Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Cove - environmental espionage?

Yesh, I'm slow. Just managed to catch "The Cove" with sonnenblume yesterday. It was also kinda apt that I was just reading the news on how Day 1 of the hunt at Taiji was slaughter free, whilst I was on my way to meet her at PS. And am kinda glad that I'm "re-activating" this blog by discussing this docu-movie.... Was supposed to put this up last night but Delphine (that's my 5 year-old IBM) wasn't cooperative... So glad I was still able to capture some of my immediate thoughts on my trusty Touch ^__^
the cove - movie poster

My first impressions when I heard about this movie was that it was gonna be kinda another Sharkwater.... Albeit about dolphins instead of sharks. But alas, first impressions are just that. First impressions. The Cove came out more balanced (in terms of view points), as well as seemingly more objective than Sharkwater. Why seemingly? Mainly because it *is* still mainly a Western perspective of the issues at stake.... But definitely more balanced than Sharkwater. Not that I'm slamming Sharkwater or anything. Sharkwater definitely helped in increasing the awareness on the sharks' plight, even if I felt that their approach was a bit too aggressive and extreme. OPS on the other hand, toed the law (possibly broke quite a few) to get video and sound footage to show the world what was happening in Taiji. This small town in Japan's Wakayama prefecture has been making headlines (at least to me) every year on the dolphin hunt. Would say that every year, without fail, I would be watching depressing Youtube footage of these hunts. But those were random snippets of what was going on there. Nothing quite so coherent as what the OPS team and Ric O'Barry risked life and limb for.

Where Sharkwater did a head-on almost head-to-head confrontation with the shark finning industries, The Cove was more of an adventure into stealth and espionage. The snippet on their FB page puts it really succinctly:
Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, The Cove follows a high-tech dive team on a mission to discover the truth about the international dolphin capture trade as practiced in Taiji, Japan. Utilizing state-of-the-art techniques, including hidden microphones and cameras in fake rocks, the team uncovers how this small seaside village serves as a horrifying microcosm of massive ecological crimes happening worldwide.

The Cove exposes not only the tragedy of dolphin slaughtering in Japan, but also the dangerously high levels of mercury in dolphin meat and seafood, the cruelty in capturing dolphins for entertainment, and the depletion of our ocean’s fisheries by worldwide seafood consumption. We also see how the mandate of the International Whaling Commission has been manipulated by the Japanese Fisheries Agency for its benefit and its subsequent effect on the rest of the world.

That is inherently what The Cove is all about. It is NOT about showing the world the cruelty of these Japanese fishermen, the inhumane slaughter. Part of it is. Kinda. Especially after the intro about Ric O'Barry's days on the Flipper set, and how he turned activist after being on the "darkside" (aka dolphin trainer). BUT, more importantly, I like how other angles of the issue were explored. Like how IWC only covers large ceteceans, and how the issue about bio-accumulation of mercury in ceteceans was generally ignored....

So at least the "killing" section of the hunt seems to be on the winning end... What about the captures for oceanariums/aquariums/dolphinariums? In some ways, they are kinda "necessary evils". Like zoos and the like. How else would the general public get a chance to be up close and personal with these animals? To touch base. To have the same sense of space. And from there, feel for them and their plight. Personally, I wouldn't even think too much about aquariums being too small for large pelagics like whales and dolphins and whale sharks,if not for encountering them in the wild. And yes, I mean the little bit of "wild", that's right here in SG.

Taken off Semakau in June 2009. Courtesy of Karenne Tun.

However, the show is not without it's flaws. The main portion that I really felt was kinda skewed was the section on the interviews they carried out in Tokyo, about whether other Japanese are aware of what's going on in Taiji. I may be wrong, but the logic of those interviews came across as "How can dolphin hunting be a tradition if the rest of Japan doesn't know about it?". Two main issues I have about that. (1)Tokyo is the epitome of modernized Japan, and as with most of the modernized world and countries, there would definitely be some lost in knowledge of culture and traditions. (2)Taiji is a SMALL fishing town/village. Many rural villages have their own local traditions and customs that other parts of the country may not know about. Furthermore, it appears that whale hunting etc. HAS been the villagers' way of life for centuries. At this point in time it would probably be difficult to check with the town if the hunts are truly remnants of their traditional past, as this is gonna be a really touchy issue, with all the bad publicity and all.....

But all in all, it IS a good watch, and definitely a wake up call. At least for those of us who feel that they have a connection to the sea. How many of you out there actually stop to think about how and where do we get our animals in zoos and aquariums? And about how captivity is like for them.... Just my thoughts and all.... Docu-movies like The Cove and Sharkwater ARE a dose of reality amidst all the other run-of-the-mill movies that transport us into the world of story telling....

Taken off Semakau in June 2009. Courtesy of Karenne Tun.

Not even sure if I covered what I wanted to be said and shared... But if you're wondering what YOU can do, firstly, if you haven't caught the movie, go catch it. Preferably bring a friend too. Blog about your thoughts. Write in to you local Japanese embassy (but do be polite!) Read more on the official movie website or here. Write into OPS and/or Ric O'Barry to give encouragement and/or thanks. Sign to petition to WAZA. The list goes on. If this has made some sort of impact to you, get creative and do something positive for the dolphins! ^__^
Click for the rambling...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Pink dolphins put on a performance at Semakau~~

(Excuse the photo-less post but such exciting events have JUST gotta happen when there are NINE divers onboard the boat, with only ONE camera... the rest of us just got desperate enough to try using our cameraphones but alas....) Anyways, if you're still interested in a photo-less account of our day out at sea with our local dolphins, do read on! Photos and vids will be posted once K! has sorted them out ^_^

We were back to using Dolphin Explorer 2 instead of the air-conditioned Explorer 1. This proved to be a good thing since Mel was shouting "Dolphin!!!" as we were approaching the nursery site at Semakau. ^_^ Open-cabin boat means that snoozing divers (such as yours truly) get the chance to shock themselves awake, look up just in time to see 1, 2, THREE!!! greyish (aka juvenile) pink dolphins just off the starboard bow of the boat! After realising that they were hanging around the area, we were kinda playing hide-n-seek with our newfound delphinium mammalian friends for an our or so. It really was a special treat for the 5 Hons. students who were out with us for their check out dives. Plus it was my third time seeing dolphins in local waters (and second time at Semakau)! ^_^ My first delphinium encounter was near St John's Island, and the second was at Semakau.

After the de-gearing and lunching, we were just starting to head back to mainland SG, and it being a nice and sunny day, the usual chit-chatting and catching up was done whilst drying off in our swimwear. Can't even remember what I was talking to Mei Lin about when I saw a grey fin pop in and out of the water. Dolphin!!! My turn to do the sudden shout! Hee~ This time the 3 (or 4) dolphins (likely to be the same ones) seemed to be riding the waves and/or boat wake. Much more playful behaviour than in the morning. They were even jumping out of the water, and "waving" to us with the flippers at some point! Pretty brilliant performance! Who needs to go for the Dolphin Lagoon show when dolphins are showing off like this in the wild. Real amazing stuff!!! Mwahaha! (apologies but I can't resist gloating~~~ ;p) And the reason why we saw dolphins TWICE in a day? Because we were on Dolphin Explorer 2!!

Oh yes. For those curious about the dive, it was relatively crap vis. Was supposed to locate and retrieve one of my missing nursery tables but we couldn't find it at all >_< Came across this drift net that went over the coral nursery, the floating nursery, coral transplant site, and all the way to the breakwater.... caught all over the corals *bah* kept having to untangle it. k! wanted to take photos/videos of it for documentation but the boatmen appeared to retrieve it before she could do so. D and I swam the entire length of it and the good news is that we only saw 5 fish (1 dead big-eyed fish, and 4 live fish - threadfin(?) butterflyfish, soapfish, common damsel, ~20cm Bleeker's parrotfish) caught in it. Bad news was that we didn't release them before the boatmen came along since we wanted k! to take photos of them....

We *did* have some excitement at the nursery as we had two young cuttlefish mothers gently laying their clutch of eggs in one of the larger Acropora sp. corals. ^_^ Kept distracting me from what we were supposed to be doing~~~ But again, no photos... It really is true that you see soooo many interesting stuff and photo chances when you DON'T have a camera....
Click for the rambling...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Biodiversity Photo Contest by ACB (22 May-30 Aug 2009)

ACB photo competition - Zooming in on Biodiversity

Zooming in on Biodiversity, the first ASEAN-wide Photo Contest on Biodiversity.

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has announced that it is now accepting entries to the First ASEAN-wide photo contest “Zooming in on Biodiversity” during the International Day for Biodiversity 2009 (IDB 2009) celebrations at the SEARCA Auditorium, Los Baños, Laguna on 22 May.

Conducted in partnership with the European Commission (EC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC), the photo contest seeks to popularize biodiversity among its stakeholders and the general public through the medium of photography.

“Among environmental issues and concerns regionally and globally, biodiversity Conservation is among the least known, yet one of the most important. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of the global population, mostly scientists and environmentalists, understands the key role that biodiversity plays in Humankind’s survival. This lack of knowledge often translates to the lack of care for the very environment that nourishes us,” ACB Executive Director Rodrigo U. Fuentes told about 100 scientists, ambassadors, students, and media practitioners who participated in the IDB 2009 programme.

He added that there is an urgent need to popularize biodiversity. “One effective way to accomplish this is to use the power of photos. An old cliché but still very true, a picture paints a thousand words. By translating biodiversity and its relationship with health, food security, Climate change and other everyday human issues into powerful images, we can generate a greater awareness for this often-difficult-to-grasp concept,” Fuentes said.

For his part Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines Delegation Ambassador Alistair MacDonald said the contest "is an excellent means of increasing public awareness on the importance and beauty of biodiversity. One's photographic eye can encapsulate a very complex issue in a single image."

The contest, which will run from 22 May 2009 to 30 August 2009, is part of ACB’s key thrust to promote regional public awareness on biodiversity conservation. It was also designed to increase the involvement of media practitioners, professional and amateur photographers, young photography hobbyists, and the business sector in generating awareness for biodiversity conservation.

Open to all residents of ASEAN Member States Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam, the contest welcomes entries which are exclusive to the contest, unpublished, and not submitted to previous contests.

Entries should capture various images related to biodiversity (plants, animals, marine life, ASEAN Heritage Parks) or the many benefits that biodiversity brings to human beings, its importance, the threats biodiversity face (deforestation, climate change), or how biodiversity affects lives. Photos showing initiatives to protect biodiversity resources such as plants, animals, and marine Species are also welcome. Entries can also depict: biodiversity as source of food (food and agriculture); biodiversity as source of medicine (health and medicine); biodiversity as source of shelter; biodiversity and climate change; the aesthetic value of biodiversity; biodiversity as source of livelihood; and biodiversity and ecotourism.

For more details on submissions etc., please click here:
Zooming in on Biodiversity
Click for the rambling...

Friday, 22 May 2009

Invasive Aliens in Singapore....

So after a two month long blog drought, juan's finally inspired to blog ;p Just got back from Prof Peter Ng's lunchtime talk on Invasive Alien Species in Singapore, and I was live twittering since I had my trusty iPod touch whilst on wireless@SG. First thing I learnt was that twittering's a little tough when you're basically typing with two fingers instead of ten, and secondly, with a touch screen you can look away from the keyboard whilst typing..... First time I did live twittering of a talk, so there were typos here and there, as well a bit of incoherency. Just hope that the folks who were following my twitter page got the gist of the talk. There's a screen-cap of my tweets as well as the relevant replies that I got during the talk..... It's arranged in chronological order so you can get a gist of the ramblings tweets whilst the talk was going on....

20090522 - IBD talk on IAS by Peter Ng @ SBG

Otterman also put up a quick post on the Biodiversity Crew blog on the live twittering. I do hope that most of the stuff that I posted up's accurate, seeing that I was furiously pounding away on my iPod during the talk!


p/s. To help you make sense of the ramblings tweets, here's a link to Ria's very nicely done summary of the talk (with photos too!) ^_^
Click for the rambling...

Monday, 9 March 2009

Off to Manado!!! (09-16 Mar)

divejunkie's long awaited dive trip is here ^_^ Flying off to Manado later, for a week of fun diving at Bunaken and Lembeh. Plus a one day visit to Tangkoko Nature Reserve.

(Photo taken by Jens Petersen, Wikimedia)

With some luck, we should be able to pop by Kasawari Resort and say 'hi' to Tony Wu and the FiNS gang ^_^ Pretty excited about the entire trip as: (1) it's the first time I would be diving out of Singapore/Malaysia, (2) been 2.5 years since I last flew, (3) it's MANADO!!! (more especially LEMBEH!!!) How can I not get excited?!? Didn't manage to get a new laptop before the trip, so even if there's decently charged internet access there, won't really be online.... So I'll see you guys when I get back next week ^__^ Meanwhile, check out Tony's blog as he tries to update from there, as well as the photos he has on Flickr~~~
Click for the rambling...

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

After the rain....

This year's monsoon has certainly been a bit awkward with more days of bright sun than heavy rain, probably contributing in part to our recent bushfires.... The past few days has marked the return of the rain, and as the rain abated a little on the way home today, this was the sight that greeted me.
OMG!! My 1st double rainbow! 2nd one's a bit washed out tho on TwitPic

A double rainbow!!! Yar, I know, there's only one really obvious rainbow, with a really faint one just above it. Was taking this from the train with my trusty SE C905 as the train was pulling into the station. Quite a few of the other passengers were giving me queer looks but another guy at least was doing the same thing! ^_^ Was too slow to get a full shot but the more obvious rainbow was a full one! Reaching across the horizon, and the faint secondary one was partial, and fading really fast.....
And here's another one from the bus. By then the secondary rainbow faded out quite a bit, and when I showed this to mum, she thought it was just a reflection!

Just got so excited that I posted the photos directly from my hp and they hit the web before I even got home!!

So how to double rainbows come about? Most of us probably know that a rainbow results from the bending of light as it passes through suspended water droplets, resulting in our run-of-the-mill seven coloured rainbow. The colours come about due to the different wavelengths of different coloured light that actually blend together in the visible (to human eyes) spectrum. On rarer occasions, a fainter secondary arc can be observed, with the order of the colours reversed. (I know this isn't really obvious in my shots since it looks more like a shadow of a rainbow rather than an actual rainbow....) The detailed explanation seems to be here. But from what I can understand, as the sunlight passes through the water droplets, it is sometimes REFLECTED aka mirrored after it has been REFRACTED aka bent, resulting in the mirror image secondary rainbow. Cool eh? Probably need to do some tinkering with the image contrast to make it more visible ^_^

The quick Wikipedia search also made me realised that the rainbow has certainly captured the hearts of many people across cultures and heritages. Seems like just about every civilisation seems to have a story or two in their mythology or religion that involves rainbows. The most commonly heard one is probably the one about the leprachaun's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (which is in fact impossible to find since a full rainbow is basically a circle). Though the one that I am most familiar with is the one from the Bible, where God uses the rainbow to indicate his promise that there would not be another flood like the one Noah survived. (Genesis 9:13-15) It's a good reminder for me even as the recent rumblings of climate change and sea level rise threaten to put me in a frenzy.... That there's still hope ^_^ Interestingly enough, the Epic of Gilgamesh, a poem from Ancient Mesopotamia, also seems to indicate that the rainbow has similar promise of sorts with regards to a great flood....

Here's the links to the original postings:
(1) TwitPic
(2) Facebook (think only friends and friends of friends can see this....)
Click for the rambling...

Friday, 30 January 2009

World Wetlands Day 2009 - SBWR photo exhibition

[exhibition announcement] (by Lin Yangchen)

Following hot on the heels of his joint exhibition at one of the libraries, Yangchen presents to us this exhibition on birds flying critters of our very own Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. The exhibition runs from 30 January 2009 to the end of March at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Getting to see many of his really enjoyable photos (both for him and us viewers) everyday in office never diminishes the respect I have for him. Really creative shots and he goes the whole mile to get *that* perfect moment. Pretty much one of the most amazing photographers I know personally. And to top it all off, most of them have a focus on nature! Here's a peek at his portfolio on his Flickr site. Do go down to SBWR and get another look at the "Unpredictable Flying Objects"!!

EDIT: Seems like I've provided some mis-information. Not all the photographed subjects are on birds, and not all were taken at Buloh. Just makes me even more curious as to what's gonna be there. Here's what Yangchen commented on the cross-FB posting:
"Thanks very much Juanhui for your message and for doing me such a huge favour publicizing these events. I don't think I deserve such exultation but I'll try my very best to live up to it!

Note: the photos on exhibit at Sungei Buloh include subjects other than birds, and only some were taken at Sungei Buloh. For those who visit this wonderful wildlife sanctuary, I hope my exhibition adds some colour to your experiences there.


Click for the rambling...

Friday, 23 January 2009

Reflections - 2008, the Year of the Frog....

This may seem to be coming a year late, but being an intertidal critter, I follow the lunar calendar ;p Plus I realised that I have not posted any entry on frogs in 2008! o.0 So here's a little tree frog bidding farewell to the Year of the Rat....

20090119_SBG - four-lined tree frog [DSC00038]

OK, so in this photo it looks more like a "cupboard frog" than a tree frog but I assure you that it *should* be a juvenile-ish common tree frog aka four-lined tree frog (Polypedates leucomystax). Probably one of the more common frogs around in Singapore, though the only other live frog I've actually seen in the wild is the Copper-cheeked frog (Rana chalconata).

So back to why it's on a cupboard and not a tree.... My colleague spotted this fella amongst his (my colleague's, not the P.leucomystax's!) many many potted plants at the back of our office building at SBG. By the time I got called over, it was "exploring" our tool shelves nearby. Oh well. But it does go to show that even in a rather disturbed environment like the Botanic Gardens can still play host to some wildlife!


(Eng ver.: Little Froggie sing a song...
singing, dancing all day long...
*croak* *croak* *croak*)


Click for the rambling...

Monday, 12 January 2009

650 diving without dj TT_TT

Yes. This was the Hantu dive my A650 went to without me. Why? Because the MS camera went kuku..... And dj was stuck at home.... *lol*

Oh well. Hantu sure never fails to deliver, even if it's almost 0m vis and 24 deg! ^_^
Click for the rambling...