Wuhan under lockdown as coronavirus outbreak kills 17 in China

6 hr 37 min ago

Coronavirus spreads more easily from person to person than previously thought, says WHO official

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images
Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

The Wuhan coronavirus that has killed at least 17 people and infected more than 600 spreads more easily from person to person than previously thought, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) official.

“We are now seeing second and third generation spread,” said Dr. David Heymann, the chairperson of a WHO committee that is gathering data on the virus.

Third generation means that someone who became infected after handling animals at the market in Wuhan, China, spreads the virus to someone else, who then spreads it to a third person.

The virus initially appeared to spread only by very close contact that would typically occur within a family, such as hugging, kissing, or sharing eating utensils, Heymann said.

Now, he says evidence is accruing that shows more distant contact could spread the virus, such as if a sick person were to sneeze or cough near someone else’s face.

He said there is no evidence at this point that the virus is airborne and could be spread across a room, as happens with the flu or measles.

6 hr 41 min ago

How coronavirus affects your body

3 hr 32 min ago

Travel restrictions placed on third Chinese city

Travel restrictions have been put in place in Ezhou, the third Chinese city to be affected by measures aimed at controlling the spread of coronavirus.

Ezhou’s railway station has been closed “in order to fully conduct prevention and control of the new type of pneumonia causing coronavirus, effectively cut off the transmission of the virus, resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic, and ensure the safety and health of the people,” according to a Thursday statement from the Ezhou City Coronavirus Disease Prevention Control Headquarters.

Earlier in the day public transport and long distance transport networks were suspended in nearby Huanggang, according to its municipal government.

Huanggang’s central market is temporarily closed, as well as all entertainment venues, public halls, movie theaters and tourism centers.

Cars coming in and out of the city will be checked and searched, and people will have their temperatures taken.

7 hr 2 min ago

Cathay Dragon suspends flights to and from Wuhan amid deadly coronavirus


Airline Cathay Dragon announced Thursday it is suspending flights to and from Wuhan amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

“In light of the evolving situation in Wuhan, Cathay Dragon is temporarily suspending flights to and from Wuhan effective January 24, 2020 until 29 February, 2020,” said the company in a statement.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to coordinate with the health authorities in Hong Kong and in all the ports to which we operate flights.”

Cathay Dragon is a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s flag carrier, Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific stock declined 2.1% in Hong Kong Thursday as the aviation sector comes under pressure amid the spread of the coronavirus.

3 hr 37 min ago

Beijing scraps all large-scale New Year Celebrations

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Authorities in Beijing have canceled all large-scale Chinese New Year celebrations in an effort to contain the growing spread of Wuhan coronavirus.

“In order to control the epidemic, protect people’s lives and health, reduce the mass gathering and ensure people to have a harmonious and peaceful Spring Festival, it is decided to cancel all the large-scale events, including temple fairs, in Beijing as of today,” read a Thursday statement from the governmental Beijing Culture and Tourism Bureau.

“Citizens shall strengthen the preventative measures and support the decision. We will notify the policy changes with the epidemic development … And wish all citizens a happy Spring Festival,” the statement continued.

Chinese New Year 2020 runs from Saturday 25 through February 8.

7 hr 47 min ago

What do we know about Wuhan?


Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, is the capital city of Hubei province in Central China.

It is the 10th most populated city in China, with 8,837,300 residents in 2018, according to the National Statistics Bureau.

The city is widely referred to as having a population of 11 million. This includes migrant workers and other residents who do not have Wuhan residency registration, and who are hence not included in the national census.

The city is home to some of the top universities in China, including Huazhong University of Science and Technology (ranked ninth in the country), Wuhan University (ranked 12th) and China University of Geosciences (23rd in China).

Tennis player Li Na hails from the city, which is also famous as the birthplace of the 1911 armed uprising that eventually overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty.

In 2018 the city had 398 hospitals and 17 centers for disease control and prevention out of a total 6,340 medical institutions.

Wuhan has a total number of 95,300 beds in hospitals and community clinics, and 136,300 people are employed in its medical institutions.

The average life expectancy in the city is 81.29 years.

8 hr 2 min ago

A second city has been placed under lockdown

Huanggang, a neighboring city about 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Wuhan, will be effectively locked down due to risks associated with the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, Chinese state media reported.

The Hubei Huanggang New-type Coronavirus Pneumonia Prevention and Control Command, a task force set up to deal with the crisis, said in a statement that at midnight, the city’s subway and train stations will close, per a report in the People’s Daily, a state-run newspaper. All theaters, internet cafes and indoor public culture, tourism and entertainment facilities in the city will also stop business, People’s Daily reported.

Like Wuhan, Huanggang is located on the banks of the Yangtze River. The entire administrative area of Huanggang has a population of 7.5 million, but People’s Daily reported that the lockdown only applies to the urban area, which is only a part of the total population.

9 hr 7 min ago

More cases confirmed throughout China

People wear face masks as they wait for arriving passengers at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on January 23.
People wear face masks as they wait for arriving passengers at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on January 23. Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Regional health authorities in China have confirmed 13 new cases of the Wuhan coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in mainland China to 611.

Eight more cases were confirmed in Beijing. Shaanxi Province and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region confirmed three and two cases, respectively.

Those are the first cases that have been confirmed in Xinjiang and Shaanxi — meaning that of the 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, two special administrative regions and four municipalities under the control of the People’s Republic of China, only five have not reported confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus as of midday Thursday.

They are:

  • Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
  • Tibet Autonomous Region
  • Gansu Province
  • Qinghai Province
  • Hong Kong

The Hong Kong government has not formally confirmed the presence of the virus in the city, but said it is investigating two “highly suspected” cases. Preliminary tests of the first individual were positive for the virus.

The self-governing island of Taiwan has reported a confirmed case of the coronavirus.

9 hr 38 min ago

“People aren’t sure when shops will be going back to normal,” Wuhan resident says

The Wuhan New-type Coronavirus Pneumonia Command — a task-force set up to deal with the crisis — said in a statement that Wuhan has a sufficient supply and reserve of food, medical supplies and commodities.

“There is no need for the general public of the city to panic or hoard in order to prevent unnecessary wastes,” the command said.

However, there is still unease among many in the city.

Jan Renders, a 29-year-old PhD student in Wuhan, told CNN that many shops are closing for the Lunar New Year holiday, so many people had already been stocking up on supplies. Renders, who has lived in Wuhan for the last two and a half months, said he was able to stock up on food for at least a week.

“But of course people aren’t sure whether shops will be going back to normal soon,” he said.

Another man in Wuhan sent CNN a picture inside a grocery store Thursday morning that showed several empty shelves. The man, who asked not to be identified, said most of the food was sold out.

This photograph taken Thursday morning shows inside a grocery store in Wuhan.
This photograph taken Thursday morning shows inside a grocery store in Wuhan.
10 hr 2 min ago

Wuhan is a London-sized city

A man wears a mask while walking in the street on Wednesday in Wuhan
A man wears a mask while walking in the street on Wednesday in Wuhan Getty Images

Wuhan, the city where the outbreak originated, is home to more than 11 million people — that’s as big, or bigger than London, the largest city by population in the European Union.

It’s the biggest city in all of central China — and unsurprisingly, is considered the political, economic and transport capital of the region.

Located in Hubei province on the confluence of the Yangtze River and its largest tributary, the Han River, the city is often referred to as “jiu sheng tong qu,” meaning it’s considered the main thoroughfare of nine provinces.

In other words, Wuhan is huge and densely populated, with people coming and going every day — making the outbreak and lockdown a nightmare for authorities, especially ahead of Lunar New Year this weekend.

To put it in perspective: The lockdown is like closing down all transportation for a city more than three times the size of Chicago, two days before Christmas.

More about Wuhan: Wuhan is a major manufacturing city with a heavy focus on automobile and medical equipment: Bosch and PSA both relocated their China headquarters to Wuhan recently.

The city, spanning 8,494 square kilometers, has played a major role in the government’s plan to rejuvenate the nation’s central region for more than a decade.

But the city’s historical importance can be traced back more than 3,000 years. Wuhan is listed as one of the Famous Historical and Culture Cities by the state and is home to the ruins of Panlong City.

Read more about Wuhan here.

3 hr 39 min ago

The Chinese government announced the highways out of Wuhan are closed


The Wuhan New-type Coronavirus Pneumonia Command — a Chinese task-force set up to deal with the crisis — has announced the closure of highways out of the city, a move it called a “necessary act to stop the spreading of the epidemic.”

However, minutes later the announcement was removed from the website. It’s unclear why.

The decision to effectively cut off Wuhan from the rest of the world has sparked fears among some on social media about the availability of food and medicine inside the city.

Flights out of Wuhan had already been suspended and public transport in the city has stopped.

10 hr 41 min ago

People are apparently trying to get out of Wuhan — and Chinese social media users are not happy about it

Workers use infrared thermometers to check the temperature of passengers arriving from Wuhan at a train station in Hangzhou on Thursday, January 23.
Workers use infrared thermometers to check the temperature of passengers arriving from Wuhan at a train station in Hangzhou on Thursday, January 23. Chinatopix via AP

Fear and anxiety is mounting in China, with controversy on social media over residents who apparently fled Wuhan ahead of the partial lockdown enforced on Thursday.

On the microblogging platform Weibo, people shared their fears over the virus, as well as cautionary warnings. “Don’t panic and try not to go out,” one person warned.

Another person posted they had thought about fleeing Wuhan. “I was thinking about my parents and children — if I bring them, where can we escape to?” read the post.

“Tomorrow will there be a line to snatch supplies? Will the next step be to send troops here to maintain order? By spring, will this explode into an epidemic? Or by May, will Wuhan have been restored to peace and goodness?”

Controversy over evacuees: On early Thursday morning, train stations in Wuhan were packed with people trying to get out of the city before the blockade went into effect. Crowds jammed together, trying to get on the last few trains out of the city of 11 million people.

The rush to get out has even got its own hashtag on Weibo — #EscapeFromWuhan.

But the mass exodus has been met with anger from many Weibo users, who accused people leaving Wuhan of being selfish and irresponsible as they could then potentially spread the virus.

“Wuhan people, get out of Shanghai,” one person posted. “Don’t sneak in and spread chaos.”

Palm Oil in Snack Foods Could Be Destroying the World’s “Orangutan Capital”

Picture a rhinoceros in the rainforest, add a herd of elephants, families of orangutans swinging through the treetops and tigers prowling the understory, and there is only one place in the world you could be.

Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem is one of Earth’s most ancient forest ecosystems, a laboratory of life’s potential where the alchemy of evolution has been allowed to experiment, uninterrupted for millennia. And the results are astounding. Green upon green, vines hanging from towering old-growth trees, moss growing on ferns growing on bromeliads… you get the picture.

It is the kind of place one imagines primeval nature to be wild, abundant, impenetrable.

With more than a century of proud conservation history responsible for its continued existence, the province of Aceh where the Leuser resides is, against all odds, a sparkling ecological jewel standing in stark contrast to the devastated landscape that surrounds it. Most of the rest of Sumatra — once known as Indonesia’s “Emerald Island” — and sadly much of the rest of lowland rainforests across Indonesia, too, have been exploited and denuded by wave after wave of scorched Earth, industry, colonial extraction and modern-day corrupt corporate greed. What has already been lost is incalculable, but here, in this special place, remains a rare opportunity to stop the cycle of destruction and protect a globally valuable treasure before it’s too late.

A palm oil refinery
A Musim Mas palm oil facility on the edge of the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia.

The Leuser Ecosystem is considered the heart of Southeast Asia’s rainforest region, which, alongside the Amazon and the Congo Basin, is one of only three tropical forest regions on Earth. The beating heart of the Leuser is the lowland forests and peat swamps of the Singkil-Bengkung region. This area is part of the last remaining healthy peat swamp ecosystem in western Sumatra. This lush jungle contains some of the world’s richest levels of biological diversity.

The lowland peat forests of the Leuser Ecosystem deserve the highest levels of protection for multiple critical reasons. Dubbed the “orangutan capital of the world,” this region is home to the highest population densities of critically endangered orangutans anywhere. This includes a special, culturally distinct subpopulation of a few thousand individuals in the Singkil-Bengkung region, which demonstrate social structures and tool-using behaviors unique from all other orangutan populations. These forests are also home to some of the healthiest remaining breeding populations of highly imperiled Sumatran elephants, rhinos and tigers.

The health of the Leuser Ecosystem’s Singkil-Bengkung landscape is internationally significant because its deep, carbon-rich peatlands are among the most valuable and effective natural carbon sinks on Earth. Conversely, when drained, cleared and burned for conversion to palm oil plantations, this soil type is transformed into a carbon bomb that emits catastrophic levels of pollution into the atmosphere.

Hundreds of thousands of people rely on the area’s rich natural resources as the basis of their livelihoods. Downstream villages are already suffering severe, sometimes deadly threats from devastating floods, landslides, and the loss of subsistence resources like fish and forest products as a direct result of the rapid rates of deforestation caused by palm oil. Communities also continue to suffer due to the loss of access to their customary lands that have been taken over by palm oil companies, without their consent, and failures of the government to take decisive action to resolve conflicts and restore to communities the rights to their lands.

The Acehnese people have fought for over a century to protect the integrity of the Leuser Ecosystem’s extraordinary forests, and in the past decade the Leuser has become internationally famous for its intact expanses of verdant trees and its stunning wealth of imperiled wildlife species. But also over the past decade, more than 18,000 hectares of forests within the Singkil-Bengkung region have been cleared, leaving roughly 250,000 hectares of rainforests remaining — and this area decreases each and every year due to deforestation and the drainage of peatlands.

RAN conducted a series of undercover investigations in 2019 due to the alarming destruction of peat forests occurring within the lowland rainforests of the Leuser Ecosystem. The field research was conducted to determine if the forest clearance was being driven by major snack food brands, even though these brands had adopted policies years ago to end deforestation in their supply chains.

The results of the investigations are definitive. Palm oil is being grown illegally inside the nationally protected Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve, and it is being sold to mills that provide the palm oil used to manufacture snack foods sold across the world by Unilever, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mondelēz, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars and Hershey.

These mills are located immediately next to areas of illegal encroachment into the Leuser Ecosystem and lack the necessary procedures to trace the location where the palm oil they sell is grown, a key requirement for complying with the No Deforestation, No Peatlands, No Exploitation policies to which all of these brands have publicly committed.

Progress has been made by some companies implementing their No Deforestation policies. Brands like Unilever and Nestlé, for example, have begun the process of increasing supply chain transparency by publishing the mills they source from, but they have not yet achieved traceability to the plantation level, so they remain unable to offer certainty as to exactly where the palm oil they consume was grown. The findings of these investigations clearly show that paper promises are not enough to keep the forests from falling.

The Leuser Ecosystem at large, and the Singkil-Bengkung region in particular, still offer a rare and fleeting opportunity to get it right and avoid the devastating mistakes made throughout so much of Indonesia in the past. It remains possible here to prevent the destruction of habitat that drives iconic wildlife species toward extinction, to avert the human suffering from inevitable floods and landslides caused by deforestation, and to end the reckless burning of carbon-filled peatlands contributing to the climate crisis.

The international attention resulting from the release of this latest report has helped to pressure the brands to respond and take further action, but the high stakes and urgent threats to the Singkil-Bengkung demand more bold, decisive action to ensure that the area receives permanent protection.

Tell General Mills, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Mondelēz, Mars, Hershey, Unilever and PepsiCo to cut ties to illegally produced conflict palm oil and stop the deforestation in the Leuser Ecosystem.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Elephant Rides Are Now Banned at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat

After pressure from animal rights groups, the temples’ management group decided to stop offering elephant rides to tourists.



NOVEMBER 18, 2019


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Cambodia’s most famous tourist attraction, Angkor Wat, will ban elephant rides around the ancient temples, beginning next year.

After pressure from animal rights groups, the temples’ management group decided to stop offering elephant rides to tourists.

To start the initiative, two of the 14 elephants that lived and worked at Angkor Archaeological Park were moved to the nearby Bos Tham forest last week, according to the Khmer Times.

The rest of the elephants that are in Angkor Wat will be transferred to the forest by early 2020. Visitors will be able to see the animals there but they will not be permitted to ride as the elephants will continue to be under the care of the company that currently owns them.

Tourists riding elephants in Angkor Wat

“The elephant is a big animal, but it is also gentle and we don’t want to see the animals being used for tourism activities anymore,” Long Kosal, a spokesperson for the park’s management company, told Khmer Times. “We want them to live in their natural surroundings.”

Elephants have been at Angkor Wat since the practice of ferrying tourists around started in 2001.

In 2016, an elephant named Sambo died at the park, due to a heart attack triggered by heatstroke and exhaustion. Her death prompted an online petition to end elephant riding at Angkor Wat, which earned more than 185,000 signatures.

The World Wildlife Fund published a report last year, stating that the number of Asian elephants has decreased 50 percent in the last three generations. There are less than 50,000 that live in the wild and they are officially listed as an endangered species.

If you visit Angkor Wat, check out Travel + Leisure’s tips for seeing the popular site without battling other tourists for a view.

In Southeast Asia, illegal hunting is a more immediate threat to wildlife than forest degradation


In Southeast Asia, illegal hunting is a more immediate threat to wildlife than forest degradation
Removing snares in Vietnam. Credit: Andrew Tilker

A new study carried out by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature Vietnam (WWF-Vietnam) and the Sabah Forestry Department of the Government of Malaysia suggests that for ground dwelling mammal and bird communities, illegal hunting using indiscriminate snares may be a more immediate threat than forest degradation through selective logging. The researchers conducted a large scale camera-trapping study to compare several forest areas with logging concessions in Malaysian Borneo and protected areas in the Annamites ecoregion of Vietnam and Laos known to be subjected to illegal hunting. The results, published in the journal Communications Biology, show severe defaunation in snared forests compared to logged forests.

“We had a unique opportunity to investigate the complex mechanisms of these defaunation drivers and compare their relative severities,” says Andrew Tilker, doctoral student at the Leibniz-IZW and Asian Species Officer at Global Wildlife Conservation, one of the lead authors of the paper. “Our rainforest study sites in Malaysian Borneo are degraded through logging but have experienced little hunting, whereas our rainforest study sites in the Annamite Mountains are structurally intact but are subjected to extremely high illegal hunting pressure. Because the two study landscapes generally have similar habitats and faunal communities, it was an opportunity for us to investigate to what extent these defaunation drivers differ in their impact on  faunal communities.”

In Southeast Asia, illegal hunting is a more immediate threat to wildlife than forest degradation
Forest degradation through selective logging. Credit: Andrew Tilker

“These findings are not only interesting from an academic perspective, they also have implications for ,” says Dr. Jesse F. Abrams, postdoc at the Leibniz-IZW and co-first author. “Our results show that maintaining habitat quality as a means of protecting tropical biodiversity is, by itself, insufficient.” The researchers suggest that, whilst both defaunation drivers should be addressed to maintain tropical biodiversity, in some cases it may be more prudent to focus limited conservation resources on addressing overhunting rather than habitat degradation.

Because hunting in the Annamites is primarily accomplished by the setting of indiscriminate wire snares, the findings of the study have implications for other landscapes in Southeast Asia, which currently are facing an ever-increasing snaring “epidemic.” In this respect, the levels of defaunation found in the rainforest study sites in the Annamites by the researchers could offer a foreboding glimpse into the future of biodiversity across the wider Southeast Asian biodiversity hotspot. Co-author Ben Rawson, Conservation Director of WWF-Vietnam, says: “Industrial-scale snaring must be addressed if we are to avoid empty rainforests in the region and retain healthy populations of what are now some of the world’s rarest species.”

The study’s findings also have positive implications for conservation. Datuk Mashor Mohd Jaini Director of the Sabah Forestry Department notes, “These results show that logging concessions can be safe havens for mammal and bird communities, particularly if sustainable forest management protocols are applied, following principles of forest certification standards” Dr. Andreas Wilting, project leader, agrees. “Incorporating these degraded sites into conservation planning strategies could substantially extend the conservation real estate for the world’s tropical regions,” he says. “Our study has made it very clear that tropical rainforests must be protected from unsustainable hunting, regardless of whether they are logging concessions or protected areas. We must get ahead of the wave of indiscriminate hunting that is sweeping across Southeast Asia. Only then can we ensure the survival of Southeast Asia’s biodiversity heritage.”

Explore further

Hunting responsible for mammal declines in half of intact tropical forests

‘Barbaric’ snares are wiping out Southeast Asia’s wild animals


By Sarah Lazarus, CNN

Updated 10:30 PM ET, Wed October 16, 2019 A deer trapped in a homemade
A deer trapped in a homemade snare.

(CNN)Across Southeast Asia, wild animals are being hunted out of existence
to feed growing demand for bushmeat, according to conservationists.
Thomas Gray, science director with conservation group Wildlife Alliance,
which operates in Cambodia, says that snares — simple traps made of wire
and rope — have become the single biggest threat to ground-dwelling animals
in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos over the last decade.
Snares collected by community rangers in Nakai-Nam Theun — a protected area
in the Annamite Mountains in Laos.
Snares collected by community rangers in Nakai-Nam Theun — a protected area
in the Annamite Mountains in Laos.
The scale of the problem is “phenomenal” says Gray.
Between 2010 and 2015, more than 200,000 snares were removed by patrol teams
from just five protected areas in the region. But despite these efforts,
says Gray, law enforcement patrols can’t keep pace with poachers and stop
the slaughter.

Typically made from motorbike and bicycle brake cables, snares are cheap and
simple to construct. Traditionally, hunters made snares from rattan and
other natural forest products which were “relatively weak and decomposed
relatively quickly,” says Gray. Wire snares require much less skill to make
and can last for years.
The hunters’ targets are animals they can sell as food, including wild pigs,
muntjac deer, civets and porcupines.
But the tragic thing about snares, says Gray, is that “they take out
everything.” Animals caught in these “barbaric” devices face a lingering
death, he says. A few manage to escape, but are likely to die from their
injuries — sometimes because they have gnawed off a limb to free
themselves. Trapped animals without market value are simply left to rot in
the forest.
Southeast Asia’s forests once teemed with myriad species, including sun
bears, striped rabbits, marbled cats, hog badgers and monkeys.
But the snaring epidemic is leading to what conservationists call “empty
forest syndrome.” “In some areas there are no mammals larger than a rodent
left,” says Gray.
A perfect storm
In Cambodia, setting snares is illegal in protected areas — where most of
the wildlife is found. Selling the meat is also illegal, says Gray.
But that has not deterred poachers.
Demand for wild meat is fueled in part by rising incomes in the region, says
Regine Weckauf, illegal wildlife trade advisor with Fauna & Flora
International. Research conducted by the non-profit in Cambodia identified
two main types of consumer.
Found with its arm caught in a snare by researchers from the Laos
conservation group Anoulak, this stump-tailed macaque was released back into
the wild.
Found with its arm caught in a snare by researchers from the Laos
conservation group Anoulak, this stump-tailed macaque was released back into
the wild.
“In rural areas, people generally consume bushmeat because they like the
taste,” says Weckauf. “Often, they don’t realize it’s been sold illegally.”
For urban consumers, in the capital Phnom Penh and other big cities, eating
wild meat is an “elite practice” she says — and it’s almost exclusively men
who do it.
Procuring wild meat when entertaining associates demonstrates power and
status, says Weckauf. “It shows that the man can afford the meat and that
he’s well connected and knows how to source it.” In cities, many consumers
know that wild meat is illegal, so providing it also sends the message, “I
am untouchable,” she says.
Similar patterns of consumption have been observed in Vietnam.
A sambar deer caught in a snare in Belum Telemgor forest in northern
Malaysia, near the Thai border.
A sambar deer caught in a snare in Belum Telemgor forest in northern
Malaysia, near the Thai border.
According to Gray, the perception of bushmeat as a prestige food has
combined with changes to the landscape to create a “perfect storm” for
Southeast Asia’s wildlife.
“Fifty years ago, people would have set snares within walking distance of
their village, for their own consumption,” he says, “but the rest of the
forest wasn’t snared.”
Since then, he says, rampant deforestation, expanding road networks and the
ubiquity of motorbikes have led to forest interiors becoming accessible like
never before and subsistence hunting has developed into commercial poaching.
Cambodia’s wildlife is also squeezed because the country has one of the
biggest deforestation problems in the world. It was once cloaked in lush
forests but huge expanses have been cleared by loggers and to make way for
roads, fields and vast rubber plantations.
Analysis by scientists from the University of Maryland and Global Forest
Watch has revealed that although other countries are losing more forest in
terms of area, Cambodia’s forests are being cleared especially rapidly. The
country lost four times as much forest in 2014 as it did in 2001.
However, although logging and deforestation destroy the animals’
habitat, Gray says that by the time the trees are cut down, most of the
animals have already been killed by hunters.
Snares, home-made guns and chainsaws confiscated by Wildlife Alliance's
rangers in Cambodia's Cardamom rainforest.
Snares, home-made guns and chainsaws confiscated by Wildlife Alliance’s
rangers in Cambodia’s Cardamom rainforest.
The toll of snaring on many species across the region has been devastating.
The saola, a mysterious antelope-like animal that was only discovered by
scientists in 1992, is on the brink of extinction — it has fallen victim to
snares despite not being a target species, says Gray.
The dhole — a tawny-colored wild dog — is also highly endangered.
“There are probably fewer dholes left than tigers,” says Gray, ‘but they
don’t get the same level of attention.”
Dholes are especially susceptible to being caught in snares, he says,
because they roam over large distances in search of pigs and deer which are,
themselves, becoming increasingly rare because of snaring. Gray says dholes
are thought to be extinct in Vietnam and are likely to become extinct in
Laos. “There is still a decent population in Cambodia, but if we don’t solve
the snaring crisis, they will go too.”
This dhole pup was born in San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park. Its
counterparts in the wild are being killed by snares.
This dhole pup was born in San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. Its
counterparts in the wild are being killed by snares.
Changing behavior
Wildlife Alliance operates a team of 110 rangers who work “24/7”
removing snares from the Cardamom rainforest in western Cambodia , says
Gray. In 2018 alone, the team, working in partnership with the Cambodian
Ministry of Environment, removed 20,000 snares and destroyed 779 illegal
forest camps — structures built inside protected areas where poachers sleep
and store equipment and animal carcasses.
Rescued creatures are cared for at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre,
which houses more than 1,400 animals — some of which are released in safe
areas and some of which stay there for the rest of their lives, depending on
the severity of their injuries.
This work is vital, but it’s not nearly enough, says Gray.
A Wildlife Alliance ranger rescues a common palm civet in Cambodia's
Cardamom Rainforest. Civets are often found dead in snares, but this one
survived the ordeal.
A Wildlife Alliance ranger rescues a common palm civet in Cambodia’s
Cardamom Rainforest. Civets are often found dead in snares, but this one
survived the ordeal.
Gray believes legislative reform is needed.
Currently, snaring is almost a “risk-free crime,” he says, because although
it is illegal in protected areas, “the chances of catching someone
red-handed in the act of setting a snare are close to zero.”
In 2001, the Cambodian government created the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team in
an effort to crack down on the trade. The team says it has saved more than
70,000 live animals, seized 54 tons of animal body parts and arrested 3,400
Heng Kimchhay, who heads the team, says the Cambodian government has created
more than 27 thousand square miles of protected areas (around 40% of
Cambodia’s total land mass) and assigned additional personnel to combat
poaching on protected land.
But, he says, the illegal wildlife trade has grown in size and
sophistication and his team needs more staff, more training and more
Chhouk, a male elephant, was found as a baby wandering alone in the forest
in northeastern Cambodia. He had lost a foot to a poacher's snare and
was close to death. Wildlife Alliance took him to Phnom Tamao Wildlife
Rescue Centre where he was given a prosthetic foot and has been cared for
ever since.
Chhouk, a male elephant, was found as a baby wandering alone in the forest
in northeastern Cambodia. He had lost a foot to a poacher’s snare and was
close to death. Wildlife Alliance took him to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue
Centre where he was given a prosthetic foot and has been cared for ever
Gray would like to see the “intent to snare” treated as a serious crime.
“If someone is walking in the forest with snare materials — such as 50
motorbike brake cables — they are clearly planning to set snares,” he says.
But while poaching remains lucrative, there is only so much that legislation
and enforcement can achieve. The key to solving the snaring problem, some
believe, is behavior change.
“We need to understand why people consume bushmeat and the best ways to
persuade them to stop,” says Weckauf.

Fauna & Flora International plans to work with marketing firms and
communication specialists to find solutions geared to human psychology, she
says. “We want to use the kind of techniques that have successfully
persuaded people to wear seat belts, to use mosquito nets and to stop
wearing fur,” she says.
These efforts are essential, says Gray, because otherwise “we face the loss
of species, the loss of heritage, and the loss of tens of millions of years
of evolution that have created Southeast Asia’s unique wildlife.”


Whipping proposal for wildlife smugglers gets thumbs up

This April 7, shows an Orang Utan baby found in a basket, by Marine police in Muar during an inspection.- NSTP/Adi Safri© Provided by Media Prima This April 7, shows an Orang Utan baby found in a basket, by Marine police in Muar during an inspection.- NSTP/Adi SafriKUALA LUMPUR: Stiffer penalties are needed to deter the smuggling of wildlife in the country.Malaysian Nature Society president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail welcomed the recommendation for whipping wildlife crimes, adding that the move was “timely”.

“It is time that the government implemented severe punishment on wildlife poachers and smugglers, as well as on authorities who abuse their power.

“The current fine and imprisonment are too low to curb illegal wildlife activities, and the recommendation for whipping can help as a deterrent,” he told the New Straits Times.

Currently, the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 under Section 38(2), carries a maximum fine of RM500,000 and imprisonment of not more than five years for those found guilty of hunting totally protected wildlife without a special permit.

Ahmad also praised the police for mobilising their battalions in the jungles to assist the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan).

He however said more needed to be done to raise public awareness and the importance of conserving our wildlife.

“The society still lacks knowledge about the importance of saving tigers, for example,” he said.

On Tuesday, Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador said the police would be recommending mandatory whipping for criminals involved in the smuggling of wildlife.

He said the recommendation would be sent to the Legal Affairs Division for tougher penalties in efforts to combat poaching and wildlife trafficking.

The police’s Internal Security and Public Order Department, the air branch and marine police, together with Perhilitan carry out joint patrols in the jungles, by air and sea, under Op Bersepadu Khazanah.

The operations were also boosted by the expertise of the Elite Senoi Praaq Team and the General Operations Force.

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

Driver caught smuggling birds into Singapore

Illegal cargo: After checking the bus, Singapore officials found over 800 birds crammed into 15 crates.
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

More than 200 birds died following a botched attempt by a Malaysian bus driver to smuggle them into Singapore.

A Malaysia-registered bus driven by the 35-year-old male suspect was stopped for security checks at Singapore’s Woodlands Checkpoint from Johor Baru at about 7am on Saturday.

During checks, officers from the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) detected signs of modification around the rear tyres of the bus, said ICA in a joint statement with the National Parks Board (NParks).

“Their suspicions were further aroused when they heard chirping coming from within the bus.

“Upon scrutiny, the officers uncovered 15 containers of 815 birds inside modified compartments above the rear tyres of the bus, ” it said, adding it was the largest seizure of ornamental birds in Singapore in recent years.

Only around 600 of the birds survived. They are currently being cared for under quarantine at NParks’ facility.

The driver, who did not have valid health certificates and import permits, was referred to NParks for investigation.

The haul consisted of 38 white-rumped shamas (murai batu), 10 oriental magpie-robins, 141 oriental white-eyes and 626 munias (scaly-breasted munia and white-headed munia).

The white-rumped shama is a protected species in Malaysia under the Wildlife Conservation Act, while its conservation status in Singapore is classified as rare.

“The health status of animals smuggled into Singapore are unknown and may introduce exotic diseases, such as bird flu, into the country.

“The well-being of the animals will also be affected by poor conditions during the transportation process, ” said the statement.

“The illegal wildlife trade impacts the biodiversity and ecosystems of both source countries and the countries where the wildlife end up in.

“For example, the white-rumped shama, a popular songbird in South-East Asia, is becoming increasingly rare throughout the region because of its popularity in the pet trade.

“As such, NParks strictly regulates the import of animals to prevent the introduction of exotic diseases into Singapore, to safeguard the health and welfare of animals, and to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.”

SE Asia’s tigers hit hard by tourism, captive breeding


SE Asia’s tigers hit hard by tourism, captive breeding

Tiger numbers have plunged in the wild in mainland Southeast Asia while the number of animals in farms has soared. Photo: iStock

Life is bleak for tigers during ‘selfie era’ when trade in bone and parts has caused an explosion in captive-breeding and a plunge in numbers in the wild

Mainland Southeast Asia has a tiger problem. Numbers are going in completely the opposite direction that officials and animal lovers want – plunging in the wild and soaring in captivity.

Rampant mass tourism and use of tiger bone and parts in products boasting Chinese medicinal “benefits” has put a high price on these iconic animals. Never has this magnificent animal been so threatened and exploited.

A panel of experts outlined the status of tigers at a forum in Bangkok this week, detailing a disturbing outlook in Thailand and neighboring countries.

“And in Thailand, there are no conclusive recent census results, but we know that until recently tigers used to be in about 20 forest complexes. However, they can only be found now in perhaps three. It is very bleak now.”

In Indonesia two subspecies had gone extinct, he said. But there was some good news. In India, the number of tigers in the wild has risen to about 2,226 with a new census about to confirm exact figures, thanks to strong government policies such as proper funding of national parks and good work by forest and conservation groups. But even so, 51 Bengal tigers were poached in the first five months of this year.

A slide at the panel discussion shows images of tiger abuse in Thailand. Photo: Annelie Langerak.

Roads threaten forests

But a range of factors such as social media and big infrastructure projects like China’s Belt and Road Initiative were threatening to divide some of the region’s last forest complexes into small fragments “and that hastens their demise,” Redford said. “So where we have tigers, they may not be there in a few years time.”

“Poachers are traveling from Vietnam to Sumatra and Malaysia to hunt tigers. And in Laos and Thailand we see the poachers writing on trees, marking out their territory,” he said, showing a slide of a man carrying an AK47.

Thailand’s Department of National Parks was doing a very good job, he said, training rangers and boosting their capacity by bolstering their forensic skills, as shown in the notorious ‘Black panther case,’ involving a wealthy industrialist caught and charged with hunting in a wildlife sanctuary in Kanchanaburi in February 2018.

But Laos and Myanmar were “lagging behind,” he said. And others noted that officials in Laos often failed to collaborate effectively with their counterparts in adjacent countries.

Panelists discuss the plight of tigers at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok on June 19, 2019. From left: Edwin Wiek, Somsak Soonthornnawaphat, Tim Redford and Chris Perkins. Pic: Annelie Langerak

New Thai law

Edwin Wiek, founder and director of the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, said the best news was that the Thai government recently upgraded the 27-year-old Wildlife Preservation Act and the new law would come into force in a few months. The new law had tougher penalties and the option for civil cases – fines of up to 2 million baht (US$64,800) for loss of biodiversity, and up to 10 years jail for people convicted of serious wildlife crimes.

But he said: “Tourism is becoming a massive problem.” There were more than 44 places with tigers and they were often kept in small cages. He showed a short video of a tourist poking a tiger with a stick at one attraction.

Wiek said that in 2007, CITES, the world body overseeing the trade in wildlife and flora, called for an end to the captive breeding of tigers. However, it was a non-binding resolution that some Asian countries opposed and the number of tigers in captivity had soared since then, from about 600 to close to 2,000 in 69 facilities across Thailand, including many new ‘farms’ in the far northeast near Laos.

There was also a special economic zone in northern Laos backed by Chinese investors and politicians, plus facilities on either side of the Mekong that appeared to have many hundreds of tigers. Some of these facilities had zoo permits but conservationists regarded them more as ‘safe-houses’ for illegal wildlife trading.

These sites were suspected to be linked to a huge trade in lion and tiger bones, which he said was marketed as traditional medicine with health benefits and sold to Vietnamese and Chinese tourists for considerable sums.

Wiek said there was concern that tiger farms were having an impact on tigers in the wild as the trade in parts had increased the animals’ value, particularly for male tigers and cubs.

A tiger yawns while a piglet stands beside it at Sriracha Tiger Zoo, in Chonburi province, Thailand, in June 2016. Photo: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom/File photo

‘Selfies’ with tigers

Somsak Soonthornnawaphat, the head in Thailand of World Animal Protection, said his group wanted a ban on tourists riding elephants, people taking “selfies” with tigers and dolphin shows.

He voiced concern about the millions of tourists coming from China and East Asia and the fact “animal attractions are in high demand.” Thailand had at least 180 elephant venues, he said, plus several dozen parks where “over 600 tigers suffer from tourist activities.”

His group believed that animals should be free from hunger and thirst; pain, injury and disease; discomfort (no chains around elephants’ ankles); able to express normal behavior (not separated from their mother); and free from fear and distress.

“Life is totally different when tigers are living in captivity,” he said, noting that most of the tigers in captivity in Thailand were actually Bengal tigers from South Asia or hybrid animals bred for profit, not conservation.

Thailand has dozens of facilities where tourists can be in a picture with tigers. Image: Annelie Langerak

Chris Perkin, the regional manager for Thailand and central Asia for the UK Border Force, said the British government took wildlife crimes – such as black market trade in rhino horn, pangolins and ivory – very seriously, because it was a major facet of organized crime, worth more than $21 billion a year globally.

“People forget that at least 150 rangers are killed every year – that’s three a week – by poachers in parks and sanctuaries around the world,” he said. Authorities used high-profile figures such as Prince Charles and tennis star Andy Murray to promote their work countering wildlife trading at key sites such as Heathrow Airport.

Thai wildlife officials load a tiger into a cage on a truck after they removed it from an enclosure after the tiger was anaesthetised at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand on May 30, 2016.Thai wildlife officials armed with a court order on May 30 resumed the treacherous process of moving tigers from a controversial temple which draws tourists as a petting zoo, but stands accused of selling off the big cats for slaughter. / AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT
Thai wildlife officials load a tiger on a truck after they took it from an enclosure at the Tiger Temple west of Bangkok in May 2016. The center was accused of selling off big cats for slaughter. Photo: AFP / Christophe Archambault

Wiek, who was an adviser on a committee that helped the Prayut government update the wildlife law, said Thailand may do better to have a specific police unit, plus specialist prosecutors and an environmental court to handle wildlife crimes because results in many high-profile cases had been hugely disappointing.

Cases such as dozens of orangutans found smuggled from Borneo at a key tourist facility in Bangkok, plus the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, had attracted huge media attention but neither site ended up losing its permit to operate.

But he said it was very difficult to change the status quo when thousands of people are employed in jobs linked to animal parks set up for tourists.

Perkin said it was important for officials in Thailand and other countries to recognize that failing to treat animals well would hurt their reputation around the world.

Other panelists agreed, saying venues need to be more animal-friendly and run by people with ethical values.


Beyond Meat says one overseas market has ‘desperate’ need for plant-based protein

  • Beyond Meat shares surged after its better-than-expected first-quarter results on Friday, as growth around the world for plant-based protein alternatives to meat exceeded forecasts.
  • The global region where Beyond Meat says the need is “desperate” for its products is Asia.
  • Even though beef has never been a staple in many Asian countries, Asia has the fastest-growth rate of beef consumption in the world. It also faces some of the world’s biggest environmental issues.
H/O: Beyond Meat
Beyond Meat plant-based burger patties.
Source: Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat is booming in the U.S., which has the highest level of animal-based meat consumption per person on a global basis and where meat is the largest category in the food industry, a $270 billion business. The U.S. opportunity is just getting started: Nielsen data shows Beyond Meat has just 2% household penetration in the United States.

But the company has said that the global opportunity is just as compelling — meat is estimated to be a $1.4 trillion market — and that is where some of Beyond Meat’s fastest growth may yet come.

Shares of Beyond Meat, already the best initial public offering of 2019, soaredafter its first-ever earnings report as a public company, and the opportunity in Asia is one that CFO Mark Nelson highlighted.

Responding to a question from an analyst on the quarterly earnings conference call about the international opportunity and how much of the growth it will drive going forward, Nelson said it is an important “but still pretty small percentage of our overall revenue.” He noted that Europe and Asia are “very significant” markets for its products and pointed to the fact that Europe already has a “very well-developed market” for plant-based proteins.

But it was the word he used to describe the Asian opportunity that was about as dramatic as CFO talk ever gets. “Asia has a desperate need for this. So I’m going to be very aggressive in going into those markets, and our team will be as well. … Asia is absolutely a strong part of our strategy.”

Beyond Meat has been planning for international expansion since well before its public debut. It noted in 2018 that 10% of its consumer inquiries in the previous year were from international markets, a factor that contributed to its rollout across 40 countries. Beyond Meat is currently distributed internationally to through local partners in Australia, Chile, the European Union, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, the Middle East, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom, markets where the company said it “received strong inbound interest for our plant-based products.”

In March, Beyond Meat introduced its plant-based protein burger in Singapore. That followed the 2017 introduction of the Beyond Burger in Hong Kong. Among international markets, Australia is among Beyond Meat’s most penetrated to date. The company had said in its S-1 filing ahead of the IPO, “for several years we have maintained a presence and generated brand awareness in Asia through our local distributor, and expect further expansion in the region over time.”

Beyond Meat early investor: Management has made all the right moves

Beyond Meat has previously cited research firm forecasts that the global market for plant-based meat will be worth $6.5 billion by 2023, with the fastest-growing market being the Asia-Pacific region. Allied Market Research data shows that though demand is highest in Europe and North America, the Asia-Pacific region is the fastest-growing market for the plant-based products, with demand forecast to increase at a compound rate of 9.4% a year until 2025.

In its IPO filing, Beyond Meat stated, “In markets excluding the United States, the amount of meat consumed has more than doubled in the past two decades from 120 million tons in 1997 to 280 million tons in 2017, according to the OECD.”

In 2017 and 2018, international sales represented only approximately 1% and 7% of Beyond Meat sales, but the company expects international sales to “grow substantially in the future … and contribute an increasing share of our net revenues in coming periods.”

International is growing more quickly than the company expected, its management team said on the earnings call. It just signed a deal with Netherlands-based Zandbergen for its first production facility overseas, and Beyond Meat executive chairman Seth Goldman said on the call, “We have certainly seen growth in Europe happening more quickly than we anticipated. And so from our point of view, as Ethan [Brown, CEO] said, we want to be aggressive with production.”

Many factors at play in Asia

Many Asian markets were not historically places where beef was a staple on the diet — it still is not in many. But with a rising middle class, especially in China, beef consumption has been rising. In the early 1980s, China’s meat consumption per head was around 13 kilograms per year and has risen to 50 kg per person — over half the level in the U.S., according to data cited by Dora Marinova, director of the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute in Australia, in a recent Nikkei Asian Review article.

“Consumption has already surpassed sustainable levels in China,” she told the Nikkei. “From an environmental point of view, it has to go down to at least half of what it is.”

Some Asian players are moving into the space. In Japan, Otsuka Foods launched the market’s first plant-based protein burgers last year.

Asia’s growing population and appetite for protein is not just limited to beef, but historical staples like pork and seafood, and that will have major consequences for the globe.

A report from Singapore-based consultant Asia Research and Engagement forecasts that a rising Asian population, increasing incomes and the trend toward urbanization will result in a 78% increase in meat and seafood demand from 2017 to 2050, according to a Reuters report.

The report estimates that a land area the size of India will be needed for additional food production, while water use will double per year and greenhouse gas emissions spike. It also noted the use of antibiotics in the livestock industry will present greater risks for human and animal infection.

Euromonitor research from recent years shows that Asian animal protein consumption can vary widely based on income. Per capita meat, fish, and seafood consumption ranges from as law as 11 kg per capita per year in India to over 144 kg in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, where Beyond Meat introduced its burger in 2017, has 23 times the per capita annual disposable income of India.

In China, non-income factors have made beef more attractive. Pork industry safety scandals, public health campaigns designed to encourage the consumption of lower fat protein options, and recent bird flu epidemics led to beef and veal becoming the fastest-growing meat category in volume in recent years, Euromonitor found.

Malaysia to Ship Plastic Trash Back to the U.S., Other Origin Countries

The country will send roughly 3,300 tons of plastic waste to countries like the U.S., its environment minister announced.

By Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder, Staff WriterMay 28, 2019, at 11:39 a.m.
LHOKSEUMAWE, ACEH, INDONESIA - 2019/04/21: (Photo taken by a drone)
A scavenger seen looking for plastic bottle trash at a garbage dump in Lhokseumawe, Aceh province, Indonesia.
Based on a study by McKinsey and Co. and Ocean Conservancy, Indonesia is the number two plastic waste producing country in the world after China. The large amount of waste production, especially plastics sent to the Indonesian seas, directly contributes to making coastal areas and small islands dirty and full of garbage. Moreover, from the results of the study, it was found that the waste in the coastal area was dominated by plastic with a percentage of 36 to 38 percent. (Photo by Zikri Maulana/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A man scavenges in a garbage dump in Lhokseumawe, Indonesia, in April. Malaysia will be sending 60 containers of waste back to their countries of origin, the country’s environmental minister announced Tuesday.ZIKRI MAULANA/SOPA IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

MALAYSIA PLANS TO SEND back roughly 3,300 tons of plastic trash to countries like the U.S. and Canada, its environmental minister announced Tuesday.

After China banned the import of plastic waste last year, Malaysia and other developing countries became the destination for much of the world’s trash.

Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the country will be sending 60 containers of waste back to their countries of origin. They were discovered while they were being smuggled to illegal processing facilities.

“These containers were illegally brought into the country under false declaration and other offences which clearly violates our environmental law,” Yeo said.


China Doesn’t Want Your Trash

Yeo added that many citizens in developed countries were mostly unaware that their trash – which they think is being recycled – is actually being dumped in Malaysia.

“We are urging developed nations to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping garbage to developing countries,” she said. “If you ship to Malaysia, we will return it back without mercy.”

At least 14 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, France, Australia, Saudi Arabia and China, will get trash shipped back to them, according to Malaysian officials.

The move makes Malaysia the latest Asian country to start rejecting other nations’ trash.

Last week the president of the Philippines said he would send back 69 containers of garbage to Canada to be left in international waters if the country doesn’t accept them.

As the world grapples with what to do with its trash, many nations have promised to try to address the problem.

Earlier this month more than 180 countries pledged to meet control measures to curb plastic pollution under the Basel Convention. The U.S. was not one of them.

Items that can’t be recycled are usually burnt or put into landfills, contaminating air, dirt and water sources.