Human Obituaries [April 2001]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2001:
Human Obituaries

David McTaggart, 69, was killed in a head-on car crash on March 23 in Umbria, Italy. Born in Vancouver, B.C., McTaggart won the Canadian singles badminton championship three years straight, 1950-1952. He founded a construction firm at age 23, and built the Bear Valley ski resort in California, but quit the business after he was nearly bankrupted by liabilities resulting from a 1969 gas explosion. He spent the next few years sailing his yacht Vega. In 1972 he answered an ad placed by an organization called the Don’t Make A Wave Committee, formed in 1970 by Quaker activists Jim Bohlen, Paul Cote, and Irving Stowe. Having already sailed into U.S. nuclear testing zones twice to protest atmospheric explosions, they were now seeking a boat to sail into Mururoa atoll in French Polynesia to protest against French atomic blasts. McTaggert took the job, renamed his boat the Greenpeace III, and introduced a more confrontational style of protest. The group metamorphized into Greenpeace by year’s end, with McTaggert, Don’t Make A Wave crew members Bob Hunter and Patrick Moore, and 19-year-old Paul Watson as charter members.

Initially Greenpeace remained focused on nuclear weapons, but former Vancouver Aquarium researcher Paul Spong,
Hunter, Moore, and Watson in 1975 led them into opposition to Japanese and Russian whaling. The anti-whaling campaign captured the public imagination, enabling Watson to talk the others into opposing the Atlantic Canadian seal hunt as well. McTaggert, however, continued to favor environmental action over animal-saving. Watson left in 1977 to form the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Thereafter, McTagg-ert was the dominant figure in building Greenpeace into a global empire with 3.5 million members worldwide at peak in 1990 (now down to 2.7 million), and annual income of $112 million. Although opposition to whaling remained central to the activity of several overseas chapters, the U.S. and Canadian chapters took softer positions and became gradually less involved. McTaggert retired from Greenpeace in 1991 and spent his last years producing olive oil in Italy.

Alan Blank, 62, of Des Moines, Iowa, who was building a zoo in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on March 8 vanished after a morning meeting with an American business associate who was killed in a traffic accident the following morning. Blank is believed to have met foul play.

Wilfred T. Neill Jr., 79, a noted herpetologist, died on February 19. “His health had declined steadily since his 41st
poisonous snakebite in 1978,” recalled Cornell University colleague Kraig Adler.

Richard Hughes, 34, an elephant keeper at the Chester Zoo in England, was crushed against a wall on February 8 by Kumara, 34, a female Asian elephant who had reportedly become difficult on many recent occasions. “Richard ate, slept, and breathed elephants,” recalled his father.

Nathan Mitchell, 33, an animal control officer for the past six years in Biloxi, Mississippi, after spending eight years as an animal technician, was so engrossed in trying to coax a loose pit bull terrier to come to him on March 6 that he apparently never heard the CSX Transportation freight train that ran him over. He left a son, Nathan Jr., age 6.

Lim Chang San, 75, of Pahang, Malaysia, locally known for his love of animals, on March 6 dug a water buffalo out of a pit on an oil palm plantation into which the animal had fallen. His employer, Lau Aie Ma, 51, saw the buffalo escape, walk a few steps, then turn and gore Lim. Lau suffered multiple injuries while trying to save Lim, and might have been killed himself if five orang asli villagers had not come to his aid.

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