Oil spill threatens India’s nesting turtles

Members of the Pollution Response Team lift the body of an oil-covered turtle from boulders at the coast, a day after an oil tanker and an LPG tanker collided off Kamarajar Port in Ennore, in Chennai. (AFP)
Updated 03 February 2017
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Oil spill threatens India’s nesting turtles

INDIA: Hundreds of students and fishermen were working Friday to clean up an oil spill on India’s southern coast that campaigners say threatens the turtles that nest there every year.
The Indian Coast Guard said around 35 kilometers (21 miles) of coastline off the southern city of Chennai had been affected by the spill which occurred when two ships carrying fuel collided last week.
Campaigners and fishermen have accused the government of being slow to contain the damage from the spill, the scale of which has only emerged in recent days.
“What ought to have been a localized incident has now become a regional one because of the culture of denial,” said Nityanand Jayaraman, a Chennai-based environmental activist.
Jayaraman told AFP it was the peak nesting season for Olive Ridley turtles, which swim to the beaches of South India to lay eggs after mating at sea.
“The key thing is not technology but honesty. You need to reveal the true extent of the damage otherwise it leads to a false sense of complacency. With oil spills long-term effects are certain,” he said.
Olive Ridleys are most abundant of all sea turtles around the world, according to WWF India, but their numbers have been declining and the species is recognized as vulnerable by the IUCN Red list.
Their unique mass nesting, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs, is a major tourist attraction.
It is not known how many turtles have been affected, but AFP pictures showed workers in safety suits removing a dead turtle from the shore this week.
Local fishermen also criticized the speed of the official response to the spill.
“They (authorities) didn’t remove it immediately, and so now it has spread across all beaches, including Marina (beach),” K. Bharati of the Fishermen’s Welfare Association in South India said, referring to a popular local beach.
Volunteers wearing gloves could be seen scooping up the thick tar with shovels off Kamarajar Port in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state.
“We have tried all kind of technology and found that only manual cleaning is possible. So we have deployed more than 500 people, they are working really hard,” M.A. Bhaskaran, chairman of Kamrajar Port, told reporters.
Oil spills are not uncommon in peninsular India, which saw one of the worst leakages in 2013 when a gas pipeline off the western Mumbai coast spewed at least 1,000 liters of crude oil into the sea.
In 2010, two merchant ships collided off the Mumbai coast again, spilling over 800 tons of oil and damaging mangroves along the coastline.


Calling all cat lovers: Dubai art gallery spotlights strays

Artist Angel-O takes to the streets of Dubai to photograph stray cats. Angel-O/FN Designs
Updated 23 March 2019
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Calling all cat lovers: Dubai art gallery spotlights strays

DUBAI: FN Designs, a gallery in Dubai’s artsy Alserkal Avenue, is spotlighting street cats in a new exhibition by artist-photographer Angel-O until April 30.

The multidisciplinary art and design studio chose to highlight the Filipino photographer’s work in a bid to raise awareness about the situation of strays in the UAE.

The exhibition opened in March with a panel discussion titled “Catnip.” The artist was joined by Nour Fakher, a vet at Blue Oasis Clinic, and Sara Abdelal, a cat rescuer in Dubai.

The artist started his journey when his landlord enforced a strict no-pet policy. Angel-O took to the streets to photograph stray cats in order to remain close to the animals.

Artist Angel-O takes to the streets of Dubai to photograph stray cats. Angel-O/FN Designs

“Most of these photos are taken in different parts of Dubai, in the nooks and crannies of streets,” he said, referring to his collection of photographs, which were taken in 2014 but shown for the first time in this show.

 “I am so glad my artwork is able to help these cats. I’ve had people come up and enquire about the location of the photograph so they could go back and help the cat in the picture,” he said.

 “I’m really relieved that people find this collection… of mine moving.”

Cat rescuer Abdelal stressed the importance of the TNR method of treating strays — trapping, neutering and releasing them.

“While we are trying to help find a safe home or habitat for the existing cats on our streets, let’s prevent their number from increasing. These animals can’t speak to us, we need to find a way to understand and help them,” she said.  

The UAE government has made moves to reduce the number of street cats through newly mandated animal welfare regulations that were handed down by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment in December.

A failure to properly care for animals, including dumping pets, is now punishable by law in the country.