Here’s an interesting and quick item to check out on a Friday. This map gives an attractive, at-a-glace look at some of the world’s key natural resources, organized by country. A couple of things to note that are East Asia-related: China leads more categories (at least on this map) than any other country, including wheat, cotton, gold and rice.
In my earlier blog posts and video on my return visit to Siberut, I mentioned that we had visited the Pungut Research Camp of the German Primate Centre and Institut Pertanian Bogor in the far north of the island.
The 4000 ha forested study area is leased from the logging company within whose concession it lies and is used under an agreement with the clan which claims it and in cooperation with the community of the local village, Politcioman. This first-rate site has been operating for several years and can support national and international researchers. It took some while to iron out some problems but these have now been sorted.
|It was clear that our study area on the Indonesian island of Siberut is now rarely visited by anyone. (More photos)|
My last post described my reactions to going back to Siberut Island with my wife after a 30-year break, and this one considers the changing conservation situation there. The terrestrial mammals of the island are remarkable in that almost all are endemic, and among them are four species of primates (one an endemic genus) – levels of endemism equivalent to those found in Madagascar.
There has been formal logging on and off over the last 30 years but we hadn’t found a map of exactly where. When we reached the basin where our study area had been, the views from the villages was of logged-over forest. The rights to log the forests had been negotiated with local clans, but in hindsight the benefits were pretty meager and short-lived. The trees the loggers sought were the large and magnificent Shorea, and with these now gone it is getting harder for people to make their dugout canoes. Also, we were struck by the contrast of the timber quality of the longhouses we visited in areas without logging against the timber quality of the small government-sponsored modern houses with corrugated iron roofs. The timber available now seems to start looking decayed as soon as it is nailed into place.
Given that Asia is now widely seen as leading the world out of the crisis, it is fitting that the role of Asia was more prominently recognized in the global economic system in the recent G20 meeting held in Pittsburgh. Since we last looked in July, the outlook for the emerging markets of East Asia has continued to brighten. The latest regional forecasts come from the Asian Development Bank in its Asian Development Outlook (pdf) published last week. It points to “the rapid turnaround in [Asia’s] largest, less export-dependent economies” and predicts that “the regional economy is now poised to achieve a V-shaped rebound.” These are very positive words indeed! As the graph below shows, the ADB has in fact upgraded its growth forecasts for a number of economies for 2009.
Although the signs are pointing upwards, performance is still mixed in a number of key areas.
Go anywhere after a 30 year break and you expect to see change – and you hope things will be better. Thus my wife Jane and I, together with our four children, were intrigued to see what life was like now on Siberut, the largest and most northerly of the Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra, when we visited it a few weeks ago. Jane and I had lived in a hut in the middle of the island conducting wildlife research for over two years until 1978. We wanted to see our closest friend there, Potifar Tengatiti Siribetuk, as well as other old friends, our old study area, some of the remaining traditional houses, and as many of Siberut’s four endemic species of primates as we could.
Visiting the island and the provincial capital of Padang also provided an opportunity to observe the impacts of the $1 million of grants which had focused on Siberut under the Phase 1 of the World Bank-implemented Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. These grants had followed on from an Asian Development Bank loan project (pdf) from 1992-2000 which was not a resounding success for a variety of reasons. This had itself followed on from WWF projects.
|I thought that seeing zoo animals would have prepared me for seeing these unfettered beasts at close quarters, but I was completely wrong. They are HUGE.|
I’d seen the video, read the book, heard the David Attenborough podcast, written the box, gone to the zoos, got the T-shirt. So I thought I knew Komodo Dragons pretty well, even if I hadn’t seen them in the wild. I’d seen many other types of monitor lizards in forests and along rivers all over Asia and Australia, and didn’t think that seeing a larger one would be an especially great way to use up a precious day of vacation.
So when we landed in Flores in the dry Lesser Sunda islands of southern Indonesia, we were in two minds whether to bother to go to Komodo National Park which for nearly 20 years has been a World Heritage Site. There are certainly other things to do in western Flores such as trekking the Mbeliling forests, visiting the remarkable highland village of Waerebo, snorkelling/diving, and vegging out in some interesting hotels such as the EcoLodge. Eventually, on the grounds that it would be faintly ridiculous to be so close to such a famous site and not to take a day to go, we rented a boat for the two-hour trip to the park’s Tourist Zone. (Mind you, I believe I’m one of the very few people ever to have gone to Agra and not seen the Taj Mahal.)
Earlier today, the World Bank released its annual Doing Business report, which tracks business regulation reforms and ranks emerging economies on the “ease of doing business.”