What's Killing The Animals? (Mass Animal Deaths)


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 18, 2002
Whats poisoning the animals?

Frying pan fumes:

Frying pan fumes 'kill canaries'

By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

Fumes given off by cancer-causing chemicals used to make non-stick frying pans are killing hundreds of pet birds every year, environmentalists say.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature says it is hearing reports that many US caged birds are being killed by the fumes.

It says the chemicals, perfluorinated compounds, are also contaminating both people and wildlife with grave effects.

The chemicals industry says it doubts that birds exposed to ordinary levels of the compounds could die from them.

Guilty till proved harmless

In a report, Causes For Concern: Chemicals and Wildlife, WWF says the compounds, also used in some textiles and food packaging, are among "the most prominent new toxic hazards".

It sounds highly unlikely to me that birds exposed to perfluorinated compounds in normal household conditions would be killed
Judith Hackitt, Chemical Industries Association
It says: "Scientists have found perfluorinated compounds, classified as cancer-causing chemicals by the US Environmental Protection Agency, in dolphins, whales and cormorants in the Mediterranean, seals and sea eagles in the Baltic, and polar bears."

Elizabeth Salter-Green, head of WWF's toxics programme, said: "Years ago, coal miners took canaries with them down the pits to detect lethal gases.

"Now, canaries are dying in our kitchens, but no action is being taken about the suspect chemicals.

"The global production of chemicals is increasing, and at the same time we have warning signals that a variety of troubling threats to wildlife and human health are becoming more prevalent.

"It is reckless to suggest there is no link between the two and give chemicals the benefit of the doubt."

WWF says while the harmful effects of chemicals like DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls have been documented, recent studies of other chemicals on sale today show the dangers to people and wildlife.

It says: "As well as perfluorinated compounds other harmful man-made chemicals still in use today include phthalates, phenolic compounds - such as bisphenol A - and brominated flame retardants (BFRs).

"Phthalates can be found in plastics (including PVC), phenolic compounds in food cans, plastic bottles and computer casings, and BFRs in fabrics and TVs.

Brussels' approach defended

"These toxic compounds, which contaminate a wide range of animals, can cause severe health disorders such as cancer, damage to the immune system, behavioural problems, hormone disruption, or even feminisation."

WWF says the European Union's planned legislation, Reach (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) does not go far enough.

It says Reach "falls short of ensuring that hazardous chemicals are replaced with safer alternatives".

Judith Hackitt, director-general of the UK's Chemical Industries Association, told BBC News Online: "It sounds highly unlikely to me that birds exposed to perfluorinated compounds in normal household conditions would be killed.

"With them and the other chemicals WWF is concerned about, the industry is spending a lot on investigating them.

"And with Reach, it's a big assumption to say replacement won't happen - I think it will."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/01/29 14:42:36 GMT

Vets (unintentionally):

Vet drug 'killing Asian vultures'

Scientists believe they have identified the main cause behind the catastrophic decline seen in Asian vulture numbers.

In the past 10 years, population losses of more than 95% have been reported in three raptor species across many areas of the Indian sub-continent.

Lindsay Oaks' research team has now shown the birds are dying after eating the carcasses of livestock treated with the common veterinary drug diclofenac.

Dr Oaks, backed by The Peregrine Fund, reports her work in Nature magazine.

"This discovery is significant in that it is the first known case of a pharmaceutical causing major ecological damage over a huge geographic area and threatening three species with extinction," the US researcher from Washington State University said.

The three species are the Oriental white-backed vulture ( Gyps bengalensis ), the long-billed vulture ( Gyps indicus ) and the slender-billed vulture ( Gyps tenuirostris ).

All three are now classed as critically endangered.

Experimental work

The birds succumb to kidney failure and visceral gout. Early signs that the raptors are affected can be seen from the way they hang their heads down to their feet for long periods.

Such has been the alarming decline in bird numbers that international organisations have pumped hundreds of thousands of pounds into research to track down the cause of all the deaths.

Now, Dr Oaks and colleagues have found high residues diclofenac in dead vultures in the field.

They have also been able produce similar patterns of disease in experimental vulture colonies fed the drug either directly or via carcasses of buffalo or goat that had been treated with diclofenac.

Other possible causes of death, such as poisoning by mercury or arsenic or infection by viruses, have been investigated and ruled out.

Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that has been in human use for pain and inflammation for decades. The veterinary use of diclofenac on livestock in South Asia has grown in the past decade.

Pivotal role

The Nature report has led ornithological and other conservation groups to call for the immediate withdrawal of diclofenac from use.

"Vultures have an important ecological role in the Asian environment, where they have been relied upon for millennia to clean up and remove dead livestock and even human corpses," said Dr Munir Virani, a biologist for US-based Peregrine Fund, and who coordinated the massive field investigations across Nepal, India, and Pakistan.

"Their loss has important economic, cultural, and human health consequences."

One immediate impact has been the explosion in feral dog populations which have moved into areas no longer scavenged by vultures.

Britain has invested significant research time and money on the vulture problem through its Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species.

Dr Debbie Pain, a research scientist at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: "In the 1980s, [ Gyps bengalensis ] was thought to be the most abundant large bird of prey in the world, but in little over a decade, the population has crashed by more than 99%, with the loss of tens of millions of birds.

"The decline of Asian vultures is one of the steepest declines experienced by any bird species, and is certainly faster than that suffered by the dodo before its extinction. If nothing is done these vulture species will become extinct."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/01/28 18:36:46 GMT

Bird Murdering Buildings

Expert Says Glass Is Major Threat to Birds
By JOANN LOVIGLIO, Associated Press Writer

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Daniel Klem Jr. cradles a small, dead bird with chestnut-mottled wings, another victim of what he says is a largely unrecognized environmental hazard that kills birds in flight.

The culprit is the plate glass used in windows, skyscrapers and other structures, which the birds strike because they cannot see it.

"Glass is ubiquitous and it's indiscriminate, killing the fit and the unfit," said Klem, a Muhlenberg College ornithologist who estimates that collisions with glass kill up to 1 billion birds a year in the United States alone.

"Buildings that we have created to be aesthetically pleasing are slaughtering birds."

Although cell phone towers, oil spills and power lines raise the ire of conservation groups, those hazards pale in comparison to glass, Klem said. He estimates that only habitat destruction kills more birds.

When glass is clear, birds see only what's on the other side; when it is reflective, birds see only reflected sky and trees. Either way, they have little chance of survival.

Despite three decades of work and research, Klem has had a hard time getting people in the conservation community and the building industry to hear his call.

Klem has monitored houses and commercial buildings and counted the number of dead birds, then compared the collision rates of plain glass to glass altered with visible patterns so it's not strictly clear or reflective.

He has monitored glass-skinned skyscrapers that he says kill 200 birds every day and suburban dwellings that he said are just as lethal when taken in total. And he says that glass-walled structures abound even in places that rejoice in wildlife — from Central and South American ecotourism sites to Pennsylvania wildlife refuges.

"If what I've found out over the last 30 years is true, then it's not going to get better, it's going to increase," he said. "Whether people ignore me or not, it doesn't change that."

His work is starting to get some recognition.

"This is a largely unseen but seriously unappreciated phenomenon and we're starting to take a serious look at it," said Frank Gill, chief scientist for the National Audubon Society.

Carr Everbach, a Swarthmore College engineer heading a "green team" working on a new science center at the school, likens plate glass to other scientific advancements later found to harm the environment, such as ozone-depleting CFCs and leaded gasoline.

"Anytime someone tells you there's something really big that you haven't heard of, you think they're crazy," he said.

The new science center will have glass etched with dots and other patterns, which the green team hopes birds will see and avoid. The building also will have clear glass and "thump sensors" to see if — and where — birds strike the structure.

A new observation tower at Niagara Falls State Park also was designed with birds in mind. Original plans called for reflective glass but after architects and park officials were told of Klem's work, glass with a stripe pattern was used, said Thomas B. Lyons, New York State Office of Parks' director of environmental management.

It's not clear whether these efforts will save birds. But Klem said he's heartened about the new interest in bird-friendly buildings.

"The heart of this is to get a piece of glass that will solve this problem. We can't say that we have that yet," he said. "But I'm more encouraged than ever that we can come up with a solution that will stop this senseless slaughter of wildlife."

Link is dead. The AP news article of 1 February 2004 is quoted in full above.
Last edited by a moderator:
Mysterious mass die-off of vultures solved

Mysterious mass die-off of vultures solved
By Debora MacKenzie

The catastrophic decline of griffon vultures in south Asia is being caused not by a mysterious disease, as had been thought, but a common painkiller given to sick cattle.

If the treated animal dies and is eaten by vultures, a single meal can be enough to kill the bird. The scientists who made the discovery now want the drug banned from veterinary use and are holding a meeting next week with officials from Nepal, India and Pakistan.

Griffon vultures are huge scavengers and used to be ubiquitous in south Asia. But their population has declined drastically since the mid-1990s, and one species is near extinction.

As a result, animal carcasses rot outside villages, attracting rabies-ridden packs of dogs. The Parsee religious community in India is also in crisis, as it disposes of its dead by feeding them to vultures.

Acid crystals

Lindsay Oaks, a veterinary microbiologist at Washington State University in Pullman, and colleagues looked for pathogens or toxins in freshly dead vultures from breeding colonies in Pakistan and Nepal by sending tissues back to US laboratories for analysis.

Efforts by Andrew Cunningham of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and colleagues to establish the cause of the vultures' decline in India were hindered by that county's laws banning the export of genetic material.

Vultures that have died in the decline have kidney damage and uric acid crystals throughout their bodies, but Oaks's group could find no disease germs or environmental toxins. Vultures that died following pesticide poisoning or collisions had no uric acid.

"We started wondering if they could be exposed to any veterinary drugs in the dead livestock they eat," says Oaks. They discovered that diclofenac, which can cause kidney damage, is very heavily prescribed by local vets, and its use increased over the same time period as the vulture decline. The cheap drug is used to treat lameness and injury - common conditions before a buffalo or cow dies.

Tiny dose

Analysis of the kidneys of dead vultures with uric acid symptoms revealed diclofenac residues, while no residues were found in other birds.

The researchers also gave diclofenac, and meat from animals treated with diclofenac, to 20 non-releasable vultures rescued from nesting colonies. "We hated to do it," says Oaks. The diclofenac killed these vultures in very small doses, with the same symptoms as the dead, wild vultures. Furthermore, the higher the dose of the drug, the more likely the vultures were to die.

Vultures come from miles around to feed on a carcass, so each gets a small bit of many animals. Rhys Green of the UK's Royal Society of the Protection for Birds calculates that only one in 250 dead cattle needs to have been recently treated with diclofenac to cause a decline in vultures of 30 per cent per year - about what has been observed.

Cunningham is now trying to find out whether diclofenac is also responsible for the decline in India. "This may be a breakthrough", he told New Scientist . "We hope so, as this would greatly improve the chances for an eventual recovery of the species."
Link is dead. No archived version found.

Journal reference: Nature (DOI: 10.1038/nature02317)
Last edited by a moderator:
Is this in the area where people expose corpses in towers?

I can see the whole neat system breaking down if there aren't enough scavengers in the cycle :(

Keeping with the overall theme of the thread (the name got changed in the merge):

Did someone plot to kill the dogs of Withrow Park?

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Toronto — For a little dog named T-Bone, 10 seconds was all it took for a walk in the park to turn into a fruitless fight for life.In what is feared to be a case of intentional poisoning, the five-kilogram cavalier King Charles spaniel died yesterday morning. He and six other dogs fell ill on Sunday after visiting Withrow Park in Toronto's Riverdale neighbourhood, where dogs have long been a friction point between residents.

T-Bone's owner, Jeffrey Rubin, will leave the official explanations to police and city officials, who closed the park yesterday while they trace the source of the dogs' sickness. For now, Mr. Rubin is busy enough trying to explain the family pet's death to his children, Jack, 9, and Margot, 7.

"Next week was his second birthday, so my kids are absolutely devastated by this," he said.

T-Bone was one of seven dogs brought to the Veterinary Emergency Clinic on Yonge Street over the weekend after their owners had taken them to a leash-free zone in Withrow Park.

The zone, established in the early 1990s, has been a sore point for some neighbours, who lobbied unsuccessfully in 2001 to have it scrapped because of concern about dogs intimidating children.

Since then, members of a neighbourhood dog-owners association have been working to smooth relations.

They had conducted park cleanups and reminding fellow dog lovers to be mindful of small children, said Susan Ruskin, a group member out walking her dog near the park yesterday.

"It's been going on for years," Ms. Ruskin said, gripping the leash of her wrinkle-faced Sharpei named Simon, as police strung yellow tape around the park. "But things appear to have been settling down recently."

Ms. Ruskin said opponents of the leash-free zone are "so well known to us that I don't believe it would be one of them" who poisoned the dogs.

Casey Conklin, the de facto leader of the dog owners group, agreed. "They're not unreasonable crazy people," said Ms. Conklin, who sent e-mail alerts to more than 100 dog owners when she found out about the poisonings on Sunday. "This is a product of an unbalanced mind."

Whoever is responsible, the technique was effective, at least on a tiny dog such as T-Bone.

Mr. Rubin, an economist who writes a weekly column for The Globe and Mail's Report on Business, said his dog spent only about 10 seconds eating an unknown chunk of food he found under the snow in the park on Sunday afternoon.

Half an hour later, he went into convulsions.

At the emergency clinic, T-Bone's heart stopped three times between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, he said. The veterinarian managed to restore a heartbeat with chest compression the first two times, but was unsuccessful on the third try.

Workers pumped the dog's stomach and found white granules of what the vet suspected to be pesticide, Mr. Rubin said, adding that by the time he arrived at the clinic, three other dogs had already been brought in with similar, but milder, symptoms.

Further testing should shed more light on what killed T-Bone and sickened the others, but Mr. Rubin seems to have concluded that the sickest puppy in Riverdale walks on two legs.

"The chances of seven dogs coming down with pesticide poisoning in February is pretty remote," he said.

"This is clearly a deliberate attempt to kill dogs."

Nuala Byles was fighting hard to resist the same conclusion yesterday, as her three-year-old Hungarian Viszla, named Belle, recovered from her own brush with the mystery ailment.

Ms. Byles took Belle to the park's leash-free area at around 10 a.m. Sunday, and "about a half-hour into playing, she came to the top of the hill and just started vomiting," she said.

"I thought she had a stick caught in her throat."

When the dog became lethargic and began to drool and pant heavily, Ms. Byles rushed her to the clinic, but Belle, a far larger dog than T-Bone, had already begun to recover.

Ms. Byles decided to take her home, where her second dog, a Boston terrier named Romeo, had been battling diarrhea all weekend.

To her relief, both dogs appeared well on their way to recovery yesterday, but Ms. Byles remained concerned that "someone who's really twisted" is out there poisoning dogs, and that her close-knit community of neighbours will now eye each other with suspicion.

"I think there's kooks on both sides of the fence," she said, adding that she has steered clear of past squabbles between dog owners and neighbours. "If this was their way to get dogs on leashes, they've succeeded."

Paula Fletcher, city councillor for the Toronto-Danforth ward where the park is, said she has received no complaints about dogs since she was elected last November.

"Let's find out what's going on here before we jump to too many conclusions," Ms. Fletcher said, adding that city and Ministry of Environment officials are investigating for other sources of the poisoning, such as garbage or chemicals from the park's skating rink. Still, she acknowledged that police had sent out recorded alerts to residents, asking for help in solving this "crime."

Meanwhile, area dog owners are being advised to seek veterinary attention if their pets suffer diarrhea or vomiting, said Natasha Sapra, director of the veterinary clinic.

[email protected]


I don't know but I think I'd rather have dogs running around in a leash-free zone than some loon of a neighbour who is quite happy to poison dogs.

This can be merged too if there is a 'fall' thread already out there;)

China probes 'bird rain' deaths

China is investigating reports that hundreds of birds mysteriously fell from the sky earlier this week
Some 10,000 bramblings dropped dead in a "bird rain" in the eastern province of Jiangsu, the Yangzi Evening News and the Nanjing Daily newspapers reported.

The deaths occurred near Communist Party chief Hu Jintao's birthplace of Taizhou, prompting some superstitious locals to wonder if it was a bad omen at the start of the new Lunar Year.

But a local official said a more likely cause of death was poisoning.

"Dead birds have been retrieved from villagers," the spokesman for the Taizhou city government was quoted as saying.

"I hope nothing bad will happen to President Hu"
Beijing resident

"Farmers have been told not to sell or eat the birds," he said.

Another local official expressed doubts about the reported number of deaths or that the birds died from bird flu.

"Maybe they all ate some poisonous food. Let's wait and see the results of the tests," said the official, who gave his surname as Gao.

Bramblings are members of the finch family with an orange breast and shoulder patch, a white rump and a black tail.

Disappearing Alaskan otters

Alaska Sea Otters' Disappearance a Mystery

Mon 9 February, 2004 02:09

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - When Russian explorers first saw sea otters bobbing in the waters off Alaska's Aleutian Islands in the mid-18th century, they knew they had discovered a money maker.

The otters' fur "is so far superior in length, beauty, blackness and gloss of hair to the river otters' pelts that these can scarcely be compared to it," wrote German naturalist Georg Steller, who accompanied legendary mariner Vitus Bering on his Alaska expeditions.

Russian and American hunters later wiped out nearly all of Alaska's sea otters, whose luxurious fur became known as "soft gold." The otters were saved from extinction after a 1911 treaty banned the commercial hunt.

But sea otters are once again vanishing from Alaska's 1,000- mile Aleutian chain and other parts of southwestern Alaska. This time, there is no obvious explanation.

Alaska's sea otter population numbered 100,000 to 137,000 in the 1980s, with its core in the Aleutians and western Alaska. But numbers fell 70 percent from 1992 to 2000, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some Aleutian populations are down to just a few thousand, about five percent of 1980s levels, the agency said.

Their disappearance could cause wider ecological harm by upsetting the food chain in the icy coastal waters.

Otters eat sea urchins, which feed on kelp. Without the otters to control urchin populations, undersea kelp forests are being mowed down, scientists warn.

"Now across the Aleutian archipelago there are these vast areas that are just deforested kelp beds," said Jim Estes, a Santa Cruz, California-based U.S. Geological Survey ecologist and Alaska sea otter expert. That could hurt fish that dwell in kelp beds, Estes said.


Although there are no obvious answers, some theories have emerged to explain the sea otters' problems.

One theory blames climate change for disrupting marine prey-predator balances. Another cites the accumulation of contaminants, including those carried from southern latitudes by marine and atmospheric currents. And some say conflicts with commercial vessels may be contributing to the decline.

One controversial theory, advanced by Estes and others, is that widespread commercial whaling until the 1970s triggered cascading collapses of North Pacific marine mammals. Under this theory, killer whales are now hunting sea otters because their normal prey -- other whales, sea lions and harbour seals -- are scarce.

Many environmentalists accuse the Bush administration of not doing enough to protect the otters.

Two conservation groups sued the federal government in December to get the dwindling population listed as endangered.

The California-based plaintiffs, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, submitted a petition in 2000 for an endangered listing.

"We've been trying to work with the Bush administration for three years, and they haven't done anything," said Brent Plater, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Alaska office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responded by noting that in September 2002 it proposed an Endangered Species Act listing. That proposal is still being evaluated.


For commercial fishermen, the specter of new sea otter protections is not yet a concern because no one is directly blaming commercial harvests for the decline, industry representatives said. Fishing was curtailed to protect the western Alaska Steller sea lion, listed as endangered in 1997.

"The industry is not paying a whole lot of attention to the sea otter situation as it did to the sea lions. With the sea lions, there was an implication, rightly or not, that fishing was depriving them of prey," said Paul MacGregor, general counsel for the At Sea Processors Association, a Seattle-based industry group.

Estes said sea otters deserve the same protections as those afforded the sea lions. Sea lion numbers have dropped about 85 percent since 1960, but sea otters are "at least as badly off as they are," Estes said. "And the numbers are still going down. It's very discouraging."

Who is killing the animals at Sao Paulo zoo?


Tuesday February 10, 07:41 PM

Who is killing the animals at Sao Paulo zoo?
By Paula Lace

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - The zoo in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo is facing a murder mystery worthy of an Agatha Christie novel.

Since late January, the zoo, one of the most modern in Latin America, has lost 10 animals, including an elephant -- fatally poisoned by what police are calling a "serial animal killer".

So far, laboratory tests have shown the animals were killed with sodium fluoroacetate, a banned rat poison.

According to the Sao Paulo State University, where autopsies were performed, the poison caused the animals to stop breathing and led to cardiac arrest. What troubles investigators is that tests on the animals' food and water could find no trace of the poison.

The first animal to die was Tony, a chimpanzee. Since then, two other monkeys, an elephant, three dromedaries and three tapirs, including a newborn, have joined the casualty list.

"We are deeply saddened by these events. Many of the workers have been with the zoo for several years and spend more time with the animals than with their own families," said Fatima Valente Roberti, a biologist at the zoo.

"We cannot fathom what could possibly lead a person to commit such aggression."

Fluoroacetate is colourless, odourless and extremely potent. One gram is enough to kill an elephant. It can be easily produced but is commercially available only in the United States and Australia.

Police have been closely watching zoo workers and visitors but all they can tell is that the killer was someone who had a good knowledge of chemistry and biology and who also knew well the zoo's daily routine.

Police have not ruled out any possibility, including visitors who come to the park at unusual hours. The Sao Paulo zoo has recently opened at night for the public to observe the animals' nocturnal habits.

Management has increased security measures, including hourly visits to each of the zoo's 3,200 animals.

The zoo's executive director, Paulo Magalhaes Bresan, said this was the first time in its 46-year history that animals had been killed by poisoning.

"We were not prepared for this kind of action. Our security personnel was very well trained to deal with visitors, or even possible animal escapes, but we never expected this to happen."
06 Feb 2004 10:03:51 GMT

China quietly probes bizarre death of bramblings

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Chinese authorities have been quietly investigating the mysterious deaths of thousands of tiny birds said to have fallen from the sky over Communist Party chief Hu Jintao's birthplace, sources said on Friday.

The Yangzi Evening News and the Nanjing Daily said more than 10,000 bramblings dropped like "bird rain" from the sky in Taizhou, in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu, on Tuesday, considered a bad omen at the beginning of the new lunar year.

The editors of the newspapers stood by their stories.

The Yangzi Evening News said on Friday authorities had ruled out bird flu, which is sweeping across Asia, as the cause of death and buried the dead birds.

A spokesman for the Taizhou city government said the cause of death of the bramblings was unknown but he suspected poisoning.

"Dead birds have been retrieved from villagers," he said. "Farmers have been told not to sell or eat the birds."

The Beijing Times ran a similar story on Thursday, calling it an "inconceivable scene". It quoted a veterinarian as saying migratory birds could die from eating or drinking poisoned food or water.

Villagers who ate or came into contact with the dead birds had been put under surveillance, the Yangzi Evening News said on its Web site wwww.yangtse.com.

Samples have been sent to a lab for tests.

Bramblings -- small birds that are members of the finch family with an orange breast and shoulder patch, a white rump and a black tail -- fly south from China's northeast every winter.

The Communist Party, which is obsessed with stability and frowns on superstition and rumour-mongering, is looking into the newspaper reports.

"Such reports are not conducive to stability," said a source familiar with the workings of the party's media overlord, the Publicity Department.

"Beijing is concerned," the source said, adding that the government had sent investigators to Taizhou.

Some Chinese are abuzz, seeing the incident as a portent of bad luck. Others were dismissive of birds falling from the sky.

"This is scary. Is it bird flu?" said Wang Weilan, a 22-year-old restaurant waitress in Beijing from the neighbouring province of Shanxi.

"I hope nothing bad will happen to President Hu."

For thousands of years, Chinese emperors, fearful of losing the mandate of heaven, paid close attention to rumours and reports of natural phenomena such as mysterious deaths of flocks and livestock or inauspicious star formations.

China's atheist Communist Party virtually wiped out superstition in the years after sweeping to power in 1949, but such beliefs have grown in the wake of economic reforms, amid a spiritual vacuum.

China is battling outbreaks of the deadly bird flu virus in 13 of its 31 provinces, regions and major cities. About 50,000 poultry have died from the disease and more than 1.2 million have been culled to prevent it from spreading.

The disease has ravaged Asia and killed at least 18 people.

This seems like an awfully unlikely explanation:

Seals and dolphins wash up on Mexican beach

Tuesday, February 24, 2004 Posted: 1235 GMT ( 8:35 PM HKT)

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (Reuters) -- The corpses of 128 seals, nine dolphins and nine pelicans washed up on a beach in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico's government said on Monday.

The government environmental watchdog Profepa said the animals were found over the weekend in the San Jorge bay in the Sea of Cortez, about 60 miles (100 km) south of the U.S. border. It launched an investigation of the deaths.

"We are going to maintain a system of permanent vigilance where all of this happened to try to avoid more deaths," Profeca's head, Jose Luis Luege, said.

It was not clear why the animals died, although local press said environmental authorities were investigating a possible link to drug traffickers' use of a substance that creates a luminous effect when thrown in the ocean.

The substance is believed to be used to help locate drug shipments that are dumped at sea to be picked up later.

The area is home to some of the largest seal colonies in the Sea of Cortez, which separates the Baja California peninsula from the rest of Mexico.


Thats a lot of bees

Pesticide accused of killing 90bn bees

Robin McKie and Paul Webster Paris
Sunday February 29, 2004
The Observer

Europe's chemical trade faces the prospect of many of its pesticides being banned in a row over the death of French bees.

Pesticides are used to impregnate seeds for plants such as maize and sunflowers. These chemicals are then slowly released, protecting plants from insect attacks. The pesticide - sold under a variety of names including Regent TS, Gaucho, Shuss, Jumper and Zoom - attacks insects by destroying their sense of direction and should disappear as the treated plants grow.

But almost immediately after the chemicals were introduced 10 years ago, beekeepers reported that their bees were becoming disoriented and dying, Within a few years honey production in south-west France fell by 60 per cent. According to the chairman of the national beekeepers' association, Jean-Marie Sirvins, a third of the country's 1.5 million registered hives disappeared. As a result, France has had to import up to 24,000 tons of honey annually.

The pesticide companies - which include major chemical firms such as BASF and Bayer - claimed the deaths were the result of a bee illness. Emmanuel Butstraen, head of the French branch of the German multinational BASF, said its product, Regent TS, had been cleared for use by other European countries. 'The product had no effect on the mortality of bees,' he said.

But keepers claim that up 90 billion bees have died and that cases of cancers in humans may be linked to pesticide use. An investigation has now been launched by a French court.

It says: "As well as perfluorinated compounds other harmful man-made chemicals still in use today include phthalates, phenolic compounds - such as bisphenol A - and brominated flame retardants (BFRs).

IIRC when I was doing A level chemistry we were told about a factory somewhere in the UK that manufactured Naphthalene, where almost the entire workforce eventually came down with cancers (esp. bladder).

If that's what it did to the humans, god only knows what effect it was having on the local wildlife.
brf: Interesting - I'll ask my brother as he is an environmental scientist and has studied all those kind of pollutin problems (esp. PCBs).

Anyway odd report:

Mystery over dead seabirds

March 2, 2004 11:12

Animal rescuers are horrified and mystified after the discovery of a dozen dead seabirds on a North Norfolk beach.

The fulmars were found in a group on the shore between Cromer and East Runton - with no obvious signs of why they died.

Volunteers at a local animal rescue centre are now appealing for help in finding out what happened and fear the young birds may have been the victims of human interference.

Beverley Cossé, chairwoman at the Seal and Bird Rescue Centre, said: "The only time you normally get a mass of dead birds is if they have been covered in oil. But these fulmars seem perfect, with no damage to their wings, necks or legs. It is a mystery."

RSPCA experts were due to collect specimen birds to carry out tests.

Fulmars are in the albatross family and spend most of their time at sea, except when they come ashore to cliff ledges for the breeding season.

Chris Durdin, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said it was possible the deaths were a natural tragedy. The birds could have starved at sea and been washed ashore.

Contact the centre at Ridlington on 01692 650338 with information.


Mystery mass Elk Deaths

Biologists Look Into Wyoming Elk Deaths

Thu Mar 4, 3:44 PM ET

By MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press Writer

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Biologists are trying to determine what is causing the biggest elk die-off anyone in Wyoming can remember.

The elk started falling nearly a month ago and the death count has topped 280 over a 15-square-mile area in south-central Wyoming. But that figure is probably low because officials have stopped counting to focus on the cause.

It has been a process of elimination, with no solid theories yet.

"This is quite unprecedented for wildlife. The only other time we find this kind of die-off of wildlife is a winter kill — starvation, that kind of thing," said Walt Cook, a veterinarian with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "And that's not what's going on here."

With plenty of forage available and hardly any snow in their way, the elk are relatively fat, suggesting they have at least been willing and able to eat.

Chronic wasting disease — the elk and deer equivalent of mad cow disease — has been ruled out from post-mortem examinations. The usual viruses, bacteria and plant toxins also have been eliminated.

A vitamin or mineral deficiency remains a possibility. Four elk that did not die have been taken to the state veterinary lab in Laramie for study and to be nursed back to health. But while those elk have been given vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory drugs, they have not been recovering.

That leads Cook to consider some unusual infectious agent or toxin.

While remote, the area 150 miles northwest of Cheyenne has a railroad running through it and some oil and gas wells.

"All those sources have been looked at pretty darn hard and we're going to continue to look at those to see if we can see anything," said Tom Reed, spokesman for the Game and Fish Department.

Yet even pollution seems unlikely considering that other animals in the area, including deer and antelope, remain healthy. Elk are usually the last animals to succumb, not the first.

"Elk are extremely adaptable, they are extremely ruggedly built. They are built for hard winters, tough conditions," Reed said.

A possible clue is how most of the elk have been adult females and calves, with just one older male afflicted. During the winter, adult bull elk roam higher ground in groups called bachelor bands while elk cows and calves keep to lower areas.

Another possible clue is the discovery of muscle lesions in the downed elk. Biologists hope to learn whether the injuries caused the elk to fall or were sustained while the elk struggled on the ground.

Fla. Investigates Dolphin Deaths

CAPE SAN BLAS, Fla. (AP) - The National Marine Fisheries Service launched a investigation Tuesday into the high number of dolphins recently found dead along Panhandle bays and beaches.

Officials said the number of confirmed dead has reached 38.

The Fisheries Service is overseeing testing of the carcasses at a lab in St. Petersburg.

Ron Hardy, the onsite coordinator for the investigation, said symptoms resemble the effects of red tide, a toxic algae known to kill sea life when it blooms in concentrations.

Wendy Noke, a researcher with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in Orlando, said the dolphins appeared to be in good nutritional condition when they died, and the cause of death ``appeared to be somewhat catastrophic.''

Reports of dead redfish and horseshoe crabs in the area also would seem to point to a toxin such as red tide.

Officials said initial test results may be available as early as Wednesday.

Cape San Blas is about 85 miles southwest of Tallahassee.

Information from: The News Herald, http:// http://WWW.NEWSHERALD.COM

03/16/04 23:21

Watch out for the kites

Thats carackers mate (in a Smashy and Nicey voice):

Poor Venezuelans catching flamingos for food

Tuesday, March 23, 2004 Posted: 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)

Poverty in Venezuela has led some citizens to turn to flamingos for food, authorities say.

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Poor rural Venezuelans are using nets and hooks slung under kites to catch endangered flamingos to eat or sell their meat as they try to ward off hunger, regional authorities said.

In Falcon state on the South American nation's western coast, children are hunting the long-necked birds despite attempts by the Environment Ministry to educate residents to protect them.

"They tie a net to the tail of a kite and the flamingos fall. It's mostly for food," said Francis Arias, mayor of the small town of Acosta. "There are some poor people who hunt them and sell their meat to buy other things. The meat is pretty red. It's not a white meat."

A fourth of Venezuelans live in extreme poverty despite the huge oil wealth generated by the world's fifth-largest crude exporter. The country is crawling out of a deep recession after two years of political conflict over the rule of President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez, a populist first elected in 1998, has vowed to reduce poverty with social, education and health reforms. His opponents say he has failed to fulfill his promises and are demanding a recall referendum.

Scores of seabirds dying off in Alaska

Scientists don't know why murres are starving

U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Verena Gill holds a live murre found during a survey of a Seward, Alaska, beach earlier this month. The murre later died. Scavengers got to the dead birds in front of her.

The Associated Press
Updated: 02:39 PM PT March25, 2004

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Seabirds called murres are starving all over Alaska's south-central coast, and scientists say they don't know why.

Ailing seabirds are dropping onto Valdez streets and parking lots, floating into Whittier and washing up on Seward beaches.

"It's staggering," said Verena Gill, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, who led a survey of Seward beaches that found 72 dead murres.

Throughout March, people have been calling wildlife agencies with murre sightings.

Biologists said the common murres are experiencing a major die-off. So far, Gill said, all the sightings add up to 1,000-2,000 dead or ill murres, and that would be a fraction of the total number.

Mass deaths happen periodically to murres, which look like little penguins, around the world.

The seabirds are not endangered, though. Perhaps 10 million murres live in Alaska waters, said John Piatt, a U.S. Geological Survey biologist who documented a 1993 die-off. In that instance, more than 100,000 birds died, Piatt said.

In 1998, a smaller die-off occurred, apparently confined to Cook Inlet, he said.

Common murres are about 17 inches tall, with dark brown coloring on their backs and heads and white bellies. They weigh 2.2 pounds when healthy. They waddle on land, but are phenomenal deepwater divers. Their primary food source is herring.

Scientists haven't figured out what is causing the starvation. It could be a combination of bad weather and scarcity of fish, Piatt said.

"The fish may move off or move deeper. They (the murres) are making a living out there in the open ocean all winter long," he said. "They have to feed pretty much every day."

The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward has rescued 18 birds — some just 60 percent of their average body weight — and hopes to learn more about what's causing the deaths, said center rehabilitation technician Tim Lebling.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will also send some dead birds to a USGS lab in Madison, Wis., which investigates unusual die-offs. The Madison group will look for toxins, parasites and diseases, Gill said.

Re: Mystery mass Elk Deaths

Emperor said:
Biologists Look Into Wyoming Elk Deaths

Thu Mar 4, 3:44 PM ET

By MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press Writer

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Biologists are trying to determine what is causing the biggest elk die-off anyone in Wyoming can remember.


Seems they solved it:

Mysterious Wyoming elk deaths solved

Animals died after feeding on lichen

Monday, March 22, 2004 Posted: 1840 GMT (0240 HKT)

CHEYENNE, Wyoming (AP) -- A lichen native to the Rockies has been blamed for the deaths of at least 300 elk in southern Wyoming, a mystery that had baffled wildlife scientists and cost the state thousands of dollars, the state said Monday.

Wildlife veterinarians had suspected the lichen after finding it in the stomachs of many of the elk that died in south-central Wyoming.

To confirm their suspicions, three elk were fed the lichen at a research facility. One collapsed and was unable to rise Sunday, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said. A second elk also started stumbling and a third is expected to succumb quickly, officials said. All three will be euthanized.

The ground-dwelling lichen, known as Parmelia molliuscula, produces an acid that may break down muscle tissue, said Walt Cook, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department veterinarian leading the inquiry.

Elk native to the area weren't affected by the acid, but those killed in the die-off apparently had moved in from Colorado and may have lacked microorganisms needed to neutralize the acid, state biologists said. The Colorado line is 50 miles south of the area where the elk died.

"Elk don't normally winter down on the ... unit where they ate the lichen," Game and Fish spokesman Tom Reed said.

"Elk are incredibly adaptable, tough animals. They'll get by on thin rations and they'll make do somehow. But this year, nearly 300 of them paid the price for that adaptability," Reed said.

State employees prepare an elk to be airlifted to a stock trailer.

The first sick elk was found on February 6 and scientists quickly ruled out chronic wasting disease, the deer and elk version of mad cow disease. They also eliminated most viruses and bacteria, malnutrition, exposure to heavy metals such as arsenic, and poisoning from a leaky gas well or pipeline.

The search for the cause became expensive. For a time, researchers used a helicopter to search for afflicted elk, but the flights cost 0 an hour. Wildlife experts also drove into the rough country near the Continental Divide and slogged through melting snow and mud to collect plant specimens and elk droppings.

Scientists still want to know more about the lichen and why it contained high amounts of the acid this year.

"There are a lot of factors we'll need to look at," Reed said. "Do elk eat this lichen in normal years? If so, why hasn't this happened before? Does a long history of drought weigh in somehow? If so, what are our management options in the future?"

The die-off killed up to 5 percent of the Sierra Madre herd's breeding females, and that will affect hunting quotas this fall and could trigger wildlife policy changes, Reed said.

Other steps, such as improving range conditions to provide healthier forage, will also be considered as researchers learn more and try to prevent future die-offs.

Sao Paulo Zoo Update

this News Story turned up Today

Brazil: Mouse feces could cause zoo deaths

Big News Network.com Thursday 12th February, 2004

Brazilian investigators looking into the mysterious deaths of 10 animals at the Sao Paulo Zoo focused their investigation Wednesday on mouse feces.

Officials said poison put out for mice may have made it into the zoo animals' food stock by way of the rodents' droppings, thereby passing the contaminant onto the unsuspecting animals.

The animals could also have ingested the mouse feces directly, said investigators, who found numerous dead rodents near the dwelling of some of the dead animals.

In the last few weeks, zoo officials have been confounded by the deaths of an elephant, three tapirs, three chimpanzees and three dromedaries.

At first, officials suspected someone purposely killed the animals. Tests on the bodies of some animals showed traces of a rodent poison that is banned in Brazil, Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper reported.

Investigators said they founded traces of the banned substance near some of the dead animals and one zoo veterinarian said autopsies showed the killer knew the right dosage necessary to kill each animal.

Zoo officials and city investigators said they would not rule out foul play or call the deaths accidental until the investigation was complete.
Mysterious Brazil Zoo Animal Deaths Rise to 73

Tue Apr 6, 2004 08:10 PM ET

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Seventy-three Sao Paulo Zoo animals have died from poisoning this year, and Brazilian police said on Tuesday they were extending their investigation because they still lacked sufficient evidence to charge suspects.

But the leading detective on the case, Clovis Ferreira de Araujo, said the culprits could be caught soon. Speaking to journalists, Araujo said police were looking into groups that might have benefited financially from the animals' deaths.

"The action was intended to weaken the internal controls of the park and with this carry out illicit activities that could generate ill-gotten gains," Araujo said without elaborating.

He said the toll now stood at 73, up from the previously announced 67. The dead animals included kangaroos, an elephant, dromedaries, porcupines and primates.

The investigator said he would request more time to conduct the investigation, due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Ten people are being interrogated, of whom six may soon be indicted, but "there are still no clues to order the arrest of these suspects," said Araujo. He added that he would likely request the telephone and bank records of the suspects.

The suspects continue working at the zoo.

"There are still risks for the animals. I cannot rule out the possibility of new deaths," Araujo said.

Birds make mystery splash

Latest Updated by 2004-04-09 08:48:24

FLOCKS of sparrows seen floundering in a lake in Renmin Park in Luohu were thought to have part of a mass suicide, the Shenzhen Evening News reported Thursday.

The park's security guards said it seemed that the sparrows were trying to drown themselves.

Many guards jumped into the water to rescue the sparrows and saved more than 20.

One of the guards, Mr. Wang, said the sparrows seemed to spontaneously throw themselves into the lake at around 11:20 a.m.

Some guards said that the sparrows might have eaten poisoned food and been unable to fly when they fell into the water. The cause was unknown, the paper said.

County shelter staff mystified by 13 dead cats

Animals were wrapped in plastic; most were frozen

By Michael Kolber -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Sacramento County animal shelter received an odd package Friday morning: 13 dead cats that had been dropped off overnight, individually wrapped in plastic - and most of them frozen.

Animal control officers who most days are tracking strays and noisy pets were baffled by the bizarre drop-off.

"We really don't know what this is about," animal control chief Pat Claerbout said. "Poisoning cases are usually generally hard to investigate."

A county veterinarian dissected one of the cats and believes that it died after downing antifreeze. The other cats could have met the same fate, but authorities won't know for sure. The cats were sent to be cremated before they could be examined.

A note with the animals said they were from Elk Grove and part of a wild pack, not stray house cats. The night drop box is usually used for live animals whose owners decide they can no longer keep them.

Claerbout speculated the mystery dumper was feeding a feral colony and began storing the cats when they died. Or someone didn't like the cats and began poisoning them.

Either way, Claerbout won't know for sure unless someone fesses up.

"Oh, no," was the initial reaction of Jamie Kwok, a veterinarian at Bradshaw Veterinary Clinic in Elk Grove, when she heard about the dead cats.

The number of dead animals might make it unlikely, but Kwok said it was possible that the animals were poisoned accidentally.

"Antifreeze tastes really good," she said. "It's really sweet."

And Kwok was not surprised that there were feral packs in Elk Grove, which borders rangeland and suburban sprawl. She said there is always a waiting list for the clinic's animal traps, and the office frequently spays and neuters wild animals at a discount.

That's the responsible thing for people to do who are feeding feral animals, Claerbout said.

"When somebody starts feeding them, unfortunately the situation tends to multiply," she said.

04/30/04 - Longview

Seventeen Cattle Mysteriously Die at Gilmer Ranch

An East Texas rancher is looking for a logical explanation after seventeen of his cows fall dead within hours, with no obvious reason. It was Sunday that rancher Ronny Blasengame and his longtime neighbor A.D. Varner began finding dead cattle on a ranch off of Cherokee trace near Gilmer.

"As I'm dragging one off i happened to see another one laying on the ground" says Blasengame. "It seemed like the more we looked the more we found... After that second one I knew something was going on then" says Varner.

They found numerous others dead or dying , and at the end of the day 17 were dead... With no visible marks as to what killed them.. All of the animals they found were near a new oil rig that was being worked on their property.

"Well I'm trying to find out what happened , because if it's illness or disease on the place , but it doesn't seem like it if all of them died in a short period of time" says Blasengame. The only clue for Blasengame when he found his dead cattle was a mysterious jelly on the ground that surrounded the wellhead site.

An area Ag-extension agent told us that a clear jelly-like fungus sometimes oozes out of the ground in spring , but it isn't deadly. A local vet service examined the cows but couldn't determine a cause of death. Meanwhile more animals have turned up dead, a family dog and a squirrel appearing to die from the same thing.

"They died from something they ingested or breathed or something of that nature" says Varner. Remains of the cattle are being examined to determine the exact cause of death. Bob Hallmark reporting.

Hmm there is a news report on the front page on bird deaths but the report has no date and appears to be reporting the same incident as we mentioned in Feburary so I won't add it here, however, the birds continue to fall:

Seagulls Fall From Sky In Manukau

19/05/2004 12:24 PM

Hundreds of seagulls have died mysteriously at an industrial area of Manukau City, in South Auckland.

Eye witnesses reported red-billed gulls falling from the sky and onto the roofs of buildings in the area late on Monday afternoon.

Simon Mowbray, from the Department of Conservation, says it will not be known what killed the protected birds until the results of a toxicology report have been completed.

He says it is looking increasingly as though they were deliberately poisoned.

Mr Mowbray says that while it is normal for the gulls to be culled on occasion, permission must first be granted by DOC.


This is an odd one - it seems linked to other incidents but it seems to have everyone stumped:

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Who's killing dairyman's cows?

Authorities investigating how strange substance got on cattle


ENUMCLAW -- Dairy farmer John Koopman was up early on June 6 to milk his cows when he noticed one was sick. Then another and another. All had a strange, reddish-black substance on their backs and their skin bubbled with blisters.

Before the day was done, 10 cows were gravely ill. Three ultimately died.

Koopman would like to know who killed his cows. So would the federal Food and Drug Administration, the King County Sheriff's Office and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

No milk from the sick animals entered the food supply, according to FDA spokesman Larry Bachorik.

Koopman said he immediately segregated the sick cows from the rest of the 330 animals in his herd. "I dumped a lot of milk. We go out of our way to make sure that milk is safe."

About 27,000 pounds of milk -- a day's production worth almost ,000 to the farmer -- went down the drain.

Investigators have yet to determine what the substance on the cows was, much less who put it on the animals. Koopman sits on the board of WestFarm Foods, which recently resolved a long and bitter dispute with the Teamsters union. The labor dispute was over before Koopman's cows got sick.

The tanned dairyman sat on the front stoop of his farmhouse yesterday and shook his head in disbelief as he recounted the day his cows started dropping.

"We started milking at seven in the morning, and there was this real sick one in the first string," said Koopman. "I didn't think much of it at first. We always deal with sick animals. It's just the natural course of things.

"Then, I was getting ready for church, and we found another one. This one wouldn't even get up off the concrete. I pulled it out of the string and started treating it. Then we started getting more.

"I started noticing stuff on their backs -- kind of like a heavy iodine. And their skin was weltering up. I don't use anything that potent around here. That's when I called the vet.

"When the vet came, he said, 'I don't know of any substance that can do this to a cow.' "

Koopman called the Sheriff's Office and WestFarm Foods, which buys his milk. "That's when we started worrying about substances in the milk and decided we better dump all of it.

"We were frantically trying to save those cows. They were deathly ill."

Yesterday, investigators from the state Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration were at the farm. They referred questions to their offices.

Koopman said FBI agents also visited and asked about who might have done this.

The easygoing dairyman with a quick smile said he couldn't imagine who killed his cows.

"I'm known as a pretty likable guy around here," he said. "I'm grasping at straws who would do this."

In a statement, the FDA said its Office of Criminal Investigations is working closely with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the King County Sheriff's Office, as well as with authorities from the state Department of Agriculture and Seattle-King County Public Health.

"At this point the incident appears to be isolated, involving fewer than 20 dairy cattle, although not all of the exposed cattle became ill," the FDA statement said.

Tissue samples from a cow that died Saturday are being analyzed at the FDA's Forensic Chemical Center, a specialized laboratory in Cincinnati.

Koopman said that the seven surviving cows are slowly recovering and that he continues to keep their milk out of the human supply chain.

Post-mortem examinations were done on two of the cows, and the vet found that the substance penetrated the skin to the tissues below and damaged internal organs, he said.

"This whole thing makes you feel real vulnerable," said the 47-year-old farmer who has been milking cows under the looming, white presence of Mount Rainier for almost 20 years.

All the cows were in their pens and not in open fields. Someone must have snuck into the barns to deliver the poison, he said.

"I don't want to point the finger at anybody," Koopman said.

This is the second time in recent weeks that there has been a serious security incident related to WestFarm Foods, the marketing arm of the Northwest Dairy Association farmer cooperative.

William Anderson, WestFarm's vice president for legal and public affairs, said yesterday that on May 4, vandals struck two trucking companies that haul raw milk for the company. Valves on two tankers were opened, and 119,000 pounds of milk poured onto the ground.

And anti-tampering plastic covers on several other truck tanks were breached as well, he said. Before the tampering was discovered, the milk had already been poured into a silo at WestFarm's Lynden plant.

Anderson said that even though there was no evidence that the milk itself had been adulterated, "600,000 pounds of raw milk was in the silo, and we had to dispose of that."

The vandals also used something like an ice pick to puncture 268 tires on tanker trucks. The tires didn't go flat until the rigs were already on the road, Anderson said. The company lost a total 0,000 worth of milk in the incidents. A reward of up to ,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.

WestFarm and the Teamsters union on May 26 resolved one of the longest lockouts in the recent history of Seattle labor relations.

Union officials said yesterday that they didn't know about the attack on Koopman's cows and that investigators had not contacted them about the instances of vandalism against the tanker trucks.

"No one has contacted me at all or anyone in my employ that I know," said Al Hobart, international trustee at Local 66, which represents the workers. "We certainly wouldn't condone anything like this."

WestFarm locked out nearly 200 local workers Aug. 31, arguing that Local 66 officials were not bargaining in good faith and that the company could not operate under a threat of a walkout. The union said it was ready to keep talking, accusing the company of trying to break up its membership.

On May 26, workers ended the bitter dispute by accepting a contract by a vote of 101-43, after some union members concluded they would not get a better offer.

WestFarm Foods processed 6.8 billion pounds of raw milk from April 2002 to April 2003. In that same time, the company produced 65 million gallons of fluid milk.

WestFarm contracts with 723 family dairies in the Pacific Northwest, including 515 farms in Washington.

Its milk goes into the Darigold brand as well as the brands of several supermarkets and other companies.


Follow up:

Improper Storage Said Source of Cow Deaths

Updated: Monday, Jun. 28, 2004 - 6:19 AM

SEATTLE (AP) - Improper storage rather than sabotage or ecoterrorism caused a toxic compound to sicken and kill several dairy cows near here, investigators have determined.

"Our investigation has determined there was no crime involved," FBI agent Roberta A. Burroughs said Sunday. "It looks like there was some material that was stored in the barn, corroded through (its container) and probably dripped down on the cows."

With that determination, the Joint Terrorism Task Force of local, state and federal agencies was set to close the case on the poisoning of cows at the dairy farm of John Koopman near Enumclaw, about 35 miles southeast of Seattle, she said.

Koopman, who previously told reporters he knew of no chemicals on his property that might have caused the poisoning, said Sunday the situation was overly dramatized in news reports.

"It's been real traumatic. My life has just been turned upside down," he said. "The media blew this thing up. The feds were just doing their job."

Koopman said he discovered a reddish-black substance was causing blisters and burns on the backs of 10 cows while milking on June 6.

Three died, the other seven were sickened, Koopman dumped tens of thousands of gallons of milk and a voluntary hold was placed temporarily on milk from his other 330 cows.

Last week Food and Drug Administration scientists found the substance was "a strong oxidizing chromium compound" and determined that milk from Koopman's cows was free from risk to the public.

Investigators would not specify the substance, but a federal source told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer it contained chromium 6, which is used by heavy industrial and pharmaceutical companies in highly corrosive and cancer-causing chemical compounds.

No milk from the poisoned cows reached the food supply.

Initially there was concern that the cow sickenings might be linked to a labor dispute that including a nine-month lockout involving WestFarm Foods, a dairy cooperative of which Koopman is a board member.

The Environmental Protection Agency was still working on the case, including cleanup, disposal of the toxic material and preservation of samples for further FDA testing, Burroughs said.

Crikey, it's stoning cats and dogs


A VET says he sees more than a dozen stoned cats and dogs a year because negligent owners feed their pets cannabis cookies and cake.

But the only thing to do for the dazed, confused and disoriented pets was to let them sleep off the drug, said Dr Neil Howard. Pets affected by the drug had been taken to Dr Howard's veterinary surgeries in the coastal towns of Torquay, Anglesea and Lorne, for the past 10 years.

The biggest problem was people deliberately feeding their dogs cannabis cakes and cookies, he said, although small dogs and cats could become stoned just by inhaling marijuana smoke.

"A lot of it is deliberate drugging by people making cannabis cookies and cake and giving some to their pets thinking it will be OK for the animal to eat it," he said.

"But what people don't seem to realise is that it's not good for the dog and it doesn't enjoy it, so don't do it. It's not a malicious or cruel thing people are doing to their pets.

"In some cases a parent comes home and finds their teenage son or daughter has fed the animal marijuana and brings it in to the surgery."

Dr Howard said although the animals were not in any pain as a result of the drug, they could be in danger because of their dazed and confused state of mind.

"As is often the case down here, people take their dogs for walks on cliff tops and if a dog is stoned and is let off the lead, it could be in danger of falling off a cliff," he said.

"There is nothing we can give them, they just need to sleep it off. Most people who bring their pets are ashamed of themselves because it's not a malicious thing they have done, it's usually just meant to be playful."

But Dr Howard said the problem was too widespread to report to police or the RSPCA. "It's not a welfare issue," he said.

It was not isolated to Victoria's Surf Coast.

Where did all the pelicans go?

Birds abandon chicks, eggs at refuge where they usually breed

Steve Friess, Special to The Chronicle

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, N.D. -- From a bluff looming over a remote section of shoreline here, an observer ought to be able to peer down at swarms of American white pelicans squawking, fluttering and going about the fowl business of breeding.

Instead, it's a scene of baffling desolation, a plain of baby chick carcasses and hundreds of never-to-hatch eggs left behind for the snacking pleasure of hungry coyotes and gulls. The world's largest breeding colony for one of the largest birds in North America is eerily, strangely vacant.

More than 30,000 white pelicans that normally spend the summer procreating at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in central North Dakota returned in their usual droves in April from their winter residence on the Gulf Coast, but then they suddenly dispersed in May after starting an apparently normal breeding season.

Nobody knows why. One biologist, Ron Reynolds of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bismarck, said the birds' disappearance is "as mysterious as crop circles." Theories abound, ranging from possible new predators or climate shifts, but they are little more than conjecture. Only humans, with little access to a region that's 10 miles from the nearest paved road, have largely escaped suspicion.

"Obviously, this is a shock to us," said Chase Lake refuge manager Mick Erickson, also a wildlife biologist. "To see something like this happen within a relatively short period of time is both surprising and disheartening. We just don't have any concrete answers as to what kind of event could have caused a mass abandonment like this. ... We've never heard of any event of this scale ever happening." Chase Lake, about 60 miles east of Bismarck, was established as a protected area in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, to save the dwindling number of pelicans from hunters at a time when the feathers were fashionable in hats and other garments. There were then about 50 breeding pairs; the colony peaked in 2000 at 17,500 pairs on the 4,385-acre site.

None of the other 27 breeding colonies in 11 states and four Canadian provinces comes close to those figures, says pelican expert Tommy King of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service based in Starkville, Miss.

During a normal mating season, the white pelicans -- which measure 6 feet from bill to tail and have a wingspan of nearly 10 feet -- build nests and lay as many as two eggs in May. Both parents take turns either squatting on the eggs to incubate them or tending to newborn chicks while the other forages in a 100-mile radius for fish or salamanders for food.

Mating only occurs once a year, so a disruption like this means a slowdown in reproduction. The birds are not a threatened or endangered species, though, so the incident is not viewed as a serious setback to the species' survival, Reynolds said.

Since May, the Chase Lake birds appear to have dispersed across the Dakotas, Minnesota and southern Canada.

"Normally we may not see any at all this time of year, but the last three or four weeks we've seen 1,000 to several thousand," said Wayne Brininger, manager of the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Detroit Lakes, Minn., about 200 miles east of Chase Lake. "They aren't breeding here. They're just loafing on our lakes and feeding."

Researchers first noticed the abandonment at Chase Lake in late May when they made a routine visit to a peninsula where most of the breeding usually occurs only to find few adult pelicans, some chick carcasses and hundreds of eggs raided by coyotes and gulls. The remaining birds were strikingly nervous around the humans, taking flight when researchers came near instead of merely walking calmly away as they normally do, said biologist Marsha Sovada of the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in nearby Jamestown, a branch of the U.S. Geological Survey.

That gave rise to the first theory, that coyotes had moved into the area in unusual numbers and scared off the colony. The West Nile virus had killed off thousands of young chicks in 2003, so researchers wondered if the coyotes feasted on those remains during the winter and decided the area was a viable hunting ground for them during the summer, too.

That theory was suspect because there was no littering of adult pelican carcasses to suggest such depredation, and it failed to explain the abandonment on one of two islands in the lake where nesting also occurs. Coyotes wouldn't have had access to that area, Sovada said.

The same thinking is ruling out a disease outbreak; adult birds would probably be found dead alongside their young.

By early June, the second island where breeding occurs also was abandoned. King attached global positioning chips to four of the pelicans on the second island in late May before they dispersed and found they fled the area between May 30 and June 2. Their paths -- each went in a different direction -- shows that something prompted the birds to fan out in haphazard directions, further deepening the mystery.

"This is pretty much an odd, freaky thing," said King, who has been studying the migratory and breeding habits of Chase Lake pelicans for a decade.

Another theory blames a cool, wet spring for stressing the birds and making food more difficult to find. Both May and June were among the coldest on record for the area, National Weather Service meteorologist Janine Vining said, and the Chase Lake region had 3 inches more rain in May than usual.

"Abnormally cool weather puts greater physical demands on adult pelicans and may have changed the availability of food source," said Reynolds. "That doesn't mean the food isn't out there, but it may be harder to access if small fish are not swimming in shallow waters where the pelicans forage. These birds may need more food and, at the same time, they're balancing the demands of nesting and raising chicks.

"It could be that amid a little bit of added strain, they chose survival over reproduction," he said.


July 13, 2004

Sick Birds Washing Ashore Puzzle Avian Experts

Tests are being made in San Diego on California brown pelicans that have been found weak and apparently starving.

By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Avian experts are trying to determine why an unusually high number of California brown pelicans are washing up on local shores — weak, dehydrated and near death.

Tissue samples from birds that have died have been sent to laboratories run by the state and federal governments and the UC Davis veterinary school.

The young birds, members of an endangered species, are being treated by bird specialists at Sea World San Diego. More than 100 birds have been brought to the park in the last two weeks.

So far, bird experts are unable to explain the phenomenon.

"I don't have a clue," said Jim Peugh, chairman of the conservation committee of the local Audubon chapter.

Sea World veterinarian Judy St. Leger said Monday that necropsies have not yielded a cause. Among other things, laboratory tests will look for signs of West Nile virus, she said.

"They're acting as if they're starving," St. Leger said.

Ten birds have been nursed back to health and released but more are arriving each day, plucked from beaches from La Jolla to Oceanside. The birds are being given vitamin injections, fluids and either a gruel-like formula or whole fish.

The California brown pelican, identifiable by its long pouched bill and ungainly appearance, is a water bird that thrives on rocky shores, cliffs and coastal river deltas. It catches fish by swooping into the water at high speed from 20 to 60 feet.

In recent years California brown pelicans suffering avian botulism have been brought to Sea World from the Salton Sea, the putrid body of water that straddles Riverside and Imperial counties and serves as a migratory stopover on the Pacific Flyway. But the latest birds show no similar signs, St. Leger said.

"These are not Salton Sea birds," she said.

Historically, a change in the fish population can imperil sea birds. "The abundance of fish can shift very quickly and very dramatically," said Phil Unitt, curator of birds at the Natural History Museum in San Diego.

A decade ago over-harvesting had reduced the numbers of Pacific mackerel, Pacific sardine and northern anchovy. All three species are key sources of food for the California brown pelican.

But efforts by the state Department of Fish and Game are thought to have increased the fish population off the Southern California coast.

Also, state and federal wildlife agencies protect California brown pelican breeding colonies in the islands that comprise Channel Islands National Park and the Moss Landing Wildlife Area near Monterey.

While some outbreaks of avian sickness or depletion can be anticipated by changes in weather or fishing patterns, there has been no warning that the pelican population was being threatened, officials said, until the sickly juveniles started arriving.

"This is very, very unusual," St. Leger said.