Flat Earth: Unprotected species

HE'S IN big trouble, is Andrew Curven from Bermagui on the coast of New South Wales. While watching a Southern Right whale cavorting in Bermagui harbour, he decided to jump in and have a ride on his back. 'It was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. How many times do you get to stand on a whale?' Andy, 28, said, waving a snap his sister, Nina, took of him standing on the Southern Right, which has been in the area for some time and has been wittily nicknamed 'Rightie' by the locals. All pretty harmless, you might think. But Andy had overlooked one thing. Australia, a country where people once used stranded whales as (rather undemanding) target practice, is now very Green and desperate to be as unlike Norway as possible. The penalty for a swimmer even paddling within 30yd of a whale is pounds 1,000 and two years in jail.

Instead of brazening it out and pointing to the Aussie male's immemorial right to ride or rile up any beast that crosses his path - crocs, 'roos, Pamplona bulls - Andy began to whimper that he hadn't really ridden the whale, it sort of surfaced under him - and anyway it didn't mind, it swam round and kind of looked at him with its eye and . . . But enough of all this] Into the slammer with you, Digger]