Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Rwanda honours death of mountain gorilla researcher Fossey

Rwandan officials commemorated the life and the 20th anniversary of the death of famed primate researcher Dian Fossey with dances and speeches in the rural highlands where she studied the mountain gorillas she loved.

Government officials and locals held traditional dances, gave speeches and laid wreaths at the site where Fossey, who was killed in mysterious circumstances in 1985, was buried.

Fossey's work inspired the 1988 Hollywood film Gorillas in the Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver and has provided Rwanda's economy with an enduring lure for tourist dollars.

Fossey was murdered in her cabin in the Volcanoes National Park on December 26, 1985 after nearly 18 years of living in the jungles with the primates.

Mountain gorillas have become a huge foreign revenue earner for impoverished Rwanda, attracting thousands of tourists to the tiny central African nation which is emerging from a 1994 genocide where an estimated 800,000 people were hacked to death.

Rugamba said 10,500 tourists, mainly from Europe and United States, visited the gorillas this year.

Fossey brought the plight of mountains gorillas to the attention of the world," Rosette Rugamba, the director general of Rwanda Parks and Tourism Board told Reuters.

"She was dedicated to the conservation of gorillas and their habitats in Rwanda and Africa at large through anti-poaching, regular monitoring, research and education."

There are only 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, and Rwanda is home to about one third of the total population.

Story here.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Woman claims son's odd behavior is due to monkey rape

A 27-year-old man in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa has become the talk of the town these days. Many doctors here are perplexed with his monkey-like behaviour.

Kudlo, the monkey man, in Puranapanj village in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa, behaves and produces sounds like monkey. With his peculiar behaviour has become the favourite topic for almost every household.

The issue came to focus when a team of Excise officials from Jamshedpur, who visited the village to distribute blankets among tribals, noticed Kudlo.

However, Sangomani , the mother of Kudlo, makes an interesting revelation about her sons monkey-like habits. She says her sons condition may have been the result of a rape which she suffered from a monkey when she went into the jungles for collecting woods for kitchen.

According to Dr. Pushpa Marya, a gynaecologist, Sangomanis claim isnt feasible as it is impossible." This cannot happen that a monkey rapes the woman and then she begets a baby," said Marya.

Story here.

Monkey menace claims villager's life

The menace of monkeys claimed the life of a villager in the district yesterday, police said today.

Narayan Bhabo Chapekar, a resident of Chichghat village in Umrer Taluka, had climbed a tree near his house to drive away the monkeys who were frequently damaging the roof of his house.

While driving away the monkeys, the 55-year-old Chapekar fell from the tree and died on the spot, the police said.

Story here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

New reports show Stalin wanted 'ape-humans' bred for army

THE Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the creation of Planet of the Apes-style warriors by crossing humans with apes, according to recently uncovered secret documents.

Moscow archives show that in the mid-1920s Russia's top animal breeding scientist, Ilya Ivanov, was ordered to turn his skills from horse and animal work to the quest for a super-warrior.

According to Moscow newspapers, Stalin told the scientist: "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."

In 1926 the Politburo in Moscow passed the request to the Academy of Science with the order to build a "living war machine". The order came at a time when the Soviet Union was embarked on a crusade to turn the world upside down, with social engineering seen as a partner to industrialisation: new cities, architecture, and a new egalitarian society were being created.

The Soviet authorities were struggling to rebuild the Red Army after bruising wars.

And there was intense pressure to find a new labour force, particularly one that would not complain, with Russia about to embark on its first Five-Year Plan for fast-track industrialisation.

Mr Ivanov was highly regarded. He had established his reputation under the Tsar when in 1901 he established the world's first centre for the artificial insemination of racehorses.

Mr Ivanov's ideas were music to the ears of Soviet planners and in 1926 he was dispatched to West Africa with $200,000 to conduct his first experiment in impregnating chimpanzees.

Meanwhile, a centre for the experiments was set up in Georgia - Stalin's birthplace - for the apes to be raised.

Mr Ivanov's experiments, unsurprisingly from what we now know, were a total failure. He returned to the Soviet Union, only to see experiments in Georgia to use monkey sperm in human volunteers similarly fail.

A final attempt to persuade a Cuban heiress to lend some of her monkeys for further experiments reached American ears, with the New York Times reporting on the story, and she dropped the idea amid the uproar.

Mr Ivanov was now in disgrace. His were not the only experiments going wrong: the plan to collectivise farms ended in the 1932 famine in which at least four million died.

For his expensive failure, he was sentenced to five years' jail, which was later commuted to five years' exile in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan in 1931. A year later he died, reportedly after falling sick while standing on a freezing railway platform.

Story here.

Scientists narrow time limits for human, chimp split

A team of researchers has proposed new limits on the time when the most recent common ancestor of humans and their closest ape relatives – the chimpanzees – lived. Scientists at Arizona State University and Penn State University have placed the time of this split between 5 and 7 million years ago – a sharper focus than that given by the previous collection of molecular and fossil studies, which have placed the divergence anywhere from 3 to 13 million years ago.

The scientists analyzed the largest data set yet of genes that code for proteins and also used an improved computational approach that they developed, which takes into account more of the variability – or statistical error – in the data than any other previous study.

Gene studies are needed to address this problem because the interpretation of the earliest fossils of humans at the ape/human boundary are controversial and because almost no fossils of chimpanzees have been discovered.

"No study before has taken into account all of the error involved in estimating time with the molecular-clock method," says Sudhir Kumar, lead author on the report, which was published online in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team describes its new statistical technique as a "multifactor bootstrap-resampling approach."

"There is considerable interest in knowing when we diverged from our closest relative among animal species," says Kumar, who is director of the Center for Evolutionary Functional Genomics in the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. "This divergence time also has considerable importance because it is used to establish how fast genes mutate in humans and to date the historical spread of our species around the globe." Kumar was assisted at ASU by research associate Alan Filipski and graduate student Vinod Swarna.

Story here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

New Study: Women aroused by Monkey Sex

Pornography studios might do well to take a tip from the Discovery Channel. According to a recent study, women are aroused by watching monkey sex. Sure, they're more aroused by watching human sex, but the loving habits of the bonobo are enough to bring out the primate in any civilized lady.

The study, conducted by Meredith Chivers of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health and J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University, was published in the October issue of Biological Psychology. The researchers found that while straight men are only aroused by females of the human variety, straight women are equally aroused by all human sexual activity, including lesbian, heterosexual and homosexual male sex, and at least somewhat aroused by nonhuman sex.

Each subject involved in the report watched seven two-minute clips of sex: six scenes involving humans and one of bonobos. The subject constantly monitored and noted his or her subjective arousal. The subject was also affixed with a device that measured genital arousal–penis circumference for the men and vaginal pulse amplitude for the women.

All eighteen men were heterosexual and all reported subjective arousal only during the scenes with women. The objective data matched their reports: Images of our evolutionary ancestors do not make a man retrogress to Homo erectus. The eighteen heterosexual women reported greatest subjective arousal during the heterosexual scene, but their bodies reported they were less naturally selective.

Chivers said in a previous study she had shown a very low correlation between women's stated sexual interests and their sexual arousal patterns in the lab. The correlation was much higher for men, she said.

"There's the possibility that genital response for women is not necessarily imbued with meaning about her sexual interests," says Chivers. She also emphasized that her findings do not imply women harbor a latent desire for lesbian sex or bestiality.

While the women did not report their arousal in the subjective part of the study, Chivers said women are generally receptive to her findings about their objective responses.

"When I speak to women, there's sort of an intuitive 'Oh, yeah,'" she says.

Barbara Bartlik, a psychiatry professor at Cornell, said she was not alarmed by the women's response to the nonhuman stimuli.

"I don't know why this has surprised everybody that women get aroused watching humans and animals," she says. "Animals, because of the way they function in an uninhibited manner...can be very arousing to look at when they copulate."

However, Bartlik was surprised that the men did not have the same response as the women.

"I would wonder if the men weren't concerned about being labeled as homosexual or perverse by being interested in these things, and therefore their erections were inhibited," she said.

Chivers hopes to discover what specific aspect of a visual stimulus causes women to become aroused. Some experts believe mentally labeling an act as sexual arouses women. Others, including Chivers, believe innately recognized sexual features such as an erect penis, even out of their usual human context, stimulate women. She said she did not yet know how similar to humans an animal would need to be in order to elicit a sexual response from women.

Story here.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Primate fossils claimed to be more primitive than any other fossils

Palaeontologists found fossil bones and teeth in upper Myanmar recently and concluded that the fossils belong to the amphipithecus.

A group comprising French and Myanmar palaeontologists searched for primate fossils in Pontaung region in Myaing Township, Pakokku District, Magway Division, from 22 November to 8 December.

They found three molars and a left lower jawbone with one molar of the amphipithecus on 3 December, left lower jawbone with three teeth on 4 December, a fossil tooth which is believed to be a specimen of a mammal on 25 November and a piece of fossil molar of Myanmarpithecus on 1 February, 2005, in Myaing Township. Moreover, Myanmar-French palaeontologist group also discovered fossil jawbones and teeth of Ruminants, Tapir, Amthroethiridae, Rinocerotidac and mammals in the same region.

According to the paleontologists, the anthropoid fossils found in the region were more primitive than any other fossils found in the world.

Palaeontologists believe that the human race was originated in Pontaung region where the primate fossils were found.

Story here.

Eco-tourists bludgeoned to death at gorilla reserve

A pathologist testifying in the trial of a Rwandan rebel accused of killing eight foreign tourists, including a Scot, and their guide in a famed Ugandan gorilla reserve yesterday described the horrific wounds suffered by the victims.

Rwandan rebels hacked and bludgeoned the tourists from the United States, Britain and New Zealand in a remote rain forest near Uganda's borders with Congo and Rwanda.
The rebels said they were targeting English speakers in an attempt to weaken US and British support for the Rwandan government. The Western countries were the largest donors to Rwanda after its 100-day genocide.

Dr Henry Wabinga told the high court that the bodies of five victims of the 1999 gorilla reserve attack had broken skulls, hacked brains, stab wounds, compound fractures and extensive burns.

His report was presented on the last day of prosecution testimony against Jean-Paul Bizimana, 30, a former Rwandan rebel, who has pleaded not guilty. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Story here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Heartwarming Monkey and Puppy Tale

A dog may be man's best friend but it took a monkey to turn saviour to a puppy at Lovedale near here. For the past few days, people in the town are witness to a rare display of love and affection.

The puppy, all wet and shivering in the winter cold, was first seen near the railway station on Sunday, according to the Station Master, N. Pramod. Even as the locals were wondering what to do, a monkey descended on the scene from a nearby tree. It did not waver, didn't have a second thought. It patted the puppy affectionately, cuddled it, and then lifted it up and ran into the nearby forest. The locals looked on amazed. On Monday the saviour and its charge could not be spotted. Come Tuesday, the monkey, holding the puppy close, appeared atop Mr. Pramod's house. When people tried to get close, the monkey fled up a tree with the puppy clutched to its chest.

It then proceeded to eat some nuts, feeding the puppy too.

After a while, the monkey came down and sat on a roof and accepted some food from onlookers.

It shared the tidbits with the puppy, cuddling and kissing it all the while.

As more and more people converged on the scene, monkey and friend walked off into the forest.

Story here.

Happy Monkey Day!!!

Happy Monkey Day, don't forget to check out the Monkey Day Events going on at

Monday, December 12, 2005

The History Channel to Premiere 'GIGANTO: THE REAL KING KONG'

The History Channel production of GIGANTO: THE REAL KING KONG, premieres on Thursday, December 15 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT when viewer interest is expected to be high due to the Dec. 14 premiere of director Peter Jackson's "King Kong" feature film.

Commissioned from distributor CABLEready and produced by Bosch Media and White Wolf Entertainment, GIGANTO: THE REAL KING KONG will use modern science and technology to probe the mystery of a giant ape named Giganto Pithecus, known to exist between 40,000 and 400,000 years ago - and determine if a present-day descendent still roams the earth. Tools used will include anthropology, forensic testing, body reconstruction and 3-D animation. Show highlights will include:

-- Recent scientific expeditions to China and the Cascade Mountains of the N.W. U.S. hope to shed new light on how Giganto lived, where it fell on the evolutionary tree and if Giganto could still live today

"You can already tell the new Peter Jackson movie is going to be some event, and GIGANTO will delve into the legend that is KING KONG," said Gary Lico, president and CEO of CABLEready. "There's some truth to the legend behind the movie, and what better place to separate the facts from the fiction than The History Channel."

Story here.

Monkey numbers boom as human population declines in Hong Kong

While Hong Kong's human birthrate is falling, the former British colony is facing an explosion in its primate population, a news report said Monday.

The monkey population in Hong Kong is nearing 2,000 and rising at the rate of around 6 per cent a year, according to the South China Morning Post.

That contrasts sharply with the birth rate among the city's 6.8 million human population, which has become one of the lowest in the world at less than 0.8 babies per woman.

Monkeys live mostly in Hong Kong's rural country parks, where experts said hikers are feeding them and helping the population to grow at three times the normal rate.

De-population of villages in the New Territories, where locals would once have kept the monkey populations down, was also cited as a factor in the growth of the primate numbers.

Officials are looking at ways of trying to bring down the population growth of the monkeys - all of the grey macaque species - who are increasingly becoming a nuisance.

When the monkeys get used to being fed by hikers, they will grab bags of food from country park visitors or raid village homes and temples for food.

Story here.

Kukdzoo gives birth to another gorilla at Zoo Atlanta

Another month, another gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta.

Maybe they're excited by the opening of "King Kong."

Kudzoo, an 11-year-old western lowland gorilla, gave birth to her first baby late Sunday night, zoo officials said. It's the fourth gorilla birth at the Grant Park facility since Halloween.

"Mother and baby are doing great," Susan Elliott, zoo spokesman said Monday. Neither the baby's sex or weight is known at this point.

If the new gorilla survives, it will be the first living grandchild of Willie B., the zoo mascot who died in 2000 at age 42. (Kudzoo is the daughter of Willie B. She mated with Taz to produce the newcomer.)

Last month, Lulu, another daughter of Willie B.'s, gave birth to a male baby but rejected mothering the newborn, which later died, despite efforts by Kuchi, Lulu's mother, to nurse it.

Kuchi herself gave birth to a rare set of twins Halloween night.

It's enough to make you wonder what the zoo is putting in the primate water supply.

Story here.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Monkey attacks Taiping trader

Businessman Yim Ah Chai, 47, found it the painful way when he grappled with a pig-tailed macaque (or berok) here on Thursday evening.

Yim was checking his mailbox when the waist-high monkey jumped over the gate into his house in Taman Lake View.

“It bit my left hand and I started punching but it became more aggressive.

“I threw another punch and then I felt its teeth on my thigh,” he said.

He shouted for help but no one heard him. Yim's wife and children thought he was playing with their dog.

When he got hold of a stick, the monkey let go but was about to attack his wife who was coming out of the door.

“Luckily, it just walked away and jumped over to my neighbour’s compound before disappearing,'' he said.

Doctors told Yim that he was lucky to be wearing trousers.

“Had I been wearing shorts, the monkey's fangs could have severed the main artery and I could have succumbed to excessive bleeding,” said Yim.

He has since warned his three children, aged six to 17, not to go out of the house.

Story here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Holiday gift suggestion

Stuck on what to give your loved ones for the upcoming holiday season? How about the gift of chimp charity by adopting a rescued laboratory chimp, via You can't go wrong with simian charity.

Marksman shoots dead "dangerous" escaped Chimp

A marksman shot dead a "potentially-dangerous" chimpanzee after the animal escaped from a zoo in northern England and vanished, police said.

A public warning was sent out after the female chimp escaped from Flamingo Land Zoo near Malton in North Yorkshire and disappeared in foggy conditions.

Police advised the public to stay away from the chimp after the zoo warned she could be "potentially dangerous and should not be approached".

"A zoo marksman has shot the chimp dead," a police spokesman said. "The public concern can now abate."

Story here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Monkey bite kills girl, 5

The five-year-old daughter of a retired Marine captain died of a monkey bite last Tuesday at the St. Elizabeth Hospital in General Santos City. Devine Orate, daughter of ex-Marine Captain Orate residing in purok Robert, barangay Labangal, died after more than a week of confinement.

The child was bitten by a monkey owned by neighbor Miriam de Juan last November 25. She was immediately brought to the hospital where she was treated for more than a week.

She died on December 6.

The child’s father said he wants de Juan to be held responsible for the death of his child.

De Juan, however, has disappeared after learning of the victim’s death. A case is now being readied against the monkey’s owner.

Story here.

Performing monkeys in Asia carry viruses that could jump species to humans

Some urban performing monkeys in Indonesia are carrying several retroviruses that are capable of infecting people, according to a new study led by University of Washington researchers. The results indicate that contact with performing monkeys, which is common in many Asian countries, could represent a little-known path for viruses to jump the species barrier from monkeys to humans and eventually cause human disease. Performing monkeys are animals that are trained to produce tricks in public.
While scientists have conducted extensive research on primate-to-human viral transmission in Africa, where they believe HIV originated, few have researched this topic in Asia.

"People aren't looking at Asia, and they need to do so, because viruses are emerging on that continent," explained Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel, leader of the study and a research scientist in the Division of International Programs at the UW's Washington National Primate Research Center. "There is a large, diverse population of primates there, and a huge human population in dense urban centers, so there's the potential for viral transmission across the species barrier."

The study's authors are urging more research on the different settings in Asia where people have contact with non-human primates – zoos, animal markets, monkey forests, pet ownership, and urban street performances. Most previous research on viral transmission has focused on bushmeat hunting and consumption, a practice in which local residents hunt wild monkeys for food. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS in humans, is believed to have originated as a primate virus and jumped the species barrier to humans when African bushmeat hunters came into contact with blood from infected animals.

However, in Asia other forms of primate/human contact, among them urban monkey performances, may be more prevalent than bushmeat hunting. Asia has a long history of performing monkeys, and initial studies indicate that the performances can include very close, physical contact between the animals and human spectators – monkeys crawling on people, for instance. Such contact might increase the risk of a bite, scratch, or other interaction that could lead to exposure to monkey body fluids.

"The risk of viral transmission in this context is unclear," said Dr. Michael Schillaci, professor of social sciences at the University of Toronto at Scarborough and lead author on the study. "But the contact here can be very intense."

Also troubling are the animal markets where many performing monkeys are acquired by their trainers. The markets typically bring together many different species of wild monkeys, as well as many other types of animals, in very close, unnatural quarters and unsanitary conditions.

Story here.

Monkeys show sexual differences go way back

Just like human boys and girls, male monkeys like to play with toy cars while female monkeys prefer dolls.

The discovery is one of many signs of deep-rooted behavioural differences between the sexes that scientists are exploring with the latest tools of genetics and neuroscience.

Researchers report significant differences in the structure and functioning of male and female brains - in humans and in animals - that show up in different behaviours.

The differences apparently date far back in evolutionary history to the time before humans and monkeys separated from their common ancestor 25 million years ago, said Gerianne Alexander, a psychologist at Texas A&M University, who led the monkey experiment.

"Human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behaviour," Richard Haier, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Irvine, wrote in the journal NeuroImage.

In the monkey experiment, researchers put a variety of toys in front of 44 male and 44 female vervets, a breed of small African monkey, and measured the amount of time they spent with each object.

Like little boys, some male monkeys moved a toy car along the ground. Like little girls, female monkeys closely inspected a doll's bottom. Males also played with balls while females fancied cooking pots. Both were interested in neutral objects such as a picture book and a stuffed dog.

People used to think that boys and girls played differently because of the way they were brought up. Now scientists such as Dr Alexander say a creature's genetic inheritance also plays an important role.

Story here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Monkeys force Jammu villagers to flee homes

Thousands of monkeys are making themselves comfortable in a Jammu village, as residents move out due to fear.

In the last two months, 65 families in the Cheryai village, about 60 kilometers from Jammu, have already migrated.

"I have migrated from this place but even in my new home, which is also in the same locality, the monkeys have arrived. Now everywhere in Cheryai village, there are monkeys," said Chaggu Ram Shastri, resident, Cheryai village.

There are still some 400 people in the village who are offering resistance to these monkeys. But none in the village is advised to walk alone and without a stick.

"These monkeys strike when the male members of the family are not at home. We have appealed several times to the local administration for help but no one has come to our rescue so far," said Jugal Kishore, resident.

Usually in Jammu and Kashmir people migrate due to fear of terrorists. Perhaps a fresh new reason to migrate is proving equally nightmarish.

Story here.

Ethics Board probes 'reprisal' accusation at ULL primate lab

The state Board of Ethics is investigating a complaint that a supervisor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's primate research lab retaliated against an employee who reported alleged violations of federal animal care standards.
The board is "exploring" allegations that Johnny Hardcastle, head of Animal Resources at ULL's New Iberia Research Center, may have violated the state ethics code by subjecting former center employee Narriman Fakier "to acts of reprisal," according to a letter sent by the Ethics Board to an attorney representing the university.

An Ethics Board attorney declined to discuss details of the case, but Fakier filed a lawsuit against the university in February alleging that she was forced to resign in early 2004 after complaining of mistreatment of animals at the center.

Steven Dupuis, who is representing ULL and Hardcastle in the matter, said the ethics complaint is "going to be hotly contested."

The letter states that the board has already conducted a preliminary investigation of the complaint in September and has ordered a public hearing. A public employee found to have violated the Code of Governmental Ethics can face a fine, suspension, demotion or termination. No hearing date has been set.

Primates at the New Iberia Research Center are used in pharmaceutical and medical testing.

Fakier, who worked for two years as a coordinator and animal facility manager at the center, said in the lawsuit that her repeated complaints of alleged violations of animal care guidelines were not acted upon.

Fakier alleged that center Director Thomas Rowell told her that her "concerns would not be addressed by NIRC, and, if she had a problem with that, she should quit."

Among some of Fakier's specific allegations: the center violated guidelines for anesthetizing animals, roaches and mice infested primate housing, an employee burned the paws of some chimpanzees with a lighter, another chimpanzee was doused with scalding water and some animals died after being left in outdoor cages during the winters of 2002 and 2003. ULL has commented little on the allegations but has said that Fakier's claims were investigated and that the university was "pleased with what was learned."

Story here.

Toledo Zoo Gorilla Akbar dies at 29

Akbar, the patriarch of one of two gorilla family groups at the Toledo Zoo, is dead.

Zoo staff euthanized the ailing, 29-year-old silverback gorilla yesterday after his health, compromised by severe progressive heart disease, "took a significant turn for the worse" over the weekend, a zoo announcement said.

Akbar, who lived at the zoo for 20 years, was diagnosed in August with heart disease, which is the leading killer of captive gorillas. The average lifespan of a captive male gorilla is about 35 years.

Preliminary necropsy findings confirmed extensive disease and congestive heart failure. Echocardiograms had been used for the initial diagnosis four months ago. On Sunday, keepers observed that Akbar was extremely lethargic and had difficulty getting up.

"We knew that Akbar's condition would get progressively worse," Dr. Wynona Shellabarger, the zoo's acting chief veterinarian, said. "Our goal with treatment was to slow this progression and improve his heart function as much as possible to make him comfortable. The decision to euthanize was heart-wrenching for all of us, but it became apparent that he was now suffering and that his quality of life had greatly diminished."

Akbar headed a family group that included three other adults and two juveniles he sired. Overall, he fathered seven gorillas at the zoo. A second family group of five gorillas also lives at the zoo.

Story here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A moment of King Kong zen.

It has come to our attention that Peter Jackson's "King Kong" is slated for release ON Monkey Day, December 14th!!! Coincidence???

Monday, December 05, 2005

Escaped Monkey Captured In Covington

A monkey on the loose in west Covington was captured Friday night -- and now the animal's owner could be in trouble.

The capuchin monkey was found this afternoon on Holman, where it had been roaming for the past couple of days.

Because it may seem cute and friendly, animal control officers were worried that someone would try to catch the monkey.

"Their bite is as bad as a rottweiler's, they can be very aggressive and very nasty," said Animal Control Officer Debbie Brown.

Authorities think the monkey is probably someone's pet that got away.

Capuchin monkeys are considered exotic, and are illegal to own in Kentucky.

Story here.

UC Davis Pays Fine After Monkey Deaths

UC Davis has paid a $4,815 civil penalty to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in connection with the August 2004 deaths of seven monkeys. The deaths were due to a mechanical failure that resulted in the overheating of the room in which the animals were housed.

“We deeply regret this sad incident and we accepted the USDA’s fine without challenge,” said Stan Nosek, vice chancellor for administration at UC Davis. “We are working to ensure that such an accident never happens again.”

Since August 2004, campus officials have been conducting an audit of all environmental monitoring systems in animal housing, Nosek said. The audit is expected to be completed by February 2006.

The seven animals, all adult cynomolgous monkeys, were housed together in a room south of campus and away from the campus’s California National Primate Research Center. Immediately following the August 2004 incident, 32 other monkeys housed at the location were moved to the primate center, which has 24-hour environmental monitoring in all rooms. The south campus room has not been used for animal housing since the incident.

Story here.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Oldest gorilla at Oklahoma City Zoo dies

A 46-year-old female gorilla that has been a fixture at the Oklahoma City Zoo for more than 30 years has died.

Fern, a Western lowlands gorilla, was euthanized Tuesday after several weeks of deteriorating health, zoo officials said.

"She had been under medical watch for the last couple of weeks, acting lethargic and had a loss of appetite," said Dwight Scott, the zoo's director of animal management. "Within the last 48 hours, she really took a turn for the worse."

Fern, who arrived at the Oklahoma City Zoo in 1972 from a zoo in Philadelphia, was the fourth-oldest gorilla in the United States, Scott said. He said gorillas in captivity typically live to between 35 and 40 years old.

Story here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Monkey gene chip may help researchers

University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers have helped to develop a new tool - based on the genes of a monkey - that could accelerate the work of researchers studying AIDS, brain diseases and fertility.

The tool is a gene chip, a kind of genetic decoder ring that can help researchers more quickly and efficiently decipher when and where genes are expressed, or turned on, in the rhesus macaque.

That's important because the monkey is a close genetic relative of humans and one commonly used in the study of human disease and development. By studying the monkey's genes, researchers can determine how diseases work and devise new ways to treat them.

"This will make important research go faster," said Robert Norgren, an associate professor in UNMC's department of genetics, cell biology and anatomy and the project's lead researcher.

Norgren and his team worked with colleagues in Oregon to put together the genetic information needed for the chip. The final product, a thin cartridge about the size of Apple's Ipod Nano, was developed by Affymetrix, a Santa Clara, Calif., gene technology firm.

The research was funded through $2.25 million grant from the National Center for Research Resources, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Similar chips already are available for humans and rodents. But until now, Norgren said, researchers studying macaques had to look at one gene at a time, a process that could take hundreds - even thousands - of experiments to complete.

The gene chips contain "probes" for all 20,000 of the monkey's genes; probes are small pieces of DNA that can detect individual genes.

The chips allow researchers to analyze samples and determine which genes are turned on or off under certain conditions and how much they're on or off.

Story here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Women drop sexual harassment suit against gorilla's caretaker

Two women who claimed they were pressured to show their breasts to Koko, the famous gorilla who communicates with humans through sign language, have dropped their sexual harassment lawsuit after reaching a settlement agreement earlier this week.

Former gorilla caretakers Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller asked for more than $1 million in damages in their sexual discrimination and wrongful termination suit filed in February against the Gorilla Foundation — the Woodside, Calif. nonprofit charged with Koko's care — and Dr. Francine Patterson, the foundation's president and Koko's primary caretaker.

Attorneys on both sides declined to comment on the terms of the settlement agreement.

Story here.

Vietnam Birdlife survey team finds rare primate

During a recent survey to prepare for the establishment of Bac Huong Hoa Nature Reserve in Vietnam's Quang Tri province, a team from the BirdLife in Indochina Programme and the local forest department proved how important this kind of work can be for all types of biodiversity – when they discovered a new population of globally threatened primate.

Twelve Hatinh Langurs Trachypithecus francoisi hatinhensis were discovered living on a limestone cliff in the survey area. The local Van Kieu minority people call the species 'Con Cung', which roughly translates as "black, cliff-dwelling monkey with a long tail".

The actual number of Hatinh Langurs present in the area is thought to be considerably higher than twelve, as inclement weather and a lack of time prevented more intensive searching.

Story here.

Like humans, monkeys speak with accents

To the untrained ear monkeys of a certain species may all sound the same, but Japanese researchers have found that, like human beings, they actually have an accent depending on where they live.

The finding, the first of its kind, will appear in the December edition of a German scientific journal Ethology to be published on December 5, the primate researchers said on Tuesday.

"Differences between chattering by monkeys are like dialects of human beings," said Nobuo Masataka, professor of ethology at Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute.

The research team analysed voice tones of two groups of the same species of primates, the Japanese Yakushima macaque also known as Macaca fuscata yakui, between 1990 and 2000.

One group was formed by 23 monkeys living on the southern Japanese island of Yakushima, and the other group comprised 30 descendants from the same tribe moved from the island to Mount Ohira, central Japan, in 1956.

The result showed that the island group had a tone about 110 hertz higher on average than the one taken to central Japan.

Monkeys on Yakushima Island have an accent with a higher tone because tall trees on the island tend to block their voice, Masataka said.

"On the other hand, monkeys on Mount Ohira do not have to gibber with a high tone as trees there are low," he said.

"Each group adopted their own accent depending upon their environment."

This suggests differences in voice tones are not caused by genes, Masataka said, adding the results "may lead to a clue to the origin of human language."

Story here.

Neurologists say orangutan recovering well

An 11-year-old orangutan named Allie from the Denver Zoo is recovering from a viral neurological disorder in her legs at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa.

Zoo officials thought the orangutan would benefit from the equipment and social setting at Great Ape Trust, where it has shown significant progress since arriving a month ago, The Des Moines Register reported.

Trust scientist Robert Shumaker said the primate is once again showing good mobility.

"She can go anywhere, anytime," Shumaker said, adding the orangutan is scampering about the three-story building's network of suspended fire-hose "vines," ladders, platforms and grates.

Orangutans use their arms to bear most of their weight, so the animal's still-recovering legs have been enough to help her move around, he said.

Story here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Monkeys feast at the annual Lopburi monkey banquet

As a party, it was a disaster: almost all of the guests of honor were too frightened to make an appearance. Those that came ate and ran.

But the monkeys aren't known for their good manners, to the delight of hundreds of tourists who converged Sunday in Lopburi for its 17th annual monkey banquet.

The party is thrown by local hotelier Yongyuth Kitwatananuson, who is thankful for the business the monkeys bring his city, which is 70 miles (112 kilometers) north of Bangkok.

The long-tailed macaques are regarded as disciples of Chao Pho Prakarn, a four-armed deity whose likeness is enshrined in the heart of the town. With such status, they are given free rein -- often to the despair of human residents.

Story here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chimp Dies On Way From Metrozoo To Busch Gardens

Criticism against Miami Metrozoo is increasing after reports that a chimpanzee died while en route from Metrozoo to Busch Gardens in Tampa.

According to the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, the chimpanzee died on Nov. 8 while on its way to Busch Gardens with two other chimps, which survived the trip from Miami Metrozoo.

The chimp that died, Kutosha, was 7 years old.

The ARFF alleges that the chimps were not accompanied by a caretaker, something the group insists is a violation of the animal welfare act. Metrozoo said this allegation is wrong, NBC 6's Jeff Burnside reported.

Metrozoo said the cause of Kutosha's death has not yet been determined.

Story here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

First Baby gorilla born at Busch Gardens by caesarian

There’s a new member of the gorilla family at Busch Gardens Tampa.

A baby male gorilla was born on Friday at the theme park’s zoological hospital. The baby was delivered via Caesarian after the mother, 33-year-old Kishina, was noted experiencing difficulties over several days.

The baby is being cared for by Busch Gardens’ veterinary and animal care staff until reintroduction can be made. Assisting Busch Gardens with the birth were medical professionals from the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital.

It is the first gorilla birth at the Tampa adventure park in its 46-year history. The birth brings to seven the number of gorillas in the park’s Myombe Reserve habitat, a 3-acre rainforest environment opened in 1992.

Story here.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Roman Catholic monkey blessing turns out controversial

Some well-intentioned monkey business involving a Roman Catholic church in Columbia had been called off.

St. Catherine Catholic Church had planned to bless a monkey to raise awareness for the Morrow Rainey Foundation, founded by the owner of the animal.

The Dailey Herald newspaper in Columbia reported country singer Tanya Tucker was going to attend the event, scheduled for yesterday.

Father Jim Henning and Morrow Faye Raney described what happened next in an interview on W-J-X-A F-M. They said angry calls from church members and a query from the Nashville Diocese made it impossible to carry on with the plan.

Henning said the uproar was a misunderstanding, because many of the callers thought he was going to christen or baptize the monkey, which is named Peggy Sue. In the Catholic Church only humans may be christened or baptized, but Henning says blessing animals and objects is a common practice.

Story here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Paris Hilton attacked by pet monkey

The sexy socialite was out shopping for lingerie with her new primate pet, Baby Luv, in Los Angeles on Saturday (12.11.05), when the animal went bananas.

According to reports, the monkey bit Paris and clawed at her face as she entered designer boutique Agent Provocateur with the simian on her shoulder.

Luckily, the 'Simple Life' star managed to pull the monkey away before hooking Baby Luv's leash onto a cabinet so she could shop in peace.

Paris then spent over $4,000 on designer bras, panties and a kinky bullwhip, according to America's New York Post newspaper.

Story here.

11/16 Note: News reports have been wrongly identifying it as a monkey, Monkey News has found that it is in fact a kinkajou, more closely related to raccoons.

Delhi looks to states for help for captured monkeys

Nobody wants the Capital’s monkeys. A crisis is brewing as the Delhi government cannot find any takers for the monkeys caught and kept in its custody.

Following no response from any of the states, the government is now planning to approach Delhi High Court to direct one of the state governments to take these monkeys.

‘‘Last year, the Madhya Pradesh government was asked to take about 225 monkeys and Rs.25 lakh was given by the Centre — through Delhi — to spend on their feed,’’ said an official.

Officials say, at present, there are 270 monkeys kept in the government-run shelter at Rajokri which is considerably more than its capacity of 200.

Environment Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan said: ‘‘We had written to all the state governments to take these monkeys. But none of them is willing to do so.’’

Environment department officials said civic bodies have been plagued with complaints from several areas about the monkey menace.

Story here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Lulu's baby gorilla dies at Atlanta zoo

A baby gorilla at Zoo Atlanta has died less than a week after being born.
Zoo officials say the unnamed baby died Saturday morning. While not premature, the baby was born with a below-average weight of about three pounds.

The baby was the first grandson of the late Willie B., Atlanta's most famous gorilla.

The baby was born last Monday to Willie B.'s six-year-old daughter, Lulu. But Lulu showed no interest in caring for the baby, prompting zoo staff to put the baby in an incubator and begin looking for a surrogate mother.

But the baby's grandmother, Kuchi, who had recently given birth to twins herself, picked up the baby soon after it was born and began caring for him. After a few days, staff at the zoo gave in and allowed Kuchi to nurse the baby along with her own twins.

Doctor Maria Crane, vice president of veterinary services at the zoo, says the infant's death was not caused by a lack of maternal care. He says Kuchi was taking excellent care of the baby.

Story here.

Chimpanzee dies at Grand Rapids zoo following routine dental surgery

A 26-year-old chimpanzee has died at the John Ball Zoo after having a tooth pulled.

The male chimp _ named Jo Mendi _ stopped breathing yesterday while he was recovering from the removal of a chipped canine tooth that was bothering him. Staff spent at least a half hour trying to revive him.

Jo Mendi was the dominant male among a group of six chimps the John Ball Zoo acquired from the Detroit Zoo in 2001. The others visited Jo Mendi's body before it was taken to Michigan State University for a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

Story here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Lemur named for Monty Python's John Cleese

Monty Python star John Cleese has had a newly discovered species of lemur named after him.

The small woolly Avahi cleesei lives on leaves in a remote part of Madagascar.

The name is a tribute to 66-year-old Cleese's conservation work, including a documentary about the plight of endangered woolly lemurs.

Its long legs are the only physical similarity to the actor, famous for his Silly Walks sketch.

Urs Thalmann, of the University of Zurich, in Switzerland, who discovered the species, joked: "Woolly lemurs can't really walk, but they do enjoy silly jumps."

Mr Thalmann speaking to New Scientist magazine, added: "I though surely he must be a lemur fancier."

Story here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Koome's new strategy, invite monkey eaters

Local authorities in Koome Islands, Mukono district, are planning to invite Congolese from their neighbourhood to help them fight monkeys which have caused havoc in the area.

The sub-county recently put aside Shs2 million to pay people who would hunt down the monkeys.

The primates have destroyed crops and caused fear over a likely famine on the Islands. Koome sub-county LC3 chairman, Mr Patrick Nagambye, told Daily Monitor at the weekend that other than killing the monkeys and throwing them away, they had found it wise to call in Congolese to hunt, kill and eat them.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, monkey meat is a delicacy. Any person able to hunt and kill a monkey and presents its tail is paid Shs2000.

Nagambye said in the last three months, they had managed to receive about 80 tails of monkeys, “but this is still very small. That is why we have decided to invite our friends the Congolese to help us out of this problem.”

Story here.
Previous Koome post here.
And here.

Ape-napping attempt by twins' mom foiled at Zoo Atlanta

Maybe eight is enough, but twins apparently are not — at least not for Kuchi, the 21-year-old gorilla at Zoo Atlanta who gave birth to a rare pair on Halloween night.

On Tuesday, Kuchi, seemingly flush with maternal ambition, hijacked another newborn primate. If zoo staff had not intervened, it would have gone down as a historic ape-napping.

The newest gorilla, it turns out, was born to Lulu, the 6-year-old offspring of Willie B., the famous zoo mascot who died in 2000 at age 42.

Thus, the baby Kuchi briefly "adopted" is the beloved icon's first grandchild.

And now it's back with its rightful mother. Zoo staffers gave Kuchi a knockout shot at about 1 p.m. Tuesday and, while she snoozed, returned the new male gorilla to Lulu.

In the process, they also took the twins from Kuchi to check on their health. At that point, they were able to determine the twins' gender, which had been impossible while Kuchi was nursing them.

It's a boy and a girl.

The decision to intervene was not made hastily, but rather a few hours after Kuchi grabbed Lulu's baby, which was born Monday night.

"Two's enough and there's no way Kuchi could feed all three," zoo spokeswoman Susan Elliott said.

All the gorillas are fine, Elliott added.

Story here.

Marsupial Startles Passengers On Hawaii-Bound Flight

Passengers on board an Omni Air flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu Monday morning were startled when they saw what they thought was a monkey running loose in the cabin.

It turned out to be a marsupial known as a sugar glider that is native to Australia and New Guinea.

The little critters can actually jump and then glide dozens of feet. It was jumping all over the airplane, officials said.

"In flight, one of the passengers was able to the capture animal and it was secured by a flight attendant. Our staff members went on board upon arrival and interviewed passengers trying to ascertain where this animal could have come from," said Domingo Carvalho, of the state's animal quarantine facility.

No one admitted to bringing this animal on board the plane. Sugar gliders are popular pets in some parts of the mainland. They are illegal in Hawaii.

Story here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Largest primate that ever lived lived alongside humans

A gigantic ape, measuring about 10 feet tall and weighing up to 1,200 pounds, co-existed alongside humans, a geochronologist at McMaster University has discovered.

Using a high-precision absolute-dating method (techniques involving electron spin resonance and uranium series), Jack Rink, associate professor of geography and earth sciences at McMaster, has determined that Gigantopithecus blackii, the largest primate that ever lived, roamed southeast Asia for nearly a million years before the species died out 100,000 years ago. This was known as the Pleistocene period, by which time humans had already existed for a million years.

"A missing piece of the puzzle has always focused on pin-pointing when Gigantopithecus existed," explains Rink. "This is a primate that co-existed with humans at a time when humans were undergoing a major evolutionary change. Guangxi province in southern China, where the Gigantopithecus fossils were found, is the same region where some believe the modern human race originated."

Research into Gigantopithecus blackii began in 1935, when the Dutch paleontologist G.H. von Koenigswald discovered a yellowish molar among the "dragon bones" for sale in a Hong Kong pharmacy. Traditional Chinese medicine maintains that dragon bones, basically fossil bones and teeth, possess curative powers when the fossils are ground into a fine powder, and ingested.

For nearly 80 years, Gigantopithecus blackii has intrigued scientists, who have pieced together a description using nothing more than a handful of teeth and a set of jawbones.

"The size of these specimens - the crown of the molar, for instance, measures about an inch across - helped us understand the extraordinary size of the primate," says Rink. Sample studies further revealed that Gigantopithecus was an herbivore, feasting mainly on bamboo. Some believe that the primate's voracious appetite for bamboo ultimately placed him at the losing end of the evolutionary scale against his more nimble human competition.

Story here.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Prehistoric skull found in dump may be missing ancestor

Palaeontologists excavating a dump outside Barcelona have found a skull dating back 14m years that could belong to a common ancestor of apes and humans.
The nearly intact skull, which has a flat face, jaw and teeth, may belong to a previously unknown species of great ape, said Salvador Moya, the chief palaeontologist on the dig. "We could find a cradle of humanity in the Mediterranean," he said.

A routine land survey for a planned expansion of the Can Mata dump in Els Hostalets de Pierola turned up the first surprise in 2002: a primate's tooth.

Since then, scientists from the Miquel Crusafont Institute of Palaeontology in Sabadell have unearthed nearly 12,000 fossils of primates and other animals that lived during the Middle Miocene era - between 14m and 8m years ago - when the area was covered by tropical rainforest and populated by the precursors of today's elephants, antelopes and monkeys.

Last year, the team found a 13m-year-old partial skeleton, also believed to be a common ancestor of apes and humans - a male fruit-eater, nicknamed Pau.

"If there is a place in the world where it is possible to find an entire skeleton of a common ancestor to the great apes and humans, it is Hostalets de Pierola," Mr Moya told El PaĆ­s newspaper. "In few places [will] you uncover so many connected vertebrae in such good condition."

The Can Mata dump sits above clay soil in which animal remains became trapped and well-preserved.

Story here.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Monkey King for possible 2008 Olympic mascot?

A Monkey King figure, one of a number of contenders for the mascot for the 2008 Olympic Games, is seen in Beijing Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005. The city of Lianyungang has lobbied Beijing to make the Monkey King, a figure from Chinese folklore, the mascot of the 2008 Olympics. Some of China's poorer places are competing to see their candidates selected, hoping that a victory will raise name recognition and tourism revenues. (AP Photo)

Story here.

Max the gorilla shooter's death riddle

Isaac Mofokeng, a housebreaker who became infamous after shooting Max the gorilla while trying to escape arrest, has died.

Mofokeng, 38, who had been a patient at Weskoppies psychiatric hospital in Pretoria for the past two years, died after swallowing pills he took while nursing staff were tending to other patients.

But his family are suspicious of the circumstances surrounding his death, and want an explanation.

Police had been searching for Mofokeng regarding several house robberies and a rape case when he was finally caught on July 18 1997, pinned down by the 180kg lowland gorilla.

That morning, Mofokeng is alleged to have been accosted by a Saxonwold homeowner who caught him on his property.

Mofokeng pulled out a gun, prompting the man to sound the alarm and call the police.

Parktown officers responded quickly and chased Mofokeng, who headed into the Johannesburg Zoo and jumped over a wall to hide.

But he had unintentionally picked the gorilla enclosure, where he encountered Max - who was angered by the intrusion.

Mofokeng fought back when Max bit him, and shot the raging animal in the chest and neck.

Three police officers barrelled into the enclosure, and all three were injured by Max. During the scuffle, Mofokeng was shot in the groin.

Max eventually calmed down after being shot with a tranquilliser dart. He was then taken to Milpark Hospital, where he underwent surgery. He made a full recovery.

Mofokeng went on trial and was sentenced to 40 years in jail for a number of crimes, including rape. Five years related to his shooting Max.

Story here.

NSPCA in hot water for monkey death sentences

The National Council of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) has come under fire from two animal welfare groups for a new policy decision to destroy all injured, sick or orphaned vervet monkeys and baboons - except in KwaZulu-Natal.

However, the society has also received some support from Durban's Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (Crow) for confronting the fact that several wildlife centres are overcrowded with primates which have no chance of ever returning to the wild.

Some estimates suggest there are up to 3 000 vervet monkeys in captivity nationwide, with one Limpopo primate centre holding up to 700.

The decision to euthanase all vervet monkeys and baboons taken to SPCA centres (except in KwaZulu-Natal) was taken at a recent national council meeting on the basis that wild primate rehabilitation centres in most parts of the country had too many monkeys and not enough suitable sites to release them.

The NSPCA said it supported rehabilitation projects as it believed wild animals belonged in the wild.

However, it did not want to perpetuate prolonged physical or psychological stress for captive wild animals.

Story here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Monkeys aid in a new method to speed avian flu vaccine production

The world's vaccine manufacturers will be in a race against time to forestall calamity in the event of an influenza pandemic.

But now, life-saving inoculations may be available more readily than before, thanks to a new technique to more efficiently produce the disarmed viruses that are the seed stock for making flu vaccine in large quantities.

The work is especially important as governments worldwide prepare for a predicted pandemic of avian influenza.

Writing in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS) , a team of researchers from UW-Madison and the University of Tokyo report a new way to generate genetically altered influenza virus.

The lab-made virus — whose genes are manipulated to disarm its virulent nature — can be seeded into chicken eggs to generate the vaccine used in inoculations, which prepare the human immune system to recognise and defeat the wild viruses that spread among humans in an epidemic or pandemic.

In their report, a team led by UW-Madison virologists Yoshihiro Kawaoka and Gabriele Neumann, describes an improved `reverse genetics' technique that makes it easier to make a seed virus in monkey kidney cells, which, like tiny factories, churn out millions of copies of the disarmed virus to be used to make vaccines.

In nature, viruses commandeer a cell's reproductive machinery to make new virus particles, which go on to infect other cells and make yet more virus particles.

Non-virulent viruses that serve as the raw material for vaccines are made by vaccine makers using a monkey kidney cell line.

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison press release, the technique reported by the team improves upon a previous reverse genetics method (developed by Kawaoka's group in 1999) by significantly reducing the number of plasmid vectors required to ferry viral genes into the monkey kidney cells used to produce the virus particles to make vaccines. "Compared with other types of cells, which are not approved for vaccine production, it is not always easy to introduce plasmids into the monkey kidney cells, which are approved for such use," says Kawaoka, an influenza expert and a professor of pathobiological sciences in UW-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine.

Because they are not known to carry any unknown infectious agents and do not cause tumours, monkey kidney cells are used routinely for generation of seed strains for vaccine production.

Story here.

Biologist in bid to save rainforest’s rare monkey

Scientists at the University of Sussex are working with local communities in Ecuador to help save one of the world’s rarest species of monkey – and the endangered rainforest where it lives.

The Brown-headed Spider Monkey (Ateles fusciceps) is “critically endangered”, which means that without urgent action to protect the 50 known breeding pairs still in the wild, the species could become extinct. The spider monkey – unusual in that it is exclusively a fruit-eater – is under threat because up to 80 per cent of the dense rainforest that it depends on for food has been destroyed.

Environmental organisation Ecuador Terra Incognita, supported by partners including the University of Sussex, has now launched the PRIMENET Project to tackle the crisis. Its aim is to determine how best to protect the monkey populations, now restricted to rainforest reserves in northwest Ecuador, then educate local communities to continue the work and ensure the spider monkey’s long-term survival.

University of Sussex environmental biologist Dr Mika Peck is coordinating the project. He has secured £230,000 funding for the project over three years through the Government-sponsored Darwin Initiative to aid conservation in bio-diverse regions around the world. He will also assist, along with colleagues from the geography department, in remote sensing research. This involves analysing satellite data to see where rainforest is at risk from development or logging.

Dr Peck became involved because he has worked on environmental projects in South America and has conducted research into deforestation. He also has a passion for the region where the project will be based – the Los Cedros Biological Reserve in the Ecuadorean Andes, on the doorstep of the spider monkey habitat. He says: “This is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It can only be reached by donkey, trekking for five hours. It is a fairytale setting – orchids, humming birds, big cats, tapirs, moths the size of dinner plates – and is one of the richest areas for bird species.”

Protecting all of this, says Dr Peck, is key to the spider monkey campaign: “The spider monkey is a ‘flagship’ species – if they are protected then everything else in the surrounding environment is too, and one of the rare biodiversity-rich habitats of the world is preserved.”

Story here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Monkey holds India hostel residents hostage

A monkey held residents of a school hostel in Midnapore town hostage today until fire brigade personnel rescued them.

Seven Class XII students of Vidyasagar Vidyapith, 130 km from Calcutta, who had taken it upon themselves to chase the animal away, had to be escorted out. The monkey, which sat through a lecture in Class VII and hopped into headmaster Saroj Mitra’s office during lunch earlier, entered Class III this morning and sat beside the headmistress of the primary section, Sipra Samanta. It did not harm anyone.

The Class XII boys, who followed the monkey with sticks and firecrackers, were attacked. Sandip Maity had to be given seven stitches on his hand. After that, the students retreated, but the monkey parked itself right outside the hostel gate and chased back boys venturing out.

Story here.

Zoo gets Halloween treat -- baby gorilla twins

Zoo Atlanta received a Halloween night surprise when Kuchi, a 21-year-old gorilla, delivered twins at Zoo Atlanta, either late Monday or early Tuesday.

It was only the seventh time since 1956, when gorilla births were first monitored, that a twin birth has been recorded in North America, said Dr. Tara Stoinski, a Zoo Atlanta researcher who studies the endangered species.

It is the first twin gorilla birth in North America since 1999.

"What we're seeing [is] one set of twins for every 160 births," said Dan Wharton, the director of the Central Park Zoo in New York. Wharton is coordinator of the gorilla species survival plan, a management system that aids captive populations that is administered by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. "That's roughly twice as rare as [twin] human births."

Story here.

Czech zoo apes reality TV with gorilla show

Czechs tired of watching humans monkeying around in reality shows will soon be able to witness the private primate life of gorillas as an alternative, the Prague Zoo has announced.

For the next two months, starting on November 7, live Web casts of one male gorilla, two females and a young gorilla will be shown on a public radio Internet site with scenes from the daily life of the apes also screened on public television.

"It is a meaningful alternative to "people" reality shows," the zoo said in a statement. Humans would also be given an insight into great ape behaviour, added zoo spokesperson Vit Kahle.

Viewers will be asked to vote for their favourite gorilla with money raised from text messages directed towards an existing zoo project to help save gorillas in their natural environment, most likely Cameroon.

The prize for the most liked gorilla will be 12 melons, a pun on the Czech slang substitution of melons for zeros when talking about large sums of cash.

Story here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Gorilla dies at zoo after being given drug for trip to Pennsylvania

Kuba, a 16-year-old male lowland gorilla, died Monday morning at the Topeka Zoo during a chemical immobilization.

Kuba died at about 8 a.m. as staff members from the zoo and Manhattan's Kansas State University School of Medicine prepared him to be loaded onto a vehicle and transferred to Erie Zoo in Erie, Pa., said Topeka Zoo director Mike Coker.

"We gave him the drug, and he went into cardiac arrest," he said.

Results weren't available late Monday from a necropsy being conducted at K-State to determine Kuba's cause of death. Coker said a full report would be presented when it became available.

Story here.

Teeth, rainfall linked to primate survival

U.S. and Finnish scientists say primates, except for humans, can reproduce into old age under certain conditions.

Patricia Wright of the State University of New York-Stony Brook and Jukka Jernvall of the University of Helsinki say they've determined tooth deterioration may impact the primates' nutritional status and, potentially, their reproductive success.

To discover how tooth wear might influence reproduction, Jernvall, Wright and colleagues documented tooth wear in a population of Madagascar rainforest lemurs, called sifakas, during the past 20 years.

The researchers took dental casts of the sifakas' mouths and analyzed tooth wear. The sifakas' crowns were found to wear flat by 18 years of age. But despite the tooth deterioration, some sifakas were able to survive and produce healthy offspring for another 10 years, as long as there was abundant rainfall during the nursing season.

That link between tooth wear and rainfall suggests long-lived mammals may be particularly sensitive to changing environmental conditions.

The study is detailed in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Story here.

Monkey Bounty update: Eighty Monkeys Killed in Mukono

EIGHTY monkeys have been killed and their tails collected in Koome islands in Mukono district, the sub-county chief, Patrick Mukasa, has said.

Joel Ogwang writes that about 50 residents who killed the monkeys got sh160,000 each.

Sub-county authorities recently set up a sh2m bounty for all the monkeys killed and their tails collected.

The money was secured from the government under the National Agricultural Advisory Services to kill the monkeys that were eating crops like maize.

For each monkey tail presented, one receives sh2,000.

Story here.
Bounty story here.

Monkey Math Machinery is Like Humans

Monkeys have a semantic perception of numbers that is like humans’ and which is independent of language, Duke University cognitive neuroscientists have discovered. They said their findings demonstrate that the neural mechanism underlying numerical perception is evolutionarily primitive.

Jessica Cantlon and Elizabeth Brannon described their findings with macaque monkeys in an article published online the week of Oct. 31, 2005, in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. Cantlon is a graduate student and Brannon is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, as well as a member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Their work was supported by the National Institute for Child Health and Development, The National Science Foundation and a John Merck Scholars Award.

In their experiments, the researchers sought to test whether monkeys show a phenomenon known as “semantic congruity” when making numerical comparisons.

“When adult humans compare any two things, such as the size of two animals, and they’re asked ‘which is smaller, an ant or a rat?’ one might think it’s the same kind of question as ‘which is larger, an ant or a rat?’” said Brannon. “But humans are faster at saying an ant is smaller than saying a rat is larger. By contrast, if the two animals are large, such as a cow or an elephant, they’re quicker at saying the elephant is larger than saying the cow is smaller. This ‘semantic congruity’ holds for all kinds of comparisons, including numbers and distances.

“It would seem that this is entirely a linguistic effect, totally dependent on language,” said Brannon. “But we sought to understand whether monkeys showed this semantic effect, even though they don’t have language.”

In their experiments, Cantlon and Brannon presented monkeys with two arrays of randomized numbers of dots displayed on a computer touch screen at randomized positions. However, instead of using language to instruct the monkeys to “choose larger” or “choose smaller” the researchers made the background blue if the monkeys were to choose the larger number and red if the smaller number. The monkeys were rewarded with a sip of a sweet drink for correct answers.

“Our results showed a very large semantic congruity effect,” said Cantlon. “For example, when the number pair was small, such as two versus three, the monkeys were much faster at choosing the smaller compared to the larger of the pair. We were also impressed at the high level of accuracy the monkeys achieved on this difficult conditional discrimination,” she said.

Story here.

Gorilla burglar caught on tape

There's a gorilla impersonator in our midst. And the Campbell police want no more of his monkey business.

On Sunday morning, a burglar in a gorilla mask smashed the window at S&C Collectibles, a store on West Hamilton Avenue that carries more than 1,500 die cast replicas of NASCAR race cars.

The ape-man perused the inventory carefully. As the police report said: ``The Gorilla is very selective in the memorabilia he selects.''

The gorilla guy fled with his ill-gotten loot -- model cars and autographed baseball caps -- and then, police say, he drove to All Tool, on Dell Avenue, and busted in and swiped some tools.

This is just the kind of behavior that can give law-abiding gorillas a bad name.

But the thing the thieving simian-impersonator doesn't know is that S&C Collectibles captured it all on video tape.

``We saw what he took, we saw him leave the store and get into a vehicle'' -- a white four-door sedan, said Steve Clark, the store's owner. ``I have so many cameras in here you can't pick your nose without me knowing it.''

Story here.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Chimp Haven Opens To Eager Public

After 10 years and $10 million, the general public got its first look at Chimp Haven.

Friday's invitation only ribbon cutting ceremony gave way to the public today for the 200 acre sanctuary in south Caddo Parish.

Chimp Haven is a permanent home for 31 chimpanzees retired from biomedical research, entertainment, or no longer wanted as pets.

Folks got to see how the chimps live and interact in their new habitat. "It's just neat to watch them, they're just like us," said visitor Paulette Lorance. "One of them gathered all the food she could, she eats a lot, she's very big. It was just neat to watch them interact and just watch their mannerisms."

The group of 31 will be joined by more than 100 chimpanzees in the coming year, pending completion of the second phase of construction.

Ultimately, the sanctuary will host a total of 200.

Story here.

Orangutan urine collector voted #10 of the worst jobs in science

"Have I been pissed on? Yes," says anthropologist Cheryl Knott of Harvard University. Knott is a pioneer of "noninvasive monitoring of steroids through urine sampling." Translation: Look out below! For the past 11 years, Knott and her colleagues have trekked into Gunung Palung National Park in Borneo, Indonesia, in search of the endangered primates. Once a subject is spotted, they deploy plastic sheets like a firemen's rescue trampoline and wait for the tree-swinging apes to go see a man about a mule. For more pee-catching precision, they attach bags to poles and follow beneath the animals. "It's kind of gross when you get hit, but this is the best way to figure out what's going on in their bodies," Knott says.

Knott analyzes fertility through estrogen and progesterone levels, and weight gain or loss through ketone measurements. DNA is extracted from the orangu-dookie, and stress levels can be measured by cortisol in the urine. The goal is to understand great-ape reproduction, and because of her unique urine-collection method, Knott isn't limited to visual observations, as previous researchers have been. She has documented, for example, that female orangutans' reproductive-hormone levels surge during periods when they are eating more. That timing is critical for the apes, which reproduce only around every eight years. It's also highlighted how vulnerable the animals are to extinction, and that's why, when she's not sampling urine, Knott is working to conserve the rain forest.

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