Shando Mathebula, Steve Ross, Jerry W. Brown, & Angela Glover
JOHANNESBURG––The South African National Park Service [SANParks] and South African Police Service [SAPS] are reportedly investigating the May 4, 2022 death of Kruger National Park field ranger and dog handler Shando Mathebula, 36.
Mathebula, while on patrol in the park, was either fatally gored by a Cape buffalo, as most media reported, or possibly shot by another ranger or a third party during the confrontation with the buffalo.
The initial media release posted to the SANParks’ website was headlined “Shooting Incident Claims the Life of Field Ranger.”
As of May 29, 2022, what exactly happened remained unclear.
Nikki, Amadeus, & the late Steve Ross
The conflicting accounts of Mathebula’s death somewhat recalled the still controversial June 28, 2012 mauling of U.S. anthropology student Andrew Oberle, 26, by two chimpanzees named Nikki and Amadeus at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden in Mupumalanga, South Africa.
Oberle lost an ear, several fingers and toes and a testicle. Placed in a medically induced coma due to blood loss, Oberle underwent six hours of surgery five days after the attack.
Among the experts called upon to investigate and comment on the Oberle attack was Steve Ross, director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study & Conservation of Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.
Ross, 52, “died suddenly in the early morning of April 20, 2022,” the zoo and the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance announced.
Ross, after the attack on Oberle, tried to keep the focus of media discussion on chimpanzee behavior and chimp needs in captivity, but there were many further dimensions to the case.
Goodall facilities already had bad record
Jane Goodall Institute sanctuaries already had a notoriously bad safety record.
For instance, Outside magazine writer Elizabeth Royte and Gombe Stream National Park [Tanzania] director of chimp research Shadrack Kamenya, writing for Pan Africa News, in late 2002 described a May 2002 incident in which a chimp named Frodo accosted the wife and 16-year-old niece of Gombe park attendant Moshi Sadique.
The niece was carrying Sadique’s 14-month-old daughter. Frodo, who had already attacked and beaten Jane Goodall herself in 1989, among many other previous violent incidents, tore the child away, beat her to death against a tree, disemboweled her, and was eating her brain by the time guards arrived.
Frodo, not punished for the killing, reportedly died of natural causes in 2014, at age 43.
Similar incidents reportedly occurred at Gombe in 1984, 1987, and in the 1950s.
In 2003 two Goodall Institute chimps escaped from quarantine at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. One of them “bit off the fingers and toes of his keeper,” according to Gerald Tenywa of the New Vision newspaper in Kampala. At large for 12 days, the chimps were eventually shot by a posse of Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers, police, and private security guards.
The Jane Goodall Institute blamed Oberle for his own injuries, which reportedly occurred when he tried to remove a stone from beside the chimps’ enclosure that he thought the chimps could reach to throw at passers-by. The chimps then grabbed Oberle and pulled him under the fence wire.
Two years later Nikki and Amadeus seriously injured a local assistant manager after Nikki scaled an electrified fence to grab him.
Threatening that the chimps Nikki and Amadeus might have to be euthanized, the Jane Goodall Institute used the two attacks to raise funds to build a more secure chimp enclosure.
Nikki was euthanized in 2015 due to rapidly advancing and incurable cancer.
Steve Ross & Project Chimps
Steve Ross, meanwhile, was among the go-to experts consulted by media about chimpanzee incidents for more than 20 years. Not controversial himself, Ross was often in the middle of heated controversies among others, in which his role was to try to find whatever resolutions would be best for the chimps.
Ross was most recently in the news after producing a detailed assessment of conditions at the Project Chimps sanctuary in northeast Georgia, housing chimpanzees retired from use at New Iberia Research Center, a federally funded laboratory in Louisiana.
Project Chimps, largely funded by the Humane Society of the United States, has come under intensive criticism from former staff and Their Turn, an influential animal advocacy web page founded by New York City activist Donny Moss.
Ross report led to $20 million HSUS commitment
The Ross report, the Humane Society of the U.S. summarized in a media release, “praised the spaces the chimps enjoy at Project Chimps, noting that they are ‘broadly exceeding those used to house chimpanzees elsewhere,’ though with the caveat that ‘a substantial drawback of the space was the relatively limited access to the outdoor yards.’”
HSUS responded in January 2022 by announcing a plan to spend $5 million on immediate improvements to Project Chimps, followed by investing “up to an additional $15 million over the next 10 years, to support the sanctuary’s operational needs and help it move toward becoming fully independent.”
Mapped U.S. chimp population
“Steve was a passionate supporter of North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance sanctuaries, served several years as chairman of the board at Chimp Haven,” a major sanctuary for chimps retired from biomedical research, located near Shreveport, Louisiana, “and frequently served as a liaison between NAPSA and other organizations,” NAPSA recounted in a media release.
“Steve made a career of advancing animal welfare,” the NAPSA release continued, “with special dedication to the care and study of chimpanzees, working tirelessly and strategically to get them out of biomedical labs, the entertainment industry, and private homes.”
Ross developed a “Project ChimpCARE map, listing all chimpanzees across the U.S.,” NAPSA recalled, to “help find safe homes for chimps living in inappropriate situations.”
Ross also helped to persuade three drugstore chains to discontinue selling “unnatural images of chimpanzees on greeting cards,” NAPSA said.
Hired by the Lincoln Park Zoo in 2000 as a behavior specialist, Ross “oversaw the zoo’s efforts to conserve chimpanzees and gorillas in the Republic of Congo, and coordinated our work with [Chimp Haven],” the zoo statement about his death remembered.
Regenstein Center for African Apes
“He conducted a wide breadth of studies that helped influence the design of what became the award-winning Regenstein Center for African Apes, “ the Lincoln Park Zoo statement continued.
“Though Steve published papers on species as diverse as polar bears, otters, and humans (zoo visitors), his primary focus was on improving the welfare of chimpanzees.
“In 2009,” the Lincoln Park Zoo statement added, “these interests culminated with the initiation of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE, which seeks to assess and improve the housing and management of chimpanzees living as pets and performers and in other suboptimal situations.”
Ross, according to media coverage of his work at the Lincoln Park Zoo, combined behavioral enrichment for captive chimpanzees with intelligence research, using a variety of specially designed video games and puzzles.
Ross died two months after Jerry William Brown, DVM, another widely traveled veterinarian closely associated with sanctuaries and projects of the Humane Society of the United States, but whether their paths ever crossed is unclear.
Jerry W. Brown, 73, died on February 26, 2022, at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington.
Born in Tacoma, raised Yelm, Washington, Brown attended Skagit Valley Community College, Central Washington College, and Washington State University, where he earned his veterinary degree in 1979
“Other than a year working at the Centralia Power Plant,” an obituary posted to Facebook said, “Jerry spent all of his employed years working as a veterinarian in the Yelm/McKenna area, first with Crate Veterinary in Spanaway and shortly thereafter at Yelm Veterinary Hospital,” where he continued to perform surgeries two days a week until two weeks before his death.
Only three years into veterinary practice, Brown became attending veterinarian for the Wolf Haven sanctuary in Tenino, Washington, in 1982. Brown continued in that capacity until 2020.
RAVS & World Vets International
Working at Wolf Haven brought Brown into involvement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service program that reintroduced Mexican grey wolves to the wild in 1998.
Around the same time Brown became a Washington state licensed wildlife rehabilitator. This led, in 2018, to winning a fellowship with the Partners for Wildlife program managed by the University of Minnesota, to spend a year focused on wildlife rehab.
Volunteering for Rural Area Veterinary Services, a Humane Society of the U.S. program that was merged with the formerly independent organization Veterinarians for Animal Rights in 2008 to form the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Brown connected with World Vets International.
Brown spent most of his last 14 years as a World Vets International team leader, working in Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Panama.
Angela Glover helped dogs in “the middle of nowhere”
Angela Glover, 50, whose seven-year-old Tonga Animal Welfare Society was among the most remotely located incorporated nonprofit humane organizations in the world, was among four local victims of the January 11, 2022 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano, reportedly swept to sea by the ensuing tsunami while trying to rescue her dogs. Three of the dogs survived.
Her husband James found her remains a few days later.
A British citizen, originally from Brighton, Angela Glover worked in advertising and as a television producer, known as Angela Eleini before marrying James Glover and relocating to Tonga in 2015. She founded the Tonga Animal Welfare Society soon afterward.
The next nearest humane societies appear to be two in Fiji, 500 miles west; two serving American Samoa, 930 miles north; and the Esther Honey Foundation, the most remote humane society of all, about 1,000 miles due west of Tonga in Raratonga, Cook Islands.
The closest humane societies to the Esther Honey Foundation are more than 950 miles northwest, on the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia.