Tuesday, February 28, 2006

OSU Professor chains self to gate, delaying chimp transfer

An Ohio State University professor and other protesters chained themselves to a gate outside the campus chimpanzee center where she's conducted her life's work, delaying for hours the transfer of nine chimpanzees to a Texas sanctuary.

Ohio State officials said last week the center was closing because of lack of research funds and had limited Sally Boysen's access to the center outside regular office hours.

Boysen, who founded the research lab in 1983, sought a federal court order to stop the transfer, but a truck showed up to move the apes soon after U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley denied the request Monday.

The protesters eventually unchained themselves but still blocked the truck's exit through the gate. The truck left late Monday under police escort, bound for Primarily Primates in San Antonio.

"If anything, I should have jumped on the truck and gone with them," Boysen said.

Boysen had tried to secure research funding since 2002, when the university said she must get grants or the center would close. Meanwhile, donations and money from a 2002 television special on two of the apes supplemented the $200,000 annual cost of their care.

Under her research, the chimpanzees learned basic counting and letters. Boysen also demonstrated that chimpanzees can show caring for the safety of their companions, contradicting the notion that only humans show altruism.

Boysen said the transfer violates contracts for the donation of eight of the chimpanzees. She bought the ninth. She said she will continue the court fight, seeking their return to a Columbus-area site off campus.

Story here.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Johor bans foreigners from hunting ape man

The southern Malaysian state of Johor has threatened to jail foreigners who venture into its jungles looking for a legendary ape man, dubbed 'Big Foot'.

The state's Forestry Department says Big Foot enthusiasts found on its land without a permit will face up to three years jail or a fine of up to $2,500.

The hunt for Big Foot has gripped Malaysia after a spate of sightings.

Now authorities are determined that if the ape man exists, Malaysians will be the first to find him.

Malaysians are being invited to pay just over $1 for a permit to roam around Johor state's forest reserves, where most of the reported sightings have taken place.

The state also plans to sponsor a scientific expedition, and although Malaysia has few primate specialists, foreigners will again not be invited.

Local tourism industry leaders told the BBC the ban on non-Malaysians entering forest reserves was daft and should be rethought.

The country hopes to lure 20 million foreign visitors next year and its main attractions are its beaches and its jungles.

Tourism bosses say the move will simply confuse and possibly drive away just the people they want to attract.

Story here.

New diabetes study in monkeys offers hope for cure

A team of researchers from the University of Alberta, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University and the Emory Transplant Center has successfully transplanted insulin-producing neonatal porcine islet cells into monkeys, a procedure the researchers say represents a promising intermediate solution to the critical supply problem in clinical islet cell transplantation.

"Our work at the U of A and Emory, along with recent work at the University of Minnesota, is very exciting and shows that xenotransplantation in humans may soon be possible, thus solving the islet supply problem," says one of the study authors Ray Rajotte, a professor of Surgery at the University of Alberta.

The paper appeared in an advanced on-line publication of Nature Medicine, February 26, entitled "Long-term survival of neonatal porcine islets in non-human primates by targeting co-stimulation pathways." The work follows on the heels of similar work published last week by University of Minnesota researchers; those researchers used islets isolated from adult pig pancreases.

Neonatal islets were produced in Edmonton using a procedure Drs. Greg Korbutt and Rajotte developed in 1995. The pig islets were sent to the Yerkes Research Center for transplantation into diabetic rhesus macaques using an anti-rejection protocol developed by Drs. Christian Larsen and Kenneth Cardona of the Yerkes Research Center and the Emory Transplant Center. The isolation method developed by the U of A researchers is simple and reproducible with the neonatal pig islets having some growth potential post-transplant, considered a major advantage over adult pig islets.

The diabetic animals were treated with a CD28/CD154 co-stimulation blockade-based immunosuppressive regimen, and achieved sustained insulin independence (median survival >140 days with one animal now at 300 days) without evidence of porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV) dissemination. "This represents a major step forward and proves neonatal porcine islets can correct diabetes long-term in primates," said Drs. Korbutt and Rajotte.

"To meet the needs of the millions suffering from type 1 diabetes, we must find new donor sources to allow large-scale application of islet cell transplantation in humans," said Dr. Larsen. "While there is much work to be done these studies suggest that the rejection response to porcine islets can be surmounted."

"The next step is to prove that these neonatal porcine islet cells could become a source for human transplantation," said Dr. Rajotte. "It's hoped that within the next three to five years, we will be transplanting patients with pig islets once we prove that it is safe."

Story here.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Discovered genetic defect creates devo-lution into ape-like people

An editor of a noted scientific journal says he has discovered a genetic defect that seems to set back the clock on human evolution by more than a million years.

Its victims walk on all fours and mouth a primitive language, the scientist reported. He added that the syndrome may literally undo eons of evolution, and thus reflect with some accuracy what our ape-like ancestors were like.

The researcher, Uner Tan of Cukurova University Medical School in Adana, Turkey, has posted an online video clip of an affected woman walking on all fours, her face blurred.

The idea that evolution can run backward isn’t new; some scientists say there have been confirmed cases of it in animals. But it’s also a controversial subject, and considered hard to prove in any given case.

Tan, at any rate, argued that this could be a case of it, so the mutation—known to run in one Turkish family—might offer scientists an unprecedented glimpse into human origins.

“This syndrome interestingly exhibits prehuman features” and represents “possible backward evolution,” he wrote in a paper describing the condition. As such, it “can be considered a live model for human evolution.”

The paper appears in the March issue of the International Journal of Neuroscience, where Tan sits on the editorial board. He also named the condition after himself: Unertan syndrome.

The mutation could shed light on the “transition from quadrupedality to bipedality”—from four-legged to two-legged walking, he wrote. Possibly more important, he added, it may illuminate the evolution of the mind.

“The children exhibiting this syndrome originated from a family having 19 children,” he wrote in another recent paper, in the journal Neuroquantology. Five of these, aged 14 to 32 years, “walked on two palms and two feet, with extended legs… They could stand up, but only for a short time, with flexed knees and heads.”

“The patients had a rather primitive language... they spoke to each other using their own language, using only a few hundred words” which the parents could partly understand, Tan wrote.

“They were mentally retarded; they could not count from one to ten. They were not aware of time and space. For instance, they did not know where they live (which country, which village, which city). They were unaware of year, season, day, and time. Otherwise, they had quite strong legs and arms.”

“The sitting posture was rather similar to an ape,” Tan added. “They could not hold their heads upright; the heads were flexed forward with their skulls. They could not raise their heads to look forward. This head posture with flexed skull was rather similar to the head posture of our closest relatives, like chimpanzees.”

Like most primates, Tan observed, victims of the syndrome walk with a characteristic sequence of movements: after a foot touches the ground, the hand on the other side does. “They could walk fairly fast using their strong legs, without any imbalances.”

Tan said in an email that with colleagues, he has mapped the defect to a region of the genome called chromosome 17p, a site of some of the biggest genetic differences between humans and chimps. Other researchers have also recently linked bipedalism to 17p.

Tan’s report is reminiscent of a 2002 discovery that a different mutation, affecting a gene called FoxP2, created severe speech and grammar problems.

That finding has sparked intense research into what scientists think could be the first known “language gene.” FoxP2-mutated patients also have some coordination difficulties, prompting much discussion among scientists of possible links between language and coordination.

Those patients aren’t reported to have problems standing up, though, unlike those Tan studied.

Scientists generally consider the transition to upright walking as the most important event in human evolution, according to Tan. This freed the hands for skilled movements such as throwing and toolmaking, he added, and may have even made consciousness possible—though a growing number of scientists say consciousness might not be unique to humans.

Video clip here.

Story here.

Monkey throws baby into well in Orissa

A 40-day-old baby was thrown into a well by a monkey in the Shantinagar area of the town in Orissa's Berhampore district, police said.

The fire brigade personnel arrived soon at the spot, but could only retrieve the body of the infant.

The baby girl, who was sleeping, was picked up by the primate in the absence of her mother on Wednesday.

As the shocked mother of the child raised an alarm after finding the monkey sitting near the well with the baby in its lap, the primate threw the baby into the well and disappeared, police said.

Story here.

Bill the Chimp passes health exam for now

Zoo officials said Bill the chimpanzee, the oldest resident at Sequoia Park Zoo, is recovering well after a undergoing a complete physical and battery of tests at the zoo on Wednesday.

“We began anesthetization at 9:30 a.m.,” said Gretchen Ziegler, curator and supervisor of the zoo. “We were able to put him back in his night house … at about 1:30 p.m.”

One of the veterinarians who worked during the almost four-hour exam stayed with Bill until approximately 2:30 p.m. when he started to wake up from the anesthesia.

Bill, 59, has not undergone an examination of this kind in almost 10 years. Zoo staff collaborated with the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, a national chimpanzee management group, to assemble a team from the University of California, Davis, with expertise in great ape veterinary medicine to lead the procedure. The team arrived Tuesday.

The team included three specialists from UC Davis, including one cardiologist with a portable cardio-sonogram, three local veterinarians, including Sarah Green, who operates the Veterinary House Calls mobile hospital as well as the veterinarians they contract with, Jeff Kelley-Day from Myrtle Avenue Veterinary Clinic and Richard Brown from Humboldt State University.

“(There were) about 10 of us, and only two were zoo staff; the rest were vets and vet techs,” Ziegler said.

Most of the exam was done in the bear night house and included X-rays, blood tests, tissue cultures, ultrasound imaging and an electrocardiogram.

“We’ll get some results in a week or so, and some will take a couple months,” she said. “In general they were amazed at how well he looked; they’re having a hard time believing he is as old as he is.”

Story here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ohio State to Close Its Primate Center, Retire Its Chimpanzees

Ohio State University officials have decided to close its long-standing chimpanzee research center and retire those primates to an animal refuge in Texas.

The nine chimps currently housed at the center will be moved to the San Antonio refuge where they will live out the remainder of their lives. No research is allowed on animals kept at the refuge.

The decision, announced today, is the culmination of a nearly four-year effort to find a new home for the animals.

In recent years, research institutions across the country – including the Air Force, the National Institutes of Health and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – have elected to reduce the amount of primate research they conduct and retire many of their animals. That has made locating an appropriate long-term home for the animals a more difficult task for Ohio State.

“While we are rightfully proud of the outstanding research that has evolved from Ohio State’s primate cognition project in the last decade or so, we believe the time is now right to move the animals to safer quarters where they can live out their lives in peace,” explained Robert McGrath, senior vice president for research at the university.

Two earlier agreements with other refuges have fallen through during the last two years. Under an agreement with this third refuge, Primarily Primates, Inc., the animals will be transported by truck to the Texas facility where a new permanent facility is being built for them.

Ohio State is paying for construction of that facility, for medical exams and shipping, and providing an endowment to support the animals.

Costs for the transfer of the animals will be covered by the university’s Office of Research and are expected to total approximately $324,000. Previously, the cost of operating the OSU chimp center has reached nearly $200,000 annually.

The current chimp facility, located off Godown Road north of campus, was last refurbished in 1991 when the university housed only five animals in the building. Since then, the total chimp population has risen to nine animals, most of which are either adult or nearing adolescence.

The current population, five males and four females, ranges in age from five to 47 years old. Chimpanzees can reach 65 to 70 years old in captivity.

Story here.

Baby gorilla born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

For the first time in ten years, a baby gorilla was born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Kwisha, a 13 year-old western lowland gorilla, gave birth to a 5 lbs, 2 ounce baby boy Saturday evening.

Zookeepers are handraising the baby because the mother has yet to accept him. They continue to reintroduce him to her in hopes that her motherly instincts will kick in. Kwisha was handraised and, unfortunately, may never be able to mother an infant. If she continues to reject him, another female gorilla is likely to become a surrogate.

The baby will become a permanent feature of the Primate World exhibit in about five months, but viewers may be able to catch a glimpse of him when he is periodically introduced to the rest of the gorillas until then. You can call the zoo to find out more information about he may be visible by the public.

The zoo will hold a contest to name the new baby gorilla. The name should be of an African origin and from a country where western lowland gorillas live in the wild. More details will become available this week.

Story here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A moment of escaped gorilla zen...

A mock gorilla wrapped up in a net is captured by zoo workers during a drill in Tokyo February 21, 2006, to prepare the Ueno zoo to deal with a situation in which a ferocious animal escapes from its enclosure. About 150 people including zoo employees, fire department and police officials took part in the annual drill.

Bill the chimp to have full health exam while under anesthesia

Early Wednesday morning, Bill the chimpanzee, Sequoia Park Zoo’s oldest resident, is scheduled to undergo a examination to evaluate his current state of health and attempt to diagnose a persistent respiratory condition he has been experiencing.

He will also be screened for certain diseases to determine his eligibility for future socialization with other chimpanzees.

Gretchen Ziegler, curator and supervisor of the zoo, said in a previous interview with The Eureka Reporter that the zoo is looking at different options for Bill, one of which includes bringing a temporary mate to live with him for the remainder of his life.

“(It is) possible, but it’s not very likely; we would not do it in the current exhibit because we as zoo professionals do not think it is adequate,” she said. “There are three barriers: one, a new exhibit; two, evaluating the actual need for that based on Bill’s personality; and three, finding a chimp that’s appropriate.”

The examination will include X-rays, blood tests, tissue cultures, ultrasound imaging and an electrocardiogram, all performed while Bill is under general anesthesia.

General anesthesia for anyone — animal or human — carries some risk, and Bill’s advanced age of 59 is an additional factor, according to a zoo news release.

To minimize the risk, zoo staff collaborated with the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, a national chimpanzee management group, to assemble a veterinary team from the University of California, Davis, with expertise in great ape veterinary medicine to lead the procedure.

This team of experts is familiar with Bill’s medical history and will be performing the exam at the zoo with mobile equipment to ensure a quick and efficient procedure.

In preparation, Bill has been trained during the past several months by zoo staff to accept injections in his arm, with the goal of making the anesthesia as stress-free for him as possible.

“This just goes to show how exceptional Bill is,” said zookeeper Jan Roletto. “Any other chimpanzee would require months or years of conditioning to work up to this, but Bill just takes it right in stride.”

“Bill’s physical and emotional health are both very important to us,” Ziegler said. “The purpose of this exam is to assess his physical condition and gather information that will help us evaluate options to ensure Bill’s continued well-being.”

Story here.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Scientists capture chimpanzees on camera using a "tool kit"

Scientists have captured chimpanzees on camera using a "tool kit" to break into a termite mound.

The remarkable film shows one chimp using its feet to push a thick stick into the termite nest, like a gardener digging up potatoes.

Then the same animal takes another tool, a slender stem with a frayed end, and inserts it into the hole to fish out the insects.

Chimps have been observed before cracking nuts with stones and catching ants and termites with twigs and leaves.

But this is the first recorded example of the apes going equipped with multiple tools.

The human-like antics of the chimpanzees is the latest example of what scientists call "culture" in animals.

Culture is defined as a traditional behaviour that is learned within a group and passed between individuals and down generations.

Story here.

Study of zoo gorillas shows traits spring from culture

Captive gorillas actually are a cultured bunch.

Genetics or environment alone cannot explain variations in the behavior of different groups of the apes, a study has found.

Behavioral surveys of the roughly 370 gorillas in U.S. zoos showed 48 variations in how individual groups of the apes make signals, use tools and seek comfort, said Tara Stoinski of Zoo Atlanta and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

"What became very obvious is there is a very distinct pattern of similarities and differences between groups," Stoinski said.

That suggests the gorillas pass along the different traits socially, not genetically, which is a hallmark of culture.

Results were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Researchers previously have found that other ape species, including chimpanzees and orangutans, show cultural differences as well in how they forage, use tools and court one another.

"These animals are smart enough to observe behaviors and imitate them," said Ingrid Porton, curator of primates at the Saint Louis Zoo.

That gorillas do the same and perhaps aren't the "slightly dumb cousins" of the ape family shouldn't be surprising, said Andrew Whiten, a professor of evolutionary and developmental psychology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

"It is quite surprising only if you take that common notion that gorillas aren't as smart as the rest," said Whiten, a chimp expert.

Story here.

Jane Goodall develops coffee certification scheme

Ape conservationist Jane Goodall said on Saturday she is developing a new certification scheme for coffee growers farming in areas where endangered chimpanzees live, mainly in Tanzania and Burundi.

Farmers will be encouraged to protect and enlarge forests where the animals have their habitat in return for marketing of their product to roasters interested in paying a premium for environmentally friendly coffee.

"People associate my name with chimpanzees," the environmentalist told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference of African coffee growers.

"By certifying this coffee, we ensure that it is super quality, it complies with environmental standards that benefit the apes and (in return) we give a great deal of money to the farmers by marketing their coffee."

Certification schemes guarantee the product bought by consumers is produced ethically.

Unlike other schemes, the Jane Goodall Conservation Label will target villages -- instead of farms -- which would be willing to give up 10 to 20 percent of their land to enlarge indigenous forests around Tanzania's Gombe National Park.

There are only 80 chimpanzees remaining in the 35 square km park, located in the north of the country, after decades of poaching for the bushmeat trade.

Goodall said the villagers would be required to produce shade-grown coffees, to prevent them from cutting down trees. She did not say when the scheme would be launched.

The Jane Goodall Institute will market the coffee to consumers willing to pay at least $2.0 per pound compared to the 50-60 U.S. cents farmers currently receive for their beans.

"Chimps don't eat coffee; they hate it so there will be no conflict between them and the farmers," she said.

Story here.

Golden monkeys quadruple but still endangered in SW China

The grey snub-nosed monkey, an endangered species only found in the southwest China`s Guizhou Province, has quadrupled to around 800 over the past 20 years, said a local official in charge of protection for the animal.

The monkey, the rarest among the three species of golden monkeys in China`s Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Hubei provinces, mainly lives in the Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve in northeast Guizhou.

"We have acquired through research detailed data concerning the number, clans, distribution and existence of the animal," said Yang Yeqin, director of the reserve, who participated in a decade-long field investigation on the species.

The findings of the systematic research provide us with valuable first-hand data for better preserving and protecting this animal, he said.

Groups of the snub-nosed animal were not found by Chinese scientists until early 1980s, when they estimated the number of the animal was around 200.

Story here.

Monkey's Voice Good as Mom's for Newborn Babies

Straight out of the womb, infants are just as aroused by a rhesus monkey call as by human speech.

Infants are acute listeners. Previous studies have found newborns perk up more to folk music than white noise. And four-month-olds like listening to people talk more than they like white noise.

But when it comes to sounds made by all things biological, newborn babies don't discriminate.

The finding was presented here Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science by Athena Vouloumanos, a psychologist at McGill University.

In light of other research the results are surprising.

For instance, scientists have seen changes in fetal heart rates when its mother talks, which suggests the fetus reacts to hearing the mother's voice.

The recent findings imply that an infant's first preference for sounds comes not just from experiences it had while inside the womb. Rather, a baby's listening skills might be honed to human speech during the first few months of life outside the womb.

"It was very shocking," Vouloumanos told LiveScience. "I thought for sure that they would prefer the human speech. I kept testing more babies because I couldn't believe it."

The McGill research group measured a newborn's level of interest in sounds by giving them sterilized pacifiers that measured the frequency and intensity of the baby's sucking.

"There are all kinds of suckers: soft suckers, hard, rapid and slow. When they suck hard, they get to hear a sound, and when they're aroused they suck hard," Vouloumanos said.

The team tested babies that were 10 to 96 hours old by playing recorded sounds of human speech and alternating with recordings of monkey calls. The researchers chose to use rhesus monkey calls because they have a similar vocal tract to humans.

The babies sucked the same for both sounds.

By three months, babies are aroused more by speech than monkey calls. The results indicate that we may be born with a broad preference for biological sounds, which gets rapidly fine-tuned for species-specific language.

Story here.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A moment of pure monkey terror zen...

An Indian man gives his monkey bath on the banks of river Ganges in the northern Indian city of Allahabad February 17, 2006. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash

Former research chimpanzees leave for Florida

Ten chimpanzees from the former Coulston research facility began a 37-hour trip to Florida this week in a specially designed trailer.

Peggy, Carrie, Melissa, Jake, Alice, Ebony, Christie, Garth, Tony and Mikie left Wednesday, the first of 266 chimps that will be transported to Fort Pierce, Fla. Each had a window seat to enjoy the ride.

The chimps once lived in a medical research laboratory in Alamogordo that was operated by Frederick Coulston, who helped develop or test treatments for malaria, hepatitis and AIDS during a 72-year career.

In 2002, Coulston turned the animals over to Carole Noon, director of a recovery group called Save the Chimps. She said the animals will be introduced in Florida to a new colony of chimps and then settle into an island home.

"For the first time in their lives, they are going to walk on grass," Noon said. "No walls, no roof."

According to a news release from the organization, Save The Chimps operates the first sanctuary in the United States devoted exclusively to chimpanzees and the largest permanent chimpanzee sanctuary in the world.

The facility provides lifetime care for chimpanzees taken from research laboratories and former chimp owners no longer able to provide adequate care.

It will take 27 trips to transport all the chimps from New Mexico to Florida.

"We plan to have them all moved by the end of 2007," Noon said.

Story here.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Washington Zoo Collects Cell Phones To Save Gorillas

Help save a gorilla. Donate your old cell phone to the National Zoo.

The group, Friends of the National Zoo, is collecting the old cell phones, their batteries and accessories. The materials will be recycled or refurbished in an effort to cut down on both waste and the mining of coltan in the Congo, where wild gorillas are threatened. Coltan is used to coat components of cell phones.

Coltan is short for Columbite-tantalite. It is a metallic ore comprising Niobium and Tantalum, 80 percent of which is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, says National Zoo spokesman Matt Olear.

"The mining of Coltan there is destroying habitat for these gorillas, and it's also making them vulnerable to poaching for the bush meat trade," says Olear.

Olear says usable phones will be given to ECO-Cell, a Kentucky company, that refurbishes them for use in developing countries. In return, the zoo will get up to $15.

To donate your phone, just bring it to the Zoo's Visitor Center and drop it in the collection box at the front desk.

Zoo Cell Phone Page here.

Story here.

Alert sounded over Golden Langur deaths in Assam

Wildlife authorities sounded an alert over the deaths of a rare primate species in Assam in a mysterious disease in the past week, officials said Thursday.

A wildlife official in Assam said forest rangers recovered corpses of nine golden langurs in the western district of Kokrajhar, about 230 km from here.

"Nine deaths in a few days is a matter of serious concern. We are worried as the disease might further spread and hence an alert to save this rare primate from getting wiped out," Kempa Borgoyary, a wildlife warden in Kokrajhar, told IANS.

Golden langur is one of the world's most endangered species found only in a few pockets in western Assam and adjoining Bhutan. The total population of this rare primate species is about 10,000.

According to locals and unofficial reports, some 15 golden langurs have died so far in the area.

"We appeal to experts with knowledge in primates from anywhere in the world to come and help us to save this highly endangered primates from extinction," the warden said.

"We cannot allow this beautiful species to get annihilated from the world map."

Forest officials have sent samples for forensic tests to find out the exact cause of the deaths. "We do not know if the primates are hit by some viral disease," another wildlife official T. Basumatary said.

Wildlife authorities in Bhutan are also concerned at the sudden deaths of Golden Langurs in Assam.

"The golden langurs are found in small belt and if there is a viral outbreak then it might hit the species in our area as well. We are keeping a strict vigil and in touch with our counterparts in Assam," a Bhutanese wildlife official said by telephone from Samdrup Jhonkhar district requesting anonymity.

Experts and conservation groups said the deaths comes at a time when this is the mating season for the golden langurs.

"We believe the deaths were caused due to poisoning, with the golden langurs probably drinking water from a river where people use chemicals to kill fish," said Soumyadeep Dutta, director of Natures Beckon, a conservation group working on the golden langurs.

Story here.

Colorado Monkey lab closing

The University of Colorado Health Science center has decided to shut down a controversial monkey lab.

The monkeys have been involved in several experiments including AIDS research and brain operations. Many of the monkeys used were euthanized after the experiments.

Some people have voiced concern about the safety and security of the monkeys at the facility.

In August 2004 animal rights activists were successful in gaining the release of video from inside the lab.

The monkeys will be moved from the campus over the next several months, CU says. Most of them will go to another primate research facility at Wake Forest University.

CU officials say the move will be beneficial for the research involved as well as the animals. The monkeys will get to spend some time outdoors in their new home.

Story here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Probe urged into death of circus monkey

Calls for an independent investigation into the death of a circus monkey in Dannevirke have been made to animal welfare officials after allegations of neglect were made on TV3's Campbell Live last night.

The programme accused the Ministry of Agriculture animal welfare of failing to properly investigate a complaint of serious neglect that resulted in the monkey's death.

Whirling bros circus owner, Tony Ratcliffe, said the pig-tailed monkey had died of heat exhaustion while at a circus in Dannevirke on January 28.

Mr Ratcliffe said he had attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

National animal advocacy organisation SAFE has yesterday renewed its outrage over serious failings within the Minister of Agriculture department to adequately enforce animal welfare legislation and called for the investigation.
SAFE campaigns director Hans Kriek believed the monkey's death was preventable.

"SAFE made a complaint to MAF about concerns we had for the monkey's wellbeing and a week later the poor creature was dead," Mr Kriek said.

"If officials properly followed up on this complaint, as they are legally required to do, the young monkey would probably still be alive."

Story here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

2 charged in 'Curious George' slaying

Two South Florida men have surrendered and confessed to killing Alan Shalleck, who collaborated on bringing the beloved children's story of the mischievous monkey "Curious George" to television, police said Thursday.

Rex Spears Ditto, 29, of Pembroke Pines, and Vincent J. Puglisi, 54, of Oakland Park, voluntarily surrendered late Wednesday at the Boynton Beach Police Department.

They were arrested on charges of first-degree murder, armed home invasion, aggravated battery and dealing in stolen property, police said.

"They came in ... and confessed to robbing and murdering this guy," Sgt. Gladys Cannon said.

Both men were being held in the Palm Beach County jail.

A maintenance worker found Shalleck's bloodied body Tuesday covered in garbage bags in the driveway of his home. He suffered several stab wounds and was stuffed beneath a heap of trash, Cannon said.

Authorities allege Ditto and Puglisi stole jewelry from Shalleck and pilfered funds from his checking account.

Story here.

Rhesus macaque monkey genome is sequenced

A multi-center U.S. research team has placed the draft genome sequence of the rhesus macaque monkey into a free public database for scientists worldwide.

The U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health, says the database may be used by the worldwide research community.

The rhesus macaque is the second non-human primate, after the chimpanzee, whose genome has been sequenced. It is the first of the Old World monkeys to have its DNA deciphered.

Overall, the rhesus genome shares about 92 percent to 95 percent of its sequence with humans and more than 98 percent with the chimpanzee. Consequently, researchers say the rhesus provides an ideal reference point for comparisons among the three closely related primates.

The researchers said sequencing is also under way on the genomes of a number of other primates, including the orangutan, marmoset and gorilla.

The sequencing of the rhesus genome was conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston, the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University in St. Louis, and at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md.

Story here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Vietnam monkey smuggling ring detected

On February 6th, Quang Ninh police seized a car carrying 61 long-tail monkeys, with a combined mass of 200kg, on the way to China.

Three people in the car, all 24, have been taken into custody as police investigate. This is the biggest monkey trafficking case so far detected in Quang Ninh.

Those in custody have told police that they were hired to transport the animals from Nghe An Province to Quang Ninh’s Mong Cai border gate where they would be transferred to Chinese buyers.

Investigators believe this group may be a linked to a large wild animal smuggling ring from Vietnam to foreign countries.

Story here.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Mexico Bans Imports and Exports of Primates and Marine Mammals

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org) announced that Mexico has banned the importation and exportation of primates and marine mammals. The decree by the Government of Mexico protects animals and confronts the powerful interests that traffic and exploit these species for profit.

"It is an historic victory for endangered primates and marine mammals, for environmental groups and for the general public," said Beatriz Bugeda, Director of IFAW Latin America. "This decision is critical to conservation policy in Mexico, which was seriously eroded by environmental authorities in recent years."

In 2003, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) illegally authorized the importation of 28 dolphins from the Solomon Islands to Mexican-based commercial dolphinariums. IFAW carried out an in-depth investigation of the facts and filed several complaints to the corresponding authorities. Biologist Diego Cobo Terrazas, then President of the Environmental Commission of the Chamber of Representatives, also criticized the decision and presented a bill to prohibit importation and exportation of primates and marine mammals - such as whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals and manatees.

On January 26, 2006, the Decree, which modified the General Wildlife Act, was published in the Official Journal of the Federation and officially prohibited the "…Importing, exporting and re-exporting specimens of any species of marine mammal and primate, as well as parts or products made from them." The law made an exception for animals authorized by the federal government for scientific research. A portion of the law banned products derived from marine mammals, such as pelts and decorations. This becomes a key tool for IFAW in its historic campaign to abolish Canada's commercial seal hunt.

"Mexico has officially condemned Canada's cruel slaughter practiced within the territory of one of its partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and in this context, placing a ban on importing marine mammal products is a strategic step," Ms Bugeda said.

Story here.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Lab Test Confirms 13 Cases of Monkey Fever

Monkey fever is slowly taking a grip over the villages of Yennemajal and Yenekal near Balpa here. While speaking to the media, the taluk chief medical officer said that lab reports have confirmed that a total number of 13 persons have been affected with monkey fever.

Earlier the blood samples of 38 persons from both the villages were sent to the laboratory at Shimoga for test wherein 13 were confirmed to affected with the monkey fever. All of them have already been admitted to the Sullia Public Health Centre.

The earlier reports had stated that only 2 out of the 18 were affected with monkey fever. However, 3 more positive cases from Yennemajal were added thereafter, raising the total number to 5. But the latest report confirmed another 8 persons have been suffering from the same problem.

In the meantime, some women of the locality who had gone to the reserve forest of Yenekal - Subrahmanya spotted the carcass of a monkey. The news was passed on to the concerned officials. But when the team of local medical officers and gram panchayat members reached the spot, the carcass was missing. It is suspected that the wild boar might have eaten the carcass.

On the other hand so far 6 monkeys have been found dead at Bilinele, which is close to Subrahmanya but comes under the jurisdiction of Puttur taluk. So far more than 1,000 vaccinations have been given by the local PHC.

Story here.

Terrorizing Wild Chimpanzee Killed

A wild chimpanzee which villagers claim had been terrorizing Upper Kayimba section, Kpanga Kabonde Chiefdom, in Pujehun District south of Sierra Leone, has been killed.

Reports say on 29 January an armed police personnel Inspector Turay together with a killed the notorious Baboon that had been terrorizing women and children in the district. Police say there had been reports of several people been injured by the ferocious attacks of the chimp.

"The people of Pujehun are now jubilating over the news of the baboon been slaughtered", says one resident of Pujehun who traveled to Freetown.

Story here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Like their pregnant mates, primate dads pack on pounds

Confirming what many have long suspected, scientists have found that male monkeys of two different species get heavier when their mates are pregnant.

The roughly 10 percent gain in male girth occurs in common marmosets and cotton-top tamarins, both squirrel-sized primates known for their monogamous lifestyles and devotion to good parenting.

Since marmoset and tamarin dads are heavily involved in infant care, they may be stocking up on pounds during pregnancy in preparation for the rigors of fatherhood, says Toni Ziegler, an endocrinologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's National Primate Research Center. Ziegler and her colleagues reported their findings today in the journal Biology Letters.

The knowledge that expecting primate fathers also experience biological changes can help scientists better understand what governs human fathering behavior, Ziegler adds. "We're interested in what motivates dads to be good parents because there are so many men who just aren't good fathers. This work could help to tease apart what makes a good dad."

In the last few decades, scientists have noted weight gain and other symptoms of pregnancy in human men too, but the phenomenon has never been systematically studied. Known as the "couvades" effect-from the French word meaning "to incubate or hatch" - researchers have generally explained sympathetic pregnancy symptoms in men as entirely psychosomatic events.

But the UW-Madison work helps "to realize that this phenomena that so many people know about, is actually real with a possible evolutionary purpose behind it," says co-author Shelley Prudom, a research specialist at the UW-Madison Primate Center. The scientists took monthly weight measurements for 29 common marmosets and 29 cotton top tamarins, of which 14 marmoset males and 11 tamarin males were expecting new offspring. Marmosets gestate their young for five months while tamarins normally gestate for six.

"The males somehow cue in to the cascade of hormonal changes going on in their pregnant mates," says Ziegler. That cue triggers changes in their own reproductive hormones. Rising levels of the lactation-inducing hormone prolactin, for instance, most likely cause the weight gain in expecting male primates. Levels of estrogen and testosterone also rise higher.

Story here.