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Nature News
by Marlene Harris


January 2002   —   Notes from around the World

For the year 2001, Norway reported a minke whale kill of 549. In December the country announced that the minke population could sustain a kill of up to 2500, with an additional 200 fin, sei, and sperm whales "thrown in" in order to achieve a potential export value of 1.5 billion kroner in trade with Japan.

Also announced were plans to lift the ban on whale product exports, but the country has yet to resume trading internationally in whale meat.

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The Sea Shepherd Organization reported in December that one of Norway’s major whale meat processing plants was destroyed in a fire. The plant had recently undergone expansion and both the original and new buildings were destroyed at an estimated loss of US$3 million.

Five days earlier, the Norwegian whaling ship Nehella burned and sank at the dock where it had been moored, incurring a loss of about US$300,000. Another whaling ship, the Nybraena (the vessel which was scuttled by Sea Shepherd in 1992) was also damaged as fire spread to the dock where that ship was moored. Police had not yet determined the cause of the two fires, but both were under investigation. A whaling lobby group called the timing of the fires, "suspicious."



Australia…

The terrible wildfires in Australia are having a disastrous effect on regional wildlife, and in particular, koalas, whose numbers had already been dwindling for the past several years.

Officials monitoring the affected region have predicted a potential loss of several thousand koalas. Other species are affected as well, but none so severely. Unlike other animals who flee danger, koalas escape danger by climbing high into trees and this behaviour would obviously strand and subsequently doom the unfortunate animals.

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It was reported by officials that they are planning a kangaroo "cull" of up to 7 million animals this year. They say the kill is necessary as skyrocketing numbers of kangaroos are overgrazing and subsequently destroying their habitat. But animal rights groups are denouncing the plan as a commercial venture, saying that the sole purpose is to dramatically increase the volume of meat to sell on the international market.



Antarctica…

Large flocks of Antarctic penguin chicks are in serious danger of starving as huge icebergs are preventing parent birds from coming ashore to feed their young.

Penguins feed offshore, leaving their chicks in a nursery area along with thousands of others. The adults can feed for hours or even days, then return to their young to regurgitate food for them.

Scientists in New Zealand, studying the situation, believe that as high as 30% of the total population of chicks may starve to death if the conditions do not improve within the next month.



Japan…

Japan announced it would be launching a satellite this month in order to follow previously tagged whales. The country claims this plan has nothing to do with whaling, but is being conducted through a university, for scientific purposes. There were no other details mentioned.


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