Obituaries [May 2010]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:
Gopal Tanti, 56, died on May 11, 2010 after a six-year
struggle with a neurological disorder that ended his career as “the
guru of tranquilization,” as Tanti was memorialized by Sunderban
Tiger Reserve assistant field director Anjan Guha. “In 33
adventurous years, Gopal Tanti is believed to have tranquillized 84
tigers, a dozen elephants and several rhinos,” recalled Prithvijit
Mitra of the Times News Network. Tanti joined the Suderban Tiger
Reserve in 1977. Standard practice, pioneered by Man-Eaters of
Kumaon author proto-tiger conservationist Jim Corbett, was to kill
any tiger whose activities appeared likely to incite hostility toward
all tigers by neighbors of tiger habitat. Shankar Ghosh had
introduced the use of tranquilizer darts, to capture rogue tigers
instead of killing them, but Tanti discarded his methods and instead
emulated Corbett, who emphasized getting close enough to do the job
with a single well-placed shot. “He would walk straight into the
tiger’s den and shoot a dart from very close range,” wrote Mitra.

Like Corbett “Tanti often went alone. Once he tranquilized a Bengal
tiger in the dark, shooting the animal in the dim light of a torch.
On another occasion, he kept a drowsy tiger he had tranquillized
floating in a village pond,” to ensure that the tiger did not drown.
“Tranquillizing operations have repeatedly gone awry in his absence,”
lamented Mitra and Monotosh Chakraborty of TNN. “In 2007 a tigress
mauled four villagers half an hour after she was ‘tranquillized.’
Last December a tiger died after being shot, apparently due to an
overdose. The animal had mauled three, including shooter
Krishnapada Mondol.”

Devra G. Kleiman, 67, died of cancer on April 29, 2010 in
Washington D.C. As a University of Chicago undergraduate, recalled
Washington Post staff writer Emma Brown, Kleiman “raised a baby
dingo in her apartment one summer and took a part-time job as an
assistant on a research project to tame wolves. She spent hours in
their cages doing crossword puzzles and homework assignments.”
Joining the National Zoo staff in 1972, at about the same time the
pandas Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing came as gifts from China, Kleiman
tried for 17 years to coax them to reproduce. Eventually, Brown
wrote, she “concluded that pandas are social creatures who need to
interact. When the National Zoo’s second pair of pandas arrived in
2001, they were allowed to play together in a large enclosure
studded with sand wallows, ponds and trees. In 2005, the couple
successfully produced Tai Shan, the first panda born at the National
Zoo to survive longer than a few days.” Kleiman and Brazilian
biologist Adelmar Coimbra Filho meanwhile rebuilt a captive
population of just 75 golden lion tamarins, who were almost extinct
in the wild, into a wild population of about 1,600, plus about 500
more distributed among 145 zoos worldwide. Before the golden lion
tamarin project, which had a short-term mortality rate of more than
50% among the first specimens returned to the wild, only the North
American plains bison had been restored to the wild successfully
through captive breeding–and that restoration was begun by the Bronx
Zoo more than 70 years earlier. There are now about a dozen other
restorations through captive breeding that are widely considered
successful, though none of the restored species have been removed
from endangered species status.

Sylvia Bancroft, 93, died on May 8, 2010 in Menlo Park,
California. “I met Sylvia in the early 1970s,” Animal Switch-board
founder Virginia Handley told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “She was among the
first animal people I met. With Ginny Shefchick she started the
Humane Legislative Network, to alert constituents when their
legislators were voting on a California bill.” After many years of
work with the Fund for Animals and the Palo Alto Humane Society,
Bancroft in 1985 founded the Humane Education Network, which
developed a mailing list of 2,200 supporters, and evolved into the
Animal Protection Information Service online data base. Bancroft
came to animal advocacy, after a career as a dancer, as a doctoral
candidate in experimental psychology who did rat studies at Stanford
University in the mid-1950s. “One night,” she told Jackie Dove of
the San Jose Mercury News in 1996, “the thermostat went haywire and
all the rats baked to death. I was concerned and upset, and I
expressed it. I told them if it happened again I’d call the SPCA.
Everyone thought I was funny, ridiculous, because they were rats.
That left an indelible memory, a feeling about the quality of caring
that students were indoctrinated into–that a living, breathing
animal is a tool, not a creature who feels pain and fear.”
Bancroft quit the Ph.D. program, but told Dove she was not opposed
to animal experimentation if it is “demonstrably vital to human
welfare and there are no alternatives,” and is done with
consideration for the animal. “I describe myself as working in
animal protection rather than animal rights,” Bancroft added,
“because the term ‘animal rights’ as currently used seems to indicate
that non-human animals have inalienable rights which are now being
violated. In our society animals have pitifully few such rights. I
would like to persuade our society to give them some.”

Patricia Bravo, 68, died on March 5, 2010 in San
Francisco. A retired travel agent, and longtime subscriber to
ANIMAL PEOPLE, Bravo donated to many animal charities.

John C. Pyner, 88, a frequent donor to animal charities and
longtime subscriber to ANIMAL PEOPLE, died on March 21, 2010.

Stanley E. Curtis, 68, died on April 25, 2010 of a heart
attack. “The foremost champion of science-based criteria for
evaluating animal welfare,” according to Pork News, Curtis
“essentially created the specialty of environmental physiology within
the field of animal science,” recalled University of Illinois animal
science department colleague Jim Pettigrew. A 1964 Purdue University
graduate, Curtis taught dairy husbandry for two years at the
University of Missouri, but specialized in pig studies after moving
to the University of Illinois in 1970. From 1990 until 1998 Curtis
headed the Pennsylvania State University department of dairy and
animal science, before returning to the University of Illinois,
where at hs death he was a professor emeritus. A longtime advisor to
the National Animal Interest Alliance, Curtis contended that the
welfare of farm animals is best measured by physical health and
productivity. “Until a pig learns to talk,” Curtis often said, “pig
performance will remain the best indicator of animal wellbeing.”
Curtis “wrote over 135 peer-reviewed journal articles, 150
scientific-meeting papers, and two books,” Pork News recalled–but
his best known study tended to contradict many of his own most
cherished arguments. Beginning in 1995, Curtis and Oregon State
University Department of Animal Sciences researcher Candace Croney
taught four pigs to push a tractor gear-shift lever with their
snouts, using it like a joy-stick to play video games. The pigs
were later retired to sanctuaries. Curtis intended, he told media,
to improve factory farm production by becoming able to ask the
animals what they want, in terms of flooring, pen design, and
number and nature of companions. What he did, however, was
demonstrate the intellectual capacity of pigs. The experiment became
central to the arguments of animal advocates including psychologist
Jeffrey Masson in The Pig Who Sang to the Moon (2004) and Amy
Hatkoff, author of The Inner World of Farm Animals: Their amazing
social, emotional and intellectual capacities (2009).

Kathyrn Denise Geiger Gilpatrick, DVM, 37, of North
Knoxville, Tennessee, on April 16, 2010 was struck and killed by a
hit-and-run driver. Walter Gary Flynn, 53, of Knoxville, was
charged on April 20 with leaving the scene of an accident,
criminally negligent homicide, driving on a revoked license, and
driving without insurance. The incident began, recounted Kristen
Letsinger of the Knoxville News Sentinel, when two dogs named
Rosalyn and Chewy escaped from the home of a neighbor, Amy Leming.
Rosalyn was hit by a car. A police officer rushed to her aid.
Gilpatrick came out of her home to help. Knoxville Police Department
spokesman Darrell DeBusk said the officer “told Gilpatrick to wait to
enter the street until he moved his car to block it. As he went to
move his cruiser, she stepped out into the street and was working on
the dog when she was hit.” Chewy was hit seconds later and died at
the scene. Gilpatrick, employed by the Cat Clinic in Knoxville,
died the next morning. Rosalyn survived, after surgery.

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