The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
May, 1998 Vol. 1 No. 5
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"It’s a disaster," he said. It could take four years for the yellow-eyed penguin to recover from this season, and another season like this could spell doom for the species.
"Pretty much everything that has gone wrong this year has been attributed to El Niño, and El Niño is a factor, but you don’t have to have an El Niño for this to happen," said Darby.
The El Niño weather phenomenon is a change in global weather patterns triggered by an upswelling of warm water in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. A rise in sea temperatures during past months led to scarcity of the penguins’ food source -- about 30 species of small fish.
In Southeast Asia, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) made an urgent appeal on May 8 for funds for fire-fighting equipment to combat peat fires near the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Sabah. Malaysia and Indonesia share the island of Borneo and also the world’s last remaining orangutans. Environmentalists are unsure how many of the red-headed, great apes remain, but some fear it might only be a few thousands. "The key thing that we’re worried about is food for the orangutans," said Zabri Zain, a WWF spokesman in Kuala Lumpur. "The trees are drying up, the fruit is dropping."
Rod Lilley, species conservation officer of WWF in Indonesia, said the forest in Indonesia have been mostly in low-land areas, driving out other rare species such as sun bars, Sumatra tigers and hornbills. Reuters in The Philippine Daily Inquire, 05.09.98, AP in The Philippine Star, 05.12.98
El Niño’s Economic Impact: $20B
The current El Niño caused drought in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, the worst drought experienced by these countries in 50 years. It decreased the acreage devoted to rice, delayed rice planting and induced farmers to switch to low-yielding but early maturing varieties in 1998. It has caused shortages of water for both domestc and industrial use. Since is onset, Malaysia and Singapore have received only a third of their normal rainfall.
El Niño has also prompted fish schools to migrate from the Cook Islands to cooler waters, thereby depriving local fishermen of their livelihood. MNC in The Philippine Star, 05.12.98
Donsol’s Whale Sharks Draw Tourists
Conservationists have expressed concern over this development. "Many visitors want to swim with the whale sharks, ride speed boats to take photographs or view them," observed the Inquirer. "Environmentalists already see the potential danger: What if a speed boat collides with another boat or hits a swimmer or a whale shark?" Whale sharks, the paper added, "should not be touched because they shirk on contact and end interaction."
"Subsequent interactions with humans (even without touching) may trigger a learned reaction which will cause them to dive automatically," said Arnel Andrew Yaptinchay, project manager of World Wildlife Fund. "Touching will also adversely affect the natural behavior of the animals, their activities and maybe their reproduction.
Yaptinchay’s appeal: "The whale shark is the resource in focus in this situation. Without them, there will be no tourism. The community and the visitors owe it to the whale sharks that there is tourism in the area. For this, the animal and its territory have to be respected and protected.
Guidelines For Whale Shark Interaction Trips
Gov’t Bracing For La Niña
Escudero said the fund will be used to procure "planting materials" for farmers both in irrigated and unirrigated areas in case La Niña destroys crops. Jowel F. Canuday, PDI Mindanao Bureau
The "IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants," launched Apri 28 by the World Conservation Union, is the result of more than 20 years of work by hundreds of botanists and conservationists around the world. According to this list, nearly 34,000 plant species, or 12.5% of the world’s vascular plants (flowering plants, conifers and ferns), are threatened with extinction.
"I think the report comes as a shock to everybody, not just botanists, because we didn’t have any idea how many plants were threatened on a global scale," said Wendy Strahm, plants officer in IUCN’s species survival program. As alarming as the figures are, they are probably just the "tip of the iceberg," she noted, since full information was not available for many parts of the world and further study is likely to reveal additional endangered species. The Philippine Star, 05.10.98
Globally, 1,400 million people are exposed to polluted air that threatens their health. In China alone, some two million people die each year from polluted air and water. And some 17 million people die each year throughout the world from infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, which are related to environmental conditions in which people live.
According to Leslie Roberts, editor of the report, the problems are worst in developing countries due mainly to environmental problems at the local level, including inadequate access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate garbage collection and disposal, and exposure to smoky fuels used indoors for heating and cooking. New indicators developed by the authors show that people in Africa and Asia face the highest potential environmental threats to health.
"And children are the most at risk, whether they are suffering from cholera or from asthma or are exposed to heavy air pollution," Roberts said. In the poorest regions of the world today, she added, an estimated one in five children will not live to see their fifth birthday. That translates into 11 million childhood deaths each year, mostly due to malaria, acute respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases.
"Some 4 million children die each year from acute respiratory infections alone, which are linked to poor housing conditions and air pollution, especially indoor air pollution from the burning of biomass fuels such as wood, coal or animal dung," said Roberts. Jim Fuller in The Philippine Star, 05.10.98
This finding is reported by Ernst Zuercher and a team of colleagues from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich in the latest issue of the London scientific journal Nature. The changes are too minor to be seen by the human eye but distinct enough to be measurable. The biologists found that even isolated tree trunks without roots and branches display the phenomenon for as long as they still contain live cells.
For their study, the Zurich team measured the trunks of fir trees for several days and found that they regularly swell and shrink in line with the rhythm of the moon. They concluded that the moon’s gravitational pull traps and releases water in living tree-trunk cells, just as it causes high and low tides in the oceans. DPA in Manila Bulletin, 05.10.98
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