September 3, 2021Lu Shegay & Zihao Yu

In Sri Lanka, Biologists and Divers Build a Facebook for Sea Turtles


August 13, 2021

The Polhena reef and the surrounding shallow seas in southern Sri Lanka are home to a number of marine turtles that stay there year-round. Dimeshan, the managing partner at the Polhena Diving Center, met Munasinghe, a marine biologist at the Ocean Conservation and Education Alliance (OCEA), during a discussion of underwater cleanups, and this gave rise to the idea of setting up a similar citizen-science initiative in Sri Lanka. After preparations, the pair launched the Sri Lanka Turtle ID project in August 2019, several months before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

The Turtle ID project has so far identified 18 hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and three green turtles (Chelonia mydas), all of them female. Of the seven marine turtle species found around the world, five can be observed in Sri Lankan waters. The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is the most common, but these are mostly found farther out in the open ocean.

Creating a database of sea turtles to assess the population size of each species is the main aim of the initiative. Some of the turtles use Sri Lankan waters as a feeding ground, especially where reefs abound, so learning how they use certain reefs for feeding and breeding is another project aim. The team also expects the database to shed some light on turtle migratory patterns in the long run.

Before then, most studies on marine turtle populations relied on capturing animals and tagging them with a marker such as a flipper tag or transmitter, which can be costly. Tags are also difficult to apply to turtles, as they remain in the water unless they reach beaches for nesting. So almost all physical tags are generally applied to nesting females. The photo identification method is both more cost-effective and avoids putting the animals under any stress, Jean wrote in a 2010 paper.

Commentaries of IALA

In recent months, there has been especially a great and urgent need around the turtle’s conservation in Sri Lanka, following the sinking of the MV X-Press Pearl cargo ship off the western coast of the island in early June. That ship was “carrying a cargo of nitric acid and plastic pellets, among other items, and was also loaded with 378 metric tons of bunker fuel. In the months since its sinking, more than 200 marine turtles have washed up dead on the beaches.”

Many sea turtles are presently threatened and many of the species are considered endangered. For example, the hawksbill turtle is a critically endangered species of sea turtle inhabiting the tropic areas, including Sri Lanka. Apart from living in Sri Lanka’s waters, they also inhabit such countries as Bahrain, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, UAE, Vietnam, Yemen. This species has also been classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List first since 1982. They are included in Appendix I of CITES and are protected at the national level in some jurisdictions.

Student's Arrest for Killing Snails Prompts Debate


August 18, 2021

In Hong Kong, a doctoral student was arrested for animal cruelty after allegedly pouring salt over snails to kill them. But in its neighboring city Shenzhen, health authorities encourage citizens to do so for protecting the environment. The student, who allegedly killed snails in Tsim Sha Tsui, has been released on bail after his arrest yesterday. He will report to the police in September. His case prompted debates online about whether killing snails should be considered animal cruelty.


An online article published by the Shenzhen Municipal Health Commission said that snails carry many parasites and pathogens in their mucus or feces, especially the Cantonal nematode. If those pathogens enter the human body, they may affect the central nervous system or cerebrospinal fluid and can cause fatal meningitis.


Commentaries of IALA

According to Hong Kong laws, animal cruelty is prohibited by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance (Cap. 169). Under this law, animal  (動物) includes any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, or any other vertebrate or invertebrate whether wild or tame; (Replaced 53 of 1979 s. 2). Any person who cruelly beats, kicks, ill-treats, overrides, over-drives, overloads, tortures, infuriates, or terrifies any animal, or causes or procures or, being the owner, permits any animal to be so used, or, by wantonly or unreasonably doing or omitting to do any act, causes any unnecessary suffering or, being the owner, permits any unnecessary suffering to be so caused to any animal, shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $200,000 and to imprisonment for 3 years. (Article 3(1)(a))


Anti-cruelty law is designed to protect animals from pain and suffering. The definition of animals varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Generally, not all animals are equally protected under the anti-cruelty law according to their neurological and ability to perceive pain and suffering.

South Korea to Grant Legal Status to Animals to Tackle Abuse


August 19, 2021

SEOUL- Jin-hui, a cream-colored Pomeranian, was buried alive and left for dead in 2018 in the South Korean port city of Busan. No charges were filed against its owner at the time, but animal abusers and those who abandon pets will soon face harsher punishment as South Korea plans to amend its civil code to grant animals legal status, Choung Jae-min, the justice ministry's director-general of legal counsel, told Reuters in an interview.


The amendment, which must still be approved by parliament, likely during its next regular session in September, would make South Korea one of a handful of countries to recognize animals as beings, with a right to protection, enhanced welfare, and respect for life. The push for the amendment comes as the number of animal abuse cases increased to 914 in 2019 from 69 in 2010, data published by a lawmaker's office showed, and the pet-owning population grew to more than 10 million people in the country of 52 million.


South Korea's animal protection law states that anyone who abuses or is cruel to animals may be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison or fined 30 million won ($25,494), but the standards to decide penalties have been low as the animals are treated as objects under the current legal system, Choung said.

Commentaries of IALA

Animals are living creatures, they are not merely things as tables. Treating animals shall be regulated to avoid unnecessary pain, injury, and death for animals. Granting animals legal status is one of the most important parts of the legal protection of animals under legal systems. Only by recognizing animals are not just items, animal welfare and animal rights can be protected better than other personal property. All life needs to be respected.

Stranded Dugong in Indonesia Reportedly Cut Up for Traditional Medicine


August 20, 2021

Conservation officials in Indonesia have deplored the cutting up of a dugong that had died in a stranding incident this week, with its body parts reportedly destined for use in traditional medicine. Two dugongs (Dugong dugon) beached on the morning of Aug. 18 on Kelang Island, in the eastern province of Maluku. One of them managed to return to the sea, but the other didn’t, despite the efforts of locals to push it back out into the water. The animal reportedly died with multiple wounds.

According to reports gathered by Mongabay Indonesia, the locals cut up the dugong after it had died and distributed the parts among themselves for use in traditional medicine. The rest of the animal’s carcass was buried near the stranding site.

Dugongs, a close cousin of manatees, are the only herbivorous marine mammals that feed exclusively on seagrass. Their global population has been hammered by hunting for their meat, hide, and oil, and also by habitat loss, such as the silting of seagrass beds. They’re slow breeders, with a year-long pregnancy and calves dependent on the mother’s support for several months after birth. The species is currently listed as globally vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, but its conservation status is highly variable in different locations, which means it could be endangered or critically endangered in some parts of its range, according to a 2019 study.

Commentaries of IALA

The dugong is the only living species of the Dugongidae family. This species’ closest relative, Steller’s sea cow, was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. Currently, the dugong is listed in Appendix I of CITES. Dugongs are protected in Indonesia. Possession of their body parts, even after natural death, is punished by up to 5 years in jail and a fine in the amount of IDR 100 million ( USD 6,900). Dugongs are also protected by the Indonesian Conservation Act, and any violations of the law lead to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and a fine up to IDR 100 million.

Strandings of marine animals, in particular marine mammals, are a common practice in Indonesia. The archipelago’s waters serve as both a habitat and an important migratory route for dozens of species. But little is known about why these strandings occur. Some expert theories include starvation due to ingestion of undigestible marine debris; offshore underwater activities using sonar, which can disrupt sea mammals’ echolocation; and ship strikes in busy shipping lanes.

Sri Lanka Bans 'Drunk Driving' of Elephants in New Protection Law


August 21, 2021

Sri Lanka will issue captive elephants with their own biometric identity cards and ban their riders from drinking on the job under a wide-ranging new animal protection law. Many rich Sri Lankans -- including Buddhist monks -- keep elephants as pets to show off their wealth, but complaints of ill-treatment and cruelty are widespread. The new measures are aimed at protecting the animals' welfare and include strict regulations around working elephants, as well as mandating a daily two-and-a-half-hour bath for each creature.


Under the new law, it is required that all owners should ensure that animals under their care have new photo identity cards with a DNA stamp. It also brings in multiple regulations for working elephants. Baby elephants can no longer be used for work -- even cultural pageants -- and cannot be separated from their mothers. Logging elephants cannot be worked for more than four hours a day and night work is prohibited. There are new restrictions on the tourism industry too. Their use in films is banned. Owners must send their animals for a medical check-up every six months. Those who violate the new law will have their elephant taken into state care and could face a three-year prison sentence. Capturing wild elephants in Sri Lanka is a criminal offense punishable by death, but prosecutions are rare.

Commentaries of IALA

Elephants used as working animals always receive cruel training. The new law provides the basic protection for the elephants to ensure their welfare and working conditions according to local cultural and social backgrounds. However, using elephants as transportation tools has a significant negative impact on their physical and mental health. Therefore, elephant rides shall be reduced and avoided as much as possible.

Learn more of the reasons to avoid elephant rides here.

New Report Reveals Extreme Animal Cruelty with Millions of Views on YouTube, Facebook, and Tik Tok


August 25, 2021


People who abuse animals on video for “likes” and profit are going unpunished, and the platforms that promote those videos are largely ignoring the issues, a new report from the Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC), a part of Asia for Animals, found.


The 80-page report, titled “Making Money From Misery,” showcases how animal cruelty content creators and social media giants — including YouTube, Facebook, and Tik Tok — profit from animal cruelty. The report includes data from Lady Freethinker as well as other SMACC members, including Action for Primates, Animals Asia Foundation, Humane Society International, International Animal Rescue, Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, PETA Asia, Wildlife Alliance, and World Animal Protection.


SMACC defines animal cruelty as a range of human behaviors, performed intentionally or unintentionally, that cause animals harm or suffering which may be immediate or long-term, physical, emotional, or psychological.  Following intensive research, the coalition reported that much of the cruelty found in videos posted online is both intentional and extreme.


An investigation started last year tracked 5,480 videos depicting animal cruelty — including live animal burials, abuse of companion animals, and fake “rescue” videos — posted to YouTube, Tik Tok, and Facebook. 

Commentaries of IALA

Videos including animal cruelty are not well regulated in most Asian countries. In many places in Asia, there are neither animal welfare nor anti-cruelty regulations. As one type of abusing videos, crush videos are not regulated in some jurisdictions at all, which are recordings that typically depict women in stilettos or bare feet literally crushing, stomping on, or impaling small, helpless animals to satisfy the bizarre sexual fetishes of sadistic viewers. These videos have a bad impact on the psychology and physiological health of the audience. No matter how these videos are regulated by local laws, large Internet platforms should take their enterprise social responsibility to keep the basic safety and environment of the network.

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