Updates on Carroll Cox investigations done for Friends of Animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1997:

While employed by
Friends of Animals, Carroll Cox
investigated––among many other
topics––the U.S. Navy practice
bombing of Farallon de Medinilla,
an uninhabited Pacific island used
extensively by endangered, threatened,
and otherwise protected
seabirds; the reason why the
Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species secretariat
last year rejected the fiscal 1994
U.S. wildlife import/export data
submitted by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service; the alleged misuse
of a scientific research permit
issued to Albright College professor
Marsha Green, both by Green herself


and by colleagues including
marine artist Robert Wyland; the
distribution of resident geese killed
by the USDA Wildlife Services
branch (formerly Animal Damage
Control) to soup kitchens without
any formal food safety testing or
inspection; the mid-August 30-day
suspension by the National Marine
Fisheries Service of the requirement
that Alabama shrimpers must use
turtle exclusion devices (TEDS) on
their nets, ostensibly because floating
debris from Hurricane Danny
interfered with proper operation of
the TEDS but commencing 18 days
after the hurricane ended; and the
July 23 orphaning of two bear cubs
under questionable circumstances in
Stokes State Forest, New Jersey,
after state Department of Fish,
Game, and Wildlife ranger Rob
Sikoura shot their mother.
More has occurred, possibly
due to Cox’s work, in each case.
Island bombshell
Cox brought the Farallon
de Medinilla bombing to the attention
of the international animal protection
community via his March
1997 ANIMAL PEOPLE g u e s t
column “Bombs away!”
On August 21, the influential
Western Pacific Regional
Fishery Management Council recommended
that the bombing be permanently
halted because of the
potential damage to coral reefs from
wayward ordinance.
Actions of the Council
itself that may harm endangered
species were the topic of a second
Cox column, “Clear National
Marine Fisheries Service of buyers
and sellers,” in the May 1997 edition
of ANIMAL PEOPLE.
CITES rejection
The CITES rejection of
the 1994 USFWS wildlife import/
export data occurred due to errors
known to USFWS by November 1,
1995, and had “international ramifications”
recognized by Kenneth B.
Stansell, chief of the USFWS
Office of Management Authority,
as far back as August 6, 1996,
according to memos A N I M A L
PEOPLE obtained on September
12, 1997 under the Freedom of
Information Act.
The most important ramification
was that all USFWS estimates
of traffic in particular species
may be significantly off, because of
inaccurate data entry by port inspectors.
USFWS may thus have little
accurate idea as to what extent legal
commerce jeopardizes rare plants
and animals, and may therefore be
unable to respond in time to keep a
rare species from becoming threatened,
endangered, or even extinct.
Among the mistakes in the
1994 U.S. data identified by John
Caldwell, senior research officer for
the World Conservation Monitoring
Centre in Cambridge, England, an
apparent crocodile leather handbag
imported from Italy was reported as
a parrot from Madagascar; a pygmy
hippopotamus was declared to have
come from Madagascar; 5,850
pieces of jewelry were apparently
declared to have been made from
the remains of one eagle; more than
a ton of parrot eggs were supposedly
imported in one cargo from
Thailand; and a shipment of coral
was identified as a live bird.
Cox, skeptical of the official
USFWS claim that mere file
conversion errors associated with a
change of equipment were responsible
for the inaccuracies, requested
copies of the input data under the
Freedom of Information Act. FoA
president Priscilla Feral received
and paid a $186 copying fee for
1,428 pages of documents, but
because of the midsummer United
Parcel Service strike, she told ANIMAL
PEOPLE, she did not get the
data to Cox before firing him on
August 20, and because she had
fired him, she added, she would
not release it to him afterward.
Information gathered by
Shirley McGreal of the International
Primate Protection League in connection
with the deaths in transit of
monkeys imported earlier this year
from Inquartex, of Indonesia, by
LABS Inc., of Virginia, indicates
that similar misdeclarations of the
species and origins of imported
wildlife are still commonplace, in
part because USFWS inspectors
sign forms stating that they have
inspected cargos they have not actually
seen. Of the 253 crab-eating
macacques involved in the transaction
that drew McGreal’s attention
to the matter, 20 were infants
younger than the normal weaning
age, and 17 others were pregnant
females. Federal regulations forbid
the import of unweaned infant primates
and pregnant primates.
Cox said Feral ordered
him not to share his findings with
McGreal.
Green & Wyland
Issued National Marine
Fisheries Service research permit
#883 in December 1993 to study
humpback whale behavior for four
years off Hawaii, Pennsylvania psychobiology
professor Marsha Green
gradually built a “scientific” whalewatching
fleet of nine vessels, with
at least 63 “research assistants” and
38 “designated agents,” who pay
her Ocean Mammal Institute to join
“ecoadventures and research expeditions.”
Similar activities are promoted
by the closely associated
Whaleman Foundation, set up by
photographer Jeff Pantukhoff,
whose web site explains that Green
is “our permit holder.”
One key difference
between “scientific” and ordinary
whale-watching is that because
holders of research permits are
ostensibly gathering data that will
help save whales, they may
approach whales much more closely
than non-permitees. “Designated
agents” can even swim with whales,
which is otherwise forbidden.
NMFS began to take a
closer look at Green’s activities in
December 1996, after Pantukhoff
and Green shortcut permit protocol
by sending the artist Robert Wyland
video footage and photographs for
use in a TV production without getting
the requisite NMFS authorization
first. The authorization requirement
is a safeguard set up to prevent
the use of research permits as a
cover for commercial activity.
On April 9, more than
three months later, NMFS Office of
Protected Resources chief Ann
Terbush advised Green that, “We
cannot authorize use of the images.
We are troubled that the activities
depicted…do not appear to have a
clear association with the research
as described in your scientific
research application and authorized
in your scientific research permit.”
In specific, Terbush wrote, “we are
concerned that some of the photographs
appear to depict one of
your designated agents,” Wyland,
“posing with a humpback cow and
calf,” allegedly disturbing both, in
violation of the permit conditions.
The correspondence
record, separately obtained by Cox
a n d ANIMAL PEOPLE under the
Freedom of Information Act, indi

cates Wyland was actually not a designated agent, but was
rather a research assistant, who according to the permit conditions
shouldn’t have even been in the water.
On August 21, NMFS Assistant Administrator for
Fisheries Rolland A. Schmitten refused Cox’s request for
copies of the documentation of Wyland’s alleged actions,
“because disclosure would likely cause substantial harm to the
competitive position of the person from whom the information
was obtained.”
Seven days later, ANIMAL PEOPLE received a
similar refusal from Schmitten.
Both refusals were evidently based upon a July 17
letter from Green to Terbush. Green argued that, “The government’s
provision of the materials requested by Mr. Cox would
be inconsistent with the purpose of the regulatory framework
protecting the whales,” since “Provision of the materials would
permit Cox or anyone who might acquire the materials from
Cox to publish the photos or videos in a fashion that would
undermine the regulatory protections”––though it was the
alleged actions of Wyland, Green, and Pantukhoff that
Terbush found to be violating the regulatory protections.
“Production of the images,” Green continued,
“could also jeopardize my reputation as a responsible scientist
if people are offended by the photographs and video of Wyland
in the water with the whales. The purpose of my vessel impact
research is to help appropriate agencies develop management
guidelines for vessels around whales to protect them from
harassment. If people interpreted the images of Wyland with
whales as evidence of harassment, the credibility of my
research could be questioned.”
Concluded Green, “In summary, provision of the
requested images to Mr. Cox could substantially harm my reputation
as a marine mammal scientist, which would harm my
ability to get grants and other funding to support the research
and to attract students and volunteers to my work. Release of
the images could also harm my status as a professor at Albright
College and negatively impact my future salary. Any release
would also negatively impact the commercial value of the
images, should I decide to request permission to use them to
help fund future research.”
Feeding geese to the poor
Donating resident Canada geese killed under contract
with other government agencies to soup kitchens since 1995,
the Animal Damage Control branch of the USDA seemed to
have the perfect public relations gimmick. Animal rights
activists who objected to the goose massacres were pitted
against poor and hungry children, the aged, the handicapped,
and members of disadvantaged minorities.
But as Cox discovered and reported July 10, in findings
amplified on page one of the September ANIMAL PEOPLE,
the soup kitchens mistakenly assumed that meat coming
from the USDA was USDA-certified as safe for consumption.
In fact, the USDA does not inspect wildlife carcasses. Since
wildlife meat traditionally does not enter commerce, no federal
or state agency inspects it on a regular basis.
However, some state agencies have occasionally
inspected resident Canada goose carcasses. In August 1996,
the New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation examined remains of 251 geese who were killed
at Clarkstown, New York, and donated to the People to People
food pantry. The meat proved unfit for human consumption
due to contamination by lead, oil, and polluted muck.
Clarkstown killed 201 geese this year, and donated
them to Delaware Opportunities, a food program with eight
soup kitchens in Delaware County.
“We did an evaluation and concluded that it was
safe,” Claire Pospisil of the New York state health department
told media on August 26. “However,” she added, “we recommend
that if at all possible it should not be given to children
because of the lead content.”
As last year and the year before, reports of communities
and institutions trying to get rid of Canada geese reached
ANIMAL PEOPLE at the rate of several a day throughout
August and September––but there was little more public talk
about feeding the geese to the poor.
Suspended turtle protection
As ANIMAL PEOPLE reported on page one in
September, Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural
Resources director R. Vernon Minton on July 28 complained to
NMFS that after Hurricane Danny, which hit July 19, “a
tremendous amount of debris in Alabama’s bays” caused
“extraordinary difficulty with the performance of TEDs.
Shrimp fishermen in Alabama,” Minton said, “are experiencing
severe economic hardship due to this situation.”
NMFS on August 6 thus quietly suspended the TED
rule for Alabama shrimpers in the Mississippi Gulf and Mobile
Bay at least through September 5. Tthe suspension could have
been extended another 30 days had Minton so requested.
NMFS claimed the suspension was protecting endangered
sea turtles, as well as helping shrimpers make a buck,
because turtles might drown in debris-clogged TEDs. Both
Cox and ANIMAL PEOPLE began requesting evidence that
the TED requirement was jeopardizing sea turtles on September
9, but received only copies of letters Minton wrote on August
6, as the suspension took effect, and August 15, in which he
repeated an unsubstantiated claim that “interviews with fishermen
by biological and enforcement personnel” had established
“clogging of the escape panels,” and added that “Few records
of sea turtle sitings exist for Alabama’s inside waters.”
However, NMFS sea turtle stranding data showed
highly endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles turning up in the
vicinity of the Alabama inside waters at about twice the rate
that chance alone would predict.
On September 9, nearly three weeks after ANIMAL
PEOPLE broke the story, Therese Conant of the NMFS
Office of Protected Resources responded to an August 14 ANIMAL
PEOPLE Freedom of Information Act request.
“Please note that even one turtle observed caught in a
clogged TED may be significant,” Conant wrote. “The observer
coverage of this fishery is approximately 0.022% and the
abundance of turtles is relatively low in the Gulf of Mexico
when compared to the Atlantic. Therefore, low observation
rates could indicate a problem in concentrated areas where the
level of shrimping effort and debris may be high. Although the
main reason for allowing the Alabama 30-day exemption from
TED use was due to a loss of shrimp,” she continued, “ e.g.
debris collects and weighs the net down, on occasion a turtle
may become pinned in the debris-laden net. “
The data Conant sent with her note, gathered in
February 1992, described samplings of 6,351 Gulf of Mexico
shrimp nets, of which 267 had clogged TEDS. Within those
267 clogged nets were five sea turtles, of whom at least three
definitely survived while the other two might have.
Thus the data documented that clogged TEDs, possibly
killing no turtles, were not nearly as much a threat to sea
turtles as non-use of TEDs, which are mandated because
shrimpers not using them had contributed significantly to pushing
Kemp Ridley sea turtles, in particular, toward extinction.
“To date,” Conant added, “Alabama has not requested
an extension of the exemption, nor has one been granted.”
New Jersey bears
“With bills to ban bear hunting pending before the
New Jersey House and Senate,” ANIMAL PEOPLE reported
on page 17 of our September edition, “and a proposed bear
management plan awaiting consideration by the New Jersey
Fish, Game, and Wildlife Adviosry Council in August, the
New Jersey Department of Fish, Game, and Wildlife needed a
dramatic late July incident,” the July 23 shooting of a mother
bear, purportedly in self-defense by ranger Rob Sikoura, “to
make their case that an estimated 350 to 550 bears, statewide,
pose an imminent threat to human safety.”
The NJ/DFGW case for bear hunting had been rejected
in 1996 because the agency couldn’t cite even one case of a
bear in New Jersey seriously harming a human.
Finding many discrepancies in the official account of
the incident, Cox drove up to New Jersey initially on his own
time and at his own expense to check it out. For one thing, 10
days before the shooting, the New Jersey Herald e x t e n s i v e l y
quoted Sikora as an expert on nonlethal responses to bear
attacks, but two days afterward, asked why Sikora had pursued
the mother bear across a 40-foot-wide stream, toward her
treed cubs, while failing to carry any of the nonlethal response
equipment he had demonstrated, NJ/DFGW spokesperson Rob
Winkel told Fred Aun of the Newark Star-Ledger that Sikoura
had not received bear response training.
On the scene, Cox also discovered no New Jersey
wildlife officials had even seen the cubs before pronouncing
them able to survive on their own. Cox documented in photos
and video––which won extensive favorable publicity for FoA,
which later covered his expenses––that the hungry cubs had
already begun raiding trash and campsites. By killing the
mother in an apparently provoked incident, and then not taking
the orphans into supervised rehabilitation, Sikoura and the
NJ/DFGW had in effect created further bear/human conflict.
Seemingly unabashed, the NJ/DFGW on September
18 proposed starting a bear hunt to halve the state bear population.
The proposal also included a ban on feeding wild bears
and, in a concession to hunting opponents, a proposal to
experiment with using contraceptives to limit bear births.

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