WSPA, EPA raise concern over living conditions of 10-foot crocodile in children’s playground

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has stated that the cage used to house a crocodile in Male’ is “entirely inadequate” for an animal of its size.

Locally known as ‘Kinboo’, the crocodile was first captured back in 1998 and was subsequently caged inside a children’s play park for public entertainment.

For the last three years, the animal’s poor living conditions have caught the attention of the media, even sparking a campaign from a local school to save the animal, however nothing has yet been done to resolve the issue.

WSPA’s Wildlife Veterinary Programmes Manager, Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach told Minivan News in a statement that the WSPA encouraged local efforts being made to relocate the crocodile to a more suitable facility.

“It is important to remember that good animal welfare is not only about the physical health of an animal, but also its mental health. As is the case with humans, the environment that an animal is living in can and does affect its mental health.”

“The ideal environment for a wild animal is its wild habitat. Based on the images I have seen, the enclosure [in Male’] is entirely inadequate to meet the needs of a wild crocodile,” Schmidt-Burbach stated.

According to captive crocodile husbandry guidelines, the wildlife expert stated that the enclosure needs to have both shaded and sunlit areas and should be a minimum of 36 square-metres.

“A majority of the enclosure should be covered in water deep enough for the animal to fully submerge itself. I estimate for this crocodile the pool should be at least one metre deep,” he added.

Cage is far too small: EPA

Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency Ibrahim Naeem made similar recommendations to the WSPA in regard to the crocodile, adding that it needs to be kept in an adequate space and is currently living in cage “far too small” for its size.

“We believe that the Maldives lacks in technical and financial capacity regarding the animals kept in captivity. Though the conditions are like that, we believe that these animals must be treated with care and killing is not an option in any case,” Naeem said.

Last year, Minivan News reported that the crocodile was forced to curl its tail to fit inside its roofed cage.

Furthermore, the water within the enclosure barely covered the animal’s stomach – an apparent violation of both international and national laws forbidding animal cruelty.

“The 10-foot crocodile in Male’ is living in a far too small cage for it. We believe that the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has conducted enlargements of the cage several times and hope they will continue to do so,” Naeem added.

The EPA’s comments follow news that a smaller crocodile had been captured by MNDF last month at Helengeli Resort.

MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem told Minivan News on Thursday (March 14) that there had been “talks” to send the animal abroad, but as of yet nothing had happened.

“I don’t think the cage is big enough, but I have no idea if they are going to increase the size of the cage,” Raheem said.

When asked if the EPA believes the MNDF has adequate facilities and knowledge in keeping crocodiles, the agency’s Director General said that it was in “no position to comment on the capacity of MNDF regarding the crocodile issue.”

Mission to save Kinboo

In 2010, a group of children from Billabong High School in Male’ attempted to save Kinboo from captivity.

Roughly 30 students took part in the ‘mission’ after the crocodile’s living conditions were noticed by the school’s biology teacher, Kate Wilson.

Wilson told Minivan News at the time, that she had been “horrified” by the size of the enclosure and enlisted the help from her students to attempt to save the animal.

Despite getting in touch with an international agency in Australia and producing a video calling for support, the crocodile still remains in the cage three years later.

Last year, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim claimed that the ministry had planned to send Kinboo abroad to a zoo, replacing the large animal with a “small Kinboo” to keep in the cage instead.

According to the minister, a smaller crocodile will be brought to replace the bigger one because a lot of children enjoy watching the creature in its cage.

“It is useful for educating the children. So we are planning to bring a small Kinboo.” he noted. “When it grows big we will send it off abroad again.”

Following the occasional public calls to have the crocodile released, former governments have made similar suggestions about sending the animal overseas, yet none of these plans have transformed into any action.

Regarding this matter, Naeem said that because the animal had grown so large, the expense of moving such a big animal to a nearby country is very high.

“We had discussions to move the crocodile to a zoo in a neighbouring country, but it was later recommended that since the animal is adjusted to such a condition [of the cage] it minimises its chance of survival in its natural habitat,” Naeem claimed.


Government to unveil “new environmental strategy”

The government will “not completely” reverse the former government’s carbon neutral policies outlined by President Mohamed Nasheed during his three years in office, the President’s Office has said.

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News the government was this week expecting to unveil details of a new environmental strategy for the nation.  Riza claimed this strategy would seek to play up  national debate about sustainable practices at both an island and national level.

Riza’s comments were made as the government this month launches a number of environment-themed events to coincide with the Rio+20 sustainable development summit that is taking place in Brazil between June 20 and June 22.

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed, who maintains he was removed from office in February under a “coup d’etat”, claimed it would be “impossible” for the present government to outline sustainable development strategies unless it had the stability of a democratic mandate.

Abbas however maintained that President Waheed would “not totally reverse” Nasheed’s environmental commitments towards carbon neutral policies.

“In the next 24 hours or so we will hope to be unveil more details of our new strategy. We will not be enacting a 180 degree change in direction to the previous government’s zero carbon strategy,” he claimed. “What we are aiming to do is to elaborate more on individual sustainable issues and subject them to national debate. Previously, these discussions on sustainability were not subjected to a national debate, such as through parliament.”

The former government conducted a number of high-profile exercises in a bid to raise the profile of its efforts to secure funding and assistance to make the country carbon neutral by 2020, such as the now internationally famous underwater cabinet meeting.

Riza added that the government was looking to establish new laws and regulations to safeguard nationwide sustainable commitments. There had been “very little” debate on environmental policy in parliament during Nasheed’s presidency, Riza said.

Destination: Rio

The Rio +20 Conference taking place later this month aims to bring together world leaders, NGOs and private sector representatives to outline new directions for political commitments on overcoming the challenges setting back sustainable development.

According to the Maldives government, the conference will focus on bolstering green economies to relieve poverty, as well as improving coordination between various international bodies and national authorities.

In the lead up to the event, the Maldives has launched a new social media service on Facebook, the Future of Maldives Sustainable Development, which details work presently being conducted by authorities towards eco-friendly commitments.

In the next few weeks, a number of sustainability themed events will be held around the country. These include a no-vehicle day in Male’, which will see non-emergency traffic banned from the capital’s roads for several hours next Tuesday (June 12), a renewable energy exchange at schools, and the launch of a Climate Change Trust Fund.

Presidential promotion

During his inaugural address in March, President Waheed claimed that like former President Nasheed, he would remain an internationally outspoken proponent on the plight of small nations facing the destructive impacts of climate change.

“The government will encourage the voice of small island nations to be heard in the global arena with regard to climate change,” stated the president. “The Maldives will always participate in voicing the concerns of small island nations.”

The president was heckled on multiple occasions whilst trying to give his constitutionally mandated address to parliament by MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which continues challenge the legitimacy of Dr Waheed’s government and demand early elections.

Waheed eventually delivered a truncated speech in April during a rescheduled Majlis session, amid loud protests in the parliament chamber and violent clashes between civilians and police in the capital.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has meanwhile remained an outspoken advocate for the Maldives’ efforts to adopt wide-scale carbon neutral practices.

In an interview prior to the screening of the Island President at the Hay Festival in the UK, the former president said the lack of a stable government in the Maldives would set back efforts to promote its sustainable policies and interests internationally.

“It is going to be very difficult for us to adapt to climate change if we do not have a solid and secure democratic government,” Nasheed told the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper.

In the months following his controversial resignation, Nasheed visited the US to raise awareness on the current political upheaval in the country, as well the documentary film, “The Island President” in a tour that saw him appearing on prime time TV and at talks across the country.

The documentary film chronicles his government’s ambitious pledge to become a carbon neutral nation by 2020, and has received increased global coverage since Nasheed was removed from office.

Speaking to Conde Nast Traveler to promote the film at the time, Nasheed expressed hope that the country would continue to work towards becoming carbon neutral, even as he challenged the legitimacy of Dr Waheed’s government.

“We were making real progress. I hope the government will continue our policies. But you can’t have good policies without democracy. And you won’t address the climate change crisis without good policies,” Nasheed told journalist Dorinda Elliott. “All democratic movements must talk about both climate change and human rights.”

In March, local environmental NGO Bluepeace claimed that ongoing political uncertainty in the country and questions over the legitimacy of the current government had set back the country’s commitments to sustainable development.

Bluepeace Director Ahmed Ikram said discussions on domestic environmental commitments were being sidelined by increasingly partisan political thinking throughout the country.

Ikram claimed that the national media was also not providing much coverage or promotion to climate change adoption in the Maldives. He alleged this was in part due to sections of the media favouring the former president’s political opponents, reflecting the politicisation of environmental commitments.

“We support [former] President Nasheed. Yes there are times when we may have disagreed with his policies, but we still supported him as our president,” said Ikram. “What we are experiencing today – with Maldivian businesses making use of solar panels – are the benefits of Nasheed’s work on the environment.”

Despite his personal criticisms of the current government and the long-term prospects for democracy in the country, Ikram said Bluepeace fully supported the present government’s role in supporting projects such as the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Earth Hour initiative.

Asked if he felt that Maldivians were committed to long-term conservation beyond one-off annual events such as Earth Hour, Ikram said the Maldivian public were generally committed in adapting to climate change.

“I believe that the Maldivian people are the ones who will serve as climate change champions in the end,” he said.

International perspective

Despite Nasheed’s high-profile climate activism, Greenpeace in 2010 told Minivan News that the Maldives acted more “as a symbol than a practical demonstration” of how national development and fighting climate change can be mutually exclusive.

“The Maldives can become a strong proponent of a paradigm shift in the World Bank and in developing countries whereby it is recognised that fighting climate change and promoting development go hand in hand,” said Wendel Trio, Climate Policy and Global Deal Coordinator for Greenpeace International.


Vehicle-free zone planned for Male’

Transport Authorities are said to have announced that as of later this month, the use of vehicles will be restricted in the Lonuziyaaraikolhu area of Male’ – situated in the southeast corner of the capital – following cabinet consultation on the issue.

According to Haveeru, Mohamed Latheef, Permanent Secretary of the Transport Authority of the Maldives, said that the vehicle-free zone is expected to come into force on 26 March and incorporate Raiyvilla Hingun in the northeastern corner of Henveiru Park and Ameenee Magu to the southwest of the area.

Latheef said that vehicles will still be able to travel around Moonlight Hingun and Hithigas Magu even after the restrictions are put in place.

According to the report, the decision was made in collaboration with Male’ City Council and is tentatively scheduled to launch in order to coincide with the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Earth Hour initiative. The scheme attempts to encourage citizens and organisations around the world to turn all their lights off for an hour to try and drastically cut global energy usage and the planet’s combined environmental footprint.


Maldives’ sustainability success requires emissions action post-Cancun: WWF

The impacts of climate change talks concluded earlier this month in Cancun, Mexico, which have been praised by President Mohamed Nasheed for supporting the Maldives’ own sustainable commitments, remain as yet “too vague” to discuss in terms of success, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has said.

Martin Hiller, who heads Climate Policy Communications and Campaigns for the WWF environmental NGO, told Minivan News that despite the “positive” outcomes from the Cancun talks in terms of encouraging “cohesion” between nations, it remained too early to assess any long term impacts upon sustainable initiatives.

“Success will be when emission reductions are happening, and so far they are not yet,” he said. “Success will be when adaptation action is happening, and is financed. [Climate change talks in] Durban next year needs to result in concrete commitments.”

The Cancun talks have aimed, alongside other initiatives, to secure emissions reductions from every developed and developing nation, while also raising US$100 billion in funding each year to aid sustainability initiatives based on low-carbon developments for smaller economies from 2020.

Although conceding last week that Cancun alone would not be enough to aid national commitments on becoming carbon neutral by 2020, the President’s Office said it believed the talks “anchored” Nasheed’s green commitments as outlined under the Copenhagen Accord.

Despite not yet having outlined a “masterplan” for how the Maldives can actually begin to meet it aims of being completely carbon neutral in less than a decade, Nasheed said last month that failure to meet these goals would be a “disaster” for the nation and wider global arguments for developing sustainable economies.

Hiller agreed that “the Maldives had promised something and it now needed to deliver”.

However, he claimed that beyond domestic sustainability initiatives that will required by every nation, groups like the WWF are trying to establish an international system that better supports carbon neutral efforts made by nations like the Maldives – not just in terms of finance, “but technology transfer, logistical support and training.”

“In the end, we are looking at a huge transformation on this planet – either we manage that transformation ourselves and have a possibility to say what it should look like, or temperatures get out of hand, and nature will react and change the world according to the laws of physics and biology,” he added.

In considering the Maldives’ commitments on trying to develop into a low carbon economy, Hiller said he believed that it will be vital to find a “holistic” national sustainability strategy. He said such a strategy could then be used to adopt a wide selection of sustainable intiatives beyond one particular focus, helping to ensure a greater likelihood of sustainable efficiency in both cost and output.

Ultimately, Hiller claimed that the Maldives and its president had become “important players” in publicising and representing sustainable commitments like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

He added that this importance could be seen particularly in the way the country has acted as a leader in the cause of Small Island States and all other countries perceived as being vulnerable to the potential impacts of climate change.

“The Maldives have an important role to play in the multilateral politics around climate change. They are definitely a figurehead,” Hiller added. “I’d also want to watch the progress of [the] country’s low carbon development, as this will help all us others to learn.”

Business concerns

However, not everyone has been convinced that the potential impacts of climate change on rising sea levels within low lying nations like the Maldives are a vital issue to address, at least in terms of business sensibilities.
Andrew Harrison, who was recently appointed CEO of GMR Male’ International Airport, said that at least from the viewpoint of insurance companies, the risk of sea levels increasing to a point that disrupted operations at the site were not even considered in its premiums.

“When we became involved in the bid process, we engaged three leading companies who are at the forefront of analysing geophysical activity, climate change and the impact rising sea levels,” he said. “Insurers are notorious for considering even unimaginable risks, so I can tell you that if no insurance company considers this in any of their policies for the Maldives, we think that the risk is pretty low.”

Speaking to Minivan News last month, environmental organisation Greenpeace said it believed the Maldives acted more as a symbol than a practical demonstration of how national development and fighting climate change can be mutually exclusive.

Wendel Trio, Climate Policy and Global Deal Coordinator for Greenpeace International, believed that the Maldives can nonetheless play an iconic role in promoting the potential benefits of adopting alternate energy programmes.

In looking specifically at the Maldives, the Greenpeace spokesperson accepted that the country is somewhat limited by its size in the role it can have as an advocate for more sustainable business and lifestyles.


Fisheries fund to lure shark fishermen to alternative livelihoods

A fund to help shark fishermen find alternative livelihoods has been launched by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture on World Ocean’s Day, June 8th.

The fund was inaugurated less than a month before a total ban on shark fishing and export of shark products comes into effect on July 1.

The ministry had originally deferred the ban, citing the need to facilitate alternative livelihoods for the 200-odd shark fishermen and middlemen involved in the industry.

Money for the fund

“As we had not pre-planned for this ban, we hadn’t included it in our budget,” said Hussain Sinan, Senior Research Officer at the ministry.

Sinan said the urgent need to declare a total ban arose following a report from the Marine Research Center (MRC), which noted that the number of reef sharks sighted by divers had declined in recent years, that shark stocks were and vulnerable to exploitation due to their slow growth, late maturity and low fecundity.

“We had one year to prepare for this ban, and so we had discussed this with the fishermen involved,” says Sinan.

The ministry plans to raise money to fund the ban through NGOs and the tourism sector.

“The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has promised US$300,000 and some resorts have also pledged money,” he said, but declined to name those involved.

Influential lobby group the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) meanwhile said it is not aware of any resorts contributing to the fund. MATI’s Secretary General ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim says the group has heard of the fund but had not been approached by the ministry.

“Resorts might have been approached directly,” Sim speculated.

The fund to support an alternative livelihood for shark fishermen was a good idea, he suggested.

“We lobbied for a shark fishing ban five years ago, after which a moratorium was placed by the government banning shark fishing in areas close to the resorts.”

A study carried out in 1992 revealed that tourists paid a total of US$ 2.3 million for shark watching dives, while in the same year export of shark products earned a revenue of US$0.7 million.

“If they come to us and say this issue needs to be addressed, we will help of course,” Sim said, but maintained that MATI could only talk to resorts “as on financial issues [such as this] resorts will decide how they spend their money.”

Funding alternative livelihoods

“Shark fishing is not a year long activity, it lasts for about five months” Sinan explained, therefore fishermen already practiced another form of livelihood for the rest of the year like “reef fishing and yellowfin tuna fishing.”

The funds are going to be spent on training opportunities for fishermen, agricultural projects and to boost the “secondary livelihoods” of shark fishermen, he stated.

“It will not be distributed directly to fishermen,” he added. Already the ministry has received requests from islands to help them find markets to sell reef fish and help them to keep fish fresh for longer.

Fourteen islands to receive the fund have already been identified by the ministry.

“We are also floating the idea of buying back long line fishing gear from the fishermen – this way we can identify those involved also,” he said.

Each dhoni would be assessed separately, and owners compensated “taking into account the current market value and depreciation.”


Fisherman’s Union’s President Ibrahim Manik says the ministry has made no contact with the body.

Agreeing that sharks needed protection, he said the issue of compensating the shark fishermen was crucial.

He is supportive of how the money will be spent: “everyone wants money, but a one-off payment is not going to reap positive results in the long run.”

“Even if we were not included in the discussion stage, what the Fisheries Minister is saying is a good thing; the funds need to be spent in a sustainable manner,” Manik said.

However he points out the contradictory nature of announcing a shark ban while on the path to introducing long line.

“Let’s face it: sharks are going to be caught with long lining, and a lot of them are going to die,” Manik said.

Long lining was necessary if local fishermen were to survive, he said.

“Fishermen need to survive and right now we are suffering,” he said, adding that a lot of fishermen were questioning the logic of the ban.

“According to some estimates, there are about 300 Sri Lankan fishing boats that do long lining near the Maldives. They are killing sharks by the dozens, so does having a ban only in the Maldives help? We have no idea how they are going to implement this, but we support the move.”