Rabu, 13 November 2013

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

WWF: Endangered 'Asian Unicorn' sighted in Vietnam


HANOI, Nov 13, 2013 (AFP) - The critically endangered twin-horned saola has been sighted in Vietnam for the first time in over a decade, raising hopes of recovery for the mysterious animal, conservationists said Wednesday.

Known as the "Asian Unicorn" for its extreme elusiveness, the antelope-like creature was spotted in September using a camera trap set by WWF and the communist country's government in Vietnam's central Annamite mountains.

"When our team first looked at the photos we couldn't believe our eyes. Saola are the holy grail for South East Asian conservationists so there was a lot of excitement," said Van Ngoc Thinh, WWF Vietnam's country director.

"This is a breathtaking discovery and renews hope for the recovery of the species," he said in a statement.

Saola, which were only discovered in 1992, have two parallel horns with sharp ends which can reach 50 centimeters in length (20 inches).

One of the secretive creatures was seen in August 2010 - the first sighting in a decade - but it died a few days after it was captured by villagers in Laos, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

It was the first time a wild saola had been spotted since one was captured on camera in 1999 in Laos.

Dang Dinh Nguyen, Deputy Head of Quang Nam Forest Protection Department, said the last sighting of a saola in Vietnam was in 1998.

He said the latest appearance of the animal was "an historic moment" and showed that conservation efforts in the critical saola habitat were effective.

Conservationists believe there could be only a few dozen surviving in the wild, with best-case estimates ranging to several hundred.

In the area where the saola was sighted, the WWF runs a law enforcement program which recruits forest guards from the local community to prevent illegal hunting.

Since 2011, the forest guards have removed 30,000 snares and destroyed more than 600 illegal hunters' camps.

"Confirmation of the presence of the saola in this area is a testament to the dedicated and tireless efforts of these forest guards," said Thinh.

When it was found two decades ago the saola was "the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years and one of the most spectacular species discoveries of the 20th century," WWF said.

Govt to relook taxi fare structure


THE Government will relook the taxi fare structure to make it simpler and easier to compare across cab operators, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo.

Admitting that today's taxi fare structure is "complex and confusing for commuters", Teo said yesterday that the Land Transport Authority will work with the Public Transport Council and cab companies to look into retooling the fare structure.

This will take into account "the impact on taxi drivers, ultimately to have a taxi fare structure that best serves commuters' interests", Teo told Parliament.

Responding to Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), Teo said taxi fares were deregulated in Sept 1998 to allow cab operators to set their own fares to be "more responsive to market conditions".

On whether fare structures now ensure enough taxis ply the roads, Teo said the different surcharges have been imposed to better match taxi supply with demand by giving incentives to cabbies to serve locations and time periods where the demand is high.

Taxi companies are required to publicise fare revisions at least one week in advance in the media and on their websites. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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