Obituaries [Sep 2008]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2008:

Thomas Doerflein, 44, renowned for
raising the Berlin Zoo polar bear Knut in
2006-2007 after the cub was abandoned by his
mother, was found dead in his apartment of a
heart attack on September 22, 2008. A 25-year
Berlin Zoo employee, “Doerflein with his burly
build and ponytail was a distinctive figure at
the side of the growing bear,” recalled
Associated Press writer Patrick McGroarty. “He
nursed young Knut in his arms behind closed doors
and wrestled with him after the bear grew old
enough to play. When Knut made his public debut
in March 2007, Doerflein was at his side. They
started a daily performance for the thousands of
visitors who flocked to see the bear at his
outdoor enclosure. But the ‘Knut show’ ended in
July of that year when the zoo’s director ruled
that the bear had grown too large for Doerflein
to frolic with in safety.” The “Cute Knut”
phenomenon reportedly boosted Berlin Zoo
attendance by 27% in 2007, and increased
revenues by $10 million.

Heidi Jean Krupp, 49, a co-founder of
the St. Francis Animal Sanctuary in Tylertown,
Mississippi, died of cancer on August 22, 2008.
Modeled after the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
in Kanab, Utah, the St. Francis Animal
Sanctuary had barely opened when Hurricane
Katrina hit New Orleans, Krupp’s home, in
September 2005. Overnight the sanctuary
accommodated the Humane Society of Louisiana,
whose New Orleans shelter was destroyed, and the
Best Friends relief operations. The Humane
Society of Louisiana is still working from the
sanctuary. Best Friends again collaborated with
the sanctuary in response to Hurricanes Gustav
and Ike in September 2008.

Joyce Smith, 79, founder of the Second
Chance Wildlife Sanctuary in Pickering, Ontario,
died on August 19, 2008. The sanctuary at her
death reportedly housed as many as 500 cats,
dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks and other
animals on 25 acres made available by the Cherry
Downs Golf & Country Club. The future of the
sanctuary since her death is reportedly unclear,
with the board of directors trying to rehome as
many of the animals as possible.
Ben Cunneen, 33, of Brisbane,
Australia, on August 21, 2008 became the third
known human death attributed to hendra virus, a
disease carried by fruit bats which produces
symptoms similar to rabies but is not always
fatal. “Cunneen contracted the disease after
treating horses at the Redlands Veterinary
Clinic,” reported Christine Kellett of the
Brisbane Times. “Five horses infected with the
disease at the Redlands clinic have either died
or been put down. Hospitalized five weeks ago,
Cunneen was placed in a medically-induced coma
after his condition deteriorated. The virus is
believed to have killed horse trainer Vic Rail,
49, following a similar outbreak in 1994.”
Fourteen horses died from the 1994 outbreak. The
second human victim, a 35-year-old horse
breeder, apparently developed the disease 13
months after his exposure to two infected horses.
A female veterinary nurse who worked with Cunneen
was also hospitalized, but reportedly was
released and recovering, under ongoing medical
surveillance. A Department of Primary Industries
veterinarian who accidentally jabbed himself with
a needle while euthanizing a racehorse was tested
to see if he had become infected, Kellett said.
The horse was infected, but had recovered. “The
horse’s owner is considering legal action,”
Kellett noted.

Thomas Weller, 93, died on August 23,
2008 in Needham, Massachusetts. Weller and
Harvard Medical School collaborators John F.
Enders and Frederick C. Robins shared the 1954
Nobel Prize for Medicine for developing an in
vitro method of growing the polio virus, a
critical step toward enabling Jonas Salk and
Albert Sabin to produce the first effective polio
vaccines. “Before the 1949 breakthrough, which
showed how to cultivate the virus in test tubes,”
the Washington Post explained, “scientists
believed it could be grown only in the nerve
tissue of live monkeys. So impractical was this
technique that specialists despaired of finding a
way to shield populations against the infectious
menace that struck without warning, had crippled
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and left others
unable to walk, or even breathe, unaidedÅ 
Enders was credited with introducing Weller to
virus research and cultivation in test tubes
rather than using monkeys.”

Jacklyn Sue Thunder Sellers, 58,
executive director of the Sumter Humane Society
in Americus, Georgia, since 2000, was killed
on August 19, 2008 when her riding lawn mower
flipped over on top of her. There were no
witnesses. Originally from Battle Creek,
Michigan, Sellers joined the Sumter Humane
Society staff two years before her promotion to
the top job.

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