Cincinnati Zoo, July 23, 2013
(The Cincinnati Zoo/AFP, Tom Uhlman/Michelle Curley)

WASHINGTON, District of Columbia — In a desperate bid to preserve a critically endangered species, a US zoo is taking the controversial step of trying to mate brother and sister captive Sumatran rhinoceroses.

The coupling of six-year-old Harapan and his older sister Suci could take place as early as August at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, animal keepers say.

The tactic has stirred strong emotions, but Terri Roth, director of the Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, said she has no other choice.

"We are in a really tough spot and we just don't have any other options," she told AFP.
Conservation experts say there are as few as 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in their native lands of Indonesia and Malaysia.

In captivity, there are only 10 in the world. Four of them are closely related, with three having been bred in recent years at the Cincinnati Zoo.

A fourth born in Indonesia last year that was the son of a Cincinnati-bred captive rhino and a formerly wild rhino.

For Suci, who is marking her ninth birthday next week, the only available suitors are her relatives, Roth said.

Graphic on the critically endangered Sumatran rhino
(AFP Graphic)

The other captive male of age in Indonesia is her older brother.

Harapan, who is on the cusp of adulthood, was brought to Ohio earlier this month from his previous home at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Artificial insemination has never worked in Sumatran rhinos, so shipping sperm from a genetically unique mate is not a viable alternative.

"Unless Indonesia were to capture more animals and an unrelated male became available to us, we don't have the genetic diversity that we need," Roth said.

In the meantime, experts say female rhinos need to breed in order to keep their reproductive organs from developing cysts that eventually render them infertile.

"Female rhinos, if they don't reproduce they tend to lose the ability to reproduce. It is kind of use it or lose it with them," said Susie Ellis, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation.

Ellis said the population of Sumatran rhinos has dwindled dramatically due to humans encroaching on their land and poaching for their horns, which some Asian cultures believe carry healing powers though they consist of simple keratin, the same protein as in nails, hair and hooves.

"The species has really hit a crisis point," said Ellis.

"There are maybe as few as 100 animals left in the wild."

Still, the decision to breed siblings carries risks, including abnormalities, harmful genetic mutations and poor sperm quality in the offspring.

"In general, we are very much against the idea of breeding relatives because we know that more often than not it causes problems," said David Wildt, head of the Center for Species Survival at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

AFP, Michelle Curley)

"I don't know if I would call it a solution. I think it is a strategy. And it really opens up some healthy debate," he added.

"If those were the last animals on the planet, what else would you do? But this isn't the situation here, though. These aren't the last two animals on the planet."

Zookeepers are hopeful that the Indonesian government will take steps to capture some wild rhinos that may be in isolation already due to deforestation, and add them to their captive sanctuary population in order to boost breeding options.

Roth said she was aware of the publicity the decision to mate siblings would bring -- both good and bad -- and she hopes it raises people's interest in preserving the habitat of these precious creatures.

The Sumatran rhino "is not like the giant panda that everybody knows about and follows. I thought people need to know about this," she said.

"We are about to lose this rhino quietly, without a whimper, and I don't want to see that happen."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Indonesia Set to Ratify Haze Treaty by Early 2014

Jakarta Globe – AFP, July 17, 2013

Singapore’s Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan,
 left, speaks with his Indonesian counterpart Balthasar Kambuaya during the
15th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on
 Transboundary Haze Pollution in Kuala Lumpur July 17, 2013 (Reuters Photo/
Bazuki Muhammad)

Kuala Lumpur. Indonesia said Wednesday it hopes to ratify a regional treaty by early next year to fight smog from forest fires that bring misery to millions in the region.

“We hope we can ratify the agreement by the end of the year or early next year,” the country’s Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya told reporters.

Earlier Wednesday Kambuaya and environment ministers from four other Asean countries that form the Southeast Asian bloc’s “haze committee” met to discuss ways to prevent the Indonesian forest fires.

The blazes on Sumatra island, which are started to clear land for cultivation, left neighboring Singapore and Malaysia choking in June on the worst haze in more than a decade.

The air pollution scared off tourists, forced schools to close and caused a rise in respiratory illnesses.

Indonesia is the only member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which has still not ratified the bloc’s Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution brokered in 2002.

The treaty aims to stop cross-border smog from forest fires by requiring parties to prevent burning, monitor prevention efforts, exchange information and provide mutual help.

It also binds signatories to “respond promptly” to requests for information from another country hit by the smoke, and to take steps to implement their obligations under the treaty.

Indonesia, a freewheeling democracy since the fall of strongman Suharto in 1998, has blamed its parliament for the long delay.

Jakarta had sought legislators’ approval to ratify the haze agreement but the proposal was rejected in 2008.

The pact has been submitted again to the legislature.

The ministers on Wednesday warned that haze could be expected until the end of the southwest monsoon season in October if there was an increase in hotspots.

Kambuaya said Jakarta was prepared to share concession maps of fire-prone areas with other governments, but they would not be made available to the public as Singapore had asked.

“We are not allowed to publish concession maps to the public,” he said.

The concession maps show who has the right to plant crops or log a particular tract of land, allowing them to be investigated and prosecuted for fires.

The Sumatra fires have been largely blamed on palm oil firms using the illegal but cheap method of burning vast tracts of rainforests and peat lands to clear them for planting.

Indonesia is the world’s top producer of palm oil, which is used for many everyday items ranging from soap to biscuits.

Agence France-Presse
Related Article:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Updated Study Shows Massive Losses From Indonesia’s Forestry Graft

Jakarta Globe, Suzannah Beiner, July 16, 2013

A tugboat pushes a barge carrying logs on the Kampar River in Riau,
Indonesia, on May 5, 2013. (EPA Photo/bagus Indahono)

Mismanagement and corruption has cost Indonesia’s forestry industry an estimated US$7 billion in lost revenue between 2007 and 2011, according to a Human Rights Watch report released on Monday.

The report, an update of the 2009 HRW report “Wild Money,” highlights the disconnect between the country’s revamped forestry policies and uncontrolled forest fires, causing harmful smog in Indonesia and neighboring countries.

Indonesia’s most recent forestry reforms have been hailed as a part of the government’s commitment to a sustainable “green growth” model.

However, new laws have been criticized for not being tough enough on the very violations they are supposed to deter.

The House of Representative’s approval last Tuesday of the Law on Preventing and Eradicating Forest Destruction, an amendment to the 1999 law, was the latest of such measures.

The new law notably focuses on large-scale, systematic destruction to forests.

HRW called the steps “manifestly inadequate” in addressing undocumented logging and illegally set fires.

“The return of the smog is only the most tangible evidence of the damage from Indonesia’s continuing failure to effectively manage its forests,” HRW deputy program director Joe Saunders said.

Less readily evident but equally damaging to the government’s claim of pursuing a “green growth” model, are records of a very red budget.

HRW places the loss in revenue for 2011 alone at more than $2 billion, a figure greater than Indonesia’s entire health budget for the year.

Additionally, the new report details the government’s lack of transparency concerning forestry practices.

The government has imposed stricter limitations on information accessible to independent organizations.

This has particularly affected government and environmental watchdog organizations.

The most-recently passed laws affecting the activities of nongovernmental groups include tighter definitions of legally permissible activities, restricted access to foreign funding and the government’s ability to disband groups posing a threat to the “national interest.”

Forest communities have perhaps been the hardest hit by the government’s practices.

Forest communities have constitutionally recognized rights to use surrounding land or receive compensation upon their destruction. But a new certification system may not honor those rights because the system itself fails to determine whether the timber harvested is collected in violation of communities’ rights.

The government’s failure to address compensatory issues has led to land disputes between villagers and palm oil companies.

The limited land available for palm oil companies’ expansion has led to an increase in violence.

In 2011, a land dispute erupted into a violent clash leaving two farmers and seven palm oil employees dead after the villagers’ complaints went unresolved in the Mesuji sub-district of South Sumatra.

The increase in conflict has created an increased military presence to handle disputes.

“The Indonesian government has been selling the expansion of its forestry sector as an example of sustainable ‘green growth’ and an antidote to climate change and poverty, but the evidence suggests otherwise,” Saunders said.

Monday, July 15, 2013

'Secret gardens' provide safe food for Chinese officials

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2013-07-15

A farm in Inner Mongolia. (File photo/Xinhua)

When a Chinese person had dinner at a high court cafeteria in Shaanxi province two years ago, he was informed that the court had its private farm located 30km from Xi'an and the produce grown on site was absolutely safe, according to an unknown source reported in the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly.

Other sources revealed that another secret garden in Guangdong province grew not only organic produce, but also raised pigs, fish, chickens and ducks.

The weekly reported that the 103 suppliers selected during the 2008 Beijing Olympics continued to be closely connected with government officials and organizations even after the Olympics.

The owner of the New Century Breeding Farm in Beijing, surnamed Sun, who provided chicken eggs for the Olympics, said that since water supply, livestock feed and air quality at his farm passed government tests a decade ago, he has been supplying products to central government officials.

Surrounded by 2m-high walls and secured by five guards, the Beijing Customs Vegetable Farm and Country Club, which supplies organic vegetables to Beijing customs officials, stretches for more than 200 hectares. The weekly reported that the farm has provided vegetables exclusively to the customs office for more than a decade.

To avoid chemical pollution, animal waste is used as fertilizer and pesticides sprayed in the farms are also organic. Agricultural produce from such farms are real organic products and the safety of the food is emphasized.

Qi Yanming, former deputy secretary-general of the State Council, rephrased the wording of a report from July 1960 on food supplies for senior officials and intellectuals from "non-staple food supplement" to "special supply." Since then, "special supply" has become a mysterious and prestigious term in the public domain, the weekly pointed out.

A source close to the matter revealed that, in addition to the food provided in cafeterias at government organizations, the households of some food officials are also stocked by such farms.

At these prestigious farms, files on vegetables are as detailed as those on personnel management. All details, from the planting date to pesticides used, are well documented.

Tight controls have also been implemented to monitor the quality. If any of the links were found to be sub-standard, the farm would be disqualified from participating in the prestigious program, the report said.

Farmers selected to provide produce for officials told the weekly that "it is an honor to be selected and the inclusion also guarantees income."

Related Article:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

TEDx Binnenhof: Farming green energy for cows and men (Video)

Related Articles:

Could cow manure be the future of green energy?

Could cow manure be the future of
green energy?

(39) Question: Dear Kryon: I've noticed how many children are developing severe allergies to foods (my daughter included). When I've researched this, it seems that most of the allergies are essentially to seeds, grains, legumes, eggs, and dairy. I've noticed that these foods all hold the potential for life, or in the case of dairy, are essentially used to sustain the first stages of life in an animal's baby. My feeling is that because we're not releasing the life force within these foods (that is, sprouting, etc.), they're becoming harmful to us. I would like your impressions of this.

Answer: For thousands of years, these foods have worked for humanity. In these cases you speak about, the main culprit continues to be the way in which these foods are collected and processed. You won't find these allergies in third-world countries, and you won't find them within the children who work on farms, where they eat the foods directly. There will eventually have to come a day when you relax some of your efficiency attributes and go back to the way food was meant to be collected and eaten. And yes... there are effects from how the dairy animals are treated, too. Going back to some basics will help, and so will eliminating some of the procedures that supposedly create a "safer food." These procedures have instead made them begin to look like foreign food to the Human body.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Giant panda gives birth at Taipei Zoo

Want China Times, CNA 2013-07-07

Yuan Yuan and baby panda. (Photo courtesy of Taipei Zoo)

Taipei Zoo was in joyful mood Saturday following the birth of a giant panda on the grounds.

The mother, Yuan Yuan, gave the birth at 8:05pm without a hitch, the zoo announced in a statement, saying that everyone who watched and recorded the delivery felt joyful, although it also admitted the burden on their shoulders has become heavier.

The statement said the baby panda weighs only around one 1,000th of its mother and that all indications are that it is a healthy baby.

Yuan Yuan picked up the baby in her mouth and brought it to her chest right after the birth, demonstrating dearly her care for the newborn, the statement said.

Lin Huei-chen of the zoo's press liaison affairs said it is too early to determine the baby's gender, but added that the zoo will publish the latest news of the mother and baby every day at 10:30am.

Yuan Yuan and her mate, Tuan Tuan, were gifted to Taiwan by China in 2008 as a cross-strait gesture of goodwill.

Related Article:

Sumatran Tigers Kill One, Trap Five Others in Aceh National Park

Jakarta Globe, Nurdin Hasan, July 7, 2013

A Sumatran Tiger sits inside its cage at a Sumatran Tiger Captivity Center in
 Safari Park Indonesia, Cisarua, West Java, on Oct. 10.2011. (JG Photo/
Jurnasyanto Sukarno)

Banda Aceh. Search and rescue crews began the long trek into the depths of the Gunung Leuser National Park on Saturday to rescue five men who spent the last three days trapped in a tree after Sumatran tigers killed and ate a sixth member of their party, police said.

A 30-member team entered the 7,927 square-kilometer national park on Saturday after villagers’ attempts to rescue the men were thwarted by the site of four Sumatran tigers near the base of the tree, Aceh Tamiang Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Dicky Sondani said on Sunday.

“It might need two or three days to walk on foot to the depths of Leuser jungle,” Dicky said. “If the tigers are still under the tree, we will have to shoot and anesthetize them so that we can rescue the five [men].”

The men, all residents of Simpang Kiri village in Aceh Tamiang district, entered the dense national forest in search of the agarwood — known locally as gaharu — a rare and extremely expensive type of heartwood used in the production of aromatic oils and incense. Resin-infused agarwood is the result of a mold that infects the alim tree (aquilaria malaccensis), an endangered tropical evergreen found in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

A kilogram of agarwood can fetch some Rp 5 million ($505), Dicky said, but the jungles of the Gunung Leuser National Park house dangerous tigers and elephants. The police recently had to rescue another group of men trapped in the park, he said.

“It’s worse this time because there are tigers waiting for the villagers,” Dicky said. “People keep entering the jungle to look for alim wood because it’s very expensive; up to Rp 5 million ($505) per kilogram. But, well, that’s the risk; there are many tigers and elephants in Gunung Leuser’s jungle.”

The men were attacked by tigers on Thursday after they caught and killed a tiger cub in a snare meant to catch a deer, police said. Nearby tigers drawn to the scene of the injured cub and pounced on the men, killing and eating 28-year-old David as the five others climbed a tree to safety.

The residents of Simpang Kiri village entered the national park after the men called for help on their cell phones. But as the villagers neared the tree, the site of four large tigers and David’s partially eaten remains kept the rescue party at bay.

They have remained in the tree for three days.

Tiger attacks have become increasingly common in Sumatra, where palm oil and pulp plantations have destroyed much of the rainforest, shrinking animal habitats and putting the endangered tigers in contact with local residents. More than a hundred Sumatran tigers are believed to roam the grounds of the Gunung Leuser National Park, according to reports.

Related Articles:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Scramble to reach Indonesia quake survivors as toll hits 24

Google – AFP, Fikri Ramadhavi (AFP), 3 July 2013

The injured are treated outside a hospital in Aceh on July 2, 2013 after
the area was hit by an earthquake (AFP, Fikri Ramadhavi)

BLANG MANCUNG, Indonesia — Rescuers battled through landslides and blocked roads Wednesday to reach survivors from an earthquake in Indonesia's Aceh province that killed at least 24 people, including several children who died when a mosque collapsed.

Almost 250 people were also injured in Aceh's remote, mountainous interior when the strong 6.1-magnitude quake struck the north of Sumatra island on Tuesday, flattening buildings and triggering landslides.

The quake, which struck at a shallow depth of just 10 kilometres (six miles), has sparked panic in the natural disaster-prone region where more than 170,000 people were killed by the quake-triggered tsunami of 2004.

Indonesia quake (AFP Graphic)
In Blang Mancung village, Central Aceh district, there was widespread devastation with many homes reduced to rubble and at least six children killed when a mosque collapsed during a Koran reading session.

Rescuers dug all night with an excavator through the rubble of the mosque looking for more children but a local disaster agency official said late Wednesday he did not believe that anyone else was buried.

As 16 aftershocks rocked Aceh late Tuesday, around 700 people from the village and its surrounding areas took refuge in makeshift shelters, the national disaster agency said.

Those who remained dug through the rubble of their collapsed houses with bare hands to search for their belongings, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Bodies of the dead were laid out and covered in blankets at a makeshift emergency health post in the village.

"This is the biggest earthquake we've ever had here," Subhan Sahara, head of the district's disaster agency, told AFP.

"People are still frightened, especially after the aftershocks last night. Nobody dared to stay at home. Everyone slept on the roads or in car parks.

Quake survivors are treated at an Aceh
 hospital on July 2, 2013 (AFP, Reza 
"The earthquake triggered many landslides. People could not get out of the area because of fallen trees and mounds of earth blocking roads."

The main hospital in the district was overwhelmed and tents had been set up outside to treat the flood of patients, he said, adding that food and water were in short supply.

Military, police and local government officials were trying to head to affected areas by ground and in aircraft but some roads were blocked by landslips, the national disaster agency said.

"Bad phone communications, damage to several roads, and landslides are making rescue efforts difficult," said agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The agency dispatched a helicopter from neighbouring Riau province to assist in rescue efforts, while an air force plane was also deployed to assess the damage.

"We have recorded 24 people dead and 249 people injured," said Nugroho, adding that 375 buildings had been destroyed or damaged.

The casualties were spread over the two worst-hit districts of Central Aceh and Bener Meriah, he said. Scores of people were being treated at hospitals across the region.

Frightened people gather outside their
 homes after a quake shook Aceh on 
July 2, 2013 (AFP, Reza Juanda)
In Bener Meriah, about 300 people camped out overnight in open spaces, such as football fields, as the area was hit by strong aftershocks, Fauzi, an official from the local disaster agency, told AFP.

"There were strong aftershocks last night and people didn't want to go back home, so they stayed in the open overnight, but we don't have enough tents," said the official, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

"We have a power outage now and communications are unreliable," he added.

People ran outside in the provincial capital Banda Aceh as the quake -- some 320 kilometres (200 miles) away -- shook houses, and in Medan city to the south of the province.

Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, is regularly hit by quakes. The huge quake-triggered tsunami of 2004 not only killed tens of thousands in the province, but also many in countries around the Indian Ocean.

In April last year an 8.6-magnitude quake struck 431 kilometres off Banda Aceh, leaving five dead in the province and prompting an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami alert.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

Related Article:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sumatran Orangutan Beaten to Death

Jakarta Globe - AFP, July 2, 2013

Indonesian activists wearing orangutan costumes display placards during a
 protest in front of the Presidential palace in Jakarta on March 14, 2013.
(AFP Photo / Bay Ismoyo)

Indonesian villagers have beaten a Sumatran orangutan to death, an animal protection group said Tuesday, the latest case of one of the critically-endangered primates being killed by humans.

The adult female died Thursday after being rescued from a village in Aceh province with numerous injuries by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program.

Group director Ian Singleton said the primate was found with swelling to its head and body, a serious eye injury and bleeding under the skin around its jaw.

“The only way you would ever gain control of a wild adult orangutan is to beat and club it until it is barely conscious, or dead,” he told AFP.

He said it was not clear why the animal was killed.

In some cases, people kill female orangutans when the apes are trying to stop their offspring being taken away to be sold as pets, he said, although in this case no baby was found.

Orangutans have also been attacked by workers on palm oil and paper plantations on their native Sumatra island who view them as pests.

Orangutans being killed by humans was “still a very common occurrence in Indonesia”, he said.

Amon Zamora, the head of Aceh’s conservation agency, said the authorities were investigating the case and it would take some time.

“Capturing orangutans for sale or as pets and harming them is certainly against the law,” he told AFP.

Only around 7,300 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild, according to protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Orangutans are faced with extinction from poaching and the rapid destruction of their forest habitat, driven largely by land clearance for palm oil and paper plantations.

Agence France-Presse

Monday, July 1, 2013

Overworked elephant dies in Mumbai

France24 – AFP, 1 July 2013 

A woman mourns alongside the body of Bijlee, an elephant who died aged 58, in Mumbai,
on June 30, 2013. Bijlee's plight illustrated the mistreatment of the animals as street performers.

AFP - An overworked and overweight elephant in Mumbai whose plight illustrated the mistreatment of the animals as street performers has died after fighting for her life for weeks, vets said.

The 58-year-old named Bijlee died on Sunday from complications relating to old age, degeneration of leg muscles and arthritis, J.C. Khanna, secretary of the Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told AFP.

"She died because of ignorance, lack of awareness and ill-treatment," said Khanna, a vet and consultant who was part of a team trying to save the elephant.

Bijlee, whose name means lightning, had sparked anguish amongst animal activists and Bollywood stars after she was found lying in pain earlier this month in the city's northeastern suburbs, unable to walk after decades of neglect and overwork.

Local newspaper reports said she was used by her owners to beg on the streets and entertain at weddings without a break for more than 50 years.

"Her condition deteriorated quickly over the past three days, when she could no longer stand, even with the support of cranes," the Mumbai Mirror newspaper said on Monday.

The newspaper said the mahout (elephant keeper) Rajaram was inconsolable and sat beside her after her death.

The animals are a common sight on the streets of many Indian cities, although their movements are officially restricted in Mumbai, the country's largest city.

Permission to use elephants in the city is usually granted only for religious occasions.

Vets say Bijlee's owners have been feeding her junk food for years, including popular Indian snacks such as the "vada pav", a spicy potato pattie in a bun.

Asian elephants usually live off grass, plant matter and tree bark.

Animal activist Nilesh Bhanage, founder of the Plants and Animals Welfare Society, told the Times of India newspaper: "Forest officials have to stop any further cruelty to elephants. We don't want any more 'Bijlees' to happen."

India is home to around 25,000 wild Asian elephants but their numbers are dwindling mainly due to poaching and the destruction of their habitats by humans.

Wilmar to Cut Off Palm Suppliers Caught Burning in Indonesia

Jakarta Globe, Michelle Yun, Ranjeetha Pakiam and Eko Listiyorini,  July 1, 2013

A car drives past fire from burning trees planted for palm oil, during haze at
 Bangko Pusako district in Rokan Hilir, Riau on June 24, 2013. (Reuters:

Singapore/Jakarta/Kuala Lumpur. Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader, plans to cut ties with Indonesian suppliers that clear land with illegal fires after blazes engulfed Singapore in a record haze.

Wilmar, which bans burning on its own plantations, relies on third parties for more than 90 percent of the crude palm oil for its refineries. Sime Darby, the biggest publicly traded palm oil producer, also prohibits burning at its own plantations and relies on other sources for supplies, buying as much as half the commodity for its plants from others.

Palm oil refiners are being pushed to enforce their no burning policies to suppliers after hundreds of illegal blazes raged last month in Indonesia, the world’s top producer of the commodity. Unilever, buyer of 3 percent of the world’s palm oil, said the haze is a reminder of the need to accelerate sustainability efforts.

“We need the money to speak,” said Scott Poynton, founder of The Forest Trust, which worked with Nestle SA and Golden Agri-Resources on sustainability policies.

If companies “made a no-deforestation commitment that says to these communities, ‘you can’t burn because we won’t buy your oil,’ that’s money directly speaking to the people,” he said.

Palm oil is the world’s most-used edible oil. It’s in Unilever’s margarine, ice cream and soap. The London- and Rotterdam-based company made a commitment to buy sustainable palm oil and wants all its supplies to be from certified, traceable sources by 2020.

Burning banned

“What the industry has realized is that they can’t be simple bystanders in an ecosystem that gives them life in the first place,” Unilever Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman said June 27 in Jakarta.

While Indonesia and Malaysia ban burning to clear or manage acreage, 17 timber concession and 10 palm oil plantations had land affected by fires in Indonesia, according to June 24 data from the non-government World Resources Institute, or WRI.

Indonesia is investigating a number of companies suspected to be involved in illegal fires and will announce those names once the probe is completed, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said last week.

Wilmar deals with some of the companies identified by WRI on the assurance they don’t burn, the company said in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg News.

Buying policy

“Should they be found to be involved in burning to clear land for cultivation, we will stop doing business with them,” Wilmar said. The company’s buying policy states suppliers must comply with all local and national laws and regulations.

Indonesia’s disaster management agency said June 28 that in general people start fires on peatlands to fertilize the soil ahead of planting crops.

Kuala Lumpur-based Sime Darby said in a June 28 statement it had found fires on land at one of its units, though the blazes were in an area where local communities plant crops such as corn and sugar and not in areas planted by the company.

The company buys from palm oil growers in Indonesia that participate in plans run by the company and that adhere to a strict zero-burn policy. Part of its efforts to promote no burning is to continuously educate third-party suppliers on the benefits of complying with RSPO principles, Sime Darby said in a separate e-mail.

Fire and haze are common during Indonesia’s July-to-September dry season because local villages and farmers have long favored cheaper, slash-and-burn land clearing, according to Wilmar. Using machinery to clear costs more than $250 a hectare, while fires cost almost nothing, it said.

Sustainability efforts

Wilmar, based in Singapore, as well as Sime Darby, Golden Agri and Cargill all prohibit burning at their own plantations. That’s in line with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil criteria which include a commitment to avoid clearing land with fires. The RSPO was formed in 2004 to promote sustainability in an industry that’s been dogged by concerns about deforestation, pollution and the environment.

“It is inconceivable that any listed plantation companies is willing to risk open burning to clear their land, not after years of battling the non-government organizations on issues pertaining to deforestation, orangutans and native land rights,” Malayan Banking said in a June 24 report.

No big plantation group would be involved today with deforestation, Wilmar said. Many of the problems are caused by small farmers, which makes it difficult to control, it said.

Malaysia had 183,774 small palm growers as of May, while Indonesia has more than 2 million. The Indonesia Palm Oil Farmers Association has a “zero burning” policy for its members, and other crop farmers may be responsible for the blazes, said Secretary General Asmar Arsjad.

Investor concern

For some investors, concerns about deforestation remains. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest with assets of $737 billion, sold investments in 23 palm producers including Wilmar, Golden Agri and Kuala Lumpur Kepong, in the first quarter of 2012 citing concern about deforestation, according to its annual report released in March.

Golden Agri, the second-biggest palm plantations operator, is “absolutely” against burning and “would also encourage best management practices to all stakeholders,” the company said in an e-mail.

It buys less than 10 percent of its fresh fruit bunches from outside suppliers. Cargill gets 95 percent of its third-party crude palm oil in Indonesia from RSPO members.

“Those suppliers have signed on to the RSPO criteria which includes a commitment to not to use burning for land clearing,” Cargill said by e-mail.

“It is one of the reasons why we target RSPO member for our third-party out supply.”

The number of Wilmar’s suppliers that are RSPO certified is still small, though steadily increasing, it said.

While the haze has lessened in Singapore, it will return, according to The Forest Trust’s Poynton.

“Singapore will choke again because globalization demands it,” he said from Geneva.

“These fires are happening to clear the way to grow a commodity for the global supply chain.”