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  PlanetArk 18 Oct 06
Haze Distresses Orangutans in Indonesian Reserve
Story by Achmad Sukarsono

Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 06
Prevailing haze a threat to wildlife in Kalimantan: Singapore Zoo
By Julia Ng

SINGAPORE : The prevailing haze is exacting a huge cost not only to human health, but also to nature.

The Singapore Zoo, which supports conservation projects in Indonesia, raised concerns on Tuesday that the haze is threatening the wildlife in Kalimantan.

So far, animals in Singapore have been spared from haze-related respiratory problems. Unlike their kind in Indonesia, the orang utans at the Singapore Zoo could swing freely in relatively clear skies. But zoo keepers have been keeping a close eye on the animals under their charge.

"The haze is not affecting the animals here, so far. Our job scope includes observing the birds and we have vets here in case we detect visible problems affecting the animals. We observe their breathing and look for signs such as heavy breathing or any unusual behaviour," explains Julius Ang, who is an animal show presenter at Singapore Zoo.

So far, none of the 3,000 animals there had to be treated for eye infection or other haze-related respiratory illnesses. Visitors are also thankful that the zoo did not have to cancel any animal shows due to the haze.

"Haze or no haze, I'm not going to miss that. Nope! We're only here for three days and I really want to see Singapore properly. But I feel sorry for (Singaporeans) having to put up with the haze. But for 3 days, I can tolerate that," says Bob Dragvik, a tourist from Canada.

"I'll still go out if the PSI is at 100. If it goes up to 150, then I'll stay indoors," says one Singaporean, who is at the zoo with his wife and three children.

Despite the haze, the zoo says the number of visitors has not been affected. The zoo adds that because it's located within the central catchment area, the air quality there is generally better.

"I came from Hong Kong and it was terrible there. You could taste the pollution. But not here; it's perfect in Singapore," says Canadian tourist Mark Alexander.

But conservationists have more cross-boundary worries. "The animals will get eye infection if it gets closer to the hazardous PSI level. So that's our biggest concern. The burning of the forests in Kalimantan will affect the wildlife, especially the endangered wildlife in Kalimantan. So we really hope that everyone can put some thoughts together on how to stop the haze as a team..., beyond political boundaries," says Fanny Lai, executive director of Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.

Since last year, the Singapore Zoo has been providing veterinary support to an orang utan rehabilitation centre in Central Kalimantan. Together with other conservation groups, the zoo strives to preserve and protect the last of the world's fast-disappearing biodiversity. - CNA/ls

PlanetArk 18 Oct 06
Haze Distresses Orangutans in Indonesian Reserve
Story by Achmad Sukarsono

JAKARTA - Haze from Indonesian forest fires has disturbed orangutans living in a natural reserve on Borneo island, a park official said on Monday, blaming deer hunters for intentionally torching protected areas.

The fires have been burning for weeks, creating the smoke that has spread over much of Southeast Asia, triggering fears of a repeat of the months of choking haze in 1997-98 that cost the region billions in economic losses.

Saut Manalu, a senior official at the Tanjung Puting national park where 6,000 orangutans live, told Reuters by telephone that animals are even more affected by the smoke than humans.

"We can hear them scream late at night," he said, adding fires had been found inside the reserve that occupies a large swathe of land in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's side of Borneo island.

"The fires are at the rim while the orangutans live deeper inside. We are focusing on how to put out the fires. If they go out of control, we will take care of the animals. We may need to evacuate them," said the park official.

Some of those fires were lit by hunters, Manalu said. "In order to lure deer, hunters often set ablaze certain areas so that fresh grass could grow on the burnt land. Deer would graze there because they like young leaves," he said.

Environment and other ministers from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Brunei failed to reach a detailed attack plan when they gathered on Friday in Indonesia's haze-affected Riau province on Sumatra island to discuss the crisis.


Indonesia's neighbours are growing increasingly frustrated with Jakarta's failure to tackle the annual dry season fires, most of which are deliberately lit by farmers or at the direction of timber and oil palm plantation companies.

Singapore, which has suffered from the haze since the start of October, saw its air pollution reach unhealthy levels again on Monday. The Pollutants Standards Index climbed to 130, according to a 3-hour average reading in the afternoon -- not far off from levels seen a week ago which were the worst in nearly ten years.

Indonesian officials have said forces of nature and social conditions severely limit the effectiveness of government's fire suppression measures, and have called for ASEAN aid.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said a collective fund was needed to battle the problem. "We need to have a fund where everybody contributes because we are all affected," he told reporters.

Asked whether Malaysia would press for compensation from Indonesia, he said: "we have not thought of the question".

"I don't think it will be fair for any country like Malaysia (to) spend on our own. It's too big, it's too much. The source is in Indonesia," Syed Hamid said.

Indonesian officials have said Malaysian- and Singaporean-owned timber and plantation companies bear a large part of the responsibility for the fires.

Neighbours want Jakarta to ratify an Association of South East Asian Nations haze treaty before expecting major funding. Regional countries signed the 2002 ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. I

ndonesia last week pledged to ratify the pact soon but that is unlikely to happen this month as parliament begins a one-month recess on Thursday.

Indonesian Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban said more than 75 percent of the fires were not in government forests but on plantations and farms of private companies and local people.

He said Central Kalimantan was the worst hit, with around 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of peat land in one area on fire.

Peat fires are hard to put out and can burn for months.

Indonesia bans slash-and-burn practices by farmers and plantations. But prosecutions take time and few have stuck.

(Reporting by Diyan Jari in JAKARTA and Jalil Hamid in KUALA LUMPUR)

Related articles on Singapore: Haze
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