Animal deaths may be linked to transportationTwo wild dolphins between the ages of four and five were captured at Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture in Japan and imported to Korea on Feb. 9. But within five days at the Jangsaengpo Special Whale Culture Zone at Jaengsaengpo, Ulsan, one dolphin died. An autopsy revealed the cause of death was an accumulation of blood outside the lungs. Specialists hypothesized the dolphin suffered from an external impact resulting in chest trauma.
On Feb. 3, a Mt. Baekdu area Siberian tiger named Geumgangi collapsed and died at the Baekdu Mountain Range National Arboretum at Bonghwa, North Gyeongsang, nine days after being relocated from the O-World Zoo at Daejeon to Bonghwa County, North Gyeongsang. Vets confirmed the tiger died from poor blood flow to the liver resulting from severe fluid loss. The average lifespan of a captive tiger is 20 years, while wild dolphins generally live for 25 years. Considering this, why would an otherwise healthy wild dolphin and Siberian tiger suddenly expire?
The vibration isolating truck used for transporting the tiger traveled 60 to 80 kilometers (37 miles to 50 miles) per hour, and the trip lasted five hours. The dolphin was transported by boat and truck for 32 hours. The Nam District Office of Ulsan maintains an anti-vibration truck was used while an environmental group posits a regular truck was involved.
“Even people suffer from motion sickness and fatigue when traveling on a plane or boat for a long time and experience transportation stress,” said Jeong Kyu-shik, professor at the college of veterinary medicine at Kyungpook University, who was responsible for the autopsy of both animals.
He added, “Traveling too long or receiving a physical shock during the trip can weaken the animals’ immune system and lead to their deaths.” In most cases animals are confined either in cages or in tanks. “Confined spaces and vibration are the greatest factors of stress,” said Jeong. “Wild animals like dolphins normally move hundreds of kilometers in a day and feel the stress and fear more intimately.”
Even livestock such as cattle and pigs undergo shipping stress.
“In the middle of transit,” said Seo Sang-hyuk, the head of the VIP Animal Medical Center, “cattle catch ‘shipping fever,’ showing symptoms of respiration ailments, high blood pressure and dehydration.” Furthermore, he said “[Animals] can die by tearing muscles while breathing or hemorrhaging in a state of nervousness.”
When Chung Ju-yung, founder of the Hyundai Group, drove a herd of cattle to North Korea in 1998, the manner of transportation was singled out as a major factor in the needless loss of hundreds of cattle. Preventing animal deaths during transit is not only a moral obligation maintained by animal protection groups, but also a matter of fiscal responsibility. The Nam District Office in Ulsan spent 200 million won ($175,000) to import the two dolphins from Japan.
Animal protection groups say the current measures for preventing the death of animals in transport are insufficient. Article 9 of the Animal Protection Law stipulates that animals in transit must be provided with water and food and must not be injured while entering or leaving transports.
However, there are no concrete protective regulations in place regarding speed limits for the vehicles involved.
“Verification is difficult when it comes to checking for compliance to the Animal Protection Law for shipping regulations,” said one staff member at the animal protection civic group Kara. “The inhumane treatment of dogs during their transit from farms, using electric cattle prods at slaughterhouses and unethical transport of laboratory animals are [examples of] evading the law.”
With the expansion of the pet market, the issue of transporting animals is also gaining public attention.
The law on animal protection mandates that animals must be delivered in person or by utilizing specialist transport companies. However, the animals covered are dogs, cats, rabbits, parrots, guinea pigs, hamsters, other mammals and parrots. According to the study done by an animal protection group, Action for Animals, 22 out of 23 businesses for uncommon animals, such as reptiles and amphibians, use parcel services or express buses.
One anonymous veterinarian at an animal hospital said, “Regardless of the animal, the transit time has to be reduced as much as possible,” adding that, “Taking a plane is advisable when bringing [animals] from overseas, even though it will be costly.”
BY CHOI EUN-KYUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]