The most attractive holiday destinations

When it comes to vacation destinations, everyone has his or her own preferences, of course. A helping hand can of course be useful, so has the World Economic Forum made a list of the most attractive holiday destinations in the world.

The researchers are looking at issues such as safety, nature, infrastructure, health and value. This has resulted in the following top ten:

1/ Spain
2/ France
3/ Germany
4/ Japan
5/ Great-Britain
6/ United States
7/ Australia
8/ Italy
9/ Canada
10/ Switzerland

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Divers clean up Bali reefs

Forty-four divers cleaned up the underwater area around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, two of the most popular destinations for snorkeling and watersports in Bali.

The divers from the Nusa Dua Reef Foundation (NDRF), divers associations and watersports operators collected 25 sacks of plastic and other non-organic trash from the area, which is rich in species of coral and fish.

“Non-organic trash is a serious problem that has threatened the health and beauty of the marine ecosystem in Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa. They are popular destinations for marine tourism, which heavily relies on the beauty of the coral reefs,” said Pariama Hutasoit of the NDRF on Friday.

Every year, she said, 8 tons of plastic trash ended up in the sea in the area, threatening marine life, harming seabirds, sea mammals and killing fish and coral reefs. The trash was often carried away by currents, polluting beaches and disrupting tourist activities along the coastline.

During the World Ocean Summit in Bali last month, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) declared war on plastic trash in the ocean through its worldwide campaign of #CleanSeas.  The Indonesian government has also made a commitment to reduce plastic trash by 70 percent by 2025.

Since 2014, the NDRF has teamed up with Conrad Bali to clean up underwater areas.

“This time, we are focusing the underwater clean-up on areas around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa. We aim to clear non-organic trash and raise public awareness on the importance of coral reefs and to support the #CleanSeas campaign,” Pariama said.

Source – TheJakartaPost

Interpol: $5.1 million of illegal wildlife and timber seized

Interpol says a three-week operation to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife and timber in 43 countries has led to the seizure of $5.1 million worth of illicit products from wild cats to seahorses and the jailing of almost 90 people.

The operation, codenamed Thunderbird, was carried out jointly by police, customs and border agencies, along with environment, wildlife and forestry officials ahead of World Wildlife Day on Friday.

Its results put a spotlight on the increase in wildlife trafficking and the billions of dollars it generates annually in illegal profits.

“Simply put,” said Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock, “criminals are helping themselves to the environment’s precious resources without a care for the cost to our planet.”

He said in a statement that the success of the operation demonstrates what can be achieved by international cooperation.

The operation from Jan. 30 to Feb. 19 has already resulted in 370 investigations which have led to 89 people being jailed for terms ranging from several days to seven years, Interpol said.

According to Interpol, the seizures included 60 tons of wood and timber, 4,770 birds, 1,240 reptiles, 100 wild cats, 2.75 tons of pangolin scales, 2.5 tons of raw and processed ivory, 25 tons of various animal parts and 37,130 other products including medicines, ornaments and carvings.

US authorities seized 180 dead seahorses concealed in snack boxes, Interpol said, while officers in Hong Kong seized 1.3 tons of red sandalwood hidden in a container shipped from Malaysia.

World Wildlife Day, which was established in 2013, commemorates the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora known as CITES on March 3, 1973.

“Given the current rate of poaching and smuggling, will future generations one day speak of elephants, rhinoceros and many other endangered species as we speak of mammoths.?” CITES Secretary General John Scanlon asked at a UN event Friday marking the day . “We must not and will not allow this to happen.” (**)

Source: TheJakartaPost

Six people arrested for alleged poaching of Sumatran tigers

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has arrested six people for the alleged poaching of Sumatran tigers in Solok, West Sumatra.

The ministry’s team received information from forest police officers in Jambi province about the illegal operation, the ministry’s law enforcement director-general, Rasio Ridho Sani, said.

“The finding comprises bones and teeth from Sumatran tigers suspected to be brought by the perpetrators from the Kerinci Seblat National Park in Jambi,” the ministry’s spokesman, Djati Witjaksono Hadi, said on Monday.

The six people were being questioned by the West Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA).

In Riau, approximately three to four Sumatran tigers die as a result of either poaching or human-animal conflicts every year. It is estimated there are only 300 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

Last year, law enforcers arrested three members of an alleged Sumatran tiger poaching group in protected forests within the national park in Marike subdistrict, Langkat, North Sumatra. Groups of poachers of rare and endangered Sumatran tigers are believed to have long been operating in the protected forests.

Poaching of endangered Sumatran tigers is rampant in the national park. Sumatran tigers are hunted and killed not only for their skins but also their organs. (trw)

Source” TheJakataPost

Indonesia – Zoos to be standardized to combat animal abuse

The government plans to standardize all zoos and conservation institutions in the country following a series of reports of animal abuse at several zoos.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said standardization would be stipulated in a ministerial regulation that was being prepared.

“Because [if there’s no standardization], it could create problems, such as those at Surabaya Zoo and Bandung Zoo. These zoos have been criticized by the community,” she said in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, on Saturday.

Siti was referring to mismanagement plaguing the Surabaya and Bandung zoos.

(Read also: Plastic found in Surabaya zoo’s giraffe stomach)

Surabaya Zoo attracted local and international attention in 2012 following the death of many its animals. In one example, up to 20 kilograms of plastic was found in the stomach of a giraffe named Kliwon that was found dead in its enclosure. 

In response to the problem, an online petition calling for the zoo’s closure was soon initiated and obtained more than 100,000 signatures. 

Bandung Zoo, meanwhile, is being widely criticized following a video on YouTube showing sun bears at the zoo apparently begging visitors for food.

(Read also: Zoo defends condition following video of sun bears begging for food)

Sudaryo said he did not take the video seriously. “The animals here have enough food supplies, if you want to help, get in touch with us directly,” he said.

The same zoo came under fire last year when a Sumatran elephant, Yani, died after being sick for a week without receiving proper medical treatment. The zoo at the time did not have an in-house vet. (evi)

Yani, a Sumatran elephant, lies in pain at the Bandung Zoo. The 34-year-old animal died that day after receiving no treatment.

Source: TheJakartaPost

Kalimantan, #Indonesia – Three named suspects for feasting on orangutan in Kapuas

The police have named three suspects for allegedly slaughtering, cooking and eating an orangutan after the endangered species was caught wandering around in an oil palm concession in Kapuas regency, Central Kalimantan.

Kapuas Police chief Sr. Comr. Jukiman Situmorang said on Friday that after 10 people had been taken in for questioning on Tuesday, investigators had decided to name three plantation workers, identified by their initials AY, 30, EMS, 39 and ER, 23, suspects.

“They [allegedly] killed the orangutan just to consume its flesh,” said Jukiman, adding that the police would not detain the suspects because the maximum penalty for the offense was not more than five years.

The case is believed to have occurred at an oil palm concession owned by PT Susantri Permai, part of Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group, in Tumbang Puroh village, on Jan. 28.

The incident reportedly began when a worker was harvesting fruit before encountering and being chased by an agitated orangutan.

The worker later told the story to AY who then went out to hunt down the animal, where he purportedly killed it with an air rifle and machete. The animal was then taken by AY and his two colleagues EMS and ER to a nearby camp to be dined on.

“They’re just like pigs or deer, the orangutan was skinned, chopped up and cooked,” said an eyewitness who works at the plantation as a fruit harvester but refused to be named for safety reasons, on Tuesday.

Jukiman said the perpetrators could face up to five years in prison if found guilty under the law on biodiversity conservation.

Orangutans are under grave threat from their shrinking rainforest habitat due to illegal logging, land conversion and forest fires, as well as from poaching and climate change.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has adjusted its status for the species from “endangered” to “critically endangered”—one category before extinction.

The IUCN estimates that the number of Bornean orangutans has dropped by nearly two-thirds since the early 1970s and will further decline to 47,000 by 2025.

As orangutans keep losing their habitat, they are forced to roam into plantation areas in search of food, which can lead to them being killed.

“That’s why orangutans enter oil palm plantations [because these areas] used to be part of their habitat,” said Yaya Rayadin, an orangutan researcher at Mulawarman University in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, on Tuesday.

Orangutans are often deemed disruptive by palm oil companies as they like to eat leaves and young palm fruit bunches.

According to research in 2006, an orangutan can destroy 30 to 50 oil palms in a day.

“They are forced to eat [the fruit bunches] because they have no other options,” said Yatim, an environmental activist from Muara Wahau, East Kalimantan.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar was said to be enraged upon receiving the report and said the ministry would work closely with the police to ensure the perpetrators faced justice.

Source: TheJakartaPost

Indonesia – Curug Tilu: Grand Canyon in Sukasari

Thanks to the development of smooth road access to the Sukasari district, the more-than-50-year isolated region has now become open.

The pulse of local residents can now be strongly felt and even people from outside Sukasari have started to come to the region.

The region offers hidden natural attractions that remain untouched. Sukasari, the land of which is mostly covered in forest, turns out to have its own “Grand Canyon.”  

The “Grand Canyon” is called Curug Tilu and it is situated in Ciririp village, Sukasari district, Purwakarta regency.

To reach the destination, visitors can take advantage of either the Cikao Bandung Jatiluhur road or the Maniis–Sukasari road. Cikao Bandung Jatiluhur connects directly to a segment of the smooth Sukasari road. It takes about 40 minutes for visitors to reach Ciririp village.

The Maniis–Sukasari route is not recommended yet as the road remains under construction by the local administration. 

To reach the Curug Tilu area, visitors must take a small 1-kilimoter-long road from the main road.

Prior to reaching Curug Tilu, visitors will first be greeted by a traditional bamboo grotto with palm fiber as its roof. The grotto is known as Pos KOMP@S (Komunitas Pecinta Alam Sukasari – Sukasari Nature Lover Community).

That is the place where a community led by Muhammad Arifin, 32, has been working to develop eco-tourism since 2013.

“We see the open road access conducted by [incumbent Purwakarta regent] Dedi as an opportunity. Why not? The nature that has remained intact has tourism potential that we can introduce to the public at large and we have to take care of it,” said Arif during a discussion at the Purwakarta Communication and Informatics office.

Arif explained that facilities for visitors to enjoy when visiting the Curug Tilu homestay were already available. The homestay, located on the edge of a curug (waterfall), is complete with a hammock and swimming pool. The facility package, priced at Rp 50,000, includes nasi liwet (rice cooked in coconut milk, chicken broth and spices)

“Actually, we have yet to set the price of nasi liwet. The portion of the rice is enough for five persons. So you do not have to cook it yourself,” he explained.

Visitors will be surrounded by the beautiful sight of a green natural panorama and stony mountain contour. The water appears green, precisely like the “Green Canyon” in Pangandaran district, West Java.

Arif acknowledged that he has been relying on young people in Ciririp village to manage the tourist activities. KOMP@S, which he leads, plans to further develop local tourism by offering river tubing and body rafting.

“Frankly speaking, what we have done is far from optimal because our members are still limited to young village people. We want it to be better. But thank God, we see between 20 and 30 visitors daily in [Curug Tilu]. They come from Jakarta, Karawang and Purwakarta,” he said.

The local youth have promoted the area through their social media accounts to attract more visitors.

Source: TheJakarta Post

Huge Tembusu tree crashes at Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore – What began as a stroll in the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Saturday took a horrific turn when a 40m tembusu heritage tree crashed onto unsuspecting visitors, leaving one Indian national dead and four other people injured, including children.

Jonathan Ang, 29, who was sitting 30m away, described a cracking noise that “sounded like thunder” at about 4.25pm. Just seconds later, the tree hit the ground, bringing down nearby palm trees.

The tree, which was more than 270 years old, landed on a woman from India, pinning her face down. Her husband, a French national, whose head was bleeding after being hit by branches, was heard shouting for his wife.

Other visitors rushed to her aid. “One, two, three push,” they shouted as they heaved the tree off her. When it did roll away, Mr Ang saw the victim’s limp body and her husband sitting in shock by her side. By then, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers had arrived and the crowd was dispersed.

The site of the crash was about 30m away from the the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, where preparations were taking place for a concert to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. The crash happened just half an hour before the start of the concert.

Singapore police said in a statement: “The police confirm that the deceased was a 38-year-old female Indian national who was there with her family. Her husband, a 39-year-old French national and their two children both aged one … sustained injuries. A 26-year-old female Singaporean was also injured in the incident.”

NParks, which manages the Gardens, said: “We are investigating the cause of the tree fall. It was last inspected in September last year and was found to be healthy.”

The tembusu tree predates the establishment of the Gardens, which was founded in 1859, and became Singapore’s first World Heritage Site in 2015.

“As an SBG Heritage tree, it was inspected twice a year, which is of a higher frequency than other trees in the Gardens. The tree was also protected by a lightning conductor and fenced off to prevent compaction of its root zone by visitors. Leaf litter is routinely applied to the root zone to encourage healthy root growth,” NParks said.

It added that its first priority was to help the families of the victims.

Visitors to the park were left shocked by the incident.

Artist Tina Fung, 34, had produced an art installation that was supposed to have been unveiled at the Canada 150 event yesterday. Describing the aftermath of the tree fall, she said: “Two guys had scratches on their legs, and there was a lady they were trying to resuscitate.

“It looked pretty serious.”

Esther Ho, who is in her early 50s and semi-retired, was at the Gardens for the concert. She said: “I am surprised to see a tree with such deep roots fall. I had never heard of this happening before.”

Said Ang: “It was so unexpected that a tree with such deep roots could suddenly uproot itself.”

Dr Shawn Lum, a botany expert from the Nanyang Technological University’s Asian School of the Environment, said a possible, but unlikely, reason for the tree uprooting could be that rot or a fungal infection had occurred in its root area, causing it to weaken.

However, this is not a common occurrence in tembusu trees, said Dr Lum, who is also president of the Nature Society (Singapore).

The recent heavy rains and yesterday’s gusty winds could also have been a factor, he said.

The country’s National Environment Agency had forecast that it would be occasionally windy yesterday, with passing showers in the afternoon.

Dr Lum said: “The tembusu that fell is on a slope, although not a very steep one. But after the recent heavy rains and the very gusty winds today and yesterday, it could be that the slope gave way first rather than the tree itself.”

What caused the tree to uproot still remains to be seen, said Dr Lum, but it is something that could not have been anticipated.

In a Facebook statement, police advised members of the public to stay away from the site to facilitate rescue work by the Singapore Police Force and the SCDF, which sent two fire engines, one Red Rhino, one Fire Bike, four ambulances and two support vehicles to the scene.

All remaining programmes at the Gardens on Saturday were cancelled. But NParks said the Gardens will remain open Sunday.

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in a Facebook post Saturday night: “What a terrible accident. Our deepest sympathies to the family of the person who was killed by the falling tembusu tree at the Botanic Gardens this afternoon. Hope the four others injured will recover soon.”

Source: TheNation

VIDEO’s

Diving, snorkeling contribute to harming Indonesia’s coral reefs

Corals grow along the edge of a drop off in Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Diving and snorkeling contribute to coral reef damage according to research by the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB).

The study, conducted at Panggang Island in the Thousand Islands regency between April and June 2013, found that diving and snorkeling in the area had destroyed 7.57 percent and 8.2 percent of coral reefs per year, respectively due to divers or snorkelers who kicked, stepped on, touched or took the coral.

WWF Indonesia marine and fisheries campaign coordinator Dwi Aryo Tjiptohandono said that the main cause of damage to the reefs was the amateur divers’ inability to float and irresponsible divers who took coral for souvenirs.

According to a recent report by kompas.com, vandalized coral reefs were also found in Raja Ampat in West Papua. An Australian who lives in the area, Doug Meikle, uploaded three photographs on Stay Raja Ampat’s Facebook account, which showed three areas of damage.

Meikle said that this vandalism was not the only thing that was destroying Raja Ampat’s coral reefs. Live-aboard anchors were said to be responsible as well. “[The live-aboard anchors] are even worse than the vandalism,” he said.

The head of the underwater tourism acceleration program, Cipto Aji Gunawan, said that the Tourism Ministry would revoke the license of dive operators who were involved in damaging the reefs. (jes/kes)

Assholes vandalized coral reefs

Source: TheJakartaPost

Rolling down the Mekong river

The strong currents of Mekong River and the position of rocky rapids create a large sand dune in the middle of the river.

A medical doctor in Chiang Rai uses his drone to show how the Mekong will be changed forever if the plan to blast the rapids becomes a reality

The rocky shoals and rapids of the Mekong River are magnificent when viewed close to, but seen from the air they make a meaningful statement about the greatness of this river that rises in the Tibetan plateau and winds its way through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

It is this statement that medical doctor and keen environmentalist Sommai Eiawpradit is attempting to spread as he continues his photography of the mighty Mekong from the perspective of a drone and shares them with hundreds of others on the social media. 

“My intention is to let other people see what I have photographed with my drone so they realise how beautiful and significant the Mekong River rapids really are,” says Sommai, a medical professional in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong District. 

The rocky rapids act as a natural barrier to slow the river current and provide a habitat for fish.

Sommai has always spent his time off capturing shots of his adopted town. And two years ago, when drone technology became cheaper and more readily available, he was quick to learn how to use one. 

The technology, he says, has greatly improved his photographic skills and the resulting images can be used to campaign against the rapids blasting plan.

“I want the authorities to reconsider their decision to demolish the rapids, because once the rapids are gone, they can never be brought back. They will be gone forever together with the ecosystem and the way of life of the people who depend on them,” he says. 

Sommai uses his private Facebook wall to share his photos both with his friends and the general public. The pictures have been well received by netizens and have been shared more than 349 times.

He has also given the collection to the local environmentalist group “Hak Chiang Khong” (“Love Chiang Khong”) for use in their campaign. 

“This is only the first set of pictures of the Mekong River rapids. I am planning to use the drone to capture photos of all the rapids and features of the river in all three districts of Chiang Rai through which the Mekong flows. This month, I will send the drone up above the Kaeng Pha Dai rapids in Wiang Kaen District, which is also on the demolition list,” he says. 

Sommai admits he is against the river navigation route improvement plan as a whole, pointing out that the profits earned from the project cannot compare to the losses that will be suffered by the local people and ecosystem of Mekong River once the project is completed.

“Removing the rapids means the complex ecosystem and traditional livelihood of the local people will disappear too. This is the most prominent side effect of this controversial project,” he explains

“With the rapids are gone, the river will lose its beauty forever. The river channel will also change and the boundary between Thailand and Laos will move. From the images the drone has taken, it’s obvious the border change will not be in our favour.

“Before making a decision to change the river forever, the governments of the countries through which the Mekong River flows should consider other options for transportation such as roads and railway. 

“Of course river transportation is the cheapest option for Chinese merchants to transport their goods to the countries downstream but the damages from the project will be very expensive for the people, who depend on this river too,” he warns.

Photo’s/Sommai Eiawpradit

Source: TheNation

The healthy ecosystem on the sand dune of Khon Phee Lhong rapid in Mekong River is a perfect breeding ground for birds and the habitat of many animal species.