Obituaries [Jan/Feb 2009]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2009:
Phyllis Jean Stoner Clifton, 79, mother of ANIMAL PEOPLE
editor Merritt Clifton, died on December 19, 2008 at home in
Bellingham, Washington. Becoming a vegetarian in 1949, upon
marriage to Jack Clifton, who survives her, she remained
vegetarian during long hospitalizations in the 1950s and 1960s, when
hospitals rarely accommodated vegetarian patients. A schoolteacher
in parts of four decades, she reviewed 29 biographies, novels, and
books about cats for ANIMAL PEOPLE, 1992-1997, and contributed to
many other periodicals until the onset of her terminal illness
inhibited her ability to write.

Gavin Best, “an experienced
and well respected handler of captive elephants used in their tourist
elephant-back safari rides, was killed earlier this week by one of
the elephants in his care,” reported Zimbabwe Wildlife Conservation
Task Force founder Johnny Rodrigues on December 18, 2008. Best and
his wife Shaylene had managed the Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary &
Orphan-age near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, since 2000. They
previously managed the Imbabala Safari Camp for 12 years. Earlier,
Gavin Best spent 10 years with the Zimbabwe Department of National
Parks & Wildlife. Gavin Best told Earthyear magazine that elephants
should never be forcibly removed from wild herds. He worked with
orphaned elephants who would not survive without human care. He
recommended using only reward-based positive reinforcement to train
elephants, and emphasized the importance of elephants trusting their
handlers. Wild Horizons “suspended their elephant tourism
interactions whilst the incident is investigated,” Rodrigues said.

Kuni Raman, 70, of Kerala, India, mahout for a logging
elephant employed by a coffee plantation, was killed by the elephant
on December 18, 2008 when the elephant became “wild” and Raman tried
to shackle him, reported the Deccan Herald.

Prasad of Manimala, 39, a mahout who was walking alongside
a logging elephant, was killed on January 2, 2009 at
Perinad-Vayaranmaruthi, Kerala, India, when the elephant fell on
top of him. A second mahout, Manoj of Ranni, 30, was riding the
elephant and was hurt, but survived, said The Hindu.

D. Carleton Gajdusek, 85, who won the 1976 Nobel Prize for
medicine for discoveries about prionic diseases, died on December
12, 2008 in Tromso, Norway. Gajdusek in 1957 recognized ritual
cannibalism of the brains of dead ancestors as the cause of
transmission of kuru, a disease similar to “mad cow disease,” among
the Fore people of New Guinea. In 1966 Gajdusek confirmed his theory
by transmitting kuru to chimpanzees. Neurologist Stanley Prusiner of
University of California at San Francisco won the 1997 Nobel Prize
for medicine for identifying rogue proteins called prions as the
actual mechanisms of transmission. This led to laws now in effect in
most developed nations against recycling the remains of slaughtered
cattle in cattle feed.
Amy Samuels, 57, died of cancer on December 9, 2008 at her
home in West Falmouth, Massachusetts. Samuels studied dolphins in
California and Hawaii, baboons in Kenya, “and later was a
behavioral biologist at the Brookfield Zoo,” near Chicago, recalled
Bryan Marquard of the Boston Globe, before joining the staff of the
Woods Hole Oceano-graphic Institution.” Samuels also studied
dolphins at the Monkey Mia Research Foundation in western Australia.
She wrote a children’s book, Follow That Fin: Studying Dolphin
Behavior (2000), and investigated the effects of dolphin-watching
boats on dolphins, but her best known contribution to animal
behavioral research was discovering how dolphins resolve conflicts.
“Others had noticed the fights among animals, but hadn’t noticed the
more subtle way they reconciled,” Woods Hole senior scientist Peter
Tyack told Marquard. “Amy noticed gentle touching between animals
after those kinds of fights and realized they seemed to be a
reconciliation behavior.”

Joe Bergeron, 58, died of an apparent heart attack on
December 20, 2008 in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Bergeron and
his wife Pat operated Bergeron’s Exotic Animal Sanctuary for more
than 20 years, often conflicting with neighbors and the Ontario
SPCA. Seasonally open to visitors, Bergeron’s Exotic Animal
Sanctuary experienced escapes by pigs, cattle, a peacock, and a
Japanese macaque named Julian. A second macaque who escaped with
Julian in September 2008 was reportedly killed when he jumped within
a paw-swipe of a caged puma.

Margaret Molnar, 86, died on December 23, 2008. Settling
in Taylor Township, Michigan, in 1960, Molnar kept as many as 150
peacocks, chickens, pheasants, and quail in her backyard pens,
assisted by two adult special needs sons. Though licensed to raise
birds by the state Department of Natural Resources, she often
clashed with local officials after the township became the city of
Taylor in 1968. The Michigan Humane Society charged her with
neglect, confiscated her birds, and killed them in 2000. The city
bulldozed her pens. But Molnar was acquitted. Fellow bird breeders
helped her to build new pens. Her flock had increased to 80-90 birds
when she was charged again in July 2008. In November 2008 she was
ordered to keep no more than 16 birds, to allow city inspections of
her property, and to show proof of monthly visits by an
exterminator. The remaining birds were to be removed upon her death.

Safari Kakule, a gorilla ranger at Virunga National Park in
the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was killed near Tshiaberimu on
January 11, 2009 in a firefight with Mai Mai rebels. Kakule and six
other rangers were reportedly attacked without warning while on
patrol. Far outnumbered, they captured a Mai Mai officer. “More
than 150 rangers have been killed in the line of duty in Congo over
the past decade due to the ongoing war,” said Wildlife Direct.

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