Negros Oriental villagers spark outrage by manhandling stranded whales

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Footage shared on the Facebook page Pinoy Naturalist last weekend showing the melon-headed whales being roughly handled by villagers in Negros Oriental.

A group of people from Negros Occidental have sparked outrage after man-handling a group of small whales that had become stranded near their village.

Footage of several people posing for pictures with the melon-headed whales was shared on the Pinoy Naturalist Facebook page last Saturday (May 26) and has since attracted a torrent of criticism. 

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It is unknown why the whales came to be stranded in the shallow water, or what happened to them after being mobbed by residents of Barangay Gargato, Hingaran.

It is also unknown who first uploaded the 30-second video, although it was shared by Pinoy Naturalist to encourage greater respect for wildlife. The post accompanying the clip said: “Please respect marine wildlife. This video was taken in Negros yesterday.”

Hundreds of people have since commented on the footage, in nearly all cases expressing outrage and disbelief at the behaviour of the people involved. 

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A typical response came from Ashvin Catalla, who wrote: “Ignorance as its finest… poor dolphins”. 

Speaking to GMA News, Dr A A Yaptinchay, director of Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, criticised the behaviour of the people involved. 

“It was noisy, with many people handling the animals to take pictures. This will add to the stress being experienced by the creatures, so it will make their condition worse.”

Dr Yaptinchay said that when marine mammals end up close to the shore, it’s a sign that they are experiencing some sort of problem, and so should be left well alone. In certain circumstances, it might be appropriate to help them back into deeper waters. 

He advised that any marine animals found stranded on the beach should be reported to the relevant authorities, such as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

There have been cases of dolphins being killed by enthusiastic selfie takers, such as in Argentina in 2016, when an endangered Franciscan dolphin died after being passed around a crowd.

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