Best of our wild blogs: 23 Nov 12

White-throated Kingfisher: Sunning or courtship?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

WOW Talk: WCS’s Asian Elephant Programme: Evidence-Based Conservation in Indonesia & across Asia, 26 Nov 2012 (Mon) from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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Dolphin bound for Marine Life Park dies

Wild-caught dolphin dies less than an hour after leaving Philippines for Singapore, sparking anger among animal lovers
Tan Weizhen Today Online 23 Nov 12

SINGAPORE - One of the 25 dolphins destined for Resorts World Sentosa's (RWS) newly-opened Marine Life Park died yesterday on its way to Singapore - the third of the wild-caught dolphins acquired by the resort to die, sparking outrage among animal lovers.

A Marine Life Park spokesman said the male dolphin, named Wen Wen, died less than an hour into the three-hour flight from the Philippines.

The park had been left with 25 dolphins after two died of a bacterial infection in a holding area in Langkawi, Malaysia, in 2010.

The 25 dolphins were training in the Philippines until earlier this week, when the first group of 14 dolphins was flown to Singapore.

In a statement last night, the spokesman said the two marine mammal veterinarians and eight specialists monitoring the 11 dolphins on the flight yesterday had responded with emergency medical treatment.

Preparations for the move had started several months ago and included continuous health assessments of the animals and simulations.

The dolphins had also gone through medical checks before the flight and were deemed healthy.

"No medical results or behavioural observations indicated that Wen Wen was in a compromised condition to make the journey," he said.

According to the park, a necropsy was performed on the dead dolphin yesterday, with officials from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority present.

Further tests will be conducted in Singapore and the United States in the next few weeks.

The spokesman added: "Wen Wen was a sociable dolphin that survived a shark attack in the wild and had the scars of a shark bite on his torso. (He) and his trainer had developed a strong bond during their four years together."

Last month, animal rights groups in the Philippines had fought in courts there to stop the dolphins from being exported to Singapore, while local wildlife conservation group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) has campaigned vigorously against the acquisition.

Yesterday, ACRES Chief Executive Louis Ng urged RWS "to do the right thing" and rehabilitate and release the remaining dolphins back to their home in the Solomon Islands.

"Wen Wen was born in the wild, lived six years free in the wild, and it is tragic that he died in captivity far from home," he said.

The incident also provoked an outcry among animal lovers, who questioned the need for dolphins in the park for educational purposes.

Bank officer Brandon Huang, 31, an avid diver, said keeping wild-caught dolphins in captivity is cruel and "demeaning".

"I am for having an aquarium to educate, but certain wildlife such as dolphins just cannot be kept in such an environment," he said.

He also objected to having rare shark species, such as hammerhead sharks, at the Marine Life Park.

RWS dolphin dies on flight
Melissa Pang Straits Times 23 Nov 12;

ONE of the dolphins being transferred to Resorts World Sentosa's Marine Life Park died yesterday.

Wen Wen, a male dolphin estimated to be 10 years old, "died suddenly" less than an hour before the plane from Subic Bay in the Philippines landed here.

A spokesman for the park said that it received emergency treatment but did not make it.

The dolphin was one of 11 in the second batch being transported to the park. The first batch of 14 arrived on Monday.

Wildlife activists have been lobbying against the dolphins being displayed at the park, which opened to the public yesterday.

RWS bought the dolphins from a Canadian dolphin trader in 2008 and 2009. They were caught from the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, and activists said they would not thrive in captivity.

Wen Wen was the third dolphin to die out of 27 which RWS acquired. Two, which were kept at a holding area in Langkawi in Malaysia, died of a water-borne bacterial infection in October 2010.

The news drew flak from animal welfare groups, which asked RWS to rethink its decision to have dolphins in the park, which is billed as the world's largest oceanarium with 100,000 animals spread over 8ha.

The Marine Life Park spokesman said there were two marine mammal veterinarians and eight marine mammal specialists accompanying and monitoring the 11 dolphins on their three- hour flight here.

It was not Wen Wen's first time flying. There was also little evidence from pre-flight medical and behavioural tests to show that it was not fit to travel.

All 25 dolphins were given thorough medical examinations which included full haematology and body examinations, and were "deemed healthy prior to the move", said the spokesman.

Preparations for the move started several months ago and included continual health assessments of the animals, simulations and related groundwork.

Yesterday morning, a necropsy - an autopsy performed on an animal - was performed in the presence of Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority officers.

Further laboratory tests will be conducted in Singapore and the United States to find out what happened.

"Wen Wen was a sociable dolphin that survived a shark attack in the wild and had the scars of a shark bite on his torso," said the spokesman. "He will be sorely missed."

Animal group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) last night urged RWS to "do the right thing" and release the remaining surviving dolphins back into the Solomon Islands waters after they have been rehabilitated.

Mr Louis Ng, founder and chief executive of Acres, said the group would "intensify" its lobbying efforts in the light of Wen Wen's death.

The dolphins had been kept at a facility in Subic Bay in the Philippines while the park was being built. They will be shown next year.

Animal welfare groups in the Philippines had tried to prevent the dolphins from being flown out but failed in their lawsuit.

Dolphin bound for Marine Life Park dies en route to Singapore
Sing Geok Shan Channel NewsAsia 22 Nov 12;

SINGAPORE: A male dolphin bound for Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has died on its flight to Singapore.

Wen Wen, which was estimated to be ten years old, died less than an hour before its plane landed in Singapore.

The dolphin was one of 11 on the three-hour long flight from the Philippines on Thursday.

A Marine Life Park spokesperson said that there were two marine mammal veterinarians and eight marine mammal specialists accompanying and monitoring the dolphins.

The dolphins were also given thorough medical examinations and were deemed healthy before the move.

Another 14 dolphins have already been transported earlier this week from Subic Bay, Philippines, where they were kept for training.

Animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said that it was saddened by the loss and urged RWS to rehabilitate and release the remaining dolphins back into Solomon Islands waters.

There have been several attempts to block the Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins from being brought to Singapore.

- CNA/jc

Dolphin at RWS dies en route to Singapore
Today Online 22 Nov 12;

Singapore - Wen Wen, one of the 25 dolphins at Resorts World at Sentosa, died en route to Singapore today.

Marine Life Park has issued the following statement:

We are deeply saddened that Wen Wen, one of our 25 dolphins, died en route to Singapore today.

Wen Wen, a male dolphin estimated to be ten years old, died suddenly less than an hour into landing during the three-hour flight. Two marine mammal veterinarians and eight marine mammal specialists accompanying and monitoring the 11 dolphins on the flight responded with emergency medical treatment.

As is standard and required protocol, all of our 25 animals were given thorough medical examinations, including full hematology and chemistry profiles as well as cytology and body examinations and were deemed healthy prior to the move. No medical results or behavioural observations indicated that Wen Wen was in a compromised condition to make the journey. Preparations for the move started several months ago and included continual health assessments of the animals, simulations and related groundwork. International Air Transportation Association (IATA) standards and protocols were strictly observed and enforced during the planning and implementation of our marine mammal transport.

The Marine Life Park's four veterinarians have a combined experience of successfully transporting more than 500 marine mammals. The same veterinary team, with a collective experience with marine mammals of over 70 years, as well as the team of marine mammal specialists on the flight, successfully completed our dolphins' transport to Subic Bay and the recent transport of our 14 dolphins to Singapore.

A necropsy was performed this morning in the presence of AVA officers. Over the next few weeks, further laboratory tests will be conducted in Singapore and the United States to assess any contributing factors.

The other members of our bottlenose dolphin family are currently acclimatizing to their new home at Marine Life Park as we continue to monitor them and observe their quarantine period. No effort or resources will be spared in ensuring the health and well-being of our dolphins and all marine animals at Marine Life Park.

Wen Wen was a sociable dolphin that survived a shark attack in the wild and had the scars of a shark bite on his torso. Wen Wen and his trainer had developed a strong bond during their four years together. He will be sorely missed.

Dolphin bound for Singapore oceanarium dies
(AFP) Google News 22 Nov 12;

SINGAPORE — One of 25 dolphins being transferred to a Singapore oceanarium despite protests from activists died during its flight to the city-state on Thursday, the resort said.

Wen Wen, a male dolphin aged about 10, died suddenly less than an hour before the flight from the Philippines landed, a Marine Life Park spokesperson told AFP in a statement.

The spokesperson of the park -- which opened to the public for the first time earlier Thursday and is part of the Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) casino -- said the dolphin appeared fine when medically examined before the flight.

"We are deeply saddened... he will be sorely missed," the spokesperson said.

The other 24 bottlenose dolphins had arrived and were acclimatising to their new home.

"No effort or resources will be spared in ensuring the health and well-being of our dolphins and all marine animals at Marine Life Park," the statement said.

Wen Wen is the third dolphin to die out of 27 which RWS acquired from the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific between 2008 amd 2009.

Wildlife activists in the Philippines -- where the dolphins were kept and trained before being exported to Singapore -- filed a lawsuit last month to stop them from being flown out.

They said the dolphins' capture violated an international treaty on the trade in endangered animals and plants.

A court in the Philippines initially agreed to a temporary ban on transferring the dolphins but another court overturned it.

A Singapore-based animals rights group also opposea the inclusion of the dolphins in the marine park, saying catching them from the Solomon Islands is detrimental to the survival of the species there.

The remaining 24 dolphins are due to make their public debut at the park's twin attractions the S.E.A Aquarium and Adventure Cove Waterpark only next year.

The aquarium is touted as the world's largest with 100,000 marine animals from over 800 species in 45 million litres (12 million gallons) of water.

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Answering the SOS call from the wild: dolphins, rhinos, tigers and others to benefit from more funding

IUCN 22 Nov 12;

Gland, Switzerland, 22 November 2012 – Flagship species conservation initiative Save Our Species (SOS) is expanding its work with US$ 2.5 million funding for 25 new projects.

Dolphins, dugongs, manatees, gibbons, rhinos, tigers and many other lesser known yet similarly threatened species such as river turtles, Asian crocodiles, flying foxes, myriad freshwater fish and plant species are going to benefit from what will be the second round of species conservation projects within the SOS initiative – a global coalition initiated by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank.

“The latest injection of US$ 2.5 million doubles the number of active SOS projects but much more needs to be done in the field of species conservation,” says Jean Christophe Vié, Deputy Director of IUCN’s Global Species Programme and SOS Director. “Every year we receive more project proposals than we can possibly fund and the selection process is extremely challenging.

“With more funding available from a broader range of sponsors and donors, we can be much more efficient in addressing the current biodiversity crisis. That is why we are ramping up our efforts in promoting SOS to individuals and companies alike with the possibility to make online donations while also engaging with several progressive industry leaders.”

This announcement comes a few weeks after the meeting of the Convention on Biological Biodiversity in Hyderabad where 193 countries discussed ways of honouring their engagement to preserve the diversity of life. It also follows the publication of a recent report in Science, calculating the cost of improving the status of threatened species until 2020 at approximately US$ 4 billion annually, just 1% of the value of ecosystems being lost every year.

The new SOS projects will be implemented by NGOs across the Americas, Africa and Asia, starting immediately. They will focus on a broad range of species groups that have been assessed by the IUCN Red List, including small marine mammals, freshwater African fish, tropical terrestrial Asian vertebrates and cycads – one of the world’s oldest plant groups. The projects will address conservation needs of some of our most threatened species such as the vaquita, the world’s smallest dolphin which is Critically Endangered in its only home, the Gulf of California or the Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses, also in urgent need of support and protection.

According to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, one in three amphibians, one in four mammals and one in eight birds are at risk of extinction in the wild.

Through its species-focus approach, SOS aims to stop biodiversity loss and increase resources for biodiversity conservation. IUCN manages the initiative by channelling resources to fund the best projects undertaken by civil society around the world – projects which are technically sound, well designed, cost effective, have a good chance of success, and which explain conservation in an engaging way to the public. This is achieved by leveraging IUCN’s in-depth knowledge base.

To date SOS projects have worked with more than 150 species listed as threatened on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, positively impacting wildlife as well as local communities.

“We invite everyone who is interested and passionate about protecting the world’s animals and plants to join us and help answer the SOS call from the wild, so that we can do more for the amazing diversity of life on our planet on which our own lives depend so dearly,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre.

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Europe moves closer to blanket ban on shark finning

Barbara Lewis PlanetArk 23 Nov 12;

The European parliament backed a blanket ban on shark finning, in which the fins are sliced off sharks, often while they are alive, and their carcasses dumped in the sea.

A surge in demand for shark fins, mostly for soup in Asia, has threatened various species of the predators, which have a vital role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems.

The ban, proposed a year ago by the European Commission, would forbid shark finning by all vessels in EU waters and by all EU-registered vessels operating anywhere in the world.

About one-third of all shark species are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Sharks are particularly vulnerable to over-fishing because of their slow growth rate and small number of young.

The appetite for their fins, which can sell for up to 1,000 euros ($1,300) each, is greatest in China, where they are the main ingredient of shark fin soup.

Thursday's European Parliament vote is a strong signal, but needs to be matched by approval from member states to make the draft law definitive.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki welcomed the step and urged swift agreement on "a real ban to shark finning without any derogations".

The proposed law would close a loophole in EU rules, which as they stand ban finning, but allow fishermen with special permits to land shark bodies and their more valuable fins at different ports - provided they comply with a fin-to-carcass limit of 5 percent.

Shark conservation groups have campaigned for years against the EU ratio, saying it is among the most lenient globally and allows European fishermen to dump large numbers of finned carcasses at sea each year.

Spain and Portugal are the only EU member states still issuing the finning permits.

Thursday's vote was "definitely a very positive step", said Sandrine Polti, policy adviser to the Shark Alliance, adding the group would continue to campaign for better management of depleted shark stocks.

Under the proposals, fishermen would have to land all sharks with their fins attached, although they would be allowed to slice partly through each fin and fold it against the carcass, to facilitate storage and handling.

(Editing by Rex Merrifield and Jon Hemming)

MEPs vote to close 'shark finning' loopholes
Mark Kinver BBC News 22 Nov 12;

MEPs have voted to close loopholes that allowed some EU fishing vessels to continue "shark finning".

Although the EU banned removing shark fins at sea and discarding the body, special permits allowed finning to continue legally.

Conservation groups, which say finning was threatening shark numbers, welcomed the European Parliament's decision.

The decision to back the European Commission's proposals will now be considered by EU fisheries ministers.

The resolution was adopted with 566 votes in favour, 47 against and 16 abstentions.

"Parliament's vote represents a major milestone in the global effort to end the wasteful practice," said Sandrine Polti, EU shark policy adviser for the Pew Environmental Group and the Shark Alliance.

"[We have] been working towards this and other fundamental reforms in European shark policies for more than six years and are thrilled with today's vote and the progress we expect to stem from it."

Dr Joanna Swabe, EU director for Humane Society International (HSI), said she was delighted that MEPs had decided not to support the argument to retain the special permits.

"This would have been disastrous for shark protection not just in EU waters but worldwide," she said.

"HSI commends the European Parliament for defending sharks against the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning."

Shark finning is driven by the fact that the animals' fins are highly valuable in comparison with shark carcasses.

As severed fins could be easily stored, it made economic sense for fishing vessels to remove the fins at sea, rather than bringing the entire animal - which would quickly fill a vessel's cold storage areas - into port.

It is estimated that fins can sell for between 16 and 70 euros (£13- £56; US$20-90) per kilogramme in Asia.

The EU's global catch of sharks ranks second only to Indonesia, yet the European Commission has committed itself - under the EU Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks - to adopt the necessary measures to conserve shark species and to minimise waste and discards from shark catches.

Finning is also deemed cruel because the fins are often removed while the animal is still alive - it then drowns when it is thrown back into the sea.

Conservationists argued that the issuing of Special Fishing Permits (SFPs) that allowed fins to be removed at sea prevented the EU ban, introduced in 2003, from becoming fully effective.

According to European Parliament data, the largest number of SFPs issued to date were to Spanish and Portuguese vessels (1266 and 145 respectively, between 2004 and 2010).

It added that until 2009, the UK, Germany and Lithuania had also issued SFPs.

Ms Polti observed: "Shark Alliance member groups look forward to continued co-operation in shepherding and promoting a final 'fins-attached' rule and in securing complementary safeguards, such as domestic and international catch limits, to fully address the overexploitation of sharks."

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Resuscitation hopes dim for expiring Kyoto climate treaty

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 23 Nov 12;

Fifteen years ago, fears about man-made climate change were enough to bind most of the industrialized world into a treaty that was flawed but at least seemed to cement the principle that greenhouse gases must be cut.

Yet now - with levels of those gases much higher and climate change more evident in extreme weather - economic slowdown and arguments over who should pay have all but killed any chance of a meaningful extension to the expiring Kyoto Protocol.

Almost 200 nations meet in Doha, Qatar, from November 26 to December 7 to at least try. But Russia, Japan and Canada, major economies that signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, have already said they will not sign up to emissions cuts beyond December 31.

The huge developing economies of India and China, now the world's biggest emitter of gases such as carbon dioxide from fossil fuels that trap the sun's heat, were anyway not obliged to cut emissions under the Kyoto process.

But campaigners say failure to extend Kyoto will also hobble Doha's much harder challenge: to work on an entirely new treaty to cap emissions from all countries including developing nations, due to be agreed by 2015 and go into force in 2020.

Meanwhile, man-made climate change is ever more visible.

Arctic sea ice thawed in September to its lowest recorded level, and extreme heat waves and drought have hit the United States and Russia more often than would be expected from historical records, a World Bank report said last week.

Greenhouse gas levels hit a new record last year, despite a world economic slowdown.

Even if all countries fulfill existing commitments, the world will warm by more than 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) by 2100 - more than the 2 degrees that the countries of the world say should be the limit, and dwarfing the 0.8 degree rise seen since 1900.


Rising sea levels and more floods, heatwaves, storms and droughts will be the result, the scientists of the U.N. climate panel say. Less predictable rainfall and higher temperatures are likely to disrupt food and water supplies for a rising population.

The probability that the change is man-made is now at least 90 percent, the panel says.

"It's abundantly clear every day that what's been committed to is far from what's needed, and you can't wait until 2020 to be increasing the level of ambition," said Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute in Washington.

But Russia, Canada and Japan have said they will not make cuts under a Kyoto Two because they would be meaningless when emerging nations led by China and India have no targets.

Kyoto bound almost 40 developed nations to cut emissions by an average of at least 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2008-12, but also established carbon trading mechanisms, which Russia, Canada and Japan want to preserve.

The United States never ratified the Kyoto deal, arguing that it would cost U.S. jobs and that it should include emissions cuts for poorer nations.

If it is allowed to expire, the world will have no legally binding climate plan from 2013, merely national emissions cuts by countries including the European Union, Australia and Ukraine that account for just 12 to 14 percent of global emissions.

The EU has promised a cut in emissions of at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, with or without Kyoto, to drive its carbon market. It argues that cutting emissions makes sense to gain a lead in developing greener technologies.

But many fear that much of the remaining momentum for a shift away from fossil fuels to greener energies such as wind and solar power may be lost, especially as the fight for any kind of economic growth has pushed green issues off the agenda.


Helen Clark, head of the U.N. Development Program, said work to stem rising temperatures had been "painfully slow" but that a failure to extend Kyoto would be "extremely serious" for the fight against climate change.

China, India, Brazil and South Africa this week urged an extension of Kyoto as "the essential basis for ambition", with deeper cuts by rich nations.

They said a new deal from 2015 should preserve a split between rich and poor nations, enshrined in the 1992 climate convention, that obliges developed nations to lead since they have benefited most from burning fossil fuels.

The United States and other rich countries say the 1992 division is outdated. China is now the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide and has overtaken Russia as the number two cumulative emitter in history behind the United States.

Lack of progress in recent years, including the failure of the Copenhagen summit in 2009, is partly tied to China's desire to burn more energy to boost growth and U.S. President Barack Obama's inability to persuade the Senate to cut U.S. emissions.

Obama said last week that he was a "firm believer" that climate change was real and that there was an "obligation to future generations to do something about it" even as he reaffirmed that his second-term priority would be the economy.

"China wants a few years to grow before it caps its emissions. And the U.S. is happy with that," said Heike Schroeder of the University of East Anglia in England, who believes that a radical overhaul is needed to revitalize the U.N. talks.

Developing nations also want assurances in Doha of more aid after the end of a three-year, $10 billion-a-year "fast start" program intended to promote their use of non-fossil fuels, especially since the rich countries have set a long-term goal of $100 billion a year from 2020.

(Additional reporting by Nina Chestney in London, David Fogarty in Singapore, Deborah Zabarenko in Washington, Barbara Lewis in Brussels, Risa Maeda in Tokyo; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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