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WHALES AHOY
Beluga whales create art in Japan aquarium
by Staff Writers
Tokyo, Japan (AFP) Sept 18, 2013


Taiwan seizes 820 kilograms of dolphin meat
Taipei (AFP) Sept 19, 2013 - Taiwan coastguards Thursday said they have arrested two people and seized 820 kilograms (1,800 pounds) of dolphin meat as the island steps up efforts to protect endangered animals.

The raid on the couple's home in southern Yunlin county on Tuesday came after Taiwan introduced new biotechnology for on-the-spot testing of suspicious meat.

The couple told the coastguards that they acquired the meat from a supplier in the north and had already sold 120 kilograms to restaurants.

They were arrested under the country's wildlife protection laws and face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to 1.5 million Taiwan dollars (US$50,000) if convicted.

Coastguards said they were still hunting the suppliers.

"The seizure was the biggest this year," Shih Yi-che, a coastguard spokeman, told AFP.

The meat was tested in a laboratory after being purchased by an undercover officer, but Taiwan last month introduced a new litmus paper test that can determine whether meat is whale or dolphin within minutes.

Eating wild animals, including whales and dolphins, has long been a tradition for residents in some coastal areas of Taiwan, who believe they are good for health.

But all species of whales and dolphins have been protected by Taiwan's conservation law since 1989.

Beluga whales at an aquarium near Tokyo are learning how to paint pictures as part of an autumn art programme for visitors, an official said Wednesday.

The sea creatures at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise aquarium in Yokohama will be showing off their skills with specially adapted paintbrushes that they can hold in their mouths, a spokeswoman for the aquarium said.

A trainer standing on the poolside dips the brush into paint and guides the belugas to produce pictures that bear a passing resemblance to natural scenes.

"This is part of our 'geijutsu no aki (autumn, the best season for art),'" she said.

"The ideal is that a beluga will emulate what we've prepared for one of our customers to hold -- a fish-shaped paper cutout -- of course trainers will guide the whale to do that," she said.

"We'll see how well they manage."

Two female belugas will demonstrate their new skills in rotation once every weekday and twice a day at weekends, she said.

The beluga, also known as the white whale, is on the red list of threatened species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Some activists object to the training of whales and dolphins for aquarium shows and Japan is frequently the target of complaints over its attitude to animals, particularly the annual slaughter of dolphins in the western town of Taiji.

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