Thursday, December 14, 2006

Monkey Day!!!

happy monkey day!
Happy Monkey Day!!! Please fling your poo responsibly!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A moment of monkey flesh zen...

monkey flesh venderA man narrowly escaped arrest after illegally selling monkey flesh for 600 yuan per kilogram early on Tuesday morning in Haikou, capital of south China's Hainan province.

The man beat a gong to advertise his wares, but fled before the public security bureau could apprehend him.

Nanguo Metropolitan Newspaper reports the vendor claimed his monkey flesh was fresh from south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The meat sold quickly and one client purchased the brain for 300 yuan. By the time the man had to flee, only one leg was left.

The paper said some residents who wanted to buy the flesh were deterred by the high price of 600 yuan, or 76 US dollars, per kilogram. Others disapproved of the practice, saying it's cruel to kill a monkey and sell it as food.

An official from the Haikou Forestry Public Security Bureau said killing monkeys and selling their meat breaks the laws protecting wild animals. The illegal profits should be seized by the industry and commerce authorities, or a department for wildlife administration.

If apprehended, the vendor will also be fined six to ten times the total sum of money he made from his sales.

Story here.

Animal rights groups blast support for monkey tests

A report backing the use of monkeys in academic research was denounced by animal welfare groups yesterday.

The Weatherall committee, a group of experts set up by four leading scientific bodies, said there was a "strong scientific case" for allowing certain experiments on non-human primates.

But animal welfare organisations condemned the 18-month inquiry as a "whitewash" and a wasted opportunity.

They were especially critical of the absence of animal welfare representatives on the committee and its failure to consider the use of monkeys in drug tests.

Each year about 3,300 monkeys are involved in scientific or medical research in the UK - about 0.1 per cent of all animals used.

Three-quarters of these animals are used for testing the safety of new medicines. Only about 450 are involved in academic research.

It was this aspect of primate research that was examined by the expert group led by Oxford geneticist and professor of medicine Sir David Weatherall.

The inquiry group, set up by the Royal Society, the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust and the Academy of Medical Sciences began in March 2005.

Over the course of ten meetings, it heard evidence from 35 witnesses, including representatives from academic organisations, animal welfare groups, the government and industry, as well as patients.

A total of 62 written submissions were also received.

The experts made 16 recommendations, including the setting up of a small number of specialist research centres where monkeys could be kept in the best possible conditions.

They envisaged about four centres, each housing around 100 monkeys.

The report also called for more information about the use of non-human primates in research to be made public.

It accepted that new techniques that did not involve animals, particularly in the areas of brain imaging and computer modelling, were reducing the need for monkeys in research.

For this reason, the report said, research proposals involving monkeys should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Michelle Thew, the chief executive of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said: "This is yet another whitewash. They say the end justifies the means when it comes to research on non-human primates, but they haven't proved that.

"We don't need new primate research centres," she said. "What we need are cutting-edge new centres looking at modern, 21st-century techniques that don't cause animals to suffer."

Dr Vicky Robinson, the chief executive of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), which investigates ways to avoid animal experiments, said the report should have gone further.

Dr Robinson said: "It is disappointing that, despite a ringing endorsement for the work being done to reduce primate use, the report did not go far enough in trying to map out the priorities for development and adoption of alternatives.

"Nor did it identify what gaps in our understanding need to be broached to move forward in areas that seem less promising. The committee has therefore missed an opportunity to give some much-needed direction in this critical aspect of the debate on using primates for research, which is central to helping society resolve the serious ethical dilemmas involved."

Story here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Report defends monkey experiments in Britain

monkey testingThe UK's leading research organisations are expected to back the continued use of primates in scientific experiments.

The Weatherall committee is expected to back the use of non-human primates for studies that can reduce human suffering and loss of life.

Fewer than 1% of animal tests are conducted on primates and the committee has spent 18 months examining if these are sound and relevant to humans.

Anti-vivisectionists are firmly opposed to research involving primates.

BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh said research on primates caused particular controversy because they were more sentient than other laboratory animals and so suffered more.

The committee, led by Oxford geneticist Professor Sir David Weatherall, heard evidence from 35 people, including representatives from academic organisations, animal welfare groups, the government and patients.

It also received 62 written submissions.

The inquiry was set up the Royal Society, Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council and the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Just over 4,500 experiments were carried out on primates last year, mostly to test new drugs.

The scientific community has long argued that there is no other safe way to test many new drugs or carry out certain types of brain research.

However, opponents insist primates are poor models for human disease, and say such research has failed to produce treatments for leading killers including heart disease and malaria.

The use of great apes, including chimpanzees and gorillas, is prohibited in the UK.

Story here.

South Africa Delays "Taipeng Four" Returning to Cameroon

South Africa's government has delayed the return to Cameroon this week of four endangered gorillas smuggled to Malaysia four years ago, the group organising the transfer said on Monday.

Cameroon has lobbied hard for the return of the young Western Lowland gorillas, dubbed the "Taipeng Four", who were shipped illegally to Malaysia's Taipeng Zoo in 2002 then sent two years later to South Africa, violating the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The four, who are at Pretoria zoo, had been due to be flown early on Wednesday to Cameroon, where their intended new home was the Limbe Wildlife Centre.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which had agreed to fund the return of the animals to Cameroon, said South Africa's government had delayed the transfer.

"This eleventh hour decision to delay the return of the gorillas was entirely unexpected," IFAW's spokeswoman Christina Pretorius said in a statement sent to Reuters.

She added: "We understand that under the terms of CITES, South Africa, as the recipient state of the four gorillas that were confiscated in Malaysia, does not have the authority to re-export the animals".

She said South Africa was arguing that the final decision on where to place the animals rested with the authorities of Malaysia, the state where the apes were confiscated after it was found that their import documents were falsified.

Ofir Drori, director of the Last Great Ape Organisation, one of the groups lobbying for the gorillas' return to Cameroon, said diplomatic negotiations were taking place to ensure the transfer could eventually go ahead as soon as possible.

"We are patient and very certain that the gorillas will return to Cameroon," Drori said.

The fate of the great grey-brown apes, which weigh up to 275 kg (600 lb) and live deep within central Africa's tropical rainforests, has infuriated wildlife protection groups.

DNA sampling commissioned by Pretoria zoo established that Cameroon was the most likely place of origin of the gorillas.

Story here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thai police arrest monkey smugglers after finding 36 dead macaques in a truck

Police found three dozen macaque monkeys dead in the back of a truck, and arrested two men who admitted to drugging the animals and stuffing them into sacks in order to smuggle them, authorities said Sunday.

Police stopped the truck at a checkpoint in Thailand's northeastern Amnat Charoen province. An inspection revealed the truck was carrying 65 monkeys, known as crab-eating macaques, of which 36 were dead, police Capt. Pitak Chompupeun.

The truck's driver and passenger were both arrested and face up to four years in prison on smuggling and related charges.

The two men told investigators they had stolen the monkeys from a national park and admitted to feeding them food laced with tranquilizers, which may have been a factor in the deaths, Pitak said.

Their plan was to sell the monkeys to black market traders who pay about 2,000 baht (US$55, €45) per animal, the men told police.

The surviving monkeys were returned to their national park.

Story here.

2 Hollywood Chimps Head to Sanctuary

chimpsTwo chimpanzees who appeared in numerous movies and TV shows were removed from a ranch and will retire to a sanctuary to settle a lawsuit alleging animal cruelty, an animal rights group said.

The chimps were trucked out of San Bernardino on Saturday and were expected to arrive at their new home in New Mexico on Sunday, said Lisa Franzetta, a spokeswoman for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. A third chimp will be shipped to Florida next week, she said.

"We're thrilled that they're not going to be forced to perform unwillingly anymore," Franzetta said. "This is such a happy day to see these chimpanzees being retired."

The chimps have appeared in productions such as TV's "That 70s Show" and "The Craig Kilborn Show," and the upcoming movie "Evan Almighty." They were raised from a young age by trainer Sid Yost, who runs Amazing Animal Productions Inc.

Animal Legal Defense Fund and other groups sued Yost last year in federal court, accusing him of beating the chimps with sticks, using an electric shock stick on them and punching, taunting and intimidating the animals.

Yost did not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement.

The defense fund is part of a coalition of primatologists, attorneys, scientists and actors who have started a campaign called "No Reel Apes" to call for an end to the use of primates in entertainment. They contend apes are poorly treated and infants are often separated from their mothers.

Sarah Baeckler, a primatologist with a group called the Chimpanzee Collaboratory who worked undercover at Yost's San Bernardino ranch, claims she saw the chimps being beaten to make them perform.

Yost denied abusing the animals and said he was unhappy the chimps were leaving.

"I love 'em and I'll miss 'em," he said last week in a telephone interview.

Yost said he was legally forbidden to reveal details of the settlement. But Tobin Dunlea, who has been an animal trainer at the ranch for seven years, said Yost agreed to give up the chimps and can no longer own or work with primates.

Story here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

3 Year Diet Slims Down Monkeys

obese monkeysMore than 200 chubby Tibetan macaque monkeys have slimmed down after a three-year diet on Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province.

The monkeys, under second-level state protection, once lived a decadent life in the 80-hectare ecological reserve in the Emei Mountain area. They greedily devoured junk food fed to them by tourists.

Amid fears that the monkeys were losing their wild instincts and becoming obese, zoologists launched the diet plan.

Hu Yongzhong, director of the monkey protection reserve, said, "The macaques were used to asking for food from tourists. Half of their food came from eating wild plants, the other half came from tourists."

Naughty tourists were feeding macaques fatty snacks. Many of the monkeys had high blood pressure and a high lipid content due to the unhealthy diet, according to Hu.

"A normal adult macaque weighs about 25 kilograms, but many ballooned to 45kg," Hu said.

With the monkeys growing more sluggish and lazy, and in danger of losing their instincts, staff on Emei Mountain took action.

The most important part of the plan was to control the diet of the Tibetan macaques,'' said Jian Hongbo, deputy director of Qingyinge administrative office with the Emei Mountain Administrative Committee.

"We told tourists that they could only feed them food such as raw pignuts, corn and raisins," said Jian.

"At the beginning, many tourists did not understand. One elderly American woman complained that she had brought the food all the way from her home."

The zoo staff also imposed a limit on the amount of time the monkeys spent with tourists so they would be forced to provide for themselves in the forest.

Story here.

Ebola virus threatens to wipe out gorilla population

gorilla and babyThe Ebola virus has killed more than 5,000 western lowland gorillas in the past four years according to scientists who warn that the world's largest ape is suffering a dramatic population decline that could soon lead to its total extinction.

The virus is one of the deadliest infectious agents known to man. It also affects other primate species and its rapid spread among chimps and gorillas in parts of central Africa has alarmed conservationists. A study published in the journal Science is one of the first to estimate accurately the number of western lowland gorillas affected by the epidemic, which appears to spread from ape to ape.

Before the latest study, scientists were not sure whether Ebola was spreading into apes from other animals in the forest which acted as natural "reservoirs" of the virus. The latest findings suggest there is direct transmission from one ape to another.

The type of Ebola virus killing the gorillas is known as the Zaire strain which has repeatedly infected humans in Gabon and Congo, said Magdalene Bermejo of the Ecoystemes Forestiers d'Afrique Centrale, based in Libreville, Gabon.

"During each human outbreak, carcasses of western gorillas and chimpanzees have been found in neighbouring forests," said Dr Bermejo, a primatologist whose study of the gorillas' deaths with colleagues from Germany and Spain is published in Science.

Dr Bermejo was part of a project that was studying 10 social groups of gorillas, totalling some 143 individuals, living in the vicinity of the Lossi Sanctuary in Congo.

In late 2001, human outbreaks of Ebola flared up along the border between Gabon and Congo. In June 2002 the first dead gorilla was found 15km from the Lossi sanctuary.

By October, gorillas were dying within the sanctuary and, over the next four months, the scientists counted 32 carcasses. A dozen were tested for Ebola and nine tested positive for the Zaire strain of Ebola.

Between October 2002 and January 2003, 130 of the 143 gorillas that were being studied as part of the gorilla project had died - a mortality rate of more than 90 per cent. In the following months further carcasses were reported in parts of the forest further south of the sanctuary.

The virus appeared to be spreading from one gorilla group to another in a sequential manner consistent with ape-to-ape transmission, the scientists said.

A survey of nesting sites used by gorillas living in a 2,700 sq km area surrounding the Lossi sanctuary found that the number of occupied nests had fallen by 96 per cent.

The scientists estimated that would suggest about 5,000 gorillas living in the region had been killed by the Ebola virus since the epidemic began in 2002.

Story here.

Monkey on the loose in Goldsboro

goldsboro monkey looseFrankie Piscopo's pet monkey has been on quite an adventure for the last week.

After running away from her home in Nahunta to mourn the death of her mate, the monkey showed up all over the countryside -- even as far away as Goldsboro.

As Piscopo searched for his friend, the primate was busy putting on a show for the clients who live at the Magnolia House for people who have disabilities and go to school at the Vocational Rehab Center. They named her Maggie.

After they were done feeding her, the 38 clients left the dorm for school.

She strolled through the back yard in the silence.

Every so often, staff members would gravitate to the dining room where they first spotted her. Each time she showed up, they would run for the back door to snap photos out the window. They had to take pictures, they said. Nobody believed them when they first started talking about the monkey.

Residential Manager Charlotte Wooten said the staff members spotted Maggie Monday.

"We've been excited. I was excited all day yesterday, especially after I got some really good pictures," she said. "We've all been walking around three days with cameras in our pockets."

Ms. Wooten said she called Animal Control, and when the officer showed up Wednesday, so did Piscopo. They set a trap and placed some fruit inside.

Maggie entered a short way and reached for the fruit. But this monkey wasn't going to be fooled. Before the door could swing shut, she ran away.

The trap has been readjusted, but as of this morning, she had still not been caught.

Ms. Wooten said she went outside to take some pictures of Maggie Wednesday, but when the monkey turned and looked at her, they both ran.

But Piscopo said the monkey is harmless. When he got her -- and her male counterpart -- five years ago from a man in Snow Hill he was told they were "snomacats."

He learned about how far his monkey had traveled Wednesday when somebody called and told him she had been spotted in the vicinity of Magnolia Place. When the staff members asked him what her proper diet was, he told them she would eat anything they eat.

Piscopo said he had not named the monkeys. He said the male that died recently was more tame than the female.

"She was a little shy."

Story here.

"Little Foot" ruled out of man's ancestral line

little foot primate remainsAncient remains, once thought to be a key link in the evolution of mankind, have now been shown to be 400,000 years too young to be a part of man�s family tree.

The remains of the apeman, dubbed Little Foot, were discovered in a cave complex at Sterkfontein by a local South African team in 1997. Its bones preserved in sediment layers, it is the most complete hominid fossil skeleton ever found.

Little Foot is of the genus Australopithecus, thought by some to be part of the ancestral line which led directly to man. But research by Dr Jo Walker and Dr Bob Cliff of the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment, with Dr Alf Latham of Liverpool University's School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, shows the remains are more than a million years younger than earlier estimates.

The team used uranium lead chronology to date the remains. Working on extracts of stalagmite deposits from immediately above and below the body, they dated the skeleton at around 2.2 million years old.

Their findings, published in the American journal Science, are controversial. Earlier estimates had put the age of Little Foot at three to four million years old placing it potentially on a direct line to humans.

The first recognisable stone tools appeared in Africa around 2.6 million years ago, but they were not made by Australopiths. Rather it is thought the first tool maker was Homo habilis, whose evolution is believed to have led directly to man. Rather than being older than Homo habilis � and a possible direct ancestor � Little Foot is more likely a distant cousin.

His remains are cemented in hard mineral deposits in the Sterkfontein cave complex which has yielded a number of other ancient finds. It is thought he either fell down a shaft or somehow got trapped in the cave and died there to be covered by the sediment layers from which he is now being slowly extracted. These sediments are themselves sandwiched between stalagmite layers which provided the materials for the dating process.

Australopithecus walked on two legs, but stood just 130cm tall and had a brain comparable in size with a modern chimpanzee. As Dr Walker explained: �In many of these finds, the smallest bones have disintegrated, but here the feet and hands are well preserved - and these could enable researchers to show how well adapted this early primate was to walking on two feet.�

But the sediment encasing Little Foot is harder than the bone � making extracting him a painstaking process for the South African team.

And Drs Latham and Cliff have now turned their own attention to further Australopith findings at Makapansgat, also in South Africa, where other specimens of Australopithecus have been found.

Story here.

Loose Monkey Terrorizes Kanpur

A Monkey has become the biggest nuisance for residents of three localities in Kanpur. This monkey was first seen a month ago in the Roadways Employees Colony adjacent to the Zoological Garden.

The monkey bit many children and passers-by there. The local residents made several attempts to catch it but failed.

Later, they approached Zoo director R Hemant Kumara but the official was unable to help as Forest rules did not all zoo staff to catch animals.

He, however, on humanitarian grounds asked the zoo vet for help. The vet tried to use a tranquilizer gun but he has been unable to locate the monkey.

The monkey even managed to escape from a trap set by local residents.

Licensed monkey catcher in the state, Sardar Harbans Singh, too, has failed.

Meanwhile, this monkey managed to ‘raid’ Deendayal Nagar Colony and bit several people there.

On the other hand neither has the district administration managed to do much nor has the Health Department bothered to obtain injections for people who have been bitten by the monkey.

Killing of monkeys is prohibited so, till a solution is found, local residents are at the mercy of this dangerous monkey.

Story here.

Court Reprimands New Delhi Over Monkeys

monkey menaceA top court reprimanded authorities in the Indian capital for failing to stop hundreds of monkeys from terrifying residents, news reports said Thursday.

As forest cover around New Delhi has shrunk, the city has struggled with a growing simian population. Government buildings, temples and many residential neighborhoods are overrun by hundreds of Rhesus macaques. The animals will occasionally snatch food from unsuspecting passers-by and even bite them.

"If you can't control the monkeys, what can you do?" the Delhi High Court acerbically asked representatives of the various municipal authorities in a ruling responding to a petition filed by the harassed residents of a posh residential neighborhood. The court asked authorities to explain "what measures were being formulated to find a permanent solution to the monkey menace in the capital."

City authorities weren't immediately available for comment.

Over the years city authorities have tried various methods to deal with the problem. They've used monkey catchers who use langurs _ a larger and fiercer kind of simian _ to scare or catch the monkeys.

In 2002 the court asked that wildlife and municipal officials take measures to make sure that the problem was eradicated or at least significantly minimized, but the problem has persisted.

Earlier this year the country's Supreme Court ordered wildlife authorities to transport some 300 macaques from New Delhi to the dense jungles of Madhya Pradesh state. The government of that state was to receive $54,000 from the federal government to cover the cost of reintroducing the monkeys to the wild,

Other efforts by animal welfare agencies have been defeated, in part, by Hindus who believe that monkeys are manifestations of the monkey god Hanuman. The animals are often fed bananas and peanuts, which encourages them to frequent public places.

Story here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

In preparation for the upcoming Monkey Day...

A medley of pictures from news articles past to prepare you for the upcoming Monkey Day, using the now classic "I'M IN UR BASE" theme. Feel free to distribute and add your own in the comments:

i'm in ur bath

i'm in ur portman

i'm in ur research

i'm in ur fish

i'm in ur head

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Man in custody over beating monkeys

A man has been detained after he allegedly beat four monkeys with a wooden rod in the city of Foshan, Guangdong Province, over the weekend.

The man put on a monkey show in a busy street in Foshan's Chancheng District on Sunday morning, attracting many onlookers.

But a local woman told police she had seen the man using a wooden rod to beat the four monkeys for more than 40 minutes because they refused to follow his orders.

Police were on the scene in 30 minutes and detained the man.

Story here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Giant Gorilla Goes Missing In Carrollton

sale gorilla stolenThe hunt is on for a giant gorilla in Carrollton.

The 35-foot inflatable gorilla was last seen at a NTB tire store off Beltline and Interstate 35.

"I couldn't believe that somebody stole that," mechanic Mike Coates said.

Someone deflated the giant attraction and took off in the middle of the night, police said.

NBC 5 decided to hit the streets of Carrollton to see if people have seen the gorilla.

"Are you kidding? How do you steal a gorilla?" one resident said.

"That's scary: A gorilla on the loose this time of year with all the traffic," another said.

Even with similar inflatable gorillas around town, Coates said it would be hard to miss.

Until it's returned, NTB will have to work without their giant friend.

"If you're not using it, I'd like it back. We'd appreciate it," Coates said.

The gorilla has gray skin and is wearing blue boxers and a yellow shirt.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Carrollton police.

Story here.

Mysterious Epidemic may be Killing Guinean Chimps

A mysterious epidemic may be responsible for the disappearance of over half the chimpanzees at a colony in southeast Guinea, one of Africa's most important research sites for the primates, officials said Saturday.

Pepe Soropogui, head of the chimpanzee investigation at the Bossou Environmental Research Institute (IREB), said no more than 12 West African chimpanzees remain from a population of around 30 in 2002.

Primate experts are baffled by the dwindling population at Bossou, close to Mount Nimba in the border region with Ivory Coast and Liberia.

"There are theories that some chimpanzees have contracted a sort of bronchitis or pneumonia probably transmitted by man, but we are not sure because chimpanzees have funeral rites and take away the bodies after death," said Marie Claude Gauthier of the Jane Goodall Institute for wildlife research and conservation.

Chimpanzees share around 98 percent of man's genetic makeup and are sensitive to human diseases, she said.

Other theories include the migration of the chimps through the thick jungles towards Liberia or the Ivory Coast. "Nothing has been ruled out. It is a mystery," Gauthier said.

Chimpanzees have already disappeared from four countries in West Africa, leaving Guinea and Ivory Coast with the most important populations. According to the latest census, there are more than 8,000 chimpanzees in Guinea.

The population at Bossou is one of the oldest permanent colonies identified by researchers in the wild. Its chimps are known for using stone hammers to crack open palm oil nuts -- among the most sophisticated use of tools seen in nature.

The encroachment of nearby villages has threatened their habitat and food supplies as well as introducing disease.

"This situation is worrying and we are trying to find the cause of the deaths and disappearances. We still don't have the results of the tests," said Christine Sagno, national head of the water and forestry department.

"In the face of this threat, we have transported to the park in upper Niger, at Faranah, a sanctuary where we are going to welcome 45 chimpanzees in captivity," said Sagno.

Story here.

Uganda Family Shunned for Monkey Eating

Residents of Adok village, Dokolo district have decided to isolate a family of 10 over accusations that they eat monkeys.

John Ojuka and his family have for long been hunting monkeys in the area, saying they sell the meat to Sudanese in Lira town. Ojuka would also give residents sh2,000, for each monkey killed.

However, some curious residents kept monitoring the said business and discovered that Ojuka would not transport the meat to Lira but would consume it.

The LC1 chairman called a meeting and residents agreed never to go to Ojok's home.

Story here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Five monkeys had TB at Covance lab

Covance confirmed Thursday that five monkeys at its research laboratories in Madison were diagnosed with tuberculosis in June.

Thirty-two monkeys housed in the same room were euthanized to keep the illness from spreading, and additional monkeys that may have had "fleeting contact" with the infected animals were quarantined, Covance said.

It's the first case of tuberculosis among the company's Madison lab animals in 12 years, the company said in a written statement.

No Covance employee tested positive for the illness. "The public was never at risk at any time," the statement said.

"Monkeys are more likely to get tuberculosis from humans than the other way around," said Susan LaBelle, Covance vice president of global marketing, in Madison.

Covance, one of the world's largest drug testing companies, is one of Madison's largest employers, with about 1,300 employees. Its East Side campus, on Kinsman Boulevard near the Dane County Regional Airport, has undergone several big expansions in recent years.

Tuberculosis in monkeys housed in research labs was once fairly common but is now rare, said Dr. Taylor Bennett, Chicago, a veterinarian and associate vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

"Every once in a while, an institution will get a shipment of monkeys that has picked up tuberculosis somewhere," said Bennett, who is also a paid consultant for Covance.

Covance sent a letter to the state veterinarian about the problem on June 22, said spokeswoman Donna Gilson of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The company commented publicly on the monkey illness after a Chandler, Ariz., citizens group made the incident public. Citizens Against Covance member Michael Boerman said he obtained the documents from DATCP through a public records request.

"I think what bothers me the most is, No. 1, the fact that Covance didn't have the safeguards in place to prevent this kind of thing," said Boerman.

Citizens Against Covance is fighting the Princeton, N.J. company's effort to build laboratories in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb. Animal-rights activists also have staged protests against the plans.

Boerman said Covance did not say when or from where the monkeys were imported, according to the papers released to him. He also claimed Covance sold monkeys to other research organizations without telling them about the tuberculosis.

LaBelle said Covance maintains "precise" quarantine records that show how and when its research animals enter the country, and said monkeys from the company's Madison labs are not sold to other research organizations.

She had no immediate information about how many monkeys are housed in Covance's Madison labs or how many employees have contact with the animals. But she said the company has "rigorous standards and procedures designed around worker safety and animal health" that reflect standard practice in the industry and conform to Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

Story here.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Monkey Spit and Chewed Leaves Make A Great Deodorant

monkey spit perfumeWhat may be the most natural cologne in the world was recently discovered in a Mexican forest. The ingredients? Monkey spit and chewed up leaves.

According to a paper in this month's issue of the journal Primates, male Mexican spider monkeys chew the leaves of three aromatic plants: the Alamos pea tree, which has fragrant leaves and flowers, a flowering trumpet tree, and wild celery.

The ritual, which typically takes anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes, was deemed monkey "self-anointing" by Matthias Laska, a professor of zoology at Linkoping University in Sweden.

Laska and his colleagues observed the behavior 20 times in two male spider monkeys that were part of a free-ranging group at the Parque de Flora y Fauna Silvestra Tropical in Veracruz, Mexico.

The researchers determined the monkeys always applied just one plant species at a time. The application was routine, not unlike a man who regularly spritzes on deodorant or cologne.

"In the majority of cases, the arm that did not hold the scent-bearing material was held high or grabbed a branch above the animal," Laska and his team wrote.

While this is the first reported case of such behavior in wild Mexican spider monkeys, similar routines have been spotted among both male and female capuchin monkeys, owl monkeys, other spider monkeys and lemurs. In most of these cases, the scientists speculated that the leaf mash might have been used to mitigate topical skin infections or repel bugs.

Laska and his team, however, found that of the plants used by the Mexican spider monkeys, only wild celery is known to have insect-repelling compounds and anti-fungal properties. The other plants simply smell good.

The scientists, therefore, concluded that self-anointing "may play a role in the context of social communication, possibly for signaling of social status or to increase sexual attractiveness."

In other words, monkeys could do it for the same basic reasons people use cologne.

While the chemistry behind this remains a mystery, the odors may mimic those of fragrant, naturally occurring primate steroids, which are presumed to act as sex-stimulating pheromones. Laska conducted an earlier study that found spider monkeys are particularly gifted at sniffing out such scents.

Story here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Monkeys Feast In Lopburi

monkey banquetIn the Thai village of Lopburi, hundreds of locals gather to greet the primates as they arrive to enjoy a lavish annual feast which includes some 2,000 kgs of fruit, cookies, candy and Thai desserts.

According to the town's legend, the domain of what is now Lopburi, once belonged to Hanuman the Monkey King. Locals are delighted that centuries later, some 3,000 monkeys still rule the area around the town's most sacred sites.

The annual banquet is organised by the town's local hotel. The manager says the aim of the party is to thank the monkeys for attracting tourists and business to Lopburi.

Local Hotelier Yongyuth Kitwatananuson said, "Each year we celebrate by preparing a monkey banquet. Every year as we make the monkey banquet, it seems like our business also gets better."

Although the monkeys live in downtown Lopburi and are not afraid of humans, they are far from being domesticated and their table manners leave much to be desired.

Sitting in the middle of the table and initiating a food fight seems to be standard practice during a monkey lunch. And, if you're lucky, for dessert, you might even manage to hog an entire ice block filled with fruit.

Despite the nuisance of having thousands of monkeys scampering about town, there is no question that the annual event brings joy to the local villagers. According to Thai beliefs, donating food to monkeys is a way of accruing good karma.

Story here.

Chimps have distinctive grunts for different kinds of food

Researchers have added chimpanzees to the list of intelligent animals, which have the ability to produce their own distinctive word like calls for specific things.

According to the study in this month's Animal Behaviour, vocalizations indicate what's on the animals' minds, for chimps also do the same for bananas, mangoes and bread.

Researchers Katie Slocombe and Klaus Zuberb�hler discovered that captive chimps created referential, vocal labels for these particularly coveted foods.

"Our analyses surprisingly showed that grunts to banana, bread and mango were acoustically distinct. It is very possible, therefore, that recipients can use this information to draw inferences about the type of food encountered by the caller," Discovery News quoted Zuberb�hler, a researcher in the School of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland as saying.

The scientists studied 11 chimpanzees at the Edinburgh Zoo, as well as a community of chimps in the wild at the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda.

For each group, the researchers first identified the chimps' favourite foods. For the zoo animals, the scientists were even able to determine their medium-preferred foods (grapes, plums and chow) and their least favourites (apples, greens and carrots).

Wild chimps, on the other hand seemed to favour spending most of their time on trees and feeding on a certain type of uncultivated fig.

Next, the scientists recorded the "rough grunt" calls the chimps emitted when they encountered the foods.

Computer analysis of these sounds revealed the zoo chimps repeatedly produced specific sounds linked to their favourite foods, while other calls were less distinctive.

"Grunts to highly preferred foods are more tonal and therefore easier to analyze. Hence, we cannot rule out that similar effects were also present within the medium and less preferred food items, but our acoustic analysis just did not pick it up," Zuberb�hler said.

While the scientists couldn't duplicate their findings for wild chimpanzees, they determined both captive and wild chimp calls were very similar, which Zuberb�hler said, suggested, "they were part of a universal chimp communication system when dealing with food".

Incidentally, previous studies have found that chimps produce distinct vocalizations when they encounter snakes, bullies, chimp victims and when they are hunting.

Story here.

Chimp Victim Sues Wildlife Trust

A-chimpanzee-care guide who was mauled by an animal three years ago, has sued the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT) for negligence.

Tonny Muhebwa is seeking to recover sh14,675,000 as special damages, being the money he spent on treatment.

According to a plaint filed by Kampala Associated Advocates on November 11, Muhebwa wants the High Court to compel CSWCT to compensate him in general and punitive damages.

He said on February 8, 2003, while on duty at the Veterinary Training Institute in Entebbe, where he was looking after three chimpanzees, Dosi, Kipara and Zolo, Dosi broke loose from its metallic confinement and attacked him.

Muhebwa said the animals had been allegedly imported from Tanzania by CSWCT. He said Dosi mauled him and he suffered extensive bleeding, and had to undergo several operations.

Story here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Three New Species of World's Smallest Primate

lemur primate trapDeep in the forests of Madagascar German scientists have discovered three new species of the world's smallest primate, the mouse lemur. But the habitat these tiny creatures call home is now being threatened by mass deforestation.

Three years have passed since three new species of mouse lemur -- mircocebus bongolavensis, microcebus danfossi and microcebus lokobensis were discovered by German scientists in the forests of Madagascar. Nevertheless, a lot of time can pass before an animal species is officially "baptized" with a scientific name. The road to obtaining an official Latin name is a long one -- filled with pitfalls and hurdles that involve a painstaking research process into the new species that ends with a peer-reviewed study published in a scientific journal. Only after other scientists review the research, corrections are made and it is successfully defended can the scientific baptism finally be completed.

Three species of mouse lemurs have now put this procedure behind them and they are officially the newest species of the primate world. Working together with colleagues in Madagascar, scientists at the Institute for Zoology at the University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo) in Hanover, Germany discovered and classified the animals. The results of their research will be published in the forthcoming issue of the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

In an expedition that began in 2003 and ended last year, the research team went to Madagascar to study the dispersal patterns of lemurs. The group visited the island between May and October -- the dry season -- to observe the populations. But the work was by no means easy. "The forests there are shrinking and we had difficulties working out where the mouse lemurs were," TiHo's Ute Radespiel told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Story here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Worker finds monkey’s face on coconut

An odd-job worker, who bought a sack of coconuts for a relative’s kenduri, was shocked to find one of the coconuts had the features of a monkey’s face etched on the shell.

Sulaiman Ahmad, 37, from Kampung Telok Temelah, Baling, found this after peeling off the husk.

He said he had bought 104 coconuts from a shop in Sungai Korok, Alor Star, a few days ago for the kenduri to be held on Monday.

He said except for one coconut which was very small, the rest were of normal size .

“The coconut had a thick husk and the thick shell was slightly oblong instead of round.

“I was peeling the husk and was surprised to find what looked like the eyes, nose and chin of a monkey carved on the shell,” he said.

Sulaiman said hundreds of visitors starting coming to his house after they heard about the strange find.

He said a traditional medicine man had offered him RM500 for the coconut but he turned it down.

“I just want to keep it as a remembrance as it is so unusual. And I don’t think I want to break it either,” he added.

Story here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Kick-boxing orangutans head home from Thailand

Nearly 50 smuggled orangutan rescued from a Thai amusement park began the long trip home to their native Indonesia on Tuesday as one of the world's largest cases of great ape trafficking finally drew to a close.

Two years after a raid on Bangkok's Safari World theme park, where many of the endangered apes had to stage mock kick-boxing bouts, 48 orangutan were loaded into special metal cages at a rescue centre in Ratchaburi, 125 km (80 miles) west of Bangkok.

Indonesian officials wearing T-shirts inscribed "Welcome Home" watched the loading.

The orangutan were to be taken by road to the Thai capital to be put onto an Indonesian C-130 military transport plane for the flight to Jakarta. They are due to feted on arrival by the wife of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

For Thai and Indonesian wildlife officials, their departure is a moment they thought would never happen as investigations into the background of the increasingly endangered reddish-brown primates became mired in the courts, corruption and delay.

Safari World's owners said originally the 115 orangutan seized by wildlife police were the result of a successful domestic breeding programme -- even though DNA tests eventually proved many of them had been taken illegally from Indonesia.

The test results set the wheels in motion for their eventual departure from Thailand, a hub of the international illegal wildlife trade.

However, at least 27 of the animals died or disappeared from custody and a string of legal battles involving wildlife activists, the forestry police and the National Parks department threatened to delay their departure indefinitely.

They had been due to leave in September, but a military coup against Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra scuppered those carefully laid plans.

"We've had to wait for a long time for the long process of courts, quarantines and DNA tests, but it's a great success," said Pornchai Patumrattanathan, head of the Khao Pratubchang Wildlife Breeding Centre, where the animals have been housed.

Indonesian officials said the apes would spend two months in quarantine before undergoing a rehabilitation programme of up to two years prior to their release back into the jungles of Borneo.

Story here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Male Chimps Prefer Older Females

Males chimps prefer older femalesMales prefer older females, at least in the chimp world, scientists now report.

These findings, reported in the Nov. 21 issue of the journal Current Biology, could shed light on how the more chimp-like ancestors of humans might have behaved, said researcher Martin Muller, a biological anthropologist at Boston University.

Human men often prefer young women. One reason for this, scientists propose, lies in the human proclivity to form unusually long-term mating pairs. When combined with the natural urge to beget as many children as possible, since a woman's fertility is limited by age, men would find young women more sexually attractive.

Chimpanzees, unlike humans, do not form mating partnerships for long, and are instead promiscuous. Moreover, female chimps show no evidence of menopause, which means their fertility is not limited by age. This suggested male chimps might not care about the age of a mate as humans do.

To test this prediction, Muller and his colleagues at Harvard investigated chimpanzees at Kibale National Park in Uganda for eight years.

"It takes a lot of effort to find them in the forest and to follow them through a lot of thick vegetation and to try and record all this," Muller recalled.

Surprisingly, the scientists found male chimps preferred older females. Males approached older females more often for sex, and preferred clustering around older females that were in heat. Older females also had sex more frequently with high-ranking males and more regularly triggered male-on-male aggression during mating contests.

"The stereotypical view of human mating involves males wanting to be promiscuous and females being coy, but in chimps you see young females being very interested in mating with all the males, maybe going male to male and presenting their sexual swellings, sometimes grabbing their penis and playing with them, and the males just ignore them," Muller told LiveScience.

It remains uncertain as to why male chimps would prefer older females, as opposed to not caring about age at all.

"Hormonal data collected noninvasively from urine samples suggest older females are more fecund. Perhaps this is a matter of their higher rank— older females tend to be dominant over younger ones, which gives them preferred access to the best foods, so they may be more likely to conceive," Muller said.

In addition, the older females get, the more fit they might show themselves to be against the hardships of life, and thus could lead to equally robust children, which males could find attractive. Alternatively, older females might have accumulated mothering experience, leading to increased infant survivorship. "Or it might be any combination of these, or all of them," Muller said.

To tease out why exactly human men favor young women and chimp males prefer older females, Muller suggested researching what other primate males look for, such as gibbons, who like humans form long-term mating pairs but like chimps do not have menopause.

Story here.

Chimp Haven gets seven chimps from embattled San Antonio facility

chimps san antonioSeven chimpanzees that are at the center of a custody battle were welcomed into their new home at Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville early Friday morning following a 10-hour journey from an animal facility in Texas.

Sarah, Keeli, Ivy, Sheba, Darrell, Harper and Emma were transferred in March from Ohio State University to Primarily Primates in San Antonio. The Texas attorney general’s office seized control of Primarily Primates on Oct. 13 based on allegations of misappropriation of charitable funds, neglect and mistreatment of animals.

“The former Ohio State chimpanzees have endured a lack of adequate food, housing and medical care while at Primarily Primates," Lee Theisen-Watt, the Texas-appointed receiver who now operates the San Antonio facility, says in a press release. "The current animal population at Primarily Primates far exceeds the carrying capacity of this facility. Relocating this first group of chimpanzees to Chimp Haven is a compassionate and smart move.”

Sixty-seven other chimpanzees remain at Primarily Primates along with other primates, birds and cats.

“Chimp Haven is proud to step forward to assist the chimpanzees in need,” said Dr. Linda Brent, the sanctuary's president and director. “These special chimpanzees deserve a good home and to live out their lives among friends. I only wish we could help the chimpanzees left behind.”

Story here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Clever Bonobo Again Triggers Fire Alarm

chimp panbishaPanbanisha the bonobo is up to her tricks again. For the second time in two months, the 20-year-old animal triggered a fire alarm at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa research center.

The trouble started at about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, when Panbanisha wanted to go outside but the staff was too busy to let her out, trust officials said. Panbanisha then apparently lost her temper and pulled the alarm, officials said.

It's a trick Panbanisha initially learned in October when she saw a welder start the alarm. It took her less than a day to learn how to duplicate the excitement.

When the alarm sounded again the next morning, "I went to check on Pan, and she was sitting there next to it with a smile on her face," said lead scientist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh last month.

Savage-Rumbaugh said she explained the danger of such mischief and Panbanisha promised not to do it again.

Panbanisha is one of seven bonobos at the Great Ape Trust and was among the first group to arrive in April 2005. Bonobos are one of the most human-like of the great apes and have sophisticated language skills.

Trust spokesman Al Setka said there are fire alarms throughout the center. The one Panbanisha triggered was about the level of a light switch and had a pull handle, he said.

Trust officials said they will cover the alarms to prevent a third prank from Panbanisha.

Story here.

New DNA sequencing of Neanderthals sheds light on their relations with humans

Latest DNA sequencing of bone material from a Neanderthal man has given clear indications that the Neanderthals are distant relatives of humans and that they were more than 99.5 per cent genetically identical to the modern man.

Two international teams working on DNA samples recovered from the leg bone of the Neanderthal who died 38,000 years ago also found that Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern human beings rarely interbred. No matter how much interbreeding may have taken place in the nearly half-a-million years that the two were separate species, it left little or no mark on the genetic code of either one, the researchers say.

Edward Rubin, a researcher at the U.S. energy department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a senior author of a study appearing in the journal Science, says there is no evidence of mixing 40,000, 30,000 years ago in Europe. "We do not exclude it, but see no evidence," he says.

Rubin's team had collaborated with a team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, led by Svante Paabo, a group that first extracted ancient mitochondrial DNA from a Neanderthal sample some 10 years ago. The two teams used different methods to isolate and sequence part of the Neanderthal's DNA.

Paabo's team had reported its work in 1997, saying Neanderthals did not mix with modern humans. Even Rubin's genetic analysis of the Neanderthals suggest that there was little sexual contact between the two, at least according to the genes recovered from the bone, which the researchers found belonged to a male, who lived in Croatia.

Both Neanderthals and modern humans had descended from Homo erectus, which left Africa and spread around the world about 1.5 million years ago. While Neanderthals lived in Europe and the Middle East until about 30,000 years ago, the ancestors of modern humans, known as Cro-Magnon, had migrated out of African about 10,000 years earlier.

By comparing the genes of the Neanderthals with some of those from the complete human gene map, the researchers have calculated that Neanderthals differed from humans by about three million base pairs of genes, out of a total code of more than three billion pairs. The genetic code of chimpanzees differs from humans' by about 50 million base pairs.

The researchers believe between 500,000 and 700,000 years ago the two lineages had split but they continued to interbreed, yet drifting apart genetically. About 370,000 years ago, the mixing stopped and the family tree split, with one branch becoming the Neanderthals and the other humans. This conclusion has been possible after assessing some 1.1 million DNA letters of the Neanderthal genome.

Paabo and Rubin are now working to deliver a rough draft of a Neanderthal genome in about two years.

All the while, researchers have been wondering what actually led to the extinction of the Neanderthals and whether the two human species interbred during the millennia when they belonged to the same environment and habitat.

Genetic experts are thrilled at the development. They say a three-way comparison, now possible, between the human, chimpanzee and Neanderthal genomes will help scientists understand how the modern humans became unique.

Story here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Human brain genes differ widely from those of chimps

Six million years ago, chimpanzees and humans diverged from a common ancestor and evolved into unique species. Now UCLA scientists have identified a new way to pinpoint the genes that separate us from our closest living relative and make us uniquely human. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports the study in its Nov. 13 online edition.

"We share more than 95 percent of our genetic blueprint with chimps," explained Dr. Daniel Geschwind, principal investigator and Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine. "What sets us apart from chimps are our brains: homo sapiens means 'the knowing man.'

"During evolution, changes in some genes altered how the human brain functions," he added. "Our research has identified an entirely new way to identify those genes in the small portion of our DNA that differs from the chimpanzee's."

By evaluating the correlated activity of thousands of genes, the UCLA team identified not just individual genes, but entire networks of interconnected genes whose expression patterns within the brains of humans varied from those in the chimpanzee.

"Genes don't operate in isolation each functions within a system of related genes," said first author Michael Oldham, UCLA genetics researcher. "If we examined each gene individually, it would be similar to reading every fifth word in a paragraph you don't get to see how each word relates to the other. So instead we used a systems biology approach to study each gene within its context."

The scientists identified networks of genes that correspond to specific brain regions. When they compared these networks between humans and chimps, they found that the gene networks differed the most widely in the cerebral cortex -- the brain's most highly evolved region, which is three times larger in humans than chimps.

Secondly, the researchers discovered that many of the genes that play a central role in cerebral cortex networks in humans, but not in the chimpanzee, also show significant changes at the DNA level.

"When we see alterations in a gene network that correspond to functional changes in the genome, it implies that these differences are very meaningful," said Oldham. "This finding supports the theory that variations in the DNA sequence contributed to human evolution."

Relying on a new analytical approach developed by corresponding author Steve Horvath, UCLA associate professor of human genetics and biostatistics, the UCLA team used data from DNA microarrays vast collections of tiny DNA spots -- to map the activity of virtually every gene in the genome simultaneously. By comparing gene activity in different areas of the brain, the team identified gene networks that correlated to specific brain regions. Then they compared the strength of these correlations between humans and chimps.

Many of the human-specific gene networks identified by the scientists related to learning, brain cell activity and energy metabolism.

"If you view the brain as the body's engine, our findings suggest that the human brain fires like a 12-cylinder engine, while the chimp brain works more like a 6-cylinder engine," explained Geschwind. "It's possible that our genes adapted to allow our brains to increase in size, operate at different speeds, metabolize energy faster and enhance connections between brain cells across different brain regions."

Future UCLA studies will focus on linking the expression of evolutionary genes to specific regions of the brain, such as those that regulate language, speech and other uniquely human abilities.

Story here.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ben the Gorilla Drowns at Jacksonville Zoo

ben the gorillaIt's a sad day at the Jacksonville Zoo as zookeepers, staff and visitors say goobye to Ben, the 21-year old gorilla.

Ben was one of four male gorillas at the zoo. He died yesterday when he slipped and fell into a moat.

Craig Miller is the zoo's curator of mammals.

"These gorillas are very popular animals, and can be so personable, with their own unique personalities, can't help but be attached to them," says Miller.

Ben died in a bizzare accident that happened while he was chasing and playing with another gorilla named Quito.

Ben slipped on this embankment and fell over into the shallow moat and drowned.

Staff was right outside the walls, but couldn't get there in time.

"The vets were on him immediately trying to resesitate him, but were too late by then obviously," says Miller.

The water was only about waist high, but Ben made no attempt to sit up or swim.

Miller and other zoo staff who had known Ben for years are taking the loss hard.

Grief counselors have even been called in to help.

"You know they're taking it hard and are upset but there are still other animals to take care of and they've handled it well, I'm proud of them," says Miller.

Story here.

Stowaway monkey presumed dead

Australian quarantine staff are nearly certain a wild monkey spotted on a ship due to arrive in Sydney this afternoon is dead.

The 260-metre vessel CSCL New York left Hong Kong last month and crew members spotted a monkey, believed to have been a wild macaque, some weeks ago but there has been no sign of it over the last six days.

A spokesman for the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service said food and water left out for the monkey remained untouched.

"We are not expecting the monkey to still be alive," the spokesman said. "The food and water the crew left out has not been touched; there have been no droppings found. We would be looking for the remains."

Due in Port Botany at 5pm, the ship will be met at a buoy by quarantine staff and a veterinarian. If the animal is not found, the ship will be allowed to dock and then each container will be unloaded under the watchful eye of quarantine officers.

The company that owns the ship is the Canadian-based Seaspan Corporation.

"It would certainly mean a slow discharge [but] the crew on board that ship have been extremely helpful to us," the AQIS spokesman added. "They realise there are more important things at stake than time and money."

About 10 years ago a wild monkey sneaked on board a ship in China and found its way onto Australian shores in the Northern Territory. The animal was eventually captured and put down.

Wild monkeys could carry rabies or simian encephalitis.

"We haven't had rabies in Australia for a while and we plan to keep it that way," the AQIS spokesman said.

Story here.

Monkey form of HIV may be endemic in wild gorillas

A monkey virus similar to HIV is endemic in wild gorillas in Africa and was probably transmitted to them by chimpanzees, researchers said on Wednesday.

About 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS.

The origins of two of the three strains of the virus in humans have been traced back to monkeys in Africa infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) but the source of the third has been unknown, until now.

"It is the first time that someone has done a survey among wild gorillas to see whether they were infected with an SIV," said Martine Peeters, a virologist at the University of Montpellier in France.

"We showed they were infected and moreover they are infected with a virus that is closely related to HIV-1 and a particular variant O," she added in an interview.

HIV is thought to have been passed on to humans when they slaughtered infected chimpanzees for food. About 25 million people have died of HIV/AIDS since the virus was identified a quarter of a century ago.

There are three strains or groups of HIV -- M, N and O. Group M is the most common strain and has spread around the globe. Strain N is linked to few cases in Cameroon and group O represents about one percent of HIV/AIDS cases in Cameroon and surrounding countries.

"It is only there that we find it," Peeters explained, referring to the O strain.

She and her colleagues collected and examined hundreds of droppings from wild gorillas and chimpanzees living in remote forest areas in Cameroon. The animals are still hunted for food and medicines.

An analysis of the samples showed the gorillas were infected with a strain of SIV related to the O group. The infected gorillas lived nearly 400 kilometers (250 miles) apart so the scientists believe it is likely SIV infection is endemic in the animals.

"We have discovered it in gorillas but we think the primary reservoir are still chimpanzees. We think chimpanzees transmitted it to gorillas but we don't know who transmitted it to humans -- the gorilla or the chimp," Peeters, who reported the findings in the journal Nature, said.

How the animals acquired it is also a mystery because gorillas are vegetarians and encounters with chimpanzees are thought to be rare.

Knowing the origin of the HIV and that is crossing species is important for understanding what happens to the virus when it jumps species.

Story here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Orangutans flee Indonesia forest fires

orangutan missing hand
Dozens of endangered orangutans have been driven from their dwindling jungle habitat in Borneo by months of land-clearing fires that have shrouded parts of the region in a choking haze, conservationists said Monday.

Around 43 orangutans have been taken for medical treatment to centers in the Indonesian provinces of Central and West Kalimantan, said Anand Ramanathan, an emergency relief worker with the Washington-based International Fund for Animal Welfare, or IFAW.

Most were beaten by humans after fleeing from the burning jungle to nearby plantations in recent weeks, but several are being treated for respiratory problems and burns, he said.

Farmers and plantation companies set hundreds of land-clearing fires on Borneo and Sumatra each year, sending thick smoke into surrounding areas and neighboring Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. It has caused billions of dollars in business losses and in some cases health problems.

"Pristine jungle areas are being burnt," said Jennifer Miller, a relief worker with IFAW, which is helping Indonesia's Borneo Orangutan Survival group to recover and treat wounded orangutans. "It's extremely, extremely threatening.

"There is nothing worse than seeing an animal with a burnt face, blind and fleeing," she said ahead of a 9-day trip to Borneo.

Story here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ship told: catch or kill rogue monkey

The crew of a large cargo ship headed for Sydney have been told to catch or kill a rogue monkey running loose aboard the vessel or they will not be allowed to dock.

A spokesman for the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service said the container ship, said to be coming from China, was due in Australian waters within two days.

The ship's crew have sent Australian authorities photos of the animal in a bid to have it identified.

Although a spokesman said the shots were of a poor quality and showed only a "small brown blur", it was believed the monkey was a macaque.

The crew have no idea how the animal came to be aboard and say they have not been able to get close to it since first spotting it sitting on top of a container some weeks ago.

It has not been seen for almost three days.

The ship's captain has been advised of Australia's quarantine requirements and warned the monkey had to be captured or "appropriately disposed of" before the ship would be allowed to berth in Australia.

The AQIS spokesman said it "now appeared the animal was no longer a quarantine threat" as no droppings had been seen.

However, quarantine officers and a vet would board the ship if the monkey was not found to make their own inspection.

The ship would moor at a buoy out to sea while this was carried out.

If the monkey was still not found the ship - a large new container vessel - would probably be allowed to dock to unload, but it would a slow process as each contained would have to be kept under surveillance as it was moved and unloaded.

Quarantine agents are concerned that a wild monkey could carry rabies or even simian encephalitis.

"Apparently it's quite wild," the AQIS spokesman said.

"We will probably have to organize some kind of animal handler."

If the animal was caught it would sedated and euthanized, he said.

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said she hoped the animal would be dealt with in a humane manner.

Story here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Monkey shuts down island for seven hours

For more than seven hours today, the normal rhythm of life for Barbadians was disrupted by a power outage.

It affected schools, banks, large and small businesses and showed how integral electricity is to the functioning of a modern society.

A monkey out for an early morning climb probably caused the island wide power outage.

Chief Marketing Officer at the Barbados Light and Power Company, Stephen Worme says the incident occurred north of Codrington Hill, near Whitehall, between the Warrens and Haggatt Hall sub-stations.

The monkey is believed to have tripped a 24 000 and 11,000 volt circuit after it climbed a pole.

Mr. Worme says while they are still trying to find the monkey, they believe that it got the shock of its life.

Story here.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Great Ape pulls alarm at Great Ape Trust in Des Moines

One of the great apes at a research center in Des Moines was doing more than monkeying around -- she ended up with the fire department on the way.

Officials at the Great Ape Trust say a bonobo (bah-NOH-boh) pulled a fire alarm last Friday.

Des Moines fire department spokesman Brian O'Keefe says that was a first. The alarm was reset.

Trust spokesman Al Setka says an adult female named Panbanisha (pan-buh-KNEE'-sha) was the guilty party -- and she's been told not to do it again.

The alarm is mounted on a wall in the bonobo home in an area used by the apes and scientists.

Setka says they're securing the alarm by putting it in a case.

Story here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

AIDS activist with baboon marrow transplant dies

The California AIDS activist who received the first bone marrow transplant from a baboon in a desperate bid to combat the disease died this past week, his partner of 26 years said on Sunday.

Jeff Getty, 49, died from heart failure at a hospital in Joshua Tree, California, on Oct. 9, Kenneth Klueh told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Getty had been suffering from cancer, Klueh said.

Getty was a pioneer among AIDS activists, pressing for greater access for those with the disease to drugs still in development despite unknown risks.

In 1995, he received the bone marrow transplant, a controversial procedure because of its risk of rejection, damage to his AIDS-weakened immune system or unknown infections.

"He was always at the forefront of new therapies. He worked hard to make new AIDS drugs available to people with AIDS with compassionate-use programs and things like that. And he wanted to advance the research," Klueh said.

While the transplant was risky, AIDS researchers at the time had few options in treating the disease, said Jeff Sheehy, an AIDS activist on the governing board of California's voter-approved stem-cell research financing center, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

"There was only one prognosis for HIV and that was death at the time he did the experiment," Sheehy said. "It was at a dark time. People were hoping something would emerge, but there was no clear sign of anything emerging to treat HIV, and everyone who progressed to AIDS died."

The transplant neither obviously hurt nor helped Getty, and within a year researchers discovered drug "cocktails," or a combination of drugs, to treat patients with AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Story here.

Monkey to be freed from five year police lockup

A monkey, lodged in an Orissa police station for the past five years, will be freed into the wild, but it will have to wait a bit as officials admit they don't have a suitable cage for the simian's transfer.

Eight-year-old Ramu has been detained inside the Remuna police station in Balasore district ever since he attacked a boy and injured him.

The incident gained communal overtones because the boy was a Hindu and Ramu belonged to a minority family in Jagannathpur village. Tensions ran high for some days and some villagers complained to the police, forcing them to take action.

Authorities' attention was drawn to Ramu's plight after the media, including IANS, reported the matter Saturday and the state government ordered an inquiry.

"I visited the police station and inquired about the ordeal of the Rhesus Macaque," Laxmidhar Behera, a forest range officer, told IANS.

"Our immediate job is to release the simian to the wild. We are taking steps for his release.

"However, the main obstacle is that we do not have a cage. I have asked the officials of the Kuldiha reserve forest to make a cage so that the monkey can be shifted soon," he said.

"I hope by Wednesday it will be completed and we can free the ape," Behera said.

Meanwhile, Ramu doesn't seem to be complaining and is well looked after.

"He eats fruit in the morning and evening and has rice and curry for lunch. We spend at least Rs.20 a day from our own pockets," said police station in-charge Niranjan Kumar Dhir.

While Dhir admitted that the law prohibits keeping a wild animal confined but added that he had little choice. "What can we do? Whenever we have tried to free him, he has come back and attacked people."

Story here.

Former employee blames U.S university officials in monkey deaths

A former employee at the University of California, Davis' primate research center said Wednesday that university officials ignored problems that led to the deaths of seven research monkeys in 2004 when a heater malfunctioned.

Some of the research center's monkeys were being kept at the university's Animal Resources Service, a separate entity that houses a variety animals.

Cheri Stevens, a former animal technician at the California National Primate Research Center said she was present at the Animal Resources Service building when its ventilation system failed a regular maintenance check.

Stevens said she then urged officials to move the monkeys to the primate center, which has 24-hour environmental monitoring in each room. They did not follow her advice, she said.

Several weeks later, the heater at the Animal Resources Service building blew hot air into the animals' room, raising the temperature to about 115 degrees (46 Celsius).

Stevens was an employee of the primate center who regularly went to care for the monkeys housed at the service building, university spokesman Andy Fell said.

The university paid a $4,815 (Ђ3,838) fine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in December 2005 because of the monkeys' deaths.

Stevens said she was never interviewed by the Department of Agriculture's investigators, even though she was the first technician to enter the overheated room.

Dallas Hyde, the primate center's director, asked a university committee to investigate the multiple complaints Stevens leveled during her news conference Wednesday, Fell said.

Stevens also said mistreatment and starvation of monkeys was common at the Primate Research Center, reports AP.

"It's surprising to us," Fell said. "We think the animals have a very high standard of care."

The primate center is routinely inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, Fell said.

The dead cynomolgous monkeys were breeding monkeys and were not being used for experiments.

Story here.

Texas seizes primate sanctuary

A lawyer for a Texas animal sanctuary Saturday said the state's seizure of the home to nearly 1,000 monkeys and other large primates was "totally unwarranted."

Texas state officials seized the Primary Primates sanctuary after a judge found evidence of substandard conditions and "great mismanagement" of donations, The San Antonio Express-News reported.

Attorney Eric Turton disputed the finding, saying the operation's financial records were in good shape, the animals were well cared for and the sanctuary "will be vindicated."

The 28-year-old primate sanctuary has been embroiled in controversy and legal disputes since March, when it took a group of retired research chimps and monkeys from Ohio State University. Two of the chimps died shortly after their arrival and one monkey escaped its enclosure and has not been captured, the newspaper said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed suit on behalf of the remaining seven chimps and two monkeys, charging conditions at the sanctuary were substandard.

Story here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monkey throws brick, woman killed

A 30-year-old woman who had come to AIIMS to see her nephew a dengue patient in the hospital, died after a monkey threw a brick at her inside the hospital complex, police said today, citing a a complaint filed by her relatives.

Bindu, a resident of Meethapur in Badarpur had gone to the hospital with her husband. The couple was passing near a construction site on the campus when a monkey threw a brick from the eight floor which hit Bindu on her head. She was rushed to the emergency ward, but police said that Sanjay and the deceased’s relatives have alleged that she was refused admission at first.

“We are probing the matter and have registered a case of negligence,” said a senior police officer.

Story here.