Protest over whales set
Representatives of several wildlife conservation groups are scheduled to gather at Kaohsiung International Airport today to protest the importation of four endangered whales by the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Pingtung County. The four female belugas are scheduled to arrive from Russia. Conservationists have urged that the four be set free in their natural habitat in the Arctic Ocean. They note that these whales migrate more than 2,000km and can dive as deep as 800m, so that the 3,300m3 tank the aquarium has prepared would be a mistreatment of animals. Other activists have slammed the Council of Agriculture for issuing an import permit for the endangered species. They said the four belugas imported from Russia in 2002 are there to perform, not for research purposes, since they have been trained to do tricks such as dancing or holding balls. The Hi-Scene World Enterprise Co, which runs the aquarium, says the whales are not performing, but are giving "educational displays."
Vietnamese women detained
Kaohsiung County police have detained four Vietnamese women allegedly involved in fake marriages with Taiwanese men, a man who helped arrange the marriages, and two of the women's ostensible husbands. A police spokesman said yesterday that the four women were nabbed in Hsiaokang District last Friday after they were found working in a Vietnamese restaurant suspected of providing sex to male customers. The spokesman said the women had used fake marriages to enter the country when their real purpose was to make money by working as bar girls or prostitutes. One of the women told police she had paid NT$200,000 to a human-trafficking ring to bring her to Taiwan, and that she had to pay NT$20,000 every month to her "husband." The four women will be referred to the public prosecutors office and face certain deportation. The police are still trying to locate the snakehead ring behind the trafficking of Vietnamese women, the spokesman said.
Hualien rocked by tremor
An earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale rocked the east and northeast yesterday, seismologists said. The quake occurred at 3:07pm and its epicenter was located at 70.9km east of Hualien. "The quake took place at 31.1 kilometers under the sea bed, making its impact less obvious," said a spokesman with the Central Weather Bureau's earthquake center. Police said there were no reports of casualties, though the quake did alarm residents in Hualien and nearby townships.
Photo exhibit opens
French-born photographer Florence de Changy will describe her encounters throughout Asia in a photo exhibition that opens today at a FNAC bookstore in Taipei's Xinyi District. De Changy came to Taiwan in 2003. The photo exhibition titled "Brief Encounters in Asia" will be held at FNAC at Shin-Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store in Xinyi District until Feb. 25. Some 40 pictures taken in nine Asian countries -- Burma, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong -- will be shown. De Changy is a freelance journalist who regularly writes articles about Taiwan for the French newspaper Le Monde, Radio France International and the TV station TV5. Her interest in photography dates back to when she won a competition in 1988. She settled in Taiwan in 2003 with her family.