Friday, 29 May 2009

It shouldn't happen to a vet

I’ve just read The Several lives of a Victorian vet by Jean Ware and Hugh Hunt, covering the career of Griffith Evans.
Evans arrived in Bombay in 1877 at the instigation of Queen Victoria’s Principal Veterinary Surgeon, and began work on anthrax at Sialkot. He was the first man to diagnose the disease in India and went on to discover the pathogenic trypanosome which caused the disease surra (meaning “gone rotten”). In 1880 he wrote his Report on surra disease, but his colleagues regarded him as a “crank”, and the Governor-General lamented that Evans had not managed to find a cure in the 4 week period he’d been given to research the disease.
Evans’ hope of being promoted to Principal Veterinary Surgeon of India was dashed when he was effectively banished to Madras.
Evans was serving as a Veterinary Surgeon in poor, hot conditions and trying to promote his findings on surra. Evans describes his daily work in trying to locate the surra parasite, “I had to work with the microscope for many hours a day out-of-doors at the sick lines, or else in a stable, when the thermometer was 82 degrees within a cool bungalow, and the sun pouring down its rays through a cloudless sky…very few investigators know what that means.”
However in the early 1880’s John Henry Steel (pictured courtesy of BVC), of Bombay Veterinary College, hailed Evans as the discoverer of the surra microbe. Abroad, Pasteur and Koch had also taken notice of Evans’ work and in 1883 Evans was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, leaving India a year later. Steel’s own report on a fatal disease among transport mules in Burma contains Evans' original surra findings and is part of the Veterinary project I am working on.

Beavering away

After a 400 year absence, eleven beavers have been re-introduced in Argyll, Scotland. This is part of Scottish Natural Heritage's Species Action Framework, but is also the culmination of a 13-year investigation by SNH into the practicalities of the re-introduction. There were public consultations, and reports on possible risks to public health (apparently beavers can carry giardia and cryptosporidium bacteria).

There has been opposition, mainly from angling enthusiasts and some landowners, who are concerned at possible disruption to fisheries and damage to the landscape, but the scheme will be constantly monitored by a group including SNH and the Argyll Fisheries Trust.

I hope it's a success - people wiped out beavers through over-hunting, so it'd be great to see them back where they belong.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Rogue states

On Monday North Korea tested a nuclear device reportedly as large as the Hiroshima bomb (picture from U.S. National Archives and Records Administration), and has since then tested short range missiles, restarted its nuclear reactor and declared it is no longer bound by the terms of the ending of the 1953 Korean war.

North Korea objects to the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a grouping initiated by the Bush Administration in 2003 to prevent weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from "reaching or leaving states or sub-state actors of proliferation concern" - in effect, to stop and search ships suspected of carrying WMD. The grouping is outwith the authority of the United Nations, reflecting the Bush's disdain for the UN. South Korea on Wednesday became the 95th member of the PSI.