India takes bold conservationist step and declares dolphins as “Non-Human Persons”


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The Indian government made history last month by being the first nation in the world to not only recognize the advanced intelligence and self awareness of the playful cetaceans, but also to grant them the protection that goes with being a “Non-Human Person”, namely their freedom and the right not to be held in captivity.

Dolphin India Takes Bold Conservationist Step and Declares Dolphins Non Human Persons

While dolphins will not be getting the vote any time soon, the new legislation outlaws ownership of dolphins for personal enjoyment.

The new legislation was announced by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, headed by Veerappa Moily. The ministry stated that “Dolphins should be seen as non-human persons and as such should have their own specific rights and it is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purposes”.

While this is the first time an animal has been recognized as a Non-Human person, three other countries (Costa Rica, Hungary and Chile) have also banned the use of cetaceans for entertainment. In India, Puja Mitra, a leading Indian animal rights activist, is credited with introducing the concept of non-human persons, an idea that has been gaining steam since a meeting of The American Association of the Advancement in Science in 2011.

The meeting featured a group of philosophers, conservationists, and animal behaviorists who attempted to gain support for a Declaration of Rights for Cetacean, which includes ten rights inspired by the principles of the equal treatment of all persons, including protection of their freedom and the protection of their culture. Many conservationists are also pushing to add the highly intelligent great apes – who have learned to communicate with signs and display an intelligence that has been compared to that of a human child – to the cause as well, granting them the protection of freedom.

DolphinHumanBrain India Takes Bold Conservationist Step and Declares Dolphins Non Human Persons



While here in the US it is common knowledge that dolphins are of advanced intelligence, animal rights activists and environmentalists have not made the kind of impact on legislation seen in India. In fact, dolphin shows in the US rake in millions of dollars in revenue, despite the detrimental impact on the animals – or should we say non-human persons –  performing. Research has shown that cetaceans in captivity have half the life span of their counterparts in the wild, and there really is no way to measure the psychological impact of being held in captivity for their entire lives. Having evolved in a vast ocean full of life and color, the world of a captive dolphin is not only significantly smaller than what they would have in the wild, but the constant sounds of the water filters and humans all around leaves them in a loud, empty space.

Dolphins do not just demonstrate the base definition of intelligence, which is the ability to learn, but also a more profound ability to empathize, solve problems, consider complex ideas and socialize like an expert. Let’s not forget to mention the size of a dolphins brain, which resembles two human brains put together. The late Carl Sagan put his view of how intelligent dolphins were rather succinctly when he said ”…while dolphins have come to learn English – up to 50 words used in correct context – no human being has been reported to learn dolphinese.”

With petitions in Canada, and massive protests in Japan to protect both wild dolphins and to shut down dolphin shows, it seems that India will not be the last to give credit where credit is due and try to protect our Non-Human friends of the ocean.

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India takes bold conservationist step and declares dolphins as “Non-Human Persons”


China destroys ivory stockpile in ‘significant symbolic step towards saving Africa’s elephants’


The Telegraph (UK): 

China has conducted its first, large-scale destruction of illegal, stockpiled ivory in a move described by conservationists as “a significant symbolic step towards saving Africa’s elephants”

A police officer stands guard next to ivory and ivory sculptures before they are destroyed in Dongguan, China

A police officer stands guard next to ivory and ivory sculptures before they are destroyed in Dongguan, China Photo: REUTERS

More than six metric tons of tusks, ivory ornaments and carvings were fed into crushing machines by forestry and customs officials in southern Guangdong province, where much of China‘s ivory trade is focused.

The ivory came from shipments from Africa intercepted by customs officers as well as from carving factories and shops in China.

It represented just a fraction of the illegal ivory China – the world’s biggest market for the product – holds in stockpiles, the government said.

One customs official said that its smuggling in to the country was increasing by 10 per cent each year.

Leading conservation groups have applauded the ivory destruction and say they hope the gesture was the first of many.

John Scanlon, Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the global group tasked with cracking down on the practice, said he hoped it would raise public awareness about the illegal ivory trade, which is thought to cause the death of 35,000 elephants in Africa each year.

China is sending a very powerful message both domestically, to the Chinese people, and internationally, that it is not prepared to tolerate the illegal trade in elephant ivory,” he said.

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the director of Save the Elephants, said Monday’s move was “a significant symbolic step towards saving Africa’s elephants”, adding that China could change its citizens’ taste for wildlife products, as Japan and Britain had done.

Ivory has been prized as a safe investment by the country’s large and growing middle-class and exchanged between government officials or business partners when deals are struck.

Much of the ivory on the market in China is legal – bought from African governments selling off their stockpiles of seized tusks in 2008. But the continued demand also drives a trade in illicit ivory “laundered” with fake provenance certificates.

In the past year, China has come under concerted international pressure to stem the illegal wildlife trade, particularly since it emerged that poaching may be funding terrorists and fuelling conflicts in Africa.

Mr Douglas-Hamilton said that its leadership should be given credit for a “great shift” in recent years from its previous refusal to even discuss the problem.

Yao Ming, a famous Chinese basketball player, will this month appear alongside the Duke of Cambridge and David Beckham in a public service message broadcast on China’s main television stations about the evils of poaching.

Stiff penalties were recently handed down to eight Chinese citizens for smuggling and an article in the Southern Weekly, a major Chinese newspaper, about the impact of the ivory trade went viral.

However, the government still receives hefty revenues from selling its official stockpile to licensed carving factories.

China’s leadership also appears unwilling or unable to crack down on illegal traders – a survey by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2011 found that out of 158 shops and carving factories in four major Chinese cities, 101 were not licensed, or were selling smuggled ivory.

It also remains unclear what will happen to the ivory crushed on Monday. Some will be disposed of and some displayed in a museum exhibit but that the rest will be “preserved”, state-run China National Radio reported. The powder can be used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.

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China destroys ivory stockpile in ‘significant symbolic step towards saving Africa’s elephants’


Artist Profile: Delicate paper bag trees created by Yuken Teruya

The amount of material waste that we leave behind is getting bigger and bigger year by year, yet the world of consumerism doesn’t ever seem to react to this issue. Sometimes it falls upon artists to promote awareness of certain cultural, societal or communal problems, which is exactly what Yuken Teruya does with his delicate trees cut from used paper bags.

Teruya takes traditional paper gift bags and cuts little paper trees out from them. The result is an exquisite little tree, somewhat resembling traditionally minimalistic Japanese art, framed in the paper bag that it once was a part of. The delicate art makes an equally delicate statement about paper bags being used wastefully as luxury gifts or shopping bags. According to the artist, each tree has a model. They are the trees that the artist saw in his neighborhood or from where he has traveled.

The artwork of Yuken Teruya became extremely popular when he exhibited his series of McDonald’s paper bag trees last year. This time, we have Teruya’s new collection of works from the exhibition at Pippy Houldsworth held this autumn along with a few old, yet equally admirable favorites.


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Artist Profile: Delicate paper bag trees created by Yuken Teruya