Obituaries [May 2008]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2008:
Appaji Rao, 71, vice chair of the Animal Welfare Board of
India since 2005, died of a sudden heart attack on April 20, 2008
in Chennai. A graduate of the Madras Veterinary College, Rao
“volunteered at the Blue Cross of India from 1964-1966 and was our
first veterinary volunteer,” recalled Blue Cross of India chief
executive Chinny Krishna. “He joined the Madras Veterinary College
as a lecturer,” Krishna said, “and rose to head the department of
epidimeology.” Retiring in 1995, Rao continued to assist the Blue
Cross of India and other animal welfare charities. For the Animal
Welfare Board, Rao helped to produce draft rules for fish keeping,
dog breeding, and animal euthanasia, “recently finalised and sent
to the Ministry of Environ-ment & Forests for notification,” Krishna
said. “He was also the moving force,” Krishna added, “behind the
workshop for a rabies-free India held in 2006, and for drawing up
the protocols for Animal Birth Control. Rules for temple and captive
elephants he formulated were to be released by the Governor of
Rajasthan” during the week of his death. Among Rao’s last acts was
to telephone Idduki SPCA chief executive A.G. Babu, asking him to
seek an injunction from the High Court of Kerala “against the
indiscriminate killing of stray dogs [by municipal dogcatchers] all
over Kerala,” Babu posted to the Asian Animal Protection Network.
The injunction was granted, Babu said on April 26.

Rudy Komarek, 79, died in early March 2008 of a heart
attack in Florida, ANIMAL PEOPLE was informed by upstate New York
herpetologists Randy Stechart and William S. Brown. “Apart from
several well-known bounty hunters who took thousands of timber
rattlesnakes at taxpayers’ expense in three northeastern New York
counties and one western Vermont county, no single individual had a
detrimental impact on northeastern populations of this species as
great as that of Komarek,” Stechart and Brown said in a jointly
signed statement. Stechart and Brown estimated Komarek poached as
many as 6,000 timber rattlers in New York and adjacent states,
continuing to capture them for at least 14 years after they were
designated a threatened species. Calling himself the Cobra King,
Komarek was arrested in New York state for illegally capturing and
possessing timber rattlers in 1991 and 1992, served a four-month
federal prison term for trafficking in timber rattlers in 1993, and
“was arrested in Kansas and deported from that state in 1995,” Brown
recounted on a 1998 “wanted poster” he distributed as part of an
effort he began as a graduate student and continued for more than 20
years to try to deter Komarek from further raids on timber rattler
dens. Brown started his pursuit of Komarek after Komarek plundered
several dens that Brown had under study, documenting their
threatened status. Several other herpetologists argued that Brown
had made the otherwise obscure Komarek into something of an outlaw
celebrity, who after relocating from New York to Florida sold maps
allegedly showing timber rattler dens to other collectors. Daytona
Beach News-Journal reporter Virginia Smith won the 2004 American
Association of Sunday and Feature Editors top award for feature
writing for a profile of Komarek and history of the Komarek/Brown
feud. Before Brown made Komarek famous for poaching timber rattlers,
he may have been most notorious for selling three of them to former
firefighter Frank Giovanelli, who on October 7, 1986 slipped them
under the door of his downstairs neighbor, Robin Goldman. Goldman
had repeatedly complained that Giovanelli made too much noise. One
of the snakes bit one of Goldman’s cats, who survived. Giovanelli
and Komarek were each sentenced to serve 90 days in jail plus three
years on probation.

Terry LaPointe, 48, founder of the Fund for Dogs & Cats
shelter in Pepperell, Massachusetts, died suddenly on March 13,
2008. LaPointe started the Fund for Dogs & Cats from her home in
Townsend in 1994. The no-kill shelter found homes for about 4,000
dogs and cats during her lifetime, estimated veterinarian John
Lindermuth, who assisted her from the beginning. Volunteers kept
the Fund for Dogs & Cats open after LaPointe’s death.

Stephan Miller, 39, was fatally bitten on the neck by a
five-year-old grizzly bear on April 22, 2008 at his cousin Randy
Miller’s Predators in Action performing animal training center near
Big Bear Lake, California. “It was a flash bite and hit him in a
very vulnerable spot,” during the making of a promotional video,
Randy Miller told Gillian Flaccus of Associated Press. “The bear,
named Rocky, recently appeared in the Will Ferrell sports comedy
Semi-Pro,” wrote Flaccus. Fellow trainer Chemaine Almqist of
Forever Wild, in Phelan, California, praised the Millers’ work and
attention to safety. In 1999, however, “Randy Miller came under
fire from animal rights groups for arranging a wrestling match
between an 800-pound Alaskan grizzly and a 290-pound weightlifter at
a public event,” Flaccus recalled.

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