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By Rina Herzl
Picture an animal enrobed in a fiery, jigsaw-patterned coat. A creature of such majestic height that it towers amongst the trees. As your eyes make their way up its long neck that appears to defy gravity, you find crowned atop its head two Seussian, horn-like protrusions framing dark, curious eyes fanned by lashes. In its truest sense, the giraffe fits the description of a creature plucked from the pages of a fantastical story. Even its species name, Giraffa camelopardalis, comes from the ancient Greek belief that the giraffe is a peculiar camel wearing the coat of a leopard. Meanwhile, the Japanese word for giraffe and unicorn are one and the same.
Today, we continue to walk the Earth with these awe-inspiring creatures, which range across much of Africa. But giraffes are facing what many are calling a "silent extinction." Public awareness and global action is critically due. "These gentle giants have been overlooked," appeals Sir David Attenborough in BBC's Story of Life documentary series aired in late 2016, urging that "time is running out."
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Evidence recently uncovered by the nonprofit International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) reveals two secret captures of more than 30 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in the Solomon Islands. According to IMMP, the dolphins were driven to shore in the Western Provinces of the country in an inhumane capture process similar to the dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan. They were then transported by boat to shallow net pens on Bungana Island off the coast of Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.
More than 30 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were secretly captured in the Solomon Islands before being released back into the ocean by government officials.Mike Prince / Flickr
IMMP, an Earth Island Institute project that works to protect dolphins and whales, believes those behind the illegal scheme intended to export the dolphins to China or other far-flung countries for miserable lives in captivity. The nonprofit provided its investigative findings to the Solomon Islands' government.
Fortunately, the Solomon Islands Fisheries Ministry, led by acting fisheries secretary Ferral Lasi, has taken the matter very seriously. Earlier this week, the ministry reported that the captures are in clear violation of Solomon Islands law and that the dolphins captured both in the Western Provinces and in the Bungana Island net pens have been released back into the ocean. Lasi suggested that legal action might be taken against those involved in the captures.
"The Solomon Islands Fisheries Ministry deserves great credit for upholding the ban on dolphin capture and export," David Phillips, director of the IMMP, said upon hearing of the releases. "The government has cracked down on this secret and illegal capture and export scheme."
The captivity industry in wealthy nations such as Singapore and Japan is booming, creating lucrative markets for wild-caught dolphins and whales. China has made big news recently with attempts to import hundreds of marine mammals from the coastal waters of Namibia, including orcas and bottlenose dolphins, for captive display.
"Without the Solomon Islands government's raid and intervention, more than 30 dolphins might have been loaded aboard cargo jets and flown off, likely bound for China," Phillips said. "The journey is harrowing enough, as is the trauma of being torn from their families and ocean home. Dolphin capture and transport is cruel and, results in stress, disease and premature death."
The Solomon Islands used to be at the center of the world's deadly trade in live dolphins. However, strong international pressure convinced the government to institute a full ban on issuing permits for dolphin captures and export, making these two recent captures violations of Solomon Islands law. The International Marine Mammal Project, which has been active in the Solomon Islands for more than 15 years, believes that the dolphin capture ban is critical to the survival of local dolphin populations.
"The release of these captive dolphins back into the ocean is very welcome news and we commend the Fisheries Ministry, Solomon Police Force and other parts of the Solomon Islands government for standing firm against the inhumane and horrific trade in live dolphins," Phillips added. "The International Marine Mammal Project will also remain vigilant to spotlight any attempts at dolphin capture and illegal trade."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Earth Island Journal.