Human obituaries

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2001:
Warren D. Thomas, DVM, 70, died from a sudden illness on a
March 17 trip to Brunei. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Thomas
was a junior keeper at the Columbus Zoo when he helped to deliver the
first gorilla known to have been born in captivity, and was profiled
in Life magazine. Thomas became director of the Oklahoma City Zoo in
1951, at age 21, and built it into a major institution by 1965,
when he moved to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. After planning
significant expansion, Thomas in 1970 planned, built, and became
first director of the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. That
brought a 1974 invitation from then-Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley to
preside over the Griffith Park Zoo, now known as the Los Angeles
Zoo. By 1982 Thomas had expanded the Los Angeles collection to
include more than 500 species. As public attitudes toward zoos
evolved, and the old “menagerie” approach began to yield to an
emphasis on conservation of endangered species, Thomas committed the
Los Angeles Zoo to participation in the California condor recovery
program, and founded the Sumatran Rhinoceros Trust. But his Los
Angeles tenure was marked by running feuds with the fundraising Los
Angeles Zoo Association, the Humane Society of the U.S., and his
boss, city Recreation and Parks director James Hadaway, beginning
when Hadaway suspended him for five days for allegedly mishandling
ivory. Hadaway fired Thomas in June 1986 for reportedly using racial
epithets, neglecting records of animal transfers, and
misappropriating zoo supplies. Thomas won reinstatement and $170,000
in back pay plus legal costs, but resigned in October 1990 during a
dispute with the city over his management of a slush fund and failure
to comply with USDA orders to address a variety of sanitation,
drainage, insect, and rodent problems. In recent years, Thomas
did zoological consulting and lectured aboard cruise ships.

Larry Lansburgh, 89, died on April 1 at his ranch in Eagle
Point, Oregon. Remembered by Associated Press as “a filmmaker who
almost always featured animals,” Lansburgh joined Walt Disney
Studios after World War II and went on to direct 18 feature films and
several TV programs for Disney. Lansburgh received his first Academy
Award nomination for the short film Cow Dog, then won Academy Awards
in 1958 for a short feature, The Wetback Hound, and 1961, for a
documentary, The Horse With The Flying Tail. His most popular film,
however, was probably Stormy–The Thoroughbred.
Martin Soucie, believed to have been about 60, longtime
host and proprietor of the Grateful Bed & Breakfast near Luquillo,
Puerto Rico, was killed in a mysterious mid-April fire. “The police
are investigating foul play, since he was burned beyond
recognition,” said Luquillo animal rescuer Sally Tully-Figueroa, a
longtime friend. “His two six-year-old dogs are being cared for,
and will be sent together to a home already promised for them.” A
longtime vegetarian in emulation of Grateful Dead bandleader Jerry
Garcia, Soucie hosted and assisted ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt
Clifton during a week-long 1998 incognito investigation of animal
care facilities and street dog conditions in Puerto Rico.

Eric Bloom, 25, was killed on March 25 by a Bengal tiger
named Jagger at the illegally operating Safari Wildlife animal care
facility at the Prince Ranch Lodge near Las Vegas, soon after Bloom
and tiger owner Joshua Weinstein entered the tiger’s cage to prepare
him for a photo shoot. Heavyweight boxer David Tua, who posed with
Jagger in photos taken before a 2000 title fight, reportedly heard
screaming from his nearby training facility and rushed to the scene
to find Bloom’s head in Jagger’s mouth and Weinstein beating Jagger
with a spade. Tua tried unsuccessfully to stop the flow of blood
from Bloom’s fatal neck wound. Bloom, a former Oakland Zoo
volunteer, “had devoted his life to animals, from the puppy he
saved from abuse to the baby baboon he had trained to the tiger who
killed him,” wrote Frank Geary of the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Weinstein was cited in 1996 for allowing an African lion to escape at
the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona; his animals were
confiscated later that year by the Inland Valley Humane Society, due
to alleged neglect; and there was allegedly a warrant out on him for
failing to appear in court on a 1997 charge of soliciting customers
to pose with Jagger at the Long Beach Convention Center without
possessing the necessary permit. In January 2000 the USDA cited
Weinstein for alleged Animal Welfare Act violations; in mid-2000,
he was cited by Clark County Animal Control for allegedly not giving
a pet pig adequate water; and also in mid-2000, a country club
manager complained that Weinstein let the tiger get too close to
spectators during a magic show. The Clark County Planning Department
closed Safari Wildlife on March 30. Weinstein relocated the animals,
and told Jace Radke of the Las Vegas Sun that he intends to use
Jagger from now on only for breeding purposes.

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