From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2000:
John Aspinall, 74, died from cancer on June 29 in London. The illegitimate son of a British Army officer, born in India to a British mother, Aspinall had “two great loves––wild animals and gambling,” recalled BBC News. “He started gambling while a student at Oxford University,” following three years in the Royal Marines, the BBC continued. Added Warren Hoge of The New York Times, “On the day of his final exams, he feigned illness and went to the Gold Cup at Ascot instead. He consequently never earned a degree, but he did bet on the right horse and his professional life was launched.” Known for outrageously sexist and racist remarks, and for frequent expressions of general misanthropy, Aspinall nonetheless quickly befriended almost every animal or human he considered worth his while. He ran an ever-moving illegal gambling club from circa 1955 until a 1958 police raid nabbed so many well-connected players that the outcome was the legalization of casino games. With his winnings Aspinall acquired a Capuchin monkey, a tiger who killed a neighborhood dog during a 1957 walk, and two Himalayan bears. He then financed Howlett’s, his first zoo, with the profits from the Clermont Club, a high-toned casino he opened in 1962. He sold the Clermont Club in 1972, using the proceeds to start the 275- acre Port Lympne Zoo near Folkestone.
As neither zoo was greatly profitable, Aspinall founded two more gambling clubs, sold for $30 million in 1983, and founded yet another in 1992. Often photographed playing with his animals, Aspinall encouraged his keepers to do likewise, contrary to prevailing zoo philosophy. The human contact may have eased the inhibititions of many species who were considered difficult to induce to breed in captivity until Aspinall succeeded in doing it. His zoos produced the births of 75 gorillas, 25 leopards, 14 black rhinos, and eight elephants over the years. Several of the gorillas and various other species were eventually reintroduced to the wild. However, tigers killed two members of Aspinall’s staff in 1980 and another in 1994, while elephants killed staff in 1984 and February 2000. Aspinall’s heirs pledged that his collection of 1,100 animals of more than 80 species would continue to be managed “in the manner and philosophy” of Aspinall himself.
Guila Manchester, 80+, died on June 9 in Inverness, Florida. She had recently witnessed the fulfillment of a lifelong dream when the Humanitarians of Florida, Inc., which she founded, opened a shelter now called the Manchester House.
Henri Nsanjama, a native of Malawi who in recent years was vice president and senior advisor on Africa and Madagascar for the World Wildlife Fund, was killed in a July 25 automobile accident.
Kay Wilde, a retired teacher and Doberman fancier who died on May 2, bequeathed $1.2 million as a surprise endowment for the Oshkosh Area Humane Society.
Keith Reemtsma, M.D., 74, died on June 23 at his Manhattan home. Reemstma started an global wave of animalto-human transplant experimentation in 1963- 1964 by putting chimpanzee kidneys into six terminally ill humans. Living from eight days to nine months, all eventually died from infections. Reemstma thereafter focused on human-to-human transplants. He was head of surgery at the University of Utah, 1966-1970, and the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, 1971-1994.
Toniann Connell, 15, of Hicksville, New York, awoke to a fire on July 23, wakened her mother Rosanna and sister Annmarie, 11, and led them to a window where they leaped into the arms of neighbor Jose Martinez––but she died herself from smoke inhalation while making a futile attempt to save her dog, who died with her.
Vince Shute, 86, died on July 4 in Cook, Minnesota. Shute inadvertantly founded the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, a bear refuge managed since 1995 by the American Bear Association, when he began sharing doughnuts with a family of bears who repeatedly raided his cabin.
Marc Reisner, 51, died from cancer on July 21 at his home in San Anselmo, California. Best known for his writings on western desert water issues, including Cadillac Desert (1986), Overtapped Oasis (1989, co-authored with Sarah Bates), and An American Nile (1998), Reisner also enjoyed success with Game Wars: The Undercover Pursuit of Wildlife Poachers (1991), chronicling the career of former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent Dave Hall. Paramount Pictures recently bought the Game Wars film rights.
Eleanor Close, 90, died on May 11. Emigrating from Britain to Greece in 1959, Close founded the Greek Animal Welfare Fund later that year, and “was instrumental in establishing the animal welfare movement we see developing in Greece today,” said the GAWF magazine Elpitha.
Ray A. Whitman, 68, of Newberg, Oregon, died on July 16 from burns suffered in trying to save his horses from a June 10 barn fire. His wife Lola, 66, survived injuries from the fire, which was caused by children playing with matches.
Nancy Treuhaft, business owner, street dog rescuer, and volunteer for the Baja Animal Sanctuary in Rosarito, Mexico, died on June 14. BAS is trying to find homes for her two personal dogs, Blana and CocoaPuff; inquire c/o <email@example.com>.