Category: Environment

Palu croc proves too elusive for Aussie wranglers

Australian animal experts tried and failed to free a crocodile that has been stuck for years with a motorcycle tyre around its neck, an Indonesian official said Tuesday.

Matt Wright, the host of the Nat Geo Wild series Outback Wrangler, and fellow animal wrangler Chris Wilson set up steel traps to catch the saltwater crocodile but the reptile proved to be elusive.

“They have returned to Australia but they promised to come again in May if we had not managed to remove the tyre outselves,” said Rino Ginting, the head of the team tasked with saving the crocodile, which lives in a river on Sulawesi island.

“The river is too wide and there were too many spectators, making the crocodile too afraid to walk onto dry land,” he said.

Wright wrote on Instagram on Sunday that the crocodile “has been tough to catch”.

“It’s all about getting the right opportunity to get a good run at catching him and there far and few between,” he said.

On Monday he wrote that he would “be back soon to continue operations.”

Previous attempts by local psychics, members of an Australian conservation group and a celebrity animal whisperer also failed.

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A neighborhood on the banks of the Palu River, which runs through the city. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

The crocodile was first spotted in 2016 with the tyre in a river running through Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province.

At the time, officials at the conservation agency feared that the tyre would strangle the reptile as it grew bigger.

Local authorities estimate there are 36 crocodiles in the area.

Australian presenter tries luck at saving Palu croc

An Australian animal expert is trying his luck at freeing a crocodile that has been stuck for years with a motorcycle tyre around its neck on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.

A contest to get the tyre off the saltwater crocodile was called off earlier this month after no one volunteered.

Matt Wright, the host of the Nat Geo Wild series Outback Wrangler, arrived in Palu on Monday at the invitation of the local conservation agency and began building a trap to catch the crocodile.

“We have managed to set one trap in the river and plan to head over this arvo (afternoon) with the police to try our luck on the river,” Wright wrote on Instagram on Wednesday.

The crocodile was first spotted in 2016 with the tyre in a river running through Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province.

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The Palu River runs through the city of Palu in Central Sulawesi. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

At the time, officials at the conservation agency feared that the tyre would strangle the reptile as it grew bigger.

Local authorities estimate there are 36 crocodiles in the area.

Last month, agency head Hasmuni Hasmar offered a reward to anyone who could get the tyre off the crocodile, but cancelled the offer after no one came forward.

Hasmar said Wright was accompanied by fellow Australian crocodile wrangler Chris Wilson.

“He is also training members of our specialized team who are helping him,” he said.

Previous attempts by local psychics, members of an Australian conservation group and even a celebrity animal whisperer to try to remove the tyre failed.

Indonesian Spider-Man makes neighbourhood friendly

When Rudi Hartono started picking up rubbish on beaches in and around his coastal community on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island more than two years ago, very few people paid attention to him.

But that changed when he began wearing a Spider-Man costume in 2018.

“Wearing the costume did the trick because it attracted people’s attention,” said Rudi, a 36-year-old cafe worker.

“Other people began joining and even the local government started doing their job of cleaning up.”

“More recently, my photos became viral and more people have joined,” he said.

Rudi said he bought the superhero costume to impress his young nephew but instead he scared the boy.

“So I decided to wear it while picking up rubbish on the beaches,” he said.

Rudi said he also removed graffiti scrawled by students on the local council building.

But he said despite the work he has done, some people are critical of his appearance.

“Some people mocked me and called me beer-bellied Spider-Man and an attention seeker,” he said. “But most people are on my side.”

About 20 per cent of plastic waste in Indonesia is believed to end up in rivers and coastal waters, according to the World Bank.

A World Bank report said every 20 minutes the equivalent of a 10-ton truckload of plastic is dumped into the waters around Indonesia, making the country the world’s second-largest plastic polluter after China.

Aid sought for croc with tyre stuck around neck

Psychics, Australian animal rescuers and a celebrity adventurer have all failed to free a crocodile stuck with a motorcycle tyre around its neck for more than three years, but Indonesian authorities are not prepared to give up yet.

The saltwater crocodile was first spotted with the tyre in a river running through the provincial capital of Palu in 2016. At the time, officials feared that the tyre would strangle the reptile as it grew bigger.

Hasmuni Hasmar, the head of conservation in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province, is offering a reward for an expert who can end the animal’s suffering.

“Whoever can remove the tyre around the crocodile’s neck will be rewarded,” Hamuni said, adding that the money will come from his own pocket. “It’s quite substantial.”

But he’s not publicizing the amount of the reward, fearing such a move could attract people without skills to come forward and endanger themselves.

“It will draw reckless people to come and this is dangerous because there are about 36 crocodiles in the area,” he said.

In 2018, a celebrity animal rescuer, Panji The Adventurer, and his crew tried to lure the animal on to dry land, but their attempts failed.

Before that, local authorities had enlisted local sorcerers and even members of an Australian conservation group, but to no avail.

It’s not as simple as just using a tranquilizer to subdue the crocodile, Hasmuni says.

“If we go down there, other crocodiles can attack us,” he said.

Tiger skin, fetuses seized in Indonesia’s wildlife trafficking raid

Indonesian authorities detained five people in Pelalawan district of Riau province for allegedly poaching and trading body parts of rare Sumatran tigers, an official said Sunday.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry’s law enforcement and forest protection director, Sustyo Iriono, said officials from the ministry and the police seized four tiger fetuses from three suspects, including a husband and wife, during a raid on Saturday morning.

“The fetuses were stored in a plastic jar. Based on the information from those arrested, the authorities were able to arrest two more suspects and seized the skin of an adult tiger,” Iriono said.

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The skin of an adult tiger found during a raid on wildlife traffickers in Pelalawan, Riau province. Photo: Photo: Balai Pengamanan dan Penegakan Hukum Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan wilayah Sumatra

The suspects could face up to five years in prison and a fine of 100 million rupiahs according to articles in the 1990 natural resources conservation law.

The Sumatran tiger is the last of Indonesia’s three subspecies of tigers that still exists and is listed as a critically endangered species. The big cat has been pushed to the brink of extinction due to its natural habitat rapidly perishing as a result of massive deforestation.

According to data from the forestry ministry, there are roughly 600 Sumatran tigers now living in the species’ natural habitat, but human encroachment on the protected forest that the tigers inhabit has caused frequent human-tiger conflict.

A farmer was found dismembered last week after a suspected attack by a Sumatran tiger in his coffee field in South Sumatra province. Another farmer was injured.

It was the second fatal tiger attack in the province in less than a month. A camper from Musi Banyuasin was injured in a tiger attack while he was camping in Pagaralam’s Gunung Dempo in November.

 

Jakarta residents ponder future as city sinks

Irma Susanti lives a few metres away from a concrete wall that barely keeps seawater from inundating her slum neighbourhood in the north of the Indonesian capital.

A few years ago, authorities raised the wall by nearly a metre, to 2.3 metres high. But even that is sometimes not enough to prevent the dark brown smelly water from entering her house during torrential rain.

On the other side of the wall, the water is covered in a thick carpet of rubbish: tyres, flip-flops, used plastic cups, plastic bags and condoms.

Irma sits on a bench in the scorching sun, her 1-year-old daughter in her arms and an older woman next to her.

“We are always on the lookout for flooding, because the wall can’t always keep the water out,” the 30-year-old mother of two says.

The flooding is worst in January and February, she says, when rain is frequent or when the tide is high.

“My husband works here as a fisherman, so we have no choice but to stay,” Irma says.

No other city in the world is sinking faster than Jakarta. Twenty per cent of the territory is below sea level, and that figure is set to nearly double by 2050, according to researchers at the Bandung Institute of Technology.

The situation is most dire in Jakarta’s northern neighbourhoods, which researchers say will be nearly completely flooded in three decades.

That’s the case at the Wall Adhuna mosque in the harbour district, about 10 minutes by foot from Irma’s neighbourhood. Built during the Dutch era as a small mosque for Muslim sailors, it was abandoned in 2005 after it was flooded, and a wall was built to separate it from dry land. The mosque now stands like a monument to a flood apocalypse, its roof half-collapsed and its walls covered with mould.

Jakarta was founded in 1527 by the sultan of the Sunda Kingdom, who conquered the area from the Portuguese and named it Jayakarta, or Great Victory.

Dutch colonial rulers later renamed the city Batavia as they set out to create a tropical Amsterdam with a dense network of streets and canals. Today, it bears little resemblance to the Dutch capital, with hundreds of thousands of cars idling in hours-long traffic jams, few pedestrians and only a handful of green spaces.

Over 30 million people live in Jakarta and its larger metropolitan area today. Nearly all of the 13 rivers that criss-cross Jakarta are dirty and foul-smelling. Apartment buildings now tower where mangrove forests once stood. In nearby landfills, plastic is burned.

But why is Jakarta sinking? Sea levels are rising, and serious city planning has been absent for a long time. The city is mostly paved with asphalt and concrete, which means that water has nowhere to go during heavy rainfall. But Jakarta’s sinking has less to do with what happens above ground than what happens below.

Around half of Jakarta’s households are connected to the privatized piped water network, but others are forced to pump their water out of the ground by hand or with electric pumps. The continuous extraction of groundwater means that the land above it sinks.

“It’s like a quiet, very slow murder,” says urban planner Nirwono Joga, who advises the government of President Joko Widodo. “You do not even see the bottom sinking in most neighbourhoods. This happens so slowly that most of them are not aware of it.”

Large hotels, factories and shopping malls also have their own pump systems. “The problems are man-made and not nature’s,” Nirwono says.

For households that are neither connected to the water supply system nor able to pump, clean water has to be delivered by truck. This is the case for Irma’s family, whose two blue 250-litre tanks are located directly on the protective sea wall. Irma cooks, washes and bathes using the water. One hundred litres cost about one dollar – not an insignificant sum for Irma or her neighbours.

“None of us has a pump,” she says. “The water here is disgusting. Filters don’t help either.”

Jakarta’s sinking is visible in other areas. In the North Jakarta subdistrict of Penjaringan, houses that used to be at ground level are now about one metre lower. Residents who used to look down on the street from their homes now live below it.

“The last time I had a flood, water as high as 20 centimetres inundated the kitchen,” says Abdul Mukti, a Penjaringan resident.

Water is seeping from the ground in front of the 62-year-old’s salmon-coloured house, but he says has no intention of moving elsewhere and does not believe that the area could sink further.

“I’m not afraid,” he says. “Flooding is only a few days a year. The rest of the year I can live without problems.”

In the nearby neighbourhood of Akuarium, dozens of houses were demolished in 2016 because of flooding, but some residents have stayed put, making do with life in makeshift shelters.

The continual sinking is not for a lack of bold ideas among city leaders. After a major flood in 2007, the city commissioned a Dutch company to build a 57-kilometre seawall several kilometres offshore, and artificial islands called Kita (We), Maju (Progress) and Bersama (Together) have been built. But the houses built there are just as empty as the streets, and the island project has been dogged by corruption allegations.

The latest plan to address Jakarta’s sinking problem is perhaps the most ambitious yet: to build a whole new capital outside Java, some 1,200 kilometres from Jakarta.

Under the proposed plan, the new capital will be built in the jungles of Borneo island, somewhere halfway between the cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda.

The cost of the move to the new unnamed capital is estimated at more than 30 billion dollars. The first officials are scheduled to move into their new offices as early as 2024 – the last year of the president’s final term in office. Some Indonesians joke that the new capital should be named Jokograd, after the president.

Despite the national efforts, hardly anyone in the poor neighbourhoods along the protective walls is perturbed by the prospects of sinking.

“I know it costs a lot of money,” Irma says. “But if the government think it’s for the best, I have no problems. We are only small people.”

Gojek’s solution to plastic pollution

The Indonesian do-it-all app Gojek is taking steps to tackle the mounting problem of plastic waste, to which it has inadvertently contributed through its hugely popular food delivery service.

Gofood is now available in 74 cities with 400,000 food merchant partners, most of them small and mom-and-pop eateries previously unserved by existing food delivery services. That adds up to a lot of packaging in a country that is already the second-biggest source of plastic waste after China in the world’s oceans.

 

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A scavenger was sorting and collecting plastic bag waste at the top of a garbage mountain in Bantar Gebang landfill in Bekasi, West Java, where tonnes of trash from Jakarta is dumped everyday. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Gojek co-founder Kevin Aluwi, speaking at an event to unveil a new corporate logo last month, said some food merchant partners had begun charging customers for plastic spoons and forks, and some have switched to biodegradable or paper-based container bags, while Gofood itself is ready to do its part.

“Starting this month (July), we are distributing special bags to drivers whose Gofood order volumes are high. The bag can contain a lot of food orders, so there is no need to use plastic bags anymore,” Kevin said, responding to a question about how the company aimed to solve the plastic waste problem.

The anti-waste initiatives are in keeping with the spirit embodied by the new logo, which resembles a simple power-on button and has been dubbed as “Solv”. Gojek is aiming to be Southeast Asia’s super app offering more than 20 on-demand services, including grocery shopping, house cleaning, massage, laundry and vehicle maintenance and repair in a single platform.

That’s in addition to the document delivery and motorcycle ride-hailing services that were the first offerings of the company when it was founded in 2015. Now valued at US$10 billion and offering services from food to finance, Gojek is looking to make itself indispensable to customers.

The food delivery service is now available in Vietnam, where it is the second-biggest player in the segment, and in Thailand, where the company has expanded along with its motorcycle taxis and car-hailing services.

Gojek is now eyeing Singapore where its car drivers may have to handle food deliveries because the city-state doesn’t recognize motorcycle taxis, said Andre Soelistyo, president of the Gojek group.

“Gofood has become the largest food delivery service in Southeast Asia, even larger than similar services in India even though our population is only a quarter of India’s,” he said.

But food delivery apps have become so popular in so many countries that excess use of takeout plastic containers, utensils and packaging has become a major concern.

The Indian restaurant portal Zomato, which has a food delivery service that processes 16.5 million orders a month, is a case in point. Founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal wrote in a September 2018 blog post that an “unintended consequence” of the business was that it had increased the use of more plastic packaging material.

All the food delivery aggregators in India combined process around 35-40 million orders a month, he wrote.

“These many orders add up to 22,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste created every month in India. And whether we intend it or not, quite a lot of it ends up in the ocean,” Deepinder wrote.

The Zomato app now offers consumers an option not to include plastic cutlery in their orders and works with food merchant partners to help them comply.

“Much as we care about delighting our partners and our users, we must also care about the impact we have on our planet,” Deepinder wrote.

Read the full story in Bangkok Post