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Humpback Whales Found In Crocodile-Infested Australian River, Baffling Scientists

Marine experts are planning to rescue humpback whales that have been recorded for the first time in crocodile-infested waters in the Kakadu national park in tropical northern Australia. It is thought the giant sea mammals took a wrong turn during one of nature’s most epic migrations.

The humpbacks should be starting their long journey to Antarctica from breeding grounds off Western Australia’s remote north coast. Instead, a small group – thought to be two adults and a large juvenile – were spotted in the East Alligator river in the Kakadu national park, east of Darwin on September 2. It is famous for its world heritage Aboriginal rock art and for its crocodiles. Never have migrating whales been recorded in the area.

Experts believe one of the humpbacks has returned to the sea, and plans are being made to coax the others to follow. This could involve using the noise from boat engines to gently move them down the river towards Van Diemen’s Gulf that leads to the open waters of the Timor Sea off northern Australia. Whale calls and songs might also be used to try to move the humpbacks back into safer waters. Scientists also hope to fit satellite tracking devices to the mammals.

Dr. Carol Palmer, a senior dolphin and whale scientist at the Northern Territory government, says it was extraordinary to see the humpbacks so far inland.

“We went up the East Alligator (river), we were turning around, we went up about 30kms and then as we were just moseying on down, what did we see the humpback whales. Everyone, including myself, we were just really shocked. It is something that has never been recorded before,” Palmer said.

Tens of thousands of humpback whales migrate up and down Australia’s east and west coasts each year. This migration from Antarctica begins around April, when the giant mammals head north to breed. They start heading south in September and November.

Scientists have not yet explained why a small group wandered so badly off-course, ending up in crocodile-infested waters in the Northern Territory. Saltwater crocodiles are the world’s largest reptiles. They are aggressive and dangerous but are thought to pose little danger to the whales unless the humpbacks become stranded on a sandbank.

Original Article from Isaan.Live

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Australia

Australian Bank Agrees to Record Penalty for Mass Breaches of Money Laundering Laws

Australian bank Westpac has agreed to pay a record fine for the nation’s biggest breach of anti-money laundering laws. The case was brought by the government’s Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center, known as AUSTRAC. It said the penalty of more than $900 million sent a strong message to the financial industry to take compliance seriously.

Westpac was accused by government investigators of 23 million breaches of money laundering and counterterrorism financing laws. Australia’s second-largest bank was found to have allowed transactions that were potentially linked to child exploitation in the Philippines and in other countries despite being specifically warned of the risks. If approved by the federal court, the $920 million fine will be easily the biggest in Australian corporate history.

The bank had set aside $630 million to pay the penalty, but that figure was rejected as insufficient by the financial crimes watchdog. AUSTRAC investigators said the bank’s noncompliance was “serious and systemic.”

Australian Attorney General Christian Porter said he believes the agreed-to settlement, which he described using the Australian dollar amount, is fair.

“My very strong view, and the government’s strident view was that the early appropriations that Westpac made, and the figures that were being put early in negotiations with AUSTRAC were totally inadequate, and that this 1.3 billion [Australian] dollar amount more properly reflects both the seriousness of the offending that Westpac had engaged in, but also an acceptance of the fact that these represent some of the greatest failures of a corporate entity in Australia’s history to abide by Australian law,” Porter said.

Westpac has apologized for its “failings.” Chief executive Peter King said the bank was “committed to fixing the issues to ensure that these mistakes do not happen again.”

The bank’s former chief executive and chairman left their positions last year over the scandal.

Opposition politicians are demanding the government push ahead with reforms to further strengthen Australia’s anti-money laundering legislation.

Last year Australia’s banking industry was scrutinized by a royal commission – the highest form of public inquiry – that exposed widespread dishonesty in the sector.

Original Article from Isaan.Live

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Australia

 Australian Officials Scramble to Save Stranded Whales

Australian wildlife rescue teams said Tuesday they were able to free at least 25 of about 270 pilot whales stranded in a remote area off the west coast of the Australian island of Tasmania and hoped to rescue more.

The rescue operation, led by Australia's Parks and Wildlife Department, got underway early Tuesday after the whales were discovered stranded Monday on two sandbars in Macquarie Harbor, near the west coast town of Strahan, about 200 kilometers northwest of the Tasmanian state capital, Hobart.

Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Manager Nic Deka told reporters a third of the whales were likely to have died.

The rescue effort involved more than 65 state park workers, fishermen and volunteers navigating icy waters and attaching the animals to slings and moving them out of the harbor and into deeper water using boats.

A pod of whales, believed to be pilot whales, is seen stranded on a sandbar at Macquarie Harbour, near Strahan, Tasmania, Australia.
A pod of whales, believed to be pilot whales, is seen stranded on a sandbar at Macquarie Harbour, near Strahan, Tasmania, Australia. (AAP Image/The Advocate Pool, Brodie Weeding)

Wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon said the stranding is believed to be a natural event and said any whales they can save should be considered a “win.” He said with these whales there is always a danger of a re-stranding.

Pilot whales are a large species of dolphin and grow to about seven meters and can weigh up to three tons. They are social animals, traveling in pods of 10 to 20 animals but those groups can swell in size to hundreds.

The species is prone to mass strandings, which some scientist attribute to their strong social connections and persistence to remain together in a crisis.

Original Article from Isaan.Live

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Australia Vows to Protect Aboriginal Heritage After Destruction of Sacred Sites

Multimillion-dollar fines are part of sweeping new changes to heritage laws to protect ancient Aboriginal sites in Western Australia. It follows the destruction by mining giant Rio Tinto earlier this year of two sacred rock shelters dating back 46,000 years, despite opposition from Indigenous groups.

The draft legislation in Western Australia is called the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2020. It would replace outdated 50-year-old legislation and removes a contentious section that allowed the government to give irreversible consent to land users to destroy culturally significant sites.

Traditional Indigenous groups are to be given a greater say in the protection of their land under the proposed measure. In the past, some have agreed to sacrifice sacred sites to help impoverished First Nation communities receive a share in mining revenue.

In May, Rio Tinto, the world's biggest iron ore miner, destroyed two ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia’s Pilbara region as part of a new development. The Aboriginal caves were considered one of Australia's most significant archaeological research areas. Indigenous leaders had strongly opposed development at the site.

The outcry, including anger among company shareholders, was so intense that Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques and two senior executives were forced to quit.

The new legislation was being drafted before the Juukan Gorge was damaged, and it promises a "modern approach to protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage."

Western Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ben Wyatt, says resources companies like BHP have already responded positively.

“What is already happened as a result of the Juukan caves is that miners with significant locations have effectively ceased work, and you have seen BHP in particular announce that,” he said. “So, those sites of extreme significance are already being reconsidered by the miners, or land users and the traditional owner groups. We have also released our new, proposed legislation.”

Should the legislation be approved by the Western Australian state parliament, fines of up to $7.2 million could be imposed for unauthorized damage to Aboriginal sites.

But Robin Chapple, a Greens lawmaker, said the bill proposed a “new and complex system” that under-resourced Indigenous groups would struggle to properly review before an October 9 deadline for public submissions.

The Kimberley Land Council, one of Western Australia’s biggest Indigenous organizations, said the proposed law “completely disregards Aboriginal people and their right to care for their heritage.” Tribal elders have demanded more legal protection for Aboriginal traditional owners, including the right to veto developments on their land.

Public hearings continue Monday in a federal government inquiry in Canberra into the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves. It is examining the failures by both government and businesses that allowed the site to be blown up to allow miners to dig out high-grade iron ore.

The earth lies at the heart of Australia’s ancient Indigenous culture, thought to be some 65,000 years old. Land is considered the mother of creation, connecting Aboriginal peoples to their past, present and future.

Original Article from Isaan.Live

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Australia Covid19 Alert

Covid-19 Australia
27,004
Confirmed
18
Confirmed (24h)
8
Deaths (24h)
75
Recovered (24h)

According to the Government in Australia, Australia has confirmed 18 new Covid-19 infections within Australia in the last 24 hours and furthermore 8 deaths have been reported throughout Australia. With the new deaths of 8, Australia now has a total of 27,004 Coronavirus/Covid-19 infections and the official death rate reported by the government of Australia is 3.2%. 869 died in Australia.

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