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Arab state pledges assistance grant

By Bernadette H. Carreon - For Variety KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon, June 21, 2010) –KOROR (Palau Horizon) – The United Arab Emirates has expressed interest in assisting Palau in the protection of dugongs.

Mandy Etpison, proponent of the Dugong Awareness campaign in the country said that UAE will be giving a technical assistance grant to Palau for this effort.

Etpison said this resulted from the visit of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Palau in February of this year.

Abu Dhabi has a large population of dugongs, unlike Palau, which has the smallest most isolated population in the world, she said.

With this, Etpison Museum master carver Rico Soliman is working on a 12- foot high mahogany statue of a dugong with two calves.

Rico has been in Palau since 1982 and is a respected by other Palauan carvers for his work. Rico started out working for Roman Tmetuchl at the Airai View, then transferred to work for Ngiratkel Etpison at the Royal P Shell Museum in the 1990s, and for the last ten years he has been employed by the Etpison Museum.

The life-sized dugong carving will be displayed at the entrance hall of the Minister of State’s office in Melekeok in August for the next two years, after which it will be displayed at the Palau Pacific Resort and the Etpison Museum.

The carving, Etpison said is part of the 2010 Dugong Awareness Campaign.

The aim of the campaign is to attract attention to Palau’s most endangered marine mammal species.

Although protected by law, local poaching remains a problem.

It was learned that local fishermen still hunt these creatures using spears, nets and dynamite, and admit Palau’s traditional chiefs order dugong meat from them for special occasions.

The Campaign is locally sponsored by PPR, the Etpison Museum, Neco Marine, Diaz Broadcasting, and Palau Helicopters, and is a special project for the Palau Community College Marine Science class.

The Koror State Rangers, Belau National Museum, Bureau of Marine Resources, Coral Reef Research Foundation and Palau Conservation Society are also giving its hand to the cause.

A grant to support the project with helicopter and boat surveys and publication of a report/booklet on Palau dugongs has been approved through the French Embassy in Manila and is awaiting signature.

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