Wednesday, December 29, 2004

`Green Swamp Ape' Sighting Draws Interest

If the Green Swamp ape actually does exist, its ears must be burning.

Lakeland resident Jennifer Ward went public in November, sharing her description and drawings of a hairy, human-shaped creature she claimed to have seen on the edge of the Green Swamp in August. Ward's tale has reverberated through cyberspace, with links to the original Ledger story and a subsequent Orlando Sentinel article showing up on such sites as Paranormal News, Dr. Mysterian and American Monsters.

Ward has drawn attention from groups that probe the existence of unconfirmed creatures, and she has appeared on three radio shows to discuss what she saw.

"I'm not real surprised people are interested in it," Ward says.

Ward, 30, has discussed her experience with radio hosts at stations in West Palm Beach, Iowa and Jacksonville. She was joined by Scott Marlowe, an instructor with the Winter Haven-based Pangea Institute, which offers classes in archaeology and other areas. The mother of two says disc jockeys at one station treated her story as comedy, and one at the Iowa station questioned her sanity.

"I'd probably think it was real funny, too, if I just heard about it," Ward says. "I just said I can't help what I saw and I can't help what other people think, either."

Marlowe says the disc jockeys seemed prepared to ridicule Ward but seemed impressed by the obvious sincerity in her voice.

"When Jennifer begins to talk, you can tell she's not fabricating this," Marlowe says.

Ward was driving along Tom Moore Road north of Lakeland a few days after Hurricane Charley in August when she saw something in a ditch beside the road. She describes a two-legged creature about eight feet tall and covered in dark fur with light rings around its eyes. She says it seemed to be foraging.

Ward, who had her two daughters in her car, says she watched the creature for 30 seconds or so before driving on. She examined the scene later but found no conclusive evidence of any beast's presence.

Since Ward's story appeared, several neighbors have told her they have seen or heard something strange in the Green Swamp, and she has learned people living along Rock Ridge Road talk about a "gray ape." But none were willing to speak publicly about their experiences.

Story here.

Monkey on biting spree caught in S Delhi

A small rhesus monkey, which had bitten about 100 people over the past three months in south Delhi's farmhouses and villages of Sultanpur and Mandi, was finally trapped recently. The simian had turned "aggressive" because it reportedly been kept in captivity and mistreated earlier.

Representatives of an NGO, which caught the monkey after the civic bodies' attempt to nab it failed, revealed that a yellow electrical wire was tightly tied round the primate's neck. This, they said, was causing it pain and resulted in its attacking humans.

Said Sumit Behl, a businessman living in Sultanpur Estate, "The monkey had bitten my little daughter inside my house. In fact, it had waged a virtual reign of terror. The civic body had supplied residents with a cage to catch the monkey. But the animal proved too clever."

Story here.

Monkey escapes from the San Diego Zoo

The Francois' langur broke free Saturday but was captured after climbing into a eucalyptus tree at a nearby school. The monkey, who is named Chien, was anesthetized by veterinarians and recaptured. Zoo officials said that it is in good condition.

Eucalyptus leaves are poisonous to the langurs, which are native to southeast Asia. Zoo officials are still trying to figure out how the monkey escaped from its cage.

Story here.

The leader of an infamous gang of four rhesus monkeys is finally captured

It may not have been the only monkey-brained move he made, but a wrong leap on Friday delivered a rhesus monkey right into arms of the law.

After giving nightmares to hapless villagers of Sultanpur for the last four months, the leader of an infamous gang of four rhesus monkeys was finally captured when his latest victim ran inside a room, shook him off his shoulders and ran for his life. Sadly for the primate, the panicky labourer had enough wits about him to lock the door.

‘‘I think he was more scared than he had ever been in his life and running inside was more of a matter of chance than of choice. Whatever it may have been, we are happy that the most dangerous member has been captured,’’ said Kartick Satyanarayan, chairman of the Wildlife S.O.S, one of the organisations working with residents to net the monkeys.

The monkey was later subdued and captured by a rescue team from the organisation and officials of the Wildlife Department.

‘‘They are most likely related to each other. The one we captured had a yellow string around its neck, which shows it must have once belonged to a human and was either abandoned or ran away,’’ adds Kartick.

The monkeys earned themselves a place in the villagers hitlist after they started attacking children. ‘‘They were unprovoked attacks. They would lurk around and when they found an isolated child, they would maul and bite them. In fact, about two months ago, two children died after sustaining injuries from these monkeys,’’ says Frank Massey, a local.

Story here.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Delhi packs off monkey menace

A langur, employed by the foreign ministry to drive away monkeys, does his job by kicking a little monkey ass.

The capital has finally hit on an idea to rid it of monkeys — pack them off and away.

The Union environment and forests ministry has decided to send them off to Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh at a cost of about Rs 40 lakh.

The relocating having met with some success in Uttar Pradesh, the ministry has decided to give Rs 25 lakh as grant to Madhya Pradesh to take in more of the simians.

Delhi forests and wildlife minister Raj Kumar Chauhan told the Vidhan Sabha about the plan earlier this week.

The man-animal conflict had played havoc in North and South Block, the Delhi police headquarters, the Vidhan Sabha and many of the capital’s residential neigbourhoods and government complexes. Madaris, government drives and even fellow simians — langurs — failed to control the monkeys.

Story here.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Banished Bush monkey picture beamed on billboard

creepy monkey/bush billboard invades New York!

A portrait of US President George W Bush using monkeys to form his image was projected on a giant billboard in Manhattan after it was banished from a New York art show last week amid charges of censorship.

Bush Monkeys - a small acrylic on canvas by Chris Savido - created the stir last week at the Chelsea Market public space, leading the market's managers to close down the 60 piece show.

Animal Magazine, a quarterly arts publication that had organised the month-long show, said anonymous donors had paid for the picture to be posted yesterday on a giant digital billboard over the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, used by thousands of people commuting between Manhattan and New Jersey.

Story here.

Strong evidence was found recently to support the existence of Bigfoot in Belize

This small humanlike track found in the dense forests of Belize is believed to be that of the Dwendi, a small cryptid primate that apparently wears about a size 10.

Strong evidence was found recently to support the existence of Bigfoot in Belize, lending credence to native legends. Locals tell of encounters with the fearsome Dwendi. Descriptions of the creature match those of the more commonly known sasquatch, aka bigfoot.

Ken Gerhard, a field investigator for the American Primate Conservation Alliance (APCA) and the Center for Fortean Zoology just returned from a successful research trip to Belize looking for the Sisemite and Dwendi, two cryptid Bigfoot-like primates said to roam the country's dense forests.

"We were really excited to help sponsor Ken's mission with equipment and happy to report that he is back safely and found some strong evidence of cryptid primates in Belize, particularly the Dwendi," said APCA founder Chester Moore.

Gerhard found four nicely formed tracks that fit the profile of the Dwendi, a miniature Bigfoot-type creature similar to the Orang-Pendek of the Pacific.

"I've been talking about an expedition to Belize for awhile and after Ken went down and found this evidence my team and I will certainly be venturing to Belize in '05 to continue the work," Moore said.

"Ken is an excellent field investigator and we're glad to have him as part of the APCA and glad we could have some involvement with the mission. The next step is going back down with more equipment and now thanks to Ken with an idea where some of these animals are and do a major follow-up," Moore said.

Story here. Photo updates here.

Karimganj Farmers fight monkey invasion

Hundreds of farmers in India's northeastern Assam state today called for help to bring hundreds of rampaging monkeys under control after a series of attacks on their children and crops.

The farmers, in the district of Karimganj which borders Bangladesh, said that in the past week up to two dozen villages had come under attack by the monkeys, which flee across the border for safety when chased.

"Monkeys in their hundreds from the jungles of Jakiganj in Bangladesh have virtually invaded our villages and are destroying paddy and vegetable fields," Sushanta Das, a community elder from Bedorong village, told AFP by telephone.

"Quite a number of children were injured by monkeys in the past few days," another village elder, Subroto Roy, said. "We are chasing the animals and (are) even prepared to kill them."

Story here.

Monkey vocal ability investigated

Diana monkeys' vocal tracts may shed light on primate evolution and possibly lead to newfound meaning behind Michael Jackson's lyrics for 'Dirty Diana'

Diana monkeys possess a complex vocal tract whose shape can be adjusted to articulate sophisticated sounds - just as humans do, scientists report.

Non-human primates were thought to have vocal tracts resembling simple tubes incapable of sophisticated articulation.

But a British-US-German team reports in the Journal of Human Evolution that the alarm calls of Diana monkeys would be impossible without a complex tract.

It says the finding may shed light on how and when human speech evolved.

It is possible that some of the proto-structures in the throat required for talking were already present in our primate ancestors millions of years ago, the researchers argue.

Story here.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Rwanda Recovers Baby Mountain Gorilla

Police have arrested four suspected poachers and recovered a baby mountain gorilla that was stolen from its family in the forests of neighboring Congo, a spokesman said Monday.

Police detained the men Saturday following a tip that they had smuggled the 3-year- old primate into the border district of Mutura, in Rwanda's northwestern Gisenyi province, said Dismas Rutaganira, who led the police operation.

The animal was hidden in a sack and was being taken to unknown buyers in Kenya, Rutaganira said.

The suspects said that the baby was stolen from gorillas accustomed to visits by humans in Congo, said Fidele Ruzigandekwe, head of the Rwanda Wildlife Agency.

Story here.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Orissa villagers to build temple in memory of monkey

A monkey that carved a special niche foritself in a group of Orissa villages is to have a temple built in its memory after it died of an electric shock.

The residents of three villages in this coastal state bade an emotional farewell to the simian by taking out a grand procession after its death last Sunday.

They plan to build a temple to commemorate it and have formed a committee to gather funds for the purpose, a community leader said Wednesday.

The simian adopted Rajnagar village, 150 km from here, as its home three years ago.

The leader said the monkey had come to the village from the Bhitarkanika wild life sanctuary in Kendrapada district, where it had lived since birth.

Bhitarkanika, famous for its flora and fauna and known as the world's largest rookery of Olive Ridley turtles, is barely 20 km from where the monkey used to stay.

The monkey apparently preferred the village, inhabited mainly by fishermen and cultivators, over the lush environs of the wildlife sanctuary. It used to live on a banyan tree and amused children and adults alike, never harming anybody, the leader said.

The simian was a favourite not only with the 5,000-odd residents of Rajnagar but with people of nearby villages as well.

On Sunday, the monkey went to nearby Olura village, where it was chased by some dogs. He climbed an electric pole for safety but fell to the ground after touching a live wire.

The residents of the village took the injured monkey to the local vet and then to senior veterinary doctors in the state capital Bhubaneswar for further treatment. Despite their efforts, it died on Monday.

The residents of Olura brought the monkey's carcass to their village and organised a grand funeral, informing the people of neighbouring villages, the leader said.

Monkeys are considered to be the manifestation of the Hindu god Hanuman, who is seen as an embodiment of strength.

Story here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Nature Conservation Foundation expedition documents new species of primate!

Arunachal macaque adult male newly 'discovered' by the NCF has damaging crops and waging war with locals for years

Wildlife research and exploration in Arunachal Pradesh, uniquely situated at the junction of the Eastern Himalaya and Indo-Burma, has so far largely remained restricted to its low and mid-elevation habitats, with its high altitude wildlife being virtually unexplored and unprotected. It was, therefore, not entirely surprising when our two recent expeditions to inventory the high altitude wildlife of Arunachal Pradesh led to the discovery of a fairly large population of a previously-undescribed macaque in the state’s westernmost districts of Tawang and West Kameng.

This primate is presumably a species new to science, and we have proposed its name as the Arunachal macaque Macaca arunachalensis. It is commonly referred to as the munzala or ‘monkey of the deep forest’ by the local Dirang Monpa people.

Story here.

Monkey portrait of Bush stirs controversy

who should be more offended here, the monkeys or bush?

Artwork in an exhibition that drew thousands to the Chelsea Market for its opening last week was abruptly taken down over the weekend after the market's managers complained about a portrait of President George Bush fashioned from tiny images of chimpanzees, says the show's curator.

Bucky Turco, who organised the show, said a market director had expressed reservations about the Bush portrait, a small, colourful painting by Christopher Savido, a 23-year-old illustrator from Pittsburgh.

From afar it appears to be a likeness of the President, but closer inspection reveals chimps swimming in a marshy landscape.

Mr Turco said no one had told him that hanging the work would result in the show's cancellation. "I approached them with the idea of bringing an edgy show by emerging artists here. I showed them an issue of our magazine, and they were psyched," said Mr Turco, publisher of Animal, a quarterly publication that features photographs and graphics inspired by urban culture.

Story here.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Before long, monkeys may be able to communicate with humans

Though they have few communication skills in the wild, macaque monkeys are showing unusual fascination with japanese porn.

In a laboratory in central Japan, monkeys are behaving strangely. If someone sticks out a tongue, they do the same. If a person goes to unclip the latch on a box, the monkeys follow suit. If the monkeys need a rake to reach a piece of fruit, they ask for it with a special call. All of which is confounding experts, because none of it should be possible. Monkeys in the wild rarely ape, and as far as we know, they never, ever, ask for rakes.

The Japanese macaques raised in Atsushi Iriki's lab are not particularly gifted. But he expects them to be communicating vocally with him soon, using simple linguistic rules. This isn't just an elegant Dr Dolittle curiosity: it holds the real possibility of understanding autism in humans and unlocking the vast unused power of the human brain.

Iriki, head of the laboratory for symbolic cognitive development at the Riken Brain Science Institute, says his experiment will tap into neural systems monkeys always have had, but have never been activated. He hopes to learn something about monkey thought, but more dramatically, about how language emerged in humans - and what happens when it breaks down.

As the ape brain evolved, it accumulated the components of a language. By the time the vocal tract could support speech, we were already human. But our brains, according to Iriki, were "language-ready" much earlier. In the monkey, this happened in a more fragmented form. The only reason it did not emerge was that the conditions were never right.

Iriki knew that monkeys would never be able to speak, lacking as they do the necessary vocal apparatus, but he became convinced he could exchange meaningful coos and grunts with them. To do so, he would have to rear monkeys in an environment which to communicate in this way was in their interest.

Story here.

Humans alone may be blessed with the ability to appreciate music

Humans may be the only species in the animal kingdom who are capable of appreciating pleasant combinations of musical notes, according to researchers.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Marc Hauser of Harvard University, found after experimenting on monkeys that they are not gifted with the ability of discerning consonant tones or pleasant sounds from dissonant sounds or unpleasant, jarring noise.

For years, scientists have sought to explain why we prefer consonant sounds to dissonant ones. One theory is that our dislike of dissonance is related to the sensation of 'beats' that occur when the notes interfere.

"This is the first time that a lack of preference for consonance has been shown in primates," Isabelle Peretz, a psychologist from the University of Montreal, Canada, who studies music perception, was quoted as saying.

"I would place my bets on the fact that it's uniquely human," he added.

"If you want to look at the evolution of music it's important to do these types of studies," Laurel Trainor, a neuroscientist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, was quoted as saying.

She added that this research supports the idea that humans have a special preference for consonance, one of the most basic structural elements of music. This could account for the fact that as far as we know, only humans produce songs simply for enjoyment.

Story here.

Friday, December 10, 2004

After combing the scientific literature, researchers conclude head hair and fur aren't the same

Arthur Neufeld (left) and Glenn Conroy are masters of fur and hair.

Mammals have fur over most of their bodies, but at some point during evolution, we humans lost that fur covering. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis argue that hair on the head is somehow different from fur because fur stops growing when it reaches a certain length, but our head hair continues to grow. To drive home their argument, they ask in a recent article in the journal Evolutionary Anthropology, "Have you ever seen a chimpanzee getting a haircut?"

When Arthur H. Neufeld, Ph.D., the Bernard Becker Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, first put forth his idea that human head hair is somehow different from fur, over dinner with his close friend and colleague Glenn C. Conroy, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and anthropology, Conroy told him he wasn't aware of anyone in anthropology studying differences between hair and fur.

"So we talked about it for a while and asked questions like why does human head hair continue to grow? Where did this difference arise in the evolutionary process?" Neufeld recalls. "And the more we looked at it, the more we found that there really isn't anything in the literature."

One reason might be that under a microscope a hair follicle taken from the leg would look just about the same as one from the head. Our human "fur" if you will — the hair under the arms, on the legs and elsewhere — is anatomically identical to head hair.

Experiments related to hair transplantation, however, have demonstrated that where hair comes from is important in how it grows. Hair transplants always move hair from one part of the head to another because the procedure doesn't work if hair is moved onto the head from another part of the body. Nor does hair behave correctly when transplanted from the head to other parts of the body.

"When researchers transplanted hair from the head to the leg, it kept growing," Neufeld says. "It didn't grow as long as it would on the head, but the hair grew much longer than typical leg hair."

Story here.

Monkey Protein Blocks HIV

The ideal candidates, Old World monkeys such as rhesus macaques, are not susceptible to HIV, although they are vulnerable to the monkey version of the virus, known as simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV).

For years, AIDS researchers have struggled with the lack of a good animal model of HIV infection. The ideal candidates, Old World monkeys such as rhesus macaques, are not susceptible to HIV, although they are vulnerable to the monkey version of the virus, known as simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). Scientists have suspected for some time that monkeys respond to HIV by producing a factor that stops the virus in its tracks. Now they have pinpointed this natural HIV blocker.

In a paper published today in the journal Nature, Joseph Sodroski of Harvard University and his colleagues identify this factor as a protein called TRIM5-alpha. Preventing TRIM5-alpha activity in monkey cells made infection with HIV possible, the researchers report, whereas adding the protein to human cells prevented HIV from taking hold. The protein may function by inhibiting the virus’s ability to shed its protective coating, which must be removed before the virus can replicate.

Story here.

Monkey tool use breaks new ground

a male capuchin using a digging stone.

Capuchins in the dry forests of northeastern Brazil have an unusual approach to food: they have been caught using tools to dig up tubers, a feat previously only seen in humans.

"They're using their minds, not just brute force," claims Phyllis Lee of the University of Cambridge, UK, who reports the discovery with her colleague Antonio Moura in this week's Science1.

Although many primates, particularly chimpanzees and orangutans, are thought to be good at reasoning things out for themselves, digging for food has never been seen before, in the wild or in captivity.

Several species are known to use 'tools', such as the birds of prey that dash their hard-shelled prey on to rocks to crack them open. But the latest case of tool use differs from many of these examples because it may be based on an understanding of cause and effect.

Story here.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Couple marry in gibbon wedding

Two animal conservationists have got married in a gibbon-style wedding ceremony in Thailand.

Briton Sam Lake met Israeli Norka Russin while working as a volunteer for the Return Gibbons to the Forest project at Phuket.

Mr Lake, 26, accompanied by a drum band and carrying trays of gifts, summoned his mate by imitating a male gibbon call.

His 28-year-old bride Israel responded with happy monkey calls while swinging down from a treetop into his embrace, reports The Nation.

After the wedding, at a wildlife sanctuary, the groom said: “Once the gibbon has chosen a mate it will not philander.”

The couple also exchanged wedding bands, performed a Thai-style water-cleansing ceremony and registered their marriage in the presence of an official. As a wedding gift to the couple, wildlife officials released a gibbon family of four into the wild.

Story here.

Hunters leave Bonobo on brink of extinction

A female bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee, named Lana holds her baby in this Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004 file photo at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, Calif. (AP Photo/Zoological Society of San Diego, Ken Bohn)

The ape considered to be man's closest relative could be on the brink of extinction, researchers warned today.

The bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee, is found only in the heart of Africa's Congo basin, where it has been mercilessly hunted for bushmeat. Scientists had estimated the bonobo population to be around 50,000, but the results of a new survey show it is likely to be nearer to 10,000 - a potentially unsustainable level.

The survey, backed by the conservation charity WWF, was conducted in Salonga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Researchers from the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation and the Wildlife Conservation Society studied an area of 12,000km sq - around one third of the park.

There were no sightings of a live bonobo, while nests and dung were seen in only a quarter of the region, and at lower levels than had previously been encountered. However, the scientists found abundant evidence of poaching.

Story here.

Have you seen Gulliver?

A Monkey Day exclusive, I got this e-mail from Miss Nonsense Verse:

"I know MonkeyDay posts news on missing monkeys, but I also see that most of the news has to do
with--well--*live* monkeys. Would you ever deign to post a "Missing" notice for a much-loved
stuffed monkey? Because to me, Gulliver was family. Even if he couldn't hold his own banana."

Gulliver was last seen in a Boston Cab, full details here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Brookfield Zoo Saddened by Loss of Western Lowland Gorilla

Brookfield Zoo is saddened to announce the loss of Babs, a 30-year-old western lowland gorilla who died today, Dec. 7, of kidney failure. Keeper staff first noticed changes in her behavior in mid-August that indicated she wasn't feeling well. The zoo's veterinary staff identified kidney problems and worked with pathologists from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and specialists from Loyola Medical Center to perform additional diagnostic tests. They confirmed that Babs' kidneys were not functioning properly. Prior to this, Babs had no major health problems.

Press release here.

Monkey Cloning Hype

University of Pittsburgh researchers have cloned the first monkey embryos from which stem cells could be removed, a feat that the very same researchers once suggested might be impossible.

While scientists have cloned sheep, pigs, cows, cats and other animals, cloned primates remained elusive until South Korean researchers cloned human embryos earlier this year using a new technique.

Gerald Schatten, the lead researcher on the latest study, to be published in the Dec. 11 issue of Developmental Biology, wrote in April 2003 in Science that perhaps primates pose a unique challenge because of a fundamental molecular obstacle. But now, Schatten is delighted to have proven himself wrong. He and his colleagues did it by adopting the cloning method pioneered by the South Korean scientists.

Current media hype here. Of course if you read the monkey news regularly you would have seen this story reported a month and a half ago here. Where's the love?