The Third Leader: Animal crackers

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The Independent Online

For a universe that lacks an Intelligent Scriptwriter, the darnedest things do happen. I am thinking, not of Mr Mohamed al-Fayed, nor of peerages, nor even of Perth, but of Mr Bao Xishun, the 54-year-old herdsman from Inner Mongolia.

Mr Xishun, the world's tallest man at 7ft and nearly 9ins, has just used his 3ft 5in arm to pull out some jagged plastic from the stomachs of two dolphins after more conventional procedures failed.

You will have questions. I, too, wondered about the incidence of dolphins in Inner Mongolia, until I found they were in fact at an aquarium in neighbouring Manchuria. I, too, pondered on the looks on the faces of the other vets when one of them suddenly announced: "I've got an idea. It's a long shot, but it's our only chance and it might just work."

Again, who could have foreseen such an evolutionary advantage and application? Remarkable. But then it has been a remarkable few days for species interaction, and not just in relation to the primate experimentation debate. In Arizona, for example, a four-foot long alligator has been found in a suitcase, while in Alberta a zebra without stripes is missing.

In Berlin, meanwhile, animal rights campaigners are fighting plans for a giant Ferris wheel on the grounds that it would disturb the sex lives of rhinos in a nearby zoo. Small wonder that the Rev Billy Graham, subject, as we reported, of a family row over a planned mausoleum featuring, inter alia, a talking mechanical cow, has commented: "The end of the world system as we know it is definitely on the horizon."