Tuesday, May 17, 2011
by Malotz Quodala
May 5, 2011 – episode #30
Guest: Angel Martin L. Ampil
Khrysta and I went to the dzUP studio last Thursday to interview a fish expert tabula rasa as that was the first time we were to tackle a “fishy” topic in the program. I had no idea our freewheeling, fishy discussion with Angel Ampil, aka the Fishyguy himself, would take me on a trip down memory lane.
From the get go, as we walked to the media center from Plaridel Hall before the broadcast, Angel enthusiastically began sharing his fascination for fish that all began when he was four years old. His parents gifted him with a five-gallon tank that had three black mollies, a piece of white coral, an aquatic plant (elodea densa), and white sand. Angel was never without the company of fish since. His “fond memories of swimming in the pond with my siblings, having fun catching the goldfish,” – that's what spurred the personal reminiscence.
My mind raced back to when, as children, we (my siblings and I) took it upon ourselves to clean the fishpond my father had built in the garden. The pond was beneath a huge tree, it had nice rock arrangements with plants and all, we invariably ended up “bathing” and playing right there until our hands and feet went white and wrinkled. I remember treading very cautiously around the fishes, seeing how fragile they were … and, in truth, also being fearful of risking a spanking from the elders in case anything bad would happen to them. Ah, to be so innocently free of cares ... Back then, we also had a piece of the sea in the living room aquarium and I remember being mesmerized, transfixed at the languid movements ... the fishes tirelessly gliding, swimming up and down, hiding in rocks now, showing up again … then I would wonder what went on in the minds of the fishes while locking eyes with humans (believing in my child's heart of hearts even then that fishes do have minds). Then that child's brief attention span would eventually lead to the other beautiful animals at home, the dogs ... all fourteen of them at one time … the cats, pigeons, chickens, colorful birds, and oh, yes, even pigs.
But not Angel. It has always been exclusively the world of fishes for him. His interest grew from black mollies to other species, thanks to his backyard-breeder Lolo Delfin who gifted him with jarsful of various kinds for his birthdays all through his childhood years. As he turned adolescent, his fascination turned as well into a serious hobby, and that's when he began meeting up with people of like interest and negotiating fish-keeping alongside school work, then later, professional life.
Finding himself so wanting to share more widely what had by then turned into an expertise, he became Khrysta's fellow columnist for the magazine Animal Scene in 2002. “Fishyguy” is the main character in his column, Aqua Basics, where he continues to share his “fish discoveries” with readers to this day. In time, Angel set up shop and established his “ivory tower” "Fishyguy's Fishplace" selling fish by word of mouth and the internet.
Today, aside from being the Marketing Manager for Creatives Asia and Manager of the Magsaysay Group of Companies Global Process, he is also the president and founding member of the Philippine Cichlid Association, a founding member of the Betta Club Philippines, a corporate member of the Philippine Arowana and Luo Han Society and the former president of the Aquarium Science Association of the Philippines. From innocent fascination to fishy passion … Angel has certainly come a long way.
In fact, even without an aquarium in front of us, he could skillfully, gently guide us into the world of fish-keeping and the art and science of it. “Decorating a tank is my form of canvas,” he said. “Using the same rocks and driftwood, I can decorate a tank differently from the way other people do in ways they can't seem to imagine. I am able to find the best angle for a piece of rock when I set it down the tank.”
New Tank Syndrome
During the on-air interview, Angel explained the uniqueness of keeping fish vis-a-vis other pets at home. Whereas a cat's eating area is separate from its litter box, he began, “The fish is kept in, say, an aquarium, where all its life-activities are performed. So you find there the fish, its uneaten food, and poop -- all at once in one confined environment.” Understanding this well and managing the conditions for the fish greatly increases one's chances of successful fish-keeping, he said.
He went on to inform us of the “new tank syndrome.” Technically referred to as the nitrogen cycle, this is a process by which nitrogen-fixing bacteria are allowed to do their work in the tank as well as in the filter media. The process is necessary not only to prepare the new aquarium to be fish-ready, but for the purpose of maintaining a healthy environment to preserve fish life in the long term. More specifically, it consists in the conversion of ammonia to nitrites, then of nitrites to nitrates.
To better understand this, he pictured for us a new aquarium set-up, i.e., still without fish, or water, or filter. First off, he said, tap water has to be dechlorinated, either through the introduction of drops of anti-chlorine agent, or through the pasingaw method, by which tap water is allowed to sit for a couple of days or so, to neutralize chlorine which is toxic to fish.
After dechlorination, water and filter can now be placed -- with just a few fishes -- into the aquarium, where very little feeding must be done … just enough to enable fish to urinate and defecate. With the filter now working, fish waste, plant (if there be any), and uneaten food will eventually decompose. With the help of some bacteria, the decomposed matter will break down into ammonia ... then after some time, ammonia is broken down into nitrites. Subsequently, with the passage of a little more time, the nitrites further break down and become nitrates. It's the latter compound that supports the growth of beneficial bacteria. The production and establishment of good bacteria colonies in the aquarium and filter will then create a healthy environment for the fish. Having achieved this, one can then begin to add in a few more fish at a time.
Angel gave a caveat about the toxic nature of ammonia and nitrites for the fish. For the start- up stage, or for a period of three weeks, more or less, he recommended changing about twenty percent of the water once every week, carefully retaining the rest of the water in the tank for the cycle to follow its course. Additionally he advised that when cleaning the aquarium or any decor, it should be the same water from the tank that must be used, as tap water will kill the good bacteria. When the good bacteria die, the new tank syndrome must have to begin all over again, with all the painstaking thoughfulness and patience crucial to the endeavor.
Angel's Aquariums; Fish Collection
Angel owns 200 aquariums. He and his friends produced video clips showing the following:
the Fishyguy hand-feeding a fresh water stingray (potamotrygon) at this site -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Npm6rEcLEVQ;
doctor fish or garra rufa nibbling on his leg at --
a wolf fish (hoplias malabaricus) eating goldfish at --
Watching him hand-feeding the stingray reminds one of world-famous Steve Irwin who died in 2006 of a shocking accident with a stingray. Angel reminded us that according to experts, stingrays are docile creatures; they do not attack except in self-defense. Their attack mechanism is located near the base of the tail. Angel underscored how critical it was to know fishes and their respective behavior, noting that Irwin was known for his wide expertise on crocodiles but not on stingrays.
Cichlid or hoplarchus psittacus is a species of fish endemic to the blackwater rivers in Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. Angel in fact has a video recording of a cichlid couple laying eggs, another clip showing the couple incubating eggs, and still another showing them watching by while the fry swim happily around them. That made me wonder in amazement, that a huge fish -- with a mouth much, much bigger than the teeny-weeny fry in its midst -- does not gobble them up, given its natural tendency to eat anything smaller than its mouth. Mother instinct, perhaps?
The garra rufa is a fish species that nibbles on dead skin, the kind that is employed in spas for pedicure and exfoliating. It brings to mind a certain resort in Laguna where, in naturally flowing warm spring water, hundreds of fish romp, play and co-exist with people, who go there for the swim, or the experience of fish nibbling on their legs and feet, believing in its therapeutic value.
Other moving pictures show Angel hand-feeding an eel and another showing him releasing a five-foot electric eel. Some others show lou hans (or flower horns), arowanas, even the popular clownfish we know better as Nemo. The following link shows pictures of fishes in his collection: http://s46.photobucket.com/home/AngelAmpil/index.
Asked whether fish exhibit any kind of personality, Angel said: “Some do, like the gold fish, the oscar, and flower horn – they display some kind of 'pet attitude.' They tend to perform and seek the attention of their owner. They bond well with their owners.” Some fish actually show signs of recognition, he added.
Robbie William's cover of "La Mer" or "Beyond the Sea" playing in the background was all that was needed to conjure a world of wonderful visuals. And that was exactly what Kwentuhang Pets Atbp interns Jen Ocampo and Ron Rollorata did after one break during the program. Khrysta, it turns out, had asked them to play this theme song from "Finding Nemo.”
Even Beyond Passion … Fish is his Life
Angel considers himself pretty much an active part of a fish-keeping circle he fondly refers to as family, saying, “I have always shared my thoughts and passion to anyone willing to learn more about fish-keeping.”
His passion for fish-keeping, he said, is expressed in many ways. “Breeding a rare fish, for example, brings me a certain sense of accomplishment. Keeping a rare, never before-kept fish gives me a lot of pride.”
To those eyeing to take up the hobby, he has this to say: “Never enter it half-hearted … You must like the hobby a lot, for after all, your aquarium should last you at least ten years … Do your research via books, magazines, the internet … Ask friends, fish clubs … Attend fish forums, etc.” As regards concerns that fish-keeping might be a “high-maintenance” project, he says, “I always tell people to keep fish within their means. There are so many kinds (to choose from), there surely is one you can afford and keep.”
He admits chores like tank cleaning can be very tiring, yet, “Most times, I find it relaxing, de-stressing even.” And surely, that is not a duty we can imagine him shirking from now, is it?
Actually, what Angel said is simply consistent with what we notice KPA guests declare in the program time and again – i.e., that having pets, animal companions or “wards” is not like a walk in the park … but a serious responsibility one cannot just drop when the going gets tough or which one can afford to ignore just because it “ain't no fun no more.” Animal companions are much like children ... they totally depend on their compassionate, loving, informed and constant caregiver for their existence, survival … and, decidedly, their blossoming even.
But as Angel says, caring for them can be relaxing, de-stressing … and oh, the joy they bring … now, that is truly immeasureable.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
ANIMALSPEAK: GASSING DOGS – ARE WE GOING BACK TO THE NAZI ERA?
By Crysta Imperial Rara
When I told a colleague that the government was gassing stray dogs, she exclaimed: “Gassing…you mean, like the Nazis used to do?”
I fell silent. That thought had never occurred to me. The tambucho gassing of stray dogs has been in the news for some time now. The animal protection groups have launched a campaign to pressure officials to put a stop to it.
The issue has even reached the international scene – more than two thousand five hundred people, including citizens of other countries, have signed a petition addressed to the Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala asking him to rescind Administrative Order 21 (AO21).
AO 21 states that officials should consider “the freedom of animals from physical discomfort and pain and their freedom from fear and distress during the conduct of euthanasia.”
Yet in a subsequent paragraph, AO 21 allows euthanasia in the form of shooting by firearm for dogs, cats, horses, pigs, lizards, snakes, ruminants, non-human primates and marine mammals. Decapitation will be done to euthanize rabbits while birds will be subjected to cervical dislocation.
Another accepted form of euthanasia for stray animals is asphyxiation via carbon monoxide from motor vehicles.
In the petition authored by Ted Teodoro, an animal rights advocate based in New Jersey, a description of the agony experienced by the animals being gassed leaves no doubt about the brutality of the act: “What follows is the frantic clawing of the animal, its plaintive cries for help, its desperate search for a safe corner. The animal rolls and twitches. At some point, the body no longer responds to the animal's natural instincts but some level of consciousness lingers on. This process can take as long as fifteen minutes.”
I watched the video shot by a concerned citizen from Kidapawan in Cotobato Province. The scenes still haunt me – the dogs were struggling to escape from the holding pen, crying out in fear and panic just before they were mercilessly killed. Once the gas was turned on, I couldn’t help but feel furious and helpless as they wailed and clawed to get out of the metal box.
It definitely was no humane death. I wonder if the officials in the Committee on Animal Welfare (CAW), most of whom are veterinarians, really know what the words euthanasia, humane or merciful mean.
They say these methods will help reduce the cost of euthanasia by injection. Putting a dog to sleep by injecting Euthal or sodium pentobarbital costs about two hundred pesos per dosage for medium-sized dogs. But the drug can be acquired at a lower cost if bought by the bulk.
It’s a better way to put down a dog because the drug relaxes him first. So there is no panic and struggle on the part of the animal.
The Philippine Animal Welfare (PAWS) and the Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) voted against AO21 but they were outnumbered.
Perhaps we should take a look at the curriculum in our veterinary schools. Are the graduates taught ethics and kindness toward animals? I’ve had my share of experiences with vets who no doubt love their work and the animals. I’ve run into many who misdiagnose diseases, give the wrong medicines or don’t care about the animal’s comfort or welfare.
But vets who recommend gassing, shooting, decapitation and cervical dislocation are another breed. There’s too much pain in gassing; shooting may be off the mark so the animal will suffer; decapitation is inhumane and cervical dislocation, which means breaking the neck or snapping the spine – is too medieval.
Besides, where’s the humanity in all this? Are we producing vets who know the techniques but have no heart?
The Nazis gassed the Jews. The world condemned it. Our government is gassing and killing the animals inhumanely. We should also all condemn it. Sign the petition and help end the brutal killing of our animals.
Published in my column, AnimalSpeak, in ANIMAL SCENE magazine Sept 2010
Thursday, May 5, 2011
By: Malotz Q.
April 28, 2011 Episode 29
Guest: Luis Buenaflor, Jr of The Animal Kingdom Foundation
Topic: Tambucho Killings
Just recently, tambucho gassing was reinstated as a means of putting down unclaimed dogs in pounds through Administrative Order No. 13, which was issued last April 12, 2011 by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala upon the recommendation of the Committee on Animal Welfare (or CAW). AO No. 13 officially seeks to implement the Animal Welfare law (RA 8485 of 1998), but has caused quite a stir within the animal welfare and animal rights community. It appears that of all the government representatives in the Committee, the only member who voted against the reinstatement of tambucho gassing was the one from the National Meat Inspection.
Last Thursday, this howl of protest was personified in Louie Buenaflor, our studio guest at dzUP. Louie, an anti-animal cruelty advocate from the Animal Kingdom Foundation, came prepared to be effusively outspoken.
Tambucho gassing is the “technique” of exposing dogs to the exhaust fumes of a vehicle until they die of suffocation and poisoning. It had been successfully deleted last year, specifically on August 24, 2010, from a listing of acceptable methods of euthanasia for animals, after animal welfare groups vigorously fought against its inclusion.
In fact Khrysta and I dwelt on the topic on Kwentuhang Pets, Atbp last year, with Anna Cabrera of PAWS as guest via telephone interview. Anna had ventured to say then that the deletion of tambucho gassing (from the listing in the AO) would be “permanent, hopefully.” And we came away from that discussion optimistic.
Alas, fast forward to April 12 this year (or just eight months after the good news), and Louie now finds, totally incredibly, that CAW has overturned itself, for some “mysterious reason”. He went so far as to say that by countenancing “tambucho murders,” veterinarians in the CAW have betrayed their sworn duty “to protect animals.”
Guess we were quite floored but Louie couldn't help taking potshots at these veterinarians during the program. He angrily blames and holds them responsible for the unconscionable and “idiotic” resurrection of tambucho killing, pointing out that this detestable method is the exact opposite of merciful and painless killing that is the essence of euthanasia..
Louie described for us what he had personally witnessed during two occasions of gassing... On both occasions, some thirty dogs were dragged and dumped into a steel box that should comfortably fit only ten or twenty. The box had a small hole through which one end of a tube was inserted, with the other end attached to the exhaust pipe of a government-owned vehicle. Once the box was closed, the vehicle's ignition was turned on, and the gas pedal was revved up to produce fumes. The dogs expectedly went on a raucous crying rampage, helplessly scratching the steel walls for a good long time before they died. The process, according to him, took thirty minutes, the animals obviously suffering a lot before succumbing to fatal relief.
Worse, on yet another occasion, he witnessed this same procedure, except that – owing to some glitch – the dogs remained alive despite the protracted exposure to the exhaust fumes. What he saw next was hair-raising: the handlers then dragged these dogs one by one from out of the box, and then dumped them into a water-container to drown.
Before the program went on air last Thursday, Khrys had invited CAW representatives to guest for the episode and had continually followed up the invite to ensure their attendance.. Unfortunately, no one came. And those who promised to call back, never did.
Incidentally, before going on air that day, Khrys was able to talk by phone with Dr. Karlo Gicana, Director of the UP Veterinary Hospital (who was our studio guest last April 7). He said the following:
“We should all be united in forwarding animal welfare in the country. But we need to strike a balance... we need some time to allow LGUs to comply and to come up with the guidelines... we need practicality in our laws. In Asia, nakakahiya na wala tayong implementing guidelines for the Animal Welfare Act. We need updated, relevant guidelines to AWL...hinaharang ng groups.”
When asked for his reaction, Louie went ballistic and said he's really not surprised there are no IRRs to date because, “CAW will cease to exist once the IRR is drawn and implemented.” Khrys asked whether or not that should make anyone susceptible to a case before the Ombudsman. Louie said his group is looking at possible steps but did not elaborate.
Considering the absence of representatives from CAW quite made the discussion that day much too one-sided, I decided to say on air (addressing parties who should have been but were not represented in the debate because they did not come to the show) thus so:
“Alam nyo po, pare-pareho tayong nasa serbisyo ng gobyerno kaya maganda sanang nakikipagtulungan tayo sa mga bagay na tulad nito... isang paraan ay ang pakikipag-dayalogo sa mga grupong may nais na maiparating... iyan po ang paraan ng demokrasya. Huwag po sana nating sayangin uli ang mga pagkakataong ganito.”
Louie, then and there, agreed.
Which brings us to ask –
if people, in their heart of hearts
truly believe they're right
then why ever not, before the world
after all, fear of folly is folly
for folly, like truth, exists not
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
PROTECTING CAVES AND DOLPHINS
By Khrysta Imperial Rara
SUCCESSFUL ANTI-DOLPHIN CAPTIVITY CAMPAIGN
What an interesting day for Kwentuhang Pets atbp! We began the program with a phone patch with Trixie Concepcion of Earth Island Institute Phils. She updated us on the anti-dolphin captivity campaign and said Manila Ocean Park has issued a statement that it will not bring in dolphins for a dolphin show. They must have backed off from their original plan after an aggressive Facebook Campaign led by Earth Island to appeal for the non-inclusion of dolphins in the park. Trixie explained that schools like Miriam and De La Salle have pledged that their students will boycott any dolphin and whale show in the Philippines.
An on-air discussion of caves and the need to protect and manage them and the flora and species inside and around them proved to be an eye-opener. I must admit I was never really drawn to caving because I found these places to be too dark and uninteresting. I’ve visited only about 4 caves – in Bicol, Bohol, Bulacan and in Italy. I don’t remember much about them except that in Bicol, I had to rush out of the underground cave because I felt suffocated. I recall seeing the bats hanging upside down in a cave in Bulacan, their droppings or guano forming a huge pile on the cave floor. In Italy, I visited an underwater cave when it was low tide and I was too uncomfortable in the dark.
But our episode last April 14 changed all that. I learned from our guests Anson Tagtag and Ofel Espayos of the DENR Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) that the cave is a world in itself, with a unique ecosystem.
Blind fish, blind shrimps, blind bats, stalagmites and stalactites form part of this world that the DENR would like to protect from hunters. Hunting is illegal in the Philippines, except for the tribes or katutubo. As an animal protection advocate, I don’t like the idea of hunting particularly if it’s for sport.
Guests Anson and Ofel believe that ecotourism could put a stop to the practices that destroy our caves since it will offer an alternative source of income to the local communities. But it must be well managed to ensure that the visitors do not go over the cave’s carrying capacity, or the maximum population of a particular species (in this case, human) that the habitat can support.
The next time I get to visit a cave, it will be from a different perspective. Perhaps this time curiosity and wonder will win over my mild claustrophobia.
by MALOTZ QUODALA
April 14, 2011 Episode 28
There’s a new radio show in town. I conceptualized it in 2009 and finally, last October, it had its premier broadcast. The one-hour program titled “Kwentuhang Pets at Iba Pa”, goes on air every Thursday from 1-2 pm at DZUP 1602 kHz (AM). It aims to make people aware that attitudes toward animals are changing and our fellow creatures are now viewed more as friends or part of the family and not just mere property. It seeks to enlighten listeners about new trends around the world which revolve around putting a stop to cruelty against animals.
Oct. 7 – Topic: Marine Mammals
Oct. 14 – Topic: Animal Welfare and the group Care and Responsibility for Animals (CARA)
Oct. 28 - Topic: Animal Rights and the People’s Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA)