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  • Multi-stakeholder platform to drive excellence in sustainable finance across Asia

      ©  5 JUNE 2018, SINGAPORE – To shift Asia's financial flows towards sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has announced the launch of the Asia Sustainable Finance Initiative (ASFI). Based in Singapore, this multi-stakeholder platform will bring together industry, government, civil society and academia to develop and coordinate science based best practices in sustainable finance across Asia. The initiative is supported by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). 

    This was announced by Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, at the ASIFMA 2018 Green Finance Conference today. In a keynote speech, Minister Masagos highlighted the role of ASFI in aligning a common vision amongst the diverse base of stakeholders, including industry, government, NGOs and academic institutions.

    Building on the strengths of all parties, ASFI addresses the need for more resilient, climate smart, and resource efficient regional economies in Asia by ensuring that capital flows support environmentally sustainable economic activity. Singapore's asset managers face a unique opportunity in this regard with 78% of funds sourced from overseas and 66% invested in Asia Pacific. The region's banks too, play a pivotal part in shaping business behaviour across all sectors through their lending practices.  

    WWF's Head of Asia Sustainable Finance, Jeanne Stampe says, "By creating the conditions to guide financial flows towards sustainable businesses, ASFI aims to elevate the resilience and therefore competitiveness of Singapore's economy. ASFI will cement the country's status as a leading and innovative sustainable finance centre that plays a crucial role in developing the region by creating positive economic, environment and social impacts."

    ASFI will kick off with an online knowledge hub in 2018 to house the latest research, tools, and best practices on sustainable finance. Moving ahead, the collaboration will build capacity on sustainable finance across Asia; co-develop green financial solutions with financial institutions (FIs); support the development of regionally relevant standards and guidelines, and help FIs to engage meaningfully with portfolio companies on sustainability risks and opportunities.  

    ASFI will build on the strides that have been made thus far in developing an ecosystem for sustainable finance in Asia. In Singapore, these include the introduction of banking sector guidelines for responsible financing, sustainability reporting listing requirements for companies, and the announcement of MAS's Green Bonds Scheme. Regionally, pension funds in Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Korea are now integrating sustainability into their investment requirements, while the rise in national stewardship codes calls for more purposeful engagement with the corporate sector. 

  • Southeast Asia's high appetite for pet otters supplied online

    Eurasian otter © IUCN - OSGThe online pet trade has emerged as a pressing threat to otters in Southeast Asia with a new TRAFFIC-IUCN Otter Specialist Group (OSG) study revealing hundreds of the animals for sale on Facebook and other websites over a four-month period. 
    The Illegal Otter Trade in Southeast Asia, released today, revealed a high demand for juvenile live otters in the region, with over 70% of the animals offered for sale online under a year old. 
    A monitoring effort of only one-hour per week in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand turned up a minimum of 560 advertisements in which traders offered a minimum of 734 and a maximum of 1189 otters for sale between January and April 2017. 
    "The fact that so many otters can be so easily acquired and offered for sale to thousands at the click of a button and subjected to little or no regulation, is a serious problem," said Kanitha Krishnasamy Acting Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
    Indonesia accounted for most of otters for sale in this study — an average of 711 of all otters observed for sale — followed by Thailand with 204.
    The two countries stood out again when researchers analysed the total of 13 otter seizure records in the region between August 2015 and December 2017, involving the confiscation of 59 live otters. Coupled with the online trade figures, they found Indonesia and Thailand to be the most active source and demand countries for otters in the region.
    "The online commerce of very young otter cubs for the pet trade adds a new dimension of concern. The appeal of these cute animals is undeniable, but otter cubs are difficult to hand rear and susceptible to the same diseases as cats and dogs. We hope that this report will alert the authorities and help curtail this regrettable new development," said Nicole Duplaix, Chair of the IUCN-SSC Otter Specialist Group.
    While much of the trade in Indonesia and Thailand was apparently to meet local demand, both countries were implicated in the trafficking of otters to Japan. Seizure records showed Japan as the destination for 32 live Small-clawed Otters smuggled from Thailand.
    Problems with legislation in many of the countries studied was identified as a major contributor to the uncontrolled exploitation of otters for trade. 
    Southeast Asia is home to four species of otters—Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra, Hairy-nosed Otter Lutra sumatrana, Small-clawed Otter Aonyx cinereus and Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata. Not all are protected by national laws and even where they are, often without adequate regulation.
    "Weak national laws hinder enforcement action and widespread trade in otters online throws the survival of remaining wild populations in Southeast Asia into question," said Krishnasamy. 
    The Small-clawed Otter is especially vulnerable as it was the species most frequently encountered during the study. At least 700 individual animals were observed for sale during the online survey period.
    The report urges Southeast Asian governments fully to protect all otter species from exploitation, punish online wildlife crime and work with conservation groups to pursue avenues to educate consumers and reduce the demand for otters as pets.
    The study also recommends authorities investigate reports that otters are being captive bred for commercial trade, to determine if this is indeed permitted and is regulated. The authors said this would help address the large unknown as to what proportion of otters are being sourced from the wild.
    The report was undertaken after a previous TRAFFIC-IUCN OSG study highlighted the paucity of information available on otter trade in Southeast Asia. 
    As part of the study, country information cards were also produced to provide quick and easy reference on otters for frontline enforcement officers and the conservation community.

  • Mountain gorilla numbers climb upwards

    A mountain gorilla pictured in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda in February 2018. © WWF/Marsden MomanyiResults from a two-year survey in the transboundary Virunga Massif, one of the two remaining habitats of the mountain gorilla, show numbers of the critically endangered species are on the rise.

    Released last week, the latest estimates from the Virunga Massif put mountain gorilla numbers at 604 from an estimated 480 in 2010, including 41 social groups, along with 14 solitary males in the transboundary area. This brings the global minimum count for the species to an approximate1,004 individuals when combined with comparable figures from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where the rest of the sub-species is found.
    Conducted over 2015 and 2016 by the Protected Areas Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, the survey results are an encouraging sign for conservation efforts with the mountain gorilla being the only great ape in the world considered to be increasing in population.

    Margaret Kinnaird, Wildlife Practice Leader, WWF, said:  
    "This is fabulous news for mountain gorillas and shows what we can do for wildlife when NGOs, governments and their communities work together. However, the high number of snares encountered and the numerous other threats they face including climate change indicate that the battle is far from won. The three gorilla range countries and their partners must continue to work together to safeguard the Virunga Massif  - not only for the protection of these incredible creatures but also for the welfare of the local people with whom they share the landscape. The mountain gorilla story can be a model for how to restore and maintain our earth's precious biodiversity."
    During the surveys, the teams found and destroyed more than 380 snares, which were set for antelope but can also kill or harm gorillas. One of the snares discovered by the teams contained a dead mountain gorilla. Other threats looming on the horizon include climate change, infrastructure development and disease, which has the potential to devastate the remaining populations.
    The findings are the result of intensive surveying coordinated by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaborationand supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme(IGCP – a coalition programme of Fauna & Flora Internationaland WWF). IGCP works in partnership with state and non-state actors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to help secure a future for mountain gorillas. Read more here