nettime's_roving_reporter on Mon, 31 May 1999 20:09:31 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Belgrade zoo animals provide early bombing warning


  WIRE:May 30, 6:03 a.m. ET
  Belgrade zoo animals provide early bombing warning

   BELGRADE, May 30 (Reuters) - 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 lives lost.''
  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 waste.
  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
  Even a snake aborted some 40 foetuses, 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 metres (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 was fear.''
  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 humans.''
  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
  ``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.''
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