My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

OTGV #50 - Biodiversity& Zoo -2

Broadcast Date: 01/03/04

Each year the living things that share our planet get lesser and lesser.

The way of the dodo is the path most travelled for those organism that aren't human.

Will the zoological gardens and marine parks of the world be the eventual resting place of some species?

Join me Chong Ching Liang as I examine the debate of zoos and aquariums as conservation agencies.

"We again, call for the Underwater World to release 4 dolphins back to Thailand where they can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. They took 4 dolphins, its time to release the four back into the wild. We stress again the same message that we have been repeating since Sept. Don't turn magnificent sea creatures into circus clowns. Stop the cruel shows, free the suffering dolphins."

That's Louis Ng, the president of Acres, a local Animal Rights group.

Underwater World says it seeks to help prevent the extinction of the highly endangered Indo-pacific humpback or pink dolphins.

Mr Peter Dollinger, the Director of the Geneva-based World Association of Zoos and Aquariums thinks his members have a role to play.

"Today almost every species can be successfully kept and under conditions where they are not damage. And it is always been claimed by animal rights people that these species would not be suitable for re-introduction. But obviously this is not true because we have about 200 programmes for 200 species that are re-introduced and these are ex-situ bred animals. So apart from big whales where it is technically not possible or some other marine life , deep sea fishes, almost all species can be kept."

Ex-situ as opposed to in-situ conservation refers to conservation away from the original environment.

But ex-situ conservation has its detractors.

Mr Louis Lim explains why he is against Underwater World keeping their pink dolphins that had been caught from the wild.

"If you look at the dolphins themselves, anatomically and anamorphically, they are all built for swimming at fast speed. So they're all built for large home ranges -- 30 to 400 square kilometres in the wild. When you take such animals with such large home ranges and confine them in captivity in 0.0003 percent of what they are used to in the last 15 years, it is strictly detrimental to their welfare."

Louis Ng and his team say they won't have a problem if Underwater World or institutions such as them bought animals that had been bred in captivity.

His explains this opposition.

"If you say now that there is too few left in the wild and if you take from the wild, you are putting it in a higher risk of attention. One dolphin has already died here, Underwater World spend 3 million dollars to build this dolphin lagoon. If you put the 3 million into in-situ conservation, I think there will be more success. If dolphinarium, if they take captive bred dolphins, they made a lot of money, they put the money back into research, they put the money back into in-situ conservation, they release some of the animals which other zoos have done, then perhaps that is a compromise."

But if the natural habitats of endangered species are disappearing fast with no real conservation efforts to prevent this, these animals will disappear without the intervention.

Dr Shawn Lum, Vice President of the Nature Society and a trainer of biologist teachers, muses on this problem.

"It’s a dilemma that people face. Hopefully the zoos do the research to learn how these animals can do well in captivity, to understand their physiology so that we can have a successful breeding programme and then integrate it with a programme for eventual re-introduction to the wild. Otherwise if you just keep zoo population going, then they just in a way become just like museum pieces if you just let them disappear in the wild."

Mr Dollinger says that zoos and aquariums have slowly picked up the role of repopulating the wild.

He explains.

"There could be project that are going on in an existing reserve, or there are also cases where they have purchase lands whether in their own country or in there country or run a consortium with the nature conservation authority of the country concerned to jointly manage the reserve. Ten years ago they may just provide just money for some conservation organisation and then they lost control of what was going on but now the trend is very clearly that we try to get permanently or long term involved."

Animal lover will tell you that an animal in the zoos or aquariums isn't worth anything unless efforts are made to preserve the wild populations.

Dr Shawn Lum says these institutions must educate the public so that collectively they can exert their political will to change the world.

"When I was a kid, I grew up in Honolulu and I used to take me to that zoo a lot, because I just love the animals. Now I look back, and my goodness, those animals are sometimes kept in really appalling conditions. It's not sufficient to just keep animals in zoos. The zoo-going public deserves something a lot better learning about the plight the animals in their natural habitat."

It's not impossible.

Companies have been forced to implement dolphin safe fishing methods so that consumers will buy their tinned fish again.

And, the meek may yet inherit the Earth.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


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OTGV #49 - Biodiversity Zoo -1

Broadcast Date: 23/02/04

The world is getting smaller.

No, no .. Not the physical size of the Earth,

It’s the living space for the non-human species that's shrinking.

Hi Welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang as I look at the ever narrowing biodiversity of our world.

The United Nation Environment Programme or UNEP estimates that some 60 thousand species are disappearing off the face of the Earth each year.

Dr Shawn Lum, Vice President of the Nature Society and a trainer of biologist teachers explains what this figure means.

"This 60 thousand figure is based on an estimate. If you assume there's 'X' number of species over a given area that are found no where else, then with this rate of destruction then this is the magic number, 60 thousand. So I don't think there are 60 thousand documented species which is not say there aren't 60 thousand species disappearing."

Director of Geneva-based World Association of Zoos and Aquariums Peter Dollinger says it is the smaller organisms and plants that constitute the number, not the larger animals.

"It’s a natural fact that we have a huge loss of biodiversity. However, the majority of the species UNEP referred to are invertebrate species or plant species. The number of vertebrate species such as mammals, birds, reptile that are disappearing is of course much, much smaller."

Is over ten years since the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to take stock of the world's shrinking biodiversity and environmental degradation.

Yet, each year that passed saw more environmental destruction, greater global warming and loss of species.

Some people say throughout history species come and go and extinction is a natural order of things.

Dr Lum disagrees.

"Even after humans are long gone and there's some sort of animals left then they might re-evolved into a whole array of diversity again but you know this is a cop out because this potential mass extinction is caused basically by human activity and large scale habitat destruction which we could possibly could avoid if we put our minds to doing it and we can do something about this. Do we have the will to this? Are we going to make this a priority and tackle that as the global crisis that it is? If not are we just going to quietly watch these things going away before we even know sometimes what it is that were lost. To just say well extinction has happened in the past. Frankly that's a pretty weak excuse."

Dr Lum lists the reasons why we, the humans are the cause for the current mass extinctions.

"One is the continued growth in human population. Industrial revolution which allowed us to manufactured things at a large scale but also we use resources at a high and sometimes unsustainable rate. All those factors put together with the last thing which I think is extremely, well if you want to call it, greedy sort of lifestyle that just consumes and consumes resources and take away natural habitat. So essentially that's bad news for all the other living things that share the planet with us."

Those running botanic and zoological gardens, aquariums or marine parks see they have a role to play in providing some reservoir of biodiversity however small.

Mr Dolliner again.

"Already in the 1940s, the role of zoos was defined by a Swiss scientist as serving Recreation, Education, Research and Conservation. Then in 1993, the zoos issued the first World Zoo Conservation Strategy, they stipulate that the roles of recreation, education and research must also serve conservation. So conservation has the priority."

But some nature lovers feel that such institutions must do more than in the education component.

Dr Shawn Lum on how zoos can help modify their visitors’ behaviour by getting them to ask certain questions such as this.

"What can I do to help save that particular habitat? Either through my behaviour as a consumer, you know buying certain kinds of environmentally-friendly, dolphin-friendly kind of things, or don't invest in corporation that are involved in destruction of natural habitat and so on. But I think that information needs be made available to a zoo-going public. You have to bring up that level of public knowledge so that individuals can say this is what I need to do and can do as an individual. As oppose to saying well, that’s a problem far away, I know nothing about it, I am helpless you know."

But other animal lovers see the zoos and aquariums more for their shortcomings.

Some animals such as polar bears exhibit certain obsessive-compulsive traits in an enclosed environment.

President of local Animal Rights group, Acres Louis Ng

"If you based a study by Oxford University, the larger the home range in the wild, the more stress an animal would be in captivity. So for example for tigers, for cheetahs, which everyday, they are territorial, they walk around, they scent mark their areas. If you keep them in captivity, it drives them insane. They miss the varied environment in the wild. So they start pacing as a means to cope with captivity."

Will institutions such as zoos and marine parks be good agents for saving some fast disappearing species of animals?

Should they do more besides being just being a place where animals are kept for the viewing pleasure of humans?

Tune in to next week's On The Grapevine as I look at the debate on the role of zoos and aquariums in the fight to preserve the biodiversity left in this world.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


Newsradio 938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

World Association of Zoos and Aquariums Image hosting by Photobucket

Nature Society Singapore Image hosting by Photobucket

Animal Concerns, Research & Educations SocietyImage hosting by Photobucket

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