New orphan dugong named ‘handsome sea prince’ by Thai royal

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This photo taken on May 23, 2019 shows Mariam the dugong as she is cared for by park officials and veterinarians from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre on Libong island, Trang province in southern Thailand. (AFP)
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This picture taken on May 24, 2019 shows Mariam the dugong as she is cared for by park officials and veterinarians from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre on Libong island, Trang province in southern Thailand. (AFP)
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This picture taken on May 23, 2019 shows Mariam the dugong as she is cared for by park officials and veterinarians from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre on Libong island, Trang province in southern Thailand. (AFP)
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This undated handout from Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources released on July 6, 2019 shows Jamil the dugong as he is being cared for at the Phuket Marine Biological Center in Phuket. (AFP)
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This picture taken on May 23, 2019 shows Mariam the dugong as she swims in the waters around Libong island, Trang province in southern Thailand. (AFP)
Updated 07 July 2019
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New orphan dugong named ‘handsome sea prince’ by Thai royal

  • The dugong named Mariam has become a social media star with photos and videos of her being cradled, fed, and swimming going viral after her rescue last month

BANLGKOK, THAILAND: A second orphan baby dugong found stranded on a southern Thai beach has been named “handsome sea prince” by one of the country’s princesses, officials said Saturday, as sea cow craze sweeps the kingdom.
Southern Thailand’s waters are home to about 250 of the mammals, classified as vulnerable. A baby dubbed Mariam washed ashore on its beaches last month — sparking interest in ocean conservation.
The newly named dugong was found Monday with scratches on its back and is now rehabilitating in a pool at the Phuket Marine Biological Center.
Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) announced “Princess Sirivannavari has graciously named the baby dugong Jamil.”
The name “is from the Yawi language, and it means ‘handsome prince of the sea’,” the DMCR said.
Yawi is used in Thailand’s southernmost provinces and spoken by Muslim Malays.
The princess, who is a fashion designer, has taken “both dugongs... under her royal patronage,” the DMCR said in its post.
It added she has set up “working teams for the conservation of Thailand’s sea and corals, to conserve rare and near-extinct marine animals.”
The dugong named Mariam has become a social media star with photos and videos of her being cradled, fed, and swimming going viral after her rescue last month.
The DMCR is now setting up a livestream of her in captivity.
Mariam’s antics have captivated Thais, prompting a growing interest for ocean conservation in the country’s plastic-choked waters.
Dugong beachings can be attributed to fishing and other human activities, said the Phuket Marine Biological Center.


Man’s best friend: The dogs who sniff out explosives in Kabul

In this photo taken on April 7, 2019, Afghan dog handlers walk along with explosive detection dogs on leash during a practice session at the Mine Detection Centre (MDC) in Kabul. (AFP)
Updated 46 min 33 sec ago
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Man’s best friend: The dogs who sniff out explosives in Kabul

  • The canines’ initial mission was to hunt for land mines, a vital task in a country left strewn with the devastating weapons during the war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s

KABUL: Naya, a three-year-old Belgian Malinois, focuses intently as she leaps over hurdles and zooms through tunnels on an obstacle course at a training center on a hill overlooking Kabul.
She seems to be having fun, but is in fact being trained for a life-or-death mission: finding explosives in a country where hidden mines, bombs and weapons routinely kill.
Naya is one of about 200 dogs at the Afghan capital’s Mine Detection Center (MDC), a non-governmental group raising the animals from rambunctious pups into a disciplined force, and teaching handlers how to work with the canines.
A common sight around the Afghan capital, explosives-sniffing dogs are deployed at checkpoints and government facilities, where they are an important tool in combatting the flow of homemade bombs being smuggled into Kabul.
“The dogs are very useful — they are very fast, they do their jobs with great speed,” Taj Mohammad, a long-time trainer at the center, told AFP on a recent visit.
Handlers demonstrated how they train dogs to hone in on particular scents — explosives mainly, but also narcotics — by using a special carousel of identical metal cannisters that conceal different smells.
Each time a dog correctly identifies a target smell, the handler gives it a rubber chewy ball to chomp on as a reward.
“The relationship with the handler must be perfect. If it does not work, there will be casualties,” Mohammad said.
It takes about two years to train an explosives dog, and the process is intense for both the handler and the canine. The animals at the MDC are all German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois.
“It’s as if you are building a house or bringing up a child,” Mohammad said.
Handlers get about $500 a month for their dangerous work — not a bad wage in Afghanistan — as well as life insurance and retirement benefits.
Explosives are “a hidden enemy, so all the time I have a little fear in my heart,” dog handler Zabihullah Amin said.

After the MDC was established in 1989, the dogs mainly came from the Netherlands, but now most are local after breeding started here in 1994. More than 1,100 dogs have completed the training.
The canines’ initial mission was to hunt for land mines, a vital task in a country left strewn with the devastating weapons during the war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
But the dogs’ use tapered off in recent years following a series of incidents where they missed explosives, sometimes causing casualties as people returned to areas thought to be cleared.
According to Abdul Qudos Ziaee, head of operations at Afghanistan’s Directorate of Mine Action Coordination, dogs can be a useful mine-detection tool if properly managed.
But in several areas contaminated with anti-vehicle mines, some agencies failed to use the canines correctly or handlers were improperly trained, leading to sloppy practice and areas of terrain left dangerous.
“Whether it was fault of the dog handler or the dog was not properly trained ... the mine will be missed and the negative consequence will be borne by civilians,” Qudos Ziaee told AFP.
Dogs can still be used to sweep large areas deemed “low threat,” he said, noting that procedures are currently being revised and new standards will be introduced in about a year.
At the MDC, handlers insist dogs are a better tool for finding mines than mechanical detectors, as they can sniff the explosives in non-metallic devices.
According to Ziaee, at least 1,432 people were killed or wounded in Afghanistan by mines and so-called explosive remnants of war in 2018.
Mohammad Wirwais, who works at the Mine Detection Center, was blinded by a mine while clearing terrain in 2008.
“I am fortunate and lucky, I have friends ... who lost their lives to mine explosions,” he said.
“I am good, thank God, I can solve my problems on my own, and I can work here too.”