Charlie Russell, Mary T. Hoffman, Aubrey Manning, & Dorothy Cheney
Russell made “Spirit Bears” famous
Canadian bear researcher and author Charlie Russell, 76, died on May 7, 2018 in Calgary, Alberta, from complications after surgery.
Born in Pincher Creek, Alberta, where his parents Andy and Kay Russell were hunting outfitters and guides, Charlie Russell developed an unconventional view of bears while helping his father to make a documentary film about the white “Spirit Bears” of Princess Royal Island––a subspecies of black bear––in British Columbia.
“The three found that they were mostly capturing footage of bears’ backsides as the animals ran from them — until they left their rifles behind when they went out to film,” wrote New York Times obituarist Neil Genzlinger.
Russell published his first book, Spirit Bear: Encounters with the White Bear of the Western Rainforest, in 1994.
Studied Russian bears up close
Beginning in 1996, after two years of scouting locations and obtaining permission from the Russian government, Charlie Russell and photographer and artist Maureen Enns spent four to five months each year living among bears in an isolated cabin on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
There Russell and Enns also introduced to the wild 10 orphaned cubs they bought from substandard zoos.
But when Russell and Enns returned to their isolated cabin in 2003, they discovered that the bears whose trust they had won over the years had almost all been poached.
“A bear gallbladder — the prize for poachers, valued in some countries as an aphrodisiac and general health remedy — had been nailed to their cabin wall, like some kind of warning,” Genzlinger said.
The couple also won permission to bring in three orphaned cubs from a Russian zoo to try to reintroduce them to the wild, and they succeeded despite the skepticism of some naturalists. They eventually worked with a total of 10 orphaned cubs.
Made enemies among hunters
Summarized Genzlinger, “His conclusion that bears are not naturally hostile to people earned him enemies among hunters. His live-with-the-bears approach also drew criticism from some wildlife officials.”
But unlike Timothy Treadwell, a younger bear researcher holding similar views, who was killed by a grizzly bear in Alaska in 2003, along with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, Russell advocated taking precautions to avoid potentially dangerous bear-and-human encounters.
Russell and Enns produced several successful books about their experiences together, including Grizzly Heart: Living Without Fear Among the Brown Bears of Kamchatka (2002), and Grizzly Seasons: Life With the Brown Bears of Kamchatka (2003).
“Their relationship ended in the aftermath of the slaughter of the Kamchatka bears in 2003,” wrote Genzlinger, “which left Russell with the fear that, by teaching the bears to trust humans, he had inadvertently conditioned them not to run from the hunters.”
Mary T. Hoffman promoted cruelty-free living
Mary T. Hoffman, 81, died on August 25, 2018 at her longtime home in the Sleepy Hollow Lake development near Coxsackie, New York, with her husband of 57 years, Frank L. Hoffman, “holding her hand,” reported the AllCreatures.org animal advocacy news aggregation web site that they cofounded in 1998.
Mary Hoffman, a medical technologist, and Frank Hoffman, a chemist, earlier cofounded and for 37 years ran the F.L. Hoffman Corporation, “which specializes in the construction management of medical facilities,” according to the “About Mary and Frank Hoffman” page at the Mary T. & Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation web site.
Mary T. Hoffman went on to become an accomplished watercolorist, while Frank L. Hoffman served as a volunteer “Jewish/United Methodist pastor in both prisons and churches,” said their biography page.
Circa 1971, said a statement accompanying a photo of them together taken at the 1996 North American Vegetarian Society Summerfest, the Hoffmans “became aware of the cruelty involved in the raising of veal, and out of compassion we decided not to eat veal. Over the next twelve years we eliminated all meat eating,” becoming completely vegan in 1989.
“Vegan lifestyle according to Judeo-Christian ethics”
From then on, the Hoffmans were “dedicated to cruelty-free living through a vegan lifestyle according to Judeo-Christian ethics,” they recalled.
The AllCreatures.org web site continues, posting links daily to animal-related news items and online campaigns.
Fruit fly finding changed science
Aubrey Manning, 88, whose 1967 book An Introduction to Animal Behaviour has remained a standard university-level text through six updated editions, died on October 20, 2018.
“He was a good friend of mine — a wonderful man for sure,” recalled Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary ecology at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
“In a series of experiments at Oxford and Edinburgh universities, Aubrey showed how mutations in genes that affect the behavior of fruit flies could lead to reproductive isolation, a key mechanism in the creation of new species. This work laid the foundation for the modern study of the evolutionary genetics of behavior,” recalled David Sington, a frequent collaborator with Manning in BBC media projects, in a Guardian obituary.
Blitz influenced appreciation of nature
Manning’s father, a grocer in Chiswick, west London, moved his family to rural Englefield Green, Surrey, in 1940 to escape Nazi firebombings during the Battle of Britain. This enabled Manning to grow up studying wildlife.
“A bird watcher, Aubrey’s first publication was on wood warblers, made with a school friend at Strode’s school, Egham,” wrote Sington. “He went to University College London to read zoology, and then to Merton College, Oxford, for a doctorate in animal behavior. In 1956, after two years’ national service, Aubrey joined the University of Edinburgh as an assistant lecturer in zoology, rising to professor of natural history by 1971, and retiring in 1997.”
Manning served from 1990 to 1996 as chair of the Scottish Wildlife Trust; became a patron of the Optimum Population Trust in 2002, now called Population Matters; and was president of the Wildlife Trusts from 2005 to 2010.
Cheney chose baboons over law school
Nonhuman primate researcher Dorothy Cheney, 68, died of breast cancer on November 9, 2018 at her home in Devon, Pennsylvania.
Born in Boston in 1950, Cheney was the daughter of foreign service officer Edward Cheney and translator Sally Leavitt Cheney. Dorothy Cheney spent parts of her childhood in the Netherlands, Malaysia, India, and Nicaragua.
Graduating from Abbot Academy in Massachusetts in 1968, Dorothy Cheney married primate communication researcher Robert Seyfarth in 1971. She completed a bachelor’s degree in political science at Wellesley College in 1972, but elected to accompany Seyfarth to South Africa to study baboons instead of attending law school, as she had planned.
Learned how vervets talk
Changing her interests and career focus, Dorothy Cheney earned a Ph.D. in zoology from Cambridge in 1977, going on to work with her husband at Rockefeller University in New York; the University of California, Los Angeles campus; and the University of Pennsylvania, their academic home from 1985 on.
Cheney and Seyfarth did their most significant work, however, on research visits to Kenya and Botswana.
“One of their best-known experiments, conducted in Kenya in 1977, showed that vervets made distress sounds not just involuntarily, out of fear, but to convey a specific message about a given threat,” recalled New York Times obituarist Neil Genzlinger. “They hid loudspeakers in bushes, played recorded sounds of vervets, and watched the reaction. A particular bark sent the animals scurrying up trees because it was a warning about leopards; a low-pitched staccato noise had them looking skyward for predatory eagles.”
Before the Cheney and Seyfarth field investigations, and those of Stanford University neurologist Robert M. Sapolsky, author of A Primate’s Memoir, who began his studies in Kenya at about the same time, few scientists had studied monkey behavior in the wild.
Wrote Cheney and Seyfarth in their 2007 book Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind, “Because Western scientists learned about primates by examining corpses or observing single animals brought home as pets, few if any ever learned what can be discovered only through long, patient observation: that the most human features of monkeys and apes lie not in their physical appearance but in their social relationships.”
What Cheney and Seyfarth learned, they summarized in Baboon Metaphysics, is that monkey society is structured around mother/daughter relationships, and “is governed by the same two general rules that governed the behavior of women in so many 19th-century novels: stay loyal to your relatives (though perhaps at a distance, if they are an impediment), but also try to ingratiate yourself with the members of high-ranking families.”