Call for saving the tiger raised as China gets into year of the tiger

BEIJING: Wildlife conservationists have stepped up pressures on the Chinese government to do more to protect the tiger as the country went about celebrating the advent of the year of the tiger on Sunday.

Wang Weisheng, director of the wildlife management division of China’s State Forestry Administration, recently said there are 50 wild tigers – in four subspecies in the country. SFA believes there are 20 Siberian tigers, 10 to 20 Bengal tigers and 10 Indochinese tigers in the country.

Conservationists also questioned the government’s policy that allows tigers to be bred in special farms. It is impossible to distinguish between the bones of farm bred tigers and those poached from forests once they arrive in the market, they pointed out.

China allows breeding of tigers in specially designed farms. There have been sporadic reports of tiger meat being sold in certain parts of the country. Tiger bones are still widely sold in China because many believe they contain special medicinal properties and are ready to pay an extremely high sum for it.

South China tigers are believed to be extinct in the wild after the species has not been sighted for more than 25 years, according to WWF.

It is believed there were 4,000 South China tigers 1950s and 200 Siberian tigers in the 1960s.

Some experts have questioned the government’s method of counting saying the number of tigers living in the wild could be a lot less in China. There is an over reliance on pugmarks and other methods of counting at a time when hardly any tiger is being sighted, they say.

“If urgent and proper measures are not taken, there is a risk that wild tigers will no longer be found on Chinese territory,” Zhu Chunquan, conservation director of biodiversity of WWF China Program Office, told the local media recently.

The loss of habitats and rampant poaching of tigers and their prey – mostly for illegal trade of traditional Chinese medicine – have contributed to the drastic decline of the wild tiger population in the country, Zhu said.

The number of captive South China tigers (Panthera tigris amoyenesis) living in special farms have risen to 92 in 2009 from 60 in 2007. But all of them are offsprings of six wild South China tigers, two male and four females, which were caught more than 40 years ago.

All that is available is extensive inbreeding that will lead to genetic freaks and poor physical makeup, according to Deng Xuejian, a professor with the Department of Biology of Hunan Normal University, based in Hunan Province.

Some experts like Xie Yan, director of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) China Program, believe there is hope for growth of Siberian tigers in China because they are part of the big family of about 500 in Russia.

From TOI

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WWF to help expand China’s panda reserves

BEIJING: The World Wildlife Fund said on Thursday it planned to spend 40 million yuan (5.9 million dollars) over the next three years to increase the number of giant panda reserves in China.

The environmental group also plans to build “wildlife corridors” between the 60-plus reserves to enable the pandas to move around more freely, WWF China representative Dermot O’Gorman said.

“The only way we are going to protect the long-term security of the giant panda is to ensure that the existing habitat remains of high quality,” he said.

O’Gorman said WWF will try to work with local governments to reduce the impact of tourism, highways and other infrastructure on panda habitats, as well as expand a scientific monitoring system to cover all the reserves.

There are nearly 1,600 pandas living in the wild, more than three-quarters of them in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Pandas also are found in northwestern Gansu province and northern Shaanxi province.

Another 290 giant pandas are in captive-breeding programmes in China.

From TOI

Report warns of water crisis by 2030 for India & China !

A report backed by big business users of water warns that without global action, demand for water in 2030 will outstrip supply by 40 per cent.

The biggest problems will be in India and China, and without concerted action, India will not be able to meet half of its water needs by 2030.

In neighbouring China, the problem is even worse, with demand expected to outstrip supply by 25 per cent.

The report warns demand for water in 2030 could outstrip supply by 40 per cent. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) – part of the World Bank – collaborated with multinational companies including Coca Cola, Nestle, Standard Chartered Bank and brewer Miller, among others, to write “Charting Our Water Future”.

The report says the worst affected areas will be in developing countries where one third of the world’s population lives.

One of the report’s authors, Giulio Boccaletti from strategists the McKinsey Group, says water is everybody’s problem and requires new government policies and investment, involvement of the private sector, efficiency measures, research and education.

The cost could be between $54 billion and $64 billion, but the savings could be enormous.

IFC senior manager Usha Rao-Monari told Radio Australia’s Connect Asia many of their clients – large water users – collaborated on the report.

“The first thing that they’re thinking about and worrying about and taking measures to address is saving water,” she said.

“They’re using less water or they’re treating waste water and using that for their production process, and leaving fresh water for consumption for example by surrounding communities.

“There is much broader recognition of this in all parts of the world than we had initially thought when we first started working on this report.”

The report focuses on two other countries – Brazil and South Africa.

Australia’s creation of water rights and a market for the Murray Darling Basin is used as one example where the capacity exists to regulate users.

In others, microfinance – the provision of financial services to low-income clients without access to banking and related services – might be used to improve irrigation.

Guilio Boccaletti says: “The point we’re trying to make is that there exists a number of ways, a number of policy levers, to try and adopt and help implement a program of sustainable water use to get to water security.”

From ABC News

Global warming: India in a fix as China pledges big emission cuts

BEIJING: China has announced that it will cut emissions by a drastic 40-45 per cent compared to 2005 levels by the year 2020. The pledge, which is far ahead of the promises made by the United States, is also expected to cause jitters in New Delhi and raise questions about the efficacy of the India-China deal on the issue.

There is also a sense that Beijing has pre-empted other developing countries as it made the announcement a day before it was set to hold dialogue on Friday with India, South Africa and Brazil on preparations for the Copenhagen conference on climate change in December.

Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh is set to meet Chinese premier Wen Jiabao and Xie Zhenhua, deputy head of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission in Beijing. This meeting follows recent discussions on climate change held by US president Barack Obama with Chinese leaders and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

China’s emission levels are a lot more than India, which may be expected to set lower targets. But New Delhi has been reluctant to announce any targets at all. Beijing’s announcement will put pressure on India, South Africa and Brazil to announce targets if they wish to stick with China in a joint front at the Copenhagen meeting, sources explained.

It is Xie, who made the announcement that China would aim to cut carbon intensity — the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product — by a range of 40% to 45% by 2020. It came a day after Obama said the US intends to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, and by 83% by 2050.

Xie also said premier Wen will attend the global climate change summit in Copenhagen next month. He also indicated Beijing will use the meeting to push developed nations to be less miserly in sharing green technology and contributing funds.

“So far we have not seen concrete actions and substantive commitments by the developed countries,” Xie said at the press conference. “As we’ve made this commitment, well, Chinese people stick to their word,” he further said suggesting China was ready to stand by its promise.

But it is not clear if Beijing was prepared to allow outside world to carry out investigation on the implementation of its environmental program. Both India and China had earlier opposed any outside interference on this issue.

China has proposed that developed nations contribute 1 per cent of gross domestic product to subsidize efforts by poorer nations to cut carbon-dioxide emissions. That translates to more than $140 billion for the US alone. Of course, Washington is far from accepting it.

“Appropriate handling of the climate change issue is of vital interest to China’s social and economic development and people’s fundamental interests, as well as the welfare of all the people in the world and the world’s long-term development,” the Chinese State Council said in the statement.

From TOI

Plastic bags fly high in China as eco-friendly kites

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) – Plastic bags, the scourge of the environment, are flying high in Beijing, thanks to a retired engineer who is turning the waste into colorful kites.

Kites are believed to have been invented in China more than 2,000 years ago, where they were traditionally made from readily available materials such as rice paper, silk and plant fibres.

The modern version also uses a ubiquitous material which 71-year-old Han Fushan said was the easiest, and cheapest, thing he could find to make kites.

"Kites are my one and only treasure," Han, who spent most of his life creating architectural drawings before retiring some nine years ago, told Reuters.

"It’s through kites that I have got to know so many people and make so many friends."

Han’s plastic kites have made him into something of a local celebrity, and he is very proud of his cheap and environmentally friendly creations, which cost less than 15 U.S. cents to make.

After years of showing up at the same park at the same time each day to fly kites, Han has developed a solid fan base among other enthusiasts.

On average, one kite takes about two days of cutting, pasting and stringing to create, and many feature wildlife, sports stars and even Beijing Opera figures.

"Plastic bags have bright colors and a good texture. Thicker bags are good for making kites for strong winds, while thinner ones are better for light winds," Han said.

Han owns more than 600 kites and said he wants to have something new every week to entertain his fans.

"I think this is a really good idea not only for our country but also for the world. To use trash for something else is good for the environment," said Yan Juning, who often helps Han launch kites after her morning jog.

According to the state-owned Xinhua news agency, China throws away 300 tonnes of plastic bags a day, and the government has banned the use of the super-thin plastic bags which cause the most damage when buried in the soil.

By Kitty Bu and Maxim Duncan – (Editing by Miral Fahmy) – © Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

WWF: Kathmandu workshop sets stage for Year of the Tiger 2010

Leading tiger experts, wildlife conservation charities, and representatives of governments of countries that have wild tiger ranges are meeting in Nepal this week to begin a global dialogue about the threats facing tigers as the world prepares to mark the Year of the Tiger in 2010, WWF says in a news statement.

Amur or Siberian tiger in a rehabilitation center for wild animals in the Russian Far East. - Photo © Vladimir Filonov / WWF-Canon

WWF and others are attending the Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop, the first in a series before and during the Year of the Tiger, that brings together decisionmakers from tiger range countries, members of the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative, NGOs and the world’s leading tiger experts, the Switzerland-based conservation group said.

“They will discuss the specific actions required to halt the extinction of the tiger in the wild.”

“Tiger populations are still in steep decline and some estimates predict that tigers could be extinct in the wild by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.”

“Wild tiger populations are at a tipping point,” WWF said. “While many important successes have been gained by the global conservation community, tiger populations are still in steep decline and some estimates predict that tigers could be extinct in the wild by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.”

Indian tiger female in the Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan, India - Photo © Michel Terrettaz / WWF-Canon

The Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop is hosted by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Government of Nepal, and co-organized and co-sponsored by the CITES Secretariat, Global Tiger Forum, Global Tiger Initiative, Save The Tiger Fund, and the World Bank.

WWF hopes to secure major political commitments for tiger conservation, through the series of political negotiation meetings occurring throughout the Year of the Tiger and leading up to a final Heads of State Tiger Summit in September 2010.

Indian Tiger, sitting, showing his back, Bangkok Zoo Thailand - Photo © Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon

Effective conservation of tigers can provide an umbrella for all biodiversity, according to the World Bank, which joined forces with conservation groups to launch the Tiger Conservation Initiative in 2008.

Tiger conservation is thus vital to the conservation of many other rare and threatened species, as well as to sustaining essential ecosystem-services that forests provide, such as watershed protection, soil conservation and carbon storage, the Bank says on its Web site.

The skins of Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) and other rare cats are openly displayed for sale in Cholon District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. October 2002. - Photo © Adam Oswell / WWF-Canon

“Despite their ecological significance, tiger populations are in decline,” the Bank adds.

“Tigers occupy only 7 percent of their historic range, and in the last decade their habitats have shrunk significantly. Within a century, wild tiger numbers have plunged from more than 100,000 to about 4,000 animals.

Clearing of tropical rainforest for paper industry, palm oil and other plantations in, Sumatra, Indonesia - Photo © WWF-Germany/M. Radday

“Tigers have already disappeared from Central Asia, Java and Bali in Indonesia, and most of China.

Indian tiger close-up, Bangkok Zoo, Thailand - Photo © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

“Habitat loss, combined with intense poaching of prey species and the illegal trade in tiger parts, has taken a severe toll, with entire populations eliminated from what were once considered secure reserves.”

From National Geographic

UNICEF: Washing hands could reduce diarrhoea deaths by 40%

Washing hands with soap after defecation could check up to 40% deaths caused by diarrhoea in children, a UNICEF analysis suggests.

The UNICEF analysis also says that washing hands properly could prove to be the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections, which claim lives of millions of children.

Working to bring about a behavioural change in the mindset of people towards sanitation for building a healthier society, UNICEF sanitation specialist, Nagendra Singh today said that as per the analysis, handwashing can be a critical measure in controlling pandemic outbreaks of respiratory infections by 55%.

In order to wash your hands thoroughly, you should use warm water, and scrub your fingers, the fronts and backs of your hands and in between your fingers with soap for at least 20 seconds.

In order to wash your hands thoroughly, you should use warm water, and scrub your fingers, the fronts and backs of your hands and in between your fingers with soap for at least 20 seconds.

In China, it has been proved that promotion and distribution of soap in primary schools resulted in reducing absenteeism by 54%.

Singh pointed out that a recent study has shown that proper handwashing by birth attendants and mothers significantly increased the survival rates of new-born children by 44%.

Stating that ensuring proper sanitation both in the rural and urban areas is the biggest challenge, UNICEF water, environment and sanitation specialist Amit Mehrotra said that one gram human excreta has one lakh virus and themagnitude of infection can be imagined in a place where 65% people still defecate in the open.