Monday, January 31, 2005

Oldest captive lowland gorilla turns 49

The Erie Zoo will mark the 49th birthday of Rudy today.

The gorilla is believed to be the oldest captive lowland gorilla in the world. That's according to the International Species Information System, which keeps records on captive animals.

Rudy was captured in Africa as a baby. He arrived at the Erie Zoo in 1987, after having lived at zoos in Saint Louis, Los Angeles and Cleveland.

Erie Zoo officials say Rudy is starting to show his age so they are thankful each day that the gorilla is with them. Rudy loves produce, and supplements his diet each day with Geritol, Herbalife and Boost every day, along with Glucosamine tablets, to fight joint pain.

Officials say Rudy will probably celebrate his birthday the was he spends every Monday. He'll likely watch a National Geographic video, drink a can of Boost and take a mid-morning nap.

Story here.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Surveillance shot of monkey robbery any bananas?

A man dressed in a monkey costume threatened an employee at a local convenience store with a knife in the predawn hours of Tuesday in an unsuccessful robbery attempt, police said.

At around 2:15 a.m., a man wearing a monkey costume sneaked into the Lawson convenience store's Yokkaichi Hinaga-Nishi outlet, threatened a 26-year-old employee with a knife and demanded money, local police said.

Story here.

Monkey pay per view porn

In a finding that deepens our understanding of animal social cognition, researchers at Duke University Medical Center have demonstrated for the first time that monkeys, like humans, value information according to its social content. People readily pay to see powerful or sexually attractive individuals, and, according to this new study, monkeys will also "pay" to view these kinds of images.

Both economics and evolutionary theory predict that animals should selectively acquire information about others that is most useful for guiding behavior. In most monkey social groups, behavior is structured by kinship, dominance, and reproductive status, suggesting that social information should be valued according to these attributes. While previous studies had shown that monkeys would work to see other monkeys, no one knew whether the value they placed on seeing other individuals was related to the social relevance of those individuals.

In the new work, researchers Robert Deaner, Amit Khera and Michael Platt, all of Duke University Medical Center, tested this hypothesis by measuring how much fruit juice monkeys would accept or forgo to see photographs of familiar monkeys, permitting the researchers to compare monkeys' valuation of different types of social information. Male monkeys "paid" in juice to view female hindquarters or high-ranking monkeys' faces, but required "overpayment" to view low-ranking monkeys' faces. Despite living in a captive colony, the value monkeys placed on information about potential sexual partners and powerful individuals matched the relative importance of these individuals for behavioral success in the wild. This study demonstrates that monkeys assess visual information by its social value and provides the first experimental evidence that they spontaneously discriminate between images of others based on the social rank or classification of individuals.

Story here.

Woman sues after monkey bites off fingers

A Benton County woman is suing a local animal park because a monkey bit off much of her hand, including two fingers, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Benton County Circuit Court.

Fayetteville attorney Chadd Mason filed the suit on behalf of Carol Baker against the Wild Wilderness Drive-Thru Safari in Gentry.

According to the complaint, Baker was at the safari on Oct. 9, 2004. She was feeding animals. She was preparing to feed a chimpanzee when the animal reached through the bars of its cage and grabbed Baker’s clothing and pulled her into the cage.

The suit alleges that the chimpanzee grabbed Baker’s left arm and hand, then bit off much of her hand, including two fingers.

Story here.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Baby chimp received treatment in children's hospital


A 50-day-old chimpanzee undergoes a x-ray exam at Hefei Children's Hospital, Central China's Anhui Province January 26, 2005. Afer a series of medical checks the little chimpanzee was diagnosed with minor pneumonia and received proper treatment shortly afterward. The baby chimp developed a bad appetite and an irregular heartbeat after being born at Hefei Safari Park last December.

Story here.

Population of rare gorillas may be increasing in war-torn Congo


An isolated population of rare Grauer's gorillas, living among rebel armies and bands of poachers, has managed to survive in one of the most dangerous regions in Africa, and may even be increasing in numbers, according to a recent census by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). WCS conservationists say that a band of park guards who have heroically defended the gorillas and their rainforest home in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, have played a key role in safeguarding these endangered primates.

The census, led by WCS project director Innocent Liengola, counted 168 gorillas living in the mountain highlands of Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Most encouragingly, a number of the groups had infants. A census under difficult conditions in 2000 estimated 120 to 130 animals in the same area. Preliminary surveys from other regions in the park and outlying areas have also shown these rare large primates to continue to persist, despite some recent reports that the animals are nearing extinction.

"The fact that this Grauer's gorilla population may actually be increasing is a tribute to the park guards who have stood their ground against rebel armies and poachers. They are true conservation heroes," said WCS Conservationist Dr. Jeffferson Hall, who conducted the first-ever Grauer's gorilla census in 1996. "I'm absolutely convinced that if the guards did not remain in Kahuzi Biega, there would be no animals left."

Story here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Twin Tamarins make public debut

double your pleasure

Visitors to a Cambridgeshire zoo are in for a rare treat - twin cotton-top tamarins have been making their first public appearances this week.

The 12-week-old tamarins, which face extinction in the wild, have been monkeying around in their new surroundings and meeting the public at Linton Zoo, near Cambridge.

Born to Bert and Dolly, who have been resident at the zoo since 1996, the twins, which have yet to be sexed, are now being looked after by their parents and their two older siblings.

They were born on October 10 at the zoo.

Story here.

Chimps have 'sense of fair play'

A sense of fairness may have deep evolutionary roots in feces flinging matches

Chimpanzees display a similar sense of fairness to humans, one which is shaped by social relationships, experts claim.
They found that, like humans, chimps react to unfairness in various ways depending on their social situation.

Details of the study appear in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

A similar finding has been reported in capuchin monkeys, suggesting that a sense of fairness may have a long evolutionary history in primates.

In the study by researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, US, chimps were paired to see how they would respond if one received a better reward than the other for doing the same amount of work.

When the pair came from a group that had known each other only a short time, the unfairly treated chimp responded negatively.

An animal rewarded with cucumbers - instead of highly prized grapes - "downed tools" and refused to do any more work.

But when the pair were from a close-knit social group that had bonded over a long period of time, unfairness was more likely to be tolerated.

Story here.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Prehistoric cannibalism triggered human evolution?

you, uh...gonna finish that?

Archeologists, who excavated a settlement of ancient people in Central Russia, found many bones on the site. There was nothing unusual about the finding at all: the bones were the remains of animals that people of the Stone Age ate. Specialists, however, were surprised to find human bones among animal bones too. Scientists did not make any special conclusions about it; they simply mentioned the strange fact in their reports.

Modern people prefer not to think about cannibalism. They simply refer to it as a vestige of ancient history, or a horrible tribal ritual. It is a rather uncivilized point of view indeed. The majority of animals do not eat their own species, although humans used to practice cannibalism commonly.

Anthropologists and historians come to realize that cannibalism was an evolutionally motivated phenomenon. Darwin presumed that hunting was one of incentives to spur the evolution. Darwin's proponents were evolving his theory by the example of Australopithecus - one of our oldest hominid ancestors, an intermediate between Man and ape. This ape-looking creature was using stone tools: primitive scrapers and cut stones. Needless to say that it was extremely hard to hunt for prey with the use of a scraper or a stone. The tools were basically used for smashing tubular bones and skulls to take out animal protein-rich marrow. In other words, it does not go about the classic perception of hunting: ancient humans were eating their own species. Australopithecus used to eat fresh carrion or animals that predators killed. It is an open secret that predators eat soft tissues of the prey, but they cannot reach the marrow. Australopithecus was smart enough to smash animals' bones with stones and eat the marrow.

Scientists believe that animal protein made for the development of muscles, the growth of brain and the increase of aggressiveness. Neanderthal men were peculiar for their aggressive conduct; they were waging territorial wars with each other. Piles of smashed and burnt human bones can often be found on the places, where Neanderthal men used to stay. The bones are probably the remains of enemies that prehistoric humans killed and ate. Certain tribes of New Guinea still practice this kind of military cannibalism. US scientist Richard Marlar from Colorado successfully proved that Neanderthal men were eating their own species. Scientists found molecules of human haemoglobin in fossilized excrement of Neanderthal men. Haemoglobin could find itself there only if a prehistoric individual had another one for dinner.

Story here.

Monkeys invade home, police not into monkey business

There was some monkey business in Mamelodi West yesterday when a troop of grey and "not-too friendly" simians invaded the house of an elderly resident in Manyane Street.

It is not known where the monkeys came from. They gained access to the house through the back door.

The woman initially spent frantic minutes trying to chase her unwelcome visitors out with a broom.

When this failed to do the job she sought help from neighbours - but a group of teenage boys were the only ones who volunteered, and apparently did more harm than good when they threw objects at the animals from up a tree.

Police were then called for assistance but Captain Piletji Sebola said: "Our area of expertise is crime-fighting. We are not into monkey business."

The monkeys also evaded SPCA inspector Job Masombuka - by the time he called for back-up, they were gone as mysteriously as they had arrived.

Story here.

Monkey business at South African Open

Birdie, eagle and to a lesser extent albatross are noted golfing terms, but monkey is certainly not in the lexicon.

At least that was the case until the second round of the South African Open at Durban Country Club.

Local professional Mark Murless's approach to the seventh found the greenside bunker and as he was making his way to his ball a native vervet monkey swooped from a tree to investigate.

After a close inspection it dropped the ball before grabbing it again, placing it in its mouth and heading for the bushes.

Fortunately for the golfer the thief decided the ball was less than tasty and dropped it in the rough above the hazard.

Story here.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Max the Gorilla's replacement introduced

Makoko, the mail-order Gorilla bridegroom from Munster Zoo in Germany, gets his groove on in his new enclosure at the Johannesburg Zoo

Makoko, the replacement gorilla for Johannesburg Zoo's famous crime busting Max the Gorilla, has been introduced to the public after a 45-day quarantine. Makoko (19), who has travelled all the way from Germany, is destined to be the new companion for Lisa (33), Max's widow. Max died of old age last year.

The German stud, Makoko, moves toward the crowd with the flare of a professional model. Weighing in at 200kg he is much taller that the late beloved Max. Makoko has a greyish black coat that ripples with muscles as he lumbers around his new home. After having been indoors for 45 days he was grateful to be out in the open.

He plans to settle his lobola to his bride on Valentine's Day. Speaking through his Chief negotiator, Philip Cronje, he says it would be a wonderful Valentines Day gift if he could have Lisa at his side for the rest of his life in his new home at the Johannesburg Zoo.

Story here.

Researchers hope monkeys can provide new insights into depression

The scientists found that depressed female monkeys become socially withdrawn and have reduced body fat, low levels of activity, high heart rates and disruptions in hormone levels – all of which are known or suspected characteristics of major depression in women. Their research is based on female monkeys because women are 66 percent more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetimes.
"We believe these monkeys can be a useful model for learning more about depression in women," said Carol Shively, Ph.D., professor of pathology at Wake Forest Baptist. "Current ways to treat depression are only partially successful. This may be an important opportunity to develop and test new treatments."

She said that with current treatments, there's often a difference between men and women in effectiveness and side effects. The animal model will allow scientists to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment specifically in females, the population at greatest risk.

The study involved 36 adult female cynomolgus monkeys, who normally live in social groups in the wild. For most of the research, the animals lived in groups of four and their social interactions and behavior were observed. Depressive behavior included a slumped or collapsed body posture accompanied by a lack of response to events or objects in the environment in which other monkeys were interested.

The researchers found that the depressed monkeys had suppressed ovarian function, but continued to have menstrual periods. Irregular ovulation can lead to low estrogen levels, which have been associated in both women and monkeys with increased risk of disease in the arteries leading to the heart.

Story here.

3 Japanese Macaques given lethal injections for harming humans

Three Japanese Macaques, a monkey native to Japan and a protected species, have been given lethal injections following attacks on people in Wakinosawa village, Aomori Prefecture, informed sources said Thursday.

The local authorities caught four monkeys, of whom three were killed, under the prefecture's protection and management law, which allows protected species to be captured and killed should they cause serious harm to humans, the sources said. It is the first time Japanese Macaques have been killed under the law.

The village plans to capture another 20 monkeys by Feb. 28.

Story here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The remains of primitive human ancestors that are up to 4.5 million years old discovered

Paleontologists working in Ethiopia have discovered the remains of at least nine primitive human ancestors that are up to 4.5 million years old.
The specimens belong to a hominid species called Ardipithicus ramidus, a transitional creature with significant ape characteristics. The fossils are mostly teeth and jaw fragments, with some hands and feet bones, according to nine researchers from universities in the United States and Spain.

The discoveries were made over a four-year span beginning in 1999 in digs at the As Duma site in Ethiopia's Afar region, which has yielded many important fossils. The details appear in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

Among the specimens, the recovered canine teeth are smaller and blunt, similar to those of other human ancestors. But most of its teeth, including molars, are like those of great apes. The size and wear of the teeth suggest A. ramidus ate a plant-based diet, the researchers reported.

Geological and radiocarbon tests show the specimens are between 4.3 million and 4.5 million years old.

Scientists know little about A. ramidus. A few skeletal fragments suggest it was even smaller than Australopithecus afarensis, the 3.6 million-year-old species widely known by the nearly complete "Lucy" fossil that measures about four feet tall.

Evidence from other A. ramidus specimens shows its skull rested directly atop its spinal column, rather than in front like apes. This suggests it could walk upright, or had bipedal abilities.

Other fossils found at the As Duma site show that A. ramidus lived alongside monkeys, mole rats and cow-like grazing animals. But details of the environment are sketchy.

Originally, scientists theorized that the earliest human ancestors lived on the savannah and began walking upright to see across the open landscape. But pollen and other evidence from As Duma suggest the diverse habitat had swamps, grass and even some woods.

The first A. ramidus fossils were reported in 1994. With the nine additional specimens, labs now have fragments from as many as 60 individuals

Story here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Fabled Monkey King's 'tomb' discovered

A "tomb" of the legendary Monkey King and his brother has been found on a mountain peak in Shunchang County, Fujian Province.

Examination of the "tomb" in a temple on the highest peak of Baoshan Mountain dates it to between the late Yuan (1271-1368) and early Ming (1368-1644) period.

The temple covers about 18 square metres and the tomb is 2.9 metres wide and 1.3 metres deep.

Two headstones in front of the "tomb" bear the carved titles of the Monkey King and his brother in regular script.

Wang Yimin, curator of the local museum explained that the Monkey King has two sisters and two brothers in an earlier story about a Tang monk's journey to India in search of Buddhist Sutras.

But in the "Journey to the West," written by Wu Cheng'en (1330-1400) later, Monkey King had integrated all the magic powers of his brothers and sisters into himself, reports the Fuzhou channel of

Story here.

Tarsier on ‘borrowed time’

DO NOT take the red acid...

The tiny, furry tree-climber with the outsize, owl-like eyes pricked its ears and swiveled its head as a rustle on the forest floor ended its midday slumber.

Carlito Pizarras, son of a taxidermist, had sneaked up so close he could smell the tarsier on its shady perch.

The midget mammal has been around since the Eocene Age, but 45 million years of evolution were hardly of any help against Bohol’s most famous game hunter.

Pizarras had given up his air gun, formaldehyde and the other awful tools of his trade some time in the seventies and devoted the rest of his life to save the exotic mascot of the Philippines’ receding tropical forests.

“I noticed that I had to hike deeper into the forest to find one, unlike in the sixties when you could snatch them [off] tree branches by the side of the road,” the 50-year-old told AFP at a tarsier reservation here.

The tarsier is found only in four islands in the central and southern Philippines and on several islands of nearby Indonesia.

Incorrectly regarded by Filipinos as the world’s smallest “monkey,” it is really a cousin of the lemur and the tree shrew.

An adult male with gray or reddish fur grows to about 130 grams, about the size of a human fist, and with its long, naked tail for balance it jumps like a frog across low-hanging tree branches at night. It eats about a 10th of its weight in moths, dragonflies, grasshoppers and beetles.

Left in the wild, tarsiers can live up to 15 years.

Although technically it is not yet on the list of the country’s endangered species, the government believes without human intervention it can disappear in a few years.

Story here.

Surgery brings end to any mating hopes for Demba

Demba was transported to the Philadelphia Zoo from Dallas five years ago to 'get it on'.

The Dallas gorilla who came to Philadelphia five years ago to be the matriarch of a new gorilla line will never get pregnant.

She has had a hysterectomy.

But she is alive and well, which is better than might have been expected in early December, when Philadelphia Zoo veterinarian Keith Hinshaw discovered a mass in her abdomen.

Even on Jan. 6, as zoo staffers wheeled the sedated 218-pound gorilla into the zoo's hospital, no one knew for sure what her future would hold.

Standing at her side, thinking about how important an animal Demba was and feeling acutely the trust placed in him, was her primary surgeon, a man who initially was flabbergasted at the prospect of operating on her, then captivated by it.

Until that moment, the primate expertise of Sean Harbison, a surgeon at Temple University Hospital, had been limited to one species: homo sapiens.

But perhaps it was doubly fitting - considering Demba's history, which some view as partly tragic - that she wound up with a specialist in humans.

Born in 1970 before such practices had fallen into disfavor, Demba was raised by humans who put her in diapers and little dresses for zoo promotions.

By the time she met her first gorilla - at age 8 - she seemed unsure, uninterested, alienated from her own species.

It would not have mattered, except that Demba's genes were valuable. With wild-born parents, she would have invigorated the genetic pool of the nation's nearly 400 zoo gorillas.

In 1999, Demba was sent to Philadelphia to meet Chaka, once named "best stud muffin" of Cincinnati because of all the progeny he had fathered there.

The zoo's great apes had died in a 1995 fire. Perhaps Chaka would conquer Demba's reserve, and they could start a new family.

They did not.

No one knows if the mass in her uterus was initially the problem, because no one knows when it started growing. For years, Demba appeared to be perfectly healthy.

Story here.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Picture Journal: A zookeeper tries to catch a monkey standing on the balcony

Just an interesting photo series of a monkey capture.

A zookeeper tries to catch a monkey standing on the balcony of a five-floor residential building in Shijiazhuang, North China's Hebei province, January 14, 2005. A local resident noticed the monkey and called police and zookeepers. It took the local police and three zookeepers three hours to catch it unharmed. No monkey lives wild in this area and it is suspected that it escaped either from the nearby zoo or was the pet of a local resident.

Found at yahoo.

24 Japanese Macaques to be given lethal injection for harming humans then I says to em, well that ain't really my problem, a steady diet of bananas tends to make your shit come it in streams...speaking of which, did it suddenly get warmer over here or is it just me?

A local government in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on Monday started catching 24 of Japanese Macaques, a terrestrial monkey native to Japan and a protected species, on concerns they may harm people.
The Wakinosawa village government said it will administer lethal injections on the monkeys in the Shimokita Peninsula under the prefecture's protection and management law, which allows protected species to be captured and killed should they cause serious harm to humans.

The village had planned to catch the 24 monkeys it identified as "harmful animals" in the area in October last year but stopped after a nationwide public protest, its officials said.

The village said it decided recently to go ahead with the original plan after its request for the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University to take the monkeys was turned down.

It is the first time Japanese Macaques will be killed under the law, the officials said, adding the plan to catch them will last until Feb. 28.

Story here.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Federal Judge Orders Georgia School District to Remove Evolution Disclaimers

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a fact, not a theory, regarding the origins of living things.  Those who dispute this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and carefully considered religious fanatics.

A federal judge today ruled that placing disclaimer stickers warning that evolution is "a theory, not a fact" in public school science textbooks is an unconstitutional government intrusion on religious liberty.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit against the Cobb County School District brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia on behalf of five local parents. The parents argued that the disclaimer stickers would send the message to their children that they should reject the scientific theory of evolution in favor of religious viewpoints on origin.

"The school district gave evolution second-class status among all scientific theories and, at the same time, gave advantage to a specific religious viewpoint that rejects evolution," said Maggie Garrett, an ACLU of Georgia staff attorney who argued the case.

The Cobb County School District approved the evolution disclaimer in 2002, in response to criticism that the new science textbooks chosen by the administration did not include information about creationism or "intelligent design." District Court Judge Clarence Cooper wrote in today’s decision that, "the sticker sends a message to those who oppose evolution for religious reasons that they are favored members of the political community, while the sticker sends a message to those who believe in evolution that they are political outsiders."

Cooper ordered the school district to remove all stickers immediately.

Story here.

Zoo holds brief wake after euthanizing Omega the gorilla

They held a wake at the Buffalo Zoo this week for Omega, the 40ish male gorilla who had fathered several offspring but who had been in declining health.
Omega's two mates took his loss very well, but one of his offspring took it hard and tried to wake him up.

One of the last remaining gorillas in North America not born in captivity, the 350-pound Omega had to be euthanized earlier this week after reigning for 23 years as star of the zoo's gorilla breeding program.

"After the animal was euthanized," Zoo President Donna M. Fernandes said, "we let the other animals in that had shared the same group with him."

His two mates were led in with their progeny - Kwizera, with young Sidney, and Becky, with 4-year-old Lily.

"The adults were pretty calm about it," Fernandes said. "They walked over, sniffed and sort of touched him a little bit to see if they could get him to move. The one who seemed most reluctant to accept that he was dead was the youngest one, Lily, who was lying on top of his stomach and brushing his belly. She just didn't want to leave him."

The wake lasted just a few minutes. Then they shifted the adult females into a holding cage so they could take Omega's body away for a necropsy.

Story here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Zoo basks in discovery of two lemur species

The Mitsinjo Sportive Lemur, newly identified by Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, spends most of his time collecting ferns and 'getting it on' with tree branches.

After more than six years of work in remote forests of Madagascar and DNA laboratory tests in Omaha, a researcher at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo can officially claim the discovery of two new species of lemurs.

The Henry Doorly Zoo has neither of the new lemurs on display but wants to, said zoo director Lee G. Simmons. It does have three other species of lemur on display, at its Lied Jungle and in its Hubbard Gorilla Valley.

"The discovery of two new primate species is extraordinarily significant to science and conservation," Simmons said. "We are very proud of Dr. Louis and his team's accomplishments."

Typically, new species are bacteria, plants or insects.

The Seal's Sportive Lemur lives in eastern Madagascar and spends most of his time in his parents basement.

"To discover a primate is real significant," Simmons said. "It is usually large universities that make discoveries of this kind."

All told, about 70 species of lemur have been identified, Simmons said. Lemurs are prosimians, a lineage of animals older than monkeys that are found only on Madagascar. They are endangered.

French expects the Omaha zoo's discoveries to benefit the institution by boosting visitation, enhancing its reputation among other zoos and helping it acquire grants from conservation organizations.

"The fact that Henry Doorly Zoo has scientists who can carry this off is a real coup," he said, noting that large conservation organizations and universities are often responsible for discovering new species. "It brings it into the realm of major international conservation organizations."

Story here.

Tsunami disaster further imperils orangutan habitat

Aptos resident Shirley Randolph spends too much of her time collecting monkey pron.

Aptos resident Shirley Randolph has been on the front lines of the effort to save the endangered orangutans of Sumatra and Borneo for the past six years.

She’s afraid she’s losing the battle.

Though hundreds have been saved with the support of the nonprofit foundation Randolph co-founded in 1998, thousands more have been lost as a result of illegal logging, poaching and forest fires. And in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia, Randolph and others fear a desperate situation will only get worse with forest resources in high demand to rebuild.

"So many villages were wiped out right on the edge of this extraordinary rainforest," Randolph said. "People can’t talk about the animals because the people are so devastated."

Today, fewer than 20,000 of one of man’s closest relatives may be left, and the numbers continue to drop. Some experts predict the apes, unique to the two Indonesian islands, will disappear from the wild altogether in another decade.

Story here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Monkey gene called Trim 5 alpha linked to blocking AIDS

kill kill kill

A single change in a human gene may hold the key to preventing people living with HIV from progressing to full-blown AIDS, researchers say.

They found a crucial difference between a gene in humans and one in rhesus monkeys that blocks infection of the virus in the animals - a finding that offers new insights into the origins of AIDS and gene therapy.

Had the gene been the same in humans, scientists at the National Institute of Medical Research in London believe, there may not have been the AIDS epidemic that now affects 40 million people worldwide.

"If it had recognised HIV, we probably would never have had AIDS," said Jonathan Stoye, head of virology at the institute. "I believe it is a key change."

Scientists had been aware that it was much more difficult to infect monkey cells with HIV than human cells in laboratory experiments, suggesting there was something different in the animal cells that blocked infection.

A gene called Trim 5 alpha was later found to be the reason why. In monkeys, but not in humans, it stops the virus from replicating.

Dr Stoye and his team studied differences in the gene products of the monkey and human Trim 5 alpha genes.

They pinpointed one specific change in a protein that was important in blocking HIV. By substituting a human protein with a monkey-derived protein they found they could make the human cells resistant to HIV.

Story here.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Robotics Alive Series Features Monkey Head

wow wee creepy

On the more mind-blowing and unusual side, is the new Wow Wee Robotics Alive Series. These are life-like, animated, remote-controlled robot heads that include stereoscopic hearing so they can track your position and even your distance away. Wow Wee's first demonstration of this technology is a frighteningly real looking monkey head with a fully articulated face. The real stunner, though, is the expected price: $129. George York, Wow Wee's chief designer on the project said he's been working with the company's divisions in Hong Kong and China to have the robots ready for a 2006 release.

Story here.

Download WMV video zip file here.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Skunk ape movie to debut in April

the skunk ape captured during one of his rare early morning harley drives.

This isn't a chapter out of Campfire Stories, like Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil or the Abominable Snowman in which the unexplainable continues to somehow appear and reappear in various "sightings" around the globe. While most people poo-poo such claims, Nate Martin of Marco Island believes in one special creature of his own, the Ochopee skunk ape, located right here in Collier County.

Martin has spent the last six years of his life shooting, editing and producing his very own full-length feature film on the skunk ape.

"I guess I became interested in this about six years ago when I spent some time at a camp and festival ground owned by a guy named Dave Shealy out in Ochopee," Martin said. "He began telling me about his encounters and adventures with the skunk ape in the vicinity in and around Ochopee."

The setting is perfect for such a tale, as Ochopee makes up approximately one square mile on Route 41. It lies east of Everglades City and is nestled in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Neighboring areas include the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve and the Miccosukee Indian Reservation. South from there is Everglades National Park. We're not talking beautiful downtown Burbank here.

Story here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Baby White-faced Saki Monkey Born at Como Zoo


A baby white-faced saki monkey was born on December 26th at Como Zoo to Patty (Age 6), on loan from the Cleveland Zoo, and Milton (Age 4), on loan from the Pittsburgh Zoo. The two parents are a breeding pair sent to Como Zoo in January of 2003 as part of a nationwide population management plan for this rare primate species. This is the second offspring born to Patty and Milton. The new baby joins sister Frances who was born just a year ago on January 3, 2004. Como Zoo officials do not yet know the sex of the baby saki, as they have not had to intervene with the family. The mother has bonded well with the baby and is providing excellent care. The baby's gender will be revealed at around two months old when male sakis start to show the white face coloration.

Story here.

Poker-playing monkey seizure is settled!

The battle between an Alberta multimillionaire and the province over the seizure of his poker-playing monkey and other unusual pets has been resolved. But a government lawyer said yesterday a confidentiality agreement prevents the parties from discussing the settlement, even whether the animals have been returned.

"I'm afraid I can't say anything," lawyer Alan Meikle told the Sun, when asked about the decision by Phil Sprung Sr. to discontinue his lawsuit.

Sprung sued the province in 2003 after Fish and Wildlife officers raided his ranch along the Sheep River, west of Okotoks, and took away four animals, including two macaque monkeys.

One of the simians, Tarzan, had a penchant for poker, said the lawyer who successfully defended Wildlife Act charges laid against Sprung.

Paul Brunnen - who had the Oct. 5, 2001 search warrant used to seize the animals ruled unlawful - told the Sun last year that he had seen pictures showing Tarzan playing cards. Three other animals, a female macaque, a moose that Sprungs kept penned up at night for its safety, and a pet raccoon, which has since died, were also seized.

The moose, which the family erroneously believed was a male and dubbed Murray, was turned over to the Calgary Zoo where her true sex was determined and she was renamed Anne Murray. Zoo spokesman Kathleen Hewitt said the animal has not been returned to Sprung. "She's still part of the zoo family," Hewitt said.

A discontinuance notice, filed at Court of Queen's Bench by Sprung lawyer Virginia May, said the matter had been settled "pursuant to an agreement reached between the parties."

May was not in her office yesterday.

Last January, May said that Sprung, who sought damages of $600,000, wanted the pets returned. Sprung was also not available at his Calgary business, Sprung Instant Structures Ltd., and a message left for his son, Phil Jr., was not returned.

Story here.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Monkey stem cell trial offers hope to Parkinson's sufferers

Insane in the membrane!

Stem cells taken from tiny monkey embryos and implanted in the brain reversed some of the Parkinson's symptoms in monkeys used to study the disease, Japanese researchers reported yesterday.

Their study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, supports arguments that stem cells taken from days-old embryos can be used to replace damaged tissues in a range of diseases, experts said.

But they also cautioned that the study was preliminary and needed far more follow-up.

Yasushi Takagi and colleagues at Kyoto University grew stem cells from early monkey embryos and coaxed them into becoming, or differentiating into, neurons.

They then transplanted these into the brains of monkeys who had been given a Parkinson's-like condition using chemical damage.

Story here.