Vol. I, No. 1   l   September 2008

The ASEAN BIODIVERSITY UPDATES is published by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) to keep stakeholders posted on news about biodiversity concerns, and efforts of ACB, the ASEAN and its Member States in the areas of biodiversity conservation and advocacy.

About ACB l Contact Us

Dear Friend of Biodiversity,

Greetings from the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB)!

We are pleased to send you the first issue of ASEAN BIODIVERSITY UPDATES, an electronic newsletter of ACB aimed at updating leaders in government, civil society, and media on biodiversity issues and concern, the work of ACB, and the collaboration between and EU and ASEAN in biodiversity conservation and advocacy.

ASEAN BIODIVESITY UPDATES is being launched on the occasion of the 3rd anniversary of ACB. Ambassadors from EU and ASEAN Member States witnessed the launch of this newsletter from the ACB Headquarters in Mount Makiling, Los Banos, Philippines.

We welcome your comments and contributions (articles and photos) and we hope that this newsletter will serve as link between you and ACB in enhancing efforts to reduce biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia.

Our best wishes!


Executive Director, ACB

ACB celebrates Year 3

ACB and SCBD strengthen ASEAN efforts on biodiversity conservation

ACB Governing Board holds 7th meeting

Regional workshop discusses biodiversity indicators

ASEAN countries join world biodiversity meet in Bonn, Germany

ACB holds 2nd NCP Meeting

ASEAN partnership

ACB to join ISEAS global network

ASEAN countries draft action plan to conserve transboundary protected areas

ACB hosts 3rd Special AWGNCB Meeting

Safety in biotechnology discussed at ASEAN workshop

Southeast Asian countries share biodiversity information to enhance conservation

French Embassy officials discuss possible collaboration with ACB

Building businesses from biodiversity

EC Delegation visits ACB

ACB popularizes biodiversity through exhibits

Radio and TV feature ACB


Ride the Green Wave!

Biodiversity and food security: Understanding the threat



ACB celebrates Year 3

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) marks its third anniversary in September 2008 with greater efforts to engage more sectors and stakeholders in the quest to save the region's rich but highly threatened biodiversity.

The consensus to protect Southeast Asia's thinning natural treasures moved the ASEAN, with funding support from the European Union, to establish the ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (ARCBC) project. From 1999 to 2004, ARCBC facilitated collaboration among ASEAN Member States for biodiversity-related initiatives. A year later in 2005, the ASEAN and EU agreed to establish the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity to carry on the work of the completed ARCBC project.

Acknowledged as the first regional initiative to save ASEAN's biodiversity, ACB is an intergovernmental regional centre of excellence tasked to facilitate cooperation and coordination among the members of ASEAN, and with relevant governments and institutions on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, guided by fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of such biodiversity.

A major activity lined up for the Centre's anniversary month is the ASEAN-EU Ambassadors' Day on 30 September at the ACB Headquarters in Mount Makiling, Philippines. There will be a tree planting activity in line with the Green Wave campaign of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity; premier showing of Saving ASEAN’s Natural Treasures video documentary; and launch of ACB’s redesigned Website and first issue of the ASEAN Biodiversity Updates electronic newsletter. The occasion will provide an opportunity for heads of missions of EU and ASEAN Member States to discuss ways to further enhance international cooperation to conserve biodiversity in Southeast Asia. Back to top

ACB and SCBD strengthen ASEAN efforts on biodiversity conservation

The ACB and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) are collaborating to strengthen the capacity of ASEAN Member States to comply with their commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity. ACB and SCBD recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will enable them to conduct joint programmes in the areas of biodiversity research, capacity building and training, public education and awareness, exchange of information, policy development and coordination, and technical and scientific cooperation. 

SCBD Executive Secretary Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf recently visited the ACB Headquarters in the Philippines to discuss with ACB Executive Director Rodrigo U. Fuentes their organizations' joint work plan. The plan includes assisting ASEAN Members States to prepare their 4th National Biodiversity Reports and assess progress made to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target; celebration of the International Year for Biodiversity 2010; and preparations for the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit in 2010. Back to top

Governing Board holds 7th meeting

Members of the ACB Governing Board (GB), representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat, and the ACB management team convened on 02-03 August 2008 at the Meritus Mandarin Hotel in Singapore for the 7th GB Meeting.  

Among matters discussed in the biannual meeting were: update on the ratification of the ACB Establishment Agreement and Host Country Agreement, ACB's draft long-term organizational strategic plan, the ACB work programme for 2008-2009, and the sustainable financing mechanism and resource mobilization plan. ACB is managed by a Governing Board, composed of the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN) and the Secretary General of the ASEAN. 

The Board has overall responsibility and accountability for the operations of the Centre, and is chaired by the Chairman of the ASOEN. Back to top

workshop discusses biodiversity indicators

Planning officers, scientists, information management experts, and ACB National Contact Points from the ASEAN Member States gathered in Siem Reap, Cambodia on 25-27 August 2008 for a "Regional Workshop on Biodiversity Indicators and Data Bases Uses and their Applications."

The regional workshop identified suitable indicators, as well as available information that countries can share with each other to assist them in preparing their 4th National Biodiversity Report to the CBD Secretariat in 2009. 

Cambodia's Secretary of State, H.E Prach Sun, addressed the workshop's opening programme and emphasized that biodiversity information sharing is an important mechanism to aid decision making in ensuring sustainable biodiversity management in the region.

Organized by ACB in cooperation with Cambodia’s Ministry of the Environment, the workshop provided participants with an opportunity to discuss biodiversity indicators and its databasing; identify issues, concerns and gaps in their use; and present possible biodiversity indicators applicable for ASEAN.

The workshop reviewed indicators for assessing biodiversity in the ASEAN region; validated results of previous sub-regional workshops on mechanisms for data sharing and harmonization; and adopted a minimum set of biodiversity indicators. Back to top

countries join world biodiversity meet in Bonn, Germany

ASEAN Member States participated in the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP 9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on 19-31 May 2008. The CBD is the key international instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from use of genetic resources.

The Conference of the Parties is the governing body of the Convention, and advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings. To date, there are 191 parties to the Convention, 10 of which are ASEAN Member States. All countries have committed to reducing biodiversity loss by 2010.

To prepare for the COP 9 in Bonn, the ASEAN Member States met in Manila on 01-02 May 2008 to review key issues that are of common interest to the region. Organized by ACB, the Manila workshop discussed COP 9 issues on agricultural and forest biodiversity; island and marine/coastal areas biodiversity; biodiversity and climate change; incentive measures and access and benefits sharing; programme of work in protected areas; technology transfer, strategic plans and clearinghouse mechanisms; and monitoring, assessment and indicators. For more information about COP 9 and the Convention on Biological Diversity, log on to http://www.cbd.int. Back to top

CB hold 2nd NCP Meeting

Delegates from Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, the ASEAN Secretariat, and representatives from the Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines participated in the Second Meeting of National Contact Points hosted by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity on 19-20 September 2008 held in Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay City, Philippines.

The two-day meeting highlighted the importance of ASEAN Member States’ contributions, determination of eligible costs, and the implementation of the Centre’s programme of activities for 2008 to 2009.

The EC Delegation presented ACB’s Financing Arrangements with the European Commission and ASEAN Member States, highlighting the need for AMS to concentrate their efforts on the ratification of the Establishment Agreement and the continuous funding of ACB from AMS and international community.

Also presented in the meeting were the implementation of the Centre’s Technical Assistance Guidelines
on Joint Research/Initiatives; process for the preparation of the Fourth National Reports to the Convention
on Biological Diversity; implementation of ACB’s biodiversity information sharing mechanisms; the
ASEAN Biodiversity Conference; and various public affairs matters such as contributions to the ASEAN Biodiversity Magazine and the promotion of Communication Education and Public Awareness (CEPA)
in the region.
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ASEAN partnership

ACB officials (from left): Networking, Partnership and Resource Mobilization Director Gregorius Wisnu Rosariastoko, Programme Development and Implementation Director Clarissa Arida, and Executive Director Rodrigo Fuentes recently met with ASEAN Foundation Executive Director Dr.  Filemon Uriarte in Jakarta, Indonesia to explore collaboration in organizing the First ASEAN Youth Camp and Forum on Biodiversity. The project is a capacity building programme for young ASEAN leaders on biodiversity conservation and advocacy. Dr. Uriarte presented Director Fuentes with a copy of ASEAN Quest, a computer game developed by the Foundation to promote awareness of ASEAN among the youth. The collaboration between the two organizations is expected to strengthen efforts in Southeast Asia to promote biodiversity conservation and advocacy among the youth. Back to top

to join ISEAS glo
bal network

To generate a greater awareness for biodiversity conservation worldwide, the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity will join the global network of Singapore-based book publisher Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS).

In a meeting with ISEAS Managing Editor and Singapore Book Publishers Association President Triena Ong at ACB’s headquarters on 08 September, ACB Executive Director Rodrigo U. Fuentes, Public Affairs Head Rolando A. Inciong, and Capacity Development Specialist Dr. Monina T. Uriarte discussed effective strategies for marketing the Centre’s magazines, books, and other publications regionally and globally. 

ISEAS’ network of over 20,000 subscribers worldwide and its innovative marketing mechanisms are expected to boost the Centre’s efforts to deliver its key messages to a wider audience. Back to top

countries draft action plan to conserve transboundary protected areas 

Scientists, experts, managers and staff working on protected areas in the ASEAN region participated in a workshop on 21-26 July 2008 in Jakarta, Indonesia to draft guidelines for the effective management of terrestrial and marine transboundary protected areas. The workshop was organized by ACB in cooperation with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry's Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation. 

The participants shared experiences, lessons learned, and best practices on transboundary activities and challenges; and identified opportunities and constraints in the management and governance of terrestrial and transboundary protected areas. Participants included Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Back to top

hosts 3rd Special AWGNCB Meeting

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity’s draft Third Progress Report and Fourth Annual Work Plan were discussed in the Third Special Meeting of the ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity (AWGNCB) held in Tagaytay City, Philippines on 22-23 September 2008.

Attended by delegates from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the ASEAN Secretariat, the meeting was chaired Dr. Kasemsun Chinnavaso, Secretary-General, Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand, and the Chairperson of AWGNCB.

The representatives of ASEAN Member States noted ACB's presentations on the draft 3rd Progress and Financial Report of ACB, as well as the draft 4th AWP, with some revisons.

The AWGNCB also considered and approved the five project proposals submitted by the AMS to ACB for funding under the Centre’s Joint Research/Initiatives Programme for 2008. The proposals which will be submitted to the Governing Board for endorsement include:  Conservation of Peatland Biodiversity (Global Environment Centre); Development of the Asian Zingiberaceae Information Centre (The Herbarium, Singapore Botanic Gardens); Management of Invasive Alien Species (Vietnam Environmental Protection Agency); Payment for Ecosystem Services (Cambodia); and Regional Plan of Action for the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (Philippines – Department of Environment and Natural Resources).

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afety in biotechnology discussed at ASEAN workshop

Technical experts involved in regulatory assessment and biosafety compliance activities from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam met in Siem Reap, Cambodia on 22-24 June 2008 for a workshop on "Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)/Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) and Enforcement of Biosafety Regulations."

The three-day workshop, organized by ACB in cooperation with the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, provided a venue for sharing up-to-date scientific information on biosafety and risk assessment, enhancing national and regional capacity to address biosafety issues, and strengthening cooperation in the ASEAN region. 

Biosafety is the term coined to describe efforts to reduce potential risks from biotechnology and its products such as GMOs and LMOs. It was identified as a critical issue by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992. Back to top

outheast Asian countries share biodiversity information
to enhance conservation

ASEAN Member States, through ACB, are working together to share information that will strengthen efforts to conserve the region's rich biodiversity.

On 09-11 June 2008, ACB conducted the "Second Sub-Regional Workshop on Mechanism for Biodiversity Data Sharing and Harmonization" in Lao PDR to establish effective ways to share the region's wealth of biodiversity information among ASEAN Member States. The first sub-regional workshop was held in Hanoi, Viet Nam on 11-14 March 2008.

The sub-regional workshop in Luang Prabang served as a follow-up to a regional workshop on Biodiversity Data and Information Harmonization conducted by ACB in Vientiane, Lao PDR in November 2007. Central to the Luang Prabang and future sub-regional workshops are discussions on the Clearing House Mechanism (CHM), a knowledge management tool designed to facilitate the exchange of biodiversity information. ACB is promoting the use of CHM as a tool to share biodiversity information, and as an aid to effectively implement national biodiversity strategies and action plans of each country. Back to top

French Embassy officials discuss possible collaboration with ACB

Officials from the Embassy of France in the Philippines visited ACB's headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna on 18 June 2008 to discuss possible areas for collaboration with the Centre's directors and staff. ACB Executive Director Rodrigo U. Fuentes briefed Counselor for Cooperation and Cultural Affairs Georges-Gaston Feydeau, Scientific Attache lnes Loge, and Academic Exchanges Attaché Marie Aurousseau on ACB’s core objectives, focus areas for intervention, products, services, and partnership schemes.

"We are in search of a strong international alliance within the region and at the global level to address the issue of saving the region's biodiversity," Director Fuentes told the French delegation. Mr. Feydeau, for his part, suggested that ACB look into the EU-Asia programme which seeks to foster working relationships among scientists in Europe and the ASEAN region through joint research projects. He emphasized that there are a number of programmes and opportunities that would enable ACB and the French government to work as partners. Back to top

Building businesses from biodiversity

ACB recently met with the Biodiversity-Based Economy Development Office (BEDO), a public organization in Thailand, to discuss potential networking, linkage, and future projects. The two organizations explored joint programmes on developing the economic potential of biodiversity and addressing the gaps between biodiversity and socio-economic issues; developing viable ASEAN biodiversity products; and establishing a roster of experts who can provide biodiversity-based business solutions.

In photo are (clockwise) BEDO Bio-Resources Specialist Dr. Schwann Tunhikorn; President of the Board of Directors Mr. Petipong Pungbun Na Ayudhya; Executive Director Mr. Apiwat Sretarugsa; Assistant Director Mrs. Suchada Chayamporn; ACB Director Gregorius Wisnu Rosariastoko; Environment Undersecretary Demetrio L. Ignacio; and ACB Directors Clarissa Arida and Ma. Consuelo Garcia. Back to top

EC Delegation visits ACB

Officials from the Delegation of the European Commission in the Philippines visited the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity’s (ACB) headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna on 13 August to discuss with the Centre’s directors and staff various operational issues including ACB’s accomplishments, work programme, realignment of the contribution agreement, and updates on the ratification of the Establishment Agreement.  The delegation also conducted routine financial discussions with ACB’s Finance and Administration Unit.

The delegation was composed of Nick Taylor, Deputy Head of Operations; Holger Rommen, Head of Contracts and Finance; Juan Echanove, Environment and Sustainable Development Programme Officer; and Chie Alvarez, focal point for ACB in the Contracts and Finance Department. Back to top

ACB popularizes biodiversity through exhibits

To generate a greater awareness for biodiversity conservation, ACB displayed panels on Southeast Asia's rich biodiversity, the factors that drives biodiversity loss, and the ASEAN action to prevent the further degradation of the region's biodiversity in various exhibits in July.

ACB participated in the National Science and Technology Week Exhibit at the Philippine World Trade Centre from 07-13 July; SyenSaya Science Exhibit at the University of the Philippines Los Baños from 16-18 July; and the Forestry Development Center's 30th Anniversary Policy Forum on 30 July.

Flyers and magazines that highlight the importance of saving ASEAN's rich but threatened biodiversity were distributed to exhibit visitors. The video documentary, "Saving the ASEAN Dream," which shows vignettes of the region's various species and the threats they face, captured the interest of children and adults alike. Exhibits are part of ACB’s to boost public awareness on the values of biodiversity. Back to top

Radio and TV feature ACB

NBN Channel 4's "One Morning" programme interviewed ACB Executive Director Rodrigo U. Fuentes on 14 August 2008.  Director Fuentes discussed with hosts Bobby Yan and Claudine Trillo the work of ACB and the ASEAN in protecting Southeast Asia's rich but highly threatened biodiversity.  The programme was aired simultaneously over RPN 9 and IBC 13.  In another NBN Channel 4 programme, "Pilipinas Ngayon Na," Press Undersecretary Robert Rivera of the Philippines interviewed Director Fuentes on 23 August 2008.

Director Fuentes was also featured in radio stations DZRH on 06 September and DZMM on 21 September.  These interviews form part of ACB’s programme to generate a greater awareness for biodiversity protection and conservation among various sectors of society. Back to top


Ride the Green Wave!

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) recently launched the Green Wave, a multi-year tree-planting campaign for children and youth around the world leading up to 2010 - the International Year of Biodiversity. This was announced by ACB Executive Director Rodrigo U. Fuentes. ACB is SCBD’s partner in promoting biodiversity conservation in Southeast Asia.

Students and teachers around the world started planting trees beginning May 22, 2008, the International Day for Biodiversity, thus, setting in motion a global “green wave.” The Green Wave is an opportunity for children and the youth to make a difference one step at a time. Children around the world can join this collective action that aims to raise awareness about biodiversity and the need to reduce its loss.  Local action is encouraged and any contribution of this nature provides support to other global advocacies, such as the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Plant for the Planet BillionTree Campaign.  

“This campaign of the SCBD is a fun and exciting way to encourage students to learn about trees and biodiversity, to acquire event planning skills, and to work with members of the community. It’s also an opportunity to tell the world about a school’s biodiversity initiatives and to connect with like-minded individuals around the world,” Director Fuentes said. 

In participating schools, students plant a locally important tree species, ideally indigenous, in or near their schoolyard. Students and teachers can upload their tree planting activities, stories and pictures and track other initiatives on greenwave.cbd.int. People around the world can then view all the Green Wave trees through Google maps. 

“Though teachers, students and the youth are the primary targets of this campaign, everyone else is encouraged to participate in the Green Wave. People can donate seedlings, and experts can give talks at local schools. Members of the local media can help promote Green Wave activities.  Government officials, celebrities, corporations and NGOs can endorse, organize and fund Green Wave activities.  

“Since the main activities of the Green Wave started on May 22, the rest of the year should be enough time for people who care about the environment to prepare for the next Green Wave toward 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity. Hopefully more schools, children, organizations and governments can get involved and ride the Green Wave so we can dramatically increase our gifts to nature,” ACB Director Fuentes explained. Back to top

Biodiversity and food security: Understanding the threat

ACB Executive Director Rodrigo U. Fuentes has warned of the growing evidence of the decreasing biological biodiversity base for food production in Southeast Asia and in other parts of the world.

Citing statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Director Fuentes said the pressure to produce food to meet the world’s increasing demand has intensified over the past 100 years. “As a result, the natural functions of ecosystems and the variability of genes, species, and populations is now severely affected,” he told his audience in a seminar on “Biodiversity and Food Security:  Are we really understanding the threat?” held recently in Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines.

“Over the millennium, we have relied on over 10,000 various plants species for food. Now, we have barely 150 species under cultivation. Even livestock diversity, according to FAO, is likewise significantly under threat. The first global assessment of livestock biodiversity indicated that 643 breeds are at risk of extinction, 45 of which are in Asia,” Director Fuentes added.

“Are we really understanding the impact of biodiversity loss on the environment’s capacity to continue to provide us with food sources?”, he asked the close to 100 participants who attended the lecture hosted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). The lecture is part of the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) – a weekly scientific and policy forum which provides a venue for the presentation and discussion of development and research issues, as well as their implications to agricultural and rural development. 

The biodiversity expert mentioned deforestation, habitat destruction, large-scale mining, poverty traps, inappropriate agricultural policies, industrialization, and pollution as the usual culprits that cause massive biodiversity loss. The emerging influences include liberalization and globalization of production, urbanization, invasive alien species, climate change, and shifting consumption patterns.

“We are all parties to the loss of biodiversity because of our consumption patterns,” he stressed.

The challenge that we now face, Director Fuentes said, is how to increase agricultural yield while conserving biodiversity ecosystems. “We have a menu of available options for sustainable agriculture which involves mixed farming systems, integrated pest management, crop rotation, organic agriculture, recycling of crop and animal wastes, cover cropping, and other mechanisms,” he said.

He, however, pointed to the very limited adoption rate of these options. “The international regime is unable to touch the heart of the issues. The heart of the issues is in within us. We have to examine our way of consuming resources, and know that in our little ways, we can do a lot to curb biodiversity and food insecurity,” Director Fuentes emphasized.

He urged the students among the audience to develop a passion for taxonomy. “How could we conserve biodiversity if we do not know what is there to conserve?”

Director Fuentes also underscored the need to develop and expand the knowledge base from the scientific arena, and all practical means of using biodiversity resources. “We also have to recognize the importance of building alliances to address the issue of food security,” he said.

“Understanding the threat is good, but not good enough. If we acknowledge that biodiversity loss has implications on food security, and recognize that everyone is entitled to access to food, as philosopher Onora O’Neill has said, then let us also start to define who will do what, for whom and when,” Director Fuentes concluded. Back to top


Mining project endangers pristine forest

Residents in Kaeng Krachan district have protested a move by the government to approve a new mining project near Kaeng Krachan forest in Thailand, which will be proposed as a World Heritage site. The mining firm wants to dig for dolomite deposits near the Kaeng Krachan national park. The pristine tropical forest, which covers the Kaeng Krachan national park and a wildlife sanctuary in Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan, has been declared a heritage site for Southeast Asia. Dolomite, which contains magnesium, is used for soil adjustment in farming or in drug production. Bangkok Post

Viet Nam launches program to combat desertification

Thousands of hectares of land and about 20 million people are being threatened with desertification in Viet Nam, according to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. A survey conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and UNESCO revealed the country has 462,000 hectares of sand along its coasts, more than 419,000 hectares of which is concentrated in 10 central coastal provinces. In the past 40 years, about 10 to 20 hectares of agricultural land have been annually encroached by sand. To combat the issue, the Viet Nam government launched a national action programme to fight desertification funded by the World Bank, Global Environment Fund and Tropical Forest Fund. The country has already invested about VNDl trillion ($55.6 million) in growing 200,000 hectares of forest per year. As a result, forest coverage increased from 28.3 percent in 1995 to 38 percent in 2007. Vietnam News Service

Saving Cambodia's Great Lake

Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is known to Cambodians as the Great Lake. It is an area of extraordinarily rich biodiversity and a key breeding ground for fish, which migrate upstream from the Mekong to spawn in seasonally flooded forest areas. However, the lake faces threats from over exploitation and illegal fishing, destruction of key wildlife habitats, pollution, and deforestation. The Asian Development Bank-financed Tonle Sap Environmental Management Project (TSEMP) has been leading efforts to address the lake’s environmental concerns. TSEMP is helping villages create community fisheries to protect and preserve their own resources, develop alternative livelihood activities to reduce stress on the environment, and promote ecotourism so that visitors may enjoy the various species that live in the lake. BBC

Cyclone Nargis and its impact on biodiversity

Environmentalists are concerned about the status of biodiversity in Myanmar in the aftermath of Cylocne Nargis. The Wildlife Conservation Society says that Myanmar is probably the most biodiverse country in Southeast Asia, and large areas of habitats still remain to be explored. Conservationists warn that the human needs resulting from the disaster could have a devastating impact on forests and wildlife, as hunting, non-forest product extraction, and logging are likely to increase. Critically endangered animals in Myanmar include endemic species of rhinos and bats, as well as Asian elephants, red pandas, capped leaf monkeys, and the world's largest tiger reserve. Populations of estuarine lrrawaddy dolphins, saltwater crocodiles, and nesting olive ridley sea turtles are also vulnerable. The fates of rare spoon-billed sandpipers, which are down to only 200-300 pairs, are also unknown. National Geographic News

Palm oil wiping out key orangutan habitat in Indonesia

The Centre for Orangutan Protection in lndonesia warned that one of the biggest populations of wild orangutans in Borneo will be extinct in three years without drastic measures to stop the expansion of palm oil plantations. Over 30,000 wild orangutans live in the forests of Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province, or more than half the entire orangutan population of Borneo island, which is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Experts believe the overall extinction rate of Borneo orangutans is 9 percent per year, but in Central Kalimantan they are disappearing even faster due to unchecked expansion of palm oil plantations. Orangutans are found only on Borneo and Sumatra and are listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union. It says the ape population has fallen by well over 50 percent in the past 60 years as a result of habitat loss, poaching, and the pet trade. Agence France-Presse

Philippines launches food security programme 

The Philippines will have to continue importing rice until 2011 after years of under-investment in farming and failure to modernize the agricultural industry. The Philippines imports 10 percent of its annual rice requirement, and last produced enough rice for domestic consumption in 1994. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo recently unveiled a $1.05 billion master plan for food security that involves more funding for fertilizer, seeds, irrigation and better roads and post-harvest facilities. Reuters

Funds generated to preserve Asia’s Coral Triangle

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the ADB will jointly support the preservation of Asia's Coral Triangle, with the GEF committing $63 million to fund conservation of this area known as 'the Amazon of the seas'. Under ADB's leadership, the GEF contribution will catalyze at least $425 million of co-financing for the Coral Triangle Initiative to introduce sustainable fisheries management and conserve coral ecosystems while reducing poverty.  The Coral Triangle, which crosses Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste, has the highest marine biodiversity in the world. Thomson Financial News.

Researchers find rare giant turtle in Viet Nam

After three years of searching, biologists have identified a soft-shell giant turtle of cultural significance in northern Viet Nam that was believed to be extinct in the wild. The turtle, identified as Rafetus swinhoei and is the only known living specimen of its kind, was found in a lake west of Hanoi. The search was funded by the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in the United States through its Asian Turtle Program. Swinhoe's turtle is one of the most critically endangered species of turtle in the world and has a legendary status among the people of Viet Nam, where its appearance is believed to be a portent of an extraordinary event. Only three other specimens of the turtle are known to scientists, two at zoos in China, and one in the storied Hoan Kiem Lake (The Lake of the Returned Sword) in the centre of Hanoi. The turtles can weigh up to 136 kg (300 pounds) and live more than 100 years. They have become virtually extinct because of hunters who kill them for food, loss of nesting habitats and pollution. Reuters

Rice terraces should be protected as critical watershed

Government officials are promoting the Banaue rice terraces as a tourist and economic development zone but local officials said the world's "Eighth Wonder" needed to be promoted as a critical environment area. Though considered as one of the Philippines’ premier tourist destinations, the rice terraces must be viewed as part of a watershed that needed to be nurtured and protected in light of the threats of climate change. Activities that threaten the life of the terraces must be disallowed since it will affect the environment and culture of the people of the Ifugao province. There is no rice shortage in Ifugao, and the rice terraces alone could sustain the province's need for two months. Philippine Daily Inquirer

Malaysia rejects coal project in Borneo rainforest

Malaysia has rejected a $408 million coal-fired power plant near a protected rainforest area in Sabah, on the island of Borneo. The Sabah cabinet has decided that they would rather not risk the welfare of the community in the area including their health and any adverse impact on the environment. The government also announced the need to look for more environmentally friendly sources of energy. The project could have adversely affected Sabah's nature-based tourism industry. The government of Sabah is putting increased emphasis on the state's natural attractions including world-class diving, biodiverse tropical rainforests that house the orangutan, and other endangered species, and Mt. Kinabalu, Southeast Asia's highest peak. mongabay.com

Philippines to make climate change part of school curriculum

The Philippine government directed its Department of Education, other state agencies, and the private sector to prepare lesson guides on global environmental issues for public school teachers in elementary and secondary schools. Education Secretary Jesli Lapus emphasized the importance of "intergovernmental cooperation" in reducing the effects of climate change. Experts said the Philippines will suffer from greater incidence of diseases like dengue and lower levels of fresh water due to global warming. AFP

Frog with no lungs found in Indonesia

Researchers found a frog in a remote part of Indonesia that has no lungs and breathes through its skin, a discovery which could provide insight into what drives evolution in certain species. David Bickford, an evolutionary biologist at the National University of Singapore, said the aquatic frog, Barbourula kalimantanensis, is the first frog known to science without lungs, and joins a short list of amphibians with this unusual trait, including a few species of salamanders and a wormlike creature known as a caecilian. The frog has been called “evolutionarily unique”, and scientists surmised that the frog had evolved to adapt to its difficult surroundings, in which it has to navigate cold, rapidly moving streams that are rich in oxygen. Associated Press

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Looming tropical disaster needs urgent action

A major review published in the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment showed that the world is losing the battle over tropical habitat loss with potentially disastrous implications for biodiversity and human well-being. Research revealed that up to 15 million hectares of tropical rainforest are being lost every year and species are being lost at a rate of up to 10,000 times higher than would happen randomly without humans present. The majority of the world's population lives in the tropics; at stake is the survival of species that pollinate most of the world's food crops, purify our water systems, attenuate severe flood risk, sequester carbon and modify climate. The review 'Tropic turmoil: a biodiversity tragedy in progress' can be found at www.frontiersinecology.org. University of Adelaide

UN set for IPCC-type panel on biodiversity

A scheme to set up an independent authority on species loss on the lines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was approved in principle by a committee vote at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in Bonn. Biodiversity advocates have struggled for decades to sound alarms about the accelerating rate of species extinction, and its potentially dire consequences for mankind. Calls to action however have been largely-ignored. The IPCC report played a major role in raising awareness on climate change and is a very strong model that could be emulated for any assessment on biodiversity. An authoritative panel would lend scientific credibility and underscore the urgency of biodiversity issues. Agence France-Presse

Ecosystem destruction costing hundreds of billions a year

The new Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, a review of the costs and benefits of forests, rivers and marine life, state that the steeply accelerating decline of the natural world is already costing hundreds of billions of dollars a year. The report warns of severe consequences to all economies if forests continue to be felled, seas overfished, and if land is turned to intensive farming. The report says that the world has lost 40 percent of its forests in 300 years, and half its wetlands in just 50 years. More than one third of mangroves have disappeared in just 20 years and there is increasing soil loss, as well as severe erosion, and growing water scarcity. Details on how to estimate the costs associated with this environmental degradation will come in the final report, due by 2010. - Guardian

Our dying planet

The Living Planet Index, produced by World Wildlife Fund, the London Zoological Society, and the Global Footprint Network tracks 4,000 species including nearly 241 fish, 83 amphibian, 40 reptile, 811 bird, and 302 mammal species. The report reveals that almost a third of the world's wildlife has been lost in the past 35 years. The number of animals per species fell an average 27 percent between 1970 and 2005; with land animals down 25 percent, marine 28 percent, and freshwater 29 percent. The main threats to species are pollution, habitat destruction, over-exploitation, invasive species, and climate change. The expansion of humankind, however, posed the biggest threat. The global population is up to 6.5 billion from 4 billion and people are using 25 percent more resources than can be replaced. Mirror

Global warming changes behavior of plants and animals

Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration say there are now over 27,000 examples of how nature has responded to warmer temperatures around the world since the early 1970s. They range from earlier springs in Britain and the movement north of insects and birds in Europe to avoid warmer weather, to changes in the hunting behavior of polar bears at the North Pole because of melting ice. Only life in the Antarctic appears to be largely unaffected by the warmer climate. Researchers say the study, which covers nearly 30,000 pieces of research and published in the science journal Nature, is the first global picture that demonstrates the effect of human-induced climate change. Daily Mail

Human health depends on biodiversity

A new book called “Sustaining Life” provides a comprehensive view on the impact of species extinctions and biodiversity loss on a new generation of antibiotics and medical treatments. The natural world holds secrets to the development of new kinds of safer and more powerful pain-killers, anti-cancer medicines, and possibly ways of re-growing lost tissues and organs. Experts warn that we may lose many of the land and marine-based life forms of economic and medical interest before we can learn their secrets, or, in some cases, before we know they exist. The book demonstrates that although extinction is alarming in its own right, many species can help save human lives.  “Sustaining Life” provides more justification for action to conserve species, and offers dozens of dramatic examples of both why and how citizens can act in ways that will conserve species that enrich our lives. IUCN 

Sri Lanka launches mangrove protection program

Sri Lanka launched the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) initiative with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the United Nations Development Program to conserve coastal mangroves that were affected by the 2004 Indian tsunami. The tsunami killed 31,000, displaced a million, and flooded coastal regions. The mangroves that were along the coast in some parts of the island took the brunt of the wave, reducing the damage to inland structures and vegetation.  Mangroves play an important role in the lives of coast dwellers as it is a breeding ground for fish, prawns and shrimp. Mangroves also promote nature tourism which helps local communities get additional employment and income. Lanka Business Online

Google Earth to highlight endangered species

Google has launched the Google Earth Outreach programme which uses Google Earth and Maps to enable conservationists to raise awareness of their activities with endangered species across the globe. The programme will allow organizations to highlight their work by plotting points that can be accessed to provide written, audio and video information in what is known as a "layer". These can then be seen by millions of users. Organizations working with the Google Earth Outreach Programme include Wildscreen, a charity that raises awareness of the world's biodiversity.  Wildscreen is currently working with ARKive project, a collection of thousands of films and photographs of endangered species, to create "layers" that highlight critically endangered species. telegraph.co.uk 

Change in farming can feed world

Sixty countries backed the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development [IAASTD] which states that the world produces enough food for everyone, yet more than 800 million people go hungry. The report called for radical changes in world farming to avert increasing regional food shortages, escalating prices, and growing environmental problems. The report - the first significant attempt to involve governments, NGOs and industries from rich and poor countries - took 400 scientists four years to complete. The present system of food production and the way food is traded around the world has led to a highly unequal distribution of benefits and serious adverse ecological effects and was now contributing to climate change. Science and technology should be targeted towards raising yields but also protecting soils, water and forests.  Investment in agricultural science has decreased yet there is an urgent need to develop sustainable ways to produce food. Governments must focus on agriculture that is less dependent on fossil fuels, favors the use of locally available resources and explores the use of natural processes such as crop rotation and use of organic fertilizers. Guardian.co.uk 

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About ACB

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) is an intergovernmental regional centre of excellence that facilitates cooperation and coordination among the members of ASEAN, and with relevant governments and organizations on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.  Protecting Southeast Asia’s rich but highly threatened web of life is its main goal.


Biodiversity is protected, conserved, managed and sustainably used, and its benefits are fairly and equitably shared for the social, economic and environmental well-being of ASEAN Member States.


ACB champions biodiversity conservation in the region and enhances its global standing as a center of excellence for biodiversity conservation.


1.  Programme development and policy coordination

2. Human and institutional capacity development

3. Biodiversity information management

4. Public and leadership awareness of biodiversity values

5. Sustainable financing mechanism.

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