Kamis, 27 Desember 2007

Terri Irwin launching whale research (AP)

SYDNEY, Australia - The widow of TV "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin announced Thursday she will launch non-lethal research of whales in Antarctic waters next year in hopes of showing that Japan's scientific whale kill is a sham.

Tokyo has staunchly defended its annual cull of more than 1,000 whales as crucial for research, saying it is necessary to kill the whales to properly gather information about their eating, breeding and migratory habits.

Environmentalists and anti-whaling nations say the slaughter is commercial whaling in disguise, because much of the meat from the whales ends up being sold commercially.

Terri Irwin said that a whale watching program she started to honor her late husband would expand into scientific research in 2008. Steve Irwin, the high-profile wildlife show host and environmental campaigner, was killed by a stingray last year off Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

"We are working with Oregon State University to do formalized research in the southern hemisphere," Terri Irwin told the Nine Network television. "We can actually learn everything the Japanese are learning with lethal research by using non-lethal research."

Japan's whaling fleet is run by a government-backed research institute and operates under a clause in International Whaling Commission rules that allows whales to be killed for scientific purposes.

Japan had planned to kill up to 50 endangered humpback whales this season, but backed away from the plan in the face of strong international condemnation.

"We are determined to show the Japanese they can stop all whaling, not just humpbacks," Irwin said.

Further details of Irwin's planned research program were not immediately available.

Earlier this month, Irwin threw her support behind a radical conservation group that has vowed to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt, allowing the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to rename one of its flagship vessels after her late husband.

Sea Shepherd has come under heavy criticism in recent years for engaging in violent tussles with the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctic waters.

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