Last team of huskies is frozen out of Antarctica

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The Independent Online
MAX will mush no more on the barren ice sheets of the South Pole. He and the rest of the British team of huskies have been ordered out on environmental grounds.

The British Antarctic Survey, which had hoped its dogs the last in Antarctica would be able to live out their lives where they were born, has bowed to international pressure. Max, Jake, Pris, Urza and the rest of the 14-strong team will spend this Christmas taking a last mush across the snow before being packed off in February to a retirement home in pooper-scooper Canada.

A survey spokesman said yesterday the decision was taken with 'some regret' as it ended a tradition stretching back an unbroken 50 years.

Under the international protocol to the Antarctic Treaty, signed by 39 countries in 1991, all signatories had to remove dogs by next year on the grounds that they are not an indigenous species and might be environmentally harmful.

Britain tried to hold out on the ground that the dogs were born there. 'Someone thought at some stage that the dogs were doing harm to the wildlife, but it was never proved,' the spokesman said, adding that dogs' excrement was not a problem. 'It's a political decision.'

Some environmentalists argue that the dogs could infect seal populations with viruses.

But Sir Vivian Fuchs, the Antarctic explorer who lived with a hundred husky dogs between 1948 and 1950, said yesterday: 'The dogs have not infected any other animal with anything. The only thing we had to take care of was not to allow the seals to infect the dogs.'

Speaking from his home in Cambridge, he added that the husky teams' work has long since been replaced by machines. 'They are tremendous company for people who are isolated for a year or two. Sometimes they become personal confidants.'