Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WWF Awards Child, Two Others for Saving Dolphin

As the widely-publicized dolphin drive hunts begin in the town of Taiji in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) awarded three Filipinos for saving a stranded dolphin in San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro in the Philippines.

(WWF’s Johnjoe Cantos presents the awards to Jacinto Abdon,Terence Panado and Carl Andrei Leuterio. To the right is San TeodoroMayor Apollo Ferraren.  Photo fromWWF-Philippines)

Pelted by heavy rains, the 2.5-meter long Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) was found ailing by the shoreline of Barangay Poblacion in San Teodoro at around 1PM on 2 September. The dolphin appeared weak – with noticeable red eyes and heavy skin secretions.

Eight-year old Carl Andrei Leuterio, a third-grader from the San Teodoro Central School, was the first to report the stranding to authorities. “Four of us were playing by the sea when we saw the dolphin. It was as big as a whale … but it looked so weak. I told the grown-ups about it.”

Bantay Dagat member Terence Panado and Municipal Fishery Management Officer-in-Charge Jacinto Abdon were the first to arrive. Elements of the Philippine National Police and Municipal Agriculture Office eventually joined the pair. Three hours later, the dolphin was guided to deeper waters and released.

(The 2.5 meter Risso’s Dolphin was slowly coaxed off intodeeper waters. It swam off unharmed. Barangay San Teodoro last September 2, 2010. Photo from the Provincial Agriculture Office)

The rescue was conducted during the start of the dolphin hunting season in the Japanese town of Taiji, which has legally-hunted dolphins since before the 17th-century. Here, approximately 2000 dolphins are annually driven to the shallows and killed. Some are captured and sold to aquaria and sea parks. The Taiji hunt was the subject of ‘The Cove’, a 2009 Oscar-winning documentary.

Small cetaceans such as porpoises and dolphins fall outside the protection of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which has been attempting to manage the commercial hunting of whales since 1946.

WWF opposes the Taiji dolphin drive hunts chiefly because they are not conducted for either subsistence or cultural reasons. WWF believes that a switch from hunting to dolphin and whale-watching would be the best recourse.

(WWF’s Johnjoe Cantos poses with Carl Andrei Leuterio, WWF’syoungest Hero of the Environment thus far. Photo from WWF-Philippines)

The fishing town of Donsol in the Philippines, where the hunting of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) has been replaced by commercially-successful whale shark eco-tours, should serve as an excellent example. In just over a decade, the once sleepy 6th-class municipality transformed into a prosperous 1st-class municipality.

“The actions of Carl, Terence and Jacinto bring much honor to the country. While dolphins are killed in other parts of the world, our three heroes chose to do the right thing,” notes WWF Chairman Vincent S. Pérez, Jr.

The trio was recognized at the San Teodoro Municipal Hall in a simple ceremony last 13 September. San Teodoro Mayor Apollo Ferraren and WWF-Philippines’ Johnjoe Cantos presented the trio with plaques and modest cash endowments.

Says the shy 8-year old, “I’m very happy that we got to save the dolphin. I hope that other kids too, will do the right thing when they see animals who need help. I’m also proud to make Nanay and Tatay happy. They said we will hang the plaque at home.”

Since 2009, WWF-Philippines has actively recognized ordinary individuals which show decisive environmental action through its WWF Heroes of the Environment Program. Six heroes have since been recognized: Palawan fishermen Henry Barlas and Paquito Abia saved a stranded dugong in January 2009 while Mindoro Fisherman Randy Cayteles prevented other fishers from killing a stranded Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphin last May.

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