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Villagers in the Solomon Islands have slaughtered up to 900 dolphins in the course of a dispute with a conservation group, Earth Island Institute.

Accounts of the dispute vary. The islanders say the Berkeley-based conservation group failed to pay them, as agreed, for stopping the traditional hunt. Earth Island says the slaughter was the work of a “renegade group” trying to sabotage conservation work.

What is clear, however, is that a misunderstanding between the villagers and Earth Island has resulted in one of the worst cases of dolphin slaughter in the Solomon Islands for some time, and delivered a huge setback to conservation efforts in a world “hot spot” for the dolphin trade.

The Solomon Islands were notorious among conservationists as a source of live dolphins for sea aquariums in China and Dubai.

Earth Island had been working with islanders of Malaita for two years to try to stop…

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