Zoo ranked worst for elephant treatment
BIRMINGHAM — An animal protection group is protesting the treatment of an aged Asian elephant named Mona, which it says is the most-mistreated zoo elephant this side of Alaska.
The California-based In Defense of Animals placed the Birmingham Zoo atop its list of the 10 worst U.S. zoos for elephants because the 7,900-pound Mona lives alone in an indoor/outdoor enclosure roughly the size of two basketball courts.
Zoo officials say Mona is well cared for, and they dismiss the group as extremists who’ve never even visited her.
Accreditation standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums normally require that zoos have at least two elephants to keep each other company, but the group granted an exception for Birmingham’s zoo because of Mona’s advanced age, believed to be near 60.
Catherine Doyle, director of the elephant campaign for In Defense of Animals, said elephants are highly social animals that live in herds in the wild, and keeping one in a pen by itself “is cruel and unusual punishment.”
Fire breaks out at oil refinery
RICHMOND — Fire flared up at an oil refinery yesterday morning, injuring one employee and briefly prompting an order for residents to stay indoors, authorities said.
The fire began at 5:24 a.m. at Chevron’s Richmond Refinery, said Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials specialist Maria Duazo.
The fire was under control by daybreak and the worker’s injury was minor, Chevron spokesman Dean O’Hair said.
About 1,200 employees were in the refinery at the time; they were cleared to return to their jobs after the blaze was contained to the pump where it started, a plant spokeswoman said.
Residents of nearby neighborhoods were warned to stay inside with their doors and windows shut to avoid breathing toxic fumes, but officials said the warning was lifted after tests showed no unsafe levels of harmful chemicals from the fire.
Attorney arrested for kissing marshal
WATERBURY — A kiss has landed a criminal defense attorney in trouble.
Ralph Crozier, 55, was arrested Thursday for kissing a female judicial marshal at Waterbury Superior Court on Dec. 22. The marshal told police she did not invite the kiss, which was why a criminal disorderly conduct charge was filed.
“This is the biggest baloney I’ve ever seen in my life,” Mr. Crozier said. “How many tens of thousands of people in Connecticut wished their co-workers and friends ‘Merry Christmas’ the day before Christmas?”
The incident was captured on security video.
Mr. Crozier said the video will prove he meant nothing sexual by the kiss, which he described as a peck on the cheek. He says the incident is an example of political correctness run amok.
The arrest warrant affidavit is sealed until Jan. 24, when Mr. Crozier is scheduled to be arraigned. He is free on $10,000 bond.
Hilo Bay areas closed to swimming
HILO — Areas near Hilo Bay were closed to swimming, fishing and boating after 2 million gallons of partially treated wastewater spilled into the ocean when some processing equipment failed.
The water bypassed treatment processes at the Hilo Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to the state water division. Officials are investigating the equipment failure.
Train crash releases flammable chemical
IRVINE — Four runaway rail cars struck two parked locomotives in east-central Kentucky yesterday, causing a fire and spilling a chemical that prompted a limited evacuation and orders that others stay indoors.
The crash released butyl acetate, a flammable liquid, from a burning tanker car, authorities said. The fire produced a huge column of black smoke, and a section of the Kentucky River caught fire. No injuries were reported, authorities said.
The burning tanker car contained about 30,000 gallons of butyl acetate, said CSX spokesman Gary Sease. Butyl acetate is commonly used as a solvent or as a synthetic fruit flavoring.
Police ordered people in the immediate area to evacuate, and people in others part of Estill County were told to stay indoors, keep their windows closed and to put towels under doors.
Both the locomotives and rail cars were unmanned, Kentucky State Police Maj. Lisa Rudzinski said.
Hospitals adopt plan for the uninsured
CONCORD — All but one of the state’s 26 community hospitals adopted a program that gives a 15 percent discount to uninsured patients who don’t qualify for existing financial aid.
The New Hampshire Hospital Association says about 120,000 residents are eligible for the new program, Hospital Access Plus. Not offering the discount program is Memorial Hospital in North Conway.
Brothers find hiker lost for 5 weeks
ALBUQUERQUE — A faint sound made Albert and Peter Kottke stop and look around as they hiked out of the Gila Wilderness at the end of a backpacking trip.
A figure moved on the other side of the Gila River. As it drew closer, the two university students saw a woman, hunched over and moving slowly.
The Kottkes crossed the river to find Carolyn Dorn, 52, who had been alone in the Gila National Forest for five weeks after becoming trapped on the wrong side of the rain- and snow-swollen river. The search for her had been called off two weeks ago.
The brothers said they realized Miss Dorn, who left for a two-week camping trip Dec. 6, was too weak to go with them. They gave her food — Tang, almonds, dried apples, an energy bar, some hot soup and a little cheese — scavenged firewood for her from the other side of the river, filled her water bottles and left her a book, suspense author Michael Connelly’s “Chasing the Dime.”
They hiked 20 miles over the next day and a half, and on Saturday hitchhiked into Silver City, where they contacted authorities. A New Mexico National Guard helicopter crew, using night vision goggles and a U.S. Geological Survey map the Kottke brothers had marked, rescued the weak and dehydrated South Carolina woman before dawn Sunday and flew her to Silver City, where she was hospitalized.
Polar bear recovering from root canal
PITTSBURGH — Koda, one of two young polar bears at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, was jabbed with an anesthetic dart and carted off for dental work on an infected chipped tooth.
The root canal procedure was performed Sunday by Dr. Tom Klein, a veterinary dentist at Ohio State University, and Dr. David Regine, who normally works on human teeth in the Pittsburgh suburb of Bridgeville.
“The bear was very comfortable and so were we,” Dr. Klein said yesterday.
Koda, 2, and his brother, Nuka, arrived from the Denver Zoo in November and are the centerpiece of the zoo’s new polar bear exhibit, which helped the zoo set an attendance record last year.
Koda’s keepers noticed the dental problem last month in his lower right quadrant mandibular canine — the big, fanglike tooth on the right side of his lower jaw. Koda’s keepers believe he may have broken the tooth playing with his brother. The infection in the tooth could have spread to the jaw if left untreated, Dr. Klein said.
Zoo’s panda bear artificially inseminated
MEMPHIS — After its giant panda pair failed to mate last weekend, staff at the Memphis Zoo artificially inseminated Ya Ya, the female panda, Sunday morning.
The panda exhibit has been closed since Thursday to give Ya Ya and Le Le some privacy to try to mate.
The two did attempt to mate, but were unsuccessful, according to a news release.
Zoo officials chalked that up to inexperience.
Zoo staff were scheduled to attempt a second artificial insemination procedure yesterday. The exhibit will reopen today.
If Ya Ya becomes pregnant, the zoo can expect a baby panda around May.
From wire dispatches and staff reports.