Saturday, September 06, 2014

India monkey showers people with stolen banknotes in Shimla

A monkey in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh has rained down banknotes on people, reports say.

Surprised holidaymakers in the scenic pine forest of Shimla, the state capital, ran around, collecting the falling notes for nearly an hour on Sunday, eyewitnesses said.

Reports said the simian stole 10,000 rupees ($165; £100) from a nearby home.

The monkey had entered the house to look for food, but when it did not find anything to eat, it took the money.


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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Koko The Gorilla Mourns Robin Williams

According to a Foundation spokesperson, when the calls regarding Williams' death began to come into the facility, Koko approached Foundation co-founder Dr. Penny Patterson "with an inquiring look on her face."

Dr. Patterson told Koko that "we have lost a dear friend, Robin Williams," a spokesperson said. Later in the day, after hearing another person break down in tears, Koko signed "CRY LIP," withdrew, and "became very somber, with her head bowed and her lip quivering," as seen in the photo below.


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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Wikipedia Refuses To Delete Photo As 'Monkey Owns It'

Wikimedia, the organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to remove one of his images which is used online without his permission, claiming that because a monkey pressed the shutter button it owns the copyright.

British nature photographer David Slater was in Indonesia in 2011 attempting to get the perfect image of a crested black macaque when one of the animals came up to investigate his equipment, hijacked a camera and took hundreds of selfies.

Many of them were blurry and some were pointed at the jungle floor, but among them were a handful of fantastic images - including a selfie taken by a grinning macaque which made headlines around the world and brought Mr Slater his 15 minutes of fame.

"They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button," he said at the time. "The sound got his attention and he kept pressing it. At first it scared the rest of them away but they soon came back - it was amazing to watch.

"He must have taken hundreds of pictures by the time I got my camera back, but not very many were in focus. He obviously hadn't worked that out yet."

But after appearing on websites, newspapers, magazines and television shows around the world, Mr Slater is now facing a legal battle with Wikimedia after the organisation added the image to its collection of royalty-free images online. The Wikimedia Commons is a collection of 22,302,592 images and videos that are free to use by anyone online, and editors have included Mr Slater's image among its database.

The Gloucestershire-based photographer now claims that the decision is jeopardising his income as anyone can take the image and publish it for free, without having to pay him a royalty. He complained To Wikimedia that he owned the copyright of the image, but a recent transparency report from the group, which details all the removal requests it has received, reveals that editors decided that the monkey itself actually owned the copyright because it was the one that pressed the shutter button.


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Thursday, July 31, 2014

India Hires Men In Ape Suits To Drive Away Parliament's Monkeys

The Indian government is hiring men to pose as menacing langur monkeys to scare off the hundreds of macaques terrorising MPs and staff around its parliament and central government buildings.

M Venkiah Naidu, the urban development minister, told MPs on Thursday that 40 young people had been hired to disguise themselves as langurs - India’s bigger, predatory monkeys - to frighten away the macaques.

If the ape-men failed to rid the capital’s administrative centre of the monkey menace then marksmen armed with rubber bullets could be deployed.

The announcement reflects growing frustration at the continuing presence of macaque monkeys in the city centre and the terror and damage they cause.

The roam freely over the vast open lawns of India Gate, and assail government buildings where they chew through internet and telephone cables, attack staff for food, and occasionally jump in through the windows and pace the corridors of power.


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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Japanese Monkeys' Abnormal Blood Linked To Fukushima Radioactive Disaster

Wild monkeys in the Fukushima region of Japan have blood abnormalities linked to the radioactive fall-out from the 2011 nuclear power plant disaster, according to a new scientific study that may help increase the understanding of radiation on human health.

The Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) were found to have low white and red blood cell levels and low haemoglobin, which the researchers say could make them more prone to infectious diseases.

But critics of the study say the link between the abnormal blood tests and the radiation exposure of the monkeys remains unproven and that the radiation doses may have been too small to cause the effect.

The scientists compared 61 monkeys living 70km (44 miles) from the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with 31 monkeys from the Shimokita Penisula, over 400km (249 miles) from Fukushima. The Fukushima monkeys had low blood counts and radioactive caesium in their bodies, related to caesium levels in the soils where they lived. No caesium was detected in the Shimokita troop.

Professor Shin-ichi Hayama, at the Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University in Tokyo, told the Guardian that during Japan’s snowy winters the monkeys feed on tree buds and bark, where caesium has been shown to accumulate at high concentrations.

“This first data from non-human primates — the closest taxonomic relatives of humans — should make a notable contribution to future research on the health effects of radiation exposure in humans,” he said. The work, which ruled out disease or malnutrition as a cause of the low blood counts, is published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.


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Sunday, July 06, 2014

Researchers Create Glossary Of Gestures Used By Wild Chimpanzees

For the first time, scientists from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland have decoded the meaning behind the various gestures that chimpanzees use to communicate with one another, observing more than 80 wild Ugandan primates in order to compile a glossary of their hand and body movements.

Writing in the July 2 edition of the journal Current Biology, St. Andrews primatologists Dr. Catherine Hobaiter and Professor Richard Byrne explained that they monitored wild chimpanzees in the rainforests of the African nation and discovered that the creatures use a total of 66 gestures to intentionally communicate 19 different and unique meanings.

According to Tom Brooks-Pollock of The Telegraph, among the gestures detected by Hobaiter and Byrne included tapping another chimp in order to ask them to stop doing something, flirting by nibbling on a leaf, making a flinging motion with the hand to ask another chimp to move away, and raising an arm in order to ask for an object.

The study authors said their findings confirm the long-held notion that the creatures most closely related to humans biologically truly do have a purpose when they communicate with each other. While experts had known that they used gestures to communicate, this is the first study to successfully figure out what they are saying.


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Friday, June 27, 2014

Monkeys Believe In Winning Streaks, Study Shows

Humans have a well-documented tendency to see winning and losing streaks in situations that, in fact, are random. But scientists disagree about whether the "hot-hand bias" is a cultural artifact picked up in childhood or a predisposition deeply ingrained in the structure of our cognitive architecture.

Now in the first study in non-human primates of this systematic error in decision making, researchers find that monkeys also share our unfounded belief in winning and losing streaks. The results suggests that the penchant to see patterns that actually don't exist may be inherited—an evolutionary adaptation that may have provided our ancestors a selective advantage when foraging for food in the wild, according to lead author Tommy Blanchard, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

The cognitive bias may be difficult to override even in situations that are truly random. This inborn tendency to feel that we are on a roll or in a slump may help explain why gambling can be so alluring and why the stock market is so prone to wild swings, said coauthor Benjamin Hayden, assistant professor brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.


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Chimpanzees Prefer African, Indian Beats over Western, Japanese Music

While preferring silence to music from the West, chimpanzees apparently like to listen to the different rhythms of music from Africa and India, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Our objective was not to find a preference for different cultures' music. We used cultural music from Africa, India and Japan to pinpoint specific acoustic properties," said study coauthor Frans de Waal, PhD, of Emory University. "Past research has focused only on Western music and has not addressed the very different acoustic features of non-Western music. While nonhuman primates have previously indicated a preference among music choices, they have consistently chosen silence over the types of music previously tested."

Previous research has found that some nonhuman primates prefer slower tempos, but the current findings may be the first to show that they display a preference for particular rhythmic patterns, according to the study. "Although Western music, such as pop, blues and classical, sound different to the casual listener, they all follow the same musical and acoustic patterns. Therefore, by testing only different Western music, previous research has essentially replicated itself," the authors wrote. The study was published in APA's Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition.

When African and Indian music was played near their large outdoor enclosures, the chimps spent significantly more time in areas where they could best hear the music. When Japanese music was played, they were more likely to be found in spots where it was more difficult or impossible to hear the music. The African and Indian music in the experiment had extreme ratios of strong to weak beats, whereas the Japanese music had regular strong beats, which is also typical of Western music.

"Chimpanzees may perceive the strong, predictable rhythmic patterns as threatening, as chimpanzee dominance displays commonly incorporate repeated rhythmic sounds such as stomping, clapping and banging objects," said de Waal.


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Facial Features of Old World Monkeys Evolved to Prevent Interbreeding

Old World monkeys have undergone a remarkable evolution in facial appearance as a way of avoiding interbreeding with closely related and geographically proximate species, researchers from New York University and the University of Exeter have found. Their research provides the best evidence to date for the role of visual cues as a barrier to breeding across species.

“Evolution produces adaptations that help animals thrive in a particular environment, and over time these adaptations lead to the evolution of new species,” explains James Higham, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Anthropology and the senior author of the study, which appears in the journal Nature Communications. “A key question is what mechanisms keep closely related species that overlap geographically from inter-breeding, so that they are maintained as separate species.

“Our findings offer evidence for the use of visual signals to help ensure species recognition: species may evolve to look distinct specifically from the other species they are at risk of inter-breeding with. In other words, how you end up looking is a function of how those around you look. With the primates we studied, this has a purpose: to strengthen reproductive isolation between populations.”


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Chimpanzees Observed Making A Fashion Statement -- Sticking Blades Of Grass In Their Ears


“Our observation is quite unique in the sense that nothing seems to be communicated by it,” says study author Edwin van Leeuwen, a primate expert at the Max Planck Institute in The Netherlands.

To figure out if this was really a tradition, and not just chimpanzees sticking grass in their ears at random, van Leeuwen and his colleagues spent a year observing four chimp groups in Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust, a sanctuary in Zambia. Only one troop performed the grass-in-ear behavior, although all of the chimps lived in the same grassy territory. There’s no genetic or ecological factors, the scientists believe, that would account for this behavior -- only culture.

Lydia Luncz, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, who was not involved with the research, agrees. This study shows how the chimpanzees who learned to put grass in their ears did so through the “natural transmission” of new behavior, she says.

The cultural quirk first popped up in 2010 when a chimpanzee, named Julie, was spotted sporting a long-stemmed piece of grass.



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