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18 endangered dolphins spotted off Borneo: WWF
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) Feb 7, 2012

Orangutan 'exterminators' on trial in Indonesia
Tenggarong, Indonesia (AFP) Feb 7, 2012 - Three Indonesians and a Malaysian went on trial Tuesday for killing endangered orangutans and other protected primates as a means of pest control at a palm oil plantation on Borneo island.

Prosecutors said the plantation manager, Malaysian national Phuah Chuan Hun, and his employee Widiantoro paid two men between 2009 and 2010 to kill the primates.

The plantation employees and the two killers, Imam Muhtarom and Mujianto, were charged with killing endangered species and all face five years in jail.

"The two men were paid one million rupiah ($111) for each orangutan and 200,000 rupiah ($22) for other monkeys," prosecutor Suroto told the Tenggarong district court.

The plantation, in East Kalimantan province on Indonesian Borneo, is a subsidiary of the publicly listed Malaysian-owned Metro Kajang Holdings.

"The two used a 4.5-millimetre calibre airsoft gun to shoot the orangutans out of trees before their six hunting dogs chased them," Suroto said.

They would then hit the orangutans afterwards with rocks or wooden sticks before tying them up with rope to take photographs as evidence, he said.

Police arrested the four men in November after photos of them with their prey, including long-nosed monkeys found only on Borneo, circulated around the community.

The men were charged with killing one baby and two adult orangutans, but police said earlier that at least 20 had been killed based on receipts of from the company amounting to 25 million rupiah ($2,775).

Experts say there are about 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 80 percent of them in Indonesia and the rest in Malaysia.

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

The trial will resume next week.

Conservation group WWF said it spotted 18 critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in Indonesian waters off Borneo island Tuesday and called for greater protection of the species' habitat.

There is little data on the Irrawaddy dolphin -- which resembles the common bottlenose dolphin but has no beak and a snub dorsal fin -- and no comprehensive survey has been conducted to measure its global population.

"In the past, locals and fishermen reported seeing the dolphins, but we have never recorded them until now," WWF conservation biologist Albertus Tjiu told AFP.

Over five days a research team surveyed 260 kilometres (160 miles) along the coast of West Kalimantan, on Indonesia's half of Borneo island, and spotted the species travelling in small groups.

The sightings show that the dolphins' habitat is still intact, despite degradation by hundreds of pulp and charcoal plantations by the coast, Tjiu said.

The team also encountered three Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins that live in the same type of ecosystem.

The two dolphin species live in biodiverse mangroves -- estuaries of dense tropical trees or shrubs that grow along coastal sediment, resembling muddy swampland.

Mangroves have a distinct vegetation that, like peatland forests, can take thousands of years to fully form.

"We call on all businesses operating in the area to act sustainably to conserve the mangroves. We expect to discover more dolphins when we finish the study," Tjiu said.

Critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins have been recorded in the Mekong River in Cambodia; the Ayeyawardi River in Myanmar and the Mahakam River of East Kalimantan.

Populations of Irrawaddy dolphin in other areas are categorised as vulnerable.

In 2009, biologists recorded the world's biggest Irrawaddy dolphin population of around 6,000 in Bangladesh. Prior to that it was believed only hundreds existed.

Irrawaddy dolphins, like many other marine species, often die entangled in fishing nets and in crab traps, as well as from electric fishing.

Mangroves, which also offer natural flood protection from rising sea levels, are under threat of unsustainable agriculture and climate change.

Indonesia is home to some of the most biodiverse forest and marine ecosystems. Rampant land conversion for paper and palm oil plantations, among others, has destroyed swathes of land, particularly in Kalimantan.

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Tigers attack tourist bus in China: reports
Beijing (AFP) Feb 7, 2012 - A group of tourists visiting a wildlife park in eastern China had a narrow escape after Bengal tigers attacked their bus, puncturing its tyres and destroying the windscreen, state media said Tuesday.

A worker in charge of the enclosure at Jinan Wildlife World in Shandong province was at lunch when the incident happened last Saturday and it took officials 10 minutes to open a gate so the tourists could escape, reports said.

None of the 27 tourists on the bus were injured, but the driver's hand was hurt when the tigers jumped on the vehicle and broke the windscreen, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Terrified visitors hid under their seats as a group of up to eight tigers bit the vehicle's tyres, destroyed its windshield wipers and broke windows, the Global Times reported.

Attempts to call police failed because there was no mobile phone reception, it added.

"We are deeply sorry for the accident," Wu Yanfei, deputy manager of Jinan Wildlife World, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

The park has launched an investigation into the attack and compensated the tourists, Xinhua said.

China says it has nearly 6,000 endangered tigers in captivity, but just 50 to 60 living in the wild in its northeast.

In the 1980s, China set up tiger farms to try to preserve the big cats, intending to release some into the wild.

But the farms have come under the international spotlight, with some conservation groups saying they use the cats for their body parts, while media reports have exposed poor conditions at zoos and animal parks.

A number of attacks on humans by captive tigers have been reported in recent years.

Last year, a tour bus driver was mauled to death by a Siberian tiger at a breeding centre in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang after he got out of his vehicle to check on a mechanical problem.

In 2010, a zoo keeper was killed by a Bengal tiger at Shanghai Zoo after apparently forgetting to lock the animal's cage.


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