Airport deaths on purpose
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1999:
Dutch Airlines on April 15 apologized
because staff recently tossed 440 live
Chinese ground squirrels into a shredding
machine of the type normally used to pulverize
culled male chicks at a poultry hatchery.
The ground squirrels arrived at the
KLM terminal at Schiphol International
Airport, near Amsterdam, without health
certificates. They were traveling from a
Beijing exporter to a private collector
[believed to be also a dealer] in Athens,
Greece. KLM claimed the Beijing exporter
had refused to take them back.
The case came to light when 30
squirrels escaped, racing through outdoor
baggage handling areas and runways.
Fifteen were recaptured in view of concerned
passengers and other KLM personnel.
One squirrel raced aboard a jet, which was
then emptied, searched, and disinfected.
Another 15 squirrels got away.
Jaap and Mieke Holtslag, cofounders
of the Amsterdam-based De Meern
Foundation for Squirrel Refuge, said they
could have helped to humanely resolve the
situation, but were never contacted.
“As if that weren’t enough,”
wrote Mike Allen of the New York Times,
“it emerged that KLM keeps the shredder on
standby. The airline said it is used mainly
for destroying chicks who die in transit. But
animal rights groups said KLM whistleblowers
report the shredder has been used for live
turtles and tropical birds, and maybe even
apes and opossums. Sandra C. Maas, a
KLM spokeswoman, said the airline had
been operating under instructions from the
Ministry of Agriculture, but added ‘We
should have been civilly disobedient.’”
KLM said it would meet with representatives
of the World Wildlife Fund and
European Association of Zoos & Aquaria to
draft new rules for handling such situations.
In truth, animals are often killed
by airlines and airport authorities because
they are found as contraband, are not
allowed to enter the nations where they land,
and may not be returned to their native habitat––usually
because they are considered
pests, or because laws presume that specimens
of native species brought from abroad
may introduce foreign disease to local populations.
A similar horror occurred in
October 1996 when a Syrian animal dealer
named Amro Hassan flew 1,000 Horsfield
steppe tortoises from Tadzjikistan, in the
former Soviet Union, to Stockholm,
Sweden. Intercepted by Swedish customs
inspectors, the tortoises remained packed
tightly in crates for days while Russian officials
failed to find Hassan and refused to
permit the tortoises to be repatriated.
Turtle rescue groups and humane
societies worldwide begged that the tortoises
be released to sanctuary care, but mainstream
conservation groups argued that they
should all be killed to maintain the integrity
of legislation against private imports of exotic
Eventually all 1,000 turtles were
frozen to death, by order of Swedish agriculture
inspectors, who said they were “too
far gone” from their time in crates to save.