Thumbing through clippings of last year's news I found this one from
Reuters. Of the many perspectives reporting on the crisis in Kosovo this
blurb stands on it's own and (I think you'll agree) is worthy of posting
here as our present Dark Matter.
BELGRADE ZOO ANIMALS PROVIDE EARLY BOMBING WARNING - 05/30/99
(Reuters) BELGRADE — The noise starts around half an hour before the
bombs fall as the animals in Belgrade zoo pick up the sound of
approaching planes and missiles, director Vuk Bojovic said. "It's one of
the strangest and most disturbing concerts you can hear anywhere,'' he
said in an interview.
"It builds up in intensity as the planes approach — only they can hear
them, we can't — and when the bombs start falling it's like a choir of
the insane. Peacocks screaming, wolves howling, dogs barking, chimpanzees
rattling their cages.''
"I have made a record every hour of each day of when the animals start
acting up. One day, when this craziness is over, I'd like to check it
with reliable data on when the planes were flying. Someone could make a
scientific study out of it.''
Bojovic said the zoo had been hard hit by NATO's air strikes campaign
aimed at forcing Belgrade to accept an autonomy deal for Kosovo,
particularly when the alliance attacked Belgrade's power system, and
indirectly the water supply.
"I had 1,000 eggs of rare and endangered species incubating, some of them
ready to hatch in a couple of days. They were all ruined. That's 1,000
Meat in the zoo's freezer defrosted and went off, making it suitable only
to scavengers like hyenas and vultures. Belgrade people donated meat out
of their home freezers when the power went down, "but most of it wasn't
even fit for animals.''
The lack of water meant that some animals, particularly the hippos, were
literally swimming in their excrement, he said.
"We had to give dirty drinking water to a lot of pretty delicate animals.
We won't know the effects of that for two or three months,'' Bojovic
said. While the zoo overlooks the confluence of two major rivers, the
Danube and the Sava, both are heavily polluted by chemical and industrial
The nightly air strikes, with their accompaniment of heavy anti-aircraft
fire lighting up the sky, has had other, possibly longer-lasting effects
on many of the animals, the director said.
Many of them aborted their young in the latter stages of pregnancy. Many
birds abandoned their nests, leaving eggs to grow cold. "If they ever lay
again, I just wonder what they will do with them,'' he said.
Even a snake aborted some 40 fetuses, apparently reacting to the heavy
vibration shaking the ground as missiles hit targets nearby.
The worst night the zoo can remember was when NATO hit an army
headquarters only 600 meters (yards) away, with a huge detonation.
"The next day we found that some of the animals had killed their young,''
the director said. "A female tiger killed two of her four three-day-old
cubs, and the other two were so badly injured we couldn't save them.''
"She had been a terrific mother until then, raising several litters
without any problems. I can't say whether it was the detonation or the
awful smell that accompanied the bombing. I personally think it was the
detonation,'' he added.
On the same night, an eagle owl killed all of its five young, and ate the
smallest of them. "It wasn't because she was hungry. I can only think it
The most disturbing case was of the huge Bengal tiger, who began to chew
his own paws. "He was practically raised in my office. He trusted
Looking up into the sky, Bojovic said the constant stream of NATO
war-planes, with their trails of polluting gases, threatened to disturb
the migration of several species of birds that pass over the area every
year. Some were heading north just as NATO's bombardment began.
"They have always used these corridors. I wonder whether they will ever
do so again. I think fauna right across Europe and beyond will feel the
affects of this war for a long time to come.''
The grimmest spinoff of the war, now in its third month, is the sight of
armed guards patrolling the zoo.
"They're not there to keep people from harming or stealing the animals,''
Bojovic said. "Their job is to shoot the animals if the zoo gets bombed
and some of them try and break out.''
John Q. Citizen