Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Monkey escapes after 'family row'

All he wanted was a Pepsi...

A monkey which escaped from Belfast Zoo after an "argument" with his dad is still on the loose.

Police officers have joined staff in the search for the Colobus monkey which escaped from its enclosure on Sunday night.

A man living near the zoo raised the alarm after spotting the two feet tall, black and white animal in his garden shortly after 2200 BST.

The public is urged not to approach the monkey but to contact the authorities.

Johnny Owens, the owner of the house where the monkey was spotted, said he could not believe what he was seeing.

"I was sitting there last night watching television and just happened to look out the window and saw this beautiful black and white monkey going up and down the gazebo and I couldn't believe my eyes," Mr Owens said.

Story here.

Bane of Companies, PETA Spy Reveals Self

Lisa Leitten is finished living her double life. For the past three years, the soft-spoken, 30-year old moved from Missouri to Texas to Virginia, applying for jobs at businesses dealing with animals. She gave her real name, and some real details about herself: a master's degree in animal psychology and prior work at a primate sanctuary in Florida.

What she didn't reveal was that she was also working for an animal welfare organization, and that she wore a hidden camera to document instances in which animals were treated with what she calls horrific neglect and cruelty.

Leitten called her last assignment for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals her most wrenching: nine months in a Virginia lab owned by Princeton, N.J.-based biomedical firm Covance Co. There, she says, monkeys were denied medical care and abused by technicians. The company denies the claims, says it treats the animals properly and has accused Leitten of illegally working under cover.

Story here.

Vandals trash Bucks nursery, bash monkey business bid

Vandals who might have ties to a radical animal rights group caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage overnight Thursday to a Quakertown area nursery that wanted to house 500 medical research monkeys.

The intruders overturned and destroyed about 1,000 peonies, including some rare breeds. They poured paint stripper on two vehicles and spray-painted graffiti on buildings and greenhouses at Peonyland, 475 Church Road, Richland Township.

They wrote phrases — such as ''F--- with primates, get f---ed by us. ALF''; ''the ALF is watching''; and ''this will just be the start'' — on greenhouses and storage garages at the business owned by the Hsu family, which now is uncertain whether it will continue the kennel plans.

ALF refers to the Animal Liberation Front, an extremist animal rights group that has claimed responsibility for hundreds of instances of property damage and acts of domestic terrorism nationwide in recent years, authorities said.

Story here.

Ancient Giant Lemur DNA Confirms Single Origin of Malagasy Primates

Yale biologists have managed to extract and analyze DNA from giant, extinct lemurs, according to a Yale study published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Radiocarbon dating of the bones and teeth from which the DNA was obtained reveal that each of the individuals analyzed died well over 1,000 years ago, according to the senior author, Anne Yoder, associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Living lemurs comprise more than 50 species, all of which are unique to the island of Madagascar, which is the world’s fourth largest island and east of Africa. Evolutionary analysis of the DNA obtained from the extinct giants reveals that they, like the living lemurs, are descended from a single primate ancestor that colonized Madagascar more than 60 million years ago, Yoder said.

The biologists extracted DNA from nine subfossil individuals in two of the more bizarre extinct species, Palaeopropithecus and Megaladapis. The first has been likened to tree sloths and the second compared to koala bears. Both ranged in body weights from 100 to 150 pounds, as compared to the largest living lemur, Indri indri, which weighs in at fewer than 15 to 17 pounds.

“The most important conclusion to be drawn from our study is that the phylogenetic placement of subfossil lemurs adds additional support to the hypothesis that non–human primates colonized Madagascar only once,” Yoder said. “However, the limited taxonomic success of our study leaves open the possibility that data from additional taxa will overturn this increasingly robust hypothesis.”

Story here.

Friday, May 27, 2005

4-pound lowland gorilla born at zoo


It is pinkish-gray, weighs 4 pounds and is totally adorable, especially to its mother, Rapunzel, an endangered Western lowland gorilla at the Denver Zoo.

"She's doing a lot better with this one than with her last," Lynn Kramer, vice president for biological programs, said Thursday.

"Last time, she got the umbilical cord wrapped around and didn't bond properly, and then didn't know how to nurse her baby and was holding it face out rather than toward her nipple."

Story here.

Lincoln Park Gorilla returns alive for a change

After a rash of animal deaths in recent months, there was joy and relief Thursday at Lincoln Park Zoo: A 9-year-old gorilla was reintroduced to her exhibit after nearly two months recovering from a deadly illness.

Rollie, a western lowland gorilla, had suffered from the same virus or bacterial infection that likely killed her 7-year-old sister, Mumbali, who died April 28.

On Thursday, the 120-pound gorilla emerged through an open steel door and circled the perimeter on beams about 15 feet above the ground before cautiously descending to meet join six other apes.

Zoo staff welcomed the primate by spreading Cheerios, sunflower seeds and uncooked bowtie pasta throughout the exhibit floor.

Zoo president Kevin Bell, who has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks from animal-rights groups in the wake of the animal deaths, called Rollie's return "a relief to us all."

Since October, three zoo elephants, two gorillas, a camel and three Francois langur monkeys have died at the zoo.

The Cook County state's attorney's office has opened an investigation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association also are reviewing the zoo's animal care practices.

Story here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Monkey apes temple rituals, residents view it as a miracle

Aping Hindu rituals to a T, a monkey appeared at an Orissa temple, prayed for an hour folding its hands in the traditional sign of respect, took prasad, put vermilion on its forehead - and then fled.

Looking at it as a miracle are residents of Junia village in Balasore district, who responded by worshipping it in turn and garlanding the simian before it ran away.

It all happened earlier this week Monday when the simian, who had never been seen in the area earlier, appeared at about 10 a.m. near a Shiva temple and offered flowers at the shrine.

It was the day that devotees were formally inaugurating the stone symbol that is seen to represent Lord Shiva.

Said Aniruddha Behera, a village resident: "The monkey folded his hands, observed silence, put vermilion on his forehead and also took the prasad from the devotees."

"When we saw the monkey joining us we were surprised. We did not try to drive it out and it continued praying for nearly an hour amid hundreds of devotees," Behera told IANS.

It stayed around till evening when it ran into the nearby forests.

"We have not seen any monkey around for the last two years. This is a miracle for us," Behera said.

Story here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Animals seized from smugglers

The deer that were among the protected animals found kept by the smugglers in a secluded jungle spot being prepared for the stew near Lubok Antu.

KUCHING: Months of probing led enforcement officers to a secluded spot in a border forest where they found more than 50 captured protected animals and wildlife specimens.

The officers from the Sarawak Forestry Corporation also stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a small primate, believed to be a baby orang-utan.

A foreigner and a local detained at the spot are being questioned. Initial investigations point to an international smuggling ring carrying out an illicit wildlife trade.

The seized wildlife – found in cages and inside enclosures – included birds and two cervus unicolour deer believed to have been smuggled into Sarawak from Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Among other the wildlife seized in Sunday night’s raid were spotted doves, adjutant storks, white-bellied fish eagles, and two pheasant species, the lophura bulweri and the crested fireback.

Story here.

Monkey hired to prevent 'simian onslaught'

A langur monkey has been employed by an Indian government minister - to scare away other monkeys.

The Indian Minister for Human Resources, MAA Fatmi, has taken on the langur, as well as a professional monkey catcher.

He hopes their combined efforts will scare off the monkeys that invade his office, trashing light fittings and ripping up documents.

"They scare away the monkeys and cage the more naughty ones. So things are better now," a spokesperson told the Hindustan Times.

Minister Fatmi had to move into the bungalow after the petroleum minister refused to because of the daily simian onslaught.

Four langur monkeys and two professional monkey catchers are also employed in parliamentary and government buildings in New Dehli.

All offices have been given caged doors and the "langur force" patrols the buildings at night after a series of official documents were torn to shreds and several civil servants bitten.

"We are trying our best. In our drive in March we captured 101 monkeys and sent them to the Delhi government's monkey shelters in Rajokri," Ved Prakash, the municipal supervisor in New Dehli added.

Story here.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Korean researchers take first step in inter-species transplants

pig monkey?

South Korean scientists have discovered ways to prevent monkeys rejecting organ transplants from pigs, paving the way for the use of animal organs and cells in humans, the Korea Times reports.

The ground-breaking research raises new hopes for millions of people needing heart, liver and kidney transplants, the English-language newspaper said.

The study was led by Hwang Woo-Suk, a Seoul National University professor whose team of experts manufactured stem cells by cloning human embryos using human eggs from donors and skin cells from patients.

The stem cell research announced last week marked a step forward in efforts to make it possible one day to transplant healthy cells into humans to replace cells ravaged by illnesses such as Parkinson's and diabetes.

The Korea Times quoted one of Hwang's fellow researchers, identified only as Kim, as saying the researchers are hoping to transplant hearts and insulin-producing cells from cloned miniature pigs into monkeys by the end of the year.

"We have created dozens of pigs embedded with human immunity genes since late last year. We plan to start transplanting their organs or cells into monkeys as early as late this year," Kim said.

The organs of pigs are almost the same in size as those of humans and their metabolic functions are also similar, he added.

Kim said Hwang would first transplant islets of Langerhans, or insulin-producing beta cells, into monkeys. The research team then hopes to transplant pig organs into monkeys.

Story here.

Cataract op gorilla gives birth

i am not an animal...

A gorilla who underwent a cataract operation after it was born blind, has given birth to a baby it was announced on Monday.

Romina, a rare Western lowland gorilla, who has had two operations to restore her sight was the first adult gorilla to undergo such treatment in Europe.

Keepers at Bristol Zoo say the new baby, who weighed in at about two pounds, is doing well.

Keeper Melanie Gage said: "The baby is beautiful. This is fantastic news."

They said they would have to wait several days before Romina, 25, will allow them close enough to determine the baby's sex.

Story here.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Kiki's baby is diagnosed with metabolic bone illness

Dr Eric Baitchman tends Franklin Park Zoo gorilla Kiki's baby, who is suffering from a vitamin D deficiency and a severe hangover.

A team of Franklin Park Zoo veterinarians and doctors from the Longwood medical area have teamed up to diagnose and treat a newborn gorilla for a rare bone disease.

The as-yet-unnamed gorilla, who was born at the zoo Nov. 24, was diagnosed by pediatrician Dr. Eleanor Menzin and veterinarian Dr. Hayley Murphy as suffering from metabolic bone disease caused by a vitamin D deficiency.

The diagnosis was complicated by the fact the gorilla's mother, longtime zoo resident Kiki, clutches her female offspring to her body at all times. Doctors had to anesthetize the mother for several hours Saturday in order to physically examine the baby.

The medical team credited zoo employees for being extremely observant and noticing the tiny primate seemed to be developing more slowly than her half-sister, Kira, who was born five years ago.

Story here.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

New species of monkey found in Tanzania

An adult male Highland Mangabey discovering himself.

Two separate teams of researchers working hundreds of miles (kilometres) apart have discovered a new species of monkey in Tanzania.

The highland mangabey is the first new species of monkey identified in 20 years and conservationists immediately said the find showed how important it was to preserve African forests.

The highland mangabey is a medium-sized monkey, about 3 feet (90 cm) tall with a long tail, long brown fur, a black face, hands and feet.

Adults make a distinctive, loud, low-pitched "honk-bark" call. They live in mountainside trees at elevations of up to 8,000 feet (2,400 metres).

Fewer than 1,000 of the animals live in the highland forest, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science. Hunters had described the animals but no scientist had identified them.

"If this small population is to be protected in perpetuity, the Udzungwa Mountains National Park needs to be extended to include the Ndundulu Forest," Trevor Jones of Tanzania's Udzungwa Mountains National Park and colleagues there and at the University of Georgia, Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society, wrote in their report.

"This exciting discovery demonstrates once again how little we know about our closest living relatives, the nonhuman primates," said Russell Mittermeier, chairman of the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN-The World Conservation Union's Species Survival Commission.

"A large, striking monkey in a country of considerable wildlife research over the last century has been hidden right under our noses."

The monkey, scientifically named Lophocebus kipunji, will likely be classified as a critically endangered species.

Story here.

PETA Undercover Expose of Billion-Dollar Drug-Testing Company Reveals Multiple Violations of Animal Welfare Act


At a news conference in Princeton today, PETA revealed the findings of an 11-month undercover investigation into Covance (NYSE: CVD - News) -- the billion-dollar Princeton, N.J.-based company that owns one of the world's largest contract animal-testing laboratories. At the laboratory, in Vienna, Va., PETA secretly videotaped repeated violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act by Covance workers, including the following:

* Punching, choking, and taunting injured monkeys
* Recycling sick monkeys into new experiments
* Failing to administer veterinary care to severely wounded monkeys
* Failing to provide euthanasia to monkeys in extreme distress
* Failing to properly oversee lab workers, who roughly tear monkeys from their cages and violently shove them into restraint tubes
* Performing painful and stressful procedures in full view of other animals
* Monkeys with chronic rectal prolapses resulting from constant stress and diarrhea
* Daily bloody noses caused by dosing small monkeys by forcing large tubes up their nostrils and into their stomachs
* Monkey self-mutilation resulting from failure to provide psychological enrichment and socialization

PETA representatives screened the undercover video and provided details of a 253-page complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that asks for the laboratory to be shut down until a thorough investigation can be conducted.

In 2003, an investigation of Covance's Munster, Germany, primate facility revealed the same abuses videotaped in PETA's current investigation.

"The tape shows experimenters using their power over the monkeys to torture and torment them while lab supervisors stand by or even join in," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "The U.S. Department of Agriculture is empowered to stop this type of abuse, yet its inspectors only enter these monkey prisons once a year, and everyone at the labs knows which day that is."

Story here.

Peta story and pictures here.

Chicago zoo reveals reports on animal deaths

Seeking to defuse accusations that Lincoln Park Zoo has been hiding the facts behind a spate of recent animal deaths, zoo officials opened pathology reports on the nine deaths to reporters Wednesday.

The contents, though highly technical, seemed to validate the zoo's contention that its public summaries of the reports released earlier were accurate and did not withhold any damning details.

Of the recent deaths, officials seem most puzzled and spooked by the loss of three small langur monkeys that died over 36 hours in an outdoor exhibit this month. Early test results offered no clue to the cause, but zoo officials said they hope more detailed testing will bring an answer, whether it comes down to a management mistake or even deliberate poisoning.

The zoo showed the reports on three elephants, two gorillas, a camel and the three monkeys to reporters from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times - an unprecedented move, according to embattled zoo director Kevin Bell. Bell had to seek cooperation from the San Diego Zoo to show the documents on the elephants, which were on loan from that zoo when they died.
"In the veterinary medical community, showing reports like these to the public simply is not done," Bell said.

The zoo let reporters look at the records and take notes while discussing them with a zoo veterinarian, but declined to allow copies to be made.

Story here.

Wild Tokyo city chase for monkey

A monkey is on the loose in Tokyo, hanging out at train stations, frightening children and leading to a wild chase by TV crews hoping for a glimpse of the unusual visitor to the metropolis.

The monkey, believed to be a Japanese macaque, was first spotted on April 30 in the unlikely spot of Hiroo, an upscale residential area in trendy Shibuya ward.

The animal has since been heading north sampling diverse neighbourhoods, growling at children in the Yotsuya business district, showing up in the older district of Sugamo and strolling around near the Akabane train station.

It has also fought with crows – a much more common animal in Tokyo – and turned up in a cemetery playing with flowers on graves and eating nuts from the trees, Hideo Tajima, an official at the animal welfare centre of the metropolitan government, said.

"We suspect the monkey is a wild animal and not a pet or something that escaped from research labs. We've checked with all the people and facilities that have permits to keep monkeys. We know none of them have escaped," he said.

He said officials including the police were trying to catch the animal before it harms humans or itself, but a rush of media interest could make the situation more delicate.

Story here.

Zoo Atlanta announces gorilla is pregnant

mmm...gorilla back.

A gorilla at Zoo Atlanta, Kuchi, is expecting her third offspring, zoo officials announced Wednesday.

Kuchi, 20, will give birth in November, said zoo spokeswoman Jacqueline Petty. The father is a 16-year-old silverback gorilla named Taz.

The baby gorilla will be Taz's first; Kuchi is also mother to a male named Stadi and a female, Lulu. Both live at the zoo.

Zoo Atlanta has 21 gorillas, making it the nation's second-largest group in a zoo. Kuchi came to the zoo in 1988 from Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University.

Story here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Tests confirm Congo Ebola outbreak

Ebola has returned to the Republic of Congo, killing nine people since the end of April, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday after tests confirmed the presence of the deadly virus.

"The results (of laboratory tests) came in yesterday ... It is indeed a case of Ebola," said Adamou Yada, WHO's representative in Congo, which has faced serious outbreaks of the disease in the past. Nearly 150 people died in 2003.

"Since the beginning (of the outbreak), we have registered 11 cases, including nine deaths," Yada said in the capital, Brazzaville.

The latest outbreak is in the forested Cuvette-Ouest region, near the border with Gabon, where the 2003 outbreak struck.

Scientists think past outbreaks in Cuvette-Ouest were caused by the consumption of infected monkey meat. Bushmeat is a staple among forest communities in West and Central Africa and a delicacy in many cities.

Story here.

Jacko used chimps as cleaners

Michael Jackson's face arrives at court, five minutes before him.

Michael Jackson used his pet chimpanzees to clean Neverland ranch, his trial heard yesterday.

The creatures would help the star by dusting, cleaning windows and brushing the toilets, the jury heard.

In a clip of outtakes from Martin Bashir's ITV1 documentary Living With Michael Jackson, the singer described how he got his animals to help with household chores.

'They are very smart. Their DNA is identical to humans when you look under a microscope,' he said.

He also revealed his beloved pet chimp Bubbles was moved to a monkey sanctuary after he became too strong and started to rebel against him - like a teenage child.

Story here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ape hunters pick up new HIV related viruses

Chimpanzees carry viruses and feces which can jump to humans

Two new viruses from the same family as HIV have been discovered in central Africans who hunt nonhuman primates.

Researchers say their work proves it is not unusual for potentially dangerous viruses to jump from primates to man.

They say it is important to monitor disease in bushmeat hunters closely, as any virus they contract from animals may spread to the community at large.

The study, led by the US Johns Hopkins University, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new viruses identified in the latest study come from a group known as the retroviruses, which are known to cause serious illnesses in humans.

They have been named Human T-lymphotropic Virus types 3 and 4 (HTLV-3 and HTLV-4).

Humans have previously been infected by HTLV-1 and HTLV-2. In most cases, infection does not produce symptoms, but it can trigger neurological problems, and even leukaemia.

Lead researcher Dr Nathan Wolfe said: "The emergence of HIV from primate origins has cost millions of lives.

Story here.

Stuffed Monkey Display Seen As Racist Removed

The display has spurred mixed reaction from the community and even more from the local monkeys.

A Cobb County business owner insists he never intended to offend anyone with a display on his property that many considered racist.

Hubert Johnson, owner of Johnson Drilling Company in Mableton, took down the giant stuffed monkey that was hanging from a crane on Monday morning to avoid further controversy.

The monkey's face, hands and feet were painted black, and he was draped in a Confederate battle flag.

When neighbors saw the monkey, many were outraged.

"He should know that in the days of the Ku Klux Klan, the monkey was used as a symbol of the black man," said neighbor Kathy Flowers. "So what it said to me was, we're going to lynch the black people. That's exactly what it said to me."

But even as he removed it, Johnson said there was an innocent explanation for his display.

"The message was to the personnel, to my employees, to not monkey around with safety, to get rigged up properly before they go in the shaftts," Johnson said.

When asked about the Confederate battle flag, Johnson said, "The flag didn't have anything to do with it. They just hung it on him for a cape, some of the workers did. I don't even know who put it on it."

Story here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Ape's arm amputated at Lincoln Park Zoo in latest animal problem

Lincoln Park Zoo had to amputate the arm of a small ape -- in the latest problem at a zoo that's been the target of protests.
Zoo officials say the young male gibbon broke its arm reaching through a mesh barrier to grab food tossed to it by a zoo patron. Zoo spokeswoman Kelly McGrath says the amputation was done to save the ape's life.

The gibbon has recovered and could be seen swinging from its remaining arm at an indoor exhibit as nearly 200 protesters gathered at the zoo yesterday.

The demonstration was organized after three endangered Francois langur monkeys died following their recent move to a new exhibit. Two elephants, two gorillas and a camel have also died at the zoo since October.

Story here.

Monkey meat may have started virus outbreak

Nine people have died from an infection caused by an Ebola-like virus in the north-western reaches of the Republic of Congo, travel health specialist Dr Andrew Jamieson warned on Monday.

According to health authorities at least 11 people have contracted the disease since May 4.

The outbreak occurred in the Itoumbi and Mbomo districts, located 700km and 900km north west of Congois capital city, Brazzaville.

Besides being a danger to people living in the area, the warning was also important for people travelling to the region, which borders North West Angola where there are many South Africans working in the diamond industry.

"The first cases apparently appeared among Itoumbi villagers who had gone elephant hunting and who touched and ate a dead monkey they found in the forest," Jamieson said.

Story here.

Lincoln Park Zoo under scrutiny

Nearly 200 people gathered outside Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to support a recent string of animal deaths.

An endangered monkey is in quarantine while experts at the Lincoln Park Zoo try to determine what killed three other Francois langurs, the latest in a series of animal deaths that have prompted activists to call for a criminal investigation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is already looking into possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act at the zoo, and the group that accredits U.S. zoos is now reviewing all animal care practices there.

Zoo officials say the unexpected deaths of the monkeys this week may be linked to their recent move to a new exhibit that gave them access to the outdoors.

Their deaths follow those of two elephants, two gorillas and a camel at the zoo since October, and the death of another elephant earlier this month as it was being transferred from Chicago to Utah.

"It's unheard of for one zoo to have this many animal deaths over such a short period of time," said Debbie Leahy with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "I believe three elephant deaths in six months is a national record."

PETA is calling for prosecutors to investigate the zoo for potential violations of the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act. The act is used to prosecute animal abuse of any kind, said Chris Herbert, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.

Story here.

1 percent genetic difference with chimps made humans cancer prone

Distribution of Mutations: The figure shows the number of synonymous, antonymous, and nonsynonymous nucleotide differences in 13,731 human--chimpanzee orthologous gene pairs. From: Nielsen R, Bustamante C, Clark AG, Glanowski S, Sackton TB, et al. (2005) A Scan for Positively Selected Genes in the Genomes of Humans and Chimpanzees. PLoS Biol 3(6): e170

Chimpanzees and humans share a common ancestor, and even today 99 percent of the two species' DNA is identical. But since the paths of man and chimp diverged 5 million years ago, that one percent of genetic difference appears to have changed humans in an unexpected way: It could have made people more prone to cancer.

A comparative genetic study led by Cornell University researchers suggest that some mutations in human sperm cells might allow them to avoid early death and reproduce, creating an advantage that ensures more sperm cells carry this trait. But this same positive selection could also have made it easier for human cancer cells to survive.

"If we are right about this, it may help explain the high prevalence of cancer," says Rasmus Nielsen, lead author of the paper, and a former assistant professor of the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell who is now a professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. The study, published in a recent issue of PLoS Biology (Vol. 3, Issue 6), a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), focuses on identifying biological processes where positive selection -- adaptations that lead to new directions -- produced evolutionary changes that can be identified in the genomes of both humans and chimps.

Story here.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Monkey species extinctions may not be forever

The conservation world shuddered when scientists declared Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey extinct in 2000. Believed to be the first close relative of humans to disappear in more than two centuries, the little monkey's loss dramatized the need to save West Africa's remote forests and stoked fears of an extinction wave across the continent.

Now, just like the ivory-billed woodpecker that made a Lazarus-like appearance in Arkansas two weeks ago, Miss Waldron's monkey may be alive after all. An article in the June International Journal of Primatology will document tantalizing evidence of the animal's existence in the remote reaches of southeastern Ivory Coast.

Extinction, it turns out, may not always mean forever. As researchers rush to document the world's fast disappearing species, the "gone-for-good" label has become peppered with reversals, ambiguity, controversy and intense public interest. Proving the absence of a species is exceedingly difficult. Scientists argue over how long a final search for a species should last. Others disagree over which groups of organisms can even be declared extinct. The answers are important, researchers say, because conservation efforts are often molded around species at risk for extinction, particularly charismatic ones.

"Species close to extinction are generally recognized as priorities for conservation.... You want to get it right," said Larry Master, chief zoologist for NatureServe, a nonprofit group that assesses the status of species and ecosystems. The group says that every year a few U.S. species of plants, animals and insects are rediscovered.

"It's not good for scientific credibility to have these (species) coming on and off the lists all the time," Master said.

Story here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Monkey brain rewires to use robotic arm

go,go, gadget...monkey?

The brains of monkeys who learned to control robotic arms rewired themselves to treat the arms as if they were real -- a finding scientists say has implications for developing limbs to assist handicapped humans.

The findings build upon a 2003 study that found monkeys were able to control robotic arms using only signals from their brains and without moving their own arms.

Miguel Nicolelis and colleagues at Duke University's Center for Neuroengineering analyzed the data to see what was happening to the primates' brain cells as they learned to use the robotic arm to position a cursor on a video screen.

"The monkey's brain incorporates properties of the robotic arm as if it was another arm and changes to adapt to those properties," Nicolelis, a neurobiologist, told United Press International. "Basically, the brain extends the representation of the animal's body and enhances the sense of self. The animal can function using two arms but also can function as if he has a third arm."

Story here.

Art by 'Cezanne of ape world' to be auctioned

Bonham's auction house in London released this photo Wednesday May 11 2005 of an untitled crapwork artwork in tempera on paper by Congo the Chimp.

In an unusual first for the art world, a London auction house announced on Wednesday it will sell a series of abstract paintings by a chimpanzee, Congo, once feted as the "Cezanne of the ape world".

Congo became famous in the late 1950s when his swirling works, described by critics as a form of abstract expressionism, were exhibited in London, in a show curated by British anthropologist and author Desmond Morris.

Morris, who had featured the young chimpanzee on a television show, became convinced that Congo and apes could understand elements of art.

Three works by Congo from 1957, when he was aged three, are being sold by Bonhams auction house alongside items by pop artist Andy Warhol and French Impressionist Auguste Renoir in a sale of modern and contemporary art on June 20.

Story here.

VXers make a monkey out of gullible surfers


Social engineering tricks by virus writers took a strange twist this week after hackers bundled malicious code with pictures of a famous dead albino gorilla. The Wurmark-K email worm displays a picture of Snowflake (AKA Copito de Nieve), an inmate of Barcelona Zoo until his death in November 2003, as it goes about its job of infecting Windows machines.

The Wurmark-K worm spreads as an email attachment in emails with subject lines such as "Your Photo Is On A Webpage!!". If recipients open the attached ZIP file and launch the files inside (with names such as Sexy_02.scr or Lover_01.scr) on Windows machines they become infected by the worm and a graphic of an albino gorilla is displayed. As the image is rendered, Wurmark-K installs the Rbot-ABK network worm and backdoor Trojan horse, enabling hackers to subsequently steal information from an unsuspecting user or plant other malicious code.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, said the gorilla picture is displayed only after a machine becomes infected. The tactic would lead people to believe the email was just a joke, he added.

Story here.

Baby monkey needs human milk


New mothers in China are being urged to donate breastmilk to help save a baby monkey.

The baby macaque was born three weeks early at Chongqing city zoo, reports the Chongqing Times.

It's mother, Shanshan, cannot produce enough milk for the premature baby and needs some help.

Zoo worker Yang Xinghai says the milk of monkeys and humans is similar because they are all primates.

He said: "The baby only needs a little each day, about 100 to 150g.

"I really hope some kind-hearted nursing mother can donate some milk to it, and let it get through these difficulties."

The baby is currently fed with cow's milk, but Yang says its chances of survival are low without human help.

Story here.

Monkeys escape from the Tulane Primate Center

Officials captured 47 monkeys today that escaped from the Tulane Primate Center in Covington, but six remain on the loose.

The monkeys escaped last night. Officials said the monkeys got loose because a cage was not locked properly. The monkeys had observed how the cage was opened and closed and apparently used that knowledge to their advantage.

Mike Aertker, spokesman for the Primate Center, said the monkeys were being used solely for breeding purposes, and had not been subjected to experiments of any kind.

Aertker said the monkeys are not aggressive and pose no threat to people.

Story here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Huntington man reports monkey bit his daughter

Cabell County Sheriff’s Department reports provided the following information:

A 13-year-old Huntington girl suffered injuries Saturday afternoon from a monkey attack in the parking lot of Eastern Heights Shopping Center along U.S. 60.

About 3 p.m., the girl and her father noticed a woman holding a monkey on a leash, and the woman reported it was friendly and enjoyed being petted.

The man said the monkey climbed upon his arm and shoulder and ran toward his daughter, jumping on her left leg. He said it bit her left kneecap, causing about a 1/2-inch cut. The monkey also reportedly bit the girl on her right hand ring finger.

The girl and her father entered a nearby barbershop to call 911 and clean her wounds. The woman with the monkey said she would follow them to Cabell Huntington Hospital, but turned off and drove another direction, according to the girl’s father.

The report does not provide the monkey’s size and type.

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National Defense Academy battles with monkeys

After decades of turning wide-eyed teenagers into battle-hardy soldiers, the National Defense Academy, the country's premier defense institute, is battling a problem of a different kind.

For the past six months, the new "conflict situation", caused by a spate of attacks by monkeys, has stumped even the best of its trainers and sent them scurrying for new tactics.

The simians have been making life difficult for the gentlemen cadets training at the academy. They have disrupted training exercises, broken window panes and pulled out plants in the academy's manicured lawns. "They descend in groups and make a mess of everything," say officials.

The menace reached such proportions that the academy decided to take things into its hands. On May 6, the NDA put out a tender "for control of monkey (langur) menace at the National Defense Academy". The tender called for organizations with relevant experience to apply for "humanitarian control measures to curb the future growth of monkey (langur) population.". The tender proposed to tranquilize, sterilize, band and release the monkeys in the wild.

So far, so good. But wait. The tender also caught the attention of the forest department and wildlife officials, who, aghast at the measures proposed to remove the monkeys, invoked the Wildlife Protection Act and pulled up the academy for issuing such a tender.

"The academy officials should have come to us before filing the tender. If the NDA is in the jungle, its residents will have to abide by the law. The area originally belongs to animals and the academy will have to live in harmony with the animals," shot off Vishwas Bhadale, Regional Forest Officer.

He added that sterilizing and removing the monkeys was not the solution. Rather, the root of the problem has to be addressed by providing the monkeys alternate places for food and water.

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Austria moves towards ban on ape experiments

please sir, may i have some more?

An amendment to the law that would prohibit experiments on great apes is currently being considered in Austria.

Such experiments are currently neither requested or approved in Austria, but Education, Science and Culture Minister Elisabeth Gehrer believes nonetheless that a change to the law is desirable as it will send a strong signal on the protection of animals in Austria, and will put the country in a ground-breaking position.

The amendment would apply to research involving chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and gorillas.

'Great apes are the animals that are most closely related to humans. It is of particular concern for me that there is this explicit prohibition. This will ensure that no such animal experiments will be carried out in the future either,' said Ms Gehrer.

According to the Austrian statement, only Sweden and the Netherlands have thus far introduced or made moves to introduce regulations preventing experiments on great apes.

The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) estimates that around 10,000 primates (includes both apes and monkeys) are used every year for scientific research in the EU. In 1999, the UK was the largest user of primates, using 3,191, Followed by France (2,322) and Germany (2,084).

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Neurobiological changes resulting from infant abuse may play role in later behaviors

Results of a study in rhesus macaques suggest that neurobiological changes resulting from infant abuse may play a role in later negative behaviors, including perpetuating child abuse.

"Previous studies have reported hyperactivation of catecholaminergic systems and elevated concentrations of corticotropin-releasing-hormone (CRH) in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of child maltreatment victims or combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study investigated the CSF concentrations of CRH and monoamine metabolites in rhesus macaque mothers that physically abused their infants and had themselves been abused as infants," reported Dario Maestripieri, at the University of Chicago, and colleagues at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, and at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Ten abusive mothers and 10 controls "were sampled for CSF during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Focal observations of social and maternal behavior were also made."

The researchers found that "abusive mothers had significantly higher CSF concentrations of CRH and 5-HIAA than controls. Across both subjects and controls, higher CRH, 5-HIAA, and MHPG concentrations were associated with antisocial behavior patterns including a high frequency of maternal aggression, infant rejection, and a low frequency of contacts received from other individuals."

They wrote, "These findings are consistent with those of previous primate and human studies and suggest that the neurobiological alterations associated with infant abuse may play an important role in the occurrence of maladaptive behavior in adulthood, including the perpetuation of infant abuse across generations."

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Baby Orangutan Born on Mother's Day


An orangutan at Hogle Zoo became a mother on Mother's Day.

Zoo spokeswoman Stacey Phillips said the 14-year-old orangutan named Eve went into labor on Saturday evening.

A veterinarian was going to assist Eve with a regular birth, but she decided the baby was too big for the animal.

Hogle Zoo called in experts from University Hospital. Phillips said doctors began a Caesarean section on the ape around midnight. The baby orangutan was delivered a half an hour later early Sunday morning.

Phillips said because the baby wasn't born the natural way, Eve didn't realize the baby was her infant. Zoo officials are now working to reintroduce the two. Meanwhile, the baby is feeding on formula.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Monkey makes brief escape from island laboratory

run monkey, run.

In children's story books, it's the monkey who's the curious one.
But in northern Beaufort County, it's the monkey's caretaker who'd like to have a few questions answered.

The caretaker's curiosity was piqued this week when one of the rhesus monkeys that lives on Morgan Island escaped from the colony. The primate's pilgrimage took him to Coosaw and Lady's islands -- residents spotted him in both places -- before he was captured Tuesday.

Officials with Alpha Genesis, the company that cares for the monkey, said they can't explain how he managed to leave their island laboratory and make his way across Parrot Creek. The mobile monkey was found seven miles from Morgan Island.

"I have been here eight years, and this is the first one (escape) I can remember in the area," said Greg Westergaard, president and chief executive officer of Alpha Genesis. "I'm at a loss at how it got over there. They probably can swim a little bit, but it really is a long way over there."

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Hero Gorilla Gives Birth


A hero gorilla saved the day in 1996 by carefully picking up a boy who fell into a Brookfield Zoo exhibit. Today Binti is back in the headlines after delivering a baby of her own. Proud mom and infant are doing just fine.

The world watched in amazement when Binti gingerly cradled that boy, moving him out of harm's way. Experts say the gorilla's loving actions may have saved the boy's life.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole reports on how now Binti gets to put her maternal instincts to use in a more traditional way.

You might say Binti's holding close the gorilla of her dreams -- a nearly 5-pound male infant born Monday night.

Nearby crowds at the Brookfield Zoo can't help but point and click and recall the incident that made this western lowland gorilla an international heroine in 1996.

Visitors were in a panic when a 3-year-old boy fell 20 feet into the gorilla pit, but Binti kept her calm -- picking up the child, cradling him with her right arm like she would her own infant and carrying him 60 feet to an access entrance, most likely saving his life.

“For us it reinforced our understanding of gorillas as gentile and social creatures,” said primate curator Melinda Pruett-Jones.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Monkeys look longer at copycats

IF YOU want to attract a monkey's attention, try copying everything it does. But don't expect the monkey to play along with the game because it won't understand why it finds your antics so captivating.

Experiments with 10 pig-tailed macaques show that they notice when they are being imitated, but probably don't have the complexity of thought to register how or why someone is copying them.

Annika Paukner of the University of Stirling, UK, and colleagues in Italy gave each of the monkeys a wooden cube to play with. Two people in front of the cage handled matching cubes. One immediately copied everything the monkey did with the block, while the other made random movements. The monkeys spent around 50 per cent more time watching the imitator, confirming that they were aware there is something odd about being aped (Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2004.0291).

But unlike chimps and 14-month-old babies, they didn't check they were being copied by attempting to "throw" the imitator. "If you know someone is imitating you, you might test whether that's what they're doing by trying to throw them with sudden, unpredictable actions," says Paukner. This probably means that they lack "theory of mind", the ability to recognise and second-guess the mental processes of others, she says.

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A moment of Nazi monkey zen.


From here.

New Bigfoot footage disappoints

what me worry?

A flurry of excitement among Bigfoot believers was punctured last night by the screening of a new videotape that one disappointed expert said was so blurry she could barely make out any detail.

A ferry operator shot the video in northern Manitoba and Fox News bought it for what is believed to be a six-figure amount. It was aired yesterday on A Current Affair, a tabloid show that reaches few Canadian households.

Promotional clips for the show said that producers had "two minutes and 49 seconds of videotape you've gotta see to believe," a promise that Bigfoot researcher Lisa Shiel called overblown.

Ms. Shiel, author of a fictional work The Hunt for Bigfoot and currently at work on a non-fiction book called Backyard Bigfoot, watched the show from the Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She said that it was a brief program and that only 20 or 30 seconds of the Manitoba footage was shown.

Story here.

Promo video here.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Newest Bigfoot video airs on TV tomorrow

The Bigfoot video shot by a northern Manitoba man a few weeks ago will air on the American TV show A Current Affair tomorrow night.

A spokesman for the syndicated show, which airs on selected Fox network stations, confirmed yesterday that the video shot by Norway House ferry operator Bobby Clarke on April 16 will hit the airwaves tomorrow.

She would not say how much the show paid for the tape or how they acquired it.

The segment will include interviews with sasquatch experts who have seen the video.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Gorilla portrait up for art prize

smile monkey

A painting of a gorilla with a camera is among the pictures shortlisted for this year's BP Portrait Award.

Monkey Painting by Conor Walton, which features the artist holding a gorilla, is among the four portraits shortlisted for the prestigious prize.

The picture is the artist's updating of the 17th-Century monkey painting genre, in which apes were often shown in clothes or performing human actions.

The winner of the 25th anniversary prize will be announced on June 13.

They will receive a cash prize of £25,000 and a commission worth £4,000.

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Zoo forced to euthanize ill gorilla

ill gorilla

Officials at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo say they were forced to euthanize one of their gorillas this week. Zookeepers say the 7-year-old gorilla, named Mumbali, and her 9-year-old sister, Rollie, became ill about three weeks ago.

Zoo officials said Rollie appears to be recovering, but Mumbali kept getting worse, despite intravenous medications, blood transfusions and even dialysis. Curators said Mumbali was euthanized on Thursday. None of the zoo's other gorillas show any signs of illness.

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Monkey snatches handbag

A WOMAN leaving for home after offering prayers at the Batu Caves hilltop temple lost her handbag to a monkey, Tamil Nesan reported.

It quoted S. Prema, 24, as relating that she was climbing down the steps when the monkey grabbed her handbag and ran off.

Prema and her friends, who are from Johor, had decided to make a visit to the temple after completing their work in Kuala Lumpur.

She and her friends tried to coax the monkey into returning the handbag containing RM300, a gold chain, handphone and an ATM card by throwing bananas at it but it refused to release the bag and disappeared into the thick undergrowth.

Story here.