Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Illusive smiles: The real story behind the dolphins of Ocean Park Adventure

Student Producer/ Co-host: Arra B. Francia
Episode: October 8, 2014
Guest: Trixie Concepcion, Regional Director, Earth Island Institute

Dolphins have this strange feature that makes them look like they’re smiling all the time. Miss Trixie Concepcion, regional director of Earth Island Institute Philippines explained this to Ma’am Khrysta and I during last week’s episode of Kwentuhang Pets at iba pa. Muscles in their mouth actually stretch till the sides of their chin, to help dolphins produce sounds to communicate with each other. So no matter what state you see them in, they’d always look up with a perpetual smile on their face.

Tonka was a dolphin. He was born in the wild about 18 years ago. He was meant to swim the oceans and explore the waters with his pod --- carefree and without boundaries. But with a terrible twist of fate that happened a decade ago, he was taken from his home and locked up inside an aquarium, only to entertain humans who amused themselves with animal shows. And as if being taken away from your family and used by other species for fun wasn’t enough, pause right there. It gets worse.

On September 17, Tonka, the last of six false-killer whales in Ocean Park- Subic was declared dead because of an alleged intestinal problem.

Tonka’s case reflects one of the many cases of the terrors behind animal captivity. Since its establishment in 2001, Ocean Park has already witnessed the death of six of its false killer whales, four bottle-nosed dolphins and one sea lion.

An administrative order issued to the Department of Agriculture in 1992 bans the “taking or catching, selling, purchasing, possessing, transporting and exporting of dolphins” in the country. The animal facility, however, justifies its possession of these marine animals by exporting them from the annual Japanese drive hunt. In 2007, a total of 1, 623 dolphins were caught for human consumption and for resale to animal facilities like Ocean Park. You could hear the indignation of Miss Trixie’s voice while relating this to the listeners of the radio show. Not only do humans once again assert their power as the higher species, but they also exploit the weakness of animals in such drive hunts.

Being usually nonchalant about matters like this, I felt like my eyes were seeing these animals for the first time. I always say that I love animals. My family actually owns two dogs and seven cats right now. But the love I felt was reserved for my pets alone. While doing for the radio show, I was finding out more about the animal kingdom than I ever did in my life. It is hard not to get enraged when you read the news about rabbits being skinned, monkeys pierced in their eyes with high heels and dolphins being taken out of the wild for animal shows.  Though I know I won’t be a vegan or an animal activist after the show, my compassion for these animals has taken on a different level.

Now all I can imagine is how Tonka was still smiling at the last moments of his life. It’s a cruel trick played by nature, mastered all the more by the brutality of some people. If Tonka was able to show what he really felt, I’m sure it would have been the face of absolute terror and misery, not gladness.

From left to right: Student producer Arra, Ma'am Khrysta and guest Trixie Concepcion in the DZUP studio discussing the issues on animal captivity.

We pose for a group photo after the episode.

***In case you missed this episode, click here for the transcript to know exactly what we discussed and here for the audio recording.
Happy listening!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dog training with love: force-free dog training with Coach Francis Cleofas

Producer/Co-host:  Corina Ivy Cabotage
Episode: October 1, 2014
Guest: Francis Cleofas, Cleofas Dog Training Center

Last October 1, I had the chance to talk to Dog Coach Francis Cleofas, a renowned dog trainer and one of the country’s dog behaviour consultants, about force-free dog training.

Force-free dog training is a type of training where the owner is taught about his dog's psychology, therefore, maintaining a harmonious relationship between the owner and his dog. What is interesting about this type of dog training is there are no harmful devices and methods used, only a clicker, a small device with a button, which is pressed to associate the dog with the clicking sound. The clicking sound serves as a ‘trigger’ in the dog, which is the cue the dog follows. By far, the clicker method is the most efficient and harmless way of dog discipline.

According to Coach Francis, there are several dog training theories, but he only had time to discuss two. The dominance theory, which is also called the traditional way of dog training, believes in the dominance of the trainer over his dog. The theory was formed by scientists studying a certain pack of wolves, and they found out about the prominence of an ‘alpha’ wolf in every group. The alpha wolf acts as the leader of the pack, and every member follows him. In the dominance theory, the trainer or the owner acts as ‘alpha,’ and the dog must follow.

The dominance theory is where the abuse comes in. If the dog fails to follow the trainer, it gets verbal and physical punishment. The dog may be given a tight or a spiked collar as punishment. This is traditional, and almost no dog trainers use it anymore.

The other theory, also the most current and the safest type, is the force-free training or the ‘positive reinforcement theory.’ This theory doesn’t use any type of abuse and uses operand conditioning, wherein there is a reward for every positive or ‘good’ response from the dog.

Coach Francis reiterated two (2) types of reward punishment in dog training: the positive punishment, or ‘plus punishment,’ where the dog is given food, toys, or attention whenever the dog successfully complies to every command his owner or trainer gives, and the negative punishment, where the dog is deprived of food and attention – but only for a short time.

Apart from reward punishments, there are also motivations a dog needs – food, play, our care and praise, “life reward” – that keep him going. “Life reward” means that the dog can accompany you everywhere, because he follows every order. “You always and only reward good behaviours,” Coach Francis emphasized.

Voice modulation is also important in dog training. Since the dogs’ hearing is very sensitive, voice tone is modulated. Every change in voice pitch affects the dog’s actions, since every tone has a different meaning in the dog’s psyche.

By the end of the program, Coach Francis showed dog tricks his dogs can perform. One is the ‘sitting pretty,’ wherein the dog sits on her hind legs and waits for the cue from the trainer before doing certain acts. It was amazing how the dogs performed in sync with their owner.

I learned so much about dog training and about dogs in general. I encourage every dog owner out there to discipline their dogs through force-free dog training, since it is harmless, and it keeps both the owner and the dog happy.

This is my first time co-hosting and producing for radio, and it felt good. Coach Francis was a very good and informed talker, which is a good thing. I also liked the part when they brought Sophie and Serena inside the studio and showed how tricks are done. The experience was eye-opening, and it made me want to write about and fight for animal rights and welfare when I become a journalist in the future.

Dog Coach Francis with Sophie (black Labrador) and Serena (golden retriever):

Inside the radio studio, with me at the center:

Prof. Khrysta Rara with Sophie and Serena:

Sophie and Serena putting their pawprints on the guestbook:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Meet AFP's Top Bomb-sniffing K-9, Endo

By Kiele Brawner, Student Producer
Episode aired last September 24, 2014
Guest: Jimo Mantaring, UP Student and Pet Owner
            Sgt. Marlon Agena, K-9 Handler and Sgt. Danilo Ta-a, K-9 Trainer
            Endo, Top Dog (AFP K-9 Unit)

I was having dinner with my family one Saturday night, when I got a text informing me that I would be the next student producer for Kwentuhang Pets ATBP. My mind started to race as I thought of what I had to do in only three days’ time—decide on a topic, contact guest speakers, and write the script.

I had been anxious of this radio production since our Broadcast Journalism professor announced it at the beginning of the semester, and it was no secret why— I still hadn’t outgrown my fear of public speaking. I took some consolation in the fact that they wouldn’t be watching me live and in person; still the thought of all the loyal Kwentuhang Pets and DZUP listeners hearing my voice was nerve-wracking.

Initially, I wanted the episode’s topic to be about animals in captivity. With the recent passing of Tonka, the last killer whale in Ocean Adventure Subic’s captivity, and the beginning of the dolphin-hunting season in Japan, I thought it would make for a good discussion. I was still strongly outraged from watching the documentary Blackfish, and I wanted to inform people of the harmful and deadly effects of keeping animals captive. However with no available guest speakers and not much time left, I had to consider other options.

What seemed to be a setback, appeared to be a blessing in disguise. By production day, we had the AFP’s top K-9, Endo, with us in DZUP together with his trainer and handler. The hour flew by as the members of the AFP K-9 team, shared their stories—from the everyday training in camp to their life-threatening missions all over the Philippines; delighting the listeners and the DZUP staff when they even conducted a bomb-sniffing test for us.

This episode on K-9 units definitely enlightened me, as I hope it did for the show’s listeners. I developed a greater appreciation for bomb-sniffing dogs after hearing the stories of how they, together with their handlers, risk their lives for the safety of ours. And of course, after seeing the charming Endo, so obedient and well behaved despite all the dangerous and life-threatening situations I can only imagine he’s been through.

Most people probably only encounter these dogs at malls and airports, just as I did before this episode. Some, maybe online in viral video clips and blog posts featuring dogs who finally are able to reunite with their handlers after a war. This episode of Kwentuhang Pets ATBP put those images in a local and more relatable perspective; it put a face behind the concept. Endo has white hair and his vision is starting to blur due to his old age. He is nearing retirement and he would soon step down. His glory days are almost over. Questions of where he would go, where he would stay, and who would take care of him were brought up in this episode’s discussion, as we found out that retired AFP dogs would usually live out the rest of their lives in a cage.

Prof. Khrysta Rara, who co-hosted the show, saw the opportunity to turn this situation into an advocacy. She expressed her concern, saying retired AFP dogs should be allowed to go home with their handlers to live out the rest of their lives in the company and care of a loved one. In an article she wrote on Endo (, she presented the idea and the possibility of civilians adopting these retired AFP dogs. Imagine my surprise when she told me that the head of CARA read her article, agreeing with and supporting her sentiments; and that a member of the Animal Kingdom Foundation legal council sent an e-mail regarding an Administrative Order currently in the works for these work animals.

The whole radio production experience was definitely a thrilling experience. After all, it’s not everyday that I can say I produced and co-hosted a DZUP radio show. And to make things more meaningful, it put the spotlight on some of our country’s everyday heroes and resulted in an advocacy. It’s great way to say thank you for the service of these K-9 units.

Missed this episode? Listen to it here!




By Khrysta Imperial Rara
Program Producer and Host
Kwentuhang Pets Atbp.

For the past two months now, the program has followed a new format. Students now come on board as weekly episode producers and co-hosts. These students are either enrolled in Broadcast Journalism or other electives like Reporting on the Environment. Every week, one student is tasked with conceptualizing an episode, finding guests, doing the research, co-hosting  and updating the blog. All of them find the experience daunting, to say the least. Some may have production experience, but most don't. They have to deal with unexpected problems like guests suddenly backing out at the last minute.

But all of them admit to one thing - THEY ALL ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE.

Learning is more effective if it is enjoyed. In this case, they learn the rudiments of radio production and co-hosting and managing the blog on a weekly basis. But more importantly, they learn about the issues linked to animal rights and welfare. They get to talk to experts in the animal industry. They become aware of animal cruelty. They don't become advocates but many become sympathetic to the cause of animals. They learn that true compassion should not be directed solely toward people.

All episodes have proven to be learning experiences for me. Some were more enjoyable than others because animals also came in as guests. We have had dogs and cats sitting in the announcer's booth listening to us and even interacting with us during live discussions. 

I enjoy working with my students because of the ideas they bring to the program. You have to be resourceful to find guests at the last minute. You need time to do the research. You have to have patience to follow up on the guests. You have to have guts to butt in and make yourself heard while your teacher and the guests are having an animated conversation on air. And you have to have the skill to blog about the issue and your experience.

They have all these and more.

All in all, I think it's a very good idea. Animals and students make a good mix. The result is always a good program for us and the listeners.

Happy listening, everyone!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Groomer Has It!

By: Pauli Arielle Roa, student-producer
Episode aired last September 3, 2014
Guest: Mr. Ronnie Infante, Resident Pet Groomer,
           Pet House Pet Clinic and Grooming Center

I have an awful voice; I have a very awful voice. Most people, even those I call my friends, almost always tell me that. Although I have had already a short experience in radio production and I have passed a radio class last semester, it still didn't stop me from dreading to have my voice heard over the radio, because again, I have a very awful voice.

I have also a lot of insecurities when it comes to talking. I do not know tact. I do not know when to stop talking, even when what I say doesn't already make sense and is not so relevant to any topic under discussion. I have a tendency to use a lot of words and even create run-on sentences that are too far from being concise but have very little point or none at all. I am a wordy person, and I interject and segue to different thoughts that may be already too far-out from the original thought. I also interject upon other people's thoughts. I interrupt when others talk. That's why being a co-host with my professor proved to be a very difficult feat on discipline and self-control.

However, despite being unsure of myself and unsure of what I could share about myself and unsure when to talk during the whole production, I love animals very much! I enjoyed the radio production because I myself am very interested in pet grooming. I have always looked forward to finding somebody I could talk to about pet grooming. My favorite show in Animal Planet is about pet grooming. At first, there were difficulties that I encountered in getting speakers for the show, but every sweat (from walking along the streets of Maginhawa and Katipunan) and puyat (because I only write after midnight) was worth it. I got to know Kuya Ronnie and his team better. In general, I got to know pet groomers better. I would say that the episode helped me also acquire a greater love for animals, and a greater appreciation for "pet-carers".

The radio production was also sort of an eye opener for me. My professor, Ma'am Rara, shared her opinion about animals wearing decorations, and about animals being killed for products. I realized that I sympathized with her sentiment, and it opened me to another aspect of being an animal lover. We always have to consider what the animals might feel, and sometimes, even though it is no main intention of ours, in a way, we are objectifying them, especially when we treat them like trophies and circus animals through the use of colors and decorations. We strut, pamper and splurge on our pets, sometimes with unintentional disregard for their nature.

During the episode, I also learned a lot. One particular key learning experience was about the Aspins which I used to refer to as Askals. Everytime I look at the Aspins now on the street, I always go back to the radio production episode, and I can't help but well up with emotion for these lovable creatures. I hope someone could take care of them. Being in a dorm practically half my life (where it's not allowed to bring pets, even fish), I have always craved to give my love to a pet I can call my own.

I would gladly repeat the whole radio production. My only regret is I didn't feel more confident about myself and I was cramming the whole thing because of other production requirements from my TV production class. Maybe, if I'm not so busy anymore with my other classes, I might practically beg Ma'am Rara to get me as her co-host once more.

So did you miss the episode? Check out the recording and transcription on the following links!